The Great In-Between

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

The Great In-Between

“We are not who we were, and yet we are not who we will become.”
– Carrie Newcomer, singer/songwriter

Welcome to the great in-between. The recent national election reveals exactly how far we are from being the Church that truly represents the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We all survived past elections. Some of us grumbled and some of us celebrated, but we fairly quickly got on with our lives. This feels very different. The gaping divide among Americans shows no signs of ending. We are further apart than ever before, gathering and commiserating mostly with those who agree with us, getting our news from sources that agree with us, and doubling down on our convictions that we are right. Which means others must be wrong. And where are the Moravians in all of this? We’ve been pretty quiet, haven’t we?

Bishop Wayne Burkette recently expressed his view that many Moravian Churches are ‘purple’ – i.e. filled with a mix of political points of view. Unlike churches where all views are identical, he said, we are challenged by the real stories and real faith of people who view the world very differently from ourselves. Proverbs 27:17 says ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Thanks to Brother John Jackman for using this in a post-election sermon.)

While this could be a positive for Moravians, it is a very fine line to walk. On the one hand, being purple might make our churches safe spaces, free of the turmoil and high emotion that often comes along with political discussion. On the other hand, it leaves many of us feeling empty and paralyzed, unsure how we engage in real community with those who love Christ with us. In our efforts to keep peace and maintain relationships, we avoid discussing difficult issues with one another.

What IS the Moravian way forward here?

Let’s face it, we modern Moravians are not those early, radical members of the ancient Unity who defied the state church of its day to form the first voluntary, peace church. We were early to embrace the idea of spiritual equality, where women, children, and people of color were considered equal in the eyes of God. We were early to head to the furthest ends of the earth, reaching out to the marginalized and those no one else wanted to even recognize as human.

We are not who we were.

hardthingsarehard

We are not who we will become either. We like the idea of returning to our roots, or at least letting those roots inform our faith today, but we struggle to live into that reality. The world can be a frightening place these days and we are uncertain how to proceed. It is easier to sit in our beautiful, not-quite-full sanctuaries and sing our familiar hymns, raising money to pay off the new organ or redecorate the parlor. We talk about our desire to grow and yet when those different from us appear in our sanctuaries, we shift uncomfortably in our pews. We talk about being missional, and then hold another chicken pie dinner and call it a day.

What is next for the church? How will God call us to a new thing, one that will challenge and maybe even frighten us, but also lead us to a new, Spirit-filled reality of faith, love, and hope?

This election, while divisive and unprecedented, actually provides us with an opportunity to come together in our “purple-ness,” move out of the great in-between and toward a future filled with grace and hope.

There are no easy answers. A newly-installed sign in my office reads: Hard things are hard. Ain’t that the truth!

Bishop Sam Gray provided us with some guidance in a recent post: “No matter what happens … in this election, Jesus Christ is still our Chief Elder. We must never allow partisan politics or personal preferences to get in the way of the mission that Jesus has entrusted… to us!”

To continue this mission entrusted to us, we must love each other. Only we can love each other. Only we can figure out new and different ways of being the church together. We won’t be able to do it if we can’t even talk to each other. We must listen in a way so as to recognize one another, and we must recognize everyone. We need each other now more than ever. (Here’s an example of how one church is doing this.)

And then, “We must be brave enough to speak and to listen, to share our hopes and our fears, and to remember that when we care for the least, whoever we consider to be least, we do it for Christ. The church has work to do, for ourselves, for those on whatever margins, and for the world around us.” (Brother Riddick Weber at Moravian Theological Seminary during a recent chapel service.)

And we do have all that we need to carry on Christ’s work in the world today. Ephesians 3: 20-21 (from The Message) lays it out for us. “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”

Oh yes.

It is easy to complain about what leaders and governments are doing or not doing. But just like it was for our Moravian ancestors, our work as Christians is clear: Love our neighbors as ourselves. Love our enemies. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God.

Let’s get to work as the church Jesus loves, moving closer to the people Jesus loves.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 

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Feelings Versus Facts

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX | 

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and/or the Moravian Church Southern Province. 

The 2016 election will go down in history as one of the most volatile, perplexing, and unique of American history. There has been a rift in our politics, one that has built over some time. It is a crevasse so wide, that it seems we can no longer merely “reach across the aisle.” Bipartisanship is treachery and party loyalty is everything. Whatever it takes is within reason as long as it means preventing the “other side” from occupying the White House or Congress. Our politics are occupied by an all or nothing mindset with little to no room for compromise, something which should be at politics’ core, as David Brooks writes for The New York Times. We see this in the non-establishment candidacy of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to support Hillary Clinton, and those who reluctantly back Clinton to defeat Trump (and vice versa). Unfortunately, sometimes these attitudes seep into our churches too.

Fortunately, our God expands well beyond the confines of politics and government (Mark 12:13-17).  Ours is a God that does not ask for the Democrat or Republican ballot… nor does he fly any particular nation’s flag. God’s attitude that we ought to evoke in our politics and opinions is straightforward: love and grace. That is the flag God flies. This love and grace, seen in the gift of Christ, allows us to bridge the crevasse of our imperfections, bitterness, brokenness, anger, disagreements, and more. This allows for more refined views that don’t get mired in an ideology. John Hus knew this. Count Zinzendorf knew this. The Moravians at Herrnhut discovered it in 1727 with the help and touch of the Holy Spirt. And I’ve discovered this over the development and evolution of my own personal politics.

It was 2004. We held a mock presidential election at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. John Kerry was running against the incumbent George W. Bush. Thinking I was a good ‘ole Republican like my dad was at the time, I loyally “voted” for the reelection of the forty-third president. Just as in the real-life contest, Bush won the election that day at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Fast forward to civics and economics class in high school. We took a political questionnaire that gauged your political leanings. I don’t exactly recall how the questionnaire scored me. I asked my dad what he thought my political leanings were. He thought I was probably conservative or Republican.

In high school, I participated in a pro-life day of solidarity. The one where you go to school with “Life” written in sharpie on red duct tape. As a high school student, did I really understand the complexities of reproductive healthcare and rights? It was more likely that I was following the group I found myself in at the time. Was it simply that it is comfortable to swallow familiar rhetoric, be it conservative or liberal, and fit in with a community?

Editorial Cartoon by Andrew David Cox

“All have fallen short.” April 3rd, 2015. Andrew David Cox.

Not long after, the topic of abortion rights came up with my sister while riding in the car with her. She challenged what I thought were my views, and to this day I have a nuanced perspective on reproductive health. I don’t fit neatly in pro-life or pro-choice camps. At the same time, I would openly refer to myself as feminist, progressive, Christian, and an LGBTQ ally. I find myself in this decisive and extremely polarized election season to be even more reluctant to don such a large label as “liberal.” For a long time, I’ve avoided saying “I am a liberal” and instead say I “lean liberal.” “Progressive” seems to carry less political weight. Is that all labels are though? Just about perception without any objective strength? Sometimes yes, but this is not always the case.

Early in my college career I found myself developing my views on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. Like I wrote, I count myself an LGTBQ ally. Well, what does that mean? At the beginning, it just meant that there’s no reason gays should be prevented from being married. Why? In particular how this view fit into my Christian faith was important, as it was already a prominent wedge issue dividing the church. So for my collegiate senior seminar course I wrote my research paper on objectively arguing why homosexuality is not a sin or morally wrong. I wrote about not only my feelings on it, but the facts about it that could back up my feelings. I found several sources that backed up my argument, but I also highlighted the opposing view. In my paper I recognized the potential holes in my view. There was something freeing about considering the possibility of being wrong. Perhaps our pride as imperfect beings prevents us from doing this more often.

Orlando. A troubled man shoots up a gay nightclub, killing scores of innocent people. Young people who had their whole lives ahead of them. In a group text message with a couple close friends the event comes up in conversation. Like many, I jump to gun control. One of my friends, frustrated, says it’s not about gun control. I’m blindsided by false consensus-bias, a phenomenon Sean Blanda artfully explores for Medium. I try to argue my viewpoint, but those persistent facts kept creeping in. And they’re not on my side. They cut through my reactionary partisan feelings on the issue and I find myself having to admit I’m wrong. Once I was able to lay down the pride, it was an incredibly freeing feeling to accept a new perspective. Much like my views on abortion, my views on guns have become more nuanced. They don’t fit neatly in a liberal or conservative box.

Absolutism is a dangerous thing. Our desire to fit into a community, to be on a team, produces these echo chambers. We find ourselves very infrequently exploring the possibility of our team being wrong. We become entrenched. Even if certain views are unjustifiable, do we even look beyond the surface and to the root cause of those views? Would that not be more constructive than mocking someone? Political discourse should be more like love and done more out of respect and civility.

Ultimately, as Christians, this is what we are called to if we are to help bridge this crevasse. We Moravians have been in this ugly climate of disagreement before (see Ginny Tobiassen’s meditation) and the navigation of turmoil, divisiveness to a place of collaborative and radical community is in our DNA.  In his lecture as a part of BCM’s Comenius Learning Series, Dr. Thomas Fudge talked about John Hus’ perspective on forming opinions. If Hus was confronted with an argument with more sound reasoning, logic, and evidence, he adopted that new view. Fudge said, “[Hus] would warn us of exclusive and non-negotiable truth claims.” In this increasingly ugly political climate, the only non-negotiable truth I can get behind is everything I do should be done out of love and grace.

For non-partisan resources to help inform you, check out Ruth Cole Burcaw’s post on Moravians and the Responsibility of Citizenship.

Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew drew editorial cartoons for The Appalachian, the student newspaper of Appalachian State from the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2014 and for a year and a half after graduating. His cartoons earned the 2014 Association of American Editorial Cartoonists John Locher Memorial Award for student cartooning. 

Ending Poverty In All Its Forms

Sunnyside Ministry BY DAVID HOLSTON |

“Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.”
Ground of the Unity, #9

We live in a world of great opportunity, where you can enjoy a long and happy life. We also live in a world where the idea of a long and happy life to some is merely a dream.

I think a lot about the word “poverty.” Merriam-Webster provides this as a simple definition of poverty: “the state of being poor, a lack of something.” A lack of something. What is it that people are lacking? It should be easy to see and to bring an end to material poverty. People need something; we just give it to them and we have fixed the problem. It should be that simple. People are homeless; give them a home and the problem goes away. Right?

This world would be a different place if it were that easy to end poverty. After World War II, the World Bank worked on poverty alleviation in third world countries, but without much success. They asked over 60,000 people about poverty, and the results were published in a three-volume collection entitled “Voices of the Poor.” Here are some of the responses:

“Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.” — Jamaica

“Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.” — Georgia

“If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi (poverty).” — Nigeria

“A better life for me is to be healthy, peaceful and live in love without hunger. Love is more than anything. Money has no value in the absence of love.” — a poor older woman in Ethiopia

“When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior.” — a woman from Uganda

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” — a blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova(1)

reception

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Notice that none of these people described poverty as simply the lack of food, housing or money. They describe poverty as “the lack of something” bigger, in most cases — a sense of power over one’s own life. A sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency enables people to repair and improve their lives and that of their families. The phrase “a hand up, not a hand out” has been used by different non-profits for decades, so long that the original source seems to be lost. And while this rolls off the tongue, it is a difficult message to put into practice. But it is what we must do if we truly believe that part of our mission is to improve the lives of others.

A lack of something.

Do we see the poverty that is in our neighborhoods, offices, schools and yes, even our churches? You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in my office; our salaries enough for our employees to live on. You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in our neighborhood; it is full of nice homes. You may say to yourself there is no poverty in our church; we are a good church with nice families and everyone is well off.

I had a distant cousin that passed away in the 1990s. She was nearly 100 years old and still lived alone. She lived for decades as a widow after her husband was killed in a farming accident. She did not drive. Other cousins took her to church, to the grocery store. She was not wealthy, but had income from land leased to other farmers. She gardened and canned vegetables she grew. Now I realize that she suffered from social or isolation poverty. When I was about 10 years old, I mowed her small yard, which didn’t take long. She would sit and visit with me, asking about vacation or school, and this made her very happy. These conversations were a source of poverty alleviation for her, as they filled that “lack of something.”

“I like money and nice things, but it’s not money that makes me happy. It’s people,” says one woman in the World Bank survey. She’s not alone: research has found that social integration is more important for well-being than income, and also decreases poverty. Loneliness, conversely, can be deadly: one study found it did more damage to health than smoking.(2)

My cousin lived a long life. As I think of her, I remember a woman alone, in a house with a parlor never used. If more people had taken the time to visit her, how would her life have been different? If I stopped by and visited her more often, how would our lives have been different? Would those later years have been less of a struggle? What could I have learned from her? Is that not a part of what church is or should be — caring for others, seeking to find and fill the need that is lacking?

First we must examine our own poverties, whatever they are: hunger, poor health, addiction, loneliness, mental health or illness and so on. Then we look to move ourselves out of the poverty that grips us, by seeking the help of our own congregations, our fellow Jesus followers. We as the people of Christ, who are the Church of Christ, must welcome, uplift and empower each other out of our own poverties. And then as a church through the command of Christ in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunnyside Ministry has a financial literacy program called Gaining Control. I recently asked one of the graduates what they got out of this program. She responded, “You all gave me back my self-esteem, and made me feel like I could really change my life. I wish that I could do that class all over again, it made me feel so good.” I like to think that our work helped her regain her innate sense of self-worth and equipped her with skills to take control of her life and move herself and her family out of poverty.

I believe that what will bring an end to poverty is simply this: empowering people to greater self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency, so that they are able to be independent of assistance. And through this improved sense of self, they are able to enter into rewarding relationship with their neighbors, enact change in their neighborhoods and beyond and live without the stress that accompanies any type of poverty.

Taking care of each other in our poverties is what Christ calls us to do. When we lift each other out of our individual poverties, we open our lives to the rewards offered in the Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Questions? Or want to learn more about Sunnyside Ministry or possibly volunteer? Contact David Holston at david(AT)sunnysideministry.org.

David Holston is the Director of Sunnyside Ministry under the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 


(1) Listen to the Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20612465~menuPK:336998~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992~isCURL:Y,00.html

(2) With a little help from my friends. (2015, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21653680-poverty-about-who-you-know-much-what-you-earn-little-help-my

Images via Sunnyside Ministry.

 

Reflections Of An Interim Pastor

By KEITH COPELAND |

The Lutheran Church is celebrating 500 years of the Reformation in 2017. I usually tell my brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church that I have been hanging out with our older sister. As the Moravian Church prepares to celebrate 600 years, I have been blessed to be a part of the Unitas Fratrum while in this interim journey with Peace Moravian. As I prepare to follow God’s call to serve as the interim pastor of St. Armands Lutheran Church in Sarasota, Florida, here are some reflections on my journey with the Moravian Church.

The Moravian Church seems to have a powerful way of instilling a sense of identity unlike what I have seen in other denominations. The closest I have seen in this identity formation comes from those who are Jewish. This identity lays claim to all of life including activity far removed from the church. I can’t help but think that this is because of the ADC - 5508emphasis on community in the Moravian church and not over-emphasis of doctrine. When identity is not an idea but a relationship, it seems to be much deeper and enduring. In a survey done at Peace Moravian, the biggest reason given for remaining with the church is the Moravian heritage and the relationships. The youth and children also show a strong connection not only to the congregation but an identity as Moravian. This is truly something that can and should be celebrated and built upon.

Heritage and history are both a blessing and a burden for the Moravian Church. As the joke goes, “How many Moravian’s does it take to change a light bulb. None, because Moravian’s don’t change!” We pray as the Lord taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Moravian Church has the pan, recipe and means to make bread. Sometimes, however, it is easy to forget it is daily bread. It should be made fresh every day. The challenge of heritage and history is how to use it to make the gospel new and fresh every day, rather than trying to survive on the memory of what used to be. How can the heritage and history become the vessel that serves to mold the new bread into that which can feed the world?

There are some wonderful gifts that I will take with me wherever I go. One of those gifts is the collegiality and hospitality that was shared with me on this journey. The Moravian Church has always been a leader in ecumenical conversation. This was evident in the representation of the Moravian Church at all the different ecumenical gatherings. The PEC has always graciously responded to each invitation. Even with
the strong Moravian identity, there was never a time that I felt excluded or devalued as a colleague and servant of Christ. It seems the Moravian community always has room for more. Even those at Peace who were not lifelong Moravians now identify themselves as one. This could only happen if they were welcomed. This hospitality is something that has inspired me.ADC - 4783

The motto of the Moravian Church is also a gift that I will treasure. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” This is what keeps the Moravian Church grounded and yet unified. The essentials are common to all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The essentials create the body. The non-essentials are the movement. Love is the skin and character of the body of Christ. It is love that holds it all together. Love is not merely emotional. Love is behavioral. Love is not practiced or promoted by the culture and world around us. Therefore, the church needs to not just say they value love. The church needs to practice love. One great tool for this practice is the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. This document, however, is only helpful if it is practiced. It will not work if only pulled out in conflict. It must be practiced and applied within not only the life of the church but the living out of the Christian life. I end every service with this dialogue. “Who are you?” The congregation responds, “I am a child of God.” Then I call on them to act like it. How can we apply this document to social media? How can we apply this document to political conversation? How can we apply this document to dialogue and life within families and congregational life?

It has been an honor and privilege to serve within the Moravian Church. Sometimes the church focuses too much on where God is not. Imagine how much stronger we would all be if we paid attention to where God is. I have seen God powerfully present in this journey with Peace Moravian Church. Even as I prepare to leave, I see God’s Spirit leading Peace into new life that only God could have prepared. My prayer for Peace Moravian and the Unitas Fratrum is to use the gifts that God has given you to draw closer to the presence of God and each other, in order to be a witness of the presence of God for the world. Thanks for allowing me to journey with you as we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

kcopelandThe Rev. Dr. Keith Copeland is completing an interim pastorate at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte, NC. He was ordained in 1992 into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He previously served as pastor in four congregations within two denominations.  Trained in Intentional Interim ministry in the PCUSA, he has served nine congregations in times of transition.  He received his D Min at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC, in 2010, where he did a project on congregational visioning and renewal.

In Celebration of Truth

Truth

 My thoughts today reflect on two anniversaries – the anniversary of the martyrdom of John Hus 601 years ago, and the anniversary of the independence of our country 240 years ago. These two anniversaries are not related to each other either in time, place, or in purpose, but they do hold something in common. Both result from a human commitment to truth.7.4.16.WayneBurketteQuote

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and approved by the Continental
Congress July 4, 1776, speaks eloquently of “self-evident” truths. Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”

For John Hus, the spiritual forebear of our church, it was his commitment to revealed truth in the face of threat of death that led him to martyrdom on July 6, 1415.

While the truth that Jefferson said was “self-evident” and the truth that Hus proclaimed was revealed truth which is understood by faith, these two understandings of truth nonetheless have something in common. Whether self-evident or revealed, the truth they were committed to was a larger and more sweeping truth than either envisioned at the time.

When Jefferson wrote about his notion of self-evident truths, grand and inspiring as they were, they were limited by race and by gender. Only generations later would the self-evident nature of those truths be understood to include women as well as men, all races, indeed all people. In other words, Jefferson’s truth was greater than even his mind could envision at the time he wrote about them.

And, the revealed truth for which Hus gave his life, and which he said would ultimately conquer all, is also greater than any human mind can fully grasp. Hus’s truth was not an idea or a set of principles, but a person – Jesus Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And that Truth (capital “T”) is still being revealed and taught, even as Jesus himself promised. Remember the promise of Jesus to his followers:

“If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive….You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:15-17) And again Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….” (John 14:26 and 15:13)

So Jefferson wrote of self-evident truths far greater than he understood, and so did Hus, as he died for a revealed Truth who is none other than Jesus Christ who by his Holy Spirit is still teaching, still guiding and still revealing the fullness of his will for his followers.

Today we celebrate Holy Communion as we call to mind again the martyrdom of John Hus so long ago. And, on this Independence Day weekend, we continue to recognize self-evident truths that are the fabric of our nation.

Let us rejoice today and give thanks for our nation. Moreover, let us give eternal thanks for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and who continues through his Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to reveal to us, and at last to guide us into all the truth. Amen.

The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette, Unity Moravian Church, July 3, 2016

Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

Brother Burkette preaches at the Hus Celebration 2015. Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

 

Is Your Life a Maze or a Labyrinth?

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Is your life more like a maze or a labyrinth?

Life as a maze finds you off the path feeling that success is not assured or that it comes only with luck and struggle. You see many decisions and events as dead ends, time wasted, money lost, opportunities missed.13445375_10153729745910875_3685864417383558769_n

To live life as a labyrinth, you reevaluate your identity and apply a new context to your life. All paths are part of God’s path where despite your appearances and differences, you all will meet.  A maze contains multiple paths and directions; a labyrinth finds us on a single path leading to the center.

A labyrinth is an ancient design used for hundreds of years within the Christian tradition. The church began to create places, like the labyrinth, to represent a spiritual journey. The labyrinth is a walking tool for prayer. It is a way of seeking the presence of God, connecting, opening up to what God will bring to you during the journey. Many cathedrals in Europe designed labyrinths grooved into walls as finger paths or into floor tiles. In the Middle ages, crusades and pilgrimage to the Holy Land added spiritual energy to the church for the wealthy. The farmers, women, and poor also wanted to make pilgrimage. The labyrinth provides a spiritual discipline for us to contemplate our journey.

As you approach the labyrinth walk, consciously slow your breathing and clear your mind. You are beginning an inner walk of the heart. Perhaps you are hoping for a definite experience of God amid the hustle and bustle of life. Perhaps you bring a 13428650_10153729745900875_5088153784633668800_nburden, a hurt, a joy, or seek clarity. The journey may be tearful or joyful. Bring to the center either a gift to God or a surrendering to Him. Stay in the center as long as you wish. You will find God’s peace, love and blessings in your journey in and then back out. Draw close to God, touch him. He will touch you, trusting in the unspoken. Take time at the end to remain in reflection and stillness at the fringes of the Labyrinth. Are you different after the walk? How can I be different in the world with God walking beside me?

I have had the privilege of walking many labyrinths at events and personally in my spiritual journey. Each time I am amazed at what God says to me through the experience. I have dreamed that one day Laurel Ridge Camp would have a labyrinth, which would have been so beneficial to me, particularly during my Gemeinschaft days. Now this dream is fast becoming a reality. Thanks to the staff at Laurel Ridge, Matt Pace from Christ Moravian (who has a heart for this wonderful camp), and the EcoMission 2016 staff and campers, the site has been cleared labryinth blog photo3right out the back door of the old entrance to Higgins Lodge. It is back in the woods in a beautiful serene setting. The labyrinth is now sketched out and in the next months will be completely finished for groups, congregations, individuals, campers, youth groups, and many more to experience. You’ll find books about labyrinth walking, bookmarks, prayers, ideas for reflecting, as well as some very simple directions in Higgins Lodge.

There is a possibility of an experience to put the finishing touches on this project. JOY camp is scheduled as an adult summer camp opportunity for August 1-4, 2016. We will spend the mornings working on landscaping the site to make it more beautiful. In the afternoon, there will be plenty of free time for short day trips around Laurel Ridge area. We will come back together after dinner for some intentional experiences using the labyrinth and close with vespers. If you are interested in giving back to Laurel Ridge, join us for this camp. Register before July 10. We have to have a certain number of people interested for this camp to actually take place.

Take time to enjoy this experience. Use it for your congregational retreats. Ask the BCM staff to coordinate some retreat plans for you to use the labyrinth. Bring your campers and youth groups there. Remember to give thanks for where your walk has brought you.Beth Hayes portrait

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) 

Photos: Laurel Ridge, Beth Hayes

A Trip to Truth

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APRIL 4, 2016 

Being a Christian in the world is complicated. Especially in the polarized society of today, we often find ourselves wandering in the wilderness. How can we live a moral life of substance when we are pulled in so many directions? When we hear so many competing messages and voices? What is God calling us to do and be, as individuals, and as the church?

Last summer, we remembered the ultimate sacrifice of John Hus, early Christian reformer and “grandfather” of what is now the Moravian Church. Over 500 of us sat in the pews of Home Moravian Church and listened as Senior High campers, fresh from their week at Laurel Ridge, sang new words to an old campfire standard, I Search for You, Lord. Entitled Truth Prevails, these words remind us of the struggle of Hus in his complicated world, when breaking with the status quo was much more dangerous. And God is still calling us to the truth . . . the truth of God’s love and grace.

Through the centuries, Moravians have preached Hus’s message that faith must be completed in love and they have established congregations dedicated to the simple proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s unlimited love for all people.

Six hundred years after his death, Moravians proclaim Hus as a martyr to the truth, a faithful witness of the gospel, and a shining example that truth cannot be destroyed by violence.

– Craig Atwood, John Hus & the Moravian Church.

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Truth Prevails

I searched for the truth from all of the people who passed me by.
I looked through the Scriptures to follow your footsteps until I die.
I served as a pastor at Bethlehem Chapel to spread your light.
I challenged corruption and spoke up for what was right.

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.

I stand in the Council and listen to all that they have to say –
The harsh accusations and fierce allegations that come my way.
But I must be faithful and keep my convictions, I cannot fail,
For though they stop me I know God’s truth will prevail.

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.

Lord I wonder in all that is and all of time,
Will faith and love and hope be known to humankind?
Will the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers ever know –
Under the violence and greed the truth will still grow?

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.
Jesus is truth:

The way.

My way.

Our way.


Written by Senior High Campers during Senior High Camp – July 11-18, 2015
In tribute to John Hus
Music by Rick Sides and Jim Newsome, Jr.
Picture by: Mike Reiss

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Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)