Monthly Archives: June 2012

Anadama Bread for Communion? Really?

The Bread of Heaven, locally sourced. You may have to be from New England to know what Anadama Bread is.  My deacons get it at Fiddleheads or at the Hancock Farmers Market held in the horsesheds behind the church. (Caveat: we don’t used it every time we celebrate communion—sometimes the whole wheat looks better that day, sometimes it’s a pita party).

Anadama Bread is yeast bread made with cornmeal and molasses. When I was growing up, the real stuff was made in Rockport, MA. Recipes circulate throughout New England and apocryphal stories are told about this bread with the odd name. One version–a forgetful wife once left a pot of cornmeal mush on the stove and her husband exclaimed “Anna, damn her!” Depending on the rendition, that can be damn as in damn good or damn as in damn stupid.

But can you use Anadama Bread for communion? You bet. Especially if you are are on the low church end of the liturgical spectrum as we are in Hancock. There are high church options in neighboring Peterborough—places where the worship life is more heavily ritualized and ornamented and tends toward the Catholic–and they are indeed lovely places to worship. But as we make sense of the stories of Jesus, we see him as taking ordinary bread and sharing it with ordinary people. Ordinary bread for us? Local bread. Whatever our neighbor-bakers have made. Sometimes that’s Anadama.

One other Communion note—If you worship with us on a Communion Sunday (generally the first Sunday of the month), our deacons will serve you the bread and the wine or juice (you have a choice) right in your own pew. Sometimes I’m asked about this. Is it because Congregationalists are lazy? Or especially considerate towards those with mobility issues? Nope. There is a theological reason. In Reformed traditions like ours, the elements are brought out to congregation to symbolize that God meets us where we are. Not just at the high altar and when we’re moving forward, but also where we sit and sometimes get stuck.

Instagram’s Grandmother

Hancock Meetinghouse and Horsesheds from the Norway Plains Cemetery

One of the perks of my job is that I get to hear people talk about their families. Over time, you get to follow life as it is unfolding not just for your own parishioners, but also the people they care about. You hear a lot of stories about grandchildren.

One person who always had good grandchildren stories was . I’m thinking about Betty today on what would have been her 87th birthday. When I visited with Betty, she frequently would talk about her grandchildren. I saw pictures of their vacations on the Cape, drawings they made, presents they sent her. Sometimes she would mention a project that her grandson Kevin was working on at school.

As it turns out, Kevin’s “project” was Instagram. Yep, that Kevin (maybe you saw him in a commercial aired during the Superbowl?) and that Instagram . Let’s just call it an entrepreneurial fairy tale—invent something really cool, sell it for a ton of money, and do it while you are still in your twenties.

If you aren’t sure what Instagram is, it’s an application for iPhones and now Androids, where you can take a picture with your phone and then instantly try out a whole range of filters that will transform the look and feel of your photo. Even mediocre photos can be made to look pretty darned good. Then the application makes it easy to send, post and share your photos right from your phone.

Part of the charm of Instagram is that it uses a square format—just like an old Polaroid photo. And that’s where Instagram hooked me—even before I knew of the connection to Betty and her grandson.

Hancock Meetinghouse Steeple

Call me a member of the Polaroid Generation. My father loved his Polaroid camera and I still remember the smell of those little pink sponges of fixer he used to keep in his pocket. Both of my children were born in Norwich, Connecticut where one of the favorite sons (right up there along with Benedict Arnold) was Edwin H. Land, inventor of the Polaroid process. I admit I was a little sad when I drove by the old Polaroid building on Rte. 128 outside of Boston a few weeks ago and saw that it was being demolished.

All of which is to say that, going way back, I have a soft spot for all things Polaroid. I am grateful to Betty’s grandson for putting that retro-look, square photo format back in my hands.

Some people do amazing things with Instagram and have elevated it to a real art form. I just use it for fun with lesser results.  But in honor of Betty’s birthday, I’m posting are a few Instagrams of a place she loved, a place she served, and a place where she is remembered with deep fondness.

Hancock Church Vestry from the Bandstand

Will This Be My Last Greatest Generation Farewell?

I am not sure how many more members of the Greatest Generation I will get to bury. If it turns out that the one who died at age 87 this month was the last in my congregation, it will have been a magnificent way to end the chapter.

Ernie was an unassuming man. He was decorated for valor, but did not go on to have an “important career” in any worldly sense. He died six miles from where he was born and like many who determined to stay in this quiet corner of New Hampshire, had to cobble together an assortment of jobs to provide for his family. He had a bad heart and a big sweet tooth. He was a man of few words, but always a Sunday morning presence in his pastel sports coat.

The town came out for Ernie on Tuesday. We had to start the service late because on the long line of people waiting to get into the Meetinghouse. The librarian closed the library for an hour so all could come to the service. The innkeepers sent over punch and a milk crate full of glass punch cups. The café owner made sure we had a mountain of pastry.  One of the school bus driver delivered tuna sandwiches  by yellow bus. Even the sexton of the cemetery arrived from his other duties of the day with brownies he and his daughter had baked. Church members had been busy for days organizing food platters and weeding the ground-cover out front. We all wanted to get it right for Ernie.

Four of Ernie’s children and grandchildren spoke at the service. They told wickedly funny stories to remind us of serious things.

The lesson I won’t forget? The story of a father who had earned a Silver Star during WWII and  whose oldest son was already in uniform during the Vietnam era, who nevertheless did not question his second son’s decision to register as a conscientious objector.

I still deal with families that fractured and never completed healed as result of their disagreements they had during the Vietnam Era. I wish those families had known the wide embrace this quiet man with a knack for accepting people just as they were.

This week I was proud of my church and proud of my town and proud to have taken part in our farewell to one of the Greatest.

No, I Am Not the Vicar of Dibley (But She Could Be My Cousin)

Last week someone stopped to help me carry yard sale donations from my car into the Vestry.  As we moved the bird-feeders and muffin tins and embroidery books, he asked “Hey, have you ever seen that program The Vicar of Dibley? This kind of reminds me of that.”

You would be surprised how often that comes up in this PBS-loving community. And the answer is yes.  I was a big Vicar of Dibley fan when it was on the air. I once even ordered the VHS boxed set to give as an ordination present.  Given my profession, what’s not to love about a British comedy about the arrival of the first female vicar in a small English village?

There are some parallels between my world and the Vicar of Dibley’s. Geraldine and I both have bangs. We both love the churches we serve and worry about their finances. When we are alone, we both speak to God with a bluntness that borders on irreverence.

But the Vicar of Dibley is younger and funnier than I am and gets more marriage proposals. She is a chocoholic, whereas for me it’s all about licorice. And while my Church Council is a dedicated and entertaining crew, its members are nowhere near as eccentric as those in Dibley.

But there’s a little of Dibley in Hancock, I think. My work as the minister here is sometimes wildly unpredictable, and yet has certain comforting rhythms–times and purposes for every season under heaven. And not a week goes by when I don’t meet someone or hear something that restores my faith in the ordinary, faith in the wonders and surprises that keep surfacing, even out of our foibles and false starts.