Lenten Reflection

by Lauren Gustafson

On Ash Wednesday I went to the 12:00 service then hopped in my car and drove to Yorktown. It was the best possible way to spend the first day of lent: reflecting on the beach. I drove with my windows down, it was windy but not cold. As I lay my towel down on the sand I looked around and saw others relaxing as well, the clouds were getting darker and the wind was getting stronger but I was determined to out wait the storm. I wanted my alone time. As I lay on my towel reading, I realized how much I missed spending this kind of time by myself. There’s something so relaxing about driving alone and spending a day doing exactly what you want.

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I barely missed the rain. It started falling lightly at first and I made it to my car when the big rain hit. I love rain, it was beautiful watching the rain fall. I was going to walk around the battlefields before I left but didn’t want to be walking in the rain. My family all lives in the Yorktown area so I have many memories of the colonial parkway and historic Yorktown. Being able to sit and reflect on all the time I had spent in this beautiful area was wonderful.

This trip inspired my lenten resolution–to get outside more and do it in a mindful way. Now that lent has passed and we enter holy week, I realize that I didn’t follow my resolution well. It’s a challenge to be intentional about going outside, especially when the weather changes day to day. Now that it’s warm again, I can’t wait to find new ways to get outside…40 days too late. But I think the intention is the same, it’s wonderful time to reflect and it gives me clarity.

At SSJE there was a beautiful snow storm, it snowed for two days almost nonstop. I went outside and walked around in the snow. Watching it fall was magical and walking through the untouched snow was satisfying. Hiking and walking outside in beautiful places is where I feel closest to God. So now that spring has sprung, I’m ready to renew my lenten resolution.

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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

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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

by Lauren Gustafson

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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