Dear Folks,

Two years into a worldwide pandemic, and within that, a time of political and social upheaval in our own country and families, it can feel pretty dark right now. Where is the light, and how can we kindle it for one another?

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, struggled with lung disease throughout his short life. Constrained by ill health, his muscles of imagination strengthened, enabling him as an adult to top mountains that his body could never conquer, thriving in conjured worlds of physical and spiritual danger. He had been mostly unable to attend school as a boy or play with other children, and he grew up in his grandparents’ house tended by maids, tutors, and a fervently religious nurse named Allison Cunningham, whose folk tales caused the boy to have nightmares. “Cummy,” as Stevenson called her, also cared for him tenderly, reading to him from Pilgrim’s Progress and the Bible, long day after long day, when he was especially weak. Once, late in the afternoon, Cummy found Stevenson staring out the window at the lamplighter, as the man moved from light post to light post, igniting the gas street lamps. She asked Stevenson what he was doing, and the boy responded, “I am watching that man poke holes in the darkness.” Stevenson’s writing, rooted in his own losses, offers his readers a similar gift: inviting them to envision a world better than the one they have. When times are especially tough, poets poke holes in the darkness.

That is the genius of the writer Isaiah, actually three different authors, who made sense of the people’s struggles over two centuries. The context of 8th-6th century BCE Israel would be very familiar to us: international superpowers treating smaller countries like pawns, institutions rocked by scandal and then weakened by apathy, average folks worried about their physical safety, how to keep food on the table, and what moral compromise their leaders would engage in next. When Jerusalem falls and the people are marched into Babylon, it even looks like they have lost their religion, until Isaiah helps them altogether re-imagine God’s power and presence. This period is called the Exile in Jewish history, and for all of its death-dealing losses, it is also the moment of a spiritual flowering whose gifts can be opened to us right now.

Isaiah helps the people see that their God is portable, not tied to a piece of real estate or a building. He helps them see that God is on the side of justice and peace, not in some political victory. He broadens the vision of God’s compassion and breaks the tradition of party and nationalism—God is for all people, and He intends the well-being of every tribe and nation. Every valley shall be exalted, he says, and every mountain will be brought low. And in this same moment of Exile, the poetry of the Psalms is penned, and the origin stories of Genesis and Exodus are composed. In that exceedingly dark period of time, poets gave us the language of creation and redemption, of struggle and strength, of a Suffering Servant who reveals that love is older and more powerful than hate. In your most bewildering wilderness, Isaiah says, a voice of light and hope will cry out: The kingdom of God is within you shining, and no power can ever take that away.

The light is in each of you—I see it and am warmed by it, even when you are fairly convinced it has gone out. The light is in the compassion you offer your parents or neighbors or children, especially on the days when you feel like there is nothing left to give. The light is in the difficult conversations you have with colleagues and strangers, when you say “Tell me more” and you ask where it hurts. The light is in the ways Redeemer is righting the wrongs of red-lining and inequitable schools, when you invest in affordable housing and help make every neighborhood a place to learn and thrive. The light is in your personal study and spiritual exercises and welcoming worship that invites everyone to join hands and build a better world than the one we have.

So many of us are in a night of struggle, but in the love you embody, I see a light that shines.

Love,
David

Last Tuesday, I was part of a circle of women* gathered around the fireplace in our Parish Hall. We began our time together by reflecting on and sharing our answers to the questions: “What do you love most about winter? What do you find most challenging about winter?” Light, both the exquisite quality of it, and the lack of it, was a common refrain. The architecture and silhouettes of naked trees, another. Some of us love wearing winter clothes and sweaters; some miss gardening and warmer outdoor activity. All of us, it seemed, were grateful simply to be gathered together, masked and all, by the fireplace, which crackled and glowed.

Our discussion was led by one of our “Ruth’s Sisters” who also happens to be a professional therapist. We learned about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year; it doesn’t have to be winter, specifically, although most people do experience SAD during the winter months. What some of us call the “winter blues” refers to a milder version of SAD, which appears to be related to varying amounts of exposure to sunlight in different seasons; this in turn affects biological and neurological functioning and can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased appetite, difficulty falling asleep at night, and other experiences associated with depression. Getting sunlight (or a light box!) first thing in the morning for 15-30 minutes helps, as does going for a daily walk and committing to a regular sleep routine and schedule. To learn more, click https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder , with many thanks to Annick Barker, LCSW-C, for leading our discussion and putting together the handout/information sheet from which most of the above was taken.

One remedy or way of navigating through winter blues can be delighting in even the smallest of things. As a holiday gift this year, a friend of mine gave me a lovely collection of essays called The Book of Delights, by award-winning poet Ross Gay. The mindfulness and attentiveness he gives to things many (most?) of us would overlook, combined with his gift of writing, are truly a delight (I will never look at a praying mantis in quite the same way again, after reading Essay #7!). If you’re looking for a book that you can digest and be nurtured by in small, bite-size pieces, I commend this gem to you.

Speaking of delighting in even the smallest of things, below is the poem with which our group of women ended our “fireside chat” the other evening (with many thanks to Annick Barker, again, for sharing this with us!). On this cold winter day, on the ??th day of our ongoing pandemic, amidst so much that continues to be hard in our lives and in our world today, may you experience something of bounty and delight … and remember that God delights in You.

Love,
Cristina

Bounty

Make much of something small.
The pouring-out of tea,
a drying flower’s shadow on the wall
from last week’s sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn’t summer anymore.

 Say that December sun
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Say it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,

 the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peel of a clementine.

Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat from rumbling rads,
can this be all? No, look – here comes the cat,
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.

 ~Robyn Sarah, from A Day’s Grace (Porcupine’s Quill, 2003)

*Ruth’s Sisters: Women navigating midlife transitions in body, mind and spirit together in community grounded in faith and spirituality – meets twice a month, typically the 2d Tuesday evening 5:45-7:15 p.m. at Redeemer and 4th Saturday (time TBD) for a fun outing. For more info, contact Cristina.

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

This quote has been attributed to the late Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist and deeply spiritual human being.  Allegedly he spoke these words in reference to the need for a new ethical perspective in light of the development of the atomic bomb.  With the continued competition within the human species and lack of true compassion and collaboration, he believed unless the heart of humanity changed our species would annihilate itself.   Spoken during the middle of the 20th century, truer words have never been spoken given the current situations of our present day and time.

Perception creates reality and whatever we continue to perceive is magnified.  But, what if we could perceive differently and thereby affect our lives and the lives of others in wonderful, life-giving ways? What if we could know shalom more consistently right now?  What if we changed our point-of-view?  This was the message of Jesus of Nazareth preaching repentance in order to experience God (the kingdom of heaven).

Changing our perspectives, changes our reality, and Life takes on a newness previously unknown.  Our thinking shifts from darkness to light.  We begin to live life in the Spirit which is eternal, loving, and liberating.  The alternative is to live in the current temporary, unloving, and enslaving state of be-ing.  Let’s face it if we do what we have always done we will result in get what we’ve already got!  How can we make room for the creativity of Spirit?  Isn’t it time to create something better?

LIFE in the SPIRIT, is a new adult forum beginning in late February which will allow us to explore together the challenges of shifting our perspectives to create something new in our lives.   Adapted from the book, DISCOVERING OUR SPIRITUAL IDENTITY, by Trevor Hudson, we will learn and share together.  Through defining what we mean when we talk about “spirituality vs. religion” and discussing what makes for a spiritual life (a life of meaning and purpose) we begin to come to know who we truly are: Spiritual beings living in a temporal reality. As we come to understand WHO we are, we begin to perceive the connection between us and everybody else; indeed between the rest of creation.

There is a word in the Zulu and Xhosa languages of S. Africa, ubuntu.  It means “I am a person because of other persons,” and it is actually a philosophy or way-of-life which states that no one of us exists in isolation and that we are all interconnected.  True spirituality is a way of describing that connectivity.

Requirements to attend the forum are an open heart and mind and the desire to become the change you wish to see in the world.  All sessions will be on Sunday afternoons on ZOOM twice a month.  “Holy experiments” are designed and provided to help us integrate what we are learning into our everyday lives. We hope you will join us.  Watch e-Redeemer for more information.

Remember, Change your mind…change your Life!

Many blessings and Much love in this new year!

Freda Marie+

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the lawn
150 were gathered, ‘round dusk (‘twas not dawn!)
Luminarias were placed round the driveway with care,
In hopes that the deer wouldn’t stomp on them there!

People were wrapped in warm blankets on chairs,
While light from the firepits danced round their hairs;
Dear friends and loved ones, and I in my cape,
Had just settled in for a Christmas Eve “date”

When out from the church there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our posts, to see what was the matter!‘
Twas only the choir and the pageant-tableau
Nice and toasty inside, oh wouldn’t you know?

What a year, what a year! More like two years, in fact!
Life’s felt upended and hardly in-tact
Darn virus persists, pandemic’s still here
It started with delta, now omicron we fear

Divisions abound, wherever we turn
Politics and race, oh when will we learn?
Loved ones fell ill, and others, they passed
Masks, on or off? Boosters, how long will they last?

To gather or not? How many, how few?
And 2-point conversions, the Ravens don’t do!
People are hungry, students can’t learn
Folks keep on struggling for wages to earn

And yet here we are, we’ve gathered once more
To sing and to pray, to watch and hear lore
A story so ancient, so treasured, so true
Of God born among us, for me and for you

God came not to kings or to queens or to power
Not to glimmering, shimmering wealth on the hour
But to Mary and Joseph, poor, humble and meek
Who struggled to make it, week upon week

To a world that was messy, uncertain, unsure
A world that so desperately yearned for a pure
Message from heav’n, from deep within all
That love’s born anew, whatever befalls

Us folks, then and now; distant, near or far
Light shines in the darkness, and spreads from a star
A single flame kindled, in you and in me
Binds one to another and through eternity

We need not know what exactly the future will bring
Love reigns in our hearts, it’s there She is King
And so we’re reminded for once yet again
To keep watch for that star to shine forth, oh dear friends

On Bert and the choir! On Robert, Connections!
On Barb and Rebecca, Jan, Mary and Ellen!
On Freda Marie! On Mark, Chuan and Grace!
On Katrina … On David … our leader in this race!

A race not to conquer, to win or to beat
But to serve others with kindness and joy, is our feat
So onward together, and on with our fight
Merry Christmas to All! And to All a Good Night!

~Cristina

Dear Folks,

If you met a person who had never heard the story of the Incarnation, what would you tell them? It’s not an idle question. In mid-December fifteen years ago, a parishioner pulled me aside at coffee hour. “I think we need to become more active at St. John’s,” he began sheepishly. “My wife and I decorated our house yesterday for Christmas. We packed the kids in the station wagon, drove out to the east end of Long Island, and bought a tree. Back at home with mugs of steaming hot chocolate, we carried the boxes of ornaments up from the basement, and made new ones on a card table set up in the living room. Close to dinner time we unpacked the creche, and our older daughter giggled as she placed the wise men on a window sill in the kitchen. ‘They’ve got a long way to go before they get to Bethlehem,’ she said. The twins, who are five-years-old, thought this was a great idea, so they positioned the animals and shepherds on the dining room table, two rooms away.” That all sounds great, I said. “We were feeling good about the day,” the parishioner said, “until we heard one of our five-year-old’s whisper to the other, ‘Now what’s the name of that baby in the straw?’” I signed them up for Sunday School.

How would you tell the story of Christmas? I wondered about that with a group of friends at Blakehurst recently. They gather regularly to puzzle over theological questions, following an example set by June Finney years ago, and they invited me to join them as Advent was beginning. “If someone landed from Mars and wanted to know what the December fuss was all about,” I asked them, “where would you start?”

“An angel got the whole thing going,” said one person. “I think it begins with Mary,” said another. “She was 14, pregnant, and unmarried. What do you think about that, rector?” We were off and running! “What about the man—I forget his name,” someone asked. Joseph, I offered… and what do you make of the fact that he seems forgettable, I wondered. “Oh, I think he’s very important,” said someone. “He could have turned his back on her, cast her out of the family. I think he took a risk by doing the right thing. It’s not such a stretch to believe knowing who the father was could be a mystery. We were all 14 once upon a time.” Now the group was giggling, and nodding their heads.

What about the manger, I asked them. “That’s where the baby was born, because there was no room at the Inn.” What do you think that means, why do we include that detail? There was no innkeeper in the scripture… did you know that? That’s a role we have created for our Christmas pageants. Our conversation got quiet, and I told them about some research I’ve been doing.

There were no hotels or B & B’s in first century Israel, no Holiday Inns with the lights on for all the people who were travelling for the emperor’s census. Modest houses at that time would be constructed with two rooms, one at street level and one upstairs. The lower space would be where a family would keep an animal or two, usually a cow to provide milk for the small fry. It was warm and dry and swept clean for cooking and storing food. The word for the other space is “inn,” and elsewhere in the gospel the same word is translated as “upper room,” like the one where the disciples gathered after Jesus died. Because other family members would have traveled to Bethlehem to be counted, as well, by the time Mary and Joseph arrived, the “inn” was full, so the couple was invited to stay downstairs. They weren’t cast out. The poor family did what poor families do—they made room for them in the best place they could offer. Jesus was born into a space of hospitality.

That’s how I would tell the Christmas story.

Love,
David

 

The AAA (All African-American Authors) Book Club will take a hiatus beginning in February 2022 to return at a later date.  We initiated it soon after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent worldwide protest in solidarity with the anguish and anger of the African-American community. As many of you may recall, it was a very raw time in which the state of the American justice system for black and brown people was blown wide open for the world to see.

In response to my own deep hurt and anger, I thought it would be a good thing to share some of the AAA experience with the community at Redeemer from a literary perspective.  I have always been a book nerd, and it seemed to me that the artists of the world always speak truth in lived reality.  I believed that exposure to African American authors would be a good way to experience some sort of unity and solidarity with the lived experience of fellow citizens of the African diaspora in these United States.  It was well-received and although our numbers dwindled over time, the passionate discussions and engagement with those of us who remained, has continued.

A couple of months ago though, I received an enlightening article from a member of the book club titled, “The Lofty Goals and Short Life of the Anti-racist Book Club.” It described the outcomes of innumerable book clubs which had sprung up all over the country from the same catalyst—Floyd’s death.  The article articulated the questions that had been circulating in the back of my own mind:  Reading black authors and gaining knowledge leads one where?  In other words, now that we know, so what?  To what end does learning about the life experience of an entire group of people with whom I live change me— or you?  Let me tell you one way.

I want to tell you about LOVE.

I had voiced several times over the past few months how tiring, sad and dissatisfying it was for me to facilitate the book club alone.  I asked whether or not we should consider discontinuing our time together, since our numbers and interest seemed to have dwindled significantly.  That night those present were adamant that we should continue to read, reflect and engage. HOWEVER, acknowledging the toll it was taking on my own health and well-being, several of them volunteered to step in to facilitate our times together.  They might not realize it, but I felt heard, supported and could breathe a bit.  The actions of those four of you (you know who you are!) who volunteered to help showed me what love looks like.  THIS is how compassion and solidarity show up in the world y’all!

Although we are taking a hiatus, we WILL BE BACK!  The first reading, though will be a discussion of the article I referenced so that we might arrive at an intention for continuing our time together.  LOVE and Compassion are both verbs, you know?

Meanwhile, we will begin a new journey of spiritual growth here at Redeemer called “Life in the Spirit,” where we will explore the realm of the spirit in contrast to the realm of religion. You will be hearing more about it in the next few months and may want to join in!

L-I-F-E?  It’s All GOOD!  (With a shout-out to Patty, Steve, Cathy, and Mark)

Enjoying this Season of HOPE!

Freda Marie+

On Monday, December 6, many Christians around the world celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas. Perhaps you are familiar with some of the traditions: children place their shoes outside the door at night and wake to find them filled with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil or small oranges. He may be more familiar to those of us in the Western Church in the amalgamation he became when mixed up with Scandinavian myth and Dutch Protestants: Santa Claus.

For all that he is beloved around the world, very little is known about St. Nicholas’s life. He lived during the fourth century and was the bishop of Myra, a provincial capital in Asia Minor, on the southern coast of modern day Turkey. Beyond that, most of what we know about St. Nicholas is based in legend.

One of the most familiar legends goes like this: One evening, Nicholas was out for a walk. Though he was still a young man and not yet a Bishop, he had committed himself to helping the poor by giving away his money in secret. On his walk he overheard a father preparing to sell his three daughters into prostitution because he had no money for their doweries, and no way left to care for the family. Nicholas snuck back by the house later in the evening and threw three bags of gold through the window, ensuring that the girls had enough to marry.

***
I’ve been thinking about St. Nicholas this week in the context of Judgement. Today, the four Sundays of Advent are sometimes given a virtue or theme: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. But, as lay theologian Hannah Bowman writes, “The traditional topics for preaching on the four Sundays in Advent are the ‘four last things’ of death, judgment, heaven, and hell.” Slightly less cozy.

I have been chewing on the idea of God’s judgement, and the ways that while we often reckon judgement to be negative, it doesn’t have to be. I often conflate judgement with punishment – but they are two different things. God’s judgement is not retributive but restorative. It doesn’t punish us, but instead restores to wholeness and fullness what is imbalanced or off-kilter in our world. This includes filling the valleys and making every mountain and hill low, as John the Baptist quoted Isaiah in our gospel from Advent II. This is the story of the Magnificat, the casting down of the mighty and lifting-up of the lowly. Bowman writes, “This is not suffering inflicted by God for the sake of retribution. It is instead a radical overturning of the power relations that allow injustice to flourish.” God does not desire the suffering of any – God desires the flourishing of all. God’s judgement is something we can long for and desire because it will set the world right. God’s judgement is equally bound to God’s mercy.

We have met the face of God’s mercy: Jesus Christ. When Christ comes again we will encounter both judgement and mercy and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:4-6; Isaiah 40:3-5). But there is no reason for us to wait. David+ preached it this Sunday: we can live as if the Messiah is already among us, because Christ lives within us. Freda Marie+ preached it two weeks ago: we must live this way, because the flourishing and life of all of us is dependent on it. We all need the salvation of God.

How might we live in light of the merciful, truthful judgement of God? Judgement that loves us and calls us to live in such a way that fills the valleys and lays the mountains low, even – and especially – when those mountains and valleys are our own? Would you be like St. Nicholas, throwing money through windows in secret, searching for ways to give away some of your own might to those who could desperately use some? Or, like the daughters, would you allow yourself to be lifted up by the kindness of a stranger?  This Advent, and all year long, how can we bring about the world “of care and mercy for one another” as God dreams it to be?

Love,
Rebecca+

P.S. You can read Hannah Bowman’s full essay on Judgement, from which these quotes were taken, here.

As many of you know, starting next month, at 5pm on January 30, 2022, we will begin offering YogaMass monthly here at Redeemer in the church ( … and in the spirit of Advent, “Stay Awake!” for more details, coming soon!).

YogaMass was conceived by The Rev. Gena Davis, an Episcopal priest in Houston, TX https://www.yogamass.com/. As she writes on her website: “So why a YogaMass®?  Bringing together the practice of yoga, breath work, meditation, and Holy Communion is a way to encounter the Risen Christ on our mats, and to tap into the deep well of God’s divine light within us, so that it may shine through us and flow out into the world. “

“Tapping into the deep well of God’s divine light within us, so that it may shine through us and flow out into the world” is a wonderful image of intention for every day, and especially during the season of Advent.

Below is a story I recently came upon, by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, describing how she encountered God’s divine light through an ordinary human being on a crosstown bus in New York City during rush hour. I share it with you, below, in the hopes that Christ’s light may shine through you and flow out into the world, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, today.

Love,
Cristina

“Some years ago, I was stuck on a crosstown bus in New York City during rush hour. Traffic was barely moving. The bus was filled with cold, tired people who were deeply irritated—with one another; with the rainy, sleety weather; with the world itself. Two men barked at each other about a shove that might or might not have been intentional. A pregnant woman got on, and nobody offered her a seat. Rage was in the air; no mercy would be found here.

But as the bus approached Seventh Avenue, the driver got on the intercom. “Folks,” he said, “I know you’ve had a rough day and you’re frustrated. I can’t do anything about the weather or traffic, but here’s what I can do. As each one of you gets off the bus, I will reach out my hand to you. As you walk by, drop your troubles into the palm of my hand, okay? Don’t take your problems home to your families tonight—just leave ’em with me. My route goes right by the Hudson River, and when I drive by there later, I’ll open the window and throw your troubles in the water. Sound good?”

It was as if a spell had lifted. Everyone burst out laughing. Faces gleamed with surprised delight. People who’d been pretending for the past hour not to notice each other’s existence were suddenly grinning at each other like, is this guy serious?

Oh, he was serious.

At the next stop—just as promised—the driver reached out his hand, palm up, and waited. One by one, all the exiting commuters placed their hand just above his and mimed the gesture of dropping something into his palm. Some people laughed as they did this, some teared up—but everyone did it. The driver repeated the same lovely ritual at the next stop, too. And the next. All the way to the river.

We live in a hard world, my friends. Sometimes it’s extra difficult to be a human being. Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes you have a bad day that lasts for several years. You struggle and fail. You lose jobs, money, friends, faith, and love. You witness horrible events unfolding in the news, and you become fearful and withdrawn. There are times when everything seems cloaked in darkness. You long for the light but don’t know where to find it.

But what if you are the light? What if you’re the very agent of illumination that a dark situation begs for?

That’s what this bus driver taught me—that anyone can be the light, at any moment. This guy wasn’t some big power player. He wasn’t a spiritual leader. He wasn’t some media-savvy “influencer.” He was a bus driver—one of society’s most invisible workers. But he possessed real power, and he used it beautifully for our benefit.

When life feels especially grim, or when I feel particularly powerless in the face of the world’s troubles, I think of this man and ask myself, What can I do, right now, to be the light? Of course, I can’t personally end all wars, or solve global warming, or transform vexing people into entirely different creatures. I definitely can’t control traffic. But I do have some influence on everyone I brush up against, even if we never speak or learn each other’s name. How we behave matters because within human society everything is contagious—sadness and anger, yes, but also patience and generosity. Which means we all have more influence than we realize.

No matter who you are, or where you are, or how mundane or tough your situation may seem, I believe you can illuminate your world. In fact, I believe this is the only way the world will ever be illuminated—one bright act of grace at a time, all the way to the river.”

~Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Folks,

This year I am so thankful for Sacred Ground, a small group dialogue centered on the American story of race and racism. It’s a sensitive, prayerful resource designed by Episcopalians, and new groups are forming right now. Here’s what several Redeemer parishioners are saying:

For me, the work of Sacred Ground was the work of getting closer–closer to the truth of my country’s history, closer to my fellow Redeemer parishioners, closer to my own, often unexamined, beliefs. It’s the most rewarding experience I’ve had in a long time. 

I came to Sacred Ground confident that I had a pretty good grasp of the history of slavery and race relations and that I was going to learn about what interventions might work. But I did not understand much of the history, and I was not at all prepared for the national reemergence of racial equality as a seriously debatable issue in America. The Sacred Ground discussions were simply invaluable.

The Sacred Ground curriculum opened my eyes to a history I had not learned, giving me context to better understand current times. The small group discussions opened my heart to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us and His wish for us to live in beloved community.

I grew up with black people and thought I was enlightened about race issues. This program opened my eyes to the reality that I was not, and I will never be the same.

 During the pandemic, Sacred Ground has been a gift. I’m joining the course for a third time because I want to know more folks at Redeemer, and I want to stay engaged in conversations about our nation’s history.

Sacred Ground was a powerful way for me to build deeper relationships with people in our parish, and to move together from reflection and prayer to action. The world needs us to take action, however small, to dismantle unjust and oppressive structures and build the beloved community.  

For me, the Sacred Ground films and readings and the small group discussions gave me a solid understanding of the history that underlies so many of the challenges confronting our city of Baltimore and a deeper appreciation for how we, as followers of Jesus at Redeemer might more faithfully—lovingly—engage with the community in addressing those challenges.

The third cohort will be led by an extraordinary group of parishioners: Catherine Gearhart, Erin Hagar, Sarah Hoover, Steve Jencks, Patty McLean, Kate Pisano, David Wallack, Christina Way, and Ted Winstead. Each of them speaks of being profoundly moved by the course experience, and I encourage you to join one of their circles now forming.

What will center you this Thanksgiving, in these challenging times? And how are you being called to grow? Consider the gift of this blessed nation, a wonderful yet flawed experiment in democracy, always striving to more fully embody its ideals… where all people are created equal and invited to pursue their happiness, where individual rights are balanced by a commitment to the common good, where life and liberty and laws are for all, and not only a few. How can we make our country better, now? And what part do you play in building God’s beloved community?

Here’s a blessing for your table this week: May God give you the grace never to sell yourself short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember now that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. (William Sloane Coffin)

Love,
David

I love the Sam Cooke classic, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

I must confess I have been reduced to more hopeLESSness than hopeFULness since the return to the States from my pilgrimage to West Africa. My daughter warned me to stay away from the what-passes-for-news in the mainstream and social media these days and I did while I was away, but came back to the chaos that exists in the atmosphere of the States. From my perspective the fact that this present darkness is so prominent across the news wires says to me that I must remain consciously a follower of Jesus as Christ and as a holder of the LIGHT.

Of course, I have always contended with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING through prayer because it is the way I was raised, and holding the light has meant learning a new way of praying since my return from Senegal. I began praying in color recently and it has expanded my view of the Truth in even the most sorrowful and angering moments. Inevitably, prayer restores me to a place of peace and hopefulness. Intentional time with GOD always returns me to the truth.

Yesterday, trying to find the tranquility that I experienced just days before in Dakar, a line from Langston Hughes came forth: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” (from the poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”) Meditating upon this line, drawing, and coloring I came to the place of considering that we are ALL in the midst of the waters-of-change for that is what water and indeed, life does. Life changes us and sifts us to become our fullest, best, highest, and most-whole (holy)self. This Self is who we truly are and we are becoming her or him all of the time. This Self is the Christ-Self within us. Sometimes, it is good to be reminded of this truth.

I am continuing to process my experience of feeling totally safe, totally accepted, and totally acceptable without trying in a place I had never visited versus feeling unsafe and unaccepted and unacceptable in the land in which I was born. This is part of my reality living in the diaspora. It calls for lots of prayer to keep holding the Light. Over there I learned that having things don’t make the difference in life, but having laughing, joyful, loving relationships with others does.

I discovered my true Self while on the Continent. My ancestors were with me. My soul is deep like the rivers and yours is as well. I consciously choose HOPE…not in a government, circumstance, or situation…but in a GOD who raises from the dead to New Life. The change we seek is surely coming. I am not persuaded by what my sensory organs tell me, but rather what my Soul speaks because I know she knows.

As we continue to be bombarded by the darkness around us in the exchange of truth for lies and systematic and pervasive injustices for justice, I cannot afford to lose hope…and neither can you. The risen Life of Christ is where I choose to live. If we remember to keep the main thing the main thing…All Shall (certainly) be Well. Live on in LOVE!

Praying & Trusting always,
Freda Marie+