Sunday, December 28, 2008


just a very small series of vignettes that I need to remember whenever I feel moved to climb the church tower with a firearm (I'm kidding, I'm kidding)...

Christmas went well, the weather "milded up" most obligingly, I slept all day on the couch on Boxing Day (aka "Feast of Stephen"), and felt fairly rested, but Something is Lurking...Something of the "Nasty Cough" variety...

So I came in this morning about 7:45, and midway through the 8:30 service just before the Intercession, I swallowed the wrong way and went through a series of explosive coughs and snorts, all delivered into the shoulder of my surplice as nearly as I could manage...was really wondering whether I would be able to UTTER at all, hastily formulating theological contingency plans: i.e., if I stand behind the altar and MOUTH the words of consecration, is it licit/valid/kosher for the Lay Reader/Assistant to UTTER them?

As it turned out I found a place in the contralto register where I could produce words...and when the second communicant at the rail held up his hands for his his palm were two Cepacol throat lozenges in their foil packet...

Isn't it an amazing moment when you feel "taken care of" in the parish?

Nappage this afternoon. Out for dinner ce soir.

My brother and his wife sent lovely "woodworked" Christmas gifts including a splendid jigsaw puzzle style Nativity set...which became this morning's Children's Focus, there being no Sunday School. When we had ooh'ed and aah'ed over all the splendid pieces, the assembled young'uns took the set back to a quiet warm spot on the carpet and had a splendid gentle quiet play with it all the way through the service. (The picture above is an approximation -- a very similar puzzle.)

BTW when I drove up my driveway at 1:30 a.m. Christmas Day, after the two Christmas Eve services...there was the Christmas tree in the living-room window, decorated, and lit, and the needles vacuumed up, and the decoration boxes put away...thanks to #1 Son...

Some days it's all I can do not to feel downright LOVED! And I hope you all feel loved too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Finally this morning there was Nothing For It but to make the Hideous Great List of everything that I really WOULD like to have behind me by 7 p.m. tomorrow evening...

So far I've been to the bank, deposited a comforting quantity of cheques...
looped around past the dry cleaner and dropped off a blanket...and managed to corner a Christmas-tree dealer who hadn't yet given up on the market and shipped his wares off to the chipper/mulchers. We agreed on a very handsome tree, not too darn big, for about half its hoped-for price, and managed to wedge it into Harriet-the-Echo's hinder parts, and I got it home without its falling out on the freeway or anything tedious like that. So I do feel quite triumphant about that bit of the list.

Also got to the Post Office and bought a tremendous wad of stamps. Yesterday's mail was a chunky handful of cards, some with pictures, many with letters...which somehow stimulated a great if belated surge of affection and desire-to-reach-out. My ambition to write Christmas cards was flagging a bit, but "it's ba-a-ack."

Also in the mail, the New Yorker and Times Literary Supplement, the latter with lots of reviews of books about Christianity under various headings.

At bedtime and on first waking, these days, I'm reading the new biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in small-ish chunks. It gets better, or I get more attentive, as it goes along.

At the end of last week I took two unofficial days off...did some satisfying house-cleaning, and as part of that I rounded up all the most recently arrived theological books and coalesced them into a knee-high stack next to the sofa. Impressive!

It was just So Cold...thirty-five below on Friday, and only a little better on Saturday. A time to "cocoon," and I did.

Sunday was double-time busy, though -- the two services in the morning, with surprisingly good attendance given the weather (it hasn't really broken, and won't, now, until after Christmas) -- then my monthly communion in a seniors' residence, "exercising the priesthood" and seeing again that "having come" I've really done it all...the communion is just a bonus.

The residence is just a couple of blocks from one of the acute-care hospitals where a parishioner was languishing, so I was well positioned to get in for a flying visit with her (and her daughter, during intervals of temperature-taking and blood-pressure-reading). Word came this morning that she's being discharged for home today. A heavy fall on the ice last week so jarred her poor "innards" that she had a gall-bladder attack...the first time I've encountered that particular chain of cause and effect!

Then after the hospital visit I paused for a break and then back to MH & U for the "Ladies' Wine and Cheese" which was elegant and lavish but not as well attended as it should have been. Never mind, the Sanctuary Guild polished off the leftovers the next day after their decorating binge.

And the day closed with the annual Choir Christmas Party...great food, lashings of drink (lots of Designated Drivers!), and a tremendous carol-sing with much mirth, for which I was plenty ready, by then.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

update on the obsequies

Back again at my desk in good order despite ADVENTURES.

I got to the funeral home with about 50 copies of the Book of Alternative Services -- we had a congregation of 200. Staff at the funeral home showing minimal interest in helpfulness. Their hands in their pockets kind of DISCLOSED their essential attitude.

Got the books in, got them dispersed among the congregants, recognized the musician (AAAAAHHHHHH!!!)(have you ever heard a funeral-musician who could make even "Amazing Grace" sound like a torch song? And all the accompaniments sound like cocktail lounge stuff?)(on the other hand I've also done funerals assisted by the gentleman who sings the national anthem at hockey games in Prairie Metropolis....), climbed into the multi-layered garb, and ran the service.

Slightly unnerved but on the whole gratified to encounter a very large gentleman (using the term in the Pickwickian sense), formerly not unconnected with law enforcement, who shows signs of becoming A Fan. His presence in one of the front pews eased my fears that the estranged son of the deceased lady was going to show up and be stroppy.

And then we went up the hill to the cemetery. I decided against trying to drive Harriet, togged out as I was in cassock'n'surplice'n'hood'n'tippet'n'funeral cloak, so I let K, the young "undertakess", drive me, carrying the ashes in my lap, in one of the funeral cars.

The route is all uphill, and at the end there is a sharp right turn into the parking lot, by one of two entrances. K took the first we came to, also the STEEPEST, and being young and inexperienced she hesitated just for a moment, and there we were in the big old B**** of a Cadillac hopelessly stuck on the ice (no sand, no salt, no traction), and mourners piling up behind us not seeing the problem. And poor K so very badly wanted to swear, and couldn't...

Eventually people clued in, stopped traffic, let us slither backwards into the road and acquire momentum for the second of the two driveways. Success.

And it was only old-fashioned zero, and NO WIND (this is not in nature, believe me), and so all the mourners who were minded to, were able to come to the graveside without undue danger to their health.

A high school choral concert here this evening, and the final session of our Advent "Praying in Colour" group, and so home.

good news

"It might as well be spring" -- a mere zero (old style) this morning. Enough to send one out in the garden to plant something.

Fresh snow reveals that Teh Rabbit has been in the front flower-bed, nomming on the bits of grass sticking up. Some mornings we can see where he spent quite some time in the yard, other mornings it's apparent he crossed the yard at high speed.

Speaking of moving at speed, the new "pickers" on the bottom of the Rambler's boots are doing their job, and I stride about with entire confidence over all sorts of hideous icy footing. The challenge is remembering that I don't have similar gear on Harriet's tires.

Have been reading Michael Ignatieff's biography of Sir Isaiah Berlin--one of those names about whom I've long thought I should know something--and now I'm getting there! It's a long time since I looked at any political theory even secondhand...a perspective on theological thinking that I've neglected... I need to lay hands on some of Anna Akhmatova's poetry too, obviously.

A funeral this afternoon -- a memorial, actually -- for a parishioner who died suddenly some weeks ago in England. Family dynamics will be interesting...estranged offspring promising to kick up some sort of ruckus around and about the proceedings. Trying to devise a sermon that will actually address both the readings chosen and the hearts of those present.

The interment of an old cemetery on a Nice. High. Hill. is a lot less daunting since the thermometer rose overnight. I have inherited a Fierce Big Funeral Cloak down to my ankles but may have to supplement it with a most non-clerical least we're not having to recruit pall-bearers for this stint.

And last night I confirmed that my legacy from my parents had been transferred into my bank. It represents an awful lot of ladders climbed, underground, in the dark, and an awful lot of essays marked at four a.m.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

prayer request

In your prayers this week, would you please kindly remember "Holly," who is four months old, and not at all thriving as we would hope. She has an appointment with a paediatrician this week, and we are holding up her and her parents are her brother in the hope that whatever is amiss may be quickly put right.

Thank you, one and all.

"past three o'clock, on a cold frosty morning..."

Good morning all, it's THIRTY-TWO BELOW Fahrenheit in Ramblerland.

Harriet-the-Echo started like a Good Thing this morning, although for some miles she drove as if carved out of tough wood with a dull knife...

By the way I am amused at the marketing and customer-placating acumen of the wily wizards of Toyota...Harriet went in for her 54K km check-up this week, which turned into six hundred dollars worth of attention to her suspension/steering and more esoteric Vital Fluids (brake and steering) argument there...BUT! I was not allowed to leave until I had accepted a free-gratis state-of-the-art ergonomically-correct Toyota official snow-brush-cum-ice-scraper. Made my whole day, I tell you.

Well, actually it did, as the old one had developed a fatal crack in its ice-scraping blade. Made for interesting effects on the windshield.

It was so dry last night in the extreme cold, that there was barely even frost on Harriet's windows this morning.

Time to go unlock the big front doors here at MH & U. Good day, one and all, and plenty of Advent joy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Getting quite a lot of work done and paper disposed of these days, it feels great.

Meditating on dealings with the really-and-truly not-a-clue un-churched, especially in one's own family. I just mailed an Advent Calendar to my (very) young first cousins twice removed...I'm not sure, exactly, but they're either the third or the fourth generation to be utterly without religious instruction, as their mother freely admits. She asked me -- "What is this ADVENT thing that has just appeared on all the church signs, where it used to be all about Christmas-tree sales???" She says her kids know all about chocolate-calendars; so this year they're getting a church one. We made one, some years ago, with a lovely snowy photograph of Most Holy & Undivided, and a tiny emblem and a fragment of text behind each of the doors...

My children had a whole trousseau of calendars collected over the years -- there was a Tasha Tudor one, one from the second act of La Boheme, several lovely snow-scene European ones...all carefully closed up after Christmas and put away for next year! Great fun.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

and away we go

The Mothers against Drunk Driving have just been and done their thing, bless their hearts. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Prairie Metropolis Police Service in attendance, including a Very Large Piper, who is also on Homicide. He took us in to "Going Home." Very nice too. But he couldn't pipe us out, because he had to go and deal with a ... well, a homicide.

And I am off to a par-tay, possums, at which I shall probably drink nothing more interesting than chocolate milk, having duly laid to heart what was said earlier this afternoon.

I thanked the emergency-services workers and police for the frightful things they see and do on our behalf; I encouraged the work of anti-drunk driving education, reminding one and all that some folks have to hear the message one-on-one; I talked about looking at obituaries and reflecting on all the love that vanishes out of the world when people die, and how those left behind have to step up the lovin' accordingly; and I added to their perception of the benefit of "grief shared" the idea that "love shared is love squared" and then I said a prayer and sat down.

St. Nicholas arrived duly and there was excellent bantering, GREATLY enjoyed by one and all. I handed out left over Nicholas-chocolate to the children at the MADD service.

huzza and hallelujah

Happy to report that the B's, T's, and U's are chasing each other around the premises as specified this morning, 70F in the Rambler's office, 70F in the nave, let's hear it for The Little Furnace That Could!

Freezing rain overnight, making the drive "in" interesting... I don't understand -- many things, but this in particular in this weather -- how people can barrel down the road ignoring both the sinister curb-to-curb glitter of the pavement, AND the sensations in the seat of their britches, as their SUV slews this way and that.

Ah well. We wait in hope and live in mystery.

Second Advent blessings, everybody.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


....coldcoldcoldcoldcold...Came in this morning and found furnaces "down" -- it was 55 F in the church and 45 F in the Rambler's Office. I need me some of those Bob Cratchit gloves, at this rate.
And where is the Beloved Old Guy who understands the Furnace Mysteries? Oh he's in Mexico, you say? Well a big cheer for him.
We'll call his son...his son is in Toronto...but his son puts me thro' all that an amateur can do to revamp the system, to no avail...
So a service man from the firm was despatched, and we now "gat heat," like King David...and the service man also showed me another mysterious magical switch which I can "try" if this should happen again.
St. Nicholas is coming tomorrow at the end of the service: I have chocolate money and chocolate "lumps of coal" and so forth for him to distribute amongst the young and not-so. Now to store them in a mouse-proof place...

And I've written a very, very simple sermon on making a highway for God = repentance.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The True North Strong and Free...

...and alas,Largely Misinformed.

We are having us some Constitutional Crisis, here in Canada, and unfortunately the Average Voter is very much in evidence.

When the Rambler was a little girl in school (about the time the ink dried on Magna Charta), there was an overall theme to the way national and (gasp!) imperial history were taught. The idea, the theory, the myth, that is "the lie which it is useful for the people to believe," was that the march of British constitutional history was one long, continuous, cumulative triumph for the ordinary citizen in the struggle not only to overcome specific tyrants but also to make tyranny itself, whether by despots or by mobs incited by demagoguery, less and less possible. Hence splendid developments like habeas corpus, and the secret ballot, and universal suffrage irrespective of property qualifications, and a bi-cameral legislature, and so on and so forth. As such things go, it was a benign and hopeful and inspiring kind of national mythology.

And it came with a prudential dimension also -- that governments inevitably were tempted toward tyranny, and must be kept wisely and firmly in check by responsible opposition, and by constitutional mechanisms for removing them from office when they ceased to enjoy the formal "confidence" of the people's elected representatives.

Whatever else the level of public discourse reveals this week -- it is sadly evident that the thread of that narrative has been lost...and nothing of equal, or any, value has replaced it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

new book, new book

Just received Janet Martin Soskice's new book The Kindness of God -- I've only read a few pages but I scanned the bibliography and the index and "this one's a gooder," I can tell.

Doesn't it make you go "mmmHMMMMM" when you find an author has been reading what you've been reading? I felt that way about Mike Yaconelli; our approaches to ministry could hardly have been more different, but I felt instinctively he was trustworthy.

Long lunch with a colleague yesterday fretting over the sense of isolation and exile and, frankly, peril amongst a perceived plurality of colleagues of very different outlook, temperament, theology, rhetoric (and generation, which isn't incidental either).

And for this difficulty, I pointed out, Divine Providence has furnished us with the RevGals. I'll persuade her yet!

In a similar fashion, someone -- I think it was Karl Rahner -- pointed out that for Christians for whom it is always, innately, winter in the heart, God in his infinite mercy has furnished TEXT...praise Him!

One of our assistants, during a discussion on factions amongst the clergy (yes! in the church! shock! horror! I know, I know), commented wisely that amongst all the polarities that fragment us -- in theology, in spirituality, in agenda, in ambition -- there is another "yes/no" categorization that cuts across all the others. There are fellow-clergy we'd be glad to see at our deathbed, and there are those we'd be, well, less glad to see. I thought that put matters into a healthy perspective.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent ruminations...

New season, new church year, new month...same old heaps of paper in the office, though!

I was watching one of the innumerable instalments of Monarchy on PBS the other night, and reflecting that Her Majesty toils through just such heaps of paper every blessed day of her life, and then it hit me...

SHE, as we all know, receives her papers in the notorious Red Baize Boxes (or are they leather?).

Plainly this is all that has stood between me and perfect efficiency, all these years: a lack, actually a Total Dearth, of Red Baize Boxes.

HAD WE BUT THOUGHT to provide them, when I was ordained, the whole ministry-thing would and must have turned out very differently. And better.

In the meantime, we celebrated Advent Sunday yesterday here at Most Holy and Undivided; our friends from the High and Lifted Up and Fill-ed With Smoke parish downtown were present in large numbers, making this our "second annual" get-together for this service. All sang lustily, and there was a fine sufficiency of good things to eat and drink afterward. Gemuetlichkeit ensued.

We sang all the old Advent warhorse hymns, including one of the few things Anglicans mercifully salvaged from the bygone Red Hymn Book of loathed memory -- "There's a Voice in the Wilderness Crying," to the Hugh Bancroft tune. I've looked in vain for a youtube link to share with you.

Back to the paper-heaps.

P.S. OK, to clarify, "baize" is a coarse woollen cloth rather like felt or "poker cloth": or what is sometimes called "Melton cloth" which is an old-fashioned kind of thick woollen version of what we now call "fleece." Maybe the red boxes are leather-covered after all. I am open to correction on this!

P.P.S. Then again, they may be blue. Can't count on nuffin' these days.