Ember Letter: Holy Cross Day 2012

Dear Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno,

As always, I hope this Ember letter finds you well, full of health and life.

This year I am struck by the line from Isaiah in the readings for Holy Cross Day, which reads, “Thus says the LORD, Declare and present your case.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, I see a clear invitation by God for humanity to bring forth complaints and even “cases” against God. Job and some of the Psalmists take God up on this offer, along with some modern Jewish authors like David Blumenthal, Zvi Kolitz and Elie Wiesel. I am becoming more familiar with these Jewish figures this semester as I am taking a special reading course called “Arguing with God” with Jewish Studies Professor Naomi Seidman at the GTU.[1] Although I have much to be grateful for these days, I still find great comfort in knowing that I can bring my anger, frustration and complaints to God at the Cross, especially during times of struggle and spiritual aridity.

A few months ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the hometowns of two great Christian mystics (St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross) who articulate most eloquently the spiritual aridity and struggle that often provokes complaint against God. As I wandered through their hometowns, I imagined how the ancient aqueducts of Segovia informed St. John’s understanding of God as the Fountain Source and how the city walls of Avila informed St. Teresa’s view of the soul as the inner castle. After visiting Spain, I had the exciting opportunity to preach on these two saints at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Monte-Carlo Monaco, thanks to the kind hospitality of Rev. Walter Raymond.[2] Then, after visiting Taizé, Cluny and Paris, I spent two weeks in the Netherlands studying with theologian James Alison, who is helping me articulate more fully how we can bring our complaints and cases against the Holy Cross and experience God’s loving kindness and forgiveness as a result.[3] I hope to develop and articulate this spirituality of “protest prayer” in my doctoral program at the GTU, which I see as beneficial and even essential to my work as a pastoral presence, especially to those suffering and seeking a safe and sacred space to issue their complaints.

Although I have finished my Certificate of Anglican Studies, I am still connected with CDSP as a Teaching Assistant for John Kater’s “Anglican Tradition and Life” course and will be studying with other CDSP students for the upcoming GOEs. I am also looking forward to giving a lecture in Kater’s class next Monday on “Pre-Reformation English Spirituality: From Joseph of Arimathea to Julian of Norwich.” I even hope to apply for a Teaching Fellowship at CDSP in order to teach an entire class on Pre-Reformation English Spirituality.

Also, I was recently hired as a part-time Youth Minister for five small Episcopal churches in Marin CA. My supervisor is Rev. Christopher Martin who, I learned, used to be on the COM in LA. We had a successful kick-off barbecue last Sunday afternoon and the Youth Group program will officially begin this Sunday! I’m very excited as well as a little apprehensive.

Just a few days ago, I learned that a short paper, which I wrote about spirituality and pedagogy, was accepted at the American Academy of Religion conference meeting in Chicago. I’m very eager to visit Chicago in November and spend time with my former college roommate, who now lives in Chicago with his wife. However, before visiting Chicago, I will be driving down to Los Angeles for Candidacy interviews, where I hope to reconnect with old friends and see familiar faces at the Cathedral Center as well as at Church of Our Saviour, which I plan to visit the Sunday after interviews.

Finally, I am overjoyed to see videos of you in such good health on youtube. It is such a blessing to see the healing power of prayer made manifest in your life. I hope and pray that you continue to enjoy health and renewed vigor.

Sincerely Yours,

Daniel DeForest London

[1] The title of the course is inspired by the book Arguing with God: A Jewish Tradition by Anson Laytner

[2] You can listen to my sermon here: http://www.stpaulsmonaco.com/sermons.htm

[3] You can watch videos of my trip here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL20C72C4B7E956AD6

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