Friday, November 30, 2007

oh all right then

I have been encouraged by the GirlChild to take another swing at #5 in the previous post. So...worst ever gift...the Christmas when I went home to tell my parents I was engaged to be married. Fiance joined us for New Year's. Brought his Christmas present with him. One pair of mid-calf-height heavy rubber boots with felt liners. I am NOT making this up. Real, genuine, hog-sloppin', manure-forkin', rubber boots. It may have been the only time I actually saw my father at a complete loss for words.

To take the taste of that away -- best ever gift? Christmas of 1952, with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in the planning stages, and Eaton's Christmas catalogue had a QUEEN DOLL, inside cover, upper lefthand corner--the PRIME placement in that great document! She had a brocade dress and velveteen mantle and -- I think -- a tiara. And on Christmas morning she was under the tree. I was just dumfounded...

The Friday Five: Have a Holly-Freakin'-Jolly Advent!!

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food

Well, I am in deep trouble here, plainly, because I LOVE FRUITCAKE. NOT the supermarket kind, which is way too heavy on dry cake and cheap, small raisins. But the real home-made kind. I love Christmas (aka "plum") pudding also--and that's a topic for another seasonal blog. Is there any hope for me do you suppose? Somebody else mentioned corn -- I admit, CREAMED corn is high up on my gag-o-meter. I guess as regards food dislikes I'm of the same cast of mind as Hoss Cartwright -- somebody asked him once if there was anything he didn't like to eat and after some thought he ventured, "Raw fish and maple syrup?" Although I've seen that on a menu too. In Ferociously Touristy Mountain Paradise: breakfast on one page, sushi on the facing page. We live in strange times.

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)

Some distaste expressed in the blog-o-sphere for Hot Tom & Jerry (the McGuffin of a great, great Damon Runyon story though)...I don't care for seasonally-flavored coffee. If I want a candy-cane, or butterscotch candy, or egg-nog, I'll go have some, but I don't want any of them or their synthetic simulacra contaminating my coffee.

3) tradition (church, family, other)

I can't think of a single detestable tradition -- maybe because I've managed to extirpate all the ones I didn't care for and then forget them! I guess I could live happily without ever hearing "Winter Wonderland" and "White Christmas" again, though. Too many school Christmas concerts.

4) decoration

Anything emanating from the C*ca-C*la corporation. By the way I saw a GREAT inflatable the other day -- a carousel, and the horses even went 'round and 'round. Come on, gals, it's not about good taste!!!

5) gift (received or given)

Oh my... my grandmother used to give my younger brothers tin DRUMS at Christmas. A certain latent hostility (not all that latent) was perceived in this tradition. But other than that, I think I'd best take a pass on this category...

Thursday, November 29, 2007


...are not my favourite entity, but they DO motivate one. Just rushing together the documentation for a benefit claim -- Con Ed -- that I could have made any time in the last 2.5 YEARS, but I am dilatory about these things. Until the Supreme Signer of all such pleas is 36 hours away from departure from the diocese, oops. Hoping that sense of humour is in the ascendant, downtown, this afternoon.
I've already fired off two texts to the editor of the parish newsletter -- I believe this morning he's somewhere between New Delhi and Dar es Salaam, though I may be mistaken about that. I cannot begin to imagine what technology allows him to edit and format our newsletter "on the fly," as he's doing, keeping in mind what day it is at both ends of the process, so we can get it photocopied in time for distribution on Sunday. Just phenomenal...and I'm VERY grateful.
It remains COLD. -25 C again this morning outside our house in the outer ring of the inner 'burbs of Prairie Metropolis. Not so bad--as long as the car starts, but it's only +15C in my office (that would be yer 60 degrees Fahrenheit, there)...bearable with heavy sweater on, and a micro-waved wheat-bag in the small of my back, but if it gets any colder I'll have to light a candle and put on some Bob Cratchit gloves, I think. We have 25-year-old boilers, very inefficient, and a kind of jury-rigged system of controls, partly pneumatic and partly electronic and ALL finicky.
I have two more slightly less-urgent letters to write this afternoon -- some calls to make -- and then tea with a friend, home for supper, and -- God is very good -- an early bedtime for once.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Bright and sunny today but alas the wind is blowing and with the wind chill it feels like "minus 30" -- that's Celsius -- you can work it out, -18 Celsius is zero Fahrenheit, and -40 Celsius is 40 below Fahrenheit, you get the idea.
I have got not-blog-related work piled up to my eyebrows here, so this will be a short post. Reading last night -- actually, re-reading, +Rowan Williams on "The Body's Grace"...trying to come to some simple (ha!), clear, hopeful, firm way of talking about sexuality to the faithful in these Excitable Times.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Productivity Day

More snow overnight and still quite cold (5 below, F'heit), but the wind dropped a lot since yesterday, thank goodness. Snow should "taper off," as they say, today, and then we'll have the "Arctic High" over us for some days -- lots of sunshine and colder than...[fill in your own comparison].
Last night was a treat -- supper out with a friend of 30 years, and then the Moscow Ballet, Swan Lake-- both our daughters were bun-heads back in the day, so one way and another we've seen a lot of dancing.
Most of it, admittedly, better than what we saw last night. Blessedly, we got the giggles the 2nd act, when we realized Siegfried looked exactly like a man trying to remember where he'd left his car keys...clutching his brow, rushing eagerly off stage, drooping back on again...
But...the costumes were pretty and the music altho' taped WAS Tschaikowsky, and the baby swans were engaging, as always.
And we had lots of time to visit and get caught up...having met at 5 for our meal, in view of an 8 o'clock curtain (well, we just hate being hurried when we're trying to find a place to park).

Monday, November 26, 2007


Getting to work this morning was a bit slower than I planned; we awoke to -25 C (=ten below Fahrenheit) and Harriet (the trusty Echo) hadn't been plugged in last night. So I stumbled out in the dark and found a long-enough heavy-duty extension cord and got the block-heater going about 7 a.m.; at 8:45 she started up with a faithful roar...and I even remembered to REMOVE the extension cord before I backed down the driveway. So all is automotively good, but I wish I had managed to get her to the carwash one last time last week.
We had 4 or 5 inches of snow overnight also; intersections are a bit skittery but not too bad.
Mugs -- I've been enjoying people's inventories of mugs -- and their pictures; so I'll talk about seven of mine (can't do pics yet, sorry), and if you read this, consider yourself tagged, 'kay?
1. at work; a souvenir mug with a picture of Mt. Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies; gift of a parishioner. Reminds me of highly successful photography of Mt. R. done by #1 son at a very tender age -- "127" film, does that give you an idea? We caught the mountain for once unobscured by cloud, and he scored, big-time!

2. also at work; black mug with stained glass window design from the National Cathedral in Washington, gift from beloved former assistant in the parish who had departed for that undiscovered bourne from which no traveler returns (in Canada, that means "the States"); part of a Christmas present, along with Cathedral hot chocolate, mmmmmm.

3. (the rest are at home); large delicate bone china mug with violets on it, belonged to my mother and came to me with oddments of her china.

4. large sized Christmas/winter design mug with a matching lid, both dishwasher and microwave safe despite complicated high-relief design, I love it and use it to warm milk for lattes. Gift from a parishioner.

5. White china mug commemorating the United Empire Loyalists -- family gift (from the UEL side of the family)

6. White china mug with all-over peony design, Christmas gift from the (Anglican) Sisters of St. John the Divine, who formerly had a Priory here in Prairie Metropolis.

7. plain octagonal clear glass mug -- purchased from a rummage sale because I like its look.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

St. Arnold...

...patron of brewers, and of beer. We celebrate his blessed memory from time to time, mostly sort of annually, kind of, at Most Holy and Undivided, with a beer-tasting. Truly, a tasting: very small glasses, and exotic brew-products.
We have a lecture first, on where all the sample beers were made and of what and for how long -- and so forth -- complete with implausible descriptions of what they taste like! And we have regional munchies to complement the beers.
A happy conviviality, even this evening, when participants had to tear themselves away from watching the Grey Cup game (think "Superbowl," only in Canadian football. Yes, it's different...).
So tonight it was English beer, and Scottish beer, and things like sausage rolls and kippered bits and English cheese (oh yum).
And then one of our parishioners talked a little bit about her experience of the Camino de Santiago this fall, with gorgeous slides.
And the right team won the Grey Cup. GO SASKATCHEWAN!!!! woo woo woo woo woo (etc. ad lib. ad inf.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

I LOVE Dave Walker

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Positive Steps

...towards well-being...have been taken this week!
I got to the dentist and launched the paperwork to get our benefits-insurer onside with the New Crown on Busted Molar project. Meantime our dentist -- we're relied on him totally for almost 35 years -- built me a little biting surface out of some magic gorp or other, solidified by his assistant with the Purple Fairy Light...all is comfy there.
Went to physio again this morning, came away and went straight to the optometrist. My old one had retired. The new one appears to be about eleven...
But isn't it a treat when you can ask the questions you need to ask? and get straight answers? and answer questions and not get that "you're too knowledgeable, who do you think you are?" look.
And it's all good news, no glaucoma, no cataracts, no macular degeneration. New prescription, though...then to find frames that don't make fun of my face. I don't think Versace had me in mind when they designed their current line. We settled on some nice Donna Karans...HELLO THERE, insurer!!!
Also bought myself a lipstick this week for the first time in about 15 years. Whee! The Daughter Unit assures me it doesn't make me look like a Painted Jezebel...much relief.
Talked to my counsellor this afternoon, and now I am peeling everything off the top of my desk, re-organizing work space and task-files...
Again this morning at the physiotherapy clinic...listening to inspiring conversations going on all around me. It would be such a good thing to approach our moral and spiritual health, our discipleship, our growth in faith, with the same candour and gentleness and kindness that is in play among the recipients of physio. (I think this is going to be a sermon one of these days!)
For of the clients was exercising by propelling herself around and around the clinic space on a little wheeled stool (which squeaked ferociously). Another client asked, "How many circuits today?" -- "Oh, seven or eight!" -- "Way to GO, girl, when I first saw you you could only do ONE..."

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I'd like to propose something. Do you think we could impose a ban, even a temporary one, on the use of the words "incredible," and "incredibly," as all-purpose intensifiers? Especially in sermons, where -- for heaven's sake -- we are talking, just every so often, precisely about BELIEF...about what is CREDIBLE. And to be CREDITED.
I know this isn't global warming or peace in the Middle East, but it narks me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

winter onset

Prodigious Secretary is at home today caring for her little girl, who has the flu. The office is full of the sunlight that reflects off a snowy external world.
No doubt this morning about what season this is -- "minus 18" on the dining-room-window thermometer. That's "old-fashioned zero" if you haven't gone metric. Lots of frost to scrape off the car windows and mirrors (I tend to forget the mirrors, until I'm on the road). And I don't think my one and only yarrow plant, even in its sheltered position sort of under the tall cedar at the corner of the going to manage to bloom after all. I think "she's done" for this year. We got all the way to a big stalk with a big flower head, still in bud...but that's it.
The Taffeta-cat is still among us. She tottered to her dishes this morning and ate a bit of kibble and drank a saucer of milk and some water. By the time I left for work she was on my son's bed, purring loudly.
I am playing hooky from a meeting -- in favour of a consultation with the parishioner who makes everything work, about our security system, specifically the door-monitor and remote door-unlocking mechanisms. That just seemed more pressing and more productive than the council of churches and a presentation which I've actually heard before.
I have an errand to run before I present myself at the dentist's office for discussions about a broken molar. I think it's crown time...sigh.
And then another errand to run, and then dinner with my kids and my daughter's in-laws.
Son-in-law convocates tomorrow as a Doctor of Music. What finer way to honour St. Cecilia, patroness of church musicians?
Son-in-law is also Director of Music at Most Holy and Undivided, which makes the chancel a pretty dynastic locality of a Sunday morning! Daughter is up front among the altos, Number 2 Son radiating good humour in the bass section. Let joy be unconfined!
Tomorrow wraps up with a big choral concert downtown, son-in-law conducting the city's "big" choir (=120 voices or so)...parents sitting well to the fore and trying without success to look modest.
Just found a website for "Scriptural Reasoning" which looks intriguing (I'm tempted to say, "about darn time too") -- with ecumenical and interfaith dimensions as well...and wrote a long e-mail to a very good friend in a clergy-killing parish.
Time to go.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A richly varied life

This has been one of the good days -- a little Bible study on Matthew's Gospel, and home I go again. Before the Bible study, though, I need to pick some hymns for Sunday next.
Started off the day with a couple of quick loads of laundry and a load of dishes. Then I had a few minutes to sit with the old cat in my lap. She's been not quite herself for about the last month -- she's 15 or 16, as near as we can tell (she came to us as a stray) -- doesn't seem to be in any great pain or distress, but she walked about, uncertainly, for a couple of days with her head cocked sideways, like what used to be called "a wry neck" -- she did look quite eldritch. We wondered whether she'd had a stroke or something of the kind (do cats have strokes? anybody know?)
But she continued to perform all her usual functions, and after a few days she seemed to get her problem sorted out; but the last day or so she has been very inactive, just wanting to lie still and not stirring when we come near.
This is a sadness...especially as she is the last cat in the household. She's always been very large, built more like a tomcat, and at one point weighed about 15 pounds -- with long hair in a kind of clouded version of the tabby pattern. We named her Taffeta because of her looks.
The first piece of work this morning was a sortie to a local mausoleum for placement of ashes -- a twin urn in white marble, to be placed in a niche about eight feet from the floor. Fortunately one of the mourners undertook to get it in position. NOT MY WORK, I thought, firmly. There were about a half-dozen family members present including a toddler and an infant in one of those "bucket" carriers. The toddler shook my hand manfully after the brief service, thereby causing all the aunties to resort to their hankies again.
Back to the church to collect the Super Secretary and away to a civic luncheon launching one of the major winter charity drives...the local council of churches promotes one shelter-focused charity every year at Christmas, in a program called "No Room in the Inn" (for fairly obvious reasons). This year the project is a new transitional facility for immigrants with refugee status or special needs generally. It seems very well and imaginatively designed to meet those needs.
Back again to the church and some paperwork and a brief sitdown with the knitting group before a parishioner came in for counsel...and absolution, eventually. Some reading, some blog-surfing, proofreading the Sunday bulletin... and a pause to admire the knitting group's BALES of yarn. They gave me one big bag full of the most gorgeous, subtle variegated colours...prayer shawls and afghans, woo hoo, I'll be busy all winter.

Monday, November 19, 2007

the quiet day

In about an hour our Vestry will meet -- we have a lot of work to get through tonight, and our secretary is in the mountains with her family so we'll have a volunteer taking the minutes, which is sometimes a bit rocky.
In other fun departments -- preparations for Advent Lessons and Carols at the beginning of December! This year we are inviting one of the smaller parishes in Prairie Metropolis -- let us call it "St. Smoke" for it is most fearfully "High" -- to join us for the service and for the following potluck.
All well and good, but arrangements were complicated by the intervention of a para-church group devoted -- ostensibly -- to the promotion and preservation of the Book of Common Prayer. Before we quite knew where we were, our annual Lessons and Carols service was about to be labelled and publicized as a PB Society event, for the purpose (this is the part I boggled at) of promoting membership in the Society, and increasing the membership at St. Smoke (nothing wrong with that as a development).
Time to point out to the interested parties that worship at Most Holy and Undivided is conducted for the purpose of giving glory to God, and building up his faithful people. There may be yelling. The rhetoric is already deteriorated to the level of, "please just tell us if we're not welcome."
Sheesh! I'm delighted that the Rector of St. Smoke has been a man and a brother in all respects in this disagreement. I anticipate we shall all have a fine time at worship and then pass the scalloped potatoes to and fro in perfect amity. But in the meantime it's all a bit noisy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Halfway through my Sunday. These are the moments when I feel most satisfaction in ministry -- I can hear at least 4 separate activities going on in the church...a theatre group rehearsing around the piano in the Green Room (small meeting room, lower level); a couple preparing a delightful reception spread in the Upper Kitchen, adjacent to the Upper Hall; set-up for afternoon free concert going on in the nave and the chancel. This will be on Chopin as a Romantic artist, with slides of paintings by Delacroix. Coffee hosts clearing up in the Lower Kitchen from our post-worship fellowship time. Ahhhhh. The pianist is now warming up too. I love sitting here, listening, hearing all this purposefulness going on around me.
I have a small Holy Communion service mid-afternoon at a Seniors' Assisted Living complex on the south side of the city. There may be as many as a half dozen elderly ladies there. One of them is the "instigator" -- no sooner was she moved into the facility than she was knocking on doors, identifying resident Anglicans, and bullying them genteelly into attending our monthly service! They're a most endearing bunch...
And then the day ends with dinner with a home-group...3 self and #1 Son -- otherwise he is at home alone, having Sunday dinner alone, which would probably have been INSTANT NOODLES -- and that's just NOT right...
Tomorrow will be a full day with Vestry meeting in the evening and a lot of prep to do beforehand.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Of catbird seats'n'like that

The business this afternoon is to get the sermon onto paper -- in the intervals of supporting the knitting group's Snowflake Tea, which will begin in a half-hour or so downstairs. In the meantime a lovely young woman is practising Chopin on the piano in the nave. (My office opens into the chancel, behind the altar rail--I have a prime seat for all sorts of wonderful music rehearsals. They remind me of the great text about "Behold, the lines have fallen unto me in very pleasant places..." Or possibly, "Behold, I am sitting in the catbird seat...")

The sermon doesn't usually take this long -- but this week it's been hanging fire. Part of the trouble is that even I can remember what I said about the Peaceable Kingdom the last time we passed through the lectionary. I'd just seen the Hicks painting, in its upstate New York home, bought the postcard and I had a good time with that, with all the critters.

But this time, oh dear, what to say. Part of the problem with solo ministry is not getting to hear other preachers often enough...and after a time everything I put together seems to come with a terrible built-in echo factor, like a faulty long-distance connection: "I'm sure I've said all this before-ore-ore-ore...."

Woke up early this morning and lay like Scrooge and thought, and thought, and thought, until finally I decided to make this sermon a reply to last week's sermon; the paltriness of the returned exiles' little home-made temple, in contrast with the grandeur of the Herodian temple...and God's commentary on both those human experiences. The thing is not to be immobilized, paralyzed by either disappointment or awe...not to be deflected from the goodness and faithfulness of God, and his invitation to us.

I don't want to get too far into eschatology...Advent is coming, with the invitation to preach on the four last things.

Spent a pleasant hour this morning in conversation with our prospective Honorary Assistant. I am feeling very much heartened. I think this will work well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This can't be my office...

...I can see the top of the desk.
Stayed late, or later, last night and went ruthlessly through several cubic feet of paper, finding many amazing relics of this'n'that.
One more Big Pile, one more Little Pile...I've also been to the bottom of both the handbag and the book-tote in the last 24 hours.
I think that may be the discipline I need -- to empty everything I carry every 24 hours and look at every single item I'm carrying around.
Good and happy developments in the last 24 hours -- vestry meeting is impending on Monday night -- but now I have two excellent positive things to report!
Long-standing parishioner of great tact and acumen, here at Most Holy and Undivided (actually a 3rd generation parishioner) has volunteered to take charge of co-ordinating Pastoral Care--keeping track of who's in hospital, or in difficulty, who needs to be visited, who is willing to do parish visiting, when training sessions for parish visitors can be held, and so forth.
One of many Engagingly Quirky Practices in this parish is to refer to the co-ordinators of the various ministries, all of them, as "Stewards." This means that there is no one-word label for, er, actually, what other churches call "Stewardship" -- which is therefore called "Financial Giving." (No, I don't know why they decided to do this. Possibly to confuse the Boche, who can say...)
But I digress. This is a happy appointment, for the newly appointed Pastoral Care Steward has extraordinary awareness of how our people are--ALL our people, from the oldest inhabitant to the most confused newcomer.
And the second happy development is that the Purple-Shirted-One appears to have recruited me an Honorary Assistant for light clerical duty in the parish, chiefly liturgical and homiletical. Please note "Honorary" = "without pay." I am hoping for "respite" to the tune of one sermon and one celebration per month, which would make a big difference. We meet tomorrow to confer and collude, over coffee.
And I am eating tabbouleh salad.
And a young recitalist is practising Chopin, with great skill and brio, on the Big Piano in the nave -- about 20' from my preparation for Sunday afternoon's concert here.
God is very good.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Home again

We went and came back safely, swiftly and comfortably last night; getting out of Prairie Metropolis at 5 p.m. was the hardest and slowest part. As an urbanite I've got used to a rush-hour working "one way" -- the traffic on the margins of the city reminded me of a fact of my childhood -- "shift change" which is a two-way proposition. The road was good-- Son Unit is excellent company and a very good navigator too. About a dozen folks from Most Holy and Undivided made the trip.
The service ran smartly; good hymns, good feeling, and there was a most excellent sermon blending our thankfulness for the occasion, our thankfulness for Samuel Seabury's consecration, and our thankfulness for the Church herself.
As visitors from the city we were repeatedly warned at the party afterward-- "use your high beams! watch out for deer on the road! it isn't the one that you see crossing the road, it's the two right behind him that get you!" but we didn't see any deer or other critters -- and the one rock flipped into the air by a passing truck did no damage--just made a very loud and startling noise.
Home safely by ten-thirty.
And today is also a day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the road again...

A peaceful moment in mid-afternoon. Thanks be to God, the weather is good -- we had a mighty windstorm yesterday, but it has abated and there is no precipitation in the forecast. This is of moment because I am about to drive toward the Cordillera, at least about an hour and a half's worth of travel in that direction -- reminding me of the Arrogant Worms' alternative national anthem:
"Oh the mountains are very pointy,
and the prairies are very -- not;
and in between is lumpy,
and boy have we got a lot..."

I'll be traversing part of the "lumpy" section this afternoon -- and back again later in the evening. My erstwhile curate and henchman at Most Holy and Undivided is now in charge of the parish in Resource-Extraction-Based Medium-Small Town in the hinterland, and tonight is his service of induction.
So it's very good that there's no snow in the offing! Number-One Son is coming with me for company. We don't often get extended conversation time--this is doubly a treat.
And I have NO liturgical responsibilities upon arrival; I can just stand about looking proud and affectionate!

Monday, November 12, 2007

But isn't Monday...?

Most of my colleagues hereabouts take Monday as their regular day off -- and our Stupendous Secretary has the day off -- so there is often a fine moment of stupefaction when people phone us on Monday and I pick up the phone -- "oh... there's somebody there..." It's not unknown for stupefaction to set in later in the conversation as well, mind you.
I like to take Friday off...when it's possible, which isn't always; and when it isn't, I try to take a few additional hours for myself here and there during the week.
Tonight I have no meetings, for a wonder; I'll be busy until quite late at least two evenings this week on top of some really long days (and considerable driving), so I think I'll get myself home here posthaste.
Enquiry from excellent Sunday School teacher as to what on earth Isaiah is getting at in 65:17-25...and how to frame it for senior-elementary young'uns.
Some possibility of friction between Sunday School teachers who want to use their class time between now and 25/12 to TEACH, not rehearse a pageant -- and the parishioner in whose head dance visions of pageants of Cecil B. deMille extravagance. This is where we put the tips of our fingers together judiciously, and counsel patience and clear communication.
Reading Mary Margaret Funk,"Thoughts Matter," which just came back from the person who had borrowed it...also Dan Needles, "With Axe and Flask," which starts out as a lovely spoof of Canadian "local histories" and turns into something much more serious when he brings his fictional township up to the period of the First World War -- very striking reading for Remembrance Day + one!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Peace, y'all

Remembrance Day in these parts -- visitors in church too -- we found a trumpeter, a lovely young woman in the "reserves" -- think "National Guard" if you're south of the 49th, ok? Unfortunately, or joyfully, or both, TrumpetGirl can't get into her uniform just at present, as she's expecting her 2nd child in January. So she did not have to be at the cenotaph etc. but was at liberty to come and add the Last Post and Reveille to a civilian commemoration. I was a bit apprehensive about how HARD she could be allowed to blow that thing, in her interesting condition... but she did beautifully and added some nice crisp edge to the hymn accompaniments too. And we read all the parish names of "the fallen"...almost fifty from the First World War, most of whom died in the summer of 1916; only nine from the Second World War, nearly all air force.
I preached on the text from Haggai*: "How does it look to you now?" about the moments in life when all your hopes have come to nothing but rubble, and the Lord says "Take courage; work, I will be with you." I tied it to bereavements in time of war but also to marriage breakdowns, loss of work, loss of health, and so on--"And how does it look to you now?" Sort of worried that I might have composed the all time Big Downer of a sermon...but lots of concrete feedback after the service -- "That's just how it felt."
Now for a wonder there's nothing on this afternoon's schedule so I'm creeping home for a nap and some domesticity...and exercises!

*Fun last week with a parishioner who insisted there was no such book as Haggai and if there was, it wasn't in the Bible, because SHE couldn't find it, for heaven's sake. I admitted that if you were to blink you would miss Haggai, all right. Eventually she was mollified.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Voices in the dark

At physio yesterday I was enjoying the heat treatment on my shoulder--didn't have my usual book to read during the quarter-hour treatment, so I was just listening to what I could hear in the treatment spaces on either side of me. I couldn't see the other patients, or their therapists, I don't know any other patients at this clinic, so it was all very anonymous, even disembodied. but I kept thinking about the hospital sequence in Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel, where Hagar hears the other women crying out at night, and the ward becomes a symbol for all of suffering humanity. All the people in the clinic with me had come and put themselves and their pain and their weakness into someone else's hands. We had all come in order that someone might do us good and make us stronger, make us "good to go." The scraps of conversation I could hear through the curtains were most moving: people being candid about what hurts and where and how--not whiny; the therapists' calm instructions and encouragement; the little murmurs and snorts of effort. And I thought... "this would preach..."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday again

Awake very early this morning. For once I ROSE UP instead of lying awake "pondering" -- made a latte, lit some candles, and tackled the Great Unopened Pile on my desk, emptied the handbag, emptied the book-tote, made heavy contributions to both waste-basket and shredder-basket, most gratifying.
Then a quick trip to the far corner of Prairie Metropolis to the physiotherapist: ultrasound and heat and some more Creative Activities with rubber tubing. The shoulder still hurts; but now it hurts like, "mmmm, exercised yesterday, didn't I" and not so much like, "Oh help, I've been injured."
Off to the bank later this morning to put the finances in order ("Owe no one anything -- including VISA")... some Very Important Pieces of Paper to convey to their final resting place, and then a couple of cheerful pastoral notes to write...
Meantime The First-Born has borrowed Harriet-the-Chariot for a run to the airport to collect his supervisor, in town for a week or so.
Daughter Unit is home safe from her week in LatterDayLand, much to the joy of her mother -- and her husband of four months.
Back to the to-do list; this is my Official Day Off, and I have wild hopes that I may get home before dark for once.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ten Random Things

I seem to have been "tagged" by Jan... this shouldn't be as hard as it looks!!! Here goes:
1. I celebrated my fifth birthday with my parents, an RCMP officer, a postmistress, a telegraph operator, two steamboat officers and an Oblate missionary = total guest list.

2. I never completed a grade in the same school I started it in, until High School.

3. I've now lived 34 years and counting in the same house.

4. I've slid down the brass pole in a fire-hall.

5. I've seen the ice go out of the Yukon River in the spring.

6. My most beloved vehicle to date was a high-mileage Ford half-ton. Red, it was. Sigh.

7. I'm near-sighted.

8. I love tea but I can't drink it on an empty stomach.

9. I started university in Honours Modern Languages because I was going to be a high-school French teacher; ended up in graduate studies in English Literature in an ivy league school ("Crimson" is a CLUE) and have never regretted it.

10. I'm trying to learn Biblical Greek.

There! whew!! Did it!!! and I tag I am Chorus and Foreign Footsteps and Doodlebugz

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Many Shapes of Outreach

Our outreach committee met on Sunday to get their program together for the winter months. Did someone mention "diversity" as an Anglican strength? These are the things that were discussed: the annual fundraiser, now behind us -- a dinner with cabaret and silent auction -- and its proceeds; Soup Nights for the local homeless population; lunches served on Sundays in the inner city (we take part twice a year); potential beneficiaries of the moneys raised by the dinner/cabaret/silent auction -- they came up with nine and reluctantly set aside four more; the focus for each of the four Advent Sunday giving projects -- they came up with four, quite easily, and then added a fifth-- "the chocolate bars." "The chocolate bars" were a huge project for a number of years when one of the chaplains at the jail organized Christmas stockings for the inmates, and we supplied her with chocolate bars as our share of that ministry. Continuing...the collection of stamps for the Canadian Bible Society; the destination for the open collection[s] at Christmas--it's always "No Room in the Inn," a revolving shelter-focussed initiative by the local Council of Churches (this year it's a special housing project for refugees with special needs, e.g. victims of torture etc.); the city-wide winter collection of "Coats for Kids"; the collection of canned-soup labels to benefit an inner-city school; the problem of what has happened to the refugee family from Africa whom we've been awaiting for over a year; and finally the possibility that a "daughter of the parish" about to depart for Rwanda might just find some project in Rwanda that we could also be helpful with. Wonder of wonders and thanks be to God, volunteers are present and willing and able to carry out all these good works...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Interview Memories

So many of the blogging sisterhood are telling stories about their interviews "for a call" that I thought I'd share mine also. The interview committee was huge -- 12? 15? -- very unwieldy, anyhow, and a not insignificant Red Flag if I'd had the wit to see it, in that no one caucus in the parish trusted any other. The overriding concern, filtering through questions in various forms, seemed to be how different I would be from the previous incumbent. Various unkind and unacceptable formulations popped up and had to be suppressed; e.g., "as different as possible, and INFINITELY better..." Finally I said that we were indeed very different people with different approaches, but to be more specific would mean that I would have to describe my predecessor's stance and attitude and personal theology in his absence, in a way that might well seem critical, and I didn't feel that was fair, because I could so easily misunderstand or misrepresent him. And then I was tempted, and I fell. "Besides," I said, "I don't think it's right to criticize a person until you've walked a mile in his shoes." They all nodded like bobble-head dolls. "Because," I said, "then when you DO criticize him, you are a mile away, AND you've got his shoes." And the silence went on, and on, and on, and on...and they all looked at me solemnly. The sound of crickets in the room...until somebody finally said, "Oh! That's a joke! Ha ha."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Solemnity of All Saints

So today I took another swing at the theme...I am some small way into Elizabeth Johnson, "Friends of God and Prophets," and I was so thrilled at her contrast between the way of manifestation and the way of proclamation that I quoted great massive chunks of the, I do love serious, sound theology.
Preliminary fun was taking the parish photograph for a farewell gift to our bishop...this took some time but we managed to capture all the choir and all the children minus one or two in the nursery as well as NEARLY all the congregation. We timed it for about 10 minutes into the service, before the children went to Sunday school, after the "sidlers-in" might all be present. Trying to get the whole gang together in one place is like Uncle Henry trying to trap the wild turkeys (does anybody else remember that story?)--anyway, all were in good humor, although it made the service longer than usual even before we launched into "For All the Saints" as the recessional.
Visiting Bass Soloist gave us "Come My Way, My Truth, My Life" as Communion music -- much joy. George Herbert had a lot to do with my being an Anglican in the first place; well, actually, in the second still resonates.
Daughter Unit has gone on a business trip, solo, her first, to LatterDayLand, reports happily that she has arrived safely and is planning to create retail havoc in those parts with her fat Canadian dollars. Son-in-law Unit is bach'ing it. Their first time apart since the wedding in July. He is trying to take the opportunity to train the two cats NOT to demand a feeding in the wee small hours of the morning.
SNOW this morning when we got up -- and ice all over the concrete apron in front of Most Holy and Undivided. Bless the parishioner who went out and spread rock salt on it for me.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Marriage Preparation Weekend

There are 12 young couples here at Most Holy and Undivided today for Marriage Preparation. They were here yesterday evening too. At least two of the couples will be getting married right here next year -- one couple on January 2nd, which means rehearsal on New Year's Day -- oog! They all seem lively and engaged in what is happening -- not too many leaning 'way, 'way back with folded arms: never a good sign! Last night they did some ice-breaker exercises, talked about the difference between "wedding" and "marriage," listened to an interview with a couple married here two years ago, did some basic communication exercises, and were on their way home by nine o'clock (it's Friday night! Everybody's pooped! Including the presenters!)
This morning they've been talking about conflict resolution, family expectations, more communication skills...this afternoon they have a half-dozen workshops from which they can choose three -- everything from ballroom dancing to family law. Finally we wind up with a banquet at a local country club. I'm on duty this afternoon for the workshop session on Spiritual Issues and Awkward Questions.
In the meantime...I've been in the kitchen for about two hours assembling the soup-of-all-soups for their lunch. Starting with about two pounds of sirloin steak...always a good way to start! We have a gluten-intolerant participant, I have to go and warm up something separate for her (there's barley and pasta in my soup -- does anybody know? is there gluten in barley?) Serving soup allows me to do a mini-presentation on "why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good." All in, this soup has cost between $30 and $35 -- it will feed 27 people amply, with seconds. And it tastes good and is full of nutrition... and all that chopping is highly meditative!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Joy[s] of Physio

I had my third appointment this morning, early -- it should take about 45 minutes to drive to the clinic, but at departure time from home a combination of construction and collisions had almost cut off our little subdivision for the Outer World. Physio-gal got to the "traction" part this morning (we are rehabilitating a rotator cuff -- mine), bless her heart -- this seems to consist in tucking my arm under hers and then walking away with it in various directions. In the process we learned that I do not understand or, obviously, comply with the suggestion to "relax." Not me. Nossir. Clenching and gnashing have got me through the first 60+ years, why would I want to learn some newfangled thing like relaxing??
The ferocious green rubber-tubing for exercise against resistance has been replaced by the feebler red rubber-tubing, good news!
And it seems to be an OK plan to accept one of the kind offers from parishioners to loan a tens-machine for the duration. On the other hand, or with the other hand, I suppose I could also just stick a fork in the toaster, mmmmmmm, tingly goodness.
Came out of the clinic to find all the women's groups in the north end of Prairie Metropolis had bazaar stalls set up in the mall...including the women's groups of not one but two Anglican parishes...wearing the clerical collar means purchasing pies, under these circumstances.
And finally a late breakfast in a low-end department store diner...bacon and eggs, and seniors' conversation flowing all around and over me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints

WINDY today, enough to make the little car shudder on the bridges and other exposed bits of roadway. The kind of wind that might well have snow at the back of it -- drat, anyhow.
About a couple of dozen "spooks" last night, I think; I tended to fall asleep between squads--they really did come in bunches, and the sight of idling SUVs at the corner suggested they weren't all that LOCAL either. All over by about 9 p.m. -- lots of candy left -- now to put it somewhere inconvenient...
Celebrating All Saints Day at the 10 a.m. Thursday Eucharist with my minute usual congregation--we use the Book of Common Prayer lectionary and propers on Thursday, so everything is in one book...a brief extempore sermon, and then a brief "Bible study" after the service, which always focuses on the readings from the RCL for the past Sunday, mainly for the benefit of those who weren't able to hear either Sunday's readings OR Sunday's sermon. The participants are elderly...and the occasion is often as much about the stories that they need to tell as it is about Holy Scripture. It's also question time... I will never forget the third or fourth week that I did this service-cum-study, and the second reading was Philip and the Ethiopian. Up piped the littlest and meekest of the group, "Ummmm ... what's a eunuch?" So drawing a deep breath and commending my soul to God, I told her. "Well, now. I did not know that," she said. We've gone on to other blank spots and occasional long-lived misunderstandings since then...