If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this will be my longest blog yet--the pictures are going to do most of today's explanation: I have been with people from sunup to sundown, and the day has been absolutely fabulous; BUT this introvert is also absolutely exhausted! If I sit very quietly, I can actually hear my brain shutting down. So, let me just say a few sentences about what I did today, and you can look at the pictures for yourself, and see what fun it was!
I started the morning at 6:30, with a 3 hour drive to St. Peter Paul's Lutheran Church in Naydupet. The newly consecrated bishop of South Andhra Lutheran Church, Rev. Michael Benhur, had invited Prasuna Nelevala [Surekha's sister] and me to come to his church for their celebration of International Women's Day. I had already planned to preach at a different congregation, but when the bishop calls, you come!
It was a really great service--even with my not-so-great-sermon: the bishop was translating on the fly, so I was trying to speak slowly [not my forte], clearly, and use easy English words. I think it went OK, only because the people were so nice and friendly--and I did keep smiling! When it was over, they had a celebration for the women of the congregation--all the women who were there were given a little gift, and the eldest women of the congregation were all invited up and honored: what that means specifically was they were draped in a special shawl and gifted with a beautiful large garland. Then they all, each one of them, said a few words--they were so clearly moved. [Speech alert: Soon-to-be-pastors, PLEASE don't forget to take time to thank the worker bees in your soon-to-be-congregations. A little thanks, attention and notice goes SUCH a long way, and the more you do it, the more you get in the habit, and the easier it becomes. OK--speech over.] They also "garlanded" Prasuna and me in the same way--SO nice. And the little girls--they could not have been cuter & loved having their picture taken. We stayed with them until early afternoon and had the most fun! We had a quick lunch at the bishop's house before we were on our way to worship event #2.
Prasuna dropped me off at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, where I met Monica and we went to the special worship service that the senior class had planned, which started at 6:30 pm. It was very interesting: kind of a cross between a drama and a worship service--or maybe a play interspersed with elements of a worship service. The service was set in the context of a dramatized exploitative encounter between company execs and tribal peoples [Monica told me that there is a similar situation actually going on in one part of India right now], emphasizing the need for awareness of our complicity in exploitation, the need to pray for and act on behalf of the marginalized, and the need to "be the fifth Gospel" in our words and deeds [that was the message of the homily--the student preached it after climbing a tree to sit on a platform in the "jungle" they had constructed!]. We had communion, too, which we didn't have didn't that morning--most Lutheran churches here only have communion once a month. The elements? Fitting with the theme of the service, coconut meat and coconut milk! That was a first. (And, I hasten to add NOT typical!)
Off to bed!