Creating Community from the Stuff of Ecclesial Practices?

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on 27 October 2022 0 Comments

As I write this, 2022 is in its final quarter providing an opportunity to reflect on the tenth anniversary of the worst year of my life. And one of the best. Reviewing our lives is always complicated, isn’t it? Let me share with you.

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How do I move beyond a lifelong belief in a heaven above and a hell below?


Dear Jane,

Turn upside down.  I’m kidding.  But only sort of.  Things we learned as children can be hard stories to shake as adults.  But since we learned them as children, I recommend un-learning them with some childlike curiosity.  For example, what are your thoughts about heaven and hell?  Are they actual destinations?  Have you visited them already during your life, here, on Earth?  If so, what “took” you to hell?  How did you find yourself in heaven?

Next, I invite all of us to consider the value of polarities.  Having a sense of “hot,” or, “left” allows us to appreciate “cold,” or “right.”  When we know where north is, we can usually find south.  This is useful but it leaves out so many other locations like the liminal, the both-and, the inward, the circuitous and so forth.  It is high time we use more curves and circles in how we talk about our experiences.

Our tree and plant relatives offer another invitation.  They need the soil where their roots receive nourishment and transmit messages to one another.  A lot happens in the hidden, cool darkness!  And we know, of course, that they also need the rain that falls, and the sun that encourages them to bear fruit, pouring forth with life.  In my desire to imitate these wise beings, I might say that our souls ground us in the depths, inviting us to tap into a vast root system, while our spirits encourage us to reach, unfurl and expand.

So now, what value is up and what about down?  Fairytales have done a fantastic job of suggesting bad and good, naughty and nice, but the teachings of Jesus consistently invite us to befriend our foes and to do the gritty work of loving here and now.  Heaven, hell, and all the other experiences, too.

~ Rev. Lauren Van Ham




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