by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister         –          July 15, 2017

Did you know that there was a 5th century Irish monk and saint named Brendan who sailed Brendan's voyageacross the Atlantic Ocean in a boat made out of seaweed on a wild quest to find heaven on earth? I grew up hearing this popular story that most Irish folks know as, “Brendan’s voyage.” This blog post is titled, “Brendan’s Voyage” but I actually want to tell you about MY voyage, not the saint’s. I imagine you might be wondering where I’ve gone in the weeks following Dale’s return. Though finding the Kingdom of God on earth would be lovely, and though I think we should all keep looking for it like the saint, I will simply be going to Ireland. And, not to be boring, but I will not be going in a boat made out of sea-weed. I will be flying Norwegian airlines!

Regardless, the summer has been filled with meaningful voyages! Just last week I had the privilege of being invited on a walk with a brilliant educator, Marco T. McWilliams, and several members of our church community for one of the, “Black Studies Community Walking Tours,” being offered in Providence out of the historic Olney Street Baptist Church. As part of the tour, our guide explained to us the concept of, “Sankofa” expressed in the image of the “Sankofa bird.” The Sankofa bird has a long neck looking and reaching way behind her sankofa bird 2to the egg she carries on her back. The bird symbolizes the act of taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the application of the salvaged wisdom. This is “Sankofa,” the idea that we must look back sometimes to recover what has been forgotten.

On our Voyage through Providence’s historic African-American neighborhood we visited oftentimes unmarked landmarks. Hearing the stories of these places shined light on the omitted parts of our history that we need to witness if we are going to heal the deep wounds of oppression, discover wholeness as a society, and invite God’s realm to come closer to us on earth. Looking back and hearing stories we don’t often hear offered all of us who participated a taste of the character, wisdom, and resilience of those who have struggled for justice in the past. Looking and reaching back on this walking voyage enlightened and empowered us to understand and respond to our present reality. The walk in and of itself seemed to me a beautiful microcosm of what we call, “Beloved Community,” at church. The tours are being held throughout the summer and I highly recommend these on-going community walking tours for all who might be interested and/or able to participate!

The walking tour was a Sankofa experience! In some ways, myIrish Goat journey to Ireland this summer will be like a personal Sankofa experience. For two weeks in August I will be journeying to Ireland to be with family that I haven’t seen in 15 years. I will be voyaging to the Dingle Peninsula in the Republic of Ireland where my Father grew up. I feel privileged to be able to make this journey of reaching back to connect with the beauty of the land and people. I hope to bring back the wisdom of the sights, sounds, and stories of the people and places I encounter in this ancestral place so close to my heart. I will be on foot for most of the journey. Walking, for me, is a spiritual practice. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and author of, “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” teaches the practice of walking meditation, which I am looking forward to doing a lot of for 10 days as I travel the Peninsula. When we practice walking meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that we practice walking5e98e2c945c3e8ba2334bf974c53c0b9 without thinking about our destination. We practice arriving in the present moment with each step and with each mindful breath. When we walk like that, we come more fully alive with awareness, gratitude, and Love. With each step we open more fully to the gift of our life. When we walk like that we touch the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves and around us, right here and right now. Maybe St. Brendan who sailed off to find heaven on earth wasn’t so crazy after all. Wherever we go on all our respective voyages this summer I hope we remember we are always united and connected in Christ’s Love. Let’s all strive to arrive in that Love more deeply with each step we take, wherever we are, wherever we are journeying until our steps guide us back to each other and we arrive together in what the poet, John O’Donahue calls, “the home we never left,” the House of God. See you there! …in August!

Joy and blessings,

Brendan