Continued from yesterday’s post…
We did a run-through of the liturgy. While all the other parents read the words out loud, I adopted a glazed, unfocused, slack-jawed look on my face and pretended I wasn’t even there. After the rehearsal, a couple of the youth leaders (saints of the highest order!) pulled me aside to warn me not to look in their direction during the actual ceremony. They would definitely be crying and they didn’t want to set me off. Please! Did they think they were dealing with an amateur? I was totally ready for this!
During the sermon, my son kept giving me sidelong glances. I could tell he was worried. Finally, it was time for Rite 13. He was called to the front along with eight other children and their parents.
As I took my place behind my son, I disassociated. I’m not quite sure where I went, but I was definitely not in that sanctuary with the rest of those poor souls. The only time my concentration was broken was when I heard my husband start to choke up. At that point, beads of sweat gathered on my brow, but I redoubled my efforts and managed to scramble and claw my way back to the safety of my alternate reality!
Those Episcopalians really know how to work the drama. At the end of the liturgy, the youth who had been sitting with their parents at the beginning of the service now leave them and sit together with their peers for the remainder of the hour. It’s the final jagged-edged knife to the heart, symbolizing the youth’s journey to adulthood.
I made it safely through. I know what you’re probably thinking. It was wrong of me not to have shown up for this once in a lifetime event. I should have experienced it, no matter how wrenching…A couple days after the service, in the privacy and sanctity of my own home, armed with a box of Kleenex, I did experience it. I pulled the text of the liturgy out of my purse where I had stowed it away. I allowed myself to really read it through, and I wept.
Here are some of the words:
Candidates, by the grace of God, you have lived through the pains and joys of childhood and have grown strong as young men and women. It is given to you to share in the power of God’s creation. You are blessed with the ability to create new ideas, new thoughts, new hopes for the world, and indeed to create new life. [Cue screeching of brakes sound effect! WHOA! Just…whoa!!!]
(Congregation in unison):
God of mercy and love, enfold these parents with your grace. Fill them with the joy of your presence. Rejoice with them as their sons and daughters become men and women. Strengthen them that they may support their daughters and sons as they begin the journey toward adulthood. Uphold them by your Spirit, that they may comfort them, although they can neither walk their road for them nor shield them from pain. Carry parents and children together safely through this journey, so that one day they may stand side by side as adults and friends, a joy and a comfort to each other all the days of their lives. Amen [These were the killer words that were the beginning of my undoing the first time I heard them].
(Parents address their sons and daughters in unison):
We thank God for the gift of your lives. As you begin to carve out the life that will be your own, we will stand behind you and support you. May we be patient and understanding, ready to guide and forgive, that in our love for you, you may know the love of God. You are holy and wonderful and blessed, and we will not look away from you. We are your parents, and we support you on this journey.
That’s my baby: