Monday, May 5, 2014

Women Touched by Grace April 2012--May 2014

Walking to Station One:  At the Cemetery:  Mourning our Losses

Ruth, Mary Sue, Jennifer, Sandy, Sarah, Dorisanne, April, Nancy, Ginnie, Katie, Christine, Ramonia, Beth, Joy, Laurie, Kendra, Adrienne, Debra, Ruth.

Nineteen women pastors, more beautiful on the inside than they are on the outside---and that's very beautiful indeed.

What a gift to be with them for their last session of Women Touched by Grace....until they meet again, which they will!  Walking with them as they celebrated these ten precious days together; journeying with them as they created a trellis, a rhythm, to assist them in using the gifts they have received in this precious time apart when they return to their families, friends, and ministries.

Mugs covered in our prayers, zenangle style

The women are divided into Covenant Groups who meet for lectio, sharing, and processing throughout the sessions.  Each Covenant Group is responsible for the Sunday evening Eucharistic worship, and last night Listen created our liturgy.  It was particularly meaningful.

Using the Gospel text of The Road to Emmaus, the worship began and ended in the chapel, but was a walking liturgy, with different parts of worship observed as stations.  Singing Taize music accompanied by a recorder as we walked from station to station, spring abounding, the song of birds especially geese joining our song.

Worship cover created by Nancy

The first station was at the Cemetery, where we listened to Luke 24. 1--24.  Next we walked the labyrinth together as we heard verses 25--27, pondering the presence of Christ within us.  We then moved to the third station, the cross outside the Benedict Inn, listening to verses 28--29, and greeting one another in the name of the Lord.

We returned to the chapel for station four, sharing the Bread and Cup.  The sky began to turn from day to night, just as it did for those disciples walking with Jesus on the road as they, too, recognized him finally in the breaking of the bread.  Station five was the short walk to the baptism font, full of Easter blessed water.  We took turns making the sign of the cross with holy water on one another's foreheads, saying, You are a beloved daughter of God.

Returning to Station Four, the Chapel, for Bread and Wine

Today Teri did another fine teaching about creating a trellis, a way for them to continue to practice what had been received in the past two and one-half years.  The worship last night could not have been a finer preamble to the teaching today.  As it is that I am invited to renew my own baptismal vows when we baptize a new person into the family of God, as it was yesterday when I was reminded of my Benedictine covenant during the oblation liturgy, this day I am reminded of the essentialness of my own daily rhythm of relationship with God, others, creation, and my own self.  This is yet another gift these nineteen women have given me for my own return to that portion of the world God has entrusted to me.

Creator God, as women touched by your grace, we stand before you, open vessels.  Fill us with joy and compassion, with fidelity and faith, with love and all good things to the point of overflowing.

May others who thirst come to us for refreshment and in us, find you.  Make us worthy bearers of your word and stewards of your gifts so that, in all things, you alone may be glorified.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother and savior.  

The Pastor as Friend

I had unexpected rest yesterday.  Right after doing the half labyrinth and praying, as I was eating lunch, all of a sudden I felt nauseated, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a stomach bug.  Sadly, I was unable to help Teri with the afternoon WTBG session on The Pastor as one who Plays, and I also was in bed through evening prayers and the outing to the Carrie Newcomer concert.

Today I was able to eat a little, and had enough strength to attend worship, and then to teach the morning session, The Pastor as Friend.  So many great Scriptures about friendship, and we especially enjoyed the study and conversation of the ones about Jesus and his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  One of the pastors suggested that the study we did on friendship might be a good one to do with folks new to our parishes; friendship as followers of Jesus is different.

I slept the afternoon away, but got up in time for Evening Praise.  It was a packed because the oblates had joined the Sisters for worship, and a man and a woman were making their oblation today.

Oblates are Christian laypersons who promise to live Benedictine spirituality in their chosen lifestyle, and are affiliated with a particular Benedictine monastic community. As an oblate of Our Lady of Grace myself, I was mindful of how I've been falling short in keeping my vows. I even forgot to bring my oblate pin to wear while I'm here at the monastery.

In the same way that each time there are baptisms in a community, it is an opportunity for all of the other baptized to re-up on their baptismal vows, I was reminded today to renew the commitment I'd made to follow the Rule of St. Benedict and particularly to be more intentional in my relationship with other oblates. Today is about the pastor as friend, after all.

A bonus I received at worship tonight was the Magnificat we sang.  According to the Rule of Benedict, the Song of Zechariah is to be prayed each morning and the Song of Mary each evening. Tonight it was my favorite version that we sang.  Thanks, God.

Mary's Song  by Millie Rieth

 My soul doth glory in your love, O Lord.

My soul doth glory in your love, O Lord.
For you gazed on your servant with compassion,
And you reached out and took me by the hand.

 Great are you, God, and holy is your name.

Your mercy reaches to the end of time.
Ah, the lowly your raise to the heavens,
And the proud-hearted have no part with you.

 Ah, how you fill the hungry with your love.

With empty hands the rich are sent away.
You will always be mindful of your mercy,
As you promised your people long ago.

 My soul doth glory in your love, O Lord.

My soul doth glory in your love, O Lord.
For you smiled on your servant with compassion,
And you reached out and took me by the hand.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Saturday: The Pastor as one who Plays

It's Saturday, and the Sisters sleep in.  Morning Praise is at 9 this morning rather than 8 as it is on weekdays. A group of the Women Touched by Grace have left early to run/walk/support the half marathon taking place in Indianapolis this morning.  We rearranged the schedule, and Sabbath time continues because I have the morning off.  This afternoon Teri will lead a session on the Pastor as one who plays.

I'm basking in great joy today because my daughter was awarded the James Beard Foundation journalism award last night for individual food blog.  She has worked so very hard for nearly ten years writing a fabulous blog,  and I am over the moon.  She started writing her blog in the very early days of blogging, and it is a treasure--beautiful photographs taken by her; delicious recipes created by her, inspired by her faraway Texas home; precious stories retold in her wonderful style.  She had already received many professional accolades for her blog, and has gone on to share the joy with two cookbooks inspired by the blog (but with even more new recipes, photographs, and stories).

I've spent more time than usual on Facebook reading her accolades, and happened upon the news that today is World Labyrinth Day.  I hadn't walked the monastery labyrinth since Wednesday (a long time away for me) so wanted that to be part of my Sabbath morning.  Do you know that you get a lot of Fitbit steps in walking a labyrinth?  Woo hoo!

Crushing in almost too little time to walk the labyrinth before noonday prayers and posting this blog, I was met on the way by the unexpected gift of a family of five goslings and their very protective mom and dad.

 I'm told that there were three families of wild geese that nested on the grounds of the monastery.  One of them decided the roof of the chapel was the place to make their home.  Worship has often been punctuated by the loud honks of the mom and dad who stood guard over their babies.

As I continued my walk toward the labyrinth, a safe distance from the goslings (you only have to get too close once to know what it feels like to be attacked by a wild goose), I noticed how very much they looked like the spring grass and dandelions.  Not only protected by their parents, they had the perfect baby camouflage layette.

As I began my labyrinth walk, I noticed that the goose family had kept their saunter across the grounds in tandem with me.  In a parallel fashion, there the family of seven were--doing their own labyrinth in the grass, not twisting and turning, of course, but moving in a steady forward fashion.

My detour of enjoying the wild goose family meant that I only walked the way into the labyrinth center before having to walk straight out to noonday prayers.  This is something I never do.  I always start and finish a labyrinth.  I never take a short cut out.  But today, a pastor who plays, walking the returning labyrinth path steps by praying with the Sisters in the chapel in order to have time enjoy a goose family felt holy indeed.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keeping Sabbath at Regina

Today is our retreat day at Regina Retreat Center in Nashville, Indiana. This lovely home on fifty acres was given to Our Lady of Grace Monastery by a local family.  Each time folks gather here we pray with thanks for the Schilling family.

It's a little over an hour's drive from Beech Grove. Sister Mary Luke, Teri, and I left near sunrise to get ready for the later arriving Women Touched by Grace. The drive through rural Indiana was bursting with spring.

One of the sweetest parts of preparing for a retreat is to be ready early enough to have time to be still and wait before the arrival of our expected friends.  The Sisters model taking time to be prepared as part of their spiritual rule of hospitality.  Thanks to Luke's good planning, we had a gracious time of quiet conversation and peering from the window in anticipation. 

This was my day to lead, and I taught  a Bible study on the gift of Sabbath. I love the richness of the teaching from Scripture of the blessing of this precious gift that God has offered, with such abundance, to each of us.  Imagine:  a God who says that it is holy to cease to work and to be refreshed.

After lunch, we were invited to ponder how we keep/how we can keep Sabbath. We were encouraged to be intentional by how we spent the afternoon.  What could we do that refreshes us?  I took a walk around the desme enjoying the first glimpses of spring. 

You know you're still on the right path in an unfamiliar place when you run into Mary.  Especially on a property owned by nuns.

Or a cross on the unfamiliar path back home.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Second Thursday in Easter: The Pastor As Spiritual Mentor

Today we begin: nineteen wonderful women clergy and the Pastor as Spiritual Mentor. Teri, my co-facilitator, led a thought-provoking conversation about pastors as mentors. Referring to Eugene Peterson's Under the Unpredicatable Plant, Teri reminded us that sometimes we are called to walk with folks in our parishes during extraordinarily difficult times of grief, illness, and hardship.  That time our role may be what Peterson calls messiah (not with a capital M).  Sometimes we are helping keep order in the church, and our role is what he calls manager. But our unique role as pastors is what Peterson calls spiritual director.  This facet of clergy life is what we're exploring in our understanding of our role as spiritual mentors.

Peterson reminds us that it is not the clergy's job to mange the Kingdom but to be attentive to God, to be attentive to how God is with people, circumstances and situations, and to call attention to God.  In fact, Teri reminded us that we are often called to step back and do nothing. By doing that, we can listen to the silence between the sounds and discern the Spirit, name God, and open our eye to adoration.

Tonight we go to play with the sisters of our Lady of Grace. I understand it will include eating pie.