Tomorrow is election day around our nation, and we are deciding what priorities we will support. Many are concerned about climate change, healthcare, support of local schools, and immigration policies. It matters that we find ways to offer courageous voices in the public square.
I draw encouragement from the prophet Haggai who wrote: “ . . .take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear” (2:4b-5). These words of assurance remind us that God is ever with us, although in imperceptive ways at times.
I spent a part of this past weekend on a retreat with thirteen other women of varied ages who are asking how to take courage for the future. Gathered in the foothills of the Rockies (where there was no cell service), we focused on the creativity we need for personal and social renewal. The Creation prompts considered reflection as we understand our particular place in it.
Using the evocative language of “soul fire,” the facilitator probed our sense of identity and calling as we understand where we are in the arc of our lives. Varied in religious (or none) perspectives, the retreatants considered “what wild creativity longs to emerge through my being?”
Passionate about justice for creation and passionate about advocating for themselves, these women kindled new fire in their bones for the work sorely needed. Shaped by Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage and Renewal, the retreat evoked questions about the places we need to take a risk, in other words, to “creatively leap into some fire.” Playing it safe is not the right response with so much imploding around us politically, socially, economically, and religiously.
Part of what struck me profoundly were the many ways in which participants had been wounded by doctrinaire, judgmental, and patriarchal Christianity. Some still had both feet in the church; some had one foot in and one foot out; and some had voted with their feet by walking out. I realized the insularity of much of my life as I travel primarily in Christian circles. It was significant and painful to hear the lament of those whose experiences differ from my own, even as I share many of their concerns.
Fire can both destroy and recreate, as I observed in the mountains surrounding the retreat center. Fire can be the means by which God “shakes the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (Haggai 2:6) so that cleansing and renewal might come. Surely God is among us, and we have no need to fear if we continue to seek and carry the fire of God’s own Spirit in our work for the common good.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.