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Gold that lasts the whole year through — children’s summer camp

Tell your friends… there are four summer camps in North America this year!

Here is a video of Harmony Lake, the East Coast camp. (Click “Read more” from the home page).

To learn about them all, visit: https://www.thechristiancommunity.org/children-youth/camps/

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Light in Freedom

“Two lights brighten our world. One is provided by the Sun, but another answers to it–the light of the eye. Only through their entwining do we see; lacking either, we are blind. ”  ~ Zajonc, Catching the Light. ——

Something more than physical sunlight streams down to Earth. In sunlight, the warm love of the Godhead can be felt. Every human being has light within which responds to the light without. But there is a mystery here. We do not always respond to the light. We do not always tend toward the light like the plants. We have free will. And sometimes we choose to ignore the light and go our own way.

When we are in a Cathedral, we see the light of the sun streaming in through the stained glass in the daytime. At night, we have to be outside to see the light streaming out from within!

And so it is with human beings. In the daytime, we take in the spiritual world in the brightness of day. It is loud here, and we often miss what the spirit is trying to say to us at any given moment. At night, in the darkness, the Spiritual world can much more easily see what is beautiful and worthy streaming out from the light of human beings sleeping.

What gets in the way of the light within us, that it does not always reach the light without? What is the darkness which causes us such chaos and confusion in our times?

We are in darkness when we are not clear. We are in darkness when we are untruthful, when we are vague, when we make assumptions or avoid thinking about the thing that is right in front of us. We are in darkness when we are full of hatred, anger or fear.

But what happens the minute we try to make sense out of what is before us? What activity of the mind starts turning when we go for precision, for clarity, when we are even willing to do a little research? What happens when we try to understand the one who is foreign to us or the one who drives us crazy? Then something begins to awaken in us which leads us towards light. The activity of trying to make sense out of what’s going on when we do not know what or why it is happening develops a capacity in us.

Every object, well-contemplated, opens up a new organ in us. ~Goethe

We are seeking the light in freedom. How can it be that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not accepted it? (John 1:5) Can we find a way? Can we possibly find Christ’s light in our daylight, and return it to Him in love each night? This would bring grace upon grace to our troubled world.

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The current festival season is Epiphany. Click here to read about it on our festivals page and here for a three kings children’s story.
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The Path from Advent to Epiphany

There is an inner pathway that leads from Advent through Epiphany. It spirals inward, dwells for twelve days in the light of Christmas, and turns to spiral outward again at Epiphany, January 6.

The path already began to turn inward at Michaelmas, for the dragon that we were meant to conquer is the rapacity of our own natural selfishness, the dragon of our own lower nature. This is, of course, not a one-time victory. The battles continue. And as we traverse the land of the dead in November, through the mighty pictures of the future from the Apocalypse, they warn us that we are to continue with the tasks and trials of cleansing.

In December and Advent, we continue to prepare for the future. And inwardness increases both in our own soul and in the mood of the darkening natural world. The inwardness of both worlds finds its expression in the blue of the altar — a deep blue of infinite calm like the sky before sunrise. This is most appropriate, for in preparing for Christmas we are preparing for and awaiting the birth of the Sun God within us.

This inward turning from Michaelmas to Christmas is a picture for the development of all humankind. Each of us repeats this path in our own development. So just as the history of earthly man began with that fateful apple, each of us is given the apple of our destiny before entering this earthly life. On top of that destiny there rests the potential to ignite a higher self.

In the Advent Garden for children, this potential is symbolized by the candle in the apple that each child carries on the spiral path toward the large central candle that the angel has lighted. We all spiral inward on our path through life, looking for the true center, led by our angel who has gone there before us. Each of us moves toward this center in his own characteristic way. Some of us, like some children, stride quickly and blithely, interested in everything there is to see in earth’s garden. Others are more cautious, anxious to protect their light, and to find just the right place for it.

But eventually we all finally arrive at the center. This center is Christ’s deed on earth. It is a deed that began its visible course with the birth of Jesus at Christmas, prepared by the illuminating plan of the Holy Spirit. At Christmas the altar is illuminated, clothed in the pure white sunrise of spirit light and the pale lilac of new beginnings.

The tender brightness of the twelve holy days of Christmas is a time set apart from the rest of the year. Its twelve days mark the difference between the solar year and the lunar year. Day by day, the Christmas light shines into each of the twelve months of the coming year. It illuminates our future. It is a time that brings special blessings into our coming lives when we work with its deepening and enlivening. Participating in the act of humankind’s consecration during each of these twelve days helps to bring special blessings for the coming year. It helps His light to illuminate us, to be ignited within us.

Then on January 6, at Epiphany, the light from the altar deepens into a warmly incarnated magenta red-violet, a red that faces the darkness of the future with love and trust. Humankind’s future was illuminated by the star of Jesus’ birth. Just as the children have lit their candles in the center of the Advent garden, we have again ignited our higher self at the altar, letting it shine in the center of our being, during this twelve-day season. Now at Epiphany we begin to spiral outward again, out into the world, to illuminate what is still dark, once again to face Herod’s forces of evil that result from human selfishness.

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This article appears in the most recent North American Newsletter, which you can find in its entirety here.

Visit our festival page for more about Christmas in the Christian Community.

 

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A New Foundation

Some weeks ago there was yet another mass shooting. Robert Bowers murdered 11 souls at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He was then found and taken to the hospital. And as Robert was being wheeled into the emergency room, he yelled ‘death to all Jews’. The nurse caring for him felt those words painfully in his heart. The nurse knew the synagogue well, because his parents often worshiped there.

And so while deeply worried that his parents were two of the victims of this killer, nevertheless this Jewish nurse decided to care for this enemy, silently. And when the media asked why he hadn’t refused care because he was a Jew, he said ‘When I looked into his eyes, I didn’t see evil- I saw confusion and fear. I cared for this man, because I wanted him to feel compassion, to feel love, and I wanted him to feel it from a Jew.’

In Rev. 21 we hear that the New Jerusalem, our future earth, is built of precious stones. But what could be more precious than freely given love in the face of fear? What could be more foundational for a true humanity than a compassionate heart standing before his enemy?

Dear friends, just like the Jewish nurse, we, too, can create love in the growing anxiety and fear of our times. For every deed of compassion and love that comes to light in this darkness creates a precious stone, a spiritual stone that will become the firm foundation of a new earth.

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You can find an Advent story for children here. A former blog post on celebrating Advent with children can be found here. And finally, click here for a description of how the Advent season is celebrated in the Christian Community.

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Let us learn from the trees

Just as the sun was rising the other morning, I stepped out onto our deck here at the church to fill my lungs with fresh air. The previous last couple of days, I had been watching the trees in the back of the church- so beautifully golden and ready to lose their leaves. I had thought that because it had rained so much in the days before, that the rain would have ripped down all the leaves. But it didn’t happen; the leaves were still there on that morning, glistening with dew.

But as I watched and as the sun began to ray out and shine through the leaves, the leaves began to fall. First just a few, and as the suns light grew stronger, the leaves fell more and more. I realized for the first time this morning that trees let go of their leaves, not so much in the rain and darkness of the clouds. The trees are so much more encouraged to let go in the presence of the light of the Sun.

Like the trees, each and every human heart is also called to let go of the old so that we can receive what is new. Each and every one of us is called to allow what is no longer useful in us to fall away, like leaves, so that we can transform into what is useful now. This is the Christian path. Death and resurrection in life is how we connect with Christ.

And yet, let us always remember that the trees don’t let go of their leaves so well in the darkness and the rain. The trees gain the strength to let go standing in the light of the Sun.

Dear friends, let us learn from the trees that if we want to learn to let go of a part of ourselves that is no longer useful, we must first practice standing in the light. For it is really never the cold rainy darkness that transforms human souls. Human hearts are transformed in His warm Light.

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Who is Like God?

A Path Through the Michaelmas Readings

September 29 is the festival of the Archangel Michael. On this day and in the four weeks that follow we hear in the seasonal prayer or epistle of the Act of Consecration of Man about the workings of the Archangel throughout the ages. The image of the battle between Michael and the Dragon in the heavens is brought before our souls as a mighty revelation, and we are invited to follow the Archangel in gaining a new understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. Michael’s mission is so intimately connected to that of the Christ being that he appears as the countenance of Christ and guards the mystery of transubstantiation as he guards the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

At the core of these mysteries lies the permeation of earthly substance by heavenly being, the complete blending of human being and God. How can we understand this relationship between the divine and the truly human? What does this have to do with us who are incarnated today? And how do we actually relate to God: as something outside of us, inside of us, or both? It may not be mere coincidence that the guiding Archangel of our time bears the name Michael, which can be translated as the question Who Is Like God? It is a question whose answer is no longer a given, but which may accompany us throughout our lifetime together with a growing understanding or inkling of what it may mean.

As a path to a possible understanding of this question about the relationship between God and human being we can follow the Gospel readings that are read in the Michaelmas season. Like the epistle they are full of images. In Matthew 22, Jesus uses the image of the preparations for a wedding feast as a way to describe the Kingdom of God. The opening words of this parable, “The Kingdom of God is like a human being, a king,” show the intimate connection between the divine world and the world of human beings. It hints at the possibility of manifesting the divine within us, and points out a particular quality that most resembles the divine: the quality of kingliness. Instead of going into an exploration of all that this quality of kingliness may include, it may suffice at this point to say that the movement from human being to king assumes the possibility of and indeed need for an ongoing development of the soul forces of the human being.

To take hold of this development in the right way, we need to gain some understanding of the spiritual forces that work in the world to undermine this development. In Revelation 12 we hear again about the battle between Michael and the Dragon, and how the Dragon was cast down to the earthly realm where it now rages. The Dragon in its two manifestations of devil and satan tries to ensnare the human soul through spirit-denying materialism and earth-denying spiritualism respectively. It hinders the right relationship of the human soul to the realm of spirit and the realm of earth, and of the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and willing to each other.

An understanding of the workings of the adversary in our soul life and in world events can help us move from fruitless reactivity to a place that allows us to overcome and transform the powers of evil through the help of Christ. Christ appears in Revelation 19 as the White Rider, the Word of God who works in the world as the One who puts everything in right relationship. This process has often been envisioned as a great Judgment, but may well be understood as a balancing, healing process.

Finally, in Ephesians 6 we learn what it looks like when we allow ourselves to be permeated by the Christ being, and how we can strengthen our soul forces against the power of the adversary. The armor of God manifests itself as truthfulness, communion with the divine, peacefulness, and trust in the workings of God and in the healing that comes from Christ.

As we follow this path of the Gospel readings through the Michaelmas season, we can experience a growing hope and trust in the presence of the Divine in our lives as we are consciously working to balance out our soul forces and move from reactivity to steadfastness. It can become indeed a path of inner development, a preparation of our souls for the nearing of the Christ being during the season of Advent.

By Florian Burfeind, member of the Chicago congregation and former student at the seminary in Stuttgart, Germany. Reprinted from the North American Newsletter of the Christian Community, vol.25, no.2, 2017.


To read more about the Michaelmas festival season in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find a Michaelmas children’s story here.

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Creating Altars, Becoming Priests

Our sacred service, our practice here of communing with the divine, it all centers around the altar. Not only is the altar the very place where we offer ourselves to God, it is traditionally a tomb made of stone. The altar is a heavy stone, un-moveable, dark, and at the same time, it is the very place where we turn our hearts to Christ.

Within each one of us, within every human soul there is also an altar, an inner altar. We come to this inner altar the moment we find something made of stone in our souls, something heavy and un-moveable. And just like the altar in our chapel, our inner altar comes alive when, instead of angrily hammering at that un-moveable stone in us, we use it as a place to turn to Christ’s healing light.

For so often do we experience in life stones that cannot seem to be moved, changed. Illnesses, life circumstance, struggles in our relationships, recurring fears and above all weaknesses in ourselves that we stumble over again and again no matter what we do. We whip ourselves because of these inner stones, judging ourselves and others because of shortcomings- promising, never again!- but to no avail.

And yet the Christ power in us knows that stones belong in the river of our lives. The divine in us does not want to escape or destroy. The Christ Path seeks to use our heavy stones as altars, use our weaknesses and shortcomings as the very place from which we humbly turn to Him.

Dear Friends, our weaknesses and failings are not there to make us merely angry, ashamed or afraid. Our heavy stones are there to remind us to bow and pray. They are there to remind us that we are actually priests, inner priests who with humility and devotion learn to transform mere stones in our souls into altars to Christ.

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Good for what ails ya!

That’s right, summer youth conference has come at last… And it’s right around the corner: August 20 – 27 in Hillsdale, New York.

Join Hugh Thornton, Liza Marcato and Nils Cooper for a seven-day gathering, camping out and exploring our area where nature and culture are in abundance!

Make new friends, see old ones…

Think, play, swim, sing, eat, converse, create, explore, go offline, walk up a river, jump from a cliff, watch a sunset from a mountaintop, see live Shakespeare, and  r e l a x  before a new school year begins!

For teenagers 14 – 18 years old. Help spread the word if you know a young person who could use a shot of goodness.

Check out this event listing at the new Christian Community Youth website.

There are still places! Register by Friday, August 17 by going here.

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Gold that lasts the whole year through

What IS it? the parents and friends ask, that makes this camp so special? What is it that goes so deep into the children’s hearts? The most concise and truthful answer is this: it is the creation of harmonious community life, in living action. We can dream all we like about a new and better world, but camp creates it, in a small but impressive way. The days have a rhythm, which compliment and harmonize the human being. Together we sing, tell stories, and create beautiful projects – swim, canoe, and build bonfires – joke, play, and celebrate with the Children’s Service on Sundays. It is truly a place where kids can just be kids.

Spread the word! The following camps and conferences are still enrolling:

Midwest children’s camp: August 6-21

East coast children’s camp: August 2-18

East coast youth conference: August 20-27

Click here to see what former campers and camp counselors have to say about camp. (Please note that the dates at the end of the video are for a camp from a prior year.)

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St. John’s call to conscience

The earth is a living organism, a living breathing being. It breathes in two magnificent rhythms of the year, beginning with an out-breath at Christmas time, reaching up toward the heavens in the burgeoning springtime, reaching its zenith at St. John’s tide. Then the turning begins as the days slowly become shorter and all living things are drawn back to the earth.

The soul of the earth rises with this breathing, seeking communion with the universe, the light and warmth of the sun, the starry heavens. Human beings also find that their souls are “lifted out” at this time. We live outdoors, in the light-filled atmosphere. We feel our individual burdens lifted a little too. The flowers begin to ripen into fruit. What fruits do we offer and where are the seeds we need for next year’s harvest?

We are united in light and warmth with other people. We are able to see humanity from a different perspective, from “above” where our souls are drawn. From this high place, we can look at humanity as a whole and we can allow ourselves the “angels point of view.” We see the the good and moral thoughts and deeds streaming out from human beings but we can also see the destruction, the great gap between who we are and who we could become. We see the disorder, pain and chaos which arise out of the freedom we have been given to realize the love of God within ourselves. St. John’s is a time to reflect on the whole of humanity, to develop a conscience, to recreate ourselves in the image and likeness of God. We burn the fire of our truest aspirations and raise the flames to meet the spiritual world in loving light.

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To learn more about how St. Johnstide is celebrated in the Christian Community, click here to visit our festival page. For a children’s story that picutres St. John the Baptist’s mission, you can find “The Donkey” by the Brothers Grimm here.

From Luke 3:

…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.