Wednesday 19 October

We’re definitely back in the wedding season now. Immediately after the last blog and with the summer humidity and heat receding I found my self with three weddings (and a Vigil Mass) on one Saturday.

This is not too unusual in itself except I started at 9 by setting up the sound for visiting musicians who did everything apart from the processionals. This first wedding in the Syrian Orthodox Rite for a South Indian couple and their 300 guests who apart from 10 mins of homily stood for for the entire 2 hrs and 15 mins. It was a Rite full of symbolism and constant chanting. The second at 2:30pm was uneventful and mostly Hispanic although the presiding deacon spoke none and couldn’t even get the pronunciation of the couple’s names right! Then I had to cantor and play the vigil mass. The final wedding at 7:30pm was a quickie! A drink before bed was a welcome friend.

Days later Hurricane Ian arrived on the scene and the predictable emptying of supermarket shelves soon followed. I still had my bottles of water left over from the last event 3 years before. Friends had advised me not to drink it for fear of plastics in the water … I, who am made of stronger stuff and normally am quite content with tap water, stuck to my guns and made do with what I had. Turning to my hurricane kit I discovered that my trusty radio, not used since Irma in 2017 had given up the ghost. I had enough wine in the house to sink a battleship so I felt prepared. We had already been given permission to stay away from work. Weddings were cancelled or postponed and a GOD’S GOOD EARTH liturgy I had been working on was also cancelled.

The course of Ian was set to arrive directly over Tampa so there was much anxiety in the air. Fortunately for us Ian hit land much further south near Fort Myers but we still got some scary high winds and rain. I never lost power so I was able to see the devastation further south. My local bar was closed for one day (which rarely happens!) and after this it was business as usual. We still have tree debris out on the road awaiting collection and some folk are complaining that 3 weeks later this remains uncollected. How unreasonable is that when they must know that all the equipment has been diverted further south to deal with massive challenges. A friends mother was uncontactable after Ian so they went down to look for her. She had no power, no phone and her fridge freezer was full of stuff which needed to be discarded and there was little infrastructure around her to support life. So they brought her up from Fort Myers to Tampa. She desperately wanted to return but reason prevailed. This kind of story was heard so often over the following days.

Back at work after the hurricane break I kicked off with another wedding and the ‘normal’ weekend stuff. The following week included St Francis Feast Day with the ‘Transitus’ being celebrated on the vigil and a Feast Day Mass the following day, marking the end of the Season of Creation. Later that week at the Franciscan Center in Tampa I teamed up with ex-diocesan collegue and now Center Director, Brian Lemoi to deliver GOD’S GOOD EARTH as part of their celebrations. After the liturgy we blessed a new spirituality room and blessed the animals. Some of the City’s police horses ventured out for a blessing. I was happy to be sat with Sean who had been my predecessor at Sacred Heart. Mayor Jane Castor spoke beautifully about the contribution of the Center to the City and particularly of its RESTORE program which saved so many traumatized first responders.

Yesterday my brother Richard sent a video of his 2 year old helping my mum to put on her slippers. He was a bit puzzled by my mum’s confusion but it was a joy to see the willingness to help so apparent at such an early age.

My house in Sheffield is still not sold but I’m told it is progressing. Soon I will be having to pay interest on ‘interest free deals’ which I never expected to have to pay as I was hoping for a quicker settlement to the house.

This coming weekend I will have a liturgy committee meeting, three weddings and a Vigil Mass all on one Saturday. For one of the weddings the couple had booked two string players and a Cantor from the contemporary evening Mass. They had asked me to do some string arrangements but when it came to payment for this extra work they were not so agreeable! They won’t be getting the arrangements! Most couples are genuinely grateful for the service we provide at Sacred Heart but then there are always others who make may demands at the last minute and try to ‘nickel and dime’ you yet at the same time spend a fortune on the rest of the day. Grrr!

After an evening zoom meeting with my composers forum friends a couple of days ago I was surprised to find a small gathering chatting away in one of the rooms downstairs. I joined the conversation which was wide. One topic was about how to take a different path with the Open Doors outreach to the LGBT+ community. We are the only catholic parish in the diocese which welcomes such folk. I suggested that they be invited to provide a liturgy for consideration of Ukraine for instance. Something which would not focus on their sexuality but which enabled folk to thank them for the contribution to parish life. We’ll see how that develops.

This morning I awoke at 7am to greet my cleaner. It was 55F. Now this is chilly for Florida. So rather than go outside to install a security camera I decided to type this blog instead. I may even return to bed once the cleaner has gone!

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