August 29, 2013

Assembly Keynote Speaker

The Rev. Melinda St. Clair, rector of All Saint’s, El Paso was the keynote speaker at Assembly. She shared part of her faith journey, with reference to St. Teresa of Avila, and the Cloud of Unknowing. (I will not try to recount her personal experiences because they were very moving in person and I didn’t write them down for reference. CD) Her 'babies'-3 Dachshunds and a 'mutt' shared time at Assembly with us and are too cute not to show.
On Friday evening, Mtr. Melinda began by explaining that we are companions on the journey. She offered her stories as to fellow disciples.
Mtr.Melinda talked about the Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th Century guide to contemplative prayer by an unknown author. The author states that our intelligence, though a reflection of the Divine, must be buried in the Cloud of Forgetting because it is corrupted by our humanity. The Active and Contemplative lives are complimentary paths. Often it seems to be God’s irony that an individual is made one way, yet called to the opposite path.

To be open to God and to the mystical experience of God, esp. in contemplative prayer, you need to open yourself and be genuine. According the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, we are never abandoned or left alone to face life so it is OK to be open and genuine.
Plan making is not the mystical way. For that, surrender is necessary although what we surrender is different for each of us. We do not know how our life will touch someone else. We need to remain dedicated to our individual way of prayer in order to be in relationship with God. That is the start of the journey.

On Saturday afternoon, Mtr. Melinda continued her presentation by reference to Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 12:2 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.” She noted that the church needs to reclaim the mystical way of prayer, which is Contemplative prayer.
Centering prayer is a way to draw closer to God. However, it is essentially a human effort, which can only go so far. In Centering Prayer we show up, get quiet, release distractions, and try to meet God. Contemplative prayer, on the other hand, originates with God’s effort when we surrender and become both humble and passive. In true contemplative prayer, God will come and ‘sweep the corners clean’ through God’s action, not our own. We will encounter all of humanity, both the good and the bad, in and through God.

Centering Prayer and Contemplative can be compared to two ways of getting water. The Centering way is like an aqueduct, built by human hands to get water someplace, while the mystical or Contemplative way is like a natural spring that takes no work. This is a gift and we receive it with humility.

Contemplative Prayer will allow us to begin to “share the Passion of Christ”, which is the Love for All Creation that our Lord felt, even in the midst of agony. We are called to join in that Passion. Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he stated, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24). In that sense we are called to com-passion…to sharing the Passion/the Love of God.
In her final meditation, Mtr. Melinda returned to the Interior Castle of Teresa of Avila, which she had mentioned on Friday evening. Melinda stressed that we have to weigh prayer experiences and visions against scripture, reason, and tradition. Prayer, esp. contemplative prayer, is a supernatural encounter with God, where we embrace the mystery of paradox and seek surrender instead of achievement.

Teresa of Avila says “we enter the Interior Castle through prayer and Grace determines the depth toward Divine union [we attain].” In the Interior Castle, we are each taught in the way we need to be taught.
Human effort can take us through the first 3 levels of prayer are active (or ordinary prayer), starting with seeking God through Centering Prayer, Prayer practices, and Works. The fourth-seventh levels (mansions) in the Castle are mystical or based in Contemplative prayer. This is prayer that is put into us, rather than our work to try and make a prayer or do works. The soul travels through desire for Union with God, where the faculties are silent and the soul is in God. At the 5th level the soul is Betrothed to God and the highest level is spiritual union or marriage of the Soul and God.

Throughout the journey in the Interior Castle, the soul is drawn ever deeper into a desire for union and solitude to hear God in the soul. A good prayer is to ask, “Tell me the Truth in a way I can understand.” In moving deeper into mystical relationship and union with God, we move from discourse to listening and this happens through Grace.
Mtr. Melinda noted that we cannot turn off our thoughts on our own, only God can make us silent inside. We cannot force this surrender, but we can allow God to teach us to ‘persevere without trying’.

In the depths (heights?) of Contemplative prayer, we experience spiritual delights as a byproduct of being in Union with God, but we cannot focus on them or they disappear. There is the danger of wanting to ‘languish in contemplation’. Although it might seem simple, contemplation is actually hard spiritual work and can take a physical toll.

The temptations we encounter can strengthen our souls when we listen to the Voice of God who is complete control of all things. In the end, we seek self-abandonment, to God, and accept God’s way for our life.

Mtr. Melinda shared the image of the Ecstasy of St. Terese by Bernini depicting her vision of Union with God. Teresa described the vision by saying, “I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.”
Mtr. Melinda's meditations gave us all something to ponder and reassured us that mystical prayer experiences are not something to fear, but rather to embrace them in God's grace.

August 22, 2013

Growing Chapters

During Assembly, earlier this month, we brainstormed ways to "grow" our Chapters and help our parishes learn about the Daughters of the King. Below are some of the great ideas we came up with. Post a comment if you have other ideas to share with us all.

“Come and See” is always a good invitation
Personal Invitation is more effective than bulk bulletin announcement
Have a tea or other special event
Offer financial help to prospective Daughters (pay it forward)
Have DOK cards to hand out with contact info &/or have in tract racks
Pray for discernment of who, how to ask

Sharing who the Daughters are
Host a retreat and invite everyone as way of subtly seeing who DOK are/do
Include notices in the bulletin and on bulletin boards about who/what DOK are/do
Stress DOK difference from other groups: spiritual side, but also active
Participate in corporate communion to show who DOK are in parish

For Chapter growth
Find a time good for most members (Sunday after/between services, afternoon, Sat. morning, etc.)
Offer babysitter & children’s activities
Alternate ‘Mary’ and ‘Martha’ activities (spiritual & active)
Sometimes have a craft &/or fellowship time
Don’t all sit together or gather in group after service-gives impression of clique

August 15, 2013

Discussions at Assembly

On Saturday, ladies from all the represented Chapters spent time discussing prayer aids used in their chapters and in personal devotions. Then we collected all these ideas to share with one another. It was a long list of active and passive ways to pray and deepen spiritual lives, as you see below:

Personal Aids

Tactile prayer like using play dough, coloring
Creating a Holy Place
Candles as prayer reminder (use battery candle)
Newspaper prayers (praying about articles in the newspaper)
Prayers posted on the Refrigerator
Divide prayer list into portions and rotate at each meeting or throughout the week
Use spot/arrow prayers in traffic or when ambulance passes
Holding Cross (
Water as a prayer aid
Prayer Journal
Prayer flags or paper prayer chain

Devotional aids

Lent Mediation Book (the Daughters are planning one for Lent!)
Morning Devotions
Praying in Color
Book of Common Prayer (paper and online)
Prayers in DOK Handbook
Thanks Journal
Internet prayer and devotion sites

Chapter activities

DOK Present for prayer after Eucharist
Prayer Cards for DOK that are put in box
Welcome bags done by DOK
Prayer Shawls and scarves
Praying the church roster
Create a Prayer board for church

Suggested books

Take My Heart O God (compilation)
Answered Prayers by Julia Cameron
Praying in Color Sybil McBeth

Also check out the Feb.-April 2012 series on the Women's Blog of the Diocese.

We also discussed ways to Grow the Chapters, see you next week for those.

August 8, 2013

Images from Assembly 2013 "We are One in the Spirit...And we Pray

Over 50 Daughters of the King from around the Diocese convened at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in El Paso on August 2-3. Members came from as far east as Alpine, TX and as far west as Silver City, NM. Others came from Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Roswell, Ruidoso and El Paso. During the business session outreach grants of just over $200 each were awarded to 4 ministries supported by Chapters in the Diocese. These included the Medical Mission to Honduras by Shepherd’s Daughters of Silver City and the Mission to Croatia (out of St. James’, Alpine). The Diocesan Borderlands Ministry and Rape Crisis of Central NM were also recipients.
The theme for Assembly 2013 was “We are One in the Spirit…and we Pray”. Time was spent sharing concrete ideas about how to pray more actively within and beyond our Chapters. The Daughters were inspired by keynote speaker, the Rev. Melinda St. Clair, rector of All Saints. Mother Melinda spoke on the theme of the weekend, with reference to The Cloud of Unknowing, her own experiences, and St. Teresa of Avila. She noted that although we can pray with our intellect, mystic prayer experiences require surrender to being in an intimate and supernatural relationship with God. You can read more about her talk and Assembly activities here on this blog in upcoming weeks! Enjoy images from the weekend below:

August 4, 2013

President's Report 2013

From the 2013 Daughters of the King Assembly
All Saint's Church, El Paso, TX
August 2-3, 2013

Building on the good work so ably done by Sandy Martin has been the role of Cindy Davis and the DOK Board, consisting of Peggy Way, 1st VP; Anna Marie Dugan, 2nd VP; Carol Ast-Milchen, Secretary; Brenda Restivo, Treasurer; and the Rev. Jeanne Lutz, Chaplain. We met in January to review the bylaws regarding our duties and start planning for this Assembly and other events. The Board identified communication across the long distances of the Diocese and support between Chapters and Daughters as of utmost importance to keeping us connected in our Sisterhood.

An e-newsletter and blog have been the first steps to greater communication. Regular e-news bulletins and blog updates are readily accessible to Chapter Presidents and any Daughter in the Diocese. Since some Daughters do not like to use computers, we still do periodic ‘snail’ mailings, such as Assembly Registration. Regular articles in the Together, the Diocesan newsletter, share DOK news on a regular basis with Daughters in the Diocese and others who might be interested.

To bring Daughters together for events other than Assembly, two holiday gatherings were held last year. One was a Christmas brunch at the Bosque Center in Albuquerque, hosted by the St. Agnes Chapter and the other an Epiphany luncheon at Holy Mount in Ruidoso, hosted by the Maranatha Chapter. Weather played a factor is low attendance at both, but those who were present expressed delight in the idea of gathering for fellowship occasionally. In 2013, these events will include a ‘Who Are the Daughters’ component for women interested in DOK. Each chapter president is encouraged to identify one or 2 women (maybe younger women!) in their parish and invite them to the event closest to their parish.

Sadly there were 5 chapters in the Diocese with only one member at this time last year. After follow up with these women and their parish priests, the difficult decision was made to disband three chapters. The good news is that there are also new seeds. The Chapter at St. Bede’s, down to one member, is on the road to revival, with 3 women interested in starting discernment in the fall. Five ladies in Taos will be beginning the discernment process, which was put on hold when their parish priest left; and the priest at St. Francis on the Hill in El Paso has expressed interest in forming a chapter. The Jr. Daughter directress team at the Cathedral is interested in pursuing the idea of a city-, or even diocese-wide Jr. group, since some parishes don’t have the ‘critical mass’ of girls needed for a Jr. Chapter.

Daughters have always been in the forefront of women’s ministry in the Diocese and are active in the newly formed DRG Women’s Ministry, too. A Lent retreat in El Paso was attended by 40 women of the Diocese, more than half of whom were Daughters. Daughters were also present at the Body, Mind, Spirit Retreat in Taos last month and several are on the Women’s Ministry Council.

Chapter Presidents are encouraged to come to “Leadership 101” next summer, part of the Women of the DRG ministry, as a way to be empowered as stronger leaders in their chapters and parishes. The Board is exploring ways to use technology to help connect our far-flung chapters, with things like the blog, perhaps a Facebook page and/or a Google group, and even taping event speakers to post on the blog.

Please feel free to contact me with any ideas, questions, and concerns you have about Daughters of the King.  On the ‘DOK Info Ladder’, questions start at the chapter level, if the Chapter Pres. cannot answer, the question bounces up a rung to the Diocesan Pres., if she cannot answer, she asks the Provincial Pres., who in turn contacts the National Office if she doesn’t have an answer. (The idea is to help the National Office staff by not overwhelming them with details that could be dealt with more locally.)

Mark your calendars for Assembly 2014 (August 1-3) at Holy Faith in Santa Fe. The theme will be “We are One in the Spirit…and We Serve.” See the reverse for other opportunities around the Diocese for spiritual growth. I am looking forward to working with and for each Daughter in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and with Presidents from around the Province.

Cynthia Davis