After our first week of “church shopping,” we gave ourselves an exception week.This weekend is the Harborfest in Norfolk, right across the river from us, which results in heavy traffic (making Norfolk churches more difficult to get to) and inconsistent traffic patterns (stressing out drivers). Today is also the Grand Prix of Canada, the home and native land of my beloved so we wanted to make sure we’re home in time for the pre-race events at 1pm.
We chose this week to visit Old Donation Church in Virginia Beach, which was our parish home from 2007 to 2009. Old Donation is the oldest church in southside Hampton Roads, the mother (or grandmother) parish of the Episcopal churches in Virginia Beach. It got its name for the land a rector donated… after some time passed and it was no longer a recent donation. Old Do is situated at the entrance to a pricey and exclusive neighborhood, and across the street from a much more modest middle-class subdivision.
When I first visited Old Donation in 2007, I was in the process of separating from my ex-husband and badly in need of love and healing. At my first step inside the doors, I knew I had Come Home. My siblings in Christ there loved me and helped set me on the road to healing, and I didn’t know how badly I needed their help until it was so freely offered to me. Old Do will ever hold a special place in my heart, along with great gratitude and praise to God.
Today was an ordinary Sunday in the growing season, and an installment on a series of sermons on the readings from Galatians appointed for this summer. Fr. Fred Poteet preached and celebrated, and the sermon was a solid B+ (as expected). The main theme of his sermon was a reminder that the Church was established to be a life-saving station, not a beautiful, elegant country club. The reason I give it a B+ is that it needed one more step: the call to action, the invitation. I wonder who you will rescue. Who will be helped by this life-saving station today?
The 9:15 worship service at Old Donation is important to us because it was established while we were members of the parish, and we committed to being some of the core worshipers to get it going. See, the people of the parish treasure the historic worship space–in particular its amazing acoustics–and strongly resist changing the space to enlarge it. So if the church is growing, and you can’t increase the size of the space, then you’re going to have to offer an additional worship time!
We were greeted with great warmth and affection, offered the same sort of joyful greeting you get when you travel to mom and dad’s for Thanksgiving. We celebrated the Eucharist straight from the Book of Common Prayer, with all music from the Hymnal 1982. Old Do is closer to the high-church end of the broad-church tradition in the Episcopal Church. There are signs of the cross and bows and even Sanctus bells, but incense is only used on feast days. As ever, the worship was reverent and lovely, and to my great pleasure, we used the “Star Wars” prayer for the Eucharist, with its beautiful description of God’s creation of galaxies, stars, the planets in their courses, and this fragile Earth, our island home. As the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd does, this Eucharistic Prayer begins with the grand and general–the entire cosmos–and then works down to the very specific–each one of us people.
Next weekend is PrideFest in Norfolk. We will have a special midweek mystery worship, the annual Interfaith Celebration, this week, and we plan to take part in the festival next weekend. As a result, we plan to give ourselves another “exception week” from our search for a new church home. I’m not sure quite what this will mean for us, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it will become clear during the week.