A Walk in San Francisco: God, Bishop, Man, Church:
Diocese of California Celebration--July 17, 1999
(a meditation and report; some notes on a public spiritual walk with observations and side comments)
By Peter Menkin
(written July 17, 1999)
Starting in the Morning
Some months (now years) have passed since the walk occurred, and a moment of reflection on the event makes me want to continue in prayer. I believe that there can be a silence in our emptying of our mind, in a Zen fashion. Doing this allows the Triune God to enter in, and it allows the archetype to whisper, and the speaking of our past lives to bring new impressions of reality to bring in our day.
When we gather together as a Church, or a Diocese, and walk among the Shepard, and are ourselves the people who as children of light seek to let that light come in, there is a Springtime of Easter where we can be receptive and allow the promise of his presence to bring us to that beating heart of our body to be Christ.
The morning is a difficult time, for we await the light, we await the waking of the world, the birds to sing, the everyday working life to begin its struggle and toil, its very labor as Job would in his exceptional relationship enter into another waking oblation in complaint, love, and observation with the Lord. This commentary, no stranger to the children of Abraham, is a Biblical time and I recommend the reading of Acts, and at this time of year for our Easter Luke.
Wondering is good, but the quiet of the Sunday is really the joy of measure that brings us closer to ascend and discern, to be and to contemplate. May we find someone who is suffering and in need, who is a good soul, and a genuinely gifted person as the Tibetan Nun in China who suffers so greatly at the hands of her torturers. To be in prayer and solitude with her is the silence that is the Zen moment. There is to know another who is a great distance, and to walk with them in the spirit on a journey that is an immensity of the times and in the world. I ask your prayers. God grant us grace to walk among the creatures that we have been given, and to maintain our selves in stability, in the love of our Lord, as we come to know the inevitability of the mystery of the resurrection. This we do when we walk together as Church, as Christian, in seeking our God, and knowing God who is a great and wonderful thing as a force for entry the narrow way. Oh, light, bring us this morning. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad in it.
What's Right In the World
There is a comfort in knowing the presence of God, and eventually one may find that this kind of willingness to travel with a restful attempt to remain in the presence of the almighty is refreshing. The most unusual thing about this Saturday walk with clergy and church members was it reminded me of the importance to be aware in preparation for Sunday. If it hadn't been for the others along the way, I would have had a very much difficult time climbing the hill to the Cathedral.
By our all climbing that hill together, like followers, like disciples, like strugglers, like penitents, like lovers, and as friends, my own journey was made easier. How glad I was along with the others for those who shepherded us on to worship. This Saturday morning of July 17, 1999 the entire group of people who attend the Episcopal Church in my area of San Francisco, started gathering in the morning for a walk up California Street. I arrived early from a sense of desire to participate in an early morning time in the City. One of the nearer towns to the Cathedral, where our journey in pilgrimage together was taking us, is in Mill Valley in Marin County.
Others came from Contra Costa County, and some from South of San Francisco like Christ's Church located near Stanford University. Our Saviour was the group I started looking for in the morning, and was happy to find a Reverend Gwen, a Deacon, who also arrived early to begin sheparding us along. She had a map showing the way up the California Street Hill, and our places to gather together for the walk. There was a woman Priest named Gloria who was on one corner of the congruent point of arrival.
Beginning at a Crossroads
We began at a crossroads. She was dressed in a long coat, since the morning was cool and the fog had lifted. The Reverend Gloria speaks Spanish. Across from her, to the West towards the Ocean side of the Bay, was another small gathering of Church members. They held the first lone banner, to be joined by others with banners to lead their small groups. Love called us. So it does as we listen when we walk for that bidding of love, the love that is offered to us in friends and others.
There is a treasure for us to be enjoyed in a walk, by ourselves in solitude or with others as I am describing to you here. By the time the morning had risen for us to greet the arrival of the leaders, we were pretty well organized and happy to continue up the walk. Later the St. Gregory's Church community waved us along, refreshing us, as we sent the way through the middle of the street. They are a joyous group.
They walk in a bunch. The diversity of the Diocesan Episcopal Church USA group was described in a dispatch from the Church as: " Let It Shine, the procession, which included Chinese dragons, bagpipers and a sea of church banners, numbered more than 2,500 and stretched nearly four blocks." So wrote Dennis Delman the Church magazine.
There were people of all nationalities and colors in our group, and there is no singleness in Christ, nor a barrier to him or in the walk I am describing here. San Francisco is a diverse group of families from many places in the world, as are the people who were gathered in friendship.
Presiding Bishop Led the Way
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was accompanied by his wife, and The Honorable Frank T. Griswold had this to say about the occasion, that is true for us as a spiritual direction in taking a walk up the hill wherever we may be: "'Be thankful,'" our reading from the Letter to the Colossians urges us, 'and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.' A spirit of gratitude opens the way for what is given to appear as gift, as the poet Stephen Mitche observes with regard to prayer.
Gratitude helps us to release our grasp on life: to be grateful is an act of non possession; it is a yielding of control which delivers us from the harsh and unforgiving judgments we so often direct against ourselves and others." The way we journeyed along together, this large community gathering in its spiritual exercise of shepherding to a place of worship, was by approaching the excitement with an acceptance in faith for the coming entry to the Cathedral.
This preparation for a feast inside, continued us along in a companionship of desire to be together, and to join in saying the very words that we as a community believed would bring us closer in faith, and know in love the source of the being that is the Triune God. We can bring this into our body, incarnate this for the good of our soul.
Italicized Comments: Expectations
Sometimes in retrospect, looking back just those short few weeks ago from today, I consider that the amazing coincidence of fate that brought so many together in joy for the festivities of banners, excitement, and experience to live in a more liturgical and spiritual manner together was joyful.
The power of the living word, so aptly and well said as a love to the lips in breathing just the clean air itself in this morning climb was preparation for us enough. When taking a walk, remember as others and I do, that this is a preparation for worship in your own Church. That God would be with someone alone, though, later, is another matter. God is with us, and this is the message that I want to leave with you as I recount what it is to take a walk in the country or the city. Look for him. I tell you this because it is not only what we brought in joy and anticipation, but in the expectation that we would return to our homes, families, and later in worship to our own Churches of the communion that made us happily able to walk.
So we came, friends, carrying in and enjoyment of banners and yes crosses, willing to carry them together with the clergy among and before and behind us.
Walking with God and Man
When I returned home, and in the days following I practiced reflecting on the way that I walk. When one walks with God, does one wonder as one walks, does one look for beauty and think of the glory of God, does one examine the earth and know that it is a soil of forgiveness and charity?
How does one walk, in the breathing silence that is the living presence of the Almighty?
Pondering these matters, I considered the Bible a source of the joy in which I might come to know a way that is Christ, and how I could remain more fruitful in a care for others. What is this manner that we or I can do with a friend in the expectation that God is in his willingness, and we are able in the necessity of our virtue to offer a simple prayer of pleasure in the living that he offers us. Ponder we did, I am sure, as the many who were there did, as a friend did who made the journey and was so specially blessed to be brought home refreshed, though drained. Another friend had been a singer in the Choir, and this for her was probably a remaining hymn for us as a living testament to the condition that this kind of prayerful or spiritual desire can offer by the experience we shared.
Peace was a theme of this celebration, and how aptly this message is given by the very nature of the worship. Even during the liturgy we offered to one another a time to say a peaceful word. This exercise in being a good neighbor, to be decent to another is worth reflecting on because that is the fruit of the spiritual walk.
I look towards a walk in the daytime, or at evening, in a way that is a journey towards friendship and in peace, despite my own travails and difficulties. This kind of desire can be difficult to maintain, since many people suffer seriously from unhappiness. Some say Christ brought the lame, the maimed, the halt, the forgiven, the sinner, and others to a satisfaction in the grace of living in this world.
Celebration & Love
God helps us we celebrate, and we remember in the story of a journey we take on a walk that we have homes and children with whom we can find a love and some ways to bring to one another a more cheerful and giving time in our lives. God helps us do these things. There are many who haven't these things in their lives, the less fortunate and the poor. By every step of the way, catching prayerful thoughts can be accomplished. This is one foot in front of another, and the whole body in quiet, in rhythm with the living God, and the light of others, along the way where there are buildings, or people, in streets, on a path in the woods or a garden, we see as we look to take our path that we are hastening towards our heavenly home.
Many of the parents who were with the clergy who shepherded us to this enjoyment were younger than I am, and this kind of presence of people who are so well prepared in their lives to offer us aid and support is a gratifying thing to know about.
That lesson of walking with others, or walking alone, helped me to continue my own path of spiritual awakening in the Church. This kind of journey that we find in an everyday event is refreshing. Thank God for the time we took in this joining together in assembly. Though we walk apart, we go forth in the harmony that the Lord is with us.
Say a prayer along the way. There are many subjects for prayer, and a prayer can be short like a brief moment in time as a still point. Like letting loose small pieces of folded paper into the air for others to know about, these prayers can be available to others as we offer them to God.