A visit, a sanctuary 


A painting by Enedina Vasquez

We have spent three Sundays listening to the strong and powerful voices of wise men and prophets. Men sharing news of what is to come – proclaiming good news and warning of the importance to prepare.

This Sunday the themes of sharing good news and preparation are ever-present yet we now shift to the gentle, honest exchange between two women. Filled with excitement and awe they share their insights. Together they can  acknowledge the holy children they each have been called to birth and mother. They can openly share their excitement and concern. They can support one another as they experience the wisdom they have gained, the sacred they now carry.

Elizabeth and Mary greet one another with a sacred kiss and in her elder-wisdom, Elizabeth shelters Mary as she gathers her strength to proclaim God’s good news to the world. The good news that justice will rain down and mercy will be ever known.  The scene has changed.

The time is near. As we have heard in the past weeks and here on this fourth Sunday of Advent, all of creation is preparing. May we continue to do the same. 

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found—
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold, *
and you are welcome
and more than welcome

—Jan Richardson 
from Circle of Grace

…where were you?

…where were you?

It is an anniversary–10 years ago today, September 11, our sense of peace and security was shaken to its core. There are few in this country and world that do not remember where they were on that Tuesday morning. Almost anyone asked, could tell a story of how the horrors and uncertainties of that day affected them personally.

I can picture exactly where I was as news began to report the attacks in New York and the Pentagon. Working as a chaplain in a large teaching hospital, I remained on high alert, prepared to respond to unspeakable traumas every day. The morning routine had been normal — it was time for a cup of coffee, after making first rounds in my assigned units. Sitting with another staff chaplain, we begin to notice small clusters of people gathering to talk about airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Nowhere in my wildest imagination would I have considered what was to come.

…where were you?

So many people can tell a story of how his or her lives were changed that day. The natural response was to contact love ones – to hear their voices or see their faces. On that morning we, myself, my brother and sister, anticipated the return of our parents from a two-week holiday in Paris, France. Their flight was to land in Newark, New Jersey sometime mid morning. In the blink of an eye their return became of grave concern. No one knew where these lethal planes had originated and waiting for that news would seem a lifetime. I immediately wanted to contact my brother and sister. What could we do? How could we find our parents in the midst of such chaos? Mom and Dad had been with my aunt, dad’s sister, and her husband who were still in Paris. I called my uncle’s office, spoke to his secretary and gave her information on how to contact me when/if she received news from my uncle. I then called my brother, who lived near Washington DC, a chaplain at a private preparatory school. My sister-in-law answered their phone from the floor of her basement with small children near. The next exit from their house was the Pentagon. They had felt the ground shake as the plane crashed into the Pentagon’s walls. The noise of rescue vehicles and helicopters filled their yard and home. Okay–now there was a concern for parents flying into the New York area and for my brother’s family so very close to another attack. A call to my sister brought comfort; she and her family were safe, alert and aware.

It was not long before we all knew that the planes used for these horrific acts were domestic. They had left American cities on course to wreak havoc on other American cities. Such acts were un-thinkable. Who could do these things? As the day unfolded news began to report that these actions were planned in middle-eastern countries far away – by people known as terrorists (a term that would become all too familiar in the days and years to follow). Even hearing these details, the question remained — where were the international flights – my mother and father? It was late morning before my pager alerted me to a call from my uncle’s office. News of my parent’s location! There would be no landing on America soil, that day or many days to follow. They were on route to a large landing strip, an Air Force military base in Gander Newfoundland, where they would land and remain for over 3 days, while waiting for clearance. Since that time a book has been written about this small town’s big heart as they hosted and cared for these foreign flights.


…where were you?

At a table in front of a hospital television, I remember returning calls to my brother and sister. There would still be much to do to build the bridge needed for us to be in contact with our parents. For now we could give thanks for their safety.

That afternoon, just like the day began, I sat with the same chaplain sharing coffee and reflecting on all we had heard and experienced since that morning. Feeling somewhat helpless, we tried to think of who might need our prayers and support. We soon found ourselves in the office of a professor at the school of medicine. He was Muslim. Nowhere in our wildest imaginations did we see this moment in time. Though we were quiet, we shared prayers of gratitude and peace.

…where were you?

the freedom an anchor can bring

“May the cords that hold or ground us have enough give
so we may still run wild and fly high…”

a sunflower planted by Piper!

This is quite a thought, a prayer, a reflection! That which grounds us can often feel restricting–oppressing. Yet as I read, I am intrigued to think that once again it is all about perspective.   Just like the strong roots of the sunflower securing the flower as it grows tall, and stretches toward the warm light. Or that glass of water which we either see half empty or half full, there are always choices to make about the way we perceive the world around us and our lives.
For all the times I have considered the restriction that an anchor might bring, this reflection has been welcomed during a time of transition in my life. As change occurs and the future is filled with possibilities, I am grateful for the things that anchor me– my faith, my family, my friends, my delight in the quiet of an evening sky.
When the opportunities to “run wild and fly high” are before us, the protection of an anchor safely grounding us offers a chance to test the heights.
I thank the Rev. Mark for this perspective. May we all be blessed with the security to soar!

Mark Bozzuti-Jones

We all need anchors

A person, place or thing that grounds us

Love, passion, hope, faith, reason, nature or grace

Who or what will keep us from going adrift?

Hopefully whatever binds us does that gently

Hopefully the ones we hold dear we never suffocate

Hold us

Guide us

Keep us

Bless us

And God bless those whom we carry in our hearts as we pray they find the way, find a way

Ground the children in something real

Calm our hearts and restless spirit

May the cords that hold or ground us have enough give so we may still run wild and fly high

Knowing we are held forever

all are welcome!

How often do we struggle to include all of our worshiping community? It is why we have traditionally scheduled in 8 AM and later service, one with music and one without. In many places there are also  efforts to include families with small children in their own service — one which  provides the sense of freedom for   movement  and conversation.


Some of my favorite times of worship are on high holy days, when we are all put together in one large service. Often we hear — “we didn’t realize there were so many children in this parish!”. It is a good thing to realize this — experiencing the whole family can be quite inspiring.

But inspiration comes in many ways. A variety of services meets the need to be a welcoming community. The article above shares such a service. May it be inspiration for your own liturgical planning!

“Do we hear what they hear?”

The last week of Advent — the bulletins are warm, the pageant ‘organized’ by dedicated people and the miracle of this season. Tomorrow evening we will gather to green the church and by the glow of candles the last week of Advent will increase in its anticipation.

Have you asked your children to tell the story of Christmas? We know they listen even when they appear focused on paper and crayons. But do we hear what they hear?

May this telling of the story bring a smile —

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