If you read the fragment posted earlier, my apologies. I hadn't finished and it was supposed to be saved as a draft.
We have held two gatherings of "The OASIS" at the former Salvatorian Center/JFK Prep School near St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. This is for those who have asked for an update.
We met in a corner of the former gym. Much of the area contains items for the thrift store that is located downstairs. The space is illuminated by old halogen lights that were probably state-of-the-art 40 years ago. One corner has a cross, area rugs, chairs, a little sound board, and a podium. There is an electric piano and a drum kit--and the obligatory silk version of ficus trees. (Does anyone know why it is always ficus trees?) Kathy, a new friend, played the electric piano for us. Thirty -two people attended, and we needed to find a couple of extra chairs. I wrote a litany for the occasion, we sang (a bit awkwardly) a lovely traditional Catholic hymn and a couple of newer songs. We shared communion. I answered some FAQs about this new gathering.
I read Ezekiel 37:1-14. Here is is:
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”
Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up...you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’
Something amusing and remarkable happened. I shared that I had no sermon, no "study" but that I believed the Holy Spirit had led me to share the "dry bones" passage. "And," I added, "I started singing, 'Dem Bones' and have been singing it for two days now. Does anyone know the song I mean?" Kathy, behind me at the piano, started playing it. I glanced back and she had an odd look on her face.
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
(repeated 3 times)
Now hear the word of the Lord...
I asked, though I knew the answer, "Did I tell you I was going to read this passage?" Then Kathy shook her head "no" and said something like this: "I had to search for a piano book from my teaching days, because I think I was 'told' I would be playing this...I practiced it last week. And then getting ready to come tonight, I felt I should bring it with me...that I was going to play it." She pointed to the book on the piano rack. She smiled. I stared at her, and then I laughed, as did several of those gathered.
Can you imagine what she was thinking as I began to read that strange passage from Ezekiel?
We shared communion while Kathy softly played "Dem Bones" in the background. That may be a first in all of Christendom. We closed with the Lord's Prayer.
Afterwards, we drank coffee and ate my homemade chocolate chip bars. People stayed and talked for a long time. Except for the "Dem Bones" incident, the evening was not exciting or remarkable in any particular way. But it was a beginning.
On our second week, there were 33 of us, including several people who were not present last week. Chris (a different person from the Kris I've mentioned), one of the staff, rang the bell as we gathered in the candlelit church (there is no electricity) to share acapella songs of praise. Kathy, who also plays violin and harp, brought her violin and played "Alleluia" as we shared the bread and the cup.
We sang several songs together--to me these were moving and holy moments. As I had assumed after the previous time of singing in the old sanctuary, the sound of our voices filled the space and it would have been impossible to tell if there were 10 or 100 of us. The sound in that church is just amazing. Several people told me later that they were in tears. The time there seemed both holy and peaceful. Someone said to me this past week, "I could see the devastation of the beautiful old church, of course, but even in sadness I had such a sense of hope."
I briefly read, once again, from Ezekiel. It was getting dark at that point, so we moved across the drive to the gym. Jim and Linda and Kris shared a bit of history about Father Oshwald and others who had been part of the site in years past, discussed the current state of the property, and shared some of their hopes. We finished with a time of extemporaneous prayer for them and others on the staff.
Once again, people stayed and chatted and munched cookies for a long time. It seems we need to make room for that! A visiting couple from Michigan played guitar for us and sang as the rest of us talked and drank coffee. He told me they had spent the day with Jim and Linda Frasch and thought they might be moving nearby, that they wanted to help, and that we would likely see them again.
Next week, unless it is too cold, we will be meeting outside around a fire pit that is located to the side of the gym. I'm thinking I might make chili. No pattern to what is happening, as of yet! I think this is a good thing.