Friends, I want to invite (nay—beg!) you to come to two events in the next two weeks as we start our church year.
Institutions like ours are good at starting out the year with dramatic statements. With bold plans and spreadsheets. With five-year plans and stirring announcements of ambitious goals. We need these. In fact, we will be doing some longer-range planning this fall. But these two events start us out in a different key. They are the work before the work.
On Wednesday, September 13th, Cathy Hardy will be with us to lead us in a day of prayer. The form of prayer at which she excels is called “contemplative” prayer. We will not just ask God for stuff. We will not wear out the microphone with one of us reverends talking about prayer. We will pray. And much of it will be in silence and in song. We will “wait on the Lord,” as the psalmist commands. We will sit, and wait, and listen, and sing. This will be productive of nothing. We will not make an “ask” at the end. We will just soak up God’s presence together. That will be from 1:30pm-4:30pm during the day on Wednesday (I can write you a doctor’s note if you need one to get out of work 😉). That night Cathy will lead us in a contemplative prayer service from 7:00pm-8:30pm. If you have heard of Taizé-style prayer in France, this will be much like that. If you heard from our pilgrims who visited a monastery together this spring, it will be somewhat like that. Cathy is wise, gentle, and she makes me want to love God more.
On Wednesday, September 20th, we will meet with and hear from one of the greatest living poets in the English language. Micheal O’Siadhail (Pronounced Mee-Hawl O’Sheel) is Irish himself, but works and lives in New York City now. His two most recent publications speak to his Christian faith and influence. Testament is a book of psalm-like poems that echo the biblical psalms and re-present many of the stories of Jesus. I defy you to read this little book and ever see the psalms or the stories in the same way again. Five Quintets is an echo of T.S. Elliot’s great Four Quartets, and a running poetic conversation with believers and unbelievers alike on the nature of modernity. He engages along the way with such greats in the Christian imagination as Dante and such critics as Nietzsche. Michael is a polyglot (18 languages!!), he is uproariously funny, and I can’t wait to share him with you. Mike Janzen, an outstanding musician and composer, will bookend the evening’s event with jazz. The event will be at 7:30pm in our atrium.
So we will start the year of 2023-24 with song and poetry—with language that is on fire. Our church has long loved beauty, and we will do so again in these old and new ways, with a communal soaking in God’s presence and a renewed love for the beauty of words. See you the next two Wednesdays (and well before).