Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guiding Stars

DairyStateMom's Presbyterian Church each year publishes an Advent meditation booklet, with short essays from members and friends of the congregation. Last year the senior pastor invited me to contribute, but that didn't work out, and so this year I took the opportunity to. Each year's booklet uses a theme as a writing prompt for the contributors; this year's theme was taken from the legend of the Star in the East from the Gospel of Matthew. Contributors were asked to reflect on personal guiding stars in their own spiritual development.

This is what I wrote.

We are an eclectic family, culturally, ethnically, and religiously. My father was an Anglophile and Africanist who taught Anthropology at a historically Black college. My mother, though born in America, spent her childhood in France and spoke French even before learning English.
            My sisters and I grew up in the Episcopal church, but our family was always close to the Religious Society of Friends – the Quakers. As adults we found our own paths: My sister Susan converted to Judaism, the religion of her husband. I found my deep commitment to religious pluralism honored in Unitarian Universalism, still my religious home.
            Meanwhile, my oldest sister, Joan, joined the Quakers with her husband, Ed, not long after they were married.
            Over the years I saw them live out daily the Friends’ commitment to nonviolence and peacemaking. Joan did social justice work for the Quakers. Ed volunteered as a community mediator in their poverty-wracked Philadelphia suburb. Both of them led the small Quaker meeting just a few blocks from their home. And Ed, who was black (when they wed in 1967, their marriage was still a crime under the laws of 15 states), became active in the Friends of African Descent, made up of Black Quakers.
            In recent years I have reconnected with my Christian roots while retaining my Unitarian Universalist outlook. The welcome I’ve always felt visiting Immanuel with my wife, Judi, and my exposure to Christian thinkers like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and Brian McLaren have helped make that reconnection possible.
            But what lit up this new path for me goes back much farther. It is the example Joan and Ed Broadfield have lived, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, witnesses to the light of Christ dwelling in all.
            Ed died three years ago, much too soon. Joan, I’m grateful to say, remains very much with us. But both of them shine, like a binary star that brings light and warmth, even on a cold winter’s night.