Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calm before Holy Week

A week before Holy Week and all feels calm. I look forward to reading the online newspapers each morning to see what is new in this part of the world. Russian seems to be on a tear; Syria is in a protracted stalemate with Assad; Quebec’s secessionists failed; Turkey is headed towards a more Islamic tradition; elections in India and Pakistan are remote and worrisome; Egypt seems to be creeping along; Iran shows its bravado; the Saudi family lifts some restrictions on women; Lebanon supports Hizbollah in Syria. Jordan inches towards stability.

For three recent mornings as I set out in my car to various destinations, I was very pleased with the very nice drivers on the road. Two Jordan drivers must exist: the traditional Kamikazes who are the rush hour maniacs and the better drivers whose efforts are obscured by the taxi drivers and impatient ones. I pray that the better drivers have an increased role in setting new standards in Jordan. All in all, it makes me very happy to begin my day with pleasant drivers.

Of course there are spectrums of people here, but when two sorts of behaviors are aligned against each other, the difference is stark. I saw the kindness of one man reaching out to an elderly man while I was on my way to church and then I was saw two former friends who are in an isolated stare down because one has a visa to the U.S. while the other does not. It broke my heart that these two men had their friendship severed so totally because of a piece of paper. Both will eventually repatriate; one’s fortune just turned sooner than the other.

I accompanied some parishioners on retreat this past week. I had a lovely day in the sun. The natural surroundings were very pleasant and I enjoyed the silence. My prayer was wondering if people and nations that can spend time comfortably in silence leads to a peaceful people. I think prayer and silence helps one to obtain peace. As noted by the parishioners, silence is not easy and is seen as something to be avoided. They haven’t seen that it can be one’s best friend. As an introvert, I really need it.

It make me think on a national level whether introspect and silence leads to peace. Russia probably cannot stand to look at itself in the silence. The silent people of the world endure all sorts of oppression but for many, it can lead to freedom in the face of oppression.

In Amman, coffeehouses have become places of refuge. If I need a break from parish life, I go to a coffeehouse for a respite. This is actually a very rare occurrence. I’m often with someone, but the idea of having a place to where I can escape is comforting. I found two new coffeehouses that do not allow for smoking and are neighborhood places of respite – one on Jebel Weibdeh, the other in Sweifieh. The number of new places that are restricting smoking is reassuring.

Then, of course, there is IKEA. They have a smoking section in their restaurant, but seventy-five percent of the restaurant is non-smoking and lots of people sit there. It creates a wonderful climate. Yesterday while I was there, I saw a man teach his five year old son how to take the tray from the table and place it onto the conveyor belt. I enjoyed that so much. I watched as others respectfully honored the standards of the place. I like the positive effect that IKEA is having on Jordan. During mid-day, the place was packed with serious shoppers. They do know how to make money, but also to create a pleasant shopping experience.

I do see more Westerners in Amman than ever before. Maybe I am just noticing them but Western faces seem more in abundance.

With regards to church, I have received the music books for all parishes and it is making quiet a good impression. We will all be singing the same songs and it provides a universal standardization that was missing previously. Many parishioners have thanked me for it and it creates uniformity and updating. For so long we have been singing outdates songs from the 1970’s. Progress is difficult to forge, but we are doing it.

I also began supplying the Blood of Christ to one worship center. I am impressed that over 75% of the people are receiving. We also had anointing rites administered last week as we have been preparing for healing and reconciliation these past 30 days of Lent. We are now ready for Holy Week. It always strikes me as odd that everyone looks forward to Passion Sunday so much. They come into the church jubilant and leave grieving. Ah! It has a life all its own.

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