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Friday, August 21, 2009

"Room for one more" to be "closer to heaven"

Charles Atwell, with Mary Alice Martus and the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, after services in Lewes, Del.

The title of the NY Times essay is "Sea, Sand, Faith: Far From Home but Closer to Heaven".

That "closer to heaven" place is Rehoboth Beach, DE.

And, one of the "angels" pictured above is none other than Mark Harris.

One of the stories told about this place is that "Rehoboth" was the name of King David's Palace compound, which was built on a hill over-looking the great city of Jerusalem.

King David built a huge palace, large enough to hold all his many wives and children, as well as the men of his vast army. The palace expanded as David added wives and they had children. It also expanded as the army expanded, and more slaves were brought in to tend to both the family and the army.

"Rehoboth," it is said, can be translated loosely as "room for one more."

I was thinking about that yesterday as the traffic on Route One was so heavy, it took me 30 minutes to get to the Beach - normally a 15 - 20 minute ride this time of year.

The beach was also very crowded, for a Thursday in August. Then again, it was a perfect beach day and everyone was enjoying it.

The best news is that, after having a delightful breakfast with Max Wolf, the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Rehoboth Beach, I attended the 11:30 am Healing Eucharist, as is often my wont when I'm here.

Well! There were 25 people in attendance.


On a Thursday.

In the summer.

When I first started going to this service, about 15 years ago, there were four, maybe five people in attendance.

Max is stridently unapologetic about being inclusive in this fairly conservative seaside resort town. I think it's paying off.

Then again, it always does.

See also "closer to heaven" and "room for one more".

Sea, Sand, Faith: Far From Home but Closer to Heaven
Ryan Collerd for The New York Times

BACK home in Baltimore, Miriam Zadek rarely attends synagogue. But it is summer, and on a recent Saturday morning, like nearly every Saturday when she is at her second home here, Mrs. Zadek was in her purple kippah and matching gauzy prayer shawl, her husband, Bob, by her side, at the Seaside Jewish Community, the resort area’s synagogue.

Every Sunday morning at 7:45 or so that Charles Atwell is in Lewes, Del., he walks from his weekend home, over a bridge that fords the marina, through the quaint town center of cafes and boutiques to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Storeowners and his fellow congregants greet him as they enter the churchyard.

Mrs. Zadek, 80, and Mr. Atwell, 54, of Silver Spring, Md., are among those across ages and faiths who have made their spiritual home where they vacation. Sometimes it is the sense of tradition in a place they came to as children and now return to year after year as adults. Some are inspired by sermons or a religious leader. For others still, like Mrs. Zadek, the smallness of many vacation congregations makes them feel more accepted and needed than they would be at a bigger church or synagogue back home.

“I feel this place is truly us,” Mrs. Zadek said, “that every one of us has a stake in our learning, in our services. We muster the fervor for our services here.”

This Saturday was particularly important for Mrs. Zadek: it was the first anniversary of her sister Sylvia’s death. Sylvia, like many in Mrs. Zadek’s family, was born deaf, as were her two children. Mrs. Zadek brought them and their spouses to the synagogue, arranged for a local sign language interpreter to translate, and stood at the lectern to read the drash, or sermon, for the service.

“Today I observe the first anniversary of my sister Sylvia’s death,” Mrs. Zadek began, her voice cracking. The Torah portion for the day was about Moses’ exhortation to the Jews to enter the future from Sinai. She continued, “They are faced with the imperative of moving on to a new place, without him.”

It would never have occurred to her, Mrs. Zadek said afterward, to do something so intimate at a large urban synagogue: to read a sermon about the deafness that runs through her family, to invite her deaf relatives to the front where they signed the prayer at the end of mourning while she read it aloud, to slip into tears. But she considers Seaside her home congregation, even if she lives most of the time in a city two hours away.

Often the beauty of the mountains or the sea opens vacationers and second-home owners to a deeper spiritual experience. A break from the routine of work and children’s activities gives them a chance to think about the bigger questions of life.

“Part of it is when you’re down here and walking on the beach and there is nothing between you and Mauritania, you start taking yourself not as seriously,” said the Rev. Thomas Wilson of All Saints Episcopal Church near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on the Outer Banks. “The tide comes in and the tide goes out, and you can’t control it, and the things you worry about don’t seem as important.”

Seaside Jewish Community began about 12 years ago at a bagel shop in Rehoboth Beach when local and vacationing Jews began discussing holding Shabbat services. The first services were in a living room, but over time they moved to a simple white clapboard building down a quiet road. People raised in all the different branches of Judaism — Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist — come to Seaside Community, and the services vary depending upon the tradition of the lay leader conducting them, as there is no rabbi.

Invariably services are informal and friendly, with about 40 to 50 people attending in the summer. Dressed in shorts and polo shirts, people take turns with readings and prayers. They make mistakes, laugh and start over.

“It’s not a rabbi telling us what to do,” said Howard Menaker, 57, a resident of Washington who is here most weekends, as he stood near Mrs. Zadek after services. “The word ‘community’ in Seaside’s name is very important — it’s not accidental — to these people.”

1 comment:

Muthah+ said...

Yep, The waves go in and the waves go out and nothing else seems important. Yes, yes. yes.....