As I write I am preparing to lead the pre-Lenten clergy retreat for the Diocese of Massachusetts. Their new bishop the Rt. Rev. Alan Gates, is a former Bexley Hall and Bexley Seabury board member, and a thoughtful and informed supporter of seminary education in a time of unsettling change — including change in his own theological neighborhood.
In the political and cultural turmoil of the last several weeks, I know I am not the only person who has found it hard to focus. So I am looking forward to this time in Massachusetts, if only because
the theme I have chosen for the retreat —Engaging the Scriptural Imagination— is intended to offer something of a respite from the dread and anxiety that has afflicted so many of us recently.
We will spend time with artists like Rembrandt and poets like Emily Dickinson, both of them better scriptural interpreters than most of us gathering in Ipswich. My hope is that an artist’s take on our sacred stories — at once critical and creative, impatient of pious cant and yet resplendent in beauty — will embolden us to approach our Lenten scriptures as if we were reading them for the first time, and discover in them something rich and strange.
The Massachusetts clergy don’t know this yet, but by the time I am done with them they will all have written a few lines of poetry based on the coming season’s lectionary, and will be asked to share their work with each other in an impromptu public reading. I love doing this poetry thing with preachers. What better way to take our minds off what’s happening in Washington, get off our high horses, and reconnect to the Source of Meaning that makes life not just bearable but even beautiful — a place to rest, and even rejoice, in what for many of my ordained colleagues (and for me) are such dark days.