"You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear," writes St. Paul in the Epistle appointed for Sunday (which we ended up not reading in church), "but you have received a spirit of adoption." I continue to ponder what this means in my journey of adoption into a native village in the far north. Didn't help that it rained all day. Fewer mosquitoes, but also fewer people out and about to meet and greet.
I began the day with worship in the Arctic Mission Church. The Arctic Mission is headquartered on 4th Street in Anchorage. Like Glide Memorial, it works with those who live on the edge, where darkness is visceral and stories of salvation vivid. Arctic Mission’s message is very simple: open your heart to God and God will transform you in ways that you could never dream. God really can rescue you from the grave of falsehood, addiction and despair. Creation may be groaning in labor pains, as Paul continues in today’s reading, but God isn't going to let us die in childbirth.
I went home to a delicious salmon Sunday dinner with the minister and his family. Janna sent me back with jars of homemade salmon as she could not stand the idea of my eating freeze dried food. Her husband showed me a video about an Inuit village in Pond Inlet, Quebec. Watching the transformation of Pond Inlet from a place of addiction, violence and depression into a place of joy was like watching the Acts of the Apostles in real time. Not only were the people healed, so, also was their land. The caribou returned. Also in the video was the story of Cn. John Turner, an Anglican missionary of the old style, who braved ice storms and drove dog teams over trackless wastes to tend his flocks. They are all remembered out here. Tom Cleveland in Grayling, the Chapman Family in Anvik; men and women who stayed with the people for years, learning their languages and walking their ways. Where did they go, the people wonder.
At 7 pm, I opened the community hall for our first service. Our altar was a card table. Chalice and paten were veiled by green felt with a beadwork cross. The altar book rested upon a willow basket stand made by a village woman. Never did find matches for the candles, but when seven children and three adults came through the door, the place lit up anyway. I felt great joy praying, preaching and celebrating. That said, I've got a ways to go before I hit my stride! Around here, the word is that we white folks talk too much. Too true and the Prayer Book service is nothing if not wordy. Raven agrees with me, I think, although you can never be sure with him. He was cawing up a storm when we came out after services.
I moved all the stuff for church over to the community hall in the rain, and moved it back in the mist. Now it is beginning to clear. Swallows swoop and dart before my window. When I stand on the porch they miss me by inches. On this Sunday evening, I sense your prayers in the air, and I send you all of mine. Being human, as Chris in the Morning said long ago on Northern Exposure, is a difficult gig. I've both sung and shed tears today. No one has all the answers. Precious few of us ever become saints. Still, it’s good we have those few around.