Chapel Just Blew My Mind

This post was contributed by Michelle Portera.

Lower school chapel, where have you been all my life? I went to Sunday school, VBS, and summer camp from childhood to adolescence and I can tell you honestly- I’ve learned as much or more from 1 + years of Friday chapels. I think we all agree, Rev Hailey has the gift of taking complicated theology and repackaging it in a way we can understand. I say repackaging, because she uses more than her mini sermon to teach. She incorporates art, dance, books, special guests, whatever will be most effective in keeping the attention of our youngest saints.

The simplicity of these messages reminds me of the subreddit  “Explain to me like I’m 5”. Adults, educated adults, have learning gaps, too–areas of life, especially faith,  we accept as true because asking “why?” at this point could be humiliating.

Take Mardi Gras for example. I am from Mobile, the place where Mardi Gras began. Rev Annie, I love you for saying it out loud to make sure our little ones know this. (New Orleans, much respect) I have NEVER considered Mardi Gras a spiritual practice. It was a time of year, not part of the church calendar. A season. A really fun, awesome few weeks when my mom took us to as many parades as possible and we ended up with piles of moonpies, candy, and beads. I always knew I was lucky to have a cool mom although now that I’m older, the word for her would be liberal. I was proud of my police officer dad, too, because he worked the parades, and to me, that made him kinda famous. Many of my friends had never even been to a parade since Mardi Gras was obviously of the devil. Full disclosure, there was that one time, junior year, I chose to “witness to the lost” downtown with my church group, then the next night, turned right around and went to the MOT parade. My shameful little secret.

Last month, in Hailey’s absence, Annie explained that MG is a time to get all our excitement out because we were about to enter the solemn season of Lent. I mean, I kinda knew that but it didn’t take root in my heart until she explained it like I’m pre-k3. It made perfect sense. Humans have to get their wiggles out before they can focus. Wiggles aren’t bad, but Lent just isn’t the time for them. There is growth that can only happen in such a still, reflective season. I get it, especially as a parent and teacher.

My cool mom asked me to come home for Mardi Gras this year, and the timing just wasn’t right for my family of 4. It was disappointing to decline, especially since Mardi Gras is finally back in full swing since Covid. After Friday chapel, after experiencing Mardi Gras as a spiritual practice, I’m good. I don’t need to see the dragon floats this year to feel the magic. We wore our beads and masks TO CHAPEL, people! Who knew this was ok to do?! And when we returned to class, we had king cake, straight from Gambinos!  Mind blown. Heart full. I look forward to going home for Mardi Gras next year, and it will be even more meaningful. Let the good times roll! (And don’t even feel bad about it!)

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