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Christ is Risen!  The Clergy are Dead!! So goes the tongue in cheek phrase to which most clergy can relate.  Holy Week is a glorious week, a long week…and a hard week.  There’s services to plan, bulletins to check, props to gather, homilies to write, prayers to say, visits to make, so many things that must be done in order for worship to come together…and yet, every year it does.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday.  A completely stranger walked in off the street for our first service and worshipped with us.  He exchanged handshakes with everyone when service was over, nodded to me and replied “Happy Easter” when I wished him “Happy Easter” and went back out into his day.

Our second service was joyous and vibrant and while many of our regular parishioners were not in attendance, it was a glorious celebration!  I have a beautiful rainbow tie dye dress that I bought last summer and I decided to wear that on Easter Day.  After worship and coffee hour I went to the grocery store and had some lunch.  Then I walked to the Nursing Home for another service.  It’s a lovely walk there and I carried a basket with palm crosses, white stones, my cell phone and house keys.  Along the way I waved to every car I saw and said “Happy Easter” to everyone I met.

Most waved back or exchanged the greeting.  One little boy asked if I was the Easter Bunny.  I told him I wasn’t but I was delighted he thought I could be.  I asked his parents if I could ask him for a hug.  His Mum asked if he wanted to hug me and he did.  It was precious.

Along the way there I met three sets of dogs and with permission, I got to pet all of them!  It was a highlight.  Especially a huge black lab/shepherd who was a strong leaner and gave me kisses.

I got to the Nursing Home and chatted with a couple of guys who don’t come to worship but like to sit outside the room and hear the preaching and singing.  One of them told me I look like an Easter egg…which made me smile.  We had a huge turn out of residents and we sang out hearts out.  I brought palm crosses to remind them of the journey of Holy Week and white stones to remind them that even in our brokenness we are children of God, created in love and created to live in love.

On the way home I saw more dogs and chatted with a man who had been cleaning his lawn up from the winter gravel.  We talked about the joys of working “only one day a week” and laughed at how quickly the community changes when ski season is over.  I pet his dog on the way to the Nursing Home and again on the way home.

When I got home I called a friend and went to visit her.  We watched the video of her dad’s funeral service and then went to the cemetery to pray together with him.  The gates for the cemetery were locked, much to our annoyance.  We walked in to where the grave is and sat at a rock for awhile.  There was laughter and some tears and then I dropped her off at home.

I came home, got changed and made a simple supper.  Then I relaxed, chatted with a friend online and thought about how incredibly blessed I am to live in this corner of God’s creation.  Everywhere I walked yesterday I could see mountains.  Yes, I was a walking billboard, but I have noticed quite often that when I walk and smile at folks they either smile back or are already smiling.

God is very much alive in this place.  And even though our Easter Day service wasn’t bursting at the seams, we gathered and shared Alleluias, thoughts about the Easter Bunny, why church bells have to ring so long…and how very blessed we are with the gift of Jesus.  We gathered and shared in Communion.  We exchanged the peace together in ways we have for quite some time…and yet there was something different in the air…something innately hopeful and hope filled.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Today is Good Friday, the middle part of the Triduum (Three Sacred Days).  Last night was Maundy Thursday and we gathered to hear readings, sing a hymn or two and many of those assembled allowed me to wash their feet.  It has become my practice that when I do so I tell them how much they mean to the congregation, to the community, to God and to me.  And then I kiss their feet.

For the first time a member of the congregation asked if she would wash my feet.  I stammered “Uh, yes, thanks” and she did for me what I had done for her.  Needless to say we were both in tears by the time she was finished.

After the footwashing was finished it was time to exchange the peace and move to the Holy Table for the sharing in communion, the last time we will do so before Easter.  It was moving and powerful as always and yet as I looked into the congregation I saw something I had not seen before.  I saw unity…love…family.

After Communion we sang another hymn, then as I chanted the Lamentations for Maundy Thursday the congregation, without saying a word, stripped the altar and altar space.  And by the time I finished chanting…it was over.  The area was clear.  The brass was taken downstairs where it will be cleaned this afternoon.  The frontal was removed and put away.  The cross was draped.  All without a word spoken.  A vigil was held in the Church overnight to keep watch over the empty wooden cross that is at the chancel steps.

Today is a difficult service…we gather in the plain space to adorn the cross…we will hear the gospel…the agony of the garden…we will hear just what is so good about Good Friday.  And we will meditate and pray on our own infirmities, failings and hopefulness.

We will take a black stone each at the beginning of service and hold it through the time of service.  And when the time is right we will leave that black stone at the foot of the cross and pick up a white stone.  The black stone is to leave all our shame, sorrow, pain, fear and sin at the foot of the cross.  We will then pick up a white stone to carry with us, reminding us that we are God’s own Beloved.  We are brothers and sisters of Christ.  He died that we may know eternal life.  And we will carry this stone with us throughout the year to remind us that we don’t need to carry our burdens, we can lay them at the cross.

After service I’ll be learning how to polish brass.  Then I’m going to do some housework that I’ve been neglecting.  Then I’m taking a long hike in the wilderness.  Then I’ll be home to relax for the rest of the day.

I will not eat today until after the sun sets.  Good Friday is one day when I fast.  I will take water with me on my hike.  But food will not cross my lips until the sun sets.

Know this…wherever you are on your life’s journey, you are a Beloved child of God.  You are created in God’s image which is perfection.  You nothing to deserve this honour, but it is yours and you cannot pay a monetary amount for it, but you can give your life to service.  None of us are perfect.  And yet we receive God’s love and grace.

Tomorrow night we will gather outside to light the new fire and bring light into the darkness.  We will gather in the Parish Hall and hear the stories of our ancestors, pray and sing and then we will come upstairs to renew our baptismal vows.  But the tomb will remain sealed….it’s not yet time…for that we must return on Sunday.

Know that you are loved.  Always have been.  And always will be.  Amen.

The last few weeks I’ve been dreaming a lot of my Dad and stories he used to share with me when I was a child.  Quite often on a Saturday morning my Mam would wake me and strip my bed.  She’d put me into bed with my Dad and he’d snuggle me in and tell me stories.  I think he was hoping I’d go back to sleep, but it never worked out that way.

My Dad was born and raised in a city…Manchester.  There was a canal that some people fished in…my Dad fished in it for bicycle parts as that is what he saw dumped in it most often.  His first bike was a Frankenbike made up of about a half dozen different bike parts.  He and his buddy Charlie got up to all sorts of mischief in their youth.

My Dad was an introvert and craved alone time.  As my brother and I grew up Dad got less time to himself.  At one point he bought an inflatable dinghy from a garage sale and used to take it out to Minnow Lake.  He also bought a fishing rod because, in his words, “if a man is seen alone out on a boat he’s a weirdo, but if he’s fishing, he’s okay”.  So he used to inflate the boat at a gas station, shove it in the backseat of the car and head out to Minnow Lake.

He’d put the dinghy out and he’d jump in with the fishing rod, then float for awhile, set the rod out (note, no bait) and lay back and relax.  He never had a paddle with him.  When I asked him this he said “eventually I’ll blow close to shore” and he must have because he always came home.  In the city where we lived, there was a roving news reporter who would capture footage of local landmarks and places of interest that would be used as a backdrop to the nightly weather forecast.

One Saturday night, after supper, we were watching the evening news when the weather shot came on.  The weather announcer said “and here we have footage of a solitary fisherman out enjoying the sun on this beautiful summer’s day”.  And you could see it, the yellow dinghy, the sole of my Dad’s shoe propped up on the edge of the dinghy and the fishing rod bobbing in the water.

“Dad”? I asked.  “Good Jesus” he replied. “I can’t be left alone anywhere!” We all had a good laugh at that.  My Dad’s fishing adventure captured on film for all eternity, or until it was filmed over.  The last time he took the dinghy out he was happily floating around the lake when the wind shifted.  He began to float towards shore but heard a slight hissing sound.  By the time he reached shore the dinghy had taken on water.  He safely dismounted the boat (do you dismount boats?)  rolled up the dinghy and threw it in a nearby garbage can.  I asked him where the boat was and he said he was finished with it.

Perhaps he saw the leak as a sign from God or perhaps he realised he could be solitary in some other way. Regardless, I’ll never know the answer to that.  But thinking about seeing his foot on the evening news does make me smile.  My Dad, the television personality…or at least, his foot was.

 

Advocate, anxiety

Barefoot, bellringing, blogger

Child of God

Daughter, depressive

Extraordinary

Follower of Jesus

Grand, gullible

Hugger, hiker

Individual, idiotic

Jubilant, justice-seeker

Kooky, knowledgeable

LFBTQ+, lover of all

Mountain watcher, Mental health advocate

Nana

Ordained

Padre

Queer

Romantic, rambunctious, rainbow

Sarcastic, sister

Theologian

Unique

Veritas

Welcoming

Xcellent

Yellow (one of my favourite colours)

Zillions of kisses

 

Tomorrow is the 25th of January, Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” initiative to help quell the stigma of mental illness.  Celebrities have recorded brief interviews and have stepped up in raising awareness of depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety the past couple of months have been scary.  I am a Canadian, and proud to be one.  Our neighbours to the south elected a new President and it seems the world has been in a tailspin since.  Every day the rhetoric increases, the attacks get more personal and social media is reaching a frenzy status on who is right and who is wrong.

What scares me is the increasing vitriolic hatred that both sides of the debate engage.  There is hurt and anger and a decided lack of respect.  There seems to be no acknowledgment of the other side as a human being.  Memes spring up everywhere and there are veritable twitter wars and Facebook battles over who is right and who is wrong.  Over who is telling the truth and who is lying.

We seem to have lost the respect of basic human dignity.  Regardless of whether you are a supporter or protester of POTUS, we need to come together in unity.  He needs to be held accountable.  We need to ensure our voices are raised in unison.  Can we please, please stop with the division and hatred.

I don’t like being told that as I woman “I must” feel a certain way or behave in a certain manner.  I don’t appreciate being told as a Christian “I must” say certain things and if I fail to do so I am a disgrace to Christianity.

I am a child of God.  So are you.  So is POTUS.  So is our Prime Minister.  So is everyone we meet.

I’m tired of the anger.  I’m tired of the hurt.  I’m tired of the hatred. I want to join the revolution of love.  I want to change the world with respect; with words of empowerment and love.  I can and will change how I view the world by looking through lenses of love and respect.

I short, I refuse to hate.

My mental health is always fragile in January…I’m not really sure why…but it is and I tend to cocoon more than usual, trying to stay warm and safe.

I am blessed in being surrounded by people who love me.  Who hold me when I cry, who bolster me when I struggle.  Who check in because I am on their mind and in their heart. I am blessed to love many of those who surround me.  And lately, I’ve begun to fall in love with myself.

I know I am not perfect.  I never will be.  And that’s okay.  In God’s eyes I am created in perfection and that’s more than good enough for me.

There is a South African word, Ubuntu, that means “I am because you are”.  In other words, I can’t be who I am without you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and think the same.  It means we have the right and even the responsibility to disagree and hold one another accountable for our words and actions.  It means we are all in this life together.  It’s a way of living, an understanding, that is both powerful and profound.

If we embrace Ubuntu, perhaps we, together, can change this cruel world in which we live?

As always, I live in love and in hope.

It’s the last day of 2016.  Today was a whirlwind of activity including a funeral for a 91 year old lady.  The cemetery was freezing cold, the wind was bitter and yet it was only -2C.

What I said struck a chord with many who were present and I received many positive comments about the comfort my words brought.  I was asked what my plans were for tonight and I replied I was going to clean my house, fill my car with gas, have a hot bath and go to bed early.

I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s Eve.  It’s never been a big part of my life.  As a child my parents would wish me Happy Near Year at 7:00 pm, which was midnight in England.  Then they would go out and enjoy either a house party or a dance somewhere.  As my brother and I grew up, it was us who would call our parents at 7:00 pm to wish them Happy New Year as we headed out to whatever activity was offered.

I’m not a great fan of house parties.  Mostly because I’m not a great fan of small talk.  I don’t make resolutions.  I don’t expect the drop of a big silvery ball or a special kiss at midnight to change my life.  I’m too much of a skeptic for that.

And yet I find myself drawn into the frenetic activity of Top Ten lists and favourite memories.  I keep reading how 2016 has been a terrible year.  Many famous people died.  And so did many ordinary people…like the 91 year old I buried today.  There were atrocities in the world, and also great hope.  There was a Presidential election that was arguably one of the shadiest ever in history, and yet the Earth keeps spinning.

Tonight I filled my car with gas.  Yesterday I got groceries.  My house is clean.  My homily is almost finished for tomorrow.  My sugar bowl is full as is my milk jug.  There is money in my wallet, soon there will be food in my belly.  I live in a warm house with a freshly made bed.  I had a luxurious hot bath and soaked until my fingers turned to prunes.

When I moved West I made myself a promise that I would be the best Andrea I can be.  I fell deeply in love with someone I’ve been wanting to know for a long time.  Me.

I am kinder to myself.  I take better care of myself.  I medicate and feed and water and exercise and laugh and cry and love.  I can honestly say that I love myself.  There will never be this moment again in my life.  In 2017 I will turn 50.  And just as Canada is going to be celebrating it’s sesquicentennial for months, I will be celebrating my special year as well.

I will be kinder to myself.  I will laugh more.  I will go exploring.  I will not be afraid.  I will try new things.  I will write and sing and dance.  I will take risks and be successful.  I will take risks and be unsuccessful.  I will continue to fall deeper in love with myself.

I am spending New Year’s Eve alone this year.  I had a few invitations.  I turned them all down.  Yes, there is someone I would like to kiss at midnight, but we cannot be together tonight.  And frankly, I’ll be fast asleep by then. 🙂

2016 was a good year for me.  2017 will also be a good year for me.  I anticipate many adventures and many more shenanigans.  I will be happy with who I am right now.  As opposed to who I’d be 50 lbs lighter, or longer hair, or healthier, or happier.  I’m pretty damn good as I am now.

My promise for 2017 is to love myself more.  And in turn, to love those around me.  Who will, in turn, love those around them.  We can start a revolution of love.  We can choose to love first.  Without condition.  As we are meant to be loved.  With abundance.  Carefree.  Bountifully.  Beautifully.  Eternally.

As the poet and prophet Lin-Manuel Miranda said “Love is love is love”.  Amen.

You don’t have to look far to stumble across Year in Review articles, posts and memories.

For a lot of the world 2016 was a bad year.  For me, it was a year of new beginnings.  This time last year I knew I was moving to British Columbia, and only about 10 other people did.  A handful from both congregations.  It was not an easy decision to make, to leave my parish, my friends and family behind.

God was beckoning me to something I had never experienced…I had always imagined if I was going to leave Ontario, it would be for the Maritimes, not the Mountains…and here I am.  The province of British Columbia is different.  I live about as East as you can and still be in BC.  I live about a south as you can and still be in BC.  The closest neighbouring “city” is an hour away (West).  I can get to the state of Montana in less than half an hour.

The climate here has reminded me of Northeastern Ontario.  Nearly two weeks of bitter cold, and bright sun.  A part on the furnace at the Church froze and we were without a furnace on Sunday.  So we all snuggled together on the side of the Church that still had heat and it was grand.

I’ve not written as much as I thought I would over this past year.  It’s been a year of firsts and yet my 9th year in ministry.  I’ve reflected on times as a student, a lay pastor, a summer pastor, a Deacon and a Priest.  It’s been wonderful participating in the life of the community; both of the Church and of Fernie itself.  I’m becoming “known” in the community, and in (mostly) good ways.

I am blessed to have made some friends here and one or two very close friends.  I have experienced a deep, abiding love from this congregation.  I’ve heard a few times “we’re so glad you came” and I feel very much the same.  2016 has been a year of transition, a year of anticipation, expectation, participation…moving with what could fit in my car plus another 20 or so boxes across the country to a furnished house.

Slowly, I am making this house a home…personal touches, hanging artwork, acquiring little things for the house.  I am able to keep in touch with my family and friends “back East” thanks to technology and even letter writing.

In speaking with a colleague and friend who was worried about me living so far from family and friends, he asked how I was doing.  I told him I was happy; truly happy for the first time in a very long time.

I am content in who I am.  In who God has called me to be and where God has called me to serve.  I am part of the LGBTQ+ community in Fernie and beyond.  I am part of the Arts community in Fernie and beyond.  I am joining the Symphony of the Kootenays Chorus in January.  I am a patron of the Arts Station, the Library and the Museum.

I have met people who love me and who I love.  And for that I feel incredibly blessed.

My Mam turned 80 in 2016 and I was able to be with her for her birthday in August.  I saw friends I had not seen in decades and it was wonderful.  And yet I found myself pining for the mountains.  When I flew over the Rockies towards home I felt a catch in my chest.  Is this where I was meant to be?  Driving from Cranbrook to Fernie, I saw the mountains again and felt as though I were home.  It was a wonderful feeling.

This winter I am going to learn to snowshoe.  I am going to explore hiking trails.  Some days I will stay inside, wrapped in a blanket and sip tea.  And some days I will laugh until my sides hurt, or cry until I can’t breathe.

Here, in the Elk Valley, is where God called me to be.  I am a child of God, created in God’s image, which is one of perfection.  I am waiting with baited breath for the birth of the one who will set us all free…waiting to receive the perfect gift.

I am nervous about my first Christmas in the West.  But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and know I am loved.  I will look through the windshield more than the rear view mirror because 2017 will be my best year yet.  I will turn 50, I will savour every moment of every day.  I will continue to love and be loved.  I will continue to work towards the coming of God’s kingdom, knowing that together; heart to heart, hand in hand, we can and we will change the world.

From my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Healthy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany.