|Photo courtesy Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine|
by Rev. Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine
MADISON (04/17/2012) -- The Mercy Center at Madison welcomes people of diverse faiths and backgrounds to a peaceful place of natural beauty for personal, spiritual, and professional renewal and growth. Most visitors to Mercy will tell you that when they turn into the driveway, they take a deep breath and the presence of the Divine is palpable.
The women and men who come to Mercy come from all walks of life; they are young and not so young, churched and unchurched, believers, and searchers. For many, the serenity of sacred grounds overlooking Long Island Sound offers a place of acceptance and respect for one’s spiritual journey; no matter where they are on that journey. For some, Mercy is part of God’s universal church and God is found in the gentle lapping of waves, in walking and praying the labyrinth, in strolls through the woods, and in the search for a shell or stone on the beach that somehow captures the Spirit. It is in those moments that the Beloved speaks, and we are invited to listen.
Here at the Mercy Center individuals and groups of people go on retreats, take classes and institutes, receive spiritual guidance, pray, meditate, walk, and just enjoy the gift of silence… They come to know that church doesn’t necessarily mean four walls and that congregations can come together in varied, creative ways from a Monday Lenten prayer and lunch to a service trip to Indian Island, Maine. “Church” kinds of things also happen at the Mercy Center: participants and staff collect food for the local food bank, discern and act on ways that affect positive change in the world, explore compassionate styles of leadership that focus on issues of justice, involve themselves in the local community, hold meetings, and worship God in spirit-filled ways.
Church matters at the Mercy Center at Madison because it offers people ways to explore and deepen their relationship with God, helps people satisfy their yearnings to be connected to the Divine in everyday life, accompanies people on their journeys of faith, and develops programming focusing on critical concerns in the world today: practicing nonviolence, eradicating racism, reverencing the Earth, embracing multiculturalism, standing in solidarity with immigrants, and demonstrating concern for the women and children who are marginalized.
Church matters on these beautiful and holy grounds because all people are welcome to come and experience Sabbath and to discover, in one’s own way, that Spirit matters.
The Rev. Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine, Ph.D., teaches in Mercy’s School of Spirituality and serves as a spiritual director and retreat leader. She is also leading a summer Spirituality and Leadership Institute.