Archives for posts with tag: church

susiesunLabor Day for Clergy and Church Leaders

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”—Matthew 11:28-30

As we stand on the cusp of the new church program year, it is not unusual for clergy and church leaders to feel a sense of weightiness, anxiousness, and anticipatory exhaustion. There are so many demands; so many concerns; so many hopes; so many challenges.

Rev. Judy Proctor and I invite you to join us for a 10-week program designed to offer a time to rest, reflect, and engage in spiritual practices and leadership principles to help you listen deeply for God’s invitation for your life and work.

Microsoft Word - Invitation to Soul of Leadership Mini.docx

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Taco Tuesday

I have spent the last couple of days in the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Our family cottages are here, and Roger and I have come here to open up, turn on the water, vacuum up dead flies, and clean up the dust and debris of winter as we get ready to welcome family during the summer months.

I have been coming here since I was born. My great-grandfather had a farm nestled into the valley; and over the generations since, our extended family has gathered here in the summer to rest and play and enjoy one another’s company in the midst of these beautiful mountains.

I have had the joy of bringing all three of our children here each summer, and even had a few summers when I stayed for a month with my younger two. And as I have transitioned from parish ministry to community ministry, I have arranged my work life so I can spend a couple of summer months here.

The population of our town up here is just a little over 1000. There is one school, K-12, with one class per grade. There is one road that runs through the town, with a Catholic church at one end and a UCC church at the other. In between, there is a small grocery, a few shops (this is a tourist destination), a few eateries, a fitness center, a small nursing home (The Neighborhood House), a library, a small art museum, and a big field where they have community gardens and the summer Farmer’s Market.

It has been increasingly surprising to me that, through all these years (I’m almost 60!), we stayed to ourselves in the family enclave and did very little to connect with the town residents and activities. While on one hand, we had plenty to do and lots of company on our hillside, it began to feel odd to me that we have been enjoying the fruits of others’ labor to keep the town going, and haven’t made an effort to reach out and get to know our town neighbors and activities.

dfsdfSo for the last few summers, I have been making connections – attending church (the best place to get to know people!), going to concerts, getting to know neighbors, signing up to receive the church newsletter and joining the local on-line social network site. As I’ve begun to develop treasured relationships, I’ve also begun to get a sense of how community happens here in this small town in the mountains. So I was delighted to say ‘yes’ when a friend called last night to invite me to join her at a local eatery for Taco Tuesday.

For the last month or two, this small, casual eatery has put a sign out front inviting people to join them for Taco Tuesday. News travels fast in this small town, so the word gets out quickly. It was a gorgeous warm night, last night, so when I arrived, there were cars lining both sides of the street. The front deck was swarming with people – babies, toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents – all sitting together at picnic tables. Inside, a line had formed at the counter where you could order as many tacos as you wanted – a choice of veggie, beef, or chicken – for $3.85 each. My friend and I ordered and headed for a small table. One our way, another friend invited us to join him and other friends at a big table. I saw the pastor and his wife; the librarian; another neighbor; a summer singing friend. I was introduced to several others who seemed to have all the time in the world to sit together, catch up on news, laugh, eat, greet others, and simply settle into the evening.

I was fed by much more than tacos at Taco Tuesday. I was surrounded by the energy and spirit of community; and even though I am a ‘newcomer’ to their circles, I felt welcomed and included, and swept into the joy of connection.

I will look for Taco Tuesday when I get back up here this summer; and can’t wait to join in the spirit and joy and pleasure of being together. And in the meantime, I’ve begun to wonder how and where Taco Tuesday might happen back home in MA. It seems to me that, more than ever, we need times and places to gather as community – simply to know and appreciate one another.

In the Christian community, we are now in the 40-day period called Lent. This time of reflection and introspection begins with the observance of Ash Wednesday – a service of remembering our earthy humanness; our finiteness (“from dust you have come, and to dust you shall return”); and an invitation to settle in for the season to see how and where we are cutting ourselves off from G-d and from that which helps us come alive.

I was not able to get to Ash Wednesday worship this year, and wondered how I might find source and sustenance for my own ‘settling in’ for the Lenten journey. Thanks to a treasured spiritual friend, I received an Ash Wednesday reading from the pen of Ronald Rolheiser. And in it, I discovered a surprising vision for healing life within community – a way of holding one another in patience and freedom.

“Certain native communities used to live in what they called long-houses. A long-house was the communal building; in effect, the house for the whole community. A long-house was long, rectangular, with large sloping sides, and with the center of the roof open so that this could function as a natural chimney. Fires were kept burning, both for cooking and for warmth, all along the center of the long-house. People gathered there, near the fires, to cook, eat and socialize, but they slept away from the fires, under the roofs that sloped down either side of the open center.

Every so often, someone, a man or a woman, for reasons they didn’t have to explain, would cease adhering to the normal routine. Instead he or she would become silent, sit just off the fire in the ashes, eat very sparingly, not socialize, not go outside, not wash, not go to bed with the others, but simply sit in the cinders. Today we would probably diagnose this as clinical depression and rush that person off for professional help. They, for their part, didn’t panic. They saw this as perfectly normal, something everyone was called upon to do at one time or another, They simply let the person sit there, in the ashes, until one day he or she got up, washed the ashes off, and began again to live a regular live. The belief was that the ashes, that period of silent sitting, had done some important, unseen work inside of the person. You sat in the ashes for healing.”—from Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

This image has stayed with me since I first read it. What might we learn from this community’s open holding and acceptance of one another through dark times? How might we, ourselves, find the space and time for healing ashes? A space where we are held in the life and flow of community, and yet given the freedom to stop and simply sit until the interior work feels done?

I don’t know this place . . . yet. But I will be looking for it . . . and wondering how I can help create it . . . for myself and for my community.