Friday, June 15, 2018

Darkness and Solace


Image result for darkness and solaceThere are times when we in religious life question where we are, who we are becoming, whether it’s all worth it, whether it is still life-giving. I suspect the same happens in other forms of life-commitment. Sometimes the answer to these questions is gift and blessing, and a resounding yes to God, to community and to mission. At other times, we struggle to find the strength and courage, we struggle on amid questions and challenges, we experience our own weakness and the weakness of others with whom we share this life. In these dark moments, our sisters can walk with us, our sisters can sit with us in our dark places, peering out for glimmers of solace and hope. They can pray for us and they can support us. At times like these, we come to realize that while we are radically in community, we are also radically alone. Our presence in community is premised on our personal commitment to our God and the path that God has carved into the core of our being. As we come into community we love and support one another in this journey of the heart, the journey of our vocation. There is a give and take between personal journey and community journey. As we move through life, these two can enrich one another, they can also challenge one another.
In nature, plants grow and are nourished by their interactions with the climate and the ecosystem. Some species will thrive, despite occasional challenges and stresses. Others will not be able to make it in that particular ecosystem, in that micro-climate. For me, this is an image of vocation. God calls us by creating us in Love to be persons who thrive in the vocation we call religious life. The climate of the life, its vows, its ministry, its spirituality all conspire for our growth. The ecosystem, our sisters, our community, those with whom and for whom we serve, support and challenge us to become the best of God's dream for us. As we grow in our vocation, our roots sink deeper and deeper into the soil of God, community and mission. We grow more resilient to face the inevitable challenges that come.
The journey of vocation discernment and of initial formation is a time to find that place God has called us and to learn to "bloom where we are planted." Once we are permanently professed, we have a certain groundedness, yet life continues to unfold and challenge us. May we be a blessing to one another on this journey.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, June 1, 2018

NEW BOOK: Dogtown Ecovillage Green Book


I've collaborated on a book that explores various ways of living sustainably. We're calling it the Dogtown Ecovillage Green Book.
This book was conceived on Earth Day, 2018. Dogtown Ecovillage had a booth at the Earth Day Festival in Forest Park, St. Louis MO. This is one of the nation’s largest and longest-lasting Earth Day celebrations. Over the two days of the festival, ecovillagers took turns staffing our booth, sharing comaraderie and visiting other booths at the festival. In the booth we showcased several and group projects. DIY seed-starting pots, bee-hives, home-energy-audits, quail, vermicompost, an energy footprint quiz, coloring pages for the kids. We also fielded hundreds of questions on all of the above projects as well as questions about gardening, ecovillage life, composting, seed-saving. We had lots of requests for more information, something in writing and other types of follow-up. At that point, we realized that we have a lot of collective wisdom that we could share and that’s how this book came about. It’s written by ecovillagers and friends, and attempts to share our experience. Much of what we learned is from others, from books, from YouTube, from trial-and-error. We share it as the experience of trying to live green in our urban neighborhood ecovillage. Check it out on Amazon....

Friday, May 18, 2018

Gentleness and Strength


My ministry brings me into contact with many religious men and women from many different communities. It is a real privilege to get to know so many committed people. They do amazing works. Their hearts are so expansive. They have been ministers of Loving-Kindness for so long that they become echoes of the Heart of God.
Recently, I began working with a community that describes their charism as working in Gentleness and Strength. That is so lovely. I believe that their charism is a message for me at this time in my life. I am dealing with my aging parents. They are lovely people, and at the same time, they are dealing with their own diminishment and one with dementia. This community, with their charism of Gentleness and Strength is for me a reservoir that I can tap into as I help my parents and my family address the challenges of aging. 
This is an example of one of the key lessons I have learned: we are evangelized by those we serve. This community has asked for my assistance. At the same time, getting to know them I receive from them the gifts I need in another aspect of my life. And I'm sure that in working with my aging parents, I'm deepening the gentleness and strength that will help me to grow and to serve another in the circle of life, the circle of grace.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Ecovillage Living

I live in Dogtown Ecovillage - we are an urban community that is committed to building community and working for sustainability right here in my own neighborhood.
We each have our own home, mostly within a few blocks of each other. Close enough to walk to each other's houses for potlucks, parties, gatherings, spontaneous celebrations.
We gather for some more and less formal meetings each month when everyone on our list is invited -- over 100 people. Usually we have 12-18 people who join us for the monthly potluck. Some gather for a monthly coffee. Then we have group projects - gardens, sustainability projects, we've dreamed about several local business options: food coop, eco AirBnB, etc. We regularly share tools and rides and extra plants or harvests. I hear about play-dates for the kids and birthday parties. We share photos of our plants and the bugs we saw on them, the butterflies and birds we have spotted.
I invited the villagers in when we had a bumper crop of strawberries. We had lots of kids crawling over the patch - and ready reminders: pick the red ones, not the green ones.... All so much fun, so alive, so beautiful. I am most abundantly blessed.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Merger and Loss of Identity


A friend related being on a committee that is discussing merger of congregations into a single larger group. They had been at this conversation for decades, and this committee is another iteration of it. Each time they come to a decision point, they're told, "this is our last chance to make this decision - then it will be too late." So they decide not to merge, and a few years later, they have another round and again, people say, it is our last chance to make this decision - then it will be too late.... and on it goes. So this year again, at a general chapter, they decided not to merge, but to continue talking and see what emerges.


Some of the proposals have one governance structure, and each of the previous congregations would have an administrator in charge of housing, healthcare, cars, and the daily lives of the sisters in each of the traditional congregational centers. But the congregational identity would be no more. They have written a 50-60-70 year story together - or "80 for those who are strong". And they will no longer gather as a congregation, no longer come together to meet, greet, and catch-up, gather, pray and ponder together this life and mission they share, no longer write a common story. What a loss.

My friend had a dream which she shared.
Image result for booksIn the dream, I was being asked to move - no, I was being moved to a central community. The sisters said they would pack everything for me.
When I arrived, they had my clothing and personal items.
"Thanks," I said, still dazed from the move. "Where are my books?"
"Oh, don't worry," came the reply, "We have books here. You don't need your books, we got rid of them. Many were old and marked up, full of notes on scraps of paper and pictures and poems. Don't worry, we have books here."
"My prayer journals? The books I've prayed with for years? The poems I've written? The photos I've taken? The books given to me by the author, with a personal note? Did you save any of them? How do we get them back?"
"Don't worry, honey" came the answer, in a genuine attempt at comforting me, "We have books here."
She realized that in their conversation, they never talked about identity. They talked about a stronger central identity, but they never talked about local identity and about forums for the continued life and mission among those they have lived with all these years.

In my work with communities around the country, the most common reason that communities don't merge is because they want to retain their identity. They want to find a way to continue to live their mission together, realizing the need to collaborate for mutual support as the community ages and gets smaller.

They are looking for ways to keep their books, to continue to reverence the stories, the prayers, the poetry they have written together.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Yes AND


Someone recently sent me an article that said we should focus on changing policy, not on making small consumer choices, hoping that will make the difference. For me, I think it's a YES AND situation. 


Image result for andChange global policy affecting climate, poverty and justice.

Yes and....

1. Consume less, buy less, use less. 
2. Consume local, buy local, use local.
3. Consume organic/natural, buy organic/natural, use organic/natural.

AND
Talk to friends, neighbors, students, family about why you are doing it.

AND
Get churches, schools, government, companies, to make more sustainable choices.

AND 
Advocate and Vote for people and policies that are more sustainable, and support research to find best practices.

AND 
Join with others who are making a difference at any of these levels

AND
Make it a life-style!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Summer Sisters 2018

Once again this year, I would like to extend the invitation to join in building community with me here in St. Louis, for a period of time during the summer. It can be the experience you seek: Retreat. Sabbath Time. Vacation. R&R. Embodied Commitment to Sustainability. Emersion in an Urban Ecovillage. Nurturing body, spirit, the future of religious life.
We'll have to work around the house schedule which is a little crazy this year - but then when is life not crazy. Let's do what we can.
Here's a link to a prior invitation. If you're interested, drop me a line and we'll talk more.
ALSO - if any women discerning religious life would like to spend several weeks in a live-in experience, let me know and we will see what we can arrange for that too. We have several houses where you might be able to join us.
Amy
www.ahereford.org