December 1, 2022
From Rev. Dana’s Desk
Sunday, with the beginning of Advent marked the beginning of the new year in the Church. Calendars are one of the ways that we mark and organize our time. Many of us have different calendars that reflect “years” that inform and form our lives. Most people around the world use the Gregorian calendar, January 1 to December 31, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. This is the calendar that hangs in our homes, and is on our phones. Another calendar that informs many people’s lives is the School Year Calendar, which typically begins in September. Whether we have children or not, this calendar tends to influence aspects of our lives as well. The Christian Church has its own calendar, with its own unique seasons rather than months by which we mark and organize time. The seasons are centred around celebrating significant moments in the life of Jesus and then the life of the early church.
As already mentioned, Advent, which means “coming” is our first season and it is closely tied to the birth of Jesus, counting back 4 Sundays before December 25. The Christmas season begins December 25 and is only 12 days long, ending on January 6 and the Feast of Epiphany, the coming of the wise men or magi. The next season is the Season after Epiphany, which is also the first of the “Ordinary Times” in the church year. Ordinary times actually make up the greatest portion of our calendar, the times between significant seasons. The length of The Season after Epiphany is dictated by when Easter falls, as Lent begins 40 days, minus the Sundays, before Easter. As Advent prepares us for the coming of Jesus, Lent prepares us for the death and resurrection of Jesus. The last week of Lent is also called Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday and ends at sunset on Holy Saturday. Easter begins at sunset, just as the Jewish day was said to begin with the sunset. This is why the first celebration of Easter is the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. The Easter season lasts 50 days, ending with Pentecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. We then begin our second period of Ordinary times, which is also referred to as the Season after Pentecost (not the season of Pentecost). This is the longest season in the Church year, which ends with the Reign of Christ, our “New Year’s Eve” of the Church year, before Advent begins another year.
The Church year is often depicted as a circle, cut into wedges for the different seasons, reminding us that with God there are not beginnings and endings, but a cycle of time in which we are invited into with God.
As noted, aside from Ordinary Time, each season has a focus, whether that is preparing for, or celebrating a significant event that shapes our faith and relationship with God. To help us to differentiate the seasons and to draw attention to a theme of each season, there is a colour associated with each. Christmas and Easter are both white, symbolic of the holiness and glory of God, as well as the light and purity, which are part of those special celebrations. Lent is purple, symbolic of penitence and humility. Pentecost is red, symbolic of the fire of the Holy Spirit. We also use red for a few other celebrations in the church year, typically associated with death, such as for Palm Sunday as we hear the passion or death of Jesus, similarly Holy Cross Day. Ordinary time is green, symbolizing growth, our spiritual growth as followers of Jesus. I have left Advent to last because only recently did some churches switch to blue, symbolic of hope, like the hope of the blue sky.
I have recently acquired a 2022-23 Church Calendar with the different seasons marked off and the significant dates listed. It is in black and white with the invitation to colour the seasons as the year goes. I will have copies available at the Church or you can contact me to request a copy by email. As we begin a new Church year, I invite you to reflect on the various seasons, what they mean to you and your faith journey in different ways.
November 3, 2022
We know that life is very different today than it was three years ago and we know that it will not return to what it was before. We have been changed by our experiences, not only the pandemic but the societal shifts that have led to greater awareness of damaging effects of systemic racism, colonization and the trauma of residential schools. Knowing that we cannot go back or continue the way we were, means reimagining the future. For me, while there is anxiety about the future because it is unknown, there is also excitement. It feels like we have been given permission to dream, to believe in the light that follows periods of darkness, in life that comes out of death.
We have been talking about this as a parish even before the pandemic, knowing that as the world around us changes, so must we. We have talked about what is important for us to carry into the future and what we need to graciously leave behind. The diocese has also been having these conversations for a while. Earlier this year Bishop Andrew announced that we were embarking on an 18-month visioning process called “Cast the Nets”. One of the exciting and positive aspects of this process is the extensive consultation process built into the early stages. I believe that the more we consult and listen to the broad range of voices within the diocese the more that we as members of the diocese will have a sense of ownership in this vision. It doesn’t mean that everyone will get what they want or the vision will be exactly what we envisioned personally, but we will feel like at least our voices were heard. This discernment process is the one of the four key elements of Cast the Nets, along with diversity, dream, and develop. The elements are described by the leadership of this process as:
Discern. This begins with listening deeply to one another and being conscious of working in a liminal time as the diocese emerges from the pandemic.
Diversity. This means being committed to finding ways to hear the voices from the margins; to resist the urge to rush to manufactured consensus; and to actively seek to add another consultant to the team.
Dream. This means to have a visionary perspective while keeping eyes on practicalities, resource requirements, availability and achievable steps.
Develop. This means a new, ongoing process for diocesan life; moving seamlessly and effectively from planning to implementation; and being a basis of a “case for support” for a major diocesan capital campaign.
In September I was part of a clergy consultation, which included a bible study on the passage from which this visioning process takes its name, John 21:1-14. This is the story of Jesus’ appearance to some of his disciples after his resurrection. They have been fishing all night with nothing to show for it, when someone from shore calls out, “cast the net to the right side of the boat,” resulting in an amazing catch. I have included the link so that it is easy for you to find and read for yourself. We talked in small groups about the passage, asking some questions about it and what it might be saying to us today as we seek God’s vision for the diocese, our parishes and our own lives. We talked about how the disciples were feeling at the beginning and how that changes as events unfold, and how that might resonate with our own feelings and experiences right now.
The key question for us to reflect on is “What might it mean for each of us, in our various ministries in the parish and in this Diocese, to cast our nets on the right side of the boat?” As a result of that reflection, I hear and read this passage differently now. I have since done a simplified version with both the Wardens and the Advisory Board in September and October. The conversations in both of these groups have been refreshing and encouraging. Like the disciples after the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find ourselves at the beginning of something new, but it is also an uncertain time. We are tempted to return to old patterns of being like the fishermen going fishing, and sometimes we have disappointing results. In the midst of that the risen Jesus comes to us and invites us to try something different, not radically different but different from what we had been doing. We have a choice whether we will listen, we have to discern whether to listen to this voice, which sometimes competes with other voices all offering advice. We discern what voice to trust and be willing to try what is suggested. We may discover we are surprised by what happens when we do.
In the new year there will be consultations with parishes. How that will happen I do not know at this point, whether it will select leaders like wardens or a general invitation, or what format it will take. If you are invited and able, I would encourage you to participate. In the meantime, I want to invite and encourage you to also read and meditate on this passage. To think about what it might be saying to you, to us as a congregation and a diocese, at this time and in this place. To reflect on what it might mean to cast the net to the right side of the boat. I’m happy to hear back about any reflections or realizations you had.
Let me end with a prayer that comes from a colleague who is part of the committee leading this process: O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay our hearts before you and whatever may hinder us from Godly union and concord – as there is but one Body and Spirit, and one hope of our calling. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for the vision and purpose of our Diocese and Parish – and bring us all to be of one heart and mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
October 20, 2022
One of the things I have been doing this week is working on the hymn selections for next month. I take hymn selection very seriously because hymns are central to our worship and one of the key ways we express and teach what we believe. In choosing hymns I try to balance familiarity, sing-ability, and how they fit with the readings and overall themes of the day.
One of the things I have learned from being part of many different churches and congregations over the years, is that what is familiar to one person or congregation, “everyone knows it” is sometimes unknown to another. Their standard, “we always sing” and there are hymns that seem to be avoided. Learning the “hymn book” of a congregation is part of joining a new congregation whether that is as a priest or parishioner. I see it as similar to other relationships in life, a bit of mutual learning, as I learn a congregation’s hymns and preferences and they learn mine. One of my challenges is that not being a strong singer, it is harder for me to introduce or lead new hymns, so I have been thankful for some of the stronger voices who have done this for us. By sharing our hymns, we continue to expand our repertoire. This can also happen when we hear an unfamiliar hymn at another church or special service. I have occasionally heard one and thought that would be a great one to add to our list and so I save the bulletin as a reminder. I am also happy to hear from parishioners about hymns they have heard elsewhere or that perhaps we have not sung in a while. Feel free to email me or write them down and give them to me for consideration (please do not tell me on a Sunday morning as I tend to forget). I do not promise we will sing all of them, but it does provide additional ideas.
Sing-ability has become increasingly important in more recent years when fewer and fewer congregations have choirs, or whose choirs have become much smaller. The choir in the past played an important role in leading the congregational singing. Now we rely more on having those leading voices within the congregation. This became even more important with our smaller in person congregations during the pandemic and since. When it comes to sing-ability, a hymn with new words to a familiar tune is far easier to learn and sing in many cases. There are also some tunes that are just naturally easier to sing. This is one reason, as a person who is not musical, I am thankful for the website that has audio clips for almost all of the hymns from our blue Common Praise hymn book. This helps me to recognize the familiar and makes it easier to grasp tunes, when choosing hymns.
The words for me are a key element of how a hymn can complement or fit with the readings and themes of the day. Hymns have for centuries been ways that we learn and teach about our faith, what we believe and how we live that out. There are resources that provide suggestions of hymns that fit with the readings and themes, which is a helpful place to start. More and more I have found myself reading through the lyrics of hymns. First to see if they reinforce the message or theme of a given Sunday. Second, I have been reading through the old familiar hymns, those ones we have sung for decades or even centuries, because I’m realizing that what is appropriate and fits with our beliefs and worldview changes over time. Familiarity can sometimes blind us to what would otherwise be shocking. This is actually what prompted my reflection this week. I was reading the words of a very familiar hymn, one many of us have sung over the years and noticed for the first time the militarist language in many of the verses. I also read it differently thinking about what someone might think if they were hearing it for the first time and what is the message it proclaimed about God and faith. The words we sing are important, so we need to take them seriously. As I said at the beginning, choosing hymns requires balancing familiarity, sing-ability and the overall message of the hymns and how they fit with the themes of the day, among other considerations like favourites and not so favourites. As we sing each week, my hope is at least one hymn speaks to you, either meets you where you are on that day, or perhaps challenges you to reflect and grow in your own spiritual journey.
October 13, 2022
As I noted in last week’s email, I was on retreat with Bishop Shaw for the first half of the week. It was the first in-person retreat in three years. As the diocese has undergone some reconfiguration in recent years, this retreat was aligned with Bishop Shaw, which meant participants were from Trent Durham and four other deaneries, like ours, that have come under her care. This was an opportunity to not only reconnect with colleagues, but to meet some who I did not know or who I had only seen as boxes on a computer screen up until now. I have always appreciated these times to gather with others, to share and pray together, as well as the quiet times that were a part of the retreat.
One of the reasons I chose to attend the retreat was that it was being held at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls. It is a place I had heard about but not had the opportunity to stay at before. It is situated up on the bluff, above the Niagara Power Station. You could faintly hear the water and certainly feel the mist from the Falls from time to time. We also discovered that through the 3rd floor chapel windows you could see the Niagara River through the trees. In addition to the Spiritual Centre, I wanted to go because Niagara Falls is one of those very special places for me. One of those places that I have been drawn to over and over again. Tuesday afternoon, during our free time, I of course walked down to the Falls, and spent some time just sitting there.
Like most people I suspect I went to the Falls as a child, but it was not really until after Stewart and I were married that I started to go there more frequently. We have enjoyed many trips there over the last 11 years, at various times of the year, exploring on foot, by bus and driving through the larger Niagara region. It has been a place of relaxation and exploration of its many wonders and adventures. My last trip to the Falls was a day trip on my own in the summer of 2020. In the midst of the chaos and turmoil and uncertainty of that first pandemic summer, it felt reassuring to go somewhere familiar, somewhere that felt somewhat normal (although the crowds were smaller and it was strange to see the Canadian Maid of the Mist with only 10 colourful slickers on board rather than the usual crowd). I remember standing by the railing looking at the Falls and feeling at peace, something I had not felt in months. While I may not have recognized it at the time, it was the grounding I needed at the time, that deep breath after so many months of uncertainty. We all need places like that, that are able to ground us and where we feel at peace in the midst of the chaos and busyness of life.
As I sat by the Falls last Tuesday, the powerful rush of the water, the primary sound, I reflected on why I am so drawn to this place. Water has always been an important spiritual touch point for me. As one of the primary elements of creation, along with earth, wind and fire, it reconnects me to God and God’s creative energy that is all around us, but which we can take for granted sometimes. Perhaps it is growing up near water, on a lake, but water is definitely a part of my soul. As I watched the water flow from the river toward the Falls, gradually gaining speed before plummeting over and down into the gorge, and then rushing away toward Niagara on the Lake and Lake Ontario some thoughts struck me:
1) The scenery and beauty of Niagara Falls does not really seem to change. Pictures of the Falls all appear very similar, and yet it is beautiful because of the constant change that is happening, with the water in constant motion. Change and motion are not bad, they are part of the dynamic nature of creation. The water cannot choose to stay in the comfortable place at the top of the Falls, it must tumble down into the gorge. While we often crave the comfort of sameness and stability, it is contrary to God’s created order. Life is filled with change and that is part of the beauty, such as the changing seasons signified by the green shoots of spring, the colourful blooming flowers or the fall colours. Niagara Falls would not be what it is without constant change. Unlike the water, we have a choice whether to embrace or resist the change, but life and living require change, once we stop changing, we die. So, fighting change only keeps us from experiencing what is on the other side, much like the water as it flows towards Lake Ontario
2) Similarly, the water free falling over the cliff, down into the gorge reminded me of the chaos of life. That we can feel like we are free falling, swept down into an abyss, but it is only a small part of the journey of life, much like the journey of the water. The water does not have the choice to go back, but must continue down the river, where eventually it slows down and becomes less chaotic. For me this was a reminder that in the moments of chaos to hold onto that image of the gentler river that is to come.
3) The same view is amazing and equally beautiful from many different vantage points, whether that is up river as it heads toward the Falls, beside the Falls, looking back towards it or even down river. If we only ever saw Niagara Falls from one place, imagine what we would miss out on. Perspective is important. In life perspective helps us better appreciate one another and we gain different perspectives as we are invited to see it from different people’s perspectives. While it may be challenging to hear how another person views the same situation, it helps to expand our understanding and to live and act with compassion and empathy.
Niagara Falls is a special place for me, and even more so now having spent that quiet time down by the Falls, sitting and reflecting on the deeper meaning that I can draw from it. If you have a special place, I encourage you to do the same, think about why it is special and how God may be using it to draw you closer or to challenge you in some way.
September 29, 2022
This summer I invited people to read “Five Little Indians” as a summer reading challenge and as a way of continuing to learn more about Residential Schools and the long-term consequences. I heard from a few people that took me up on the invitation and I did have conversations with a few people about the book. I wanted to share my own thoughts with you particularly as we mark The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday September 30, as this newsletter is coming out.
It was a very easy book to read, but also a very challenging book. It is hard to believe that this is author Michelle Good’s first novel, as it was so well written. Her story telling is superb, as you were drawn into the stories of each of the characters. It is five stories of five residential school survivors. Although it is a fictional work, their stories are based on the real life experiences of some of those who attended the schools. They were all quite young when they were first taken to the school, a formative time in their lives. While there are some details about their
experiences at school, the stories are primarily told in retrospect as the character looks back on their life. Each of them dealt with the trauma of their experiences differently, a reflection of their personalities, their own coping skills and their experience at the schools. As with other traumas that people face, some were able to find joy and happiness in life, while others were never able to overcome the trauma. It was extremely sad to read about the substance abuse and other self-harming behaviour that some used to try to escape the pain they dealt with on a
daily basis. There was also a stark reminder of the generational trauma. First the trauma of parents who felt helpless to protect their children and then did not know how to relate to them when they returned years later. Secondly, the daughter of two of the survivors who struggles to understand the ongoing impact of the residential schools on her parents, their relationship with each other and also with her. Recognizing the intergenerational trauma involved in Residential Schools is essential as we continue to see it played out in our society today. The schools may have closed but have a long and lasting impact on generations that followed. We saw a few weeks ago in the events surrounding the James Smith Cree Nation, the same place Archbishop Justin Welby travelled to this spring as part of his reconciliation journey. In the midst of stories of great pain and sorrow, I did find hope. In particular, two of the characters were eventually able to heal to some degree. One found healing through traditional indigenous spirituality and was able to turn her pain, anger and suffering into a catalyst for helping others. She became an advocate for them in the legal system and connected them to resources, including a local indigenous center. The other character, who had in fact been taken mistakenly while visiting a family member out of province, was able to find peace by returning to his mother’s home, and reconnecting with the land in a new way.
For me reading books like this is part of our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. Call to Action 59 says, “We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.” Engaging with history is not easy, but it is only by seeking to learn and grow in our understanding that we are able to go forward in truth. Learning and coming to a greater appreciation for the past, is a step toward understanding the present and working toward a different and better future. May we continue to learn and grow. If you have not read “Five Little Indians” I highly recommend it.
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.