By: Jerusha Neal
Dear friends and family, It is New Year’s Eve, 2017. And I’m sitting halfway around the world from where I began this year. I’m listening to the John Hunt Choir sing Nai Talai, remembering the live serenade on our porch last Christmas (with the Mosso family!).
I’m grateful for the great gentleness with which God has led us this year, through the closing of one chapter and the start of another. Through 16 goodbye feasts in May, and a 4:30 a.m. community hymn-sing the morning of our departure. Through 12 mission presentations in as many congregations in June, saying thank you in person to those who had been faithfully praying for us these past three years. Through those first few weeks in Durham with no furniture or kitchen supplies, fed good southern food by a new congregation. Through the children’s return to large, public schools. Through my own figuring out a new job in new region of the country. Through a year that has held much sorrow and struggle for the world and for our nation.
Through it all – God has been present. And today I find myself giving thanks for that Divine hand…and for you. Thank you for your prayer and your steady good cheer through this transition in our lives. Thank you for visiting our home. For learning our address and sending us notes (and welcome mats, and paper products, and U.S. snacks we couldn’t find in Fiji, and bathtub salts, and silly socks). Thank you for choosing to name the good. To claim grace. To show us your ragged edges and joy-filled eyes. Thank you for playing board games with us. For hosting us on our whirlwind New Jersey return. For touring the Duke campus with us. For learning to love our new dog, Lucy. Thank you to new neighbors who filled our home on Thanksgiving and congregation members who sang Christmas carols at our open house. Thank you for those of you who flew into town (or drove over the mountains) to make Durham memories. You have been lifelines.
I’ve been thinking lately about silence and speech – about saying what we know and asking for what we need, and yet waiting for words to grow in their proper season. I have been wondering what it would mean to stop fearing silence…even as I stop fearing speech. Here are two poems that speak to that tension…my watchword poems for 2018:
First: “In Memorium” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
1).Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
2.)Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
3.) Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
4.) Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
5.)Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
6.)Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
7.)Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
8.)Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Second: “What the Silence Says” by Marie Howe
Longer than that.
even longer than that.
In 2018. may you find yourself at the generative intersection of this wild waiting…this speech greater than words…these words ringing in long-expected hope. You are very precious to our family and to me. Thank you.
In closing, I offer to you a prayer given to me by Rev. Erika Gara at the year’s start – when heartache and fear were daily companions. The prayer has traveled with me this year – and it has turned my eyes to Light. Perhaps it will be a companion for you:
New every morning is your Love, Great God of Light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us the desire to serve you, to live peaceably with our neighbors, and devote each day to your son, Jesus Christ, the Lord. Amen.
Happy New Year, dear ones! May God’s presence be with you all year long!