Wow. Did we ever imagine our lives could be so upended so rapidly by something completely invisible and unintentional? War with Korea, environmental catastrophe, even civil war – those I could have imagined – but calamity not intentionally created by humans? I didn’t see that coming…
Tuesday’s headline in the Aspen Daily News advised us that all nonessential businesses must close or face heavy fines or jail time. This unfathomable new chapter in our country’s history has forced us all to consider what is essential and what is not. I am writing to invite you to consider that, as Christians, daily access to an altar is essential. Stay with me on this…
Last Sunday it was my honor to set the Chapel altar as a sacred space for our online community worship and connecting time – both with God and with each other. As I was lighting the eight candles, I was struck by the powerful imagery of lighting altar candles in this “dark” time. It felt like an act of defiance against fear and anxiety. An act of hope. An act of faith and courage. (If you’re not familiar with it, do listen to Peter, Paul and Mary’s passionate song, “Light One Candle”.)
For centuries, Christians from many denominations have created and prayed at home altars, both individually and as families. The tradition is said to have originated in the time when Abraham spontaneously built an altar – separate from any tabernacle or place of worship – simply in gratitude to God. (Genesis 12:7) The twelfth chapter of Genesis tells the story of how Abraham, not unlike us in this current predicament, was called to leave everything familiar and “go into a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Once in Canaan, Abraham built his altar of praise and thanksgiving. To Abraham, setting up that altar was essential.
Fast forward to our situation today. Might an altar be essential to us, too? I think so. I invite you to create an altar and sacred space where you live. Get creative, and listen to the Holy Spirit (and your children!) and choose what items on your altar would help you feel connected with God through this time. Many use candles, flowers, perhaps a Bible or a favorite picture of Jesus, saints or angels, or even scenes from nature. Some add photos of those for whom they are praying. Make it your own. There really are no rules, just make it personal and meaningful. If you are willing, we’d love to see photos of what you have created. firstname.lastname@example.org
Please know we love you and are praying for you and our entire community and please let us know if you need some extra help or a call.
Several decades ago I along with my classmates were at the midpoint through our 36 month residential seminary training in Tennessee. For the vast majority of us, it was a very difficult time, largely because of the uncertainty of the future along with the extreme academic and spiritual demands placed upon us.
I recall lots of my friends were stressed, in tears, worried about income, because none of us had any, and uncertain as to what the future would hold. Few if any of us knew where we would end up serving.
It was at this particularly shared low point that we were all gathered in a classroom. As we took in yet more information about this and that, it was then we heard a strange distant sound. Over a few minutes, the sound became louder and clearer. It was the sound of singing and of musical instruments being played. The volume increased as did our puzzled expressions.
Then, to our great surprise, the doors of the classroom burst open and the room filled in with seminarians in other class years, dressed up in funny costumes singing a very clear repetitive line. That line. “We are all in this together. We are all in this together. We are all in this together.” This dramatically changed our perspectives and outlook amidst our worries and uncertainty.
The world wide pandemic is obviously difficult beyond description and my seminary experience is vastly insignificant in comparison. But one thing is quite relevant. Indeed, we are all in this together. For every single human being across national boundaries, ethnic identifications, orientations, political persuasions, income levels, lots in life, philosophical differences, and spiritual paths, we are all in this together.
In the midst of hunger, unemployment, illness, fear, boredom, worry, uncertainty and more, we are all in this together and to me, this makes all the difference in the world. It is my prayer that each of us individually and we as human kind collectively, will gain new perspectives, levels of understanding, empathy, compassion, and love for all people across every divide. We have always been on the same boat and perhaps, just perhaps, something will come from this time that reminds us of this profound truth.
We are all God’s children, no exceptions. Can you imagine the global shift if we were to embrace such a truth. And perhaps, just perhaps, the profound losses that we are experiencing along with the new normal will lead us to look at each other through new eyes. We are all in this together.
God created all of creation and everyone in it. That was God’s choice. In response, the choice has always been left up to us as to how we will respond to what we have been given. The path of love or the many others humanity has taken since inception.
Over the days and week ahead, please let us know how we may help you, through prayer, grocery shopping, a call to check in, or simply a reminder that you are loved by God and all of us at the Chapel. We are here for you and we are all in this together.
There is a phrase that appears in scripture more than any other. It is not the phrase don’t sin, or start repenting, or watch out, or don’t do this or eat that. It is none of these. It is a phrase that occurs more than 365 times. It’s a phrase in the Bible that is repeated more often than there are days in the year. And that phrase is Fear Not. Fear Not.
What God has to say to you and to me this day in the midst of our vulnerability is Fear Not.
In the book of Genesis, soon after God calls Abraham, he and his wife Sarah experience a terrible famine. They have no food or drink. In the midst of their hunger, Abraham ends up in a horrific battle in which he must rescue his nephew from tyrants. And it is in the midst of the anxiety of hunger and battle that God says to Abraham, “Fear not Abraham, for I am with you.”
Years later in the book of Exodus, through the actions of evil Egyptian Pharaohs, the chosen people of God suffer tremendous oppression and hardship. The people are forced to work long hours for no wages. They see the waters of the Nile turned into blood; the land consumed by frogs, the air filled with gnats and flies as one plague after another strikes.
Parents search to find words to explain to their children why locusts fill the air and why hail destroys the land and people. And after all of this, the people finally escape Egypt, hopeful that Moses will lead them into safety. As they flee the land, thousands of chariots and quantities of weapons of mass destruction are aimed at the fleeing people. It is at this point that God speaks to His people, “Fear Not, I am with you.”
Years later, in the book of the prophet Isaiah, the chosen people of God have lost it all. Their land has been taken over by an invading army. Their homes have been destroyed. Their places of worship are no more. Friends and family members have lost contact with one another as hoards of people are hauled off by marauding troops into a foreign land. The people have lost everything, a place to live, a means to make a living, and the support of extended family members and friends.
It is at this point of utter despair that God speaks to His people and says, “I, the Lord your God hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear Not, for I will help you. Do not fear, for am I with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you….”
In the New Testament, Peter, whose life had been spent fishing, reels with uncertainty and confusion. He is confronted with a world in which nothing seems predictable. Everything he had learned to count on seems shaky. And it is in the midst of Peter’s turmoil and soul-searching questions that Jesus says to Peter, “Fear Not.”
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body…Consider the birds of the air, they don’t sow or reap and yet God feeds them. Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying? If God clothes the grass of the field…how much more will he clothe you…Fear Not, little flock. I am with you.”
Over and over and over throughout the pages of scripture, which is a story about our fragile lives, God says, “Fear Not, I am with you.” Throughout the Bible, whether dealing with death, fear, anxiety, anger, numbness, confusion, hunger, despair, or economic devastation, God says, “Fear Not.”
Although I know it can be a challenge to let go of fear, this is precisely what God asks us to do in this and any time of uncertainty. And let us remember Jesus’ words to his followers and to each of us. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
This last week for several days, my wife Regina and I visited our eldest daughter who is attending The University of the South, Sewanee. It certainly felt like a homecoming as Sewanee is where I attended Episcopal seminary in the 1990’s. It is a special place with wonderful people and tremendous opportunities to learn and grow. While we have not lived in Tennessee for quite some time, it is a magnificent state with much to offer.
Tragically this week, a horrific tornado ripped through the Nashville area causing devastation and death. Tornadoes are not unknown in this part of the world and I remember many afternoons and evenings sheltering in place.
It was also this past week I visited several clergy friends of mine and we discussed the Coronavirus, a threat of another kind with lots of unknowns. Both of these things are poignant reminders that life, while full of blessings and joy, is also indeed fragile and ephemeral.
Over the years living with the frailties of life as we all do, generally speaking I’ve had two reactions to threatening possibilities. One is to keep the words of Psalm 46 front and center, the other is to be prepared and informed and hence non- reactive or panicky.
In excerpts, Psalm 46 reads, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea: though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult…Be still and know that I am God…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
These words are a potent reminder that ultimately we have nothing to fear because God is God. While terrible things will happen, our destiny and future with God is clear and known. And as God is love, we can trust that love is where we ultimately will all reside.
Having said this, however, it is our obligation to respond to the current situation with resources and preparedness. As our Surgeon General recently said, it is important to be cautious but not afraid.
At the Chapel, we have decided to take some very simple steps, things in fact we should do every flu season. Here is a list of what we are implementing, which is in keeping with health recommendations, as well as guidance from other churches and national church bodies.
Charla and I both use hand sanitizer before serving communion and have for years. This will continue.
Beginning this Sunday, we will serve bread and not wine. When the current crisis passes, we will resume serving wine.
As has been the case, we have hand sanitizer throughout our worship and fellowship space and ask all people to continue to practice good handwashing.
We ask, and this includes staff and clergy, that if you are sick with cold or flu symptoms on a Sunday morning, that you stay home and watch our service online (go to www.snowmasschapel.org). Of course, as always, if you are not well, we also would like to know so we can offer care and prayer.
Some churches have asked parishioners not to shake hands during gatherings, but instead to smile or bow or give a sign of peace with hands. We will leave this at your discretion, but as is the case during flu seasons, handwashing after contacting people in large groups is wise.
We are looking at ways to more effectively serve food following our Sunday service.
None of this is meant to cause alarm or fear. We are simply responding to the situation at hand with how we have been advised with easy steps. This crisis, as others have, will pass. I ask you to please join me in praying for the end of this virus, for healing for those who have been infected, and for the complete restoration of world economies upon which we all depend. Please also pray for the people of the greater Nashville area as they recover from the tornado.
Know I hold all of you in prayer and I am so grateful for each of you and for the Chapel, a place filled with the presence of Jesus, the love of God, and great care and love for one another.
A number of weeks ago, the roads in the valley were dry as we were in between storms. The warm winter sun had melted all the snow. On that day, I was headed toward Basalt and was behind a well worn van. What struck me was that the wheels were so out of alignment it almost appeared as if the vehicle was traveling at a 45 degree angle down the road. Several minutes later I’d reached my destination and turned off the road, although the image of the van stuck with me.
This week we begin the season of Lent. It is a 40 day period from Ash Wednesday until Easter with Sundays omitted. Sundays traditionally are not considered part of the Lenten season because every Sunday we remember not only the cross, but Jesus’ resurrection.
Lent is observed by many Christian traditions across the globe and has been for centuries. Countless Christians use this time of year to reflect, re-establish priorities, intentionally pray, study scripture, and repent.
Repentance is a theme throughout scripture from Genesis through the Book of Revelation. While some have interpreted repentance as “feeling bad for bad things done,” or “immersing oneself in a big dose of guilt,” or, “getting in touch with how one has sinned and the consequences,” there is something much more fundamental and frankly transformative to the idea of repentance.
Repentance, if you go back to its central meaning in scriptural Greek, means to have a change of mind or a change of heart. In my own life and journey in faith, I know when I am off track. I can feel it. I can see it. I can observe the effects. Like a van going down a road with tires out of alignment, I know when I am a bit out of whack, and this is where repentance comes in.
Down deep, I believe that every single person, at their God given core, wants to do the right thing, to be kind and loving, and ultimately to be in alignment with why we have been life to begin with. That said, certainly countless people have lost sight of God, moved away from a relationship with God, have had life circumstances that have precluded knowing healthy love, have endured horrific events and happenings that have led to profound trauma and heartache, or simply have been terribly ruffed up in life, all of which leads to the pain, acting out, and sin we see so evident today.
But I believe, every person, given the right circumstances, seeks love, to be loving, and to feel at home within themselves and with God. I also think that most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, realize we need a change of heart now and then to get back to being whole and the creatures God intends. This is what repentance is all about. It is about a change of heart, about getting back to the way things should be, relationally, vocationally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Sometimes the way I act, respond, treat myself and others, think, perceive, and relate to God are not in alignment and I can feel it. Repentance is all about spending time with God, with intention, seeking a change of heart, and getting back to who we know we want to be, to whom God made us to be, God’s beloved creatures being loved and loving in return.
In invite us all in these weeks ahead to keep the image of a car traveling down the road in mind. That is, to identify the ways in which we are and are not in alignment with what makes us feel truly at home with ourselves, others, and with our loving, healing, forgiving, creator. To take what we know about ourselves to Jesus and to ask in prayer for a change of heart.
Chap goes to the psychiatrist and says, “sometimes I think I’m a yurt, and sometimes a tipi.” The Dr. says, “you’re two tents.”
Was out camping when a monk tried to sell me flowers but I said no. I like to do my bit to prevent florist friars.
Got camping insurance but apparently if someone steals my yurt in the middle of the night I’m no longer covered.
Why are ministers so often stressed? Because their job is in tents. (Good thing ours is in a yurt!)
And on that note…
Have you see Snowmass Chapel’s newly constructed yurt? If you haven’t seen it, stop on in and check it out. It’s definitely something kinda different. And fun. And unique. And outdoorsy. And quirky. And spirit-invoking and holy feeling. And mold-breaking.
Wow, sounds just like Snowmass Chapel, doesn’t it?
Oh, good! That was the goal.
The yurt project became a solid vision in April of 2018, during a focused strategic planning session.
“Snowmass Chapel is a church where congregants embrace, ‘living the adventure’ with Jesus,” we wrote down.
“People in our valley ‘find God in the mountains,’ and live a ‘#natureisourchurchtoo’ kind of life,” we wrote.
“Right now our kids walk into an office building that has been retrofitted. If children and families are one of our top priorities, we should have a space that screams, ‘Welcome! This space is for you,'” we said.
So we kept dreaming…
A team was formed. They started putting pen to paper. They fundraised. They sought out bids and learned logistics. They met with the town. They dreamed a little more…
With the help of many, the yurt vision began to come to life last summer, 2019.
Before the first snow fell the Snowmass Chapel community found ourselves “blessing the yurt.” Singing “How Great Thou Art,” acapella, in a circle with friends brought more than a few people to tears that day.
We have already had some special moments in our new structure (many of which we will share with you next week – stay tuned!), and we look forward to many more. Thank you for supporting this project, for catching the vision, and for being a church that says, “yes.” We truly are a body of believers who are “something kinda different.”
See ya in the yurt,
Kara Gilbert, Director of Children Youth and Families
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the ubiquitous Nike swoosh?
You probably didn’t have to think very long about that: Just do it.
I wonder if the marketing geniuses who came up with the swoosh and its slogan had any idea they were creating a global call to action and not just an annual marketing campaign for a tennis shoe company?
Several years ago I embarked on my own call to action: a year of saying “yes.” I had begun to notice that when faced with a risk or something brand new (which as you all know OF COURSE translates to “scary”) or something really horrible like too much spontaneity, my go-to answer was often no. So I decided to start saying yes to opportunities and invitations. Just do it. I made the mistake of sharing my new mantra with the congregation one Sunday morning which is how I found myself in an innertube on ice cold waters just downstream of Slaughterhouse Falls on the upper Roaring Fork River after church one frigid fall day. But I digress.
You see, I sometimes get stuck when thinking about a new idea or starting a new venture. What happens to me, and maybe to you too, is that my head gets in the way of my heart. From mountain biking to book-writing I convince myself that everyone is better than me so why bother. And if they aren’t better than me then they already have an edge somehow – they have years of experience or a PhD or a research team or a robust list of contacts or maybe they just have time on their hands to dedicate to being the best at…whatever! It’s a cycle for me: getting stuck, getting unstuck, getting stuck, getting unstuck.
So lately I find myself wanting to be fiercely confident. (Again.) I am reminded that I don’t have to knock it out the park at the first swing, but I do have to step up to the plate and, well, bat! On top of my planner/notebook I have written in big bold letters SO WHAT IF IT FAILS. Not a question. A statement. Because the truth is, all of our grand ideas might fail. And so what.
At the end of the day, after every flop and failure, every mistake and every setback – yours and mine – guess what remains? We do.
We’re still standing and the Lord, who goes ahead of us, will be with us and not fail or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). They are, after all, earthly things we chase after: experiences, achievements, material goods, accolades. Strip every little bit of that away, move yourself into a tent somewhere in the woods with nothing and no one, and you will be left with one magnificent and holy thing: you.
God has given you a spirit filled not with fear but with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness. And living by that Spirit, you will be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-25). So be bold. Just do it. So what if it fails. For goodness sake – for everyone’s sake – be YOU. And I promise I will, too.
I won’t forget the morning I had with humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii. They are astonishing creatures and I am so grateful they have been protected. Without such protection, they would be gone since the world lost nearly 95 percent of these mammals before their recent slow comeback. It is hard to imagine the world’s oceans without them.
Humpbacks are massive. They grow to nearly 40 tons and 60 feet in length. As big as a school bus, humpbacks live up to 80 or 90 years. They migrate up to 5,000 miles per year, more than any other mammal. The ones in Hawaii make the annual trip from Alaska to the warm tropical waters not only to feed but to calve newborns. Many people recognize humpbacks by their body shape as well as by the shape of their tails or flukes.
On the morning we were sailing and observing the whales, we were captivated by their movements, power, size, and grace. But it was when we lowered a hydrophone below the surface of the water we were most awed. It was then we heard one of the most unique sounds in the world. The sound of humpback whale songs. Click here for an example.
While both males and females make sounds, it is the male humpback that is known for making sounds that are song-like, can last for up to 20 minutes, and can be heard underwater for up to 20 miles away.
As I sat listening to the music of the humpback, I was struck by the realization that had it not been for the hydrophone, we never would have heard the other worldly songs of these magnificent creatures of God. We never would have heard their sounds if we listened, even intently, only above the surface of the water.
In some ways, in my own faith journey, hearing God has at times been like trying to listen to the sounds of a humpback whale. There have been passages in which I have stayed above the surface of the water, so to speak, and not put myself in a place or space in which I could hear God.
Distractions, noise, busyness, fatigue, technology, and the like all keep us above the surface of the water, where it is difficult to hear God. To hear God, we don’t need a hydrophone, but we do need to go deep and into places and spaces in which there is quiet, peace, and few interruptions. It could even be that in listening to the songs of whales that we are hearing an example of the incarnation of God’s voice in creation.
I invite all of us to frequently create the space, time, and place to make God’s voice more accessible. To that end, I ask us to contemplate how we each can go below the surface just to listen?
“Hold space.” Two little words that have come up for me again and again over the last several months.
I want to tell you a cute little story from our Chapel Christmas pageant rehearsals. But first, can I ask you something? Can I ask you to notice how your body is positioned right now? What are you doing with your hands? How is your breathing?
Would you take a slow, deep breath? Would you put your hands down in your lap, relax, and turn them up towards the sky?
It was beginning of December and a group of children were at the Chapel on a Saturday morning, working out the details of the Christmas pageant. Townsperson One approached the Inn Keeper, presented her room reservation, and was directed to stage right where the room was hypothetically waiting, “Right this way,” the Inn Keeper said. Townsperson Two was next in line, presented her reservation, and also was directed to the space reserved for her, “Right this way.” Enter Joseph and Mary. They approached the Inn Keeper, asked for a room, and that’s when the Inn Keeper went rogue. “Right this way,” she said.
You guys, this is the greatest mistake ever made! She went totally off a 2000+ year old script, and it was BRILLIANT!! She giggled at her mess up. She was embarrassed. And she was SPOT ON.
Prior to a recent funeral held here at the Chapel, Charla prayed, “allow us to be present and ‘hold space’ for this grieving family.”
When I consider the intent of our Chapel MOPS group, or our youth groups, or our small groups and parent groups, it occurs to me that one of the richest parts of gathering together in community is not about the curriculum, not about what we’re learning from the text, but about how we are showing up for one another. How we listen. How we empathize. How we support. How our palms are open. How we literally and figuratively, hold space.
A friend asks to go for a walk in the middle of a busy workday. A teen lingers, like they have something they want to say. A child asks to play. It’s Gay Ski Week in Aspen, people who are often marginalized flock to our town. The Bible sits there on the shelf, unopened for a while.
How does our script go? Have we left a vacancy so that the God of the Universe can enter into our daily lives? Or are we so filled up, so busy, so set in our ways, that the friend, the teen, the child, the marginalized, JESUS himself, is sent out to find comfort in the barn?
Our little pageant Inn Keeper rewrote the script, and it was perfect. Let’s live palms up, friends. Let’s love each other. Let’s be able to say, “There’s room for YOU here with me. Right this way. Love wins.”
Let’s hold space.
My name is Crichelle Brice, and I am so excited to be joining the Chapel family as your new Youth Programs Coordinator! I have been involved in ministry my whole life. My clergy family served in London’s urban east end for my first decade, and then we moved to a 450-year-old boarding school where my father was the chaplain, before moving to America when I was 16. I graduated Aspen High in 2013, and then from Texas Christian University in 2017. Since returning to Aspen, I have worked at the Pitkin County library, and serve as the vice chair of the Pitkin County board for Senior Services. I am passionate about advocating for intergenerational mentorship and access to health care. I am the advisor for two clubs at Aspen High School, where I have been substitute teaching for the past three years. I get along especially well with teenagers (much to my own surprise). I love learning, and inspiring others to discover their gifts. I look forward to serving and growing our children and young people. I care deeply about faith in action, and ensuring that every child and young person feels like they belong at church. I am excited to get to know all of you! I am available to meet with parents and youth for coffee (but let’s be real, I’m actually making you the best cup of British tea you’ll get stateside). Shoot me an email! We also have some fun youth events planned in the upcoming weeks, and I hope that plenty of kids and teens can make it!
With love and respect,