2495 Fox Gap Road • Bangor, PA • 18013
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Date: Friday, March 1, 2013
Intentional Community by Matilda Chase
Recently I’ve been thinking about intentional communities. I suppose it is in part because of Kirkridge’s renewed partnership with the Iona Community. It may also be a result of preparing for the Kirkridge Pilgrimage to Italy next spring. Whatever the reason, intentional communities have been on my mind. It occurs to me that Kirkridge Retreat Center exists today because John Oliver Nelson was thinking about intentional communities when he founded Kirkridge in the early 1940′s.
Being in an intentional community usually involves living by a rule. There is a commitment to following a specified rule including the discipline of prayer each day. There is the recognition that even when members are apart, they are still actively engaged in a similar activity. These are among the disciplines of being in an intentional community. There are several of us who have embarked on an experiment to see what it would be like to be part of an intentional community here at Kirkridge. We’ve agreed to follow the Iona Community Rule and see where that might lead.
The Iona Rule includes daily reading of scripture and prayer, accounting for our use of our time and resources, including money, working for peace and justice in the world, and meeting to be accountable to one another in our following of the discipline.
Our first gathering was small, but it turned out to be a lovely Saturday morning in early September. We came together to worship, to connect deeply with one another, to share a meal, and to dream together about what it might mean to be committed to one another and follow a discipline. That day’s highlights for me included sharing together how we approach the discipline of reading scripture and praying each day. There were as many approaches as there were people present. It was a rich and meaningful conversation that reinforced the idea that there is not one way to do a thing, that we can learn from one another new ways to enter into our practice and that not every method is as useful to a person as another might be.
I was also reminded in this gathering how wonderful it is to share food and conversation around a table. On that particular day as we gathered on the deck of Quiet Ways, the sun shone through the leaves of the canopy of trees above us, the air was warm and the potluck food was delicious! That meeting was encouraging. It gives me hope that this experiment of ours might actually be one that continues.
A place of deep sharing, a place of openness and honesty, a place of safety and love…I yearn for this place. Kirkridge and our intentional community are such a place.
Creating Holy Space by Brooks Smith
We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.
Wendel Berry, that saint of the soil and soul, blessed and burdened us with this poem during an interview with Bill Moyers.
My wife and I visited Paris recently and so touched symbols of the historic struggle against the tyranny of kings. We stayed near the site of the Bastille, visited Versailles and walked under the Arch de Triumphe. Napoleon built the Arch to celebrate his conquest of much of Europe. The Arch imitated the structure in Rome built by the Emperor Titus to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem.
We know that the struggle against the tyranny of kings continues on today. We battle those forces in our culture that would deny life and light to every human being. We face the ongoing challenge of resisting evil in other nations while we also resist evil in our own nation. Those `Born in the USA,’ and those converted to the American way of life, struggle to balance pride in America’s history and reality with a necessary spirit of humility and deep repentance.
We still are called to confront the tyranny of kings–those kingly structures that reinforce unearned and unholy privilege.
Some people in our lives have gone with us into battle and they have supported our struggle against oppressive tyrannies. Experiencing the presence, warmth and love of our compatriots gives us courage, hope and faith. With tears in our heart and also joy in our voice, we can proclaim together–We shall overcome. O deep in my heart I do believe.
And some places also bless us with memory and spirit–some places breathe compassion and courage and vision. We all have our particular places, and many of us have a shared place – Kirkridge, the church on the ridge. A place of worship built amidst the glories of the natural world.
In the Rodin Museum in Paris, we enjoyed the sculpture often titled Praying Hands–but the title Rodin gave to the intertwined, up-reaching hands was Cathedral. Rodin celebrates the mystery of human yearning and spirit creating holy space. A daily task for each of us and a daily task for Kirkridge.
Honoring the Land, Celebrating the Season by Denise Crawn
Having just arrived home from a month long trip to Scotland with a week on Iona, I could not wait to see the colors of the trees here on the mountain. Yes, they were colorful in Scotland however, here, they always seem more beautiful than any place else!
While I personally have deep Christian roots, I have always found my connection with the Divine through my relationship with nature. This has led me to the study of Celtic Shamanism and over the past year, I have spent quite a bit of time in England, Ireland and Scotland working with the stories and myths of these lands.
As with many indigenous traditions, there is a time of year that represents the celebration of the Harvest. In Scotland and Ireland, this time was known as the Celtic New Year, or Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), better known to us today as Halloween time.
In ancient Celtic times, it was believed that at Samhain the veil between worlds was at its thinnest, and that it was possible to communicate with the ancestors and others who had passed by saying their name aloud and honoring their memory. Yet to protect themselves from unwanted communication from the less desirable spirits, turnips and gourds were carved ; candles were nestled inside them and placed in windows, people dressed in frightening masks and candy was placed out as offerings to the faeries and the spirits, all in hopes of keeping evil spirits at bay. Does any of this sound familiar?
As the Celts believed that everything began in the darkness, their year was divided into two parts; the dark (which began approx. Nov. 1) and the light (which began approx. May 1). Samhain, therefore, represented the beginning of the New Year, a time of reflection, remembering those who have come before us, a time for deep inner growth, and a time to take stock and consider the future.
This past year at Kirkridge has been a year filled with exciting new ideas, shifts and changes. Most recently we have honored the ancestors of this land and protected its future through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
We have begun to look toward the future with the construction of a new Welcome Center and Bookstore, new projects such as the TIP program, www.tipatkirkridge.org, and the possibility of
by Marcia Gleckler
The above title of a wonderful little book for children (and adults) by Cooper Edens is in itself an invitation to reflection.
The opening page of the delightful little book sets the scene:
This very night
while you lie quietly in your bed,
open your eyes.
Now, look out your window!
For even at this yawning hour,
so many of your friends
are working to keep
the world magical.
For me, Kirkridge has been a “Caretaker of Wonder.” As pilgrims in the world, we find our way there for soul renewal. There, we meet other souls on the same journey. They, too, may be looking for meaning during restless times of wakefulness at night, wondering about family and friends, and even those in far-flung places of the universe who touch us and are affected by us in ways we cannot fathom.
The book is filled with whimsical drawings of mythical figures with the assigned tasks of keeping the moon company, feeding him when he’s too thin and watching his diet when he’s too full. They’re also weaving the meadows and telling trees where to stand-all of them working behind the scenes.
The last page challenges the reader to help with the many tasks of keeping the world magical, inviting us all to become one of the Caretakers of Wonder.
At Kirkridge, we sit at the feet of presenters who share their experience of being rooted in the mystical traditions that enliven our own spirituality, inviting us to nourish our growing understanding about our particular place in the universe.
We take time for reflection with those who lead us in small group meditations about living in peace. How do we become peacemakers?
Eloquent poets take us on a journey celebrating poetry and the human spirit; we keep those magical words alive, and learn to listen for their message of how to care for the wondrous world around us. We may find our own focus through the use of poetry and clay to care for our own souls, to become better caretakers.
Sometimes the role of caretaker takes on new dimensions that require us to learn how to forgive, modeled on God’s forgiveness. Or write our own personal creed, or harvest the wisdom of our lives.
One of the wonders of Kirkridge is to arrive there and begin to breathe deeply of the surroundings. In all seasons, the beauty of those hills and valleys in the shadow of the Mountain, remind us of the loving care given to this sacred place by others who have walked its paths. We marvel as we remember those before us, and join the crowd of witnesses whose lives have intersected ours for the many years that Kirkridge has opened its heart to travelers on the journey. Its warm hospitality greeting us with familiar smiling faces and hearty and delicious food, in an environment that has obviously been cared for so lovingly, is like coming home.
by Marcia Gleckler