Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Healing prayer service at Lakeside Presbyterian

Lakeside Presbyterian, San Francisco

At Lakeside Presbyterian on Friday evening I went to a healing, laying-on-of-hands prayer service for a parishioner whose breast cancer metastasized to her brain. It was a healing, restorative experience for me, too.

The Big Choir Meltdown of '09

A year ago, there was Major Drama in the chorus I was singing with. The outgoing Board of Directors made one unpopular decision that the Board elect (of which I was a part) supported and that the chorus at large did not support. A good ol'-fashioned flame war ensued over e-mail. There was much mudslinging and backstabbing. The chorus at large passed a vote of no-confidence to oust the Board elect. The chorus lost a large chunk of its membership. A lot of friendships ended over this, but the incident strengthened the friendships among the outgoing Board and the Board elect.

The Way Things Were

Before I got into the backstage, administrative dealings of the chorus, I was the soprano section leader. Yes, it is like herding cats. One of my sopranos had a lot of professional and semi-professional experience in the singing world. Every once in a while during rehearsal, she would blurt out a smart-ass one-liner about said singing world. It was a light way to break the tension of rehearsal with a funny insight into the industry. So over a year ago, during my last year with the chorus, she underwent treatment for breast cancer. Treatment was successful, and her hair grew back and everything. We thought she was in the clear.

Boobs For Brains

Then a couple weeks ago, we got word that the cancer was back, this time in her brain. After the service, it was apparent that she still had her sense of humor. She said that one of her old choral directors would joke that the airheaded sopranos had boobs for brains. Then she tossed around the idea of starting a blog entitled Boobs For Brains, about her fight against metastasized breast cancer. Yikes.

Arming Ourselves at Dinner

A few of us in the scorned ex-Board group got together for a classy dinner at the Olive Garden before the service. We were all still a little bitter and cautious about going back into the lions' den that was our old rehearsal space. But we agreed that we were going there to support our soprano friend and to support each other. Of course, it probably didn't hurt to have that round of cocktails at dinner, either.

The Service

We were handed programs at the door, and we walked into a candlelit sanctuary. The church was sparsely populated, maybe one-third full if everyone sat next to each other. We saw many, many familiar faces in the pews, people we haven't seen in over a year, for the most part. Pastor Kim Nelson led the service, assisted by Rev. J. D. Ward. Pastor Kim's wife Becky played the piano. There was also a cellist and a harpist.

Pastor Kim opened the service with the words, "Welcome, all." It quickly became clear to me that this healing could easily apply to the choral rift from last year. Immediately, Pastor Kim had us exchange the sign of peace. I think this is where a lot of the reconciliation happened with the old chorus members and me.

There were many readings and hymns centered around the theme of healing. You could tell that there were a lot of musicians in the congregation. Clean tone, good tuning, and impeccable final consonants graced every hymn.

Pastor Kim did something interesting with the Gospel, playing a DVD (!) for this particular reading from the Gospel of Matthew. It was a little hokey. And wouldn't Jesus have worn a yarmulke? I think so, but he didn't in this DVD.

At the laying-on-of-hands portion of the service, the family (our soprano, her husband, and their daughter) sat in front of the altar, and the rest of the congregation was invited up to form small group prayer circles around them. There was not a dry eye in the house.

We're Like a Family

At the reception, Pastor Kim presented the family with a very generous gift of almost $9,000, which is a huge help to them. Besides the medical bills, the husband had been laid off, and their house was just a few days away from foreclosure.

There were some really tasty flourless chocolate cookies and caramelly florentines, too.

Debriefing on the ride back home, one of us said that we're like a family. Something tears us apart and makes us hold huge grudges against each other. Then another tragedy brings us back together.

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