About Me

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I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why I'm Voting FOR Question Four - the Maryland Dream Act

Since it's election season, I do want to share this concern as widely as I can:  It's no secret to my friends that I'm a strong supporter of President Obama and the Democrats but going a little deeper into the Maryland ballot there's an item that hasn't gotten as good publicity as it should and we're relying on grassroots conversation like this to get the word out.  So  I've sent this note to all my friends & contacts I can think of who are Maryland voters, and am posting it here just for good measure.
I want  to encourage Maryland voters reading this to vote FOR question FOUR , also known as the Maryland DREAM Act, when you go to vote over the next few weeks or on Election Day. With all the advertising we’ve heard for other referendum questions a lot of people may not even know the DREAM act is on the ballot, and that’s why I’ve gotten involved in trying to get the word out.  Most people who know what it says will be in favor of this act, regardless of other political views.  It simply says that if you graduate from a Maryland high school and your family pays Maryland taxes, you can pay in-state tuition at Maryland public colleges. This applies to undocumented students who were brought here legally as children as well as to active duty military and veterans. The question is called “Public Institutions of Higher Education: Tuition Rates” You can find the exact language at 
I’m working with Action in Montgomery (AIM) on this effort and have promised to get commitments from at least 30 people who will pledge to vote FOR question FOUR.

If you already know all about this and are planning to vote FOR Question FOUR , could you just email me back with your address and phone # and let me know you are “in” so I can add you to my list.    Or, perhaps easier, go straight to the AIM website and  hit “pledge your support”, listing either my name or “COS” (for my church, the Church of Our Saviour, which is part of the AIM effort) under “organization.”.  The link is at http://www.md-iaf.org/     And consider joining supporters on Tuesday evening October 23 at 7 to show support for the DREAM Act - details on the same website.    Thanks for your support. 

If you’d like more information, please read on: 
Quite limited in its scope, this law nicknamed the “Maryland DREAM act” basically allows young people who were brought here by their families as children, but who are undocumented, to qualify for in-state tuition at Maryland four-year colleges and universities.  It doesn’t subsidize their education or give them an edge in admissions; it just qualifies them to attend college at a more affordable rate, and even this is only for the last 2 years, after they have completed 2 years at a community college.    (compare in-state tuition of $8700 at a Maryland university to out-of-state tuition which hovers around $25,000!)    The act also applies to veterans and to active duty military members stationed in Maryland.   Contrary to what you may hear from the opposition, this act does not take away in-state spots from other Maryland students.  It does not create an extra direct cost to taxpayers, as some claim, but will be absorbed by the institutions universities and colleges accepting qualified students.  These institutions have come out strongly in favor of the DREAM act.   All this question does is provide access to in-state tuition to well qualified young people who otherwise would be unable to afford access to higher education.  These young people are our neighbors and students in our local schools; they are people we want to educate for the future in Maryland.  There's a good editorial on this at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-payoff-of-marylands-dream-act/2012/10/10/04aa9a2c-1253-11e2-be82-c3411b7680a9_story.html

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Why Church?

(also on Episcopal Cafe)

Why Church?
Kathy Staudt

A recent NPR story about Americans’ widespread claim that they believe in God but not “institutional religion” has left me feeling impatient (read it at here ) and I’m trying to tease out why.  Part of it is that this is just more of the same discussion that we’re having within the church about what needs to change to attract the next generation -- too often I think it goes to “how do we get more people to come to church?” i.e. it remains about institutional survival.  Further, I’m starting to think that when we listen to those who are offering critiques of the church from the “spiritual but not religious” perspective, we are listening to at least two different streams of thought -- both important, but worth distinguishing because they’re different audiences for our witness, if we decide that witnessing to the gospel is ultimately going to be what we’re about.  On the one hand, there are those who have left the churches they grew up in or attended for many years because they are disillusioned by the controversies, the fighting, the focus on institutional politics rather than on God.  Those are the people who say, rightly, that they are not hearing in church the transformative gospel that Jesus proclaimed, the Gospel that calls us to change and grow for the sake of a broken world.  They can say that because at one time or another they did hear that gospel, probably in church -- but they now see churches that seem to have lost their way.

On the other hand, there are the Seekers and the unchurched, people who were not raised in any religion and who are curious about what Christianity is all about.  Some of these folks wander into churches and encounter the gospel in something they hear, or in the experience of worship -- but many others I’ve talked to have been just puzzled:  they have basic questions about why we do what we do, why we use the words that we do, and often no place to take those questions.  I’m wondering how many of us have a good answer, if someone who is disillusioned, or  unchurched or puzzled by religion asks us: “What’s the point?   Why Church at all?   (I should note that a young person, Jacob Nez, has already opened this discussion on the café with his Why are Youth in Church” - read it here-- so that gives me courage to pose the question positively for all of us). 

Why do I keep going to church? What is it, for me, that makes the desire to worship so strong that it doesn’t matter whether services are sometimes boring or people in churches are fighting? I wonder if this is the place to start, rather than looking at marketing strategies or polling or tweaking of our Sunday practices:  What is our testimony, those of us who do keep showing up, week after week, for worship?  Why church at all?  I’m asking that of myself

In an interview reported by Barbara Bradley Haggerty, a churchgoer says that the church “puts skin on God.”  “Putting skin on God” - I like that.  It expresses what I hope is true: that it is possible for human beings to draw near to be touched by, a mystery that is beyond our full comprehension and in our gathering to lend a human face, a story to that Mystery that we experience as also reaching out to us.    That’s the main reason I go to church, I think, even in a culture where it seems fewer & fewer people do so.  I want to spend some time each week around people who have glimpsed the same hope, and who express that hope by gathering together, in words, song, bodily movement.  Even when it’s inconvenient or I don’t feel like it, even when some of the people irritate me, showing up regularly in this way does me good.  I would even say that over the years it has been a transformative practice for me.

The stories we tell, the words we use, the prayers we say in church, if I listen to the words, proclaim  that there is something greater than me or even than “us”, the particular people gathered on a given Sunday. When we gather for worship,  we are putting ourselves in the presence of something bigger than all of us, and yet people down through the ages have written prayers and hymns to try to touch this experience.  I’m a word-person, so in any given week  I always listen for words that may speak to me.   Often nothing speaks; sometimes what I hear offends me or puts me off -- but I remember that these are words that have spoken to others, that are speaking to people who are at worship with me now.  And they are speaking of something that is ultimately beyond our words. And there is something powerful about our gathering to listen to these words together, even as we may hear different things on any given Sunday.

For me the practice of going to church is a way of saying, to myself, to God, to the world,  “I want to be part of the Better Thing that is still happening, even beneath and within the brokenness of the world around us.  And  I know that in order for this to happen, I need to keep growing and changing.”  The Biblical images of leaven in the world, a lamp shining in the darkness,  a treasure hidden in a field, all speak to this intuition.   The teachings of Jesus and St. Paul call us to be transformed into people who will be a blessing to the world.  It’s the churches that have to hold up that vision.  That many churches don’t is not a sign of the demise of Christianity, though it may be the sign of the need to shake off some ways of “doing church” that have become entrenched and dysfunctional.

It is also true that a little time spent in governance and leadership in church be very discouraging.  And it is a tough time in history to be someone whose livelihood depends on the church as it is currently structured, so it is no wonder that many clergy are disillusioned and angry, though many others are rising to the challenges.  We can get so anxious about institutional survival and so embroiled in our own power struggles that we wind up wounding each other and losing track of what we’re doing here.  I do understand why so many people leave the church and decide they can live the teaching of Jesus better outside it, undistracted by the human ugliness that is so particularly distressing in many church “families.”   And yet for those of us who stay, the hard work of listening to one another, holding one another accountable and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation is part of what helps us grow in faith.  Life in community, with all its messiness,  is part of the answer to “Why Church?”

Why this Church?
In the Episcopal/Anglican tradition, our Sunday worship is centered on the celebration of Eucharist or “Holy Communion” and that celebration speaks, for me, beyond the limitations of words.  It invites each one of us, whoever we are, whatever we look like, however we are feeling today, to come forward and join with everyone else present, and be fed so that we may be energized to bring blessing to the world.   The experience of receiving communion with a community of people not necessarily at all “like me” or in the same place in faith, life or culture also raises the possibility of a God who is bigger than any one person’s preferences or beliefs.  I sometimes experience that mystery, as an overflowing sense of love and presence, when I receive communion.  Sometimes.

Even more, the Episcopal/Anglican tradition appeals to me because we have always paid a lot of attention to the mystery of the Incarnation,  which to me is the most exciting idea that Christianity brings to the table, in the conversation among world religions.  (I appreciated Bill Carroll’s post about this on a recent Episcopal Café http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/episcopal_church/the_episcopal_church_not_neces.php_).   Frederica Harris Thompsett has called us the “church of Christmas Eve,” and it is perhaps not an accident that even people who do not have a church tradition may be drawn to a Christmas Eve service in an Episcopal Church, or a service of 9 Lessons and Carols during the Christmas season.  We celebrate, not just at Christmas but always, the joyful mystery of a God who becomes human, shares our suffering and our joy, and understands our humanity, and calls us constantly to renewed and transformed lives as companions and friends of God.   Other Christian denominations also preach this of course -- it is the heart of Christian faith.  But the Anglican focus on the mystery of the Word made flesh keeps us always rooted in this world, seeking transformation rather than escape, and holds out the hope for the presence and participation in our lives of a God who knows our brokenness and offers Resurrection.  And who never gives up on us. 

All of this, I know, is holding up an ideal that is far from the reality.  But my point is that in addition to looking at what is driving people away from church, it might still be useful to ask those who are still in church, “What is it that sustains you about the regular spiritual practice of church-going, at a time when so many people seem to be leaving or disaffected?” How do you answer the question “Why church?”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What if it's All True (II): A Reprise in Response to Tony Jones

Tony Jones, on the Patheos Progressive Christian blog,  has challenged bloggers to post something about God, noting that “Progressive” Christians seem to be writing about everything but God.  I’m with him here and grateful for the invitation.  And I’m responding mostly with words I have posted before, in a post called “What if it’s all True?”  that went up on my blog and also Episcopal café  during Lent of 2011 but without much response. I notice that though the post was all about God, I didn’t use the word “God” in it at all. That has more to do with the baggage that God-language carries for many people than with a reluctance to reflect theologically.  I’ve added the word once, just to meet Tony’s challenge - and  I’m making bold to post this again, since the question has come up.   So here’s the reprise:

What if it’s all true? What if (to begin)” the One we call “God,” the Ground and Source of our being, our life, our connections with one another and the earth, is real and alive, though beyond our ability to name. What if this Reality is best described and apprehended in personal terms, through our human images of love – mother-love, father-love, the love of devoted friends, the love of an artist or a gardener for what she has made or nurtured, the love that desires, above all things, the well-being of the beloved. What if it’s all true? What if the heart of Reality is that love?

And what if it’s true, as we Christians claim (set our hearts to – as the word “credo” implies) that this Love became human, took on fully our experience of bodily life, limiting itself (himself/herself – for this is a personal Reality) to a person in history, with parents, friends, enemies, a culture, a community.? What if Jesus is the Word made flesh, “Incarnate,” as we say. A mystery beyond our understanding, perhaps: but what if it’s true? What if, fully human, he experienced what it is to be loved and cared for, and to be oppressed, rejected, betrayed, killed. And what if the witness of all those early disciples is true – that death could not contain him: that the life Jesus lived and brought and called us to is actually eternal life, and has already begun, even in a broken world?

And what if it’s true that that Life and Love cannot be killed. What if, in the life of Jesus, in companionship with him, we can re-learn that love at the heart of Creation, and embody it in our lives here and now?. What if he really does live on in the gathered worshipping community (ekklesia/) that we call the Church. It seems so unlikely, and yet what if, through all our divisions, abuses, human distortions, abuses and misunderstandings of the good news, his life still lives in us. What if we are held, despite it all, in something that could be called “the Divine Mercy”?

And what if it is still possible to somehow be, in this world, that risen body of the Holy One, through our life together, through our relationships, through the choices we make for ourselves and for others. And what if there is power available to us, beyond what we can find within ourselves, to become what we were made to be – whole, and just and loving, bearers of the divine Love. What if there is a Holy Spirit, working through us, that really can transform and change? What if the whole thing is a whole lot bigger than we thought? What if it’s all true?

What would it be like, truly to live in the hope that it’s all true?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm Back: More Ponderings on Faith, Life and Church

I've been away from blogging for some time.  For part of that time I was fruitfully immersed in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola,  a spirituality that opens us to the Love of God active through all aspects of Creation and our daily lives, work and vocation.  I'll be processing the fruits of that retreat for a long time and hope this blog will once again become a place for some of that processing.

       Just now I'm getting ready to teach a week-long intensive course that I'm calling "Leadership as Discipleship" and I will try to use this blog a little more frequently to offer some food for meditation.  Today I have been reading and reflecting once again on something that the Anglican writer Evelyn Underhill has written about what fullness of life looks like for human beings, and how that relates to the call of God in Christ and the work of the Church. Here's the Underhill quote, which has been the subject of my meditation today.  More later, perhaps.  It's from a book she wrote in 1932 called The Golden Sequence  -- her own favorite among her published works.   Quoting the French poet Charles Peguy, she writes:

Every human being, said Peguy, represents a 'hope of God.'  In less poetic terms, every human being is a potential spiritual personality, who can by faithful correspondence with God become an actual spiritual personality.  The Church is a society of souls at every stage of growth, and adapted to a myriad of different ends, yet all surrendered to the one indwelling Presence, and in all of whom this transformation is going forward 'as He wills.'  Thus they form together in a special sense a tabernacle, an organic embodiment for the Holy Eternal Spirit in space and time -- one Body of many members -- Corpus Christi.  [the Body of Christ]  (Underhill, The Golden Sequence (1932), p 77.

Obviously the visible church is a long way from living up to this and it is easy to point to all the horrific ways in which it has fallen short of this vision throughout history, and into our time.  Nonetheless t it is helpful to hold the vision before us, and to pray humbly for the grace to live into this vision.  I believe this remains a beautiful and real invitation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Poetry, Healing, and Community

From now through early June, the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC will be featuring an installation called FLUID:  Rhythms, Transitions and Connections, work by Francie Hester, Lisa Hill and Reecca Kamen.   Of particular interest to me is the blending of poetry with fabric art and Sculpture in Hester and Hill's piece " Words as Legacy – A Leaf of Knowledge.". This work was inspired by the words of Brendan Ogg, a young poet who died of brain cancer at age 20, and who was a friend of mine.

Brendan  and his family were members of the babysitting co-op in our neighborhood when our children were young.  I remember sitting for Brendan when he was quite small, but I got to know him well during the last year of his life, when we had several deep and important conversations about his passionate interest in and love of poetry,the poetry that he wrote both before, and particularly in the year after, his diagnosis and surgery for a brain cancer that proved fatal. I had the privilege of editing for publication Brendan's chapbook, Summer Become Absurd, which was published by Finishing Line Press in 2010, shortly after Brendan's death.  A gifted poet, he learned much from the experience of illness and limitation and wrote eloquently out of that experience.  Some of the poems in this volume were written during a workshop offered by the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts,  and I will have an opportunity to help perpetuate this gift when I lead a workshop on April 28 at the Smith Center, called "Finding our Voices, Telling our Stories.". More information is available here     

I found my own voice as a poet coming out of an experience of illness and loss:  a cancer diagnosis and the encounter with mortality that this can bring -- and did bring for me (some of my poems from this experience are included in my book Waving Back: Poems of Mothering Life20 years later, I found that this experience, and the paradoxical sense of grace that came with it, created a connection between me and Brendan, younger than my own children and living a lifetime in the last year of his life.  We will be exploring themes of poetry and healing later this spring at the Bethesda Writer's Center (May 27, 2-4), I will be reading with Margaret Ingraham (one of the guests at our recent  dean's forum on poetry and Scripture ) and friends of Brendan.  Our program will be entitled "Poetry of Loss and Life."

Brendan's story, his poems, and the lively artistic community that has sprung up in our neighborhood in his memory, all testify to the power of the arts to bring healing and deepen community, perhaps most of all in times of deep sadness and unbearable loss.  The events around his work this spring carry for me some deep insights into the mystery of Resurrection, and how we grow into that mystery through our creative work.

More on Brendan's work and story can be found at the website "Words as Legacyhttp://wordsaslegacy.com/".

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday - and “Rescuing Love”

Holy Saturday - that odd time between the deep grief and mystery of Good Friday and the at the moment unimaginable joy of Easter - draws me, in the years when I can make the time, into reflection.  This year I am recalling a passage I ran into when I was leading a study series on the 20th century spiritual writer Evelyn Underhill.  In a wonderful book called The School of Charity:  Meditations on the Christian Creed, she offers this quite lovely and insightful account of what we mean, in the Nicene Creed, when we say of Jesus that “he descended into hell” -- an event that is nowhere in Scripture, but did make it into the creed.  So what, we often wonder,does it really mean? Here is Underhill:

One of the few passages of spiritual value in the Apocryphal Gospels, and the only one that has left its mark on the Creed, is that which describes the coming of the soul of Chrsit into the unseen world of the departed:  His “descent into hell” to the rescue of those “spirits in prison” to whom the revelation of the Divine Charity had not been given on earth.  Some of the greatest of the mediaeval painters have found in that story the perfect image of triumphant love.  They show us the liberated soul of Jesus, robed in that humanity which has endured the anguish of the Passion, passing straight from this anguish to the delighted exercise of a saving charity.  He comes with an irresistible rush, bearing the banner of redemption to the imprisoned souls of those who knew Him not.  There they are, pressing forward to the mouth of the cave;  the darkness, narrowness and unreality from which He comes to free them, at His own great cost.  The awed delight of the souls He rescues, is nothing beside the Rescuer’s own ecstatic delight.  It is as if the charity self-given on Calvary could not wait a moment, but rushed straight to the awaiting joy of releasing the souls of men.  There is no hint of the agony and darkness through which He has won the power to do this.  Everything is forgotten but the need which the Rescuer is able to meet.
      That scene, if we place it -- as we should do-- before the lovely story of Easter and the Forty Days, helps us to an understanding of their special quality; and sets before us once for all Rescuing Love as the standard of Christian holiness, and its production in us as the very object of our transformation.  For this is our tiny share in that Divine action whih rings the supernatural charity right down into the confusions and sorrows of our life, to “save” and transform.  ( From The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed (1934; Morehouse), pp. 67-8.)

Two of my favorite poets, Denise Levertov and Scott Cairns, have found this a rich theme for meditation.  Denise Levertov’s “Ikon;  The Harrowing of Hell” can be found here  and Scott Cairns, speaking with delight out of the Eastern Orthodox tradition he has embraced, has two poems I know of on this subject (perhaps more):  “Into Hell and Out Again” can be found online here   and there is a wonderful movement about Jesus in  part three of his sequence “Three Descents”which you can read on the Image magazine website, here.

What if this is what the story is all about -- the “rescuing love” of a God who desires that all should come to life, and who shows us the way?  Not at all “who’s in, who’s out?” But the joy of a God who desires to draw everyone home, into the Mystery of Love -- and who has already begun this process.  For me this is a rich subject for meditation in this moment before the Easter celebration begins, and as we move into the season of this celebration.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Finding our Way Again

 (also on episcopal cafe)
I recently helped to facilitate one of the diocesan-wide discussions of Brian McLaren’s Finding our Way Again -- part of a diocese-wide initiative that Bishop Mariann Budde initiated, called “People of the Way.” McLaren and Bishop Budde led plenary program at the Cathedral on March 26 as part of this initiative -- the first of many such initiatives, we hope. My experience leading one of the one-day diocesan-wide study group convinced me of the value of having these kinds of conversation about the lived experience of our faith with other Episcopalians beyond our parishes.

McLaren’s book is about spiritual practices as part of how we grow into a living relationship with God, and how we are formed and transformed into disciples. His book introduces a series that invites a “return to the ancient practices” that have shaped Christian life over centuries -- practices like daily prayer, Scripture study, Sabbath-keeping, Fasting, even Tithing. As soon as we begin to make a list of spiritual practices, we begin to risk losing an important distinction between practices and “programs” or “to do lists.” A spiritual practice is an activity we choose because we want to grow in our relationship with God -- it is about experience and connection rather than about self-improvement. This is a distinction that is quickly lost on many of us “Type A” folks who would like to be able to see results. “Practice makes perfect,” in this discussion, gives way to McLaren’s phrase “Practice makes possible”: having a personal rule of life that fits our temperament and desire helps make us open to the possibility of transformation and deepened relationship with God that is always on offer, if we are willing to receive it.

In our discussion I was very aware of a longing, expressed in various ways, for an enlivening of faith. Some people were fearful about the apparent “to do list” that they at first saw in the setup of McLaren’s book, but the discussion in small groups seemed to go where most people wanted to go -- to the question: how do I -- and how do you -- live our faith so that it becomes deeper and more authentic, more connected to the mystery that we call “God.” What do we do to open ourselves to that? What happens when we do? Many had stories to share, showing that we can indeed see ourselves as "companions on the way".

McLaren helpfully divides spiritual practices into “Contemplative,” “Corporate” and “Missional” practices. Contemplative practices are perhaps most familiar: practices like daily Scripture study, centering prayer, journaling or walking-prayers. Many people had regular personal practices they could add to this list. Contemplative practices are what I call “showing up” practices -- We try to do them regularly, the way that someone studying a musical instrument practices scales, or an athlete works out -- because they make us more able to live faithfully, day to day. Corporate practices are those we do together -- worship is the most familiar, and McLaren helpfully breaks out the different components of the liturgy, calling the liturgy the “workout of the people.” Other corporate practices include spiritual direction, small group faith sharing, and intercessory prayer -- all the ways that we practice our faith in awareness that others are practicing with us. Out of these come missional practices: practices that turn us outward toward the world -- these include hospitality, practices that help us to encounter those we perceive as “other,” feeding the hungry, working for justice. Missional practices are not political programs though they may lead us to political action, whether individual or corporate. But their primary purpose is to form us for Christian discipleship. Indeed, for Christians, all of these kinds of practice have as their purpose to make us more alert, faithful and engaged disciples/followers of Jesus.

For some in the group the sense of spiritual practice as “one more thing to add to the list” did not subside, but for others there was an excitement about what they were hearing about what a living faith looks like, among other people who are also members of churches in our diocese. There was something energizing, all agreed, about bringing together people from different parishes, coming out of our “silos” of local family issues and issues of institutional survival, and reminding ourselves of the deeper purpose that drew many of us to our churches to begin with and that is now calling us, perhaps, to a revival, or to what Diana Butler Bass in her new book (Christianity After Religion) has called an “awakening.”

Diana’s book also sees this longing among many Christians -- both those who have stayed with their churches and the large number of people who have left church, disillusioned with our preoccupation with institutional survival and bickering over who’s in and who’s out. She points to a resurgence of people who long to be both “spiritual AND religious” -- to find a community that practices a living faith. Can this happen in churches, which have become so bogged down over the past few decades in institutional and doctrinal issues? What would the Church look like (not just the Episcopal Church, but the wider “Church, the People of God” (to use Verna Dozier’s term) -- if more of us found ways to name and claim a faith that demands something of us, that calls us to grow and deepen in a living relationship with the living God, individually, corporately and “missionally.” A faith where "practice" makes new things, new life, possible?

The longing for something real, something genuine, in our individual and corporate relationship to God and in our life choices, was palpable in the discussion I led, and I hear it everywhere these days, among church people as well as those who have left church or are unchurched. I hear it in people who grew up without a religion and are wondering if they can find what they are seeking among people who still value church. I hope we can continue to listen to this longing in one another other, and I think one way to do this is indeed, as the McLaren book study project invites, to focus on this matter of practice, perhaps to find and reclaim “new-old” ways of gathering and sharing faith that stretch and blur boundaries between parishes and even denominations. If we do, I think we may well begin to discern a new spiritual liveliness that is inviting us, in this time, to claim in new ways a living tradition that is in harmony with the ancient roots of our faith, and that will help us to live more faithfully into the call to discipleship which is at the heart of Christian life.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a householder who takes from his treasure what is old and what is new.” That seems to be an important word for us in this time of change, renewal, awakening and "emergence" in the life of the church.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Quote for today about Wisdom and Spiritual Practice

Starting to teach a one-week intensive course on "Contemplative Writing," I am doing what I can to keep to this practice myself.  I do it anyway -- fill several pages of a journal every morning, whatever other writing I do, and for no other audience than myself and God.  I am hoping that some of the readings I've selected for my students, out of many, many that I love, will help them into this practice, which over the years has helped me to get out of my own way, perhaps out of God's way, and open myself more and more deeply to the gifts of each day.  Here's a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor that sets the mood for me, going into this week, and seems rich and full of wisdom to reflect on.  In An Altar in the World, she writes

     In biblical terms, it is wisdom we need to live together in this world.  Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right.  Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.  Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act.  They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know.  If you are not sure what to think about washing feet, for instance, then the best way to find out is to practice washing a pair or two.  If you are not sure what to believe about your neighbor's faith, then the best way to find out is to practice eating supper together.  Reason can only work with the experience available to it.  Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.
     Such wisdom is far more than information.  To gain it, you need more than a brain.  You need a body that gets hungry, feel splain, thrills to pleasure, craves rest.  This is your physical pass into the accumulated insight of all who have preceded you on this earth.  To gain wisdom, you need flesh and blood, because wisdom involves bodies--and not just human bodies, but bird bodies, tree bodies, water bodies, and celestial odies.  According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, "Grow, grow."
       How does one learn to see and hear such angels?    

(from An Altar in the World (HarperCollins 2009), p. 88