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Waddell

Waddell

As we begin a season of giving thanks, I find myself grateful for Missoula.

My wife, five kids, and I moved from New Mexico to Missoula this summer, and the community welcomed us with open arms. The neighborhood, the schools, and the faith community all went out of their way to help our adjustment to western Montana (and colder climates). We are thankful to be in this place.

This place. This beautiful place. I strongly believe in the spirituality of place. Having lived in the South, Midwest, Southwest and now Northwest, I have experienced how differences in environment and differences in culture shape a unique spirituality. And I am in love with Missoula’s spirituality.

I see the spirituality of Missoula as a natural spirituality. How could it not be, what with the rolling mountains, the constant rivers, the looming wild? I love the cathedral of nature that envelops the city, offering the stained glass of sunsets and the holy water of the Rattlesnake, Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Bitterroot. So many people I have met have told me that they worship best when present in nature. We live and delight in the sacred surrounding us.

Missoula also shows itself a dynamic spirituality. The seasons not only change; they explode into each other. The fiery fall leaves, the stunning silence of snow, the new life of cubs and fawns, and the eternal days in summer each speak their truth. For anyone willing to listen, the powerful voices of creation preach their sermon. It is a magnificent sound.

I also find an inclusive spirituality in this place. We are "Missoula Together" (to borrow from the name of a recent inclusive and affirming event), and the community celebrates its unity in diversity with pride. The playgrounds welcome all abilities, the businesses invite all to the table, and the faith leaders meet all together. While there seem to be remnants of hatred that still appear, the inclusive spirit across the community appears to grow even stronger. I hope I get to see the city joining hands together more and more.

I cannot say I have ever experienced any place quite like this place. A natural, dynamic and inclusive spirituality makes for a beautiful, beloved city filled with beautiful, beloved people.

So thank you, Missoula, for welcoming me. Thank you for welcoming my family. Thank you for welcoming all.

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James Waddell is a Spiritual Care Director and Hospice Chaplain in Missoula. He can be contacted via email at James.Waddell@my.gcu.edu with any questions or comments.

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