By Curran Reichert
Pastor of First Congregational Church Sonoma
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” ― Rumi
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a deep spiritually grounded concept of a Jubilee year. Every 50 years, communities are invited to take one year to change the patterns of life. All debts are forgiven and the calendar is suspended. The idea is to reset perspectives and create a more equitable playing field.
We are all concerned about what the future will hold and what it might look like particularly for communities of faith. There is, understandable a desire to go back to the way it was as soon as possible but what if we aren’t being called to go back, but to move forward in a whole new way?
What we know is that it will be impossible to gather as a whole community safely until there is a vaccine for Covid-19. We might be able tempted to gather in amended ways, but without extraordinary measures, it will not be plausible to worship in a way where everyone can participate equally.
We could spend our time plotting different possible plans to open the church in stages. This will require a great deal of discernment and decision making and once those decisions are made there will be a whole new set of decisions. What if we claimed this holy pause rather than getting distracted by the endless pursuit to re-open.
What if we took seriously the idea of allowing for a year of serving God and not the demands of corporate America?
What if we committed to less consumption and made radical choices to reduce our contribution to greater greenhouse gas production, to plant and till rather than to reap and waste.
“As we do ‘inner work,’ we are not simply focusing inwardly on ourselves. Rather, we become more aware of the fabric of our connectedness with others in our families, workplaces, and communities. The result is an ongoing sense of responsibility and stewardship of the people and concerns that most matter to us.” Parker Palmer
What if we devoted the next year to practice radical hospitality in small disciple groups of six to eight people and continued deepening our commitment to shared values and hopes for the future.
Each season would be grounded in a shared text, providing the opportunities to look both inward and outward.
First book: When Things Fall Apart: Heart advice for difficult times, by Pema Chödrön
Second Book: Leaving Church: A memoir of faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor
Third Book: A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey toward an undivided life.
Fourth Book: The Longing For Home: Reflections on midlife by, Fredrich Buechner.
Guiding questions for continued reflection:
How is this experience changing my awareness of the fabric of our connectedness?
How am I stewarding the people and concerns that matter most to me?
What am I learning about myself and God in the process?
Jubilee/Sabbatical year is not a year off from the church, but a year to deepen our spiritual practices, to refine the very heart of our faith, and to live out our commitment to justice. I have heard many of you say that you do not want to go back to being busy the way we were before; slowing down takes practice and repetition. What if we saw this coming year as an opportunity to practice the spiritual discipline of slowing, noticing going deep together?
The disciples made a commitment to a new version of society- this may be the only opportunity in our lifetimes we have to come close to creating a similar vision.