Shelly at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Shelly at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Shelly has read many blogs over the last few years and has written for a long time – including keeping a journal since she was 12 years old! This is the first time that the writing and the blogging have come together. As she and Richard began to branch out in their creative and ministry endeavours, Shelly decided this was one way to expand her own spiritual practice and model the intention of seeing the sacred in every moment.

A ‘brogue’ is an old Irish word for shoe, and also came to refer to a regional accent or way of speech. Shelly is inspired by the breadth of Celtic culture and has spent many, many hours walking – in Ireland as well as in her beloved homeland, Canada. A lover of dogs, walking, Canada, Ireland, lrish Dance, reading, and the beauty of creation, walking with Shelly on her journey could take you anywhere.

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(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Courage

Shelly & Buddy Abe!

Shelly & Buddy Abe!

In a few days’ time I will be heading to Chicago for an event with the Center for Courage and Renewal. This will be the third time I will participate in this larger event and one of many other retreats and workshops I have had the blessing to be part of. I have received gifts of financial assistance directly from the Center and also from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario of The United Church of Canada, to be able to attend these events. I should have written this thank-you note/report much sooner, but I want both groups to know how much it has been appreciated. How much I have learned. How much I have grown. And how much the workshops and retreat-time through the Center have touched my ministry.

At a time in our world’s history when the forces of either/or seem strong and US/Canadian relations are experiencing a sense of ‘pause’ (until we know what happens with certain political decisions), AND, a time when ‘my church’ – the United Church of Canada – and the United Church of Christ USA have begun an agreement of full communion with one another, it seems even more fitting that voices other than those of fear and hatred speak out. At a time when Canadians might be tempted to a sense of superiority and thinking that our history of racially-based treatment of citizens is somehow ‘different’ and when we might be tempted to not see ‘sister or brother’ when we look at US media, the work of the Center for Courage and Renewal is even more relevant. The theme for this years’ clergy event, ‘Liberating the Voice of Courage’, seems especially fitting.

One of the Courage teachings of Parker Palmer (one of the founders of the Center) requires a re-versal, an up-side-down-ness to our usual way of thinking about apparent ‘opposites’. Palmer invites us to hold the tensions between two poles (whatever they might be) and offer another possibility, a third way. Our default habit seems to be that we don’t want to hold paradox in our own lives – it is too uncomfortable. We also know (scientifically, spiritually, physically), however, that this place of tension is painful, but ripe and even necessary for creative generation of life. The type of leaders that are needed for this world we live in, Palmer suggests, need to be able to stand in this place he describes as ‘the tragic gap’. This is the space where we do not have to choose one or the other – right or wrong, black or white, Christian or Muslim, American or Canadian, all or nothing – but with love, patience and hope, invite others to join us there.

Twilight in Cayucos

Twilight in Cayucos

Again, at this time in our history, we might be tempted to despair or to ask why human relationships seems so difficult, but there are others who are also inviting us to creatively hold the space between what is, and what could be. I have seen it, for example, in John Phillip Newell’s works of prayer and peace and even more explicitly so in his recent book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings (Skylight Paths, 2014). Using the image of twilight as the liminal time between night and day, known and unknown, Newell reminds us that the ability and gift of being able to hold opposites or paradox in a life-giving way is a calling and that it requires continual practice. He writes that ‘the way forward in our lives is to somehow place ourselves in the middle of such tension’ (95). Discussing Carl Jung’s work on the unconscious, he points out that space, or the ‘marriage of opposites’ is where generation occurs, where new birth can happen. “If there is to be a rebirthing of the Sacred within us as nations, as religious traditions, as communities and families, we need to move into relationship with those who are considered unlike us” (98).

We are each being called, I believe, by some of our wisest teachers, to purposely place ourselves in that space between, holding the tension, bridging the tragic gap and offering ourselves to new experiences of ‘other’. Our world is yearning for people full of possibility, of love, of purpose, of peace, of deep listening and deep compassion, beings able to live in this liminal space of twilight. The opportunities I have had through The Center for Courage and Renewal have given me (and many others) a chance to practice doing just that. The model and rhythm of the days (from deep silence to boisterous laughter to stirring music) the way we are invited into a profound listening of the ‘other’s’ story, and the acceptance of all kinds of different expressions of truth, have all been such an important part of the practice or habit-forming work. I am thankful that I have had a chance to experience some of the people who help bring this fullness to others. I am thankful for my Church and my community for the opportunities to share some of my excitement with you, and to help bring to others such promise. I am full, even at ‘this’ time – whatever is happening in the news at this very moment – I am full of hope, possibility, gratitude and perhaps even courage, as I pack my bag for Chicago!

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Pads

Although I do remember having to leave school a couple of times as a teenager because of what ‘17’ Magazine referred to so poetically as ‘menstrual mishaps’, and perhaps even taking a day or two over the past 33 years of womanhood because of bad cramps or a headache….but I never had to stay home from school or church or community events because I did not have sanitary products. Even to this day, facing what I am pretty sure are signs of peri-menopause, (I can’t believe I just said that out loud!) all I have to do is put whatever I need on the grocery list and they appear. Or, at worst, I get myself to a grocery- or drug-store and purchase them myself.

My mom and I when I was a teenager

My mom and I when I was a teenager
Image: Unknown

For a while, when I must have had more energy, and maybe more commitment to the environment, I used washable, cloth products, probably similar to what my fore-mothers had to use. I often thought of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers, knowing they would probably shake their heads at me choosing the more labour intensive route. When I found the soaking and washing and scrubbing too much, I changed back to the more expensive and convenient, disposable items.

But the thing is I had a choice. And to be shown recently, that still in many places in our world, there are girls and women who do not, has been a good reminder of how many ordinary things we take for granted. A church community in Western Kenya, where my mother spent 5 months involved in an orphanage and a growing faith community, has helped bring this to my attention. There are girls who miss several days of school, church or other activities – not because they have their ‘periods’ but because they cannot afford the cost of sanitary supplies – in this area – and obviously many others.

And there are people in Canada who have recognized the need and are doing something about it. Patterns for flannel and terry-cloth pads are shared, fabric purchased, donated, and sewing machines running, to send these supplies to communities such as the one my mother has been part of in Sikata, near Bungoma, Kenya. Ideas for bringing the supplies and equipment for these communities to make them for themselves are also in the works.

My mother, Pat Tinney & a child near Bungoma

My mother, Pat Tinney & a child near Bungoma
Image: Unknown

You might wonder (as all my ‘walking with’ blogs have been about spiritual questions): ‘Is this a spiritual concern?’ I say yes. Any time someone does not have access to normal life and activities – especially education – because of personal dignity questions, then it is a matter of justice which Jesus showed us is a spiritual matter. It was not too long ago that I recognized that even my access to handkerchief’s or boxes of facial tissue is a blessing. I tend to have a runny nose at the best of times – if I were to find myself on the street with not very many resources, I’m sure I would choose my sleeve over ‘kleenex’ if it meant I could buy food. But again, there is that concept – ‘choice’. I have the privilege of having many choices. And others, because of something as simple as where they were born, do not.

So again I ask: ‘tissues and sanitary supplies…conversation topics and mission projects for faith communities?’ If we are called to allow our eyes to be opened in the ways that Jesus offered, and allow all people the dignity they deserve, then even the most ordinary of items must be part of our spiritual lives. We must have these conversations in order to highlight how items like sanitary pads and showing others how to make them can help change a larger justice issue of access to education and other opportunities. Imagine your daughter, niece or grand-daughter having to miss out on life – school, worship or job opportunities…What choices would you make?

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Children

A Rainbow of Stoles

A Rainbow of Stoles
Credit: Shelly Manley-Tannis

One of the blessings that continues to touch me in my Ministry with congregations is the trust and love that is offered to me by the children of the community. Each time I hear the door of the hall open and small feet running toward my office, my name being yelled out loud…I marvel at the gift I have been given. I am reminded, each time an arm goes around my waist or a small hand takes mine or a question comes my way that I am being offered the most privileged, sacred relationship possible: the trust of a child.

The children in my congregational experience have taught me many things, they have reminded me to be authentic, and they have challenged me every single time I make an assumption. I have learned that sometimes they really ARE paying attention! That it’s okay to ask ‘why’ and that some of our scripture stories are indeed very sad. Recently I learned something else…

November 20 is the United Nations Universal Children’s Day and The United Church of Canada encourages its ministries to celebrate on the Sunday closest to the date. And because they continue to ask me, and love to offer their help, I knew that the children in my small-but-mighty congregation would want to be the leaders of this celebration in worship on November 16th. They chose the story to be read (The Penguin Who Wanted to Be Different), discussed the theme, picked out music and heard some of my ideas. They ‘got’ the story of the problem with hiding our gifts and talents, and during the service itself they told the story, announced the hymns, read the prayers and blessed the offerings, and the congregation on their way.

Snow Angel

Snow Angel
Credit: Shelly Manley-Tannis

The one thing that in the planning of that service that I would not have thought of, if it were not for them asking, was the importance of liturgical garb. In my office, my stoles of many colours – gifts from loved ones, hand-made and/or handed down from my father – hang on a lovely wooden holder also made for me by a friend. During one of our ‘practices’ for the service, one of the children pointed to the stoles and asked ‘we’re going to be wearing those, right?’. The other children nodded in agreement, but my response was a little slow in coming – my mouth hanging open a bit and I mumbled something about figuring it out.

Later, I thought about the question and my hesitation. Was there really any reason that they should NOT wear the liturgical stoles that mark them as leaders of worship? I couldn’t really think of one. The only concern was that I didn’t have enough of the same colour – for “ordinary time”. But then I realized, what better to celebrate Children’s Sunday than a rainbow of different shades – EVERY season must be a time to celebrate children. And I proudly wore my blue hand-made yoke with the ‘children of world’ design on it. Luckily, quite a few of my stoles belonged to my father and he was not a tall man. Still, some of the fringes touched the floor as our small, beautiful group of kids stood to read the final blessing – and a very blessed congregation knew that they had seen the face of God and the body of Christ in their midst.

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking in Moccasins

Walking with our Sisters

Walking with our Sisters

Old Vamps

Old Vamps

The soft fabric pulls a little across my toes, not too tight, but comforting. It’s important to find the right fit – they need to be snug at the beginning. If you choose a pair that is too loose – they will break down quicker, especially on the back seams. I learned this from the people at the Winnipeg Trading Post, when I got my first pair there, 5 years ago.

I think I got my very first pair of moccasins, though, as a teen-ager, while visiting Manitoulin Island, (Spirit Island) where I had lived with my family as a child. I did not know then about finding the proper fit and I don’t think they lasted too long. But I do remember the smell – new, soft leather – mingled with sweet-grass – a fragrance that will forever remind me of Manitoulin. And in one of my favourite photos of me as a teen, I am wearing them while sitting on a dock during a trip to Newfoundland.

New Vamps

New Vamps

Yesterday I bought a new pair of Moccasins from the Trading Post – where I bought that pair that finally need replacing. They lasted five amazing years – because this was the pair I finally learned about fitting correctly. But with the weight of gravity, my miles and miles of walking (yes, even inside and around the house), the experiences of the past 5 years, and all the history and memories on my shoulders, they wore through. The lining had been breaking down for a while. And more recently, a toe or two had pushed through the leather on the bottoms that had become more brittle and thin with time.

Choosing the new pair was a big decision. I spend a lot of time in my moccasins. There were different colours of leather available this time, and the colour and design of the beads on the vamp (the tongue) of utmost importance. And so I chose: black with purpley pink beads reflecting the pattern made in honouring the four directions.

Newfoundland

Newfoundland

As I wear these soft, comforting slippers, safe in my home, I remember the little girl whose beautiful costume caught my eye as she danced on the platform of the pavilion during a Pow Wow in Brantford, Ontario. We were about the same age – 7 or 8 – and the next time she came around the circle, she grasped my hand and pulled me up, in to the dance with her. My sister. Where is she now, I wonder? Is she safe? Respected? Does she know she is valuable, loved? Because, you see, the pattern on my own feet reminds me that the four directions have also become the paths along which First Nations women – perhaps even the one who was this little girl in my memory – have gone missing.

Remembering, naming, and honouring these women – especially when our society seems to ignore that real people can just ‘disappear’– is the hope behind the collaborative art installation currently in Winnipeg called ‘Walking With Our Sisters.’ It is a collection of the vamps or tongues of moccasins, unfinished traditional footwear, reflecting the unfinished lives of so many beloved women. So, the faded pink roses on the vamps from my ‘old’ moccasins may not be part of this tour of tribute and protest around North America – but I will keep them, and I will wear my new ones as a reminder of all my sisters wherever I walk. And I send a message especially to the one with whom I danced as a girl. I will walk with you. I am still holding you hand – I will not let you go.

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking into Lent

Do other creatures have the physiological  need to swear?

Do other creatures
have the physiological
need to swear?

When I decided within the last few days that I would try to ‘give up’ swearing for Lent, I had no idea that it actually has a physiological function; cultural, I knew, but helpful? Really?! Apparently yes. Swearing can help release tension, it is described as a built-in anger management technique and according to one writer certain words, ‘can help wash away stress and anger. In some settings, the free flow of foul language may signal not hostility or social pathology, but harmony and tranquillity.”*

First, when I read this I thought I had better try to figure out what actually qualifies as a ‘swear’ word – just in case I really might need to use one! English speakers know that the words that are best used as expletive and are helpful for releasing pain, tend to be scatological or religious – or even better, some combination of the two (‘holy s@#!’ comes to mind). But what about words that have replaced so called swear words precisely because they are not censored (as the symbols in the above word are a type of censoring). And in almost all English-speaking countries the ‘f-word’ is censored on tv and radio. But apparently it IS ok to say, live on air, words such as ‘friggin,’ ‘frickin’ ‘shoot’ or ‘darn,’ and many religious-based terms are not censored at all. And what about ‘ass’ or words that refer to certain parts of the anatomy as though they are ‘lesser members’ as the apostle Paul suggested? Or may be a name for a type of animal in other usage? And this is just a brief first look!

Sometimes it is AWE that inspires such a word … is it still blasphemy

Sometimes it is AWE
that inspires such a word
… is it still blasphemy

To ‘swear’ originally meant to make a promise, to vow or pledge. But, it seems, when those honourable words get used for dishonourable purposes, ‘swearing’ takes on a new meaning. Our scripture tells us that one of the guidelines of good living is to not take ‘the Lord’s’ name in vain. But saying or writing or texting OMG doesn’t even seem to get the least response anymore, and I have heard the names for the one I try to follow (Jesus Christ – as though ‘Christ’ was his last name) used more outside the church than inside! And while on the subject of ‘outside and inside’, this differentiation is where the word ‘profane’ comes from. Something not allowed in the temple, so literally ‘outside’ the temple was pro-fanus. We often use the term profane as representing the opposite of ‘sacred’. So, sacred names and words become profane or blasphemous when used in vain, when used as expletive or to curse someone else. The line between sacred and profane seems to be much closer than we think. Wikipedia even refers to such phrases and ‘holy s*&*%$t’ and ‘holy f*!@#k as ‘liturgical profanity’. Perhaps it is intention that is what it’s all about.

Tempted

Tempted

And this brings me back to my Lenten promise. I try, really hard, to make sure when I say ‘O my God’ that I am aware, that I am calling on Creator, the one who I believe surrounds and loves and desires me. And if I’m not sure I’m really, actually, seriously calling on God, maybe I say ‘O my gosh’. But it’s pretty obvious how that phrase came about….So my question remains does substituting another word for the swear “count” as swearing or cursing? And do I get a free pass if the expletive I choose is one that is allowed on air? Because if swearing actually has a purpose – then maybe I shouldn’t have picked this habit to ‘give up’ for Lent? And if I yell ‘dumpy buckets’ inside the car when someone cuts me off, is that getting me off the hook for saying bad words, but still do the physiological job of releasing my anger? I don’t actually know the answers, but I think I’m still going to try to stick to my plan. At the very least it might help me be more aware of the power of language, and perhaps help in my creativity. If it’s about a quick, helpful, colourful response then that should be a healthy new habit to develop, shouldn’t it?! Well, anyway, I’m going to try my best for the next 40 days or so. I swear.

Blog links:

 Wikipedia: Profanity

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(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking @ Camp

I participated in camp fire, cook-out supper and other meals, mud pit games (I DID get a little splashed), worship planning, who-goes-first-for-supper games (my favourites: a new one called “world’s worst…” and the one where they had to make up a song about me!), and even the slip-and-slide on the hill.

Although this was my first time at Rock Lake, it was not my first time at Camp. United Church camps have been part of my life almost since I can remember. As a 6-year-old newly moved to Brantford, Ontario, I saw the posters for Ryerson Camp and apparently informed my parents that I was going! They worried that I was a little young and might get homesick…but 10 summers later, I was still a regular! This doesn’t mean there were no incidents throughout those years – I was a regular visitor at the camp nurse’s cabin (mostly things like poison ivy and other, rarer allergies to various plants!)

I also had the opportunity to visit, a few times, at Camp Tapawingo on lovely, Candle Lake, SK, while I lived in near-by Nipawin for 6 years. There I was also a clergy visitor on some visits and presented a workshop for staff on boundaries in another.

There is similar feeling to these three camps although unique in their own ways. The feeling, like any, is hard to describe, and it’s connected ton – but much more than – summer, damp beach towels, night games and crazy songs. I’m sure that my years at camp, had much influence on my own decision to go into ordered ministry. With the care of various counsellors, other staff and volunteers; and a clear sense of the presence of the holy, I was given the gift of knowing what it was like to be valued as a child, to be loved by God, and to experience all of those things in a place of beauty.

I am so thankful for the staff, counsellors and teens at Rock Lake United Church camp this past week, for reminding me of these gifts. I was privileged to experience their care for one another, their willingness to learn, their awareness of justice and God’s love, and the hilarious antics that teens and staff working with teens get up to!

I hope that the season continues to be a good one at Rock Lake and that those of you reading this have a chance to experience camp – or to help a child do so. If you have been a camper in the past, how do your memories help remind you of God’ s presence? Who were the care-givers (at camp or otherwise) who changed your life?

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Change

The more experience I gain in life, the more I realize that change is indeed inevitable. I know, it’s not a remarkable revelation, but it seems that we each much recognize it in our own time. It’s no wonder, then, that so many people who love music and are touched by music, tend to imagine the story of our lives in terms of a soundtrack. We love films with good songs and we can imagine ourselves singing and hearing the tracks that reflect where we are at, especially at the times of change in our journeys. My sound track would be mostly U2, various 80s music, some wonderful Canadian women and Stephen Fearing.

Cycle of Change

Cycle of Change

The day I recently ‘knew’ that it was time to move on in my work and begin a new relationship with a new congregation in the United Church of Canada, I was also at a Stephen Fearing concert at the West End Cultural Centre here in Winnipeg. He was touring for his album ‘Between Hurricanes’ and, at that point, I had not yet heard any of the new songs. He opened with ‘As the Crow Flies’ – I had just had an interview with the congregation directly north of Winnipeg, as the crow flies, and was waiting to hear back from them, knowing I would have to break the news to the folks I had been working with for over 6 years:

Learn to say goodbye
Wait for when the moment’s golden
Choose the hand that opens
Straight as the crow flies
Movin’ on, movin’ on

You know how sometimes you just know when you’re making the right decision … I cried. Richard and Russ can verify that.

Kind of like the time when I began my degree in Canadian Studies at Trent University and heard Stephen’s voice for the first time on Trent University radio, and soon after, ‘The Longest Road:’

Oh Canada
The longest road I’ve know

Then there was the feeling of call and a decision to start a degree in Theology and saw Stephen, downtown Kingston, singing, ‘Coryanna:’

look at all the planets up above
Can you imagine all the longing
And the hearts that beat for love?

And I cried through the whole concert that time too.

So, my first week, beginning this new ministry, driving north, prairie sky blue and big, puffy clouds white, July 2013… I know that change is inevitable and scary but somehow also beautiful and the only option other than death. I’m listening to Stephen, ‘The Wheel of Time,’ in the car, when:

Here comes another day
Here comes another day on the wheel of love

comes on. I am trying to listen to my own heart, not the message of the wider world – (change…why? You’re only working only 2/3 time? A small, rural congregation? Leaving us?) and then, once again, my soundtrack kicks in and Stephen’s lyrics, from ‘These Golden Days,’ remind me:

So light a fire and shed your preconceptions and throw them onto the blaze
You got nothing but your birthday suit now
In these golden days

No wonder I’m feeling vulnerable and fragile, yet strangely free and strong. One of the only possible constants in this circle of life and love is the choice to be who we truly are, and that’s where the ‘birthday suits’ come in. What will be my next track…? I’m not sure. What’s yours?

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Nook

Nook @ 9 Months

Nook @ 9 Months

I have discovered a new (but probably ancient) spiritual practice. It is the gift of a slow walk beside an elderly dog. Walking and especially walking with dogs has been part of my spiritual exercise (pun intended) for a long time – even before I knew I could define it as sacred. Mostly, the walking has been at a relatively brisk pace except for sudden stops involving sniffing extra-good smells or marking a tree (the dog, not me).

In the last few months, the pace of the walk has slowed considerably. My now-eldest pooch is almost 14 and is very … well, slow. This may seem obvious – that all creatures age, slow down, begin to shuffle and eventually die – but Nook was always the active one, the young one. As our first dog, Hemp, aged, you could count on Nook for not changing much at all. If you know anything about Border Collies, Nook has always been the definition – he could have been a working dog, with a strong prey instinct – or, put to use in our family – a strong play instinct! So, he never really walked anywhere by choice: he ran, he jumped, he barked, he played hard.

Nook @ 13 Years & 7 Months

Nook @ 13 Years & 7 Months

Now, Nook limps along with a back foot dragging a little, and groans as he tries to find a comfortable spot when we return home. We ARE doing what we can for his pain and inflammation, but let’s face it – he’s old as dogs go. He is the first creature I have known this well in whom I have seen such a change. Not just the grey in his face, or the rhythm of his awkward gait…You see, as we walk slowly and deliberately around one short block, I have realized that, just as I escort him on his daily outing, Nook is escorting me through the journey of grief and good-bye saying. This quiet trip around the block is a grace-filled, heart-wrenching exercise in patience and living in the moment. God has given us the gift of companionship and understanding between species. The Creator has given us the difficult gift of the cycle of life, ageing, death and new life. I look down at Nook’s bobbing head, his widening back, and thinning tail, and tears fill my eyes.

Thank you Nook,
I say.
Thank you.

 

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