Our schedules are slowly filling up as we get more entrenched here and it’s getting harder and harder to post meaningful entries. But we also worry that our “real friends” will forget about us if we don’t average one semi-entertaining post every two weeks.
Monsoon has ended, which is good on multiple levels. One, it prevents us from perishing under the encroaching mildew infestation. Towards (and after) the end of the monsoon, we found it daily on our clothes, shoes and backpacks. I recently pulled a suit coat out of the closet only to find the buttons coated with a pungent, greyish-green mold. Many of the locals have said this is the strongest monsoon in recent memory, and I believe it. We thought it might never end.
But all that has changed now. It’s also nice to be able to quite literally see what we’re looking at. The views are clear and the weather has been begging us to go out and explore. So far, our only major excursion was to Delhi but we’ve been enjoying regular walks around the hillside. Here’s a few images from the top of the ridge:
There are essentially three churches in town. One is named “St. Paul’s” and another “Christchurch”. Readers from Atlanta will find humor in this, since these are both the names of places where we worked back in Atlanta. We’ve been attending St. Paul’s fairly regularly. It’s an Anglican church, part of the Church of North India, which is a change of pace from what we’re used to, but we do appreciate it on a number of levels. The church is pastored by Mr. and Mrs. Templeton, a rather sweet and unassuming middle-aged Indian couple.
The service is very high-church, although the music is a mixture of old hymns and corny 1980s-era praise choruses, all led by Rev. (and cantor) Templeton and an elderly, hard-of-hearing keyboardist. It is the definition of unassuming, other than Rev. Templeton’s singing, which is somewhere between Rick Astley and Tom Jones, with a touch of Robert Goulet. After church, we usually eat at a sidewalk cafe next door and there usually a few other staff and students who join us or ride by on horses.
Mrs. Templeton does the sermon. Our liberal friends are probably cheering at this news, while our more conservative readers wonder if they will even recognize us when we return to the states, having sat under such horrible teaching. I’m not going to get into this debate in this forum, and I’ve never had the opportunity to ask the Templetons why they divide up the worship service the way they do, but I will say that generally, things in India are not quite like they are in the States. This is no Joyce Meyer situation, and the power dynamics that make “preacher” such a tricky role in the bible belt don’t seem to apply in a minority christian setting like this. The sermon, which is more of homily, is somewhat minimized in this service, and we find that we are nourished by a very rich and elegant liturgy. In fact, this might be one of the best arguments for the use of robust liturgy in worship: when the worship and preaching fail to excite (as they inevitably will), you at least can read the word and pray, which, mercifully enough, are not subject to our own (dis)abilities.
We filled in for the singing half of the Templetons on Sunday, and it was not quite a treat to be leading church music again. In fact, I had to force myself to do it. But it went fine and everything seemed to turn out ok. Additionally, we helped lead the monthly Woodstock chapel meeting later in the evening. Bethany narrated, two of the choirs I direct sang in the service, and we both helped lead the congregational songs as well. The focus of the chapel was “what is christian worship?” During a time of confession, we sang “Whiter than Snow” which I stole from Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta. It was a frustrating experience because the AV crew once again could not seem to bring up the correct lyrics on the screen so that we could sing the song together, and so I cut it short and moved onto the next song.
Today, the chaplain told me that a student of his came and confessed to plagiarizing a poem she turned in for his class. She asked for a zero. When he asked her why she confessed, she said she that during that song in chapel the night before she realized that she needed to make right. I found this story very moving, and I retell it here not to establish what a great job we are doing (as we obviously didn’t in this case), but that God seems to be at work in spite of our technical and personal failures. If you pray, please remember us here and especially the students and staff at Woodstock. That’s all for now, and we leave you with a few more photos: