Our spring may be a little later than usual this year, but it's following the same patterns. Our crabapple tree was covered with pink blossoms for about a week, while the delicate green miniature iris bloomed in the herb bed.
A robin built its nest in the yew beside the driveway, right at eye level, making it easy to keep an eye on the fledglings. A recent walk along the race gave glimpses of several families of mallards, with ducklings ready to turn on the turbo jets to keep up with mom. And the three or four mature rabbits who had been feasting in our yard at twilight seem to have vanished -- but at least two of their descendants have been enjoying the clover and the odd flower or two (but so far the fence has kept them out of the garden).
The cygnets have hatched. A few evenings ago we saw them on the millrace, Mama sailing sedately in the lead, seven cygnets paddling hard to keep up, and Papa keeping a careful eye on them all from a rear position.
We walked along the bike path, following them till they settled back in the nest, Mama apparently covering them all with her protective wing. And a final image, from the next evening, of a different sort of flock sailing across the rays of the setting sun.
Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, and also our annual Messiah Sing at Assembly Mennonite. As always, the lighting of the Advent candle was a light-filled moment. The fourth and fifth graders ushered the candle lighter in with a simple procession/dance; the banner and the table visuals were created by the MYF. Later the rafters rang as over 200 people filled the worship space to join in singing excerpts from Handel's Messiah.
I heard the Hallelujah chorus from the kitchen, where I was helping ready a plenitude of potluck dishes -- casseroles, crockpot concoctions, salads, breads, desserts, and more. Some dishes were familiar -- Dana's semeles with honey butter, carefully prepared by his Sunday School class, Steve's massive cooker full of rice and chicken, Lois' taco salad, Joy's quiches. Others were new and tempting --shrimp salad, lemon cardamon rice pudding, variations of rice and bean dishes from many lands. The wealth of diversity was echoed in the ages and faces of those that soon sat down to enjoy the feast. I wish I had photos, but I was too busy helping refill the tables.
Thinking of the seasonal metaphor I explored last week, Assembly is in the spring paradox stage. We've come through a period where death touched us closely and where new life has also been vibrant. We have ten babies born in 2012 among us, and several more on the way. Thanks to the baby boom and to newcomers to Goshen who have joined us in recent years, we face all the challenges and opportunities that such growth brings.
One of those opportunities has been "Assembly North." With the support of the Assembly Leadership Group, a group of about 20 people began meeting this summer to explore the possibility for another Assembly-related worship group. Rather than working out all the details ahead of time, we took on the mantra "The Way is made by walking" and set out to see what might happen.
This fall we began meeting regularly at 11:00 on Sunday mornings at Faith House for a time of worship and a simple meal together. During the month of November, about half of us shared about the invitations from God that we've sensed as individuals, and ways that we are living those out, or new invitations we're beginning to glimpse. It has been a good way to learn more about each other and the 'sparks sown in us like seed,' to borrow a phrase from "What is this place," the first song in the Hymnal Worship Book.
A week ago we culminated that sharing with a candle lighting ceremony. Erin placed the peace lamp/Light of Christ in the center of our circle and invited each of us to light a tea candle from it on behalf of the person to our left, with the group joining in to say, for example, "May Sally's light shine." Each person was named, as well as those who were out of town celebrating Thanksgiving with their families. We had time to sit with the Light, noticing the way the tea candle flames all leaned in towards the lamp, and the way that the lamp flame danced in response.
What Assembly North will become is still unknown (a 2nd Assembly campus? a house church? a new congregation?). It is good to be part of that unfolding, just as it was good to be with the whole Assembly yesterday, joining in with song and feast. Here, too, what we will become is still unknown, as we continue the journey together. But both are places of light and welcome, and the Holy Spirit blows in our midst, bringing comfort and challenge and transformation -- a fitting awareness to carry into this Advent season, as we wait and we watch.
I'm repeating the image of the full moon I recorded yesterday morning. Any midwife will tell you that there is often an uptick in births around the time of a full moon. And so it was.
Jodi Beyeler, one of Assembly’s elder group, and her husband, Ben, were beginning to wonder if their little one was ever going to make an appearance. The due date was October 4, and the days kept passing. Finally we got to that full harvest moon. Arthur Lester Hochstedler Beyeler was born about four hours after I took that picture, at 10:12 on 10-12-2011. No wonder he waited. A future in some mathematical field seems likely.
And about four hours after that, in a different time zone, Timothy Michael Yoder arrived, son of Katie and Luke Yoder, and grandson of Mike and Mary Lehman Yoder from Assembly.
It is good to celebrate new life in our midst.
And since I don’t have photos of either of the new families, here’s one of another new life. Twenty-six years and two weeks ago, David Isaac Glick joined our family. It was a full moon then too.
Here's David then.
And David now, seen here with sister Beth, at her wedding this August.
Sparks of light, the two of them -- and now Jesse too.
Beth and Jesse, sparking
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"