The renewal of the church as a faithful community must be grounded
in a transformation of the heart that comes from deepening our practice of prayer.
A Space to Explore this Summer
Summer always gives me space to breathe. Being a school family, I look forward to any bit of time that lets us sleep in (even just a bit) and relax. One of our Summer rituals is to put together a book list from the library (or to purchase if we really want to treat ourselves). Others enjoy their time with sports or being on the lake. Others head to the woods to hike, and we often do that as well.

I keep being reminded how important rest really is. The particular flavor of our Western world doesn't lend itself to times of spaciousness. There is always an impulse to fill our time production. Yet, there is always that call to Sabbath rest that challenges so much of our world view. Remember when we used to be bored as children?

In this issue of the newsletter for The Center for Prayer and Spiritual Practice, you'll be able to explore a new class on creation myths in June, as well as look ahead just a bit to opportunities for future reflection. There is even a little poem tucked in here and a note on the designer Axel Vervoordt, someone whose reflections I keep exploring and who helps me wonder about creativity and beauty.
Dialogues in Creation:
Images and Stories about our Origin and Identity

For as long as people have reflected on their existence, we have shaped stories about our origin and place in the cosmos. Every religious tradition engages with these fundamental questions on some level, and when we explore a spectrum of their wisdom, we can discern patterns. These patterns (and outliers!), in turn, help us understand the way we see ourselves--and many of the tensions we face in the world today regarding the changing climate and social pressures. Cynthia and Stuart invite you to share in this series of conversations as we glean insights from various religious traditions. Within our own tradition as well, with its Jewish grounding and Christian reflection, we find multiple images of a creation story, and the multiple interpretations demonstrate the need for ongoing discernment. 
Participants will want their own copy of the Bible (preferably the New Revised Standard Version for easy engagement) as well as a journal or way to collect notes. We will be drawing from various sources, including A Dictionary of Creation Myths (Leeming) and Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World (Sproul).

Wednesday evenings, 5:30 to 7:00 pm in-person in the Parish Hall at Grace and online via Zoom (no fee for this class, gifts are welcome to build the offerings). To receive a zoom link for the class, please register.
June 14, 21 & 28, 2023.

Contact: the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Park, Grace Episcopal Church
Cynthia@gracechurchgainesville.org
Here is a short video from PBS that features the Hopi creation myth. We will explore this among others. See what major themes you can discern from this video, and see if you can imagine how this understanding of creation would shape the way one lives in the world-our ethics.

About The Center for Prayer and Spiritual Practice
The Center for Prayer and Spiritual Practice seeks to foster an awareness of the indwelling presence of the Spirit on both a personal and communal level, paying close attention to the shifting dynamics of congregational life. For those new to the work, here are our three key focus points:

  • Practices of Prayer: what practices can we explore and nurture in our lives that can deepen our awareness of God's indwelling presence? What images, symbols, and elements enrich our devotion? What wisdom can we gain from inter-religious relationships?

  • Biblical Studies: how can we explore our sacred texts to learn more about "our story," both as persons and communities. And, how can our stories shape the way we live in the world today?

  • Ethics and Connection to Daily Life: how can we see the connections between our worship and prayer and the way we live in the world? How are our lives transformed as we face the challenges we face?

Here is a short welcome video to explore.
Poet's Corner
This poem came to me on a lovely day last March.
Strike a match, and watch it burn

I woke up last Thursday
and my entire image of God 
had changed, not all at once
but completely.

God, the word, is a piece of slick paper
my soul cannot grip any longer.

God had always been something–Someone–
I prayed to, but now, somehow,
God was something–somewhere, even–
I pray from.

Such a deep awareness
empties me out of whatever
had filled me in the moment
just before this one.

Now, I sit quietly as the birds sing 
the day into life.
Water pours through cupped hands, and
what is left open can be filled–

emptied of what,
and filled with what?

These are the questions I carry gently,
a fragile creature I could crush
in one thoughtless moment of grasping.

Take the prayer card out of your pocket,
strike a match, and light it on fire.
Watch the flame dance; only then
does it become truly alive.

Opportunities to Explore
___________________________________________

Fall Gathering:
The Art of Taking Refuge

In both Christian and Buddhist practice, the image of "taking refuge" is a powerful call to ask ourselves where we are grounded and in what we find hope. From the psalms on one hand to the rich insights from the Four Noble Truths and sutras on the other, much meaning can be gleaned by laying these two wonderful traditions side-by-side and asking paying attention to what resonates in us--especially in uncertain times.
Join Bobbi Patterson, Episcopal priest and fellow with the Mind & Life Institute and Stuart Higginbotham, rector at Grace Episcopal Church, as they call a Fall Gathering. More details coming, but save the date now!

Friday, October 6: evening interfaith art show
Saturday, October 7: retreat day experience
Featured Artist: Axel Vervoordt
Axel Vervoordt is a Belgian designer and collector whose work has helped me slow down and appreciate, as he says, "the beauty of imperfection" and the beauty of humble things.
His work has a great appreciation of the earth and our connection to it.

Spaces matter, and as we continue to reflect on how our understanding of creation shapes the way we live in the world, Vervoordt is a wonderful conversation partner to have.

Learn More and Subscribe to the Newsletter:

If you want to learn more about the opportunities for study and practice offered by The Center for Prayer and Spiritual Practice, simply click to explore the website at Grace Episcopal Church. On the main website, you can click the "Learn" tab to be read more and subscribe to the regular newsletter.
Click HERE for an easy link.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to
The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham
stuart@gracechurchgainesville.org

You can also explore additional writings at