Categorically Speaking 

We all fit into different categories. Usually they are obvious and define who we are such as political persuasion, nationality, or religion (unless, of course, you belong to some weird political movement like New York City's "The Rent Is Too Damn High" Party). Some categories reflect one's likes or dislikes (e.g. I'm not a cat person). Often a category has sub-categories . . . if you are a banker, you could be an investment banker, a private banker or simply a teller. Quite often you might question the category in which you are placed - although being a "senior citizen" might be a state of mind, AARP considers age 50 a senior; Denny's and IHOP offer senior citizen discounts to those 55 and older; and SeniorFriendFinder.com takes anyone aged 21 and up (beware of gold diggers!).

Apparently at the Wilmette dog beach (I accidentally called it a park and was quickly corrected!), you are categorized by the time of day you walk your dog. In a recent housewalk meeting that obviously got off track, a parishioner was telling me about her morning routine at the dog beach. She goes at the same time every day and sees the same people with the same dogs. I heard stories about not only dogs growling at other dogs who invade their territory at the wrong time of day, but a particular dog owner (who shall remain nameless) doing her own bit of growling at someone who criticized her dog's behavior. When one of the dogs died this summer, all the morning walkers got together and sent the owner flowers, and they were thrilled when she showed up last week with a new puppy. Recently the morning dog walkers broke from tradition and got together without their dogs in the evening - and were pleasantly surprised to find they had more in common than owning a dog. Suddenly they were more than dog walkers at the beach in the morning . . . they became a community.

As I was thinking about this conversation, it was sounding familiar. Just like the dog park, Holy Comforter categorizes people by time - more specifically, by the time of the Sunday liturgy one usually attends. No one outside the walls of this church would understand why you are called an 8:00'er, a 9:00'er or 11:15'er. What might have begun as simply a preference for when you get going on Sunday morning has developed into three separate communities. Many of the 8:00'ers go out to breakfast together after the liturgy. Several of the 11:15'ers spend holidays together. And The Peace takes a little bit longer at the 9:00 liturgy as the congregation shares their greetings with one another. They know when someone is absent; they usually sit in same pew; and they take notice of anyone new to their service time. But unlike the morning dog walkers, who would never even consider getting together with the afternoon dog walkers, the 8:00'ers, 9:00's and 11:15'ers take advantage of the many opportunities to come together as a larger community.

Fellowship events like the October 21st Fall Fellowship Dinner and Time For Women are simply social times. Outreach events - the 57th Annual Housewalk on October 5th or the parish service project at Connections for the Homeless on November 13th - build a cooperative spirit not only within the parish but with the greater community. Special liturgies like the October 9th Creation Liturgy or the November 2 All Souls' Day Liturgy provide a sacred worship time for all. Education opportunities, whether an Adult Forum, Bible Study or youth group, feed the soul and expand the mind.

So in reality, 8:00'ers, 9:00'ers and 11:15'ers, much like the St. Helen's Guild, the Flower Ministry, or the Men's Bible Study, are just sub-categories of a larger, very inclusive catergory - the Holy Comforter community.  All sub-categories welcome . . . even if you walk your dog at the beach in the afternoon, you think the rent is too high, or you happen to be a 21 year-old senior citizen looking for a date.