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Conservation Gospel – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Dec 10, 2019 in News | 0 comments

Conservation Gospel – by Naomi Wenger

As I reflect on my humanness and that my usual inclination would be to “clear the path, make it easy and comfortable,” I am reminded that having to bow because of another creature is good spiritual practice.

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House Build Update – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Nov 8, 2019 in News | 1 comment

House Build Update – by Naomi Wenger

Since 2017, we have been telling you of our desire to build a house at The Hermitage for expanding the resident community and providing housing for staff. We have also been asking you for donations to fund this building project. The journey toward building this house has seemed like a long one to us as we have painstakingly developed ideas and set some aside for what we believe to be better plans. In 2018, we announced that we were set to begin building in 2019. But, the planning phase has taken longer than we expected. We finally broke ground in August, believing that we were ready to begin. However, as we examined a plausible building calendar, we realized that we would be pushing very hard to have the walls completed and the roof on before winter set in. Since we are building with sustainable methods that will help us model how homes can be built for resilience in a period of climate change, the importance of not hurrying the project just to get it done is more significant to us than completing the project on a pre-determined timeline. So, we stepped back and we are now waiting for another building season to begin. In this waiting period, we are envisioning how we can use our own timber to mill siding and trim for the house and casting the net more widely for support for volunteers to help us complete this build. We now are planning to begin in earnest as soon as the ground thaws in the Spring of 2020. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:28-30 Tuesday’s lectionary reading from Luke 14 reminds us that first “sit[ting] down and estimat[ing] the cost” of building is a bit of wisdom Jesus used to measure the fittingness of a person to be his disciple. We feel the gravity of that wisdom as we set about building a house. During this waiting period, we have come very close to meeting the fundraising goal, set in 2017, of $270,000. We have just under $30,000 left to raise. Since 2017, the cost of housing materials, especially lumber and steel, have risen significantly and we may need to extend our goal upward before the project can be completed. So, we are using this extra time to continue our fundraising efforts and to find more cost-effective ways of building the house. These include asking folks to donate labor and help us build the house. To that end, we are looking for 50 volunteers to commit to come for between one and 14 days from May 18 through June 1 (including Memorial Day weekend) to help us complete the mass walls of the house. Volunteers will be mixing clay slip, combining the slip with straw, stuffing the muddy mix into wall forms, moving the wall forms, cooking, cleaning, and other tasks. All volunteers will be fed nutritious meals and we will house you, either at The Hermitage or nearby, if our rooms are full. Then, sometime in August and September, we will need volunteers again to help apply natural plaster to the interior of the house (unskilled labor), create an earth floor (unskilled labor), and do finish construction (skills required). Counting the cost, for us, means more than having enough...

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Playing Unconcernedly Among the Pawns – Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Oct 22, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Playing Unconcernedly Among the Pawns – Naomi Wenger

Playing Unconcernedly Among the Pawns – Naomi Wenger

Sometimes we wonder where God is. It feels as if God is absent or hiding. This happens both when we are distressed and when we are content. We feel bereft of a Presence we once knew. So, we may want to bargain with God. We ask God to “play our game” with us. We want God to show up, to find us a parking spot along a busy street, to take away every wound in our hearts. And sometimes, just sometimes, we experience God in those ways exactly when we need reassurance. But more often, we don’t. We either wonder where God is or we forget about God altogether because we have to tend our own problems if we feel no Divine support. During these Divine “absences” we wonder about God’s goodwill. We require sensed Presence as the only sign of God’s benevolence. However, that reasoning is flawed because it takes our experience of God as its starting place.  The psalmist begins in another place altogether. In Psalm 139, the singer begins with, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” God is in the fixed position, “home base.” It is the singer who moves away from God.  “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;  it is so high that I cannot attain it.” (Ps. 139:2-6)  God is on the path of the Psalmist, knowing every move, every word, every thought. So, it is not God who is hiding, but the Psalmist who “flees from [God’s] presence” (v. 7), and “settles at the farthest limits of the sea” (v. 9). It is not God but the Psalmist who tries to hide in the dark even though there is no darkness in God (vv. 11-12). At last, the psalmist gives in to God, recognizing that God has even “formed my inward parts” (v. 13). So the psalmist understands that God has always been “there” even when the Presence is not felt and even when one is on the run from that inexorable Presence.  R. S. Thomas, the Welsh poet and pastor, imagines this experience as a game of chess. He begins by inviting God to play, “Your move I would have / said, but he was not / playing.” He goes on to explain that his “game” is a bit loose on rules, “my game a dilemma / that was without horns.” Then the narrator is ashamed of himself for thinking that God would actually play his game because God’s “mind shines / on the black and the white / squares.” The poem concludes by admitting that the game is focused only on the capture of the Great Prize, “the one / queen, as though to hold life / to ransom.” While God, “if he plays, plays / unconcernedly among the pawns.” [“Play” by R. S. Thomas, from Collected Poems: 1945-1990, (Phoenix Books, 1993)]  We want God to play by our rules or even just by some set of rules that make sense to us. But God does not play or does not play that way. If God plays, says Thomas, God is playing like a child “unconcernedly among the pawns” and certainly not according to some rule that we have devised. Thomas captures here the reality that God does not come at our...

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Stop and Notice – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Sep 12, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Stop and Notice – by Kevin Driedger

Stop and Notice – by Kevin Driedger

One of the invitations the Hermitage extends for guest and staff alike is the invitation to stop and notice. Sometimes if feels like there is so much to notice here that it is hard to know where to focus your attention. Like many others, I’ve found the camera has become a wonderful tool that encourages me to be attentive, to slow down, to notice. And this extends not only to taking the picture, but then also going back to it, again and again, and pausing and noticing new things with each view.  This practice of contemplative photography, and increasingly for me, contemplative video making is a way to both open ourselves to receive what is there in front of us, but also a way to participate in creation. It is not only capturing pictures, but receiving the moment and reflecting on what the scene might have to teach you.  I encourage people to consider spending some time at the Hermitage with their camera (which is often simply grabbing your phone) and head out with an expectant heart and open eyes and see what God might have to show...

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Disorientation and Welcome – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Jul 20, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Disorientation and Welcome – by Kevin Driedger

Disorientation and Welcome – by Kevin Driedger

I like to plan. I appreciate having an idea of what is going to happen and I presume others appreciate these things too. I want to put people at ease so that they will know what is going on and what to expect. I believe it is a welcoming and hospitable thing to do. And yet, I also know that my preference to plan and to anticipate what will happen can muffle my ears and blinder my eyes to what is actually going on around me. Expecting one thing to happen means I am not willing to engage when some other thing happens. Feeling disoriented is, well, disorienting and it is not comfortable. It leaves me vulnerable to the unknown. I experience this also on behalf of the guests who come to visit The Hermitage. For some retreatants this is their first time here and it may be their first encounter with deep silence. A key part of my job of welcoming is to orient them to how things happen here and what to expect – to remove their own disorientation and dis-ease (whether it is real or projected.) I remember a pilgrimage my wife and I took to Ireland. Travelling is hard for me, because there are so many unfamiliar things and all my planning can’t prepare me for them all. At the first gathering of our pilgrimage group our leader named the disorientation that many (all) of us were feeling, and the importance of accepting and living in that disorientation. That disorientation is necessary if there is going to be any kind of reorientation. And so, I need to learn to allow some space for disorientation for our guests and for myself. The next time a guest arrives late for Saturday morning centering prayer after we’ve finished the introduction, (although I feel uncomfortable with the individual’s possible disorientation), I will pray that this be a time of reorientation – both for the guest and me. I will pray that we both are able to simply receive God’s reorienting...

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