A Home & A Family in Christ

Brit & Rhiannon. They are magnificent.

Today I had to give a speech at both masses on behalf of stewardship. I was asked to post it online, so here is pretty much what I said, filling in my notes, plus pictures so you can see what I mean.

“Here’s why I believe God always wanted me to to come to St Thomas, despite being born in London & being generally the exact opposite of a “church person” for so long. 

Human hindsight is 20/20, so we have to understand God’s sight, His benevolent & sometimes cheeky omniscience, in retrospect. I will tell the tale of my long, strange trip to St Thomas as quickly as possible.

I was baptized in Colwyn Bay, Wales, at St Paul’s Church, in 1976. A little later on, a lovably mischievous Welshman went to seminary with St Paul’s current rector, Christine Owen, whom I’m to understand could tell us a number of entertaining stories about our beloved rector. A condition of my confirmation here in 2014 was to never ask after any of these tales….

I had no knowledge of this connection when I discovered St. Thomas online back in 2012. I had been to a Lenten service at Saint Monica’s with my Catholic friend & was left…wanting. He asked me what was wrong. I cited the praise band & general cheeriness. He, being a comedian, apologized that his parish was not morose enough for me. I corrected him, saying, “Not morose…solemn.” I was raised in Britain, & churches needed to be made of stone, & filled with slightly awkward people who didn’t want to appear too exuberant. 

After decades of spiritual experimentation, including a few adolescent years of angry atheism, & 17 years of Wicca, Taoism, & Buddhism, I was going to return to a smallish gothic stone structure that would not immediately burst into flame upon my crossing the threshold, by God!

My friend said, “Good luck with that.”

God laughed.

Then I turned to Google. None of the Catholic Churches seemed terribly serious to me, though to my mind they ought to have been, so I googled “English church”, figuring LA had everything. And St. Thomas came up! And there on the front page was a smiling British looking fellow who said that all are named & all are welcome. Maybe even me!

He was cleaning the tabernacle & looked like art.


I stalked St. Thomas online for nearly a year. I listened to all the music. I kept coming back to the music almost obsessively. I planned to drag my sister & mother to a Schola Mass, but there was a funeral that day, so we went to an English pub instead. 

And God laughed.

I used to be on Twitter a lot. I have several friends who are actors, & began following a friend of a friend. This gentleman posted a picture of a very familiar altar. I tweeted him immediately: “@robertpatrickt2 OMG, do you go to St Thomas?” He responded immediately “You bet I do. Hashtag Episcopalian, hashtag Anglocatholic.” I tweeted back excitedly “OMG! What’s it like? Is is sufficiently solemn?” He tweeted back “It’s high Anglican, baby! Get your butt down here!” I checked online, then texted my sister, Caroline, “OMG. St Thomas is having an Easter vigil tomorrow. We have to go! Robert Patrick said!” She texted back “What even is your life?” And also “Yes!”

That night I had nightmares that nobody would let me in the church…that grannies with submachine guns stopped me at the doors & shoved me into a white van & told me I wasn’t good enough to come back to Jesus. I came anyway.

It was magical. I was in love immediately. It had been so long since I had really been to church that I thought I had to introduce myself to everybody during the peace. I barely talked to anyone after, but couldn’t wait to come back. I arrived the next morning for Easter Sunday & cried my face off because I felt stupid for waiting so long. I felt at home, more at home than in my own home. I felt Christ’s presence from the altar & all around me & even in the woman next to me whom I haven’t seen since. I had the singular thought “This is my life now.” And it is!

God just roared & roared.

My sister & I enrolled in catechism & got confirmed. I came here whenever my health permitted. Sal & I came up with the Let’s Talk About series. I’ve gone into discernment to become a spiritual director. I have made the absolute most dearest, wonderful friends here whom I would actually die without & who push me to be happier, healthier, smarter, more loving & more peaceful. No, just kidding; all we do is MOAR STUFF. There are several of us here who would move in & just hold some kind of service 24/7 if we did not also have to eat & work & go to school.

People I love, some of whom legit would move into the church, one of whom symbolically did by going to seminary.


So that brings me to stewardship. So many people here do so many loving things for this community, sometimes just for the fun of it, but the end result is this holy, super weird family. 

Me & Art looking like a young Republican couple from the OC.


Volunteering as a stewardship representative & this year, God help you all, as a captain, means I get to speak to people I’ve never met, hear ideas I’ve had myself or never considered. This stewardship campaign alone has inspired inquiry into developing a regular evensong, & encouraging children & families to attend with education or children’s activities or all of the above! I keep saying I have no time and yet I want to make all of this happen!
 God just laughs & laughs.

Every year that I publish a book, I increase my stewardship pledge by 50%. I admit that this is partly to bribe God into increasing my sales, but it is also because when I hope I’ll get a little more, I want to give a little more. I will get even more involved here & one day be married here & baptize a child here (God willing), & when the UNR medical school is done poking at my remains for a semester, my ashes will come here. I want to be with everyone in these walls until the San Andreas fault sends this vivacious, sneering, desperate, gorgeous town northward to Alaska. I want to laugh with God at every timid witch who wonders if Jesus really wants her back, forever & ever, amen. I want to laugh when she finds she’s up to her eyeballs in food prep for receptions & trying to find a mic for the guest speaker & praying her bad knee will let her rise again after the Angelus. I want to be housed in this place until the world ends, so I’d best sell more books so I can give more with each passing year. I love St Thomas. You are St Thomas, so I love you. Thank you.”

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A Day At St. Thomas

“HOW ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?!” you scream at your screen. “You’re doing NaNoWriMo, writing pieces for Phantom Sway, and now you’re going to subject us to your personal blog again?”

Yes. Shut your gob. Because as luck would have it, Len & I sat together in the parish hall today, waiting to have our glucose & cholesterol looked at, & she asked me about my writing.

“Which thing?” I asked.

“All of it,” she replied.

Long story short, she convinced me (in a gentle, subtle, possibly psychologically adept way) to keep some sort of daily diary on my blog. Like I used to. And that became a self published book that has helped a few people with fibromyalgia feel less alone. So why not now, when my life is infinitely more interesting?

I told you about lying around in pain all day in Reno, hopped up on goofballs. I can’t tell you about freaking Hollywood?

Well, part of the reason is that my job requires me to listen to confidential material all day. So I can’t tell those stories. Those are others’ stories. But I can drop a couple paragraphs here each day, right? Sure! 

hold me to it

So let’s start with today. Today I woke from a dream in which I was petting a penguin. It was soft & darling, like a kitten, which I imagine penguins are not actually in real life. The alarm woke me & I was so cross to have to set the penguin down.

I rose, showered, dressed, and ate this, which is irrefutable proof of something many people are jerks about:  

Appetizing.

That is a gluten free breakfast sandwich. That dotted disc is meant to be a biscuit. You know, those warm, flaky things you Norms smother in sausage gravy? Not so for the celiac sufferer. So those of you who think gluten stuff is a fad, you can blow me. If I have to get out the door quickly, I have to heat this up. This. This…disc.

It actually tastes ok. But still! Disc. And the company knows celiac people will eat it because we don’t want to die. A death proceeded by crapping in church. So they can get away with selling us convenient discs.

I then brushed my teeth & did my eyes & took my hair out of the bun I slept in…NO. I cannot wear an Anglo Afro to church! I cannot be both Weird Al & Carrot Top at mass. People behind me need to see! So I wrestled all the curls into yet another bun & somehow made it to rosary on time.

 

15 minutes peace with the Virgin.


After saying the rosary with Stephen & John, I took my place in our usual pew with my sister Caroline & her boyfriend Sam, who joined us today. Jimmy sat in front of us (as usual) & told us a beautiful story I’m not sure I’m allowed to repeat. It was very personal, but demonstrated how God moves in our lives. 
The pews filled, waves were exchanged, phones were turned off, and I blinked at the sculpture of Jesus over our altar because my new contacts do not correct for my worsening astigmatism. The familiar echo of substantial boots came down the aisle right before the procession; Robert was in the house.

We then had a lovely Remembrance Day High Mass in which it was announced that Brit had been accepted by our diocese to pursue holy orders. This is magnificent news. Brit was in the same catechism as me & Caroline. I am inordinately fond of her & had the privilege of writing a recommendation for her. It would not shock me if she were made bishop of Los Angeles by the time she’s 40. She is a universe of love in a 5′ singularity. We are all of us blessed by this decision, across space time.

We sang one of Canon Davies’ favourite hymns during communion, & one of mine at the end. We listened to Jeffrey play us out, & then waited in the reception line with Christopher, who was wearing a penguin tie. So I told him about the dream & he sang “Soft Penguin”. If you’ve even heard of Big Bang Theory, you know.

We had a health fair today so the parish hall was packed with nurses ready to measure us and stick us & give us flu shots. My friend Salvador & our parish nurse Debbie worked hard to put it together (it was our first) & I think it went fairly well. The poor gal who stuck my finger was alarmed at how long it took me to stop bleeding, but I’m B12 deficient so I just kept assuring her it was ok. And it was.

Then Dee, Rodney, David & I had a civil conversation about politics, proving it is actually possible, no matter what social media will have us believe.

Achy & starving, I got home finally & made buffalo chicken dip with celery for football lunch. And now I’m writing this. And soon I will Nano again.

Things I learned today:

  • I’ve been without contacts for so long that there are a number of people at my church who had no idea what I looked like without glasses. Many remarked that my eyes are very big.
  • Don’t use mozzarella for buffalo chicken dip. The bleu cheese is essential.
  • It doesn’t matter what I wear; my Pats will always win. This is a relief.

My subsequent entries will be much shorter because church is always more fascinating than anything else I do. Promise. Well, probably.