The Call to Community — Spring 2015 Newsletter

AN UPDATE Dear Friends, Spring is here with the scent of life in the air.  Hallelujah! At our April council meeting, our board asked me what my personal goals for ministry are, as well as what my overall vision is for our community at this point. In summary form, here’s what I came to: Personally, I feel called to deepen my engagement in three areas: (1) Nature spirituality and eco-justice: cultivating awareness of interconnection with all life, building Earth-community around themes of appreciation of and connection with nature, sustainable living, and social witness. (2)  Connecting with the mystical, contemplative and ethical dimensions of Christian faith and spirituality by cultivating relationship with the living God and pursuing the way of Jesus. I want to follow this calling in our community through our Sunday Circles as well as small group work of prayer, study, and/or meditation. (3) Building a pluralistic community in and through our spiritual center. I am especially interested in experimenting with ritual and dialogue, and looking for new forms of language which might emerge to help foster deep, spiritually centered relationships among members of an open, free, loving and pluralistic community. In this way I hope to play my small part in building the Beloved Community which Jesus referred to as the “Reign of God.” Organizationally, I envision Common Street Spiritual Center as a place of inclusivity, freedom, and love where people are able to connect to their spiritual centers in various ways and also find support in manifesting what is flowing out of their spiritual centers. The nature of the community as it develops will be pluralistic, I hope, reflecting the diversity of the Metrowest community. Major themes I see emerging are worship, service to the homeless, meditation, prayer, music and arts, environmental service and nature spirituality, food and fellowship, yoga, programs for children and youth, peace and justice, empowerment, recovery from addiction, intercultural & interracial dialogue, Christian discipleship/spirituality, and more. I believe that we should maintain a broad and inclusive vision in terms of what might emerge at Common Street, being open to the work of the Spirit and the power of Love calling particular persons or groups to pursue various spiritually-centered forms of service, creativity, spiritual practice and community-building. I hope my sense of gratitude and enthusiasm for the opportunities we have before us is coming through in this message!  Please consider these sharings of mine as a starting place for a conversation that will continue to unfold in our community about what our vision and mission are, that is, why we are here together; and after we ask why we ask what, and after we ask what we ask  how…we are all in this together!  We’re thinking that in late September we’ll gather folks together  to reflect on all these questions. Please continue to read on below to find out more about some of what is happening at our center  in the coming weeks. Blessings and Peace, Pastor Ian A REFLECTION AND A PRAYER In the beginning of May I went on a five day retreat in Western MA to do “The Work That Reconnects” with Joanna Macy. In the quietness and peace of the woods, in intensive reflection and meditation, and in soul searching conversations with the others who showed up for the sake of healing Earth and righting relationships among people, I experienced a coming together of my past and future in a focal point of spiritual and ethical commitment. During the retreat we had the space to open up to our awareness of the pain of our world, pain caused by ecological destruction, increasingly deadly warfare, entrenched racism, and poverty. And as we did this inner work, and experienced the profound misalignment of the way we are living in our society with our inner moral compass, the teachings of Jesus that I know so well took on a more vivid, clear, and compelling meaning for me than ever before. Jesus’ message in summary form was this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and believe the good news.” The word “repent” in its Hebrew root, shuv, means “turn.” In its Greek root, metanoia, it means “change.” The call of the good news is to join a revolutionary turning towards a love-based and life-sustaining society whose time is fulfilled and is right on the cusp of coming into being. All around the world people are waking up to this call as spoken by Jesus and other great spiritual leaders: a call to win-win relationships rather than win-lose, to sustainable economies based on sharing rather than hoarding, to building inclusive community among people of different faiths, races, gender and sexual identities, to rebalancing and redistributing wealth, to peaceful modes of resolving conflict. Our global industrial society has reached its peak of unsustainability, increasingly destructive war, and inequality: and the gospel’s universal message to turn and change has never been more relevant. But what did Jesus mean when he said the kingdom of God is near at hand? Many of his followers hoped for a fulfillment in 30, 40, 50 years. Some expected to be raptured and carried up into the sky to be with Jesus. We now know that human beings have been on this planet for at least a couple of hundred thousand years, in a process of rapid cultural, social, technological and spiritual evolution. Jesus’ universal human vision of living in harmony with each other and the life around us is near at hand not because it will miraculously come down out of the sky but because it is planted in our hearts, embedded in our spiritual traditions, and a part of our very beings; this dream is in our DNA, having been carried to us by our ancestors, and will be carried by us to future generations. This is the dream that God has planted in our hearts. Jesus said not to look for the coming of the kingdom based on any external sign because “The kingdom of God is within you.” The turning that Jesus calls us to is a turning within, a turning to our true natures, a turning away from the distortions of human nature that are so dominate in our societal structures and institutions right now. Loving God, help us to find and to trust the inner wisdom and dream within our hearts. We are called to live beautifully, to be embodiments of love, and to care for all life. We thank you for making the world such that this way of being is possible, right within reach, ready at hand. Help us to see through the illusion that the way we are currently living in our unsustainable society is meant to be. Help us to hold each other in loving community as we encounter the harsh realities of this world we live in and begin, one small step at a time, to move into a new way of living where our hearts sing with joy, our spirits are aligned with your Spirit, and our hands and feet bring healing to the world around us. In gratitude for the gift of life, we pray. Amen.