Monday, June 15, 2009


Part of the problem with trying to keep a regular blog (if memory serves) is remembering interesting things to write. I hit on a new idea today. Typically, when something of note happens, I Tweet about it. So my Twitter/Facebook status list becomes a sort of outline for possible blogging.

Thursday, David and I set off for an adventure. We were to spend two days in Wichita at the Parish Life Conference and then two days in Salina at the Smoky Hill River Festival. The Parish Life Conference is the annual gathering of our diocese (Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America--DOWAMA) to conduct business and have fun. This is my third conference and David's first as an attendee (he was at part of one as a PLCCK--Parish Life Conference Chairman's Kid). The Smoky Hill River Festival is an annual festival of music, arts, crafts, and games and a Major Family Event for the Gilberts. David and I have done a bit of long-course traveling together and we always have fun, so I was really looking forward to this one.

Part of the appeal of the conference for me is seeing people that I hear and read on the Net or only know through email. I have previously met Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, but haven't gotten to speak with him much. This year I had a couple of conversations with him, which was weird. He produces the goofiest Orthodox Podcast on the Net--always trying to be funny. Part of the humor is his thick Dixie accent, which he plays up on the podcast. When listening to it, I picture him being highly animated and goofy at the mike. So it is incongruous to hear that same voice, with that same accent, while discussing the St. Phillip's Prayer Discipline, with someone who is, in fact, not animated at all, and who is wearing a long black cassock. I pestered him enough for information about the prayer discipline that he gave me a pile of materials and deputized me to recruit others. I look forward to getting a group started. Other notables connections included my old boss, Fr. Justin Matthews, my hopefully future Chancellor, Fr. Chad Hatfield, all the various officers and organizers of the conferences and it committees and, most important of all (though he would say least of all) our beloved Bishop BASIL. These are all our elder uncles and cousins in the family of the faith and it is nice to see them, if only briefly.

I think the highlight of the trip for David was the Motel 6, where we stayed because it is cheap. it is cheap because it is smaller than my bedroom and smells like feet. But he did not care. He had two beds to jump on and he wanted to skip the conference and spend the entire time in that room. But I insisted that he go with me and actually participate. He did all the kids stuff, which involved games, coloring, a magic show, a trip to the zoo, and lots of running around. As I predicted, he quickly made fast friends with a number of boys and girls. At various times during the event, we would see the youth being shuttled from one place to another. David was always in the middle chatting and gesticulating wildly with other kids. But whenever he saw me, he wanted to know when we could go back to the motel.

On both days, the kids stuff ended right before Vespers. In both cases, we had to sit next to a new friend of his. I realized at some point, that this was the most important aspect of the trip for me. I really wanted David to have a good time with other kids from the Diocese. Church is simply too often drudgery for a five-year-old-boy. It is important to me that he have many reasonably positive experiences without giving him the impression that Jesus is simply his playground buddy. Thursday night, when he suggested that we pray before going to bed, I nearly exploded with joy.

One of the highlights of the conference, if you like this kind of thing, is the "Bible Bowl." It basically "Hi-Q" for bible geeks. This year was on the Gospel of John. I forgot to study except for the day of the bowl. There are adult teams and teen teams. Out of a dozen adult teams, our team came in forth--six points behind the winning team. I personally cost us three points on questions that I had reviewed in the one study session--questions that I would have known if I had studied. Me and my teammate even had a conversation about the 153 fish caught in chapter 21, but I could not remember the quantity at the crucial moment. Still, with very little studying on our parts, we came in forth. I see no reason why we cannot dominate next year in Oklahoma City.

Another highlight--Western Rite Matins. This is matins chanted according to the Western Rite (looks and feels like Roman Catholic or Anglican rites) using English Plainchant that Anglicans would be familiar with. I love this. Byzantine Chant is lovely, but will always sound foreign to me--especially in English. Plainsong, on the other hand, is the English Language at its most perfect. It is the way God intended English to be heard. I hope that as Orthodox Christianity takes root in American and England, that the chant will be allowed to naturally drift in that direction--some sort of Plainchant with Byzantine tonal references perhaps, I don't know. I know what you are thinking--"why not just become a Western Rite Orthodox?" Well, too many issues there.

The Business Meeting is hardly worth mentioning, thank God. These are very informal. Substantial business is truly conducted, but it is done quickly, with humor, without rancor, easily. I've been in staff meetings at work that are more onerous (and longer).

Then, David and I headed back to Topeka, met up with Simon, Skylar, Brooke, and Isabelle, dropped of the car for Jaime, and took Grandpa's van to Salina for the River Festival. I think we took all of the pillows that we collectively own.

It seems that the music was particularly good this year. Of course I am going through a blue/folk/country/roots phase right now, so that could have something to do with really enjoying all of the acts I saw. At first the kids seemed to get into the music as well, but that didn't last long and I am not sure why. So they did crafts, got their faces painted (well, Simon and Izzy did), won free* fish, and begged for expensive fried food.

Dad lives just a few blocks from the festival, so we walk back and forth between the park and his house quite a bit. One time, Brooke noted that a lot of people in Salina use blankets as window coverings. I suggested that we open a "Blankets for your Windows" store and tap into this market.

The Big Event Saturday night was the Fabulous Thunderbirds--or the one original member who still has rights to the name, and his back-up band. I missed most of it putting the kids to bed, but I arrived in the middle of the World's Longest Harmonica Solo. That guy kills on the harmonica. He is better than me.

By fortunate coincidence, Sunday was the Feast of All Saints, which is always the Sunday after Pentacost, and the Orthodox Church in Salina is All Saints Orthodox Church. Furthermore, the founding pastor of this parish was in town because of the conference down in Wichita, so he served the Liturgy for their feast day.

Sunday afternoon, the kids spent most of there time at the play ground. At one point David and Izzy started playing in the sand pit and so did Simon. Eventually, he got tired of sand in his sandals so he sat on the curb that demarcates the pit, and took them off. This was very close to the main stage and a great band began playing, so I sat on the bench next to the sand pit and watched while keeping one eye on the kids. Long after David and Izzy had run off with other kids, Simon remind sitting on the curb. He made little piles of sand and knocked them down. He piled sand on one his shoes and then pulled the shoe out. He made piles on the curb, and swept them off. For the full 45 minutes of the performance, he sat quietly with the sand. He only then stopped because I stopped him so we could potty.

Brooke likes to eat a lot. The boy is always hungry. During this trip, he was always hungry for Sirloin Stockade and the running joke was that he constantly asked to go there. "Sure" I said as we left Salina, "we can eat there." What I meant was, "I would never set foot in a Sirloin Stockade." I'm pretty sure he understood my meaning. I was interested in taking hwy 24 from Manhattan to Topeka because it is a more pleasant drive than I-70. But I missed the Manhattan exit. I was fine giving up on the idea but Skylar convinced me to just take the next exit--Deep Creek Road. Half way down the exit ramp, the road turned to gravel. Then we drove for miles on this winding gravel road with no idea where it might lead. Finally it lead back to Manhattan so we headed for hwy 24. By this point we were all very hungry, so we decided to stop and eat. What would you guess is at the junction of hwy 24 and Whatever-road-we-were-on? Sirloin Stockade. What a weird place. Pay $9 and just eat as much warm beige food as you can fit inside of your self. I had meatloaf, salad, coleslaw, beets, bread pudding, ice cream, cookies, part of a cupcake, a piece of brownie, root beer, and probably other stuff that I am forgetting. It was bizarre. Deliciously bizarre. Brooke was hungry as soon as we got back in the car.

Home was a welcome sight, as was my wife, who had to miss the whole trip for various reasons. If this weekend is to set the tone for the rest of the summer, then I am going to have a lot to blog about.

1 comment:

rachel said...

Did you meet our friends the Ashtons?

Western rite. Ugh. I cannot share your enthusiasm.