Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ancient Christianity and African Americans Conference 05

Okay, so I get to the airport and Subdeacon Robert is not there. He's also not on the plane. Subdeacon Robert is nowhere to be found.

I have to subdue the urge to stuff my fist in my mouth to stifle a scream. I'm sitting on a plane going to Denver, and I've made the big, huge, gigantic mistake of playing follow the leader, in this case, Robert, and he has all our travel arrangements.

I don't know where we are going. And I don't know who I will be going with, except that she will be a nun.

I have only seen a handful of Orthodox nuns, and this was at Dormition Monastery. It occurs to me that all habits may not be created equally, but instead of continuing my descent into panic, I pray. God will have to show me Mother. Once again, I'm left to trust Him.

I get to Denver, and try to make my way to the passenger pick up area, hoping someone is holding a sign that indicates they are from the conference. I don't see anything like that, so I wander around, praying, and looking for a nun. And then I see her.

An African American woman, with soft features made softer by the severity of her attire. She's wearing a black habit, but on her head she's wearing a gray--I have no idea what you call that. It looks different than what the nuns at Dormition wear, and for a moment, I wonder if she is not an Orthodox Muslim woman. I get brave, step up to her and tentatively ask, "Are you an Orthodox nun?"

"Claudia?" she asks in her gentle voice. It is Mother Pachomia, and I am home. She pulls me into a warm embrace and it feels as if I have always knowns this kind, black woman. Maybe I have. She is the strong arms of black women who rocked babies, black and white. Who hummed hymns and spirituals in little ears, and who cried out in their own suffering when none but Jesus heard. In her arms I would find keys that would unlock my past and future.

She leaves me for a moment, and returns with another nun, this one shorter, and white. Mother Nicole has a name that sounds like it should belong to my best-girlfriend, and she has a mischievous twinkle in her eyes that I notice right away. She smiles easily. I would see this smile so much during this journey. It would inform and inspire me as much as the teaching. And she would make me laugh, constantly. I would find in her, a home for my soul in a way I didn't anticipate.

We go to retrieve the rental car, and I realize that I'm walking around with two nuns. There are few things that will make you feel as if you are dressed like a two dollar whore than hangin' with two nuns. My white and pink sundress suddenly seems tawdry and a little bit stank. I re-evaluated my wardrobe choices for the next few days, and for the remainder of the trip, I could have shared most of my outfits with Darth Vader.

We stopped by the check in desk at Denver University, and the Mother's had not been registered yet. We took their gear into my room, and went to breakfast. They treated.
I was going to refuse at first, but I only had 30 bucks, which I wanted to buy a few books and some prayer beads with. Mother Nicole said they'd rather I buy prayer beads than breakfast. In fact, they were hoping people would buy prayer beads and books, so I was glad to save a few bucks. I would watch that 30 dollars multiply live loaves and fishes, and I came home with so many books, icons, crosses, prayer beads and magazines, that I had to buy a new bag, because the backpack that I came with wouldn't fit it all. Mother Nicole said that she got chills when she saw all that I had been given. And I was given these things. God poured out grace like wine from water at the wedding feast, and I drank freely, as unworthy as I am.

At breakfast, I get to share stories, and get to hear stories. I ask questions, and feel connected to these women in a way that I would not have if Robert had been on that plane. I wonder at the strange providence of God, who knew that I needed woman to share the journey with. Thank you, God.

I get to my dorm room after breakfast, and I can't make my key work. The door flies open, and I'm greeted warmly by a woman in a bra and slip. She's inviting me in as if she were not in her drawers, and I was taken aback, and then I found it terribly funny. Of course God would give me a nun that is an icon of my mothers, and a nun that has a sense of humor. You've got to love a nun that has a sense of humor, especially when it so closely resembles your own. And of course, God would give me a roomate, completely at ease entertaining and serving me while she is naked.

I could tell it was gonna be good.
Tune in tomorrow. :)



Fr. Paisius said...

Thank God for sharing your writing gift with us! I can't wait to drink more! It's nice to see the conference through your eyes and read of it in your words.
Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Paisius

Hope said...

Teary here. You are such a blessing.

Heather Diane Tipton said...

I'm glad to hear that God met you there and worked everything out to His plan

slb said...

it always amazes me, the way u're able to recount an event as an allegorical tale, woven like "the iliad."

bobbie said...

yay, yay, yay! very exciting, can't wait to hear more!

Natala said...

i too, can't wait to hear more about this journey, that bond seems so instant, what an amazing part of life to be going through.
much love and peace to you.

s-p said...

Indeed, nuns are fun. Two words you'd never expect to see in the same sentence with a transitive verb in between. :)
s-p, who works at an Orthodox convent a lot

wilsonian said...

You are just the most extraordinary-

So very blessed to have found you.

upwords said...

Man, I'm loving those nuns. Bra and slip, indeed! Thank you so much for sharing these experiences. On days when I ache for something beautiful, I always find it here.

love you,

olympiada said...

Excellent post. I am sorry I did not make it this year. Family trouble. Have not made it since '99. I've been meaning to write Mother Nicole, or is that Mother Bridget?

Dean Calvert said...


Our Lord is truly speaking thru you. I continue to be amazed at your ongoing journey.

God bless you and keep you...I can hardly wait to see what's next!!!

You are a blessing to everyone around you.

Best Regards,