Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit? A Lenten Collection
Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life.
These are just a few of the ways the people of the Stone Church refer to me. There’s more than one of my kin in their midst. We’re a pretty simply bunch. Usually four legs and a flat top. Not too complicated, but when you gather around what you call a table, it is amazing how quickly that space becomes sacred.
Whether they’re eating, sharing the Bread or Baptising, we’ve had a role in the Stone Church’s over 165 years of history. There are no tables, however, quite like me. As the masons raised and levelled the walls of the church, McCrae himself selected the trees that would form and shape me. He had me planed and oiled to be the table at which those who would be leaders in their midst would gather. Over the years, each of those leaders has etched their initials into me: sort of like a living memory and reminder of those who have made decisions, sometimes ones that were difficult and filled with tension, as how best to nurture the community, care for the grounds, including the deer, gardens, and they even had to make decisions once about the ants!
The only changes I’ve seen has been re-oiling and, as the Stone Church people began to connect with the middle walkers, I was reshaped. They shared some of the history of the first people and how the Stone Church arrivers had been unable to connect well with one another for a long time. The middle walkers talked used the image of the circle as a way to begin to understand how they were all connected. This learning, though difficult, led the leaders at the time to change me from a rectangle into a circle: symbolic, but also a step to live into the healing of the peoples that the middle walkers encouraged.
There has been laughter, certainly, when they have sat with me. There have also been tears, in grief and loss, as is clear by the stones that surround the church. And – yes – there has been disagreement, anger and conflict. These tensions have, more than once, unsettled the community. But something often happens in these times, when the leaders sit around my now curved oaken planks.
One of the traditions the leaders have used, especially when difficult choices have arisen, is to use silence. This means no technology or phones, mics or projectors: nothing to distract from the decisions before them. Once all have had a chance, whether in whisper or raised voices, to share their experience and thoughts, silence is called for. In this place of speaking differently, often hands trace the initials of those who line my oiled wood: reverently, as they commune, wisdom often dawns.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always consensus that arises, but there is often a sense of clarity. Most times, what is best for the community is embraced, even if someone still thinks it’s not the right way. When the disagreement remains unresolved, they sit a little longer with me. By then, voices have quietened enough that new things are heard, even in the presence of tension. I call that the creative time … the unexpected time when new possibilities emerge … and tomorrow will be no different. There’re new decisions and – admittedly – some will be a challenge to discern. I will sit here in my still place, holding them of each in the circle, as they continue to listen for what is best for the community, even if it means letting go, sometimes, of individual solutions …
Stories, Vignettes & the Archive
Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …