Posted in Prayers and Reflections

Praying with our Neighbors

  • November 6, 2018

This past Friday night, folks from WCUC gathered along with members of many local faith communities and other friends to light the way into Shabbat services for our Jewish neighbors at Kerem Shalom.  Some folks provided candles to share; others, including Jim, helped lead us in music. We held signs and witnessed to the light of hope together.  The Kerem Shalom community graciously welcomed us in to participate in the Shabbat service.  This beautiful worship experience included songs and prayers in Hebrew and English, a special remembrance of those who died in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and words from Rabbi Darby Leigh. Rabbi Darby invited us to consider last week’s tragedy in the wider context of intolerance and violence, and encouraged us to continue to build local connections that will nurture love and understanding in our communities. The folks at Kerem Shalom provided a wonderful reception and warm fellowship for all who were there. It was truly a blessing to be there!

Please read below for Pastor Hannah’s brief remarks during the service:

I give thanks to Rabbi Darby and this congregation for your hospitality in welcoming those of us who are your neighbors, to share this tender time with you.

This Sunday, many Christians will be studying a text from the book of Ruth, a text that is holy in both Jewish and Christian traditions. In this story, we meet a woman named Naomi who is grieving the loss of her husband and both of her sons. Naomi tries to send her daughters-in-law away from her, back to their parents. She has nothing to give them; no way to protect them. But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, says: “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…Not even death will part me from you.”  So Naomi and Ruth journey on together, and together they make a new life.

As we witness hateful speech and action around us, we must condemn the wrong that is done.  As a Christian pastor, I especially grieve that violent anti-Semitism has been justified by Christians and by Christian scriptures. Jesus himself was a faithful Jew; and Judaism is both an honored ancestor and a beloved sibling to the Christian faith. We share sacred texts and holy values. We both follow a call to love God with all that we are, to honor one another, to care for the most vulnerable among us.

I pray that all of us, from many traditions, religious or not, will respond to the tragedies around us today not only by grieving, but also by growing in our practice of the kind of love that Ruth models. Let us go with one another; let us stay with one another; let us understand ourselves to be one people, bound together. May it be so.

Walden Prayer Walking: From Fear to Freedom

  • October 2, 2018

WCUC’s Walden Prayer Walkers are finding solace and serenity in community, in contemplative exercise, and in the sights and silence that the site offers.   Join us on the beach at 9am on Mondays.  Newcomers are always welcome!  Here is a glimpse of our Walden Wisdom in September.

My life flows on in endless song,
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though far off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

This is a Christian hymn written by Baptist Minister Robert Wadsworth Lawry in 1869 and later adapted by the Quakers as well as secular musicians such as Pete Seeger and Enya.   Early in September, we used it as our reflection in our opening circle time and carried it with us as we walked around the pond.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”  More recently, these words of Maya Angelou centered us and inspired us to keep singing our songs!  That same morning, as if by divine intervention, a resident Great Blue Heron joined us on our journey and even flew clear across the pond to meet up with  us again for our closing circle.  A grace-filled moment and a sign of hope that we too will be free to fly and sing.

 

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

 

Bless the Space Between Us: Summer comes to Walden

  • June 5, 2018

With signs of summer everywhere, the WCUC Walden Prayer walkers enjoyed their final walk together for this season.  Consider joining us next fall and in the meantime, continue to breath deeply, pray fervently and walk with intention.  May God bless you with many grace filled moments this summer!

“For Equilibrium, a Blessing:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,

May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,

May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,

May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,

So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,

May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,

May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough

to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Stillness Speaks at Walden

  • May 16, 2018

Morning Poem
by Mary Oliver 
Every morning

the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches— 
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

TRUTH and HOPE

Come sit with me, here beneath the shade, in the quiet corner of creation, and together we will sort out the worries of the world. We may not have the power to make things right, not with a single word, but we have words enough to speak the truth, and there is a power in truth greater than money can buy. From our bench we will survey the great garden of hope, growing in an abundance that knows no borders, welcoming the children of every land, sheltering the elders who come to talk away the warm afternoon. Come pray with me, in any way you want, until our dreams appear like fireflies, here beneath the shade, telling us it is time to go, time to make our way home until another day.

Steven Charleston

Join us on the beach on Tuesdays @ 9:30am for prayer walking!  Newcomers always welcome.

Wisdom at Walden

  • April 30, 2018

“She will guide me prudently in my undertakings.”  Wisdom 9:11

Spring is beginning to show up at Walden Pond!  Join us for walking prayer on Tuesdays @ 9:30am to share in friendship, nature, silence, and reflections.

Open Window

“Inside each of us there awaits a wonder – full spirit of freedom.

She waits to dance in the rooms of our heart that are closed, dark and cluttered.

She waits to dance in the spaces where negative feelings have build barricades and stock-piled weapons.

She waits to dance in the corners where we still do not believe in our goodness.

Inside each of us there awaits a wonder – full spirit of freedom.

She will lift light feet and make glad songs within us on the day we open the door of ego and let the enemies stomp out.”

from Joyce Rupp’s The Star in my Heart: Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom

Holy Week Reflection: Tuesday Morning with God at Walden Pond

  • March 27, 2018

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
—Psalm 71.3

From a lectionary reading for Tuesday of Holy Week: Psalm 71.1-14

Happy Holy Week from the Walden Prayer Walkers of WCUC!  This morning, as the sun sparkled on the water and the crisp air filled our lungs, we listened for God’s voice in the words of the Psalmist and in the wisdom of poet, writer, and theologian, Jan Richardson.  Walden for us has become what she describes as “not a place of escape from spiritual struggle but a space where [we] can both wrestle with God and rest in the God who delivers [us] and provides shelter and strength for [our] souls.”

On this Lenten day, where do you find the solid ground that God provides? How do you seek the refuge, solace, and shelter that God offers you—not as a perpetual escape from the world but as a place of safety where you can receive the strength and sustenance that will enable you to engage the world in the ways God needs you to engage it?

Blessing of Refuge

That I may flee to you
not to escape forever
from the world
that you have created,
the world that you
call beloved

but that in your refuge
I will find
your presence
to strengthen me
your courage
to sustain me
your grace
to encompass me
as I go
where you would
have me go.

You can find Jan Richardson’s full reflection here:

Youth: Lessons in Love for Lent

  • February 27, 2018

“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”     –  Charles M. Schulz

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” –  Luke 10:27

“Love is a song that never ends.”     – Bambi

“Love can move mountains.”    – Celine Dion

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”     – George Sand

“Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.” – MLK Jr.

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.” – Corinthians 13:4

“Welcome everyone, to the love of God.” – WCUC

These are just a few of the “love quotes” generated by the youth to be used at WCUC’s Ash Wednesday prayer service:  “Marked by Love”.  The youth have been exploring the promise of God’s unconditional love and it’s power to inspire us to put our faith into action as we share that love with our neighbors.  During vacation week, several youth volunteered to help out at Household Goods in Acton, an organization that receives donations to be given to people who are in need of home furnishings.  Later in the week, even more youth came to church to paint some bulletin boards that will be hung in the downstairs hallway to hold pictures of our congregation.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” 

                                                                                                                                            Mark 1:12-13 

These verses from Mark, traditionally read at the beginning of every Lent, inspired a youth art project that illustrates the answers to two questions:  What “wild beasts” challenge you in life?  and Who are the “angels” that support you along the way?

Stop by the Youth Room when you get a chance to take a look at the creative results!

                    

Walking Prayer at Walden: Lent, Love, Life….

  • February 27, 2018

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.                                                                                              Mark 1:12-13

“Holy Spirit, drive me out of my comfort zone and into the fullness of life.  And thanks for the angels.”                                                From the UCC Lent Devotional:  “Lovers and Fools”

Just as winter begins to move towards spring at Walden Pond, so also our lenten journeys wander towards Easter and its promise of new life.  We carry with us hearts full of joy and sorrow, questions and certainty, anxiety and peace.  We, like Jesus, walk in the wilderness of life encountering all sorts of “wild beasts” and praising God for the “angels” in our midst.  Our prayer walks at Walden this season have served as reminders of the power that can come from community, nature, and the abiding presence of the Spirit.  Join us on the beach at 9:30am on Tuesdays.  Newcomers are always welcome!

Strong is the hand that holds our own, firm the arm around our shoulder, for the Spirit is a support in time of sorrow, a very real presence in the hour of our need. What is holy is as real as the Earth on which we stand. We can feel it. We can see it. We can breathe it. Especially when we are brought low by the weight of our lives, grieving or afraid, then most of all the tangible presence of love takes shape, lifting us up. The face of God we may imagine in a thousand ways, but the hand of God is always the same: life-giving strength, warm comfort, steady reassurance. No dogma can contain the memory of the touch that holds fragile life in the palm of eternity.

– Steven Charleston,  Native American elder, author, and retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska.

Stillness Speaks: Finding Hope for our Hearts

  • December 20, 2017

On Sunday, December 10th, people filled the parlor after worship seeking stillness – time to pause, ponder, and pray.  Through contemplative music, short readings and reflections, lighting candles of individual and collective hopes, and silent meditation, we drew closer to God and to one another.

.

• Hope opens us to the future but releases us into the present.

Advent draws our eyes toward the horizon as we watch and wait for the Christ who comes to us. In this season, we sing with Zechariah, By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us(Luke 1:78). When we are in grief, looking toward the horizon with hope and anticipation is no small feat. Instead of luring us away from the present, however, Advent invites us more deeply into it, where the kingdom of God is at work even now. This is the nature of the hope that Advent cultivates in us. Rich with memory and infused with expectation, hope calls and enables us to work here and now, in company with the Christ who is already about the work of heaven in our midst.

Jan Richardson

This Luminous Darkness:  Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas  

Advent Prayer Walks at Walden Pond

  • December 20, 2017

Tis the season for making cards, going shopping, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, mailing packages, preparing for special meals…in the midst of all of this, what a treat to take time out to be in nature, to share our hearts, and to walk in peaceful solitude listening for God’s wisdom.  Here are a few scenes from recent Prayer Walks and some reflections that were shared to bless us on our way.  We meet every Tuesday on the beach at 9:30am.  Newcomers are always welcome!

First Snow

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

~Mary Oliver~

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare you way.”  Mark 1:2

Blessing the Way

With every step you take, this blessing rises up to meet you.  It has been waiting long ages for you.  Look close and you can see the layers of it, how it has been fashioned by those who walked this road before you.  How it has been created of nothing but their determination and their dreaming, how it has taken its form from an ancient hope that drew them forward and made a way for them when no way could be seen.  Look closer and you will see this blessing is not finished, that you are part of the path it is preparing, that you are how this blessing means to be a voice within the wilderness and a welcome for the way.

Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace