Algonquin Park

Mother’s Day is an interesting day. For whatever reason, some churches make a big deal of it … which is all fine and dandy until there are those in your midst who have complicated relationships with motherhood. I never really encountered / registered church going overboard with Mother’s Day until I was in my 20s and attending the Anglican Cathedral in Victoria, and just stopped going to church that day altogether.

It wasn’t until we were driving two hours up to the church of St Alban the Martyr in Mattawa, Ontario to take the service yesterday morning that I realized a possible reason why I hadn’t ever registered churches making a big deal for Mother’s Day: we didn’t go to church on Mother’s Day growing up. We went to Algonquin Park.

So, Sunday afternoon Matthew and I revisited that long Hoyer family tradition, something like 23 years later.

Algonquin Park is literally in our backyard here in Petawawa, so we drove the 45min into the Park, bought an annual pass, and went for a walk at Grand Lake. In another week everything will be green instead of brown. It was a still afternoon inland, with no bugs to be seen (the black flies will also be out in the next few weeks…). The wind was up on Grand Lake and while the water was still cool, it wasn’t cold like the Pacific Ocean. What a grand day. 

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The Valley

A lot has change for Matthew and I in the last month: We packed up everything and moved 4600km across the country to Petawawa, Ontario where we have begun ministry at a new area parish in the Ottawa Valley.

An “area parish” is something relatively new being employed in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa where there are a handful of clergy working together with a collection of churches. The idea is to share strengths and build capacity by putting together churches and clergy who may not have been working closely together in the past but who are in a similar geographic area. We will share resources and people, we will work together on areas of shared ministry, and we will all have the opportunity to play to our strengths in order to benefit the whole.

The Geography of our Valley Parish. The blue markers are all churches in the parish – some have services every Sunday, some are seasonal, some have services once or twice a month, and some are chapels and have services once or twice a year.

Some of the churches in our parish. Missing are the two I will have primary responsibility for, along with one chapel.

Matthew and I have spent the last few days driving all over our new parish to get to know the places and see the towns and villages (and corners of farm roads) where the churches are located. While we are both from relatively nearby – Matthew is from three hours east of our new parish and I am from three hours south – all of the driving has helped us to get a better feel for the parish and the people we will be ministering with. It has also been a lot of fun!

All of the churches are beautiful buildings and in the most beautiful of countrysides. All of them are also incredibly different – stone, brick, wood, siding … and most have a cemetery right beside the church.

We have driven about 450km around the area finding all of the churches. It has taken us within minutes of Algonquin Park, along three different river valleys (Bonnechere, Madawaska, and Ottawa), and out to corners of farmer’s fields on secondary Ontario highways.

There will be lots of things for us to learn amongst these people, but we know that we’re in a good place and off to a great start!

(For more on each of the churches pictured in the montage above, see my Instagram account)

Happy Birthday Cricket

We have had Cricket for about two and a half years now. When we got her, they estimated that she was born in February. Therefore, we usually mark the first week of February as Cricket’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Cricket!

(To help you to keep up with the Adventures of Cricket more regularly, she has her own social media accounts! Find her on Instagram and on Twitter)

Meeting Jesus

I had an interesting encounter after church on Sunday.

We were in the middle of a visioning session with the congregation following the service when a church member came into the meeting to speak to me. There is a man, she said, ringing the office doorbell non-stop and demanding to speak to the priest. I told him that there was a meeting going on and no one was available. He said he was going to sit and wait and wanted to come inside.

This church member, understandably, felt uncomfortable having an unknown man sit outside the offices to wait while she was alone down the hall in the kitchen. So I and another member of our staff went to speak with him.

He seemed to recognize my collar right away and was happy to speak with me.

The second coming of Jesus has happened! he said without any hesitation after I said hello.
Oh? That’s exciting! I replied.
He looked me straight in the eye and said, I am he.
Oh! I said again. I wasn’t expecting the conversation to go there…
Very seriously he told me, I was told to deliver this special message to all of the churches.
Good for you! That is a lot of work.
He looked at me kind of accusatorily: I received this message in September. But you have very good bouncers and I have not been able to tell you until now. All of the true churches need to believe in Jesus and be saved.
Thank you for making sure that we heard.
Now, I have told you. And with that he turned around got his bicycle and cycled away.

It was an interesting interaction. My first response was that I wanted to share about it in one of my Facebook clergy groups, but then I stopped to think about that.

Why did I feel the need to share something seemingly so personal to this man? Was it because I wanted to mock him? Or because I wanted to demonstrate how good I am at interacting with people with mental illness? Or should I even be assuming it was a mental illness that was compelling him to share this message with us?

I am preparing to preach on Matthew 25:31-46 this coming weekend and in this passage the question is repeatedly asked, Lord when did we see you? A man walked up to me and told me he is Jesus. Why couldn’t he be?

So I haven’t posted anything other than this. And posting it here allows me to ponder different contexts for what might be going on. It means that I have to place it in the wider story rather than just sharing the dialogue for a laugh. Because even if it was mental illness that compelled his message, he is a beautiful human being made in God’s image who should not be mocked but should be loved and cared for.

Maybe I did meet Jesus after all.

Names and Faces

SleepI see your face
I know it
I remember your name
and all the meetings we had across the desk in the back office
or over Tim Hortons
and the walks we took into town to do things like
renew your service card
and the walks back
Back to what?
You’re still here, on the street

I run into you on the sidewalk one day
You have a job!
You once told me that you had only two emotions:
happy
and
angry
But right now you seem joyous
even exuberant
You have your child back and a safe apartment to live in
I’m so glad you stopped me to tell me

I don’t remember your name
But I do remember your face
and I remember your story
How could I forget?
You trusted me with your trauma
and I hope that I was able to hold it for you
even for a little while
You’ve had a rough life
I pray that things have gotten better
but when I see you on the street I fear they haven’t

You popped into my new office
at the church
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a church before
and I am really sorry that I wasn’t there that day
I love catching up every time I run into you

I remember your name –
oh do I ever. We spent a lot of time talking –
and I remember your child’s name
I have seen the two of you walking downtown
(he has grown a lot!)
and so I wonder
how things are going now…
Are you back together?
Have you gotten clean like you wanted to?
How is school going?
But your eyes slide across my face without recognition
so I don’t stop you to ask

I see your faces
all of them
I wish I could remember all of your names –
though maybe that is more about me wishing I could do more
than remember
and pray
and hope

 

PWRDF Sermon for September 17, 2017

Photo by Catherine Allen

I had the honoured of being invited back to Christ Church Cathedral Victoria, the parish that raised me up for ordained ministry, to preach for the first time since I have been ordained (actually, the first time preaching there ever). I was invited to speak about the work of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund since that is the outreach ministry that the Cathedral has been supporting this month. I was delighted to be able to be there to spend some time with some familiar faces and some new faces, to thank the Cathedral congregation for their support of PWRDF over the years, to reflect on that Sunday’s lectionary readings in light of the work we do, and to share some stories of the ongoing amazing work of PWRDF. For those who are interested, the recording of the sermon can be found here (the recording is from the 9:15am service. I rather think I preached better at the 11am, but alas, this is what there is!). Many thanks to my friend Gia, who I met at the Young Clergy Women Conference in July, for helping me out with the midrash I used in my sermon.

Feline Updates

This is your periodic reminder that we basically have the cutest cat on the planet.

Clockwise from top left: Cricket trying to help with sermon writing, exhausted from a particularly good play time, quiet time together reading on the comfy chair, and calm assurances that I probably did okay on my first Sunday as a priest.

She has been a little precocious as of late, and delights in waking us up in the morning. She is always underfoot, especially when we’re in the kitchen, but is never too far away when we’re sitting down either. Sometimes she thinks we starve her, but I’ve never met a cat who thought they had enough food to eat. She periodically gets freaked out by her reflection in the fireplace or dishwasher, though she is just fine when we take pictures or look in the mirror. All in all, she has brought a lot of joy to our lives and we’re pretty happy to have her.