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Showing posts from June, 2010

A reflection of hope

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Eternal God, comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken,
you have fed us at the table of life and hope;
teach us the ways of gentleness and peace,
that all the world may acknowledge
the kingdom of your son Jesus Christ our Lord.
(prayer after communion at Coventry Cathedral)

Coventry, England
June 26 and 27, 2010

In World War II, Coventry, England was a center for weapons manufacturing. On November 14, 1940, the city was a target for one of the worst air raids of the war. Hundreds died and the historic St. Michael's Cathedral, where St. Mary's Benedictine monastery was built in 1043, was destroyed.

The striking Coventry Cathedral was rebuilt beside the ruins of the blitzed St. Michael's in 1962. In the photo above, a remnant of the old wall is reflected through the glass of one of the new walls. The new cathedral a powerful symbol of rebirth and reconciliation.

We talked to Canon David Porter, minister of reconciliation for the cathedral. David has a long history of working…

A place of welcome

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May those without shelter be under your guarding this day, O Christ,
May the wandering find places of welcome.
O son of the tears, of the wounds, of the piercings,
May your cross this day be shielding them. (excerpt from Celtic prayer)

June 25
Aberdaron, Wales

St. Hywyn's Church in Aberdaron, on the northwest coast of Wales, is a place for pilgrims. Vicar Jim Cotter said this has been a Christian place of worship on the edge of the sea since the fifth century.

Pilgrims have been coming to this church for centuries, many on their way to Bardsey Island. The winds, tides and currents make the three mile crossing risky, but people came to this place, between one world and another, seeking and searching, on a journey but not knowing what they would find.

Unlike the Romans who built straight roads across this region, having predetermined the direction and the destination, it is better for pilgrims, says Cotter, to hoist their sails and go where the wind blows. "You may not get to where you…

One more hill to climb

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It started out as a morning stroll. We were at the Ffald-y-Brenin retreat centre near Fishguard, Wales. The centre was perched high above the valley below. And it seemed like we were far from everywhere. In fact, our 40 foot bus had inched along the back roads to get here. Sometimes we had to stop for someone to get out to help guide the bus through some particularly narrow parts of the road.

Today was a retreat day and as I strolled across the retreat property, I happened to notice that we weren't quite at the top of the mountain as I thought. So, I took off over the sheep paths only to find that when I got to the top of hill, there was yet another hill to climb, and then another after that and then another.

It wasn't long until I found myself a number of miles from where I had started and many turns in the trail. I wondered whether I could find my way home by myself. But I had a suspicion what I would see when I finally got to the top so I kept on going.

And then there it was -…

A day at sea

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If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me fast.
- Psalm 139:9-10

We took the wings of the morning by bus to Tenby in the southwest corner of Wales, a coastal town. From the bus park, we walked single file down the long embankment into town and to the docks and boarded a small boat for Caldey Island. The tide was out and many boats lay on the muddy bottom of the sea. Later, I learned that the tide rises by eight meters daily.

Caldey Island was first settled by monks in the sixth century. In 1925, Anglican Benedictines sold the island and the abbey to Catholic Cistercians, a group of monks from Belgium.

We walked up the hill to the abbey, an imposing set of white, red-tiled roof buildings that look more like the southern Mediteranean. After prayers in the chapel and lunch on the lawn we all enjoyed an afternoon in the sun.

I headed past the chocolate factory to the rocky cliffs out bey…

Of light and darkness on a midsummer's day

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What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor...
Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near.
Glendalough, the valley of the two lakes, is known for its early Medieval monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. A simply gorgeous location, Glendalough became our home for a day of retreat with Father Michael Rodgers. On midsummer's day, the meeting of light and darkness, we gathered to celebrate the light and shadows in our own lives. We began by walking a labyrinth and recognizing that our lives are not straight journeys but filled with many unexpected turns. But all of the steps of our lives, said Father Michael, lead us toward home.At the lower lake, we learned that St. Kevin met a monster, but instead of running away, Kevin befriended it. We all have monsters to tame, said Father Michael, and we need to name and bless our shadows.He told us that the contemplative heart is a compassionate hear…

Fill our hearts with your peace

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Come and fill our hearts with your peace, you alone are holy.
Come and fill our hearts with your peace, alleluia.
- Celtic pilgrimage songbook

On Sunday morning, along with several others, I worshiped with the Quakers in downtown Dublin. Most of the others on the pilgrimage worshiped in the Church of Ireland cathedrals but, after a lot of talk about Protestants and Catholics the last several weeks, I needed a mooring with the Historic Peace Churches.

There was once a fledging Mennonite congregation in this city, too, but it did not survive the formation years. One of the persons involved in that church plant, Michael Gaarde, has been spending a few days with us.

Michael said the influence of John Howard Yoder's theology has been great in this region of the world even though a Mennonite congregation did not flourish. He says Mennonite workers and their focus on conflict resolution and mediation, played an important role in bringing peace in Ireland and no…

A place of welcome for those who are wandering

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May those without shelter be under your guarding this day, O Christ,
May the wandering find places of welcome.
(excerpted from Celtic Prayers by Philip Newell)

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus found an unexpected place of welcome with Jesus. "Today, salvation has come to this house," says Jesus, "because Zacchaeus too is a son of Abraham." Jesus says he has come to seek out and save the lost.

That Jesus is meant for the lost is a lesson we have needed to learn over and over through the ages. Brother Eoin (Owen) illustrates this on the High Cross at Castledermot southwest of Dublin.

On this cross from about 1000 A.D. are a myriad of symbols illustrating the life of Christ and the way of Jesus. Brother Eion says the main purpose of the cross was to celebrate the evening liturgy, much as the early church has done since 400 A.D. We gathered around the cross in the neighboring community of Moone to worship in a similar manner.

"For my eyes have seen your salvation prepared in the s…

Mary of the Irish, pray for us

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Pilgrim, in your journey you may travel far,
For pilgrim, its a long way to find out who you are.
- Enya, "Pilgrim" on her album, A Day Without Rain
In her book, Rekindling the Flame, Rita Minehaw says that "At the heart of all pilgrims lies the hope and dream that, by traveling to a special place associated with the divine, they might somehow be changed and renewed." She says that to be a pilgrim is to invite change, conversion, new perspectives and a deeper life. And then the key - she concludes that the journey to a sacred place is just as important as the arrival. Today the journey included visits to sites related to St. Brigid of Kildare. We visited St. Brigid's Cathedral where it is said she established her abbey and church in 480 A.D. She was the leader for a double monastery for men and women and it was the center for education, culture, worhsip and and hospitality in Ireland. Brigid's fire, a perpetual flame, burned in Kildare for more than a thousand…

Christ when I arise

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Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me.
These words are often attributed to St. Patrick who grew up in Britain but who was sent to Ireland and sold into slavery. He escapd to France, but in a dream, he heard the voice of the Irish calling him back to Ireland. He answered that call and is attributed to bringing Christianity to Ireland.The stained glass above is from a church built on the site where St. Patrick is said to have built the first church in Ireland in 432 A.D. As we visited this site, we indeed felt Christ above us and beneath us.

A house of prayer for all people

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About halfway between Belfast and Dublin in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland is a Benedictine community called Holy Cross Monastery. Begun by the Abbey of Le Bec in France just over 10 years ago, its hope is to follow the vision of Isaiah 56:7, "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people."

These brothers want to contribute to reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants "in a land marked by reciprocal violence and stained by the blood of Christian brothers and sisters."

Our group spent a day at the monastery attending prayers, working in the gardens and visiting with the brothers. Brother Thierry said the monastery was established here when the abbot in Le Bec said it was time to try something painful.

So, in 2004, the new monastery was dedicated on the ecumenical day of prayer with a prayer of forgiveness. But forgiveness, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the world, is not easy.

Brother Thierry observed that both Protestants and Catholics in this co…

The path of peace

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Bless to us, O God, the earth beneath our feet.
Bless to us, O God, the path whereon we go.
Bless to us, O God, the people whom we meet.

Outside the abbey on Iona, St. Martin's cross has stood for more than one thousand years. St. Martin was a fourth century Roman soldier who had a vision of Christ after sharing his cloak with a poor man. After his baptism, he became a conscientious objector to serving in the Roman army. Later, he became bishop of Tours and played an important role in sharing the church's mission with the Celts.

Our pilgrimage day began at the cross and took us across the island to many places important in the story of Iona, including Columba's bay (the photo I used in an ealier post) and Duni, the highest point of the island where you can see for many miles in all directions.

It is beautiful here today, sunny and warm, which apparently is not often the case. Today, I'm thankful for my fellow pilgrims. This evening, at the service in the abbey, we sang, &qu…

Creation is God's first book

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The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork.
- Psalm 19:1

This is my view this morning from the other side of the island. No one else in sight. God's handiwork for me alone.

The Celts believed creation was God's first book and scripture was God's second book. I heard from both this morning, the first as I walked the island in the early light and the second when I participated in worship at the Abbey this Sunday morning.

The pastor shared the story from Luke 7 of the woman forgiven. And Jesus responds to the Pharisee that those who are forgiven much love much. The pastor asked us what we are ready to offer Jesus and what offerings from others, like the Pharisee, are we overlooking? And just as important, how do we respond when gifts are given to us?

And then this verse from a closing song:

Lord of all beauty, I give you my all,
If I should disown you, I'd stumble and fall,
But sworn in your service, your word I'll obey,
And walk…

Travelers on the way

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What is it we hope for from this trip we ask each other as we begin the journey. I'm not sure I can ask that question except to say I'm glad I'm on the journey, seeking to know God, myself and others more fully.

There are many on this Celtic pilgrimage I already know, old comrades like Mary, Willard and Marlene, but many more I am just learning to know, some with backgrounds that intersect my own.

We are all looking forward to this first leg of the journey to Iona, traveling first by bus along the lochs to Oban and then by ferry to the island of Mull where we take another bus to the other side of the island and, finally, board another ferry for Iona.

We have come on journeys of our own,
To a place where journeys meet.

Are you with us?

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Like many major cities, the downtown of Glasgow features the old and the new side by side. This old manufacturing and shipping city is reinventing itself. I admired the new and old facades alike as I walked through the city in the morning light.
Later, I toured the Glasgow Art School, a wonderful, quirky building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, clearly a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, though I'm told they never had any connection with each other. How could the same spirit be so evident in both of them? (Ah, maybe that's more of a spiritual question.)
My mid-day the Celtic Pilgrimmage folks were beginning to gather. A number of us visited the administrative offices of the Iona community in the early afternoon. We were introduced to their rule for life which includes a commitment to regular Bible study and prayer, stewardship of time and money, a commitment to work for peace and justice and the willingness to meet with each other regularly and be accountable to each ot…

It's a mystery

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There's Nessie! Do you see her? Somewhere in the deep of Loch Ness, some say there's a creature. Today I took a look for myself, along with a lot of other tourists. Nothing there as far as I could see.

Earlier this morning another mystery was clearer as I read I Timothy (1:12-13). The Apostle Paul says that the "the grace of our Lord overflowed for me" even though Paul didn't think he deserved it. If Paul didn't deserve Christ's love, who of us does? Not me, I guarantee you. But Jesus, Paul says, strengthens us and judges us faithful. I'm needing that today.

Last evening the MCC U.S. board announced my appointment as the transitional executive director of MCC U.S. for the next three years. Another mystery! How could this happen?

It has been interesting watching this process play out a continent away. I'm grateful for Christ's love and the words of encouragement and promises of prayer from so many friends.

Lord help me. It's a mystery, but I k…

More safe am I within thy hand

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The Tron Kirk Steeple of the Church of St. Mary in downtown Glasgow features my patron angel. Or at least I'm calling it that. Lots happening back home that affects my future but here I am on the eve of a three week Celtic pilgrimage in Glasgow. I claim St. Colomba's prayer as I start this journey . . . Alone, with none but thee, my God, I journey on my way; What need I fear when thou are near, O king of night and day, More safe am I within thy hand, Than if a host did round me stand. Keep me safe, Lord, and all of the merry pilgrims who are arriving in Glasgow from various points in North America. Bless us with a clearer knowledge of who you are and your purpose for us.

God's blessing for all people in all countries in all parts of the world

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It was definitely a festive atmosphere this week in the lobby of the Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport. Brian was returning home from Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq and more than 100 military personnel and family members were there to greet him. Flags and red, white and blue balloons were everywhere.

There were signs, too. Along with the "Welcome Home" signs was one that said "God bless the USA" and another that simply said "Thank God."

Thank God? For Brian's save return, surely, but I had a sense the crowd was saying more than that, invoking God's blessing on America's war in Iraq and the success of our military.

Emotion filled the room as Brian strode through the gate. I was moved by this homecoming, too, but I found myself also thinking about the Iraqis Brian had left behind, equally loved by their families and friends but unable to "go home" and leave behind the violence and killing.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation …