Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good-bye to St. Mary (at least for now)

Today was a Sunday like any other. I woke up a little later than I wished because I had some problems sleeping. I gathered my materials and drove the 26 minutes to get to St. Mary to start Orthros at around 8:45 am. The week's tone was seven, not my favorite, but it can yield some good things. Moses and I chanted the service through with Brian Linnell doing some chanting and ended with the Great Doxology in Tone 5. As soon as I chanted the final troparion to begin the Divine Liturgy, I realized that this was going to be the last time that I would be at this chanter's stand where I have stood at every Vespers, Orthros, Paraklesis, Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, Weekday Divine Liturgy, Pascha for the past three years for the last time.

This chanter's stand has, more or less, become an extension of my very self. It was at the chanter's stand where my godfather, Fr. Aaron Warwick, chanted the very first Great Vespers on a Saturday night in July of 2005 which set me along on my journey. After his departure in June of 2006, I took up his burden and began chanting myself for almost every office and liturgy the church offered.

That's not to say that chanting was the only thing I did at St. Mary. I was the Teen SOYO advisor for the past two years, I managed the bookstore, I was on the cleaning committee and was part of the powerful ways and means committee. Knowing that my time was short here, I stopped my involvement right away with these other ministries, except for the bookstore, simply because I am a biblophile. These were all worthy things to be a part of. And I would like to think that I contributed and did well with those ministries for the glory of our Lord. But I will miss most of all coming to an empty church in the evening or in the morning, lighting the oil vigil lamps on the iconostasis, saying the prayers in front of the icons, lighting the censer for Fr. Don, setting up the icon of the feast (if necessary) and preparing to worship the One God in Trinity in purity and in truth.

Today, I leave all that, at least for the present. Hopefully, come January, at the latest, I will return. But my situation in life is such that I cannot remain in Omaha and I cannot remain with my spiritual family and my spiritual home for the past four years. It is hard to leave.

Most people did not know of my impending departure. I didn't really want them to know. Too much of me already is humiliated that I have asked for help and I didn't want to call any further attention to the despondent state that I find myself in. So I walked out of the church today, venerated the icon of the Theotokos which is in the Narthex and drove away not to return...for awhile.

A tribute then to my friends who have made all the difference in these past four years.

Fr. Don: You are my spiritual father and a spiritual son could not ask for better. I enjoyed our many theological talks, our confessions and even our golf outings. You have inspired me and given me hope that no matter what my sins are and how numerous they be that I have been lifted up from my infirmities by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for all the trust you have placed in me these past years. I shall remember fondly how many times just you and I would chant services together (those were the days) and I thank you for even letting me chant in Greek.

Kh. Maggie: Fr. Don has said it many times that behind every good priest is a good priest's wife. That definitely applies to you. In many ways, you are the glue that holds this parish together and your work, though not readily seen, is readily felt and appreciated.

Fr. Aaron and Gwen: Though you are gone, I will never forget you and how you steered me on the right course. I know that you particularly enjoyed how much entertainment I could provide for you and I thank you for helping me loosen up, if only a little bit. It has been a great privilege and pleasure to be your friend and to see your own children grow up.

My fellow chanters, Moses, Holly, John: It has been a great pleasure to chant with all of you. If I've become a better chanter, it's been mainly because of your help and assistance. I've learned so much about Byzantine chant from all of you and I hope that I have not embarassed you up at the chanter's stand. I hope that when I return, you will allow me to stand with you again and sing the hymns to our Lord.

Mimi Oldenhuis: I remember when I first started with the choir. It was Thomas Sunday of 2006. Even the first time, it felt like I was up there for years. The beautiful music just seemed to be a natural part of me. Thank you for your dedication and thanks for thinking so highly of me. I must confess it was because of you that I stayed up there when I was so frustrated and wanted to quit. I also appreciate how you and Frank helped me out of my little transportation problem back in April-May. I will pay it forward, I promise.

Jessica Mannion: What can I say Jessi? We spent a good deal of time together and though things didn't work out (and I think you and I are both glad that it didn't), you helped me to budge out of my shell and to experience something that I thought was to be forever absent from my life. I wish you well as you are now a mother to little Justin.

Rachel Ream, Nathaniel and Tommy: Rachel, it is been a pleasure to know you. You're one hell of a cook and I always looked forward to seeing you at church. You and your husband, Jason, have shown me much generosity and I feel that I have not adequately repaid that. I thank you for allowing me to spend so much time with Nathaniel and Tommy. How they have both grown! Though I know well that having children is not in my future, I thank you for at least allowing me little glimpses of being a parent with them.

Holly and Hannah: You two are trouble. It's as simple as that. And I suppose that is just the inevitable consequence of being daughters of a priest--you're always trying to shake the good preacher daughter label. But, you are two of the kindest people I know and that can only result from the fact that you have such good parents.

Josh Harrison: Well, my godson, you'll have to get by without me for awhile, but you never needed me really. You are very mature in the faith and very dedicated and you put most lifelong Christians to shame with your devotion to our Lord. It has been my pleasure to work with you in the bookstore and to stand by you when you were chrismated and received the mysteries for the first time. But, above all, you have been my friend, a very good one. I thank you for your hospitality that you have shown me.

Phil and Natalie: Teen SOYO is in very good hands, better than when I assumed the post. It has been a great pleasure to be your friends and to hang out with you. You are always so happy together and that is such a great gift especially when we see the ravages of failed relationships so rampant in our culture around us. I pray that you continue to be a beacon of what a good, true, Christian marriage really is.

Brian: I wish we could have done music night sooner; that was too much fun. I've always enjoyed our intellectual talks on a myriad of subjects. And I continue to appreciate your many thoughtful suggestions with my musical composition. I will continue to defer to your acumen.

The teens: I have enjoyed watching you guys grow up and mature. Being advisor to SOYO was both a burden and a joy. I know I come off as a bit inflexible, but such is the way I am. It may not be the only way to achieve things in life, but it works for me. I am saddened that I have to depart and will not be able to see you continue to grow. You have tried my patience, made me laugh. You have made me run the gamut of emotions, but that's not a bad thing.

St. Mary Parishioners: Rest assured that all of you have left some indelible mark upon me. You have received me into your family and I thank you for it. Pray for me as I pray for you.

So, St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Omaha, NE...fare thee well!

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