Letter from Amy: July 13, 2022
"O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: by the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray to thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." Collect 82, BCP p. 670
I am tired. Between my commitments as mother, daughter, and, well, Mother in this season of so many changes and emotions, I've run beyond my limits and found myself out in a wilderness, feeling tired and needy and a bit lost. And there, lately, I've once again heard the Good Shepherd calling my name, leading me back to green pastures and still waters. I'm trying to listen and yield. I'm not terribly good at it. But our Shepherd is persistent and gentle to restore my soul. And yours, too.
How about you? Are you tired? Do you hear the Shepherd's call? How might you learn to listen, yield, and be restored? I am praying for all of us in this fallow season to experience God's gracious restoration. Below are a few restful invitations.
Send prayer requests
In a couple weeks, I'll be heading to Holy Cross Abbey for a few days of silent retreat. I expect to sleep (a lot). To read and pray. To walk the woods and listen for bird calls. I'm going with some questions that I hope God will answer, but perhaps God will surprise me with something else. Perhaps he has questions for me. If there's anything that you would like me to pray about during this time, please email or text me. I will be praying for our church and for each of you by name, and it's a privilege to pray specifically for those things you are carrying. We can carry them together. Let me know by July 24.
A restful church
A phrase that we often used in the early days of daydreaming about Incarnation was "a restful church." What would it look like (or was it even possible) to plant a restful church? Church plants are so often marked by energy and dynamism, and this is a very good thing! But faithfully resting — entrusting our lives and the world to God's care — is also part of discipleship, and one we wondered how Incarnation might cultivate.
I hope (and believe) there is a restfulness to our worship, a relaxed comfort with imperfection and participation, what someone recently described to me as "a warm, homey, family feel . . . like a meal with all of us around the table." Yes! And I love our rhythms of (active) resting outdoors, enjoying God's creation through hikes and picnics and Wild Wonder.
But we are a church and people (and pastor!) that are still learning to rest and entrust ourselves to God's care. We are growing together in this skill and figuring out how to keep church restful while also loading and unloading a van each week. Sometimes it's good to pause and take stock of how we're doing, especially in the wake of lots of upheaval (a pandemic, building move, and rector transition to name a few!).
To that end, we've been working on a resource we'll make available in the next couple weeks. It's an annual examen (a style of reflective prayer developed by St. Ignatius), but designed to reflect on your spiritual life as lived in our church community. Our hope is to make this an annual church-wide time of reflection during Ordinary Time, a way to look back on the year at Incarnation with gratitude, to notice where we experienced God's presence, where we saw growth (even small), and where we are longing for something more or different. Sort of a church survey, but focusing on our inner life of discipleship.
Our hope for you is that this examen will be a refreshing spiritual exercise, a time to notice what you are learning, where you are growing, what meaningful relationships and habits are taking root. It can be so strengthening to look back, remember, and give thanks for what God is doing! Our hope for Incarnation is that this will help us identify the good things God is already doing among us, and notice where he might be calling us to grow or change as a church. But...it's an experiment, so we'll see how it goes! To quote another early Incarnation mantra, "let's try stuff!" Stay tuned for details!
Fall retreat: mark the calendar!
We will have our first fall retreat Sept 30-Oct 2 at Camp Highroad, about an hour away in Middleburg, VA. Our guiding text for the weekend will be Matthew 6:25-34. This will not be a conference-style retreat with a speaker and a packed agenda; instead, the schedule is spacious, and our planning team has been praying that the time will be truly restful and connective. There's so much I'm looking forward to:
communal cooking and feasting (including meat-smoking and dumpling-making)
opportunities for discussion, study, and creative contemplation
LOTS of unscheduled time in a beautiful setting. Take a walk, read a book, nap, create, play a sport or game...
opportunities to receive both spoken prayer and silent soaking prayer
camping for those interested, and a comfortable camp-style bunkhouse for those who would rather sleep indoors
a Sunday morning instructed Eucharist (an interactive opportunity to learn more about the words, gestures, and meaning of our communion liturgy)
opportunities to sing and make music together
Our beloved Jamie Floyd (former Incarnation musician, now relocated to Richmond) will lead us in worship. You can hear a few Incarnation songs led by Jamie here and (my favorite) here. On Saturday night we're looking forward to a nostalgia-overload, all-hands-on-deck Retro Worship Night and Hymnsing. Interested musicians, bring your instruments and play along! EVERYONE, be thinking of your favorite church songs from the 70s/80s/90s and favorite old hymns. There will be an opportunity when you register to include your song requests and indicate if you'd like music lead sheets to join in.
Registration for the retreat will open in August. Until then, save the date and start humming Our God is an Awesome God.
How's your summer going? Are you finding times of rest? Is your Good Shepherd calling your name? Let me know how I can pray and help as we learn together what it means to be a restful church.