Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reverend Father, Coincidence? Or Not. - Part 1

Sometimes a coincidence is simply a coincidence.   But sometimes the coincidences are so intense and compelling, you can't help but believe that None Other Than The Holy Spirit is at the helm.  Meeting the Reverend Father in Liberia was one of those experiences.

On the eve of my departure, a priestly friend suggested I look up her friend from seminary while I was in Liberia.  Okay, I thought, wouldn't that be nice.  But, what are the odds of running into this priest while I am in Liberia -- especially one whose ministry is to sea farers far from home in Liberia.  I was traveling by air, after all ;)

Well.  Let me tell you.

We arrived in Liberia late at night.  Travel weary and overburdened with two fifty-pound suitcases each, we made our way through the airport.  We were met by our driver and another gentleman and proceeded  toward the truck and van to load bags and make our way to the compound.  Somehow, we got separated, and found ourselves in the midst of several young men who were vying for our bags.  If they touch them, they want a tip.  I mean, they REALLY want a tip.   I remember trying to figure out what happened to our driver, when a gentle man with a calming presence told me that it was okay.  He pointed to the van and told me to get in.  I was most happy to oblige.

Well, this was the first of many encounters with my friend's friend (and-now-my-friend), The Reverend Father.  He had come to the airport to meet us and to safely escort us from the airport to the compound in which we were staying.  He then invited My Wonderful Priest to preach at his church on Sunday.

There's more.  One evening, a few of us were sitting around the compound enjoying a cold Liberian beer, when some visitors arrived.

Three "collars" including The Reverend Father came to call.  We learned that Reverend Father is in charge of Christian Education and Mission with the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia.  He brought with him the Priest of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the principal of the Episcopal School at St. Thomas.  Coincidentally (ahem) we were planning a seminar for teachers the next day at The Bromley School

So, guess who came to our seminar on Saturday?  The Rev. Father, his friends, and a few of the teachers from the St. Thomas School.  I believe one  message for us was that there's more than one Episcopal School in Liberia in need of support.  It was a pleasure to be able to offer something to another school in addition to Bromley.  I had to laugh, those of you who are teachers know, staff development isn't always something we joyfully anticipate.  Yet these educators sought it out.  It was yet another reminder of the abundance in my life on so many levels - personal and professional.

On Sunday, we trekked quite a distance to worship at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Caldwell. It was a long trip through crowded, pot-hole-filled streets, and we weren't sure if the driver knew where he was going.  We arrived just minutes before the service was to begin.  It was such a relief to see this sweet little Episcopal Church waiting for us.

I was about to experience the most profound Holy Encounter of my Liberian experience. 

Much of my energy - emotional and spiritual - was spent simply processing the multi-sensory over stimulation and sense of being off-kilter that I was experiencing in Liberia.  This was the first moment that felt familiar to me.  Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Incense and altar bells.  I knew exactly what to do.   I didn't expect to have such a profound encounter with the divine.  But, now that I know the Reverend Father, I should not have been surprised.

When communion ended, the children entered and were blessed by My Wonderful Priest.  There were more children than adults, and it was a beautiful sight to see. 

More beautiful children.

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