It is tremendously important for me to feel connections in my life; connections with my family, friends, church and community. I remember watching the movie Steel Magnolias and marveling at the relationships between this strong group of women that operated within an intimate community of support and gossip. At the time I was covetous of this small town with its rituals, customs and traditions. I wanted to be part of a larger group of individuals brought together by some common purpose.
I suppose this is why I thrived in the world of theater. Everyone works together towards accomplishing a common goal. Each person contributes their unique skills to make the show a success. I loved it. In this environment I met some lifelong friends (Joy and Mike to name only two) and I like to think that I added something distinctive as well.
There are many small pockets of our lives where we can feel this spirit and one very important area for me is church. I have been a church going, choir singing lad since I can remember. I have a deep belief system that I often question and challenge but the basics are there. As an adult I have succeeded in finding a church that fosters a feeling of family even as my own family lives further away than I'd like.
If it is true that we are all blessed with unique gifts, mine can be found in performance (or witnessing or preaching or whatever term is appropriate when relating to church). I sing with the choir, I often act as liturgist and recently I even filled in for our pastor by delivering a sermon on 'The Good Samaritan' when she was away at a conference.
The church also does some outreach to the larger community that includes the usual food drives and various walks to support local charities. Each year we host a chicken BBQ providing exceptionally tasty dinners at low prices and every so often during the holiday season we create a live nativity.
I love this.
I took part in it for the first time last year. Basically, you sign up to portray a character (I play Joseph - earthly father of Jesus) and stand outside, in the cold, for the enjoyment of onlookers in passing cars. People are encouraged to stop in for some soup, salad, desert and fellowship.
It all sounds so holy and right minded, no? But aside from the fellowship and community building there is a sweetly wicked side that I wouldn't miss. Little details that go unnoticed by most folk.
Like the infant Jesus lying in the manger in swaddling clothing (pictured left). I do not know who chose this particular doll to represent our Lord and savior but I applaud the creativity involved. This looks like a young Carol Channing and if we are all supposed to be created in this image no wonder we have issues.
This baby Jesus also has a pretty ribbon in his hair. This brought about comments related to letting him be who he is and not censoring his true nature. Well, there is a nice lesson in tolerance and acceptance so perhaps we were on to something after all.
We also had two goats on hand last night who added a bit of spontaneity to the proceedings. Keeping a couple of randy goats in line for two and a half hours was entertaining enough, not to mention the occasional gifts they were compelled to leave the newborn king. But being that our three teenage wise men decided to bail after 45 minutes to make like The Rockettes for approaching traffic we were happy someone was making an effort.
Tomorrow morning I am once again playing Joseph. This time in our Christmas pageant which I am sure will be a wonderful fiasco, at least judging from our 'rehearsal' this afternoon. I could not be more satisfied.