Thursday, December 09, 2010

Interfaith Opening & Closing Blessings

Last night I was part of the "WinterFest" celebration at the women's college in the town where I pastor. Knowing that although it would probably be fairly Christmassy, the students are of a myriad of faiths and no faith, I wanted to keep my parts--the opening and closing blessings--fairly universal or even neutral. Below is what I came up with. Please feel free to use and adapt to your needs, just give me credit.

Opening blessing:

Let us gather.

Let us gather and be warmed, protected from the cold and wind.

Let us gather and be brightened, awash in light as the days grow ever shorter.

Let us gather and be still, free for a moment from the busyness of holidays, finals, and end-of-semester preparations.

Let us gather and be energized, allowing word and song to soothe and awaken our souls.

Let us gather and be present, here in this place and time, open to whatever may move us.

Let us gather, and may our gathering be blessed.

Closing blessing:

May we depart from this place having been blessed with warmth, light, stillness, energy, and presence, and may we go forth to bring the same blessings into the world.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Unexpected Guidance

Last night, I went to Hartford, CT with a neighbor/clergy friend of mine to the premier of a documentary entitled, "The Calling" (scheduled to air on PBS around Dec. 20-21). The film follows seven Muslims, Catholics, Evangelical Christians and Jews on their journey to becoming clergy. Two former Hartford Seminary students--at least one of whom was featured in the film, and both of whom are now Muslim chaplains--were on hand to answer questions.

I went thinking it would be interesting to hear about others' sense of call, and especially from the perspective of other faiths. I did not expect the Holy Spirit to use the opportunity to offer me guidance.

See, I recently sent in an application for a part-time job at a local supermarket. Although I know it'd be a stretch time- and energy-wise, I could use the money, and I could handle it for a few months if it meant I could pay down some of my debt. Our church budget is not looking great for this year, which means no pay raise, and our health insurance premium is going up, so I'll actually be getting a pay decrease. I'm already stretched to my limit. I hadn't even heard anything from the store, but I was wrestling with my decision. Was I not trusting God to lead me through this? Was it really worth the loss of most of my free time--which I've been trying to dedicate to art?

My first clue that the Holy Spirit might be wanting to get my attention was in the film. A young socially-active rabbi quoted Lila Watson, an aboriginal activist--the same quote that is the focus of my next project. I thought it was an interesting coincidence.

At the very end of the evening, when most audience members had slipped out the door, the host asked the two panelists to give a closing reflection. He asked the woman to go first. She hesitated for quite a few seconds before picking up the microphone. "You've caught me very much off guard," she told him. She began by talking about how many of us are stuck at 9-5 jobs, or jobs we don't like, but maybe we do it for good reasons. This made me immediately think of my grocery store application--that's how I'd feel about it. I thought, "Ok, I'm with you."

Then she said, "But God has given us each talents."

Um, wait, what? My heart thudded. Was she talking to me? Was she giving me the message that I'm supposed to use my talent?

She spoke a little more about using the talents that God has given us, and said some things about being on the job.

And then the clincher: she ended by saying, "Each of us has the opportunity to be great."

My heart gave one last big thud. Just that afternoon, I'd posted some thoughts on greatness as the "status" of my shop's Facebook page.

It seemed very clear to me that the Holy Spirit had taken advantage of a woman with no prepared words. I went up to her afterwards and shared that I felt the Spirit had worked through her in her moment caught off guard to offer me guidance with a question in my life. She laughed and hugged me, and said she was only the vessel. I told her I well understood that feeling, and thanked her for being open to be such a vehicle.

I guess I won't be taking that supermarket job after all.

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