Ice Skating During Eucharist

Well, it’s Sunday and I’m on the road again. Time to find another temporary Episcopal home for the morning.

Beloved and I had been discussing it, and she found one “Believe Out Loud” congregation – meeting at 5:30pm. Eck. Sunday evenings… not so much, thanks. As a kid I went to the 8:30 service and that suited me just fine, even when I babysat until 2am (ah, to be young again…)

So I was kind of thinking I’d just go to the closest (because Austin, for all its (comparatively) small size (this IS Texas) has a boodle of Episcopal churches), but I’m a newlywed, according to Texas law, and it would be nice to be recognized and enjoy the moment with others.  (Note, this was written in June 2015, I just found it in my FB feed.)

So I kinda thought I’d head over to St. James in east Austin… I gotta say, I hadn’t really thought about being in the South. St. James was formed because blacks back then weren’t allowed in the hallowed halls of the white churches, and now the congregation declares they are “intentionally inclusive, welcoming, respectful and nurturing…” Well, heck. There’s no rainbows on the website, but the faces in the pictures sure are. Okey-dokey!

Then, as I woke up this morning, it occurred to me… I’m not in Santa Clarita any more, what about a historic church? A quickie check of Professor Google showed St. David’s was built in 1855 and is one of the oldest buildings (not just churches) in the city.

Wow. That’s some church. DAAAH it’s 7:50 am and church starts at 9! Shower! Shower!!

I paused for a moment to look at St. Dave’s website… they offer a helpful “newcomer’s FAQ” (which, while I tend to be snarky, is actually a good idea IMO. It kinda feeds off of our very own St. Dave’s idea of letting newcomers know our traditions etc.)

The guide informs the reader of attire (huh? I figure if I’ve covered the naughty bits and don’t offend anyone, I’m golden.)

“Some come in “Sunday Best” while others prefer more casual attire such as jeans and a nice shirt. The same goes for children. We invite you and your family to dress in whatever way you feel is comfortable and appropriate.”

I note “shorts” aren’t on the menu. Respectfully, it’s 95F and nearly 100% humidity. I wanna be as near nekkid as possible without giving anyone the hives.

They graciously note they offer a free voucher for every newcomer to have breakfast on them. (Um… what?) Their “Café Divine” is available on the third floor, serving breakfast from 8:30 – 11:15 and “we’d like to buy you breakfast!”

Uh… thank you.

I know, I get that they operate in downtown Austin and having hordes of homeless descending on their afters-snackies would probably not be the best way to encourage parishioners to socialize.

But somehow, buying breakfast instead of peering at the coffee hour mystery offerings reposing in the midst of Kimberlee’s fabulousness just isn’t the same. I love coffee hour. Good conversation, treats without the government-mandated caloric content for commercial goods, and (especially) trashy gossip makes for an enjoyable after church experience. Especially when you know everyone.

That’s the other drawback to St. Dave’s, IMO. Seven services on Sunday (try saying THAT without a lisp) means there’s no way you see/know everyone. In the morning, they have two services with different flavors running concurrently (always a Rite II with organ, then either the family service or the Rite II “with an Austin flair”).

And there’s Episcopal churches all over the place! Holy cow, it’s an infestation of Anglicans!

Then the “Austin flair” bit. The city motto seems to be “Keep Austin Weird”. God love ‘em, with the storm yesterday I avoided the annual “Keep Austin Weird” festival. Among the offerings:
• Big Toe Wrestling competition. (“One, Two, Three, Four, I declare a big-toe war” isn’t quite the same, somehow. Especially when balancing on your bottom to maintain agility in your feet…)
• Smelly Cavern – god only KNOWS what THAT is. I didn’t like to ask.
• People dressed as only intoxicated gay San Franciscans can dress. I say that will all due respect, especially as I have operated as such in the past. Details only upon request.

So there’s a part of me a little intrigued by the Rite II with the Austin flair idea. Although, given the rest of the website, I’m thinking maybe those little radicals whip out a guitar and (gasp) start playing it in the middle of the service!

So, I am now off to St. James in east Austin. I wish you all a gay Sunday!


The follow up to this, which I wrote after returning from the service:

Well, since you asked… I’m still having trouble with those stupid kneelers.

No, unlike West VA, they actually resembled what we use (those flip down thingies attached to the pews). I deliberately scoped those out FIRST. Okay. No sweat.

It’s a beautiful church, and really welcoming. In December 1941 St. James was formed as a “Negro congregation” (their words – segregation in those days requred them to be separate) in the Texas Diocese. Father John Epps, the vicar of St. Johns in Tyler (outside of Dallas) drove to Austin once a month to conduct services – he was also the Dean of the Colored Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Their building is only eight years old and is gorgeous and the acoustics… holy moly. It’s like singing in an ear trumpet. I was seriously convinced they mic-ed up the choir but no… it’s just an amazing construction. There’s no rail at the circular altar other than one small segment, and the floors are a beautiful stained and highly polished concrete. Modern, but lovely.

Okay. So, other than being church-in-the-round (like theater in the round), it was all pretty standard fare. Except for those… those kneelers.

Stood for the processional. After the second hymn, we all sat as usual… and I noticed a number of people doing so cautiously. Huh? However, it seemed sturdy enough, so I plopped myself down.

The pew, and my butt, shifted. From the corner of my eye, I registered several other pews did too.

What the heck?

OMG. The pews are not secured to the floor.

St. James Austin, 2015. Note the pews and the glassy floor.

It was like Bambi and Thumper on the frozen pond – and I was the venison. Holy crap. Most people, obviously from long experience, controlled their pews like Gretzky’s ice skates as he listened to the national anthem.

Others (like, well, me and the guy in the pew directly behind me – he was there for the first time last week) were using the rubber on the soles of our shoes to keep the bench from pirouetting across the sanctuary.

That wasn’t the worst of it. The St. Stephens kneelers are a decent distance from the back of the attached seat. These, not so much. When YOU kneel, not only did you hope the parishioner in front of you either stood or knelt (so you didn’t encase a seated person’s head in front in your boo… um… so you remained a respectful distance), but man, those above a size eight were molding themselves to the entire seat.

If the guy in front of you sat, you were really forced to stand.  Or sit.

So… you ask, why didn’t you do the alternative kneeling position where you rest your posterior on the edge of your own seat, so you’re in an S shape rather than kneeling with the rest of you straight up?

Okay. You forgot about the whole not connected to the floor thing.

If I had even gingerly placed my not-ungenerous rumpy against the back of that pew I sat on… well, the newbie behind and to the left of me (also a novice at pew control) would have suddenly found a counter-weight to his tenuous balance. The centrifugal force woulda sent the poor bastard flying into the choir stalls.

It woulda also left me flat on my bum, and the whipping of the wooden bench would have taken out the pew in front of me… along with the elderly couple sitting on it. That in turn would most likely have flattened the next pew, with the older gay guys who, last night, were the first couple married in the Texas Diocese.

That woulda made for an interesting eucharist. Nothing like offering last rites during communion.

Otherwise, a good service. The sermon was… well, I’m biased, everything pales to our Rector…but after the lowering of the Confederate flag (as was pointed out, one parishoner went to Walmart as a result of their ceasing sales of this merchandise and got into a conversation with the checker about the action – the checker pointed out that as a black woman, she’s been required to sell crap with the flag on it while earning minimum wage – and jobs don’t come easy, you can’t be picky), and the election of the suffragan bishop, she got around to marriage. So that was good.

I didn’t go to coffee hour.  They were all so nice but I just wanted to slip out. Apparently they had champagne for it all.

It’s a beautiful church.


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