Recently we installed a "Rector Emeritus" at my church. He was the one who started this church at this location. Back then, he was running Camp Weed, the Episcopal camp and retreat for this dioscese. A local willed a large parcel of land to the Dioscese of Florida and the then-bishop called on Fr. Harry Bell Douglas, Jr. to put a church on that land.
He did. It started with a small chapel moved to this location from Lloyd, Florida and went from there. Today, the Episcopal Church of the Advent and St. Clement's Chapel host a growing and thriving congregation and I'm proud to call it my church home.
On that recent Sunday, we invited founding members and long-time friends of Fr. Harry's to attend the installation. My parents came. They were the first couple to be married in St. Clement's after it moved here - and they were married by Fr. Harry. So were my husband and I. And our son was baptised by him. And as an aside, apropos of nothing, Fr. Harry also used to drive me to high school along with his step-sons since they lived right down the street from us. We have a long history with Fr. Harry in my family.
So standing there in the pew, my mother and father in the pew behind me, I felt a connection to the past that was strong. And adding to that feeling was the sound of my father's voice booming in my ear.
There is a certain cadence to the prayers and responses of the Episcopal service, and my father - an immigrant from England - had always put his own spin on them. His loud, deep, accented voice gave authority to the words he said and I found myself saying those words in the same way as a kid.
Flash forward to re-joining my church a couple of years ago... I volunteered to be a lector (the people who get up during the service and reads the first two passages from the Bible, the Psalm and the Prayers of the People), having spent much of my life in front of a microphone. My dad used to do this in this very church, so comparisons were inevitable. My first read was shaky. It's one thing to sit in a small room alone with just you and the mic - it's something altogether different to stand up in front of a large number of people to speak. I was shaky. My voice AND my body. And mother nature chose that particular moment to bless me with a particularly sudden and intense hot flash. It was an uncomfortable experience, to say the least. And yet, no one in the congregation seemed to be aware of my difficulties at all. Apparently I read well and strong and was congratulated on doing a good job afterwards. It must have been my years of training... Dad would have been proud.
Recent Sunday had my father's voice in my ears again, with the same strength and cadence as I remembered as a child. The singing was also loud and strong, though it changed keys often (rather like mine - I think Episcopal hymns just do that to certain people!). As I listened, the years fell away and I was a kid again, only this time, I was enjoying the sermon and not just doodling, reading or snoozing through it. Ah, the difference between childhood and adulthood!
Father Harry's voice and my dad's are quite similar in the way they approach the service - and I suspect, having grown up on those voices, mine is as well. I wonder if, when my child grows up, he will think about those things and allow the sound of voices be his time machine too?