I'm writing this from Black Mountain, NC. It's early and the mountains are beginning to stir. I'm up to soak in as much of the cool(er), crisp mountain air as I can. This is the last session of a seasonal retreat series I began last Autumn called, "Holy Listening in a Circle of Trust". The series is based on the work of Parker Palmer and draws from Quaker traditions of communal discernment. It's been a truly meaningful experience and I'm sad to see it end.
I got involved with this series on the urging of a good friend who has been involved in these types of retreats for a while. I trust him explicitly and when I learned the retreats would be held in the mountains, it was a no-brainer. For as long as I can remember, I've held a spiritual connection to the North Carolina mountains. Plus I had read Palmer's work and was intrigued to go deeper into the themes he writes about.
A year later and I can say these retreats have had a profound impact on me. In addition to the relationships I made, two important ideas stand out. One is the recognition of the importance of community in fostering a whole spirituality. Community is an essential aspect of living my faith. Spirituality is equally important. But I always thought (mistakenly) one had to pursue spirituality individually. What I found in this retreat was that spirituality becomes more alive and vital when pursued in community. I'm not sure how this will affect my spiritual and community life going forward, but I know it will.
The other recognition I had from these retreats is the peace that lives in the act of deep, Holy Listening. Last fall I began these retreats with 12 strangers. We had many similarities of course, but many differences as well. But as we lived in an environment that honored deep listening, those similarities and differences evaporated. We found a unity and connectedness that runs counter to a culture where similarities are used as the basis of exclusion and differences are seen as battle lines.
There is peace in such unity! Not the brittle peace of ideology or the sterile peace of theory. No, this is an incarnational peace that is given abundantly to us through Jesus. I don't pretend the brutality of war and the oppression of injustice aren't insidiously alive and active in the world. But I also can't pretend the peace of Jesus isn't readily abundant and available. We pray, watch and work for that peace, which seems the size of a mustard seed compared to the powers and principalities that appear to rule the world, to grow and flourish for all people.
I trust you'll find the seeds of peace in this issue of PeaceSigns. We've got contributions from Tammy Alexander, Brother James Dowd and Merrill Miller. We also welcome a new voice this month. Darrin Snyder Belousek has written a powerful book examining what the cross of Jesus means for justice and peacemaking. He discusses it in his article this month, a must-read!
(FYI, I know Darrin from his time as a Service Adventure unit leader, along with his wife Paula, in Raleigh. I remember talking with him about "the book" at a fellowship meal. So I'm especially happy for him to appear in PeaceSigns. Thanks, Darrin!)
This has gone on much longer than normal. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Enjoy PeaceSigns!