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Posts Tagged ‘dignity’

I was born in the year of Canada’s Centennial…1967. I’m a first generation Canadian born of English parents. I love the country in which I live and I am unabashedly proud to be Canadian as we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of this majestic country.

However…there is a darker side to this place I have called home all my life and the place that my parents chose as their home and to where they chose citizenship.

Canada is 150 years old…Turtle Island is thousands of years old…likely as old as all Creation. And while I think it’s wonderful to see red and white festooning communities and flags going up all over the place…special red and white tulips bred for our Sesquicentennial, we must remember the damamge that our citizens, settlers, all of them, have inflicted on our First Nations peoples.

I am honoured to live on the land of the Ktunaha in Southeastern British Columbia. There is a rich heritage of Indigenous history that surrounds our community…including an ancient curse that was finally lifted about 40 years ago…

Canadians built this country on the backs of those who were here before us…generations and generations before us…and we didn’t do it fairly, or appropriately. And yes, for much of that history we should be ashamed. The Church rounded up Indigenous children in conjunction with the federal government to “civilize” them by taking away their Indigenous names, culture, language, songs and dances. We committed cultural genocide. This was done in the name of God…

It’s a dark part of our history and there are other dark parts of our history…Interment camps in this region that began prior to and ended long after the First World War. The list goes on…

I’m not saying that we should celebrate 150 years of Confederation…I’m not saying that Canada isn’t the best country in the world, because I truly believe that. I believe that now, more than ever, because we are working to make amends with our brothers and sisters in the Indigenous community. We are learning from and working alongside to preserve First Nations languages that are in danger of extinction. Same with dances and songs, of traditional dress and food. We’re making amends, we’re beginning to understand that we weren’t here first…that we are guests on this land.

Last Sunday we recognized National Aboriginal Day of Prayer and it was a very powerful service where we prayed in the four directions, giving thanks to the sacred medicines of tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass. We prayed with the four colours of yellow, red, black and white in the directions of East, South, West and North. We heard of the Creation of Turtle Island from the Great Creator and how those stories resonate so strongly with us even today.

This Sunday we will recognize 150 years of Confederation. We will sing God Save the Queen as well as O Canada and we will hear of how God is working through us as Canadians. We have every right to recognize our heritage as Canadians…but not on the strength of another culture and community. We have the right to wave our flag proudly, remembering on whose land we stand.

I have wrestled with how to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Canada…similarly I have wrestled with how to celebrate my half-century birthday later in the year. This year I am presiding a memorial service and rose planting for the mother of a friend who died a month or so ago. I won’t be taking in fireworks because I don’t really like fireworks. But I will wander around the community, in an I Love Canada t-shirt and wave my national flag.

But I will also give thanks to the First Nations who were here first and who continue to bless the land on which I live. And so, I say O Canada…Migweech.

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begins a sonnet by William Wordsworth.

There has been so much hatred in the world…so much violence…so much intolerance and I’m struggling under the weight of it all.

Speaking of weight…today I was out and about running errands in the community where I live.  I was at the check-out in a store and two ladies were complaining about the weather.  I said I was glad for the cooler temperatures and one looked at me and said “I can see why”.  Curious, I asked what she meant.  She replied “you have your own built in coverage for warmth, you likely don’t like the heat”.

I opened and closed my mouth trying to find something humorous to say in return, but instead found myself on the verge of tears.  What she said was hurtful and dare I say, cruel.  Yes, I am overweight.  Yes, I don’t like extreme heat.  But I don’t think what I said warranted that kind of response.  I took my purchases and left.  I continued on my errands and came home feeling deflated and defeated.

The Church I love so much, that I have loved all my life, is voting on something incredibly close to my heart.  As a member of the rainbow community, the issue of same-gender marriage is important to me.  As a priest with many friends in the rainbow community, as it stands right now, I am not allowed to marry them in the Church.  The same Church that I love is pushing me, and people like me, aside.

My parish is holding a prayer vigil for the duration of General Synod.  Each day an email goes out and is posted on our Facebook page with prayers for the daily activities.  We are offering prayers for the marriage canon, but also for Indigenous rights, for visiting dignitaries and for audited financial statements.  We are praying for ears to hear, hearts to be open, for mouths to speak the truth in love and in faith.

Tomorrow’s gospel is one of my favourites, the Good Samaritan.  The epistle speaks of praying without ceasing, and that is what I have been doing.

For me, the gospel is about love.  The promises of our Creator, Saviour and Redeemer are all about love.  God never told us who to love.  God gave us the gift of love.  We are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves and to love God above all else.  There’s no division of who gets more love, we all get the same because, in the eyes of God, we are all the same.

Tomorrow’s homily will be about praying without ceasing and loving your neighbour.  Tomorrow afternoon I am meeting with a couple who are to be married in August.  The day after they are married I have the honour of baptising their infant son, the mother and the Godfather.  It will be my first baptism in BC and, as always, a very emotional moment in the life of the Church.

My fondest hope and prayer for the family is that their child is raised knowing only what love is about.  That he never experience hatred and if he is exposed to it, he will know how to rise above it to show what love is all about.

If only we could focus on that which unites us; as children of God.  If we could focus on that which aligns us, rather than that which divides us, what a wonderful world this would be.  We would know the kingdom of God as we would be living it.

So now I will rest my weary body.  I will tend to my fractured heart.  I will rest in the knowledge that there are those who love me, as I am.  And for the rest, all I can do is love them as Christ loves me.

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My newsfeed has been flooded with devastating news…attrocities happening around the world, children snatched from their parents and injured or killed, senseless violence continues to happen and it feels overwhelming…

I’ve spent less time on Social Media than I usually do because the majority of the news I read is upsetting.  Hate crimes seem to be rampant; one of the most devastating was the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.  A gunman opened fire and killed 49 people, injuring another 50.  Mainstream media are having difficulty naming it for what it is…a hate crime.  A man opened fire in a gay club because he had seen two men kissing and it had enraged him.

He was called mentally unstable.  He was called an Islamic fanatic.  The truth is, he was a man filled with hate.  And the crime he committed was not a crime of passion, but a crime of hatred.

All around the world there have been demonstrations of solidarity; the Tony awards paid tribute to the victims of the senseless crime.  A showing that love always wins.  A barrage of pride flags adoring websites, and being flown from flag poles all over the globe.  One man’s hatred is being overshadowed by many people’s love.

And yet, I have seen three separate instances of “Christians” saying that the 49 killed were not enough.  Of celebrating the gunman as a hero.  In the name of God.  In the name of Jesus.  That is NOT okay.

I am a Christian.  I am a proud Christian.  And the God I worship is one who is about love…not hate.  The Christ to whom I pledged my life gave us two commandments; to love God, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.  There’s no room for hate when we love.

So to my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, I stand beside you.  I walk with you.  I love you as God loves you and please, don’t let ANYONE take that from you.  These narrow minded pastors are not of God.  They don’t speak for God.  They are not Christian.  They are hatred.  And love always wins.

Please, if you disagree or don’t understand “alternative lifestyles” don’t think you have the right to kill someone.  You have the right to your opinion.  You have the right to not understand.  But you do NOT have the right to hurt someone else because of your ignorance.  Sexuality is as biological as eye colour, nose size and handedness.  And for the record, there is more written about left-handedness then homosexuality in scripture.

Stop taking the sacred word of scripture and twisting it out of context to support your bigoted and hateful ways.  Love always wins.

There are people who don’t believe I should be ordained because of my gender.  They hate me because of it.  I can’t do anything about that hatred, but I can love.  And I do.

Take heart my sisters and brothers; we will not forget those of you who stand up to hatred and violence every day.  We will speak up for those who fear to walk alone at night.  We will hold the hands and march alongside those who only want to live their authentic life.

There are those who will live in fear and will lash out.  Our reply must to be respond with love.  It’s not easy to turn the other cheek.  It’s not easy to stand up to bullies, but together we can.  We must.

Because, in the end.  Love always wins.  O Lord, hear our prayers.

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One of the challenges with moving provinces is re-establishing health care.  The first health care provider I procured was a Chiropractor, followed by a Registered Massage Therapist.  Next was the Pharmacist, and today I saw my new Family Doctor.  I had a list nearly as long as my arm with things to discuss with her.  She listened and acknowledged; she’s young and has a wonderfully warm demeanor.  I enjoyed sharing my list of concerns with her and she has started the referral process for many of the ailments I now have.  For the record; aging is NOT for the faint of heart…

One of the questions she asked was my form of birth control, to which I answered “my face”.  She blinked and looked blankly at me, then started laughing uncontrollably.  I think Dr. B and I will be getting along well.  She gave me a requisition for blood work, a number to call to schedule a mammogram, a referral in process for a gynecologist, a renewal for my prescription antidepressants and I see her again in a month for a physical.  Phew.  All that was discussed in 10 minutes.

Another of the things on my “to do” list is putting together the paperwork for separation and divorce.  I spoke recently with A and we agreed on a separation date and we’ve already separated our assets and liabilities.  For all intents and purposes, it should be an “easy” divorce…well, as far as administration goes.  Emotionally, it is an ending.  And although we both agreed that this was “for the best”, there is still a process of grieving.  The end of something that we once promised would last forever.

As I reflect on the end of our marriage and the rebirth of myself, I realise, once again, that sometimes love is not enough.  I love him as a person.  I love him as a friend.  But I am no longer in love with him, and if I were honest, I haven’t been for a long time.  Too many things unsaid, too many broken promises.  Too many times when one thing was said and another done.  Too many times when it was simply too much effort to work at our relationship.  The precedent scares me…unfortunately I’ve been down this road before.

And while I have said that I will never love another again…is it really fair of me to close my heart off from the world?  I don’t know…I suspect God does…

For now, the wall around my heart remains firmly in place.  I will mourn and grieve the loss of something that once meant the world to me.  I will survive.  I will come through the other side stronger then ever…knowing myself more than I ever have…and learning to love again.  Beginning with myself.  As a wise friend recently said “I’m worth it”.

And you know what?  I believe that to be true.

So while I mourn the ending of a marriage/relationship/partnership, I rejoice in the knowledge that I am coming back to life…I am experiencing my own re-birth.  I revel in the sounds of birdsong, of the gentle and often not-so-gentle winds that blow through my life.  I revel in the smells of Spring flowers, of walking around the village where I live and breathing in the fresh mountain air.  As I reflected to a parishioner at the induction service last week “I am home”.  In so many ways, British Columbia has become my home.

And in this home I find my heart, my soul and my life.  Thanks be to God.

 

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Once a year the Congregation gathers to pass a new budget for the year.  We gather to share our stories because I find looking at numbers on a page does not inspire me.  I want to know the story of the people I serve and after 7+ years in the congregation, I know many of those stories.

We compile our reports into a Vestry book that each parishioner receives.  A copy also goes to Church House so the Bishops can read them.  And they do.  When I arrived at this church the reports all seemed to revolve around money and the lack thereof.  While I understand that I am the largest expense, it’s also difficult to truly “record” what it is I do.

I find myself uncomfortable when I look at the numbers for attendance.  We are growing; we are attracting new people and families every year.  We have children coming to Church…not every week, but they are coming.  Many of our new members are active in the congregation and to me, that’s an exciting thing.  On the down side of that, our congregation is aging and many of the workers from years past are dying.  They are dying faster than we are attracting new members.

It would be reasonable to lament our shrinking numbers, our decreasing donor base, but instead there is a feeling of great hope in the congregation.  We are active, we are alive!  We care for each other and we share our stories.  But that isn’t measurable, which can be very frustrating to people like me.  I see numbers on a page, but those numbers themselves, don’t tell a story.  We need to add a narrative piece in order to balance the measurable and the immeasurable.

Last year’s Vestry was a challenge.  We had two sections of roof that needed replacing.  We had fewer members than the year before with four well-known and well-loved members dying through the year.  Parish Council brought the budget to vestry and it was projecting a deficit.  A decision was made to lower our Diocesan Apportionment and raise our budgeted givings.  At the time I wasn’t sure we could do it.  I prayed that we would, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced.

When we sat down, as a council with our treasurer and looked at the amount that was given by our congregation I was astounded.  We surpassed the originally budgeted amount by $10,000.  Not only did we meet the newly forecasted amount, we surpassed it.  AND we paid more Apportionment than the modified budget.  Not 100% of the full amount, but closer to 80%.  And that was a huge feat.

As I reflect on where the congregation is now, as compared to where we were when I arrived, the change is phenomenal.  The tone of the congregation is that we can do it.  We want to be vibrant and a necessary part of the community.  We have learned to trust each other again and not fear the stranger.  In short, we have learned again to be a family.  None of that is measurable in black and white, but it is emotionally and spiritually measurable.

This year’s Vestry will have a different tone than that of year’s past.  We will be concentrating on our abundance and celebrating our accomplishments.  We will encourage the congregation to give with all they have; through prayer, attendance, financial support and ministries.

We have learned that we are better together; and together we can change the world!  What a journey this has been and will be as we go forward.

Thanks be to God!

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This past couple of weeks has been nothing short of chaos.  Trying to get bulletins together, work on homilies, home communions, home visits, catching up with friends, scheduling medical appointments and surgical consultations.  And then there’s time needed for sleep.

This morning I drove to a community nearly an hour away.  I met a friend I had not seen in 10 years.  I wasn’t sure she would recognise me or that I would recognise her.  I was 15 minutes early and as I walked into the restaurant I saw her beautiful smile.  We hugged, she cried (she’s a crier) and were a flurry of hands and excited words…”been so long”…”how I’ve missed you”…”you look so good”…the poor server couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

We ordered our lunch, and continued talking. Yes, we did manage to eat while the food was hot, but more importantly, we reconnected, in a place where it seems we just pressed pause.  There was no awkwardness, there was no hesitation, we were simply two friends reconnecting after a decade.  Before we parted we set a date to meet again, in two months.  And on air I drove home. Through construction, ignorant drivers, road-blocks…none of it mattered.  Not even the migraine that had been plaguing me most of the day.

I got home and looked at the still unfinished pile of stuff on my dining room table.  And I turned my back on it.  I’m not afraid if the pile stays untouched.  I met my daughter-by-marriage as she got off the school bus and she chatted in 3 word sentences about her day.  “Didn’t do much”…”no homework, yeah!”…”where is Christmas?”  Every year my in-laws get together for a family Christmas.

Usually it’s held the first Saturday or Sunday in December, to coincide with Dutch Christmas and the coming of St. Nicholas and Black Peter.  I was in Florida so it has been rescheduled to this Sunday afternoon.  This Sunday is Advent IV.  There’s still so much to get ready for Christmas Eve.  But it will wait – I will not be afraid.

I went for a nap that ended up being 2 1/2 hours long.  My headache is not gone, but is much better. I decided to fold the bulletins for 4, 7, 11 pm Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, our Boxing Day baptism and Christmas I.  They are folded and at the Church.  For the first time ever, I came to Church in my pajamas.  Now granted, I wear PJ’s for the Pajama Mass every Christmas Eve at 4:00, but tonight I am here with bedhead, in a ratty old sweatshirt and flannel PJ bottoms.  And I’m not afraid.

I changed the sign outside and used the short-form Xmas.  I know I’ll get at least one message on the Church phone that I have done wrong.  But I am not afraid.

Sensing a pattern here?

I wrote my article for the local paper today that will be published on Tuesday as Wednesday, the usual publication day, is Christmas Eve.  In the article I talked about the appearance of angels and how they always say “be not afraid” to whomever they encounter.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  The angels that appeared in scripture were grown men, with wings, suspended.  THAT would be terrifying!

Angels delivered messages, not all of them good.  The angels in the Christmas story appeared first to Mary to tell her she would conceive a bear a son who would be the Messiah.  They appeared to Joseph to tell him the Mary’s baby was God’s and he would raise the child as his own. They appeared then to the Shepherds, announcing the amazing arrival of the newborn baby who would save the world!  And so they ran to see this remarkable thing that had happened.

Angels appear in both the old and new testaments.  Arguably, the angels heralding the arrival of the Messiah are the most memorable.  And as they trumpeted glad tidings, and called on their choir, they said simply “Be not afraid”.

So with all the busy-ness of this season, my desk is a mess and so is my office.  I will not be afraid.  The living room and dining room at home look like a fur covered bomb went off…and I will not be afraid.

There will be time for cleaning, but there will also be time for friends and family.  And together, unafraid, we will heed the words of the angels who gathered to announce the arrival.  The angels never said “clean your house first”, they said “be not afraid, I’ve got something awesome for you to see!”

So be it.

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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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