On Sunday morning, someone in one of my Facebook groups exclaimed the awesomeness of “so many pics of red shoes” in her newsfeed. I then looked through mine; no red shoes and no other mention of them. So I went back to the group and asked what it was about, and I got a one-word response: “PENTECOST!!!”
And I was still baffled.
The respondent had to show me the liturgical colors explanation from the United Church of Christ for me to even come close to understanding that not only is red the color of this Christian holy day, but that women (and maybe men too?) wear red shoes. I’m still not sure I get the shoe thing…but what I do know is that I felt out of the loop.
It feels strange to not understand Christian practices, as someone who grew up in late 20th century America. It’s one thing to not understand Muslim practices, or Hindu practices, for example, as I didn’t grow up in communities where those religions surrounded me. But I know – or thought I knew – at least the basics of Christianity. In order to get a good religious education in a town too far from a Unitarian Universalist congregation, our folks sent us to the local Methodist church. Studies of English and American history and literature requires a knowledge of Christianity. And heck, our own denomination springs from two Christian denominations.
So why don’t I understand red shoes on Pentecost? Or why Protestants get all into the Lent/Holy week thing, when they didn’t when I was a kid? Or any number of other things that everyone else seems to know and considers basic, but I don’t?
I feel out of the loop – but also that I’m missing something. Other people are off singing and dancing in their new red shoes, and I’m sitting here surrounded by flower communions and final services and just random everyday UU services, filled with people who have no clue this is a special day in the religion from whence we sprang.
And honestly, it makes me sad. Not because I think we should be like other Christians – one look at Channing’s Baltimore Sermon scratches that off the list. And not because we should adopt the Christian liturgical calendar and do all the things they do. We have too many other sources whose wisdom and traditions we also want to celebrate.
But are we missing something by only celebrating our Christian sources on Easter and Christmas? Or are we honoring what we have become? Is it really okay that we have our own liturgical calendar, with special holy days that are just ours (flower communion, ingathering, etc.) with just hints of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, and other holy days? Is it okay to feel out of the loop?
I admit to feeling a bit heartsick that I don’t have a tradition of wearing red shoes on Pentecost or feeling the agony and ecstasy of Holy Week, or observing the fullness of Passover, or marking all the sabbats with glorious circles and spiral dances.
And so I sit, longing for a kind of belonging I will never have as long as Unitarian Universalism is what makes my heart sing. It’s not a bad thing… just something to ponder.