Thursday, June 11, 2020


Dear All of Us,

An older woman had stopped going to synagogue.
The rabbi went to visit.
They sat quietly in front of the fireplace.
The rabbi picked up the tongs.
He took a glowing coal from the fire,
set it on the brick hearth.
The small coal slowly lost its glow, blackened, and died out.
After more quiet, the older woman said,
"I understand. I'll come back to synagogue."

Community is essential in our spiritual lives.

Separated from the intensity of a spiritual community,
like that coal separated from the fire,
our spirit loses its glow, blackens and dies out.

Community is essential in our spiritual lives.

The Pan Problem has separated us 
from our spiritual communities
in a lot of painful ways.
We need each other up close and personal.
It's rough trying to have a bonfire 
with individual logs spread all over the field.

This separation is a hardship for sure.
Things are  No Longer  as they were 
and they are  Not Yet  what they will be.
We are like the crews that were stuck 
on board cruise ships, not allowed into port.
It was  No Longer  what it was months ago
and it was  Not Yet  what they so long for.
In our own way we are adrift nowhere.
What are we to do?

We need to do what the followers of Jesus
have done over the centuries -
find the best possible way to be together.
That has taken many, many forms
moving from  No Longer  toward  Not Yet
in the  Just Now.

Separated from Jesus after his death, 
the first followers were confused and frightened.
They hid out, stuck together, prayed 
and waited for the promised Spirit.
Inspirited at Pentecost, they hit the streets
inviting everyone in on the life.

The early Christian communities 
were not socially preferred
to painfully persecuted.
They formed themselves into
small, close knit, 
caring and sharing
Home Churches.

The Roman Christians were hunted 
and thrown to the lions.
They went under ground - 
The Catacomb Church.
They rose above limit. 

John Wesley was concerned.
The Church of England 
was a stiff, arrogant dark shadow 
of a spiritual community
during the Industrial Revolution.
John Wesley went into the slums 
and mining towns of England. 
He gathered the dirty poor into small groups
for spiritual support and shared life.

In Communist prison camps 
Christians didn't have 
church buildings or programs.
They had each other.
They sacrificed and cared for one another
and other prisoners as well.
They lived beautifully as The Body of Christ 
in rags and suffering.
Their togetherness was a Holy Communion
in attitude and action.

The poor and marginalizes of South America
found themselves spiritually starved, 
Gospel denied, in a church owned by 
the state and it's wealthy elites.
They formed  Base Communities.
Gathering in small, close, caring local groups,
they applied and lived 
the Gospel personally and socially.
It was Liberation Theology
for sure, for self, for society. 

For all of these it was/is community 
No Longer  as it was
and  Not Yet  what it would be.

So it is for us.
We, too, are seeking 
the best possible ways 
we can to share the intensity, 
the fire of the Spirit,
to be in community as 
The Body of Christ during this
No Longer  and  Not Yet  of our  Just Now:

Tonight about ten of us from 
our local and closed church
are connecting through ZOOM 
for a Happy Hour -
sharing spirits and Spirit.
A Men's Spirituality Group 
does Soul Share by ZOOM.
For others it is Bible Study,
Prayer Groups, 
Small Bubble Groups gather for 
faith sharing, fellowship and a meal, 
in person once a week.
Some are families. Others are singles. 
(it is a select and committed quarantine)
A core of five each call two 
isolated members of their closed church 
each day. That amounts to 
seventy "communions" a week. 
They share conversation, 
trouble shoot and resource.
"Old pastors never die. 
They just do spiritual direction"-
these days by phone/facetime. 
This "old pastor" is 
so privileged twice a day - 
it's a really good connection for both us - 
(and it keeps me off the street 
and out of the lounge chair!!).
Some stream a Eucharistic Service
and place a white napkin 
in front of the screen. 
They have a little piece of bread 
and a small glass of wine there 
and share in Holy Communion. 
Jesus used what was available 
for communion at The Last Supper.
They use what's available
in our  No Longer  and  Not Yet.
The issue isn't physical distance, 
polity or transmission. 
It's Holy Communion. 
A good connect here is 
The National Cathedral in Washington DC. 
They live streamed the Eucharist 
at 11:15 A.M., east coast USA time,
Sunday mornings as does
St. John's Abbey, Collegeville MN,
at 10:30 CDT.
Using a variety of media,
mentors meet with youth weekly 
as they prepare for Confirmation.

Prayerfully we discern 
our means and others' needs, 
funding those needs, 
being in supportive community. 
Here in DC "Charlie's Place" 
is a vibrant group gathered 
to feed and assist the homeless. 
Check out (perhaps with a check)
such groups  where you live.

Consider forming a group 
of parents and 
2020 high school graduates 
as they try to figure 
their way forward toward college. 
Perhaps you could ask 
an educator from your community 
to facilitate and gather online.
 A group from the church 
could use media to discuss 
and be proactive 
in addressing social 
and environmental issues.
Members of spiritual communities 
have sacrificed social distancing
and possibly their health.  
They come together 
to peacefully protest both police 
and systemic racial injustice.
Hopefully they we find ways 
to band together for 
the long, hard work ahead
to secure racial justice 
and societal unity.
Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, 
pastor of Foundry
United Methodist Church 
here in DC put it well:
    "The building is closed. 

      The Church is open"    

There are ever so many ways 
to be and do spiritual community
in these really difficult times.
We can't have what is 
No longer  nor what is  Not Yet.
We can be and have community
in what is our  Right Now.
Christians have done it 
over the millennia.
It's essential to our spiritual lives 
that we be and do such.
We don't want to
lose our glow, darken, die out.
We need others and they need us.


          John Frank


The story of the older lady 
and the rabbi is adapted from

VISION 2000 Praying Scripture 
in a Contemporary Way

by Mark Link.
Thanks to my friend Michael Byler
 for the referral.


        Here's a grateful
           SHOUT OUT

to all who invited many, many others 
to our little community here last week.
A warm welcome to all new to 

       frankly speaking

   spirituality for the street

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         BURN BRIGHT