Winter Doldrums-By Rev. Alan Mead
By Rev. Alan Mead
It has been cold outside. Record breaking cold throughout much of the East and Midwest, with record snowfalls in the Northeast. It seems we hardly have a chance to catch our breath and a new onslaught of weather comes marching in.
I have seen many photos posted by friends on FaceBook, and I am amazed at how stunningly beautiful the aftermath of these winter storms has been in photos. Photos of backyard scenes with someone standing in the middle of a narrow pathway, with the snow up over their head. Photos of city streets with cars still covered and surrounded by snow and ice, with a narrow, mostly pedestrian pathway, with perhaps enough room for a small emergency vehicle to wind its way through.
As amazing and beautiful as winter snow and ice look in photos, and probably later in memory, it has also been costly. Some have died or been seriously injured. Many have lost property. Communities struggle with paying extra costs for snow removal and infrastructure repair that will come in the spring.
We live on the coast in Virginia and haven’t had the snow; but we have had near hurricane force winds and a constant barrage of Nor’easter’s along with record low temperatures. We have seven buildings in our condo community and three of them, affecting 9 units, have suffered major damage from burst fire suppression sprinkler systems. With the temps going down into the teens again tonight I wonder if I will awaken in the middle of the night with high pressure water flooding everything.
I also have good friends who look forward to this weather and enjoy nothing more than taking ski trips. It has been a great season for that.
For myself, I have turned on the gas fireplace, settled myself in a comfortable rocker, and imagine summer sun and breezes while I enjoy this moment, keeping one eye on the flames and another on the sprinkler head that is in the center of the room.
A Time to Pray – By Rev. Alan Mead
A Time to Pray-By Rev. Alan Mead
I read and watch news from around the world. News that seems to be increasingly violent. Not simply violent, but violence and hatred focused at specific groups of people. In Europe, acts and words of antisemitism are surfacing and growing. Along the placid shore of the southern Mediterranean Sea the blood of Coptic Christians mingles with the water along a rocky beach as they are beheaded by people of a radical Muslim faith. And around the world many react with retaliation and revenge.
I weep for those who are hurt and who suffer. I weep for children in so many, many places who are cold and hungry today, children who do not see any future, let alone a bright future. Children who are alone. Children with preventable diseases that still surface in frightening ways.
And I remember. I remember that violence and hatred and jealousy and inhumanity have flowed before in our history, often in the name of religion, and I see it happening again. Perhaps not surprisingly I hear those ancient inhumanities in the name of religion being spoken as a rallying cry to violence and revenge. And I weep.
What I know, deeply, is that we must refuse to be overcome by fear or complacency. And for me, that means a response of prayer and action. I will speak words of hope and I will respond within my community with solidarity with people who are Jewish and people who are Muslim and people who have a different faith or no faith. We must work to bring hope and peace. We must never allow another Crusade or another Holocaust through our silence.
A Time to be Patient-By Rev. Alan Mead
A Time to be Patient
By Rev. Alan Mead
After breakfast this morning, while I was lingering over my third espresso, Emerson, our three year old grandson came back to the table with hands and arms filled to overflowing with small cars and trucks. He proceeded to set them on the table in front of me and began moving them around the table, all around my espresso cup. I gently moved the cup and watched him play.
I asked him about one of the cars, a sleek race car with adjustable suspension. He went on in detail about what kind of car it is and I confess I don’t think I understood two words out of several wonderfully constructed sentences. He sidled up and then started to nudge onto my lap, saying he wanted to sit with me.
My mind went back to a photo of an elderly man with with his grandchildren. I remembered a comment made by his wife about how infinitely patient he had become. Infinitely patient. Those words and that image flashed through my mind as I helped Emerson up and made room for him and all of his toy cars and trucks, totally displacing everything I had been doing.
That became for me a moment to treasure. Perhaps more importantly it was part of the nurturing that will eventually help a boy grow into adolescence and adulthood knowing that he is loved and respected. As he settled in and continued playing with his toy cars and chatting away, I thanked and praised God for this moment, as I recognized it was a holy time.
Patience does not come easily or naturally to me. I am fairly competitive and have a history of being single minded to achieve my goals. I have always put in significant effort, study and planning and can’t say I have been patient when things don’t go my way. As I have moved into that time that is well past middle age I have been gradually finding more time for prayer, meditation and those I love. As my time remaining decreases I find my capacity to wait, to be in the moment, to be patient, increasing.
Infinitely patient. Probably an impossibility for anyone. And yet being present, whether to a grandson or to a congregation, without anxiety, with a willingness to listen and wait, is a gracious invitation to develop and thrive.
The Strange Reality of Grief – By Rev. Alan Mead
The Strange Reality of Grief
By Rev. Alan Mead
I was in Williamsburg, Virginia for our annual diocesan council, when, in the middle of a joyous worship service, as we were praying and singing, we came to the place in the prayers where we are asked to name the departed, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief as I quietly, almost silently, named our son. Since his death last July I have grieved, pretty constantly at first and later only for moments, and thought I was doing pretty well. And yet suddenly, here I was in tears and trying hard to cover it up. No matter how much I want to change it, I can’t. I am powerless to change the reality or to make it go away or to make it better.
My grief came as a wave, washed over me, and passed. I tuned my heart again to praise and later reflected that although I can’t change the event of his death, I can remember his life. And remembering is a tremendous power.
Whether as individuals or as congregations we are constantly adapting as things change. Recognizing the power and unexpected nature and timing of grief as a help to healing and wholeness, we need not fear its presence; but rather create opportunities for our feelings to be an invited part of the process of life.
Prayers of Grace and Peace – By Rev. Alan Mead
Prayers of Grace and Peace
By Rev. Alan Mead
As interim professionals we rejoice when a congregation we have been serving issues a call, inviting a minister to become it’s next settled clergy leader. We reflect on the process and remember with satisfaction and joy the journey that we have shared with the congregation. Sometimes an interim will have worked out their own next call to interim ministry, and sometimes it is time to leave and the next interim position is still unknown.
Everyone who depends on interim ministry knows that can happen. I was talking recently with a colleague who is highly successful as an interim professional and yet has just finished a five month gap between one position and the next.
The good news is that this colleague begins with the next congregation soon.
My conversation caused me to reflect on my own anxiety as I neared completion of one interim position and began the process of my own job search for the next. It also caused me to hold in prayer those who are nearing an ending and long to know of the next beginning, and especially those who may find themselves unemployed for some period of time.
I always remind myself that I am called to this ministry and beloved of God. I know it is easier to say than to do; but I then offer my fears to God in prayer and get on with the work of the ministry. I have always found that anxiety takes a back seat when I focus on my present ministry rather than my fears.
Today I pray for all who are nearing the completion of an interim position. Prayers for grace. Prayers for peace. Prayers for hope.