I'm on vacation this week, so this blog was pre-scheduled! See you all next week!
Greetings from the wilds of West Virginia!
Last Sunday we announced that Katie Hamlin will be serving as our interim Associate Rector — HOORAY! Katie is a wise pastor and gifted leader, and I am so grateful that she has agreed to step into this role. Next week's letter will offer Katie a chance to introduce herself and talk a bit more about this staffing transition. But for this week, especially as I'm away on vacation, I'd like to simply offer something beautiful to contemplate and something fun to anticipate.
Something beautiful to contemplate
You may have heard that the writer and minister Frederick Buechner died earlier this week. Buechner's works were particularly important to me in the aftermath of those years of intense doubt and weariness that I talked about in my sermon Sunday (listen here); he gave me a vision of a more expansive and honest Christian life. As I was preparing Sunday's sermon, I thought often of him, particularly of this essay, in which he describes a time his wife was hospitalized and he was afraid she would die. It's such an intimate picture of a person transformed by God:
“When the worst finally happens, or almost happens, a kind of peace comes. I had passed beyond grief, beyond terror, all but beyond hope, and it was there, in that wilderness, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of something of what it must be like to love God truly. It was only a glimpse, but it was like stumbling on fresh water in the desert, like remembering something so huge and extraordinary that my memory had been unable to contain it. Though God was nowhere to be clearly seen, nowhere to be clearly heard, I had to be near him—even in the elevator riding up to her floor, even walking down the corridor to the one door among all those doors that had her name taped on it.
I loved him because there was nothing else left. I loved him because he seemed to have made himself as helpless in his might as I was in my helplessness. I loved him not so much in spite of there being nothing in it for me but almost because there was nothing in it for me. For the first time in my life, there in that wilderness, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to love God truly, for his own sake, to love him no matter what. . . .
I did not love God, God knows, because I was some sort of saint or hero. I did not love him because I suddenly saw the light (there was almost no light at all) or because I hoped by loving him to persuade him to heal the young woman I loved. I loved him because I couldn’t help myself. I loved him because the one who commands us to love is the one who also empowers us to love, as there in the wilderness of that dark and terrible time I was, through no doing of my own, empowered to love him at least a little, at least enough to survive.
The final secret, I think, is this: that the words 'You shall love the Lord your God' become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us . . .." (from A Room Called Remember),
Something fun to anticipate
There's so much to look forward to in the coming weeks!
A Labor Day hike: Curious to learn more about the hiking group? Email Jenni (firstname.lastname@example.org) or signup here to join the Incarnation Hiking Group (we generally hike once or twice a month in good weather, and it's always a wide open invitation to bring kids, dogs, friends, etc).
Fall small groups will begin in October after the fall retreat. This fall, we're trying something new (or rather, a return to something old*). Fall small groups will simply eat a meal, catch up on each others' weeks and lives, and pray a short prayer liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer: Evening Prayer at dinner, Morning Prayer or Midday Prayer at breakfast/brunch/lunch.
Our hope is that these groups will offer simple midweek refreshment and allow opportunities to build relationships with others in the Incarnation community over a meal and prayer.
We also hope these groups will offer an easy, natural opportunity to welcome other people into that community. Do you have friends or neighbors or coworkers who might appreciate friendship and a weekday meal, who perhaps are curious to see how some Christians pray (scripted prayer is often much less intimidating than spontaneous prayer)? These table groups offer an easy way to practice hospitality toward those outside our church and create space for "belonging before belief."
Don't worry — we'll still offer opportunities to go deeper in scripture, theology, and spiritual disciplines, and we'll share more about that in a few weeks. Stay tuned!
Would you be interested in opening your table this fall to host a small group? We'll equip hosts/leaders in anything they need to know. If so, let Katie know: email@example.com. If you have questions, reach out to one of us!
There's so much I'm grateful for and so much I'm looking forward to as I head out on vacation. I look forward to reconnecting when I return!