Saturday, July 19, 2014

Zucchini Love

A sower went out to sow...
Jesus is talking to a huge crowd of people.
There are so many people gathered around him on the beach,
that he gets into a boat and goes out onto the water.

I always thought this behavior was a little strange,
until I moved here to Burlington.

I used to think that Jesus was just not fond of crowds,
that he needed a little space.
That’s why he moved out onto the water.

But some of you who live on the Lake,
have shared with me,
that you can be on the shore and actually hear every word
that someone speaks when they are on a boat
out on the water.
Whether they intend it or not,
their voice comes through crystal clear.

So it makes sense
that Jesus would move out onto the water
so the crowds on shore could hear him better.

Jesus likes to teach
using parables.

Parables are peculiar stories.
They are not narratives
Parables do not take us logically from point A
to point B.

Parables are not fables.
Yes, they want to teach us something,
but parables are not simple stories
with a clear and focused moral point.

Parables call us to pay close attention.
Parables invite us to look for bizarre behavior
in what on the surface appears to be a simple story.

Parables are designed to catch our attention,
to cause us to furrow our brows
and make a strange sort of puzzled face,
and have one of those, “Well, that’s weird!” moments.

You’ve heard of “AHA!” moments?
Well, parables are sort of “HUH?” moments.
A story to hear and then to wonder about,
to ponder,
to roll over in your mind and in your heart,
to try to understand
what is Jesus trying to teach us.

One of the odd things about this gospel reading
is that we have the parable
and then we have an interpretation of the parable.

Having a specific interpretation of a parable is an oxymoron.
You can almost hear Jesus shouting,
“No! No! No! That’s not what I meant at all!”

Most scholars, and I agree with this,
believe that this very specific, allegorical explanation of the parable
probably did not originate with Jesus,
but with someone writing their understanding of this parable
for the early church.

That does not mean the interpretation is without merit,
but it is the parable itself that we are called to ponder.

A sower went out to sow....

Jesus knows his audience.
He knows they are people who understand farming,
and growing things.
These are not people that shop at Hannaford’s or Healthy Living.
These are people who grow their food
or barter fish or other skills for food.
These are people who know where their food comes from.

When Tom and I were first married
and living outside of Blacksburg, Virginia,
we decided to plant a garden.
We wanted to raise as much of our food as possible
We planted a huge garden!
Ridiculously huge.
Isn’t that what first time gardeners often do?

Now, I love zucchini!
So I wanted to be certain
we had plenty.

Now, being very novice gardeners,
we thought that for each seed we planted
we would get one zucchini.

So we planted rows and rows--
loooonnnnnnnggg rows--
of zucchini.

Needless to say, we could have fed all of southwestern Virginia
with our zucchini crop.
I think it was Garrison Keillor that warned people who were friends
with people who grew zucchini
to be sure to lock their car doors at night,
lest they find baskets of zucchini on their backseats in the morning.

I am not sure if it matters if the soil is rocky or scorched
or thorny or marvelous,
zucchini is a crop of magnificent abundance.

A sower went out to sow....
We don’t know what kind of seed this parable sower
is sowing.
Probably not zucchini.

But regardless of the crop,
this parable would have been quite puzzling
to those who were listening.
Why would anyone waste their seed
on ground that does not produce?

Seeds were precious.
Seeds meant food
and survival.

Yet this strange sower seems to randomly toss the seed
everywhere and anywhere.
As if there is plenty for everyone.

Belief in abundance is not the norm.
Not now and not two thousand years ago.
The world preaches scarcity.
Hold on to those seeds.
They’re all you’ve got.
Don’t waste them.
Don’t squander them.

Certainly there are resources we should carefully protect
but this is not where this parable is leading us.

The sower seems to be telling us
that God’s garden is different.

Just as the sower is extravagantly generous,
we too are called to be generous.

To be extravagantly generous with our love and compassion.
To sow it everywhere.
This parable shows a sower
who is generous even to the thorniest of recipients,

Mother Theresa is credited with writing,

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. 
Love them anyway....
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. 
Do good anyway. 
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. 
Be honest and transparent anyway. 
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. 
Build anyway. 
People who really want help may attack you if you help them. 
Help them anyway. 
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. 
Give the world your best anyway.

A sower went out to sow...
God lavishes mercy and grace and love
upon all of us.
God’s love
is as prolific and abundant
as zucchini.

Perhaps this parable is teaching us
that God is a very bad farmer
but a very good God.

+     +    +

Sermon for Year A Proper 10
July 13, 2014
Cathedral Church of St. Paul
Burlington, Vermont
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan

A Cup of Cold Water

We have this absolutely horrifying story in Genesis.
Abraham is going to sacrifice, to kill,
his son Issac.

Because God asks him to do it.

Abraham loves God.
Abraham trusts God,
Abraham believes in God.

Remember, it was pure miracle
that Abraham and Sarah even had a son--
Sarah was no spring chicken when Issac was born.

I can only imagine how beloved this longed for
and prayed for and no doubt doted upon child
was to both mother and father.

And of course,
this is the point of the story.
The story--and I pray it is only a story--
is to teach us a bigger truth--
not a story that is based on fact (( hope)--
but a story to show us
that Abraham,
who trusts God so completely,
is willing to give up that which means more to him
than anything in the world.
His son.

Abraham believes that God is always working for good.
Even when it is impossible for us
to see how that good is being born into the world.

Abraham never gives up on God.

To me, and probably to many of you,
that sacrifice just seems too much.
Too big.
Too heartbreaking.

And yet we know the echo of this story will appear again.
Another father will give up a son to be sacrificed,
to be crucified.
That sacrifice will not be stopped in the nick of time
but once more
life that will overcome death,
goodness will overcome evil.

But the immensity of these two sacrifices
is not the whole of God’s story.

In today’s gospel we hear from Jesus
and he does not say
we must risk and sacrifice everything
to be faithful, to be followers--
but he does ask us to start somewhere.

He does ask that we take a step toward thinking a little less often
about our own needs and desires
and a little more often about the needs of others.

Jesus seems to understand that small things matter, too.
Small sacrifices can make a difference.
Taking the time to welcome someone.
Offering someone a cup of cold water
(Ponder this when you are asked to host coffee hour!)

It is not only the small things that we give,
but also the small things we receive.

We need to pay attention.
To always pay attention.
Whoever welcomes you...
whoever does even a small thing for you or for me,
we need to take the time to look,
to look and see the face of Christ
in simple acts of kindness.

This past Tuesday
I had the privilege--
and it was indeed a privilege--
of going to visit JUMP.

I had the privilege of spending the morning
with some of the outstanding volunteers
from this Cathedral and other churches
who volunteer  each week
at the JUMP drop-in emergency center,

just in case you don’t know,
 because I did not
when I first arrived in this city of prolific acronyms--
JUMP stands for Joint Urban Ministry Project.

It was founded almost 30 years ago
and is supported by 25 area religious congregations.
JUMP strives to assist people with their basic needs--
food, clothing, a tank of gas or a bus pass.

Basic needs.

There is another basic need we all share.
To be treated with respect, with kindness.
To be given a cup of cold water--
both literally and metaphorically.

Right now because of limited resources,
only 11 households can be served each day at JUMP.
Others are turned away.
Gently, but turned away none the less.

That doesn’t seem like many or much.

At one point of the morning,
I heard one of the volunteers say to a young mother,
as he described to  her what could be offered to her,
he said, “I’m sorry. I know it isn’t very much.
To which she softly replied,
 “But it is something. 

And it makes a difference.”

Whoever gives even a cup of cold water...

There is more than water offered. There is a table set with light refreshments,
little muffins, tea and coffee. Hospitality.

There is a cart with books--books for adults and books for children.
They are free for the taking.  Generosity.

As we go about our daily lives,
days which are abundant for most of us in so many ways,
we must not forget what we are called to do,
how we are called to give and to serve.
We may not be able to make a super-sized sacrifice
but we can start somewhere.

Don’t ever thiink these families who come to JUMP have it easy.
Ask yourself how well you would do on receiving a $ 40 food card
to last you and your family of four three months?

People of faith came together and created JUMP
and people of faith come together and show up and meet people
and welcome people
and try to offer what they can--
a bag of groceries, a dozen diapers, a voucher to put $ 10 of gas in your car--
a cup of cold water.
And an overflowing abundance of love.

My morning at JUMP was eye-opening.
In some ways it broke my heart.
But in other ways it filled my heart to overflowing.

Jesus knew what he was talking about.
A welcome.
A cup of cold water.
Whatever we can offer makes a difference.

One of my favorite children’s books
is HORTON HEARS A WHO by Dr. Seuss.
Horton is an elephant
and one day while splashing in a pool of water
he sees this little speck of dust floating through the air--
and then he hears that tiny speck of dust talking to him.
Horton realizes that there must be a very small person
living on that very small speck of dust.

Horton then discovers that the tiny speck of dust
is actually a small planet,
home to a community called Whoville.
It’s where the Whos live.
Horton is asked by their mayor to help protect the teeny tiny planet
and Horton says he will,
over and over repeating,
“ a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Sometimes the world can overlook the people who seem small-
those who are poor or powerless,
those who are living on the far edges of our busy,
self-important lives.

Horton happily agrees to help,
and Horton does protect Whoville,
sometimes at great cost to himself.
(You’ll have to read the book
if you want to know the whole story).

But the reason that book came to mind
is what Horton kept saying over and over and over--
a person’s a person no matter how small.

I went to JUMP this week
and saw every person that came through the door joyfully welcomed,
treated with dignity and respect.
No one was judged unimportant or small.
There were a lot of Hortons reaching out to help the Whos.

Jesus tells us that each one of us matters.
Jesus calls each of us to do small acts of kindness and love,
especially to those the world seems to have forgotten,
especially for those who have almost given up,
on themselves.

In the Genesis story,
Abraham called that place of sacrifice,
“The LORD will provide.”

Many of us enjoy great abundance in our lives.
How we use and how we share that abundance
defines who we are, how we see God
and how we see others.

Helen Keller once said,

I am only one, but still I am one. 
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; 
and because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

It is often in the giving
that we receive the greatest gifts.
It is often when we offer a cup of cold water to others
that our own thirst is also quenched.

+     +     +

Sermon for Year A Proper 8
June 29, 2014
Cathedral Church of St. Paul
Burlington, Vermont
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost 2014

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost
June 8, 2014

Are you okay?

Earlier this week I had lunch downtown with a new friend.
After lunch we said goodbye to one another and she headed one direction
down the sidewalk 
and I headed the other.

Now I was in a hurry.
I had a meeting back at the church
and as I walked I was searching through my purse,
looking for my phone to check my messages.
I was definitely not paying attention.

Then the toe of my shoe hit the edge of uneven pavement on the sidewalk
and I went flying.

I knew sooner or later gravity would have its way with me
and down I would go.
down I went,
as if I was sliding into home plate in the eleventh inning--
only home plate was the rather unforgiving cement of the sidewalk.

As I went down,
I heard the booming voice of a man, sitting at the bar
that has the window that opens right onto the street,
and he’s shouting,
as I went flying by!

As I crashed into the sidewalk,
I could only imagine the headline
in the Burlington Free Press:
New Cathedral Dean seen facedown on sidewalk outside of bar.

Or perhaps
Dean filled with new wine.

Just as the apostles were accused when the Holy Spirit filled them
that day of Pentecost.

For me, it was neither alcohol 
nor the Holy Spirit that took me down,
but that fall this past week
certainly helped me empathize with those disciples
who were accused of something that never happened.
Accused because people did not understand
what WAS happening.

They weren’t drunk.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning
as Peter reminds everyone.

Yet something mysterious happened.
The disciples seem to have new abilities--
they are speaking in every language known to man.
The Word is being spread to everyone’s ears.

There was that rush of wind,
those dancing flames of fire.
What on earth just happened?

Remember Easter?
Remember 40 days after Easter,
scripture tells us that Jesus ascended.
He went UP.
Up to heaven.

And now, Pentecost--
50 days after Easter--
the Greek word pentecoste--
simply translates as the word “fiftieth”.
Fifty days after Easter, on Pentecost ,
the Holy Spirit descends.
Scripture tells us the Spirit comes DOWN 
from heaven.

Jesus goes UP.
The spirit comes DOWN.
Just as Jesus promised.

Jesus promised his disciples--and us--
that he would always be present with us.

Jesus promised his disciples--and us--
that he would send an advocate to be with us.

That advocate has arrived.
The Holy Spirit blows in to set our hearts on fire
with the love of God.
To remind us that we are loved beyond reason or measure.
To let us know that no matter what happens,
we are not alone.

Today we will baptize Julien
and the Spirit --often symbolized as a descneding dove--
will come down and kiss this baby.
You may not see it
but Julien will be 
embraced as Christ’s own forever today. the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Even experiences we may not be able to rationally understand
transform us.

Before that rushing wind and those flames of fire
and the speaking in tongues happened,
the apostles were much like any other group of semi-organized followers.
From what we know,
they had been together less than three years.
They hung out with Jesus, they did what he told them
(most of the time) 
and they helped when people came to Jesus
for healing and blessing.  
When crowds gathered to hear Jesus speak,
the disciples helped out,
they passed around baskets of fish and loaves of bread

But now they are without Jesus.
There is no physical presence to give them direction or confidence.
The left-behind apostles are scared, confused and rather aimless.

What now? must have been the question that rested on their hearts.

The day of Pentecost changes this.
It is the beginning of their formation--and ours--
into the body of Christ.
The questions that rest on their hearts are replaced by flames of fire.

St. Ignatius always said to those leaving to go out as missioners,
Go, and set the world on fire!

The disciples are now ready to do just that.
And they know they can.
Because they know that Jesus kept his promise.
They are not alone.

We are never abandoned by God.
This does not mean we will never suffer or doubt.
What it does mean 
is that we are never outside the realm of God’s love.
No one is.
No one.

I have thought often about that flying fall I took earlier this week.
We tend to turn moments like that over and over in our minds.

Some of a different theological tradition might have me pondering
where I went wrong to have Satan make me fall.
Someone without any faith tradition might question me
and ask,
“Well, if God is so great,
why didn’t the Holy Spirit jump in and stop you from falling?”

But I think the Holy Spirit was right there with me.
The Spirit was there in the voice of the man 
who shouted out from the bar,

Sometimes we are intensely aware of God’s presence in silence.
But the Holy Spirit can also blow in like a rushing wind,
or light up a room with a blaze,
or be heard in the shout of a man sitting on a bar stool.

We are never outside the realm of God’s love and care.
God is always concerned about us.
Always wanting us to check in.
Are you okay?

Really. Are you okay?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

This is the day!

Installation Day
May 31, 2014

Today I will be installed as the Twenty-third Rector and the Sixth Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, Vermont. It is a glorious day here. So many people have worked so hard and traveled so far to make this day the celebration it will no doubt be. It all starts with brass and timpani at 5 pm.

I slept well until about 2:30 AM when my mind suddenly began making the "oh-no" lists--oh no, did I forget to tell Anthony to block off a parking place for the Bishop? oh-no, did we ever find a copy of the diocesan canons? oh-no, do we have enough seats reserved for the presenters, for family friends, for clergy? You know those "oh-no" lists; all we adults have made those lists on various occasions.

I was not willing to start my day at 2:30 AM so eventually I fell back asleep, to later awaken to a messaged video from our four year old granddaughter Penelope shouting, "Congratulations! Congratulations!" It was such a heart felt and enthusiastic greeting (do four year olds greet any other way?) that I just kept playing it over and over. Congratulations!  Yes! What a day this is!

I found this photo of now Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby when he was the Dean of the Cathedral in Liverpool. He was jumping down the side of the Cathedral as part of a fund raising event. Just to be clear, I don't plan to do this today--or ever--but I thought it was a perfect photo for how I feel today.

I am excited, delighted, truly overjoyed and I know the music, the flowers, the liturgy, the sermon (thank you, dear Lauren Winner), the reception, all the people present and all those who are not present but praying, are a true blessing to me and to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.

But the photo also reminds me of the touch of terror I feel in beginning this journey. A great number of people have such complete faith in me, in my leadership, in my vision.  There is that little voice inside that says, "Oh gee, I sure hope you don't disappoint everyone, Jeanne!"

And of course I hope I don't. But the good news is that I am not on this journey alone. The Cathedral is an alive and dynamic parish filled with active and committed people of God. They have been doing amazing work long before I arrived. There is also a gifted and dedicated staff, a supportive Diocesan and faith community. Plus I have an amazing family and good friends. There are so many blessings to  number.

The best news is that God is the one who holds the rope. God is the one who will prevent my crash and smash, because God is the Creator and I, along with the Cathedral community, have been lovingly invited to be co-creators in this marvelous journey. It is a wonderful invitation.

It is important to realize that all our faith journeys will have ups and downs. It's important to be tethered by a strong rope. There is only one who holds the rope and that is God. My biggest challenge (it always is) will be to remember to enjoy the journey, relish the relationships that come each day, take in the grand view, trust, leap, and joyfully shout WHEEEEEE! That's what I will be shouting inside as the procession begins.

And yes, remember to be grateful. Be grateful for all that has been and for all that is and for all that will be. Thanks be to God!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ascension Day 2014

Ascension Day Sermon
Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, Vermont
Thursday, May 29, 2014
The Rev. Jeanne Finan


We have this beautiful gossamer banner
created by artist Judith McManus
that appeared in the window for Easter.
The banner proclaims: He is risen.

One early weekday morning
I was sitting here in the nave--
thinking, pondering, praying--
and I found myself staring at this banner.

As I looked at it
I began to imagine....
to imagine
that if I were technolgically saavy,
wouldn’t it be awesome
for the Ascension
 to have this banner move.

He is risen would go up up up
and float away and move through the windows
and rise up into the clouds.
Above and over the penthouse floor of the Courtyard Marriott--
up up up
and over Lake Champlain
and we would all stand and rush to the window
and see the banner floating away until it was nothing but a tiny speck
and then we would see,
written in the sky--
NOT Surrender Dorothy--
 but instead--
we would see--
...while he was blessing them, he...was carried up into heaven.

While he was blessing them, he...was carried up into heaven.
Ascension Day.

Only in my imagination am I technologically saavy.
But isn’t it wonderful to imagine,
that we, like the apostles on this day,
receive this blessing, too,
as Jesus is carried up into heaven.

While he was blessing them, he...was carried up into heaven.

We really cannot stop ourselves from looking UP
on Ascension Day.
it says it right there in scripture--
he was carried UP into heaven.

But as twenty-first century people
we have a hard time visualizing and understanding
and believing in a literal Ascension.

It was easier in the first century
because the Hebrew people had always placed God
up above the dome of the heavens.
After all, the world was flat,
Greek mythology of the day always placed the gods
high up on a mountain top,
ruling over the earth.

These were the cultural influences of the time of Jesus,
so the ascension of Jesus into the heavens
would have made sense in that time.

For us, however,
flying up into the sky
brings images of Superman soaring off into space
or being beamed up by Scotty into the Starship Enterprise.
Those are our cultural images today
of someone being lifted into the clouds.

I think a better image for the Ascension
comes from Pope Francis.
He describes the Ascension
as if Jesus has climbed to the top of  a high mountain,
but before he left,
he tied a rope to our waist that connects to the rope around his own waist.
We are connected.
We are never without help,
never without hope.

We make promises in our Baptismal Covenant,
and say,
I will, with God’s help.
God’s help is that rope.
That unbreakable rope
links us to the holy and to hope.

The Ascension really is about hope.

Remember how distraught the disciples were
after the crucifixion?
They felt, just like we do after an unspeakable tragedy,
heartbroken, smothered by despair.
Because this was certainly not how they imagined it all ending.
And it felt like the end.

But then remember,
Jesus comes back.
And the stories in the Bible have him meeting the disciples
on the Emmaus Road and in the upper room
and even cooking fish,
inviting his friends to come and have supper.
And the disciples know
that it is not over.
The crucifixion, which is the overpowering of good by evil,
is not the end of the story.

The Ascension is not about standing around,
looking up,
longing after what once was.
The Ascension is really about looking AROUND.
Paying attention to what is happening in the world
and to where the Gospel,
in both word and action,
is so desperately needed.

The Ascension is about hope.
The disciples finally get it,
they understand.
God is always with us,
but we are the ones here on earth.
We are the hands and the feet and the eyes and the ears
and the voices that are here.
The Ascension calls us to stop looking up now,
and start looking around.

We do what we do as this Cathedral community
because we have hope.
We have big hopes and we have small hopes
but together we believe that God has put us here in this world,
in this community,
to make a difference--
in the lives of others
and in our own lives.

We can help goodness overcome evil.
We can live our lives to show
that love is always stronger than hate.
And when we get discouraged we just tug on the rope
wrapped around our waist,
the rope that connects us to the top of the mountain.
I will, with God’s help.

Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic, prayed:

You have no body on earth but ours.
No hands but ours.
No feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
must look out on the world.
Ours are the feet by which you may still go about doing good.
Ours are the hands with which you bless people now.
Bless our minds and our bodies
that we may be a blessing to others.

Dear friends in Christ,
there is nothing wrong with looking up.
But we are here on earth for the time being
and we also need to pay attention
to where the world needs us right now,
here on earth.

We need to hold on to the rope tied around our waist,
and open our eyes to what is all around us.

Just look around.
Just look around.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In the words of Jesus....


If you have ever seen the Monty Python film, Life of Brian, you get the joke here--people at the back of the crowd when Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount, can't quite hear. Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers...", but by the time it reaches the back of the crowd and someone asks the person next to him, "What did he say?" The person replies, "He said, 'Blessed are the cheese makers..."'. I always laugh at this film, especially this line.

Living in Vermont now, where they say there are more cheese makers per capita than any place else in the country (I think there are at least 40 artisan cheese makers in the state), you come to have great affection for these dedicated cheese makers.

I decided it could be great fun to try a different Vermont cheese each week. So this week I started with a cheese named MOSES SLEEPER, made by Jasper Hill. Now I am no cheese expert but I love cheese and so did my mom...she used to joke that we must be part rat! (Speak for yourself, Mom!).
This cheese, made from cow's milk and aged 4 to 6 weeks, comes in small rounds (I think they refer to them as discs) and reminds me of a Camembert.

With a little research I also discovered that the name, Moses Sleeper, was a real person-- a Revolutionary War scout in Vermont. Jasper Farms makes another cheese named Constant Bliss who was also a scout with Moses Sleeper during this same period.

The cellars at Jasper Hill is a 22,000 square foot underground facility created as an innovative and ideal environment for the aging of cheeses. I'd like to visit there one day. It's up in the part of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom. Seriously. That is really the name. So cool.

So remember....this blog is not just a place where I post sermons, but I also share some everyday  ponderings as well. And as they say, indeed, "Blessed are the cheese makers!"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Where's the Dean?

Where's the Dean?
Ira Allen Chapel, UVM

One evening back in early April I was reading a Naomi Shihab Nye poem and decided to take a break and google this poet, who is truly one of my favorites. I wondered if by any amazing possibility, she might be coming to Burlington or somewhere close by to do a reading. Much to my surprise, she was. In fact, she was coming the very next day! I was stunned--and delighted--and determined to go.

Naomi Shihab Nye was coming as part of the Full Circle Festival. I could not attend any other festival events, but I was determined that I would hear Naomi Shihab Nye read and speak on Friday, April 11.

And I did. She read from her poems and also read poems from other poets. She gave out little snippets of her poems and suggested we tuck them in our pockets to pull out when we needed a few poetic words. 

After reading poems, she presented the keynote for the Festival. Her keynote was titled, "A Shadow or a Friend: How Words Travel with Us." She shared her reflections about writing, specifically about writing poetry and about her growth as a poet. It was a lovely, lovely Friday evening--the perfect end to a very full and busy week.

The keynote was held in the Ira Allen Chapel on the campus of the University of Vermont. It is easy to find because of the gold domed bell tower. Arriving early (I am perpetually early), I sat and read a bit of the history of the chapel which was completed in 1926.

Even though it looks like a chapel, has pew seating like a chapel, and was originally built to serve as a chapel, there was a clear message sent with these words: "Ira Allen Chapel is not used for religious services." The statement was so blunt, it was as if UVM wanted to really separate itself from that aspect of the chapel's history--almost like saying, "We don't participate in such foolishness any longer." I found that a bit curious. But it was also somewhat of a relief, as the box pews are (as most are) notably uncomfortable. I was happy to find a folding chair near the front (a benefit of being perpetually early). 

It was a very lovely space to hear Naomi Shihab Nye read her words, the words of others and to ponder and reflect about the words that travel with us all, as well as to discover another place in Burlington, Vermont.