I’ve been spending time at Wednesday services being trained as a Chalice Bearer. Wednesday service is a bit less formal, no one vests, and people are very forgiving. I learned the ropes alongside my pew-mate/friend Tyler. Then we took turns on Wednesdays.
My first Wednesday was a doozie. Partly because a Chalice Bearer in our parish is also a bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to services. We are substitute acolytes, lay readers, and pretty much any non-ordained role fillers. Now my priest explained this to me on the training day, and then proceeded to train Tyler and I on just the Chalice Bearer role. Then when standing with the bread quietly giving Father the count as instructed he leaned in and said, “I forgot to tell you about the bells. Good Luck!”
I swear to you I lost 40 years of liturgy in that single moment. Now, I went to the kneeler at the appropriate time and looked for the bell. I saw a mallet, but no bell. I finally realized that the large metal object, which looks nothing like the familiar bells from the main sanctuary, was the bell. I turned to the Book of Common Prayer, and fumbled for the page. When at last I found it, it was not marked and I had lost all sense of calm. With heightening color on my cheeks, I shot Father a panicked look only to realize he had been pausing for me for some moments, and I had already missed the bells. Taking pity on me, his wife slipped forward with a book she had marked and I managed to complete the service. My nerves showed, the chalice shook, but I said the right prayers.
Tomorrow is my first Sunday service as Chalice Bearer, and given the trial by fire of the earlier first lesson, I admit to a bit of butterflies. In addition it is seasonably hot. I’ve had so many people mention the discomfort of vesting and heat, and I am simply not the kind of gal who glistens. Thus a fair portion of my week has been spent in preoccupation of locating the coolest possible options for what to wear under the cassock and cotta.
My trepidation was further enhanced by the hunt for said vestments. I am neither short nor thin. I tried on closets full of cassocks and those that were tall either would not close across my shoulders nor my chest. I finally realized that a solution was the few robes which are sleeveless. After a few more tries at last I had what I needed. So I will be vested and dressed, barer than many Chalice Bearers I know.
So now I have admitted to my worldly trepidations, I am also fully aware that they are simply foolish. I know that vesting and which service and the possibility of sweat are all simply excuses that evil presents to convince me that it would be ok to give up and not press forward in this calling. My priest quite wisely noted that often when on the right path, we meet with evil’s resistance in the form of the mundane. My task is to not turn the mundane into my own Waterloo. It’s calming knowing that these random and silly anxieties have a place in the universe and can be defeated by faith well exercised.
The service will be neither perfected nor ruined by my performance tomorrow, it belongs to him. So airy clothing laid out, lessons remembered, and prayers said I’m now headed to bed.