Video and Audio Library

Coming Home: A Reflection by Louisa Merchant

May 27, 2021

I understand reluctance. I have spent the pandemic year sad and with my arms crossed over my chest in the posture of “if I can’t have experiences with people, well, I didn’t want them anyway.” For reasons too complicated to explain here, I have held a similar posture towards communal contemplative experiences with other people. I want them, but I felt I couldn’t have them so I therefore didn’t want them. In the last two weeks at All Saints’ all of that in me is changing. Of course, I didn’t plan to be changed, but I did the only thing that is necessary for it. I showed up.I showed up because I was supporting my colleagues, not because I wanted to worship. And then, delightfully, I was surprised.

The first event I showed up for was the Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Labyrinth Walk. I have never walked a labyrinth; I have never seen a labyrinth. I have barely even heard of a labyrinth, but ok, I showed up. There is this lovely purple and cream colored painted labyrinth canvas on the ground of the courtyard surrounded by an explosion of flowers from the Sunday service and a gentleman playing the most melodic sounding dulcimer I have ever heard tucked in the corner by the doors of Ellis Hall. I sat on the bench with my eyes closed drifting in the music, the flowers, the people walking when the wonderful facilitator gently asked me if I wanted to walk. I opened my eyes and said, “I don’t have socks,” figuring that would get me out of it. I could do it next time. She smiled and produced a clean pair of socks from the bottom of her purse. Does she always carry socks in her purse? Here, I am provided for. So I walked, and stumbled a couple of times, and wasn’t sure which way to go because there was another person walking too and I want to be respectful and figure out how to be present and socially distanced and in spite of all the noise and worry of the last year, when I reached the center and the beautiful dulcimer music was crescendoing like an elegant concert for one, I felt my sternum stretch out, and there, for a moment, was the glimmer of the One.

So ok, I would go to the Ascension Service last night, even though I am embarrassed to say as the child of an Episcopal priest, that I didn’t know Jesus stayed for 40 days before he ascended. So in spite of my religious ignorance and my pandemic anxieties and my hesitance about communal worship (Will I do it wrong? Will I be embarrassed? Will I cause a problem?), I showed up. You should have seen it. Among many other wonderful contemplative stations, there was a fire pit in the courtyard and an opportunity to swing a censer filled with incense like the thurifer does. You know how on a really magical vacation sometimes, you feel like you are snapping a picture every single second because you just can’t take it in it is so lovely? That’s what last night was like. I won’t forget the images of people happy and together through the screen of incense smoke, or the incredible cello music, or the artist painting a giant painting in pieces : a whole that is originated together in separate parts, just like we are.

And the process we are coming to on May 30th, our homecoming to being back in person in church, masked and safe, is the opposite of what happened with the artist last night. She painted the whole in pieces and we each took a small piece of the whole home with us when we left. During the pandemic, we have been these pieces scattered, and it is time to bring them back home to make the painting whole again. I can assure you that while you’ve been gone, the staff is getting the whole place ready for you, so excited to see you. All you have to do is show up. It might just surprise you.


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