In case you don’t recognise me, I’m the one in the hat and cowboy costume in the picture taken in Albuquerque, New Mexico in August this year.
The first stage of my recent study leave, or sabbatical, was mainly holiday in the United Sates. The trip began in San Francisco, then to New Mexico, followed by a third week in Chicago.
San Francisco is a place I loved, and had visited before, but Chicago and New Mexico were new destinations for me. I loved Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which are two very contacting places. Albuquerque is quite deprived in a number of ways, with many of the challenges that American cities face in terms of patchy social care. With a very large Latino population, the people of New Mexico tend to be politically liberal, with the current administration being much criticised and openly ridiculed in many places in a way that quite surprised me in terms of how candid thai was.
Santa Fe was similar in outlook, but much wealthier, and the time in August I visited coincided with their annual opera festival. A highlight was a splendid restaurant called Cowgirl, with barbecued brisket a speciality, and country and western disco.
In Chicago it was the architecture which made the biggest impression, and a recommended river tour to see the famous skyscrapers was wonderful. Whilst in the ‘windy city’ I caught up with some members of Hornsey Parish Church congregation, Nele and Jan Van Ginneken, and their children Leon and Josephine. They are living in Chicago for a year, and are right in the centre of the city. It was great to catch up over brunch at their temporary home and hear all about the things they are doing and places they have visited.
My fourth week in the US took me to White Lake, Wisconsin. I spent a week on retreat with The Order of Julian of Norwich, a community I know well, at a monastery they moved to five years ago.
I had stayed with them back in 2010, when they were based in a suburb of Waukesha, not too far from Milwaukee, but now they reside in a far more remote place, with Green Bay their closest airport. The order has a contemplative charism, their main work being prayer and the support of others in their prayerful lives.
I end this Jottings by quoting below some beautiful words, written by Mother Hilary, the Guardian of the order, in which she has inspired me to think more deeply about Advent, and I hope it may encourage you too….
“Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands” (2 Samuel 24:14)
Every Advent we plumb the unfathomable depths of God’s mercy and method, for what David fervently hoped would not happen because of his choice, God freely chose so as to heal the tragic consequences of ours.
For God’s love of us, for God’s joy in us, for God’s patience with us, God the Son freely chose to fall into human hands, to commit to a path of complete vulnerability, and to love us at the closest range possible, come what may. Jesus fell into the hands of Mary his mother and Joseph his foster father, of his friends and relatives and his disciples, and finally, of those those who thought him an enemy. For love Jesus gave himself into our hands complete and entire, and for love, continues to do so at our altars to this day.
“What we have seem with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life….we declare to you” says the apostle John (1 John 1:1,2).
With the assurance of my prayers for a blessed Advent