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Archive for November, 2012

This week is one of those crazy weeks, with meetings or events every day and every night. Very little time for looking after myself and that’s before we hit Christmas. Yeesh.

This Friday I’m participating for the second year in our Community Festival of Lights. Each year a local celebrity is asked to flip the ceremonial switch that will light the Seasonal Display at the Municipal Offices.

Last year we tried to work in a blessing just after the lights were lit. Didn’t work. Nobody listened. So I wondered if it was worth even trying? This year we are reformatting the order, so the kids are in control. The Mayor will speak, introduce our local celebrity and then we will light the lights, enjoy some choirs and the community sing-song will start.

As we start winding down the program, THEN we will talk about the reason why we have gathered. We are gathering for community, to see Santa, and to be together. And we are gathering to prepare ourselves for the birth of a baby, a very special baby. We will sing Silent Night and O Holy Night. And then we will go home.

Well, after we clean up the detritus and put the chairs away. And then there will be beer.

I’m looking forward to this event. Usually I shy away from community events because of the crowd sizes, but this year it will be different. I’m becoming part of the community; these are my people. And that makes a difference.

So even though I’ve got 3 days of extreme busy-ness to get to Friday and Friday itself will be crazy…it’s going to be okay. Santa will be there…but so will the Christ – God-with-us.

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Dignity

I’ve not posted for a while as I’ve been stupidly busy and not making much time for quiet. From Wednesday to Friday I was away at our annual Diocesan Clergy Conference that takes place at a monastery in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Austere and beautiful surroundings, but we don’t get much time to wander about as the schedule is pretty full.

This year’s Keynote Speaker is a Bible Studies theologian from South Africa. His theme was maintaining dignity and while the context of his talks was centred around South Africa, a great deal of what he said also made sense in a Canadian context.

He talked to us about oppression and the importance of giving a voice to those who are voiceless. He talked to us about the inherent dignity in every human being, regardless of birthright. I’ve always thought there was little, if any, class distinction in Canada and yet I’m realising that there is a great class distinction drawn across lines of poverty and wealth. We are a society of haves and have-nots.

I’m still in a place of great fatigue and doubt. We are winding up the Christian Year, in fact, today is “new years eve” in Churchland, it’s the Reign of Christ. Usually I develop a theme for Advent that carries through the year and this year it’s being called “out with the old, in with the new”. I’ll polish it to something more theological sounding before I write that homily, but for now, that’s what life is about…

I’m at a place where I need to get rid of that which burdens me, both emotionally and physically. I need a space that is only mine, where if I put something down it will stay there, and if it gets messy it’s because I made it messy. I need a place where I can shut the door and be alone with my thoughts and prayers. But mostly I need to know that it’s okay to have that time for me. That my dignity is important, as is my peace.

Remember that each of us are created in the image of God and that image is of perfection. Respect the inherent human dignity of everyone and respect your own dignity. Be gentle with yourself. Own who you are. And if you’re still figuring out who you are, take your time, enjoy the experience. You are worth it.

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On Sunday I led two worship services at the Church. The early (8:00 a.m.) service was Holy Communion. The second service should have been 10:30 Holy Communion, but we changed the time to 9:30 and the service to Morning Prayer so that I was able to be at the Cenotaph to lead that service for 10:45.

We had record crowds at our small town cenotaph, with likely 400 people in attendance. The Cadet corps was out in force. We had representatives from all levels of government who came to lay wreaths as well as many community leaders. And we had children…lots and lots of children who came to see what was going on.

My reflection was intended to be something about giving thanks for the lives of those men and women who selflessly gave of themselves. Instead it morphed into a more politically toned reflection ruminating that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Our government has been sending our young into battle for generations, and although we have smarter weapons, we still sacrifice young lives in the same way.

What’s worse than those who die are those who return psychologically and spiritually damaged. They become the forgotten, moreso than our war dead.

I challenged the congregation and the community to begin with a place of love. To live their lives without conflict, to seek peaceful resolution wherever possible. And to never, ever forget those who have and continue to give their lives for service to their country.

Perhaps if we suggested the members of parliament who vote on how many troops to send, were recruited to lead those troops, the response would be different?

I come from a proud military heritage. My grandfather was gassed during the first world war. He was a British soldier stationed in Belgium. His unit was traveling in the back of a lorry (truck) and was gassed. He pulled out the men who could not get themselves out, ingesting a large amount of the gas. It damaged his nervous system and while he received the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) and was recommended for the VC (Victoria Cross) he still returned to England damaged. He would never speak of his time overseas, other than to the man who would become my dad. It was a time best left forgotten as it was too difficult to remember.

And yet, here we are, almost a century later, and we are still doing things in the same way.

Remember, not only those who gave their lives, but those who came back and who continue to come back damaged. Those psychological scars are not physically apparent, but the shadow behind their eyes is unmistakable. There must be a better way. A way to begin with love. And to always, always remember.

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Lately there’s been a lot of emotion expended in memorials. Last Saturday I had an interment service for a 55 year old man who died of cancer. He was sick only 6 months. Last Friday was our All Soul’s Service and it took on a whole new significance for me because of the death of my dad a few months ago.

This coming Saturday I have an interment of ashes for a lady who died a year and a half ago. She had cancer and wasn’t sick very long. Her husband was devastated and is finally in the place where he can lay her to rest. Sunday is Remembrance Day and I struggle with the conflicting symoblism of peace and war.

As I get older I find myself more of a pacifist and yet I honour being the Chaplain of the Legion. I want there to be something better for our children’s generation and I believe that they deserve to live in a time where war is something remembered in history books…not something that’s lived.

The antedote to hate is not peace, but love. Hate comes from fear, love comes from hope. I believe if we each made a decision to begin with love we would change the world.

The simple things, like letting the small things go. Standing up for what you believe. Speaking out for injustice. Supporting people who may not have a lot of support. Doing the right thing, even if it’s not the popular thing. Listening to the opinions of others.

Something awesome happens when you spend time with people who don’t share your opinions…you are either strengthened in your opinion or you learn something. Both are beneficial. And both prevent us from stagnating.

Death is part of life, and remembrance is an act of love. Lets be those who remember and live in place of love. It’s a simple thing, but oh so worthwhile.

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Tomorrow is our annual All Soul’s service of Healing and Anointing.  It’s traditionally a smaller crowd of people who gather to share in the pain of loss.  My homilies are generally not titled, and yet for this service, I find it necessary to title them.  This year’s title is “So, now what”? and it’s aim is to those who have suffered a significant loss, have lived without that person in their lives and are wondering “now what”?

My dad died on the 12th of June and we are still, very much, in our first year of anniversaries and events where he’s not with us in person.  It’s difficult.  It sucks.  And sometimes I simply boycott that event, like Father’s Day this year.  Acknowledged it to my husband and my brother and that was it.  I just couldn’t.

This year’s All Soul’s service will take on a whole new meaning for me.  I’ve lived through significant losses, but never the loss of a parent…until this year.  So my words are taking on a whole new level of understanding and, to be honest, a whole new level of stress.  I want to be, I need to be, an authentic presence.  And it was my dad who taught me that.

And so, when I gather with the few who are looking for answers that I can’t give them, I will draw strength from the One Who Created Us, Who Sustains Us and Who Loves Us, more than any other.

And that will be enough.

So, now what?  Well, life.  It will happen whether we are ready for it or not.  

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