Over the next few months we’ve invited folks from across Mennonite Church USA to reflect on our Journey Forward and consider how they’ve seen Renewed Commitments at work in their lives, their congregation or community. If you’d like to contribute to this series by highlighting stories that bring our shared values to life, email JenniferC@MennoniteUSA.org.
Rev. Erica Lea-Simka is a graduate of San Jacinto College, Texas A&M, and Truett Theological Seminary. She has served Baptist and Mennonite congregations in Wyoming, Texas, North Carolina and Washington DC including Houston Mennonite during the summer of 2014. Erica began serving as Pastor of Albuquerque Mennonite Church in November 2017. When not at church or serving the community, she enjoys cooking, walking with Riley, British mysteries, traveling and time with her sweetheart. Connect with Erica online: Twitter- @RevEricaLea; revericalea.org.
Riley [our retriever mix] and I landed in Albuquerque in the late afternoon on a cool November day. That morning we had left behind the East Coast and finally arrived to our new home. As we drove to the west side of Albuquerque to see our new home for the first time, a stunning sunset of lilac, magenta and violet hues led us onward. Locals promised many more equally wonder-full sunsets to come and they were right!
One of the unexpected treasure troves of our previous home on the East Coast was the variety of wild mushrooms. Many times Riley and I would go for a long walk in our neighborhood and discover mysterious mushrooms — squat, lanky, neatly capped, clustered, solitary … I would hold the leash with one hand while I became mushroom paparazzi with the other hand and attempted to capture each mysterious beauty.
This past April I made pilgrimage to Ireland. On my last night staying at a hermitage in Glendalough, I went for a walk after dinner. I became more and more deeply absorbed by the forest as I followed a path and then created my own trails. With the squishy forest floor under my feet and with the wonder of trees centuries older than me closing in like a nurturing womb, I felt safe.
In Celtic spirituality and thought, different trees carry different meanings. For example, yew trees “often found in churchyards, were linked with death and rebirth.” A tree was a symbol of bridging the lower world through its roots while its branches reached toward the heavens.
The opening line of Journey Forward’s Renewed Commitments for MC USA declares, “God invites us to experience and bear witness to the belovedness of all creation. We yearn to know and share in the mystery of God’s unending love.”
The sunsets and mushrooms, the Irish forest and Riley, are all avenues that bear witness to the belovedness of all creation in the ways they are mysterious and invite one into deeper wonder.
The most meaningfully sustaining spiritual experiences of my life have not been occasions of factual clarity about theological questions. Rather, appreciation and invitation to wondering, mystery and the Creator of us individually and in sum.
Deep in the bones belovedness requires a sense of belonging and home, rootedness and reaching.
I am in a new place, learning how to live life and to thrive in the desert. Riley and I still go for our walks every day, limping along until we scrape goat-heads out of our paws, stopping to appreciate the wonder of new colors in the sunset, new wild plants and different types of trees than where we used to walk.
God is calling us all to renewed wonder and belovedness, even as we move forward on a long and winding path, onward discovering the mystery of God’s unending love.
 Wilde, Lyn Webster; Celtic Inspirations; p.70
 Ibid. p. 115
All congregations are invited to use Journey Forward’s “Pathways” study guide. Find it and all Journey Forward updates here.
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