(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!
Seventy people of all ages and abilities came together on February 17th for the second installment of “Food and Fun” a fun new experiment Sunday Fellowship is trying this winter. After a delicious lunch of pizza and salad, it was GAME ON with Candyland, Connect 4, Giant Uno, Legos, puzzles and more! Check out the silly and serious game faces below.
And if you missed it, don’t worry, there is one more edition of Food and Fun on March 3rd when we’ll be singing and signing to music from the Greatest Showman.
Prayer walking in winter can be invigorating and inspiring! Take a look at what we are seeing on our WCUC Walden Prayer Walks. God’s Advent invitation to slow down, to ponder with expectation, and to stay awake comes alive in this place.
What did you notice?
The dew-snail; the low-flying sparrow; the bat, on the wind, in the dark; big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance; the soft toad, patient in the hot sand; the sweet-hungry ants; the uproar of mice in the empty house; the tin music of the cricket’s body; the blouse of the goldenrod.
What did you hear?
The thrush greeting the morning; the little bluebirds in their hot box; the salty talk of the wren, then the deep cup of the hour of silence.
When did you admire?
The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit; the carrot, rising in its elongated waist; the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand; at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers; then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.
What astonished you?
The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.
What would you like to see again?
My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness, her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.
What was most tender?
Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root; the everlasting in its bonnets of wool; the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body; the tall, blank banks of sand; the clam, clamped down.
What was most wonderful?
The sea, and its wide shoulders; the sea and its triangles; the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.
What did you think was happening?
The green beast of the hummingbird; the eye of the pond; the wet face of the lily; the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak; the red tulip of the fox’s mouth; the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve of the first snow—so the gods shake us from our sleep. – Mary Oliver
Newcomers are always welcome. Join us if you can! We walk every Monday, beginning at 9am with joys and concerns sharing time, followed by a silent journey around this amazing pond! Our last walk of this season will be on Monday, December 17th, and we will begin again on Monday, January 7th.
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.
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,
Women’s Retreat 2019: “Women’s Wisdom: Inspiring Stories of the Sacred, Secular, and Self”
Five WCUC women spent this past weekend at Craigville Conference and Retreat Center to make plans for our retreat next year which will happen at this beautiful seaside location May 10th-12th, 2019. Arrival time will be anytime after 2pm on Friday and we’ll close with worship on Sunday morning and depart by 11:30am
This retreat will include all of our favorite things: time to share and get to know people, amazing meals, music, worship, prayer, art, yoga, free time to rest and play, and some programming to help us to more deeply reflect about faith and life. Next year’s theme will center on Women’s Wisdom as we explore interesting and inspiring women from the Bible, from secular society (writers, poets, activists, and other historical figures), from our church, and from our own lives.
Everyone is welcome and we especially hope that if you are new to WCUC, you’ll consider joining us as this is a terrific way to meet and get to know people in a meaningful way. Plus it’s super fun and relaxing!!
Enjoy these photos from our planning weekend and a huge thank you to Ann, Candy, Michelle, Heather, and Polly for helping to make our next retreat interesting, inviting, and inspiring!
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.
Join us on the beach on Tuesdays @ 9:30am for prayer walking! Newcomers always welcome.