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Planting Prayers

A poem by the Rev. Paul A. Metzler

My head explodes every day.
Words fail.
Only one thing helps:
Pray the garden.

Covid-19 started it March 6th
That’s when my wife and I began our personal stay-at-home orders.
We listened to political leaders say they didn’t see it coming.
No one knew how bad it could be.
Where are the mask-makers, we think?

My head keeps exploding.
Words fail.
Only one thing helps: pray the garden
Plant prayers with the spinach.
Plant the daffodils into flower.
Plantpray my potted clivia.

My head explodes more since May 25.
George Floyd’s death that day started it.
Death from a policeman’s knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds

I can’t breathe.
My head keeps exploding.
Words vanish.

My wife and I began our stay-at-home curfew orders.
We listen to political leaders say they didn’t see it coming.
No one knew how bad it had been for persons of color.
Where are the justice-makers, we ask?

Only one thing helps:
Plant prayers with the geraniums.
Pray over the Siberian iris.
Pray the hostas into flower.

Did Jesus help in the kitchen garden?
He taught in the fields, on hills, and prayed in gardens.
He learned carpentry from Joseph, surely he learned
Planting from Mary.

Jesus is with me when I can’t find word prayers,
With me as I plant my prayers.

Martin Luther reportedly said, “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow,
I would plant a tree.”
It’s the sort of theology he’d have proclaimed even if he didn’t write it down.
Trust and hope in God’s love and grace.
Perseverance to grow beyond the forces which deny, divide, and destroy
the beloved community of God’s dream.

As I plant my prayers
The love of Jesus grows within me.
Love as action, not just words and attitude,
Will grow.

by The Rev. Paul A. Metzler
Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
Board Member of Confluence: A Center for Spirituality
– June 9, 2020

Coronavirus-19 Has No Body But Yours

A poem by the Rev. Paul A. Metzler

(With deep apology to Teresa of Avila)

Coronavirus-19 has no body now but yours

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes with which it sees the world to taint

Yours are the feet on which it spreads through the earth.

Yours the hands with which it touches to contaminate

Yours the viral breath that fills the air between us

Yours are the hands, the eyes, the feet, the breath that brings CV-19 to

home, to the workplace, to a holy place, to the eating or the playing place.

Coronavirus-19 has no power to spread and survive

without you and your body.

* * * * *

Yet in that body God graces a brain

Yours to use to think and to learn

Yours to perceive the world in love

Yours the brain to comprehend and restrain

Until again God’s creation fully alive

Is safely embraced by all.

by The Rev. Paul A. Metzler, Episcopal Diocese of Missouri,
Board of Directors, Confluence: A Center for Spirituality
June 9, 2020

Prayers for the Bishop-elect and the Diocese of Missouri

published Nov. 27, 2019

The Diocese of Missouri has elected a new 11th Bishop, The Rev. Deon K. Johnson. Confluence: A Center for Spirituality is pleased to offer a set of monthly prayers for the Bishop-elect and the Diocese of Missouri during this time of transition.

Bishop-elect Johnson will be ordained on Saturday, April 25, 2020, at Stanislaus Kosta Polish Catholic Church, St. Louis.

On March 28, 2020, Bishop Wayne Smith's leadership and service to the Diocese of Missouri will be celebrated at Christ Church Cathedral.

By clicking the link below, you can download a prayer for each month and event, from December seating the new bishop on April 26, 2020:

Download prayers.

Good and gracious God, we stand on the threshold of a new time for our diocese. As we cross that threshold hand in hand in thankfulness with our new Bishop-elect, Deon Johnson, pour upon us an abundance of your grace and guidance that together we may seek to be about the building up of your Kingdom in this place. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflections on 2013 Retreat in New Harmony, Indiana

Pilgrimage as Prayer

Pilgrimage as Prayer was the theme of the 2013 Fall retreat in New Harmony, Indiana. We began by thinking about journeys we had taken and whether or not they were simply trips or perhaps could be thought of as pilgrimages. What is the difference? For me it is attempting to remain in God’s presence throughout the journey. This moved me to begin thinking of my entire journey through life as a pilgrimage.

The Rev. Susie Skinner, our experienced retreat leader suggested we think of a pilgrimage as our being led by God on a sacred journey. She guided us throughout this process through the use of scripture and brief meditations, giving us time for silent reflection that was enhanced by allowing our subconscious to assist our meditation through the use of various art media. Each session concluded with the opportunity to share our reflection with the group.

In addition there was time to enjoy simply being outdoors surrounded by nature. New Harmony is delightful in Fall. We were encouraged to take silent prayer walks around the lake and through the woods surrounding the Abbey Barn that was our home for the weekend. We also experienced taking a prayer walk in a group as we journeyed to the Cathedral Labyrinth. This beautiful granite labyrinth was modeled after the one in Chartres Cathedral in France. As I walked the twists and turns of the labyrinth towards the center, I thought of all the twists and turns that my life had taken to this point, some of which felt like wandering in the desert full of angst, others full of purpose and filled with joy. On reaching the center I became conscious of God surrounding me. I let go of all that was not God that had been in my life in the past and it was as though a burden dropped from my shoulders. As I journeyed out again going through the same twists and turns of the labyrinth it was with a sense of lightness and joy.

It soon became apparent that there was a rhythm to our life together modeled on Benedictine Spirituality. There was a balance between worship, times of quiet solitude, and work (simple chores of food preparation and clean up,) that is necessary in every community to insure that our time together runs smoothly. Our days began with Morning Prayer from our Episcopal tradition and ended with Compline from the Celtic tradition. Our weekend concluded with an informal celebration of the Eucharist, where each person brought something meaningful from her time spent in prayer and reflection to place on the altar, as an offering of thanksgiving to God for this sacred time spent together. Our entire weekend was greatly enriched by the music provided by Lura Koch’s playing of her Tibetan Singing Bowls and her melodious flutes. Music would call us to silence at the beginning of our sessions together. Music accompanied us on our communal prayer walks and as we journeyed around and around the labyrinth. Music was an integral part of our worship together.

I will remember this retreat as a joyous time to simply “be” with God and other pilgrims. I will remember it as a time I reveled in the incredible beauty of Fall in New Harmony. And I will remember it as a time I was brought closer to God through the haunting music of the Tibetan Singing Bowls and the incredible flutes.


New Harmony was a perfect setting for retreating from the world and taking time for spiritual renewal. Susie is an excellent mentor and guide for those seeking to deepen their own spiritual awareness. The women who attending shared so many talents during the weekend, each adding her uniqueness to the total experience. Those who came as strangers left with connections to the other participants and to their own pilgrimage towards God. I will take the seeds of this experience with me into the future and grow stronger in my faith.


Thank you so much for a wonderful retreat. What keeps coming into my mind several times a day is that I hope to make my life more of a pilgrimage, in other words, I hope to make my life more intentional and prayer is an important way into that life.

And on a side note, I so fell in love with New Harmony that George and I are going there for a couple of days next week. I have been tempted to show him Helen's pictures but decided I want him to experience the place without knowing what is there. The word that comes to mind for me is that it is a spiritual place. Also, a little shopping at the Mews might happen too.


I would recommend this retreat to anyone wanting a relaxing weekend in the Fall. Arrive early enough to take the walking tour of the historical part of the town. The colorful leaves and crisp air add so much to the memories.

Creative thoughts from Iona

Pilgrims share personal and creative thoughts about their 2012 trip to Iona, Scotland

Iona Pilgrimage

Rocky coastlines, fog and rain, more than 50 shades of grey, charming accents, snowcapped mountains, turquoise waters, ferries, holy spaces, ancient stones, paths trod by centuries of other pilgrims, gourmet food and the quiet rhythm of prayer, ocean waves, walking and self-care … essential elements of the Iona pilgrimage – and well worth the price!

The gift of time and space in which to encounter God and hear answers to questions I didn’t know my heart was asking - priceless.

The trip far exceeded anything I envisioned. Grateful to all the Confluence staff who, seamlessly, made it happen.

Getting to Iona -

Two planes, two buses, two boats, two days

a lumpy bed, bottle upon bottle of water, questionable plane fare

- a seeking soul

Twelve such souls set out in mid-April

a pilgrimage from St Louis to Newark to Glasgow to Oban to Mull to Iona

Easy treks pilgrimages are not

They take one to the edge -

Iona, Lindisfarne, Whitby, Jarrow, Burgh, Bradwell -

Here to this edge the pilgrims come

following in footsteps of ancient Celts

On the edge, amid the wild winds and roaring waves,

They meet God’s raw power unleashed …unharnessed

A spring breeze brings a sudden onslaught of rain and sleet

Bright sunny skies dissolve into grey, foreboding clouds

Walk each day amid the changing seasons

to stop is to miss the glory of creation

abounding in every step and steep

Around each corner and every rise new wonders meets the eye

God’s pallet washes creation

colors dance across the sky unto distant hills

Deep blues, purples, magentas meld with gentle pinks

bright fuchsias fill the canvass

Each moment a new painting

Stand in awe before God’s wonders

Come with anticipation but no expectation

Traverse rocks travelled for centuries

Kneel before a Celtic cross

Pray in an ancient abbey and a tiny chapel

Move among graves of those who have knelt in prayer

or carried swords in battle (Macbeth and Duncan among them)

Allow the “thin place” to surprise you

Knowing the destination is in the journey

Simply be

As cows chew cud on wind swept pastures

young lambs climb rocky paths

seagulls fly overhead, corncrakes sound their “krek-krek”

Become one with God and creation

As varied as the Iona stones

are we

Yet as the stones one beach make

So we, united in the quest

for the God of earth and sky and sea

One body make

One Body break

Spiritual Resources

Recommendations to deepen your journey

Online Resources:

Print Resources:

  • When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd
    When the Heart Waits is an autobiographical account of Sue Monk Kidd's spiritual awakening. Her book demonstrates how the discipline of "active waiting" can lead us to realize more of our inner Christ-like nature. This book will help anyone jump start a spiritual journey.

  • Awareness by Anthony de Mello
    Awareness encourages us to "wake up" to every aspect of our lives. Anthony de Mello challenges us to leave our frantic world of illusions and become alive to the world around us. By using short essays, the author inspires us to seek the richness in each divine moment.

  • Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser
    Broken Open offers ways to help us navigate change and transition. Through stories, insights and practical guidance, Lesser presents us the chance to seek transformation over defeat. Her tales and situations may feel familiar and will enourage growth.

  • The Fire of Your Life by Maggie Ross
    Reflections on a year spent in solitude provide the background for this work by the mystic, Maggie Ross. In this pithy little book Anglican hermit, Ross, says we are all hermits in one way or another and calls us to find that hermit place. For those who don’t want another pious book on prayer. (e.g. fasting for Lent is often experienced “rather like an annual case of the flu.”)

  • Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
    A commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict written from the “lived experience of a housewife and mother…” suggests ways in which the timeless monastic Rule is relevant to all people in their daily life and work. In the ten little chapters the book explores the Benedictine concepts of stability and change, leadership and authority, listening, the place of material things and the need for balance in life. de Waal is an historian and a recognized authority on the Celtic and Benedict spirituality.

  • Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris
    After a long period away from organized religion, Norris writes about her return to church and the struggle she had with the language of the Christian religion. She tells of finding words like “faith,” “sinner,” “repentance,” “dogma,” frightening or intimidating and describes how she wrestled to make them her own. Norris is the author two best sellers
    Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk.

  • An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
    Acclaimed preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor follows
    Leaving Church, her memoir of leaving full time ministry, with this follow-up that describes how she found God beyond the walls of the church. We walk with her as she explores the Holy in the ordinary stuff of life whether that be hanging clothes on the clothesline, encountering the clerk at the check-out counter or polishing silver. The world becomes her altar and the stuff of life the offering.

Iona 2012 Reflections

Pilgrimage to Iona 2012: Some Remembrances

The “thin place” rose on the horizon. Iona, a remote Hebridean island off the coast of northwest Scotland, has for hundreds of years beckoned pilgrims longing to touch and be touched by a holy place. Our group of thirteen was such a group.

The sun sparkled on the rich, blue water as tiny Baile Mor, the lone village on the island, came into sight and the ferry drew near the landing ramp. Weary from our journey across the Atlantic, but filled with anticipation, we found our way to the St. Columba Hotel whose namesake, St. Columba, brought Christianity to this distant place 563 A.D. Passing the ruins of Columba’s Abbey, we settled in for a week of walking in his footsteps and discovering anew the vibrant faith of the ancient Celts – longing to leave with that vibrancy branded in our souls.

Dusk fell that first night, and the colors of sea and mountain, which have for centuries lured artists to this holy place, radiated a palette of reds and violets, soft blues and pale purples. Wispy magenta clouds floated above on a still blue sky – sense of peace and calm reigned and soothed weary pilgrims.

The days were spent in long hikes, solitary moments of prayer and meditation, times of worship in the restored Abbey and gatherings for sharing and refreshment. New friends were made; new truths learned; new horizons aspired. All the while the old truths and the eternal Truth surrounded on every side.

Prayer in the Abbey or in tiny St. Oran’s Chapel served as reminder of T.S. Elliott’s words:

……..You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid.

(T. S. Elliot; “Little Gidding”)

“To kneel where prayer has been valid” for generation to generation, is to be filled with a great gratitude for all the saints who have hallowed these stones.

Many places give one a sense of awe and reverence but Iona does so in a different way. Here the healing power of place palpitates. Here, in this “thin place,” where, as the Celts say, “heaven is only a foot above your head,” it is as if you can reach up and hold hands with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”

“Place” – the mystery of place – that is much of Iona’s power and mystery. In every moment the Celts celebrated a spirituality of creation. They saw creation and Holy Scripture standing side by side as revelations of God. It was a revelation that stood in awe of the transcendent God and heard the very rocks and sky and sea, indeed all creation, cry out, “Glory!”

And it was a revelation that rejoiced in the intimacy of the immanent God, no more tenderly expressed than in a Hebridean woman’s bed-blessing:

I am lying down tonight as beseems

In the fellowship of Christ…

I am lying down tonight with God

And God tonight will lie down with me….

I am lying down tonight with the Holy Spirit,

And the Holy Spirit this night will lie down with me,

I will lie down this night with the Three of my love,

And the Three of my love will lie down with me.

(Esther de Waal; Every Earthly Blessing; p.31)

Yes, Iona is a “thin place” – a place that calls us to move beyond self, to celebrate the wonder of creation and know the intimacy of the God within us, beside us, above us in every moment of living.