February 8th, 2010

moon house

First Church Somerville retreat 2010 (Feb. 5-6)

Friday night's post-dinner session started with icebreakers, and as Betsy was explaining I kept interrupting to ask questions, and Laura Ruth said, "Come sit by me," and I kind of laughed, but she indicated like no she really meant it, so I scooched across the room and curled up next to her.
She asked me, "Is it okay that I called you out?"  I said it was fine.  I almost said, "You're a pastor - it's your job."

One of the questions was how long you've been at First Church, and various of the people I'm familiar with (who by definition do more than Sunday morning, since I almost never do Sunday morning) -- Kathy, Tara, Jeff and Julie, the Duhamels -- have only been there 2 or 3 years, which surprised me.

Later, Laura Ruth taught us a nigun, so it's just "lai lai lai ..." and after she was done, Ally said, "What was that again?" after Laura Ruth laughed, she looked at me.  I laughed and said my first thought had been, "That wasn't me!"

In conversation with a few of us, Tara talked about being a hymnal junkie.
I said that my best friend (and another woman I know) collect hymnals and that I don't but maybe I should since I have purchased the UMC Book of Worship and Book of Discipline.

At some point I was going through the Sing! Prayer and Praise book [the new praise music supplement to the UCC hymnal] to find which hymns I knew, and one of them was "She Comes Sailing on the Wind," and Jeff said, "Oh, you know that one?  I've been wanting to learn that."  I said I couldn't sing it all that well on my own but that I would try.  Yes, I was yet again reminded one of the things church does is pushes us beyond our comfort zones, pushing us to utilize gifts and graces we aren't necessarily even sure we have.

When I was talking about "She Comes Sailing on the Wind," I said that it was one of the hymns I picked for the Sunday I preached, and how we sang other hymns that Sunday morning, some of which I was like, "Oh, I wish I had picked that one!"  It occurred to me that if I collected hymnals I could collect all the hymns that I like, so I could just go to that booklet and pick out hymns to go with whatever service I was working on -- yeah, worship planning... what is happening to me?  There are all these things that Ordained Ministers do and I'm like, "No, I'm not Called, because I don't (wanna) do any of those," and I keep having to be like, "Well except for that, and that..."

As we sat together after Compline, Jeff was humming, and someone asked him what song, and thus started a session of singing and guitar-playing.

Ally asked if she could teach us her favorite Julian of Norwich song.

Ally taught us the chorus ("All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things will be well."), and I thought, "Okay, this isn't a tune I'm familiar with, but okay," and then she started the song -- she would sing the verse, and then we would join in on the chorus.

I wasn't blown away at the beginning, and then I wanted to argue back to the singer ('cause, hi, it is Julian -- you'll understand what I mean when you read the lyrics), but then, oh, it kind of broke me open at "I know it's too much, and it brought me to my knees, where I heard..."

After I got home, I looked up the lyrics and then bought the track off CDBaby (I would have bought the whole album, but I previewed it and wasn't really taken with it).

I've been praying this song a lot since I got home from retreat.

When Ally first started teaching Laura Ruth the song, Laura Ruth picked up a shaker and I thought, "music is so how you pray."

Saturday morning, I passed FCS-Ian, and he asked, "You didn't bring your lectionary, did you?"  I said, "No, but it occurred to me this morning that if you're doing your morning prayer service, you need to know what the daily lectionary is, and so I should have brought it."
So he just picked passages (Judges 5:1-13 and Matthew 26:36-45).  [After I got home, I looked it up, and the assigned passages were Judges 3:7-11 and Luke 4:42-44.]
The Bible we had there was the Authorized King James Version.  Yeah, that was interesting.
We talked mostly about the Luke passage.  In conversation, I commented that Jesus is modeling for us that you can pray, "I'm willing to do this, but I really don't want to -- you can register a complaint."

We also talked a lot about the last line -- "Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."  That Jesus after twice exhorting them to wake up and stay awake, this third time tells them to sleep.  I thought but didn't say that I really didn't remember the story ending that way, but when I looked it up at home, yeah, the NIV for example says, "Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners," which has rather a different slant.

There wasn't enough snow on the ground for FCS-Ian to make a snow labyrinth, but there was some snow out on the fields, and before breakfast we saw a fox lope across.

After breakfast was a whole-group Intro to Prayer session.

Laura Ruth said that when she and Molly get up on the chancel, she wants to look out at everyone and greet them (hi, she is an extrovert) but instead she takes off her glasses and covers her eyes with her hands, and she said that what she is praying in that moment is: "Be in every cell of my body.  Make me transparent.  Help me lead Your people."

Molly talked about how there are 4 different kinds of prayer (and she had a Scripture example of each of them) -- intercession, petition, lament, thanksgiving.  I would have combined intercession and petition (yes there's a difference between asking for things for other people and asking for things for yourself, but they're both still asking God for things) and added confession.

We did a four corners exercise responding to various statements about prayer (Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree).  Yes, the responses from the various corners often very much resembled each other, but I think there was some good discussion, too.  Possibly my favorite moment was the group that Somewhat Agreed that they were happy with their current prayer practice (no one went to Strongly Agree for that) was about half people who have a prayer practice and about half who don't.  The hardest statement for me to respond to was, "I believe that some prayers count with God more than others."  Define your terms!  I ultimately said that I think all our prayers matter equally to God because we are all beloved children of God and God understands just how important each of our prayers is to each of us -- but that that is an entirely different/separate issue from which prayers God actually answers (if we even believe in a God who interferes in the world in that way).

Then there were prayer practice breakout sessions:
Kim and Betsy: craft and art as prayer
Molly: Prayer 101 and Lectio Divino
Laura Ruth: anointing for healing as prayer
Keith: guided meditation as prayer

I went to Laura Ruth's anointing as healing.  She walked us through how to do it really step-by-step, which felt a little awkward, but which I think was really good.  She talked about reading the other person and trusting your intuition.  Don't rush into their space.  Ask permission before touching them.  (And in that permission-asking, state what specifically you're going to do.)  Ask permission to anoint them with the sign of the cross -- or another symbol, like a spiral, since some people have been really hurt by Christianity and so that symbol can be really loaded in negative ways.  Ask what it is that they would like prayer for.  Ask what name they use when they're praying to refer to the Divine -- so that you can mirror their language (which never would have occurred to me, but which I think can help make it feel much more intimate and powerful).  Don't worry about having the perfect words to pray -- the intention is what's important, people will forgive a lot if they know that your intentions are good.  You can always just repeat back to them what they said to you -- which can be really powerful, to know that someone really heard you.  Someone commented that she really likes hearing someone pray in their own words, because it's an additional part of the experience that they can't get by themselves.  Laura Ruth also said that if you really can't think of anything to say, honor that -- say, "I have no words right now.  Is it okay if we stand in silence for a moment?"

I was surprised at what a powerful experience it was.

Oh, and Laura Ruth also said something about this ritual not healing the person in and of itself (the oil does not have magic healing properties) but it can remind the person that they can be healed.  (Yes, my disability-politics brain kicked in as I was writing this up, but I know what she meant.)

Julie went to Keith's guided meditation, which was about inviting Jesus to dinner.  She was at the same table as me at lunch afterward and talked about it.  She said her first thought was, "I wonder if Jesus has any dietary restrictions."  I heart First Church.

At one point, folks talked about last year's retreat, which was about enneagram typing, and I said that sometimes I think I should take the test, but that I never remember all the jargon -- that I can tell you in words what my personality type is, but I can't even remember my Myers Briggs beyond Introvert.
Kathy said, "You're even more surprising an introvert than I am."  I sort of thought, "Well, you see me in church settings where I'm comfortable."

We sang "Taste and See" from Sing Prayer and Praise, which we had sung the previous night and I hadn't liked -- with an opening refrain of "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord," I was expecting verses about the beauty of Creation or something, but instead we got "God is great, and will provide for you, like giving you what you ask for," which is theology I just don't buy.  When I was complaining about it to Ari on Sunday, she said that her immediate first thought was that it sounded like a Communion hymn -- and indeed, the Lutheran hymnal lists it as a communion hymn (and notes that it is based on Psalm 34).  I was so stuck in my thinking about why I didn't like it in the first place that it didn't occur to me that we were singing it at Communion on purpose (though in my defense, I have such a low theology of Communion, that out of context the phrase "taste and see the goodness of our God" -- yes I was auto-inclusivizing, though I left the Lords in the verses, because the verses sometimes also said God and I didn't wanna be redundant -- is not going to make me think of Communion).

We closed with a hug circle.  Molly said, "If that idea terrifies you, you can slip out after the last hymn," but that she thinks this is something "that will sustain you for days."

Carmen, who's about four years old, had slipped into the line in front of me, so John Olson who's over six feet tall had picked her up to hug her, but then he told me that he wouldn't pick me up like he had Carmen -- and he said this in a totally reassuring way.  I said he totally could.  So he did.  I don't think someone has really don't that since my Uncle Paul when I was much younger.  (I had thought earlier in the day that I had barely hugged anyone but that I didn't feel that lack, so this must be a good and comfortable space.  I was of course totally stoked about hugging a circle of ~30 people, though.)