I have truly enjoyed this experience. The silence is a gift, allowing for deeper listening – I know that sounds contradictory but it’s true. Would you want to do this every weekend? I think not. It’s an experience to be savored, and as such, needs to be extra-ordinary time, removed from the ordinary of routine.
Last Thursday I had a synchronous moment in Newton with about nine women in the Ecumenical Group. (This is a group that reads together. Unlike any book group I’ve ever known we actually read together: read, interrupt to comment, question, share, then read some more. It is a delightful experience and there’s no homework required!) On Thursday this past week we were trying to select what we would read next. We read the back of book blurbs, the fly leaf if it was a hardcover, and then spoke about books that appealed. I gave everyone a book to “sell” – or not. The book I had was brought by our Catholic friend it and it was The Sacred Cord: Conversations with God’s Chosen Women by Lindsay Hardin Freeman. My book did not sell to the group but it struck me as good reading material for the retreat weekend; I asked if I could borrow it. To my friends at Ecumenical – you need to put this book on a future “to read” list. I am loving it. And here are the reasons why…
The first chapter is “Rahab: from Harlot to Hero.” Time to confess – I did not remember (did I every really know?) who Rahab was. She had been a part of the king’s harem. The place was Jericho. Once the king died she escaped rather than being passed onto his sons for use. On the outside she did what she could to support herself as an outcast: she was a prostitute. Her place in history comes with aiding and abetting two spies for the Hebrew people. You know how that turned out: “the walls came a-tumblin’ down.” This societal outcast, lowest of the low in the eyes of her people, survived as a result of her helping the spies. She went on to become the great grandmother of David. The author notes “…we are all valuable to God.” As one who has made more than one poor judgment in life I am lifted by the notion of someone like Rahab being valued and used by God. Maybe it’s possible for the likes of me.
There is also a chapter about Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. She begins like this. “There are two kinds of old people in this world: those who stay home and die and those who don’t even begin their life’s work until their bodies start to wrinkle. I was plenty wrinkled by the time God got to me.” (pg. 36)
I have not yet read the whole book but the third part I would share is about the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember that in this time women rarely spoke to men in public, and that Jews like Jesus rarely had anything to do with the people of Samaria. In her opening remarks she says “I was as untouchable as a leper. Well, excuse me. So my life hadn’t gone exactly as planned…virginity, marriage, children. What about me was so terrible? Why had I been married so many times? What do you think it was like to lay with five different men, none of them caring about me? But only about what I could provide? Let’s try some scenarios. I was crazy and five men threw me out. I was infertile and no one wanted me. Five brothers had me, one after another, desperately trying to have children, but died young. I burned the bread. Really. Men got rid of wives for lesser things. They didn’t even need a reason. All they had to do was point toward the door and you were out. For good.” (pgs 124-5)
On Friday night we had been told there would be a Mass at 11 on Sunday morning – there is a chapel in the building, again, lovely windows on curved façade. I had not planned to go but in the morning noticed a sign posted that indicated “Everyone is welcome.” I figured if they were hospitable, I should go and so I did. It was a good decision – not many folks there so one more was a good thing. Anyone would have been able to pick me out as the lone Protestant – when we were invited to share a passing of the peace I was the only one to greet everyone! Doing church, even with a liturgy that was unfamiliar turned out to be a good way to reenter the world of sound.