All posts by Dale Morris

About Dale Morris

Dale Cooper Morris was raised in Bryn Athyn, living there through two years at the college. She spent a year in England, volunteering at the New Church school in Colchester (long since closed) and getting to know her now long-time husband in his own territory on the other side of the country. They raised their four children in the same Cotswold village where they have now lived for 40 years. Dale fulfilled her childhood ambition to be a wife and mother, and she finally found what she wanted to do ‘when she grew up’: she has spent the last ten years as a freelance proofreader.

Fruits of the Spirit

When the deadlines were sent for submitting my two articles to New Christian Woman this year, I was pleased to see the date for this one was just after the Gathering Leaves women’s retreat to be held at Purley Chase in the UK. I had booked to attend, and thought this article would be a perfect chance to reflect on that weekend and its theme: Fruits of the spirit.

Then Covid-19 began its rapid takeover of the world. At the end of May, Gathering Leaves was postponed until August 2021. My clever plan to write up that retreat was thwarted.

Yet now, three months later, I realize that since March I have been witnessing firsthand the fruits of the spirit mentioned on the Gathering Leaves webpage (except perhaps ‘joy’ and ‘peace’). Here’s the list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The ‘fruits’ most visible in the village where I live have been love, kindness, goodness, gentleness. Foodbanks have been set up to tactfully help anyone struggling. People have been getting groceries and collecting medical prescriptions for neighbours and anyone self-isolating.  A dad and his two young children grew extra vegetable seedlings and put them outside their property for anyone to take. On our permitted daily exercise, strangers as well as friends have struck up friendly conversations (usually from opposite sides of the lane). For a couple of months, folk stood outside their doors clapping appreciation for the National Health Service once a week; right after the first time, a young singer stood before a microphone in her front garden singing an aria that drifted through the warm night to much of the village. One woman has made over 1,000 facemasks and given them away, hanging them on a string against her front fence. Similar things have been happening throughout the UK (and the world). People have been hungry for human connection.

And actually, huge numbers of people have discovered a newfound balm for their souls – joy and peace outside, in ‘nature’. The spring here was astonishingly beautiful, sunny and warm. Every day brought new growth and blossom. There was peacefulness even in the heart of big cities because streets had virtually no traffic for weeks. The night skies were starlit and calming. The orderly processes of creation became clear. There was time to just sit and look.

For many, though, this has been a horrendous time. For some, patience, gentleness and self-control are hard to come by. Often, I can understand why. 

I am counting my blessings more often than I usually do – including the current good health of my immediate family. That could change at any time; if it does, I hope I can hold tight to the positive ‘fruits of the spirit’ that have been so exemplified in the community around me.

‘God loves each and every human being. He cannot benefit them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people. He therefore breathes into people His love.’  True Christianity 457

Teamwork

Heaven is a kingdom of usefulness. Conjugial Love 7

And the second is like unto it – you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been reflecting on teamwork in the different contexts of my life. My role in my birth family (number 2 of 7 children, oldest daughter); being part of the ANC Class of ’69 and the different events and groups I took part in during high school; the varied paid jobs I’ve had; my own marriage & family; joining New Church activities while not living in a New Church community; loads of things in the village where I’ve lived for over 40 years. 

In each context, teamwork was involved – sometimes I was at the heart of things, sometimes chugging along in the middle, sometimes on the edges. But each one involved (or still involves) working with others to achieve some sort of goal. I’ve gotten to know many people: some have become firm friends, others remain no more than acquaintances. The effort of everyone involved in any given ‘team’, however big or small, did help to build a sense of community. There’s been a lot of laughter, occasional tearing-out of hair, and once in a while a sobering slice of humble pie. I’ve learned things, about others and about myself. Communities are stronger when their members get actively involved.

Continue reading Teamwork

Ponderings On the Passing Of 50 Years

“…And I thought about years
How they take so long
And they go so fast…”
Beth Nielsen Chapman, Years

The Bryn Athyn high school Class of ’69 has started planning for its 50th reunion in October. A committee of former classmates now living in the area is sending out emails seeking volunteers, ideas, entertainment etc. Replies are trickling back from across the globe – we (100 at our peak) are a widely–scattered bunch. 

Fifty years is a long time. It’s been half a century since our graduation; since the original Woodstock Festival; since the first humans walked on the moon. The internet has been invented, as well as phones you can keep in a pocket, transforming the means of communication around the world. Is that communication any better, for being faster? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. It depends on the people involved.

I’m looking forward to getting to know who the people, my classmates, are now, with an additional 50 years of life under their belts than when we shared those Benade Hall classrooms. We have all ‘grown up’, most have reached retirement age, many have had children and grandchildren, some have moved on to the next world. I’ve kept up with a few once in a while; most others I have neither seen nor spoken to for at least 20 years (since our 30th reunion or before).

Some people won’t be able to come. Some probably won’t want to come. I suspect that most of our paths turned out differently than we had planned or hoped for, and presented us with choices and options we had not anticipated. Did we always make good choices? Most unlikely! But did we learn and grow from making them? Most probably. 

“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like ****.”   (from The Color Purple, Alice Walker)

We are allowed to see Divine Providence from behind but not face to face [i.e. after the fact but not before], and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state [i.e. seeing it from heaven and not from this world]. (Divine Providence 187.4)

For how many is the New Church still central to their thinking? Have any shifted to other faiths, or away from any belief? If they’ve drifted away from religion, why have they? And even if they have, are any of the things they learned from the New Church still important to them? Do they still have dreams or goals to fulfill? Have they reached a place of mental peace? 

Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. (Secrets of Heaven 8455)

Time and space are very real in this world, but in the next world they are states of mind rather than physical realities (still absolutely real, but not in the same way). Having moved far from my original home, I’ve come to believe that if a bond exists, our souls can subtly communicate, regardless of physical distance (even between this world and the next). Of course, in this world the internet helps!

None of us can truly know what path the Lord is leading someone else along – indeed, we often don’t know the path WE are being led along. This reunion will be a chance to learn about our different paths through life, about others’ particular choices along the way. I hope everyone who comes will be open to sharing some of this process, and be accepting of each other’s decisions. We are getting older – such an opportunity to really talk about how our lives have developed, with those we shared those important teenage years with, is unlikely to be repeated. Our bodies are aging; despite that, we are (hopefully) getting a little wiser. Looking back over our lives, can we see Providence in action? How far have we got with the command in Ezekiel 18.31 to ‘Make [ourselves] a new heart and a new spirit’? 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

Those who are guided by kindness … hardly even notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or false, they put a good interpretation on it. This is a characteristic of all angels — one they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad toward good. (Secrets of Heaven 1079)

However our reunion turns out, I hope my old classmates are well on their way to finding acceptance of themselves and others, and that they feel confidence for their own futures. I firmly believe that the Lord – kind and wise father that He is – guides every one of us in the ways that suit us best, whether we acknowledge Him or not.

Don’t Fret

“Do not fret – it only causes harm.” (Psalm 37:4)

The political scene at the moment, in both my home country (USA) and my adopted country (UK), is rather bleak. Their citizens’ futures are uncertain. It’s a bit scary for the likes of me. I’m trying hard to take the long view, and to trust that the Lord is keeping an eye on things. I fear that times might get a lot worse before they get better, despite my confidence that the Lord will ensure goodness eventually comes out of whatever situation arises (in the broader world too with its own multitudinous troubles). Maybe, as with personal regeneration, my two countries will have to reach absolute rock bottom before they can learn better ways of working and begin to climb back up. It will not be an easy journey.

With no inclination to become a politician, I’m focusing on things I can do, trying to be an optimistic influence rather than a pessimistic doom-monger in my little corner of the globe: smile at those I meet; be kind, friendly, and helpful where I see need; play with my grandchildren; take part in my community; find fascination and beauty in the natural world; recycle and reuse as much as possible. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; … and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:3, 4

Continue reading Don’t Fret