by Amy Bruch
It's heartening, at this particular time in our country, to receive the gift of sitting quietly on a white rock beside a still lake watching the sun set, hearing only the natural sounds of twilight fading into evening among many tall trees. My invitation to serve as artist-in-residence for a week at Silver Lake found me in that place beside Silver Birch Lodge this summer. Winding down the hill from the main camp, the Lodge is a building with character that provides a peaceful spot for thinking, reading and praying. During my time there, I was reminded of a poem I shared recently with my congregation called "The Messenger" by Mary Oliver, in which she so beautifully tells us that her work is loving the world… every creature, every flower… rejoicing in them all. We have all we need, she says: mind, heart and body… and gratitude. I encourage you to look up the poem and read it in full. Her words may remind you, too, of how we can stand still and learn to be astonished.
I am a maker. For many years now, I have created vessels out of clay on the potter's wheel, though I have also made a number of tile projects, many of them with words carefully stamped, letter-by-letter. I thought I'd share the creation of some of those tiles with the community at Silver Lake so that we could set into clay (once fired they can last for thousands of years!) various "words of meaning"… like peace, hope, joy, family, love and others. In making them, we are in some small way, creating what we need. Calling forth these words in the context of the Silver Lake community is to call upon God as we seek to embody the words in all that we do and in who we are as God's people.
One of the books I read parts of during my time at Silver Lake, was Eugene's Peterson's Living the Message in which he offers daily reflections on his translation of the Bible. I was happy to read his thoughts about the importance of poetry, especially that "the word is creative; it brings into being what was not there before - perception, relationship, belief. Out of a silent abyss a sound is formed; people hear what was not heard before and are changed by the sound from loneliness into love. Out of a blank abyss a picture if formed by means of metaphor: people see what they did not see before and are changed by the image from anonymity into love. Words create. God's word creates; our words can participate in the creation." Indeed, we created tiles using words that bring meaning and depth to our living… and it was good.
Being part of another camp community myself for over 30 years, I could easily recognize during my short time at Silver Lake just how powerful, supportive and inspiring the community is to all who come there. In the songs, in the stories offered by the chaplain, and in the careful ways in which the staff, deans and counselors respond to and encourage the conferees, I know that what happens there creates memories and builds confidence that will be with us for the rest of our lives. God calls us to create, to speak and to lead others in exploring all that God made us to be. May we continue to be still and to play, to laugh and to sing, to learn and to be astonished by all that God has given us.
Rev. Amy A. Bruch, is the Associate Minister for Children and Youth at the Congregational Church of Topsfield, in Massachusetts, and served as Artist-In-Residence for week 4 at Silver Lake Conference Center.