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Thoughts from the Theologian: Favoring Time and Announcing the ABB Symposium

January 25, 2023

Dear Trinity Boston,


I pray I find you well in this New Year.


My New Year’s resolution has been to favor time and fertilizer over the axe.  Let me explain. 


I remain struck by a saying from Keith Nelson, one of The Episcopal Church’s monks from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.  He writes this about growth: “Jesus’s fundamental stance is to wait; to tend; to apply therapeutic rather than punitive measures; to favor time and fertilizer over the axe. This is the love of the gardener.”   


As we wade into 2023, we do well to listen to Brother Keith’s wisdom—especially his insight regarding Jesus’s disposition always toward growth and not destruction.  Instead of flimsy and often capricious New Year’s resolutions, I invite you into the perennial resolution to find health in being God’s garden.  In short, there is deep wisdom in constantly recognizing how we, the church, are a holy place—God’s garden.


As I look back to the summer when I started with you at Trinity Church and forward again to now, I echo Jacob’s sentiment about holy places: “Surely the Lord is in this place. . . How awesome is this place!” (Gen. 26:16-17) Trinity is a holy place in which the Holy Spirit both waits upon and tends the fruits of our community together.  For me this looks like participating in worship, eating meals with you, celebrating milestones, sensing the increase of Sacred Ground, ART (Anti-Racism Team) and Ubuntu Circles and so much more. All of this makes me join in Jacob’s glee for the holy place and Brother Keith’s love of the gardener.


As we grow into the Holy Spirit’s garden, a few advertisements of things recently passed and things to come are in order.  A pilot team from Trinity joined my Desmond Tutu Travel Seminar this month, January 10-18.  I host the program in Cape Town, South Africa in January and August of each year.  We focus upon Archbishop Tutu’s legacy of restorative justice, Ubuntu, and Christian spirituality, and this most recent cohort is still processing our meaningful experience together.  We look forward to sharing those reflections with you this spring, hopefully to pique your interest in the next Cape Town Seminar, now set for August 9-16, 2023.


I also enjoyed teaching this last Sunday as part of our Epiphany, “Look For Light” series.  If you missed either of the first two lectures, you can find them here on our parish website.  I hope you will join us for the final three installments.


Finally, mark your calendars for our Trinity Lenten Series, entitled “Romans and Righteousness.”  Slightly adapting the lectionary (with Bishop Gates’ permission), Morgan and I will tether the series to each Sunday’s lesson from Paul’s letter to Rome.  As part of the series, we will host the Anne Berry Bonnyman Symposium the weekend of March 19.  Drawing on Romans 5:12-19, those sessions will explore the intersection of climate, race and justice.  The Symposium will welcome Dr. Kent A. McConnell, History Chair at Phillips Exeter Academy.  Dr. McConnell’s dissertation explored religiosity following the Civil War, he has contributed to Oxford University’s Encyclopedia of African American History:1896 to the Present, and he recently addressed the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History and the National Park Service’s academic symposium on John Brown.  We look forward to welcoming Dr. McConnell and will share more details in the weeks ahead.


Always Peace,



The Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D.

Trinity Church Theologian-in-Community