The Sanctuary That is Cranaleith Spiritual Center

The Sanctuary That is Cranaleith Spiritual Center

Dear Friends,

Elizabeth (Director of Hosted Groups) and I kneel on the rough planks of the front porch of the Knowlton Mansion trying to fix the frame of a canvas backdrop.  Inside, Carolyn dangles delicate earrings on an acrylic stand for the auction table, propping Sr. Helen David’s original painting on a golden easel. Maryanne tests the fairy lights, Loretta and Claire arrange candles at each table. Stesha, George, and Arlene rush to finish the last-minute tasks. The celebration for Cranaleith’s 25th anniversary begins in just a few minutes.  The night’s emcee, Rev. Dr. Lorena Blake-Marshall, arrives with a hat to auction as a surprise.  The event is sold out— over 200 tickets—,  Elizabeth, Joziah (Marketing Manager) and Angela (Director of Development) have been meeting weekly for over a year preparing for this one night. We play the video and I step up to the mic for the invocation.  I say something about imagining bubbles and the tensions of our time. The voices rise in the space at the back of the room.  Hugs between those who know one another well and warm greetings between new acquaintances, the fire pit’s flames just visible beyond the glass door of the patio.  So much excitement, our voices bounce against the ceiling and the walls. It’s fun and chaotic.  Nothing goes exactly to plan.

During the event, Joyce Hadley, one of our honorees, holds both my hands as she introduces me to her guests—including her 98-year-old friend who has known Joyce since she was 8 months old. I kneel by the table of another honoree,  Sr. Mary Scullion, and talk with Ebony, the tall, reserved woman who had recently attended one of the retreats at Cranaleith for Project HOME.

When Sr. Mary Trainer steps to the mic to introduce Sr. Maria as the recipient of the Founder’s Award, I find myself searching for a tissue.  Sr. Maria makes a small joke, and all of us laugh.  We love her, we love them, we love Cranaleith, the room fills with that love until we rise together.  Sr. Maria looks radiant wearing Rev. Dr. Lorena’s extraordinary hat.  But, still, it all feels bittersweet, this happy, buoyant celebration pressing up against our world’s grief and sadness, our loss and change.

At the end of the evening, I step up to the microphone once more. It’s past time for tired guests to head home, but I want everyone in the room to know that even as we celebrate Cranaleith’s past we look toward its future.  Cranaleith’s programming for the professionals in Communities of Practice for Health Professionals, Educators, and Social Workers is filling fast.  Cranaleith has received word that it is being awarded a $374,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency so that we can create programming free of cost for the women caregivers and teenage girls seeking recovery and restoration from the trauma of gun violence. There is so much more to come.

In the sanctuary that is Cranaleith Spiritual Center, we can embrace our light and shadow, hold our memories next to inspiration and imagination, float through laughter and hope. Tonight, we celebrate what has been. Tomorrow, we begin again.


In Peace and Mercy,

Dawn L. Hayward

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