Come Round Right
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To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning we come round right.
That line closes the refrain for one of my favorite hymns – the beautiful Shaker hymn Simple Gifts.
I have been reflecting on the art of turning until you come round right this week. You see, after two and a half years of quarantining our staff through the worst of the pandemic, and after more years than I can count trying to resolve the question of the future location of the National Setting staff – a question that was on the table long before I took office seven years ago, we moved into our new offices this week.
This is a turning. And as I sit quietly in the early morning hours at my desk looking west over Lake Erie on what is now my fourth day in this space, I have to say it feels not just like a turning, but a turning round right.
As I spoke to staff each of the three mornings that we welcomed them into their new work home, I thanked the leaders who helped make this happen. Among those leaders was Karen Georgia Thompson who really grounded us spiritually in the work that was unfolding.
Through long months of the most arduous planning of minute and myriad logistical matters, it was she who kept reminding us we are doing sacred work and creating sacred space. Her poetry and prayers, her gentle laughter and times of worship, her coming in very early on the first day to anoint and bless each office and every space all served to ground us in the work of the Spirit among us.
We are blessed to be here. It was hard to walk away from a place that served us well for 32 years, but as I reminded the staff in my presentation to them “New occasions teach new duties.” After long years of prayerful discernment, it was time for a turning.
Let me return to that magnificent Shaker Hymn, this time quoting the full verse that precedes the refrain:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
‘Tis a gift to come down where you’re meant to be. Signs along the way have indicated over and over again we are where we are meant to be. I don’t have the space here to recite them all, but here is my favorite such sign.
One week ago today the United Church of Christ turned 65. It was 65 years ago last week that James Wagner of the E and R church and Fred Hoskins of the Congregational Christian church met on E 6th Street outside Public Hall in Cleveland to shake hands and birth the union of their respective denominations in order to form the United Church of Christ. Well, my office now overlooks 6th St. and Public Hall and I have an unimpeded view of the spot where they met, shook hands, and made it happen. We didn’t plan or even remember that until about a month before the buildout was complete.
When we find ourselves in the place just right, twill be in the valley of love and delight. We have turned round right, and the abundance of blessings that have come our way this week overwhelm me. I give God thanks. This wasn’t just a business decision for us – though it was indeed that, and by all measures a good one. This was a spiritual journey to come down where we ought to be, to find ourselves in the place just right, to turn, turn till we turn round right. May we all discover our own turning to be likewise on this, our journey Into the Mystic.