Once again I am posting the Taize style contemplative service from St Andrews Episcopal church in Seattle. I love listening to these services each week. Quiet contemplation like this really nourishes my soul and I very much appreciate my church giving me permission to share these services with you on Godspace too.
Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, and music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
Permission to web stream or podcast music in this service is granted under One License number A-710-756.
“On Christ the Solid Rock” – public domain hymn, arrangement and additional verse by Kester Limner Shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY).
“Even in Sorrow,” and “Kyrie” composed by Kester Limner in March 2020 for the people of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY). “My Peace”,
“The Lord is My Light,” copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé
I do not have a service of lament to add this week but was inspired by this song and thought that you might enjoy it too.
Love is Greater than Fear is the title song of our 2019 album. And we wrote this song because of fear. Because there is so much fear in the world right now. And so much inside each one of us. And it’s not helping. We don’t want to be so afraid, but how can we let go of fear? We want to believe that what Jesus taught is true – the Love is greater than fear, and when we remember we are loved fear loses a little of its grip on us. When we can practice love – for ourselves, for God and for everyone on this aching planet, fear doesn’t win, That kind of love drives out fear. That’s our hope and prayer.
Find more info on this song (including sheet music) at: https://www.pluralguild.com/lovefearsong Learn more about The Many: Website – www.themanyarehere.com Patreon: www.patreon.com/themanyarehere Facebook/Instagram/Twitter – @themanyarehere Church Resources website – www.pluralguild.com Get music by The Many: Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ZpUGMG iTunes/Apple Music: https://apple.co/3cR0AKC Website: pluralguild.com/music or themanyarehere.com/music
by Tom Sine
There is an urgent need for Christian leaders, in this Pandemic driven decade, to learn how to anticipate and creatively respond to a range of new challenges in a time of accelerating change!
In 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change, Dwight Friesen and I outline how Christian leaders can learn from both environmental planners and business innovators:
- To anticipate incoming waves of change in their own communities;
- So you have lead time to create innovative new responses.
Anticipating an Enormous Housing Crisis
“Mass unemployment over the coronavirus could lead to a 45% jump in homelessness” says the Los Angeles Times. “The Covid-19 Crisis and the current recession loom large….setting the stage for potentially record numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness.”
Church Responses to the Escalating Housing Crisis
Church leaders have for decades responded to the usual housing crisis by paying a months worth of rent for a family in need or a week long stay in a motel while they are seeking to get settled in a new community. This occasional charity can often help a family through a rough patch.
However, I suspect most church leaders are not aware that the COVID-19 Crisis is creating a huge housing crisis in the US. As a consequence they also don’t realize that a little token charity to many in need will no longer make a difference.
Creating Innovative Housing Responses for a New Housing Crisis
Jodi Koeman is a remarkably creative leader in empowering congregations in the Christian Reformed Church to shift from the charity model to creating innovative responses to these rapidly changing times. She described a church that has drastically shifted from the charity to a new empowerment model.
Jodi just sent me an example of Highland Park Christian Reformed Church in New Jersey that recently chose to move from charity to empowerment. They created Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation in 2008. This non-profit corporation has decisively shifted from offering a little charity to those facing a housing crisis to reasonably priced housing. Here is a description from their website of what housing for empowerment can look like.
Housing For Social Empowerment
“RCHP-AHC owns 20 properties in seven different municipalities in central NJ that house diverse low-income tenants, including veterans, women aging out of foster care, developmentally disabled adults, homeless youth, chronically homeless individuals, and others with significant life challenges. We also rent an additional 30 units and serve as a temporary intermediary for families – including refugees and asylum seekers – who would otherwise be unable to secure an apartment rental due to poor (or no) credit history, temporary unemployment, or other factors.
The Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation (RCHP-AHC) provides affordable housing, supportive services, and connection to meaningful community to low-income individuals and families in central New Jersey.
Recently the Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corp. (RCHP-AHC) held a ribbon cutting to celebrate new homes for very low-income families in the borough, according to a news release.
The two new properties consist of two two-family homes, three three-bedroom homes and one two-bedroom home. They are the result of a collaboration between the state, county and RCHP-AHC, the release said.
The first tenant for one of the units was in attendance and said that she felt overwhelmed with emotion by the support and encouragement of RCHP-AHC staff as she applied for the house with her four children, the release said. After many months in a hotel, she and her children are ready to settle into the borough, where the mayor and superintendent of schools.”
Anticipating and Innovating
Clearly not all churches can afford to create a non-profit corporation to provide reasonably priced housing for the exploding number of homeless. However, in a time of accelerating change, every Christian leader can learn how to anticipate new waves of change, in the turbulent 2020s, and then join those that are creating new ways to make a real difference that reflect the way of Jesus.
2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change is available on Amazon for pre-order.
“Emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They are merely indicators of what is happening, and must be listened to, usually in the body. People who do not feel deeply finally do not know or love deeply either. It is the price we pay for loving. Like Job we must be willing to feel our emotions and come to grips with the mystery in our head, our heart, and, yes, our body too. To be honest, that takes our entire life. My emotions are still a mystery to me, and without contemplation they would control me.” ~Richard Rohr
I am sad and exhausted today. The trauma and uncertainty of this season have taken their toll. I drew the pic above as I processed the emotions I am feeling about life right now.
I am angry and unproductive. I was exposed to Covid19 and now I wait to see if I have it or not.
I was just starting to be more peaceful and less afraid…. and then this.
Maybe you need to draw out your feelings too. Find some crayons and paper and just begin… see where God takes you. Let your drawing become a prayer.
And as I drew, I realized I’ve been harboring resentments towards folks who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously. My anger at this is deep.
So this week, I am confessing that sin and drinking from my love mug… asking Jesus to help me to love as he loves. Asking Jesus to help me drink from the cup of love, not hatred, not bitterness, not fear. For Perfect love casts out all fear! What CUP are you drinking from today? What cup do you want to drink from instead?
O Christ of the Road of the wounded
O Christ of the tears of the broken
Be in me and with me
Hold the needs of the world
Grant me my prayers of loving and hoping
Grant me my prayers of yearning and healing
Fill me with your peace
and thank you for holding me in the palm of you hand.
(modified from a prayer by J. Philip Newell in the Celtic Prayers of Iona)
The journey into contemplative prayer is both deep and winding. It is both a path into ourselves and into God. Along the way we are asked to let drop pieces of who we imagine we are along the wayside, only to find them handed back to us, reshaped and refined, later along our travels. Our ideas about who we are and who our maker is are constantly challenged and questioned, in dialogue with the Holy Three-in-One.
We might begin to think, after many years of this practice, that we have learnt a lot. But the truth is more likely that we have unlearnt a lot. The Cloud of Unknowing is a classic of mystical Christianity for a reason, as it tells us to begin to know God by unknowing “him.”
Many things we assume about God are shaped by our own experiences. We may call Him Father, but this name will be nuanced by all the dealings we have had both with and as earthly fathers. The very pronouns we use, most often and traditionally male, are inadequate. Many have tried to undo them by using G-d or them/their, or by trying to balance them with female pronouns and images.
Often these changes can be helpful in our relating to the Almighty, but they can also reveal more about our own inability to grasp the enormity of God than they do about God. God is of course both beyond and wholly inclusive of gender. More importantly, God is both personhood and mystery. Falling further and further into knowing him is a precious and delicious endeavour. It is also mind-blowing and fraught with the heartache that only the greatest love and suffering can bring.
As we become more familiar, God widens out even further. It is like catching glimpses of a painting or photograph and just as we think we have worked out what it is depicting, realising that we are only seeing the tiniest detail of a much larger whole. Or like being Moses, standing in the cleft of the rock, catching a fraction of God’s goodness as he passes by. And this happens over and over again, until it no longer surprises us.
After many years of practising contemplative prayer, the only thing I know now, for sure, the one certainty that brooks no doubt in me, is this: God is good. I might add, and God is love, but this is to say the same thing a different way.
About everything else, people of faith may have different viewpoints, may struggle to speak the same theological and doctrinal language, but that one truth remains unassailable. God’s character, God’s good name, if you like, is the one constant. And that, by itself, contains enough wonder and treasure for contemplation till the end of time.
Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a chronically ill writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her new book, Recital of Love, comes out with Paraclete Press in September 2020. Keren lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.
by Jody Collins
(Photo above: Crocosmia in my front garden)
“Where do people put such things when they live by Plan? Our entire plan is simply Miscellaneous.” -Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons, 1950
Last Sunday was our first time back in a building to gather and worship for church since March of this year. I refer to that time as “2020 B.C.” as in Before Coronavirus.
Guided by our pastor and staff, we were properly spaced in family or couple groups, masked up and elbow-bumping our hellos to one another. It was….. weird. And it was somehow wonderful at the same time. Why? Because we were together again with our brothers and sisters, standing in the same room with live music. No more screens with live streaming church services…the body of Christ was re-membered–put back together again.
But yes, it was weird. Not the church part, but the whole year part.
For instance, how is it almost July?
It seems like 2020 should only have two months–January and June. Or better, just two parts–Then and Now. The plans in my Daytimer were thankfully in pencil (I’m old school like that) and erased easily enough. But instead of checking off or crossing out events and tasks, January through June just became one gaping hole.
Weeks have turned into months, days are jumbled together in no particular order. I wake up nearly every morning and wonder, “Now is it Tuesday or Friday?” Without Sundays set aside to be in fellowship and worship, weekly anchors that held my life in place disappeared almost overnight.
Yes, there has been little to plan on in these days of #coronavirus. Facts change overnight, what was for sure and for certain and familiar has vanished. I have been forced…. goaded? nudged? into facing the one fact that remains–God’s word is the only anchor I can count on. His truth centers me, His spirit fills me and His daily faithfulness in the world around me has continued to save me.
I am forever grateful that this pandemic and isolation came when Spring in our corner of the world was just waking up. Now here we are in the thick of Summer and flowers and trees are lush and vibrant, my potato vines are flourishing, the bees are busy in the lavender. Life continues in God’s creation whether there’s lockdown or not. You can’t quarantine nature, that is for sure.
The nudges I feel in this season were summed up beautifully the other morning when I read in Psalm 143 during my quiet time.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
I so wish I could actually make plans in my Planner. That I knew what was going to take place in the next month or two. But the Holy Spirit is continuing to remind me that we are only given one day at a time and our days, whether we acknowledge it or not, belong to God.
I can’t think of anyplace safer to be right now then listening and looking into the coming year one day at a time. That is God’s saving grace.
Tell me, what’s saving your life right now? I’d love to hear in the comments.
by Carol Dixon
‘Jesus is Lord’ was one of the earliest creeds of the church. Yet this simple affirmation was a very radical & dangerous statement at the time. To the Jews it was blasphemy which cost Stephen, the first Christian martyr his life- God alone was Lord. In the Roman world it was treason, as Lord was a term reserved for the Emperor, who was not only obeyed and revered but was seen as a living God on earth. And for those living in servitude, lord with a small ‘l’ was the person to whom they owed their livelihood at best, and at worst was the master of life and death.
Some people nowadays seem to have trouble calling Jesus and God ‘Lord’ – they don’t like the idea of anyone ‘lording’ over them. I don’t have much of a problem with it myself as I think of it differently.
Having been brought up in Alnwick in the UK, the seat of the Dukes & Earls of Northumberland for six centuries, it was relatively easy to see that lordship worked as a two way contract – a kind of covenant between landowner and those who served him. In medieval times this included helping to protect the area from marauding Scots or English armies rampaging through the county and, although the men of the town had to be ready at short notice to go to battle, they were confident that their lord was in the thick of it fighting alongside them (in some cases he died with them). In the 19th & early 20th century, many of my ancestors were in the Duke’s service and although he expected them to work hard, he made sure that they were provided for. Even though they didn’t actually see him face to face very often, he knew their names and what they did for him. Not all lords took their responsibilities as seriously.
When Jesus came to live among humanity he took it a step further – living as one of us, dying instead of us – to show how far our Lord God was prepared to go for his people. When we realise how great the love of God is for each one of us, how much our Lord cares for every human being and how much God wants us to love and care for one another (& how far we often fall short of this!) then we begin in a small way to understand the need to pray ‘ Lord have mercy’ for ourselves and for our world, secure in the knowledge that, unlike some landlords, our Lord will hear us and listen to our cries for help. But there is a caveat – unlike the Unforgiving Servant in Jesus’ story in Matthew 18, we must be willing to listen to our neighbours’ cries and look after their welfare, not because God won’t listen to our pleas otherwise but because it is how God expects us to live in the service of his Kingdom, following in the footsteps of Jesus, our Saviour & Lord.
Two of the hymns I enjoy singing are ‘Jesus is Lord’ (above) which helps me to revel in the glories of God’s creation and Fred Kaan’s ‘Help us accept each other’ (below) as this challenges me to see God’s glory in the face of people in need and each in their own way encourage me to respond to the Lordship of Christ in the world.
For the month of July, the Gift of Wonder Online Retreat will be on sale for $29.99! In the last week, we have had people say that it has helped them to reimagine prayer, rethink spirituality and even rethink what joy is about. We have also had people use it for healing and as a resource for fun summer practices. Because of this, we have decided to make this available at a discount price for July!
Next Zoom call is Wednesday, July 29th. We will send you the details to join the call after you have signed up and paid for the course. Great way to connect with one another as well as chat with Christine about the material discussed in the retreat.
We have added these new resources to our store for kiddos to enjoy during these Summer/Winter months.
Colourful Me: Open Ended Art Exercises to Bring Out Your Creativity is a lovely free download put together by Kim Balke, an Expressive Arts Therapist, who delights in inviting kids to share their creativity and self-expression through colouring exercises. She provides resources for parents, caretakers, and classroom support as well.
A booklet-style prayer book specifically for kids to enjoy talking to God in new and creative ways. The practices found in Prayers of a Different Sort: A Children’s Prayer Book involve praying with our eyes, fingers, imaginations and feet.