Monday, January 2, 2012

The sign of the cross

When I graduated from seminary,  it was customary for the graduating class to commission a cross – a pectoral cross that would be worn over clerical shirts and albs and under lots of other priestly vestments.  Our class held a competition – everyone was invited to submit a design, and the class would choose one to be made into our cross.

I had an idea, immediately.  I loved the weathervane on top of the Chapel – the one in which we had worshipped daily together for three years.  Having no artistic ability whatsoever, I talked one of my classmates into drawing the weathervane – a very homemade rendition - and we submitted it for consideration. Alas, another pattern was chosen – a nice Celtic cross which worked well for all. But I still loved the idea of that weathervane cross, and pondered how to have one made, silently in my heart – and with my lips – out loud to my sister, Beth.  I also showed her the drawing – and, although I don’t remember this, apparently either gave her the original or made her a copy.

That was nearly eight years ago.  That was, also, a chapel ago.  That beautiful old building – albeit, pretty outdated and not very functional for the new kind of liturgy with which we aspired to experiment in those days – burned to the ground in the fall of 2010.  A heartbreaking occurrence, but there is some good news: the weathervane was saved – and will be placed, along with some other chapel memorabilia, in a small garden when the new Chapel is built.  In the meantime, the new Dean of the seminary, Ian Markham, instituted a special award, called the Dean’s Cross – which was modeled after the old weathervane design.  (He didn’t have a cross made, he just uses the design as part of the award).

So, of course, with thoughts of the smoldering beams lingering like ashy specters in my brain, I thought again of that cross design – but aside from wishing, did nothing about it.

This past November, I began a new call – as rector of a church in North Georgia.  My first Sunday to preside and preach was November 20th – and my sister came for the weekend to support me – and get a load of the new congregation.  The night before, I was assembling my clothes and other accoutrements for the auspicious day, when Beth pulled me aside – and put a small, white box in my hand.  She announced that this was a special present to mark my new position and my first undertaking as a rector.

I opened the box.

There in silver, as I had imagined it so long ago, was my cross – the weathervane cross – and it was perfect.  I was actually speechless for a  long moment – an unusual event in itself.  Then, of course, tears came to my eyes, as I pondered how this could have come to pass.  I was touched by my sister’s thoughtfulness – and I was amazed that anyone, let alone a Grace girl, could have held on to that slip of paper, and its rough rendition of the weathervane for nearly eight years!  (I have IRS records I can’t put my hands on from last April….sigh!).  The cross was perfect, created by a silversmith in Raleigh, NC – who lives around the corner from Beth. 

Needless to say, I felt like I had on the armor of God, the next day, when I began my work in the new parish – empowered by the sign of that cross, and the generosity and thoughtfulness of my sister. 

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