This week we are delighted to welcome a guest blog about preparing for Advent from Rev. Mary Elizabeth Hill Hanchey. She and her friend and collaborator Carlye Daugird have composed and curated a set of Advent resources to carry us through the season in 2020. ~Eileen
Advent is the beginning of something new! Every year. Again and again.
Those who follow the cycle of the church year start a new thing on the first Sunday of Advent. And we often start our new year by returning to well-rehearsed stories and well-rehearsed traditions for telling those stories.
Faith formation requires circling back to the stories of the God who loves us so that we might tether memory and new ideas together.
- when the pandemic is strangling our communities and our economies,
- and the world is on fire,
- when the racism built into our systems and corporations is on full display,
- and injustice and inequity and privilege and racism are haunting every single aspect of our lives together,
- when individuals are anxious and overwhelmed by the challenges of the pandemic,
- and churches are grappling with new ways of being church…
- We need to find our way through Advent on a path that evokes traditions we have loved, and yet also speaks to the constraints that are binding us.
And in many parts of the world, where church buildings are still closed to large gatherings because of pandemic precautions, we need to import these spiritual practices and faith formation from the sanctuary to the home with renewed intention and attention.
Pandemic Grief and Something New
This year I am grieving the loss of choral preparations, of watching children process with pieces of the creche, of watching the wreath in the sanctuary become brighter with more light each week, of hearing church members proclaim the reasons that we light each candle, of hearing the Magnificat, or a soaring rendition of Comfort Ye from Handle’s Messiah.
But this grief drew forth this new Advent resource – one that tethers memory and new ideas that – informed by the days in which we live.
Advent at Home: Restore. Resolve.
I wanted my family to soak in Advent with all of their senses: to light purple and pink candles, to be formed by attention to the scripture and to spiritual practice, to hear stirring music, to handle the creche, to count down the days with growing fervor.
But I wanted more. As I thought about my own family, and about people with whom I worship – as I thought about colleagues and parishoners who are leading BLM protests, advocating for people who live in poverty, and are left behind by broken systems, teaching about anti-racism and systemic racism, living with the violence and consequences of racism, struggling in a warped economy, fighting for the full affirmation and welcome of queer Christians, living as queer adults or raising queer children, and simply struggling to raise anti-racist children who are comfortable with whatever gender identities they and their peers claim, I realized that we needed a better resource in which to soak.
We needed a resource that amplifies queer and queer-affirming musical artists. And we needed a resource that contains representations of Black and brown Jesus and members of the holy family and angels. We wanted symbols of the BLM movement and symbols of inclusion for those who identify as LGBTQIA. And we designed a resource with symbols of inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the artwork. We wanted to name inclusion of all of us as beautiful and wonderfully made – just as we are. And we embraced gender neutral language for humans and for God. And we needed Advent music that exerts pressure on that arc of the moral universe that Martin Luther King claims bends towards justice. Simply put, we needed an entire Advent that exerts pressure on King’s arc of the moral universe.
What do we need from Advent in 2020?
What do you and yours need?
Here is what Rev. @mehanchey offers.
She is our guest blogger this week. #MKL #3mmm #pandemicpastoring #pandemicgrief pic.twitter.com/ktSaHGC8zK
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) October 23, 2020
So we put together a collection of resources that does just that. Because as we soak in familiar stories and traditions that have long been the scaffolding for the observance of Advent, we must also soak in those things that we believe to be true about the way that God loves every single one of us, and the justice that such love requires.
This year I invite you to travel through Advent with Advent at Home: Restore. Resolve.
We played with the themes a bit, drawing them from the scripture and the world. The themes are Restore (Hope), Comfort (Peace), Joy, and Resolve (Love).
The words are simple. The artwork is accessible. This resource is perfect for families with young children.
We chose the words carefully. And the artwork is full of surprises. This resource is perfect for all – young and old – who follow Jesus and believe that black lives matter, who are queer or queer affirming, who value inclusive and gender neutral language, who expect sound theology, who value creative expressions of faith and faithful expressions of artistry, and who yearn to draw near to the holy.
I am grateful for artist Carlye Daugird who heard my ideas and passion, soaked in them a while, and created beautiful and hopeful tellings of our themes. She has been a gracious and vibrant partner.
We are already thinking about what comes next. But first, we invite you to join us in stopping and soaking in the season. We will wait together for the arrival of Jesus into this broken world.