out of the depths on the longest night

“Out of the depths to Thee I raise the voice of lamentation / Lord, turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication.”

Not all Christmases are white…  some are blue…

Blue christmas

When it seems like the whole world is awash in lights, celebration, friends, and family, many among us feel a sense of loss, grief, and disconnect.  Join us as we reflect on the meaning of living through dark times, holding out for healing and hope.

At 7pm on Friday, December 21st at the PERC, we will have a meditative service on the longest night, the night of the winter solstice.  We will remind each other of Jesus’ promise, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“What though I wait the live-long night, and till the dawn appeareth / My heart still trusteth in God’s might; it doubteth not nor feareth.”


a reflection…

As First Presbyterian Church officially opened the PERC (Presbyterian Event and Retreat Center) this past week, I was thinking about how the ribbon cutting event truly followed the session’s mission for the retreat center and our desires for the future.  We were able to welcome those who attended into community fellowship with hospitality.

1 percPreparing for the ribbon cutting was a bit like the preparations for other significant days for the church, for example, Easter and Christmas.  Each day requires planning and people’s contributions of time, skills, talents, rehearsals, food preparation, and last-minute cleaning.  Each day during the week before the ribbon cutting, the excitement grew, much like our feelings and emotions preceding Easter and Christmas as we readied the PERC and prepared to welcome the community.

Churches throughout history have provided sanctuary, literally and figuratively.  The FPC hopes to do the same with the PERC.  It is and will remain a safe place for those who are seeking comfort, quiet, and solitude—or for others, it can be fellowship with the calm, quiet presence of Jesus Christ.  Still others may find it a location for small group fellowship or retreats.  Sanctuary has many expressions; I hope the PERC provides that to our community.

Maybe it is a moment with the Blessed Mother at the grotto or a moment in the garden.  For others, it might be a memory that is recalled during a gathering that reminds one of a time when they most needed or felt God’s presence.  Each guest’s needs will be different: hospitality, faith, and generosity will greet them all.

The definition of hospitality is “friendly and generous reception to guests, visitors, or strangers.”  As hosts at the PERC, we intend to continue the rule of the Benedictines that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”  In keeping with the contemplative tradition of the Whitefriar Carmelite Order, recognizing their use and presence of the mansion from 1931 until 1975, we will offer “an oasis of prayerful silence in the midst of the bustling city.”

2 perc

The plan for a retreat center over a year ago seemed at times like the impossible. Without numerous volunteers, and God’s favor it would not have come together as quickly as it has. The expectancy and energy that has remained present and delivered us to our official opening leaves me in awe. I believe the PERC has just begun a continuing history that will evolve and include many in our midst and be a blessing for many.

Elder Darlene Podolak

if these walls could talk (or make other sounds)

Another transmission from the PERC.  Actually, I am reminded of a comment one of the session members at First Presbyterian in Auburn made.  (For those who don’t know, the “session” is Presbyterian-speak for the board of elders.)  Early this summer, someone spoke of how things would soon be “percolating at the PERC.”  I’m not sure if she meant that as a pun—but it works!

Now, back to talking walls.

1 walls

I’m sure some jubilant sounds have been uttered within the walls of the dining room.  Is it possible there’s also been dysfunctional table talk from time to time?  Who can say?  Still, there is a welcoming atmosphere (and aroma) to be found.

2 walls

How about some pool or foosball?  The game room has heard cries of the thrill of victory and cries of the agony of defeat.  I’m sure everyone has been a good sport about the outcomes.

3 walls

The acoustics of the ballroom lend themselves well to the celebration of dance, voices raised high in songs of praise, and overlapping waves of excited discussion.  And then acoustics take a back seat when silence is observed.

4 walls

Silence reigns in the prayer room, the chapel.  The walls do not talk about that.  Still in the foreground of the photo, part of the organ can be seen.  So let’s not forget that silence can be carried in music.

5 walls

Speaking of silence, we visit the library.  Shhh!  And one more note on silence: behold the secret door between the fireplace and a bookcase.  To where does it lead?  Ask the walls; I’m sure they have the answer.

6 walls

Moving into the main living room, the Jacob Doll piano has no doubt been a source of delight for decades.  Of course, much depends on the skill of the person sitting on the bench.  Applause and tears of joy have sounded in harmony with the melodies.

There are other walls here.  Maybe we can visit them and strain to hear what they say.

Rev. James Moore, OblSB, Moderator of Session


Creative Silence

When all is silent at the PERC, one looks above the fireplace in the Ballroom and sees beauty and wonder mixed with tears and joy.

PERC's mission is to bring out this creative silence and fill all with the presence of God... [Original painting by Bradley Cole] 

"Silence has many dimensions. It can be a regression and an escape, a loss of self, or it can be presence, awareness, unification, self-discovery. Negative silence blurs and confuses our identity, and we lapse into daydreams or diffuse anxieties. Positive silence pulls us together and makes us realize who we are, who we might be, and the distance between the two. Hence, positive silence implies a choice, and what Paul Tillich called the "courage to be."
-- from Love and Living by Thomas Merton


image from