I spent the past week-end trying to have some autumnal delights, even in the heat. I walked over to the pumpkin patch of a local church and picked out some pumpkins. One of the women staffing the patch had a small boy with her, and his delight in the pumpkins was a joy that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't gone to the patch that day.
I needed to buy pumpkins because I wanted to transform the altar at church. We are using Dr. Wilda Gafney's A Women's Lectionary for the Whole Church, and Sunday's gospel reading was about trees that bear good fruit and how a thorn bush will never bear good fruit. It was the perfect excuse to buy some apples and pears for this wooden bowl:
And then on Sunday, I created a new vision for the altar, a vision that can take us to Advent, with some changes here and there:
Here's a close up of the right side as you face the altar:
And here is the left side of the altar, the one with the wooden bowl of apples:
I know that I am lucky to be part of a small church that has no altar guild, and so I am free to create these altarscapes. I am even luckier to be part of a church that appreciates this creative work of mine. I am sure that there might be a person or two who wishes for an altarscape that is less cluttered, less busy, and if someone wanted to design and create that vision, I would share these opportunities by dividing up the weeks of altar design.
It was a full morning at church, as I was also part of the sermon team. Our pastor preached on good fruits, and then I took the congregation through a creative exercise. We have a stash of blank notecards, so we handed each parishioner one as they came in. I had the congregation write a card to themselves, imagining the voice of God telling them where they are bearing good fruit. So many of us focus on the ways we are failing, on the thorn bush side of ourselves. I want people to remember. I read them the passage from Galatians 5 that explains what good fruit looks like: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I offered to mail the cards to them later, if they gave them to me--and I did get a stack to mail. Hurrah!
After a long morning at church, it was good to come home to cook. On the Smitten Kitchen website, I saw this recipe for a winter squash and spinach pasta bake, and happily, I saw the recipe before I did the grocery shopping I needed to do. On Sunday afternoon, I made the casserole, and I confess that I had my doubts as I smoothed the gloppy mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan. It has to bake for 90 minutes, and it made the house smell delicious. It tasted as good as it smelled, and it is such an easy preparation: no sauteeing, no making of separate sauces. I'll be making this one again, but I'll be making it even easier by using frozen, chopped spinach. I didn't have fontina cheese, so I used cheddar, which was just fine and cheaper.
We finished the autumnal week-end by working on variations of "Simple Gifts," which I'll be using for devotions for a seminary class this week. At first, my spouse plucked it on the violin. Then I suggested that he try playing it with a bow, and it came out in the most amazing way; I'm glad that I was recording. I decided to go back to the bowl of fruit, so that people would have a visual focus:
It is good to remember that although this autumn has a different set of joys than autumns of the past, there are still joys to be had. And I have enough perspective to know that in future years, I'll be wistful about these very joys.