I’m Phil LaBelle, aka the Rambling Priest. I’m an Episcopal priest, husband, dad, writer, and hiker. I love what I do, and I especially love finding those places where faith and life intersect. I try to get out and ramble outdoors as much as I can to stretch my legs, breathe in fresh air and track down signs of God’s work in the world.
Many out there look for the ways life and faith are disconnected—it’s easier to divide things up, isn’t it? We live one way on the day we worship (if we do that) and another way the rest of the week. Yet Jesus didn’t live in a dualistic world, he brought things together. The common and the spiritual; the sacred and the profane. I’m reminded of this each week when I receive bread and wine that are also Christ’s body and blood. I see it in conversations about God with a friend over a cup of coffee. Real life and real faith intersecting.
Things I write about:
- Biblical texts through my Sunday sermons — Nearly every week I’m preaching to a faithful congregation of 100-140 people in the Boston area. Every time I use a written manuscript to preach from I’ll post it. I look for connections and making the sacred text relevant to life today.
- The Theology and Practice of Zimzum — Growing out of my doctoral thesis study, zimzum is a Jewish mystical concept about God’s first primordial act before creation. Because God was everywhere all at once and since nothing else existed with God—including the nothingness—God needed to make space before God could create. So the Jewish mystics claim God withdrew from a space within Godself in order to create, forming a type of womb. I find it fascinating, and believe that just as God embraced zimzum out of love to make space for us, we too are called to make space in our busy lives for God, each other, and this majestic planet we inhabit.
- The reality of life — I try to be honest about life and the pain and difficulties we sometimes face. I know I’ve faced experiences that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You won’t ever hear me talk about God’s secret plan to make you rich overnight if you just do these 5 specific things. Instead I talk about real life with all its great times, and its dark times too.
- An authentic faith — I’m honest about faith. An authentic spiritual life isn’t one that has all the answers, in fact I’ve found the more I learn about God the more questions I have. Sometimes the people who think they’re faithful don’t have a deep spiritual life at all. And sometimes the opposite holds true as well. Jesus himself often pointed out the people who many assumed weren’t faithful but actually were and how the religious types had a long way to go. I share practices and things I’ve learned along the way.
- Films and Books — We don’t sit around the fire anymore telling stories. Instead we gather round a screen or read a story from a book (often now also on a screen). These stories tell us an awful lot about faith and life, so whenever I can I’m making connections.
- My Rambles — You can often find me in the outdoors hiking and kayaking and exploring. I sometimes write about those experiences too.
I call myself the Rambling Priest for a few reasons:
- I love to hike. Sometimes when I’m out on a ramble, I discover something I hadn’t anticipated finding. Every walk becomes a possible Emmaus Road experience, a chance of meeting Jesus along the way. Or just a time for renewal, which might be the same thing.
- Life is a ramble. We’re heading toward something, although often we have no idea what it is. While I’d point to this elusive goal as a connection with God through the person of Jesus, others might put it another way. No matter the words, we’re prone to ramble in life, and I’m one among the many.
- It’s a well known fact that those of us who make our living by the sweat of our lips—as a seminary professor put it—can sometimes ramble. Call it an occupational hazard. While I hope it doesn’t often hold true for me, I’m also a realist.
I hope my ramblings will be helpful for you on your faith journey, wherever it takes you.
In case you’re wondering, I’m the rector of St. Mark’s Church in Southborough, MA. I married the woman of my dreams over 28 years ago now, and we have two of the greatest kids you could ever imagine who make me prouder by the day. Besides hiking, I go to movies, read, cook, play board games, and hang out with my family every chance I get. Sometimes I forget it, but I’m living the life of my dreams.