Sound & Spirit
Occasional Posts from Our Directors
The Upper Room, Greenfield, MA, has maintained and offered a physical space for contemplative practice, prayer and meditation for the past six years. During that time, it has operated entirely by donations. A deep and abiding calling has kept Aggie, who maintains the Upper Room and offers it to the public, has kept it going all this time and, amazingly, this far through the pandemic.
Last week, I was sad to hear Aggie was thinking about closing her ministry and ending her lease with The Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew. So, I asked to meet with her. I was struck by the rooms beauty and the obvious loving care she has put into maintaining the space. The spiritual energy was palpable. Comfortable chairs and light streaming in through the south facing windows invited me to relax and slip into a place of internal quiet. For all this time, it has been one of Greenfield's best kept secrets.
The Upper Room, of course, refers to The Cenacle (from Latin cēnāculum, meaning "dining room"), and it is specifically a room in Mount Zion in Jerusalem, just outside the Old City walls. In the Gospel accounts, it is held to be the site of the Last Supper, where Jesus' shared his final meal with his disciples. It is also the location of the disciple's prayer meetings after Jesus' death.
John 20: 19-22: "When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.""
As I soaked in the spirit of the place, Aggie shared with me her ministry and the struggle she has had throughout the pandemic. She told me about her love for the space and some of the images that adorned the walls and shelves. Her heart obviously grieved the potential loss of the space and her ministry, and I felt my heart break, too. I knew I did not want to see her end her beloved ministry.
So I shared the vision of Halcyon Institute for Spiritual Studies. I told her about the Schattner Library and its need for a new home. I told her a bit about the groups I have been offering online. And I shared a desire to collaborate, share the space, and halve her rent to the church. I was surprised when she was open to the idea, and even more pleased when she said that collaboration could begin in April. In the meantime, we would let the idea percolate.
That afternoon, I emailed the Halcyon Board about the possibility of the collaboration. I asked for their approval. After all, there are many questions. Who knows when we will come out of the pandemic enough to have in-person meetings? Even then, will people want to return to in-person meetings? How well would it serve our purposes for groups and the library? Will the library overwhelm the space?
It would be a space for groups of up to 12 (16 with a few extra chairs), perfect for our small groups such as Spiritual Journeys, Silent Fire, and Spiritual Texts which are now offered online. It is certainly too small for the whole library, but there are some built in shelves on the north wall that Aggie said we could use. We might even be able to put one of the bookshelves that belong to the library on another wall, but more than that would be too overwhelming. Who knows when we will come out of the pandemic and whether in-person groups will be be attractive again?
Nevertheless, despite the questions, some of which are unanswerable, the Board's response was overwhelmingly positive. They are grateful to Aggie for her ministry and her willingness to cooperate with Halcyon Arts. And we look forward to seeing how the new collaboration goes over the course of the first year beginning mid-April,
The Cenacle (from Latin cēnāculum, meaning "dining room"), and it is specifically a room in Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
Robert Bowler ("Beau") founded Halcyon Arts to continue doing what he loves, presenting cultural and educational programs in world music and spirituality. He majored in Religious Studies at Reed College with a focus on the western mystical tradition. He earned an M.Div. degree from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California (after a year at Oxford University studying Theology) and is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.