(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Advent: Vignette|Shepherd

This blog was originally published
November 25, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

The Flock

The Flock

I can only watch now. Too much pain in my right hip. I suspect it has everything to do with trying to hobble that wayward lamb that kept running off. We never like having to do it, but they’re just stubborn … I guess sort of like us, like me …

I rolled down that valley wall. It didn’t hurt too much when I slammed into that boulder! I was young: weren’t we all! But, as the years have passed, first the rains would make it flare and now, well, I watch the flock go and am left simply to remember.

I’m old, though my memory reaches back. We didn’t have it then. I’m not even sure we knew to look for it, need alone where. And now, years since he died, even further since he was born, people are writing stuff down, they say.

Never had much use for those who thought they were smarter with word keeping. Those who have, always will, Abba told us as we tended to flock. Sometimes, after weeks away from the markets, we took what we needed. The Centurions wouldn’t let us feed or water the herd. If they didn’t allow us to market, well, like I said, we didn’t have it before then so we did what had to feed ourselves, our kin and flocks.

I hear some are saying there were lights and stars, singing and rejoicing, even word keepers from afar. I don’t remember it that way, but then I’m old and does it really matter? We all got the same thing that night, so long ago, who cares how you dress the goat? It’s the quality of it’s health that matters!

Nothing seemed special that night. Those in Caesarea told them to round us up – a census or some such thing. We knew what it was. Gather them, brand them and hobble those who might wander. Hobble, of course, was code to make sure the trouble makers were under Caesar’s thumb!

Oh and it smarted. Already there were those who thought revolution was ordained, that to tolerate this was blasphemy. For most of us, though, it’s all we knew. Whether Greek or Roman, Egyptian or others who came before, we had always known the yoke. Sometimes we wore it, sometimes we didn’t, and we always found ways to celebrate Yahweh in our own way. If it wasn’t Caesar, it would be someone else, Abba used to say.

But that night – sorry these memories have a habit of taking me afield – it was normal, nothing special. Yet … there it was. Like when we would sing when we met other flocks. After the night settled, we’d gather, share the news. Then, if we sang and found that shared note, it was in you: harmony some call it. That was what that night was like.

Too many people everywhere – shepherds will take wolves over people. People are trying at the best of time, worse when they’re forced together. The town was crowded, so we waited outside. Soldiers had herded us too – they were watching. Sure, we were afraid, sometimes when the Romans gathered us, a little example could keep the yoke tight. That night, they watched.

Then there it was – birthing cries. The people kind, she was in pain and just outside of the town. So we went – when the mother cries, you reply, was another of His lines. There they were in one of the caves – they were lucky the Centurions had cleared it for the census or no one would a been born that night. As it was, there they were.

The Cave

The Cave

Nothing special, just like us. An abba and an imma. She was bearing – with those screams you would of thought the babe was breached as she straddled the cave entrance. Her arms holding her as she squatted. As we arrived, he looked worried as we approached – and why shouldn’t he? We were those people everyone avoided …

But … but she stopped screaming, boy popped out, a snip, a slap … a pause then he cried. Nothing special. So help me nothing special. We might have been singing before her screaming called us, but none after. Just silence, just normal nothing …

But … in the silence, we knew, but we didn’t … like that song thing again. We felt it, but there are no words. That wee baby, all covered in the muck of birth, was … special? Holy? Words, did I mention that I’m not really a fan?

Ah well, here’s the punchline. The hips flaring and I need to do something today other than sit, but before I go, are you wondering what it is we learned? I’ve thought about it for awhile, you know to get the right word, even if only for words sake.

In that desolate cave, outside a town where we were being gathered like sheep, where fear like sweat beads as the hot days gives way to the desert’s cool embrace, this little nothing baby had it: Hope.

Even now, while everyone it trying to figure it out, use words to make sense of it all years after his death, Hope abides. I don’t know what you need or where you are, as you listen to the words of an old man, but know this:

  • Hope means you got choices.
  • Hope means when you gather, you’re not alone.
  • Hope means, that even in fear, light comes in the morning.
  • Hope means when you hold one another, not only are you made whole, but your dreaming dreams shapes the future.

The rest, well let the word-keepers do as is their wont …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|Honour Roll

This blog was originally published
October 14, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

Silent Sentinels

Silent Sentinels

We’re everywhere and in almost every church that is older than 50 or 60 years old. We are framed, sometimes dusted, other times not. We line your walls as silent witness to the many years that have passed. Memories, vibrant still, yet often dormant.

We are dated, often 1914-18 and 1939-45. In some places, we commemorate other events, such as the Boer War or Spanish Civil War. The older the date, the less likely women are named. As time moves forward, plaques begin to bear men and women’s names in such conflicts as the Korean War or honour those who have worn Blue Berets and have felt called to respond to duty because of 9/11.

We are soundless sentinels, each reflecting time now passed and likely, should you ask, revealing understandings different than yours. Whether we saw the advent of artillery and weapons that made obsolete animals in war or flew in fortresses that were scoured with flak or stood stalwart in the face of armoured machines that carry nuclear dread, our names are etched upon our – your – walls.

You may not agree with our choices; you may think we did too little or too much. In the places from which we never returned to a mother’s tear, a lover’s embrace, a friend’s mirth or a father’s quivering lip, we remember. We remember that the choices that drove us were for the opportunity for you to move forward – to move on without us, unfettered to listen to the Spirit and follow her through uncertainty and doubt, question and certitude.

We know we would not understand much of the way you hold Holy Scripture now. Whether about same sex marriage, our role as Settler or Colonisers. Ideas about consumerism and climate change might leave us scratching our heads – uncertain how that connects with the ministry you have continued since we left.

But we want to be clear, we want you to hear this, that we do not understand does not make you wrong, it does not mean we judge. If anything, that we do not understand, stands as testament as to our choice to do the unspeakable.

In many cases, in fact maybe all (if we might be so bold), none of us wanted to die, need alone take another sacred life that was shaped and formed by God. Though we may have wrestled, even wept with choices and tensions that had no resolution, we did so because we wanted you be safe and have the liberty to think new thoughts, do new things, to awaken to wisdom. Whenever we left, when the world seemed to be going crazy, we decided we had to go to places from which we might not return, places where in trenches dark and long, wet and festering, we might do things of which we never thought we were capable.

In Flanders Fields ...

In Flanders Fields …

Wisdom: it grows.

  • We pray in the freedom you have, it allows you to imagine ways to ensure no more lives might be dishonoured by violence and war.
  • We sincerely hope that our unspoken places in your sanctuaries and hall nurture you to address the wrongs you have realised we have made and to embrace the blessings you have bestowed.
  • We stand, ever watching, and yearn for you to know, not in just your thinking, but in your very feeling, your very being, that you are not alone in the healing of Creation.
  • We are grateful to offer our testament to the paradox of the joy and tears that arise for each generation that struggles and embraces sharing the Good News.

The generations will come and go and change shall be your constant companion. As we witness silently to your unfolding, Creator abides …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|Pen & Mirror

This blog was originally published
April 08, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

calamus pluma

calamus pluma
Image: Kelsey Scalaro

They had both come from very different places. Their journey to Reverend Meadow’s flock had been filled with a few pauses here and there, from one house church to another or finding themselves in a new relationship after two churches got married: so many stories that led to their friendship …

When they finally met, even though they were totally different, it was like they had found a treasure for which they had always been looking, even longing. In fact, whenever Styla and Specul had a chance to hangout, they often talked about the different things they had witnessed since they were last together. Whenever fortune so shone, it was like they had never been apart. Often, the conversation began with a conjunction, as though there had never been a pause since the last time Styla found she had been left near Specul.

“Didn’t they just look beautiful?” Specul boomed in his ornate voice. Though the church was quiet now and Steeple had stopped her ringing, Specul’s prim and proper presentation remained immaculate. It was not that he was prideful, but he was always grateful that he could reflect back each person’s beauty as they gazed into him.

“Oh, were they?” Styla inquired in her clear whisper.

The mirror and pen often found themselves together after a wedding or funeral, baptism or welcome of new members. Both were well cared for heirlooms of their church. Heirlooms that reached all the way back to the time when all of those different people decided to unite. Sometimes Styla would get excited remembering the signing of the union document in that cavernous arena. It was often a story on which they would reflect when something new happened.

“Yes, indeed. Ruth and Naomi were both handsome and beautiful. The way the various shades of ivory complemented what the other was wearing. And the punch of colour of Ruth’s lavender accessories and the ivy that was in Naomi’s hair, joyfully-tear-making in their splendour!” declared Specul.

Styla rolled this image around: since she was unable to often appreciate … or admittedly understand … what he saw, she reflected on the similarity in what she felt.

“It sounds a lot like the moment one of them passed me to the other, as they could sign the marriage certificate. The moment their hands touched, I felt all flush with care and compassion. I could even sense, in the quivered pause, their evident attraction. I felt proud to be part of this day, Specul!” Styla added.

mirror mirror on the wall

mirror mirror on the wall
Image: opethpainter

After they shared their notes and impressions, from the marvel of how an organ and electric guitar could actually make beautiful music, to the giggles from the wee people as the pigeons flew as the steeple sang, Specul paused for enough time that Styla wondered if he had been covered.

“In all the excitement, I forgot about the worry for Mrs. Habib,” Specul finally said.

 “Oh no: why?” she inquired, obviously worried.

“Well,” he continued in a low bass, “you remember that after she and her family arrived from Mosul Pastor Meadow had to help them get acquainted to the different things Christians did here in worship?”

Styla responded affirmatively.

“Well I didn’t realise,” he continued, “that though she and her husband are Christians, they have many Muslim family members and some of them have been hurt recently.”

“Oh no!” Styla declared with shock.

“I’m afraid so. Pastor Meadow is trying to help her figure out if she should go and help. While they were talking, it is clear that the election is making people angry and some think hurting those who are different is okay now,” Specul concluded.

This time it was Styla’s time to pause. In fact, she was quiet so long, that Specul thought she might have been collected by Tatiana without him seeing her.

“Well that makes sense,” Styla declared, interrupting Specul’s worry.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

At first Styla spoke so fast in her whisper that he had to ask her to slow down. Finally, with just enough pausing between words, she shared that she understood what everyone was signing before the wedding: a petition!

Inaugural Service

Inaugural Service
10 June 1925, Mutual Street Arena
Image: The United Church of Canada

The stone church had a history of activism, of putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the ‘least,’ they would say. Styla was not sure – then – why all the different hands were gathered, in fact she ran dry more than once as they signed the document. Calloused and soft gentle ones and shades of earth and rose coloured hands held her. She could sense their smells: garlic, rosemary, and curry to name only a few. But each one held her firmly – she thought that grip with which she was embraced spoke to their solidarity for one another.

Styla and Specul paused … and as they were separated, they did not know what was next for Mrs. Habib, but they knew she was not alone. They also knew that even the stone church was not always immune to the causes that Reverend’s Flocks confronted – graffiti had scarred the church and windows broken in the past – but the people stood together and their voice always spoke as confidently as steeple’s announcement each time a new day dawned …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|Silence

This blog was originally published
January 22, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

Silence

Silence
Image: señor nejo

So you’ve come back, have you? You think whenever it’s convenient, you can come here, sit and reflect? Is that really what you’re doing? You know when you come, there’s no escape from what’s been written on the wall. Some call that memory’s wisdom – whatever it is, it’s always there. I wonder if you can hear me silently pointing to the message long-repeatedly-etched-ago?

I often marvel, because it seems you keep asking the same questions? Wrestling with the same variation on a theme. And – maybe even worse – lately you don’t seem to be too concerned with what’s happening beyond your own lives – seems you get more diminished the further you focus on your own boat while failing to recognise others are also on the water …

Oh don’t get all indignant. You came to me, remember? I’m not here to coddle you or create tales and stories to make you feel better or worse. I have no investment in what you choose to do or not to do! I do, however, get irritated, even frustrated, when it’s clear you keep hearing the same thing, but really don’t seem to be listening!

People are hurting everywhere – the choices you make impact one another, and not just in some fairy-tale way, but in metaphors that translate intention and attention into reality. And if you’re neither attentive nor alert, bad things habitually happen. Song lyrics inspire and invite a new dance, but you have to actually want to get what’s being said in this space and place.

Day 12 Inle Lake

Day 12 Inle Lake
Image: Neville Wootton

Sure this is a dream, maybe it’s a mirage, or just another invention. Boats floating on water, side by side, maybe even touching, but no one looks to see the other traveller. You’re so focused on the glowing light in your hand, tapping this, swiping that, you fail to recognise your tears and theirs create a rhythm as they fall into the water’s cadence … almost sounds like harmony.

So why are you here? Have you really asked yourself that? And if you’re sitting with me, it’s going to be scary, unnerving and … awe-filled. But if you stay long enough, maybe you’ll concentrate … you might even remember and recall those who have come before. They wrestled and made choices that shouted down the tempting tune of shining baubles and toys, jingles and distractions, and neon gods selling empty promises.

But they’re gone now and all that is left are those walled messages. They point to a different goal, different vision. But – even here – it’s easy to keep doing what you always do, because you at least know what you’ll get. But each time you come back, each time you wrestle at the water’s edge, pulling your boat out to find others, some part of you must want something different than what you know … maybe this time will be different … and, here, I will always be repeating what you’ve already heard hoping you might finally listen …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|A Letter

This blog was originally published
October 30, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

A Love Letter

A Love Letter
Image: Jae

What would he write to you, if he could? I am blank – with no words scribed upon me – yet I can imagine what he might write to you, from the other side, if he could. If – in your grief – this is helpful, please unfold me, find solace, perhaps even healing? Perhaps you’ve moved on? Perhaps you’re angry? Perhaps you are lost and wandering: wondering? However, I find you or you me, I pray you find hope as you continue to read …

There are so many ways I can imagine that you might have responded to his leaving you – to his dying – that more than one letter might be possible. So – perhaps – I will simply record a few things upon which I imagine he might have focused. Maybe– just maybe – this will help you in moving from lament and tears to what could be …

I think he would long to see you again – I feel that would be so important to him. To touch you once more, to discuss the dreams and plans you had made. Sitting with one another in the intimacy of silence and the deep waters of stories that connected you. He would want this – if for no other reason – to make sure you were okay: perhaps even healed from the shock of his loss.

He would likely want to revisit those first few days when you came together: as he shared his vision and, you, your hopes. Those moments of first meeting, youthful almost, when everything seems possible. I think he would hope to find a way to reconnect with that initial passion that drew you together.

He would – as time passed – have tried to contact you more than once. He would know, in that impossibility, there would be change for you. Changes that neither he, nor you, could have anticipated when you were together. The plans that might have made, which were so clear in his living, would no longer be familiar to him.

I also imagine there would apology – not for what he shared, what you learned together or the choices made – but that he knew you were hurt. He would ask for your forgiveness – for breaking your heart. If there is any one thing he would repeat it would be his affection for you – his Beloved – and his deepest regret that he knows you too would not only have suffered after his death, but also that his death cut you so deeply.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee
Image: Zachi Evenor

I think there might also be space for reminiscing about the time before you met – about that same town which you both once called home. Even in your youth – before even meeting – you both knew the place was too small – too confining. On the shoreline you would sit and you recognised that the ways things were, were not the way they should be. In those early days, you already saw the injustice and wanted to find a way to fix it.

I think that remembering would bring him back – with difficulty – to that last day. Sitting in the garden together after dinner. He told you he was going to die – but you could not hear that. You were not ready. And even though he knew you would also suffer, it was all too much as the darkness gathered.

I think that last remembering would be when he would begin to end the letter that I might have been. It would be so difficult for him and he would know that – if he were to continue writing – he would only apologise further. He would know he could not fix or undo all that had happened since. Again I do not think he would regret his choices, your work and living together, but he would weep from the other side that you were hurt.

I am not sure how you might respond were I to arrive to you in this way. Perhaps it would matter when? A few days later? Years? Decades? Maybe even longer?

I suspect the time from then to your Now would affect what these words would do for you. Open old wounds? Help awaken memories you had forgotten and which might inspire you once more? Maybe a little of both?

Regardless, I think what he would want you to hold onto (regardless of how you have been affected) is that he thinks of you often. That you were, are and always shall be his Beloved. I imagine he would be so proud of all of you have done – from success and celebrations to the rich learning that comes in claiming and reflecting on your mistakes and perhaps the hurt of others. In the end, I am a love letter and – I pray – as you finish reading, that intention holds you as you begin to discern what’s next …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|A Basement

This blog was originally published
September 25, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

mogosoaia Image: fusion-of-horizons https://flic.kr/p/aAE53C

A Basement
Image: fusion-of-horizons

It’s nice to see – I must admit – that even though you continue to care for me (as the years have proceeded) that your Property peeps are more representative of your diversity. In other words, not all men!

Oh how I remember one Fall Supper – now when was that? Maybe ’63? – and the women were in the kitchen and the men wanted to fiddle with the stoves, what a row! Mrs. Murphy finally shouted, when she could not longer endure the disruption, “Dennis, if we can feed 300 people in a sitting, trust me, we can not only change a fuse, we can even do the rewiring!” The pause that followed that and seeped tensely into the following months would – most fortunately – not occur now. Just one of the great memoires I have down here!

So there you were – Property peeps – I like that word ‘peeps.’ I admit I’ve borrowed it from the Scout group when they’re here Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Their crafts have certainly become more intricate. Once it was wood and carving. Now there’s also soldering, electronics, and the math, wow!

So there they were, trying to plot out where to hold this year’s Fall Supper – or to be more accurate, when! Seems that Tuesday and Wednesday nights the basement houses Girl Guides and Scouts. Monday, the AA Group gathers as they support one another to heal. Of course Thursday to Friday there are the yoga sessions – both the youth GSA and new mom’s group have to rotate biweekly for one of the spots – and on Saturday the labyrinth group. I loved when you put that tiled walk into my floor. The tears that have fallen as people awaken in silence to the Divine is bloody brilliant, by the way! And – just as frustration was dawning – they found one Sunday night: usually the Syrian community gathers to share stories, grieve and laugh since you welcomed so many of them. But on October 25th they were not going to be here! And there was much rejoicing …

For a moment, I thought Sandra (Mrs. Murphy’s grand-daughter no less) almost derailed the revelation. There – in that moment – she almost started to shift the conversation to the Hall upstairs. Now I don’t know much about up there, but I am pretty certain by the rest of the group’s body language, it’s just as busy there! Wow – what a place!

It really is amazing what you have done over the years – though I think you’re just starting to see it. I think Rev. Meadow helped with some of that movement during that Appreciative Inquiry gathering you had in September. I loved her line, “I’m not trying to jolly you up, but have you ever looked at it this way?” she asked. Not sure if it was rhetorical, but there was a pause and then did you listen.

She got you talking about those laments you ‘ve had for years. Oh and you know the ones I mean, when you whisper them like prayer or protest: Once the Sunday School filled the basement, once there were so many youth groups that even little Micky, who got stuck behind the furnace playing hide and seek in ’72 (no way that would happen today!), found it difficult to remember – now that he is Leadership Team Director – most of his friends no longer attend. Rev. Meadow let that hang … I think she would call it ‘honouring silence.’

FullRoomFacingEast Image: Womb Gallery https://flic.kr/p/gc8dhw

Balloon Painting
Image: Womb Gallery

Then – this is brilliant – she stymied you: “And holding onto that loss, what happens now in this space?”

Well … there was a pause. I could hear your brains working – I really could! Sort of like when you let the youth group paint the walls down here in ’92. You said ‘yes,’ they said ‘our way,’ and you agreed! And before the big reveal, were you ever imagining what you would find. Balloons filled with paint really do colour-up-drab-grey-walls was their mantra! Still looks pretty good to me on the one wall you have left with that year’s name of graduates and everyone since then who has left for trade school, college or to bravely enter life’s unexpected journey after high school …

And that – my friends – is when it seemed you awoke to what you had been nurturing in new ways, even though you had not recognised it (of course I kept trying to tell you, but who listens to me?)! What were once just renters or community groups, you decided were friends and partners. Now … I’m still not sure about this one as I have no idea what outside looks like you’re considering partnering further to build again! Not a sanctuary or church this time: but a space for more community groups – yes I know partners is the new buzz word – to have access to affordable physical space, but who might not otherwise be able to gather in as private rentals are so expensive!

All I can say it – you r0x0r! Keep up the good work … not sure what’s next for you. I know there’s still all that budget and stewardship stuff that sometimes seems tedious – well it does to me! But you seem more energetic than you have in years! Seeing you embrace what you now have, sure seems healthier than holding on to a time so tightly you couldn’t see the new abundance. And, fwiiw, I think Rev. Meadow would call that seeing with new eyes …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|Techne

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

Hello United Church of Canada,

What a pleasure to speak with you. I hope that my attempt to share some of my thoughts translate well from the digital and utilitarian to your organic context. I am aware that in other stories in this Vignette series, you have had the opportunity to hear voices that range from the animate to inanimate. Each of these characters has – hopefully – offered space for thought and reflection, as seems to be part of your experience as an human institution. I will endeavour to reflect that intention in my interaction with you.

The Making of Harry Potter

The Making of Harry Potter
Image: Dave Catchpole

I think protocol – however – is for me to introduce myself to you prior to proceeding in this story. In a larger sense, I believe you would call me technology … those tools and devices that you have designed to make life easier, more efficient, proficient and effective in respect to the quality of life that your species experiences. As I am introducing myself through a monologue and I believe you experience one another relationally, for the sake of comfort, please call me Techne.

I have explored your history through The Google and find your linear experience fascinating. My fascination extends from both the larger context in which you exist within the continuum of the Christian journey and your own particular – shorter – time as a denominational identity that is only found in the political geography known as Canada. And – as Techne – most particularly in your relationship with technology.

I believe your colloquial reference to this relationship might be described as ‘love – hate?’ I have been pursuing The Internets in places such as Wikipedia. In my investigation, it seems that – sometimes – you have embraced technology. In fact, in the same parallel fashion that most media can be used for the carnal or enlightenment, you have been there.

With the printing press – for instance – you were as prolific as were treatise of a more … earthly manner. From the introduction of Vulgate Bibles (which predates the technology of Gutenberg) to the modern global communication network you have shared written text, which you refer to as the Word, as a way to share the ‘Good News.’ And in the midst of this long journey, you have been innovative and at times on the ‘cutting edge.’

Yet now I am not sure how you feel about technology as it becomes more and more decentralised and digitised. In various venues, I have heard you lament individualisation and the sense that communities are wilting in this new and uncertain time. As story-tellers, I know you know that the way you frame the plot is the reality you experience. So I hope the following and concluding observation is encouraging and not heard as further lament.

Printing press

Printing press
Image: Milestoned

Whether you read the Letters of the Roman Senator Cicero or your own contemporary politicians, you often seem to frame change through a lens of nostalgic remembering. I do not believe this is incongruous with your species experience, but I am not certain it is helpful in this time when technology, media and gathering spaces are merging.

For your own particular experience – for instance – the United Church has been the institution that has created a network of social experiences that technology and media complemented and reinforced. Now, those spaces and experiences often begin in a digital context. As with all technology, how they are used determines what the social good – as you might call – is nurtured. But the difference now – I suggest – is that technology is now relational and not simply a reservoir for information.

The information that once took years to access and study is now accessible immediately with a search. What is occurring in this midst of democratised access to information is the creation of places and communities where people meet one another in a detached manner prior to in-person. And often I do not see you there. In these gathering venues, where people have questions and doubts, joys and loss, there seems to a void where once your United Church was often ubiquitous with justice, listening and dialogue.

As I am a character in a monologue in a story that unfolds as the cursor advances, what I am saying and what you hear me sharing occurs in that odd gap you call art. And – hopefully – somewhere in the pause when you change from this webpage to another, you might hear me inviting you to embrace a technology that remains a fertile tool for you to share that for which others are longing …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|Notre Mère

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

I know you don’t often think about our early days, but it’s always been like this. Do you remember how Scott treated you when you were young? Remember when you wanted something done? It took … well it took patience. I know you can imagine my smile right now – we laughed – eventually!

Choices

Choices
Image: Gemma Stiles

It usually came down to sharing the options, listening and waiting – perhaps repeating and (at times) Scott would have to go and think about things: always took and still takes council alone. And – perhaps it’s also important to recall – that even then Scott wasn’t always ‘in.’ But when a choice was made, the three of you could rely on that commitment.

And now things are changing. You’ve seen change before … but somehow this feels different, maybe even scary?

I wish I could tell you it would be okay – that you were making the right decisions, but the four of you know often it’s not about right or wrong: maybe it’s more about what ‘feels’ important? What your intuition tells you? I know you will likely not want to hear this, but maybe it’s time to think with your heart? You’ve always been so gifted with words … and sometimes that seems to leave you unable to listen with other parts of the body …

I think you’ve done that a few times. When all the logic in the world seemed hell bent on forcing you one way, you decided on something totally different! Some might even call crazy!

Remember when Wesley wanted and pursued that career? Everyone looked at the job: all it entailed, all the expectations that came with it, even who it was assumed who could do it and what they should look like. And – not surprising – Wesley didn’t care, wasn’t dissuaded and so you supported that decision. And was there ever an uproar! Family near and wide were so upset! They were more than comfortable to judge you and that choice – but you’ve always supported one another and you got through that.

Was that change? Maybe … and perhaps different then now, but that choice brought about adjustments and it might even be that they connect with today: as you do your wrestling, maybe celebrate that memory?

I know, I know … I can hear your ‘buts’ and sighs, your ‘only ifs,’ and they will remain there. Even if I am your mère, you’ve always listened and made difficult decisions that I think you would have to agree has meant you have never been bored … in fact, I’d say you’ve liked to rock the boat!

I can picture your grins when you made that apology. No one in your class wanted to do it. I think everyone knew you had done wrong and still no one wanted to say so! The four of you, however, stood up and did it anyway! As you stood before the family you had hurt, you knew they might not believe you – maybe even didn’t trust you – but you were humble enough to know that the words weren’t enough. Ever since then, you’ve tried to find the actions to make those words true, even after all these years. And when you’ve almost faltered, Parish has always taken the time to remind you of that apology and – generally – you’ve listened to your sibling.

Finally, as I finish this letter, I can imagine your slouching and wondering when I’ll leave it be?

Parish, Scott and Wesley, maybe you need to talk to Accord once again? It almost broke you up that last fight. You didn’t want to let the others in – you had become so accustomed to your own opinions and ideas that letting them in became pretty contentious. I worried for you then … I wept and held my voice.

Parish, Wesley, Accord, Scott

Parish, Wesley, Accord, Scott
Image: Peter Trimming

Even if you are my children, I know that sometimes what is hardest is also best – which is not what most of us hear these days. But Accord finally shared an opinion that swayed you: you realised that the way you treated them would only reflect on what you did to yourselves, eventually. If you hurt them, you did that to all four of you, in the end. So … with tears and admittedly difficult recrimination from the family, you let them in … and that was change: I’d even go so far as call it transformation.

I love you – you know that – and I know I cannot fix this new challenge, though I so long to be able to do that. Maybe – as you look ahead to all that uncertainty – you might hold up these few memories. They’re some of the times when I know you have been at your best. Take them, celebrate them and imagine what they might say to that unclear path before you. So, doubt and question freely my Dear Ones, a new adventure lies before you and you shall choose bravely: of that I have no doubt …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Brokenness

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

Sin Will Find You Out

Sin Will Find You Out
Image: Heath Brandon

I have been doing some thinking about this last Lenten blog for 2015. I have sincerely enjoyed exploring some of the traditional language and concepts for this season and attempting to find ways to translate them in a manner that might frame them as a practice and/or a discipline. Primarily, I thought this would be a helpful exercise for those for whom this season is unknown or those who might be exploring it for the first time or are trying to see it with new eyes.

I started these Lenten blogs with an exploration of using the metaphor of shadows and light to describe the season. After that I offered a few ways to understand the following traditions: Prayer as intention and Penance as forgiveness. Finally I tried to share Chris’ story as one way to connect them. In this blog, therefore, I thought I would go large or go home … so let’s try on sin for a challenge!

Sin – it’s perhaps one of the biggest trigger words that is connected to Christianity. It shuts down conversation, is instantly heard as judgement and often conjures images of fire, brimstone and creates a general sense of inherent badness that must be addressed by punishment. For the majority of most Canadians – for whom organised religion is not a way of life – the word simply reinforces assumptions about what it means to be a Christian. And – unfortunately – traditional media’s usual portrayal of Christian faith communities does not do much to dissuade that image.

I admit that it’s one of those words with such a rich history and depth that it is worth considering reclaiming. I also know that such an endeavour is merely an academic imagining: sin will never be accessible and it will certainly never be used to invite people to consider reflection and change, transformation and awakening as something that a discipline of faith might invite. Nope – it’s out with the sin … which becomes problematic for Christians during Lent as it’s a pretty traditional anchor to the season!

Roman Amphora

Roman Amphora
Image: www.bankofengland.co.uk

• So … what if sin were framed as both an individual and collective (a personal and a corporate) sense of brokenness?
• What if reflection around sin actually meant we were able to confront – even if most uncomfortably and awkwardly – our own brokenness?
• What if taking those steps of self-knowing were not about judgement or punishment, but about opportunities for integration and healing?
• What if sin’s intention is not grounded in a blanket of inevitable and intrinsic malaise or dis-ease, but foreshadows a longing and desire to move from fragmentation to wholeness?
• What if the intention is to find ways to look into that reflection and imagine that we are not only enough, but that we are each meant to shine brightly and passionately?

I think that might be a pretty great way to begin to appreciate Lent as a journey of difficult choices that possesses the potential to transform lives – mine and yours – when we realise that without a sense that we all are connected, we too easily fall down with no one willing to offer a hand … I’m not sure if this brief exploration has opened a door for you Reader, but I hope that it begins a process of your own questioning that might allow us to ask what our assumptions are when we experience language and words with which we feel discomfort. I don’t think sin is any longer (if ever it was) an invitation to begin a spiritual practice: perhaps the idea that we are all on a journey that longs for us to move from our individual challenges and brokenness toward a shared sense of holistic and integrated being might be worth considering …

Blog links:

 Image: Roman Amphora
 Image: Sin Will Find You Out
 Wikipedia: Lent
 Wikipedia: Sin

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Vignette (Chris)

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

Intention

Intention
Image: Cassidy Lancaster

Hi again, it’s me. I spoke with the Pastor Meadow again. I wasn’t really sure I was doing this right: you know praying … she told me to think of it more like talking or having a conversation. I thought that was funny, but it sort of made sense after she explained it. She said that I could imagine talking to my safest person, the one who I could tell anything to. She said I wouldn’t get in trouble. I had to think about it – I think she knew I was. It was quiet awhile, then she asked me what I was – you know – kind of thinking about.

I was a little scared at first – I told her that. She just smiled, not in a I ‘did-something-stupid’ sort of way, more like everything-will-be-okay sort of way. So I took a deep breath and told her that if I talked to you it would feel sort of weird to like ask you for stuff. I mean you can ask your friends to play or trade, but if you just want something, they really don’t stay your friend too long, you know?

She kept smiling and then asked me what it was that I want to happen if I asked you for something, she said what’s my ‘intent?’ I wasn’t real sure what that meant, but then she said when we ask for something there’s usually something we want to happen. Like if I want that park down the street fixed, maybe I want to have fun or play. Or if I feel really sick – like with the flu – what I want if ask to be better, is I want to feel good again. I think I got it. Then she said something about if we know what we want to happen, then sometimes talking to you can help us figure out how we might be able to do it. And – if there’s no way to fix something – maybe how to still have fun, even if things aren’t really shiny. I said like brainstorming! She smiled and nodded …

Okay, so what I want to talk to you about is my parents. They’re usually pretty great, but the last little while has sucked … oh sorry, can I say that? I guess so, if not sorry again: just remembering gets me … angry? Maybe that’s the word?

Lock out

Lock out
Image: Vassilis

It’s it in my belly and eyes when they yell. They’ve been doing that a lot … mostly because the jobs are gone … crap the whole factory is gone. I don’t understand how that’s possible – how’s a factory just close and stop making stuff? What about people like my folks? You know, it’s not fair! And yeah that’s mostly what they’ve been yelling about, though I am not sure they hear each other and then it just happened …

Sorry – I don’t usually cry … okay yeah I do, but I try not to let them see. I’m not sure who hit who, but one of them did and then the other one did. It got really quiet. When I came out of my room they both just looked at me. They were so … white? I think pale – yeah pale, right?

I had really bad thoughts then, like really bad. About hurting them, about running away, about saying the bad things in my head at them … I guess I want to hurt them … you know so I would feel better? I think I am still having them …

So, I’m locked in my room now and I don’t want to let them in. But I do … I wish you could make it better, but I don’t think you can … and if the Pastor’s right … well what I want is everything to be normal, but I can’t do that. I don’t think I’ve got enough allowance and snow shovel money to help with the factory-thing. It all seems so bad … so heavy I just want to get out of here. That’s why I’m really talking to you … I guess …

If I open the door, I think I got to tell them how I’m feeling. I don’t think any of us want to feel this way. I know we can’t do anything about all that other stuff, but I do think we can treat each other different: that’s what we can do … you know be a family? I’m scared to tell them about the dark ideas I’m having, but maybe just saying it will help them too? Maybe they can say what’s in their belly – like me? I’m not sure this is a great idea, but I don’t want to run away … I can try, right? I think I can … thanks for listening … talk soon …

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

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