Dear Folks,

How long does it take to establish a habit? Six weeks? Three months? A year? In the 1950’s, plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz began to notice a pattern in his patients: after a body-altering procedure, the doctor found that it took 21 days for his patients to adjust to their new normal. He combined his patients’ experiences with his own and authored a book called Psycho-Cybernetics that became a blockbuster hit in the 1960’s—so popular that just about every self-help book for a generation quoted him. While current researchers call 21 days the minimum span of time for a change to take root, with the average new pattern of behavior taking a little over two months to be established, the phenomenon is demonstrably real and significant. We can learn new ways to be in the world in just a matter of months.

Consider how much changed through the pandemic: shut-downs, sheltering in place, masks and fist-bumps, distance learning, standing on decals spaced six feet apart, meeting outside, gathering on zoom, and live-streamed everything: concerts, lectures, seminars, and worship. With loved ones sick or dying or simply vulnerable, we established new patterns of learning and living, even loving—on the phone, through a window, side by side if we were lucky, but rarely cheek to cheek. Thank God for technology—where would be without phones and zoom—but we’ve grown accustomed to distance in some ways that don’t serve our humanity well.

Being in each other’s physical presence makes a difference, I believe. Consider this poem by Philip Booth, called Hope:

Old spirit, in and beyond me,
keep and extend me. Amid strangers,
friends, great trees and big seas breaking,
let love move me. Let me hear the whole music,
see clear, reach deep. Open me to find due words,
that I may shape them to ploughshares of my own making…

Love moves us amidst strangers, friends, great trees, and big seas breaking. We are made human in each other’s company, in the crucible of presence.

So, I have some things to ask of you.

Be together with us, physically present at worship once a week. Wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome at God’s table, which we reassemble, set, and provision each time we gather for the Eucharist. Through it, the stories of scripture and the rhythms of the church year change us slowly and deeply. To meet your needs, we have indoor and outdoor options, small and large groups, quiet, musical, or boisterous. Whether Sunday morning, Saturday afternoon, or midweek, the circle is incomplete without you.

Seek to grow constantly, through small group discussions, rector’s Bible study, reading a book with others, anti-racism training, or one-on-one dialogues across difference. Take responsibility for your own development—emotionally, spiritually, and in service to others.

Engage with the community of Baltimore and Redeemer in actions that benefit the common good. Lead a small group discussion, sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, organize with BUILD, tutor at Govans, serve at the altar or with the flower guild or as a reader or at coffee hour…

Whatever our habits were before or through the pandemic, we are called now to new patterns of faithful living. Let love move us, let love keep and extend us, to build the church that the world needs in this moment. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!