From the Priest Associate

Dear Ones,
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I left my home in Ohio pretty much for good when I went off to college. My parents sold the big old Tudor house I grew up in and bought a smaller clapboard and stone house out in the country with ponds and orchards. I was assigned the room that had formerly been the sewing room. Essentially, I was given a pied-a-terre. Whenever I came home I was visiting.

Autumn in California, where I went to college, was not much to talk about compared to the Kodachrome colors of fall back home, and then I married and moved to Louisiana – let me tell you about the cultural whiplash of going from the Bay Area to the Deep South in 1970! – and the best I could say about fall was that the blistering heat toned down a little bit sometime in November. And then there have been the past 20 years in Texas, where the only two seasons are summer and a couple of cool days in January.

All this is to say that I absolutely adore autumn in the mountains. It begins in September and lasts for three months. Once the leaves turn I walk around like a fool in awe of the beauty. Our dog, Opie, and his buddy Louie know when it is frisky weather and tear around the meadow. But as I sit on the porch of my studio to meditate, I’m aware of what a spiritual paradox autumn is.

Even now, before the leaves have really begun to turn, it is impossible to ignore that the world is letting go of the vitality of summer. There is less light, less green, less energy. You’ve heard me preach (over and over, you may be quick to point out) that the way of Jesus is the way of letting go. We do not have control over the fact that our summer gardens are looking a bit tired these days and that the hummingbirds are thinning out. We can’t control these things. Even though many of us are quick to proclaim that fall is our favorite season, there is no denying that there is a certain sadness about it, especially as we say goodbye to many of our dear friends who return to other homes until next spring.

And yet there is also a sense of fruition, of gratitude. The farmers’ market is abundant with apples that have ripened in their season and brightly colored pumpkins and squashes. I think that the same people who say fall is their favorite season also claim that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. No matter how complicated our family might be, it is still good to gather together around the table and give thanks for all we have been given.

As Episcopalians we are a faith community that embraces paradox. We are not bound by a singular doctrinal statement to which we must all subscribe or be denied membership. We sing and pray together and stand to confess a creed that probably means a lot of different things to different people. We worship and support each other without needing to agree about issues. We are comfortable in a both/and world. We live in God’s kingdom which is at once fulfilled and still to come.

Despite our liturgy, which is carefully choreographed and aesthetically sublime, we belong to a messy church, one that welcomes people without demanding that they meet our standards and that celebrates the infinite variety of gifts we bring to share.

In John’s Gospel Jesus says,“unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

So here we are, my friends, watching our world burst into technicolor beauty but knowing that this means the dying of the year. We grieve and give gratitude at the same time, all knowing that this is how God creates God’s kingdom and prepares us for the gifts that are to come.

Blessings and love, Margaret+