Our Life Together - 8th Day
8th Day Faith Community – Sunday, August 30, 2020 – Jennie Gosche´
When Alfonso asked me to do a teaching, he gave me several Sundays from which to choose. I looked at the scriptures for each Sunday and thought I had chosen the best one for my theme, honor and learn from those who went before me at 8th Day and encourage and support those who have arrived at 8th Day after me.
But obviously I did not read the scriptures carefully enough. The burning bush in Exodus when God calls Moses; the Mathew passage when Jesus says to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan’; and I know I read the wrong verses in Romans 12. These are important and well-known scriptures. I may not be deepening your Biblical knowledge but I hope I can share today some of what I have learned in the 36 years I have been part of this life giving, Beloved Community.
8th Day, you have been my teachers, friends, and family.
I arrived at 8th Day on Super Bowl Sunday, 1984, invited by Kent Beduhn and his first wife, Betsey. Kent and I met as social work students at Catholic University. I know God was leading me toward 8th Day even when I left California in 1980. I was a broken, desperate woman who was experiencing the results of some devastating choices fueled by a trauma history I did not at that time remember.
My first Sunday I was uncomfortable with all the hugging and everyone knew each other. I remember what I wore but I can’t remember who gave the teaching that day. I kept coming back and the real work of inner change started to occur in the classes at the School of Christian Living at 2025 and the communal dinners beforehand. Those were the days when we spent hours together in class talking and sharing. There were no computers, cell phones, or work that filled 10-15 hours a day. Donna & Julian Nichols, Allen & Phyllis Holt, John & Harriett Mohr, Susan Koziol, Bud & Carol (Wilkinson) Martin, David Dorsey, Mary Cosby, Marcia Harrington, Elizabeth O’Connor, Gail Arnall, David Hilfiker, Kent Beduhn & Carol Bullard Bates, Eleanor Triplett, and of course, my dear friend and “good mother”, Carol Fitch. All of these luminaries influenced and encouraged me. Carol Fitch became my “spiritual director” in 1989. She sensed my need for companionship and guidance and Carol’s experience as a member of Wellspring Mission group as well as expertise as a therapist gave her insight into my wounded heart and deep need for intimacy while holding at the same time my intense fear of being truly known. Carol and I formed a friendship that spanned more than twenty years. We became friends when I was in my 40s and Carol was in her 60s. We often sat at the table in her kitchen and talked about our lives. Carol and her ex-husband, David, had 5 children; Mark, Kirk, Paul, Karen, and Malika, 4 of whom live in the DC area. I often wished I was Carol’s 3rd daughter, as over the years I met and came to know all of them and watched with some envy the love they shared. Later in her life I was able to return some of the love she gave me when I took her to doctor’s appointments and assisted in her care when she attended her last 8th Day retreat in 2014. I will never forget the last time we were together, as she lay in a hospital bed in her bedroom in her duplex at The Villages at Rockville. I will always regret I did not have the aide take a photo of us together. Carol died in 2015. And Carol’s memorial service at Wellspring , watching the falling snow outside the windows, was a celebration of her life told in multiple stories from people she had known and touched throughout her well lived life. Carol showed me how to live with integrity and die with grace
As a throw away child, before the term became a social work construct, I was left at the hospital at birth by my 15 year old mother who had been raped by my 21 year old father. It would be decades before I knew any of my own story because of antiquated adoption laws. I found my birth mother in 1985, the same year a missing puzzle piece was revealed when my adoptive father told me my adoptive mother had been an alcoholic most of my life.
In today’s Exodus 3 verses, we learn about Moses’ Call from God. Moses was looking for his father-in-law’s sheep when he saw a burning bush which was not “burnt up”. When Moses went to see the bush, God called to him. He answered ‘Here I am’. When God told him he had seen the suffering of the Israelites God said ‘I am sending you to Pharaoh, for you to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt’. Moses said ‘Who am I to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you, God said’.
For many of the 36 years I have worshipped at 8th Day, I have wondered what is my call? I used to joke I wished God would drop 3X5 card down on me with at least a hint about what direction I should go. To paraphrase Elizabeth, call comes about when the exercising of our gifts meets a need in the world.
My love and prayerful care for polar bears and the Arctic grew out of my love of photography and wildlife. When I am in the polar bears’ presence, I feel their spirit and I believe I am on holy ground. What I have witnessed in 7 trips to the Arctic is the devastation climate change has wrought there. Once covered in ice, now the Arctic ocean is nearly ice free in the summer. Warming at 3 times the rate of the rest of the planet, our addiction to development, burning of fossil fuel, and greed has set us on a path to destroy God’s creation, the planet and all beings who inhabit it.
But God told Moses ‘I shall be with you.’ Through the support, encouragement, and love of 8th Day, I know ‘God is with me’ when I go to the Arctic, and share my photos and stories about what I have seen and experienced. I sometimes cry for the two cubs and their mom I photographed in October last year whose survival is being threatened by this Administration’s drive to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The call of the New Creation mission group is to support the community and to be “prophets through creative arts.” In my fourth mg, I can more clearly hear God’s call on my life. God calls me to pray. I know you join me in the prayer I recently sent to the list serve ‘Prayer for the Arctic’ refuge (Connie created a beautiful prayer card) envisioning an Arctic National Wildlife Refuge free of any development, safe for the Porcupine Caribou, the polar bears, arctic fox, and the millions of birds that migrate from all over the world to have their young in the Refuge. When I feel hopeless, I remember God’s promise, ‘I will be with you’ and I continue to pray.
Call and “calling forth our gifts” to fulfill call was central to those who built the Church of the Saviour. Elizabeth O’Connor, or Betty O as she was often called, wrote many books about the Church of the Saviour, sharing the story of how a small band of Christians after WWII envisioned a new church with new ways of being community together. First published in 1963, Call to Commitment, Elizabeth’s first book about the church, laid out the history and, at the time, unusual practices of CofS; small groups, daily disciplines, tithing, and accountability, which were missing from most denominational churches at that time. Gordon’s experiences as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne before the invasion of Normandy gave him a deeper understanding of what following Jesus really meant.
Early in my time at 8th Day, as I struggled to discern my call, I thought about being an author and Elizabeth was kind enough to listen to my vague dreams. She had a tiny speaking voice but her writing continues to resonate with wisdom and deep faith. Our 8th Day community took its name from her book Eighth Day of Creation: Discovering your Gifts and Using Them when Gordon decided the church had become too large. In his typically prescient fashion, Gordon decided the church should break into smaller communities, a change called The New Land. In that book, Gordon is quoted saying “when each person is exercising her gift, she becomes an initiating center of life.”
I knew Mary Cosby at a much deeper level because she would not only preach occasionally at 8th Day but I was fortunate to be on several retreats led by Mary at Dayspring. Mary was a gifted teacher but also a kind, caring Southern woman who radiated love and compassion for everyone she met. She also gave me the opportunity to have my Dayspring photos exhibited at Potter’s House in 1995. Before it was renovated, the entire wall to the right when you enter Potter’s House was an art exhibit space. Mary believed art and beauty should be a part of church and creativity was emphasized when everyone discussed their individual gifts, whether that was as a dancer, social worker, architect, or accountant.
One of my fondest memories of Mary and Gordon was when the Banyan Tree Mission Group, of which I was a member with Gail Arnall, David Dorsey, Marcia Harrington, and others, visited Gordon and Mary in their home in Virginia. Mary had become frail and was in a wheelchair most of the time. Sharing stories with them in their warm, cozy home will always be a living memory for me of aging, loving, and being held by community.
John and Harriett Mohr were also two people who gave of themselves to 8th Day and to me personally. John was a part of many mission groups in 8th Day’s life and I was in a “spiritual support group” with John, Erin Salisbury, and Marilee Harrigan. I was not ready for Covenant membership which required participation in a mission group, daily disciplines of 60 minutes of prayer, journaling, and scripture study, as well as tithing 10% of gross income. For decades tithing was my stumbling block. John encouraged us to read Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, a classic published in 1992, to help us understand how better to manage our money. John and Harriett live a life founded on sound financial stewardship. I have had a shopping problem since the 1970s. As with all addictions, it is a distraction from the pain of my early life. Harriett has been my friend and a patient listener.
Gail Arnall helped me avoid a huge condo fee when I moved in 2002. I was tempted to buy a 3BR/2BA apartment for about the same money as I eventually paid for a 1BR/1BA. But the condo fee for the larger apt was $700 a month. Gail urged me to think carefully about that fee and for that I will always be grateful. Gail and Susan Koziol have always been fun friends. I will never forget Gail’s 60th birthday celebration. 8th Day sang, wrote poems, danced, ate, and swam in the pool, as we celebrated our Party Girl, a role Mary Cosby called forth in the early church as a necessary role, to help someone exercise their gifts while infusing the community with connection and fun. Our community really knows how to party. I have video of Crisely, Alphonso, and Santiago salsa dancing at our Christmas party last year. And the New Creation Mission Group, of which I have been deeply blessed to be a part since February, 2019, with Kip, Connie, Meade, Emily, Brooke, Karen and Wendy (not all at the same time). In December, 2019, the mg +Kevin shared the old Christmas season practice of singing on lawns and sidewalks by bringing carols to the homes and halls of Eve, Eleanor and Victoria.
Not all my spiritual growth while at 8th Day has been roses and happiness. My first foray into Covenant membership at 8th Day was when I joined the Retreat Mission group.
I have always loved Dayspring, a farm “on the road to Damascus”, purchased by CofS in 1953. Described in Call to Commitment, “It was to be a place where the lives of everybody who touched it could become more deeply rooted in the life of God. Here wounds would be exposed and healed by Christ’s love, here we would work and pray and play together, here the love and the unloved would be equally welcome.” From the beginning, “overnight retreat lodgings were part of the dream of Dayspring.” In 1961, that dream began to take form. “We needed to learn to live from a quiet center” part of the Inward Journey.
My first silent retreat was in March, 1984, and Gloria McClanen was the retreat leader. Days of silence were challenging but I started a retreat journal that weekend. I wrote “God plans to call me for some purpose. The purpose is not clear yet”. On my 45th retreat at Dayspring in May last year, we were blessed to have Fred Taylor lead our 8th Day retreat. Fred was working on a book and shared from it throughout the weekend. He talked about being there when the land was purchased and the Lodge of the Carpenter was built. He reminded us of “God’s generosity, God’s goodness, the richness of God’s creation, and the gift of each other.” And he encouraged us to “let ourselves be given to”.
My experience in Dayspring Retreat mission group was fraught with trying to join a group that had been together for a long time. Roles were firmly in place and I never found my place in the group. It sadly coincided with Dayspring Church’s decision, agreed to by all the churches in the CofS Council, in 2005 , for the first time since buying the land in 1953, to allow deer hunting on Dayspring land. I was horrified that the deer, habituated to people over decades of being allowed to roam without disturbance, would be hunted on church property. I was vocal and active in my dissent. The reaction from some in the mission group was swift and uncomfortable. I left the mission group soon afterward. But standing up for what I believe is right was the correct action. “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” [attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.] The deer hunting and Retreat mg experiences were painful but they raised long buried memories from my childhood that I had been avoiding. Returning to therapy and exploring this painful history helped me heal. [To the Retreat mission group & Dayspring Church: Thank you – I love you – I’m sorry – Forgive me.]
Carol Bullard Bates met with me last year during Lent, the anniversary time of my child abuse. She told me “even if it takes you the rest of your life, if you are trying to forgive them [my abusers] God will see your intention”.
In June we all brought objects to an 8th Day service symbolizing our gifts to be shared for the building of our community. Ann Barnet showed us a medal given to her by her mother. She said it is an icon representing “continuity of the generations”, a role she plans to fulfill as a member of 8th Day. I, too, want to be a bridge, an encourager, a lamp bearer, lighting the way for those who have arrived after us. I frequently read the obituaries and recently I read one describing the deceased as someone who was “reliable, consistent, and devoted”. I aspire to be such a person for 8th Day. The gifts I shared were the gifts of story-telling and the gift of dreaming. I have always been a big dreamer. Most never materialize but some do, such as my dream to visit all 5 countries where polar bears live.
Recently we changed our leadership structure. It took months of talking, listening, and compromising. I admit I felt some sadness when Marcia blew out her candle on that Sunday after so many years of extraordinary leadership as Moderator.
The torch has been passed to Kip and a very talented group of new leaders including Karen, Brooke, Jonathan, Alphonso, Dixcy, Kevin, and Wendy.
I will cross the threshold of my 7th decade on earth in November. I will claim my place as an elder (read older) 8th Day member. I don’t know if the new leaders need any guidance but I will share some things I have learned so far.
Don’t wait to change something until a crisis forces you to let go.
Don’t ever underestimate the healing power of your compassionate friendship & love.
We all make decisions with the wisdom we have at the time. If we could do better or could make smarter choices, we would do so. It isn’t helpful to criticize yourself, or others, for being human. Perfection is not possible.
Being kind is more important than being right. I have a lot of trouble remembering this one. Raised in a home where mistakes were not allowed has caused me to hold my beliefs too strongly in some situations which can cut off the ability to listen and stifles communication.
Doing part of a task is better than doing none of the task. I struggle daily with a bad case of procrastination.
Never pass up an opportunity to tell someone you love them and believe in their worth. If we could only love each other as God loves us, our lives would be overflowing with an embarrassment of abundance. As we are reminded in Romans: “Let love be without pretence. In brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression…”
Take risks – sometimes it is worth the time and money spent because of the lessons learned and experience gained. Last year I was given a last minute opportunity to return to Kaktovik, AK. It was a magical trip, even more special since travel is now impossible.
Pray always – God hears and answers our prayers – often in surprising ways. Psalm 31: “In you, Yahweh, I have taken refuge, You are my rock, my rampart; every moment of my life is in your hands…save me in your faithful love.”
Say Thank You whenever possible – even incidents that anger and frustrate us can reveal our wounds or hold up a mirror so we can see our own behavior. You don’t have to thank the person who hurt you – say Thank You to the Creator God who is showing you a way toward healing. A special colleague, Patricia, has taught me this practice from Ho’Oponopono, ancient Indigenous Hawiian wisdom originally used by families to settle conflict.
I Love You –Thank You, 8th Day Faith Community
All Scripture quoted is from the New Jerusalem Bible