On Saturday, Will and I brought a couple out of town friends apple picking in Warwick, NY. I’ve known Warwick for a long time but I hadn’t been there in years. I grew up attending Camps Farthest Out (CFO), a Christian family camp held at the Warwick Conference Center. The vision of CFO was to shape a week around the transformative work and joy of prayer. We walked the grounds on Saturday and it was as if every rock, tree, and mountain view were alive with memories. The towering oak tree at the entryway has heard so many of my prayers from grammar school to college. I walked that hilltop road overlooking the mountains with my grandmother on warm summer nights. Standing there looking at the mountain we called Sleeping Giant, I could hear the memory of her voice more clearly.
I remember that at the beginning of each week of camp we were asked to choose a prayer partner with whom you would spend time in prayer each day. I don’t remember any human prayer partners, but I remember the oak tree, the mountains, the brook in the woods. Turns out they’ve been holding my prayerful words and memories all these years.
At the White Plains Presbyterian Church’s Prayer Breakfast last week, we wondered together about the Holy Spirit and prayer. We read the Romans 8:18-27 in which all creation and we are groaning as we await liberation. We are partners in prayer with creation and the Holy spirit intercedes for all of us with wordless groans.
This prayer partnership makes a difference, if we take it seriously. If we choose the tree outside our front door as a prayer partner, we might become more aware of just how hard this summer was not only for humans facing a violent world but for trees living through the drought. We might shift our water consumption to a more significant degree. We might understand more deeply that water is sacred, that water is life. We might be in North Dakota (or in New York!) right now standing with Native American Nations in defense of the earth. Let’s see where creation and the Spirit lead us…
(Photo caption: Will with one of the generous sap-producing Maple trees on the Stony Point Center campus)
Sarah Henkel is a Teaching Elder. She is a resident at Stony Point Center and member of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith community of Jews, Muslims, and Christians dedicated to the practice and study of radical hospitality, justice, and nonviolence.