On November 22nd, several members of WCUC shared their reflections on giving: who taught or inspired them to give, why they give to WCUC, and when giving brings them joy!
Posted in Prayers and Reflections
In trying to take advantage of the gorgeous weather this fall, the youth have enjoyed once a month outings out in nature. After kayaking in September on the Concord river, the group ventured to Acton in October to explore the Nashoba Brook trails. https://trails.actonma.gov/nashoba-brook/
Our next destination was going to be Walden Pond, but too many others had the same thought on that sunny day in November, so we quickly made a Plan B and ended up in the nearby Hapgood Wright Town Forest. https://www.concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2090/Hapgood-Wright-Town-Forest-Trail-Guide
Soon we discovered that sometimes Plan B turns out to be better than Plan A! Walking along the trails we enjoyed several art exhibits, “fairyland pond”, and eventually the “reflection circle” – a beautiful sanctuary of stone benches with carved words of wisdom from various spiritual teachers. It was the perfect place to gather, rest, and reflect before heading home.
In these times of physical distancing, it’s more important than ever to find social connection and solidarity. Our youth group is Zooming into connection every Saturday at 4pm, for sharing what’s hard and what helps, playing games, and joining together in mindful meditation. Laughing and breathing together has been a remarkable way to bond and to find some calm in these challenging times.
It also helps to have some recent memories of being together in person. The middle schoolers spent over two hours running around at Boda Borg in Malden, solving mental and physical challenges to successfully complete several rooms. And the high schoolers managed to “escape” their 13th floor apartment room with 6 minutes to spare at Puzzlescape in Hudson. Teamwork was key in both of these outings!
We also enjoyed some outside time at our last youth class. This memory of walking the labyrinth together is one that is keeping hope alive that better days are ahead!
At our most recent Zoom Youth Group meeting, we closed with these words from Carrie Newcomer and then closed our eyes and listened to our own breathing, alone and together. With God and with each other, we can do this hard thing!
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:
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 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:
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
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 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
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
There is nothing
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
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond what would
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
you could not
Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
the gift that only you
before turning to go
*Jan Richardson, Painted Prayerbook
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
this blessing has been
It has practiced
walking in the dark,
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.
So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
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
by your release
of the breath
you have held
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
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
in the company
of a friend.
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
from The Cure for Sorrow
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
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
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.
“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?”