A Place for Reflection, Revelation, and Prayer
August 12, 2021
For many, the word church brings up images of beautiful stained glass, the sound of hymns, and the smell of candles. But for the people who attended UP Wild’s Nature Prayer Service in Rapid River, church was the surrounding trees set against a UP sky, the murmur of wind in leaves, and the smell of grass and soil. It was the perfect place to seek a deeper connection with God, God’s people, and the world in which we live.
Sunday’s gathering at the Masonville Recreation Area was the most recent service put on by UP Wild, a non-profit collaboration with support from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan and the ELCA Northern Great Lakes Synod. It is part of an ongoing effort to respond to the spiritual needs of those outside of the traditional church structure who seek a deeper connection with nature.
Lanni Lantto, the curator of UP Wild, explains, “UP Wild came out of the need to create a space for the many young adults in Marquette area who no longer fill the pews of our churches.” In the words of UP Wild member Ken Kelley, “Young people who are spiritually driven and have abandoned traditional churches find a deep and loving connection with Wild Church as it speaks to deeply held beliefs.”
While the initiative was designed to engage young people in new and creative ways, it has attracted a wide range of attendees. “Our services are always a mix of people,” said Lantto. “We have cross denominational attendance.” Some of the attendees are pastors; some avoid traditional church; and some just want a new experience.” One family came from as far away as Traverse City. People have many different reasons for attending. The Wild Church welcomes them all, no exceptions.
On Sunday in Rapid River, the service started with a meditation called “Why Wilderness Matters” which was followed by a Bible reading. Then, the attendees were encouraged to go out into nature to pray, meditate, and encounter God. Lantto explains, “We need to disconnect from the distractions and noise of this world–we need to turn off our TVs and phones for 15 minutes to hear the silence of God again.”
One of the attendees was Bishop Rayford Ray of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. When he walked through the woods, he said that he saw the hand of God in every leaf, branch, and tree. It caused him to reflect, “There was one place where the roots of a number of trees were interconnected and growing together. It illustrated how we are all interconnected in this world: people, animals and nature. We are all part of God’s creation.”
When the participants returned, they were encouraged to share their experience. Kelley observed that as in past services, the conversation focused on the spiritually moving experience of encountering nature and was both moving and thought-provoking, The gathering ended with prayers of the people, a call to action, and a poem by Henry David Thoreau.
The service lasted about 45 minutes, and a number of attendees stayed afterwards for conversation. They were happy and smiling. Ken Kelley expressed what seemed to be the general feeling, “I didn’t want it to end!” People seemed to have found something unique here, something that others such as Thoreau and Merton have discovered before them. Lanni Lantto summed it up nicely. “In scripture, wilderness is a place of reflection, revelation and prayer. It is where God speaks to us, in the heart of ourselves and in the heart of the wilderness.”
UP Wild is based in Marquette, but they conduct services in many parts of the UP. Upcoming events include a wilderness walk to Lake LaVasseur on August 21, a Nature Prayer Service on August 29 at Presque Isle Park in Marquette, and a blessing of the Monarchs on the Stonington Peninsula in the Fall. Go to UPWild.org for more events and information.
Interested people are encouraged to attend. You will be welcomed, and you may discover what Ken Kelley discovered, “Wild Church fills a need and longing among people to be reunited with the Earth.”
Crossing the Straits on the Red Road to DC
On Tuesday, July 27, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern
Michigan travelled to Mackinaw City to witness the last stop on the Red Road to
D.C., a totem pole journey for the protection of sacred land and water. The giant totem, created by the House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi people in the Pacific Northwest, travelled through ten sites, including the Straits of Mackinac, on its way to our nation’s capital, raising awareness for the need to protect these sacred spaces and the rights of Indigenous people.
Bishop Rayford Ray and members of the diocese made the trip tom support
the cause of the Red Road and bear witness to this historic occasion. In the words of Kathy Vanden Boogaard of the Great Lakes Peace Center in Rapid River, “It was important … to attend this event to support the Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups working to protect sacred places, including the Straights of Mackinac…”
The focal point of the journey, and the stop in Michigan, was the twenty-five foot carved totem that was being carried to the nation’s capitol. Totem poles historically have been a powerful tool for promoting awareness. For the people of the Lummi Nation, the red cedar poles are traditionally carved to represent a cultural story, a tribe’s heritage or important events. Jewell James, one of the carvers of this pole explained, “They represent visions, dreams and stories that are handed down and shaped through each generation.”
The totem brought to Washington DC tells of the problems that Indigenous people face today. It shows a grandmother who is raising her granddaughter. It represents the thousands of Indigenous women who have vanished or been murdered in our nation through a red hand on the moon. Finally, it has seven tears to
represent seven generations of Indigenous people who have been mistreated by
the actions of non-Indigenous people. “The Totem Pole is stunningly beautiful, and its message is profound,” said Deb Nedeau of the Great Lakes Peace Center. “It
was an honor to have the Lummi Nation and House of Tears Carver in our area.”
While travelling across the United States, the totem pole has stopped at locations in seven different states, all threatened by developments tied to pipelines,
mining, and natural resources. In Mackinaw City, the Bay Mills Indian Community sponsored the stop to highlight the threat posed by the Line 5 Pipeline which runs under the meeting place of Lakes Michigan and Huron. Tribal leaders spoke of the cultural importance of the waterway, the efforts to preserve the waterway for future generations, and the pipeline’s problematic history, including millions of gallons of oil that has spilled into the Strait over the years.
Some were encouraged by the sense of shared responsibility they witnessed at Mackinaw City. “It was nice to see people from many communities working together to support the Red Road to DC totem pole journey for the protection of sacred places,” said Nadeau. “… we are all connected, not just humans, but
all of creation. What happens to one, affects us all.”
Over the course of their long trek, the group from the Lummi nation has
met with thousands of people and asked them to touch the totem. Kathy Vanden Boogaard described the experience , “Everyone was invited to come up and place their hands on the Totem Pole to add our prayers to be carried to Washington DC and having the Big Drum from the Sault Tribe and the Jingle Dress dancers added a powerful feeling of healing to the event.” Deb Nedeau summed it up nicely. “It was a beautiful day to be together.”
A Message from Bishop Ray on COVID
July 31, 2021
Tracking comes out weekly and changes weekly, so you may want to check the Data Tracker on a regular basis.
If you or your congregation is concerned, please contact your local health department and ask about transmission of COVID-19 in your local area.
Lastly, I encourage you to get vaccinated if you have not. It is one of the best tools in fighting this virus.
With heavy hearts and hope-filled spirits, we are compelled to offer a new Pastoral Directive in response to COVID-19.
These new directives are in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to continuing to forgo all public, in-person worship services, we direct you to cease all other Sunday, Saturday and weekday in-person gatherings, including weddings, funerals, memorial services, and non-emergency baptisms, and place all of the groups that gather at your congregation on hiatus for the CDC’s recommended eight weeks, or until May 10th, including both Holy Week and Easter.
We encourage you to make arrangements to offer your education classes or other meetings by video or phoneconference call as you are able. Food pantries and feeding programs should operate in a “curbside only” capacity.
As Bishops, we make these directives so that the Episcopal Church across Michigan may lead our state in caring for our communities by embodying pastorally sensitive physical distancing practices. The more physical distance we place between ourselves and our neighbors, the more we help to mitigate the spread and impact of this virus. At the same time, we are called to reach out to each other in love, so that while we are physically separated, we are spiritually and relationally connected. The Body of Christ is more than what happens inside of our buildings -it is a people living the Way of Love wherever we may be.
God of Life, you give us life and hope.
Be with us in the chaos of this time.
Calm our fears, be the light for our path,
and strengthen our trust in your promise never to leave or forsake us.
We pray through Christ, in the power of your Holy Spirit.
A Prayer for Chaotic Times, Enriching Our Worship In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr. Bishop, The Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern & Western Michigan
Rt. Rev. Bonnie A. PerryBishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
The Rt. Rev. Rayford RayBishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan
From theNational Cathedral, Sunday worship can be found on-line, starting at 11:15am (eastern)by clicking here: https://cathedral.org/worship/weekly-services/
From the Diocese of Northern Michigan, Lenten Meditation and Reflections can be found on-line, on Wednesday (3/18, 3/25 & 4/1) at noon and 7pm (eastern)by zoom or phone.
Web link: https://zoom.us/j/9063601901(Meeting ID:906 360 1901)or, if joining by phone: dial(646)558-8656(Meeting ID:906 360 1901)