GNL number 9

The GOOD NEWS lately

A report of doings at meeting #9, Sunday, March 9, 2008
including liturgical notes, major themes, and odds and ends

INVOCATION
A PRAYER FOR FAITH

Universe out there
And in here,
Please help me find
The Awareness
That opens and softens
This tight, fearful,
Striving little existence,
And remembers
Itself.
Help me surrender
To the Life beyond words—
One, One, all of it, One.
—NS



THEME

  1. Sue began this conversation about FAITH by rereading some of the resource material she’d sent us on the topic; she then described her own definition, as keyed on the Indo-European root bheidh, with its sense of bide/ abide and abode/dwelling, saying that faith for her centered on the idea of dwelling, adding that it was all about love and compassion. She recalled that Thich Nhat Hanh and other spiritual teachers point out a difference between faith and hope, that living in hope could be living in the future and losing the precious present where all things happen, including faith. And she read us her poem about these two Companions. (See below.) Sue had invited us all to bring a “faith object”, so later, she showed us one herself, a traditional prayer shawl with border of symbols, that she uses in prayer each morning to return to her root beliefs.

  2. Cynthia was away but sent her thoughts (and cookies!), saying she located her faith in her gut, and had faith in CoS and all the wonderful people of this community; and then more broadly, in “the Natural Order of things–the environment may change, but adaptation does keep pace, whether we see it and embrace it, or not.”

  3. Nancy read a passage from American Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg, as an expansion of the conventional understanding of faith. (See below.) And then she described her own sense of it as a kind of doing–doing something new or that you’re scared of, in spite of that fear; doing something for life when you just want to take care of yourself; doing forgiveness instead of closing the door, in fact faith as keeping open instead of closed. Trying again, persisting, maybe in new ways. Finding the smiles (as Ann said last month). She recalled e.g.s of faith, like the Amish who reached out to the families of the gunmen who killed their children. And Viktor Frankl, who made his WWII concentration camp experience an act of faith, love, meaning. And countless lesserknown friends and familymembers among us quietly doing faith everyday. She also brought an old hymn, “How Can I Keep From Singing,” as a reminder of how the natural world holds her faith in the life process. (See below.)

  4. Gail spoke of having had a sense of faith lost, but then of looking at it with a broader view and realizing she does indeed have faith. She said her granddaughter Virginia is a daily reminder and living picture of faith, as are the views available out there to us all (as in the lovely snow flakes falling at the time). She said she’d found that her faith is in the Big Picture that she tries to keep in mind. So as an object, she brought a really big picture of a beautiful landscape.

  5. Adair described herself as a secular humanist who has a kind of faith, not in a God, but in the force of nature. She read us a powerful mission statement from the Unitarian-Universalist Association. (See below.) And as her object of faith, she brought out a wonderful children’s book we were all fascinated with, called Atlas in the Round, which showed and explained many views of the round Earth, and which she said served her as a symbol of the oneness of life on earth in which she finds her faith. (And this book was one reason we ended up agreeing to do a second Cihildren’s Story Day next time at CoS.)

  6. Ann also spoke of her sense of faith as not in a diety or doctrine, but, she’d found, more in her own response to life—faith she can (find a way, do what she needs to do) and in the ability she and we as individuals have to see possibilities, for creative responses, problem-solving and humor. She quoted the former UN leader Dag Hammarskjold in 1953: “For all that has been—Thanks! For all that shall be—YES!”

    (Ann also later recommended an essay on a broader social gospel among “new evangelicals” in the 3/24/08 issue of The Nation magazine.)

  7. Jack gave us a history of his journey to and in faith, from the time as a young man he was forced to learn humility and introspection, later discovering the Psalms and the Gospel of Christ that has informed his faith ever since, and his Quaker experience as one of few “Christers” and living for a while with some Shakers, then more recently, finding the Catholic Church community in Cobleskill. The rest of us recalled that all the years we’ve known him, he himself has been a picture of faith, not only at the weekly peace vigils, greeting all with the open face and hand of inclusion, but each day giving his attention to the small steps of tasks that are now more difficult, and giving that openness to all the details of the day, invariably finding the fascinating and funny and lovely in abundance.


BENEDICTION
Everyman is me, I am his brother.
No man is my enemy.
I am Everyman and he is in and of me.
This is my faith, my strength,
My deepest hope and my only belief.
—-Kenneth Patchen



AFTERWORDS

NEXT TIME: Sunday, April 13, 2008 (1030), at Adair’s in Sharon Springs. Directions: from Main St., Cobleskill, go north on North Grand to the flashing light, and left onto rte. 10 N about 9 miles, then left onto Slate Hill Road; about 1 mile at bottom of steep hill, Slate Hill makes a sharp left. Don’t go around this curve. Instead go “straight” onto West Creek Rd. till end, about 0.9 mi. At end, turn right–Engleville Rd. (no sign). You go over a little bridge, which you see as you turn, and just after the bridge, go left onto ROSENBERG ROAD ( sign 1/2 high) about 0.7 mi. to Adair’s house on right, #236 on mailbox across street.

It will be Favorite Chidren’s Book Day (again), so bring one or two, and as always, a bit of lunchy stuff to share.

(And you’re also invited to bring grown-up books and magazines to lend.)



AFTER AFTERWORDS
from Sue:
COMPANIONS

So much of life is hope
in need of deed.
And hope is nothing
but faith’s exhausted
servant, fallen behind,
hauling on her back
faith’s infinite desire.
Faith is persistence
nourished by practice,
stumbling ahead
too make the trail,
reporting back
Still—no wind.
Continuing.
—SS


from Nancy:

…..I want to invite a new use of the word faith, one that is not associated with a dogmatic religious interpretation or divisiveness. I want to encourage delight in the word, to help reclaim faith as fresh, vibrant, intelligent, and liberating.

…..Faith does not require a belief system, and is not necessarily connected to a deity or to a God, though it doesn’t deny one. This faith is not a commodity we either have or don’t have—it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.

The Buddha said, “Faith is the beginning of all good things.” No matter what we encounter in life, it is faith that enables us to try again, to trust again, to love again. Even in times of immense suffering, it is faith that enables us to relate to the present moment in such a way that we can go on, we can move forward, instead of becoming lost in resignation or despair. Faith links our present-day experience whether wonderful or terrible, to the underlying pulse of life itself. A capacity for this type of faith is inherent in every human being. We might not recognize it or know how to nurture it, but we can learn to do both.

—Sharon Salzberg, in Faith: trusting your own deepest experience



HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING
(a hymn from North Carolina, 1864)
My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentations.
I hear the real though faroff hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul; how can I keep from singing?
————–
So long the winter, cold and gray, out on the road, and inside me,
But i forgot to close my eyes, and roadside came to find me.
Then hills took glow, pine-dotted hills of icy silver lace,
And I could see beneath the snow, green glimmerings of grace.
The road goes on, looks cold and long, but always Life is springing,
It sounds an echo in my soul; how can i keep from singing?
(—variation, March, 2008)

FOR THE QUAKERS
Theirs is the gentle finger on the pulse of war’s old woe.
Persistent, with the clear unrancored eyes of faith, they go
Where disillusionment lost the charted way,
Unerringly, they reach across the desperate long miles and sullen seas,
And find the thin small fingers in the cold, and touch, and hold.
—Bianca Bradbury

Dwell in possibility.—Renee Locks, artist

Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control. This is frightening and we resist it.
—Julia Cameron, artist and author

All learning comes from faith.
—Rev. Bob Smith, Schoharie


from Nancy’s daughter Mary:

We used to think that science would answer all our questions and solve all the mysteries, but the more we learn, the more mysterious our world becomes. Yet we do have glimpses of transcendence, even though no two experiences of the divine are the same.
—Karen Armstrong, in The Spiral Staircase



from Adair:
A mission statement from the Unitarian-Universalist Association
Affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in the congregation.
  • A free and resposible search for faith and meaning.
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process with our congregation and the society at large.
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.
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