Setting Sail

This final blog post is now three days overdue and I’m having trouble pushing “send”.

It’s the same way with that final part of the sermon for tomorrow that wakes me at 2 in the morning and sets me scribbling with yet more things I want to say and not enough time to say it all.

These past three months of saying goodbye have been truly life-changing for me.  I’ve learned to open myself to receiving – receiving expressions of love and gratitude and sharing myself in the messiness of my tears.  Receiving the gift of time to just be together when there’s nothing more to fix, solve, worry over  – but just the incredible gift of time to be together.  As I have felt myself emptying from my place in this ministry I found myself already being refashioned into the new man and pastor I will be in the next season of my life.  And how is it that it takes saying goodbye for all of this to happen?   And yes, of course it does.

And so, amidst all the tears, it’s a gift to have a chance to say goodbye.   And no, we don’t always get the chance to do so.  So many times endings come with abruptness and disruption and there is no time for the gifts of a parting.  Such a gift of grace when a goodbye happens full of tears of love and gratitude as these months have been for me.  The faith, hope and love I have met here in serving this congregation that now gives me the faith – in fear and trembling, hope and expectation – to set my sails wide and allow the Spirit of the Living God to guide me into the unfolding of the next chapter of my life.  And yes, an invitation for you as well, and this church to do the same.

A few weeks ago I came across an article for our church newsletter written thirty years ago by Bert Rutan.  Bert was retiring from his ministry here thirty years ago and he wrote an article to the future minister that would serve in his place. I shared with Bert that I could echo the same things he said about his experience with the congregation here.  He said that I could share his letter again and have us both sign off on it.  So here, future ministers of UCUCC is a word written thirty years ago – and lifted up again this present day – from two pastors who served here a generation apart about our experience in this congregation that has changed our lives.  We hold in prayer and hope that it will be for you as well…


To Our Future Ministers….

We don’t know your names yet, of course.  We will eventually, when the Search Committees have completed their work and the Council has acted on the recommendation.  For whatever help it may be, let us indicate some things we have experienced that you can expect….

Expect to find colleagues here who genuinely like each other and who will warmly welcome you, care about you, challenge you, and help you grow.  Expect a staff that will work hard to make your ministry possible, a staff deserving frequent expressions of appreciation from you.  

Expect a congregation that cares both about this church and this world, supporting each other but ministering beyond this building in Christian compassion.  You’ll find here a ready willingness to disagree and an individualized articulation of faith and commitment that makes this congregation stimulating rather than bland.

You’ll need to be there for them in their times of grief and doubt, in their frustrations and their failures.  But that will be balanced by the joys you will share:  weddings, baptisms, confirmation class, supper.  (They do like to eat!)

Occasionally you will question your effectiveness in a sermon or counseling situation or class.  But if they know that you care deeply about them, and if there is congruity between what you say and who you really are, you will discover that mysterious thing we call Christian love sustaining their lives through you and deepening your relationship with them.

Concerning things you would like to see done – you may have to prod a bit at times.  You may also have to learn to let go.  (Bert and I both sometimes had trouble with that!)  But you will find that, due to dedicated people on boards, committees, task forces and Council, you certainly won’t have to do it all yourself.  You’ll meet retired professionals who rise early to make doughnut delivery runs to a mission downtown; families deeply involved in refugee or emergency feeding or mission programs; members willing to spend hours on the phone concerning pastoral care matters or stewardship; and many faithful people constant with their encouragement. 

Expect something else.  Though you may begin overwhelmed by the extent of activities and responsibilities here, as we did, you are apt to end up feeling that these were some of the best years of your life as we do.  You will hear appreciation expressed when you feel that you don’t really deserve it and you will have someone tell you how much a sermon helped when you thought it was one of your least memorable ones.  We give you fair warning:  these folks will grow on you.

In the midst of it you may wonder if the long hours and the endless meetings, the frustration of not visiting enough or not knowing or doing enough, are worth it.  But at the end of it, from the appreciation and encouragement that you have received, and from the love that you will have felt for them and from them, you will know it was all worth it.

As you seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ in this church, you will discover that you are walking with some of Christ’s finest disciples.  And you will be thankful for all the joys experienced in serving God in and through the life of this congregation.  Shalom!

Thank you Bert for reminding me, us, of all that stays the same in all that changes in life including the gifts of grace that this congregation has been and will be.

In faith, hope and love,

Peter Ilgenfritz – and Bert Rutan


dark tree and skyThe forest is emptying itself

Releasing a brown canopy

Leaving bare stems pointing

To a dark sky.

We do not come easily as the forest to such a time

Putting down, letting be,

And dying to what has been

So what may be will come in its time

Which is not yet.


We fuss, cling, wail, hold onbrown leaf and rock wall

To what has been

And is no longer.

Spin out in endless “what if”…

We had only done it differently

Worked at it more

Been better people

Made better decisions

dark sky and twigsThat it might not have had to come to this.

As if this emptying were our fault somehow

That we could and should have prevented it all.


No, we are not at peace.

Do not want it this way.

So aware of who is not herebetter yellow leaves

All that has changed

The deaths and loss we see and bear

The futility of fixing or escaping any of it.


The forest does not suffer as we do.

It did not fail at keeping summer.

The earth rotates,

The axis tilts,

The forest releases into its emptying

That must come before all filling.

limbs and dark sky

Truly this emptying

Makes room for everything

That yes, will come,

In its good season.


Peter Ilgenfritz


grasses and water 


brown leaf on bush


I was told if you ever hear God’s voice calling you, you should first check it out with some trusted friends.

I’d heard a call that I didn’t know if I wanted to follow – a call to leave my beloved kindred, place and home – and go to where God was showing me.  And so I checked it out with some trusted friends.

Sometimes I talked about it as a longing, something I was called to discover.

Sometimes I talked about it as wanting to continue to grow and use the gifts I have in new ways.

Sometimes it felt like some new work was calling me that I needed to do in the world.

Sometimes I talked about what I discovered in learning how to sail – stepping into my fear and off the dock, being in a new environment which required new language, ways of navigating.  Something about the deep conversations that happened there when we were out of our “Sunday clothes” and in our sailing clothes – I wanted more of that.  There was something about being outside.  Something about inviting people to sail, and encouraging them that they could in fact take the tiller and sail the boat themselves.  I wanted more of all that I was finding there.

Sometimes I said more practical things – like I’m 56 and if I am going to step out I need to do that now.

Sometimes I talked about work that was coming to completion here and my conviction that it was ready for new imagination.

But at the heart of it was something that was beyond rational or practical explanation and that I didn’t know how to explain.  I felt called to go.  Something was stirring in me, opening me to step into my fear, into my resistance to change, and risk changing my life to have a new life that I was called to embody.

So I checked it out with well over thirty trusted souls waiting for someone to please tell me what a terrible idea this was and that I most certainly should stay home!  Instead, each beloved listener reflected that they heard an authentic call and encouraged me to go.  Darn!

My listeners knew that stepping out from the beloved familiarity of my work, ministry and community was a huge thing, a terrifying thing for me to consider.  And they heard in this stirring in my heart and imagination that it was in fact it a good thing, a necessary thing even for my own growth in life and faith. And besides, they reminded me, God was calling.  Who knew where this might lead?

And so, after years of wondering, and a year of deep conversations, with others and my own discernment I decided in fear and trembling to actually say out loud that I am going and my last Sunday is December 30.

In the stepping out and naming that I was following a call and stepping out into the unknown, I became someone different.  It’s really felt like that.  No, perhaps not a whole new person, but so much more of me.

I became the pastor who cries.  The pastor who found his place in the simplicity of conversations that have not been about doing, solving, fixing anything but the simple profundity of being together, giving thanks,  remembering, wishing God-speed. It’s been a time of heart-opening connection to a community I have loved that I’ve never experienced in just this way.

Members of this community here have reminded me of stories of their own experiences in leaving the lives they had for the new lives they discovered.

Reminded me that in order to continue to grow you need to have times of disequilibrium.

Called me to remember that the best way for me to spend this fall is not in fact to worry about what happens in January but to be present here and now with this community – to say goodbye, release, let go, grieve – and that this will be the best preparation for what lies in the new year ahead.

In the past weeks, my faith has deepened.  I have come to believe that the healing of our world and ourselves depends on our listening more deeply to call.  That is, the stirrings of the still-speaking, still-creating God who is calling us all out of our familiar patterns and places.  A God in who is calling us to return to ancient and neglected ways of being community with and for each other.  A God who knows that our survival depends not on our keeping things all the same but in becoming radically new.

So yes, for you, for me, in fear and trembling we are called again and again to Go – to leave what frames we have made of our lives for the way the God who is creating still calls us to step into and through our fear and become God’s new creation.  For some it means leaving a familiar place, for others being there in new ways.  For all, a journey.

On the day this congregation was to vote on calling me and Dave as associate pastors, we ended our sermon by quoting St. John of the Cross.

I said to the man who stood at the gate, “Give me a light that I may see my way into the darkness!”

“Put your hand out into the darkness”, he said, “that is safer and better than a known way.”

On that Sunday the congregation put out their hand.

Now, decades later, recalled to the faith and trust I have had instilled in me here, I put out my own….

The Good Death

It feels like dying.  Or I imagine this is what dying might feel like.  The impossibility of saying goodbye to people you have loved and for a long time.  The impossibility of anyone else really understanding what it’s like as they go about the work that we must do among the living – filling the gaps, carrying on.  It’s the closest time in my life that I have gotten a glimpse of understanding what it might be like to be the one propped in the chair with months to live, and calling friends and family to offer words of apology, thank you, love and goodbye.  How many such chairs and bedsides have I sat beside with members and friends here as they sought to navigate that impossible gap to understand, to speech, when someone is dying and someone else carrying on.

I don’t mean all this to be morose because it’s not.  It’s also a time full of such grace, such opening of tears and love, a connection, a realness that perhaps I have never experienced exactly in this way before.  A time full of such deep learning about myself, my way of being in the world, my shadows and my gifts.  Such an amazing time.  And the only way to this time coming in the saying goodbye.  For me, sharing with the congregation a few weeks ago that December 30 would be my last Sunday here.  I’m not actually dying, no, or at least I don’t think so.  But grieving well, and in that preparing the possibility, making the way for the new life, the resurrection, there on the other side of every death and goodbye for me and for this congregation.

I wrote this poem years ago and I remember it now as I make space for the only space there really is in such days as this, for the conversations that matter most – for forgiveness, thank you, love and goodbye.  Making room for everything new.

The Good Death

Roger died last Monday night,
and though it sounds strange to say,
he died a good death –

That is not to say
that there has not been grief
and the ache of deep missing,
the empty rooms
and things packed away
that will never be shared again.

photo (3)

No, it’s not mine to “judge”
what such a death means
for all who mourn,
but only to witness
the goodness I have seen:

For the past three months
since he sat propped in his hospital bed
and was told of his cancer
for which there was no cure,
Roger has been emptying his life in
forgiveness, thank you, love and good-bye.

Remarkable really, to witness his path,
as he summoned family and friends
for the conversations he needed to have,
the regret of words and deeds,
some long since forgotten,
but caught in his soul and needing release.


Privilege, really to walk in and out
of the home of care his family had made –
his recliner by the window,
the feeder outside and
songbirds praising.

To witness amidst all the fluttering and duty,
patient care and restless nights,
that such a long death requires,
a stilling, deepening, quieting as well –
the sharing of memories, and holding of hands.

For some, there will be no time like this.
So many other deaths we have born and seen
full of other words than “good” –
but of “tragedy” and “heartbreak”,
“longing” and “incompletion”.

The tear and ache of deaths
that have been a wrenching out of life
with no time for kind words
and a parting kiss.

photo 2

No, we do not often get to choose –
but what if today we did  –
and chose here among the living,
with so many deaths before us –
that in all the filling of today
might be an emptying as well
of forgiveness, thank you, love and good-bye.

Roger told us months ago,
“I am ready to die,
and now, I am ready to live.”

Today, as I mourn and remember,
I pause, give thanks,
for a man who showed me the way to do both.

Peter Ilgenfritz
May 11, 2013

photo (2)

No Turning Back

Turn back, he said, it’s all fogged in, 

you can’t see a thing up top –

We waited half an hour,  he went on – 

pressing his frustration on us,

then gave up.

We paused listening

wondering if we should go with his experience

or make our own

wondering if this weather report was relevant

to what brought us here to climb the peak

this Monday afternoon

this last day of vacation

before turning to home.

Do you come for the view or to make the climb?

Come to get out in the woods or reach your destination?

Come because you know where you are going or to find out where it all leads?

Thanks, but we need the exercise, my nephew offered.

We turned, moved on.

Kept on climbing the rutted trail

over gnarled roots,

granite rocks covered with green moss,

trillium and alderberry,

the river far below – until the trail turned from the river,

leading us off further

deeper into the woods,

steadily higher, higher

climbing on to the summit

where we stepped out of the trees, and the wall of white lifted before us

revealing the valley below, the lake, and road from which we came, the railroad line

this great crest of a green valley the memory of which

brought us here.

If he’d waited another minute, he would have seen it,

the man at the rock outcropping says, stirring his pot of brown soup,

the raven circling above.

I don’t know where it all leads – or what the summit will reveal —

and sometimes, have no need

but to keep on climbing in anticipation of whatever’s there –

the fog, the clearing,

the what might be and what might come next.

Peter Ilgenfritz

August 16, 2018

Love Warrior

I posted this last summer and am re-posting it now as Glennon Doyle is coming to University Congregational Church on Friday night September 14 – and you definitely want to come if you can!  Like me – she might surprise you!

Here’s my post from right after our General Synod Gathering of the United Church of Christ in Baltimore…

Love Warrior

Of all the people I wanted to see, there was one person I didn’t want to see at General Synod – Glennon Doyle.

I mean of all the people we could be hearing from at our national gathering of the United Church of Christ (remember when Barak Obama spoke at General Synod?) why did we get stuck this year with seeing Glennon Doyle’s smiling face as one of our “featured speakers” of the week?

But then on the morning of the second day, when I’m sitting towards the front of the huge conference center, Glennon walks on stage.  I’m completely caught off guard.  I was going to leave, skip this part – but now here I am stuck up front with no path to an easy escape.

My prejudice against Glennon was based – as all my well-held prejudices are – in a fleeting experience from which I went on to make huge generalizations.  A few months ago, in my struggling attempts to write a book, I’d read – or more fairly, skimmed – her memoir, Love Warrior.  A promising premise and beginning:  a cheating husband, a couple caught in their own foibles and neuroses and a main character who come hell or high water will fight for love to save love, to keep love.  Sure enough – as I jump to the end to read – Glennon ends up jumping back in bed with her husband and finding we are assured that indeed love conquers all, Glennon has conquered all in the fight for love.

For all of us with a tendency for obsessive behavior, of fixing everything that is out of place and we have deemed “wrong” with the world, this kind of story is not particularly good news.  All us “fixers” read into stories like these that if only we too had been stronger, a better warrior like Glennon with drive and commitment, enough peroxide persistence and high heeled tenacity we too could have soldiered our way through all the foibles and failures, the mishaps and misadventures that have defined our lives.  We too could have written a best-selling memoir, have a Facebook following of three-quarters of a million followers (Momastery), and be strutting onto stage to remind good Christian folks to keep fighting the good fight, soldiering through and fixing all problems within and around us.

Instead of throwing Love Warrior across the room – I’d more sanely flung it through the return book slot at the library content to think that I was done with Glennon Doyle, until now when she shows up on the stage and me stuck here with no escape.

I crossed my arms.  I expected to be angry.  I didn’t expect her to make me laugh but she made me laugh.  Laugh right away.  Laugh some more and got me paying serious attention when she started by sharing her story of addiction – bolemic, alcoholic, drugs, you name it, since she was ten.  She made me think there might possibly be something real worth listening for and when she mentioned her “former-husband” (“spoiler alert” she chimed) – and mentioned she married a woman last year I am startled and caught up in hearing more.  Perhaps there was more to Glennon Doyle than I’d assumed.

Glennon talks not – as I’d assumed – about the mighty warrior overcoming all obstacles but about a warrior-ing that is found through being leveled by pain.  I find I’m taking notes – pages and pages of notes – more notes than I’ll take all week at Synod.

I didn’t expect her this – I mean her to talk about pain.  “Pain is a travelling professor who comes in and sits down to teach me what I need to know,”  she comments.  I am moved by her story of the mother who writes Glennon distraught by how her divorce and other so-called failures in her life have failed and crippled her children.  I am struck when Glennon recalls asking the mom what kind of qualities she hopes her children to have.  The mother names – courage, wisdom, compassion.  “And what are these qualities born from?” Glennon asks.  From pain. We find our way haven’t we all – to any courage, wisdom, compassion we might have in us through our pain?

“We seek to protect our children from pain.  Our job is not to protect our children from pain but to direct them towards it, to learn the journey of the warrior in and through the pain,” she says.  “We need friends to be still with us in our pain.  Two friends who practice not being God together.”  Again, I laugh.

“The battle of the warrior begins in sitting 1.6 seconds in the pain.  To sit in it and not drink it, snort it, smoke it, work it away but sit in it.  To sit with the pain that wants to sit down with us and teach us what we need to know.  To help us risk sending our realness and not our representative out into the world.”

I didn’t expect her to talk about faith – and then she talks about walking into my friend Ron’s UCC church in Naples Florida and finding there the people she had been looking for.  Sure, she loved the free coffee and daycare but she finds here as well the God who she has been looking for – a God who she is shocked to hear called “She”, a God of “unbelievably low expectations” – low enough expectations to have love even for her in all of her brokenness.

Yesterday I’d told my colleague Dan about my Glennon Doyle experience and he affirmed that my cursory read of her memoir wasn’t all off base.  In fact, he told me she struggled in her Facebook postings with the paradox – the public embarrassment, shame – of having Love Warrior come out at the same time that her marriage was falling apart.

Life goes on.  Just when we thought we had solved all our problems, climbed the great mountains, transformed our lives, on to live happily ever after – we discover that life, that God, is not through with us yet.  Which perhaps, perhaps, is ultimately good news – though it doesn’t feel so oftentimes in the short-term.  In the pain that is part of life, like Glennon we too might learn ever deeper that we don’t need shiny or perfect or good to be “successful”, whatever that is, we need real.  A real that is found – that begins – with sitting in those 1.6 seconds in the pain, to hear what it has come to teach us.  To find the way it is leading us towards the doorway to a deeper compassion for ourselves, a wider love for all the world – yes, Peter, even the Glennon Doyles – in me, in the world, in it all.

Will God Forgive Us?

The destruction of the planet, the extinction of humanity, the sell-out of organized religion and our collective imagination to the concerns and agendas of the economic bottom line and the control of mega-corporations…..In it all – Will God forgive us?

I mean, forgive us for what we have done and what we have left undone – Will God forgive us?

The question haunts the characters in Paul Schrader’s latest movie, “First Reformed” and the movie’s protagonist, Reverend Toller, the shipwrecked pastor of a quaint historical church in Upstate New York with a souvenir shop and tiny handful of members.

Will God forgive us?  I mean, forgive us for our parts in the huge issues in our collective lives as well as the equally huge issues in our own personal lives – the death of a child, the wreckage of a marriage, the diagnosis of cancer, the addictions, the fragility of all of our lives….

Forgiveness can seem at times like a cop-out, an impossible or irresponsible dream, so like us, the characters respond by lashing out at what cannot be forgiven.  They take on the breastplate of rage and the desire to inflict pain and hurt on others – and the sword of self-hate at their powerlessness in making a difference at all.

Haunting, disturbing questions at the heart of it all.

And this – how can we survive, endure, live with the pain of our world and our lives?

I recommend “First Reformed” to you and yes, I look forward to seeing a movie about Fred Rogers, one of my true role models and heroes – and perhaps more than ever need to see it!   And yet I recommend “First Reformed” this highly agonizing and disturbing movie with no easy answers because of the whisper it offers in the midst of all the noise and destruction.  It’s a whisper that I needed to hear – so quiet that I almost missed it – “Love Wins”.

It’s what my friend Esther wrote back after I texted her right after the move – “What was that?!”  Esther and her husband Dale are much more serious moviegoers than me – and Esther’s a poet as well.  She often perceives what I don’t catch at first glance. She texted back, “Love Wins”.

“Love Wins.”  That perhaps the meaning of that final scene.  That perhaps the answer to the question, “Will God forgive us?”  That perhaps the lens with which I want to go see this movie again.  That response – why I write this blog this week in hopes that if you go see it you might become part of a conversation about the power and impact of that whisper to meet the huge issues of our times and our lives.

At the memorial service last Saturday I read those familiar words from 1 Corinthians 13 again…. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  And I concluded my eulogy as I always do with the heart of Paul’s faith at the end of Romans 8:  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God….”

Nice words?  Or might it perhaps be true?

Learning to Swim

In January I had my first swimming lesson in 45 years. As I panted by the edge of the pool after doing a few laps, my swim teacher kneeled down beside me,

“Actually sir, that’s not too bad.”

I took this as high praise.  Whatever good and bad swim habits I had remembered from my last swim lessons at Boy Scout camp, it had served me well enough to come down to “not too bad” 45 years later.

Of course, there were also things like “Point your toes” and “Keep kicking – kicking – your feet – keep kicking your feet.  And “Yes, kicking even when you turn to breathe.  Don’t stop.”

There was something about not bending my wrists but bending my elbows and my hands catching almost at the same time.  There was something about turning and no, not just from my hips but with my whole body.  There were a lot of other things I don’t remember.  For the past 6 months I’ve been practicing, two three times a week, practicing learning to swim.

A couple of months ago I asked the lifeguard at the Y about the bright blue kickboards and the black plastic pieces with red loops, the blue and white little foam pads and flippers that I had seen some swimmers using.  I wondered if these things could help me swim.

“I don’t know how to use any of those things,” I told him.

“You should come to the Master Swim class on Wednesday night.  I’m going to try it out myself,” he replied.

It gave me encouragement that the lifeguard was still learning how to swim too.

So I got brave and went that next night to the Master Swim class wondering what I was doing there as I was no “master swimmer.”  I discovered a couple of others there who weren’t “master swimmers” either.  They too were learning how to swim.

I started out in the beginner lane.  Others have graduated from there to other lanes where swimmers swim twice the laps we do in half the time.  In the beginner lane we actually don’t worry too much about how fast we’re going because like me, we don’t have any “faster” speed to go.  Often times, Adam, a 20 year old exuberant injured runner is the only other swimmer in the beginner lane with me and within 4 or 5 laps he’s passed me one more time.

A couple of weeks ago, the lifeguard stood by the edge of the pool and stopped me at the end of the lane.

“Sir, you have to stop! I am demanding that you stop right now and rest!”

He turned to go, turned back, “One minute!  You have to rest one minute here by the edge of the pool!  This is hard work you’re doing.”

I figured he didn’t want to get wet having to come in and rescue me.  I waited my minute, felt better and did a couple more laps before staggering to the showers.

Last night, the Master Swim class coach, Caroline kneeled down by the edge of the pool as I rested after being lapped one more time by Adam who was swimming on ahead.

“How are my arms?  Am I doing my arms right?  I’ve been practicing,” I told her.

She smiled, paused.  “A little bit….It takes a lot of time 3, 6 weeks to master something new with a stroke.”

I thought, I’ve been practicing for 6 months….

“Hey, when’s your race?  August?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“I think you’re going to be alright.”

And right there in the pool I could have cried in the wet exhaustion of it all.

No, not that “You are going to win the race,” but also not that “You can’t do this.”

Instead, “I think you’re going to be alright.”

Yesterday I received the email that the race my sister and I were going to do in New Hampshire this August was cancelled.  For sure there are other races, and a shorter race we can do that day.  But I had been learning to swim for this race these past six months.

And amidst it all, I haven’t been able to get Caroline’s words out of my mind.

What if even though the race is cancelled, “I think you’re going to be alright.”

What if even though what we hoped for didn’t happen, what we wanted so badly we didn’t achieve, what if when we floundered and couldn’t remember our head from our toes and why we were supposed to, we also heard Caroline kneeling down by the edge of the pool, looking us in the eye,  “I think you’re going to be alright.”

What if whatever is happening in your life right now and mine, wherever we are in this journey of life and death and everything in between, “I think you’re going to be alright.”

As for this panting swimmer, still learning to swim, I hold on to the slippery tiles at the edge of the pool, push off one more time.  Believing once again, no matter what.


Bruce and Julia are moving to Canada.  Rose sold her home in Seattle of 53 years and now lives with her daughter and her husband, their dog and a cat on a farm in “the far north”.  Anna left her job to pick up two new jobs in order to provide space and energy to do a reasonable job of picking up her primary third job of taking care of her parents!

All of them, migrating from what had been their “life” to a new life.  This year our congregation reflected on the journeys of preparing to leave home, leave-taking, the in—between, and the journey “home” – to where we begin again.

Bruce reflected on the long process of becoming a Canadian citizen – endless forms, interviews and questions – and now the process of applying for Family Sponsorship for Julia which as he noted “sounds so much better than ‘chain migration’ – for us it represents the completion of a journey not some sinister act.”

Anna reflects that the changes in her life have not been easy – It took five job interviews in eight months and being turned down for all of the positions before she found a job that fits.  “And no, it is not easy to balance being a daughter and a caregiver. Taking care of my parents is hard – we have gotten upset, we have fought – and we have good times as well.  There is joy in it as well,”

It’s a “strange country” where Rose lives now.  She gathers eggs from the chickens each morning, looks out her kitchen window across the fields to the mountain range beyond.

“There is a woods across the road from us and we hear the Cooper’s Hawk calling each evening.  The Barn Owls are flying in and out of the barns when dusk arrives – no doubt feeding their young.  If it’s still light enough, we can see them as they silently fly back and forth.”

Gene reflected that internally or externally all of us are making these journeys of migration all the time.  Besides the passages of life and stages of aging and the changes they bring, “There are the intra-migrations of learning, knowledge and wisdom, knowing self, social maturation, and the growth of spiritual consciousness, envisioning God’s Will and finding ‘the Way’.  There are also larger more universal, inter-migrations, including understanding one’s place within our historical family, tribe, culture and nation, comprehending Humankind’s role in the vast cosmos of God’s creation, and entering into the consciousness of being at-oneness with God that is beyond Self.”

Bruce and Julia reflected that every emotion has been present with their journey of migration with the exception of one – regret.   Instead, I hear from them that they have given themselves to life, to movement – to the unknown – to what is next.

I think on this turning to a new season – on my own and yours – where are we going?  How do we understand and discern “call”?  What enables us to say yes to go?  What makes us say no?  And what is the faith that we need to step forth as Rose said “leaving my home of 53 years, three daughters, her church, her wonderful neighbors and friends and stepping forth into a new life and adventure”?

“As I turned 65 and as we put together our “life plan” migration seemed to make sense,” Bruce reflected.  Is something “making sense” to you that you need to do?

Joel was on a routine drive home from work when he was side swiped by a car.  His car rolled and flipped and when the medics arrived at first they couldn’t find his pulse and assumed he had died.  Instead, Joel survived and was knitted back together over a long period of time and carries a story that has defined his life.  I don’t know how Joel was before his accident but today he is a man that exudes that “life is not done with me yet”.  Every day he seeks to live life to the fullest and reminds the people in this life to do the same.

Rose reflects, “I simply know that wherever I am, God is.  No worries.”  If we believed that – what difference might it make?  What choices might you make today?

I hear Bruce and Julia, Rose, Anna, Gene and Joel beckoning us all into the journey that is life – to risk taking a step forward into fullness and risk, joy and wonder, today.


Dear White People

“I simply believe that no matter how hard I work at not being racist, I still am.”  Stephanie Wildman

I’m standing on the curb
Waiting for the Bolt Bus back to Seattle
When he staggers down the street
The bent over black man
Sunken cheeks, fingering coins
Do you have a dollar?  I need a dollar…

I’m reading “Dear White America” for my
Allies for Change class – the assignment due tomorrow
As the man comes closer
Do you have…?  

The men beside me reply as he goes by…

I just want him to go away
Like I wanted the homeless addicted black woman
Last month to go away when I stood here
In the drizzling rain to go away and leave me alone
I don’t want to talk to him, ask his name
I want to be left alone to finish my reading assignment

No thank you.. I mutter

What?  “No thank you?”

Later the young white kid
Asks the driver how much it is for the bus
You have to pay with cash she says
He looks around wide-eyed like where’s the cash machine?

I don’t think, I react
Here – how much do you need? I ask
Hand him a 20
No way man, really?
Sure, no problem
How much is the bus? he asks
You don’t happen to have…
– I hand him a 5
Peter I say, extending my hand

Thank you for helping him out sir the driver says as I climb on the bus
No problem, I say.  If only we all would help each other out
In times like this.

On the bus, I finish the article,
“I’m asking you to enter into battle with your whole self.
I’m asking that you open yourself up, to admit to
The racist person that is inside you.”*

Peter Ilgenfritz
May 10, 2018

*”Dear White America” by George Yancy, professor of philosophy at Emory University, New York Times Opinion Pages, December 24, 2015

See also, “Should I Give Up on White People?” by George Yancy, The New York Times, April 16, 2018