A former classmate of mine was interviewed the other day for a faculty position. We had a brief reunion at a reception for him during which we stole a few minutes to take the opportunity for a brief stroll down memory lane.
We remembered that we used to have a fun little organization here, known as "The Secret Society of St. Salada."
Being 'secret', it had no official standing in the school and was conferred by the authority entrusted to absolutely no one, upon absolutely any one, without any special standing or significance or privilege or right entered into by the same.
There were no meetings and no activities. We simply existed - and mostly, only in the imaginative if not academically addled minds of our members.
Most M.Div students - and a few MATS students - were members. The only way you could tell members from non-members was a knowing giggle shared among friends when someone sipped a hot cup of Salada tea in the Refectory.
I don't know how long this 'secret society' had been in existence. I only know it no longer exists.
Context is everything, so here's how it came into being - at least, as I remember it being told to me:
Back in the day, one could only be admitted to the M.Div Program if one were a Postulant for Holy Orders. Anyone in the discernment process who was without episcopal or diocesan support was expected to discern their call in the MATS - Master of Arts in Theological Studies - program.
Occasionally, a few exceptions were made - say, if one were not seeking ordination but anticipating furthering one's education through a doctoral program with the vocational goal of teaching in seminary.
In those cases, admission to the M.Div Program would be arranged. For the most part however, without institutional assurances of ordination, one would be enrolled in the MATS Program and, once Postulancy had been conferred, one could transfer into the M.Div Program - but not before or until.
I suppose the silliness of that process - which was imposed for the most part by bishops and to which the school acquiesced - provided the impulse to enshrine that silliness with the inception of a 'secret society'.
St. Salada is, of course, not a real saint. The name is derived from a kind of tea which is still being manufactured and sold.
Salada tea is perhaps distinguished less by taste and more by "Salada Tag Lines" - little tabs of paper on the end of the string on the tea bag which contained pithy sayings like the one you see pictured above.
When I first went grocery shopping to stock up my kitchen cupboard here, I, of course, had to buy a box of Salada Tea. I generally prefer Tetley or Red Rose or Celestial Seasonings (when I can't afford proper Irish or British tea) but I was overcome by melancholy right there in the aisle of the grocery store and well, it just had to be Salada Tea.
A quick perusal of the tags on the box of Salada in my kitchen, randomly selected, yielded these pithy little gems:
If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?These little tag lines became part of the requirement for entrance into the Secret Society of St. Salada.
The Rule of Inflation: whatever goes up will go up some more.
A depressed hypochondriac is someone who has no trouble to speak of.
Intuition is a woman's radar.
The ritual was the same, although adapted for specific circumstances. At some point in the day - or, in the dead of night - a candidate was approached by a posse of members who had been specially deputized to perform the ritual of induction into the secret society.
It began with an interrogation - of sorts. It all sounded very official and stern, but it was pretty straightforward and went something like:
"Is your name John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?"
"Why, yes. Yes, it is."
"Were you born in Lake Woebegone, Minnesota?"
"Yes, yes I was."
"Do you wish to become a member of the Secret Society of St. Salada"?
"Oh, yes. Yes, indeed I do."
The posse would then whisk you away to the basement of whatever place you were - the auditorium at Sherril Hall, the laundry room at Burnham or the supply area at Kirkland Street, where the induction ritual would begin.
The room would be darkened and, after a few moments of 'Holy Silence', several of one's classmates, fully vested in tiara and feathered boa - of the liturgical color appropriate for the season, of course - would process into the room, singing some relatively obscure hymn appropriate for the day or the occasion.
Like, say, "Lord of all being, enthroned afar."
Or, "We limit not the truth of God."
In the midst of the procession would be a thurifer swinging a thurible - from which arose a dense cloud of sweet smelling smoke - just ahead of the person who was piously carrying the Sacred Tea Pot.
After everyone and everything that wasn't nailed down was properly incensed, the candidate was escorted to the Sacred Tea Pot. One by one, a Salada Tag Line was withdrawn from the Pot and the candidate had to successfully perform the pithy quote in proper Anglican Chant.
Beware of Wall/ Street*This was, of course, preceded and ended with an appropriate antiphon, such as:
it begins in a graveyard/ and ends in a river
Behind every successful/ man*
stands a surpris/ ed mother in law.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my GodThis would go on for less than five or ten minutes, or until laughter completely overtook the gathered assembly and we were collapsing on the floor, spurting tea out of our mouths or snorting water out of our noses.
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
And then, it was back to the books, or the library, or the classroom, or our field education sites, or our homes with our families.
It was a wonderful way to learn the importance of ritual and liturgy while taking a bit of a humorous stab at Anglican chant.
But mostly, it was a way of not taking ourselves so bloody seriously - a much needed corrective to this fatal flaw of life as a seminarian.
It was creative and fun and silly and.... oh, my. . . . someone cue Edith and Archie Bunker to sing, "Those were the Days."
Quite honestly, I don't know that such a secret society doesn't exist here at EDS in some present-day incarnation. How would I know that? I'm not longer a seminarian. I'm a 'sister outsider'. And, if it's a secret society, well . . . it's secret, right?
I only hope it does, but I fear, given the increasing status of 'commuter student' which is necessitated by this increasingly fragile economy, it does not.
What I find I most want to tell the seminarians is to enjoy every last minute of their time in seminary. Because the real secret of the Secret Society of St. Salada is knowledge of the secret which will allow you to enjoy and cherish the gift of life.
That secret is this: These are the good old days.
For me, as well.