A Question of Prayer

Preview:Next week’s post will be a piece about my mentor, the late Paul Zimmer: An American Original.

Well, while thousands linger helplessly and needlessly behind bars, our dictator goes about pardoning crooks.

So, let’s change the subject to something wonderful that can happen anywhere, that puts loving good into the world…

When the pastor of our UCC church accepted a sabbatical, the congregation decided NOT to bring in anyone to take over while Pastor Sal was gone for twelve weeks. Instead, volunteers have done the readings, the announcements, the “Joys and Concerns,” the offertory, the decisions about music, leading communion, the benediction. Also twelve different members were selected to give the homily each week.

And each week the service has been “perfectly imperfect.” Yes, each week something is shall we say awkwardly handled. And now here’s where the joy comes in… Every single time, the whole congregation smiles and comes close to a unison “That’s okay!” And anyone who goofs just laughs and says something like “Well, I guess I had better read what I was supposed to read!”

There is never an eye-roll or a set of pursed lips or a judgment or a critical comment or a chagrined sigh. Instead there are sweet grins and a gentle and unified feeling of full understanding. Never have I felt community more than at those moments.

I’m not gonna draw some lame moral from this. Let’s call it a parable. This has happened from the first Sunday on. One time my wife Julie saw that the person meant to lead communion was absent. Julie jumped up from the pew and, well, led communion, graciously. And may it happen again this Sunday, March 1, when I am the one stumbling through the homily. May it be a joy, and not a concern.

The Question of Prayer

Monks know we can be one
with the world without words,

a name, not even a murmur
or breath. Within the modesty

of presence, prayer could be green,
slow, tattered, cold, alone

as a possum crossing
a back road. It’s the touch

of the still. It’s where
we are Amen, Shalom,

Namaste — it’s our there, here,
our forgotten habitat of yes.

We become sigh, our “I”
the wet dog, the sparrow nesting

in the anonymity of brown.

for Randy Smit

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review.
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Julie here saying NO KIDDING: Jack is giving the Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” at Douglas UCC Church, 56 Wall Street, in Douglas, on Sunday, March 1, 10am. This event is not likely to be repeated, so come on down!

Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast.  And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise…  Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently.  I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

22 thoughts on “A Question of Prayer

  1. Beautiful stuff, as always. But this one grabs me especially, as an erstwhile religion-writing journalist and preacher’s kid. If I were not in southern AZ for the winter, you could bet your sweet ass I’d be in the front row on Sunday morning, cheering you on. I don’t suppose it’ll be live streamed or otherwise captured for posterity, will it? Give the Devil his due and keep gobsmacking the descendants of the Pharisees that populate so many precincts of West Michigan. Greetings to Julie, too! All the best, Bruce

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hey Bruce,
      Apologies for not seeing this till now. Man do I ever appreciate your cheering me on.
      The homily can be gotten to on Facebook. Something like 1400 have seen it. Insane, but hopeful I believe.
      elbow hugs

  2. Jack, More thoughts from the monastery . . . thanks.

    Congratulations to Julie, pastor for the day. Best wishes to you as you take your turn. Are you still wearing your roamin’ collar? Fitting.

    The paster here, Fr. Jets, always calls Mike the Bishop! much peace, Paul

    • I sure don’t know about brilliant, but sure observant of our wonderful congregation’s supporting one another
      And you certainly are a major force behind that!

    • Man, my friend, to know this is a beautiful thing

      Ya toss these into the wind and hope they help someone along the say.
      For it to be you means all the more!

  3. This is the beauty of a worshipping community when we hold each other up in the new, the intimidating, wanting to participate in the holiness of it all.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    • Hilarious! I actually think you might get a kick out of my homily last week. It’s on Facebook.
      Nothing to fear or even disagree with!

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