A Faithful Vigil to End M83 Highway

Margaret Schoap

Here we are in the midst of the COVID pandemic, which is causing death, causing loss of jobs, causing isolation, contributing to domestic and civil violence, it is causing distrust in our government's decision making ability, and worry about our planet's future. 


And my sharing today about our greater community's continual spiritual journey of working to stop the M83 Highway from ever being built. The proposed highway is aligned adjacent to Dayspring's Silent Retreat Center and its neighborhoods. 


Why would I talk about that today when so much disconnect is going on in our daily lives because of this pandemic? There is a connection.  The imbalance caused by the pandemic, added to the nation's current civic uncertainty and unrest, are conceding a free rein to what would otherwise be civil obedience.


Since the early 1980s, this ministry to stop M83 from being built through Dayspring (and now stopping M83 from being built anywhere) has focused on preserving the silence and beauty surrounding the DS Silent Retreat Center and adjacent 300 acre county parkland.


I'm going to share with you some new film footage of the Dayspring Creek valley. The video was filmed over Memorial Day weekend. This film video is part of our TAME Coalition (Transit Alternatives to Midcounty Highway Extended) advocacy group and highlights the incredibly sensitive eco-system which would be destroyed if proposed M83 Highway were built.


Now I'm going to show you 7 min of raw film footage taken in the Dayspring Creek Valley  The finished film will include the southern portion of the M83 RoW, beginning at Montgomery Ave in Gaithersburg and coming to the traffic circle behind the Dayspring Church property.  show film


The work to stop the proposed M83 Highway from being built continues to be harder and harder. That's because of the build-out in this area of Montgomery County There have been many successes towards stopping the progress of building the road. Here are the highlights: community letter-writing; voting into office No M83 candidates; writing 11 expertly researched reports showing environmental and civic violations if M83 were to be built; gathering over 20 elected officials' statements in the campaign to end M83; over 50 organizations have joined us opposing building M83; and the County Council passed a resolution to not include M83 into any future master plans. 


That's enough to celebrate, to say "yes we did it". But the proposed M83 Highway is still on the planning docket. It is still being designed. All the work that volunteers have done to stop M83 was beyond all of our expectations. Why does our work have to be so hard? We have prayed, we have listened, we did what we heard to do in prayer. We want to stop working so hard. But the call doesn't go away.


Since I signed up for sharing this message three months have gone by, and the greatest storm has come to tell me the developers are working to strong-arm the County Council to build M83. Now what? I was ready to rest.


In preparing for today, I pulled up a lot of articles on people interviewing Gordon Cosby. I needed to hear something from Gordon to provide me with guidance.

Here is the short-list of take-aways for me:

  • Gordon interviewed in 1957, ten years after the beginning of Church of the Saviour - "My conviction is that our church is in greater danger now than we were in the beginning. You have heard of the monastic cycle which goes like this: discipline produces abundance; abundance destroys discipline. The monastic cycle starts humble, has utter dependance on God, does not know if it is really doing the right thing, it continues to build, to grow, then it becomes successful.  You are not in the same position of depends on God, there is not the struggles anymore. When there is success, there is danger of losing the essence from which they originally emerged."

  • Another interview with Gordon - "The essence of a ministry is how it participates in the breaking through of the Kingdom of God. All too often, a ministry loses its essence. It begins to exist for itself. It does a job, instead of listening for the heartbeat of the Holy Spirit. Growth, success, vision and organizational/individual ego all serve as obstacles to essence."

Reading words from Gordon had me coming back to my center of call to continue work to stop proposed M83 Highway. I returned to reading scripture more deeply, I returned to sitting on the Silent Retreat Lodge porch, waiting for God; and God was there and provided me with easy answers I was not wanting to hear. God has not given up on stopping the road from being built. The burden will be light enough to bear, and the next phase is clear. We are to continue our ministry to protect Dayspring, the vulnerable adjacent forests, and surrounding neighborhoods from social and environmental injustices which would occur if proposed M83 Highway were to be built. 


 We know the story of ancient Israel; how an independent nation was eventually surrounded, besieged, and exiled by earthly empires that exerted brutal force. The prayers of Israel and Judah did not stop this, but they implanted a faith that endured every military action, and lived to bring a remnant back to Jerusalem. Centuries later, as the Roman Empire surrounded Israel, Jesus again demonstrated to us what generations of faithful prayer of the psalms can do in human hearts. Jesus never compromised his truth, though it did not spare him from the outcome he dreaded. We are in the same situation the children of Israel found themselves in, and there is nothing that can stop us from asking God for help.


Our work will require deep resources of spiritual, emotional and physical courage for us to answer our call to resist the encroachment of the M83 Highway. The very best way for you to participate is to pray at home and as a community voice. 


Intercessory Prayer for proposed M-83 Highway - 

Gracious God, the eyes of our hearts see the planned M-83 highway through Dayspring as relocated; the integrity of the Dayspring Silent Retreat Center protected; this, or something better, manifested for our community, in totally satisfying and harmonious ways, to the highest good of all concerned. And so it is. May the grace of this seeing help to bring your vision to reality. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.