If it feels like you don't know where you're going, that's okay. Here's something that can help you reflect on what God might have in store for you and your congregation.
Issue 3: November 23, 2020
As we spend more and more days sheltering in place, anticipating an Advent and Christmas season like none other we’ve experienced, perhaps this is an opportune time to take advantage of the quiet spaces that will come with this Advent and savor this invitation from Jan Richardson, in her poem “Blessing the Advent Door,” to enter a contemplative Advent and Christmas. Following Richardson’s poem is a reflection by Cathy Wille.
First let us say
a blessing
upon all who have
entered here before us.

You can see the sign
of their passage
by the worn place
on the doorframe
as they walked through,
the smooth sill
of the threshold
where they crossed.

Press your ear
to the door
for a moment before
you enter

and you will hear
their voices murmuring
words you cannot
quite make out
but know
are full of welcome.

On the other side
these ones who wait —
for you,
if you do not
know by now —
understand what
a blessing can do


how it appears like
nothing you expected

how it arrives as
outrageous invitation,

how it takes the form
of angel
or dream;

how it comes
in words like
How can this be?
lifted up the lowly:

how it sounds like
in the wilderness
prepare the way.

Those who wait
for you know
how the mark of
a true blessing
is that it will take you
where you did not
think to go.


Once through this door
there will be more:
more doors
more blessings
more who watch and
wait for you

but here
at this door of
the blessings cannot
be said without you

So lay your palm
against the frame
that those before you

place your feet
where others paused in this entryway.

Say the thing that
you most need
and the door will
open wide.

And by this word
the door is blessed
and by this word
the blessing is begun
from which
door by door
all the rest
will come.
— From "Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas." Through the Advent Door © Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.” Jan Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. During Advent, Jan will be leading Illuminated: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas.
Called For Such a Time As This
By Cathy Wille, Supportive Ministries
During this pandemic many of us feel like we are standing on a threshold, the point in a doorway where we pass from room to room, where we no longer are in the room from which we have come and are not yet in the room we are moving toward. We are entering the church season that celebrates Advent in anticipation of Christmas – a time of waiting. The Advent poem by Jan Richardson, “Blessing The Advent Door” may be appropriate for this season of COVID. There are many similarities between Advent time and this pandemic time. Are we not on the threshold in this pandemic waiting for the next door to open? This time on the threshold, this in-between time, this liminal season that prepares us for Christmas includes practices of introspection and contemplation.  Is it possible that during this time of pandemic we are being invited to a time of introspection and contemplation as we wait to move into the next room, the next phase, the next season?                                                                 
Those of us who are “doers” will say, “introspection and contemplation are not among our spiritual practices.” This probably would explain the frustration we “doers” have been experiencing during this time. Many of the things we have done in the past are not possible to do and stay safe. With “Stay at Home” and quarantines we have been forced to find new ways to “do” things. But after the house has been totally cleaned, purged of items that go to Goodwill and the yard is ready for the next season, it is no surprise that “doers” feel helpless during this liminal space in which we find ourselves.
In the biblical story of Esther, we hear about a young Hebrew woman who felt helpless during the time of need for her people. She did not choose her situation. A foreign king had chosen her to be among his many wives. She did not choose him. She found herself in a place in which she never had been before. Besides this, her Hebrew people were being threatened by a foreign army. She and her uncle were concerned and wondered if there was something she could do to save her people. She and her uncle had tried several things, but because of their status in life, they were rendered powerless to do anything. As the story progresses we find out that, even under the threat of being put to death, Esther risked a new behavior and her life. If she went forward with her new idea, she would not be the beneficiary, but her actions could save her people. As she contemplated her decision, she and her uncle came to the realization that she “was called for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) She did step forward, risked her life, and was able to save the Hebrews.
Have we been called for a time such as this? That thought is both frightening, but also exciting. The virus has robbed us of life as we knew it and it has happened by no choice of our own.  We are aware that, going forward, the future will not be the same. The time can be disorienting and feeling like we have no control and we are grieving what we have lost. But it also is a time we can set aside our doing, our past busyness, and engage in wonder. As we wander through this unknown wilderness, what we do know is that, indeed, WE have been called for such a time as this. We have the opportunity to take the risk and try new behaviors. Richardson in her poem says,

“but here
at this door of
the blessings cannot
be said without you”
For us “doers” this season may be set aside for us to risk new behaviors and spend time in introspection, contemplation and give ourselves the space to wonder as we wander about what it is that is on the other side of the door.

  1. What does it mean for you “to be called for such a time as this?”
  2. What would it be like for you to spend time in introspection and contemplation during this time of waiting?
  3. What would it be like for your congregation to spend time in introspection and contemplation during this Advent time?
  4. What new gifts, insights perspectives, commitments are you discovering that may suggest you have “been called for such a time as this?”

Download this article and reflection questions for sharing and future use.
Recommended resources for the journey


An invitation into the heart of Christmas. An Advent Retreat with Jan RichardsonThis online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holiday schedule. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility, solace and hope.  In a chaotic time, this retreat will offer a space of elegant simplicity. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this four-week online retreat provides a distinctive opportunity to journey through Advent and Christmas in contemplation and conversation with others along the way. November 29-December 26, 2020. Get more info and register here


Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas by Jan Richardson reveals the hidden pathways into the holidays we have always longed for, guiding us into a realm that shimmers with mystery and imagination. Like an Advent calendar, each day opens a new door for those staying indoors, offering rich treasures that beckon us deep into this sacred season. Author and artist Jan Richardson accompanies us with images and reflections that are imbued with ancient stories, practices, and traditions. A gift to savor every day.
From the Introduction – “In the House of Advent, in these weeks leading up to Christmas, we keep an eye turned toward the window: watching, hoping, keeping vigil for the One who is to come. But these Advent days tug our attention not only toward the future. This is a season of deep memory, a time to hear again the story of the God who has journeyed with us from the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, took on flesh and entered this world to walk with us. Time can do strange things in this season, as we navigate our way through the call to both remember and anticipate, to give our attention to the past and also to the future. Perhaps, in the midst of this, the greatest challenge is to be present to these days, to savor the season in its daily, hourly unfolding.” Available as a Kindle edition through Amazon for $9.99.
Conference Resources:

Five Practices - One of the essential Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations is the practice of risk-taking mission and service, which is an ideal way to build community. If you have experienced this program, why not take another look to see how you can create new service opportunities and build community too. Find more information on the Conference website at wcucc.org/fivepractices.

Here are some additional support and nurturing programs available to support pastors and congregations:
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Readiness 360
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation

Visit the Wisconsin Conference UCC website for information about these and other helpful resources. 
Photo of Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the newly formed Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force will provide periodic articles and resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members include Bonnie Andrews, Lisa Hart, Rev. Tim Perkins, Rev. Bob Ullman and Cathleen Wille. Go to wcucc.org/tending-the-soul for more information.
Sign up here for future issues of Tending the Soul to be sure you don't miss any. Find past issues here.
Tending the Soul is made possible through your contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission.
Wisconsin Conference UCC | wcucc.org