PWRDF November 2017

I spent the first twelve days of November in Ontario/Quebec this year. The Board of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund had our annual Fall meeting followed by, a few days later, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod meeting. With them only being a few days apart this year, I decided to stay in the East rather than fly back and forth across the country twice in twelve days, confusing my biorhythms and exposing myself to double the germs.

Each time the Board meets, we conclude our time together around the Table with a short Eucharist service. Usually, the Primate presides at the service and offers a few short reflections. This meeting, I was honoured to be asked to preside in the Primate’s absence. It is, however, a little intimidating to offer a few reflections in the presence of so many amazing colleagues and friends, including a retired archbishop, a bishop, an archdeacon, a canon, and a few folks who have been ordained much longer than I, not to mention the lay people who have had long careers in the Anglican Church.

I had the interesting challenge of reflecting on the readings for the commemoration of Richard Hooker, whose day in the church calendar it was, while also reflecting on the work of a relief and development agency. It felt like an odd juxtaposition.

The gospel for the day was a selection from John 17 – 17:18-23 – so I focused on that as I reflected on the work of the previous days of meeting and the work ahead of us as we left our meeting…

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Some reflections offered on November 3, 2017 offered in a Toronto Airport Hotel conference room with the gathered Board of Directors and management staff of PWRDF:

One of the things that I have come to appreciate in my travels is prayer. That sounds a little cliché … but what I mean is, that I have come to appreciate our shared global language of prayer: It is this thing that has so many layers of meaning and importance even above the actual words that are said or unsaid. 

I remember being in Ephesus. It was the day after Matthew and I had gotten engaged and we were standing in the middle of the ruins of the church dedicated to Mary the Theotokos. Another group of pilgrims were gathered in a circle around where the altar would have been, praying together in unison. I didn’t understand the words, but I understood what they were saying and the power of the moment gave me goosebumps. 

Or there was worship in the Cathedral in Grahamstown, South Africa where, for the first time, I worshipped with the people who wrote the mass setting that I’d heard bits and pieces of here in Canada, but there we sung the prayers as they were written – in Xhosa accompanied by marimbas, swaying back and forth to the music. 

And just the other night, as Bishop David led us in Compline, we came to the Lord’s Prayer and I looked up across the table and saw [our partner visiting from Guatemala] Gregoria praying along with us in her own language. 

Prayer transcends time. It transcends language. It unites us across time and space. 

 Think of Jesus. We have this huge chunk in the gospel of John where Jesus is praying and we get to learn a whole lot about the things that were and are important by what Jesus prays. 

On the night before he died, after sharing a meal with friends, we find Jesus, praying in the garden: 

I pray that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… 

I love to think about non-linear time and how those things that Jesus was praying, he was praying about us here today gathered in a hotel conference room after a few solid days of meeting and deliberating and holding up the mission of God through work in policy, and volunteer management, and institutional evaluations.  

That Jesus was praying back and forward across time, across national and continental lines, and encompassing all of the saints from all times and places. And as we have gathered this week in prayer and to share in God’s mission, so we are preparing to go out in prayer and live into God’s mission around us. 

Jesus prayed, As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…  

We will soon be sent out to go and return to our daily lives. But we do that surrounded by prayer. Jesus was praying for us then, to accomplish that for which we have been sent. And is praying for us now, alongside that whole communion of saints that the church also celebrated this week. 

That prayer carries us forward in our work as we strive to participate in God’s mission on earth by working to create a truly just, healthy, and peaceful world. And considering that participation in the mission of God is, in itself, an act of prayer – an act of “Your kingdom come God, as it is in heaven.” 

And so as we prayerfully gather together around this table, may we be aware of those who have gone before us and those who will come after us in this mission. Of those who have been praying for us since the beginning of time, and those who continue to hold us in prayer day in and day out … so thatas Jesus prayed, the world may believe that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… 

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Old Made New

A couple of weeks ago, I presided at my first Book of Common Prayer Eucharist. Its a lovely service and, like many across the Anglican Church of Canada, our is attended by a small but faithful group of people at 8 o’clock in the morning.

In preparing for this service, there were a few “extra” details that were really important for me to have alongside that morning. The red prayer book I used belonged to my mother. In it are small handwritten notes, instructions she had no doubt penciled in to assist her in serving at the table in the parish where I grew up. I continue to use this BCP for myself, though it is a little small to consistently use for presiding at services!

The green stole I wore for the service was an ordination gift last year. It was given to me by the wife of a retired, and now sadly deceased, priest; a couple I got to know when attending the Cathedral in Victoria. The stole is a stunning piece of embroidery, but its meaning goes deeper than its beauty. The stole belonged to Archdeacon Bob MacRae, former rector of the parish I now serve and the first secretary of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, where I currently volunteer as a board member. Bob, and his wife Sue, have both been supporters of me pursuing ordained ministry and it is an honour to wear his stole.

These two items used are a reminder of two faithful people, now passed, as well as reminder of the long tradition I have been called to participate in. For me they are symbols of the timelessness of faith alongside the call to make old things new as we seek to serve God in a generation. They ground me in my past and propel me towards the future.

Privilege

Privilege and race have been on my mind. Then this buzzfeed quiz came across my Twitter feed this morning.

Privilege.

I scored 62 out of 100. Not high for a quiz – though high enough to be called “quite privileged.” Buzzfeed is by no way scientific and, from what I have seen on Twitter, there has been quite a wide variety of scores received. Some scores seem to make sense to the recipients, but some do not. Either way, it has opened up a conversation about what privilege means.

Later on this month I will be helping to lead a group of high school students on a “Global Citizen Youth Leadership” program in El Salvador. Part of the pre-trip conversations have included this topic of privilege. What is white privilege and what do we do with it? Interestingly, not all of us participating are white and I am sure this will add a lot of good insight to the conversation when we finally meet face-to-face.

When I think of privilege and the privilege my whiteness gives me, one of the most vivid examples I can think of was on Offshore when we were in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I and the other cook were in charge of provisioning the ship and we enjoyed our trips to the market to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Across the Pacific, these trips were usually filled with laughter as we all struggled between broken English and limited Pidgin to make it understood that these two girls wanted to buy that entire pile of carrots and that whole bucket of potatoes, plus all the watermelon we could carry. The laughter continued as we would struggle to load them onto our shoulders and carry the produce back to the boat.

The market was full of friendly laughter. It was different at the grocery store.

We shopped at the grocery store with some regularity over the week we were in port. It was a good place to stock up on canned goods, meats, and everything else generally not available at the open-air market. PNG is a country not particularly known for being safe and so we were not surprised to see armed guards at the entrances and exits of the store. I was a little uncomfortable when everyone’s bags were searched upon leaving the store – everyone’s except ours.

But nothing was as uncomfortable as the day we arrived to shop and there was a queue of about 30 people waiting to get into the store. We joined the back of the line, happy to wait our turn and attempt to converse with the people around us in line. The armed guards had other ideas.

They saw us waiting in line and came and told us to come with them. It wasn’t safe for us to wait in line, they said: two white girls in a line of New Guineans. It wasn’t safe. What felt not safe were the hisses that followed us as we became escorted queue-jumpers, passing all 30 of the people ahead us in line and into the store to do our shopping. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up to hear those hisses and I saw exactly what privilege – and dislike – my whiteness could afford me.

I think this is why I always strive to respect local customs and attire as best as I can when I travel. I just want to blend in. I count it a compliment to be treated like a local and always try to be as respectful as I can.

Not all of PNG was like this. In the remote Tsoi Islands where we worked together with local villagers to build a dugout canoe, a profound moment came when our Captain was talking with the chief boat builder after a long day of work. The boat builder held his dark arm up beside our Captain’s very white arm, looked into his eyes, and said, “It doesn’t matter, does it? We are brothers.”

White privilege. I know I have it. How do we live with it?

 

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.

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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.

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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.

End of an Era

Four years ago, in May of 2011, I went to my first PWRDF Youth Council meeting in Vancouver. Four years later, only three of twelve of that Vancouver crew are still on the council. And now it is two only.

After four years – two as representative for BC/Yukon and two as Member at Large – my time has ended. Through the Youth Council I learned a great deal about the workings of PWRDF. I became more involved in international social justice issues, more informed about international relief and development work, and more vocal at home about issues which affect us all. I have had numerous opportunities to write about my experiences for the Youth Council website and had the opportunity to speak about PWRDF in nearly a dozen churches in at least five diocese in Canada. It has been a good journey.

Last weekend was my last meeting with Youth Council. It is bittersweet. I aged out of Youth Council 18 months ago and somehow they kept me around and doing work on council. It is an amazing group of young people doing incredible work and I have been proud to have been involved with them.

We’ve come a long way. I’ve been involved in a complete rewrite of our Terms of Reference and governing Manual. I helped create worship resources for youth groups to use. We have created amazing promotional materials that have been adopted by PWRDF as a whole. And I worked with PWRDF staff to create an international internship program for Canadian youth.

I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot, I’ve had some amazing opportunities, and made some incredible friends. Youth Council friends, I’m looking forward to seeing where you go from here! PWRDF, I’m looking forward to changing our relationship. Because one is never too old to care about the needs of others, to respond in love, and to seek to transform unjust societal structures.

Ride for Refuge

Tomorrow I and about 30 others across Canada will be participating in the Ride for Refuge to raise money for the work of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund in the South Sudan.

The weather is supposed to suck tomorrow: 10 degrees, wind, and rain. Good thing I have waterproof bike gloves from living in Victoria. But, as a PWRDF friend said, biking in crappy weather is still better than what many refugees go through on a daily basis.

I’m a little slow in promoting this, but if you’d like to support me and my team here in London, you can donate to us here. The best part is that this is a Canadian Foodgrains Bank project, so all money donated is matched 4x by the Federal Government. As of right now, PWRDF riders and supporters have raised over $11,000 – which is pretty exciting.

Yesterday the Anglican Journal published an article about those of us riding. I’m still a little bummed they didn’t quote me, but it does give a good overview of what we are doing.