Archives for category: Monday Meditation

Is Bethlehem haunted?

It would seem so, according to the Ghost Tours led by Historic Haunts of Downtown Bethlehem. There are enough spooks and spirits to fill a whole tour, apparently. Certainly, there is plenty of history here, so if ghosts do exist, one would expect Bethlehem to have them aplenty.

I don’t know how much I believe in that stuff, but if Bethlehem is haunted I hope it’s by Count Zinzendorf. First of all, he has probably the best ghost name in recorded history. I mean, who would you rather be haunted by, Casper or Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf? Point, set, match, Count Z.

But it’s not just his name, it’s the spirit of the man, and the Moravians he led, that makes me hope he’s still haunting our land. Zinzendorf was a strong voice for religious tolerance – back in the eighteenth century, he had the courage to proclaim that one’s denomination mattered less than being a part of “the congregation of God in the Spirit.” He preached that our relationship with God was more important than any doctrinal dispute. And while, like many Europeans of his time, he did attempt to convert the “heathen” Lenape, he was fascinated by their culture and insisted that they be treated as equal – in God’s Acre cemetery, they were buried alongside the white settlers. The cemetery is perhaps the first “integrated” burial ground in America. Whether or not the cemetery is haunted, I cannot tell you. But I assure you it is hallowed.

Hopefully, the spirit of the Lenape people is still with us, too. Fortunately, the Lenape nation and her people have survived. But whether all of us residents of the Lehigh Valley have kept alive the Lenape reverence for our environment remains to be seen. Lenape religion held that the Great Spirit was present in all living things. Consequently they treated nature with the utmost respect and care. If we were to be haunted by visions, this would be a great vision for us all.

Monday Meditation: Who “haunts” your life – what ancestors, predecessors, great examples live on in the way you go about your day?

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One of my favorite things about Lehigh Valley in the summer – other then the Fests and the Fairs – is our front porch culture. The Lehigh Valley is one of those places where people not only hang out on their front porch, they talk to each other as they’re strolling by. Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton all have neighborhoods where you can find somebody in a rocking chair to say hello to.

I grew up in New England, where “how are you doing?” is considered an overly personal question. So it took me a while to adjust to the Lehigh Valley and the way perfect strangers will talk to you, simply because you’re both human beings. Add to this fact that I’m also an introvert. So if I ever won the lottery, the idea of building a giant house in the country, where I could avoid ever having to interact with anyone, would have a certain appeal to me.

But I couldn’t do it. I love our front porch culture just too much. Someone saying “hi” to me, and saying “hi” back, is an even better pick-me-up than really good coffee. It’s an affirmation of our mutual humanness, a spark of what Jewish mystic Martin Buber called the “I-You” relationship. The universe, he declared, is fundamentally relational. Nowadays, chaos theory is confirming this to be true.

It’s lovely having neighbors. I wasn’t a big Mr. Rogers fan as a kid, but as an adult I definitely am. Not everyone knows that Fred Rogers, who came from Western Pennsylvania and died in 2003, was an ordained Presbyterian minister. So when he sings:

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

He’s not just thinking it’s a cute song kids will like. No, Mr. Rogers is trying to get across to kids how important it is that we see each other as fundamentally related beings, who share this amazing thing called a neighborhood.

Anyway, enough writing. I got a few more beautiful days out there, I’m going to sit in  my rocking chair and see who comes by. Soon, it’ll be too cold – and time to get the porch ready for Halloween. Won’t you be my neighbor?

I invite you to consider where your “front porch space” is – the place where you can interact with others whil feeling at home. If not a porch, could it be a coffeeshop, at the water cooler, or on Facebook? Or is front porch space a state of mind? And if so, how are you called from the inner chambers of your soul, so to speak, to your front porch space?