Peacebuilding in these hard times

Posted June 10th, 2012 by

You try to sleep, you toss and turn, the bottom’s dropping out
Where you once had faith now there’s only doubt
You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers
The morning breaks, you awake but no one’s there

We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground
There’s a new day coming

I’ve listened to this new song by Bruce Springsteen dozens of times. We indeed have been traveling over Rocky Ground and it is often hard to have faith that there’s a new day coming.

As I write these words from my room in the home of my friends Karen and Steve in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I still marvel at how events unfolded this week that resulted in my being here (see my Inheriting the Trade post from June 7). Sharon and I have a daunting list of tasks we must accomplish over the coming months in preparation for the publication of Gather at the Table, and this week was to be dedicated to them. I have no time for this!

Yet here I am, ready to awaken Monday morning and begin learning about the use of Transformative Theater in healing historic traumatic wounds. I have no doubt that this week will inspire me in ways that will make the work back home less daunting; good preparation for days to come. But still…

Having arrived Saturday night, Sunday was a free day to adjust to the time zone difference, reconnect with friends, complete the advance reading for class, and enjoy Harrisonburg. Karen invited me to attend church with them this morning. Anyone who has read Inheriting the Trade knows that I stopped attending church decades ago. Yet I gladly accepted her invitation. I’ve been coming to this Mennonite university since 2006. I’ve become close friends with many Mennonite people. Sharon and I write about the history of Mennonites in Gather at the Table. Yet I’d never attended a Mennonite service.

I expected to hear lots of singing. I was not disappointed.

I’ve learned over the years that singing is one of the signature attributes of the Mennonite faith. Many times over the past six years I’ve listened as friends have lifted their voices in four-part harmony. The service today included probably double the number of songs that I’ve ever heard in another church service. Perhaps a third were sung a cappella. The rest were accompanied by piano, guitar, and flute. And oh, the flute. It’s timbre, it’s harmonic vibration, touched me deeply this morning.

I did not sing. I closed my eyes and let the music fill my senses; the voices wash over me. I didn’t listen for the words. It was the sound of individual voices, of the communal voice… the voicethat filled me. It was a powerful time of deep meditation; one of grace and of gratitude.

All questions about the wisdom of being here this week have evaporated. I’ll rest easy and well tonight. I know we’re traveling over rocky ground. I also trust there’s a new day coming.

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