I was blessed over Thanksgiving weekend with a visit from my daughter who currently lives in Austin, Texas. While experiencing the colder weather in Washington, DC she commented that when her time in Austin is complete she looked forward to leaving the deep South in favor of a region with seasons. After growing up near Chicago and then living in New Orleans for many years I understand what she hopes for. While living in NOLA I was never able to get used to the fact that while there were slight changes in weather and seasons of a different kind – like hurricane season (or Mardi Gras) – there weren’t those drastic changes that the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter bring to the temperate regions of the earth. Those of us who live in these regions see more vividly the natural cycles of life, death and rebirth in the natural world around us as the light, the colors and the temperatures change. Along with these changes we are forced into new ways of interacting with the “outside” world around us.
Just as seasonal changes force many of us to interact with the outside world in new ways we might say that, no matter the climate of the region where we live, those of us who are members of the Church live in a temperate region for the soul – in a place where the seasons of the church year (marked by liturgical changes in color, light and mood) invite us to consider new ways to interact with the needs of our own souls and the need of soul of the world that surrounds us; that life, death and rebirth are natural processes for the faithful and that each season of faith demands their own kinds of discipline.
Yesterday in the church we celebrated the beginning of a new season of the soul, the season of Advent. In this season we are challenged to a time of contemplative waiting, of expectation, of hope for new light to shine in our hearts and in the world’s heart too.Personally, I needed that change and yesterday’s services invited me to consider all of the places where I see new light shining in the world around me. Thankfully, and in relatively short order, there was a panoply of light and hope related to the work of my church: In a new initiative called Water into Wine where we encourage parishioners to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary by increasing our offerings of every-day items (like canned food, casseroles and clothing) and providing them to the children of God; in The Opportunity Shop (our parish Thrift Store) that already in 2013 has provided over $200,000 in grants to support the needy in our community and beyond http://stalbansdc.org/helping/ministries/st-albans-opportunity-shop/; in several recent visits to public and private schools in SE DC where educators are doing extraordinary work with our city’s vulnerable young: http://www.bishopwalkerschool.org/, http://www.washingtonmiddleschoolforgirls.org, http://www.reachincorporated.org/); in our new First Sundays at St. Alban’s program where a loving and courageous eight-month dialogue is taking place between Muslims and Christians; and in a new liturgy to be unveiled in January that will invite existing members to worship in a new way and hopefully invite folks without a faith community to a new season for their souls: https://www.facebook.com/PoiseoftheSoul.
Regardless of the climate in the region where you live, look for the light of the season of Advent that is dawning around you, and if what you see is dark, let there be light – your light and the light of your faith and your community. If you are reading this and live in the Washington DC area and are seeking a community where the faithful, the seeker and the doubter search for the light alike, join us at St. Alban’s Parish.