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Archive for September, 2014

The last few weeks have been unbelievably busy.  Emotional roller-coasters as we grow the family of God through the rites of Baptism.  As we vigil with those who are dying.  As we journey with those who struggle in their faith.  As we celebrate with couples who are marrying; all the while engaging on a deep emotional family with the families in the congregation and the community as a whole.

Last week I spent some time each morning at a large hotel in the City, addressing the mass of 700 ladies who were gathered for their provincial convention.  The first day I gave them a blessing and made some comments (some humourous observations) on society as a whole.  On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I “warmed up” the room as those in charge were trying to get the last minute preparations in place.  When the leaders were ready to start, I said a prayer, invoking a benediction and went on my way.

Most mornings after the hotel I was back at the Church for study or at the hospital holding vigil with a family.  The struggles in not wanting a loved-one to die and yet knowing they are going to a better place, free of pain is so difficult.  My cell phone has been at my side on vibrate all week and I check it constantly, awaiting it ringing with an urgent call from the family.  That happened on Tuesday and I dropped everything to be there.

Friday afternoon there was a wedding rehearsal with a very anxious bride.  Things that could go wrong were going wrong, so I took her for a walk and helped her put things back in perspective.  By the end of the 15 minute walk, tears were dried, breathing was regular and we were ready to go.  They will have a beautiful day as T and J join together in holy matrimony.

And so today there is a flurry of activity in the Church as the group gathered prepares for Harvest Home and for a Parish Breakfast.  I’ve not yet even looked at the readings for tomorrow, and yet I trust the Holy Spirit will be with me as I stand before the Congregation and preach.  Perhaps it will be a homily about Thanksgiving, or Coming Home?  At this point I really don’t know.

But what I do know is I am wonderfully and fearfully made by a loving and gracious God.

And so are you.

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In Churchland there is an understanding that each priest will be involved in extra-curricular activities in the community or the wider world. For me, it is involvement with the Royal Canadian Legion. I have been a member of the Legion since I was 19. There were a couple of years where I couldn’t afford to renew my membership, but have always held the Legion high in esteem.

When I lived up north I was involved quite heavily – long before I was called to a life of ministry and service. As the average age of members rises and new members aren’t as able to donate time I’m seeing a trend in Legion that I also see in Church: fewer people doing more work.

This weekend the local Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary is hosting 700 women from across the province. Quite a remarkable feat! Just finding accommodations is a huge task. While I have been a member of the Legion for a long time, I have not been as involved with the Ladies Auxiliary. I was approached by the Zone Commander to see if I could help with a cenotaph service today. The challenge with Sunday activities is they almost always happen in the morning and I’m generally in service until noon.

The time of the parade was moved to enable me to participate. It will be a quick change from Church to cenotaph but I am confident I can do it.

For the most part I am able to juggle the demands placed on my time, and generally, there is not much that is demanded of me outside of the occasional prayer service or Legion funeral. Being asked to be present at Chaplain was a great honour, and while I will be completely shattered by the time the parade is over, it will be a very good shattered. I will sleep well tonight!

I am humbled to be asked to participate in a provincial convention. I know, firsthand, how much work goes into these events. The woman who is in charge of the entire convention has a cognitive impairment – she was diagnosed just after she accepted the task. She keeps a memory book that she carries around everywhere. She has notes and sticky notes on everything – and she is one of the most organised women I have ever met.

It is supposed to rain this afternoon – but I can’t see a bit of rain dampening the spirit of the Ladies who will gather. The Silver Cross mother from the City will be laying one of two wreaths at the Cenotaph and the parade is supposed to have a police escort. For about an hour this afternoon, the City will have 700+ women marching downtown. It will be a remarkable sight, and something I am looking forward to.

I have also been asked to provide the benediction and blessing for the start of business for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Also something I am humbled to be able to do.

Quite often in Churchland we get so caught up in our own little world that we forget out other means of service. Being asked by the Ladies Auxiliary is a great honour and I am delighted to be able to do it.

A little rain? Never stopped 700+ women before, it’s not likely to stop us this afternoon!

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I recently celebrated my 7th anniversary with my current congregation.  As I look back I am surprised that I am celebrating such a milestone, while at the same time it doesn’t feel quite that long…strange.

Just after my arrival I met a man who was diagnosed with cancer.  We have shared quite a journey together over the past seven years.  He is back in hospital and learned recently that his cancer has spread to muscle.  For the past few years he, his wife and I have fallen into specific roles…his wife cries, I get angry and he accepts whatever is thrown at him.

A bit more than a year ago I asked if he wanted to discuss his celebration of life.  He politely but firmly told me that he wasn’t ready.  And I accepted that, telling him I would be ready whenever he is.  Last Sunday when he was readmitted to hospital he told his family that he wanted to talk to me, that it was time to have this conversation.  So I headed up, notebook in hand, to have, what we both knew, would be a difficult conversation.

He is a father and grandfather.  He is a devoted member of a local service club.  He is a tireless worker for the Church and is more on fire for the Lord than anyone I have ever seen.  Whenever I am shaking my fist in anger he takes my hand and tells me, “it is what it is”.  such wise words.

Today we celebrated communion around his hospital bed, with each of his daughters and his beloved wife.  It was a very emotional experience, as this is the first time we have all shared communion.  I was taken aback at the sacredness of this hospital room.  Portable xray machines and staff coming in and out of the room did not deter what we were gathering to do. There was a tremendous respect from the medical personnel who were tending to his room-mate.

We joined hands in prayer, offering prayers and praises to God, giving thanks for the joys and bounty of this life and asking for peace as my friend and parishioner reaches the end of his life.  I found myself saying words that we were all thinking but otherwise afraid to say aloud.  A sacred hush filled the room as we finished the Lord’s prayer, and each one of us had tears in our eyes.

At times like this I am reminded of the sacred journeys that we take as members of the body of Christ.  I am always astounded at the weight of the sacred when we stand together in the presence of our Creator.  We have shared so many moments of joy together, and many moments of loss.  Eventually we will have these moments only as memories, but I suspect these memories will be sacred.

When I was posted to this parish I was given only one instruction:  love them.  And I have.  This family has taken me into their own and welcomed me.  My parishioner was particularly wonderful when my father was dying and I was so very angry.  He sat and listened to me as I ranted and raved that it “wasn’t fair” that my father should have to suffer.  He gently and lovingly took my hand and said “it is what it is” with a shrug and a smile.  He wasn’t ignoring my feelings, rather he was reminding me that there are many things over which we have no control.  And he was right.

I shared with him today that he has taught me so much about patience and grace.  He has taught me about understanding and acceptance, whether I like the outcome or not.  As he begins his sacred journey back to his Creator, I am reminded of the incredible gift we are given as clergy.  We are taken into people’s homes, their lives and their souls, as members of the family.

I expect to have many more hospital visits with my parishioner.  Each and every one will be treated as a sacred moment in time, as it will never be repeated.  And eventually the visits will end.  My heart will break when the time comes that he returns home to God.  It will hurt as much as it did when my own Dad died.  And I know that God will give me the strength and the Holy Spirit will give me the peace I will need to say what needs to be said.  And to comfort those who need comfort.

When we can silence ourselves, in the midst of crazy busy-ness, then and only then can we turn to hear, to truly hear the voice of the one who loves us the most.  It is only when we truly surrender our power that we  can feel God’s love surrounding us.  There are some things that we are not meant to know.  We may not like it; I know I surely don’t; but we must learn to live in that tension.

Another lesson I learned from my parishioner.  In his wise words “it is what it is”.  Thanks be to God.

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It seems you cannot turn on social media these days without hearing about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.  The idea, initially, was two-fold, to raise 1. money and 2. awareness about living with ALS.  It is a degenerative neurological disease in which the body slowly stops working.  It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the famous baseball player who was one of the first people to be diagnosed.

Sufferers of the disease lose control of their body, but never lose control of their mind.  It’s been likened to being buried alive or slowly suffocating in sand.  Not very welcoming images.

The controversy on social media is the perceived water waste for people who are taking part in the challenge.  I have seen lots of videos posted to Facebook and You Tube.  Some are dignified, some are humorous and some are disgusting.  Recently I was challenged to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  This hits very close to home for me.  One of my parishioners died from the disease last fall.  He was in his 70’s when he was diagnosed, which is “late” for diagnosis.  Another of my parishioners is currently battling the disease and she is only in her 50’s.  She has an 13 month old grandson.  Slowly, she is losing control of her body, is now full-time in a wheelchair.  

Her and her husband built a barrier-free house in the same community as her daughter and they are living with the disease. I decided, last Sunday, to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, on the front lawn at the Church by the Church sign.  In collecting from the folks attending church we generated $50 which I will mail to the ALS Society of London.

Folks are getting upset because water is being wasted.  And while that may be a true statement, Canadians and Americans waste an inordinate amount of water every day.  One person participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge will not make a child in Africa die of thirst.  It’s the same concept as not eating our dinner as a child would make a child in Africa go hungry.

I chose the front lawn of the church so the water could be return to the ground, sacred ground at that.  The ice was collected and used a second time for my husband and daughter to participate.  There was very little waste, in my humble opinion.

The other controversy surrounds the funds being pledged and generated.  Every non-profit charity is held to great scrutiny at times like this.  And they should be.  Administration can often make up 40% or more of funds received.  Back in the day when I had a “real job” I worked for three health-charities.  All of them worked on shoestring budgets and were not supported by United Way.  Our Administration stayed at approximately 8% which was considered high.

There will always be people who try to pull a fast one.  They will make a video and not donate.  Or collect money and not send it in.  However, the vast majority of people will send in money, will pledge to send money and follow through.  Standing on a fence built of moral high ground is not a fence that will be strong.  It will blow as the wind does and eventually you’ll be sitting flat on your butt.  A humbling experience indeed.

Do I support the ALS ice bucket challenge?  I do!  I did, and I challenged my brother and sister-in-law.  

Do I understand the cries about wasted water?  To a certain extent, I do.  And that is why we chose to be economical in the amount of water we used and in the location where the water was poured.  I do think there were some videos that were excessive, but I expect it was more about people trying to promote a greater video than to intentionally waste water.

The bottom line for me is that the challenge raises awareness about a disease that has no cure.  If 1,000 people now know about the disease, it was worth the media hype.

So everybody, please calm down.  If you don’t want to participate, then don’t.  But please stop shouting platitudes at those who choose to participate.

Every party has a pooper.

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