Recently retired diaconal minister Allison Halstead shares her May 2017 reflection to the Manitoba North West Ontario Conference.
I recently hiked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. A stone wall made of squared stone 120 km long, 3 m wide, 5-8 m high. There’s not much of it left and some think that’s a shame — we humans seem to love a good wall!
But as I walked, I thought – the wall is still here , or the stones are – the carefully chosen, shaped, and placed rocks are still here — but now in stone fences that divide pastures so sheep may safely graze, in bridges and roads so all may safely travel, and in barns and houses so all may safely dwell.
I stayed in a stone cottage B&B halfway along, arriving tired, cold, and sore, and was met with , “Hello! Come in. Would you like a cup of tea, pet? Where are you from?”
“Ah – and what do you do?”
“And what are you tired from?”
“The church! You don’t look brainwashed!!!”
(oh oh, does this mean no tea?)
After much head shaking and ribbing, I headed up to bed, but was asked, “Could you stop a minute to explain something – cause you should know?!” He was watching a TV miniseries about the 12 tribes – did I know about them? Are they in the bible? — Yep
Well, could I explain this bit…and there we were, watching the telly. The prequel to the 12 tribes bit; Jacob stopping in his fear and remorse, to turn and meet Esau who’s chased him down after all these years . “So, why all the argy-bargy?”
So I explain they are brothers, the younger betrayed and hurt the older many years before.
So – it’s about family? — Real family, like!”
“Yep, lots of real family stuff in the bible.”
Then, something shifts, and I am told about a Christmas Eve he’d slipped into the back of the Parish church to listen to the music and singing, and the Priest talked a bit too. “They were having some do”
Ah, a service
“And it was so peaceful, I stayed.”
And another stone fell out of the wall, and moved to a new place.
We worry about changes, and relationships, and ambiguity about our church. What will it look like? What will we lose? Will it survive?
I think the church is like the wall – formed of chosen , called, shaped, carefully placed stones just as Jesus called the first ones and we continue to be called and shaped to be the church in this place —and will be in the future. But as living stones.
Those who know me know my love of poetry. Liz Zetlin’s poem, “What I love here”, in Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, in the last stanza speaks of what I love here are the stories we hold like stones in the palm of our hand – moving against one another in their telling and retelling, helping reshape each other so the hard and hurtful edges are worn away and their internal beauty is revealed.
Isn’t that our journey as living stones?
*Stone fence image by Paul VanDerWerf