A Vespers for these times… April 12, 2020



Hark the Vesper bell is pealing, o’er the meadow soft and green

            Nearer now and nearer stealing, soft it breaks upon my ear.

Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, amen.  Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.



This week has been full of ongoing COVID-19 challenges along with the accompanying opportunities to find creative ways to be together.  It is also a week that includes two major holidays, one Jewish and one Christian.  Hope is part of both these holidays and hope is a force that currently sustains us all as we manage our lives differently.  Thinking about hope today.

Sing: “ We shall overcome” This historic protest song remains inspiring and relevant.

We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome some day.

We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are not afraid today.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we are not afraid today.

We are not alone, we are not alone, we are not alone today.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we are not alone today.

We’ll soon walk together, we’ll soon walk together, we’ll soon walk together, I know.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we’ll soon walk together, I know.

Poem: Emily Dickinson’s poem about hope is one beloved by many.  Here it is: “Hope”

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land

And on the strangest sea,

Yet never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

Sing:  “Song for Judith” By Judy Collins

Sometimes I remember the old days

When the world was filled with sorrow

You might have thought I was living, but I was all alone.

In my heart the rain was falling

The wind blew, the night was calling,

Come back, come back, I’m all. You’ve ever known.

          Open the door and come on in.

            I’m so glad to see you my friend(s)

            You’re like a rainbow coming around the bend.

            And when I see you happy,

            Well…it sets my heart free.

            I’d like to be as good a friend as you are to me.

There were friends who could always see me.

Through the haze their smiles would reach me,

Saying OK, saying goodbye, saying hello.

Soon I knew what I was after

Was life and love, and tears and laughter,

Hello my good friend, hello my darling, what do you know?

 Open the door and come on in…

I used to think it was only me

Living alone not feeling free

To be alive….to be your friend

Now I know we all have stormy weather,

The sun. shines whenever we’re together

I’ll be your friend, right to the very end.

Open the door and come on in…..


I was excited when Wednesday came along this week.  Passover began that day, and although my heritage is not Jewish, I like to honor the stories and rituals that have informed Jewish people for a very long time.  I remembered long-time Camp Betsey Cox community member Rachel Clark Happel (yes!  Distinguished, too, by being Evie and Josie Happel’s mom!), a woman whose family would be celebrating Passover.  I sent a question off to Rachel asking if she could send along some poems or songs that would allow those reading these Vespers to “hear” and learn about Passover and the Jewish tradition.  Rachel was quick to respond, and her suggestions will appear soon for you.  As the week wound on, I also thought that it would be very special to hear from Evie Happel (upcoming second-year Muggie/Leader) about the history of Passover and what the celebrations her family would be moving through this week meant to her.  Happily, Evie, too, complied, sending on to me the following description of Passover and its power in her life:

As many of you might be aware, the Jewish holiday of Passover, also called Pesach, took place from April 8th to April 16th.  This eight-day holiday commemorates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt and celebrates freedom.  In this story, it is said that G-d brought ten plagues upon Egypt so that the Pharaoh would allow the Israelites, the Jewish people, to be freed from slavery and leave Egypt.  The tenth plague was an angel of death who killed the first-born Egyptian sons; we celebrate the fact that the angel “passed over” Israelite homes and that the Pharaoh let us go after this last plague. 

 We were in such a rush to leave Egypt that there was not time for the bread to fully rise, so many Jewish people partake in a fast from anything leavened, meaning no grains or bread products.  On the first and second night, we have a Seder, a large family gathering with an order of rituals to follow that remind us of the story of Passover. 

  It is an incredibly interesting time to be celebrating Passover, in the middle of a global pandemic.  Jewish families everywhere used Zoom and other sources of technology to host Seders; Rabbis created rules for these extenuating circumstances.

  My favorite part of Passover is always seeing my extended family and having Seders with delicious food.  Though a Zoom Seder was not the same, we acknowledged how fortunate we were to be able to communicate through technology and still celebrate together.  My mother created our own prayer book to be used during our Seder.  This way, we added our own thoughts, questions, and discussion starters about why this Passover is so special.  We made jokes about the irony of remembering plagues while being in the center of a modern plague.  But these jokes led to fascinating conversations about what we can do to help our community.  One key part of Passover is helping ourselves and others become free from the things that are challenging us.  Through this practice, my family came up with ways to help those who are struggling to find freedom.  And all of us hope to be in a different place next year.

Two Passover Readings:

On Passover we celebrate our redemption from slavery and revel in our freedom. We gather around the Seder table with our loved ones, telling stories of our people’s miraculous passage from Egypt to Sinai to the Promised Land. At this time of rejoicing, we also remember the great responsibility that freedom creates to harness to power of our privilege on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized.  Let us pray for and work towards the moment when all human beings will celebrate their liberation in comfort and plenty.  -Bob Frankle

On this night, we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.

On this night, we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.

On this night, we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.

On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.

On this night, we renew ancient hopes and dream of a future redeemed.

On this night, we gather around our seder table remembering our passage from bondage to freedom.

On this night, we journey from now to then, telling the story of our people’s birth.

-Allison Tick

More thoughts:

For those of us raised as Christians, Easter is a primary spiritual cornerstone of faith.  Easter marks the tragedy of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and his resurrection that followed.  This Sunday, different from many Easter Sundays, Christians, too, will be joining their church communities virtually and their feasts and family celebrations will be restructured as well.  While Jesus Christ and early Christians did not suffer from a health plague or from the sort of servitude experienced by the Israelites years before Jesus lived, they did suffer at the hands of the Romans.  For Christians, the joy of Jesus’s resurrection is understood as a testament to the power of love over cruelty, of acceptance of all people into a new faith, one that would bring hope to the lives of many.

A Christian Hymn: (from the Unitarian tradition)

Lo, the day of days is here,


Festival of hope and cheer!


At the southwind’s genial breath,


Nature wakes from seeming death,,


Fields are smiling in the sun,


Loosened streamlets seaward run,


Tis the spring-tide of the year,


Lo, the Eastertide is here,


Music thrills the atmosphere.


Join, you people all, and sing,


Love and praise and thanksgiving


If you are not a Christian or Jewish, and you live in a part of the world that has distinct seasonal weather differences, you may well be celebrating the arrival of spring!  Here at camp, spring is definitely arriving—in fits and starts!  Two days ago five inches of snow covered our land and buildings.  Really?  April 10?  Oh, yes!  Snow boots adorned our feet, warm jackets were pulled back out and we wished that we hadn’t worn out our woolen mittens earlier in the season!

It was beautiful, but not as welcome as are the first few flakes of the winter season back in November.  Of course, by Sunday it was 51 degrees outside and the snow had become nice puddles  and vernal pools.  Physical distancing meant that we remarked to ourselves, or to one or two others only, that the rain and even that snowfall nurtured the lilac buds that are popping out on the bushes everywhere, including around the lodge.

The arrival of spring, whether you are feeling that from an open window in an apartment or out and about on a walk, is a reminder that there is new energy about to happen—new life in the natural world is all around us to assure us that better times will come.  Walking down Sangamon Lane the tiny tree frogs make a racket!  Three crows that have frequented the farmhouse backyard bird feeder are collecting long pieces of grass with which to build a nest for their new hatchlings.  At the pond, two pairs of mallard ducks have nests ready.  We will see their offspring soon!  Reminders of life’s turnings and turnings, season over season, year over year.

The natural world along with rituals and traditions from many spiritual paths remind us that there is renewal and hope.  For members of the Camp Betsey Cox community, that hope includes our capacity to remember the positives we have found in these particularly challenging days.  Clearer air, cleaner water, deeper relationships with friends and family, a chance to read, write, sing and dance with wild abandon in the privacy of our own homes.  We will remember a new definition of joy, a new understanding of how to find hope in very unusual circumstances.

Song: “The Flower Carol” (to the tune of Good King Wenceslas)

Spring has now unwrapped the flowers, day is fast reviving.

Life in all her growing powers, toward the light is striving.

Gone the iron touch of cold, winter time and frost time.

Seedlings working thru the ground, now make up for last time.

Herb and plant that winter long slumbered at their leisure.

Now bestirring green and strong, find in growth their pleasure.

All the world with beauty fills, god the green enhancing.

Flowers make glee among the hills and set the meadows dancing.

Thru each wonder of fair days, Earth herself expresses.

Beauty follows all her ways, as the world he blesses.

So as she renews the earth, artist without rival

In her grace of glad new birth, we must seek revival.


Final Words:

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy.  The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.” –Terry Tempest Williams

Sing this week, everyone….we will help heal the world through joy!

Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.  Jubliate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.











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