The Rule of St. Benedict

Last night, several of us from Redeemer were among a group of 40-50 people who spent an hour listening to residents of Sowebo (South west Baltimore). Our listening took place as part of several neighborhood walks organized by BUILD (Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development), the broad-based, multi-faith, non-partisan citizens’ power organization, of which Redeemer has been a member organization since January 2018.

Some of us walked along historic Fulton Ave, the western boundary of Old West Baltimore, one of only two districts in our city where “colored housing” was permitted in the early part of the 20th century, as African-Americans fleeing the racial violence and oppression of Jim Crow resettled in Baltimore and other cities north and west of our southern states.

I was part of a small group who walked along Gilmor Street. We asked residents on the sidewalk and by a street corner if they could spare a few minutes to speak with us. Two said no, most said yes. One woman came up to us with her hand outstretched; she shook our hands, introduced herself and wanted to know how she could help. We asked her and other residents questions like, “What do you like most about your community?” “If you could change one thing here, what would you change?” and “How are all the vacant homes, abandoned properties and violence affecting you?”

And then, we listened.

With the ears of our hearts, we heard …

Our youth need rec and community centers …

I’m tired of all the violence and shootings …

I’m actually moving out of this neighborhood, I can’t take it anymore …

We also heard …

I love the people here …

I grew up here, I remember walking down that street over by the school …

What about you, what do you think? Who did you vote for?

In his online meditation today, Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation, referenced author Esther de Waal describing how Benedictine spirituality lays out the inherent connection between listening and responsive action in our prayer lives:

To listen closely, with every fibre of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking … [and] to obey [in the Benedictine tradition] really means to hear and then act upon what we have heard, or, in other words, to see that the listening achieves its aim. We are not being truly attentive unless we are prepared to act on what we hear …

As Christians, we believe in “God incarnate”: God makes Godself known in and through our humanity, through our very flesh, which means we encounter God in and through our human relationships and interactions, including deep listening.

And, if we are trying to be faithful, then we cannot truly, deeply listen without being prepared to act … to respond, in some way … to what we hear.

I continue to reflect on what I heard with the ear of my heart, last night … and how I am to respond …

What about you? What are you hearing, with the ear of your heart today? And are you ready, are you prepared, to respond?


I was washing my face this morning and became enamored of the stream of running water.  I was amazed at the convenience, the accessibility, the sure pure JOY of having clean warm water and how good it felt on my skin.  I began to think back to times past when our great-great-great grandparents pumped water from a well or carried it in pots using sheer physical force.  I was awed at the system that had to be developed for water delivery in a community as well as sewage and waste disposal.  I realized that these are things we use every day and don’t give a second thought to G-D’s Presence in them.

Albert Einstein was once noted to have said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  Professor Einstein was also known to take naps during the day.  Why am I raising these two actions of Einstein and how do they relate to the awe of running water?

Well, for one thing our current plumbing system is nothing short of a miracle.  I started digging around and discovered that early N. Africans built a system of copper pipes to irrigate crops from the Nile River circa 2500 BCE.  Later, the Greeks utilized the steep grade of the terrain on Crete to create an aqueduct system before Rome’s plumbing system was officially established around 500 BCE.  As I began to explore the evolution of the plumbing system of our time, I realized how magnificent was the amount of creativity amassed to bring us to what we have today.

Creativity is that one vital capacity we ALL have that is directly sourced from our Creator and is a function of our superconscious minds.  That mind is most effectively accessed when we are asleep, daydreaming, or fully present to the NOW of life.  Brief naps help us to be available to our superconscious minds.

The process of creativity begins with imagining what could be and those insights are a part of the wondrous and wonderful DIVINE mind working through and with and in our own superconscious minds.  The book of Genesis says that we are created in the divine image therefore, I believe our imagination is one vehicle where these words become truly real.  When we say that G-D is within each one of us, our creativity is only one way G-D’s Presence in, with, and through us, is realized by us.

Why is this important, you may ask, to recognize that we are already in G-D and G-D is already in us?

Just in case you haven’t noticed, Life is kind of crazy right now. But on my best days, I stand hopeful and assured without fear because G-D IS…(goodness IS, beauty IS, mercy IS, love IS, justice IS, faithfulness IS)… and I am in G-D.  I allow myself to just breathe and open up to the sphere of creative possibilities that are available to me.  This is true for anyone, including you at any time for any situation or circumstance.  When I feel afraid or anxious, I remind myself that, “GOD IS….”  This practice has allowed me to see some unimaginable and delightful outcomes!

Because G-D IS we can experience the awe and wonder of living life each and every day with clean and warm running water and flushing toilets and all the other conveniences and comforts of LIFE.   I am convinced when we are able to recognize the beauty of the IS-NESS of the DIVINE ONE throughout LIFE with Gratitude, our lives will be transformed and so will the lives around us.

Just something to think about.

Delighting in the existence of clean, warm water!

Freda Marie+

In one week, a group of pilgrims will be departing from Redeemer on their way to south eastern Ireland. 12 members of parish youth and five adults, myself included, will spend a week exploring a new place, learning about ourselves and one another, and wondering at the presence of God in the world. Because our trip is geared towards recent confirmands, we are focusing on the baptismal covenant: each day will place emphasis on a different piece of the covenant as we discover how to live out our faith in a new context.

Learning how to lean in to wonder has been part of our preparation. Our pilgrims haven’t received extensive information about where we’re headed once we arrive, or details about what we’ll be doing. Instead, we’re invited to be open to experiences as they come, tuning ourselves to the present rather than focused on the future. What will we notice simply by paying attention? I’m looking forward to finding out.

But it doesn’t take international travel to cultivate a sense of wonder, or to make a pilgrimage. Wonder is around us, all the time. It’s true that getting out of routines and into new spaces can help us remember to wonder, but that can be as simple as visiting a part of the city you’ve never been to before, checking out a new path in the park, or setting an intention to notice the world around you every day. It’s the same question our group of pilgrims will be asking: What will you notice simply by paying attention?

The earliest Christian pilgrims made their way to and through Jerusalem, to follow the footsteps of Christ and “recreate in their imagination the scenes of Christ’s ministry and passion.” Imagination was required: most of the city that Jesus had known was destroyed by 70 AD by Titus – its incredible library was part of its draw to second century Christians (The Age of Pilgrimage, Jonathan Sumption, 123). Here in Baltimore today, we, too, can imagine how Christ would walk through our city. Where would Jesus go? Who would he seek out? How would he treat the people he met?

With that in mind, what might our local pilgrimage look like? How can we, cultivating our own closeness to Christ, attempting to walk in his footsteps, follow his path here in our own city? As our group of pilgrims embark on our travels next week, try making a local pilgrimage of your own.

In the weeks to come, I invite your prayers for our group, as we prepare and as we travel. If you practice intercessory prayer by name, you can find our names below. Or you can hold our group fondly in your heart – however you pray, we will be glad for it! For everyone praying for us here in Baltimore, at the bottom of this post is further information about what our group will be up to (though no more than our pilgrims have received).


Please pray for: Clare, Kenzie, Shannon, Ellie, Carter, Anna, Ryan, Sean, Mackenzie, Rebecca, Alice, Fern, Reed, Ella, Andrei, Ben, and Megan.

Keep progress with the pilgrims! Photos and stories will be shared when we return.

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin – stop at Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded in the 7th century, on our way to County Wexford.

Day 2: Visit to St. Mullins, which contains over 1600 years of Christian history, via a path along the Barrow River from the town of Graiguenamanagh.

Day 3: Sunday Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford and time to explore the city.

Day 4: Visit to Dublin for the day.

Day 5: Hike to glacial valley of Coumshingaun and 300 ft Mahon Falls.

Day 6: Trip to nearby island bird sanctuary and visit to one of the oldest lighthouses in Europe.

Day 7: Back to Dublin to fly home.

Dear Folks,

Sarah and I drive to the Adirondacks after church on Sunday, sharing space in the car with bike helmets, bathing suits, and two big, curly-headed dogs. Our bedroom faces east in Westport, where the sun lifts my eyelids most mornings before six. I tiptoe downstairs, letting sleeping dogs lie for another hour or so, put on a pot of coffee made with beans roasted five miles down the road in Wadhams, and settle into a corner of the front porch. There are three perfect places to read in our place, by my count, and our days tend to organize around books… then a walk, a bike ride and a run, more reading… then a hike, food with friends, and maybe a couple more chapters before bed. Our bodies buzz with all the exercise, and our minds stretch, too, thanks to the stack beside the chair and time.

You don’t need to change locations to wander where the spirit leads you, just a comfortable chair, a few challenging books, and the willingness to see in a new way.

Here’s what I will be reading:

The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander. Alexander’s young husband dies suddenly in this aching memoir, a meditation on the blessings of love and loss. A graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, poet and playwright Alexander now leads the Mellon Foundation.

The Good Hand: a memoir of work, brotherhood, and transformation in an American boomtown, by Michael Patrick F. Smith. In the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Smith arrived in Williston, North Dakota, homeless and desperate for a job. According to the L.A. Times, this is a “rambling honky-tonk of a book, with the soul of a songwriter, and the ache of a poor white boy who grew up rough.”

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone, a “powerful and painful song of hope.” Cone shows that the thousands of black men and women who died on lynching trees were the body of Christ, “crucified all over again.” (Jim Douglas) Cone was a professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary, NY.

Wayward Lies, Beautiful Experiments, by Saidiya Hartman. Deeply researched, Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Recommended by my daughter as she works on her college senior thesis, the book wrestles with the question of what a free life is for many young black women, “indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood… so I can know what everyone watching the TV series is talking about.

A Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live, by Robert W. Jenson. Based on a series of lectures delivered to undergraduates at Princeton in 2008, the essays present the basics of Christian faith “with a clarity unmatched in the English-speaking world.” (Willie James Jennings)

The Antiracist, by Kondawani Fidel. Born and raised in West Baltimore, gifted storyteller Fidel offers a glimpse into not only the survival required of one born here, but how we can move forward to tackle violent murders, police brutality, and poverty.