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)

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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.

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.

Faces

Their faces.

I don’t always remember their names but I often recognize their faces as I walk through downtown. Each familiar face reminds me of a story.

She was always really quiet in the shelter. She would get up early each morning to try her hand at getting a temporary day labor job. Some days she was successful, some days not.

The last time I saw him he had just been housed in his own home. Today he looks pretty good and so I have hope that he is still housed.

She used to spend all of her time trying to get her children back from foster care. There has been a child with her lately and I wonder if it is one of them?

Sometimes I am not sure if it is a familiar face or not. Faces weather a lot faster when you live on the street, often rendering them unrecognizable in just a few short years. Sometimes I am relieved to see a familiar face – it means they are not dead – and sometimes I am saddened when they do not look well. Regardless, I pass by with a quiet prayer.

 

Making All Things New

Classes started up again last week. I think. But I’m all done school [for]now.

Three years ago I was back to school for a new degree. I was meeting new friends for the very first time and getting settled in a new city in a province I hadn’t lived in for nearly 20 years. And now I’ve been seeing pictures from friends gathered around in fellowship together and it feels strange not being there.

Instead, I’m across the country sitting in the office I’ve been sitting in since June. At work.

Three years ago, I was not thrilled to leave Victoria to return to Ontario. Yes, I was anticipating seminary and all that might bring, and I was looking forward to living closer to family members I’d never lived closer to than a 4-6 hour drive. But I didn’t really want to leave the life I’d made on the Island.

And now I’m back in Victoria. It is a completely different life than I left and than I thought I would come home to. I find myself missing London! (I’ll change my tune when winter hits.) I miss the family there. I miss the friends at school. I miss some of the places.

It really hit home a week an a half ago when one of my former coworkers in London suddenly and unexpectedly died. Friends gathered at the home of another coworker to tell stories and I felt pretty isolated on the other coast. Yet amidst that, I had some amazing conversations with former coworkers that I hadn’t spoken with since we moved.

And in the middle of it all, all things are being made new. We have a new home in a new city with new jobs doing new things that we hadn’t imagined three years ago. We’re making new memories together and exploring new places. And that is pretty great.

Collared

Before I was ordained, I didn’t think I would wear a clergy collar very much – probably just for services on Sunday and maybe a few “official” things in between. As it turns out, I have been wearing my collar nearly every day that is “work” day. The days I have not worn it, something has happened that has made me wish that I had.

It isn’t that I feel like I need to wear it in order to do “church work” or to feel like I have the right or authority to do that work, but I see it as a way of visibly bringing the church into places where people might not expect it. I enjoy exploding people’s expectations.

There is another side to wearing the collar, however. That is people’s reactions to it and to me wearing it. I will admit, I had my own set of expectations to how people would react. I expected that it would make me almost gender-less, that people would look right past me to the collar and see me as a representative of the church – for good or for bad. Which is why I’ve stopped jaywalking while walking around downtown while wearing it…

There have been a few really lovely interactions with people as a result of walking around downtown in my collar. One woman stopped dead in her tracks while walking towards me on the sidewalk: “Whoa! Are you a priest??!” I am a transitional deacon, but I said yes, deciding that now was not the time or place to try and explain the intricacies of Anglican holy orders.

Another man stopped me and very loudly introduced himself as “KEVIN WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA,” asking if I was an Anglican priest, telling me about the Catholic parish he attends, his favourite prayers to pray, and what time his service was this coming Sunday.

Them there was the couple sitting outside of one of the coffee shops I frequent who asked if I was the minister at one of the United Churches in town. Apparently she has taken to wearing a collar on a more regular basis. And obviously there can only be one female walking around town in a collar… (Hah!)

There are the less fantastic interactions that happen, however. I was catcalled last week while wearing my collar and riding my bicycle the six blocks in between the Cathedral and St John’s. Catcalled.

This week, in the space of about a half hour walking around town, I felt visibly undressed by two men as I waited at a stoplight and another gave me a lascivious wink as I walked by.

So much for being gender-less in a clergy collar.

It isn’t a surprise to the Internet that women feel objectified for what they wear. We often spend far too much energy analyzing our clothing so that it gives the “right” impression. Never did I think that I would spend more time analyzing clothing when the top is a given, the clergy shirt and collar, than when I am just dressing to go out the door for an ordinary day.

Not that I regret putting this piece of plastic (for now plastic – I’d like to get some softer cloth collars!) around my neck each morning. It is the visible symbol of what I have committed to in my life. It is often a visible sign of the presence of the church, and therefore (gulp) God, in the world. My life might end up being on display to people but it also opens the door for conversation and for challenged expectations of what and who is the church. After all, that is kind of what I signed up for in my ordination vows: You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known by your word and example, to those among whom you live and work and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world … At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.

A to B in 4500km

Apparently it is May.

In the last month, Matthew and I have: completed our Master of Divinity degrees, finished up my work with CMHA, said goodbye to family and friends in London and surrounding cities, packed up our house and overseen it being loaded onto a moving truck, and packed up the corolla and driven through six states and five provinces with ourselves and a cat.

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After 4500km, we are in Victoria!

13091910_10101404984637131_5467908939173001290_nIt is a bit surreal. A month ago, we were both finishing up our last week of classes and looking at spending the next couple of weeks writing papers. It is hard to believe that three years (2.5 for Matthew) are over and done already. In so many ways, it feels like just yesterday that I was packing up everything in Victoria to move to London. And now it is all in boxes again…

The boxes remain on the moving truck and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival sometime in the next week or so. Meanwhile, we drove ourselves across the country, stopping in Minneapolis, Brandon, Lethbridge, and Sorrento before heading over to the Island.

For Matthew, most of the drive was new. For me, the entire route south of the Great Lakes was a new adventure and the cross prairie trek was a lovely reminder of the beauty of our country, as it has been 20 years since my family made our first major move from Belleville to Lethbridge.Attachment-1 IMG_7009 IMG_7011We crossed Manitoba and Saskatchewan in nearly one day, flying along the prairie Trans-Canada highway. Matthew marvelled at the flat flat flat of the land, attempting to see the horizon at every turn (who am I kidding: there were no turns in the road) but continuing to remark instead: “Nope, it’s still very flat!”

I drove from Swift Current to Lethbridge. Once we turned onto Highway 3 from the Trans-Canada, it was remarkable how familiar things began to look. I learned to drive in Lethbridge and it showed. I was still able to navigate the city quite well, taking Matthew by my old home, down to the Oldman River Valley to see the famous high level bridge, and around by my old high school.

bridgeThen it was off north through more prairie to foothills, through Calgary to the mountains. We could see the mountains from Lethbridge, but it never ceases to amaze me how one can drive all day and not seem to get any closer. Three hours from Lethbridge, however we finally entered the Rockies.IMG_7017

Their majestic peaks were still topped by snow and there were some valleys thick with snow alongside rushing streams as we wound through the mountain passes. Then we were out, into the Interior.

We stopped the night in Sorrento, BC, about an hour outside of Kamloops. The Anglican Church has a retreat centre there and a good friend works there full time. The last time I was at Sorrento was exactly three years ago, when I attended “ACPO” – the Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination and was recommended for theological training in advance of pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada. Talk about full-circle. It is a beautiful haven on the Shushwap Lakes with amazing programming all summer long.Attachment-1 (1)

From Sorrento we drove down the Coquihalla, through Vancouver (waving at Dad and Colleen as we travelled the new South Fraser Perimeter Road to the ferry terminal. After a one-sailing wait, it was onto the Spirit of Vancouver Island and over to Victoria.

We are blessed to have wonderful friends and colleagues in Victoria with whom we are staying while we wait to be able to get into our new suite. It has been an adventure and we are looking forward to what comes next!