Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | June 10, 2009

The Musical Synodman

Monday night we will have services to pray for our Holy Synod. Between our synod and all the rest, the mess and doin’s of recent years, between the Ecumenical Patriarch and all the others… there’s just a lot going on, and it seems these prayers are needed. As Fats Waller used to say, “This Joint is Jumpin”. I realize there are a lot of folks who’re gonna git up in arms about one thing or ‘nuther. Not going there… thank you. I’ll just stick with the program and mosey on down to the parish…

“‘Scuse me, Bub..Comin’ through….”
Tap, tap, tap….
“Orchestra ready? Everyone?”

Like I said there’s a lot goin’ on.

“Whaddya talk… whaddya talk”
“Hill’s his name..”
“What’s his game?”
“Doesn’t matter what’s his line…”
“… sells musical instruments…”
“Whaddya talk… whaddya talk”

Yeah the usual gibberish. And me… I’m trying not to talk. But it’s… not…

And that’s when the chorus started in, and I realized I just might be in the middle of more than I bargained for:

Oh, there’s nothing halfway
About the Byzantine way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all.
There’s a Byzantine kind of special
Chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.
We’ve never been without.
That we recall.
We can be cold
As our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July.
And we’re so by God stubborn
We could stand touchin’ noses
For a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye.
But what the heck, you’re welcome,

Join us at the picnic.
You can eat your fill
Of all the food you bring yourself.
You really ought to give Orthodoxy a try.
Provided you are contrary…

Tough crowd around here… but they do enjoy singing… some kind of Music Kind of a Dude bit… I think…but like I said…I’m just an observer. Don’t got no oar in these fights, and kind of just wish it’d all go away…

Well, either you’re closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of an Orthodox Bishop in your community.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I’m an Orthodox Christian,
Certainly mighty proud I say
I’m always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a prayer rope in my hand are golden.
Help you cultivate horse sense
And a cool head and a keen eye.
Never take and try to give
An iron-clad leave to yourself
From a thirty-three-knot rope?

But just as I say,
It takes judgment, brains, and maturity to score
In a Byzantine game,
I say that any boob kin take
And shove a Bishop in a pocket.
And they call that sloth.
The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-day–
I say, first, eucharistic wine from a teaspoon,
Then prosphora bread from a basket!
An’ the next thing ya know,
Your son is playin’ for money
In a pinched black suit.
And list’nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
Hearin’ him tell about a spiritual-race.
Not a wholesome stand-up place, no!
But some place where they set down right in a pew!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey’boy
Sittin’ … I say… sittin’ like he’s on Dan Patch?
Make your blood boil? Well, I should say.

Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six rungs in a ladder.
Rungs that mark the diff’rence
Between an Orthodox and a bum,
With a capital “B,”
And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pew!
And all week long your River City
Youth’ll be frittern away,
I say your young men’ll be frittern!
Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Gettin’ the Bishop in their pocket,
Never mind gittin’ altar linens cleaned
Or the candle stands filled or hymns sounded out.
Never mind pumpin’ any water
‘Til your monks are caught with the Cistern empty
On a Saturday night
And that’s trouble,
Oh, yes we got lots and lots a’ trouble.
I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the velcro Nikes,
Tee-shirt young ones, peekin’ through the
church hall windows after school, look, folks!
Right here in River City.
Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pew!

Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
On while they’re loafin’ around that hall?

Well, actually Professor…… no, I don’t. It’ll have to wait. Maybe some of the out-of-town Jaspers can git it figured out… and send me a memo. Yeah. That’d do. I like that they’ve decided to put some speed on it, but yeah… maybe they could try sparin’ the dust up… so we don’t have to worry ’bout our “yeut’s” frittering away their time somewhere else…. like someplace with a pew. Works for me.

Now I could definitely stick around… I enjoy a dust-up as much as the next guy. But just in case they’re planning to (as they say in West-by-gawd Virginia) “thow” some Greek fire…  even in a friendly direction… splitsville seems like a better idea, so’s I’m gonna bolt leaving the imprisoned journalism gig to those poor young women in North Korea. But  stick around if you like, the show does go on…and ya never know what’ll happen next.

(Apologies to Meredith Wilson, Robert Preston, the Chorus, and the Holy Synods everywhere)



    I am an orphan on God’s highway
    But I’ll share my troubles if you go my way
    I have no mother no father
    No sister no brother
    I am an orphan girl

    Been prayin a bit myself.
    I travel quite a bit and have been blessed to find a couple of parishes that are like home away from home.
    Last week I was there; lookin forward to Pentecost and all the beautiful music, seein friends I’ve been missin’…turned out was more like going to a funeral. They have already lost a chunk of families over this latest antioch-sstyle debacle. Faces I knew and loved scattered to the winds, rather look at anyone else’s face than yours who would stay in a church with such uncharitable leaders…converts, cradles…it’s a cold world out there.

    I have had friendships pure and golden
    But the ties of kinship I have not known them
    I know no mother no father
    No sister no brother
    I am an orphan girl

    so back home to my own parish in the midwest, convert also…and the German-Swedish-Danish Lutherans, Methodists and other assorted midwestern types…..who are so clannish you couldn’t break in with a crowbar.

    My mom spent her whole life in a German-Lutheran Church (and I grew up there) trying to even catch a sympathetic eye.
    kinda sad to watch, just waitin for a crumb from the table and once in a while one or two did…barely enough to keep a soul from despair.

    But she stuck around because even though her brothers and sisters were cliquish. bullies, and she didn’t marry into any of the “royal” families, she stuck it out; she could somehow see farther than the whole lot of them and she the One Who really buttered the bread.
    Hope I inherited her tenacity.

    But when He calls me I will be able
    To meet my family at God’s table
    I’ll meet my mother my father
    My sister my brother
    No more orphan girl

    So keep prayin brother, keep your nose clean and out of places it don’t belong…so many of us who aren’t used to this top down thing are trying to do the same.
    And I am thinking of my mother of blessed memory and hoping and prayin with all my heart I inherited her tenacity and her wisdom and humility (and capacity for humiliation, if needed) and remember-even though it would be nice to make nice with those who hand out the bread…it’s so much more important to remember Who butters that bread.

    Blessed Savior make me willing
    And walk beside me until I’m with them
    Be my mother my father
    My sister my brother
    I am an orphan girl

  2. Maybe I need to clarify… I’m leaving the “show”… so I won’t be reporting on the Musical Synodman any further… Yes, there are still plenty of lyrics in this musical that need scarely more than a tweak here and there to fit… but I’m already in water just somewhat cooler than the stuff that circulates around a nuclear reactor… so I’ll quit while I’m behind. But I’m hangin’ with the Church. I could no more leave than cut off my right arm.

    I am very sorry for anyone finding themselves coming to other conclusions over things that seem to me to concern bishops far more than those of us folks here in the congregation. My own experience both in my parish and elsewehre is that these things seem so far in the background… I don’t even know they’re there. Some folks go looking for them… I don’t. I like my Bishop, and I’m sure folks will ultimately do the right thing.

  3. James,

    Your “Harold Hill” speech is priceless… made me laugh, laugh, laugh.
    Prayer is good.
    God will help y’all.


  4. Dana – thank you.

    There’s a good podcast with Bishop Basil here:

    I don’t remember my name –

    You make a very good point. The cold shoulders are everywhere. Sometimes we beat ourselves up here for our reputation… earned and unearned… as if it were the only place. Lutherans, Episcopalians… everyone has these things.

    Your note specifically made me think again about the story of the Woman at the Well. Maybe… we just don’t even know the half of it. Thank you.

    And yes, prayer helps… thankfully. God will provide.

  5. I was very sorry to hear about the troubles within your national church… BTDT, as you well know. Prayer is definitely the balm that heals. During Lent 2008 St. Mark’s spent time praying for our national church after Vespers each week. I tried to keep my head down and stay out of the fray, which was awkward considering the stance our parish took. But look at the miracle God did for the OCA!!

  6. Deb:

    You are so on the mark. As short-timers, we really can’t know the half of a matter that’s been lingering long enough to harden into different sides… when all we know is we’re glad to be here.

    And while it just seems so obvious folks need to “just git along”… the matter of moving folks from trench warfare to the love-in is… uh.. tricky.

    Prayer and repentance seem like the heart of it.

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