Close to Home with Eyes Wide Open
For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.
— Evelyn Underhill
As I write this column, we have just entered the season of Advent. After three months of livestreaming worship only, our first Sunday with many back in the sanctuary was a joyful coming home celebration. Yes, we were all wearing our masks and doing our best to maintain physical distancing. Even so, the sparkle in the eyes of those gathered in the sanctuary was an indication of many smiles behind the masks.
The reduced strain on the ICU in our hospital, the availability of booster shots, and the expansion of eligibility of vaccines to include children ages 5 and up allows us to return to in person worship carefully. We recognize that some individuals continue to need to exercise special caution because of their particular health situations, and we encourage you to make the best choices for yourself and your loved ones. We’ll continue to provide livestreams of our worship services on Facebook and YouTube. In addition we’ve learned the value of virtual gathering spaces, so we’ll keep finding ways to connect with one another on Zoom.
This year we have Advent at Home kits available for households. These kits include Advent calendars, daily devotions, candles for creating an Advent wreath, craft ideas, and more. The kits are available during church office hours this week. If you need one delivered to you, contact the office.
I encourage you to use the Advent kits to create your own spiritual practices for Advent. We’ve added one of my favorites practices this year, the Advent Photo-a-Day devotions. There is one word for each day of Advent. Hold the word in your thoughts throughout the day. When you see something that connects to that word, snap a photo. You can share those photos on your social media or you can keep them for yourself. Sharing them with others may spark more folks to take up the practice, and you may find inspiration in the posts others share.
I looked back in my photos, and the first time I participated in an Advent Photo-a-Day practice was in 2013. I'm including a few of those photos here.
The daily practice of reflecting on one word and taking a photo relating to it is a way to help us pay attention. We are learning to look with an openness for what is around us, to find meaning in the everyday. If you haven’t tried it before, I encourage you to take a look at the Advent words for this year. See what you may discover about yourself, the world, and the Sacred which surrounds us every day.
I’d love to see what captures your attention. If you do share your photos on social media, use the hashtags #fccmky, #fccmorehead, #advent2021, #closetohome.
May this Advent season be a time of waiting, expectant waiting, for the Holy One to be revealed.
Be well. Be kind.
And always be the church where you are.
Tired of Waiting
The natural habitat of Advent is a community of hurt. It is the voice of those who know profound grief, who articulate it and do not cover it over. But this community of hurt knows where to speak its grief, toward whom to address its pain….And because the hurt is expressed to the One whose rule is not in doubt, the community of hurt is profoundly a community of hope.
Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. Each year we come to the season of Advent and remind ourselves the pace of the Christian year is markedly at odds with the frantic holiday culture around us. This year feels different. 2020 has been a year defined by waiting—waiting for a bending of the curve, for restrictions to end, for test results, for 14 days of quarantine, for life to get back to normal, for election results, for a vaccine. We’ve done so much waiting this year; it is difficult to find motivation to wait more.
This Advent, let’s approach the season from another angle. Yes, we wait in anticipation for the Christ Child. But let’s dig deep into our faith for the Spirit’s wellspring of hope.
Each Sunday in Advent our worship will begin with the song, I Believe in the Sun. The lyrics are based on a story told to the BBC by a captured German soldier in 1945, who recalled that the words were found scrawled in a shelter in Cologne, where young Catholics were keeping some Jews in hiding during the Holocaust.
I believe in the sun — even when it is not shining.
I believe in God — even when [God] is silent.
I believe in love — even when it is not apparent.
We are living through a season in which it takes courage to hope. Let us be a people who resist the pull of despair. In times of hurt, we can be a “community of hope” and a light to the world.
With hope and faith,
A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.