Monday, October 27, 2008

Field Report From Mary Clara

"St. James of Jerusalem" - Tobias Haller

From Mary Clara:

Now, are you ready for a blogger field report? The following is a first-person account of another instance of actual contact between participants in the blogosphere.

I saw on his blog, “In a Godward Direction,” that Br. Tobias Haller was coming to Maryland this weekend to preach and to dedicate his wonderful icon of St. James of Jerusalem at the church in Parkton, so I thought I would attend as a representative of the blog congregation. Parkton is only a little over half an hour north of my home in Baltimore, in gorgeous rolling hills near the Pennsylvania border, and it turned out to be a sublime autumn day, perfect for the festive event. Tobias preached both services, and after the later service, over coffee and cake, he talked informally with parishioners about the purpose of icons and the process of ‘writing’ the icon. I of course introduced myself and took a number of photographs. I am sending some to Tobias, but I thought I would send a couple to you which (if you like) you could post. This would give me the chance to remark on how splendid the icon is ‘in person’, and also how fine a preacher Tobias is. From his blog we know he is erudite, wise, articulate, and wonderfully grounded in his theology, but hearing him preach in person one experiences how grounded he is in actual life. I would add that both in his blog postings and in his preaching he is always so much to the point.

When Rev. Orens first came to St. James over a year ago, it developed that no one was sure which St. James the church was named for. After considerable research, it was found to be St. James of Jerusalem. Commissioning the icon then became part of a process of self-discovery for the parish. As you can imagine, Tobias’s sermon on this feast day of the saint very much brought to life the role and significance of James the brother of Jesus. It was a joy and a privilege to be present.

It turned out also that Elizabeth Orens and I had been at Union Seminary within a year of each other, back in the 1960s. To my great pleasure, I was invited along for lunch and luxurious conversation at a nearby country inn with Elizabeth, her husband John (a professor of history at George Mason University), Tobias and his delightful partner James.

Of course, I'm jealous that I wasn't there, but I pretend that I'm happy for Mary Clara. Our pet name for Mary Clara is Sister Mary Clara, because if ever there was a name that sounded like a nun's name, it is Mary Clara, especially a nun's name from back in the ancient days when I was a convent school girl. Our Sister Mary Clara (who is not a nun) had her picture taken with Bishop Gene Robinson when he was in England, and she cut herself out of the picture before she permitted it to be published on the internet. This time she has graciously permitted me to include her in the picture with Tobias and the icon. This is a scoop, folks, a first - Sister Mary Clara's picture on a blog! And she's beautiful. Why was she so shy about having her picture "out there"?