Former pastor finds perspective in new book
Writing a book became a personal journey for Gregg Koskela. The former pastor and current communications coordinator for the Newberg School District felt lost after his time at Newberg Friends Church was over, and he was searching for a way to connect with his Christian faith on a deeper level again.
He began reading about medieval Christian writers and discovered one that caught his attention: Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard was an 11th century German mystic who dabbled in music, healing, food and spiritual writing. Her perspective connected with Koskela, so much so that he wrote a book titled "Finding Hildegard," which serves as an exploration of his own story with the help of her writings.
"I was finding a lot of help from her writings for myself personally," Koskela said. "Last summer, I did a pilgrimage to Germany where I spent a week learning about her life, praying and exploring. The whole experience was really healing for me, so I've spent the last few months writing about my journey."
Koskela took excerpts from Hildegard's writings and weaved them into a narrative about his own personal and spiritual journey, and he said his faith grew stronger after the trip to Germany. The book provided an opportunity to orate that experience for others to read and reflect on, potentially gaining wisdom in their own religious lives.
Koskela said it got him to a place of hope after two difficult years following the decision by Newberg Friends Church to split its congregation. Hildegard's writings were inspirational for him with insights that reached beyond the centuries.
"Here's someone from a time almost 1,000 years ago and she's writing about how she experiences God in everything," Koskela said. "She wrote about healthy eating, plants and other things where she saw God's activity. To have that kind of eye for how God is at work is really special and fascinating."
Hildegard lived along the Rhine River in western Germany, a lush landscape that Koskela described as "beautiful."
While walking down the street from an abbey where he prayed with local nuns, Koskela looked across the river and began to understand much of what Hildegard wrote about. Decades ago, the land he was observing was bombed during World War II, and now it's become overgrown with natural beauty – green as far as his eye could see.
This, Koskela said, made perfect sense when viewed through the lens of faith.
"It became this real symbol of hope for me that, while humans do a lot of damage in this world, our destruction doesn't win the day," Koskela said. "God is at work with sprouting new seeds and bringing new life."
Those interested in "Finding Hildegard" can find a link to purchase the book on Koskela's website at greggkoskela.org. The link provided on his website leads to Amazon, where the book is available for Kindle or in paperback.
Koskela will also be holding a book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday at Chapters Books and Coffee in Newberg.
Arts & Leisure briefs
Take a hike in a state park on New Year's Day
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is inviting Oregonians to take to the outdoors on New Year's Day for the annual First Day Hikes event. Visitors can choose from 37 hikes in 31 parks across the state, including at Champoeg State Heritage Area near Newberg. All hikes will be guided by a park ranger or volunteer who will share stories about the park's history, geology, wildlife and plants. And there is no cost to join in as the hikes are free and parking fees will be waived for the Jan. 1 event.
To register online, visit bit.ly/ParkStoreEvents, although registration in advance isn't required for participation, but it does help park staff plan the hike and allows them to contact participants should the details of the hike change.
The OPRD advises hikers to plan for inclement weather, dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes or boots, bring water and bring binoculars to view wildlife.
The Champoeg event is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and hikers will meet at the park's visitor center. There is also a hike at Willamette Mission State Park at 10 a.m., with participants meeting at the Wheatland Ferry.
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