Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Thank You for Mimi

I had been thinking a lot about writing, writing anything, this winter. Wondering about blogging. When I was in school, our diaries had little hasps and padlocks on, with tiny keys we’d wear on chains around our necks, so no-one would read them. Now we blog. Life’s progress is mysterious. Then there were the huge questions: What would I write? Who’d care? Would anyone read it? I had a question about a blog that vanished (and it had really GOOD stuff on it too) – I didn’t know how one made a blog vanish completely. So I asked the Mad Priest (MP – that means I think you know lots), who asked if I had a blog. No, I didn’t. A week or so later, though, we all got snowed in again – and I just went ahead and started the Morningstar Chronicles.

I’d lived too much of my life waiting for other people or events to make my decisions, and letting them. Being afraid. I’ve prayed a lot for God to remove my fear, because it gets in the way of God and Life. Starting to do this was a way to act deliberately out of faith instead, a commitment to writing, and a deepening of the relationships I’d started to develop with some of you. Thank you, Jonathan, for helping me move forward.

Yesterday, I wrote to Grandmère Mimi, about her new photo. She said she was tired of Jane Austen, and getting used to having her picture on the internet. I said, I’d be shy about having mine up.

Well, shyness is fear. My Dad’s very ill, terminally ill. There’s been a lot of family loss in the last 16 months or so – I’m not afraid about Dad, but I’m tired, sad and lonely. One of the things that frightens me is that I’ll go back to a way of living that was killing me. I can’t do anything for Dad except pray, show up, and love him. I CAN take some action to ward off fear. This is it.

I’m vain enough to post my best picture, for my first picture. I had gone to a concert with David P. (we’ve been friends since we were 11 years old) and his mother. One day I’ll say something about that “newly thin” thing in my profile, but not tonight. I took a rare opportunity to dress up. It was very cold, and when we got indoors and I took my coat off, David said, “Do I have to have you home before midnight? Because you look like Cinderella.” This is my Cinderella picture. Thank you, Mimi, for prayers, friendship, and helping me move forward.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Truth in Advertising

Like it sez – taken by me this afternoon, in front of Picone’s Food Market, in Dundas, Ontario. One of those will be part of my breakfast on Thursday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wish I'd said this ...

But FranIAm said it, over at the MadPriest’s … And many thanks for it, Fran!

Alleluia, He is Risen. And fortunately when He turns up among us the first words almost always seems to be this - "Peace be with you!

Not "Thanks for bailing on me you big losers!

Mary at the Tomb

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). – John 20: 11 - 16

I don’t remember what the sermon was, last year on Easter. I do remember the priest saying, at the 10:30 service, that one of the women at the 8:30 service had asked him after, if he knew WHY Mary didn’t recognize Jesus when she saw him. She said, “Because a woman who has been weeping will not look you in the eye.”

I do know how she recognized him – there is nothing as unmistakable as your own name coming out of the mouth of your Beloved.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!!!

One day in the fall, I was having dinner with my Auntie Jane, in the hospice. We weren’t sitting where we normally did, and she didn’t like the new spot – she could see bare-branched trees out the window, and didn’t want to think about winter.

I told her that I don’t believe that when we die, we are erased – that something continues. That the trees would have leaves in the spring, and we didn’t know what her spring would look like.

Spring comes in fits and starts in southern Ontario. It was bright, sunny and melting here today. We usually get at least one blizzard in April though. This afternoon I took these photos, at a friend’s house, on a south-facing lawn. The house across the road still has eight inches of snow on the lawn.

In God, all things are made new.

Friday, March 21, 2008

From The (Canadian) Anglican Journal

Judge reserves decision in dispute over Niagara parishes
Solange De Santis
staff writer
Mar 20, 2008
Canon Charlie Masters

Hamilton, Ont.

The diocese of Niagara returned to Ontario Superior Court on March 20, seeking access to three parishes that voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada; however, after a full day of arguments, the judge reserved a decision until a later, unspecified date.

Saying “you are not getting an answer today,” Judge Jane Milanetti let stand an interim Feb. 29 ruling from another Superior Court judge that barred the diocese from sending clergy into the three churches and holding services for the minority that is loyal to the diocese and the Canadian church. The diocese was seeking an order that would stand until the question of who owns the churches is decided, a process that could take years if it comes to a trial.

In the absence of a ruling on Mar. 20, Maundy Thursday in the church calendar, members of the three congregations at odds with the Canadian church can celebrate Good Friday and Easter services in their buildings. The three churches are St. George, Lowville; St. Hilda, Oakville and Good Shepherd, St. Catharines, all in southern Ontario.

Rev. Susan Wells, whom the diocese appointed to manage St. George, said those loyal to the diocese will meet for Easter Sunday services at a United church. Kay Mighton, a member of St. George’s, said the situation “makes me feel very sad. My husband and I will likely go to Grace (another Niagara church) for Good Friday.” Lawyers for both sides said about 25 to 30 people at St. George remain loyal to the diocese, but that virtually all parishioners at St. Hilda and Good Shepherd agreed with the decision to leave. The diocese includes 98 parishes.

Canon Charles Masters, who has been rector of St. George for 27 years, said the lack of a decision produced an “empty feeling,” but said he and the congregation are glad to “preach the good news of Jesus” this Easter weekend.

The Anglican Network in Canada, which includes parishes that have broken away from the national church over theological differences including homosexuality, released a statement saying it regretted that “it was necessary to defend the right of these congregations to maintain their ministries in the buildings where they have always worshipped.” The network had hoped “we could resolve all issues through amicable discussions but at this point, we are at the mercy of the courts and we await this decision,” said Cheryl Chang, a lawyer and director of the network.

The diocese had asked Judge Milanetti to allow it to administer the three churches jointly with the current membership (which it called “the withdrawing members”) and allow it access for a Sunday morning service, feast day services and weddings and funerals.

Diocesan lawyer John Page alleged that the three churches, by voting to join the South American Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and seek oversight from its archbishop, have violated the canons, or laws, of the diocese. Individuals may choose to leave the Canadian church, he said, “but a parish cannot. It remains in trust for the Anglican Church of Canada.” He also said those who wish to remain part of the Canadian church are long-time worshippers and have family and emotional ties to their churches.

Peter Jervis, counsel for the three churches, said they contend it is the diocese that has contravened the basic tenets of traditional Anglicanism by voting last fall to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. Clergy maintain that those who disagree with the votes to leave are welcome to continue worshipping, he said. “This is about the diocese wanting to come in and plant its flag,” he said.

They also serve ...

… who stand and wait.

The Secretary of Synod, the Rev. Canon Dr. Rick Jones, has posted a letter on the diocesan website. The clergy-administrator for one of the parishes will hold services on Sunday in a neighbouring church of a different denomination, for members of the parish who wish to remain with the diocese and Anglican Church of Canada, and anyone who wishes to join them. They don’t know yet when to expect a ruling from the court.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Well, I SAID I was tired. Blessings to everyone, and deep gratitude. May all possible blessings of the Triduum come to each of you.

There's no news yet

The first Sunday after two of the parishes left the diocese, both the Diocese and the Network held services in the contested buildings, at different times. The Diocese would like to continue doing that. The Network has said, if we have to share the buildings, we’ll go elsewhere. The courts awarded temporary sole occupancy to the seceding Network parishes in the first court appearance a couple of weeks ago.

Today’s court date was to look at that again. The diocese has been holding services in neighbouring buildings, with diocesan-appointed clergy administrators presiding. There has been no response yet from the court.

I don’t know how this is going to work. Good Friday and Easter Monday are statutory holidays here – the court won’t officially open again until Tuesday. But, everyone’s expecting some kind of ruling or statement from the court, probably another temporary one, because it IS Easter weekend. Most parishes would hold a Maundy Thursday service, involving some demonstration of servanthood (footwashing isn’t big here – we’re all still in winter boots) and the stripping of the Altar. Some hold a potluck supper with the Eucharist incorporated into the meal. There’s Good Friday services, Holy Saturday Vigil, Easter morning at sunrise or later ….

So, I’m watching the diocesan website, as are many others, and I’ll post here as soon as I can after I hear something.

Today was very long. I was at one of those potluck suppers – it was lovely, and solemn and joyful all at once. I was privileged to read Matthew 26:30-46 during the Stripping of the Altar, and I cried buckets, silently, during the silent prayer time after. I love that Gospel – it’s what bound me to Jesus. After all, if Jesus can be lonely and afraid and say, “Please, let the cup pass me by …”, then my own fears and unwillingnesses shrink in my own eyes. I am much less flu-y but very tired. My alarm’s going in about 8 hours – I’m off for bed.

I live in rented quarters, and my landlady and landlord and family upstairs are orthodox Jewish. They’re just coming in, noisy, costumed and feasted, from the start of the Purim celebrations. I’d been looking forward to joining them this year – and I can’t, because it’s Good Friday. The odds against that must be staggering.

Blessings to everyone, and deep gratitude. May all possible blessings of the Triduum

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prayers for Niagara Diocese, please

I’m in Niagara Diocese, Anglican Church of Canada. Confusingly, that’s also called ACC, at least here. In November, members of our Diocesan Synod voted overwhelmingly to ask the Bishop to allow clergy to perform blessings of legal civil marriages of same-gendered couples, where their conscience allows it, and once there’s a rite to do so. The Bishop gave his assent to the vote this time – the assent to hold the services still hasn’t been given. Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. D. Ralph Spence, retired on February 29th, and the new one, the Rt. Rev. Michael Bird was installed in early March.

Late in February, three parishes of the Diocese voted to secede from the Diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada, and receive Episcopal oversight from the Province of the Southern Cone. They intend to take the real property of the parishes with them. Ownership of the property has gone to court, and the court granted temporary, sole occupancy of the premises to the parishes, which belong to something called the Anglican Network of Canada. The issue is scheduled to go back to court tomorrow, Maundy Thursday. We don’t know what time. The Diocese holds the position that the Diocese owns all parish property, and that the people who gave money for their purchase in the first place intended for the parishes to be part of the ACC.

Please, hold us in your prayers tomorrow: the Diocese of Niagara, Bishop Michael Bird, Executive Archdeacon Michael Patterson, and Secretary of Synod, the Rev. Canon Dr. Rick Jones. I’m a secretary in an Anglican parish, and doing a pre-internship M. Div. student placement in the same parish. I’ll be putting in at least an 11-hour day tomorrow. Also, I’ve got the flu, and may not have energy to make a blog entry. Please, keep the diocese in your prayers, and you can check for updates at this link:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two Hours Later

I’ve lived here almost a year; Dad hasn’t been here since Christmas. With all the snow and the bright sunshine today, he didn’t recognize the house. Said he’d driven back and forth past it at least four times, and I guess none of them was the times I’d been outside, looking. He doesn’t have a cell. When he was an hour-and-a-half late, I called the house, and he was home. We’ll try again next week.

This hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.

I don’t know what’s gonna come out, but I’m gonna go pray. Because I don’t know what else to do.

More Growing Pains

Any minute now, my Dad's gonna call and say he's leaving his place to come and pick me up. I'll spend the afternoon with him, do some housework if he'll let me (doubtful), and my sister will stop in after work and drop me off home after. That all seems nice and normal when I read it, but I'm feeling like a lunatic because of it.

It's not that I don't get along with my Dad. I just don't know my Dad very well. When I can think about this from a loving perspective, I can see that he's probably as uncertain about the relationship as I am. I get resentful, because he was pretty much absent when I was a kid -- he was a teacher, and got home late, brought marking and things home, and watched the hockey game when he wasn't marking. What I remember most about summer holidays is Dad being in residence in a town 50 miles from here, doing his Masters. We'd drive him up Sunday night and drop him off, pick him up Friday night ...

I remember family vacations, going to the The Beach for camping weekends and weeks. Mostly what I remember about that is the female adults; Dad used to play with us in the water sometimes, and take us fishing. Dad did stuff at home -- there was a bookcase in the room my sister and I shared, that he built. He tied flies for fishing, when I was a kid, and I remember how magical they were, and waiting til I grew up big enough to learn how. But he'd stopped by then.

He and friends, fellow teachers, made wine at home. That wasn't like making wine now, where you go someplace and use bottled grape juice. One of his friends knew a grape-grower down the Niagara peninsula -- a whole bunch of us would go down one Saturday in October, with a trailer on the back of the car, and pick blue grapes. Our house was in the country; the crusher and grape press were in our backyard, and everyone's grapes would go through them on the Sunday. Mum made grape jelly. Dad made wine. The kids would have diarrhea for three days, cuz we'd eat as many grapes as we wanted. It was fun.

Despite all that, it feels like he was absent when I was a kid.

And now -- well, life's hurt my Dad. I get resentful now, sometimes, because he doesn't call. I call, and if he's not there, I leave a message he doesn't return. So I call again. I invite: I invite him or I invite me. He always says yes. He loves me. I think he even likes me. He's just who he is, and I can accept the things I cannot change and make the contact; or I can refuse to, and be resentful and wish I had a Dad who did things the way I want. The person I trust on these things tells me it's my Pride getting in the way of my happiness when I do that.

Soon enough, I'm just gonna be wishing I had a Dad. He got told two weeks ago, his liver's ceasing to function. He's been sick for a while; sick enough he went to the doctor. That's sign enough -- it's pretty bad already. He's not eating much, because he's so swollen inside. Like I said, life's hurt my Dad, and he's ready to let go of it, when the time comes. I'm not ready. I am doing what I've been told -- praying to see this as a natural part of life's process, and not stressful or catastrophic. That helps, and I have to do it a lot.

I've been fussing today, because I'm nervous about the afternoon -- the black blouse, or the black sweater? Tried 'em both on twice; going with the sweater. The brown leather loafers, or the red shoes with sequins I bought in the Chinese mall in Toronto last year? Wishing all kinds of things were different here. Praying about that. I prayed about it while I was washing the breakfast dishes, looking out the window at the sun and the snow ... And I could see all the sudden -- it's not just Pride that's getting in my way here, but Self-Centredness.

Dad's kind of a brown leather guy, but I'm going with the red shoes. I don't know if he'll get the message, but it is a message -- Dad, this is me and I'm all right. The last two years have looked awful from the outside -- but they're wrought wonderful change, and I'm all right, and I'm gonna stay all right, and keep getting better. I'm asking God for the courage to say that out loud, in words, too, and for Dad to be able to hear it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Growing pains

Last year, I spent a lot of time with my Auntie Jane. She had had breast cancer about five years ago, and it metastasized into her liver. The chemo really did slow down the rate of growth of the tumours. It also gave her peripheral neuropathy, and she progressively lost feeling in her feet and hands in the months before her death. She couldn’t walk, hold a fork sometimes, turn pages in her book. She couldn’t read her Bible, because she’d tear the pages as she tried to turn them.

When she was still able to read, she borrowed a book from her oldest sister, my other aunt. One day last May she asked me to copy a poem out of the book, and e-mail it to her daughter, who lives two thousand miles away. I guess this is the right place to say, we have a family of compulsive gardeners. The book she found this poem in is called "The Shape of a Year", by Jean Hersey. I believe it was published in the mid-1970’s.

The seed that is to grow
must lose itself as seed;

And they that creep
may graduate through
chrysalis to wings.

Wilt thou then, O mortal,
cling to husks which
falsely seem to you
the self?

-- Wu Ming Fu
12th century poet and philosopher

And the frontispiece of the book has this:

If your true nature
has the creative force of Nature itself,
wherever you go
you will see all things
as fishes leaping
and wild geese flying,

-- Zen philosophy

Last year, on April 15th, I moved out of the place I’d lived in for 12 years with my husband and our adult son, into a room. It’s a university neighbourhood – the houses almost all have basement apartments, 3 bedrooms, share the kitchen and bath. I don’t have roommates and I love the family upstairs. And, I’m a grad student. A friend in London, England told me on the weekend, all his daffodils are blooming. I cried. I miss my garden.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ezekiel's Dry Bones and Lazarus

This is a sermon, prepared, but not given, for Lent V. There was a heavy winter storm last night; we were expecting a foot of snow. At suppertime on Saturday, the phone tree went to work: service for Sunday morning is canceled; we're not inviting people to risk themselves on the roads, when the police have asked people to stay off them. This is an Anglican parish, in a diocese where several parishes have voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and the diocese, and accept episcopal oversight from an archbishop in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The question of who owns the real property of the parishes is in court. That's the local situation I talk about in the sermon.


These are very strange stories, the story of Ezekiel prophesying over the Valley of Dry Bones, and the story of Lazarus. They are stories just packed full of things someone could preach about – a really diligent theology student could probably preach every Sunday in Lent, just on this morning’s readings. It’s almost Easter – two stories this week about the dead being restored to life; next week, Palm Sunday; and the following week is Easter. It’s a good time to hear these stories. And, it’s a good time of year for us, in southern Ontario, to hear these stories. Winter hasn’t been a season of deadness this year, has it? We’re having this storm this weekend, another storm with another big load of snow … Winter is alive, and kicking hard. Last week, the snow melted for a couple of days, and we could see the empty flower beds, the dead, brown grass, the bare branches of trees. Re-birth is coming to us in the spring, too – Good Friday is the first day of spring.

Newness and rebirth. All the stories, the Gospel stories, from Lent, have been about newness of life. In Lent 1, Jesus was fasting in the desert, and tempted by Satan, at the very beginning, the newness of his public ministry. On Lent 2, we read the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ face transformed as he stood with Elijah and Moses, and his friends had a new understanding of what God felt for him. Two weeks ago, we heard the story of Jesus, resting alone, and asking a Samaritan woman to give him a drink when she drew water from the well. He told her, if she’d seen who he was, she would have asked HIM for water, and he’d have given her the water of new life, that she would never be thirsty again. Last week, Jesus made mud, and spread it on the eyes of the man who was born blind, and when he washed it off, he could see. All the stories of Lent have been about newness in life, something God transformed.

Both these stories are so familiar to us, and yet, they’re so strange, and full of frightening things. I’d bet all of us here could sing the Ezekiel song – “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones! Now hear the Word of the Lord!” A valley full of dry, broken bones. How frightening is that? When I try to imagine it, I remember the photographs of the liberation of Auschwitz. And so I should. That valley full of dry bones, it symbolized the lives and hopes of the children of Israel. Ezekiel was prophesying long after they’d been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved in Babylon. They were forgetting who they were, their history, their religion, what made them different than the Babylonians. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the people of Israel, and in that story, showed them how he could restore the dry bones of their dying heritage, restore the people of Israel to new life, and send them home.

That’s a beautiful promise, and it came to pass … But attaining the promise isn’t always beautiful or easy while we’re going through it. Think about what happened. The bones were old, and dry, very dry. “… suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:* Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,* and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” A miracle, yes. A horror, to watch.

Then, Lazarus. Another unbelievable story, a story of loss and horror and miracle. The loss, that could have been avoided – “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” There is great faith in that statement, and great love and trust in saying it to another person, and both sisters said it to Jesus. Jesus weeping. The unbelief, from the people of Bethany, when Jesus went to the tomb and asked them to open it. And horror, too -- Martha, the practical one, saying, “There will be a stench; he’s been dead four days.” Those villagers and mourners must have gone from unbelief to terror, when Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb, and Lazarus stood up, and walked out. What I’ve always wondered is, what was it like afterwards? What would it be like, being Lazarus? What would it be like, living next door to Lazarus? Even if I loved him, and wanted him back?

These stories – they tell us of hopeless situations. They tell us of God’s love and attention, and the miracles. In the Ezekiel story, the miracle’s to come, and in the Lazarus story, we see it. We go from the hopeless to the miracle, and we don’t see what happens in between.

We all know what it’s like, to be faced with a situation that’s hopeless. Someone is sick, or dying. Or, we’re in a relationship, a marriage maybe, that’s sick, or dying. Maybe we’re working, with a mortgage and kids and Visa bills, and the steel industry starts to fail, and we’re laid off, or the factory closes. And now, there’s all this church politics – decisions being made that we don’t understand; parishes separating; legal action between the diocese and the parishes. It’s beyond our understanding, and it looks hopeless. And, even worse, it feels hopeless.

Dry bones don’t feel anything, as far as we know. That would be a good thing. What would it feel like to have bone attach to bone, to have sinews attached, and flesh and skin cover them. They wouldn’t feel it – they stood in the valley, but there was yet no breath in them. Then God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy, “Come from the four winds, O breath,* and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” And the breath came into them, and they lived. Did they remember? We know the people of Israel remembered their exile, after they’d been restored to their own life, to their own place. We know, because we read it. We read it, because they lived, and they celebrated, and they wrote down their miracle and told it again and again for thousands of years.

What about Lazarus? We don’t know anything about how Lazarus’ life was restored. Jesus called him, and he came out. Did his body stand first, and then the breath of life come into it? Martha had said, “There will be a stench” – there was already corruption of the body that would need to be healed for life to begin again. Did he feel it, the breath entering, and the life restored? Did he remember being dead, being restored?

We remember. We remember Ezekiel, and Lazarus. We remember the pain of our own times of hopelessness. But sometimes, the hopelessness causes us to forget. That’s why Ezekiel had to prophesy – the people had forgotten. They had forgotten their God, the God who had redeemed them exile before.

This time in the life of the church is very difficult for us. The struggle, the separations among parishes, dioceses, communions, Anglicans, Christians – they look overwhelming. We in this parish have suffered loss because of it – a family has left. It looks like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better; and we all wonder how it can possibly get better. What could be more hopeless than the separations of the Anglican Church? Will it be death?

We are given the gift of Lent, of these stories we’ve heard in the last month, to help us not to forget. There is always newness of life. A 30-year old village carpenter, given a new life as the teacher, the healer, the Son of Man and the Son of God. Given the touch of the Spirit, the blessing, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and a new face transfigured by God’s grace. The new water, living water, and once we have drunk it, we will never thirst. New eyes to see what we have not seen before.

We know what it looks like outside today; we had a foot of snow last night. Spring IS coming. There is no situation too hopeless for God to enter it, to love his people, and give us new life. We need not fear the death of the church, because God, through Jesus, has unbound the grip of death. Dry bones come together and God breathes life into them; Jesus calls forth Lazarus and he walks from the tomb; Jesus is hung on a cross, and three days later is alive again. We need not fear – nothing can happen, and be too hopeless for God.