Over the last few weeks as I have been mentioning to folks about what we're experiencing in the transition from residing in Northampton to residing in Shutesbury, I've frequently used two words to describe some of what it feels like: rhythm and groove. Most of you know I'm a drummer so it mightn't be surprising I'd pick those two to explain this change.
If you're not a musician you might be asking right now: "so what's the difference between rhythm and groove?" Well, it is one of relationship. Rhythm and groove are related, but subtly different. Both are needed to create a certain movement and "feel." Rhythm is a basic musical building block; it creates a sense of momentum. Feel is how the rhythm is interpreted and played to make it feel good, or alive, languid or compelling. Rhythm is an engine in the car; groove how pleasant it is to drive it.
Let me begin with a simple example which should be easy to see related to this idea of finding a new rhythm and settling into a new groove. Since 1990, Tricia and I have virtually lived where we worked. In the case of the Center For Renewal Retreat House on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Simsbury, CT, we lived in the same building as we worked: upstairs was our apartment and downstairs was the retreat space. Similarly, in Northampton, until 10 days ago, we lived on the third floor and have been working on the second floor. In both cases, we merely walked down the stairs to go to work, and back up the stairs to go home--different location same rhythm and groove.
Now, we do this weird thing many of you do called "commuting." We drive to work and drive back home and it takes 35 minutes rather than 35 seconds. That's a different rhythm, and it's not become a groove yet. But, our drive back and forth will soon become a groove when it's established or habitual; it's just part of our usual routine. It feels normal. Normal carries with it a steady predictability that doesn't have to be thought about; it's just normal. Sometimes it does feel good.
There are other parts of our life which still need to settle into a groove as we negotiate this new daily rhythm. We live again in the country and not the city. While living in Shutesbury is much more country than living in Simsbury, living at the retreat house on a 40-acre farm-turned-church surrounded by trees, next to Hop Brook, and with hills to the west, still felt like living in the country. While Northampton is a small city, we've lived right on Main Street at one of its busiest intersections and have seen it get busier and busier over the years, and well into the night, especially on the weekends. The rhythm of Shutesbury is slower, less cluttered, and at the pace of the pastoral. Settling into a groove there has already begun since it fits naturally with our sensibilities and temperaments. Stress subsides in such settings; noise abates, and quiet pervades; (especially at night, most nights). The ancient rhythms of New England woodlands still dominate as the groove.
Not only is our our working finding a new daily rhythm. By living in a quaint manse next to a small 19th century Methodist Church, we feel we're in a home, not a living space. We loved our apartment on Main Street for most of our stay, but it felt less and less a home toward the end. The groove became tired and stale. While we don't own the manse and have no idea how long we'll be there, Tricia has made it a home. She is happy there (she said as much a week ago, and I've not heard her say that in a long time), and the groove she has created reflects a rhythm of sanctuary, welcome, and a fitting design. I feel it too. I'm not displaced or a tenant. I don't and won't own it, but the Holy Spirit has given it for a time of stabilizing and I think healing as well. May it settle into a deep groove.
I feel it important to tell you our move doesn't signify that finding a new daily rhythm will be complete in the next week or two. There are other potential changes on the horizon involving how we and imagine/Northampton move forward. I will not say anything more about that now, but I will write about it soon after the picture takes shape. I know settling into a new groove ministry-wise will take some time. Stay tuned.
Lastly, I need to say something about living on the grounds of Pine Brook Camp. The ministry rhythm there is truly a camp rhythm, It has a robust ministry to kids, teens, church groups, men's and women's groups, etc. Kevin and Janet Williams are the gifted and dedicated leaders of this work (along with an able and dedicated staff, plus volunteers (some long-term), and they are more and more looking at the potential missional opportunities for working with kids who've never had the chance to experience the manifold blessings of a camp with Jesus at the center because of poverty and lack of exposure. We love that groove!
Also, living at camp not only calms our spirits, but it puts us back in a space where the "unforced rhythms of grace" can linger for awhile, whether through the primordial beauty of God's creation, the abiding presence of prayer, worship, or by reflecting on the Person and ways of God. Just being in such a rhythm has invited us to settle into the groove which has shaped our spiritual our lives since 1985. There are an abundance of places to pray, listen, and contemplate on the 120 acres full of waterways, paths, and even an Adirondack hut or two. We'll take full advantage of that abundance this fall.
In sum, it feels like we're where we're supposed to be presently It took awhile to get there this trying year. But being "in place" seems to me to manifest rhythm and groove at it's most fulfilling.
So while we have a way to go, we are getting used to the new rhythm and look forward to settling into a groove which will carry us forward into a deepening life with Jesus and the Kingdom mission we are responsible for.