For me, listening to renowned religious educator Parker Palmer speak is a balm for the spirit. This is especially the case today, in a world obsessed with doing and achieving, rushing face downwards from one activity, or distraction, to the next. Especially in the present age of truncated conversations, and reactionary responses to bombardments from other mini-monologues--an age where the languages of venom, self-absorption, and violence have become part of the lingua franca. Palmer has a way of cutting through all of this noise and clatter.
As he is a Quaker, Palmer speaks out of a tradition very close to my own, at least in the sense that we are both Protestant Christians. Yet his words, and the grace with which he delivers them, carry broad appeal across many religious-spiritual traditions. (In recent years I have found Sikh activist Valarie Kaur’s words to be similarly restorative and life-giving. And when Kaur and Palmer come together--wow! * These are voices that our world needs desperately right now.)
One of Palmer’s oldest and most famous quotations - one that I return to often when I consider the Walker Center and its mission - is this: “To teach is to create a space, in which obedience to truth is practiced.” (From To Know as We are Known.) To me, this means that we often grow as human beings best when someone takes the time and care to make room for a community of practice to develop, where we can engage each other authentically.
Walker Center has long been a home, a conference center, a dinner table, a refuge, a place for workshops, a place of retreat and rest. It has been all of these things and more, for missionaries, religious leaders, families, students, nonprofits, community organizations, interreligious organizations, and so many others. Serving as a director here for these past four years, it has been a joy just to be a student of the Center’s history as a place where “spaces” are made, and communities are formed and shaped. Yet as I read old notes, letters, reports, and published articles, I note that there has often been a felt tension -- between the feeling of being a place of retreat and housing, and a place of learning and training. Which should be our primary focus? Certainly the former has proven to be a consistent thread throughout our history. You will still hear the “spirit of Eliza [Walker]” be referenced here; this is about a spirit of radical welcome and of hospitality. Preserving this uniquely-welcoming space, and this spirit that pervades it, is therefore something we certainly care about. But this has never been about pure self-preservation. And as Palmer makes clear, space--in the physical, as well as in the social, relational, and psychological, sense--is fundamental to the ongoing nurture of our identity, our belonging, our believing, and our capacity to act on behalf of others. To be a place of rest and connection, and a place of learning and development, indeed go hand in hand--and Walker Center is a living monument to this truth.
In this day and age, as all matters of “space” (for ourselves, and for others) become increasingly rare in our daily lives, and as the cacophony of violence often rings far too loudly, Walker Center remains committed to space-creation. It has been, and continues to be, part of who we are. Yet this is not simply a way to explain our past and present; it helps guide our future as a center of living and learning together. You might have noticed that last year we adopted a new logo that features the Walker House’s uniquely-designed front entrance. More than than our Colonial Revival architecture, we want our building to be known as a safe and creative space for communities to grow. But the implied light emanating from (and into) the windows and doors, along with the constant openness of that door in the logo which opens up into the world, are critical details! Because the communities that are formed and shaped here are always informed by, and seek to make a difference in, the world beyond our quirky, beautiful buildings. We do not control where the light comes from, or where it goes -- but we can help nurture conditions for the light to coalesce and intensify, so that it will shine ever brighter in communities across the nation and globe. This is how we strive to live out Palmer’s notion, to help contribute to a world with more "revolutionary love" in it, in our own small way.
So if you are a “leader” (however you define this) in your religious community (or know someone who is), and looking for connections and for resources, so that your community can shine brighter and contribute more fully to a worldwide spiritual movement of love, you’ve come to the right place! Contact us, or check out our website, to learn more - and we look forward to announcing future plans very soon!
* The clip is from last year’s (2018) Revolutionary Love Conference. If you haven't already seen it, enjoy. Also, the date this is being written (April 5th) marks the start of this year’s conference! We’re thinking and praying for everyone there this weekend, and are so thankful for that beautiful space and community which Middle Church and the Revolutionary Love Project (led by Valarie Kaur!) have helped to create. To watch LIVE, and/or to register for next year’s conference, click here.
The Directors' Desk
Be on the lookout for more news soon! .