Dearly Beloved,

I hope you all had a safe and blessed 4th of July weekend. Worship was beautiful this past Sunday with an amazing organ-piano duet for our prelude, beautiful flowers in honor of Bev Laing's birthday, her late husband Jim's birthday, their anniversary and July 4th, and a vulnerable and honest testimony from Nova Menking, Yvette's son who is transgender. 

This coming Sunday, our youth will be leading worship and they have chosen the theme "Transitions." Part of worship will be short interviews with people of a variety of generations reflecting on this last year and a half of pandemic. Their questions are thoughtful, and I invite you to reflect on them this week: How are you surviving the changes that the pandemic has brought? What did you recognize in yourself or in your life during the pandemic that changed? During the pandemic, what did you learn that you could live without? 

Honestly, I think our congregation is one of the things that has helped me get through the pandemic. Even though we couldn't be together in person, having a chance to connect with many of you on Zoom on Sunday mornings expanded my circle of connection. Weekly Lectio Divina grounded me in God's word and in relationships of humility and care. And the creativity that came forth during our time of online-only worship lifted my spirits! Connections, worship, scripture and prayer functioned as my lifelines when so many other things were so different from usual.

And it has also been such a blessing to be able to see many of you in person again or to visit you in your home. What a gift to feel safe sharing a handshake or a hug, a cookie or a glass of iced tea. 

One of the special things I've been able to do these last few weeks is to visit the home of Daniel Gardner and to bless his self-designed and self-built wood-fired kiln the day of its first firing. Pottery strikes me as, in many ways, a practice of faith. A potter puts so much time, energy, imagination and care into each item they create. And then, they carefully, gently, stack them all into a kiln, close it up and stoke a fire which they keep at temperatures of 2,000 plus degrees -- a literal hell-fire. And the clay is transformed. Hardened, polished, beautified in that fire. Daniel explained to me that what comes out is literally new -- when tested, its pieces have a new carbon date set into them. How like a death and resurrection is this process! And what comes out isn't always what is expected. Sometimes the fire breaks precious pieces, or the finishing is strange and not at all what was imagined. 

What a practice of letting go, of surrender, of faith it must be to place those items into the kiln, uncertain of the outcome!

Sometimes I think the practice of being church together is similar -- there are various pieces that make us church, the clay that is us. And we each impact the shape, the color, the texture, the opening of what is formed. Sometimes it feels like we go through some fire, something unpleasant or even destructive, conflict or struggle or simply change. And we don't always know how we'll come out the other side.

But we still lovingly show up. We still lovingly allow ourselves to be shaped even as we shape each other and the whole. And we trust together in the Holy One who will see us through to whatever newness lies on the other side.

It is a blessing to journey with each of you. 

With love,