I love getting on a plane that clearly says where I am going. The Faroese airline is the Atlantic Airways three plane fleet. I rode one of the planes to the Faroe Islands on Wednesday night.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. They lie between Iceland and Great Britain and look like a hybrid of each. Faroe means sheep, and there are more sheep than the 50,000 people who call this eighteen island nation home.
A friend in Texas gave me two Faroese contacts. Katrina, the first one I met, said that the Faroe Islands are the land of maybe. Maybe it will rain. Maybe it will be windy. Maybe the sun will shine.
I love thinking about being in the land of maybe. I am living whatever maybe, and it will be wonderful.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God, my Savior,
for you have looked with favor on your servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel,
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and their children for ever.
Today is the actual feast day of Mary.
I celebrated with prayers and worship at Hallgrímskirkja which included a gift of extraordinary music by the Schola Cantorum.
Their concert was because it was a summer Wednesday, but I listened for Mary. She showed up in The Song of Simeon, the hymn of praise launched into by a man who had been waiting his whole life to meet the Saviour of the world; he was introduced to the infant Jesus when he was brought to the temple in the arms of his mother, Mary.
To honor Mary, I’ve been looking for blue, the color of hope, and the color she seems to be always wearing in art. Since we have no idea what Mary looked like, her color coding makes her recognizable.
The wall of the hotel is covered in a mural of crosses. Seeing them this morning, the blue ones seemed to praise Mary.
Marian Feast Day Blessings.
A candle was lit and prayers prayed for all of you.
I never knew a seven hour flight could be so delightful. However, when your traveling friend’s husband gifts you both with Saga Class tickets on Icelandair AND you are the only two people sitting in the twenty four seat first class, it’s like having your own private plane.
Our wonderful flight attendant, Halldora Lisa, graciously served us and still had plenty of time to talk knitting and give us great suggestions for a day in Reykjavik.
We landed at Keflavik at 4.30 AM and were at our hotel before seven. The desk clerk really wanted to go ahead and give us our room way before the 2 pm check in and was apologetic that the cleaners wouldn’t arrive until 8.
My friend and I took the time to begin to explore that places Halldora Lisa had carefully suggested.
Cinnamon croissants from Braud and Co.
Coffees at our familiar favorite, Reykjavik Roasters.
Walking the nearly empty streets with our hoods up to protect us from the rain.
After a nap in our now prepared room, we continued to walk the path suggested for us.
The afternoon included a lunch of char and vegetables cooked in a cast iron skillet at Messinn.
By the time our afternoon walk was merging into evening, it was sweet to see the gray of the day have the first peek of sunshine.
It will be an early night tonight after two days of travel. Tomorrow is St. Mary’s Feast day, so worship will be part of tomorrow’s adventure before boarding our plane in the evening for the Faroe Islands and Denmark.
I have officially begun my mini-Sabbatical funded generously by the Diocese of Texas as a gift of healing for Harvey-healing clergy.
The first leg of my travels was via Dallas to visit my family in Chambersville. I was upgraded; the flight was delayed; I landed in pouring rain for my drive to my mom’s farm.
Surprise. Joy. Waiting. Traveling mercies. Water. Words to begin a time of post-Harvey healing and rest.
Part of my visit home was in order to have a family meeting to talk about my brother’s desire to begin to build a home for his family on the land that my brothers and I would eventually inherit. This was a challenging conversation as the three of us all caught up to the same place.
It was not lost on me that the pastor during my Sunday morning worship at the tiny Methodist church at the end of the road was preaching on Ephesians. Words about how we live in love with one another.
As I walked my mother’s land, I was deeply aware of so many places still to be transformed in my heart and actions. Things I can do with relative ease with others get forgotten when I return to big sister land.
I am so thankful to have a mother and brothers who love me with my flaws. I am thankful for the opportunity to practice listening and speaking the truth with family who continue to love even when I can be a precious mess.
Now. Soon. Boarding a plane to take me first to Reykjavík so I can travel for a week on the Faroe Islands
Surprise. Joy. Waiting. Traveling mercies. Water.
The last two times I’ve planned a trip to Iceland, my home has flooded.
Which is why, when I begin my Harvey mini-Sabbatical this weekend, I am not traveling to Iceland. I will fly through Iceland and visit islands off the coast of Iceland. However, the Faroe Islands belong to Denmark. Not Iceland. My mini-sabbatical is to Denmark. Let me make that perfectly clear.
Right after I became a priest, I learned that vacations needed to be really away or they weren’t vacations. My first big trip as a priest was to a place that I had always wanted to visit since I’d read One Morning in Maine as a little girl. I was so excited to finally visit Maine. I went to Laura Ashley in the Galleria and bought a new wardrobe. I packed a huge suitcase, nicknamed the monster bag, full of an array of coordinated outfits including scarves, hats and shoes.
That was twenty five years ago. As I’ve traveled from places as close as Camp Allen to as faraway as Turkey, my bags have gotten smaller and smaller. It’s easier to travel with less stuff.
The suitcase I will be taking on my trip Not to Iceland is a carry on bag. In fact, the only time I check my bag now is when I’m traveling with my grandsons. I definitely need two free hands to make sure I get us all to where we are supposed to be going. And, oh yes, I have had a checked bag my last two trips home from Iceland because I had so much yarn to bring back (after all, I’d lost most of my yarn in the Tax Day Flood and the Harvey Flood).
It’s not lost on me that I will return home near the anniversary of the Harvey Flood. Truth is that the Tax Day Flood and Harvey Flood washed away so much of my stuff that my life is lighter than it’s ever been.
More space for God to fill those empty drawers, shelves, and smaller suitcases.
Several years ago, a private Christian school that served special needs children was looking for a larger space. One of our parishioner’s children attended school there, and so we began a conversation about offering space for the school. This was about the same time that the Episcopal Church approved marriage of same sex couples, and the private school had a strong policy about homosexuality that was inconsistent with the Episcopal Church. The headmaster and I met for a conversation that, although we approached our Christian faith from different perspectives, was one of the most holy that I have ever had–two Christians listening to each other, respecting each other, praying for and with each other.
As we talked, the headmaster mentioned that it was their policy not to accept children whose parents were in a same sex union. I told him that this would be a deal breaker for St. Mary’s because no matter what our view on same sex marriage, the children had done nothing “wrong” and should not be denied access or punished because of what their parents had done. The headmaster had an aha moment–he had never thought of their policy in that way. Why should the children be hurt because of what their parents chose to do?
I’ve been thoughtful lately about the burdens we have our children carry. During the early days of desegregation, we bused children of color into places they were often not welcome in order to fulfill the law. We didn’t do this to adults who had a choice–we did this to children, the most powerless in our society. Now, of course, I am not saying that desegregation was wrong, but we put the burden on the most powerless of the powerless. We didn’t make adults do this–we forced children to do this.
I’ve seen this happen too many times–children who are punished because of choices their parents have made. The children whose lives are made more difficult in order to force their parents and other adults to change their behavior. Children who are compelled to be brave in a way that we adults are not willing.
I see the situation with the young immigrants along our border as yet one more time we’ve put our moral and political disagreements on the backs of our children–children who have nothing to do with their parents’ decisions, except, perhaps, wanting better lives for them.
When I came to St. Mary’s twenty years ago, because of limited space, portable classrooms had been set up and the children met there. Over the years those building had become musty and moldy. Some of us became concerned about placing children in a place that was so unattractive and most likely unhealthy. It would cost money to replace these buildings, and it was easier to set other priorities.
Until one night the Vestry had to meet in one of these portable buildings. They began to cough and sneeze–just like our children did every Sunday. Finally, when the adults had experienced what we’d been allowing our children to experience, we were ready to gather the resources to build what we now call the Holy Family Center.
It’s time. To provide the very most basic needs to all of our children: In education. In health care. In safety. In emotional support. In food and water. We can do better. Certainly, as Americans. Without a doubt, as Christians. If we won’t do this as Americans, please, can’t we do better as Christians?
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, 45)
I never thought I’d say this, but this past week in the Dominican Republic has been a kind of retreat for me. Last night the mission team gathered outside on a patio at Casa Pastorale for communion. We blessed the bread and wine by remembering other communions we had had on our trip and each sharing one moment we had seen Christ.
Thursday had been our last day, for now, serving in a batey. As we completed our mission work, we celebrated by worshipping with our friends in Batey 105 in the church built by another mission group.
The children gathered first, and Estela, an interpreter with our team, led the children’s worship including lively music. Then our team continued with Adelle reading the Gospel in Spanish, and I preached using an interpreter.
We talked about Jesus’s last act with his disciples before his arrest was to share a meal. He wanted us to know that he was always with us, especially when we ate together. Remembering that Jesus called himself the Bread of Life, we took the bread that had been set aside for our lunch and broke it and shared a piece with each person.
It was Jesus, and all were welcomed.
Yesterday was our Sabbath and we rode a boat out to a beautiful Caribbean beach. We were struck by the extravagance of all the shades of blue painting the sea and the sky. The boat ride back included dancing.
As I prepared to return to Houston this morning, I sat in the Casa’s dining room a final time with my coffee and prayed for each member of St. Mary. I do not know what God has in store, but I am still listening, Lord.
Today was another medical mission to yet another batey.
This day had its own gifts.
Starting with our first patient of the day, Adelle.
The batey was more primitive than the one yesterday, and the ground was uneven and littered with trash. Preparing to walk into the house that was to be our clinic, Adelle fell and injured her knee and ankle. She was in a great deal of pain and dizzy and nauseous.
Adelle spent the day with her feet propped on a chair, ice packs placed to keep swelling down. If you have to be injured, doing it on a medical mission is handy. On the other hand, being injured on an medical mission miles from anywhere in stifling tropical heat is not so good.
However, here is the gift. Adelle, a Spanish speaker, spent the day on the porch unable to leave her chair, surrounded by children as she created her own impromptu VBS with only a box of crayons and paper airplanes and a heart for Jesus.
No tshirts. No schedule. No Bible except what Adelle had in her heart. She taught them St. Mary’s Good Morning, God prayer in Spanish, and it was the batey children’s prayer that blessed our food at lunch.
We had lunch of sandwiches and juice to share with the children. As I looked into each child’s eyes, and handed him and her a sandwich, in my mind I said, the body of Christ, the bread of heaven. As the cup of juice was given, in my prayer heart I said, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.
It was the Lord’s meal. All were welcome there.
After my time of praying with the patients before their clinic visit, I once again walked the dirt streets of the batey. Everyone welcomed me into their very simple home for a blessing. Everyone said yes to a prayer. Folks had visited the clinic earlier and children who had been blessed by Adelle were met again in their homes.
It was truly The Body of Christ. All were fed the true Bread of Jesus’ love. All were welcome. So very welcome. Christians from America. Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. Everyone.
Today part of our group went to one batey to help build a basketball court (what the community had requested), and the other went to a batey about an hour’s drive from the mission to host a medical clinic. I went to the clinic.
A batey is a settlement built around a sugar cane plantation where the workers live. The one we visited today was a small settlement of humble green houses with a company store and a school. The source of water was a spigot in the middle of the village.
Our clinic was housed in the school. My role was to sit at the first station where blood pressure was taken and to offer to pray with the patient as they began their visit to the clinic.
My partner in ministry was Adelle who speaks good Spanish. However, about half of the people only spoke the local form of Creole.
As the clinic was being set up, a few of us sat outside with the children, making paper airplanes. The children also helped me knit, counting stitches as I cast on.
We saw the maximum number of patients we can serve, 50, though a few extra family members tagged along, too. Adelle introduced herself and me, and then one way or another we asked if we could pray. All but two patients said yes. I had overfilled my oil stock, and so those anointed with a healing cross on their foreheads were clearly marked. In fact healing oil soon covered everything I touched.
At the end of the day, Adelle and I, accompanied by a male translator, walked the batey. Last night at prayer, we had talked about having Christ’s authority to do God’s work. I felt that Christ Presence walking the dirt road of the batey. We walked up to individuals on porches and groups of folks sitting in the shade and offered anointing and a blessing. All said yes. At every open door, we offered a house blessing, and doorway after doorway was marked with an oil cross.
We were able to visit about a quarter of the homes before the bus was ready to bring us back to the mission.
I know that God is always present and is always with us, but despite a day in the heat with endless people, I rode home on a yellow bus over bumpy, dusty roads full of joy and overwhelmed with the beauty of the Lord.
It’s a week of mission–I should say, particular intentionality of mission. Hopefully we are missioners wherever whenever we are.
Two years after I first hoped to travel on mission to the Dominican Republic, I am finally on my way here. Consequences due to the Tax Day Flood and then Harvey postponed those trips until now. I was delayed an additional two days because of commitment to teach at Iona School for Ministry this weekend. Our other DR missioners are serving in the bateys as I fly to join them.
A prayer journal for all on mission was prepared to remind us that we journey with Christ for Christ.
I was able to pray Facebook Live Prayers from IAH. We heard the Scripture for the third day of mission:
I’ve been listening to the playlist of music chosen for the trip:
I’m knitting stars to share with the friends I’ll meet in the bateys.
I’ve been working on pastoral Spanish, though the folks we will serve will most likely speak a form of Creole French.
Uncion de los Enferrmos.
Que Dios lo/la bendiga.
Puedo rezar con Ud?
And me. Madre Beth. Sacerdote.
And now I’m now at the Casa Pastorale.
I can’t wait to see what God has in store.