Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stained Glass Kelp Forest

Stained Glass Kelp Forest

Would anyone notice if we switched these two windows?  If we took the Aquarium’s Kelp Forest window to the La Selva Community Church up the coast and placed it over the altar?  And then moved La Selva’s baptism window to the Aquarium?

The Kelp Forest window, like stained glass windows in temples, mosques and churches, puts a frame around color and light and motion to tell a story, a story of bounty and beauty.

And like the Aquarium’s magic windows into the deep, La Selva’s baptism window uses the sea, and a seashell, a symbol of baptism since the catacomb murals, to tell the story of blessing and new life.

Medieval stained glass told faith stories to a largely illiterate people and enhanced the beauty of the stone buildings.  The Aquarium’s habitat windows tell ocean stories to us ocean illiterates.

Both use beauty to open our hearts and instruct our minds.

My two dear ministry colleagues Tish Scargill and Jane Grady turned me on to this connection of aquarium exhibit and church stained glass. 

They were part of a group of religious leaders I took on a “spiritual tour” of the Aquarium.  Before entering, I asked them to imagine they were about to enter a cathedral and to consider what images and feelings might be similar in both buildings.   Tish said, "I love the way stained glass windows in a church tell a story with beauty.  I get the same feeling looking at the Kelp Forest exhibit."

Tish directs the catechetical ministries of the Monterey Catholic Diocese, and is a great supporter of Blue Theology.  Last summer she helped organize our Blue Theology week for youth from the farm labor camps of rural Monterey County.  She knows the power of both beauty and story.

Jane is pastor of the La Selva Church and worked with the local stained glass artist John Joy several years ago to design 12 new windows for the church.  Jane says, “John was the fourth stain glass window artist we interviewed and we chose him for a number of reasons--his work was the least traditional and included less blocks of color and more curving, free flowing lines; he listened carefully to us and reflected back what he heard--other artists seemed to have a particular style that wasn't resonating with what we wanted; we experienced his commitment to collaboration with us immediately, which was an absolute "joy", befitting his name; and he understood how we wanted the windows, even in what they were expressing, to echo the natural world around us.

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?
Come worship at the Aquarium or La Selva UCC and experience Blue Theology stories in beauty.  We visit all kinds of ocean holy places on our Blue Theology mission trips and pilgrimages.  I try to tell some ocean beauty stories every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Be in touch.

Kelp Forest photo: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


“Find a time, every day, when you will ‘consider’ – when you will look deeply, attentively, thoughtfully at one thing. Don’t do anything else but that one thing. It may be looking intensely at the leaf of a tree, or a feather, or an icon, or one or two words from Scripture.

“Don’t move on. Stay with it. Look into it. Try to see – to see its inscape.

“You may find it very difficult at first. You may get very bored. But keep looking at it.

“It’s charged – charged with the grandeur of God.”

Every morning I receive a daily email “Word” from the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic community in Cambridge, Mass.

Early Saturday May 20 I read Br. Geoffrey Tristam’s encouragement that we “consider.”  I learned a new word, “inscape.”  I vowed to consider deeply that day.

By 9:30 I was at our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove, greeting 15 folks from the San Lorenzo Community Church UCC who had come to spend a day doing ocean stewardship and spirituality. It was an intergenerational group, from kids to grandparents.

Before we set out for a day of learning and serving, I gave them each (as we do each group) a Blue Theology backpack and notepad.

Ten year old Owen wrote carefully all day in his notebook, as we took a pilgrimage walk by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, stopped four times to offer prayers of wow, help, sorry and thank you, talked at the Aquarium about the amazing diversity in God’s creation and found too much stuff at our beach cleanup that did not belong in nature. 

I told them how I had read Br. Geoffrey on “consider” that very morning.  I said the word’s derivation was “to sit with.”  I encouraged them to consider, to sit with, God’s ocean and one small thing in it, most certainly charged with God’s grandeur.

Owen got it.  He noted it.  He did it.  He sat with.  (Actually he considered way more than one thing.  He considered the harbor seal moms and pups, the hammerhead sharks, the sea otters in the bay, and more.) 

He considered and he was “considerate” of others and of ocean life.  He gave me hope.

We love having groups of all ages spend a day or more at the Blue Theology Mission Station – we hope you’ll consider it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Looking UP

Looking UP

You could label this picture “Ministers lying down on the job.” These folks were part of our Blue Theology Retreat Day for clergy and religious educators last week, and they’re on their backs, looking up at the million-gallon Open Ocean tank at the Aquarium.

But we at the Blue Theology Mission Station call it “Dry scuba diving” and we encourage all our groups to do it, to get a sense of looking UP, rather than DOWN, at sea life.  (Teen youth groups will do this willingly, but I wondered how religious leaders would respond to my suggestions.  Answer – they jumped right in.) 

Being land mammals we tend to picture the ocean as “down there” or “out there.”  It’s very different to look “up there” at giant sea turtles and massive tuna and stalking hammerhead sharks, not to mention swirling schools of tens of thousands of sardines. 

Looking “up there” puts us right there in the picture, in the mix, in the water, one with our sister/brother sea creatures.  Not standing separate and distant on the shore.  And a little vulnerable – there is so much above me. I am not in charge. 

 But “up” is hopeful also, looking up, to the light.

One participant wrote later, “One measure of the importance of the beautiful day is that when the frenzy-on-land starts stirring up my anxiety, I just flash back on the underwater images and
I immediately calm.”

We land mammals also tend to think of God as “up there,” as if the earth were flat and God only lives in the clouds.  Last week we experienced God down there, around here, in the wet dark depths, where God is both down and up.   Many scuba divers tell me, when I describe my ocean ministry, that they know just what I mean, saying “It’s in the quiet dark ocean depths that I feel closest to God.” 

Try looking up.
__________ We have 50 youth and adults coming this summer to Pacific Grove to look up to God and the ocean. Still some room in August.