Dancing the Journey of Lent

Greetings!

A year has passed and we are still on the Lenten journey! Usually I would be writing to you just now with photos and stories of my trip to LA Congress, and all the swirl of inspiration and activities … but this year all the hubbub happened virtually, and that had its own gifts and challenges. I know you have MANY stories like this from your life! (Scroll down to the bottom for a special treat from this year’s LA Congress!)
Meanwhile, we know that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert … and by the time Lent is over this year, we will have spent 400 days in the COVID desert! But I give thanks that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and meanwhile, we are continuing to find the creative impulse … and to find the angels who are guiding us and ministering to us along the way. 

This year, I’ve had two articles published already! One is in the United Church of Christ Musicians Association Publication – an article entitled Dancing Through the Screen – where you will find my reflections on the joy of creating engaging online embodied worship experiences. And the second is an article in the Sacred Heart Alumnae Association Magazine – reflecting on the 50 year reunion I organized for my 7th grade classmates entitled – Celebrating 50 Years.

I’m so happy to share a wonderful video that we created for the Opening Ceremony for the LA Religious Education Congress featuring many of my dancer and musician friends from across the country. You will see scenes from NYC, LA, DC, St. Louis, Miami … and also my little offerings from Martha Lake, where I live here in the Seattle area. The song is “Caminemos con Jesús”, or “Let Us Walk with Jesus.” Let us walk, and dance through this season with our brother Jesus, and make it through to the new dawning of resurrection! 

With love,

Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM

(In this video, also find an Address from Pope Francis at 24:40, and many other dance elements, including “Yours to Take” a beautiful reflection at 56:02. Blessings!)

Dancing into the New Year

Greetings!

We made it to the New Year! I hope you have had some gentle times in these holidays/holy days and nights. Such a deep mystery as we move from the longest night to following the star of inspiration and new epiphanies! May your new year bring new possibilities born out of deep darkness! 

I had a full season, and am cherishing the creativity that has come through these pandemic times.

Have you checked out our Prayer Cycle Podcasts at Abbey of the Arts? Our seven days of Morning & Evening Prayers include scripture, song and movement that honor gifts of Earth! To celebrate the completion of our series, we will have a live celebration (featuring Christine Paintner, Simon de Voil, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan and me!) on Sunday January 17th at 12:00 noon Pacific Time. Check Abbey of the Arts for more info. in the next few days! 

The Gift of Angels and Shepherds

I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition of glittering bright angels with the earthy, smelly shepherds of our Christmas story. I especially loved visiting the Shepherd’s fields just outside of Bethlehem on our trip to the Holy Land, and imagining the bleary-eyed herders being awed by revelations in the night sky. At our home parish in Seattle, the youth always help portray the Gospel on Christmas Eve, and this year we had to be extra creative in figuring out how to do this online. Enjoy our rendition of shepherds and angels – filmed over zoom. May the delight of this story bring a burst of joy to your life … as we celebrate our final days leading to Epiphany. Happy 11th day of Christmas! 

With love,

Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM

Dancing Into Advent

Greetings!

I hope you had a joyous Thanksgiving celebration, finding creative ways to be grateful in our challenging times! This weekend was bittersweet for our little family, as we gathered in our personal “outdoor restaurant” one last time before our 28 year old our son launched himself into a whole new phase of his life on an off-grid property on a mountain side in Idaho. 

Needless to say, my mama’s heart is stretched! The womb and heart that once swelled to contain his new life now needs to release my son to his destiny. Life changes, and presents us with opportunities to let go of the known to make room for new versions of creation. Quite often that involves grieving what we once knew in order to make space for new birth. 

So now we have entered Advent, a time of growing darkness, and an invitation to inner quiet. Perhaps this year we can meditate with Mary on what it takes wait in gestation before bringing new life to birth. Or perhaps we are the Christ child within the womb, wrapped in love, who is awaiting our own new birth! Below you will find a few opportunities to dance through Advent with me, and a few sharings from this past season of giving thanks. I am grateful for you, and send you prayers for angels and midwives to dance by your side!

Witness Talk

Many times in my newsletter I share with you my ministry at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Seattle. It’s been my home base for the past 30 years, and I am so grateful for our creative journey of faith together! We are a small parish, and with the dwindling number of clergy, it is unclear if our parish will survive through Archdiocesan changes in the next few years. Last weekend I was invited to give the Witness Talk on Time, Talent and Treasure for our parish … and I wanted to share with you this reflection on my time at St. Patrick’s (where I often collaborate with longtime musician friends, David and Laura Ash.) In these days of being together from afar, may we cherish and sustain the gift of community, and grow together in love through all our seasons.

Sending you love, my friends! 

Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM

PS … Do you want to celebrate online Lessons and Carols (December 16, 7:00 pm PST) or Christmas Eve (at 5:00 pm PST) with our St. Patrick community? I’ll be leading the dance! Let me know and I can send you our Zoom link. Blessings!

Dancing Into the Unknown

Greetings!

I’m with you in the unknown right now. Listening, watching, lighting candles, breathing, praying for our country, praying for our world. And life goes on. Children wear costumes, we create altars for our ancestors and loved ones who have passed on, and we prepare for holidays in some new stripped down version that honors the upheaval of our world. Big sigh! 

I remember the first time I took a class in improvisation … and I was amazed to find that I could create a dance unplanned and in the moment. Wow! I could trust myself to let something come through me? I realize now that in the challenges of a changing world, immersing myself in the act of creation gives me joy, energy, and helps ground me in the gifts of Spirit moving through me. The creative process engages me, transforms me and invites me into collaborations that go beyond the differences that divide. Let us call upon that creative Spirit to guide us into the days ahead .. dancing, singing, praying, taking action, caring for our Earth and for each other. Below you’ll find lots of opportunities for praying with the creative spirit. And at the very bottom … my latest choreography for celebrating St. Francis and our kinship with all creation in the song – All God’s Critters. We are indeed God’s creative critters … let us bellow, howl, yowl and chirp and dance all of our deepest prayers! Amen!

Earth Monastery Prayer Cycle, Podcast, CD, and DVD

I’m so excited to announce a whole new way for you to pray with our latest offering … it’s a podcast and it’s free! At Abbey of the Arts, we are deeply shaped by the rhythms of daily prayer that arise from monastic practices, and we have woven together a wonderful resource of seven mornings and seven evenings for you to pray with us. Click here to find the podcast series, and to learn more about the resource for you and/or your community. You’ll have the chance to be led in readings, songs, responses and dances, all within the context of daily prayer. This podcast accompanies our Earth Monastery CD and Earth Monastery DVD And here is a taste of our podcasts to help calm your spirit in times of upheaval!

All God’s Critter’s

I’m so happy to share this playful piece with you! In COVID times, only a few of us are back at church, so I had to come up with a new way of celebrating the Feast of St. Francis … here you’ll find all kinds of members of our community joining in: kids, youth, adults, (including members of our deaf-blind and L’Arche community), all celebrating the gifts of our kinship with creation. May this prayer be a reminder that we are all one family … all God’s critters sharing one planet together. May we dance together in love!

Dancing with you,

Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM

Dancing Through Our Days to Tomorrow!

Greetings!

Meet Ms. Hannigan. (Remember her from the story Annie?) She’s had a hard-knock life. And she takes it out on all those kids! She has a certain amount of power, but she’s unsettled and unhappy. She’s stuck in the system, and she abuses the system; she’s lured by money and lies in order to gain more money.

Seems these days we are all having our version of a hard-knock life! Can life get any crazier? Global pandemic, anti-racism protests, hours of zooming, a contentious presidential election, the loss of the inimitable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, socially distanced church services, huge fires here on the west coast … and each of us can add our own particular family and life challenges to our list of crazy. 

And perhaps in all of this, we are being asked to look at the ways that we are Ms. Hannigan, holding tight to our little spheres of influence and power, while the world is asking us to release our comfortable niches and see things in a whole new way. 

Enter Annie. She’s an orphan, a marginalized young girl, and yet she has a vision for how life might be better tomorrow, and her spirit is indomitable! She’s not afraid to create community wherever she goes, she sings and dances her cares and hopes, she builds bridges between the powerful and the oppressed. Perhaps she has a gift for us in these crazy times! 

So why Annie? This summer I had a very special time dancing, playing and creating with my grandnieces and grandnephew in a two-week visit to Michigan. And the story that we played with was Annie. (You may remember I enacted Wizard of Oz with them a few years back.) It so happens that there was a remake of the musical in 2014 with various of the main characters being played by People of Color, and so was perfect for our little family unit, with a new relevance for our world today. 

So, if you scroll down to the bottom of this blog, you get to see our video rendition of Annie (in which I play Ms. Hannigan, of course!) 

Meanwhile, what are our “Annie” practices? We need our heart-opening prayer, we need deep breaths, we need our play, we need our family and friends, we need our walks outdoors, our time for laughing and our time for crying. We need our creative outlets and we need our dance! We need to be working on our uncomfortable edges to grow more courageous, and we need to soften and be compassionate with ourselves in these times of upheaval. 

Here is our family’s playful version of Annie created with my beloved grandnieces/ nephew (and a few other willing family members.) I even got to throw in a liturgical dance as Ms. Hannigan … (when she has her change of heart, of course!) Let’s all pray that our “tomorrow” of no COVID will come soon. Meanwhile, let’s live our days with love, laughter and deep compassion for one another. (P.S. … if you only have a short time, the first 3 minutes are totally worth the click!) 

The last line of the story is – “I don’t need anything but you!”

xo, Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM

Dancing in the Sacred Heart of Summer

Greetings!

Sometimes the world seems a bit too challenging to bear. The summer sun in Seattle shines brightly, and yet the underbelly of our society’s weaknesses are exposed with new awareness of racism, sexism, and global pandemic. Each day my heart is longing for simpler days of family, faith and community, while I am asked to stand in new places of truth-telling, courage, and discomfort with a heart of peace and justice. 

Before these challenging days were upon us, I felt called to organize a reunion. Fifty years ago, I was in the 7th grade at Sacred Heart Academy in Cincinnati, and I learned my beloved school was about to close its doors. I took my first dance class at Sacred Heart! I wrote my first poem at Sacred Heart! I made my First Communion at Sacred Heart! I learned about the evils of slavery and the heart of Christ. Mary watched over us and I felt her feminine wisdom guiding me. At my young age, I was devastated that our little community would close its doors.

Here’s a poem I wrote in 1970 –

The Great Hall stands empty now.
Long past are its years of fame.
Seldom are there visitors here,
and those who come cherish its name.
“What Great Hall do you speak of?” you say.
“What building could you possibly mean?”
‘Tis the silent old Sacred Heart,
the lovely old Sacred Heart,
which now stands alone on the hill.

Fast forward 50 years , and it turns out that my cousin has recently purchased a condo in the “lovely old Sacred Heart” building … and not only that, this condo is in the Chapel of the old building! So that was the clincher: I organized a reunion of our 7th grade class … most of whom I hadn’t seen in literally 50 years, and we were to regather in our beloved place of origin! Well, COVID had other ideas, so we ended up with a ZOOM reunion , which had its own beauty! 

All of this is to say that in these challenging times, I revisited the place of my beautiful budding child self, and embraced her with joy. I want to share the slide show I created for this grand occasion. May it stir in you the memory of the heart of love that created you and us all. May the Sacred Heart of love continue to plant in us the courage to live with generosity, honesty, faith, creativity and community. 

I am fortunate to live with my husband, Charlie Bommarito, a passionate musician who creates music in our house daily. Since we are not able to have large gatherings at the moment, I’m sharing here a summer music creation by his/our band Percolations (also featuring our son, Chaz.) For this video, I am the videographer and editor … (and you can see my surprise appearances at 9:14 and 10:40.) Kick off your shoes and join me in the dance of summer!

Our son, Chaz is contemplating some changes of direction – so it’s a special treat to have this co-creation before larger shifts happen in the fabric of our lives. May the music of summer soothe your soul for the joy and challenges of living! 

Stay healthy. Sending prayers, music, and dances from our heart to yours!

Betsey

Betsey Beckman, MM