Sunday, October 2, 2016


Route 185 in Fayette County, IL;
my mother's side of the family
lived in or near this area
The first weekend of October! All Saints Day is a month away, which will bring to a close my informal study of saints this past year.

September is a happy month for me. Since I'm an educator, September is, for practical purposes, the beginning of a new year, with summer as the leisurely winding-down of a year's end. I'm guessing that Jews, for whom the new year begins in September or October, have similar feelings. On the other hand, September is the month when both my parents passed away (thirteen years apart), and my dad happened to die on what would've been my father-in-law's birthday. So there is an inevitable, personal melancholy to the month.

So thank goodness when October arrives---really my favorite month of all. Autumn leaves have something to do with that. "Fall color" is an anticipated sight in many areas, of course, but because I was attended Yale for my masters degree, I still think of New England and its beauty with this season. I've been rereading Julia Rosenbaum's book Visions of belonging: New England Art and the Making of American Identity (Cornell, 2006), which discusses the long-time linkage of New England landscape with regional and national history. Autumn adds another element to that love of place.


Today was World Communion Sunday, always the first Sunday in October, when Christian unity and ecumenical goodwill are symbolized and celebrated via the Eucharist. The observance began in 1933 in a Presbyterian congregation, was adopted by the national Presbyterian Church and then by the Federal Council of Churches, which is now the National Council of Churches.

View of Yale Divinity School,
To get a head start on tomorrow's "saints" observance, I noticed that tomorrow, October 3, is the day the Church of England honors two pioneering ecumenists. One is George Kennedy Allen Bell (1883-1958), bishop of Chichester and member of the House of Lords, and a spokesman for peace and postwar reconciliation. The other is John R. Mott (1865-1955), also a promoter of peace and international reconciliation, who was a key person in the founding of the World Council of Churches. When I was at Yale--specifically the divinity school--I worked part-time in the library, which houses Mott's papers.


A few years ago I shared that it would be interesting to know the psychological theory of why we have favorite colors. Ever since I was little-bitty, my favorite color has been red. Of course red, along with yellow, orange, and brown, is a traditional autumn color, so I was thus fated to be a fan of this season. In my first home, I kept a display of red-and-yellow Indian corn in my kitchen.

Autumn colors result from the plant’s process of growth and regeneration, as explained at this site. The cessation of chlorophyll production causes the leaves to change color and fall, but the tree is all the while preparing for winter.

Reading that information, I made a roundabout mental connection to a horticultural image in the Bible, that of pruning, for instance, John 15:1-2. Unfortunately, there is an overtone of violence, a cruelty to the metaphor that is inescapable. So I wonder, when we think about God's guidance, whether we should add to the idea of “pruning” the additional image of autumn leaves. Like plants in autumn, the circumstances in our lives at the time may be times of change and abandonment--not even a time of current growth but of preparation for future growth. But such times will be positive for us and can become a source of blessing for others, too. We can think of discipleship as a succession of times and seasons that introduce beauty into other people's lives.

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