Fall 2016 Equinox Newsletter

Years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, I often observed, during early morning hours, village people sitting quietly in front of their homes, wrapped in blankets, staring into the mist-covered mountains. There was acknowledgment for the gift of each new day.

Funerals and weddings provide similar opportunities in our own culture. They are special times when we pause to intersect with the eternal. Ponder the passage of time, mourn our loss, cling to hope. Affirm the surprising beauty of it all.

This summer, I spoke briefly at the funeral of Lorraine. I officiated at her wedding 40 years ago. Her husband reminded me they picked wild flowers for the altar the morning of the wedding. Friends threw birdseed in the air on the church steps. Later, during that long ago evening, they danced to music by a foot-stomping fiddler, sawdust scattered on the range hall’s hardwood floor. At the funeral, a simple vase of wild flowers, freshly-picked by her widowed husband, was set alongside her urn of ashes.

In July, I found myself among a mismatched, fun-loving group of folks under a gazebo next to a low-cost housing apartment building. We were on a hill overlooking a once-booming mining town. David is a pizza delivery driver, his bride a volunteer at the city’s thrift shop. The groom was in a confirmation class I taught during my first years as a parish pastor. The two chose a Harley Davidson wedding theme. The bride had sewn tiny skulls onto her dress. He wore a Harley Davidson bolo tie. She hand-crocheted name tags for everyone. 200 people attended the reception. Neither groom nor bride ever owned a motorcycle.

In August, at a small Mackinaw County church, an Ojibway tribal leader and I quietly laid down tobacco, a thank you offering, in all four corners of the sanctuary. It was shortly before the funeral began for Helen, an 89-year-old long-time mentor and friend of mine, the daughter of a Great Lakes lighthouse keeper. Owl Woman was her Indian name. She understood the power of forgiveness; knew the hidden secrets of the human heart.

On the edge of September, at the wedding of my nephew in Milwaukee, I danced with my wife Diana on a veranda overlooking Lake Michigan. Days later, at a wedding near an apple orchard, together with a folk singer, we blessed two physical and occupational therapists at a camp for disabled children. The couple first fell in love staring at displays of Northern Lights on a late night walk. Family and friends from Kentucky and Wisconsin traveled to be with them. Some in wheelchairs.

Last week in Wisconsin, I stood alongside a colleague during a memorial service for her beloved 96-year-old husband, an author and journalist of Jewish descent, one of our country’s most prophetic environmental writers. Michael once interviewed Robert Frost. With a smile, he recalled Frost complaining about the inadequate speaker fees at college gigs.



  1. EARTH & SPIRIT: Northern Great Lakes Water Stewards
  2. CONNECTIONS: Crossing Over



Water Stewards

Northern Great Lakes Water Stewards

A faith-based initiative to establish a collaborative partnership to monitor, restore, protect, and sanctify the lakes and rivers of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

On July 31, 2016, a four-year interfaith initiative was launched at a public gathering in the sanctuary of Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette. Following a presentation on the mystery of water by retired physician Scott Emerson, volunteers signed up to help restore river banks, plant trees, and communicate with families still held hostage by the contaminated municipal water system in Flint, Michigan.


  • Stream-clean-up: Completed 8/20.
  • Planting of 100 Northern white cedar trees at Cherry Creek: Completed 9/10.
  • Teaching Circles on the Gift of Water at Unity Church, Marquette, 9/17: Completed.
  • Presentation at Messiah Lutheran Church is scheduled for 10/18.
  • The publishing of the 1st of 36 columns, over 4 years, on “The Gift of Water” in the Marquette Monthly to begins 10/1/16: Completed.
  • Communications established by Frannie Belton with the Flint faith community coalition to explore the best avenues for support: Completed.

The NGL Water Steward Initiative is coordinated by Rev. Paul Lehmberg, Marquette Zen Buddhist priest and Rev. Jon Magnuson, Director of the Cedar Tree Institute. Rachel Holman, MSW, serves as Project Liaison. Nancy Auer, professor of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University and Episcopal priest serving Christ Episcopal Church in Calumet, is part of our core planning team.

Also thanks to Ken Kelley and Terry Frankenstein, seminary student, for providing special support along with Messiah Lutheran Church, Rev. David Van Kley, and Youth Director Lisa Johnson.

For more information contact:
rhoman@usc.edu or cedartreeinstitute.org/contact/

This project is completely dependent upon donations from individuals and congregations.



Crossing Over

EBEN ALEXANDER, M.D. “Crossing Over”


We have invited Eben Alexander, M.D. to travel to Marquette to o!er a presentation on “Crossing Over: A Neurosurgeon’s Experience Facing Death.”

He wrote an account of that experience in 2012, “Proof of Heaven,” a New York Tines Best-seller. Dr. Alexander was an academic neurosurgeon for 25 years including 15 years at the Brigham & Young Women’s and the Children’s Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

His experience dramatically changed his life and deepened his own life story. Much of Dr. Alexander’s work is now about supporting the work of hospice communities across North American and overseas.

October 21st 7PM
Messiah Lutheran Church
305 W. Magnetic, Marquette MI

Sponsored by the Cedar Tree Institute, Lake Superior Hospice, and U.P. Home Care and Hospice.

Dr. Alexander’s presence with us is a gift to our community, thanks to 100 donors from all walks of life.

October 22nd 9AM-Noon
Marquette’s Federated Clubhouse
104 W. Ridge Street, Marquette MI

With Eben Alexander, M.D. & Karen Newell
Cost: $65 (limited to 40 Participants)

CTI is a nonprofit organization initiating projects & providing services in the areas of mental health, religion & the environment.

One-third of our services are pro bono. Counseling services are available with Jon Magnuson (MDiv., MSW) and are covered by most insurances.

For information contact us at 403 East Michigan Street, Marquette, MI 49855 or contact us via email. Telephone & Fax: 906-228-5494

The Fall 2016 Equinox Newsletter is brought to you by Cedar Tree Institute.

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