Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No Frozen Chosen

"The Frozen Chosen" is a sobriquet deservedly applied to some Episcopalian parishes. That's unfortunate even in warm and comfortable seasons, but around Christmas, it's tragic - witness a friend of mine who found himself in an unemotional, going-through-the-motions church service on Christmas Eve. My own parish, St. Stephen's Houston, can be called a lot of things (starting with flamingly liberal) but Frozen Chosen we are not.

St. Stephen's has a post-Christmas tradition called Chili-Bingo. It's what it sounds like: bring chili and play bingo. The prizes are white-elephant Christmas gifts, tenderly re-wrapped to foist on someone else. If you bingo you can either select a fresh gift or poach one that somebody else already got. Every year, there are items that our parishioners can't possibly have received as Christmas gifts by natural means. Somebody had to have gone and sought out weird stuff and religious kitsch.

This time the tackiest item of the evening was the pink plastic Jesus figurine. It had in its base a magic eight-ball (where you ask a question and give it a shake, and the ball floats in the liquid it's suspended in and presents an inscrutable answer.) This absurdity goes by the name of Answer Me Jesus. Also notable were an LED-illuminated picture of the Last Supper and a windup toy called Nunzilla, which walks and spits sparks. Then there were a yodeling electronic pickle and a stuffed penguin that sings and dances when you press the red spot on its flipper. I briefly possessed the penguin after I poached it from somebody else and before a third person poached it from me. The singing penguin's happy dance made my whole table dissolve in laughter, as well as attracting the attention of the subsequent poacher.

A good time was had by all, even the twelve-year-old boy who got stuck with an utterly boring decorative tea-light holder. The rector's daughter graciously appropriated that item from him before the evening was over. It was an evening of mirth and merriment, and in the twelve-day season of Christmas nothing could be more fitting!

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