The Vestry gathered for a day-long retreat last Saturday, comprised of a morning program and some business-like discussion in the afternoon. This year our time before lunch was led by the Rev. Posey Krakowski, a clergy colleague who is also an artist. She guided us through some exercises that involved looking closely at artwork. She started with a piece that she brought with her (this first exercise was to introduce us to the process and offer us an opportunity to practice). Then we moved into the church. Together we observed one of the stained glass windows, sharing observations, questions and insights.
When we had finished the first two exercises, we were given time on our own to find a place or an object in the church to spend time with. We could choose one thing (like the pulpit or the Christus Rex), or we could move through a series of objects (like the plaques on the walls or the pillars and arches). We returned to the group and shared our individual experiences. Then we had time for silence, meditation and prayer.
During the conversations at lunch, many people shared the observation that they hadn’t looked that closely at anything in a long, long time. I include myself in that group. Even when I meditate, I never engage the practice while gazing at something—and only rarely with my eyes open! It was a gift to have some silence, some sharing with others and a time to focus—really look—at a few things that I pass by almost every day without noticing.
The commission to pay attention is central in this season of Lent. We are asked to pay attention to our sinfulness; to all the ways in which we separate ourselves from God and from the abundance that God puts before us always. The first step in this process is taking some time to look closely and honestly at what is before us, as well as the choices we make accordingly (“things done and left undone”). So as we think about giving things up or adding commitments to our lives during this holy season, it might be a spiritually edifying first step to look closely—and without judgement—at some area of our lives that needs tending and care; to gaze at a part of our existence that, with restorative work and penitence, might be a point of entry for the Holy Spirit.