Ember Letter: Advent 2011

Dear Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno,

Warm Advent greetings to you at this season of thanksgiving and expectation. I have come to treasure these opportunities to reflect on the last quarter as I write my ember letters to you. On this December Ember, I have been thinking about Thomas Merton, whose feast day was a few days ago.

Thomas Merton said, “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that a Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.” My ordinary duties and labors of life have involved studying, lecturing and preaching. I have already preached three times at St. Clement’s in Berkeley, most recently at the Thanksgiving service alongside the Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson (President and Dean of CDSP), who presided. Also, I quoted Thomas Merton in one of my recent sermons.[1] This semester, I have given lectures on comparative theology, spirituality, the Jewish Talmud, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I also spoke at a Breakfast for Emerging Scholars in the Study of Christian Spirituality at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Francisco. As a student, I have been delving into the ethical and liturgical traditions of Anglicanism, with a particular focus on the Eucharist as a resource for non-violence and reconciliation. After an in-depth conversation about the ethics of William Stringfellow, the Rev. Dr. John Kater asked me to serve as his Teaching Assistant for his “Anglican Tradition and Life” course next fall. And after his speaking tour at five Episcopal churches in the Bay Area (including two stops at Grace Cathedral), theologian James Alison and I discussed the possibility of him serving on my dissertation committee.[2] He said he would be happy to serve on my committee and then urged me to apply to a summer school program in the Netherlands this July, to study the anthropological roots of violence in order to find paths of non-violent reconciliation.

Speaking of reconciliation, another Thomas Merton quote comes to mind: “As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is a resetting of a Body of broken bones.”[3] I heard the Right Rev. G. Porter Taylor reference this quote in describing the tensions throughout the Anglican Communion. The quote echoed through my head and heart this last weekend when I attended my first Diocesan Convention and considered the proposed resolutions on Israel-Palestine. The quote also came to mind when I visited Church of Our Saviour on Sunday, where I sensed both the pain and promise of “a resetting of a Body of broken bones.”

It was an honor and delight to receive communion from you at the Diocesan Convention last Friday just as it was an honor and delight for me to serve communion as a Lay Eucharistic Minister to the parishioners of Church of Our Saviour last Sunday.

Finally, I will confess feelings of doubt, impatience, disconnection and insecurity as I am trying to seek God’s will for my life in academics and ministry. In the midst of these fears, I have found some comfort in the words of what has become known as the Thomas Merton Prayer: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

In Christ the Way,

Daniel DeForest London

[3] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 2007), 72.

One thought on “Ember Letter: Advent 2011

  1. Great work, Daniel. Sometime we have to get together so I can pick your substantial brain about energy work–a new approach to prayer and the Christian life. Let me know when you get down this way, or perhaps I will visit you in Berkeley.–Bill Doulos

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