There was a chill in the air despite the fact that we were in Arizona in August. The sky invited us to pray as it warmed with the pink-purple-blue glow of the sun rising from behind the mountains to the east. Deacon Paula Hansen, a native Navajo and deacon in the Episcopal Church, led us in prayer and the traditional corn pollen blessing on Thursday morning of our Diocesan Youth Mission Trip to Fort Defiance, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation. Our gathering place was blessed with burning of sage and sprinkled with Holy Water. Deacon Paula’s voice called forth in us gratitude for a night of sleep and refreshment then turned to asking God’s blessing on us and our day ahead. She showed us how to sprinkle corn pollen on our heads for wisdom, touch our tongues with the pollen to bless our speaking, and sprinkle it in front of us to guide us on our path. Then we silently prayed and watched as the sun burst forth over the mountains and fill the earth with its light & warmth. My heart was filled with gratitude, peace and love as we dwelt with God’s Spirit in this holy place.
Just remembering the holiness and blessedness of that morning makes me want to start each day with such quiet stillness and prayer. Yet now that I am back to my normal, everyday life I’m not so good at pausing and listening in the morning. The Navajo people have rituals that remind them to slow down and be present to the Creator. And we, too, as leaders in the Church are called to slow down and be present to our God. It’s hard to listen when we are always talking or in a meeting or busy in some other way. But as we begin a new program year, it is a great time to place those meaningful rituals as touchstones in our lives. I may not have corm pollen to sprinkle on my path but I do pray as I make the sign of the cross on my forehead, lips and heart: “God, be in my mind, in my words and in my heart. Amen.”
As leaders in the Body of Christ may we be renewed and strengthened for a new season of ministry in the Church and beyond.
The Rev. Carol W. Sedlacek
Missioner for Camping and Youth Ministries