We have weathered isolation, concern for loved ones, financial stresses, grief, and loss. This pandemic, which has killed hundreds of thousands in this country alone, has revealed deep divisions in access to health care and economic stability. As a nation we faced a contentious election cycle and continue to reckon with racial violence.
This has created stress for you and your families, not to mention your work as faith formation leaders. Everything shifted, and EVERYTHING related to your work had to be done differently. And yet you continued to work to make the love and justice real in your communities.
You demonstrated that online gatherings can be a place for meaningful learning, sacred encounter, and joyful milestone celebrations. When you couldn’t gather in person, you dreamed up new ways to connect with families and maintain relationships within the congregation. You tackled technology and mastered Zoom, video editing, Facebook live and more. You leaned on your faith and leaned on each other. What is apparent to all is your commitment and your resourcefulness. Week after week, you extended messages of God's love out into the virtual world, often without benefit of feedback or recognition. Thank you for navigating this span with creativity, flexibility, and faithfulness. You have been a blessing to your congregations and the families you serve. You have been the church in action!
As we enter the summer months, I pray you have a season that offers a change in routine, and hopefully a decrease in some of the daily demands of your work. If you are like me, perhaps you will be able to spend more time tending a garden on these beautiful evenings. Whatever these next few months hold, I hope there will be time to rest and tend the garden of your soul. Perhaps these wondering questions will help you consider where you have been and where you are going.
- What do I need to cultivate in the soil? Is there a place for me to dig deeper—into a spiritual practice, a growing edge, a relationship?
- What do I need to weed out? What work, programs, or practices are not bearing fruit and can be pruned back?
- Where do I need to trust in God's steadfast love? Where do I need to be healed by the balm of cool water and the blessing of fresh air?
Creator God, as the days lengthen, let us recognize the gift of time and revel in the beauty of your creation. May we be we be refreshed by gentle breezes of your spirit. Let us bask in warmth of the sun and the radiance of your love. Let us savor moments of rest and renewal and listen deeply for your voice, that we may be strengthened to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you. --Amen.
When I am Among the Trees
--by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...