We had a great visit with Nate and Angela and their new housemates Eric, Alissa, Kieran, and Milosz. Gathered around pizza the night before we left, it felt just like being with friends back at home. And there were good conversations in the kitchen the next morning, about grace and Jesus' "gift economy," the challenges of community living, and the beginnings of a marriage. They all were very welcoming friends to us.
Then we visited the Street Church in a park downtown—very much like it's Boston counterpart—and got to hear Anne-Marie's understanding of her work and the importance of the Eucharist as part of it. Leaving there, we walked through Chinatown, and were accosted by a young man recruiting for Greenpeace. We didn't sign up, but we ended up talking with him quite a while. He went to U of M like me, used to live in Chicago and was familiar with Evanston and Reba Place church, and is a pretty enthusiastic about Jesus. And he was very enthusiastic about our walk. "It was a blessing meeting you!" he said. We didn't have a chance to discuss whether or not Jesus would join Greenpeace...
Now we're staying with Dan and Hannah, Heather's friends from college. We plan to be in town here for the rest of the week, before taking a bus to North Carolina (to make sure the winter doesn't catch us later). We'll continue our walk from there.
The city was very quiet yesterday morning, almost no traffic and few people on the street. Until I got to the church. There were guys waiting outside, and then most of the church was filled with homeless people, but still quiet. The bible study was lively. People's respect for each other and willingness to listen impressed me. And the leader was clearly not a graduate of the school of hard knocks, but the others seemed to respect him anyway, maybe because he also respected them. That gives me hope.
But the church service afterwards impressed me more. It was an assembly almost completely of people from the street. A congregation I could really see Jesus comfortable in.
The small choir seemed to be mostly made up of people from the congregation. One of the best male singers even told of being beaten and abandoned by his parents in a motel room when he was eight months old. He had a wonderful, booming voice. During communion he sang a well-known, and quite intricate, version of the Lord's prayer; it gave me shivers as he reached the climax at the end (click here to hear an instrumental version of it that I found online).
About half of the people gathered in the church seemed to participate. Others were just waiting for breakfast, I guess. But there were several testimonies and a large number of people came up for communion. Their eagerness to come was quite noticeable. When the invitation came, people just streamed out of the pews and flooded up around the communion rail.
I'll remember that image. I think sacraments like communion (and anointing, which they also offered after the service) may be very valuable ways to communicate God's love in a simple, physical way to the people who come to our retreats. People who may not be so interested in complicated talk or theology. Even if they are not familiar with such practices, the symbolism is easily grasped, and full of meaning.
It's Heather's birthday tomorrow, so I'll let her sleep in. I'm leaving early to go to a church downtown and see their homeless outreach: a bible study, Eucharist, and breakfast. We're at Nate and Angela's place now (where they're starting a communal household). Glad to be seeing all they're involved with here.
One more stretch tomorrow morning, hopefully before it gets hot, and we'll arrive at my friend Nate's place in Washington, DC. He and Angela just got married in June, so it will be fun to be newly married couples together.
There's also a few others I want to meet while we're there. Anne-Marie Jeffery is a pastor at the Church of the Epiphany, and leads a street church in downtown DC. Our new friends at Ecclesia ministries in Boston introduced me to her. They also suggested visiting the Church of the Saviour, which happens to be very close to Nate's place, and he knows people there. So we should have some interesting and helpful visits in the city before we head down to Fredericksburg.
(And were getting there just in time to celebrate Heather's birthday on Sunday!)
"I love ALDI!"
That's Heather. We found an ALDI yesterday, and were able to get about six meals for the two of us for under eleven dollars. And that included a nice big bar of dark chocolate. ("Mmmm!" Heather again. "That's some of the best chocolate I've had outside of France. And it's a dollar!")
No frills—products stacked on pallets on the floor, and you have to bag your own groceries—and usually only one variety of any item, but a great find for anyone on a small food budget. If there's one around, the poor folk know where it is.
No troubles today. The biggest challenge was last night, when we couldn't find shelter at a church. We ended up making a bivouac out of a poncho, string, and duct tape (Heather's idea) and huddled under there during the night's rain. I was impressed how well it worked.
I've been thinking of a passage I read the other day, after writing about social rejection as a part of following Jesus:
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man. (Jn 2.23-25)
I wondered about that comment, "but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men..." It seems like an odd response, given that Jesus had been so well-received by the people. When I looked up the word translated here "did not trust (himself to them)," pisteuo, I found it also means "place confidence in," or "believe in." So it seems to be saying that Jesus did not trust the good response and honor that many people were giving him at that time. He didn't believe that he was doing well (or God's will) because of the crowd's favorable response then. Because "he knew what was in man." Later, the popular response would be much different.
As I wrote before, social rejection tests us and helps turn us away from trusting in the good favor of the powerful society around us. It seems to be an important part of faithfulness to God, since even Jesus faced it. Yet in those moments when we are favored by people, it's just as important then not to trust or believe in that, just as Jesus did not.
Perry Hall, MD
We sang this hymn at the Quaker meeting Sunday:
This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.
I think of it now, as we contemplate walking through Baltimore tomorrow. People have warned us it's not very safe. (Though one woman Sunday said that with the "level of light in those two" it shouldn't be a problem—a Quaker way of saying God is with us?) We'll pray for the city as we pass through. And remember the last verse of that hymn:
This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
Bel Air, MD
This weekend was such a relief that I'm not sure where to begin or how to sum it up. Saturday afternoon, after a wash in beautiful Octoraro Creek, we were picked up by a couple young guys in a red sports car blaring Rage Against The Machine—not your stereotypical good Samaritans—who proceeded to drive us up and down the shores of the Susquehanna River showing us the sights. Then zipped us across the wide dam there. (A godsend, since we weren't allowed to walk across it as planned.)
Jason and Greg took us right to the church we hoped to visit the next morning. There we found a cluster of boxwood trees that formed a leafy little cave next to the (very old) cemetery and settled in for the night. It was a Quaker meetinghouse, Deer Creek Meeting. I don't usually mention church denominations or names, but we had such a great experience there, I want to remember that community.
Sunday morning we met Mary, who had accidentally arrived early, and talked with her for an hour before the meeting. She then suggested to the small group that had gathered that Heather and I give a short talk about our walk before their silent prayer time (which makes up most of the worship). So we did talk to the Friends there and answered questions. When someone asked us to lead them in a prayer to close, I offered Charles DeFoucault's prayer, "Father, I abandon myself into your hands..." Then we prayed in silence together.
The rest of the day it rained, but we were incredibly well cared for. Many came up to us after the meeting, offering encouragement, praise, and gifts. Mary took us home for a lunch of fresh rainbow trout (and Heather's vinaigrette), and our first real shower in a week. Then Paul and Sarah, two other Friends, invited us all for dinner. And another Friend, Becky, was there too, and brought us vegetables from her garden. We had a feast of rotisserie rosemary chicken and fresh sweet corn, wine, raspberry ice cream from a local dairy, and lots of lively conversation and encouragement. We were overwhelmed by the gift. After a very hard and lonely week-and-a-half, we were bathed in friendship and support.
Mary even took us to the next library on this rainy morning. Now we're clean and refreshed, with money for food all week. We should be with friends in Washington, DC, before the week is out. Just in time for Heather's birthday.
I'm so grateful. For the lessons of these past days, and for God's mercy in our weakness and generous care through our new friends.
Rising Sun, MD
I noticed these lines from Joshua 24 this morning, in the day's lectionary readings:
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, and addressed them, saying:
“Fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
I've been thinking more about social rejection and humiliation (the experience of the outsider or "nobody"). About why this is an important part of following Jesus, why he himself had to endure it.
I think it has something to do with choosing God, choosing between the acceptance and affirmation of the human society—which becomes idolatrous to us in its power ("We, the People")—or the acceptance and affirmation of God despite social rejection. It's easier to see this idolatry in the identification of ancient gods with distinct peoples and nations and cities, but humanity hasn't changed so much. I've written about the idolatry of society before ("The Great Beast"). But I think I overlooked the psychological aspect, the desire to be accepted and valued by our god, that influences us so strongly. We don't want to be rejected, cast out, condemned by God. But who is our god?
Because this is such an important choice, who is our god, the trial of social resistance and rejection (even to the point of humiliation and exile) becomes crucial. The extreme experience of the choice. And a way we know that we have chosen to serve God.
Yesterday I found something Heather wrote about stopping to look at the streams we cross...
So we've stopped at the streams. Some of them can amaze me, deep pools so clear you can see the bottom as though through a lens, some without a single ripple, shot through with sunlight, fish hanging motionless in the clear water.
The other day we stopped at a stream and looked up along its length, out of the loud rubbish-strewn world of the road into the green shadows of the woods. "Deer!" I said. And there they were, almost beyond sight they were so far and small; blurred phantoms of deer, moving as though in a dream... A doe moved slowly out into the water, drinking, her fawn following; two half-grown bucks lowered their heads to each other and began to spar, slowly, meandering back and forth, their movements seeming gentle in the distance and the dimness. How can I explain it? They were beautiful. They were more beautiful than any deer I've seen up close; probably more beautiful than any deer could be, seen up close. I think they were beautiful because they didn't know we were there.
West Grove, PA
We were tired and four-days-without-washing when we arrived at a church yesterday evening. But we got there just in time for their mid-week prayer service, and smiled at each other when we recognized the tune of the opening hymn:
O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
I also appreciated hearing the pastor read these prophetic passages about Jesus' experience as a "nobody," from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22:
As one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account ...we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.That last line has been important to me, and it appears in Matthew's account of the crucifixion (Mt 27.43).
I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; "He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him..."
We talked with the pastor and a few others after the service, but when they found out we had nowhere to sleep they seemed to see us as just a couple of homeless people (even though I tried to explain what we're doing in terms of "leaning on the everlasting arms"). So we had to settle for $10 from the pastor and a shower in the sink.
And as we were struggling to find a good place to sleep outside, our tiredness and frustration boiled over a little between us. Being nobodies can be very hard on relationships. I thought of that this morning as we walked, how the poor and despised often take out their pain on each other and so also damage or lose the few important relationships that they do have. From those who have not, even what they have is taken away.
"Make sure to say we made up," Heather says now, as she reads over my shoulder.
We spent a long time talking this morning, and listening to each other, hiding from the rain in a school bus stop shelter. Yes, we made up. And I think we've grown in understanding of each other through the experience. I'm just humbled by how vulnerable our love seems. I hope this can help me better understand the challenges that others face under the pressures of need and lowliness.
Soon after, we were offered a ride (the first time on this walk) by an undocumented immigrant, another of our society's nobodies. He thought we might not want to be walking in the rain.
I'm grateful for that moment of grace, and I'm also very thankful to God for a shower in a sink—and for a school bus stop to make up in.
West Chester, PA
One of the best expressions of God reaching out to "nobodies" through Jesus are Mary's words in Luke 1, a song we've made a part of our prayer time:
My soul glorifies the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
Henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
He puts forth his arm in strength
And scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
And raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
Sends the rich away empty.
This past week has brought to mind what I asked for just before we left on the walk, "to be nobody." An experience of being ignored and overlooked, or eyed suspiciously through a locked door, or taken advantage of by those who own and control the necessities of life. Being very much outside the structure and normal working of society. And not even having the chance to engage and have a good discussion with anyone all week, so I could feel like I was "ministering." Having to just wait (and continue to wait) until God decides what to do with me.
But recognizing this as a fuller experience of being part of Jesus' kingdom of nobodies, I don't regret it. It reminds me of the verse I contemplated often when I began walking over seven years ago: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mt 10.39)
I think this may also be very helpful in our interactions with those who come for retreats, those who are used to being nobodies in society. Helping them see that "salvation" doesn't mean becoming a upstanding, productive citizen in the society that is so set against them, that Jesus was rejected by society as well. Where they stand right now, as nobodies, they're already closer to the kingdom of God.
We walked through Vally Forge national park yesterday evening, a beautiful place despite the sad memories there. Tall, old woods, and wide, rolling meadows, with deer everywhere.
We've also enjoyed stopping to look at streams that pass under the roadway. Sometimes we've seen ducks or herons or fish (even an eel!). Once there were several deer drinking. But mostly it's become a reminder of the natural flow that goes on underneath the concrete, unnoticed. A symbol of the gentle Spirit of God living and moving below the hard, loud, man-made surface that usually commands our attention.
It reminded Heather of this passage from the Tao Te Ching that I've quoted to her before:
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
Which flows in places that others disdain,
Where it is in harmony with the Way.
And that makes me think of Jesus and his kingdom of nobodies...
King of Prussia, PA
It didn't work out for us to go to Philadelphia this weekend; both the Cramers' friends were out of town. And we were tired and dirty. We still had a considerable amount of money from large gifts, though, so we found a motel on our route and got a room, spending about half of what we had left. It wasn't the best motel we've been in (and overpriced), but it was the only one around, and we both were really glad to get clean and sleep in a bed. There was a coin laundry there, too. No change available, however, or laundry soap. But then we asked a family living in the motel (long-term, apparently) and they made change for us, and provided soap for free. "I don't need to charge you," she said when Heather offered. "It'll come back to me."
I think it was good, too, to experience the situation of low-income people there, being overcharged for poor quality housing. And having to accept it because there just isn't anything else around that's affordable. It felt like we came through it cleanly, though, feeling good, because all our needs were met, and we enjoyed being together through it, and I also felt good about the kindness of the family we met there. The generosity of the poor. They also seemed to be enjoying each other (playing in a plastic kiddie pool when I met them), even though their living situation wasn't great.
I wonder if finding "home" in a situation like that is similar to finding home while out on the road? Finding home that has more to do with relationship than location? Or finding home in God no matter where we are?
So now our money is down to what I'm used to. We had also sent some ahead to Washington, DC, to pay for bus tickets, since it looks like we'll need a little help to stay ahead of the weather in about a month. After visiting friends in DC, we'll probably take a bus down to North Carolina (about a month's walk) and then continue walking from there.
I'm grateful we had been given the means to pay these extra expenses. And even glad, in a way, to be getting low on money again. I don't want to be trusting our purse. As we heard on Sunday:
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Lk 12.32-34)
A little pick-me-up for a rainy day. We stayed dry last night, but got stuck at the church this morning for a couple hours (and met two friendly people who showed up for work), then it let up long enough for us to make it to the next town.
We've been on the road a month now. I think the first wave of fatigue may be setting in, as we pass the usual time when a trip or vacation would be over. I guess now's when we find out if we can find a real sense of home while still being homeless.
We might get a chance to go south into Philadelphia this weekend, to visit with some friends of our recent new friends, the Cramers. We'll see.
Heather started her own blog recently. Here's her description of the other night:
Blessings in disguise come in odd packages. Yesterday, after a great visit with Paul's friend Tom in New Jersey, we were walking around eveningtime through a town where Paul had map-spotted two churches and a park as potential sleeping places. It was almost dark already when we came to the first church; by the time we had walked around its "campus" looking for good overhang shelter, finding none, and debating whether to go on or trust the cloudless sky, it was dark. We rang the rectory doorbell. A light came on in the hall. A crack opened in the mini-blind showing a pair of frowning eyes: "Whaddya want?" No sign of the door opening. Paul and I looked at each other and back at the eyes, wondering if we were really expected to shout our story through the door. Another moment, and the door-muffled voice added (I think): "We don't have any!" and a hand waved good-bye. I waved good-bye back. The debate was settled.
We walked on, down nice safe sidewalk under streetlights, not a bad way to walk at night. Paul didn't even need to put on his reflector vest [for walking on the road after dark]. Within twenty minutes we were at another church, with a lovely covered side porch; the "rectory" was unlit and apparently uninhabited, so we just settled in.
A car pulls up. "Looks like we'll talk to some people after all," says Paul, and wanders over to the back door where the car is parking. I follow. "Are either of you the pastor?" The couple laughs. "No, we're the cleaning crew!" We explain, ask if we can sleep there. They don't see why it should be a problem; they offer bathroom facilities, water, a rug they were about to throw out for an impromptu mattress pad—then a recommendation on a nice place for breakfast and ten dollars. Wow.
And then, as I tried to sleep, the wildest thunderstorm I have ever seen blew in.
Lightning, over beyond the trees; not five times, not ten times, not twenty or thirty. Constant, an every-other-second flicker I could have read by if I'd wanted to. Huge cracks of thunder that, two or three times—even though I was flat on the ground and felt perfectly safe—made that duck-for-cover spasm run through my body. And then, after an hour of this (and I honestly think that's a very conservative estimate)—the rain. It poured hard, so hard that tiny spatters reached us, and the river we crossed this morning was risen high, deep brown, carrying broken branches and a tall dead tree down its roiling current.
So thank God for the eyes behind the mini-blind.
Three Bridges, NJ
Great visit with Tom. He was very attentive to our needs and generous with us, and one of the best gifts was just being able to spread out and relax at his place for almost two whole days. Good talks over dinners, too.
Then last night we approached a church after dark, and knocked on the pastor's door. But when he came down he wouldn't even open the door. Just a muffled "Whaddya want?" We couldn't really talk through the door, so he just gestured at us, shooing us away. Heather thought she heard him saying "We don't have any" as he turned away. That's the experience of nobodies.
But we found another church soon after, with much better shelter. Thank God for that, because a powerful thunderstorm hit in the middle of the night. Longest and loudest thunder I've ever heard in a storm. A little hard to sleep, but we stayed dry.
Here's a picture of us on a sunnier day, sent by a couple we visited:
(Click on the image for full size, and here's another one.)
As I wrote yesterday, Jesus' greatest gifts to others were not particular acts of service or healing, but "the appearance of his life in the world, a life of utter dependence on the love of God, and his offer of that life to us." Not just being helped by him, but being invited and enabled to live our whole lives as he did. His gift is wrapped up in the two words he said again and again to those who came to him: "Follow me."
But following Jesus involves great risks, and calls for great faith. As I think of that, I wonder what it felt like for Jesus to invite others to walk the path he walked, knowing what it would cost them, knowing they were frail and would fall. I remember the story of Jesus walking on the water, when Peter asks to walk on the water too. Jesus replies, "Come." What did it take to say that one word? To encourage his friend to attempt the impossible, knowing Peter's weaknesses, perhaps even knowing he would almost drown? But that was, after all, what Jesus had come to offer: an impossible life like his. He was here to speak that word: "Come—follow me."
Similarly, the greatest gifts we his followers have to offer are not particular acts of assistance but the invitation and encouragement for others to enter Jesus' life as well. We become evidence of that life, and we point to the way to enter into it. And urge others to follow? Urge them to "sell all and follow," to risk everything and follow? I find that much harder to do than following Jesus myself. What if they—those I love, those who are already frail and suffering—risk everything and fail?
I suppose utter dependence on God also includes trusting him to reach out and catch others when they fall, just as we trust him to catch us. It just seems so much more difficult.
Basking Ridge, NJ
After four nights in a row indoors, we spent the next three nights sleeping out (finding shelter one night on a church porch while a storm raged around us). Sunday morning we started walking early and then stopped at the first church we came to. After worship, Don, a nurse just coming off a night shift, shared his own coffee with us ("dark roast with heavy cream") and guided us to the adult Sunday school. Then we ended up staying for two classes in a row, talking with many people. Next, we were invited to lunch at a restaurant with the group, and after that Larysa took us to a historic park and then drove us down to meet my friend Tom, who we were planning to visit. He was gracious about our early arrival. After introducing us to his cat (it seems like we've been meeting a lot of cats on this trip—an answer to Heather's prayers?), Tom took us out to an excellent Thai restaurant. We're resting and getting cleaned up at his place today.
I've been thinking a lot about how this walk has been different from past years. With Heather along we do seem more accessible to people, so we've had more invitations and seem to be treated better than I remember in the past. That also means it's been easier to invite us, less of a risk, so our encounters seem less challenging to people. And the conversations seem somewhat lighter, less in-depth. Which has made me wonder if somehow we're "doing less" for people this year.
But one of the good things I've learned during these years of pilgrimage is that what I do for someone is not so important (what I say or teach, for example), it's just the good effect in their lives that counts. The more that people see their help coming directly from God, the better. And, for me, it's better, more humbling, to not be recognized as "the helper."
I'm still looking for and desiring more opportunities to serve and act compassionately towards others. But I have to remember that Jesus' greatest gift was not the particular acts of healing or teaching (which were relatively few, during only a couple years). His greatest gift was the appearance of his life in the world, a life of utter dependence on the love of God, and his offer of that life to us. This has given hope to countless people and inspired love again and again among us. I hope on this walk we offer something of that inspiration to others. It seems from people's responses to us that something good is stirred in them; and I do think they are happier to see us out here together, rather than just me alone.
Also, the best challenge to people may simply be the life lived (miraculously) free of the restraints and oppressive forces that usually control our choices and actions. Demonstrating that we don't have to settle for "the lesser evil," or give up the highest good (or our true calling) because it's "just not possible in this fallen world." Jesus' life uncovered the falsehood of those excuses. Just living among us, a truly human life, yet not bound by the forces (economic, political, religious, social) that control our lives, he challenged us deeply—and offered hope.
As Jacques Ellul wrote, in a passage I return to again and again:
We have simply to be, and we can only be a question put within the world, a question invincibly confronting it. This is our efficacy. It is the efficacy of the question, a question which society and sociological movements cannot assimilate. Israel and the church have never been efficacious except to the degree that the world has been unable to assimilate them. This is the vocation of the people of God incomparably more authentic than "service" or "works."
It is not at the level of works and their results that this efficacy may be seen; it is at the level of inassimilability.
Last night we stopped at a church that I had visited three years ago, when I had walked to New York from Chicago. And we were able to join in their bible study and meet people (one young guy even remembered me before I introduced myself). When we walked in, one woman said with a smile, "A couple of real Jesus freaks!"
The study was on "offense," how to deal with being offended by others, and how to avoid giving offense, or causing others to stumble in their faith. I mentioned that one of the biggest causes of offense is when we Christians don't live out our faith, when we have words and worship but not the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated. We didn't have time to go into the other aspect of offense: The offense of the cross, the way Jesus caused scandal by his way of accepting and living among society's outsiders, his nonviolence, his rejection of power and wealth, his self-sacrificing love. It's hard to accept (and even harder to follow). But, as Jesus said, "Blessed is he who takes no offense at me." (Lk 7.23)
After the bible study we talked with several people and enjoyed them enjoying one another. We were invited to sleep in the small house they use as an activity center. Then one of the young women went out and bought a pizza for us! And I remembered one of the prayers that was said for us, that no snakes or ticks would hurt us, that if they tried to bite us they would fall off "like teflon."
Tomkins Cove, NY
There were splendid views as we climbed to the Bear Mountain bridge yesterday evening, and we stopped to enjoy one at a scenic overlook. Someone approached and asked if we were on the Appalachian Trail. We said no and explained our walk a little, and then another man (who had overheard) approached and surprised us with an invitation to spend the night at a retreat center just up the road. The Garrison Institute, a huge, beautiful place. It's a former Capuchin monastery overlooking the Hudson River, now used for a variety of religious retreats. Gorgeous accommodations (check out the bathrooms!). We even got to enjoy a private soak in the hot tub.
When we were dropped off this morning, Bill and Erin (who we met at the retreat center) gave us small gifts. Then we took our time walking across the bridge, about 150 feet above the Hudson. Breakfast was next to a small, clear lake in Bear Mountain state park.
On our morning walk along the hills of the river valley we talked about some ideas for the retreat ministry. About focusing not on creating an institution but on developing ourselves and those who work with us and who come for retreats. About how it's people who are eternal, not buildings or institutions (though those are the things people usually want to leave as their legacy). I'm not sure what got me in that train of thought. Maybe the big monastery, which could no longer be filled and so was left to be used by others. Maybe the idea of Jesus' "kingdom of nobodies," which I think is accurate. Jesus focused on society's outsiders, and died as one of them himself. So even though we've found a place to live and work, I want to intentionally resist becoming "established," secure and accepted, preserving what I built rather than following the one who had nothing but the word God gave him.
This walk is a good way to start.