A few years ago, Colorado Opera postponed their much-feted world premiere production of “The Scarlet Letter” because of financial trouble. That was the spring of the year that I decided to double down and formally teach religious education, though the people I’d been volunteering with the high school youth group with were all bailing out of the program. My mom and I bought season tickets to the opera that year, because they slashed their prices replaced “The Scarlet Letter” with dyed-in-the-wool crowd pleasers, including “Romeo and Juliet” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Though we were novices to opera, my experience with ballet taught me that familiar material makes an unfamiliar art form more accessible. It paid off— we’ve since enjoyed several performances: “Carmen,” and “Aida,” and “Rigoletto,” among others, and are season ticket holders to this day. They’ve emerged from their financial troubles, and are in a position to do some more innovative programming.
This weekend, we’ll see that world premiere performance that was postponed, the day before I watch my second group of confirmandi (we had a one-year program, it’s now a two-year program) receive their Confirmations. I’m not sure I’m in for next year’s season of the opera, much as I’ve enjoyed it, and teaching is coming to an end, too.
It’s strange to have these two things run in parallel. I’ve decided not to return to the religious education program. Though I love teaching my faith and specifically, teaching the girls I’ve come to know and think so highly of (the word is “love,” in the very best “so proud of and so strongly believing in” sense, but to be circumspect, I’ll round down), the administration of the program and I have always struggled, because I spend so little time able to actually focus on teaching the faith. I’m holding kids to strange and shifting requirements. Last year, it was x number of service hours, two kinds of homework, attendance, and turning in canned goods, this year it’s been writing letters and essays for the administration and collecting forms and funds that they don’t bother to collect, let alone read or process. I’m constantly threatening people that if they don’t do thus-and-such there’ll be trouble! of some unspecified variety, knowing full well that there are no teeth to that— we can’t deny people sacraments on the basis of their inability to pay for a retreat or attend an event not clearly marketed as mandatory. And I have no heart to threaten these girls. They’re incredible— they’ve approached this process with open hearts and let it change them in the way that an honest faith should, and they don’t deserve the threats. My sub didn’t show up for the first 30 minutes of class when I was out on a business trip two weeks ago. This is a group of 20 or so middle-school and high-school girls. They didn’t leave after 10 minutes, like so many people I know (probably including myself) would do. They didn’t get out of hand and have another teacher find them unsupervised— they collected the homework, they reminded each other of the work that needed doing, they reviewed the last chapter we had covered. No threats necessary. I promise. And I won’t do it anymore.
So it’s a culmination, even more than it might otherwise be. And it’s got me wondering what’s next for me.
At church, it’s pretty easy— I’ll go back to singing in the choir, where they need help again. I’m lectoring, there’s a prayer group I’ll join. In the arts, I may do some other variety of season tickets, or just keep up my robust attendance at other things. But it makes me wonder about other areas. I have a reminder on my computer monitor at work: “How well do your commitments match your goals?” It’s a question I’m thinking a lot about, at the moment.
Today and this weekend, I’ll just enjoy these hard-won culminations. And see what the view from the top leads me to, tomorrow.