Finally Free

          Brother Joseph Wallace-Williams, a monk at Holy Cross Monastery, basically invited himself to Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church. Last spring, when I was there for a prayer retreat, I ran into Brother Joseph in the gift shop of the monastery and he said to me, “We’ve got to come visit your church sometime.” Great idea, I thought. I have always wanted to bring a taste of the beauty and holiness of Holy Cross back to 1680 Aquetong Road. Next weekend March 25 and 26, the date of our Renewal Weekend; the blessing of this monastic community comes in the form of Brother Joseph.

          In November when I last visited Holy Cross Monastery, I sat with Joseph to plan out the weekend. He and I considered some topics for the half-day prayer retreat on Saturday, March 25th. Joseph reeled through a couple of suggestions before he said, “How about forgiveness?” I guess I reacted noticeably—maybe falling off my chair gave it away. Watching me, Joseph said, “I think forgiveness is our theme.”

          I know so many people who struggle with the idea of forgiveness; and that includes me. Pastor Don Mackintosh offers this open-ended statement to identify and understand a person’s emotional pain: “Once upon a time something happened that really upset me, and to this day I have not let it go. This is how that decision has impacted my life . . .” Oh the stories of pain, hurt, disappointment and bitterness that could flow from that statement! My concern as a pastor is to help others, and again including me, to move beyond the imprisoning pain of the past and to walk free from the prison cell of resentment and anger. I think forgiveness is the only way out of that cell.

          Don Mackintosh, author of a wonderful article on forgiveness called, “The Role of Forgiveness in the Recovery of Physical and Mental Health”, wrote the following: “True Christian ministry must involve forgiveness, and those who embrace true forgiveness experience lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.” This pastor cites a study conducted of female incest survivors who attended weekly sessions on forgiveness for fourteen months. “Compared to control group, they showed gains in forgiveness and hope together with significant decreases in anxiety and depression.”

          So what is forgiveness? We have to start with what it is: “Forgiveness is a process that takes time, it involves letting go of . . . a negative response following an offense. Through forgiveness, a positive response towards the offender emerges.”

          Next Saturday, Brother Joseph Wallace-Williams offers a retreat on forgiveness. To register, sign up on the Table of Well Wishing this Sunday morning or register through our website: Join us and watch the door of that terrible prison cell open.

Here is a link to the article by Don Mackintosh: