This morning I was hanging my head upside down and blow drying my hair, and there for a second my hairdryer smelled a little funny. That smell took me back to perhaps the most exciting 30 seconds of my youth...
I grew up in the Episcopal church. The Episcopal church uses acolytes (in our church's case, usually middle schoolers) to carry the cross, torches, sometimes incense, and a big golden Bible in the procession at the beginning of the service from the back of the sanctuary up to the alter at the front.
(Also, although this has nothing to do with my story, I've always appreciated the architecture of most traditional Episcopal/Catholic sanctuaries. Most are shaped like crosses with a long narrower section for the congregation's pews, a perpendicular section where usually the choir and acolytes flank either side of the aisle, and the top of the cross where the altar usually stands at the front. I think it's really interesting to see how mindful architecture represents theology. Of course these two things don't necessarily have to coincide, but I also think it's interesting to think about how church architecture has shifted to more auditorium/stadium-style layout as some churches have shifted to more people-centered theology. I think the design of a space can encourage a more individual experience or a more communal experience... I'm getting off track. Carter and I are reading through the Bible, and I'm presently mired in the sometimes excruciating details of the tabernacle's design, so I guess it's on my mind right now.)
So, I was probably in 7th grade or so, which would set our story in 1990 or thereabouts. As a member of St. Philip's who was squarely in the junior high demographic, I was scheduled as a torch-bearer that morning. I had the prosaically famous and requisite big bangs of the era, hair sprayed to perfection. Needless to say, my knock-kneed, bespeckled twelve-year-old self was looking like quite the fashion plate as I impatiently waited in the rear of the church for the service to begin. Church-goers trickled in to their normal pews, filling the sanctuary. I looked so good that I began to bend over, ever so slightly, to admire my shoe selection that morning.
And then it went down.
Something began to crackle. Sort of like a campfire.
As I raised my eyes to the heavens, I realized with the horror only an awkward 7th grader can possess, that my hair was awesomely aflame. ON FIRE!!! IN CHURCH!!!
What do you do here? What is the appropriate response in this calamitous (hilarious?) situation? Well, with great presence of mind, I informed a fellow acolyte that my hair was on fire, handed her my torch, swiftly exited the building, and instinctively smothered the small blaze with my hand and my other remaining bangs. All within about 30 seconds.
So now you might be wondering how we proceeded. I shook out a few ashes, stepped back into place, and fulfilled my duties as a torch-bearer, gifting the whole congregation with the fragrant perfume of burnt hair... a little like the smell of my hair dryer this morning. A burnt offering indeed.