28 Dec 2019

Not The Right Time

     A few weeks ago, I started the process of considering a second dog. I knew I would be going through a rescue organisation, and that it takes time to find the right fit.
     Of course, as fate would have it, a great dog came along - 10 days before Christmas. My first Christmas in this parish! Winter (ergo miserable weather for housebreaking and training)! Houseguests and parties (ergo irregular calendar)!
     This was definitely NOT the right time.
     And yet: it never is. There's always a reason to NOT do something that will change your life. And, if we try hard enough, we rationalise to ourselves so much so that change may never happen. 
     However: there are times when, despite less than ideal conditions, it is also exactly the right time. In my case, welcoming a new dog happened at exactly the right time. In the midst of parcels and parties and prayers and praises, a precious pupped popped into my life. She's gorgeous, she loves her toys, she snores like a foghorn. While it would be easy to get spun up in the busyness of the season, I'm making extra time to come home and walk and play. I'm laughing more, my other dog is more energetic, and we're all having a lot of fun.
Love has broken in: at a time I thought it not right, she is a terrific addition to the household. It's not perfect, but it never will be. And the timing was not right, but it could not have been better.
     Life is like that. Faith is like that. Advent is like that: the timing is equally right and not right; the emotions are both perfect and imperfect; the spiritual journey is both ideal and inconvenient. The Spirit knows when to move in our lives, bringing love and the opportunity to serve: even if it's against our plans. If we're fortunate, we're blessed to recognise how this movement is exactly at the right time.
     Because love will break in whenever and wherever God wills it. And love will capture us, whenever and wherever we will accept it.
     It's never the wrong time to let love break in to our lives.

21 Dec 2019

Is It Christmas?

            We've had a couple of big fantastic Christmas concerts in the church this week. Yes, Christmas. In Advent. With the wide, 13-foot-tall tree trimmed and twinkling, with wreaths mounted on pillars sharing their scent. For many of our guests, these events *are* the start of Christmas.
            BUT! someone said to me. IT'S NOT CHRISTMAS.
            True. It's Advent. And that's important. It's not yet Christmas. It's a season for the Jesse tree to teach the biblical stories to our children week after week; and a time for our prayers to guide us increasingly towards the light.
            However, part of the not yet is living in the now of the presence of Christ. It's an anachronistic season even within the church's definitions. It's not yet - and yet: now.
            For some, the Christmas decorations ought to remain in storage until the 24th. For others, they begin to creep into the sacred spaces from the offset of Advent. There's a tension there about what is and is not appropriate in this season.
            Interestingly, the tension between the secular and sacred of the season isn't a topic of consternation in the secular world: it's only debated in the realm of the religious.
            So why do we do it? What are we hoping to accomplish by it?
            Is it Christmas? No. It's Advent - and that's important.
            But for many who are seeking Christmas - who are seeking the presence of love and grace and joy in their lives - Advent doesn't mean much, if anything. For many, Pre-Christmas is the season we're in, and the quest for compassion and kinfolk is well underway.
            So if the purpose of the church reaching out at this time of year is to invite people away from a world of judgement and criticism and into a place of community, care, and connection, why would we let a tree or a song stand in our way? What's wrong with the church providing a little bit of wiggle room to extend a welcome space with a lighted tree and a wreath on the door? This may just be the entryway to a conversation about what we're really about. For Jesus came in humble birth not to judge about dates and times, or tinsel and trinkets. Jesus came to model for us the welcome and inclusion that we want to see at Christmas.
            So maybe in Advent, we light the tree, and deck the halls, and Falalalala as much as we want: being intentional to do it with love and compassion and share the true joy of the season. May the blessings of Advent and the merriment of Christmas bring our hearts ever closer to God; may the celebration of the Christchild enlighten our lives - whenever - and with whatever decoration - our spiritual journey takes us.   

14 Dec 2019

An Advent Prayer Against GBV

Logo for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
As we wait for the Advent of our God, so too we wait for justice for all.
We wait to breathe in the certainty of Emmanuel - God with us, that will pierce the night of our world with the light of your love.
As we wait, we pray:
That women who are silenced are given voice;
That women who are lowered will be raised high;
That women who are vulnerable will be supported in their needs;
That women who are oppressed will be freed from all restraints;
That women who are abused will walk in fearlessness;
That women who are trafficked and enslaved will live in freedom;
That "underaged women" will be liberated to live and laugh and love as the children they are.
We pray:
That women with access to education will educate
That women with access to health care will work for healing
That work with authority will encourage empowerment
That women with privilege will be advocates for justice
That women with opportunity will lift up God's children while destroying oppressive systems.

We pray for Emmanuel - for God WITH us - to be a reality, as we pray with our voices, our strength, our faith, our sisterhood, and with our actions. We pray as bearers of the light, as advocates of truth, as believers in equality: that all women will know they are beloved and valued children of God, for whom the Prince of Peace came (and comes) to celebrate the kingdom.

Lord Jesus, Come Soon.

Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre

Originally Published by Ecumenical Women at the United Nations; 06 December 2019

            Thirty years ago today, a man entered Montreal's Polytechnical Institute, and targeted women who were studying engineering and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. 14 women died, another 14 people (9 women) physically injured before the gunman took his own life.
            The purpose of his intentional and calculated attack: he was "fighting feminism."
            The impact of this massacre, one of the worst in Canadian history, was deep across the country. A broader conversation of social issues and gender justice emerged, and December 6th now commemorates the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. While statistics do show some improvement, there remains much to be done.
            On this the 30th anniversary of a blatant anti-feminist act, I recall the indirect impact this had on my own life. Entering high school the following year, I recall conversations with friends about how women weren't safe in STEM-related classes.  Later, when touring university campuses, only in the city of Montreal did I inquire about the current rates of violence against women.  Gender justice has been a theme throughout my studies and ministry, and December 6th is never forgotten. 
            I suspect the atrocity of 1989 remains a factor (conscious or not) that continues to influence other women: only 20% of women in higher education pursue degrees in STEM fields (compared to over 40% of men), and women represent only 22% of the STEM workforce.
            Now, years later, I realise that this horrific event continues to influence my life - but it is no longer from a place of fear. Within Canadian society I benefit from a decreased rate of violence against women, an increased awareness of the underlying issues of anti-feminism, improvements in police and policy response to issues of violence. 
            Specifically, I am blessed to recognise my role in empowering women of today: within the congregation I serve are women and men who work and minister within the STEM fields. There are youth engaging in these fields in their studies. There are children whose curious minds are obviously oriented towards STEM, and they will not be dissuaded from it.
            What a gift it is for our community to have the privilege and responsibility to uphold and support these people: given the gifts of discerning hearts and minds, they strive to make the world a better place. They are celebrated for who they are, who God has made them to be, and who they will continue to become as they journey in their fields. Their education will be in the classroom and in the field, and it will also be in the church: they are beloved children of God who are encouraged to live without fear.
            So as we recall horror of 30 years ago, I pray that the survivors have found peace. I recognise that the reality of today shows movement towards gender equality. And it is the hope of tomorrow that is therefore up to us: may God give us all the strength to support and encourage everyone to live into their vocation, whatever that may be.

7 Dec 2019

Telling the Story

            At a families event this Friday, we chatted about the importance of stories - and shared a few examples of our favourite Christmas stories. Stories are significant and important; they teach us and inspire us while entertaining us and engaging our imaginations.
            The context of our stories can have an impact on what we take away from hearing them. The event, gathered under a starry apse, is called "Stories Under the Stars" and participants are invited to wear PJs and bring a pillow or blanket. As this year's event happened to fall on the feast of St. Nicholas, we opted to include that into our time as well.
            And so, after much seeking and searching (and postal delivery stresses!), we found an age-appropriate story of St. Nicholas (NOT "Santa Claus") that shared about his life, his miracles, and his legacy after his death. We read the story in parts, and interspersed it with crafts and activities and songs (my esteemed colleague even wrote a new Nicholas rap for the occasion!).
            We wanted to tell a story in meaningful ways that would resonate; and so we needed some creative expressions. From new verses of old carols to dressing candy as saints, we worked to make the story come to life. The children in attendance seemed to respond well; they sang and crafted and listened eagerly.
            It's a wonderful reminder for us: there are stories to be told, and there are ears waiting to hear. We have astonishing lessons from scripture and from the lives of the faithful that are waiting to be told! And there are means to share them, if we are willing to find them. So let's engage with the stories - especially in this Advent time that encourages hope and history - and excite the world with our faithful telling of the Good News of God.