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Finding the Gifts in the Wilderness

When we interviewed Rev. Dr. Candi Ashenden for our book The Perpetual Pivot: Ministry in the Pandemic and Beyond her creative approach to worship really surprised us. In March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit Ashenden reported that she began to teach herself to edit film, as a way to create services with more visual interest. She knew that her people would appreciate worship services full of new images especially as the weeks wore on and they felt trapped in their homes. For many of them, weekly worship was one of the only times all week that they could connect with other people.


So, Rev. Ashenden started to photograph scenes from nature and use these as backdrops for her prayers and the musical portions of her services. Her people responded immediately to her innovation so she looked for other ways to use video in her services. Leading her church was not her only challenge that spring. She was also the mother of two young adults, both living in college dormitories in other states. She knew she had to go to retrieve their luggage and furniture as they’d left school in a hurry.


So, as she planned those trips, she realized that she would be passing lots of sacred places along her route, sites that would make wonderful locations to read a psalm or talk about God’s creation. Along with her Associate Pastor who learned to film, Ashenden organized an itinerary that would include some distinctive national sites, among them the Grotto of the Redemption in Indiana, a basilica in St. Louis, the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona, the Redwoods National Forest.


When she returned from her journeys, Ashenden had footage from across the country, a veritable spiritual travelogue. The images added incredible variety and became as well as an inspiring way to illustrate the Bible passages in sermons. It transformed worship for parishioners who had been confined to their homes in the pandemic.


We are excited to be traveling to central Massachusetts On February 4th to preach, and talk about our new book at the Athol Congregational Church. Our dialogue sermon is based on Exodus 16:1-6 and it’s called “What is Going On?” We see parallels in the story of the Hebrews in the wilderness and the way people of faith today have made this journey through the pandemic wilderness. Just as the people in the Bible found faith precisely in times of challenge, we believe God is still sending manna, and leading us in the wilderness we know. Often in life, we discover that in times of uncertainty, when we don’t have a map or GPS we find new blessings we never would have found otherwise. Often, like Rev. Ashenden, we discover adversity fosters creativity.


We hope you will join us for worship on February 4 or whenever your schedule allows. The online link to the service is found at the website for the Athol Congregational Church




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