Tangier Island

“‘The margins, Nathan,’ he said when he started speaking again. ‘That’s what we’re losing. We’re losing the churches on the margins. We aren’t doing enough for them.’” —Loren Mead to Nathan Kirkpatrick at faithandleadership.com.


Tangier Island is a disappearing island in the Chesapeake Bay, twelve miles equidistant off both the Maryland and the Virginia coast, losing up to sixteen feet of its coastline a year, secondary to the rising sea level from global warming and soil erosion. It is believed that in twenty to thirty years the island will be uninhabitable to the more than 500 people who now live there; and in fifty years the island will be completely underwater. The local islanders speak what is described as a unique Elizabethan British-like dialect combined with a southern drawl. They are primarily fishers of oyster and crab, year-round and tourist guides in the summer. The 1.2 square mile island is steeped in religious tradition and actually completely shuts down on Sunday morning.

Nathan Kirkpatrick, writing recently in the Duke Divinity School Leadership Education Center Alban Weekly (6/26/2018), recalls the above conversation with the founding director of the Alban Institute, Loren Mead, who compared the Church to Tangier Island. What does Dr. Mead mean by saying the Church is “losing its margins”? Is he saying the Church is shrinking because it is not paying attention to people on the fringes or margins of society—the poor, the weak, the hungry, the homeless, the tired, the sick, those who are the most different from ourselves? In the larger scheme, is he referring to our neighbors who border us that we are not caring about?

I can remember one of my favorite quotes from Bishop Barbara Harris: “The Church is like an oriental rug. Its fringes are what make it most beautiful.” In spiritual direction I ask people how the story of Tangier Island might relate to the care of their soul. There are so many possible answers.

Another question is, “Do you ever feel your soul shrinking? Do you feel you are losing the margins, the borders, the uniqueness, the most inspiring and possibly the most interesting parts of your soul, the God, the Christ within you?”

Joanna. Joannaseibert.com

The Righteous Gentiles of World War II, July 16

“Lord of the Exodus, who delivers your people with a strong hand and a mighty arm: Strengthen your Church with the examples of the righteous Gentiles of World War II to defy oppression for the rescue of the innocent; through Jesus Christ.” —Collect of the day: The Righteous Gentiles, July 16, in Holy Women, Holy Men, Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing, 2019).

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Holy Women, Holy Men was a trial expanded calendar of commemorations of saints authorized by the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church that includes many modern people of faith and apostolic action. The people remembered on July 16 are the thousands of Christians and people of faith who saved Jews from the Holocaust. One of them was Carl Lutz, an Evangelical Christian who was a Swiss Vice-Council in Budapest. Lutz negotiated with the Nazis for the deportation of more than 60,000 Jews to Palestine, probably saving more lives than any other person.

Lutz had gained permission to issue emigration papers for 8,000 Jews to Palestine. He interpreted it as applicable for 8,000 families, saving thousands more. There is a 2014 American film, Walking with the Enemy, that tells of Lutz’s work with Pinchas Rosenbaum in Budapest during the German occupation of Hungry. Lutz also established seventy-six safe houses in which to hide Jews in Budapest, including the now famous Glass House, all of which the diplomat declared as Swiss territory.

There is another documentary about Lutz called The Forgotten Hero. I honestly believe each of us is given many moments in which to make a difference in the lives of others. The challenges may not be as dangerous or risky as Lutz’s on the international scene; but in our own environment they may still demand courage. It is good for us to see how people who came before us were creative in making changes and finding loopholes when there seemed to be no way out—as they worked around systems that were awful beyond words. I can only believe this was the work of the Holy Spirit in the worst of times. I know that same Holy Spirit is working in us today.

[See Carl Lutz, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, www.raoulwallenberg.net.]

Joanna. Joannaseobert.com

De Mello: Lectio Divina and More

De Mello: Lectio Divina and More

The meditatio [meditation part in Lectio Divina] is done not with one’s mind, but with one’s mouth. When the psalmist tells us how he loves to meditate, how he finds it sweeter to his palate than honey from the honeycomb, is he talking about meditation merely as an intellectual exercise? I like to think that he is also talking about the constant recitation of God’s law—so he mediates as much with his mouth as with his head.” —Anthony de Mello in Sadhana: A Way to God (Liguori, 1998).

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De Mello also offers a different way to practice the Benedictine Lectio Divina. He suggests we read Scripture (lectio) until the word or phrase comes that resonates with us, and then stop (meditatio) and constantly repeat the word with pauses. In this way, we pray not just with our mind but with our body. When we feel saturated with the word, we stop and enter into prayer (oratio). He also suggests a group form of the exercise, using chant along with large segments of silence.

De Mello adds a new dimension to the Jesus Prayer by imaging Jesus with each word, saying his name with each breath, and finally hearing Jesus call us by name.

De Mello tells the story of the major guilt of a man who just barely misses his father’s death. My experience is this so often is an impetus that brings many people to spiritual direction. I am constantly amazed at how God works. We are called back to God even—and maybe even especially—by those who have died.

De Mello calls us to live intimately and fully in the present moment in order to become a part of the great mystery of God’s love for us and for all creation. The present is where we meet God.

Joanna. Joannaseobert.com