Two weeks ago we blessed our trails, outside, with water and asperges and prayers, conversation and reflections, and dogs in tow (as it was our ‘every-second-Sunday-pet-friendly-Sunday’).
Some among us met us at strategic points along the way so that they could have access by way of the pavement.
Some among us went along on the pilgrimage by way of a hand-held labyrinth.
The labyrinth holds the truth that every journey outward is really a journey inward. And that every pilgrimage is made for the sacred truth that God is with us in every step, and that we embark on any and every pilgrimage for the deep and singular purpose, of going with God.
Beth Ellis is one among us who used the hand-held labyrinth (and we celebrate her recent trade-in of a therapeutic boot for ‘real’ shoes!). She shared with me that she had a surprisingly profound experience with this paper labyrinth. I asked if she would be willing to share the same with you.
She said yes, so here, in my parson’s letter, I have included her reflection.
Thank you ever so much Beth.
“It was a line on paper to wile away the time as Catherine Giel filled the sanctuary with musical fragrance.
Follow within the line was all you had to do to arrive at the center, the heart.
As the pen made it's way around curve after curve, my mind stopped controlling and I just focused on the path.
I wasn't expecting anything except passage of time, when, rounding a curve with my point, I had this thought: 'follow where You lead'.
Again, another bend or two and this came into my mind: 'honor things brought into my life'.
What was this?
What or where were these thoughts coming from?
When the very next thought relayed was: 'it's Your majesty'.
The next thought that came to me on the path was: ‘long periods of introspection yet nearness in fellowship with You'.
I continued following the course around another bend and then to another.
Once again I received the understanding that: 'this is a journey and a process'
And: 'I want to see Jesus in all of this and after life'.
Continuing on to the center I understood: 'continue to follow the path until I walk into the Holy Light of peace and joy'.
Amen! to this hand-held labyrinth walk.
This is the trail map of our beautiful wooded acreage. Approximately. Drawn by yours truly. I made it in hopes that we would use it for the trail blessing on Sunday. The weather forecast is foreboding, but we will see. In the meantime, isn't it fun to see a birds-eye view of our 'Walking in Love'?!
Worker bees arrived early last Sunday morning to brew a hot pot in our new coffee urn and to set up the labyrinth in the parish hall, so that we could all start our Advent journey of love 'on the right foot’. I was comforted to see Duffy out sweeping the front porte-cache when I drove up, thinking something like “Oh look, everything’s ready to go with a little extra time for a finishing touch, sweeping the walk. How lovely. He looks like a little shop-keeper in Greece.”
Much to my surprise (and dismay, with a huge douse of shock), the parish hall had been set up on Saturday for a formal dinner: wineglasses on tables, silverware wrapped in napkins next to china plates, gold lame’ table runners atop floor length white table clothes, and white slipcovers for chairs throughout.. you get the picture. . .
I wish I had recorded the bunch of us scurrying about lifting tables and chairs, in all their array, whisking them to the perimeter of the room to set up the 35’ diameter labyrinth in the middle, only to roll it all up and crate it before the 1:00 dinner party arrived, then zipping around to restore the formal dining room arrangements, everything in place!
I felt like we were church mice playing tricks!
So utterly comical in HINDSIGHT.
Now this week, the worship and music team planned that we would continue our Advent Journey of Love on foot, and go outside for a blessing of the trails (on pet Sunday, get it? A dog walk too?), and we would walk through the woods with meditations and prayers and holy water to splash. . . and as it turns out, it promises to be 39’ and raining. If only it would snow instead.
Just as an added bonus to things going berserk. . . it seems that Seagraves plumbing is going to have to dig up our front lawn to find the roots or crushed pipe or whatever dinosaur bones might be had, that are backing up the commodes.
(notice: please use the bathrooms in the back hall on Sunday!)
Someone mentioned that it might be the Mercury Retrograde causing all of this. . .
Ultimately, it’s just the true nature of the Journey of Love.
Calendar conflicts, faulty communication, elbow grease, cross purposes, tons of heave hoeing, generous attitudes, humor, camaraderie, creative problem solving, emergency problem solving, errand running, expertise in plumbing, . . .need I say more?
The true nature of the journey of love is that we love our way through it all. Through every step of it. It’s love in the trenches, the rubber meeting the road, the in-situ opportunity to live the love.
We said “yes” to the journey with Mary last week. When she, alone at the well in Nazareth, engaged the Angel Gabriel and said “yes” to the love and the overwhelming fire of the Holy Spirit, with a certain unknowing about where it would take her.
So, we said yes, too, and look where we are in our certain unknowing, but journeying and loving, nonetheless.
Mary ropes us into another risky step of the Journey of Love this week. She visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant in her old age, and tells her story. She sings it, as a matter of fact, and we call it: Magnificat. ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . .
So, we will go too, into the vulnerable place of loving and being loved, and not being alone at a well, but in community where our yeses ~ together ~ magnify the greatness and glory and joy of Love come down.
This is the essence of faith community. It is this journey in and with community that moves us out of loneliness and into relationship. Out of our despair, into hope; fear into joy; darkness into light. As Isaiah would have it, it is a journey that delivers “A Garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning”.
This Advent Journey of Love, is Isaiah 61 in promise, it is Highpoint Episcopal Community Church, in practice.
In it with you, for the Journey of Love,
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?!
Advent is upon us, and we are ready!
The Worship and Music team is working hand in glove with the Spiritual Formation team to create a wonderful Advent "Journey of Love"!
Read on to hear what we have in store.
Advent One (this Sunday):
Labyrinth Walking and Spiritual Formation series
We have secured the labyrinth from the Cathedral and are making it available in the parish hall both before and after church, for a meditative walk. A way to physically engage the soul’s journey of love, which we will begin together in Spiritual Formation at 9:30. A labyrinth is an ancient way for pilgrims to observe the practice of journey and pilgrimage of the soul. One might want to journey hundreds of miles on a pilgrim’s path set out around the globe, or set a socked-foot on a labyrinth and never leave home, yet all the same, finding the journey inward to be the journey of love.
Advent Two: (which coincides with our pet friendly Sunday for December)
Blessing of the Trails
During the Sermon and ‘Prayers of the People’ segment of the liturgy we will take our Journey of Love outdoors. Setting out from the nave, we will cross the driveway onto the ‘Walk of Wisdom’ (as marked out years ago by Bill Sunderland), and proceed to walk the woodland trails around the perimeter, circumnavigating the parking lot and the parish house. With thoughtful meditations along the way, and Blessings with Holy Water, the journey will lead us on through the recently reclaimed land from our November work day (the bigger pet enclosure which Roger Loney affectionately dubbed ‘the back 40’), and back into the nave through the memorial garden.
Advent One, Two, Three and Four:
Lighting of the Advent Wreath
(by members of the Spiritual Formation Team) and
A Eucharistic Prayer from “Enriching our Worship”
The Eucharistic Prayer, also known as The Great Thanksgiving, is a biblically based liturgy for celebrating communion. There are 4 different forms in the prayer book. You know these. We use them all. (Think ‘interstellar space’ or ‘in your infinite love you made us for yourself’. . . )
Well, about 20 years ago, the Standing Committee for the national church approved some supplemental resources to the Prayer Book, which include several other approved Eucharistic Prayers. The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany center the heart on the Incarnation. The Eucharistic Prayer we chose, with the worship and music team, uses language, imagery and metaphor which are rooted in the Luke stories and the prophets, which inspired the ‘Journey of Love’ curriculum we’re using for spiritual formation.
We're in for a beautiful and deeply spiritual Advent.
Keeping company with all of you in the waiting hours,
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.
Sunday Worship Service 10:30 am - Christian Formation 9:30 am
4945 High Point Road, Sandy Springs, Georgia 30342
Gallery 4945 hours:
Wednesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 6 pm