The Episcopal Diocese   
of Western Massachusetts


21st Century Congregations -- May 2105
The Rev. Canon Pamela Mott


A Personal Reflection:

Walking in the Woods



 I am fortunate to live next to Mittineague Park in West Springfield.  There are lovely walks in the woods.  Pictured here is one view taken in mid summer.  There is something to being in the woods, hearing the leaves rustling and watching as the discernable path emerges from the trees.  In the summer it is lovely to feel the cool of the shade, as relief from the hot sun.  I love my walk in the woods.  It is prayer time, sermon writing time and exercise, all rolled into one.

As the summer shifts to fall and the leaves drop away, the walk becomes louder as the bed of leaves on the trail becomes deeper.  While the fall colors are gorgeous, I am always a bit sad knowing that soon there will be a period of months when I won't be walking in those woods.  Last fall, I began to notice, however, that, as the leaves  - and my preferred season - fall away, the light is different.  In fact, there is more light in the woods so, even though we are losing daylight, I can continue to walk because the naked trees allow more of the light to get in.  In these woods, at this time, a blanket of red appears.  And it is beautiful.  


 But, until this spring, when I took my first walk before even the first  tinge of green or gold appeared on the trees, I did not notice that the absence of the leaves, the very thing that makes my walk beautiful, means that I can navigate in new ways.  At this time of year, I can see the Westfield River from places on the trail where the river is not visible in the summertime. I can identify the curve of the path and see far ahead where it meets another path.  I can see the lay of the land in a way that is hidden in the beauty of full bore lush summer growth. When the woods are laid bare, I can explore new paths because I can see where they lead. 


I was thinking about preaching in the Easter season, as we emerged from the penitential days of Lent, about Maundy Thursday's stripping of the altar where we take away anything that seems beautiful to the eye in our worship spaces.  And I came to appreciate more the "bare" times of year.  When we enter into those seasons fully, perhaps there is more light that can get in, perhaps we can see better the lay of the land in our lives in Christ and in our churches. Perhaps we can see better the ways in which Christ is inviting us to go to reveal his presence in the world.

When our church budgets are laid bare, we have the opportunity to ask: what is the essence of "church" and how can we fund that? What is the emerging path ahead that we can actually see more clearly now?


When we listen to the news from Baltimore and from Ferguson, the world is, for a time, laid bare of the niceties and there is light to see just how deeply racial and economic divides still exist. We can deepen our prayer, self awareness and action in response, so that, as the tensions and violence subsides, we can walk a new way forward together.


When illness, or failure, or disappointment strip away our ability to "look good" to the world, and we are laid bare before the world, we are given light to see our dignity as human beings quite apart from our success, or beauty, or bodily health.


I love my walk in the woods, no matter what season, and am grateful for the ways in which God teaches me every day, grateful for the winter that leads to spring and the lush green of summer and grateful again for the restorative bareness of winter.  How do you allow each season to speak, to shed light, to open paths for us to walk into God's redeeming and renewing work in the world?