On Time in Navajoland

Br. Keith Nelson and Miles, Saint Michael’s Church

An Interview with Br. Keith Nelson:
You went to Navajoland this summer; how and why did this come about?

This opportunity came about as a direct invitation from our diocesan bishops in Massachusetts, for me to participate in a new component of formation for ordinands that will take effect in 2024, a period of cross-cultural ministry. Though I was ordained a transitional deacon in June of this year, they asked that I also participate. It’s aimed at building deep relationships and facilitating essential hard conversations about race. It asks white ordinands in particular to immerse themselves in the experience of church communities who are majority Black, brown, or indigenous within the Episcopal Church. 

I spent some real time in prayer about it, and the prompting that emerged from the Spirit was a strong desire to spend time learning from and collaborating with Native Christians. I returned to our bishops, and we began a conversation from that request.

I have been moved and troubled by the histories of indigenous peoples, Christian missionaries, and the Doctrine of Discovery since first learning about it as a teenager. Those feelings and thoughts have been reignited in the past several years. A passionate spiritual need to enter true intimacy and synergy with the entire creation has been forming my sense of priestly calling. That has found intersection with deepening care and concern about those who have, historically, centered their whole way of life upon that intimacy and synergy: the indigenous peoples of this continent. Finally, within the last year I read the book Unsettling Truths, co-authored by Mark Charles, who is Diné (Navajo) and a Christian Reformed pastor. I wept and sometimes screamed in outrage and, by the end of the book, was convinced I needed to seriously ask: What is the invitation in the midst of this anger and sadness? Then this opportunity came along.  Read More

God’s Grandeur – Br. James Koester

John 17:20–26

It is easy to get lost these days, and in many ways all of us are lost. We are lost in fear, worry, concern, and anxiety. We are lost in sorry, sadness, and anger. We are afraid of the future and worried about the present. We are concerned about those we love, and anxious about ourselves.

All of these are normal and natural feelings, and I do not for a minute want to suggest that there is something wrong with you because you feel one or other, or all, or more of these things. Finding ourselves still in the midst of a pandemic after more than two years, watching the news from Buffalo, and Uvalde, and seeing our leaders incapable of doing anything that looks remotely like gun reform legislation is enough to make anyone’s stomach clench in knots in grief, pain, anger, and sadness. Seeing the images from Ukraine or the effects of the climate emergency overwhelm us with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

All of us no doubt, are actually sadder, angrier, and feel more helpless than we often care to admit. I know I do. That is the reality of life at the moment and the disorientation of this season is profound. Read More

Stress and the Blessed Virgin Mary – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

John 19:25b-27

The Blessed Virgin Mary went through many stressful situations in her life. Think about how stressful those nine months of her controversial pregnancy with the son of God must have been. Then to give birth while traveling. Then to have to flee into Egypt. Then the pressure of raising a son who is the Messiah.

So imagine how Mary felt that fateful Friday in Jerusalem watching her son slowly tortured, mocked, and executed by the authorities of her day. Her son did not die a clean, quiet death. The crucifixion would have been loud, chaotic, and messy.  After all the stress Mary had been through in her life, for it to culminate with her son dying on a cross like that feels like a cruel fate.

Mary did not give in to self-pity or despair. Our Gospel this morning demonstrates how Mary endured the stress and trauma of the crucifixion with quiet resilience. The Gospel writer tells us that as Jesus hung on the cross, Mary and the Beloved Disciple stood beside each other. I personally find great comfort in this image, Mary and the Beloved Disciple standing in solidarity focused on Jesus. They were not running away or shielding themselves from the horror unfolding before them. They took it all in. They were able to take the pain together. Read More

Speaking a New Creation – Br. Jim Woodrum

James 3:1-12

In our lections the past couple of Sundays, we have been hearing portions of the Letter of James. This Letter, I think, presents one of the most important themes that we of modern times need to consider closely: that of integrity of speech. At the outset, it reads like a collection of lessons straight out of a book of social etiquette. James’ words recall in my memory my mother’s admonishment: “Jimmy, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I suspect most of us would consider this maxim to be good and sound. But, I also think to the days of my childhood when someone would speak to another person ungraciously, perhaps calling them a name. You may know the famous playground retort: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Unlike my mother’s advice, this saying I find questionable at best.

What is striking to me about James’ wise council, is that it goes deeper than just manners and childhood retorts. Considered “Wisdom Literature” of the New Testament, James’ Letter draws a correlation between word and action. And, he seems to know something about the nature of speech. His use of metaphor instantly captures our imaginations and brings into focus a truth that is both easy to identify yet difficult to master. This morning we read: Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. Read More