I remember when I was first admitted to the Bar, the late Theodore Roosevelt Kupferman swore me (along with about 90 of my closest friends) in. His inspirational address has stayed with me.
"Gentlemen and ladies," he growled, "life at the Bar offers unparalleled opportunities for humiliation.. . " And he was off and running. "Richard Nixon was a member of the Bar of this Court," he said pensively. "He knew humiliation." Pause. "Roy Cohn was a member of the Bar of this Court. Humiliated."
And so on.
The speech has been one of my after-dinner set pieces since my swearing in 1991, and has, I admit, worked its way into the new novel I'm writing, albeit in a very different form.
But it's also true of ecclesiastical life.
At both the 9:00 am and the 11:00 am services, I was the Gospeller--one of my favorite jobs as deacon. And I had a great passage to read--the lead in to and beginning of Bread of Life Discourse. All went well at the 9:00 service. At the 11, I was seat among the clergy, and then, when we stood to sing the sequence hymn, I reached under the dalmatic (heavy embroidered robe worn by the deacon; the subdeacon wears a matching tunicle, the presider a matching chasuble, the homilist a cope. All clear? No? Welcome to liturgy. Look, for purposes of the story, all you need to know is that all three robes are worn over albs--plain white robes--are very heavy. And that, at a large church like St. Barts, we generally where microphones that have a separate little controller that you depress when you need to be heard, and then push again, and it springs back up, turning off the mic when you're done. Savvy?)
So, where was I? Oh, yes, We stood to sing the hymn. I reached under the dalmatic to my left hip, where the little controlling device for the mic was carefully clipped to my belt.
Except it wasn't.
Somehow the little device had gotten unhooked, and disappeared into the folds of the alb.
And I was about to embark on a complicate theological reading of the most subtle of the Gospels.
The key thing I learned as a trial lawyer is, act as if you know what you are doing, and people assume that you do. So I rose, purposeful--but not hurriedly, though incipient panic was knocking at the door--past where I pick up the Gospel book, and past the verger, into an empty little corridor. Where I promptly rummaged around, found the little device, and (after three tries, because my hands were shaking) hooked it back into place. And then, most importantly, I turned it on.
And went out and proclaimed the Good News, so relieved that I sailed through the reading of the Gospel like a veteran.
Who says the law wasn't good preparation for the diaconate?