I think I need to come up with some more sophisticated questions for the Island clergy the next time around. I asked them last week, “What does the word ‘joy’ mean to you in relationship to your higher power, to your faith?”
I only got a couple of responses, which tells me that either everyone’s still recovering from summer, I didn’t give them enough time to respond, or I need to ask more interesting questions. Maybe a little of each?
The Rev. Stephen Harding, rector of Grace Church, responded that he wasn’t “really in a place to write about joy” because he’ll be traveling to New York City on Sept. 11 to be with the city’s fire departments for the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Pastor Harding served as chaplain during the attacks on the World Trade Center. The destruction that day killed 2,996 and injured more than 6,000 others.
Everyone remembers what they were doing that day. I had just walked into the office of the Catholic Sun newspaper, where I was a staff writer at the time. One perk that I was always grateful for was that whenever there was a local, national, or international tragedy, the cathedral next door offered a Mass that day to bring people together in prayer. It felt like we really were one body, with everyone focused on prayer at the same time. I believe that no matter what religion you practice or whatever faith you have, the power of intention can be a strong force. Just think of what we could do with that!
I think that feeling of closeness during common prayer, elbow to elbow with friends and neighbors who are feeling the same emotions and all praying for peace at the same time filled me with joy. Even though the events that brought us together were terrible, the aftermath proved that we can all come together. It’s just hard to accept that an event so catastrophic seems like the only thing that truly unites us all. If we could only come together like that regularly, without some horrible cause in mind — that, I’m sure, would fill many of us with joy.
The Rev. Susan Waldrop, interfaith minister at large, wrote about joy:
“Joy is a fruit of the Spirit! It assumes that a soul that is trying to follow the Divine, God, the Universal Source, the Highest Power, the Source of all Life!
“It does not come from collecting things or social standing, or any of the other things we seek to fill the void —- by themselves. Of course, we need satisfying employment, and our gifts are there to develop and use — but just not for ourselves alone, or to use to keep us from feeling pain, or store up as a wall against the world.
“There are clues to joy in loving relationships, the satisfactions of accomplishments, giving of ourselves, and nature. We may find it without searching, but it lasts longer and gets deeper in us tied into the Source of Life and Love, God by any other name. Joy comes from a life well lived —- in love — no matter where we live, or our circumstances … joy comes from rising to challenges and learning the lessons in life — even from suffering and hurt. These experiences deepen us and cause us to choose between acting out, savoring bitterness, keeping a closed heart, perhaps unforgiveness; or, seeking love, healing, openness and crying out to God. The psalms are wonderful teachers of our human emotions before God (by whatever name you choose). Gratitude often comes with knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Do I get worried by challenges? Am I afraid sometimes? Have I struggled with forgiveness? Yes, of course! But I know where to go when I feel burdened — to my knees in prayer! Then I know I am not alone … Then I feel supported and my soul — even if circumstances are unhappy — can sing and rest in the Universal Source of life.”
The Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo wrote to say that the United Methodist Church at the Campground has finished its successful trial tai chi program. In September and through October, the church offers the Tree of Life Tai Chi program for beginners. They’ll meet every Wednesday at 3 pm and Thursday at 3 pm at the Parish House, although he is open to flexibility with the dates and times. The practice is open to all church members and members of the Island community. Pastor Seonwoo does ask that you make a commitment to attend as much as possible. There’s no charge for the program, but a donation is appreciated, and it will be used by the church for its mission and ministries. If you need more information, call 401-595-5405.
The First Congregational Church of West Tisbury invites the community to a presentation by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim at a book talk on “Thomas Berry: A Biography.” Island conservation organizations will be there to share their missions and offer opportunities to get involved on Sunday, Sept. 29, with the book talk from 2 to 3 pm, and a Climate Action Bazaar with Island organizations and refreshments from 3 to 4 pm at the church, 1051 State Rd. in West Tisbury.
A press release from the church says that Thomas Berry (1914–2009) was one of the 20th century’s most prescient and profound thinkers. “As a cultural historian, he sought a broader perspective on humanity’s relationship to the Earth in order to respond to the ecological and social challenges of our times,” the release states.
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim teach at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Divinity School, where they direct the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. They worked closely with Thomas Berry for more than 30 years as his students, editors, and literary executors, and they are the managing trustees of the Thomas Berry Foundation.
The event will take place at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, 1051 State Rd., West Tisbury, and is sponsored by the Vineyard Conservation Society, along with the church.
For more information, call 508-693-2842 or 508-693-9588.
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