The Way of the Rose

Portland, Oregon has traditionally been known as "The City Of Roses." There are several rose gardens located around the city at Washington Park, Ladd's Addition and Peninsula Park. The city hosts its Annual Rose Festival every June and the brilliant colors and varied fragrances of roses fill the city throughout Spring, Summer and into the Fall.

A soothing, meditative activity is to walk through a rose garden and to appreciate the beauty and the aroma of the flowers.

Clark Strand writes:

Roses have long been sacred to the goddess in Western culture. Roses were sacred to Venus before they were sacred to Mary, and sacred to Isis before Venus. Before Isis, they were sacred to Innana. There is a long history of associating roses with mother goddesses and goddesses of love and fertility.

In pre-Christian culture Roses were a way of honoring the union of body and soul. They celebrated both the material and spiritual dimensions of life and recognized no split between the two. To offer a garland of roses to the goddess ( and the word rosary refers to such a garland) was to unite the cycles of birth ,death, and rebirth that she embodied. To offer roses was to find one's individual body eternally united with the greater body of the world.

That union is the teaching of the rosary as well. In traditional mysteries (which chronicle the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus), offer a portrait of our physical and spiritual journey through this world- a unified portrait that recognizes the oneness of life and death, body and soul, male and female, heaven and earth ( Strand, 2014 )

First Congregational Church has been a dominant presence in Portland, OR since its founding in 1851. This faith community has been on the forefront regarding issues of social justice ministry and has done innovative work regarding advocacy for women and children, GLBT ministry and now advocacy ministry regarding income inequality.

Recently, I attended a service at First Congregational Church. The minister Rev. Michael Ellick preached a brilliant sermon on debt forgiveness. The title of the sermon was "Forgive Us Our Debts " and was based upon the text from the book of Deuteronomy 15:1-6

"And at the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. "

Rev. Ellick commented that some people will interpret this notion as somehow being socialist and therefore to be discounted. However, the idea of debt forgiveness, Rev. Ellick argued, is deeply ingrained in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Rev. Ellick also noted in his sermon that currently seventy-seven percent of people in the United States are facing debt ( See Sermon " Forgive Us Our Debts" at www.uccportland.org).

During the worship service, it was noted during the moment for mission that the cost of housing in the Portland, Or area has skyrocketed leaving many people, including vulnerable populations like the elderly, and single women with children literally being priced out of the housing market.

The church is now working with the Metropolitan Alliance For The Common Good (MACG) along with other community organizations that are helping to make housing affordable and accessible to everyone.

I grew up in a home in Portland, Or with my mother who was a single parent. Forty years ago, our economic life as a family was a struggle. I can't imagine what it would be like now in 2015.

The Church and the religious community can now choose to help and support those who are suffering from debt, those who are living on the economic margins. People of faith can organize and support a living wage for all citizens. Religious communities and their clergy leaders can and should protest unjust economic practices and policies in order to secure a more just economic system that works for all people.

The Church needs to be at the forefront to advocate and support affordable housing for all.

The Gospel of Matthew observes " whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" ( Matthew 25:45 ).

The way of the rose has traditionally been a place where there has been comfort and support and a place of belonging for all.

Churches like First Congregational in Portland, Or are working on reclaiming the ancient art and practice of hospitality and justice and protection for all people.

May the way of the rose be a way of life that all of us can embrace, internalize and live out in our relationships with one another and with the world now and always.