heritage

So it is Thanksgiving.

Taking most of last week off meant that there was no time for the cooking of feasts this week, so Molly and I supped alone on peas and fish.  The squirrels had rather a better day of it once the lid flew off the bucket of peanuts, and they curled up inside:  a full supply of food, sheltered from wind and rain.

Once upon a time, I would not have wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.   After all, I left the States and made my home in Scotland, and there are holidays a-plenty at this time of year.

But a strange thing has happened.  Each year that passes, I am more and more aware of the ways in which I am and always will be American.  I find myself saying it more now, ‘well, I’m American and…’  instead of ‘well, I’m from the States, but…’ And it’s true, I still prefer to bring it up myself rather than have others raise it, but it’s OK now.

Over on Kelvin’s blog, there has been a somewhat prickly conversation about a rather wild liturgical video.

The video offers the perfect cross-cultural platform.  For the non-Americans among you, I suspect it represent the most ludicrous face of American culture.  Enthusiasm without taste; risk taking without sufficient sense, education or decorum.

You can imagine how far and how fast I would have run from such a scene in those early years when I tried so hard to blend in.

But now it is different.  The video represents for me some of what I miss from my home country.

Yes, it is over the top.  Yes, parts of it (most of it, even) lack decorum and are rather embarrassing.  But the people are trying hard to do something that does not come easily to them.

And I have come to value that in a way I never would have imagined.

Part of what I loved about Britain when I first came was that it was all so seemly.  There were no excesses of emotion, no pressure to emote.  It was much more relaxed, much more natural and free.

The truth is, I was never brave enough to be a good American. I embarrass too easily.  Almost inevitably, the spontaneous action is lost when my mind moves before my body does, and I watch myself deciding what to do next.

So, I used to deride my freer wilder sistren.  Now I envy them.  Just a bit.

The service on the video would have left me cringing in the corner at many points.   I suspect I’d have felt awkward and uncomfortable; and in time, it might have been good for me.  I believe God ‘gets in’ most easily when we are out of our depths, when we are not wholly at ease and in control.  So maybe a degree of discomfort is good.

If you watch it (or watch it again), try to suspend judgement for a few minutes.  Move past the things that are obviously unpleasant, and notice how the levels of participation change.  Yes, a lot of the congregation are bewildered and wary at the start– but by the asperges, they are laughing;  by the peace they are dancing badly-and-wonderfully to the glory of God.

Those of you who may fret about my plans for Sunday:  don’t worry.  None of what you see is on the agenda.  But maybe we can find something good there:  something we know we won’t do but can talk about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

7 thoughts on “heritage


  1. Thanks for putting that whole conversation into context, it is an easy reaction to criticise things we are a bit afraid of.

    Many years ago on my first trip to America (I’ve only been twice) I went to an Episcopal Church in Florida and although it was not quite like the one in the video, the experience was outside my comfort zone. From the exuberant greeting when one parked in the “visitor parking” to having a microphone up your nose in the service and being invited to “give your testimony from Scotland” it was all a bit overwhelming. But I do still think about that exciting, vibrant congregation and can still remember the sermon which was based on the Wedding Feast.

    So happy Thanksgiving to you.

  2. Happy thanksgiving! From someone who doesn’t celebrate St Patrick’s day, because of ‘Enthusiasm without taste…education or decorum.’

  3. Kimberly You are the perfect American and a superb ambassador for all that is good in the country of your birth. We love you for just you being you

  4. In the clip it’s the only the puppet figures that really really don’t work: they neither advance the liturgical action nor draw us into it. By contrast the two ‘acolytes’ were producing better liturgical dance than I’ve ever yet seen over here. Perhaps experiments with geography won’t give us the space to emulate them in St Mary’s , but we have had a puppet at least once: two small children powering Jonah’s whale and disappointed when forbidden a garden spray as a spout (asperges?!).

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