Over the course of three hours, more than fifty members and friends of Sunday Fellowship paraded through the sanctuary visiting prayer stations depicting the last week of Jesus’ life. For most of us, it was the first time we had physically been inside the church since 2020 and it felt good.
One station invited us to add our own figures to the crowd of people watching Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Another offered each of us our own purple scroll with teachings Jesus might have preached about in the Temple after he chased away the moneychangers. We took home cloth with a drop of fragrant oil and tiny loaves of bread to remind us of the Last Supper. We lit prayer candles, we painted rocks and we walked a palm strewn path up to a cross. What better way to enter holy week than to finally be able to engage in worship with our whole bodies?!
Many thanks to everyone who helped prepare the space and materials for Sunday Fellowship to enjoy. Please enjoy some pictures of the day.
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!
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,
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.