Monasteries of the Heart


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Here I was sloshing through a torrential downpour, puddles up to my ankles in spots, to attend Sunday Morning Worship service at Chautauqua Institution. “Is this really worth it?” I thought to myself. Sure, I wanted to hear Barbara Brown Taylor preach and I don’t think there’s a better worship presider than Rev. Joan Campbell, pastor of Chautauqua Institution and Director of the Department of Religion, and I love the choir but…..soaked from head to foot while sitting through an hour-long service?

In Tibetan Buddhism there is word, lungta, or windhorse, that means “uplifted energy.” It is something within every living being that we can call upon to recharge or uplift a sagging spirit. And I admit it, my spirit has been in near death throes. This latest oppressive power move against the LCWR and women religious put me over the edge. And Sunday morning, right before leaving for Chautauqua, I received an e-mail from a friend detailing how the Arlington diocese is forcing all Sunday school teachers to take a “loyalty oath” where they agree to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders, e.g., women’s ordination and contraception.

But here I sat with 1500 other people in a protected amphitheater while ministers from every Christian denomination processed down the aisle. Here I sat listening to the heartfelt prayers of Rev. Campbell who called our gathering a “meal of mercy.” Here I sat while Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, author and Butman Professor of Religion, Piedmont College in Georgia, delivered a splendid sermon. Here I sat when Rev. Campbell announced that—unlike other Chautauqua Sundays-- this worship would include a communion service. And here I sat while three women ministers gathered around the table to bless the bread and wine. Our only instruction—“if you believe that the Risen Lord is here giving himself to his people, you are invited to commune with us.” I haven’t felt “at home” in my church for a long time—the exclusion of women is so alienating. At this worship service I felt very much at home.

I went to the service with three friends and one of them took this picture. These three women around the altar triggered my “windhorse.” I am putting this picture in my prayer space to remind me of the power within me to keep on the path to life no matter where it leads.