For the past several months, I have been much engaged by the image of a river. Much of this has to do with a text many of us have been reading, Joshua 3:1-11, in which the Israelites, led by Joshua, are camped on the west side of the Jordan, getting ready to cross over into the land that has been promised to them – after having spent forty years in the Sinai wilderness. They are eager, and they are nervous. Eager to discover a new way of living together, and nervous because "you have never passed this way before" (Joshua 3:4).
Spies had been sent to scope out the other side of the river. They come back with images of bounty, but also with feelings of anxiety, because it is new and strange.
For the past several years our diocese has been on a journey – joining God in shaping our future. Most of us have not passed this way before. When pondering this journey, the abiding image for me is the river. We want to cross it to continue the journey, because of the abundance promised on the other side, but it is new and strange over there. And even if we do take the risk and cross it, and begin to explore this new territory, there is a force that draws us back to where we had been camped for a while, because that is the territory we know.
But more and more of us are venturing forth. Last month, on several different days, various groups in the diocese who have intentionally been on a spiritual journey, reported out what they have been learning and what they propose to try out in the form of experiments. Two action learning teams designed experiments around hope, two others on leadership, five congregations designed experiments out of their ongoing discernment, and two other groups reflected on the overall journey so far.
What are we learning? That more and more people are willing to go on the journey, and as the numbers grow so does the wisdom, commitment and confidence. I am learning that the language surrounding this journey is often heard as "bulky" or fuzzy. Which makes sense to me because as the territory we are going into is unfamiliar, so is the language. All of which makes the need for an abiding image all that much more important – because a picture can often draw us in easier than words can.
Next week a contingent from the diocese are going to take a journey together – between the two rivers that mark the boundaries of our diocese. It is one big experiment. Nearly 20 or so of us have signed up to walk the 80-plus miles between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers. It will take five and a half days. Another 35 or so people will walk for a day or two. Others will help with transportation and food. We will spend the nights at House of the Good Shepherd in Hackettstown, Crossroads Camp in Port Murray, St. Mark's Church in Mendham, Calvary Church in Summit and St. Luke's Church in Montclair. And we will be stopping by many other churches along the way.
Our geographic journey will be framed by the two rivers. Our spiritual journey will be framed with prayer in the morning and the Eucharist and Compline every evening. We will dwell in the word, and reflect on where we have seen God at work that day – on the journey and with each other.
There are many ways you can join us:
- you can walk for a day or two
- you can pray for us walkers – or with us by joining us in an evening of worship, reflection and prayer
- you can support us with a donation to the Alleluia Fund
- you can expand the journey between two rivers by taking a walk in your neighborhood to see what God is up to.
God is up to something in our diocesan neighborhood between the two rivers. Let's find out together. And as we do so, our prayer will grow deeper, our image will come into clearer focus and our language will become sharper and more accessible.