I have had a number of encounters with the Spirit of our loving God which I describe as the “thin places” where the portals of God’s love pours through into our existence. One such experience was when my father was dying of cancer, in hospice, at his home. I would be up with him late at night and he would have a vision of something in the room. He would say to me, “can you see them?” They are the “developers coming to me” he would observe, with a stare up into the ceiling. “It’s my mother, father, and relatives that have died before me, coming to pave the way for me.” The most amazing part of that time was not just the “thin place” he could envision, but that he totally changed. He no longer was the distant father of my past (damaged by PTSD from WWII), but he totally reconciled our differences during those final months and told me over and over how much he loved me. It was his “vision” of God, of his version of heaven, of love that brought tremendous peace to our relationship, and to his final days.

The Episcopal House of Prayer within the Benedictine Community of St. John’s Abbey and University is where I experience some of my most profound moments of a loving God. On two spiritual levels I have been deeply touched by God’s presence.

First, our contemplative prayer group has developed such a strong spiritual relationship that when we sit in silence in the oratory of the EHOP, I can “feel” the loving presence of God between us flowing mystically in the room of that space. It is a joy there I cannot put into words. We realize the powerful connection of a loving, living God we have with each other that really requires no words.

Secondly, the Arboretum, woods and water that surround the EHOP have been a solace to me since my college days at St. John’s. For 50 years I have wandered those woods, walked in silent mediation, and have a profound experienced of God’s presence, to my connection to all living beings and all that exists in this world. It is my “church of the wild” where God wordlessly speaks to me in the most powerful of voices.

Dick Howard