By Kelly Foster Lundquist

Episcopal ChurchSince birth, the rhythm of my week has been set by church.

Both my parents have held leadership positions in the varied churches we have attended over the years. In one of the many commonplaces of the evangelical testimony, I could easily say that I was indeed trained to be in church “every time the doors were open.”

In my adolescent years, that meant Sunday School, Morning Church, Sunday afternoon choir practice, Evening Church, Youth Group, and Wednesday night Bible Study.

When I went to college, I realized what I think many of my Christian peers began to realize at the same time: it takes quite a bit of effort against the inertia of life to make it to church on Sundays. And for a very long time, I wandered in and out of the occasional church the same way I wander into restaurants. Today I feel like Mexican. Next week maybe it will be Chinese. [Read more…]

Attending to the Body, Part II

Attending to the body part twoContinued from yesterday.

The following is excerpted from Attending Others: A Doctor’s Education in Bodies and Words, a new memoir by Brian Volck.

In the mountain clinics of rural Honduras, where every medicine and piece of equipment arrives by pickup or is carried on our backs, there’s no way to bring all we want or need. Before heading out, we listen to the locals, ask doctors who’ve been before, and assemble our materials accordingly.

Tylenol and Motrin, vitamins and antibiotics, soaps and toothbrushes are stuffed into plastic bags and shoved into backpacks. We make room for a scale, thermometer, paper and pens, as well as personal medical equipment: stethoscopes, flashlights, blood pressure cuffs.

Whatever else comes along is the result of an educated guess. [Read more…]

Attending to the Body, Part I

By Brian Volck

Attending to the bodyThe following is excerpted from Attending Others: A Doctor’s Education in Bodies and Words, a new memoir by Brian Volck.


I don’t recall when I first learned of lectio divina, a reading practice rooted in Christian monasticism still followed by contemporary Benedictine monks, nuns, and laypersons. Lectio divina is traditionally divided into four parts: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation).

Simply put, it asks the reader to attend, to notice the details of the text and name the responses they engender.

In lectio, a passage is read slowly, paused over, and read again—aloud, if possible, engaging the body through eye, mouth, and ear—while asking, “What words, phrases, or images stand out?” In meditatio, the passage is considered in relation to the reader’s life, without theoretical abstraction or aggressive interpretation. This is a conversation to be entered, not a puzzle in need of a solution. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: Four Sonnets

medivalmanuscriptSonnets meditating on illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages may sound a bit sanctimonious, even borderline pompous, but like all the best sonnets, Melissa Range’s subvert expectations. The sonnets, each named for a pigment monks used to color the manuscripts, explore the seedy underbelly of each pigment. For starters, they are all highly toxic. Also, kermes-red is made from “the insect’s brood /crushed stillborn from her dried body,” making even its origins destructive. Verdigris, once applied, is corrosive. It “eats / the page and grieves the paleographer.” How could such beautiful art be made up of something so deadly? How could such devout men be poisoned by such a noble calling? Range explores these questions: “Taking the paint on his tongue, he tastes the blood / but, pocked Christ, can’t feel your toxins enter.” It seems paradoxical that the sonnet form, so measured and contained, can raise such unwieldy, sprawling questions about beauty, faith, art, and death. The strict meter, rhyme scheme, and heavy reliance on Latinate words conjure the mood of a meticulous monk in his cell. (Lines like “but a toxic and unearthly green meet /for inking angels wings, made from copper sheets” beg to be read aloud.) And yet, the sudden switch into first person tilts the poems, almost uncomfortably, into the personal in lines like “There’s copper in my brain, my heart of hearts / in my blood, an essential mineral,” and, “this bright solution, like your law / has leached into my pores.” It’s a poet’s job to ask questions without simple answers and to challenge her readers’ perspectives. Range does this beautifully, crafting poems that explore not just the mystery in this ancient art but the way we view beauty in our own lives.

—Christina Lee [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “I Am Poured Out Like Water”

6712511817_1621527225_zWhat attracts me to this poem is something deliberately absent yet evocatively present: baptism in a river. Starting from the very first line—during monastic prayer, the speaker’s mis-chanting “Lord’s forever” as “Lord’s river”—rivers are central to each vignette. There’s the creek where, as a kid, the speaker “took a girl down to the river to play—not pray”: that teasing echo of the song about river baptism. There’s the deer he then killed, stumbling “toward the Smith River”: its death “brought the Lord by the water.” There’s the speaker and his Dad fly-fishing, with the memory of his Dad as close to “a saint.” And finally, there’s the barge breaking up ice on the Hudson River outside the monastery as Matins is chanted. All these river images bring us close to the sanctifying water of baptism—close, but not quite there. Yet in a marvelously mysterious way, our baptism into Christ’s life and death is at the poem’s core.

-Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]