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Wyoming Interfaith Network: A Garden


“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or  thoughts unexpressed – that can make this life a garden.”


What a busy time in which we in the WIN network are all living. All of us, doing our meaningful work across the state and beyond, to bring connection, hope, and faith to our communities.

I was busy on Saturday, teaching my Introduction to Social Work class for a brand new Master of Social Work cohort at the University of Wyoming with a group of compassionate, caring graduate students embarking on their journey to strengthen their knowledge about helping individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and beyond. A group of diverse students, with unique talents, skills, experiences, hopes, and concerns, all in one room together discussing many issues under the big sky of caring, is always inspiring.

In class, we discussed the power of storytelling — the importance of working together and building ideas and connected communities through sharing individual stories that have the power to become one collective, powerful story. We discussed the roots of storytelling in American Indian culture as a way to pass on important ancestral instructions lost in genocide and boarding schools. And how African American slaves relied on storytelling to commit to memory their homeland, to share information about their new surroundings, to support one another in a traumatic experience, and to weave together African culture with American culture. We discussed storytelling in our various faiths, and how many of us are guided in our lives’ journeys by our unique and varied religious and spiritual values and beliefs, rooted in guidance from our diverse and deeply meaningful faiths in the Holy. We discussed humility, and the importance of approaching others with humility – replacing stereotypes with an openness to learn from others.

Meanwhile, I constantly think about, and discuss with others, the Wyoming Interfaith Network. I know that WAC, now WIN, has a long history — deep roots — of people working every day in the spirit of helping individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and beyond, in a plethora of ways. Each week, I think about my Sunday Message, and my hope of sharing something that will be meaningful to a wide swath of people. How can WIN bring connection, and a collective sense of meaning, hope, and faith, across the vast distances of our rural state?

Today, I took a much-needed break from all of this work and deep thinking to garden with my family. I went with my Mom to the store to help her pick out flowers, and we planted her garden in containers and baskets in my parents’ new home, to help them feel at home in their second summer after having left their home of 45 years on two acres of Wyoming prairie to live in a smaller, one-level home in a community with other aging people. I’m sharing a sweet photo of my Dad, on their new porch swing in their new back yard, with the container garden planted by my Mom, and a photo of their patio in their new home.

I then came home to my new-old home on two acres of Wyoming prairie, where I grew up, to plant my own garden where my parents nurtured their own garden – a garden of family, growing children and grandchildren, with days on end filled with meaning, hope and faith, facing together the challenges of life. Today, we planted our own garden here, one that contains many of my Mom’s own flowers, as well as new ones that we will grow, all in one garden. I’m also sharing a photo of this garden. The Irises and the giant Clematis are my Mom’s flowers. The Delphinium is a flower Mom and I planted together years ago.And the Dianthus and Blue Lobelia, my daughter, Baylee, and I planted together today.

This experience had me thinking about WIN again – old roots, new seedlings, new flowers, all in one beautiful garden under the big blue sky of caring. Though I have never met many of you in person, I feel a sense of connectedness with you under this same sky of caring. I still hope for ways to connect across the vast prairies and geography of our huge state.

It brings me back to the power of storytelling, across plantations of slavery, across generations of our ancestors, across our diverse faiths and shared experiences based in roots of compassion. We talk about how technology can divide us, as we read daily news and divisive commentaries, often lacking compassion.

The WIN Sunday Messages shared on email, our WIN website and Facebook page, though, are important means of connecting. As we work to make our new WIN website “live” in the next week or so, we have talked a great deal about how to truly make it “live”. We have added photos of our events, as well as stock photos depicting WIN’s mission. But what is missing are your photos and stories — stories of the hundreds of people across our state who are members of WIN.

I am requesting today that you send me your stories – your photos to share on our website – to create a colorful, diverse garden that depicts our shared work across the miles. Please respond, if you are inspired to do so, to my email today with photos and stories of your congregations’ work, your own gardens, your own communities, your own lives, and we will integrate them into our website.

We in the Spiritual Life team are planning our annual WIN conference for October of 2018, and we hope to connect with you there, in person, if not before in some additional WIN events. Until then, I hope we can rely on technology to connect us in compassion.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can

feel there is understanding in spite of distances or 

thoughts unexpressed – that can make this life a garden.”


With Gratitude and Peace … and Resolve to Make a Difference,

Susie Markus

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