Senbazaru, Pentecost, and The Cathedral “Cranes”

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origami-crane1April 2015

There is a young man in the pews at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, who silently sculpts his Sunday bulletin into origami cranes, roses, and other intricately folded art work. This young man occasionally places these sculptures into the offering plate, but more often than not leaves them behind as a blessing for the sexton or a neighboring parishioner. He is one of 4 children in a family which has found their way to our community. He is passionate and funny, he is talented and wonderful, he is God’s beloved child and he happens to live with Autism.

Having worked in formation ministries for nearly a decade, I have often been asked how we are going to “deal with” people with learning differences. Honestly I have struggled with how to answer, don’t we all learn differently? Don’t we all deserve to be engaged where we are, when we are and how we best respond? Isn’t that the way that the Holy Spirit intercedes in our lives, when we least expect it and are most ready to receive Her? Who am I as a formation leader to tell you how to best engage someone who learns differently?

The question of how to engage individuals who are on different “wave lengths” is not a new one. Much of Paul’s letters deal with how do we worship, teach and engage one another when our understandings of God are so different. We use different language, we follow different laws, we sing different songs but we follow the same God. This is why our liturgy has developed times for silence, speaking, singing and reflecting so that no matter where we are in our minds, or on our journeys of faith, we can meet God in worship.

This brings me back to our young sculptor. At 16 he hasn’t been able to participate in our Journey to Adulthood curriculum, by his own choice and that of his parents it hasn’t been a good fit. He has instead on most Sundays either sat in on our Adult Forum with his mother and father, or gone with his older brother and his classmates for breakfast at a local restaurant. Last year, in a huge leap of faith he came to camp. He participated in what he was comfortable with, and excused himself when the hubbub became too much. But through it all, his hands are busy leaving cranes large and small, like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, in his wake.

After a year of finding these remnants of our paper-artist in the nave, parish hall, and the lodge at camp, one Sunday morning I approached him and his mother and asked if they knew anything about the Japanese tradition of the 1,000 cranes. I explained that according to the myth of Senbazaru if an individual folds 1,000 cranes and offers them up to the gods that individual is granted one wish. I wondered aloud if we could adapt that tradition and invite the congregation to fold cranes to adorn our baptismal font for Pentecost in 2015, calling them doves instead of cranes and symbolizing the Holy Spirit which descended like a dove. His eyes lit up, he almost smiled. He turned away and said he’d have to think about it. A few days later I received a Facebook message from his mother, telling me that they had talked about it and he would gladly help.

For months the three of us have gone back and forth about how to approach the 1,000 dove project. We’ve set a plan in place—we will begin collecting cranes after Easter. We will have origami nights where we can learn in person and share a potluck supper. We have a video of our origami-artist-in-residence hands (only his hands and not his face since he hates having his photo taken) posted on YouTube, our website (below), Facebook page and twitter accounts. We also want to invite people to mail in their cranes if they live far away or are homebound for any reason. We will focus our final Generations In Formation Together (GIFT) Gathering for 2014-2015 academic year on creating and stringing together our 1,000 doves for our celebration of Pentecost on May 24th.

Our GIFT Gathering is an intergenerational initiative which happens on the first Sunday of every month (except for April because of when Easter falls) during our formation hour. We meet together and share in a common experience of fellowship, formation and mission. Each month focuses on a theme either based on a feast, like Saint Francis Day, liturgical season, i.e. Advent or Pentecost, or secular event like the start of the school year or Super Bowl Sunday aka Souper Bowl Sunday. Each month we gather together to celebrate our gifts and talents and we also take up a collection for the month to support ministries and missions of the Cathedral such as Heifer Project, New Bethany Ministries, Room at the Inn Emergency Shelter. In April, instead of asking for money or in-kind donations we will ask people to donate their time and talent towards the 1,000 dove project.

How do we engage with one another? How do we walk with one another on our pilgrimage in this life? How do we recognize one another’s talents and gifts? We need to stop asking how to make us all the same. We need to start recognizing the doves that each of us leave behind. We need to start sharing our differences rather than trying to eliminate them. Remembering that all of us are beloved children of God and all of us have a place in this eternal kingdom. All of us are a little “different”.

Spread the word!

Starting Wednesday April 8th the Origami group will meet on Wednesday afternoon between 3 and 5 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel to work on the doves for Pentecost.

Learn how to make the origami dove here:

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