Posted in Prayers and Reflections

Wilderness Blessings in Lent

  • March 9, 2020

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter into the wilderness,

do not begin without a blessing.

Do not leave without hearing who you are:

Beloved,

named by the One

who has traveled this path before you.

Do not go without letting it echo in your ears,

and if you find it is hard to let it into your heart,

do not despair.

That is what this journey is for.

I cannot promise this blessing will free you

from danger,

from fear,

from hunger

or thirst,

from the scorching of sun

or the fall of the night.

But I can tell you that on this path

there will be help.

I can tell you that on this way

there will be rest.

I can tell you that you will know

the strange graces that come to our aid

only on a road such as this,

that fly to meet us

bearing comfort and strength,

that come alongside us

for no other cause than to lean themselves toward our ear

and with their curious insistence, whisper our name:

Beloved.

Beloved.

Beloved.

 —Jan Richardson

from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

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.”

Prayer:

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

Christmas Eve Prayers

On Christmas Eve we recorded our hopes, prayers, and longings on strips of paper and placed them in the manger, to make a bed for the baby Jesus. Please join us in our prayers:

  • For peace between all people: understanding, unity, acceptance, togetherness, love, inclusion, equity, bridging of political divisions, healing following colonization and western violence
  • For the healing of our Planet: love for our earth, new advances in renewable energy, conservation, reduced use of materials and energy, honor and respect for ocean life, sustainability
  • For the church: full inclusion of LGBTQI people in all churches
  • For leaders: that they might have peace, respect, wisdom, humility, generosity
  • For our loved ones: their healing, health, safety, comfort, freedom from pain, solace, joy, support, guidance
  • For our own wellbeing: health, happiness, kindness towards others, appreciation of the present moment, forgiveness, peace, joy, new great memories, meeting new people, new adventures, new learning, purpose
  • For all people, all of God’s children: connection, abundant food, all needs met, release from pain, unwavering love and support, God’s welcome, fulfillment of God’s call on their lives, 
  • For new scientific discoveries
  • For a bright and beautiful star

Epiphany Blessing: Home by Another Way

  • January 6, 2020

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.

*Jan Richardson, Painted Prayerbook

Winter Wisdom at Walden

  • December 19, 2019

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.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

Fall Arrives at Walden: A Day to Remember Indigenous People

  • October 14, 2019

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.

Walking Prayer at Walden: In Joy and in Grief We are Better Together

  • September 9, 2019

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.

Living the Questions

  • May 30, 2019

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

With these words in mind, the youth recently ventured into the woods to listen for God’s wisdom in nature and to ponder the questions on our hearts. Witness what WCUC Youth are thinking about these days…

“What does it mean to be a Christian?”

“Why did God create people who are homophobic or racist?”

“What is the difference between God and Jesus?”

“What does God have control over?”

“What happens to us when we die?”

“What is heaven like?”

“Is there only one right religion?”

“Does God love people who don’t believe in him/her?”

“If Jesus is still with us, why doesn’t he preach like he used to?”

“Why do people believe in that which isn’t supported by scientific evidence?”

“Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people?”

“Does anyone deserve bad things?”

“When did life begin?”

“How can we help educate Christians who don’t believe in science?”

“How can God be real if his so-called ‘followers’ go against his teachings?”

Sharing Our Retreat Inspirations

  • May 15, 2019

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.

Encountering God on the Road

  • April 29, 2019

The youth group ventured out on Sunday for a walk along the river to experience the mysteries of God in nature. Following a reading of the post-resurrection story of Jesus’ revelation on the “Road to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35) we wondered together about what sort of sacred signs might we be missing as we journey through our busy lives. Grounded in the following reflection posted on Carrie Newcomer’s “Speed of the Soul” blog, we explored what the woods, the river, and the birds had to offer us.

“Wendell Berry describes the presence of mystery in the world as ‘a bird that calls and waits and calls again’. There is an ever present wholeness that is always resting quietly beneath the clamor. This presence is so faithful that we stop noticing it, in the same way we stop noticing the air we breathe until the wind swifts and the trees lean over in a new direction. What a gift it is to rise from our thoughts and the busy world and sense the ever present wholeness. Today is a good day to practice listening for the quietest thing that moves [in our midst]. It is a good day to notice on a busy street that the people around us are tender and funny, strong and luminous as the sun. Today is a good day to breathe and listen for the bird that calls, pauses, and calls again.”

Blessed Assurance: Then and Now and Forevermore

  • March 5, 2019

On Sunday, we sang this old familiar hymn with a bit of a twist with lyrics adapted to fit the themes that the Youth so eloquently brought forth to the congregation as they led worship together.

Blessed assurance, God’s love is mine. Oh what a free gift, from the divine. Known for who I am, called to be me Born of the Spirit, loved tenderly.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

When I feel doubtful, alone, or afraid
Longing for comfort from friends who have stayed Close by my side and – who see the real me Blessed child of God, I – am thankful and free.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

Filled with God’s goodness, all is at rest
Mind, body, and soul are peaceful and blessed. Jesus walks with me, holding my hand
Called to share God’s love, throughout the land.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

*We also discovered an amazing history of this beloved hymn. Read on!!

Fanny Crosby: Legendary Methodist Hymn Writer (1820-1915)

“Blessed Assurance” is one of the most beloved songs in the United Methodist Hymnal. The person who composed this classic, Fanny Crosby is credited with writing 8000 hymns in her lifetime–despite losing her sight six weeks after birth in 1820. This blind, musical visionary was a lifelong Methodist who began composing hymns at age six. From the age of 15, Crosby attended the New York Institute for the Blind and later joined the faculty and met her husband there. Alexander Van Alstyne, blind himself, was supportive. He often transcribed his wife’s poems since Crosby could not write and composed the lyrics entirely in her mind.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: “Fanny Crosby was not held back at all by her blindness. And probably the words of her poetry and hymns helped more people to see and know and experience Jesus as anybody with two working eyes and 20/20 vision.”

Crosby’s writings never brought her wealth. She was often paid just a dollar or two per poem with the rights to the songs being retained by the composer or music publishers. At one point, the songstress was destitute but Crosby wrote in her autobiography that the songs were God’s work and not for profit. Any royalties she received were often donated toward the mission work she championed with prisoners, homeless people, immigrants and the poor. Crosby was most drawn to her denomination’s work with the marginalized and her songs spoke to social issues of the day including the temperance movement and the campaign against child labor.

Middle class women in nineteenth-century United States had little voice in worship, however. One of the only ways for a woman to claim the authority to be heard was by direct personal revelation from God. Fanny Crosby readily claimed God’s personal revelation as a source for her hymns; her personal revelation then became a communal inspiration as Christians throughout the world sang her hymns and confirmed her faith experience as their own.

So it is in honor of Fanny Crosby, and in the spirit of inclusivity, that we sing this song today.