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Archive for March, 2017

At the Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York, Episcopal monks have created a space of spirit & hospitality that draws people from all over. I met people from a wide variety of professions, many from “the City” (meaning NYC) wanting–no, needing, to get away. There were others from further south (like New Jersey) and one from Montreal. Multiple languages and colors and ages were present. Some took a train, others drove. Some came in groups, most seemed to have come alone desperate for the prayerful presence on the banks of the Hudson River since 1902. The brothers worship five times a day and visitors are welcome to join them–more people took them up on that for vespers (at 5p.m. or 9 a.m. communion) — very few made it up for the early morning or last of the day service.

Check out the ELUMC facebook page for photos. Here’s the poem I created after my morning walk down to the river.

A morning walk with poets

Who says a labyrinth has to spiral to the center?

When that one is snow covered and its path impossible to discern
the snowy walk to the water became my labyrinth meditation,

with each deliberate step, slowed by discipline and slippery conditions.

Feeling my way in the footsteps of others,
often finding ease in the careful placement of my own path.

The wind moans through the trees
sounds echo somewhere from a distance–human, maybe,
or perhaps a former generation of holy men who built this place in 1902.

Deer have been this way overnight
and a variety of woodland creatures too light to leave a mark
on the crunchy, icy surface sparkling
like the glitter of fairy dust catching the light
on what remains of winter
clinging to the ground after passing into spring.

Down, curve, over, down
choosing at times the safer path of sliding on my backside
despite its humiliations and appearances.

There is a bench but I do not need the rest
only the clarity of the journey,
the in and then out of the labyrinth.

Moving forward to that edge,
as David Whyte says poets do,
where rushing (water) meets (mountain) stillness
and another bench bids me pause,
reflect, consider, listen.
A seagull overhead does not call out harshly my place in the world
as Mary Oliver’s wild geese sometimes do.

An iron rose and mother’s symbolic presence
has spoken to others of the thinness of this place
and so I add my stone to theirs not because I must
but because the invitation is deep
Robert Francis proclaims it:

You who have meant to come, come now
With strangeness on the morning snow.
You who were meant to come, come now.
If you were meant to come, you’ll know.

The tidal river weaves by, one of two
the bishop’s widow said must be crossed to be here.
She named them sacred, blessing us in our travels.

The waves lick the land in endearing cadence
taking the place of Wagoner’s trees announcing “Here”
you are not lost.

Bells toll announcing the beginning of worship
the more formal, indoor variety
with words and voices–human–raised.

May the prayers of this natural cathedral,
my gratitude, mixed with cummings for this amazing day,
be woven into the generations of the faithful
whose witness names this place of holy cross.

Another trail beckons beyond, touching the edge
but I return the way I came,
choosing the way of the labyrinth, retracing my steps,
up, over, curve, up
to the place of retreat for three days
to the place within called home,
to know it again, with Eliot, for the first time.

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Our church community involves much more than just those folks who come to worship on the corner of Chestnut and Somers road in our askew sanctuary — which faces neither Chestnut nor Somers exactly. Rather, our building’s off-center orientation speaks to our wonky congregation. This Lent we’re studying “How to be a Bad Christian” by Dave Tomlinson. Lent is the time to lean into the unsteady exploration of our faith. It’s the time to reflect on what about our lives isn’t functioning correctly or is faulty. It’s the time to allow a Jesus whose parables often offered a slightly askew vision to speak to us of the wonky ways we are to act in the world (at least wonky by the world’s standards).

So tonight, before our study, we’ll join our community in an act of solidarity at the Jewish Community Center, who just this past week received a bomb threat — in what has become a disturbing trend to terrorize religious minorities, persons of color, and New Americans or immigrants.

Our work “to welcome the risks” involved in “raising the level of hope for those who cry out for love and justice” doesn’t just call our own members to action, it involves all of you — those reached by our on-line presence. We urge all of you to do what you can raise the level of our hope, so that our ministries take us well beyond our corner of the world and beyond the bounds of our town or nation. Here’s a Lenten calendar with daily devotional activities for healing racism. And here’s a prayer written by our member living in Ireland, Eileen Brogan, to accompany us in our Lenten series, the Key of Life. Thanks Eileen for continuing to be a part of our wonky community even across the pond.

God’s Key to Love

Christ is in my hands and feet, 
In the strangers that we meet,
Christ is in my heart and head 
It’s his words we’re meant to spread

God gives us all a special key,
So we can serve his family.
He teaches us to unlock doors
So others hear his word through yours. 

Let’s clap our hands and stamp our feet,
To show God that we won’t retreat.
We share his love with everyone,
From head to toe, c’mon it’s fun

The key is to unlock our hearts,
To serve the world and all its parts. 
God wants us to love everyone,
His key will help us get this done.

Now use your hands and feet to show,
God’s love is here so watch it grow.
God’s love is safe with us you see,
His key to love shared happily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Eileen Brogan, 2017

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Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann is always good to offer a word that clears the way forward. He sees the Lenten imperative as a

summons to come back to an original identity, an elemental discipline, a primal faith. . . . For I believe the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.

We often think of Lent as a time of repentance of sin but Brueggemann reminds us that it is not generic repentance of generic sin, rather the sin to be addressed is the way the people of faith are “too eager to become Babylonians” (i.e. assimilate into the dominant culture). It is too easy to compromise our identity as beloved children of God, too easy to neglect our faith, our spiritual disciplines–in order to get along in an empire that has faith in other gods with other disciplines.

So how you will you observe a holy lent? We’re invited to be intentional in our practice –whatever it is. So why not adopt a habit of holiness that helps heal the division we experience in this country? To that end we’re offering a Lenten calendar for Healing Racism so you can fast from apathy. Each day brings an opportunity, a link to a way to educate yourself how to be a better advocate for equality. We’ve also posted a list of films to empower your efforts in having meaningful conversations about race and healing the soul of America.

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