Sunday, February 13, 2005

Putting the "L" back in Lutheran

I have just experienced my first Lutheran potluck and I am not quite sure that it was traditional in the let’s-give-the-ladies-in-the-kitchen-a-hand kind of way that Garrison Keillor has made so famous. First, it was during Lent. Nobody thought to check with the pastor before it was scheduled and announced but after Tom and Karin did so during the passing of the peace, I heard Pastor John mention quietly that we don’t normally have parties during Lent but what the heck. That’s part of why I like Pastor John. He has a sense of the proprieties but he knows when to let go of them, too. He will often stop us all mid-hymn if the volunteer accompanist has taken the wrong tempo or begin prayers again if he starts in the wrong place. One Sunday he was discussing the ritual washing of the hands before distributing the bread and the wine and his use of waterless hand-cleaner to make the ritual pragmatic as well. The woman who carries her oxygen tank with her (and often has to leave right after taking communion first because it is running out) argued with him in the middle of church, asking, demanding that she be able to take the elements herself rather than having them handed to her. He tried to talk about how that would then contaminate all of the host since her hands were not necessarily clean, but she would not back down from her defense of her own health. He gave it one more try and gracefully acquiesced before beginning communion. She did not shake anyone’s hand that Sunday during the passing of the peace. However, two weeks ago, she gave me a great big hug, exclaiming how much better hugs were. This week, she was back to her no-touching routine. I knelt next to her to take communion and noticed that the pastor let her take her own bread and winked at her.

So, despite the fact the the potluck was being held during Lent, it had an “All-American” theme for Valentine’s Day. We were encouraged to bring meatloaf, mashed potatoes, apple pie: whatever we associated with all-American. We ended up with two types of beans and wienies, a lasagna-type dish with cheddar cheese on top, a loaf of bread and butter, five pies (the strawberry-rhubarb was by far the best), and three different kinds of cookies. There was also beer, which I don’t remember Grandma ever mentioning in her Lutheran upbringing but now that I think about the German immigrant legacy, certainly makes sense as traditional. I forgot about the potluck until 20 minutes before church started, so I stopped at the market to get Coca-Cola and Oreo’s, the two most American foodstuffs I can think of.

After eating, we had a sing-along of good old American love songs, such as “Sentimental Journey,” “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” and “Shine on Harvest Moon.” I’m the only person in our 20-member church who is younger than 40 and most are over 65. They commented when I didn’t know “Peg O’ My Heart.” I thought my mom and my elementary school music teacher, Miss. Marquis, would be proud of my knowledge of the American songbook. Jared, the pianist (who is also the head chef at the Rosario Resort) was taking requests and I think that my grandma would be a little disconcerted that when one of the women shouted, “I Want A Girl” as in the song “I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad” and her partner leaned over to say sotto voce, “You’ve already got one.” Then, everyone laughed. I’m not sure where in the German immigrant legacy the lesbians come in, but I guess they must be in there somewhere.

There are actual three different brqanches of our church on three different islands and the pastor usually does three services on a Sunday morning. Some of the congregation came over from Lopez to share our potluck with us and I sat next to a lovely couple, Pat and Gordon. They were in their seventies and she mentioned in passing that they had been married for a little over a year. At one point, when we weren’t talking, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he handed her a candy heart, taken from the center of the table that said, “I love u.” I just barely kept the “Aww” in my mouth.

So, all in all, I highly approve of these potlucks, especially the singing. We’re going to have another one for St. Patrick’s Day, or at least we talked about it. It still won’t be Easter yet, so maybe the pastor might nix it until then. However, I certainly hope they slip it by him again.

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