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Archive for November, 2014

Tomorrow is the Reign of Christ.  It is the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar, so for all intents and purposes, it is New Year’s Eve.  Each year I change the sign at the Church to read “Happy New Year” and each year there are folks who don’t get it.  And that’s okay.

Once we enter Advent, it is a time of liturgical whiplash…so many emotions, all hurtling together, colliding and often making things messy.  At the Church where I serve, the tradition is to celebrate a Lessons & Carols service for both Advent and Epiphany, to mark the beginning and the end of the seasons.  They are joyous services, filled with story and music and are a lot of fun to put together.

Advent itself is a time of Anticipation, for the birth of a very special baby.  We light our Advent wreath and the litany we use usually points to social justice concerns around the globe.  The services contain readings imploring us to wait, with great anticipation, as something remarkable is to happen.  They are amazing services.  The third week of Advent we light a pink, rather than a blue candle and can wear rose coloured vestments, if we have them.  I am blessed to have a set of rose vestments that I wear twice a year, for Gaudete and Laetare Sunday.

And in the midst of all of this there is the hyper-caffeinated onslaught of Commercialism relating to Christmas.  Buy me!  Eat me!  Want me!  Drink me! surrounds us at every turn.  For many who have experienced loss, all of this can be simply too much to bear.  The thought of the cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, wrapping, is simply too much.

So each year the Church hosts a service of Light and Remembrance, inviting the same families who have been invited to the All Soul’s services to come and be in a simple service filled with light.  It is an opportunity for us to come together and refocus ourselves, to remember the original reason for the season.  Nothing is expected of the person, simply to come and be.

We list the names of those we are there to remember.  And at an appropriate time in the service we name them aloud.  We can light a candle for them.  We can gather to be together in a place of pain to support one another.  There are five readings which relate to the season and correspond to a candle in the advent wreath.  The service is simple and meaningful and always leaves me feeling completely exhausted, in a mostly good way.  For a couple of hours we create an environment of complete peace and tranquility.  A safe place where we can gather to feel how we truly feel, not having to paste on a happy face and pretend that it’s all going to be just fine.  Because sometimes it’s not.

I need to remind myself to slow down this season and be careful.  The sidewalks are slippery, today rain is falling and the temperature is supposed to drop.  It will be downright scary tomorrow.

So I fill my body with healthy food.  I fill my soul with hope, peace, joy and love.  And I surround myself with those who understand, who don’t have to be happy in order to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

I encourage you, whether Christmas is difficult or not, to do the same.  Don’t forget to breathe.

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Sleep has been rather elusive over the past few weeks.  Part, I suspect, to the bizarre weather and temperatures that can’t seem to decide if they are seasonal, extremely warm or extremely cool.  Part is due to two awesome honours I have been given, one of which is happening tomorrow night at the Transgender Day of Remembrance or TDoR.  The other is the Invocation prayer for the newly elected Municipal Council on the 1st of December.

The groups are quite different and the types of prayers will be quite different, but they will have one thing in common: love.

We will gather for TDoR to remember those trans* men and women who were killed.  For no other reason than they were “different”.  We live in a world that is increasingly filled with hate.  Atrocities being played out every single day and broadcast into our living rooms.  There seems to be no safe place to hide.

As a proud ally to the Rainbow community, I take these things both personally and seriously and I struggle to not be overwhelmed with the zigzag of emotions as I craft the prayer.  Many people in the Rainbow community, especially in the Trans* community have been ostracized by the Church.  They have been told horrible things, by horrible people who do NOT speak for Jesus.  And they sure as hell don’t speak for liberal-minded clergy like myself.

I believe, with all that is good and holy, that the God who created us in God’s own image, is a God of unimaginable love. A God who would love us into being…creating order from chaos.  Who with the turn of a hand separated earth from water, light from dark.  Who created us in the same image; male and female; either or neither; queer, asexual, bisexual, pansexual.  Who showed us the way to love by seeking it and seeing it in each other.

In the midst of hatred and violence, there truly is only one way to respond…with love.  I am honoured to have journeyed with many members of the local Rainbow community; some who now live in other parts of the world.  For many of them I was a final attempt at meaningful connection with God.  When you are told that you are not loved, it is often a message that goes deep into the marrow of your being.  Being told that you ARE loved takes time to penetrate past the hate.

For many people in the Rainbow community and especially in the Trans* community, they need to learn to love again. Walls go up out of necessity; if you have a high enough, deep enough wall, nobody will get through.  It takes time, patience and above all, it takes love to reach through the wall.  Love manifests itself in many ways; through trust, compassion, understanding; and if not understanding, then patience and silence.

It has been said that I pastor to a fairly conservative congregation.  And yet, I have seen them reach through concern and questioning to embrace friends from the Rainbow community.  Reaching out through love; of seeing the humanity and human dignity of each other; the face of God reflected in each other.  And seeing that is a most beautiful thing.

We will gather tomorrow night to mourn for those whose lives were taken; that their lives will not be taken in vain.  We will remember those who blazed so brightly and whose light was extinguished; but not their spirit.  TDoR will be taking place across the globe in many countries.  The gatherings will be in beautiful, safe spaces.  Those who are present will be moved; often to tears.

And it will be my responsibility to ensure that everyone who is there feels the love of their Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.  To be invited to ask an ecumenical, multi-faith prayer is an honour and a challenge.  I believe that the Mother and Father of us all, who loved us into being will be with us, and will give me the words to speak to the hearts of those who will gather.  Because in the midst of darkness we must illumine that darkness with the light of our love.  For our Creator, for ourselves and for each other.  We WILL remember them.

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Today at Church was Remembrance Sunday.  A parishioner kindly loaned us a magic box filled with medals, photos, a canteen and a metal helmet from the second world war.  The pictures were lovingly arranged in the worship space at the base of the altar, next to a white styrofoam cross.

Each year we bring out the battered cross, now in it’s 8th year.  It’s seen better days but it’s used for illustrative purposes.  This morning I brought the children up for Children’s Focus and they were mesmerized with the helmet.  Each in turn put in on their little heads and remarked how heavy it was.  I put it on my head too and yes, its really heavy!

I held up a large red poppy and asked them what it was.  The congregation recited “In Flanders Fields” and I preached on the joys of being Canadian and living a Life of Service…to God, to Queen (or King) and Country.

Each person is given a poppy to wear and they are asked to remove it after communion to pin it on the battered white cross.  The cross represents all that which wears us down.  Things we do, that we shouldn’t.  Things we don’t do, but should.  Things we say and regret.  Things we should say, but don’t.  One by one every person in the congregation, old and young alike, pins their poppy on the cross.  I suspect some are thanking our veterans.  I suspect some are remembering their family members who served, or their own military service.  I suspect some pin it silently.

For me, I remember my grand-dad, my uncle and my dad.  I grieve that they are dead, feel pride for their service, and wish there was a better word than “Thank you” to express my appreciation.

This year the Church was full, it was wonderful to see.  The choir sang two anthems.  We, as a congregation laughed and cried, remembered and respected, represented and sought.  And in the midst of this, God was there.

On Monday night, cadets from the 201 Squadron will gather between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm to hold a vigil.  Candles will be lit in memory of those who have died, and they will keep silence.  The vigil candles will remain for the duration of the service on Tuesday.

The Community will gather on Tuesday, just before 11:00.  It will be cold, wet and windy (it always is). And we will gather, as many as are able, to remember.

We will observe two minutes of silence.  And then reveille will awaken us from our reverie.  “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”  Amen.

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As a rule I generally don’t feel compelled to respond to articles I read, but this one made me cringe with every paragraph.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-brooks/being-fat_b_6097544.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

What upset me most was the undertone of self-loathing and helplessness.  It devastates me that people walk by this delightful human being and don’t recognize her humanity.  It’s a basic feeling that everyone needs and deserves…to be recognized for our inherent human dignity.  I am not skinny.  I haven’t been since high school.  I look in the mirror and most days I am comfortable with what I see.  Yes, I’d like to lose weight, but I don’t think weight defines my personhood.

I have called myself fat.  At times I still call myself fat.  And I am fat, by society’s standards.  My mother is underweight, significantly so, and is the first person to notice any weight gain.  It bothers me, but I don’t see her every day so I can usually shake off what she says.

There are times when I get looks from people, but I don’t care.  I know skinny people who have body dysmorphia, the same as me.  I am a food addict and I work at making healthy choices every single day.  Some days are better than others.

But I am more than what the scale tells me.  I am a gifted preacher and pastoral presence.  I connect with people on a spiritual and individual level.  I am an attentive and mindful listener.  I work hard at what I do.  God has blessed me in many ways.

I have curves, I have cellulite, I don’t like having my picture taken because I have not learned (yet) how to smile without looking artificial.  I am not as active as I should be.  I know I should get off my ass and move more than I do.

Yet I refuse to be judged because I cannot shop the petite section of a store and my dress size is in the double-digits.  I like my curves (for the most part).  I like how a dress hugs my hips and shows off my breasts.  I like feeling sexy.  And sometimes I actually do feel sexy.  I don’t think I would if I was as skinny as I was in high school.  Back then, I was built like an ironing board…and ironing boards are not sexy.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud women of all sizes.  I know women who have struggled with  and are currently struggling with eating disorders.

Being fat is not a sin.  While it may be seen as socially unacceptable, so is smoking in public places.  So is child abuse.  So is ignoring the homeless and refusing to see them as anything other than a nuisance and burden on society.

To Kathleen Brooks, know that you are a beautiful and remarkable woman.  Stop projecting what society is saying and making it baggage to carry around.  it is not your burden or cross to bear.  You are a talented, remarkable warrior woman. You have curves and hopes and dreams.  You have lived a remarkable life.  You have an incredible story to share.

Live your life out loud.  Don’t wait for someone else to make it okay.  Please stop putting yourself down.  You have a great life NOW.  You are successful and have survived kidney disease and transplantation!  That is no small feat.  You are woman, learn to roar…and share that roar.  Live your life larger than life.  And live it out loud.

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Today has been a strange day. I usually wake up raring to go, have things to do, places to go, people to see, and yet today, I just wanted to go back to bed. I got my Beloved off to work, fed the dogs, fed myself, and cleaned up the kitchen. Then I had a shower, got dressed and double-checked my schedule. It was shaping up to be a good, albeit busy day. I got to the office and checked messages. One from the Municipal clerk. So I called her back.

She wanted to know if I would pronounce the invocation on the new council members on the 1st of December. I was touched, and honoured, and thrilled. When I said yes I don’t know who was more excited…the Clerk or myself. I wrote it in my calendar and then started thinking about what I would say and what I should wear. Something to look forward to.

Then I got a call from a parishioner who is being discharged from hospital today. I tried to figure out the best place to schedule her and realised I didn’t have as much time as I thought. I am having tea with a friend today. I have had to cancel a few times and I promised myself that I would not short change her. So I rearranged my schedule and will be picking up the parishioner at a better time for her and for me. It means that I am shortening an appointment I have with a parishioner this morning, but it will work out okay.

This learning to take care of myself and honouring my time is challenging…but I think…maybe…perhaps…I am learning how it do it better…or at all.

Look at me go!

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