on being anointed.

On the last night of Glen East, we had a worship service. At the end of the service, my priest friend explained that we were being anointed to remind us of our calling as artists. “Beauty will save the world,” Image declares. They wanted us to know that what we had done all week was holy work.

I had felt that holiness in the midst of the workshop. The other attendees wrote things that exposed their core selves. Each person’s story is sacred. It is also unfinished. It was a balancing act to hold those things gently as we offered feedback in an effort to continue to draw the beauty from the stories we read.

During the week, I had felt a great sense of peace and belonging. I told Mike that these were my people and that I was so glad to have come. But as soon as the word anointing was mentioned, I got the old familiar feelings of withdrawal and hesitation.

My formative years were spent in a church that emphasized the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a very demonstrative way. I get a little bit antsy when words like anointing are used, because, in my experience, anointing was paired with words that still confuse me. Words like prophecy and vision and slain in the spirit.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” I whispered to my seatmate. She looked me full in the face and said, “Yes, you can.” I sat in the chair with my chest pressed to my knees and I prayed.

When it was my turn, I walked up and the priest placed the oil on my forehead in the sign of a cross. I was anointed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All around me, it smelled like a pantry, like a kitchen where beautiful things were being made. I looked at the priest and said, Amen.

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  1. susan

    I found that anointing had a much different meaning in the Episcopal church than it did in my evangelical upbringing – more austere, more sacred, less expectant of the anointed, more like being marked with ashes than being baptized with fire. In the few times I experienced anointing in my Episcopal journey, I found it reassuring and energizing, similar to communion. I’m glad you had a positive experience as well. And more time: I LOVE THIS WEEK SO MUCH FOR YOU.

    Posted 6/19/2012 at | Permalink
  2. Cassandra stafford

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who wrestles with some of these phrases due to past church experiences. I find myself cringing and having to make peace with this so often as much of my friends still embrace much of this. You always refresh me and let me know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing. How often will I say thank you during your blog’s life?? 😉

    Posted 6/19/2012 at | Permalink
  3. Rose Pate

    I’m trying to explain to my relentlessly Baptist child that there are lots of different ways to worship God, and that it’s ok to make choices based on where we feel most connected, but he remains nonplussed by the charismatic experience. I guess you had to be there.

    Kari, have you seen the movie Higher Ground?

    Posted 6/20/2012 at | Permalink
  4. And beautiful things were being made. This was the first time I’d ever been anointed and it was powerful for me too. Amen.

    Posted 6/20/2012 at | Permalink
  5. The words we experience from childhood often color our experience today with meanings that may not be intended. I have similar impressions of the word “anointed” and understand this struggle. Sounds like you had an amazing week.

    Posted 6/20/2012 at | Permalink
  6. This is really beautiful. So now that you’ve been anointed in a different setting than you were brought up in, do you have some thoughts about what anointing means to you now?

    Posted 6/20/2012 at | Permalink
  7. Susan: I love “marked with ashes rather than being baptized with fire.”

    Cassandra: I did not know that was part of your story!

    Mrs. Pate: I have not, but I have heard great great things about it.

    Katie: Glad you were there for all of this.

    Evyonne: So true. In the moment, I couldn’t even consider that it might have a different meaning.

    Daniel: I am not sure yet. I would love your thoughts. 🙂

    Posted 6/20/2012 at | Permalink
  8. sigh…love that…sounds like a great end to the workshop…love the smells there at the end too…that is perfect….

    Posted 6/21/2012 at | Permalink
  9. Your description is humbling. This deepens my own understanding of the practice, and how it can evoke multiple sorts of experiences in different people. I’m glad it was sufficiently different than one that tries to manipulate a feeling! Thank you for telling this story.

    Posted 6/23/2012 at | Permalink
  10. LKS

    Are you leading Buffy somewhere?

    Posted 6/25/2012 at | Permalink
  11. oh man. i LOVE that it smelled like a pantry. that captured it all.

    Posted 6/26/2012 at | Permalink
  12. I love this and it’s been beautiful to read about this experience. What a special and wonderful thing.

    I must just add (in the spirit of being over-thinking, as I often am) that Image’s declaration “Beauty will save the world” and statements like it always concern me.

    Perhaps it’s just the word “save,” but I worry the church (myself included) has a great temptation at the moment to turn beauty into an idol. I see the ever itching desire in my heart to be relevant, to seek after aesthetics, to turn a worship form into a worship object.

    Unless we are talking about the Beauty, our Lord, beauty is a wonderful, blessed thing. But it will not save the world.

    Posted 7/19/2012 at | Permalink
  13. Hi Kari,
    I just found your blog and wanted to tell you that it is lovely. I really love the deeper reflections on faith. I understand the hesitance about anointing. I was raised as an Episcopalian, then spent many years in non-denominational charismatic churches before returning to my roots. I love the pantry simile! Thanks for writing.

    Posted 8/15/2012 at | Permalink

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