Weekly Reflection, Friday, November 27

By: Eleanor Wellford, Associate Rector

When you hear the word “tradition,” especially this time of year, what do you think of? It’s probably safe to say that all sorts of memories come to mind. This year, in the spirit of working together as a team, Elizabeth Starling, our church historian (among many other things), thought it would be fun if staff could share a holiday tradition with each other by bringing in a picture or recipe or saying or something that she could put on the bulletin board in the Old Parish Hall to bring some holiday cheer to our offices. She asked; and then she asked again; and then she asked, maybe not so patiently, one more time. That bulletin board is still sadly somewhat bare.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Our staff community usually always rallies around ideas like that – sometimes with each of us trying to outdo the other (not that we’re competitive or anything…). It’s what keeps us working well together as a team. For my own part in this project, I have to admit that I have failed miserably. My only excuse has been waiting to be inspired by a holiday memory worth sharing. I know I have some, but where are they?

For all the excitement that fills the air this time of year, there is just as much sadness. Losses of family and friends seem to hurt more than ever. And this year, especially, has been filled with our share of loss- not only of loved ones, but of all the things that we took for granted as “normal”. And maybe that’s my problem with recalling holiday traditions. Maybe they feel too normal to be thought about right now.

But shouldn’t traditions survive even the strangest of times? My Mom had a pair of china turkeys that she would use as part of her centerpiece at our dining room table at Thanksgiving. There was a Tom turkey and a hen. The Tom turkey had an array of tail feathers that was fanned out exposing its back side. Each year, my mother would choose which one of us would be greeted at the table by that back side; more often than not, it would be my brother! And when it wasn’t, we sisters made sure that if he had to leave the table for any reason, the back side of that Tom turkey would always greet him on his return. And as soon as he noticed it, we would all have a big laugh at his expense!

Just writing about that memory fills my heart with warmth and gladness and reminds me of what makes me who I am today. As Frederick Buchner wrote: “It is through memory that we are able to (realize) that in everything that has happened to us… God was offering us possibilities… which, though we may have missed them at the time, we can still choose to bring to light and to be healed by them all these years later.”

I think Elizabeth was definitely on to something when she asked the staff to share a tradition with each other. Just the act of sharing something – anything – brings us close together spiritually (which requires no “social distancing”) and kindles our hearts and lets our light shine. And this time of year, we can certainly use all the light we can get!