Dear Beloved Community,
Last summer while Josh and I were in Spain en route to our Camino de Santiago starting point, we were stuck in the middle of a long day of travel in our longest layover of the trip right in the bustling seaside city of Vigo, Spain. There in the train station and outdoor gathering spaces, we enjoyed every bit of the hours before our walk begin, marveling over a new spot and imagining all the pilgrimage would hold. It was there that I was struck with a flash of inspiration I know had to have been the Spirit talking.
“What if I recorded some video blessings for people as we walk?,” I mused aloud. My mind racing, I figured I could post an open call on my social media pages, and ask people to message me with what prayers they’d like me to offer for them on the Camino’s ancient sacred path. I’d voice their prayers aloud as we walked, and (assuming I wasn’t too sweaty and winded!) record a video blessing to send back to them at night. It’s a vulnerable thing to ask for prayers, and an even more vulnerable thing to offer your own when asked. I figured I may get a handful from my nearest and dearest, those whose prayers I likely could guess.
Call me shocked to open my Facebook and Instagram those days to find a flood of prayers from all sorts of folks. Friends from high school and college who I’d lost touch with over the years. Ministry colleagues all around the country. Some of you, of course, and some from my former churches in Louisville, Knoxville, and Laurens. Acquaintances from mutual friends, or people I know just by name from my kids’ school. Dear friends who know the inner contours of my heart. Teachers, ministers, parents, college students, retirees, new employees, executives. The list seemed endless.
We walked on my birthday, and that was the day I began to record blessings. I prayed for wayward children caught in the grip of despair, for healing after impossible loss, for the fog of depression to lift, for new life to take root. I prayed for relationships after divorce, for young children ripe with hope, for burnt out parents and overwhelmed caregivers, for our country caught in the grip of individualism. I prayed for beloved grandparents and struggling friends, for people with painful wounds from another, for those longing to give up their church cynicism and others desperate to be released from their calling in ministry.
I suppose you can guess that this exercise in blessing enriched me more than I could possibly have imagined. These blessings filled with connective tissue of relationships that stretched through time and space, and spilled into the ground upon which I added my footsteps to the many pilgrims who’d come before. Several times, I was overcome with emotion and had to try again and again. (You should see the outtakes.) Yet it was abundantly clear: blessings bless the blesser and the blessed. They knit us one to another, trusting that words spoken and heard are words that can hold. In return, I heard kind and grateful words of what these blessings had meant, but I’ll always be convinced that the gift – given and shared – was most profoundly one I had received.
This Sunday, we have an opportunity to offer blessings to all our students and educators at the start of this new school year. We’ll affix colorful tags to their backpacks, place new Bibles in the hands of the young, and send them forth in all the fullness of their lives to learn and grow and trust that their beloved community surrounds them each and every day. These blessings will bless the blesser and the blessed.
In the words of John O’Donahue, “it would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing.” May we gather and offer each other the gift of beloved community, one of the greatest blessings of them all!
Together in God’s work of Love,