Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Little Lip

Today's post starts off on a melancholy note, but it picks up fast, ok?

(Also, can I just say how proud I am to blog 2 days in a week?  WOW).

Ok, so today I went to a funeral for the father of my former boss.  (That's the melancholy part).  The funeral was at a Lutheran church, so I was expecting some funky architecture.

(This is probably where I should jump in to say that, as a Scholar of Religion and also a Ritologist (yes, it's a word) with the student loans to prove it, I have a theory on church architecture that I won't get into here.  Basically it's this:  You can pretty much wager successfully on a church's denomination by the way the church is built.  It's hard to put into words.  Maybe I'm just denomination psychic.  Anyway.  Lutherans = Funky Architecture, usually heavy stone that looks like something either built in 1347 or something built in 1975 that was trying to look like it was built in 1347.)

So this funeral was in a Lutheran church.  Guess what the church looked like?  A monastery from 1347, with upper modern stained glass windows straight out of the Age of Aquarius.  It was actually really lovely, truly.  Also the service was very nice - upbeat, optimistic, and full of really pretty music.

Now, as many of you already know, I have a penchant for sacred spaces - churches, synagogues, sacred stone circles, you name it, I like to be smack in the middle of it.  They're usually very calm places, quiet and peaceful, and I can't help but look around and decipher symbols and such.  So when I go to weddings, funerals, anything in any type of religious space, my inner ritologist comes out in full force.  The amusing thing about this is, even my former boss (whose father's funeral we were attending) said during the reception afterwards that she figured I was enjoying myself looking around at everything and studying it.  Um...busted.

This church was set up in a very interesting way, with the Communion table smack in the middle, and parenthesis shaped altar rails around it.  There were congregation chairs on 3 sides, with the choir and organ on the 4th.  Very egalitarian.  Martin Luther would be proud.  :)

I really wanted to get pictures, but figured that would be horribly gauche of me. 

 - Side note:  Also gauche?  Wearing a stupid Bluetooth to a funeral.  TAKE IT OFF ALREADY, YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

Ahem.  There was a lovely model ship, about 5 feet long, hanging from the ceiling off to the side.  I actually stopped an acolyte after the service and asked about it, because I had never seen that before in an American church.  She said a Dutch model maker had made & donated it in the tradition of churches from where he's from, where model ships would be hung in churches to bless those who work on the sea.  Charming! 

The holy water font was chalice shaped and made of dark marble.  It was also like an infinity pool, with the water even with the very top of the bowl.  I honestly thought it was a marble table at first, the top was so smooth and still. 

The coolest thing though?  Relates directly to my master's thesis - a real page turner about the construction materials used for ceremonial chalices for communion in the medieval period in Europe, and the laws against using certain materials for fear of (1) contaminating the wine, or (2) spilling the wine.  If you're interested in reading the entire thing, let me know and I'll send you some valium instead, because it'll accomplish the same purpose. 

Back to the point.  Am a bit rambly today.  So when the acolytes & ushers were prepping for communion, they had the big silver chalices (love chalices!) and then trays of small little communion glasses.  Communion single-serve shot glasses, if you will.  They look like this:

The ones they had today were glass.  When I was a kid, we had plastic ones and I used to go around and collect them after church and take them home for tea parties with my stuffed animals.  Um...looking back that seems a bit sacrilegious.  Apparently Alexander Bear was very devout.
The people today had three options: drinking straight out of the big chalice, intinction (meaning they dip the bread into the wine), or using the little cup.  But the cups weren't pre-filled with wine.  I was confused.
Then I saw this - a new evolution in the world of communion, designed to avoid spilling the wine, but still allowing people their single-serve, germ-free communion experience:
A chalice with a pour spout.
How brilliant is this!? 
Also, I just realized you can buy these online:
Isn't the internet great? 
So that's a taste of religious studies for all of you non-anthropology types.  I could go on and on about the symbols on the liturgical robes, the windows, how the lyrics of the hymns were different from the Baptist or Episcopalian ones I'm familiar with, etc. but I won't bore you.  Anymore tonight, anyway.  :)

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