Anticipating Silence

By Lauren Gustafson

Tomorrow we fly up to Boston for our silent retreat at The Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). The word “silent” has been looming over our heads, it’s hovering in the moments we sit together quietly and the moments of loudness. Many of us are loud, some of us are quieter but none of us are apt to silence. There have been many conversations discussing what this will entail but personally, I’m cautiously optimistic.

March transitioning into April is a hard time of year for me, it’s associated with loss, which seems appropriate since Easter almost always falls in April. There’s no resurrection at the end of my stories and coming to terms with that every year as we hear about Jesus rising again slits open a poorly healed wound.

I’ve never been on a silent retreat. I’ve never been to SSJE and I can’t say for certain what will come of this experience for me. As someone who is loud and energetic but quiet and reserved it will be an adventure to see which of my many sides benefits from this retreat. I enjoy making my own way and doing my own thing, constantly striving for more independence and beyond the structured worship schedule, this retreat seems to foster growth and even independence.

The weather will be mildly cold (except in the mornings) and mixtures of rain and snow are anticipated. I’ve loaded my Kindle with books from my reading list. I’ve packed sturdy shoes because I anticipate spending as much time outside as possible. I’m excited about the flight, I love flying…sitting at the window watching the clouds and the landscape change.

I’m apprehensive about arriving and transitioning into silence and I’m apprehensive about all of the unknowns but with all the doubt, I’ve found a glimmer of excitement.


Image from SSJE


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Love, Justice, and Dr. King

By Katherine Gaines

In the marginalized voices book club, we’re reading James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree. We recently read a chapter on the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had grown up knowing about Dr. King and discussing his non-violent resistance with my father. I am amazed that I did not know anything about King’s faith other than the fact that he was a Pastor of a church in Alabama. Cone explained how King’s non-violent resistance was his theology rather than King’s theology influencing his non-violent resistance:

“In considering the subject of God and the problem of race in America, King reflected that God’s love created blacks and whites and other human beings for each other in community (thesis). White supremacy was the sin that separated them in America and in much of the world (antithesis). God reconciled humanity through Jesus’ cross, and thereby white supremacy could never have ‘the final and ultimate word’ on human relationships (synthesis).” (pp. 70-71)

Perhaps the reason I was unaware of King’s theology, other than the obvious fact that I am a white woman of privilege, was that “many activists in the black freedom movement did not share King’s faith in Jesus, especially in the salvific power of Jesus’ death. While accepting nonviolent direct action as the best political strategy for blacks to fight white supremacy, they rejected King’s religious faith. But for King nonviolence was more than a strategy; it was the way of life defined by love for others – the only way to heal broken humanity. Hate created more hate and violence more violence. King believed that the cycle of violence and hate could be broken only with nonviolence and love, as revealed in Jesus’ rejection of violence and his acceptance of a shameful death on a cruel cross.” (p. 85)

Cone states that for Dr. King, “Jesus never promised that his disciples would not suffer. Quite the opposite: suffering is the inevitable fate of those who stand up to the forces of hatred.” (p. 88) “Who can doubt that those who suffered in the black freedom movement made America a better place than before? Their suffering redeemed America from the sin of legalized segregation.” (p. 89). This view of redemptive suffering was criticized for legitimizing suffering, but Cone states that “whatever we may say about the limits of King’s perspective on the cross and redemptive suffering, he did not legitimize suffering. On the contrary, he tried to end it, sacrificing his own life for the cause of others. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). That was precisely what King did. He, along with a host of others, black, white, and other Americans of many walks of life, sacrificed their bodies and lives for our freedom today. Though we are not fully free and the dream not fully realized, yet, we are not what we used to be and not what we will be.” (p. 92)

King unwavering believed that love “‘is the most durable power’ in the world. It would conquer evil, even white supremacy.” (p. 87) I believe that there is no tool more powerful for justice than love.

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Anticipating transition

By Timothy Nixon

Spring is often described as a period of beautiful transformation. Trees wake from their wintery nap and don their new green foliage. Flowers poke their stems through the ground and open their petals for the travelling bees. Sweet sneeze-inducing fragrance abounds as pollen billows through the air, coating everything in its path.

The way our school schedule is set up, spring is also a time of individual transition and transformation for many people. Students graduate from schools. Families plan for the summer months. Graduates plan for college, technical school, jobs, and careers. Tax returns are due April 18.

So I am not surprised to once again be in the throes of planning for transition. Yet even as the transition is familiar, so too is the unsetting chill in my spline that comes from being pulled in two directions. The pull of sufficiently planning for a year of graduate school on the one hand – classes, housing, finances.  The pull of Grace-on-the-Hill on the other – community, church, work, friends.

I liken the process to attempting to move from one canoe to another. It takes plenty of planning and coordination to bring the two canoes side by side. I find myself scheduling meetings, conversations, and planning-visits around my GotH commitments. Then for a short time, you straddle both canoes. Your feet are in the second canoe while your bottom is still planted in the first canoe. This is where I find myself now. As I straddle both the present and the future, I need to balance between thinking through decisions for next year and grounding myself in the here and now of Grace-on-the-Hill. It is important to plan ahead and be prepared. It is also important to be present for the joys and challenges of the present moment. Finally comes that frightful moment when you move. For a moment you hang unsupported in the air between the canoes. Then you land, hopefully firmly, in the second canoe and have a chance to settle yourself once more. Soon I will come to this time of saying goodbye to Grace-on-the-Hill and St. Andrews. I will pack my things and move them and myself to the next part of my life…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! I still have a few more months to live into Grace-on-the-Hill and relish the present time. Goodbyes will come whether I dwell on them or not.


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The Need for Marginalized Voices

By Celal Kamran

This month at church, I have been leading a book group on The Cross and the Lynching Tree. The book is about the connection that is missed when we do not recognize the lynching tree through the lens of the Cross. James Cone argues, Jesus’ death was a first century lynching and the lynchings that occurred in America have parallels to the Cross. He argues this through his experience in the Black Church. As a Black Christian, the threat of the lynching tree and the redemption in the Cross are both a prevalent reality. This is a connection that the Black Church made yet was lost to the mainstream church. This is because the mainstream church has a history of ignoring or simply separating out voices of color. Because of this history, we live in a theological monolithic society. Even though our doors and hearts are open to the other, our practices and understanding of God is not. That is why we need to listen and learn from The Other. The Other is often marginalized in our religious experience but it does not have to be. We can strive to learn from the other to make our religion and our congregation more holistic. I will be leading another book study after we have read The Cross and the Lynching Tree in the Marginalized Voices Series. We will read Black, Post-Colonial and Womanist Theologians to further understand God and how The Other understands God. In March look in the announcements for when and what we will be reading next!

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Solemn Eucharist: The Last Sunday After The Epiphany

This gallery contains 18 photos.

By Erin Monaghan Today at St. Andrew’s we experienced the breadth of our liturgical tradition through a Solemn Eucharist. Together we worshiped with all five senses and experienced God with us.

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Love First, Discipline Later

Anna Julia Cooper disciplines on a card system. If you lie, cheat, steal, fight, etc. it’s a Red Card. If you forget your belt at home, don’t follow directions, etc. it’s a Yellow Card. Didn’t turn in your homework? You get a Black Card. This system works on a tier also, it’s not all predetermined actions. Students get a warning for the problem behavior and have a chance to correct it before getting a Yellow Card…or even a Red Card.

From the beginning, I avoid giving cards whenever possible. It’s easier when the behavior automatically merits a card (not wearing a belt to school) because it’s an action that the students know is unacceptable and has been laid out in the handbook. But when it comes to behaviors that aren’t cut and dry, I find myself loving first and disciplining later.

One of the strategies I learned as a counselor was to ask questions. “Can you tell me what’s going on?” is one of my favorites. It puts the behavior in the student’s hands and it acknowledges that there’s usually something that triggered the misbehavior and so talking through their behaviors and ways that we could change the behavior in the future helps the student feel involved and heard.

It’s hard to love first. We spend a lot of time telling children what they can’t do and not giving reasons why. I challenge myself every day to be more patient and understanding. It’s really easy to get angry and impatient when students don’t want to open up or aren’t ready to talk. It’s frustrating when students keep misbehaving in the same way over and over again. But despite these frustrations, the students at AJC have won my heart and I work hard every day to make sure they know they’re loved and that I am here when they need help.

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A glimpse of St. Andrew’s School Chapel

This week I wanted to share a piece of my work at St Andrew’s School – in particular, a glimpse at chapel, which we have every Tuesday. I had the opportunity to lead the lesson this week, which focused on the Beatitudes. Here is some of what happened:

Mr. Nixon: “Before I begin, I want to see who was listening last week and what we can remember of what Mr. Kamran (Celal) talked about.”

Various Students: “… Mr. Kamran didn’t want to go to chapel when he was in school, but his mom made him … You and Mr. Kamran called out the words during the reading … Noah was Mr. Kamran’s favorite Bible character when he was growing up … “

Mr. Nixon: “Excellent. Today we are going to talk more about the Beatitudes, but first I want to tell you a story. This story has two main characters. The first character has just about everything they could ever need or want. They have several houses, lots of family and friends, toys and games, a great job. The second character, on the other hand, has almost nothing. They have barely enough food to eat, struggle to find housing, have lost friends and family.”

The two 5th grade acolytes get up to model these two characters.

Mr. Nixon: “The end.”

Student Body: “Wait…what…that’s it?…”

Mr. Nixon: “It’s definitely a short story, don’t you think. I know if you tried to turn in a story like this to one of your teachers they would send you right back saying, ‘This story isn’t complete. You don’t have a problem. You don’t have a solution.’ This story does have a problem though. What do you think the problem is here in this story?”

Student: “One of the people has so much and the other person has so little.”

Mr. Nixon: “Great! Now I also claim that there is a solution here in this story. Can you find it?”

Students: “The person who has everything could give some of what they have to the person who doesn’t have anything … The person who has everything could share …”

Mr. Nixon: “That is definitely what we would normally expect the solution to be in a story like this. In this story, though, nothing ever changes. These two characters never meet. The person who has so much doesn’t have any less and the person who has so little never has any more. And yet, I still say that there is a solution in this story.”

Various Students: “The person who has so little could get a good job? … The person who has so much could drop some money that the other person could pick up …”

Mr. Nixon: “Let me give you a hint. The answer has something to do with the Beatitudes. Let me read them to you again:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Various Students offer even more creative ideas for the character with everything to somehow share what they have with the character who has nothing without the two ever meeting, or even living in the same country.

Mr. Nixon: “All right, hands down. I know that you aren’t going to be able to guess it. The solution to this problem is the Beatitudes. Now let me clarify, the Beatitudes are not a promise. This person who has nothing is not going to get everything. They are going to live out their life and die with nothing more than they have right now. This person who has so much is also not going to lose anything that they have. The Beatitudes also don’t change anything here and now. This person does not suddenly have more than they had. Their life is still the same – and yet, everything has changed.”

Mr. Nixon: “The Beatitudes do something that is ‘radically cool.’ In this world we live in we are trained to believe that this person who has everything is the person who has been blessed. Blessed with things. Blessed with friends and family. Blessed with health and confidence and faith. But the Beatitudes totally flip this on its head. They say that no, it is this person over here, the person who has so little and lost so much that is blessed. Not that person over there. This person who is hungry or hurt or persecuted. This person who has nothing, and so we often think is nothing, but this person is valuable and precious. They may not have much, but they are still blessed and worth so much.”

Mr. Nixon: “… chew on that for a week.”


– Timothy Nixon

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