Friday, November 13, 2015

Berry's "Sabbath Poems" have become part of how I do church Sunday mornings

The Parrinos have made a pretty big transition in the last couple of months: We've moved states after nearly a decade living in Kentucky. We've both changed jobs and two of our boys have had to adjust to a new level of academic rigor. We've gone from small town to bigger city. We've moved from a modest ranch to a lovely home with three floors and many, many places to put people. Perhaps one of the most significant changes, and the one that probably raises the most eyebrows among both our "Kentucky people" and our "Ohio people," is a shift in our church community. 

We've gone from being very plugged-in members of an exuberant, growing church, to what might be called a sabbatical from church. Normally, my overactive conscience would cry foul, but this period of rethinking church has been a god-send for us. Gone are the frazzled and often angry mornings of cramming cranky children into their clothes, car seats and respective classrooms. Fading are the things I must do, sign-up for, believe, think and feel. And slowly receding is the disillusionment and burn-out I was in bondage to the last couple years--years of really wanting to do the right thing, even though it didn't fully feel right. 

(For those reading who aren't amening these words, for those who love and are thriving in their churches, I'm not trying to taint your thinking. You must joyfully continue being blessed and blessing others!)

So what on earth does all that have to do with poetry? Glad you asked. In this transitional season, I've found myself open to new ways of doing things and I've also found myself craving some poetry, mystery and quiet. Anyone else feel that way?

Well, if you do, may I humbly recommend adding a little poetry to your life. Wendell Berry describes himself as a "foul-weather" church-goer... preferring instead to spend Sundays roaming his sprawling Kentucky farm as his Sabbath ritual.

I've no farm to traverse, and don't always have the freedom to leave my three littles behind, but Berry's Sabbath Poems have been my escape in the quiet of Sunday mornings. He combines heaven-ward longings with musings on community, relationships, the environment and wonderment. Many of his poems are filled with light-dappled leaves as a metaphor for God's light as well as the cycle of a creation that groans for its redemption, echoing humanity's longing as well. Most of all, Berry longs for rest and our truest Rest in the One who set the example. So. This Day is not like the old familiar hymns, the newer contemporary worship songs and even the well-worn pages of my Bible that have all been the soundtrack of my Sunday mornings for decades. But Berry's poetry affords many glimpses of God in its metaphors and imagery, and it's both restful and exhilarating to find Him there. 

I'd love to hear from others... How do you do church these days? Does nature bring you closer to God? What unconventional elements have you added? How do you find rest?

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