The Lesson of the Leaves

This letter is normally used to discuss institutional matters: the life of the church, regathering and the uncertainties of hybrid ministry, the challenges we face and the joys we share. There are institutional concerns aplenty that we will deal with this year. But this week, leading up to Labor Day, I am much present to the changing seasons as the nights lengthen and fall right around the metaphorical corner.

For the last twelve years, I have lived in Oregon, an environment where most of the trees remain green all year long. I came to feel that that was right and good in that part of the planet. There were some deciduous trees among the pines, to be sure, and flowering trees and bushes thrive in the mild, moist climate. But I came to appreciate the year-round green.

There are many reasons , in addition to the chance to serve All Souls, that I am happy to be here in DC this year. The greater racial and cultural diversity. The international flavor and vibrant cultural life that the nation’s capital encourages. I have not even minded the humidity…well, not much. But one of the things I have looked forward to this year is being present to the changing of the seasons as I knew them almost all of my life.

I have looked forward to the fall colors of the leaves and even to their fall and to the stark outlines of the bare branches when winter comes.

The church staff met in Retreat earlier this week, for the first time in over 2 ½ years. We met, off site, in person, for serious conversation and for fun. Team building is the formal description. The atmosphere was relaxed , the energy good. The time felt so well spent.

Returning toward the church at the end of the retreat, the winds gusted and blew thousands of browning leaves across 16th street. “That’s early. It’s been so dry,” one staff member commented.

But I was captivated. The reason for the early leaf fall was not what moved me. It was the profusion of the leaves and the unavoidable presence of the change that will come.

I loved it. I am excited for the fall…in the church and in the world.

That evening I remembered this poem by Lucille Clifton:

The Lesson of The Falling Leaves

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves



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