We hope you’ll join us!
Maundy Thursday (March 24th):
Join us for a community supper and services in Canterbury!
(Feel free to bring a dish to share! Please email Chelsea at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details if you plan to attend.)
Good Friday (March 25th):
at Church of the Woods
5:00-5:45 pm: Litany of the Extinct
5:45-6:15 pm: Silence
6:15-6:30 pm: The Crucifixion
6:30-7:00 pm: Silence
7:00-7:30 pm: Tenebrae
Holy Saturday Vigil (March 26th):
at Church of the Woods
Join us for a vigil & bonfire
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Easter Sunday (March 27th):
at Church of the Woods
3:00 – 4:30pm
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12: 24
These 30 words are, for me, as close as one can get to a one-sentence summary of the mystery of Christian faith — and a perfect way into the end of Lent and the approaching mystery of Easter.
Like so many of my favorite biblical passages, this one is rooted in references to the Earth and nature. Any of us who garden (or have children!) are well aware of the mystery of planting seeds in the ground and bearing witness to the miracle of new life springing up from these seeds that have “died.” Of course, the seeds haven’t really died, it is just that particular form — the seed form — that has died. The seed itself may be gone but the life-force that springs from the seed is beginning to grow and flourish. Whatever grows from this seed — whether it is another stalk of wheat or a bird or fungus that has digested the grain — will in due course form its own new seeds that will, in turn, “die.”
This eternal cycle of death leading to life leading to death is among the greatest and most beautiful mysteries of all existence. Is it any wonder that people have marveled at it since time immemorial? Yet the farther away from nature we live, the less aware we are of this deep truth at the center of all existence: Death is not just the end but a transformation. The divine life-force never ends but — always — takes on a new form. In nature, for example, some of the body and life-energy of an oak tree becomes acorns that can form new trees, but most of the body of the tree decays and becomes part of entirely different forms of life.
This eternal and unchangeable mystery is the root of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body — that death is not the end but a transformation into a different form. What that form is, we cannot say, but precisely because the mystery that we witness around us in nature — and in the life of Jesus — is so profound and pervasive, we know that we must be part of it, too. Everything, when it dies, takes on a new form, a new “body.”
When Jesus tells his followers the parable of the grain of wheat, he is allying himself to this great mystery. He is alerting them that he will die — and that his death is necessary. In the resurrection to come and the descent of the holy spirit at Pentecost, we get glimpses of how that new life may take shape in a transformed world.
He is warning his followers that they, too, are part of this mystery — that they must follow him even into death. The next two verses are stark: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me…”
When we die and our physical bodies take on new form, we are part of the new and ever-emerging life of the world. We are not separate from other forms of life but are one with all life and all matter. We are one particular manifestation of an eternal and universe-wide flow of form and energy — the cosmic Christ.
But this is not only about physical death and transformation, it is also about spiritual death and transformation — about becoming “a new person” in Christ. What Jesus is really trying to teach — indeed, what the entire Bible is working toward — is this transformation in consciousness that allows us to understand that we are not separate beings. We are not separate from each other, we are not separate from nature, we are not separate from the Earth, we are not separate from God. This awareness of being One — and learning what behaviors and actions that requires of us — is what Jesus elsewhere calls the Kingdom.
In the end, we all die physically — that part, we can’t avoid. The transformation of consciousness that the Christian tradition calls metanoia (usually and very misleadingly translated as “repent”), is what we are called to strive for in life — a transformation of heart, mind, and action that allows us to live as Jesus lived, in love and service to all. For this, too, we must undergo a death — and a rebirth.
My blessings for these last days of Lent and the coming resurrection of Easter.
Rev. Steve Blackmer
It was almost eight years ago, on the morning of June 22, 2008 that I woke up wondering,
“What is sacred in our world? What does ‘sacred’ mean? How do we even have public conversations about sacredness?”
I carried these questions with me when I started attending church a couple of months later, when I went to divinity school, when I was ordained, and when I formed Church of the Woods. They remain central to Kairos Earth, now.
I believe all life is sacred, and that we are meant to wrestle with the paradox that we must take life in order to live. The way through the paradox is to recognize that we have to treat the taking of life — the feeding upon life, for there is no other way to live — as itself a sacred act.
The alternative to this awareness of omnipresent sacredness is to treat the taking of life as a bloodless transaction, one with no moral consequence. Or to be sidetracked by questions about whether one form of life feels more than another the pain of being killed and is, therefore, more suited to be killed.
This month, we are launching a new program — the Common Ground Initiative —dedicated to exploring these questions and their relevance for conservation. What does it mean to destroy, or to protect, a natural landscape if the life it holds is sacred? What happens to the business of conservation when we lose the ability to speak of land and its living inhabitants as sacred?
When God told Noah to pack up All Creation — two of everything — he meant it! Can we speak about the diversity of all life as sacred?
How do we become more aware of the ways in which we take life? How do we wrestle with the paradox of taking life in order to live? Is there any way out of our ecological dilemmas without recovering an understanding of sacredness?
These questions will become a central focus of the EarthTime newsletter over the coming months, and we hope you will participate. How do you experience the sacred? Is the Earth and Nature an expression of that? Can you share an experience? Please join the conversation!
And since it is the season, if you are near enough, please join us for all or part of our observance of Holy Week and Easter at Church of the Woods — see below for details.
I look forward to being in touch, and thank you,
By Johanna Young, diaconal intern
“At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. “ (from Eucharistic Prayer C, BCP)
On the evening before the Winter Solstice a lively group gathered at Church of the Woods in Canterbury, NH to cheer the early night and newly built barn with songs, prayers, scripture readings, and concluding with a Eucharist and tasty potluck.
Earler that afternoon the hearty group had gathered in wood for the woodstove and logs for a bonfire while others greened the barn with swags of evergreen and sipped hot cider spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
As the bonfire glowed and sparked, the moon rose slowly over the outline of greens against the deep dark sky, dispelling the darkness of the night.
Now we have just left January and are edging closer to the start of Lent on Feb. 10th . We are in the last few days of the church season of Epiphany; already the days are growing longer and the sun stronger. But still there are plenty of crisp and clear nights ahead to view celestial spheres. We will be blessed with the opportunity to continue to see five planets aligned in the Southeastern sky before sunrise. Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury will be visible to the naked eye.
Epiphany, from the Greek word, epiphanés, literally means appearance or appearing. What do the planets’ alignment mean to you? Perhaps James Joyce’s use of epiphany might stimulate your thinking.
“James Joyce, the great Irish writer, used this term in his writings to indicate a sudden eye-opener regarding the nature of a person or situation. He said that it is the moment in which ‘the soul of the commonest object … seems to us radiant, and may be manifested through any chance, word or gesture.’ He means to say that even insignificant things in our life can suddenly inspire in us an awareness that can change our lives for good.”(http://literarydevices.net/epiphany/)
What a perfect time for us to view a glimpse of God’s vastness this season and to listen with our eyes open to the universe.
For tips on how to view the line-up of the planets, check out: http://whenthestarscomeout.com/planetary-alignment-2016
We enjoyed a lovely barn greening and Advent service on December 20th to welcome our brand new barn at Church of the Woods! Singing, standing by the wood stove (!), collecting firewood, drinking hot cider, decorating — a wonderful and warm welcoming indeed!
Enjoy this beautiful holiday reflection about connection to place from Rev. Hannah Anderson. We hope you’ll join us for further holiday cheer at Church of the Woods this Sunday for our Greening of the Barn!
Having grown up on a Pennsylvania farm and played extensively outside during my childhood, I find myself deeply connected to place. To land. To a familiar smell or texture of grass, a type of tree or sound of wind that carries me back home in a nanosecond.
A friend recently asked me about the most meaningful Christmas gift I have ever received. Out of sixty-two years of memory, there are a few that stand out for me as particularly special—most notably the Christmas following each of my sons’ births in ’80 and ’82. My children have been my greatest gifts.
Yet I found myself responding to this friend’s question from a different memory of Christmas that springs from my connection with land.
On Christmas Day, 1974, my young husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in Seattle, WA where we had moved in order for me to attend a new program in bilingual education. Needless to say, we were far apart from our families who lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A tight budget and our busy schedules kept us from returning home and so we made the best of it with a little tree and some simple gifts.
A few boxes from family members arrived in time for us to place them under the tree, waiting for Christmas morning. Those who loved us understood how challenging it might be for us not to be among them for festivities.
I reached for a box addressed specifically to me from my mother.
As I opened it up, I was hit first with the smell of pine; then Pennsylvania farm soil. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and I, at age 21, realized that my mother had sent me a small plot of land, of home, so that I would be reconnected with my family through smell, touch, sight and memory.
Eagerly, I opened up the box and took in the full view of home: dirt, pine boughs, crumpled fall leaves, sprigs of bittersweet and holly, pinecones, pebbles and moss! The Christmas gift brought me such profound joy and comfort. I hung on to this little plot of home as long as I could and, when it seemed timely, worked the Pennsylvania earth into our Seattle garden. That, too, brought abiding peace to my homesick soul.
During this season of love, I invite you to consider where your homeland is in this beautiful world of creation. Envision it. Visit it. Hold it close and dear, giving thanks for how it has blessed you and shaped you in love.
Check out Steve’s interview with the Cape & Islands NPR station!
“Science Alone Won’t Save the Planet; Only Love Can Do That”