TMC Digging A Deeper Well

What is the thread that binds together your faith community, especially in a time when our whole social fabric seems so ready to unravel?

For sure, it is not Robert’s Rules of Order, or a contentious vote on the issues of the day where you can stive to win and live happily with the other “winners.”

Nor is it addressing the injustice of our present moment, as crucial as that is.

The thread that binds us is not any quest for moral purity.  All that thread has ever done, in the context of the church, is to yank the whole curtain up sooner or later, revealing that each of us lives a life of hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency.

The thread that binds us together is not the same political viewpoint.  The same generational experience.  The same denominational polity (we hope, politely).

In the history of Christianity, communities have sometimes sought the thread of unity in agreement about who should get baptized and when. Or about who should get communion and how.  Or about who should be allowed to lead and where.  Or about who should be kept out of the body of Christ altogether and why.  Each of these threads frayed or cut. They never succeeded in binding anything together for the good.

What is the thread that binds together your faith community?

In his book Reality, Grief, Hope, Walter Brueggemann offers three potential threads:

The prophetic tasks of the church are

to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion,

grieve in a society that practices denial,

and express hope in a society that lives in despair.

Truth … Grief … Hope.  All lived out in society, in the open, for all to see.

Are these three tasks the threads that bind your faith community together?

In her 1940 poem “Blessing Mrs. Larkin,” Margery Swett Mansfield finds a thread connecting her to someone who came and went before her.


Blessing Mrs. Larkin

by Margery Swett Mansfield

A blessing on you, Mrs. Larkin, for planting my trees!

May I, in turn, doctor this cherry or this peach

Through drought and winter killings! Of these many seedlings

May one survive that other eyes may drink the green!


I know, of course, you never thought to plant for me.

Mrs. Larkin, we do not know our comings and our goings,

But our times are a winter requiring all the virtues of trees.

I needed a lesson or two, in giving, from the maples,

–Sweet sap uprising, shade, the flaming bouquet in fall,

Boughs fast for any to gather, on frosty nights–whatever

The maple gives, the maple would give to all.  But more,

I needed a lesson, in hoping, from the hemlocks,

Wearing their green all year, and pointing straight to the skies.

Where will we match—for skyward reach—the clan of pines?


Mrs. Larkin, I do not know your comings and your goings,

Nor mine—but should a wish have power, you dwell serene.

And may I also live beyond my poor intentions,

And see them branching, turning into trees!


What is the thread that binds together your faith community?



What is the thread that connects the poet to Mrs. Larkin in this poem? How does this thread continue unbroken, if the poet does not know Mrs. Larkin’s “comings and goings?” (What does she mean by comings and goings?)


In what ways are these times also “times of winter requiring all the virtues of trees?” Can you name the trees (or saints…) whose virtues you would learn?


Why does Brueggemann choose those three prophetic tasks? Why not others? Would you alter his list?


What conditions might kill your own poor intentions as a congregation? What conditions might see them “branching, turning into trees?”

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