Akron: Flashback - December 22, 2012 & the Moravian Christmas Vigil

There were a few things about Christmas celebrations this year that were noteworthy, but I was too wrapped up in things to blog about them. I'm going to catch up on those over the next little while with some flashback posts.

As per the title, this is about the Moravian Christmas vigil. I was told one morning, at the morning coffee break, that we really should try to get to one of the Christmas vigil services at the Moravian church in Lititz. "The music is good," I was told, "and they have a Love Feast." I'd heard a little bit about this phenomenon, and I was intrigued.

The first step was getting tickets. It's not that admission is charged to this, a worship service, but simply a recognition that the building has limited capacity, and this allows you to reserve a spot. Seating is unassigned - they just issue X tickets per service (of which there are six, if I remember correctly). When I called the church office, I was told that they were out of tickets for each of services that we would have been able to attend. "But we can put you on the waiting list." I agreed, thinking that this was a very long shot.

The next day, I got back from lunch to find that the church had called whilst I was away to say that two tickets were now available for one of the services. I called back to lay claim to them and we picked them up the next day.

Now, the church - it's old, as you might guess, and built in something resembling Colonial style. It has definite architectural interest. The sanctuary seems wider than it is long, with a balcony wrapping around three sides. All of the pews had a dividing wall bisecting their width. And in front, hanging from the very high ceiling, was a 110-point Moravian star, lit from within.

We sat relatively close to the back, just out from under the rear balcony. Said rear balcony was occupied by a choir and a small orchestra, in addition to the organ. (Audience/congregation sat in the side balconies). A six-voice children's group sat up front in the alcove at the back of the platform, and the pastors sat on the platform proper.

The service began with a prelude of orchestral and organ pieces. The service itself was mostly music - a lot of congregational singing, and some choir/children's choir/orchestral pieces. Most of the carols were ones I hadn't heard before, but they were familiar enough in style that I could sing along. We sang a number of them as a lead-in to the Love Feast.

The Love Feast... what it is is this: it's like a celebration of Communion, except that instead of wine, there is a cup of coffee (fairly traded, decaf, with half-and-half) or chocolate milk; instead of bread, a Moravian sugar cake - a rich sweet bun with an indent that holds extra sugar and cinammon. One passes on one's preference for coffee or chocolate milk to the person at the end of the row, and a male diener (server) passes down the appropriate number of appropriately-filled mugs. A female diener passes napkins and a basket of sugar cakes; the basket is passed to the divider at the middle of the aisle, and then, as it is passed back to the outside, each person takes a sugar cake. All the while, the congregation is singing. Once everything has been distributed, the pastor says a few dedicatory words, and the choir sings while the congregation eats. Then there's more congregational singing while the mugs and napkins are collected.

There was yet more singing, one of the pastors had a short message, and still more singing. They made good use of lowering the sanctuary lighting and increasing and decreasing the illumination of the Moravian star at significant points. Finally, the dieners came out again, carrying trays of lit beeswax candles. The trays were drilled to hold the candles upright, and each candle wore a little frill of tissue paper. These lit candles were passed down the pews until everyone had a candle, and in the last verse of the last song, we held them up high. (It says something about me that my first thought on seeing the dieners enter with the candles was "ooh, pretty!" and my second, immediately following, was "ooh, fire hazard!" I am informed that there were people at the end of each aisle with blankets for the purpose of smothering any outbreak of flames, but still, it makes me antsy.)

It was a lovely service, and I rather like the idea of having a Moravian star now. I don't know how I would get it home safely, though, as it's rather bulky and fragile at the same time. My sweetie thinks it would be interesting to celebrate a Love Feast in our home congregation when we get back.

Akron: 13 January 15 - Weekend Thrifting

I need to do some serious catching up, here. My apologies.

I’ve probably mentioned thrift stores in this space before, but after this weekend, I feel it’s necessary to do so again. Both this weekend and last weekend involved visiting thrift stores, and I must say that around here they are rather a different animal.

First, the terminology. Manitoba MCC Thrift stores usually have “MCC” and “thrift” in their names. This is not necessarily the case here.  Re-Uzit is one popular choice instead;  Gift and Thrift is another. MCC rarely gets
top billing, which confused me at first, but I’m adapting.

Second, the stores themselves. Ephrata has two Re-Uzits: one for furniture and books, one for everything else.  We visited both on Saturday. The furniture store has (to my eyes, anyway) an impressive selection of sofas, tables, and hutches, with a lesser but still satisfactory selection of beds, tvs, and medical assist equipment (shower chairs, wheel chairs, that sort of thing).  They had, as an example, two black leather loveseats and a black leather recliner, all of which were in excellent condition. Judging from my dad’s expression when he sat down and put the footrest up, they were very comfortable as well. With a bit of persistence and good timing, you could furnish your living room very respectably from there. The book section was also extensive, and surprisingly replete with non-fiction, new books (some in case lots), and homeschool materials. I can think of a few people who would appreciate having that available to them in Winkler… I picked up a bundle of books: six mysteries sealed in a clear plastic bag (so no swapping out) for fifty cents. I’m only vaguely interested, but it’s nice to have a few more selections on hand, especially as Dad likes to have a little reading material here and there.

We also visited the Ephrata Re-Uzit store downtown. (Incidentally, downtown Ephrata is quite charming and picturesque. The first time we went there, I saw a wedding party taking pictures here and there in front of stores and crossing the street and the like.)  The womenfolk of our party were looking for some wardrobe expansion possibilities, and I was trying to be helpful when I spotted a black leather-look jacket with biker-chick styling – and short sleeves. I started out by mocking it (short sleeves on a jacket? Seriously?). I ended up by buying it. It’s not practical, but it’s fun.

We were advised by a co-worker that if we were doing the thrift store run, we should visit the one in White Horse, which is actually in Gap. Whatever. ( I’m getting used to Google  maps telling me locations are named differently than I originally thought. ) It’s a sizeable place, two storeys high, with a basement that gets used for non-sales-floor purchases.  Main floor is clothing (including specifically “plain clothing,” that which is worn by the more conservative Mennonites), silent auction items (and they have a lot of quality stuff – a trumpet, purses, a cuckoo clock), and a few small items; second floor is kitchen, sewing, books, music, seasonal, and quilts. There’s a beautiful quilt studio with natural light, and four quilts in process. There were a number of smaller quilts hanging on the walls, and half a dozen full-size (Queen? King?) quilts on rods in a glass-fronted closet, ready for purchase. I tried talking my mom into buying a lovely quilt in autumn tones, since they were half price, but didn’t quite manage the sale.

After this, we were thrifted out, and nixed our plan of visiting the New Holland Re-Uzit. (We had gone there last weekend, and we had bought a French press and four matching cups for $8. They’re very stylish, and I regret that we will be leaving them behind – but we already have a French press waiting for us at home. The New Holland Re-Uzit is sizeable, too – furniture, hard goods, an A/V room (dvds, vhs, cds, cassettes, and on and on)… and that’s the smaller floor. There’s an entire second level that is loaded with clothing (women’s clothing organized, oddly enough, by color and type of garment, and then by size), shoes, books, seasonal, housewares, silent auction (a silver punchbowl! Beautiful).) We did, however, manage a trip to Lapp Valley Farms for some truly legendary ice cream, with the added bonus of assorted cats (five, that I saw), dogs, and a few peacocks. Didn't care much for the peacocks, but the dogs were friendly, and one cat permitted itself to be held and snuggled for a while. I missed my Tailsome Twosome quite fiercely for a little while after that, but it was lovely to hold a cat again...

What I'm (not) Reading Now: 12 December 31

May as well be up-front about it: I'm not reading. I hang out on the internet, I watch TV, and I knit. It's the knitting that's taking up the most time, since I have a big project and a deadline I'm determined to meet or beat at almost any cost. Besides, we have guests for a while, and it would be rude...

I will continue updating, but don't expect to see many books for the next couple of months.

Akron: 13 January 01: On New Year's Day

Happy New Year!

So today we were invited to my boss's home for the traditional good-luck New Year's Day meal of the area: pork and sauerkraut. Correctly done, one cooks the pork in the sauerkraut, and then serves the two with mashed potatoes. Extra points are conferred if you mix all three together, apparently. It is surprisingly tasty, and I would consider having it again. Horseradish was available for those who so desired, and bread, pickles, and veggies to dip were also served.

For dessert, we brought the Russian Mennonite traditional New Year's Day food: portzelky. This isn't John's recipe, but it'll pass. The portzelky were well-received.
Afterwards, it was the traditional sitting around and chatting. I had the opportunity to stroke mine hosts' cat, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (I do miss my cats. *sigh*) A good time was had by all.

We came home to discover that our neighbors downstairs were hosting a meeting of their house church, so we listened in on the singing. It sounds like some very impassioned speaking, too, but the few words I can make out are not a language I understand. Well, there is the occasional Hallelujah!, but that's about it.

I'm looking forward to a quiet evening of doing nothing more strenuous than digesting and maybe watching TV, and going to bed early. Tomorrow begins a new work year, and I would prefer to be there on time.

(I have some Christmas stuff I want to blog about, but not just now.)