By Amanda Wischkaemper
I used to think there was a strange dichotomy in my double life as a theatre person/church lady. I was mistaken: as it turns out, there’s practically a glut of performers and artists among Children’s Ministers in the Episcopal church.
And why not? Religion is in Theatre’s DNA, from drama in worship in ancient Greece to Medieval cycle plays and chancel dramas, to our modern Passion plays and children’s pageants.
Conversely, drama is part of our Liturgical legacy. It’s no accident when people refer to our style of worship with words like “pageantry.” Prelude is to Overture as smells & bells are to special effects?
That said, an annual Christmas Pageant is a big deal for me—a time each year when my worlds collide. At St. James by-the-Sea, we put on a rehearsed, staged pageant. I *loved* this work.…but “Pageant Season” was stressful, onerous, and usually followed by its partner, the “Annual Pageant Sinus Infection.”
The Christmas Eve Pageant service at St. David’s is a completely different animal! My relief at not having to oversee a big staged performance was countered by the anxiety of no experience or control over a huge, impromptu production!
During my final interviews at St. David’s last winter, I remember a staff member remarking something along the lines of “there is enough; it’s hard not to worry, but there is enough with God.” In other words: God will provide.
It is so hard to believe sometimes! And last month, during “Pageant season”—the most obvious intersection of my worlds—curiously harder than ever! No rehearsal? Do I have enough costumes? Have I given enough guidance to volunteers? What am I doing? Will it be ok?
And, of course, it was. There is enough with God. Our 2013 Nativity included a tiger and a butterfly; angels, sheep, shepherds, magi of all sizes, a lovely Holy Family (see the video!), and a handful of mothers and new infants. I stood in the lectern narrating, and watched in wonder and delight. I actually had to step back from the microphone during the hymns so the congregation wouldn’t hear my voice crack as I stifled tears.
I love a well-orchestrated performance with memorized lines, perfect blocking, and kids remembering to project and “cheat out.” And this Christmas, I was reminded that by letting go, I truly love a holy, beautiful mess. There is enough with God. More than enough.
Video by Anthony Chapple