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.

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!

Sermon for June 28, 2015 (Feast of St Peter & St Paul)

Speaking about the work of the Primate’s World Relief & Development Fund at St Paul’s Cathedral, London ON.

Text: John 21:15-19

*Listen to the audio recording from St Paul’s Cathedral here*

After worshipping with this community of St Paul’s Cathedral with some regularity over the last few months it is an honour to be invited to share with you this morning as we break open the Bread of Life together both through the Holy Scriptures and, a little later, at the Table.

A couple of weekends ago, Matthew and I were at a gathering in Ottawa and, when we were just sitting down to dinner, one member of the group was asked to offer a word of thanks for the meal. I was both surprised and touched to hear him pray with words that are likely familiar to many of you since I believe they were penned here in this diocese in support of the Huron Hunger Fund: “For FOOD in a world where many walk in hunger, for FAITH in a world where many walk in fear, for FRIENDS in a world where many walk alone, we give you humble thanks, O Lord.

I should not have been surprised to hear them: I have heard these words prayed from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island at church gatherings in support of the Huron Hunger Fund’s national body: the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, or PWRDF.

These words capture what is at the heart of all that PWRDF is about: Food, Faith, and Friendship.

It seems appropriate, then, for our gospel this morning as we commemorate the feast of St Peter and St Paul, that we hear this exchange between Jesus and Peter.

Picture it with me, if you will.

Just before our gospel reading picks up this morning, Peter and some of the other disciples have been up all night fishing. Its been somewhat of a return to how life was before Jesus came and called them a few years ago – they’re up in the northern region of Galilee, on the lake, fishing. Except this night, its been bad fishing and they’ve caught nothing. Apparently fishing isn’t like riding a bike: they’ve lost their touch!

Then, just as they’ve given up for the night and the sun is beginning to rise, a figure appears on the beach. Just as he has many times since his resurrection, Jesus suddenly appears amongst his disciples and this time he tells Peter and the disciples to try fishing again. So they do and have an epic haul of fish. They bring the fish ashore, and have a fish-fry with Jesus on the beach. It is a communion meal of sorts, breaking fish instead of bread, drinking water instead of wine, but Eucharistic feast with the risen Jesus nonetheless.

Immediately following the meal is where the reading picked up this morning.

In a series of repetitive questions, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.

Yes Lord, you know that I love you.

Feed my sheep. Is Jesus’ response.

Almost echoes of James: Show me your faith without doing anything, says James, and I, through what I do, will show you my faith.

Feed my sheep. It means so much more than just giving people food. And, indeed, there is much that is broken with a charity model of simply handing out food. On one level, though, Jesus’ command to feed his sheep IS about food – about food security and justice: about ensuring that all people, everywhere, have access to enough nutritious food to eat.

***

For FOOD in a world where many walk in hunger…

Walking in hunger is, unfortunately, a daily reality for far too many people in this world. You know this, and you live the reality of this out in London each and every week. Some of you have been busy planting a pollination garden to provide for the bees that allow for us to grow food. Still others of you grow food that you bring here to the Daily Bread Food Bank and Fellowship Centre. Others again serve in the Fellowship Centre on a weekly basis.

Food is vital. We cannot live without it, yet sometimes it is hard to come by both here in London and around our world. That is why one of the main priorities of PWRDF is Food Security. The World Health Organization defines food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

In a world where many walk in hunger, this is a tall order. We cannot do it on our own. God has called us into partnership as we also partner with each other and bring food to the world.

***

Southern coastal Tanzania is a long way from Southwestern Ontario. But here, in the Anglican Diocese of Masasi is one of PWRDF’s longest-standing partnerships. This region is largely rural with dirt tracks being the best roads on offer. Most people subsist through agriculture, however they have not been able to grow food for more than four to eight months of the year, leaving the remaining months as months of hunger. PWRDF has been working with the Diocese and farmers to provide them with seeds, train them in agricultural practices, and increase the capacity of the land to produce food for ten to twelve months instead. To date, over 2100 farmers have been helped and food production has increased dramatically. Farmers tithe their harvest by returning 20% of their harvested seeds to local seed banks at the end of the season and the cycle begins again, helping even more farmers. Seed by seed, row by row, PWRDF is working to increase food capacity and reduce hunger. Feed my sheep.

***

A refugee camp in southern India inhabited by Tamil refugees who have escaped the long conflict on their home island of Sri Lanka may seem an unlikely place to have a community that is a world leader in anything. Here, however, is OfERR, a PWRDF partner organization started by refugees for refugees. They are a world leader in cultivating a green algae called spirulina. Unless you frequent health food stores, you can be forgiven for never having heard of spirulina before. Spirulina is grown in large tanks, dried and powdered and then used as a nutritional supplement. Some of what is produced by this refugee community is given to children and nursing mothers in their midst in order to promote their health. The rest is sold to make an income to further support themselves, their community, and their dream of one day returning home to Sri Lanka. Feed my sheep.

***

Facing epidemic-levels of HIV/AIDS in their community, the people of the Keiskamma Trust, PWRDF partners who I had an opportunity to visit in the Eastern Cape of South Africa a few years ago, began an organic garden. Working alongside villagers in the garden high up on the windswept grassy hills overlooking the Indian Ocean, not only were members of the Keiskamma Trust able to teach sustainable gardening practices to members of the community, but it has ensured a steady supply of nutritious food for those taking medications to counter HIV/AIDS. For those seeking to live a normal, healthy life and fight HIV/AIDS, food alongside their medications is a must – the medications are not effective without food. Because of the education around gardening and the bounty of the ensuing harvest, I saw, first hand, the life that is given back to people who thought they had a death sentence. Feed my sheep.

These stories are just a small sampling of the more than fifty projects we have been involved in just in the last year both in Canada and around the world.

***

For FOOD in a world where many walk in hunger, for FAITH in a world where many walk in fear…

Why does PWRDF do what we do?

Our mission statement begins with, As an instrument of faith, PWRDF connects Anglicans in Canada to communities around the world.

An instrument of faith: this is part of the response of Canadian Anglicans – of me and of you – in faith, to Jesus’ words, Feed my sheep.

Jesus’ words to Peter are Peter’s renewal. Remember, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter returned to Galilee and took up fishing all over again, without much luck, and then he has this encounter on the beach. This is Peter’s re-commissioning by Jesus: Peter, I know you’ve messed up in the past, I know you haven’t always gotten it right, but I love you and I trust you: give it another go and partner with me to feed my sheep. Church, I know you haven’t always gotten missions right. I know you haven’t always gotten food relief right or development right. But I love you and you are still my hands and my feet in this world. Give it another go and partner with me on my mission. Feed my sheep.

Then Jesus sends Peter out much like we are sent out from church each week: Go forth to love and serve the Lord. Jesus’ words here are slightly different but their meaning similar: Peter, in faith, partner with me to go feed my sheep and love my people.

***

For FOOD in a world where many walk in hunger, for FAITH in a world where many walk in fear, for FRIENDS in a world where many walk alone…

Friendship is probably the most unique part of how PWRDF operates. We call it partnership; perhaps you are familiar with this model through this church’s partnership with PWRDF and the Cristosal Foundation in El Salvador.

Friendship and partnership. Our work is not a dictatorial charity model. We don’t send people around the world to tell locals how to best work in their communities. We partner with exceptional organizations to support them in doing what they do best the way that they have identified they need help or support. That takes so many different forms – something different in each community. And through these partnerships we form friendships where we learn as much from our partners as they might learn from us. Some of these partnerships are longstanding, with as much as 15 or 20 years of history between us.

Do you love me? asks Jesus to us. Feed my sheep. Love my people.

Food. Faith. Friendship.

For FOOD in a world where many walk in hunger, for FAITH in a world where many walk in fear, for FRIENDS in a world where many walk alone, we give you humble thanks, O Lord.

Amen.

Thank You

It has been a long school year and a lot has happened. I got engaged. We had some health stuff. We both had a full course load, and then some, each term. I have been working part time. And then there was the church field placement.

Twelve to fifteen hours per week. In a church. Doing stuff.

What that “stuff” was varied each week: preaching, proclaiming the word, leading parts of the liturgy, searching around for my supervisor’s reading glasses (where the heck did he leave them this week?!?), home and hospital visiting, assisting at a funeral, drinking beer at the pub while leading a bible study… the list goes on.

What did not vary each week was the love and support of that church community. St Andrew Memorial Anglican Church: Thank you.

Thank you for being a welcoming community.

Thank you for opening yourselves to me and letting me be myself amongst you.

Thank you for welcoming my partner as warmly as you welcomed me, even though he worships at another church as a part of his field placement.

Thank you for letting me learn without judgement.

Thank you for being a community where it has been okay for me to try and not be perfect.

Thank you for your encouragement, your laughter, your enthusiasm, your chocolate, and your joy.

Thank you for being a community that loves fellowship and food.

Thank you for your heart for worshipping God.

Thank you for loving me.

I have learned a lot from you, with you, and because of you. As Pastor Marty said at my last service with you, a piece of your community will come back to BC with me and will always be a part of my ministry.

Second Year

Second year of seminary started this week and did it ever start with a bang!

As a part of the executive of the theological students society (Bishop Hallam Theological Society, or BHTS, to be exact), I was involved in running the student orientation this year. On Tuesday and Wednesday we welcomed at least a dozen new students from across the country into our MDiv and MTS programs, helped orient them to the program, to the campus, to the courses, and to the city. It was capped by a social event on Wednesday before diving right back into Morning Prayer services and courses on Thursday.

Unlike last year when I had a slow welcome to school and chapel life, I was right back into it this year with designing and leading morning prayer on Wednesday, singing a canticle at morning prayer on Thursday, and reading the lessons for morning prayer on Friday. It is weird to be right back into it, but with half of the cantors graduating last year, I’ll be involved a fair bit until first year students join the roster, I think.

I’ve only experienced two of five courses for the term thus far: “Theology and Religious Pluralism” and “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible II.” Next week sees the first class of Homiletics, Field Education, and Congregational Development. It seems an interesting mix of theological and practical courses. Just in time too: I will be spending 10-12 hours each week at St Andrew Memorial Anglican Church here in London. I’ll be working with the priest, Marty Levesque, to learn and practice some of the practical parts of being a priest – preaching, leading on Sunday morning, taking part in some of the various weekday activities of the parish.

This year will be incredibly different from last year. It will be a good year with its share of challenges, but it will be a year of learning, of laughter, of love, and of life.

Thunderstorms

I enjoy a good thunderstorm. When I was a kid, I would sit on Dad’s lap on the large wrap-around front porch of our home in southeastern Ontario. We would listen to the thunder and smell the rain as it pounded down around us.

Storm over the Trans-Kalahari Highway

Thunderstorm over the Trans-Kalahari Highway, 2012

Ten years on Vancouver Island meant ten years with thunderstorms being few and far between. A thunderstorm is an event there: one crack of thunder or one lightning flash sees all taking to twitter: “was that thunder?” or “did anyone else see that lightning in downtown #yyj?” It just doesn’t happen very often at all. For a city surrounded by water, thats not a bad thing. I would not want to be on a sailboat with a tall mast in the middle of a thunder storm.

One memorable night in the Solomon Islands, the Pacific Grace was surrounded by lightning. We had to turn off all of our electronic equipment to ensure it wasn’t destroyed if we were struck. (See Offshore Documentary, part 2, starting about the 2:30 minute mark for the footage.) It was a little unsettling to be in the midst of it, but also an amazing reminder of the power of nature.

Driving into a storm, southwestern Ontario, 2014

Driving into a storm, southwestern Ontario, 2014

We’ve had a lot of storms in southwestern Ontario over the last week. Sunday, after church (and after the Dutch beat the Mexicans in World Cup action), Matthew and I drove up to Lake Huron. We were hoping for some beach time and, since we’re about equal distance between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, we can pick and choose where we want to explore each time! This time it was Huron’s turn. It was a beautiful blue day when we set out. Soon, we noticed an ominous cloud towards the Lake. Then, the wind began to pick up. Next, I saw several bolts of lightning streaking down towards the ground (Matthew was being a safe driver and watching the road so he missed them). Pretty soon we were in the middle of the storm. The rain was coming down so hard that we nearly pulled over to wait for better visibility.

Lake Huron, 2014

Lake Huron, 2014

Then, just like that, the rain stopped, the sky cleared, and we were at the beach to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Yesterday was another one of those days. I was nearly caught in three torrential downpours whilst cycling around town. After missing the first, a London Hydro employee encouraged me to buy a lottery ticket…I guess that first deluge was a big one! It intrigues me how localized the weather systems are in London. While I could see that there was a magnificently dark cloud over part of the city yesterday, I couldn’t tell that it was raining elsewhere. While I smelt the rain when I got to a different part of the city, and witnessed the second downpour from the safety of my favourite coffee shop in town, I have no idea if it rained a third time in a different part of the city. One neighbourhood: bone dry. Six blocks away: rivers in the street from the rainfall.

One thing is for certain: thunderstorms are fun to listen to, but I’m glad I haven’t been caught outside in one yet!

Summer

The thing about writing is that, if you don’t do it, you can’t do it.

It seems strange to think about losing the practice of writing. After all, over the course of a year in school, tens of thousands of words and hundreds of pages of writing are produced.

But it is different.

The writing was accomplished as spring was bypassed in the abrupt shift from winter to summer. The term ended and a sigh was released as the flowers gradually began to show their faces above the dirt.

Summer.

Summer is fully upon us: Yesterday was 35 degrees and today will likely be much like it.

Summer is long days and the possibility for adventure. Interspersed between sporadic shifts at work – the life of relief staff – have been trips here and there. First to Toronto to spend some time with an aunt and being treated to an afternoon on the water.

IMG_1145Lake Ontario. It isn’t an ocean but it seems as vast from the shoreline. However it lacks the smell of the Pacific, that smell of salt and seaweed and sea creatures stuck on ancient rocks as they are bashed by waves. It is also conspicuously lacking tides, something strangely disconcerting to one used to charting their shifting movements. There was something distinctly tropical about its look at the end of May.

IMG_1165Then it was off to Sarnia and visiting aunts, uncle, and cousin. Theatre, rummage sales, and art shows. Boardgames and barbecue.

Meanwhile in London it is dinner, pastries, coffee, beer, spontaneous conversations, and so much more with godparents and family.

One of the joys of remaining in Ontario throughout the summer is the proximity of people I haven’t spent enough time with over the years. When filling out my tax return this year, I had to detail the distance between old address and new school versus new address and new school. I discovered that I have moved over 4200km – that is if I were taking the shortest route through the northern United States – and it would take me about 41 hours to drive.

So I’ll look forward to the visits when they come and enjoy the novelty that is summer in southwestern Ontario.

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