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.
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.
“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?”
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.
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.”