A Letter from the Executive Director of Crestfield Camp & Conference Center
Rest in God
June 2, 2016
Summer is here! We just celebrated Memorial Day perhaps with a picnic or cook-out, perhaps going to a parade, and perhaps remembering all of those who have valiantly served in defending our liberties. A huge shout out goes to those past and present who have served faithfully. In our family, we have celebrated by watching our son march in local Memorial Day parades, spending time with friends around a campfire, and remembering family and friends who have served our country in numerous ways. For my Mom, Memorial Day also signified the beginning of the summer -- vacation plans would be finalized, summer camp reservations secured, and, of course, white shoes, white pants and white skirts could now be part of the daily fashion. Do you remember the old adage, no white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day? O how times have changed!
For most Teaching and Ruling Elders, summertime, at least the beginning of the season, is also a time for rest. Summer is a time to take a deep breath, prop up your feet and relax, reflect upon the last 9-12 months and maybe, just maybe, think about the next year. Summertime can mean hanging up your hammock and resting in God -- getting nice and cozy in the sunshine or shade, whatever your preference, having the hammock gather around you, snuggle you, sway slightly in the breeze and rest in God!
I just spent seven days at the Taize Community in France. It was a time to experience retreat, relaxation, and a new way of prayer; a time with friends laughing and sharing ministry ideas; a time of silence with the scriptures and a time of community. Taize is a rhythm of life and being that was comforting -- joyful, simple and full of love. Brother Emile called it resting in God.
“Today, the Taizé Community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from around thirty nations. By its very existence, the community is a ‘parable of community’ that wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples.” Prayer services are at the core of the Taize Community and are held three times daily-morning, noon, and evening. Hearing the Word immediately followed by a time of silence make the prayer time, a time of repetitively singing prayers in various languages, complete. Being enveloped in the prayer services, a Bible lesson taught by Brother Pedro, and then small group sessions with follow-up discussion of the lesson were essential components of the day. The daily rhythm also included time in fellowship around meager meals, spending time fairly unconnected from text and email while spending time in nature -- the beautifully green rolling hills of the French countryside and time in silence. God was fully present; Taize is a sacred thin space, where the distance between God and humanity is thin so that one can easily experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Taize was a gift for me, a gift in part, supported by the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC(USA). Not all will be able to experience such a gift this summer. But, resting in God is essential to our being regardless of whether you travel to Taize, to Crestfield or to your own hammock. Resting in God is as near as your own kitchen table, your own porch table, or your own back door. Commandment Four declares that we are to remember the Sabbath Day, remember the Lord, and not do work. Resting in God. Further on in Exodus, we learn that if we don’t rest in the Lord, we are cut off, we die. Resting in God. In Deuteronomy, we learn that resting in the Lord has a liberating and redemptive flavor for it is for all of our family and all of our colleagues. Resting in God is more than just having a day off and not working. Resting in God is remembering our baptism and that we belong to God because we receive our identity as a child of God. Resting in God is remembering to read the scripture, to pray the scripture, to listen to what the scripture is saying to us today. Resting in God is remembering to share what we heard and what others are hearing in community as well as gathering around the table together.
All that resting seems like hard work! Calvin himself acknowledges this hard work when he states, “We shall have to labor hard…[to renounce] all our thoughts and desires in such a way that only God governs us.” (Sermons on Ten Commandments) Ironically, this hard work of putting down our phones, of putting down our lists of things to do, of putting down our anxieties can be easy and freeing. As we remember to whom we belong, from whom we receive life, to whom we are to worship and glorify and praise, Sabbath keeping is a joyful, simple, loving action of resting in God. Augustine knew that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. My friends, whether you have a hammock, a table on the porch or a back door, please put down your work of the past church and school year, the anxieties of the upcoming church and school year, the chores of daily living and recall your baptismal identity and to whom you belong so you can rest in God.
Joyful for the season of summer rest,
The Rev. Betty L. Angelini, Executive Director of Crestfield Camp & Conference Center
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