A Year of RE’s

design and post by Victoria Loorz

design and post by Victoria Loorz

When you decide to set a year of themes, at first you don’t really understand the implications.  Something SEEMS right, and you go with it. One of our first tasks, as the four co-pastors of this new experimental team of leaders at Echoes, was thinking through themes for the year.  After a fun session of brainstorming and asking Charis about the core identity and life of the community she has nurtured the past five years, we all came to this mutual sense of “Yes” about a year of Re’s.  

Reframe, Release, Revive, Resurge,

Rewild, Resist, Repair, Remember,

Reveal, Remind, Relent

Re is a common root word, of course, meaning “back” or “again.”  Interesting theme for 2019. I believe we are on the cusp of a magnificent shift forward in our culture and in our collective spiritual awakening.  I sense that not in spite of the obvious cultural resistance to change (“Let’s make America great again!”), but because of it.  Regressions are often a sign that change is on the horizon.

Joseph Campbell captured this pattern when he observed the progression of all great stories:  the Hero’s Journey begins with a Call to Adventure, into some new perspective or way of being or way of living. And then, just about immediately, the resistance begins.  He calls it “Refusing the Call.” Those who never answer the call get stuck in this regression, pining for how it used to be, stuck in regret, rebellion or a whole lot of other negative RE words that keep you in misery.  Everyone else faces the resistance, eventually, and leans into the adventure of What is Waiting to Become through them. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or quit an addiction, or find new life after a major loss knows this process intimately.

Focusing on the looking back and again-ing acknowledges a deep, theological truth.  That in the act of reframing and remembering and renewing, we imply that there is a framing and a membering and a newness that always was.  And our spiritual practice, then, of returning back again to that place of “original blessing” (Matthew Fox’s words), is a return to an original rightness and meaning, which is necessary for us as we feel caught in the claws of pervasive perceived disconnection.  

Religion, in fact, is the call to re-connect.  Re: “again” and Ligios: “connection", the same Latin root as ligament: sinews which hold the bones, the structures together.  The whole venture and adventure of religion is about the journey of re-connecting. With God, yes. With other people: your family and community and all the Others. Your species and not your species. Both like you and unlike you. Restoring original, kindred unity. And, also, a reconnection with the core of your own soul, the dwelling place of the Holy, of Christ.  

Rather than an institution of separation, of who’s IN and who’s OUT…what if, instead, religion were a process of re-connecting with what is already whole?  A connection back again to our own wholeness, our common spiritual vitality, our identity and role and sense of meaning as humans. What if religion was the re-membering of ourselves back into the reality that we are not separate at all, but part of a living system of inter-being?  And what if a religious person is actually a person who says “Yes” to becoming a ligamenting agent of restoration in the world?

We didn’t really think about it at the time, but starting on a new adventure as a community with a plan to begin with a year of REs, of looking back, is actually a pretty good idea.  It’s an invitation to explore together the possibility that the point of a spiritual life might just be participation in a restored, reunited, renewed, rewilded relationship with All That Is.  




What is a Calling?

Photo by  Richard Price  on  Unsplash  // Post by Jory Mickelson

Photo by Richard Price on Unsplash // Post by Jory Mickelson

When I am uncertain where to begin, I often begin with words. As a writer, poet, and preacher, words are not only how I express myself, but also how I think my way through the world. As the adage goes, “How can I know what I think about a subject, until I see what I have written?”

So let’s begin with the word “calling.”

1)      A strong urge toward a particular way of life; a vocation.

The problem with words sometimes is that they lead to other words. Vocation is a nebulous word in today’s world of unfettered capitalism. Almost all definitions I came across with vocation and calling mention profession, trade, or career. While there is something to be said for being suited to one’s work, I do not believe we are our jobs. Our worth is not determined by our paid work. Who we are at our core has very little to do with our outward productivity, our worldly achievements, and our socio-economic status.

Vocation can also be steeped in religious tradition; a vocation as a call to ordained religious life. And for some people that may indeed be the case, but for most of us, we do not have this call. So what can vocation mean to us outside of our outward profession or career track?

My favorite definition I came across says that a vocation is a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. Or as the calling definition mentions, “an urge.” This is a great place to start.

What are our urges? Not our surface urges to check Facebook, to get up and stretch, or to purchase the latest item in our personalized Google advertisement stream.

What are our deeper urges? What are our daydreams? What are the longings of our heart?

To be able to hear these in today’s world of continual distraction, we need to make space for stillness. For quiet. For wondering. We need to make space between our errand lists and our Netflix queue to come to know what is lurking under our surface, as the Irish poet William Butler Yeats says, at “the deep heart’s core.”

So stillness can lead us to listening. And listening can help us being to hear our own calling. Today I will leave us with a poem by William Butler Yeats that describes entering into the deep places within—the bee-loud glade of our own hearts.

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; 
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, 
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, 
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wing.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day 
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, 
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Gratitude, Liberation, and Thanksgiving

Photo by  Ethan Weil  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

An aboriginal woman from central Queensland, Australia, Lilla Watson, and her aboriginal collective, have been credited with the saying,

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

At a local pub on Monday night members from Echoes and another church engaged in conversation about gratitude. One of the tougher things to recognize about gratitude (especially at Thanksgiving time) is that it can come as a result of the oppression of others. Thanksgiving is understandably a day of mourning for many, many Native American persons living in what is called the USA. I’m thankful for a roof over my head, a job, an education, food on the table, security….all things that have come as an after-effect of the genocide of approx 90% of all Native Americans who lived in the US. The survivors of this genocide continue to live in marked oppression.

What do I do with my gratitude when it comes at the expense of others?

The fellow pastor who was co-facilitating this pub conversation, Emma Donohew, told us about a book titled, “Grateful,” by Diana Butler Bass. The author says that it is short-changing gratitude to always look at it as something that we feel by looking backwards – we are grateful for things that have happened in the past. Instead, our gratitude needs to be in a future tense as well.

Our conversation group struggled with this. How does one move gratitude into the future?

I think part of the answer is embodying the notion that our liberation is truly bound together. I can’t be truly free to experience the good things in my life when they are withheld from others. Humanity, and all life on this planet are interconnected. For you and I to be free, all need to be free.

And it won’t be the colonials who set the oppressed free. It HAS to be us – all of us - working together, sharing power, listening, acting, humanizing….and sharing in a common liberation.