Saturday, January 16, 2010

Report: Joy of Sects on Christmas Eve

This was the first Christmas in recent memory that I hadn't been tied up with visiting family, and I figured I'd make the most of it. Better yet, I had the Reverend Jason and Sister Yumi from the Davis Bike Church/Collective visiting, and they were stoked about hitting some Christmas Eve services.

A little internet research led us to choose the First Presbyterian Church's 9:00 pm "Candlelight Service" and St. Mary's Cathedral "Midnight Mass." A few ride announcements posted places like and the Bike Temple Blog made us "official."

Yumi and the Rev. cooked a great curry Christmas dinner for The Kernal, Grand Master Morgan, Meghan, myself, and maybe another guest or two, and by 8:00 we were prepared for an onslaught of the faithful for the "Tea and Toddy's Preride Social." Parishoners Joel and Hannah arrived on the scene as we busted out the Vodka-spiked eggnog (Thanks Aaron T!) and we began the night of revelry with wheat-free pecan pie, ice cream, and hot drinks.

Then it was out in to the night to hitch ourselves up to the Milliped/Santa Sled for the ride downtown. The Kernal played Santa, and we all adopted our Reindeer names for this part of the ride. I was Donner (in memory of a friend by that name -- rest in peace, Blake Donner), Grand Master Morgan was "Blitzen," I don't remember the others. But we had a great time cruising down through the light traffic, taking the lane on the Broadway Bridge, and regretted that we hadn't thought to bring gifts for the gaggles of homeless folks we passed along the way. Arriving at the church at 8:55, we parked the whole contraption on the sidewalk directly outside the front door, left the lights blazing, and went inside.

Apparently, it's good to arrive a little early for Christmas Eve services. It was almost a full house! The only seating left was on a pew built into the wall, and we scooted all the way to the front as there were more folks coming in behind us. They weren't particularly comfy seats since there was a strip of molding at neck level, but the view was pretty good -- we were all the way to the front of the sanctuary, looking squarely at the side of the pulpit, with a 9' grand piano as eye-candy in the foreground. We were also beneath the balcony level, and the ceiling was wood shiplap planks angled away from us, so you could actually hear yourself sing because the sound would bounce right back at you.

The service was great! Lots of music, lots of standing up and sitting down, pipe organ playing at full blast, choir, handbell choir, all doing their thing. And fairly minimal sermonage -- not enough to make any of our party bored, at any rate.

They told "The Christmas Story," read a few passages from key New Testament books, sang traditional carols with the congregation, had less-known music sung by the choir. I made an interesting observation (to myself, anyway) that if I was ever to get a girl knocked up, and not want to have folks make a fuss about it, I think I'd just come right out and fess up. "Ya, we were fooling around, shouldn't have done it, but, hey, we love each other and we're going to get hitched and make everything A-OK." The deal that Joseph and Mary did, where they said she was still a virgin, he didn't do anything, no hanky-panky, it was really God that mysteriously got her knocked up, might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think it backfired on them. If their kid would have been a low-life scum then they'd have been fine, but since he turned out to be a really cool cat and have a bunch of religious followers in the end, it made it so that 2000 frikking years later folks are still telling the story, in great detail! "Mary was a sweet little thing, would never ever have fooled around with anyone, Joseph did the noble thing and took her to wife anyhow." It's about as transparent of a shotgun wedding story as I've ever heard, and now their little round of innocent fornication and complex cover-up gets rebroadcast at a zillion Christian churches around the world, every year, 60 generations later... (And they did it at Midnight Mass, too -- we heard it twice that night!)

After the service we lingered a bit to examine the beautiful architecture, wander around the balcony, talk to the handbell director, etc. (See "Monogamous Sects" ride for more details), then we hitched back up to the Milliped and rode off to St. Mary's.

We had to make one brief stop along the way, though, at the Zoobomb Plinth. New in 2009, it's essentially an public alter for the bicycle faith

St. Mary's was grand, and we arrived just in time to get the last seats in the house. Which were up in the choir loft, 6' in front of the pipe organ. A dream come true for myself, I looked forward to having my entire torso reverberate to those great bass notes. Rev. Jason got a seat right up against the organ console, which was helped him enjoy the duller parts of service. We were directly behind some other folks, though, and the wooden railing, wrought iron railing supports and Christmas wreathery gave us a somewhat obstructed view of the service. I noted that the man in front of me might be one of those "Christmas and Easter" Catholics, as his jacket smelled distinctly of mothballs.

The service was okay. An hour of singing (which was good), then an hour + of mass got a little long for some of the templors, but I loved the whole thing. The pipe organ was indeed fabulous to sit next to, with the bass pretty much drowning out everything else. The service wasn't as enjoyable as the Presbyterian, it was a little more formal, a little less content, but it was cool to see the Archbishop take different hats on and off. Or, rather, have someone else take them on and off him. And he gave a classic "shy pope" wave as he left the sanctuary after the service.

Then a ride back home with the Milliped and a sweet night's sleep.

Looking forward to next year, if I play hookey from Mom and the clan again. Otherwise maybe 2 years...

Yours in The Faith,
Pasture Ted

1 comment:

  1. I'd say that was one of the most memorable Christmases ever! Thanks Ted, for organizing it! I look forward to more. Nice photo selection. heh.