Chapter Ten

In which Claire leads worship a little worse for the wear

Claire did sleep that night, or rather that morning, for all of fifty-three minutes before her alarm went off at 7:00. The adrenaline from the night before kicked in again and she was up and at the coffee maker without needing to hit the snooze button. Thank God the choir is singing the sermon today, she thought.

Claire left the house at 8:45, Bill Hill be damned. She left a note for Emma, reminding her to walk the dog, and telling her to ride her bike to church as she had a meeting after coffee hour and wasn’t sure when she’d be home. Better call Emma at 9:45, just in case.

By the grace of God Bill Hill did not greet her in the parking lot that morning; in fact, he and Gladys weren’t at church at all, which was surprising. Had they told her they were going out of town? Claire’s brain was still so scrambled she couldn’t remember.

Toledo Vader was there, though, right in front. This time Claire watched the women in the congregation – and a few men – stare at him as he came in. The oiliness she sensed after talking with him destroyed any attraction she had felt, and she managed the greeting with neither blush nor flutter.

“Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us worship well today. I apologize that there are a few mistakes in the bulletin. The opening hymn is not number 101, but number 365. Please stand as you are able, and let us sing.” Claire was grateful Bill Hill wasn’t there.

As soon as Claire sat down and the liturgist began the prayer of confession, she realized she had a little problem. When the choir sang in lieu of a sermon, she always sat in the front pew, and the pew on the other side was filled with the instrumentalists’ things. But there was Toledo Vader, smack dab in the middle of the front pew. She didn’t have to sit right next to him, she thought. Still, she knew there were yentas-in-the-making in the congregation who were dying to marry her off. What a nice visual she and Toledo would give them.

“Friends, this morning we are blessed to hear the choir’s presentation of ‘The Canticle of St. Francis.’ Listen for the word of God in their song today.”

Claire sat at the end of the front pew, smiled efficiently at Toledo Vader, and anticipated the choir’s offering, “The Canticles of St.Francis” based on some of his prayers. 

The work started with the “Canticle of the Sun” – majestic, with the choir weaving six different parts. The effect was like a prayer shawl draping over Claire, and for the first time in many hours, she began to relax.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him….

The next movement was slower, in a minor key. It stirred up the new sadness in Claire and she found her eyes welling up again. She dug in her pocket for a tissue, only to have Toledo offer her his handkerchief. Of course he would have a handkerchief, she thought. She smiled at him efficiently again, but shook her head. She was just fine. She turned her attention to the “Prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix.”

Most High, glorious God enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me true faith, certain hope and perfect clarity, sense and knowledge that I may carry out Your Holy and true command.

The third movement was a merrier one, the “Sermon to the Birds”. Claire thought of little Rex, and Emma with Rex, and smiled.

My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator,
always in every place ought ye to praise Him,
for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere,
and hath also given you double and triple rainment….

The fourth movement was the “Peace Prayer.” Claire loved this words and the melody began with rich solemnity of the cello. As the choir came in, Claire bolted up straight. Shit. That’s why she knew those words.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Claire almost left during the last movement, “The Blessing of St. Clare.” Between her exhaustion, the revelation of the peace prayer, and the sweetness the choir showed her as they began the last piece, she almost ran out to her office to have a good sob. But she didn’t. She let the words wash over her once again.

What you hold, may you always hold. What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet, so that even your steps stir up no dust,
may you go forward securely, joyfully and swiftly, on the path of prudent happiness,
not believing anything, not agreeing with anything,
that would dissuade you from this resolution
or that would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection to which the Spirit of God has called you.

As Claire did not preach that day, and as Peggy had done all of the work, Peggy and not Claire greeted people after the service. Claire made her way to the office, took off her microphone and robe, and went to coffee hour.

People were drinking coffee, and thanking the members of the choir, but no one seemed to have a treat in their hand. Claire looked over at the table – Prune Drop Cookies. Great.