Tag Archives: community

an impromptu posada (the miracle of the 8 tables)

It was a bit less ‘no room in the in’ and a bit more ‘no mesas (tables) in the storage area’ – not, perhaps, as poetic, but an unintentional modern day posada nonetheless…

A ‘Posada’ or really “Las Posadas” is more typically a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay – knocking on doors, being told there is ‘no room in the inn’ (so to speak) until they finally find lodging (posada) and are invited in.

So, when Jose (which is, obviously, his name, but which is also how the name Joseph is translated into Spanish) arrived at the barn where we were setting up for our annual La Mision Holiday Celebration – yes, we hold it in a barn, and no, the irony is not lost – and said that the tables, tables we need for sharing the convivio (potluck) after the service, were not in the usual location, we began to wonder where they might be found.

Wondering turned to suspecting, as Bev realized said tables had probably been taken and used at the foodbank. So, Jose, Vita and I loaded into Jose’s truck and headed over to the foodbank. Looking in the windows Jose made the pronouncement – we are not taking these tables – to which I answered of course we are. Until, of course, I too looked in the window. The tables, 7 of the 8, were piled high with carefully folded clothes, laid out as if already sorted and ready for some distribution.

photo 1-8“Just move the stuff,” Bev had instructed, when she sent us off on our table posada. “Um, Bev, that’s not gonna happen,” I told her over the phone as she said she’d be right over. I’d list her response, when she saw the room, and the tables, but that might get this post flagged for inappropriate language…

So we went upstairs to talk to Estela, who was at home. “Do you have any tables?” Vita began to sing the song for Las Posadas, the song of Mary and Joseph – or in this case, Vita, Jose and Erin.

We got one from Estela as we took the one unused table from the foodbank. While we were there Estela also lent us 40 chairs, to go with the 50 we’ve already got. Meanwhile, I called Cindi on her cell phone – “I have a couple of tables we can use,” she answered.

photo 2-8As we drove back, along the mud road, in what had suddenly become a downpour, I asked Jose and Vita if their lives were not much easier before all these crazy ‘strangers’ entered into them. Laughing they answered something along the lines of, this craziness filled with strangers has become our life.

Which, it seems to me, is exactly the message of the Posada, of Navidad, Christmas…for we are both the strangers that go looking for lodging, or tables, or a place to lay our weary head  or a seat at the table, and we too are the ones who have the opportunity to open the doors of our lives, our communities, our hearts, and our families to that which seeks to be born to us this day…God with us, amongst us – even here, even now.

photo by Marty Harriman

photo by Marty Harriman

An addendum: I shared the above message with those gathered last night for our celebration – a celebration of Christmas/Navidad of course, but also of Hanukkah, the festival of lights and the miracle of the oil that was only enough for burning the lamps for one day, but lasted for all eight days.

As we were passing the light, Ron chanted for us, in Hebrew, the blessing of the light – and, was quick to point out, that the miracle had come full circle – from the miracle of the 8 days to the miracle of the 8 tables…may it be so!

why we gather



Tonight we will gather – an eclectic group, to say the least. Though most of us live in or near the same small town, we come from many different places.

We are Mexicans and Americans. We are also Thai, South African, and even Texan. We speak many different languages (including Hebrew!) but will limit ourselves to two (or possibly three) for our service this evening.

We are those who come from plenty, and those who survive and often thrive even in the midst of want – be it materially, emotionally, or spiritually. Tonight we will share with one another – in food, in wine, in conversation, in love and in laughter.

We will gather to sing, to speak, to offer light in the midst of the darkness of what is predicted to be a chilly winter’s night. We will eat together. We will drink together. We will add our individual lights to a bonfire that we hope will warm us in the midst of the cold.

Amongst those who will gather will be some who call themselves Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Atheist, Protestant, Mormon, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Science of the Mind and even a JW or two (don’t tell) – but also many who find themselves outside the traditional categories of religion, faith, or belief.

There are those in this world who decry the use of the word ‘holiday’ in place of ‘Christmas,’ siting it as further eroding of our religious heritage. But regardless of the name given to it, this evening will truly be a ‘holy-day’ – a time of transcending the boundaries that normally keep our world so neatly divided between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ – tonight there will just be ‘we.’

There have been those who ask, why in the world would this group gather together for such a service? How is there possibly anything in common amongst such a wide diversity of background, class, culture, and religious opinion – or lack thereof? What is the point? Why bother?

For me, the answer is simple – though I hope not simplistic. It is, according to the custom of Jesus of Nazareth, an answer that is, in return, a question.

Why would I want to be anywhere else?

photo: a toast to laughter

One of the many “toasts” (cranberry juice) which include looking each other in the eye, bowing, then offering the toast – along with a lot of wonderful laughter amongst new friends and old. What a gift these few days in Taiwan have been to us all!

toast, Taiwan
© 2012 erin dunigan

without power

in the glow of the lattern light...

Maybe it was the lack of any electronic distraction, or the reading by candle and kerosene lamp light, or maybe it was just the enjoyment of the silence and the darkness, but somehow last night’s loss of power has has caused me to ponder ideas of ‘power.’

My first response, when trying to google the word ‘paleontology’ lead me to discover that not only was the wifi not working, but actually neither were the lights or the fridge or anything else for that matter, was to find out if I was the only one. Living in Baja, with rather precariously strung power lines from the pole to the house, and a less than modern electric wiring of the house, means that I never know if it is a bigger problem or just me. After a brief walk through the neighborhood I was glad to find out that I was not alone, that everyone was, in a manner of speaking, powerless. Somehow it’s better to know you’re in it together.

It wasn’t for another hour and a half that I learned, from the car radio, that it was, in fact, a much bigger problem. I had sort of assumed that perhaps bandidos had again stolen the wiring and that it was a local La Mision problem. What is it about such events that has almost a festive air about it, in the midst of the ‘disaster’?

I’ve heard from more than one friend in both the US and Mexico that there was something about the power outage that was almost celebratory–people outside, talking to their neighbors, sharing ice cream sandwiches from the freezer so that they wouldn’t melt, having a neighborhood BBQ, and lending a candle or a flashlight. Of course I’m sure there was plenty of anxiety in places, unlike La Mision, that have traffic lights to malfunction or freeways to navigate.

I’m fascinated by this idea that it is in the midst of ‘losing our power’ that many of us seemed to have found something else that along the way we might not have even realized we’d lost.

As communities go, La Mision is a fairly friendly one. I know my neighbors, often share meals with them, and see them as they or I walk the dog past. But even here there was a sense of sharing in an experience together that we don’t often encounter. A few of us neighbors wound up chatting outside over drinks, while food cooked on the grill, and as the sun set.

What is it about having ‘power’ that seems to so often preclude this kind of encounter?

When we don’t have access to our tv’s, facebook, music or even light, is there somehow a space freed up in us to connect with one another? It’s not that any of those technologies are inherently bad, of course, but is there something that we have lost as we have gained them?

Of course there are many in this world go are without power for longer or on a regular basis. There are many who only recently had their power restored after Hurricane Irene left them for more than a week without it. Nine hours seems hardly worth noting, when compared with a week. There are others, such as a local community called Campo Lopez, have chosen this ‘powerless’ life for reasons of sustainability or aesthetics. Some, often those among the world’s poorest, have had their ‘powerlessness’ imposed upon them through no choice or desire of their own.  These are very different situations–the intentional giving up of power versus not having access to power.

I have to say, I’m not ready to give up my iPhone and my internet connection–it was killing me not to be able to tweet about the power outage as it was happening–but I am pondering a sort of weekly ‘powerless night.’ There was something very peaceful about the intensity of the silence and the darkness. The thing is, as my Campo Lopez neighbors like to point out, we don’t need nearly as much ‘power’ as we have become accustomed to or seem to think we require. Ponder that a bit.

I think perhaps my favorite reflection on the evening came from my neighbor who said “I sat outside last night. It was so great to have all of the lights out, so that I could actually see.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but, as I’ve been pondering, I wonder, how often does our ‘power’–our dependence on it, our being accustomed to it and all that it provides in our lives–keep us from actually seeing?