The SPIRE – November 2017

Dear Edwards Church Community,

On October 25th, I attended the 1st anniversary party of the Northampton Recovery Center in the Edwards Room. For the last year, individuals currently in recovery from any form of addiction (mostly opioids or alcohol), with allies from the DA’s office and other volunteers, have used our church for organizational meetings and recovery support gatherings. They have used the sanctuary for yoga, meditation and other practices that supplement and support familiar routes of recovery. It is one of many activities through which we live into our vision: “we call on all our talents to worship and serve. Encountering the world’s joys and suffering, we offer ourselves as instruments of love and justice.”

At the Recovery Center anniversary party, participants in its program shared testimony about the difference it makes in their lives and presented me with an engraved wooden plaque, made in the workshop at the Hampshire County jail by program participants. If you had been there, you would have been as moved as I was by their testimonies and gratitude. They can feel that the community is supporting their recovery, and that alone helps. On your behalf, I thanked them by saying, “As a church, we are in the transformation business, but you are doing the hard work of walking the talk of transformation. That makes a huge difference.” As someone said at a recent gathering of the United Way, “It takes the whole valley to tackle our biggest challenges.”

Thank you for giving me and each other the opportunity and the resources to do this work together. Stewardship raises the money, and you contribute. Trustees help maintain the building; we all use it and share it with our neighbors. Deacons, Faith Formation and Music make Sunday morning special, reconnecting us with the spiritual center of our lives and inspiring us to do so much together, for the church and the world.

The traditional American story of Thanksgiving has Native Americans coming to the aid of the Pilgrims during their first winter and saving them from starvation. Our history after that is still being rewritten to take into account how the Europeans prospered and at what cost to whom. I often think, as a person of white European ancestry, that there was a significant hidden cost to “us.” My people (more or less) emerged “on top,” but are now needing to relearn some ancient wisdom, wisdom that is both cross-cultural and essentially Christian, wisdom like the interdependence of all life and the importance of active compassion for the weak, the poor and all “others.”

I do not suggest that those who are secure or successful, in conventional terms, need to feel guilty. But as we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I hope all will remember the source of our lives and good fortune. It is not just individual talent or hard work, which are necessary, but not sufficient. It also requires luck and a family, maybe a whole community of support, sharing its gifts, offering support, creating the conditions for our prospering. To whom do we owe the same? Who is our neighbor?

Grateful for all we are and do together,


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