On Thursday October 14 I was at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery here in Pittsburgh wrapping up a four-day annual retreat of our dispersed Order of Saint Luke. This one was extra special for us because it was the 75th anniversary of OSL, and the first one we could have together since the COVID pandemic began. Over 50 Members came from across the US, and Br. Scot offered his services to transmit worship and presentations through the internet.
The speakers included Brother Don Sailers (Indigo Girl Emily Sailers’ Dad!) from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Brother Mark Stamm from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and Sister Kimberly Greway, the prior of my local Chapter (named for Br. Hoyt Hickman), who has just completed ten years of working as chaplain at the Pittsburgh jail, and a doctorate about her work with incarcerated people. Br. Mark has become OSL’s chief historian and presented our history, noting some very intriguing questions that are drawing me to help gather more oral history. Br. Don presented some of his reflections as he has been working on a book about lament and praise in the Psalms. Sr. Kimberly revealed to us the hidden truth that most of the New Testament was written about, and often by people who had been incarcerated. She invited us to use that to think and act differently about the place of prison ministry in OSL, the Church and the world.
This retreat was extra special for me because at our last worship service together on Thursday morning I professed the vows of OSL for life, along with my very dear friend from my years in Greater Boston, Sr. Cherlyn, and two other siblings I have come to treasure. Br. Brendan (Dwight) Vogel tied a knot in the new red cincture I purchased for this occasion and Br. David of the Hickman Chapter surprised me with my very own OSL scapular. As this was such a significant retreat I decided not to commute from home as I had done the past two times. Instead, I slept in a monastic cell, ate each meal with my siblings, was present for all the morning, midday, evening prayer and compline services and helped support my husband through a small crisis via my phone. I am so grateful to Joe for organizing his life and work to tend to Grace and Salem for a whole week!
While on retreat, existing friendships were strengthened and new ones were forged (one is silver and the other is gold). After the service of profession of vows and lunch I had the privilege to transport Br. Don and Br. Mark to the airport, park my car and begin my own journey to Hartford. In the process I failed to transport a third sibling – one of my new friends – and didn’t even realize it until well after we had bumped into each other in a terminal, and some other siblings at my terminal whose gentle inquiry of whether I had seen him eventually jogged my memory. I quietly sat in a flood of shame that I had failed to engrave the promise I made to Br. David a few minutes before taking the life vows upon my heart. Please forgive me Brother David. I’m so glad Divine Providence took care of you when I did not.
Sarah Mount Elewononi is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. A member of the New England Annual Conference for over 20 years, Sarah now resides with her family in greater Pittsburgh. Sarah completed the requirements for her doctorate from Boston University on Christmas Eve 2014. She worked with Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker and Dr. Nancy Ammerman to better understand worship and change - both how repeated acts of worship change us, and how and why worship changes whether we want it too or not, and why we can be resistant to that change. Her dissertation was focused on Methodist worship at New England camp meetings in the 19th Century. Sarah is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, the Order of St. Luke and the Girl Scouts. Currently she leads her daughters' Girl Scout troop and serves as a substitute teacher. She also teaches a variety of United Methodist Course of Study offerings in worship, theology and Biblical studies.