September 8, 2022
This weekend I learned of the death of someone whom I had only met a few times, but who had left a big impression. Randy was the owner of a multi-vendor market in my hometown, and his sudden death has left a large hole in the community. He was known for two things particularly. First, “Wacky Wednesday,” when he would post pictures of himself on the store’s Facebook page in outrageous outfits. It had started with modelling some of the items in the store, but over the last few years he and his colleague had taken to creating these outfits. Many people looked forward to what Randy would do that week, adding some levity to our recent challenging times. Second, his love and acceptance of everyone, and encouragement to be who you were. It is because of the second that he leaves such a huge hole in the community. He changed the community and how people related to one another because of how he related to others. It is amazing to think how one person has had a dramatic impact, extending well beyond that small town.
When I look back now, I would describe my hometown as a typical small town, where anyone who was different stuck out like a sore thumb, so you really did not want to be different. There were some narrow-minded people who freely voiced their opinions, what we would now recognize as prejudiced. Certainly, when it came to sexual orientation, being openly gay was likely to get you harassed and bullied. I say all that to give you a sense of the community, at least my perspective growing up there in the 80’s. I don’t think it was probably that much different from other small towns. That is no longer true, in part because of Randy, I believe.
I know that the town was already starting to shift as society at large was shifting, but following an incident of blatant harassment and intimidation of Randy because he was openly gay, the community at large rose up in support of him. Randy and his store became known as a safe space for everyone, especially those that were not safe or accepted elsewhere. His openness and acceptance, his genuine care for others, influenced how many people thought and acted. In a few short years, my hometown went from a place where it was not safe to be different to being highlighted this spring by the CBC show “Still Standing” for its inclusiveness and advocacy for LGBTQ2+, and Randy was the one front and centre in that segment.
As I said I did not know Randy personally, but feel the loss of him because of the positive change that he made to the community. He is an example of how one person can have a big impact on others, and on a community as a whole, simply by the way they live and the way they treat others. Reflecting on his legacy, the parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25) came to mind. Those who were commended for their care and compassion toward others, did not do it to gain some reward, but because they knew it was the right thing to do. By living as they did, they made a difference in the lives of not only those they helped, but others who witnessed it and are drawn to do the same thing. I hear the lament often, “what can one person do?” and the answer is, more than you can imagine. Each of us has the power to make a difference. Sometimes it simply requires living as our most authentic selves, and encouraging others to do the same, loving them for who they are. All I have to do is look at the photo of 100+ people dressed in their wackiest outfits on Wednesday outside Grr8 Finds Market to know one person can and did make a difference. How will you, and can you, go and do likewise, changing the world around you to reflect the very best we can be and are called to be, loving and serving others?
September 1, 2022
There has been a growing awareness and concern when it comes to creation, the environment, and climate change. Some of you may remember the Climate Strikes in September 2019, sparked by the passion and actions of Greta Thunberg, a young woman who captured the world’s attention when it came to concerns for our planet. I remember being part of the march that took place in Toronto September 27 in conjunction with similar events across the country. In more recent years we have seen the devastating effects of severe weather events that have been linked to climate change, from scorching heat that has led to fires, to the tornados in May that destroyed everything in their path, to recent news of flooding in Pakistan that has left over one-third of the country underwater. There can be no doubt that extreme weather events are more frequent and more devastating.
This is not just a political or social issue, it is also a spiritual issue. In creation God commissioned humanity as stewards of creation. This wonderful and mysterious creation that God had spoken into being was given to us to care for and protect. We have not always taken that commissioning seriously, at times neglecting or worse, destroying this gift from God. In 2013 The Anglican Church of Canada added a question and response to our baptismal covenant, the promises we make and renew at each baptism, to reflect our renewed commitment to the environment. The final question we are now asked at each baptism is, “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?” To which we answer, “I will, with God’s help.” This is a reminder that just as we are called to love and care for each other, we are called to love and care for the earth. I highlight this now because September 1st to October 4th is now called the Season of Creation.
The World Council of Churches in 2001, following the lead of Patriarch Dimitrios (of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church) who declared September 1 as a World Day of Prayer for Creation, it has become the beginning of the Season of Creation, which ends on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi because of his connection to animals. Here in Canada, the season is sometimes extended through Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, due to the connection to creation that has been part of Thanksgiving celebrations. The Season of Creation has become a time when churches around the world renew their relationship with God the Creator and all creation through prayer and action for our common home.
As a congregation, Trinity Anglican made a commitment at our annual vestry meeting in February 2020 to positive environmental action including installation of the solar light and planting the tree. In addition, we committed to reviewing and reducing our use of single use plastics, such as coffee pods and take out containers. To reduce the use of single use cups, which while compostable, are not ideal as they do leave a footprint in the manufacturing and distribution. One of our parishioners made “lug-a-mugs” (a mug in a fabric bag to bring and take home your own cup), that could be sold as a fundraiser and used for coffee hour. Unfortunately, the pandemic halted our coffee hours so they were not needed. As we consider resuming coffee after church this is one action we could take, to use a reusable mug, whether you buy a mug or bring our own. What are other ways that we can as individuals and a congregation live out our commitment to respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth? There are resources available on the Diocesan website under “Creation Care”. One of the things that the pandemic taught us is that we do have the ability to make significant behavioural changes when necessary. As we mark the Season of Creation this year, let’s recommit ourselves to our role as stewards of creation, through prayer and action.