A New Season of Activities and the Gift of Time
August 29, 2023 by Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort
At this point in the fall when you are skimming this devotional I imagine the program year is well underway. Kickoff, rally day or homecoming day, a distant memory buried under the weekly calendar of events that lists all the activities of the church ranging from AA meetings to committee meetings, choir rehearsals to staff check-ins, youth fellowship and fellowship hour. Of course, we can’t forget worship on Sunday mornings.
And yet, I began writing this in the early part of August, when it is slow around the church, and the kids are not yet back to school. The days feel like one continuous day. But I’m sitting in what has become one of my favorite spots to write and reflect: the gazebo at the park where my youngest’s baseball team practices a couple of times a week. Where I write allows for a touch of a breezeway, which is especially welcome after a hot or humid Mid-Atlantic summer day. A few trees act as an extra canopy around me. The leaves filter the early evening light onto me in gentle ways. I am close enough to see some of the action and far enough away that I won’t get hit by a pop fly.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Massanetta Middle School conference with a handful of youth from our church, singing and playing, and now it feels like a whole other world as afterwards I found myself traveling through multiple time zones to catch up with high schoolers from our church who were at the Youth Fest in Iona. No energizers in the Abbey chapel but the persistent sound of the island’s bleating sheep continues to ring in my ears. At this moment, as I finish this writing, I’m sitting in the sunroom of the manse, our home, remembering how it always felt like at least dusk or dawn the way the light lingers in Iona, as I gaze out at a darkening sky above a row of purple and pink hydrangeas becoming overtaken by the wild summer ivy that is relentless these days. Especially if one does not keep up with the weeding.
Time is strange. This is something we discovered in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic. How time compresses, and slows down, and still somehow seems to slide by like the whisper of wind through the trees. As pastors, and preachers, I’m always a bit mystified and in awe of the way we play in the stream of time: how we prepare for Advent and Christmas in the fall, and Lent and Holy Week/Easter shortly after the New Year’s resolutions have faded away. We slide between seasons celebrating all the saints who have departed from our midst over the last year even as we look towards Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. We visit older folks in homes and facilities holding their hands in prayer until suddenly they are gone. Babies we’ve baptized show up with their own babies. Stories and images seem transposed onto one another. Most days, I feel I am occupying multiple spaces, times and seasons, even as I seek to be present in the here and now.
I felt compelled to write about time because I was inspired by a post that popped up in my email from The Marginalian, by Maria Popova, who provides a regular “record of the reckoning — a one-woman labor of love, exploring what it means to live a tender, thoughtful life of purpose and gladness, wonder-smitten by reality, governed by the understanding that creativity is a combinatorial force: ideas, insights, knowledge, and inspiration acquired in the course of being alive and awake to the world, composited into things of beauty and substance we call our own.” To simply read Popova’s engagement is inspiring in and of itself, but I offer what she offered that day when I went down a rabbit hole of her entries, which is a poem by Ursula K. Le Guin, perhaps mildly apropos to us church folk who speak in hymns:
HYMN TO TIME
Time says “Let there be”
every moment and instantly
there is space and the radiance
of each bright galaxy.
And eyes beholding radiance.
And the gnats’ flickering dance.
And the seas’ expanse.
And death, and chance.
Time makes room
for going and coming home
and in time’s womb
begins all ending.
Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.
All of this for me, as I struggle with the crush of the weight of time—and not only time, but responsibilities, along with what lies ahead, and what lies forgotten, and then all those seeming interruptions to our ever increasingly shorter days—is, at the risk of sounding cliché, a reminder to stay open. Time makes room for it all: the meandering, the skimming, the depths. Perhaps we will feel it all, or maybe we’ll only feel an ounce of it, but the wonder is in the seeing. Part of our pastoral call is the miraculous work of putting to words what we see, whether in proclamation or over a pot of tea, no matter how difficult or strange, with what may seem, at best, like a shaky trust, but a connection to and confirmation by God’s very presence. Do you see the possible ways things, moments, and creatures are tied together? Or a part of a bigger whole? A larger beauty?
Maybe I’m being too sentimental thinking that this is the larger work. To see. To feel. To be awake to the world. For example, the buzz of the church full of cheerful people on Sunday mornings, the buzz of the mosquitos around me in the gazebo as I watch my youngest hit a line drive, the buzz of the ferry surging though the Sound of Mull—like a chorus, a hymn. To which I can only breathe: Thanks be to God.
Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort is co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Maryland along with her spouse Rev. Dr. Andrew Kort. She has written and published for various venues, including Time Magazine, Huffington Post, Christian Century, and Sojourners, and she is the author of Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (Fortress Press, 2018) and co-author with Andrew of Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family, and Ministry (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014). Previously, Kim-Kort has served as associate pastor for College Hill Presbyterian Church in Easton, Pa. (2006-2011), and United Presbyterian Church in Flanders, N.J. (2005-2006). She was director and co-founder of the UKirk Campus Ministry program at Indiana University from 2012-2017.