If you’re looking for a good movie to watch, pick up “The Way.” It’s the story of a man who chooses to walk the Santiago de Compostella, the most traveled pilgrimage road in the world. He walks it in memory of his son, and he is determined to walk it alone. He wants no help from anyone, and certainly no camaraderie on the trail. And yet…he meets up with three people, wanderers like himself, who are on the trail for their own reasons. He tries to escape them, leaving early, walking later, but they continue to encounter one another, until circumstance brings them together as companions on the road. They enter the great cathedral of Santiago of Compostella, watch the giant thurifur swing across the nave, place their hands on the pillar where thousands and thousands of other pilgrims, from as far back as the sixth century, have placed their hand.
The story is about how the road we take in life can lead to healing, if we choose. But often that healing comes to us, not when we are alone, but when we are with others. It is the community that makes the difference.
A colleague of mine says, “It’s all about relationships,” and he is right. We are called to follow God as individuals joined together in community. The Epistles we read in the Bible were written to churches, not individuals. The gospels were read in the context of the local church, the community of believers.
Our community, St. Thomas’ Homestead/Towson, is going through a momentous process to explore partnership with Epiphany. It is a lot of work. It is painful, because we don’t know if we will be able to stay in our beloved church or move to another place. We see the things in this church that we have become attached to – things like our windows, that tell the story of Jesus in stained glass. We wonder about our traditions, and whether things will change.
I wonder and worry the most about how many of our beloved community will come with us on this incredible journey of faith. There is no decision where we will go yet -whether Epiphany comes here, or we go there – all of that depends on the work of the Buildings and Grounds team, as they assess the viability of each place. Either way, things will be different. We will have new people to community with, new thoughts about worship, and outreach, and fellowship. But we will only experience those things if we stay with the process.
As you consider your place in this process, I encourage you to pray the prayer that is at the end of this article. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from a monastery in Kentucky, wrote this prayer many years ago. When I have decisions to make, and I can’t see the way ahead, I turn to this prayer. And as you pray it, pray for yourself, but also pray for this community of faith – your community. These are the people who have walked with you in hard times, rejoiced with you at baptisms, and weddings, mourned when you mourn, shared coffee and food around the table, and worship our beloved God with you every week. Do not take that lightly. Community is a gift from God.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to
please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.