I’m Chris Prickitt, and I’ve been coming to CVUUS for nearly three years. I grew up in Middlebury, went to the Mary Hogan School for my elementary years, fifth and sixth grade in what is now Twilight Hall, and High School, class of ’69. I went to Colby College and ended up staying there in Maine for forty years after college, working on a farm for five of those before entering the teaching profession. I taught 8th grade English for thirty-one years. I returned to Vermont in June of 2013. I’ve been working for the last two years at Eastview, the retirement community up beyond Porter Hospital. I’m on the maintenance crew, but I also drive residents in the bus or van to appointments and special events. I get to play music there twice a week as well. (EastView is where I got to know David Flight and Abbott Fenn and actually quite a few of our current CVUUS members.) I enjoy many special relationships with residents an co-workers there. Oh yes, life is good, and I am happily back in Middlebury.
As a boy, I attended St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Scratchy grey flannel pants, a choking shirt and tie, a dress jacket. Too much kneeling. The words in the service … right over my head. I did join the choir, week-night rehearsals with my mom. I was a boy soprano, my mom an alto, and I liked Mrs. Murray, the choir director and organist who let me try an alto part once, my introduction to harmony. Very cool.
I was an altar boy, or acolyte. I got to wear the black and white robes. My friend and classmate Ken Perine and I, on alternating Sundays, had the enviable job of leading the choir in to open the service, carrying the big gold-plated cross. I do have some strong memories of a
very positive youth group experience with our minister at the time, Russ Ellis, who was a bit of a radical, kind of like Barnaby, really.
But then no church for many years, except the late night Christmas Eve service when I might be back from Maine to visit my parents, dedicated Episcopalians to the end. My dad was one of the originals who helped with shovels and wheel barrows to dig out the basement of St. Stephens for its renovations, and I’m pretty sure, at age 93, he was an usher and read one of the lessons the Sunday before he passed away. During the last ten years of my time in Maine, I attended on the special occasions the UU Church in Dexter, a huge and beautiful building at the top of Main Street, but with an incredibly small and elderly congregation. I can’t imagine it can last much longer. My heart wasn’t in it. I felt I needed my Sunday mornings of down time after the stressful week of teaching. It seemed just too hard to get myself out of the house and the ten miles into town, for honestly, usually a less-than-inspiring experience.
Not the case now.
Here in Middlebury, I feel blessed. I am less than a mile from church. My work does not come home with me, so there’s no pressure to hurry up and relax at home, or to prepare for a new school week. And I get to have this CVUUS experience with my partner Connie.
And then … there is just so much to love.
I love the building and grounds, the cold, usually windy walk down from the parking lot up the hill, the solid concrete steps, with high grade outdoor lighting that works, well, one post light didn’t once, but we held the ladder while Bob House climbed up and fixed it.
I appreciate the smiling greeters, and warmth upon entering, the high grade wooden coat hangars, some with a bar so you can hang a sweater over that, and then your coat around it!
the chairs that lock and stack, and roll away on carts. What does one of those chairs cost? I’d like to know. The clean hardwood floor, the windows that open and shut easily, the natural light,
and the not-quite symmetrical interior light design (see how there are four on this side, but only three up there?) Very cool.
We’ve got efficient heat, pellets that auger into the burners, technology beneath us that magically keeps us warm. I love the sound system and it’s two faithful technicians, the wireless mics and quality amplification (that antenna back here that, as recently explained by Mitch,
can send invisible electronic waves that send signals to the high grade head phones)
the bird up high on the back sill, and the story of how it got there.
I love the preludes, the ringing of the bowl to settle the conversation and transition us into the service, the ceremonial chalice lighting, and then, the order of worship, the participation of the worship assistants, the way the readings connect with the music that connects to the theme of the day or month. The milestones and passages, the joys and concerns.
I love the creativity, humor, and intelligence of our minister, and how he’s already thinking about next week’s service in the immediate aftermath of the one just ended. (Leadership is difficult. We’re in good shape with that.)
I love seeing the children walk up front for their story time. As a former teacher, I appreciate the planning, effort, and the willingness of all of our religious educators like Poppy, and those more behind the scenes on Sundays (and other days) who take on the responsibility and inevitable anxieties of leading our young people, such an important part of CVUUS life, as Hannah Sessions so gracefully acknowledged a few weeks ago.
I love the special events, for which magically enough people always sign on to help. The rhubarb fests with its we-can-do-anything helpers … and the fearless and ageless leaders like Ann Ross. I am amazed at the large number of people filling roles, expending energy for the good of the whole, all the while living full lives in such responsible fashion during the rest of the week. It’s awesome. It’s inspiring!
And the music, such a powerful component of the CVUUS experience. We have two amazing accompanists at the piano. A dedicated, spirited choir, that rehearses weekly with the positive
energy of Lucy, their leader. For me, it’s like, “Oh boy,” as they make their way up front each Sunday. I love hearing the wailing harmonies and echoes and “Amens” of You-know-who.
And then there’s Francis and Paul Stone dancing their arms high during This Little Light of Mine as we sing the children out. So many special musical moments, all enriched by the amazing acoustics in this sanctuary. I can rarely keep my composure and sing all the way though “Spirit of Life.” But that’s okay; we get to feel our feelings here.
And every Sunday, refreshments afterwards (thank you)… and some conversational delight. I love talking NESCAC basketball with Karl Lindholm. (Big win for Middlebury yesterday, by the way.)
And oh … lastly, I have to mention the Silent Auctions, the overwhelming response and the fun of it all … spearheaded by the energies and passion of so many, like skit miester Ellen Flight, the amazing accounting-processing team of Margy and Jordan Young, and sometimes the efforts of guests from away, even from as far as the deep south, Ida Bidwell and her son. What was his name, Connie? __________ Fun!
It’s a good dance! And if you don’t have a dog, this amazingly comfortable, highly functioning CVUUS community is right here for love and support.
But I know it’s not always easy to jump in, and it’s not easy to sustain. If the knees and hips aren’t loose, or the mind cluttered, it’s really difficult to get out on that floor and dance.
I’m still wrapping my yet-to-be-fully-developed adult brain around all that’s involved, and how much I can give, how much I can do. but I sure recognize more and more the importance of doing what I can, doing a little more … to help things work, and to extend our positive influence into the greater community.
So much matters, and our mission is clear. And I know I am in good company for the commitments. It’s all good.