catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 20 :: 2011.11.11 — 2011.11.24


Death unto life

Produce in us, for us, the possible:
each only-human step toward home
lit up.

Neil Douglas-Klotz
Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus

There’s nothing like a little autumn in the northern regions of the world to set our wheels turning on the morbid and the strange.  The overall mood is darker, colder, quieter.   The fecundity of summer gives way in a matter of weeks to the corpse-like state of winter.  We mock death by dressing up and eating candy, but no amount of sugar can stop the driving force of seasonal depression or hold the trees to their ephemeral green promises.

Here in Three Rivers this fall, we pulled out our tales of death, unsolved mysteries, spirits, Spirits and, yes, even a little bit of Poe for our eerie storytelling night at Huss School.  Then, fueled by apple cider and popcorn, we spelunked the utility tunnels of the old haunt with a single flashlight, spooking ourselves like giddy kids at the imprints of shoes in the concrete floor or the turning of a blind corner.

On a more serious note (though perhaps just as scary), this fall has also been a time of exploring the metaphorical innards of *culture is not optional as an organization, from the brightly lit rooms we use on a daily basis to the dark corners of the basement where ten-year-old ideas lurk in the shadows.  It’s been clear for a while that *cino is growing beyond a ministry of two people doing publishing and special events.  Owning and cultivating The Imagining Space at Huss School calls for a different kind of rootedness, an expanded audience, a clarification of mission.  What language do we use?  What limitations and weaknesses do we need to wrestle with in order to move forward?  What aspects of this work give life to those who are already invested and what’s the potential for growing more investment among both local and “virtual” constituencies?  What values guide our search for financial, emotional and spiritual sustainability?

Almost every group of people working toward a common purpose will go through this kind of process at some point and it’s never easy, requiring all of the hospitality we can possibly muster, as individuals and as a collective.  Thankfully, as we were reminded on the recent All Saints Day, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who can speak into the triumphs and the difficulties of this type of reflection. 

Last Saturday, *cino staff members and a few board representatives gathered our space heaters around in a room of the unheated school for a time of retreat.  A local pastor friend led us in communion and emphasized through Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 that gratitude for what we have been given makes it enough.  Via his writing, Jean Vanier reminded us again to build trust by accepting the brokenness of ourselves and others.  Through translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic, Neil Douglas-Klotz invited us to expand our understanding of what it means to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Our own voices wove in and out among these insights as we began moving through the words and images that guide us in our work — a communion of saints indeed.

Alongside the work of the group, this fall has involved a lot of personal wrestling, as Rob and I take time as a couple and as individuals to turn the exploratory flashlight on our own hearts through conversation, study and spiritual direction.  Though I can sense that dying is part of this process — dying to false perceptions of myself, to unhelpful expectations, to the desire for grand achievement — I can also sense that such dying is in the sense of autumn’s death.  It’s a stripping bare that sends the sugars to my roots, a creational rhythm that is not the end, but is necessary preparation for new life to spring forth.  It’s practicing resurrection.

I don’t expect this process to end in perfection.  We are, after all, only human.  But I do hope that it leads to some sensation of “home lit up,” not just for myself or our staff members, but for all who encounter *cino in the course of their search for the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  As we seek what this might mean for everything from shared meals to architectural plans, Douglas-Klotz helps give voice to our prayers:

As we find your love in ours,
let heaven and nature form
a new creation.

Unite the crowd within
in a vision of passionate purpose:
light mates with form.

Create in me a divine cooperation —
from many selves, one voice,
one action.

Indeed: Thy will be done.

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