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Thursday, October 8th, 2015

This month's Word from our Pastor

Pastor Audrey Ward

Here is a link to Audrey's most recent column in the St. Helena Star:

August 2015

Summertime pursuits take us to places familiar as well as strange.  And that’s what my continuing education adventure this year turned out to be. 

     First, visiting a friend in North Georgia who has given me shelter when I traveled to Cherry Log for learning sessions at the feet of Fred Craddock.  Her name is Annie Lee Hardee Tate; she has a big country house at the end of a dirt road high in the Appalachian Mountains.  The front porch overlooks a pond and a bucolic meadow, roamed by deer and their fragile offspring.  Bird feeders hanging along her sprawling porch welcome two families of cardinals every year plus countless other tiny feathered beauties.  An enchanted peace.

     This year, I was making a special effort to see her since she’s now 92 and her family is reluctant to let her be so far from her home in Florida;  removed from instant help. (At this writing, she’s already back in Florida.)

     After that, came the extreme experience:  Songwriter’s camp at the Highlander, New Market, Tennessee. In January, I’d heard the legendary John McCutcheon (said to be the successor to Pete Seeger) perform and learned of the Camp. 

     “Stretch,” I said to myself.  What is it that Emily Dickinson writes?  I dwell in possibility. Exactly.

          Fifteen of us gathered in the octagon-shaped, glass-walled room overlooking a nearby farm, an adjoining wood, and a continuing echo of the Smoky Mountains far into the distance.  We sat in a circle of high-backed rocking chairs, beginning every session with at least one song. Probably ten of the fifteen were experienced songwriters and performers who all brought guitars, a fiddle, a ukulele and a banjo.  But McCutcheon’s generosity includes everyone, at any level.  He regularly reaches for creativity by teaching songwriting to any local third grade class he happens to be near. 

     We not only learned a lot, some performed and everybody sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken;” “ Eyes on the Prize.”  Sensational experience. 

     Finally, on the way to the airport in Nashville, I detoured to Madisonville, Kentucky, and spent two nights with former SHUMC members Amy Wilson-Moghina and her children, Alexa (pictured) and Austin. (Adrian is away working for the summer on Nantucket.)  We had an early 4th of July celebration with her parents and grandparents who all live on the same grounds.  It felt like a homecoming. 

     Exactly a week from that dinner, after I was back in California, Amy’s grandfather, Craig Riddle, completed his earthly life at 92 and winged away through the open door of his heart.  What a privilege it was to know him even for so short a time.

     We never know.  Summer trips transport us.  They lead us into learning and experiences we didn’t imagine.  My job, I’ve decided, is to continue that learning all my life long.  Remembering.  Writing a journal helps—notes about our lives—but most important is to live it.  Yep, live this one life and love it, no matter what.

as ever, with love,




With Alexa Moghina                               Annie Lee Hardee's Meadow

Songwriter's Camp

 Here is a link to Audrey's website for her ongoing blog about her memoir
















Don't you just love it when the truth pops out of your own surprised mouth?  I wonder if that's like the blues singer - Keb Mo - promises, that it's "jus God tryin ta git your attention."

Anna Quindlan writes a moment like this into her latest memoir, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake."  After her country house was barely missed by a tornado, her college-aged daughter called to say she had been frantic regarding her mother's safety, worried her mother would die young.  And Anna quickly responded, "Oh honey, I'm too old to die young, now!"
Aha. There it is. And what an interesting marker for our years:  too old to die young.  Which means, of course, still here, alive in the world for whatever will come.

May Sarton, the poet, speaks of "the inexhaustible flame" that kept her mother alive until she died.  Going on, in the poem "August Third"  (Printed in full below) to say, "if you taught me one thing, it was never to fail life."  And I pass this on to all of us as our calling, every day.

See you in church,


         August Third

These days
Lifting myself up
Like a heavy weight,
Old camel getting to her knees,
I think of my mother
And the inexhaustible flame
That kept her alive
Until she died.

She knew all about fatigue
And how one pushes it aside
For staking up the lilies
Early in the morning,
The way one pushes it aside
For a friend in need,
For a hungry cat.

Mother, be with me.
Today on your birthday
I am older than you were
When you died
Thirty-five years ago.
Thinking of you
The old camel gets to her knees,
Stands up,
Moves forward slowly
Into the new day.

If you taught me one thing
It was never to fail life.




Here is prose poem about joy and plenty from Mary Oliver in her most recent book “Swan,” seems like one Virginia might write. It’s the one she expresses through her 90 + years of life all the time.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be.  We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

 ~ St Helena United Methodist Church
St Helena, California, USA