Early winter is the time in Italy: the lemons are in. Several bags of the lovely yellow globes have found their way into our house, gifts of generous parishioners with lemon trees in their gardens. We even have a small harvest ourselves: the two lemon trees in front of the rectory, planted by the wive of a previous rector, both have done their part.
I have found a lemon torte recipe that looks good. And The Silver Spoon has a recipe for liver with lemon -- I'll try it, but I must say it it doesn't exactly ring a bell. I can make lemon curd and, of course, lemon chicken. And that great old American church tea standard, lemon squares.
We had a vestry meeting last night and I set a nice lemon at everyone's place. A gift, not a message: no, I have not soured on them. They have been a wonderful vestry, helpful and giving partners for a priest new in town; new, even, to this part of the world. When I have needed advice, they have given it. When I have needed encouragement, they have delivered. When I have needed disagreement, they have offered it lovingly. They respect themselves and one another. They love their church.
In a month, the makeup of the vestry will change. Some oldtimers will come to the end of their terms and some newbies will begin theirs. You always need a mix of old and new, of experience and the freshness of an intelligent naivete. The Church's present is always a mixture of past and future: it can't thrive if it tries to hear only one of these.
Neither can anything else, for that matter. Your family: it can't thrive and nourish if all it has is shared history. It must also have a shared destiny. Your relationship with your friends, the same. Your career: to continue loving it, you need more skin in the game than the fact that you've always done this work in this way. You need a little What if? to balance out all the years of What is.
Lemons take a long time to ripen on the tree -- four months or more. And they can stay there ripe for a long time, too; their harvest is not a panicked affair, like the harvest of wheat or corn. Sooner or later, you pick one and cook it or drink its juice, grate its pungent skin and compost its fragrant peel. You use every bit of what it is, as we should all use every bit of who we are. All gone. And ready to come back in a different form, to do it all again.
In 2007, the Geranium Farm conducted a modest online fund drive, and we received enough donations to pay all our bills for more than a year -- Internet expense, travel, modest office expenses and (full disclosure) Barbara Crafton's pension payments. Now it's 2009, and we are finally running low on the nest egg that Farmers so generously provided two years ago. This year we will again host an event at the Episcopal Church's General Convention, which will have a modest cost. If the eMos, the HodgePodge, Ways of the World, sermon and ER&D meditations, prayer candles -- all of the interesting mix that is the Farm -- matters to you as it does to thousands of readers worldwide, might you consider sending a small gift to help it all continue? Visit the donations page at www.geraniumfarm.org or send a check to The Geranium Farm, 387 MIddlesex Avenue, Metuchen NJ 08840. We would be very grateful.