Updated: Aug 17, 2018
I am writing this week from Chautauqua Institute where the theme is Memory: History and
Memory in the 21st Century. On the first morning we heard a wonderful talk by the President of the Holocaust Museum, Sara Bloomfield, and there have been several amazing talks about the legacy of Martin Luther King. Last night we watched a movie called The Red Violin and the Chautauqua orchestra payed the background music to the film. They were led by Joshua Bell who played the part of the principal violin. It was quite stunning.
But I keep learning an old lesson which seems new each time. As amazing as the people on the stage might be some of the conversations with strangers remain highlights of this experience. Peggy and I live on one of the houses owned by the Chautauqua UCC Society. We make our own meals in a common kitchen and eat with other people in our house. What we discover in the daily meetings is that we share a rich community. Most of the people in the house attend UCC churches in Ohio, Maryland, Chicago, Kentucky, Florida, Arizona Pennsylvania, New York or New England. So we talk about our shared challenges and ideas for how to help our various communities of faith.
But strangely wonderful things also happen that remind us that this is holy ground. Yesterday I met a woman who grew up in St. Louis. She is my age and now lives in Rochester. As we started to talk about the speaker we had heard, we discovered that our parents had worked together and our dads were close friends, both ministers in St. Louis. As I wondered about this, I looked at the date on my watch and realized that it was dad’s birthday yesterday. He died 25 years ago and would have been 104 this year, but it all seemed suddenly bigger than I could imagine in some odd and powerful way.
The feeling of standing on sacred soil is something that often takes you by surprise. It has little to do with the famous speakers on the stage of your life, and lots to do with the chance encounters that remind us that we are held or watched or known. I pray that this week you feel the powerful presence of God as you stare at a sunset, or meet someone new, whose journey has been entwined with yours all along.