Dear Folks,

We have an incredible new resource in Thomasina Wharton, as she brings a focus on spiritual direction to her role as Director of the Center for Wellbeing. Not surprisingly, several people have wondered, “But what is spiritual direction?” and “How is it different from seeing a therapist?”

For thousands of years mystics have discovered and refined practices that develop a relationship to God (or Spirit or Presence) and that deepen this connection within an individual. Spiritual direction, then, is an ancient path for seekers, religious and otherwise, who long to find themselves (or meaning or purpose) by searching for the divine. The practice might include periods of silence, intentional breathing, keeping a journal, walking as prayer, or inviting an image to speak.

Spiritual direction involves deep listening. The “answer” to whatever question one might bring is waiting to be discovered within the directee, by the directee. Because our lives are often chockablock full of distractions or appointments, what one is seeking can be obscured by words and old habits, or by the judgments we carry about the feelings we feel or the thoughts that we think. Deep listening honors the individual’s soul and trusts its capacity to embrace what it finds. It begins with the assumption that the divine is present and within, and eager to be found.

The spiritual director acts as a mid-wife—not causing the new birth or even bringing it—but present to the directee’s labor and encouraging it, knowing when to wait and when to push, creating as much safety as possible in an inherently risky situation. Spiritual direction is to “hold space” and time for the one who is giving birth and for the one who is being born. The director resists the temptation to control or manage the work that the directee has brought, choosing instead to tend a space of compassion for the directee to do what only she can do.

The goal of therapy is learn how to make healthy choices, to feel better or more empowered, to function and communicate more successfully. Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of therapy as offering tools to help us get out of our dark caves. The goal of spiritual direction, on the other hand, is to explore the meaning of one’s life, and particularly of our suffering, and to nurture one’s relationship to the divine. Taylor likens it to realizing that one is in a dark cave and wanting to go further in. Rather than offering external information or guidance, spiritual direction helps one listen to the Spirit within, believing that the knowledge one needs is already present in the directee.

If you want to reflect further on the possibilities of spiritual direction, contact Thomasina or me.


Last Friday over 500 of us gathered in church to celebrate the life of Kenzie Cheston, one of our beloved young people who died suddenly and unexpectedly over Labor Day weekend.

Amidst our shock, grief and heartbreak, we prayed and sang and wept out loud, together. Spirit spoke through scripture, liturgy and Rebecca’s homily; hymns, poetry and a violin. Grace and comfort soared through the voices of our young people, encouraged by Maggie Klaes and accompanied by Val Adelung on the piano, singing reassurance that we will encounter Kenzie in the “space between”. Parents-turned-ushers welcomed and greeted each person who came through our doors.

Our nave offered sanctuary to weary souls who came in need of respite, comfort and solid ground on which to stand, regardless of faith or creed, belief or non-belief. And the Good News that nothing —not even death — can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord was proclaimed, felt, and lived.

In a world and a culture that persist in the illusion that we are separate, that vulnerability is weakness, that we must “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and “tough it out on our own”, and that death has the final word, the One whom we follow invites a different way of being and living:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

As it turns out, we do this – we come to our Lord and find rest – by coming together and gathering in community; by being the hands and hearts and feet of the living Christ for one another. In times of joy and sorrow, celebration and grief, through all the changes and chances of this world — the rising and falling of people in power and of financial markets, of relationships that delight and disappoint, of dreams and goals achieved and lost, of our deepest selves lost and found, of loved ones living and dying — we embody Christ — “God With Us” — most powerfully when we are present with and for one another.

Deep inside, we know this: we cannot be fully human in isolation; we can only be fully human in community. The mercy, compassion and healing balm of God are embodied in and through us — in acts of kindness and connection, hands outstretched and arms open wide, hearts broken open and opening wider still. Yes, we need each other. And yes, we are stronger together.

So let us continue to walk beside Shannon, Jim, Clare, and so many others who are making their way through the valley of the shadow of death. Let us practice encountering Kenzie and our beloved departed in the Space Between. Let us keep gathering, inviting, extending hospitality, offering sanctuary, showing up and being fully present to, for, and with one another, so we may be the change in the world that we so desperately long to see.

Our very lives depend on it.


Dear all,

This Monday marked our first elementary school Chapel at PDS! The Redeemer Racers, grades 1-3, were all present. Three students from third grade carried the torches and cross as our inaugural acolytes; the first grade class wrote and shared prayers for our Prayers of the People; and the second grade – with help from a few additional third graders – helped tell our story. Together we learned new songs, practiced standing up and sitting down at different times, and started to get familiar with a new routine.

It takes time to get used to a new routine. We didn’t all know the words to our new songs in Chapel; it was confusing when to sit and when to stand. But that is the beauty of gathering every week, of sharing a new part of life – we learn and grow together. We teach each other as we go. As time passes, we find ourselves changed.

Chapel is not the only place where we experience this, of course. The move to a new school or a new job; a birth or a death; a change in commute that takes you through a new neighborhood or a different class schedule that has you sitting with different people at lunch – these are all moments in which change occurs. These changes may be big or small. They may be immediately noticed or take years to realize.

Here at Redeemer, we are being changed through the growth of the Day School. When David gives the announcements during church each week and welcomes the congregation, he reminds us that we know God better through one another. Each new person is an opportunity to know Christ in a new way. And that is true for all of the students, families, teachers, and staff that the Day School’s expansion brings. We are getting know God in new ways through each of them, learning and growing together, teaching each other as we go.

So when you pass by the learning cottage by the chapel or play on the playground, say a prayer for our friends at PDS. Pray for our whole community as it grows in new ways. We are getting to know God better through one another.


Dear Folks,

Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times of a “loneliness epidemic,” citing arresting statistics about its impact on our souls and bodies. It turns out that being divided physically, politically, emotionally, and spiritually is making us sick. Are you surprised? And the solution isn’t for us to agree with our friends or opponents—the ones within you or close to home or across some tribal line—but to spend time together in consistent and committed ways… to create bonds across difference, to discover how much we have in common, to make space. Recalling the work of Robert Putnam, we’ve been “bowling alone” since at least the mid-1990’s, and the paucity of guilds and groups and gatherings for at least two generations has taken its toll. We need each other!

It’s a wake-up call, not unlike Moses’s experience last week with the burning bush. Moses is a fugitive from justice.  He has killed a man in Egypt and fled some 200 miles, to hide out, presumably for the rest of his life.  All things being equal, it’s a comfortable exile, and he has everything that he thinks he wants: a spouse, a child, plenty of land and livestock, working for his father-in-law.  But something makes him stop and look at this extraordinary sight, a bush that burns but is not consumed… some longing or anxiety, some sense of unfinished business or dreams deferred, some notion of things in the world not being right or a question about his success being all there is…  “Is this it,” he must have been wondering about the life he was living, as he shucked off his shoes.

Moses was 80 years old before he turned aside and noticed the burning bush, before he heard God’s voice clearly say, “You and your people are suffering and you need to help to set them (and yourself) free.”  There probably had been burning bushes along the way for Moses for decades, but only now did he turn and listen.  He finally woke up and noticed what had been true all along: a whole lot of people were hurting, including himself. Because his circumstances were fairly comfortable, Moses had been sleep-walking for years, but on this day he heard the voices within and without: “my people are living lives of quiet desperation,” or worse.

Moses discovers that it is never too late to address the ways that we are separated from each other. Are you willing to risk the same epiphany? Here’s the good news: the healing starts as soon as you commit to engaging with a small group of others.

At Redeemer this month we are inviting every person in the parish to join a House Meeting group: gatherings of 6-8 people who will commit to meeting with each other once/month, between now and May, facilitated by parishioners who are trained and supported by the clergy, following a simple agenda that includes some fellowship, food, and faithfulness. According to surgeon general’s statistics, we are ahead of the game by attending church, but being rooted in a group of accountability and affection can make a life-changing difference. Sign up here.