A Solstice Meditation

  • "Then God said let there be light, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. . . ."

—Genesis 1 
  • "The longing for a better world will need to arise at the imagined meeting place of many movements of resistance, as many as there are sites of closure and exclusion. The resistance will be as transnational as capitalism." 

—Rebecca Solnit, quoting the geographer Iain Boal in an essay about the WTO demonstrations in Seattle back in 1999, from Hope in the Dark, p. 45
Of course: we don’t know that Jesus was literally born on December 25th. This date was chosen by the church centuries ago, in part, yes, to trump pagan solstice festivities but also because it makes symbolic sense, just as it makes symbolic sense to celebrate John the Baptist on June 24, close to the summer solstice. He must increase, John says, and I must decrease.   

He must increase. Because that Christ-self within me is life, the only true life. It’s this and not my own egocentrically selfish self that shines out into the increasing darkness. 

And that increase of life is felt physically, even biochemically—at least for us in the northern hemisphere—at the winter solstice. Light literally slowly increases. Slowly, yes, but truly, powerfully, gloriously. We do feel it in our bones. 

Our faith experiences Jesus as the human manifestation of this light: his birth into our world figuratively, spiritually, is the (re)birth of all that light means: he is warmth, fire, clarity. Through him, in him, we can see what truth looks like. And as hard and as painful as it sometime is, we also want that truth for ourselves.   

The Son is the Sun—in English the pun is perfect. 

There’s nothing abstract or merely theoretical about this. We all know how it feels to be in the truth with another person. To be open, vulnerable, honest, intimate. It can burn for sure—this is the meaning of Purgatorial fire. But being in that truth also feels holy. This is what Jesus meant when he said that when two or more are gathered in his name, then he is present. This “in my name” is not simply a matter of literally invoking Jesus, although I’m enough of a high church Episcopalian to believe in the power of such an invoking. Words matter; they mean something. They do  something. 

But I’m also enough of a Protestant to believe that I can be fully in His presence without such a literal invocation. John says it well: as I am in the truth, as I am in love, I am in His presence. I am in Him.   

Or, more simply, I am. 
The birth of the Christ child at the winter solstice of course prefigures Easter, when life—again—rises out of the dark. We know this life in the love that we feel, whether that’s in a loss that we grieve or in the love we feel for a child, a partner, a friend, or what rises up as we stare out at the ocean or hike deep into the mountains. Christ is risen indeed—over and over within us.   
I also believe in the necessity and power and beauty of this darkness as a place to wait, to listen, as if that darkness most truly is a kind of womb. We wait in faith for this birth which is also the birth of something within us. That darkness is what some of us experience in the wilderness, as Jennifer Daugherty reminded us in her sermon on the second Sunday of Advent. We go to the wilderness precisely to listen and to wait. In that darkness we remember that we are not in control; we have no road to follow. What we have is faith.   

It is a good reminder that Wendell Berry gives us: 
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings. 
I write this on a rare moment of sun on a late afternoon in December. I’ve spent the day in part on a Zoom call, on a call with an old friend and then another call with my daughter, who talks while feeding her ten week old son. I’ve watched the day go by, the light rise and begin to fall in the west. I’ve read The New York Times and listened to the news on NPR: I know full well so many reasons to despair. And yet even with all of this grief my heart remains mysteriously full.   

I know too of course that I myself shall die—sooner every day! And yet this fact too only increases my gratitude for having known such love.   

Is there hope in the midst of this world-shaking darkness? The devastations already caused by climate change, school shootings, the undermining of truth at the highest levels of our government? Our work continues, more urgently than ever, to love this world and to do our best to share the truth. The rest is not up to us. And as foolish as it may be I still believe that at the end of our days this love cannot be extinguished. That even when the sun itself goes dark the Son will continue to rise.   

—Doug Thorpe, Creation Care Newsletter Editor
Winter Solstice Poetry Reading hosted by Creation Care

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 10:10–10:50 A.M., Bloedel Hall

Winter solstice brings the first day of winter and a return of more sunlight. Drawing from a selection of poems connected to light, parishioner and English professor Doug Thorpe will guide us in a time of reading and reflection to discover creation themes. A slideshow of light-inspired photos from Saint Mark's parishioners will also be shared. Learn more here.
Twelfth Night Bonfire and Burning of the Greens


A brief rite in the nave will mark the end of our Christmastide observances, followed by a bonfire of our Christmas greenery and a festive gathering for everyone. Learn more here.
Canon Daugherty’s Sabbatical Report

On Sunday, December 12, Canon Daughtery shared snapshots from her three month sabbatical that included travels in Ireland, Iona, and the Isle of Sky, and learning more about Celtic Spirituality. A complete video of her presentation is available here.

NOTE: On February 16 & February 23, 2022, there will be a two part Cathedral Commons series, “Celtic Spirituality: Delight, Wonder and Reverence” exploring more of the riches of creation-based spirituality in the Celtic tradition. She’ll share more of what she learned while on sabbatical in Ireland and Iona, and we’ll practice rhythms of embodied prayer and openness to daily encounters with the holy.
The COP26 Experience: Healthy Skepticism and Abiding Faith

This online forum was led by member Dr. Lisa Graumlich who virtually attended the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference as part of the delegation of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The presentation included comments from John Kydd (Grace Episcopal) and Dave Menz (Saint Mark’s) who were in Glasgow during the conference.
Worth the Watch: COP26 Forum Reflections

"By the end of the program, I was feeling gratitude for Lisa Graumlich’s commitment and involvement as a member of the The Episcopal Church’s delegation to the Glasgow Climate Conference and for John Kydd’s and Dave Menz’s on-the-ground observations from being in Glasgow during COP26. At the same time, I felt sadness and alarm over the reports of youth and young adults experiencing high rates of depression, anxiety, and feelings of futility as they look ahead in their lives. We were told that some have said that they are even considering suicide to wake up communities to the dire future we face. We were told about adults sacrificing career promotions and opportunities due to their arrest records in climate protests, trying to get the rest of the world to pay attention to the irreversible and catastrophic future we are headed toward if changes are not made.

"In the largely liberal and science-embracing Northwest, we are clearly in a different place than much of the United States, a country described as a “leader” in resistance to the reality of climate change. What are we to do? Individual and family-focused actions can help. We need to monitor and reduce our carbon footprint. That can mean driving less, eating less meat, and adding solar panels to our homes. It can also mean that we need to “hit the streets and the suites,” as John Kydd put it, using our contacts and personal and professional knowledge and skills to influence local and state policies around climate change. The time for action is clearly here. We need to support one another and move ahead with actions both on the individual and collective level. I’m ready to head to Olympia and start knocking on our representatives’ doors. Are you willing to join me?”

—Wayne Duncan, [email protected]
Winter Talk 2022

JANUARY 15–18, 2022. Fee: $25.

You are invited to join the Episcopal Church Office of Indigenous Ministries in meeting together for prayer, learning, story sharing, and mutual support and fellowship at the 2022 Winter Talk. This year’s theme is “A Chain Linking Two Traditions” and will be hybrid, with limited in-person attendance and broadcast virtually by Zoom and social media livestream. This is the first time the event has taken place on the Oneida Reservation, which is one of the oldest and most significant Episcopal mission regions in the United States. It is also the 200th anniversary of the tribe’s move to Wisconsin from New York. Register to participate here.
"For everyone born, a place at the table"

This hymn by Shirley Erena Murray beautifully describes how the birth of Christ connects each of us as we look to the star ahead. Read the text here.
Youth of Saint Mark's at Nurturing Roots Farm
Middle School and High School youth assisted with the fall chores at Nurturing Roots, a black-owned urban farm that values community, self-sufficiency, food empowerment, social justice, and education, on Sunday, October 10.
Youth of Saint Mark's posing with bags of trash at the conclusion of their neighborhood clean up event
The 2021 youth confirmation class picked up trash along 10th avenue and on the cathedral campus on Sunday, November 14, after the bishop’s visitation for confirmation. After the cleanup, the group gathered inside the nave for candlelit vespers, conversation and refreshments.

“The confirmation curriculum had us brainstorm causes that we cared about and wanted to focus on,” said Heather Sutkus, a recent confirmand and Creation Care member. “I think we all decided pretty quickly that we wanted to focus on the environment. The next step was to plan something that allowed us to address this and involve the Saint Mark’s Community. The option for a trash pick up seemed like an opportunity to work together and make a difference in our community.”
Carbon Tracker Update: Now at 105 Households and Counting!

The carbon tracker at Saint Mark’s Cathedral provides insights about how well you’re doing to mitigate climate change and save the planet. Our challenge is to achieve our congregation’s goal, approved by our clergy and vestry, of a net zero carbon footprint for our households by 2030. You can help by signing up here. Once you do sign up, there are many ways to make an even more meaningful impact with your carbon tracker activity.
Here are two ideas that combine both saving the planet and making your life better: 

(1) Connect with your community when you have something to sell, share or give away. Whether your children outgrew their crib or you no longer like the clothes that you never wore or something else, you can sell or give away what you have rather than putting it in the trash or recycling. Most neighborhoods have ways to post messages, from bulletin boards to online platforms such as Nextdoor. Other options include The Buy Nothing Project, Craigslist’s free section or Goodwill through Ebay. Along with saving resources, selling or sharing gives a chance to meet your neighbors and build community.

(2) Get rid of the plague of junk mail that clogs your mailbox and takes away your free time. It’s actually really easy to stop receiving all that junk mail. You can sign up at to stop unsolicited mail from coming to your home for the next 10 years, and you can manage catalogs at Catalog Choice.  Scroll through the Action Categories on the tracker to get more details.
Need holiday shopping ideas? Check out these sustainable recommendations for finalizing your list from Creation Care members.
Check out these energy transformation recommendations from Richard Hartung:
CJ Beegle Krause recommends this video discussion from the Carnegie Foundation. “It’s fairly direct on what the panel sees as broad issues with environment and global economics,” said CJ.
Saint Mark’s Cathedral acknowledges that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Duwamish Tribe. [Learn more]