First post from Guatemala! Yeah

¡Saludos desde San Lucas Toliman!  (that means greetings from San Lucas Toliman)

As we (Sophie & Charlie) type this, it is raining buckets and the rest of our group is figuring out how to spend our free afternoon when the town we’re in seems to shut down when it rains (or maybe just because it’s Saturday).

We arrived yesterday afternoon after very little sleep having arrived at the airport at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight.  The drive from Guatemala City was about 3 hours and was punctuated by the occasional torrential downpour.  Our driver, Julio, was very kind to point out the various sights and since Sophie was sitting shotgun, she was able to translate for the rest of the group.  I think it was the first time most of us have smelled a rubber plant in action.

After we arrived, we were informed that the other 60 to 70 Americans working with the Mission had taken all of the small rooms, so the 13 of us are currently sharing 3 rooms.  It is very cozy.  We have been told that the bulk of the people will be leaving tomorrow morning and we’ll get to spread out a bit and be sleeping with fewer people per room.

This morning we went with some other people from the Mission (who are also from Minnesota!) to go help out on a local farm.  Half of us shoveled fertilizer into small bags to be used for future planting and the other half weeded spinach and carrots.  When we started, the entire bed looked like a jungle, but by the time we were done, you could actually see some of the carrots and spinach.  There is photographic evidence of this feat (to be posted later on).

Since then, we ate lunch and were assigned dish duty for the meal, which entailed Carl saying a blessing before we all ate and everyone pitching in to clean the dishes and eating area after lunch.  It felt like most of those 60 to 70 other Americans (and some Canadians) ate lunch with us today after the mess we had to clean.

We have the rest of the day off of “official” work so we’ll probably end up playing cards, staying dry, and spending more quality time as a group.  Tomorrow we are told we’ll be going on a boat tour of Lake Atitlan, so we hope the rain lets up by then!  Other people from the group will be posting daily (with pictures, hopefully) so stay tuned to hear more about our adventures in Guatemala!


Charlie & Sophie

Guatemala, here we come!

Our group of 13 departs at daybreak tomorrow morning!  We will be visiting the San Lucas Mission on the shores of Lake Atitlan.  (pictured above).   The core of our group is this year’s confirmation class – it’s a tradition for the youth to go as part of their confirmation experience.

Though the church has a long-standing connection with the Mission, this is my first visit. Last night, over supper, I sat down to read the journal from a previous trip.  What a neat glimpse into the small everyday moments and impressions that make up such a powerful journey.    The journal told tales of shopping in the vibrant markets, helping with reforestation projects, crushing rocks, learning to make wooden spoons, striking out on an early morning hike, attending a mayan ritual, and playing soccer.  Amongst the scribbled scores of card games and the sketches of the mountains and village were reflections about the simple goodness of community life in San Lucas;  about the pollution that accompanies the incredible beauty of the mountains and the lake;  about hunger among animals and hunger among people.

The materials from the mission emphasize the fact that we are going to Guatemala primarily to learn, not to help.  I am feeling incredibly lucky to get to learn from this experience and witness the processing and growing that takes place for all of us along the way.  Please check back with the blog starting on Saturday, as members of our group take turns posting their daily reflections.


“Sheep Suit” by Sylvia Taylor, from the “Laughing Bear” portfolio

This Spring, we exhibited the “Laughing Bear” Portfolio  in Pilgrim Hall.  Artist Diana Eicher put this beautiful show together.  She sent the “Laughing Bear” poem, by Katherine Tilton, to twenty some printmaker colleagues and asked them to make a print.  You can read the poem here:

We held a  reception for this exhibit on Friday May 13, which included a reading of the poem, beautifully rendered by Sally Wingert.  Since the poem addresses the subject of domestic violence, we invited representatives from area organizations to join us.  Carol Arthur, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Domestic Abuse Project, and Rebecca McLane, Operations Manager from the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project both talked about their programs and gave a bit about the history of domestic abuse intervention in The Twin Cities and in Minnesota. The Twin Cities have been in a leadership role in this area since the beginning.  We were thrilled that purchases of prints donations raised over $700 for the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

The “Laughing Bear” event inspired First Church member, Carol Cochran, to write this reflection:  


I wrote a God, hear our prayer article for Chimes [First Church newsletter] in 2005. My brother, a psychiatrist, was locked in an Arizona jail with a $1,450,000 bail. His crime—domestic violence. I was shocked, confused, angry, sad, and grateful. Our parents deceased, I, his big sister and only sibling, went to his trial in January 2006 to testify and find out more. The trauma of seeing him shackled and fallen from his throne where I, our family, and his community had placed him, was like a horror movie, not real life. He was a forensic psychiatrist with the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) and formerly for the Utah DOC, where he gained fame as the psychiatrist for Gary Gilmore, Utah’s first death row inmate, after many decades, to die by firing squad. Now, my brother was on the other side, without the keys.

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Good Friday Resource for April 22, 2011

art by He Qi

Good Friday is the holy day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. At First Church, we will observe this day with a simple time of scripture reading, prayer, and silence at noon. If you are unable to join us at church, we invite you to use this resource as a guide for observance at home. Below are just a few suggestions for practice, reading, meditation, and prayer; please draw from it as you see fit.

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Family Resources for Holy Week

Here are some activities you can try together as a family during this Holy Week or any time. Feel free to adapt them to fit your family.

Make a prayer table at home

Lent and Holy Week are a time of increased reflection and prayer and making new habits of prayer. A family prayer table invites the practice of prayer at home and is a physical reminder that God doesn’t “live” at church! You can use it as formally or casually as you wish. It is a place for shared family prayer/contemplation or individual time. Perhaps start a ritual of gathering at the table before or after dinner for a few moments of candle-lighting, prayers for the world, and shared quiet. The prayer table should include a few items to show that it is a special place:

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Member Lenten Reflections: 7

Xan Laurence contributed her thoughts on prayer and an old hymn from childhood.  Thank you, Xan…

My heart an altar?


I am not a prayer.

More accurately, I am not a pray-er. I am not one who prays, much, except in the “Please, God” sense – “Please, God, let me find a parking space”; “Please, God, let me not be late”; “Please, God, let me win the lottery”… Even an occasion which perhaps should have evoked a prayer – a narrowly avoided car crash – instead found me repeating, “Oh, $#!+, oh $#!+” for as long as it took to avoid hitting anything and regain control of my vehicle.

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Member Lenten Reflections: 6

Jean Anderson wrote this piece on the meaning of prayer in her life.  Thanks, Jean!

Paying Attention

Every night, when I lay me down to sleep, I say a prayer. There’s not much to it; for myself, I ask only for strength, courage, confidence, and other qualities I need but do not possess. I often add prayers for the survivors of devastating natural disasters, or for friends and family members who are going through difficult times. No matter how sleepy I am, and no matter where I am, I don’t skip this small nightly ritual. It would feel strange not to pray before sleep.

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Member Lenten Reflections: 5

Maggie George wrote this piece about a powerful encounter with God’s presence.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

Our bedroom was exposed on 3 sides to the the storm that night.  There were amazing gale force winds and pelting heavy rains.  We were in a wide open pasture land with nothing between us and the storm coming in off the ocean.  I found myself pacing, worrying and watching for leaks around the windows or tree branches about to break.

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Member Lenten Reflections: 4

Many thanks to Cynthia Hobbie for this thoughtful reflection on prayer.

Prayer, an Enigma

"Prayer Painting" by Kitty Pechet

For years I have struggled to understand what prayer is, where it comes from and where it goes. Is it an anguished cry in a moment of frustration or deep insecurity? Is worrying  a prayer? Is it that breathlessness that comes when one is looking at a beautiful piece of art or listening to music? Is it sharing a moment of laughter with someone you love? What does saying the “Lord’s Prayer” with others in worship mean? What does it mean when someone says they will pray for you? I have approached the meaning of prayer and circled around it, but honestly, I just don’t get it.

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Member Lenten reflections: 3

Thanks to Russ Hobbie for this photograph of prayer flags on St. Simon’s Island, GA.