Witness, Retreat, and a Lesson in Paying Attention

How to carry back into the world this season of my sabbatical?  While I’ve not quite left the world, I’ve traveled a track distinctive from that of parish ministry–taking time to reflect, renew, and reconnect in an ongoing way with family and friends and to steep myself in arenas of study and experience that enhance my ministry and the rest of my life. Yesterday and this past weekend embody what I’m talking about.

As for yesterday: Breakfast at Brew Bakers with Dan, off to JC Farms in Durham to purchase plantings for yard and garden, and pausing to inhale the late blooming lilacs gracing planters on our back porch.  As for the remainder of the day, I could not not (double negative intentional) participate in the third weekly witness of the Poor People’s Campaign, a multi-issue campaign begun by Dr. King and cut short by his assassination 50 years ago.  It’s been reinvigorated by Rev. William Barber, familiar to many of us through his founding of the Moral Monday movement, and launched here in CT by Bishop John and Lady Pamela Selders in conjunction with Moral Monday CT.  Off I went to Hartford to join the Selders, Ann Pratt (DUE Justice Coalition), congregants Steve Volpini and Diane Szymaszek, colleague Rev. Josh Pawalek, and so many other friends and allies for this week’s witness—resisting the increasing militarism and runaway gun violence of our nation.  I knew it was time once again to put myself on the line and be arrested. So I was, along with four others “standing our ground” in the street in front of our Capitol.  Yes, your minister was once again in the slammer for a few hours. Court date is June 14, with three days of community service likely this summer.

As for this past weekend: I returned Monday from a deeply resonating retreat at Rowe Camp & Conference Center, sponsored by Soldier’s Heart and led by Dr. Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt, the husband-wife team who founded Soldier’s Heart.  The focus? Restoring the Soul after War: A Memorial Day Retreat for People in Military Service, Veterans, and Those Who Love Them.  High intensity, yes!  Participants included veterans of wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf; family of veterans; professionals who work with veterans; and a few who are professionally steeped in the multi-spectrum arena of trauma.  Buoyed by the lush spring of western Massachusetts, with lilacs now at peak, and the rustic comfort and sumptuous cuisine of Rowe, we gathered.

Witness the altar we created on the first evening, made sacred by the artifacts that represented our experiences of memory and loss.  Two of the three items I brought are regularly in my study at church.  Come see me when I return next Tuesday, and I’ll show you what and why they are.   Then…so much deep sharing, who we are, why we were there, “sharing our stories from deep inside” (I introduced them to the song), laughter and tears and meditation and walks in the woods, and budding friendships. Sunday evening brought a simulated sweat lodge in the sauna, with chanting. (No photos here!) For a rather long hour and in the company of mostly women, I sweat and chanted and laughed and shouted and cried and let it all out!  Amazing grace it was, the entire weekend.

I continue to read.  I continue to connect with friends and family and see Dan many more hours of the day.  I’ve restored our lavender garden and today will pot and plant some of those aromatic items I purchased yesterday and later get my stitches out.  What??  Okay, a few weeks ago I was taking the wheelbarrow out of the garage and not paying attention to exactly where I was.  That bothersome metal device through which the garage door slides on the inside wall got in my way, and did a number on my left forearm.  Off to the ER and 11 stitches. A raw lesson in paying attention.

In just a few days I shall pay attention once again to my ministry at UU Meriden.    I will be back in the pulpit on Sunday, June 10, as we observe our Flower Communion, hear the stories of how some of you have sown your “gifted promises”, and convene for our Annual Meeting.  As I have savored this sabbatical, so shall I savor being once again with you!

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