Just like any other day, it begins: a sense of growing light, the rising murmur of birdsong, then a nudge from Zoe, our Border Collie who pokes my hand at the edge of the bed with an urgent call to work, work, work. Out in the pasture, the shaggy bull bawls as soon as he sees us, calling for hay enough to feed the herd. In the farrowing shed, six piglets are already noisily suckling before we manage to bring their mama her veggies and grain. We rush to the chores: haul feed, carry water, roll up the sides of the “high tunnel” greenhouse if the day promises to be warm.
And then it happens: something beyond me halts my gait and bids me to be still. It could be anything: a splash of new green growth, a quick buzz-by from pollen-laden bees, an iridescent blue feather held lightly by the grass, the scent of apple blossoms unfurling, or the comedic sight of an egg laid nowhere in particular by a confused or careless hen. Suddenly, the wonder of it wraps around me. The delight of God's goodly Creation holds me, gently and surely, reminding me that all these lives are woven together with mine. It is a message of grace and responsibility. It is a vision of Beloved Community. It is a healing touch and a call to action, on behalf of the Source of all this Love.
Just like any other church, WE begin: after much prayer, discussion, and discernment, your desire for a new settled pastor found common ground with my desire to serve. While the farm feeds my spirit—and my belly—I take joy in the new rhythms of my days, here where soft marsh, rough stone, and the waters of the tidal Kennebec meet. Here, too, we have hungry and thirsty creatures: neighbors who rely on our gifts and partnership with the Bath Area Food Bank and other service organizations, and seekers who long for their souls to be fed. Here, too, there are needs that announce themselves with Border-Collie-like urgency: a growing crisis of opiate addiction, LGBT youth at high risk for suicide, the breakdown of civic discourse and the accompanying rise in public hate speech, and challenging economic and environmental conditions that interweave with all our lives, like it or not.
And, in the midst of all this, it happens: a gaggle of sleepy strangers meets for a sunrise service at the water's edge, and a heron's flight stirs our hearts towards resurrection. A shaky voice dares to name some sorrow in a hushed sanctuary, and finds the prayer answered by outreached hands and a whole committed community's worth of compassion. As the sun slips low in the sky, a singer leans into the microphone and a packed house of random concertgoers find themselves sharing not just the song, but a sense of wonder, a tremor of transformation, a taste of that holy experience we Christians call “worship.” And—what joy—we all get to be part of this, part of the grace and responsibility, part of the network of healing and action, part of All This Love.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” Surely, when Frederick Beuchner wrote these words, he meant the communities that surround this dear and stalwart church in Phippsburg, Maine.
--Rev. Holly S. Morrison, pastor