Following up on my prior post about the Interspirituality Conference, I wanted to add what happened on Sunday morning.
I attend 7:30 Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel where we were observing the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is Good Shepherd Sunday. Because of the conference, I was especially attuned to the references to Jesus saying that there were other sheep “not of this fold” who also follow the shepherd’s voice, which correlates so well with interspirituality and the core beliefs of religious, philosophical, and humanist traditions toward love, peace, connection, and unity. There were so many other moments during our sung and spoken prayer that spoke of “all” in the universal sense, rather than as all the assembly or all Catholics or all Christians. I am thankful to be here at this time, instead of in the pre-Vatican II days when Catholics regularly condemned those who were not (strongly observant) Catholics. I am also thankful that Pope Francis regularly holds meetings with those of many different spiritual beliefs, as well as those who are atheists, humanists, agnostics, etc., giving public witness to the dignity of each person.
I arrived early at First Congregational for the 10:00 service which was the official conclusion of the Interspirituality conference and was pleased when Jamie came to sit with me. With my daughters no longer at home and my mom dealing with a string of health issues, I most often attend without a companion, so it was nice to have a friend next to me.
The congregation, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Art Suggs, is very progressive, open, and inclusive. I had not seen such an enthusiastic – and mobile – greeting of one another during the opening of the service since the Ecumenical Christian Church at Smith College when I was a student in the late 1970s-early 1980s. The hymns and prayers were expansive and filled with light and love. The Scripture passage from chapter 10 of John’s gospel was a continuation of the small section that had been proclaimed at mass and referred back to the good shepherd, which was a beautiful connection for me. In the passage, Jesus quotes Psalm 82 which says “You are gods.” This passage had come up during the weekend sessions as a millennia-old reference to the indwelling of the Divine in human beings, so it was a natural transition to Kurt Johnson’s sermon, “The Coming Interspiritual Age,” which synopsized the insights shared during the conference and gave hope that many around the world are moving beyond the rigid boundaries separating people from one another and into an emerging Second Tier Consciousness which unifies across religions, philosophies, nationalities, and all else that separates us. I again regret my inability to convey this adequately and hope that people who want to learn more will look for resources such as this website.
I wrote in my prior post about anticipating hearing the organ at First Congregational again. One of the lovely things about the structure of the service is that it incorporated the prelude and postlude within the service itself, so that one can actually listen, avoiding the “accompanied pep rally” experience that especially postludes can become. I appreciated that the postlude registration included some of the reed stops, because I so appreciate the Skinner-style reeds that are full and rich rather than thin and piercing. I managed to only tear up a little as I remembered being at the organ with Searle Wright. Had the repertoire included Franck or Dupré or one of Searle’s compositions I’m sure I would have been sobbing.
In a final Spirit-led moment, at the coffee hour after the service, I joined a conversation that Jamie was having with Heidi, one of the women of the church who had been such a great help to us during the conference. The conversation turned to the organ and I had a chance to share with her some of my experiences with Searle and the instrument. I must have had my poet hat perched invisibly on my head as I was going on about how organs breathe, but, fortunately, Jamie and Heidi were receptive listeners. As it turns out, Heidi’s husband had just been speaking about the need to invest in the upkeep of the organ, so it was particularly meaningful to her to hear me speak about Searle, the instrument, and their place in the history of the church and its ongoing legacy. I am not sure what work needs to be done, but I am hopeful that the organ will be restored and preserved, not altered, or worse, abandoned. I believe that the Spirit moves and speaks through the organ’s pipes as surely as it does through our human voices and through all of creation.