It was a gorgeous fall afternoon in October. My partner and I wanted to celebrate the day, find a wonderful place to be outside. We remembered an area of woods in Winnipeg, inside the city but what seems like miles away, the Bois des Esprits. The Seine River runs through it and it’s watched over by wood spirits, faces carved into the trees.
The walk was everything we hoped for. The trees were almost bare, and we heard my favorite seasonal soundtrack, the rustle of leaves beneath my feet. We saw an animal swimming in the water and chased after it, walking through branches along the shoreline trying to get a closer look – beaver? Otter? We didn’t get close enough to see, but wished it well on its journey.
Another moment, a couple of weeks later: church on Remembrance Day Sunday. There was a musical postlude, a duet with piano and violin. The service was over, but the congregation sat rapt, transfixed as the music echoed, almost hauntingly, through the sanctuary. The beauty and majesty of the music took over.
In a recent circle at the Centre for Christian Studies, Alydia Smith, Program Coordinator Worship, Music & Spirituality of the United Church office led a few sessions. One of the ideas I took out of one of the sessions was the idea of making space for grace in worship. Our walk in the woods, and the music at the service were both moments of deep grace, being totally present with, and surrounded by God’s love in and for the world. Being present to the holy, whether worshipping informally in the woods (or where ever we are in the world), or formally in church.
How do we find, or create those grace-filled moments? Psalm 46 tells us to ‘be still and know that I am God.’ Maybe we don’t need to go to the woods to find grace. Maybe those moments are right here. Step back. Look around. What surrounds you? Where you can see God’s love at work in the world?
One final moment: back at home, watching the sun set off the front porch, chatting with our neighbor, our cats on the porch. That too, was a moment of God’s grace, a small celebration of wonder, beauty and being present.
Nancy Renwick is a member of Augustine United Church in Winnipeg. She attended the Worship learning circle in October.