Meet, Know, Love Your Neighbor: Practice Week 1 of 9

I’m making a nine week commitment to practice meeting, knowing, and loving my neighbor. The focus of the practice is attending services and programs at a neighbor church: Trinity Church Topsfield, led by Rev. Johanna Barrett. One of the nine weekends I’ll be visiting and practicing with my friends, the Benedictines, in Atchison, Kansas.

This morning at 10am my spouse Karl and I attended service at Trinity. We were invited to stay for the “Mardi Gras” themed coffee hour afterwards. I plan to attend the noon-time Ash Wednesday service there this week.

Walking from the parking lot towards the church entrance, we were greeted by a friendly church-goer. The woman, a little older than us, said hello, and introduced herself. We introduced ourselves as Mary and Karl. We walked along the snow-shoveled path together towards the entrance.

Just inside were two girl scouts and two moms selling cookies. They were there on the way out too (this is when I offered a bill and took four boxes off their table).

At the service I noticed a few familiar faces. In the pew next to us I saw a friend with whom I’ve served on our Topsfield Cultural Council. Directly in back of us, the very last pew, I noticed two wheelchair-users and care-partners. The music director played the organ well – I met and collaborated with her for our Drum Circle Memory Café program at Trinity last year.

During the service, I sang their songs and prayed their prayers. I enjoyed Rev. Jo’s sermon about transitions and letting go. At the end of the service Rev. Jo invited the community to bury their Alleluias (papers) in a box she held. She communicated that those not having their papers today could slip them in any time during the week. She explained that these Alleluias would be resurrected at Easter. This is a ritual I hadn’t seen before. I appreciated the physical involvement and visual display of the ritual, it felt refreshing.

At the coffee hour, I learned more from the woman who greeted us first in the parking lot. She explained that she usually attends with her spouse – but he’s at home today. I had our Spring Programs brochure and invited her to visit our gardens with her spouse in April or May. Rev. Jo introduced me to the Religious Ed. Director who also has a role caring for people with Down Syndrome and Dementia. Rev. Jo, Karl, and I listened to her share a bit about her relationships and we agreed it is a tragedy — those who live a full life with Downs are now living a new chapter with Dementia?! ; (

MA DDS has funded our Memory Café to welcome these people living with Downs and Dementia and their families! Our 2019 Memory Café in the Garden® begins Easter weekend: Saturday, April 20, 10am – 12pm.

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