This was my second visit to Holden Village. But this time, there was an added depth to my experience. As part of the Earth Ministry teaching staff, I was in charge of holding a Caring for All Creation, By the Waters worship service. At first, I was intimidated. The church I worship in today, and have worshipped in for the last 10 years, is not liturgical. So I just didn't even know how to structure a service of that sort. With the Caring for All Creation By the Waters module in hand and God bringing people along to help me, a beautiful creation-honoring service came together.
First, I got a lot of help from the Earth Ministry staff: LeeAnne gave me a copy of her church bulletin so I could get a sense of liturgical structure, Mikaila helped me refine the order of service and musical selections, and Beth and LeeAnne prepared a flute duet for the special music. To lead worship, God brought me Kathy, one of our members who attended the retreat. She emailed me about carpooling and mentioned that she played instruments and wanted to make her skills available. We coordinated over email and practiced at Holden. I have to say, I was so blessed to have her help!
I thought we were set until Brian Naasz, an Earth Ministry board member, told me that Jens, a young man from his church and another retreat attendant, had his cello with him and asked if he could help with the service. The answer was an emphatic, "Of course!" So Kathy played guitar and led singing while Jens accompanied on his cello. His cello brought just the right sound to fill out the music. Not only that, but Jens played a solo with his mom accompanying on piano and it was the perfect fit for the special music during the blessing of the water ceremony. I could not have picked a better song! It was majestic, meditative, and moving! As I reflect on that service, I am in awe of how God brought all these components together.
Part of the service was a Blessing of the Waters ceremony. Almost everyone had brought a sample of water from a nearby body of water whether a stream, a lake, a pond, or a rain barrel. People came up in a line, like communion, and poured their water in a large communal bowl. I especially loved how the couples held each others hands as they poured the water together. After everyone finished we sat and soaked in the song that Jens was playing. I wish I could have stopped that moment in time and held it for eternity.
The other challenge and blessing for me was giving the sermon/homily/message. It was only the second "message" I've ever given, but the first one was rather informal for a childern's retreat. I have to tell you that I was very stressed out about that sermon for several weeks before going to Holden. I just couldn't get my thoughts together. I knew I had the sermon helpers in the By the Waters module, and they were really helpful, but I still had to construct a thoughtful and organized sermon. But again, God showed up and as I rose early and went to the Holden labyrinth in the early morning, my thoughts began to come together. I prayed and studied that passage over and over again as I walked the path. The sermon passage was the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. And I tell you, I have never read that passage with such clarity and excitement for the revelation of God through that story. But I won't give away my sermon now. You'll have to wait til August when it will be posted on Holden Village's website.
What amazes me the most is the way the story, the liturgy, the music, the people, the entire week, wove together in a beautiful tapestry. I heard the same messages with slightly different flavors all week long. There was an amazing synergy at Holden that week. I would venture to guess that there is synergy every week at Holden as people gather together in community and wilderness in the name of God. I am so blessed to have been a part of that week. I will carry it with me for a very long time.