Minister’s Newsletter for July, 2018 – Rev. Patty Willis

Minister’s Newsletter

Theme for July: Liberty

As I have prepared to leave, packing boxes, and saying good bye, I have heard about what a haven South Valley has been for so many. Do you know that people have found shelter with us even when they couldn’t attend? Our presence has brought a feeling of safety to this Valley and beyond. I remember when Lou and I arrived here six years ago and were looking for our own place of peace. Luckily, we found a home that has sheltered our private lives and offered space to create and imagine songs, music, poetry and paintings in the midst of a state that presented us with challenges rooted in our pasts. We could understand South Valley’s role as a place of respite and safety. At some point, however, along with this sense of shelter, I felt something else: we were becoming not just a safe place, we were a light that was beckoning to others. Our community was sending a message, “Here is where you will find safe harbor.” My hope for this community is this: If you have found shelter among us, pitch in and become a lighthouse keeper. Along with basking in the warm light, pitch in and be one of those who stands on the promontory looking for ships in trouble, or swimmers washed up on the sand. A working lighthouse off a dangerous coast has lots of needs. Will you be one of those who fixes hot drinks and prepares warm blankets? Or will you be one who remembers the names and stories of those who are seeking shelter? Will you simply listen or will you sing? Or will you march for justice and give voice to those whose lives are at risk?

If you have found shelter here, pitch in and become a lighthouse keeper! As my last gift, here is a poem that I wrote in the fall about how I see this ministry.

May you be well. May you know that you are beloved.

In love and community,


Dear Fellow Lighthouse Keeper

When did we discover that our house

was sitting on the edge of a promontory?

That the builder had no intention for

our safety?


We were not born to be safe

and our well-appointed living room on

the edge of the known world

gives comfort to many:

Sea captains poised for the crossing,

sparrows we feed in the garden,

those connected to us by short wave radio,

other lighthouse keepers,

the whole world that is tuned in.


When people ask for the band width

I don’t know what to tell them.

The weekly guide never helped me.

Russian propaganda hardly recognizable as such,

their accents so beautiful

too beautiful,

the polka music from who knows where,

the strange transmissions boat to boat,

the lingo of pirates.

Danger lurking in well-modulated English.


Save our Ship!


When we can’t tell the location of trouble

we walk outside

and scan the horizon for sparks,

bonfires bubbling up from the deep,

ships set on fire,

captains made to walk the plank.


We cannot take sides.

Whoever washes ashore

we take them in for a night,

making sure the sheets are clean and ready

before we pull them in.


You never can tell,

we say to each other

when the man with four golden teeth

became our friend.

His photograph is displayed along the wall along

the winding staircase up,

flashing when our lanterns pass

in the night.


Who is there?

we say to each other first,

when we hear a knock at the gate.

No matter what the time or weather,

we turn the handle

and pull the heavy door inward.


You have come to the right place,

we say no matter who is there.

Come in. Be dry and warm.