Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unitarian Service

Journal Entry: Andy Paris

Sunday in Laramie began at breakfast with Rebecca Hilliker and her husband Rich.  They invited me to go hiking with them in the afternoon, but my interview schedule prevented it.  I would have loved to get out into the wilderness that is so intensely valued by the people here.  But time is short and I am trying to speak to as many people as possible.

My day continued at the Unitarian Church, where Dr. Sally Palmer was to speak.  Dr. Palmer was, along with Father Roger Schmidt, one of the most outspoken religious leaders in the days following the murder.  I interviewed her ten years ago, and though she did not end up as a character in the play, her courage and commitment to peace have stayed with me.  At the time, she was Pastor of the United Church of Christ, but she has recently retired.  I felt very welcomed at the church, but it was clear that I was a mysterious figure, a stranger.  Plus I am not a church-goer so I'm sure I had novice written all over my face.  I sat down in the pew (toward the back) and Sally was introduced.  The first chapter of the service was the children's service -- four or five sweet, young faces sitting in the front pew.  Dr. Palmer announces that the children's service would take the form of a story.  "Andy", she says, "would you care to help me?"  Completely frozen, jaw dropped, I blabbered, "I'm sorry?" She brought me up in front of the congregation, and asked me to introduce myself, and tell the congregation what I was doing here.  Nervous, I though, "Well, at least it's the Unitarians.  Leigh is with the Baptists."  The story central to the service was that of a reporter who goes to Japan to seek enlightenment.  I was to play the reporter, of course.  I was handed an empty mug and on a stool sat a bowl and a pitcher of water.  "What do you seek." Sally asked.  "Enlightenment," I played along.  And I placed the mug so that it sat in the bowl.  While holding onto it, Sally poured water from the pitcher, but she kept pouring so that it overflowed, not allowing me to pick up my mug.  "In order to find enlightenment, you must first empty your thoughts and be still.  Are you disappointed?" she asked.  "No," I said, and though she didn't say so, I got the distinct impression that I had said the wrong line.

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