The clergy in the Diocese of Newark will gather at the Cathedral at 11 AM. We will listen to the lessons, hear the gospel proclaimed and hopefully, be inspired by to two clergy - one who is fairly newly ordained, the other nearing retirement - preach on the theology and spirituality, the challenges and joys of ordained life.
We'll then renew our ordination vows - first the deacons, then the priests, then, the bishop. He'll bless the oils for baptism and healing from which we'll be able to replenish our parochial supplies and then together, we'll celebrate Eucharist.
Lunch will be served at the offices of NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center), where the Cathedral offices and Parish Hall are located. The Bishop will report on the House of Bishop's meeting during lunch and then, soon enough, it will be time to take our leave.
I've been in this diocese since 1991 and I've never missed one of these days. To be truthful, I'm not sure why.
I don't believe in "renewal" of vows - well, not every year. Perhaps on a major celebration - like, say, the 25th or 50th or something. But, every year? Pretty silly, if you ask me.
Perhaps because it sometimes feels like a last vestige of the way 'the old boy network' used to work. Or, perhaps because there's this queasy feeling that this is a possible manifestation of clericalism, fueled by low self esteem or narcissism which often runs rampant in the ranks of the ordained.
Oh, there have been some really stellar sermons preached - and more than a few clunkers. The music is usually good. There's nothing like a cathedral full of clergy singing at full-tilt.
Except, perhaps, a church full of LGBT people singing praise to the God of our salvation at the Triennial Integrity Eucharist.
And, to be truthful, my most serious vocational crisis always come when I'm in a room filled with other clergy. At some point, the following thought usually crosses my mind: "Dear Lord, what's a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?"
It's all "hail fellow, well met" when you know damn well that some of these boys are hanging on by threads. Six months from now, someone will have had a heart attack or their wife will have left them, or their church will have suffered a major financial loss that they knew was coming. But today it will be, "Fine. Fine. Doin' just fine. Great to see you. Call me, we'll have to have coffee or lunch and catch up."
And, we never will, of course.
I think that's the worst part of the day.
So, why do I keep going back? I'm really not sure.
Perhaps I'm simply a creature of habit. Perhaps I have more loyalty than intellect. Perhaps I'm still "the best little girl in the whole world" I was brought up to be and simply do what's expected of me (stop laughing).
Perhaps enough of all that is true, and maybe, just maybe, enough good happens, once a year, to make me go back again. And, again.
Perhaps it is because the liturgy and ritual are powerful enough, in and of themselves, to be compelling. Something happens when we gather together to break bread. Something that is more powerful than our most passionately held assumptions and biases. Something that is transformative - even if only subtly, gently - that renews the spirit despite our resistance.
Besides, it's only once a year.
Every Tuesday in Holy Week, whether we need it or not.
As my sainted grandmother - she who I accompanied on our daily morning walk to Eucharist - would say, "Oh, the things we do for Jesus."
Whether He needs it or not.