The Deer In The Window

Maryland Bride looking East (Wikimedia Commons)

The congregation I serve in Winnipeg has the privilege of currently inhabiting a riverbank in the middle of the city. One side of our property is landscaped foliage, paved streets, traffic lights, and sidewalks upon which people go for a stroll among cultivated human structures attempting to coexist with nature. The other side of our property is, past a few feet of mown lawn, the bank of the Assiniboine River. It’s wide and slow, carefully, almost thoughtfully, pushing on the boundaries of what we humans have built onto its banks. The river is so wide that from a certain angle, you can easily miss the houses built on the opposite bank, and think yourself lost in the woods with the river to lead you to home.

A congregation should be entirely defined by its current location, but where we choose to make our space at any given point in congregational life does make a point about who we are as a community. Being in the in-between, in this space that bridges the gap between paved roads and unstable river soil, makes me think that we, too, are capable of moving between states of existence without becoming lost inside either one. We build up policies and structures and ways of doing things, and yet at the same time we are capable of innovation and creativity. It is only by being both that we enter into a state of being, a state of becoming, that is larger than a single way. Nicholas of Cusa referred to this as the “coincidence of opposites”.

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Gift from a Deer

I was given this gift by a deer. At the beginning of the monthly meeting of our Shared Ministry Team, just as our chair struck a match to light our chalice, a deer walked into our parking lot, on the city side of our property. She moved slowly, unsurely, clearly disoriented by the trappings of humanity around her. But neither did she run away, even as she caught sight of our movements in the window. We were all transfixed by her, this unexpected visitor to our ministry. She picked her way forward cautiously, eventually reaching the end of our building and the way to the riverbank opening up in front of her — hopefully to lead her home.

This is not the first property or building in which this congregation makes its home, nor will it be its last. We must always be willing to move on if that is what sustainability of a community demands of us. But for right here, and right now, we are in a holy place. May it continue to give us lessons as long as we may inhabit it.

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