Today I was Master of Ceremonies at the 10:30 Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, which means that I was responsible for making sure that everything and everybody (acolytes and clergy) were where they were supposed to be during the service. This is the hardest position as an acolyte because you have to know everybody else’s position (what they’re supposed to do) so you can provide guidance, plus there is a whole role during the Mass for the MC as well. So, after a busy work week, plus keeping grandkids overnight, plus a very busy day after church which involved late Saturday night cooking for daughter Rachael’s belated birthday celebration, I arrived at church feeling a bit stressed. It didn’t help that I hadn’t been MC in at least two months so the multitude of duties was veritably swimming in my head.
Luckily, I brought my handy-dandy checklist of before-Mass duties, which Reece Thompson, our head acolyte, had provided (thank you, Reece!) so that was very helpful. Plus, I arrived early enough that there was a quiet time between services and I was in the sacristy and the church alone. St. Thomas the Apostle is a lovely Gothic church which feels very much like the sacred place it is. The peace that inhabits that space began to seep into my harried thoughts and I felt my shoulders begin to relax.
What really helped me to breathe deep and calm down was the kindness and support of my fellow acolytes and our clergy. Randy Williams, a veteran MC, took the time to answer my questions regarding some of the choreography that I was required to do. Howard Gaass, another veteran, reassured me he would be right there if I needed any guidance during the service. Walter Johnson, our beloved Deacon, told me just how happy he was I was there to serve as MC, and our rector, Canon Davies, teased me (as usual) about how hopeless he was sure I’d be in my post. (That translates from him to me as,”I love you and I’ll help if you start to head in the wrong direction.) The crucifer and the torches were so sweet and supportive, I found myself getting calmer and calmer. In other words, I felt surrounded by love.
I can’t say my performance was perfect, but it was certainly good enough. No major gaffes at all and only a few minor moments when a friendly voice would whisper, “Do this next.” All in all, a lovely and loving experience.
When people wonder what is good about organized religion when there is so much that is clearly bad, I would have to point to a day like today as an example. The love that I felt represents the absolute best of what faith organizations have to offer. A place where people see you, accept you and support you. Not that St. Thomas the Apostle is perfect; we are not. We, like any place where flawed human beings come together, have all sorts of failings and sometimes get it quite wrong. But not today, not for me. Today I felt wrapped in love. Thank you, my friends, for such kindness.
Here are some of the very special people who helped me today at church:
Richard and Stephen
Randy and Howard
Randy, Rhiannon, Jose Luis
Joseph, our church administrator, Canon Davies, and Ray