Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. 
                                                                         -James 3:1

Dear Friends,

My concern always rises when I read that verse. Pleasantly though. It is a warning that bolsters me with its clear-eyed view of teaching, and its encouragement to humility.

It is bold to instruct another. There are some basics we can easily advocate. "You shall not kill." "You shall not bear false witness (that is, lie!)." But the farther we get from the basics, the more subjective our convictions. And perhaps that makes the question not whether to teach, but in what way to teach. Again I hear a call to humility.

And it seems to me as I hear James this week that the call is not just upon preachers, professors, and instructors, but upon us all. For who among us does not offer a word of instruction now and then? (In my case, they flow minute-by-minute to my children at home.)

James' encouragement is to remember the same self that teaches is the self that stumbles, and to let the teaching embody both our hope for goodness, truth, rightness, and our knowledge of our own fallibility.

I do not think that in an election week, and with the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh that I need to connect the dots too closely to how this has profound meaning for our common life. Tweets from both the presidential candidates of 2016, one of whom is now president, have scorned James' instruction this week, and they are a shadow over our common work of community. The Gospel is needed so much, my friends. This precious lens that we hold in our fragile hands. Let us pair boldness with humility, and share what we know of both.

In Christ,

Reed

Dear Friends,

This Sunday is a day of returning, regathering. Our seasonal ritual of "coming in from the harvest" left over from our agrarian days. (Though come to think of it, there was one year I remember my homeschooled farming family beginning school Oct. 1.) But maybe it's more than social inertia that keeps us in this rhythm. Maybe the going out and returning speaks to our spirits.

God's people have experienced many returns. Not incidentally, but so many returns in fact -- from Egypt, from Haran, from Egypt (again), from fleeing family, from fleeing corrupt rulers, from Babylon, from broken relationships, from Death...so many returns that we've learned along the way that Return is a call from God upon every life. Since flight, travel, turning inward and all forms of separation are universal human experiences, God has made a way home from all of them, back to communion.

Proposing that in quietness and trust shall be our strength...

How's that for an election-season example of God turning things upside-down?

But that's the wisdom our ancestors in faith learned and passed on. "Rest and Return. Quiet and Return. Trust and Return. And become strong."

This Sunday is our festival of Return. Whether summer has seen you here each week, or far afield. Whether life has seen you in close communion with our Creator, or far afield. Whatever you have been busy harvesting this summer. Bring it back in trust to the Holy One. We all have God's standing invitation to walk together, recognize Jesus, and practice ourselves a little deeper into that resurrection union.

In Christ,

Reed

p.s. for our Sunday Picnic:

Individuals and Families A-G please bring a side dish

Individuals and Families H-M please bring a salad

Individuals and Families N-Z please bring a dessert

Amen! 

Dear Friends,

Camp worked!

Last week, on the eve of my leaving, I wrote to you about the spiritual experience of going to camp. Now I've just come back. I feel tired, refreshed, changed, and encouraged all at the same time.

I'm tired because I gave my self to this camp. I tried new things and shared parts of my self (stories, abilities) I have had a hard time sharing elsewhere. My body aches from dodgeball and a slip n' slide at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and my heart is wrung from the compassion it has given and received. I'm feeling the good-tired that any athlete knows from their training exercises.

My refreshment is in my spirit. I gave my self to this camp and these new neighbors in a particular way, built on a foundation of shared trust. I gave my self Christianly, expecting that we were all striving similarly toward the same far-off "Kingdom of God." We shared Christ's Body and Blood daily, and sang together, and heard and responded to God's scripture together. And it seemed to me that it was our time singing and eating together in the chapel (and sweating...it was warm!) that allowed us to bear such intensity of relationship throughout the rest of our days.

With that kind of environment, I'm not surprised to find my self a little changed from who I was five days ago. I find my self more awake to my brokenness, a more sure in my gifts, with brighter desire for my particular ministry, and thirstier for living water.

I'm encouraged because this good change in me did not happen in solitude. It was brought about in community, and my change was witnessed by that community. Like a document witnessed by a J.P., I can trust that this change really happened. It has a living seal of authority borne by all my sisters and brothers there. These good changes to my self are beyond my own power to revoke, even if I wanted to hide from them later. And I'm encouraged because this good change in me was not magical. It came from a choice that I made, and a prayerful set of actions I undertook. It's a repeatable experiment. I could take Eucharist again. I could sing again. I could break open God's Word again. And within this community of Christ they would be just as trustworthy as before to change me for the good.

I know that camp "worked" because I did it, in community. Spiritual practices, prayers, "work" when we give our selves to them; when we do them with intention. And that work is inherently, irrevocably lasting when we do it in community.

In my last letter I wondered how the seeming magic of camp can come home to our weekly and daily experiences the rest of the year. I'm pleased for the reminder that it's not magic. It's care-full community. It's shared prayer and meals and song. It's giving our selves in a common direction. And we can indeed do all those things at home as well as away, if we're willing and desire to be tired, refreshed and changed. 

Still smoky from the campfire and sweaty from chapel,

Reed

Dear Friends,

Have you ever been to camp?

Camp. The word is almost magical. It evokes such a host of places and experiences. For me, Scout Camp in Gilmanton Iron Works, NH is the first to mind. Learning to sail, shoot, carve, lash and keep an independent schedule. And "Gramp's Camp," my family's shared camp, is a simple, steady home no matter where I go to and return from.

Any camp that has been special has an inherent spiritual element. Sometimes this is even explicit or religious. And camp-type spiritual experiences often stay with us much more profoundly than others. A friend of mine wrote her entire Master's thesis on this. What is it about camp?

Somehow we find it possible, in the crafting, singing, free time, play and around the campfire to be more of our selves at camp. And lots of folks have told me how "Recognizing Jesus" has happened for them particularly profoundly at camp as well. In more than a couple cases the course of their life was recognizably changed.

This week Linden, the kids, and I are going down to Connecticut for an Episcopal Family Camp. This is the "Family Camp East" version of a camp that Linden participated in and helped lead for a few years in California. She was asked to help with the kick off. I'm going as part of my continuing education for the year. It was at Family Camp West that I picked up the "Enacted Gospel" practice we've used in past Garden Services, and I look forward to soaking up some more life-giving practices this year.

What is it about camp? Can we bring that home? Can we be that present to our selves and Christ on a weekly or daily basis? The answer must be "yes". And my intuition says it might mean bringing the childlike crafting, vulnerable singing, luxurious free time, play and campfires home too. Our Vestry was tossing something like this around at their last meeting, wondering, among other things, about the Prayers of the People in Sunday worship, and how we might make them more personal and perhaps vulnerable. I hope there's more to come on this topic.

I'll be holding all this gently in my heart as I sing and play, and I look forward to more reflections upon my return. But for now, I'm going to camp!

In the spirit of Christ, lover of talking around cookfires,

Reed