Last Sunday a dozen newcomers gathered around three tables in our parish hall, reflecting on what drew them to Redeemer.

The vibrant community,” one offered.

There’s a warmth,” another observed.

I’ve been church shopping and I really like it here,” shared a third, echoed by others.

The ages of those gathered ranged from early-thirties to seventy-something. Two credited their children — one, a senior in high school; the other, in elementary school — for leading them here.

Some have found their way back to church after a long hiatus. Two had driven by Redeemer for years and years before only recently deciding to turn off Charles onto Melrose and into our parking lot, to come through our doors. One has lived all around the world and experienced different faith traditions; having just moved to Baltimore, she knew she needed to find an Episcopal Church, and she, like the others, has chosen Redeemer.

I remember the first time I stepped foot inside an Episcopal Church. Having grown up Roman Catholic, going to church every Sunday was a rhythm to which I was accustomed. But somewhere in my twenties, I had already begun feeling a disconnect with the church of my childhood without having found an alternative. Finding the Episcopal Church in my early thirties felt like coming home to a space that I didn’t even know I was longing for, until I arrived. Being ministered to by a woman priest, who was also a wife and a mother? Being invited to communion, regardless of where I was on my journey of faith? Feeling affirmed and supported in my own questioning, wondering and searching? Staying all the way through to the end of the service, to enjoy singing the very last hymn all together, and not rushing out immediately right after communion?

Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore” is a bit like what it all felt like to me as a newcomer, twenty-two years ago.

As I have come to know and fall in love with our Redeemer community since joining our staff 13 years ago, I have come to understand the depth and breadth of what people carry in their hearts, especially that which is heavy to carry: the responsibility of leading a family, a team, an institution; the angst of navigating your way from adolescence to adulthood; the challenges of being new parents; feelings of isolation and loneliness, grief and despair; the mixed blessings of becoming “empty nesters”; overwhelm at trying to both raise children and take care of aging parents; the wilderness of living life without a partner or spouse; the anxiety of an unexpected illness; the onset of “the winter” of our lives …

Added to this the weight of the world and the suffering of fellow humans in our city, nation, and around the globe; “the nightmare” instead of “the dream” that God envisions for us all, as technology makes it possible for each of us to watch brutality and horror on screens and cell phones that no human should ever have to see, much less experience and die from. And then, of course, there is the crying out of our very Earth, our “island-home”.

So we come to Redeemer cry …
We come to Redeemer to pray …
We come to Redeemer for a word of encouragement, of hope, of comfort …
We come to Redeemer to not feel so alone …
We come to Redeemer to sing …
We come to Redeemer to be fed, to be stretched, to learn, to grow …
We come to Redeemer to fill up our tanks, so the light inside us can burn just a little bit brighter, or perhaps be kindled again after having burned out, so we can bear light and be light, out in the world beyond the walls of 5603 N Charles Street …
We come to Redeemer to feel solid ground beneath our feet …
We come to Redeemer to connect …
We come to Redeemer to breathe …
We come to Redeemer to serve …
We come to Redeemer to engage with our neighbors in our city, to build One Baltimore …
We come …

What about you? What of the above resonates with you? Why do you come to Redeemer?

I am so glad and grateful that you are here, and would like to offer some words of encouragement by way of our Jewish brothers and sisters (with thanks to a friend, for emailing this to me):

“Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.”

(The above quote is often attributed to the Talmud, but is more accurately described as a loose translation of commentary on a portion of the Pirke Avot, which is itself a commentary on Micah 6:8. See Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A Modern Reading of Pirke Avot by Rabbi Rami Shapiro.)

Love,
Cristina

This week, we kick off a new season of stewardship. Please keep an eye out for your pledge form in the mail and prayerfully reflect on what financial amount you/your household can pledge to invest in Redeemer this year, so we can continue to grow, thrive and serve together as a community of faith and bearers of Christ-light in our families, communities and city. No investment is too large or too small, and the return on your investment is immeasurable. Email Ellen Chatard if you have any questions.

Can you feel it?  Change, I mean.  It is like a diffuse yet discernible energy that is affecting every living thing right now in unimaginable ways.  Have you ever considered how change is like a door? What do you think about when you think of doors?  We think of entrances and exits or a shift or transition from one environment into another.  Many, if not most, are afraid of change except when they can control it.  But control, in the way we usually consider it, is an illusion.  We are creatures, too, like the rest of creation, loved and sustained by our Creator.  Sometimes we forget, though.

Sometimes, we can pay so much attention to the outer landscapes of life that we allow our inner landscapes to go to weeds, so to speak.  Participating in a worshipping community is one part of tending our inner landscapes, as is learning to cultivate an inner stillness to allow a pause between thoughts.  Practices like these help us transit the threshold of the door of change before us and enter into another, different environment with Peace, Hope, and Love.  We may not present this way all of the time, but we drink from this well enough to make it a usual way of being.

As I consider the metaphorical doors of my life and the comings and goings of myself and others I love and have loved, I honor all of the related feelings of sorrow, pain, joy, and celebration in their entirety.  Now I know that to be balanced in this life necessitates my learning to hold everything that I experience in honor of the present moment— where G-D IS.  When we need and want Peace, Hope, and Love for ourselves, we remember to BE HERE NOW…where G-D is.

Because I am where I am at this point in time, I want to share with you a poem that I encountered as part of my recent meditations about doors.  It was written by a twelve-year-old girl named Mary Katherine on the night before she was struck by an automobile.  She departed her earthly life exactly one week later.  The untitled poem was discovered by her mom in her room and was later given to a retreat leader for sharing with the wider world.  So, here goes:

Untitled—

Look at me-
I’m walking through a door
My life is changing and it’s just perfect now
No more doors for me
They’re too hard to get through
I’m staying here where it’s safe-

No, child,
Those doors are a part of you
You can’t ignore them
Cause they’re there
You’ve got to go through them
Who knows what you’ll find
You’ve got to meet their trial
If you don’t, you won’t be what you should become

There are always gonna be doors and you
Can’t stop ’em from comin’
You’ve got to go through them to grow
It’s called change
Look at the wildflower; it changes all the time
always blossoming or closing up, sprouting or withering
You’re scared to go through those doors
Into the unknowing, “into change”
You don’t know what’s going to happen

You don’t know what change is going to bring
Listen to me
Go through those doors with hope
Go through those doors knowing change is the future
and you’re part of it
You don’t know what change is, that’s why
you’re scared

Change is the sun booming over the horizon
Scattering rays of hope to a new day
Change is a baby lamb meeting the world for its first time
Change is growing from a young child to a young woman
Change is beautiful; you will learn to love it

-Mary Katherine Lidle

~Freda Marie

Dear Folks,

The horror of the violence in Israel and Gaza over the last week may be that it feels so familiar—brothers again raising arms against each other, the one with thoughts of annihilation and murder, the sibling reacting with devastating force. Why, O God, our voices cry? When I reached out to an old friend, she wrote, “It has truly been disquieting and overwhelmingly sad. The hatred is so deep. We are connected by 2 degrees of separation to folks called up in the reserves, so it feels very close…” Another said, “My family is safe physically, but so beaten up emotionally… not sure anymore if the vision of peace is possible.” A third agonizes over the oppression the Palestinians have faced over the course of decades, naming “its own brutality,” but insisting there is no justification for what Hamas has done. And yesterday in Bible study, we reflected on the violence that happens weekly across our city and nation, often perpetrated out of religious or tribal convictions. Why, O God, our voices cry? And what can we do?

Heather Miller Rubens, friend and colleague in the struggle and executive director of the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies offers this direction:

First—We mourn. We grieve the loss of life and weep with those who suffer. We condemn the violence, especially against civilians—and particularly children and the elderly, the most vulnerable members of our human family. We pray for peace. 

Second—We commit to standing up for one another. We are deeply concerned that the coming days and weeks will see a rise in Antisemitic and Islamophobic bullying and bigotry. We pray for the safety and security of all religious communities in the United States and around the world.

Third—We reach out and we listen. Silence around this moment advances neither justice nor peace. But what do we say to our friends and neighbors? For fear of offending someone, we often say nothing. But our friends and allies want to hear from us. We can start by reaching out to friends impacted by this violence—those in our own faith community and beyond it—to ask how they are doing. 

And I would add—We hope… not in a simplistic way, that denies our divisions and violent tendencies, but in a grounded way, that acknowledges our limitations while reaching for our highest human capacities: to make peace, not war, to sow justice instead of division, to embrace each person as a blessed child of God.

Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai sees the promise of new life in the rubble of broken hearts and temples and “being right.” There is more: that our hearts are broken means that we have loved and can love again. The dawning light of starting over shines in each one of us, through our darkest days.

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Love is always rising,
David

Dear all,

On Sunday, members of RYG met at Govans Presbyterian Church for youth group. Inside were tables covered in takeout containers waiting to be filled and a kitchen full of activity, bodies moving in different directions at different speeds. We joined students from Loyola University and chopped, stirred, sliced, washed, peeled, scooped, and de-stemmed our way to a beautiful, nutritious, and delicious meal. We were at Soul Kitchen.

Every week of the year, on Sunday afternoons, volunteers gather at Soul Kitchen to prepare meals for anyone who drops by to pick them up. Under the direction of Carolyn, the head chef and organizer, meals are lovingly made with fruits and vegetables donated by urban farms. This past week there was baked chicken; a stew of sundried tomatoes, zucchini, and rainbow chard; flame roasted shishito peppers; chowder with potatoes and corn; arugula, tomato, and feta salad; macaroni and cheese; Greek yogurt with cherries; in addition to a variety of desserts from which guests chose. There are no requirements or paperwork when you pick up your meal – just friendly conversation and company. Any extra meals are sent home with volunteers.

Soul Kitchen feeds people’s bodies, but it feeds our souls, too. It’s motto is “Community – Respect – Love” – and when I have been there I’ve seen those things offered to both guests and volunteers (who are sometimes the same people), and present in the food itself. Some of the ingredients have been grown by members of our Baltimore community; the meal is prepared by members of that community with love and care. The food matters: it is feeding God’s children. Carolyn – and by her example the rest of the volunteers – treats the meal that is created with respect. The people it feeds matter. And the people who are preparing it matter. And so what we create together, and the process through which it is created, matters.

Whenever we encounter the great importance of another person – the way that they matter, the way they are beloved of God, whether they are friend or stranger or foe – and make that real in the world, our souls are fed.

Plus, cooking together is a lot of fun! And that feeds our souls, too.

Below are some photographs from our time at Soul Kitchen. May your soul be fed today and in the time to come.

Love,
Rebecca+