WCUC’s walking prayer group has resumed its in-person meetings on Monday mornings beginning at 9:30am. Alternating weeks between the Welcome Garden and Walden Pond, this is a group of fellow travelers who come together to share life’s challenges and celebrations, enjoy the company of friends, and walk in nature to absorb the beauty of creation and listen for God’s guidance.
Quaker author and activist, Parker Palmer, writes:
“When the world’s heartbreak threatens to take me down, it helps if I can remember that this is not the only world to which I belong. Like every human being, I have “dual citizenship.”
I’m not talking about another country, or a world we create with wishful thinking. I mean the vast and very real world of nature that stretches from our bodies to all the life around us, then to the stars, and on to the immensity we call the cosmos. I mean a natural world so vast that we can never do the harm we have done on earth.
Remembering my “dual citizenship” is not an effort to evade the world of human heartbreak. By understanding that I belong to a cosmos that has seen it all, embraced it all, and folded all of it into what is, I have a better chance to “see life steadily and see it whole”.
When I can look at life that way, I’m better able to engage creatively with the here and now, neither crushed by a sense of inadequacy nor lost in fantasy.
Rooted in the serenity of that cosmic reality, return to the heartbreak of everyday life to contribute whatever you can to healing and peace.”
Scenes from our walk this week:
Newcomers are always welcome! Please email Joyce DeGreeff (email@example.com) for more information.
March 14, 1860, “Walden Ice Melted,” from the journal of Henry David Thoreau
“As I stand there, I see some dark ripples already drop and sweep over the surface of the pond, as they will ere long over Ripple Lake and other pools in the wood. No sooner has the ice of Walden melted than the wind begins to play in dark ripples over the surface of the virgin water. It is affecting to see nature so tender, however old, and wearing none of the wrinkles of age. Ice dissolved is the next moment as perfect water as if it had been melted a million years. To see that which was lately so hard and immovable now so soft and impressible! What if our moods could dissolve thus completely? It seems as if it must rejoice in its own newly acquired fluidity, as it affects the beholder with joy.”
God of the March winds, blow over us and play in ripples over what is beginning to melt inside of us. Dissolve what has been glacial, and sweep tenderness into our frozen hopes, softness into our brittle moods, fluidity into our spirits, joy into our hearts. We have lived for so long with this winter in our souls. Promise what is essential has not gotten lost; gone underneath the surface, perhaps, but still strong currents, rushing rivers, living waters deep and running, waiting for spring. Amen.
Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt, at the time (2002), Assoc. Pastor, First Congregational Church, UCC, Holliston, MA
Epiphany is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we travel into this year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give? (Paraphrased from Jan Richardson’s Painted Prayerbook)
Blessings and traveling mercies to you from the Walden Walkers on this Epiphany day. We look forward to walking with you in 2020 – in body, in Spirit, and in prayer.
For Those Who Have Far to Travel An Epiphany Blessing
If you could see the journey whole you might never undertake it; might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known toward the place you know not.
Call it one of the mercies of the road: that we see it only by stages as it opens before us, as it comes into our keeping step by single step.
There is nothing for it but to go and by our going take the vows the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to the next step; to rely on more than the map; to heed the signposts of intuition and dream; to follow the star that only you will recognize;
to keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path; to press on beyond distractions beyond fatigue beyond what would tempt you from the way.
There are vows that only you will know; the secret promises for your particular path and the new ones you will need to make when the road is revealed by turns you could not have foreseen.
Keep them, break them, make them again: each promise becomes part of the path; each choice creates the road that will take you to the place where at last you will kneel
to offer the gift most needed— the gift that only you can give— before turning to go home by another way.
As temperatures drop and daylight hours become shorter in these cold winter months, the prayer walkers remain determined to keep coming together to share, to walk, to pray, and to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the company of one another.
For all who could use a little more warmth and light in their lives right now, this blessing is for you:
Blessing for the Longest Night
All throughout these months as the shadows have lengthened, this blessing has been gathering itself, making ready, preparing for this night.
It has practiced walking in the dark, traveling with its eyes closed, feeling its way by memory by touch by the pull of the moon even as it wanes.
So believe me when I tell you this blessing will reach you even if you have not light enough to read it; it will find you even though you cannot see it coming.
You will know the moment of its arriving by your release of the breath you have held so long; a loosening of the clenching in your hands, of the clutch around your heart; a thinning of the darkness that had drawn itself around you.
This blessing does not mean to take the night away but it knows its hidden roads, knows the resting spots along the path, knows what it means to travel in the company of a friend.
So when this blessing comes, take its hand. Get up. Set out on the road you cannot see.
This is the night when you can trust that any direction you go, you will be walking toward the dawn.
As we walked together on this holiday Monday, we were mindful of the Native Americans who lived and cultivated this beautiful land in Concord far before European settlers arrived here. Until the early 1600’s, the land was originally inhabited by the Pennacook Indians (a Wampanoag tribe) who named the area “Musketaquid”, which is an Algonquin word for “grassy plain.” The Pennacook cleared and cultivated the fertile lands, growing beans, corn, squash, and pumpkins, hunted in the fields and forests, and fished in the Concord and Merrimack rivers. One of the first tribes to encounter European colonists, the Pennacook were decimated by infectious diseases unwittingly carried by the newcomers. (www.historyofmassachusetts.org)
Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured. We honor their place in and contributions to the shared story of America.
This morning we met on the beach to share gratefulness for our summer adventures, sadness for the challenges and losses in our lives, and hope for what this new year might bring. We were especially mindful of the loss of our dear friend Rhonney Doll and walked with her family, Jim and Emily, in our hearts. We began with a blessing written by Jan Richardson, in her book The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief :
Blessing for the Brokenhearted There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Henry David Thoreau
Let us agree for now that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger or that it is better to have this pain than to have done without this love.
Let us promise we will not tell ourselves time will heal the wound, when every day our waking opens it anew.
Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery
of how a heart so broken can go on beating,
as if it were made for precisely this—
as if it knows the only cure for love is more of it,
as if it sees the heart’s sole remedy for breaking is to love still,
as if it trusts that its own persistent pulse is the rhythm of a blessing we cannot begin to fathom but will save us nonetheless.
(This is the first of two posts I’ll be sharing about my recent professional development trip.)
Last week, thanks to the support of the Dennis Lin Fund, I had the privilege of attending the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, an initiative by the Collaborative on Faith and Disability. Now in its tenth year, the Summer Institute is considered one of the premier conferences in the field of disability and faith, drawing religious leaders and scholars from all over the world. I was one of over 150 professionals who spent four days discussing the best ways of ensuring people with disabilities experience a true sense of Belonging whenever we participate in religious practice and community, not just access.
The highlight of the conference for me was the amazing people I met. At the Institute, people with disabilities are not just a topic of discussion, we are also the planners, the presenters, and the attendees. That’s not to say ableism was absent. I saw plenty of instances when ableism reared its head. No doubt there were others I missed due to my unconscious bias. But the level of awareness and the number of accommodations put in place to serve a wide variety of abilities made it clear that the desire for full inclusion was also present.
I could go on and on about the myriad of resources I have returned with but I won’t do that here. Suffice it to say that my suitcase was five pounds heavier than when I left (see photo evidence). I look forward to sharing them with you in the days and months ahead and God-willing some of my new friends will visit us at WCUC.
Interested in how the Spirit was moving among us at the women’s retreat? Check out some of the scripture passages, poems, reflection questions, and other resources that expanded our minds, deepened our faith, and inspired our souls.
Thirty one women from our congregation traveled to the Craigville Retreat Center on Cape Cod for a weekend of rest, play, worship, prayer, and friendship. Our theme this year was Women’s Wisdom: Inspiring Stories of the Sacred, Secular, and Self. Enlightened by the strength, resiliency, gifts, and courage of women in the Bible, writers, poets, artists and activists, as well as some legendary women from WCUC, we then moved on to consider our own journey’s to wisdom as we shared our stories, our struggles, and our celebrations with one another.
“This weekend has provided space and time for thought about the specific contributions of women, both present and past.”
“I feel like I have been raised up by the wisdom of women of the Bible, secular world, and most importantly the women gathered here. I am leaving with so much to reflect upon.”
“This weekend has given me peace, gratitude, and faith in the power of other women and myself.”
“I have been raised up this weekend by my sisters, my tribe. I am renewed by the wisdom, compassion, love and humor of these amazing women of God.”
A Weekend for…
“I realized that I felt crippled by my burdens. This weekend I was reminded of my strength and power and that if I pause and listen to God speaking, I can tap into that and move forward.”
“I am rejuvenated and refreshed by sunshine, moonshine, inspirational women, and retreat from regular life.”
“I proved to myself that I have grown mentally by being able to learn to knit much more easily than it was in high school.”
“I gained insight from the reading “My Journey to Wisdom” that ‘clouds of insecurity’ are natural and sometimes protective.”
“I was given the gift of solace and reflection.”
“I have been encouraged to listen carefully to the Spirit and then step out with boldness and courage.”
“I have been enveloped in a blanket of warmth and caring.”
“I learned it’s ok to not conform to the conventional picture of femininity, so you can enjoy being a woman.”
“I was reminded to focus and be grateful for my strengths, when I only see weakness.”
“This is my new life. I can be who I am.”
Finding Strength in Community:
“Being a part of this community made me feel stronger and welcome. I learned from every woman I met.”
“Seeing the ways in which the generations are sensitive to each other has been a high point for me this weekend. I really appreciated the acceptance of the younger women here with us.”
“I was empowered by a conversation with another woman whom I did not know well. We discovered we have a common history that is not easy to talk about with many people.”
“The company of women with such a diversity of experiences has given me renewed hope for the power of the ‘Holy’ in our broken world.”
“Sharing stories with others has helped me to appreciate everyone better.”
“Many people have shared their struggles and uncertainties about coming. I have been inspired by everyone here and this weekend turned out to be a blessing.”
“I felt raised up by a conversation I had in which I shared something that I haven’t before.”
“Enjoying a conversation I had with someone I don’t know well and feeling more comfortable with her now.”
AndFeeling the Power of Nature and Laughter:
“I enjoyed walking to the ocean…seeking an expanse beyond indoor enclosures.”
“I loved the beach walk and I laughed a lot with the women.”
“The inspiration of nature and the changing views of the beach: stormy and windy; calm and soothing in the sun; water view at night below the moon and stars.”
“It felt good to integrate nature with our daily lives.”
“An objective measure of trust in a space or group of people is the count of the number of belly laughs a person has had. The count for me this weekend is near
Like Samantha’s neighbors, I too learned my first words in ASL out of love for a child, my own. But unlike them, ASL took a back seat to mom blogs and potty training books as soon as my son could say, “more” and “all done,” I wish I had stuck with it. Then I might be able to have fluent conversations with my friends at Sunday Fellowship who are Deaf or hearing-impaired. But I’m working on it. I can now sign the entire Lord’s Prayer and I know how to use basic ASL books and apps to get my point across. I’ve been incorporating ASL into some Sunday school lessons and recently got to see a student use her knowledge of ASL to have a conversation with someone from SF.
But the best way I’ve found to increase knowledge of ASL aside from formal classes is to “sing and sign” together. Check out the pictures and videos from the last session of Food and Fun when we learned how to sing and sign to two songs music from The Greatest Showman. I wonder how much progress we can make by May 5th, when SF hopes to perform these pieces with the adult, teen, junior choirs for Sunday Fellowship Sunday!