Wednesday, December 23, 2009

greetings all around

Merry Christmas, all, may your liturgies flow seamlessly to their conclusion, may your hearts be light and your parishes at peace!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Dear all, in haste between services, but I confronted a typo on Friday that I had honestly never seen before (having become INURED to "the Herald Angles" et al., right?) -- this was a splendid new hymn title: "Whole Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night"

Don't be messin' me up with no fragmentary shepherds, there, friends.

Wholeness to all you shepherds out there, this week and always.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Temperatures hereabouts rose today to a balmy -17 C, it felt WONDERFUL.
Sunday and Monday, however, were something else again. Saturday was quite cold -- I took the bus to work, caught a ride home with Wonder Assistant...
And Sunday...I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and looked out on a street full of thick, still, fog. Arctic fog. Polar fog.
I set the thermometer out in the mail-box on the front porch and checked it 15 minutes later. It's the dial type, so not desperately accurate, but the needle was sitting against the pin below the lowest number, which is -40 (the point where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales coincide)- I feel fairly confident that it was at least "fifty below..." given that there was ICE on the inside of the windows half the height of the panes. Ice on the inside of the front door, ice on the lock, ice on the screws that attach the knocker...
I went out and tried to start the car. Gallant noises from under the hood; but no "catch." Came in again, called a cab company and ordered a car for 7 a.m. Got ready for work. Cab arrived about 7:20, not bad, and took me swiftly and warmly to the church.
Where, in the fullness of time, we baptized two adults and four babies, giving Wonder Curate his first hands-on experience. He did well with the adults, with whom he had the primary pastoral contact...and was charmingly awkward with the baby he baptized. He was all genned up on the "football hold"--in theory--but had not been prepared for what to do when the parents, um, "fumble the snap" as it were. (No, he didn't drop her, but he wound up with her head in the crook of his elbow...when his own wee one arrives in January, he'll have lots of practice in swapping little people end-for-end, we know.
Despite the ridiculously savage cold -- Prairie Metropolis was, allegedly, the coldest place in North America on Sunday -- we had a church FULL, and happy with it. Much joy. Pretty cake at the coffee-hour and they saved me a corner piece!
A ride home with offspring (offspring whose cars live in a heated garage, pshaw, I say).
Contemplated the plugging in of Harriet's block-heater. It occurred to me that three short blue extension cords end to end do not, probably constitute the most efficient method of transferring electric energy. Especially when at various times I've driven away dragging at least one of those blue cords -- with the result that its three prongs are all skewed...hard to get good contact that way.
SOOO... rationalized the arrangement of extensions cords and apparently achieved contact, because on Monday, oh hallelujah bananas, the car STARTED for me on the first try. (Granted, the weather had warmed just a bit as well.)
And I took advantage of mobility to get myself a new, dedicated, block-heater extension cord...which fits snugly to its connections at both ends. All is well.
And of such small beer is my life composed.
Ecumenical planning sessions...packing up office...Christmas communications...and other things, many of them pleasant!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

O Lord, lettest thou thy servant start her CAR, and her mouth shall show forth thy praise -- also great clouds of vapour.

Minus Thirty C this morning, friends, something colder than twenty-below F...great clouds of exhaust-mist in the streets and ice on the inside of the windows at home extending several inches above the sill.

To these expedients in measurement are we driven, after the windstorms of last fall blew the thermometer off the side of the house. (Getting into Al Sleet territory here, I figure -- you remember the "hippy-dippy weather man," God rest him?)

However, Harriet the Echo started after minimal preliminary groaning (mem to self, replace extension cords for plugging in block heater) and we are HERE at MH & U awaiting baptismal candidates for rehearsal at noon. Baptisms tomorrow, huzza!

Wonder Secketry very busy this week with Christmas prep and seasonal prep and the purchase of a new vehicle, the timing belt having "gone" on her car this week, and not quietly either, apparently in its death throes it flailed the snot out of the rest of the "works" -- I use these technical terms for the automotive engineers out there.

Dropped in on a dermatologist yesterday VERY early, oh-dark-thirty, to receive good news that the "place on my face" isn't anything and isn't going to be anything, but we'll just have it off anyway, a little liquid nitrogen clears us of this deed, so to I have a temporary and totally painless blister.

Which may preclude the determination of the Wardens to have a valedictory photograph taken (for the Wall of Rectors) before I depart at the end of the month...

And with the mercury where it is...I reach into the other end of the coat-closet for my Mom's mink coat, PETA be damned. My father loved my mother very much for over 70 years, and my mother did not want me to be cold in the winter of my years, and that, to my mind, is justification sufficient for this politically incorrect wardrobe choice.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

feline helpfulness...

Today, this is the only image that does justice to my state of mind...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nope, hasn't happened here yet!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


EXACTLY as pictured!!!
When I came into MH & U this morning, I found on my computer a little Iso-Flex hand-exercising ball-thing--you know, like a small balloon filled with wee beads or sand or something--as recommended by my Dr. for the arthritic thumbs..

And with it a note, as follows: "Use it wisely, use it well; target carefully, & throw like hell".

Sometimes one does feel quite, quite loved.

blessedness is...

Doctor's appointment yesterday morning. The clock-radio came on just in time to tell me all about troop build-up in Afghanistan. I shut it off and went back to sleep and slept in until 2 minutes, 2 actual minutes, before I was due in the Doctor's office. She was running later than I was, so it wasn't critical. Summation of Doctor's assessment, I'm wonderfully healthy for the shape I'm in.

I also confirmed that Taize chants repeated under one's breath are more than equal to George, the auto-blood-pressure-reading-mechanism...

Went home with my medical paperwork in hand to elevate caffeine level, just in time to take phone call from opera-going friend with a most happy message: "I have two tickets for Emanuel Ax. Tonight. At Colourful University. Are you on?"

I'd seen the concert notice in the paper, thought wistfully, "Pretty snazzy concert, there, for Prairie Metropolis and one of the smaller venues...sigh" -- so I was definitely on.

He played Chopin, Schumann, and more Chopin. Plainly, it is time for the Rambler to know more and hear more Schumann (a blank spot in the collection till now).

Oh my goodness gracious. I think three times, maybe, in my life, I've been carried away by a live musical performance...once when a young clarinetist played Mozart for the University Women's Club after their annual banquet (and the wine may have had something to do with that); once when Leonard Rose played the Richard Strauss' Don Quixote Suite with Prairie Metropolis Symphony; and once, last night.

Reflecting this morning on the power of music to "decentre the self," as they say.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday again

...and potentially the Productive Day of the Week.

Marathon Vestry meeting last night -- 3 hours and 45 minutes -- which is a brutal absurdity, but the good news is that nobody shouted or pounded on the table or got up and went home mad. Or wept, or insulted anybody else. Just a LOT of stuff to get through, including a conundrum about supplementary funding for our African family which seemed to become ever more convoluted as we went on.

Also the budget in draft form for 2010, which had to do, in part, with lines for stipends for Wonder Curate, and Theoretical Interim Person, and New Rector. When we got to the budget, therefore, Wonder Curate and I rose up and adjourned (or maybe prorogued) into my office, out of earshot. And drank sherry in an impeccably Anglican manner.

After while they called us back. And we ground on towards adjournment.

Slept soundly, after finally getting home; up this morning and to a meeting for WOP4CU ("Week of Prayer for Christian Unity")with barely a quorum of other ecumaniacs ("Let's ask the Society of Friends representative to lead us in silence"); then flew past the diocesan office and dropped off my Official "I'm so outa here" Letter. But did not escape before being accosted by Diocesan Treasurer with the glad cry, "It'll be all right." There are few things I would rather hear from the Diocesan Treasurer, than "It'll be all right" -- even if I have no idea what "it" is. The "it" in this case is a project to do a bit of ecumenical and international travel in January, and to listen to Notable Persons at the destination point. Very exciting: details anon.

Back to MH & U for a meeting with the newly selected editor of the Parish Clarion (newsletter) and to review his ideas for the initial issue under his leadership, NOT a Christmas issue but a New Year and New Beginnings issue. Sounds very exciting.

On the phone...with this one and that one.

We did Lessons and Carols on Sunday night with our High and Smoky friends from downtown. It was sumptuous, as was the potluck supper that ensued. Although for anybody with a phobia about meatballs, the supper would have been a bit of a shock. I think there were eight varieties of meatballs on the buffet. (Little Old Lady: "I think I'll just have one of each...").

It has cooled off here, temperature oscillating back and forth across the frost line which keeps the streets and sidewalks INTERESTING.

back to filling out baptismal information forms. I think we may have at least another half-dozen candidates on the 13th. Happiness is.

Instructed Eucharist on the 6th, so no sermon...

Endless paperwork...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

hearing things...

Sitting in the office yesterday and office is an architectural Swiss cheese: a door into the chancel (actually to the East of the altar rail, affording a secured route for the offering plates and for the unconsumed Sacrament, at appropriate moments) -- a door into the General Office, habitat of Wonder Secketry and various gadgets and debris as best depicted by the immortal Dave Walker, passim; and a door into a kind of Miscellaneous Lobby/Vestibule containing storage cabinets, a wardrobe for vestments, and a giant cupboard known unaffectionately as "Queequeeg's Coffin" which holds the off-season dossal curtains and un-fold-able altar frontals etc. So people can run in and out of the rector's space fairly freely. And whatever is happening in the western two-thirds of the building is audible here also.

So I was listening. And I thought: "The people of God are about their work." The Practising Pianist was hard at it on the grand piano in the nave. She has added something new to her repertoire, and I was hearing the first tentative run-through of some ragtime... And the Old Guys That Fix Stuff were hard at it in the back entry, which is one or two or three storeys tall depending on where you stand. They were painting. This involved building some splendid home-made scaffolding, and lashing it enthusiastically to various comparatively fixed points in the structure of the building. The space has been a dismal institutional yellow as long as I've been here -- the upper reaches sooty and the lower parts grimy -- it is about to be a beautiful clean cream colour (at least temporarily!). And they were hooraw-ing and arguing with each other loudly and with great good humour. TBTG, nobody has fallen off any of the ladders, OR off the scaffolding.

A happy and comfortable moment.

Monday, November 23, 2009

back again

Sorry for the long-ish silence. It has been busy hereabouts, I have been busy, and struggling a bit with what I suspect is arthritis (possibly tendonitis) first in one hand and now in both. Thumbs. chiefly. Really simple-stupid things like buttoning up buttons have become, in every sense, a pain.

A reminder of a pastoral observation, though: that sometimes the best thing we can do pastorally is to hurt, and say so. It is amazing the number of arthritic thumbs this parish holds. And every single proprietor has advice and help to offer. Medications have been recommended, exercises have been demonstrated, and yesterday after the second service a parishioner bolted into my office and barked, "hold out your hand" -- when I did, she installed a most nifty little thumb/wrist brace, velcro'd me into it,l and said: "There! My doctor gave me this. I found I have a second one, so you keep this one, it is great when you go to bed, it holds your thumb in a comfy position all night."

Nothing left to say but, "Thank you, ma'am!" (not quite as pictured, but close)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


As Chorus pointed out in her comment on my last posting, we have indeed had very good poets on the strength here at MH & U -- good by any measure including the awarding of Major National Kudos (think: National Book Award equivalents). And we have had others -- writers of hymns, notably -- whose work is part of our treasure.

But what this group has in common is what distinguishes them from the baneful tribe -- they don't foist their efforts upon the Rector, but instead are markedly diffident about what they've composed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the ultimate bane

I am distressed by the number of blogging friends who seem in the last recent while to have come to the parting of the ways with their parishes -- and not on friendly or peaceful terms, either. It is most sad. Also irritating--and stimulates my desire to "get mediaeval" on the parishes in question (I stumble about the office muttering, "burn that sucker DOWN... and sow it with SALT... and commit a NUISANCE in the ashes..." -- not really the Great Tradition in pastoral spirituality; but so it is).

In the last twenty-four hours, however, I have come on the total, ultimate, retaliatory curse upon recalcitrant, stiff-necked, hard-hearted, ungrateful, acting-out, terminally stupid parishes.

and it is this--this, friends, will make them rue the day they were born.


Now we've had a couple of innocuous specimens at MH & U over the years -- many of them very elderly, so that one can apply the Nonagenarian Factor to evaluations of their efforts; "Well, Gladys is SUCH a sweetheart, and SO brave, what with the arthritis and the yaws and really is lovely of her to write us yet another poem about the dear Queen, isn't it?"

But I've run head-on into a far more virulent embodiment (rather like running into the edge of an open closet-door in the dark)...

The only comparable work I can refer you to would be the poetry of Emmeline Grangerford in Huckleberry Finn. Or, if you must have your "Canadian content" -- the oeuvre of the immortal Sarah Binks, Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan.

Examples will follow. From the Binksiana. Stay tuned.

And may your parishes, if they love you, be safe from poets.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Monday morning at the old pop-stand.
The cleaning crew making at least token motions with vacuum cleaners and so forth. Our cleaning crew is a family business and I think it's the third generation at work this morning. If anything -- I fear -- they have even less ability to see that vacuuming must include the corners of the room than their "ancestors" possess.
However as regards decibel-output -- they're highly productive.

Which is somewhat rough on our daily piano-practising guest, working away at her recital pieces on the grand piano in the nave.

So far I have not found the rhetoric which will convey to the wielders of vacuum cleaners that they cannot actually vacuum around the feet of the person practising the piano. ("But all she's doing, is playing the piano for heaven's sake")

We "remembered" yesterday morning in good order with our usual guest trumpeter -- and the lists of names -- and a suitable display of poppies...

Wonder Curate preached and did very well.

We have had our first 'flu' fatality in the parish -- a young man who died very suddenly of complications, while travelling out of province.

I think we've moved into the saying-goodbyes phase of the retirement process here and in the Deanery. Clericus met here last Wednesday and my colleagues have given me a most sumptuous book -- Sibley's guide to bird life and behaviour -- not a field guide but a wonderful armchair supplement to the field guides.

we have a new phone system and a new photocopier and I don't know how to operate all of them...although I think they told me that if I were to phone the church and push the right buttons the phone and photocopier between them would sort my laundry, plan my menus, and presumably write my sermons's all a matter of the right buttons.

The weather continues mild enough. I bought four new snow tires, on their own rims, at the end of October during a brief spell of snowy days. The snow all melted and now that I have the appropriate tires, it probably won't snow again until February. NOT THAT I MIND.

My work/sleep patterns are all to heck, so today for an experiment I got out of bed immediately upon awaking (5 a.m. approximately)and dealt with the mess in the kitchen and cleared a lot of stationery and correspondence of the dining-room table, removed the extra 'leaves'-- ran the dishwasher and a couple of loads of laundry, amalgamated and eliminated some clutter. (I'll probably topple over in a coma about 2 p.m.)

Tonight is the annual Bishop's Dinner so I need to schedule scooting home and donning festive raiment in the late afternoon.

I am thinking about our day-to-day practical ecclesiology...and may have something to blog later on this week.

We had a Marriage Preparation session this weekend -- I harangued the clientele on Friday evening on the parameters of their roles as worship leaders at their weddings -- and led a "workshop" Saturday afternoon on "spiritual issues" which is a very miscellaneous category. But energy was up and it went well; I can tell, when the participants lean over and pat me gently as they take their leave. It's most endearing. I'll miss it very much...

Am thinking that it may be time to foment a diocese-wide gathering of the parish knitters' groups... :-D.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Back in the office... after about 10 days out.

I headed out to the immunization clinic on the a "seasonal flu" shot in one arm and a life-time's worth of pneumonia immunization in the other, and figured I might defy augury...

That was Tuesday. Wednesday I drove to Outlying Community where I'll take up honorary post-retirement duties in January -- about 50 km. one way (30 miles). Had a good chat with the Incumbent there, including fine fish-n-chip lunch, and a drop-in at the Yarn Shop (woot!)--but oh, on the drive home I could NOT get warm again.

And I thought, "Well, drat; this is undoubtedly flu of some sort." Coffee with Youthful Colleague turned into supper with YC, of which I think I ate six bites before giving up and going home.

I was still amid what I was counting as a week's holiday time...but by Thursday I decided that I was going to extend that period. Wonder Curate dealt mightily with the events of the weekend and early week, including absence of Wonder Secketry, also with flu...

He is having some down time now...and although still coughing annoyingly, I am back, as is Wonder Secketry.

The rummage crew seem to have organized themselves all week without benefit of Rectorial Soop for once. The Visiting Archbishop came, preached, was lunched, and flew away again. This is all most consoling.

Time for me to creep back to Tether's End and more nugatory television...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

catchings up

We have celebrated Thanksgiving in fine style here at MH & U, winding up on Monday night with another -- probably the last -- of the Rambler's holiday dinners. Each has begun with an announcement in church a few weeks beforehand: "Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter is coming, and ... I HAVE A TURKEY" (OK, it doesn't resonate like "I have a dream," but I work with what I have, okay?)

Started this several years back when I DID have a big old turkey in the bottom of the freezer, going wobble wobble to and fro the way they do...and I thought perhaps I might draw, oh, a half-dozen waifs'n'strays to help eat it if I fetched it to the church on the holiday Monday and cooked it. The first thing that happened was that a senior member caught me at the door and whispered, "buy another one, you're going to have 45 people, trust me"...and every time we have had in fact about 40 guests. So it is two turkeys and a ham; the turkeys in the ovens downstairs (big old Garland gas range with 10 burners atop, JOY UNCONFINED); the ham in the oven of the house-sized electric range in the upstairs kitchen. And the Rambler trots to and fro, basting, until parishioners and friends and, indeed, waifs'n'strays, totter in, late afternoon, and bring potatoes and turnips and yams and salad and cornbread and PIE, Lord have mercy!

In the midst of the preparation on Monday evening, I took time to "just set" with the chief of the parish's Old Guys That Fix Stuff. The piano tuner had been in the week before, exclaiming again over the "niceness" of the Big Black Yamaha grand in the nave...the gift of Chief Fiser and his wife. So I thought perhaps I should pass along this good word, as Chief Fixer was looking rather worn. He has asbestosis, and it doesn't improve, and of late he's been on his portable oxygen continuously.

So I reported the piano tuner's compliment.
"Well, I think it's where it IS that makes it so nice."
And I couldn't resist...because this man is one of those who isn't just wild
enthusiastic about the sanctuary I said, "Do you mean, the lovely rosy glow cast over it by the sanctuary lamp?" to which HE says, "OH Don't you start up with me, about the sanctuary lamp!!!"

and then, after a pause -- "Mind you... it looks just fine. We were at the cathedral the other night for the ordination, eh, and I looked at theirs. And I though 'HUH -- ours is lots nicer!'"

And then we laughed. Some moments are just heaven.

And the turkeys were good and Knitting Lady's retired surgeon husband carved them to a fare-thee-well, and the ham was a thing of beauty too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

prayers, please, dear friends

for the Wonder Curate, newly priested, celebrating his first Masses this morning!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

episkope and other matters

Reflecting on the picture of His Grace in my last post (dear me, that sounds quite military and sad, doesn't it)...I remember my very first encounter with things Anglican, indeed with the episcopate in any form.

It was sixty years ago this past summer (merciful Heaven...the Rambler goes into Ancient Mariner mode here for a bit) "in a galaxy far, far away" -- well, no, but it was in the Yukon Territory, at a place called Carmacks, on the Yukon River. There was a coal mine at Carmacks, and my father managed it.

Along about midsummer, visitors arrived, by boat -- an "outboard" -- and stayed for lunch and for an afternoon's visit: the Anglican Bishop of the Yukon and his curate, the Rev. Randall Stringer (son of the Rt. Rev. Isaac O Stringer, "the Bishop who ate his boots." You could look it up). My Dad and Randall had known each other growing up in Dawson City, and they and my mother had a lively conversation around the table after lunch. But Bishop Adams sat down on the floor with me. We didn't play tea-party; but I had some plasticine, and he made me an entirely charming pig complete with curly tail.

I checked the Diocese of Yukon website just now -- he was a man of 70 when I met him. Visiting his diocese, in an open boat on a not-altogether-tame river through the wilderness...stopping wherever he encountered a human being...and taking the time to play with a little girl.

Yes, I think that's leadership.

(And as my friends say at this point: "And then, you became ordained.")

Busy times at MH & U -- baptisms and confirmations scheduled for October 18th beting St. Luke, and parish anniversary, and the Rambler's 13th anniversary of ordination; we have young adult, middle-aged, and senior candidates for both sacraments as well as adolescents and infants.

And I have three major pieces of writing on my plate today along with Clericus, hospital communion service, wedding interview, and spiritual journalling meeting. Whee! More coffee is called for!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Because nobody should live a minute longer without seeing this...

The very best picture EVER of +++Rowan, upon whom be peace!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sunday comin'...

And with the help and encouragement of friends in the blog-i-verse, I'm going to do St. Francis for the children's talk and (gulp) the Gospel for the sermon...on the grounds, much reiterated by different folks, that it really isn't responsible to have that Hard Word read aloud and then just leave it unbroken.

I'm leaning very hard on William Willimon's sermon treatment here and a hat-tip and profound reverence to the Vicar of Hogsmeade for the link!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the unending search...

...goes on, for a daily routine that will get the work done and accommodate the odd gratifying moments and minor self-indulgences and still allow for sufficient sleep and a modicum of hygiene!

I cannot watch Hoarders on A & E -- too doggone close to the bone, that one. Shades of the Collyer brothers. I have been threatened with their fate since I was yay-high...

Was informed this afternoon that Fabulous Honorary Assistant has been seconded by the Lady in the Pointed Hat to attend to rural parish, three Sundays out of four. I wish merely to observe, in the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson, that "bishops is all swabs." Do not attempt to exegete that remark unless you have recently read or re-read Treasure Island!

Fabulous Assistant Curate, our very own "herring of God" (thank you, Kathryn), is away to his ordination retreat this afternoon...bless his heart.

And what, oh what, am I going to do for a Children's Focus with that dog's breakfast of readings next Sunday? (Speak up, don't be shy...)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

and away we go...

David Adams Richards

A radical change in the weather, and I can't even tell you how cold it was this morning because the wind yesterday blew the thermometer off the side of the house -- no lie!

We lost a few substantial branches and a lot of twiggery from the eight or nine full-sized poplars at the Rambler's Rest aka Tether's End...but none of the dendrology came into our house or anyone else's house, TBTG.

I sometimes say I don't actually have a "yard" as such -- I have a vase full of poplars...and I love them, rather more than my neighbours do, alas, even when I encourage them to enjoy all the lovely FREE oxygen pouring over the fences all night long.

Good things happening today at MH & U -- Knit Wits in the Upper Hall, sorting donated yarn and winding it into manageable balls...Husband Units cruising about with younger helpers, unplugging plumbing, and joshing each other non-stop; IT Guy working up a diocesan-wide approach to computer service; and so we mark St. Michael and All the Manifest Flyin' What-nots.

Went downtown to "The Big'Un" under the impression that -- fifth Tuesday and all -- I was on duty for the noon Eucharist. No noon Eucharist -- "not even on a Holy Day?" I allowed myself that much querulousness. So I had a lovely chat with a young friend and then betook myself to downtown lunch (having put eight bucks into the parking machine) which turned out to be delicious and so copious it's going to be supper too.

And tonight is our last session of Thought of Rowan Williams... "THE ISSUE" or as my kids say, "ISSSSSS-sue"...meantime I've received Tokens of Trust and Wrestling with Angels in the mail -- so could start over with another course immediately!

Also finished reading God Is by David Adams Richards. A quirky, deeply felt, ineloquent but compelling, not-at-all-edited polemic against the New Atheism. Man has listened to a lot of cheap'n'cheesy guff in faculty lounges on campuses hither and yon, I can tell you. And he's ALSO a reader of Dostoevsky.

Friday, September 25, 2009

the status quo

At this point in the Rambler's world...

...the new Sanctuary Lamp has battled through new-candle colic and is burning brightly and cleanly and redly above the altar. Happiness all around.

...visiting music student is moving into her fifth consecutive hour of intensive piano practice just next door in the nave. I don't recognize most of what she's working on, but I think Scarlatti went by a little while ago.

...survived a gathering of the ordained earlier this week without getting myself arrested. Thank goodness for knitting. And for a perception that not all the worst of the nonsense was going by altogether unchallenged -- huzza!

,,,weather has been unseasonably warm for the last week and we are still in sandals sans panty-hose, oh double huzza!!! week will wrap up double-ended short course on the theology of +++Rowan -- we've looked at his theology of peace, of childhood and adulthood, his engagement with Russian Orthodox theologians and Dostoevsky, and next Tuesday/Wednesday -- "The Issue" (ominous chords, offstage). The +++ABC website has been a treasure. And, having heedlessly given away my copy of Charles Hefling's anthology Ourselves, Our Souls and Bodies, I was luckily able to find a website with a good printable text of the essay "The Body's Grace." This course is a shared project with a young ordained woman serving as chaplain at Colourful U -- and holding the fort in a badly disheveled but gallant parish on the edge of campus. We are having a good time with our project -- we do an evening session at Most Holy and Undivided, and repeat the session the next morning at St. Theophrastus.

...reflecting with friends that the civic myth of the self-evident truth, political or philosophical, may not be the very best foundation ever for theological debate... just sayin'.

...and our friend Lucy is out of ICU and about to begin very extensive rehab...thank you for all your kind prayers.

...went to an academic oversight group meeting this morning -- well, for all morning and the beginning of the afternoon. Despite years of conscientious therapy and Personal Work, the Rambler continues to exhibit a degree of Personal Rigidity and this group -- it meets quarterly -- is not a happy habitat for that...The kind of group characterized by Implacable Tolerance and Inclusivity, you know? So there is some tooth-grinding and interior mutters of "Here I am stuck on the floating island of Laputa, and where o where is Jonathan Swift when I really need him???"
But happily there were identifiable persons present who weren't thrilled with the Amiable Fluff either. One of whom, a new acquaintance, fetched his tuna-fish sandwich and couscous salad over to the Rambler's corner of the table at lunch time. And we found a comforting number of shared opinions.

...the problem of automotive drabness seems to be abating, or maybe I'm noticing more. But there seem to be a lot more genuine blue vehicles about -- and even a fair range of greens -- not all "Look-Mom-when-I-hold-my-breath-I'm-a-Jaguar" green. Anything to push back "il grigio."

...and the Daughter Unit, against whom no amount of "il grigio" has ever prevailed, has a birthday next week...she and her spouse are -- both!!! -- Michaelmas babies. Big-time festivity this weekend.

and that is all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm glad I was there.

Came in to Most Holy & Undivided this morning with some vague notions about clean-up of various sorts..found the parking lot reasonably full (not just the usual pattern),and came in to a great buzz of voices in the chancel...

WHERE...the parishioner who has been Joe Donor Layman In Chief for the last few years was holding forth in a gentle, clear, and encouraging manner, to a rapt circle of Brass-Polishing Ladies, all focussed on the new hanging/chancel/sanctuary/presence lamp. Which he donated. Whose installation he supervised. And now he was giving them the information they needed for replacing and lighting the weekly candle. (We opted some time back NOT to have Electric Flickering...but actual flame).

And he was happy. And they were happy. And never was heard the discouraging word.

I thought..."Stand still for a minute, and watch this and listen to it. This is the kind of moment you keep hoping will happen. Now that it has...acknowledge it, and commit it to memory."

Tomorrow we dedicate the lamp and light it officially for the first time...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

remedially speaking

Well I have been working on a number of remedies for the Advanced Mully-grubs which have been afflicting me for the last week or ten days.

The sight of dapper, blue-blazered elderly gentlemen (with rows of gongs halfway to their elbows), coping with the ravages of arthritis and the like...helps. Especially when recollecting that they were very much present, though in less festal garb, on Juno Beach on the 6th of June, 1944. (Juno Beach is the one John Wayne DIDN'T liberate, in case you wondered.) The South Prairie Province Regiment Veterans were in our midst on Sunday morning, as part of their reunion weekend. They unveiled a plaque. They laid a wreath. They beamed at the preacher. It all helped.

The Rambler had said grace at the regimental dinner on Saturday night. This helped too.

What else...large unexpected donations from persons who are happy with the way their mom's memorial service was conducted. They help.

And it's no bad thing to have Baroque Trumpet as going-to-work music on the CD player in the morning, either.

Topped off with some very demanding teaching, well received, and a healthy chunk of chocolate cake at lunch time today.

Health is on the horizon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A note from last Wednesday...kind of "how it's been going, or .. not"...

My dentist has taken on a new hygienist, and I thought, this morning, that she might well kill me -- and on our first acquaintance, at that. I am used to some genteel scritchings with the pick, and then some high-speed buzzing, and then some polishing, and we part friends. But no...this morning, hook the suction tube into the corner of my mouth, and then POW with the high-speed tool, just as if she were trimming a particularly insensitive hedge...cooing patronizingly the while.


The dentist (who has been All Doll for 35 years) continues to uphold "Crown Her with Many Crowns" as his all-time favourite hymn.

The Lady in the Pointed Hat is prepared to priestificate Wonder Curate on the 4th of October, being the Feast of Francis, all day long. TBTG!

And Wonder Curate continues just that...much joy. And he has a v. sweet wyf also, who comes in and practises during the day on the pipe organ, she being already an accomplished pianist and singer.

I have been playing with this evening as a way of braining out something interactive for the confirmation class to work on, come Sunday afternoon. I am thinking of getting them to amass God-vocabulary from service books and/or hymn book, and then transform their lists into word-clouds, courtesy of wordle. Might be fun, might be stimulating.

The throwers of tantrums are in fine form also. It is disheartening to look at them and think, "You were mean and crazy when I came here, and you are mean and crazy still; and I'm by no means sure you aren't the worse for my being in your midst."

HOWEVER! Knowing, as we do, that all discouragement is of the devil always...we press on.

Friday, August 28, 2009

in brief...

...the latest news about Lucy is better than the previous bulletin, and her friends, family, physicians are cautiously hopeful.
Huge thank you's to "the preacher ladies on the Internet" for thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.
Be not weary in your welldoing, friends, we're not all the way out of the woods yet, but ... it's better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

prayers, please

Good morning friends,
If you would include Lucy and her family in your prayers this week it would be very much appreciated. And a few words on behalf of the staff at M.D. Anderson in Houston wouldn't be amiss either.
I thank you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

blessedness is...

When you are all WORE OUT after a sleepless night and a super busy morning and a strenuous wedding; and you are facing into witnessing a wedding performed by Other Persons (and therefore All Wrong), and you are all hungry and weary, and your son-in-law having dealt faithfully with Pachelbel, Bach, and Mendelssohn in service of the wedding just past....

.... appears in your office bearing a plate holding one freshly baked scone, with jam and Devonshire double cream, produced by the MH &U tearoom downstairs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

some days this is pretty much how it feels, and today is one of them...

more about books and other "stuff"...

The Rationale

Philip Slater
To own or possess is to monopolize the use of something permanently. Hence the need to possess betrays a degree of insecurity. Possession is a way of ensuring access to whatever it is we want to use or enjoy: we are so anxious that the object be there when we want it that we are willing to insist that it be there even when we don't want it. Thus we have food on our shelves when we're not hungry, clothes in our closets that we're not wearing, cars in our driveways that we aren't driving, and so on.

The rationale is that when we do want to eat, dress, or drive, we won't have to waste time looking around for the food, clothing, or transportation. This time saving is questionable, as we shall see, but it expresses the sense of urgency that lies behind the compulsion to possess.

Source: Wealth Addiction

I think this has a lot to do with "books on the shelf that I'm not reading -- but tomorrow or next day I might just want to"...

Monday, August 17, 2009

books (ever-lovin')

From time to time the DU enquires gently of me how many bookcases I have in this office.

The answer is always the same -- "about five."

"And how many of them are full?"

"Well, all of them and there are some stacked..."

"And tell me, Mom -- where are they going when you move out of the office? Cuz they're not going on the floor in cardboard boxes..."

My problem is -- that I learned to read. No, sorry. My problem is that when I want to read a book, I buy it. And then -- since hardly anyone writes just ONE book, it makes sense to see what else the author has produced, and acquire that, and then one might as well make a push for the entire oeuvre, pronounced "OOVER", and then the curatorial instinct kicks in, and the thought of the books, so painstakingly collected, being dispersed and vanishing away is sheer heartbreak.

Be that as it may, I don't have shelf space at home for the books I have at home, and I'm proposing to run 5 additional bookcases-ful, minus the bookcases, into that mess? One understands DU's concern.

I had got this far into the conundrum when I reflected that I know a considerable number of inspiringly bright young theological students... and in special particular the bright-eyed DU of former Marvellous Rector and Best Boss, now Marvellous Bishop. Said DU currently sweeping all before her in her studies and a candidate for ordination.

And the heartbreak just went away. She was here yesterday with her Mom and Dad, and went away to begin her final year of studies with a large box and two carry bags full of books.

And if it hurt at all -- the hurt was more than done away by the glee of saying, "And you'd better have THIS while you're at it..." and hearing her squeaks of "Are you serious? Really?"

I think that may well be all I have ever had in the way of gift or bring books to people and people to books.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


and hoping to see friends who were in transit thro' the vicinity today.

contemplating this ugly desk and messy office and ghastly task list.

weather is highly seasonable, for, say, mid-October. Furnace came on this morning. Fog.

Well...I'll do clean-up whilst I'm waiting, I guess. I had 72 whole hours this week when I did not enter the church -- would this be equivalent to 3 days' sobriety, perhaps?

Monday, August 10, 2009

well of course

(Not actually the Rambler's cake.)

The term I was groping for in the preceding post was, of course, TRANSFIGURATION.

As I was reminded, the day after posting.

So nice to be able to celebrate the Transfiguration on its own special day, rather than one of the other 16 occasions in the liturgical calendar where it is FOISTED upon an unresisting flock by the sinister junta who assemble our annual Order of Service.

Transfigured, that was the word. And the closest we can come to realizing it most of the time is in, however awkwardly or unbecomingly, getting "all dolled up."

No doubt I could have remembered "transfigured" if I were not so extraordinarily OLD. Yes! in fact, yesterday, I became truly and officially OLD.

I confess I am enjoying it. There was nothing about being a young woman that I would like to by some sort of law of compensation I am anticipating that being an old lady is going to be a hoot.

We enjoyed about an acre of cake after church, thanks to the offspring...and parishioners said delightfully kind things...and entered into the spirit of the occasion with excellent and thoughtful presents like SPENDABLES (books, meals, movie tickets) and Rowdy Red nail polish.

Delightful greeting on FB from a high school classmate and co-aeval, proclaiming, "Think of it, Rambler! CASH FOR LIFE!"
Preached yesterday on Jesus as bread...entertained the comment that the sermon amounted to a commentary on the Eucharist (not a criticism, an observation).
And I recalled the recent prelate of another obedience in this region whose word on preaching was something like this:

The whole purpose of the sermon is achieved if you can get the congregation on their feet and moving toward the altar rail for communion where Jesus can get at them.

I have taken such comfort in that!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

words to live by

About four years ago I encountered an organization that I'd never heard of before. At the end of the day on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul I was in the Trastevere district of Rome to attend the Evening Prayer service of the Community of Sant'Egidio, which you can read more about HERE. It was an amazing evening for a great many reasons, and I've checked into the Community website from time to time since then.

Last winter sometime I found a wonderful phrase cited as the slogan for one of the Community projects (I think it was an art show): "Abbasso il grigio!" Or, anglice, "Down with gray!"

It has stuck with me.

Not just in terms of my own feeling about the colours of cars, as I was mumbling about yesterday, but about a great many other things.

And one of those other things is liturgy.

The topic comes bubbling up in this locality, generally, when we have had a particularly ornate diocesan service such as an ordination. "Too fancy, too long, too elaborate, (occasionally, too much smoke), too much music, too many vestments..."

It's hard not to hear, in these complaints, "too beautiful" -- "not gray enough."

I recall vesting in close proximity to a colleague who expressed intense bitterness, sotto voce, at the splendour of some of the vestments. I think it was the Canons' and Archdeacons' copes that set him off specifically.

"I just hate all this fanciness and dressing up," he said, "because after all I'm just a Humble Pastor, myself."

I couldn't think of a single civil reply. What I'd have said if I could, would have been, "And what's the point of all that humility, eh, Reverend Heep, if NOBODY SEES AND ADMIRES IT???

But that might have been construed as unkind. Because it would have been.

The usual somewhat diffident defence for "fancy and beautiful" in our celebrations goes something like this, "well at least I suppose it shows people that we think the things we are doing are important." And then the special celebrations are compared, not always to their advantage, with the "humdrum everyday" realities of parish ministry -- including, I think, parish worship. In other words, "il grigio."

And I think this is a profound error. I would argue that "fancy and beautiful and complicated and impressive" is not a misrepresentation of the reality of what we do in ministry but a reminder of the reality of what we do in ministry and of what we ARE in ministry. Or of what we will be (which does not yet, as we are told, appear). Because those realities truly perceived are all splendour.

And that if I am prone to being struck dumb with awe at the sight of Archdeacon Stoopnagel's Sunday-best cope, or at the sound of the cathedral choir giving Wm. Byrd a run for his money, then that is a happy foretaste of how the good Archdeacon will look to everyone, and the cathedral choir will sound, sub specie aeternitatis. I say "Fie" (I do, too) on a professed humility which is no more than carnal envy and spiritual pride and probably acedia as well, all in sneaking and slinking mode.

So let's dial up the "hue" of what we do.

"Abbasso il grigio!" You -- possibly! -- heard it here first.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

back at my desk.

"Adelaide Hoodless" her own self.

I can't decide what to turn my hand to this morning.

Came into the office in good time and had a lengthy consult with the team of senior gentlemen now engaged in hanging the new presence lamp in the sanctuary. Preliminary efforts have resulted in the (probably inevitable) shattering of the red glass 'chimney.' No injuries, thank goodness. Thoughtful looks on all faces, and a decision to swing by the church-supply store, "and maybe actually we should pick up a COUPLE of them, just in case."

The women's auxiliary of the senior gentlemen is increasingly anxious to have this installation completed. The nightly spousal tossing and turning is getting old, they report.

Some emails, some face to face consulting with other folks, some phone calls.

Discussion with our garden-maven volunteer lady about a suitable Farewell Gift to MH & U on the part of the Rambler. We are actively considering the array of Hardy Canadian roses...a beautification and a security measure all in one, as the police never tire of telling us, "No perp can possibly lurk IN a rose-bush. CAN'T be done..."

And we have a stretch of ancient brick wall with good sun-exposure that could probably be an appropriate backdrop for a nice row of, say, the Canadian Explorer series of hardy a range of colours (see above, e.g.) other than the Lowest Common Denominator Pink that seems to prevail elsewhere.

Speaking of colours: it has seemed for some years now that cars -- at least as they are marketed hereabouts -- come in a most restricted palette: black, white, dirt, dun, and duct-tape grey. This, at length, oppresses the Rambler's spirits. So it is a pleasure to see what appears to be a general intensification of HUE...we've always had a certain amount of red, but I see more and more taxi-yellow cars, quite a lot of's not enough to keep the mind alive, granted, but it furnishes amusement at stoplights.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

and also...

...there were kingfishers...

back at it.

Back at the desk since yesterday morning...started both days, however, elsewhere, the dentist yesterday (Gold-Tooth Gertie, that's me) and this morning at the lab. Bloodwork accomplished promptly...but Dr. B was very thorough, BHH, in her requisition this time around, and I left FURNISHED with a specimen kit and elaborate instructions covering the next three days. Actually, the next six, since one can't take Vitamin C for three days beforehand or the three days during. (The diagnosis is "scurvy," you say?)

And that's ALL I want to say about that. Believe me.

Time away was lovely. Blazing hot weather, and mountains, and hot springs, and birds, and flowers, and a sufficiency of mammalia.

A great initial glee in the whole thing upon arrival at the portal of our National Mountain Wonderland. I asked for an annual pass (hang-tag, goes on the rear-view mirror).

"Yes, ma'am; tell me, are you a senior?"
"Well, in two weeks I'll be a senior."
"Thank you, ma'am, then you're a senior."

So on that splendidly logical basis I have a senior's park pass, which in turn entitled (!) me to all sorts of dizzying discounts, sometimes as much as fifty cents.

And I thought -- "I'm an OLD LADY!!! I have a government-issue hang-tag, that says so, in both official languages! Woot!!! Now let's see, what can I get away with, on this basis?"

The three "B's" suggest themselves -- Birding, Botanizing, and Badgering total strangers with pointless reminiscences...

The Birding was fun -- dozens and dozens of OSPREYS along the way. And I even watched one fishing (not catching, alas)... they jump into the water feet first like a little boy off a diving board, with a great splash, going completely out of sight. Then after emerging, on about the fourth wingbeat, they shake themselves dry in midair, like a wet dog only airborne. Just wonderful...

Also on the list a white-crowned sparrow, a hummingbird, and a three-toed woodpecker. I appreciate that to non-bird people this will not convey a great deal. But it was a kind of thrill even so.

Botanizing is made easier with a digital camera (new toy); just take a pic of that sucker and haul it back to the shelter of vehicle or motel and thumb through the flower guide until a match appears... I now feel confident I can identify Linnaea borealis as far away as I can see it. Which isn't far, it's about matchhead-sized.

When it comes to flowers'n'them, I realize -- I don't even know the language of description yet. "It has leaves, some, and a stem, and a flower, and it's red, and it's not a carnation..." but an axil? a carpal? a drupe? all terra incognita.

NEVER MIND. These things can be learned, that's the good news.

Off to photocopy the Life List from Peterson's Guide to Western Birds!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Dear all,

Deep in the moun-TAINS and having the most wonderful time.
Practising to be all OLD and everything. It's a hoot.
And I'm happy to report that the osprey population is almost excessively healthy and full of bumptious good spirits in these parts.
That is all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I've been at home now for two days, practising to be retired. So far it's lovely!
Heading out in two more sleeps for my default destination in the hot-spring zone of the neighbouring province...bearing all manner of groceries and holiday gear including a brand-new digital camera.

This is a breakthrough, folks, I started with a Baby Brownie, took 8-exposure 127 daylight film, and had no power assist of any kind... and lasted me nearly 30 years. Near the end of that time it filled in a photographic gap and actually took COLOUR pictures of Big Ol' Mountain...and the 127 had such big negatives that great, great prints resulted.

Won't be quite the same thrill with the new baby Nikon I am sure!

home to clean out the car and the coolers and get the ice packs frozen.

Y'all behave, now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eavesdropping... a feature of this office, with its three separate doors all opening into different spaces...and, frequently, people working and conversing in all three.

The parish IT Guy is working with his good buddy, not Mad Dog, another good buddy, installing CABLE as wireless internet is not all that practical given the amount of BRICK in the establishment. From time to time they give tongue, upon discovering some new eccentricity in the architecture.

Envelope Secretary comes by and gives Wonder Secketry the gears because of her use of the Rambler's lovely pink angle-arm reading lamp (from IKEA, yet)...the old ceiling fluorescents in Outer Office being v. feeble and flickery. Apparently it takes more Anglicans than we can muster at the moment, to change a light bulb, or to change THESE light bulbs.

My face is still about half-frozen, adding to the chill dignity of my demeanour no doubt. Temporary crown installed, lower left.

Briefing Wonder Curate to tackle an end-of-life pastoral situation rapidly approaching... as I am about to betake myself into the pointy bits of Adjacent Province for about a week.

Time to do another small binge of clean-up, here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Found again...

...after it had been tucked away in an old journal for about fifteen years...I first read it when I was just getting started in ministry. It holds up well!
Stepping Westward

What is green in me
darkens, muscadine.
If woman is inconstant,
good, I am faithful to
ebb and flow, I fall
in season and now
is a time of ripening.
If her part
is to be true,
a north star,
good, I hold steady
in the black sky
and vanish by day,
yet burn there
in blue or above
quilts of cloud.
There is no savor
more sweet, more salt
than to be glad to be
what, woman,
and who, myself,
I am, a shadow
that grows longer as the sun
moves, drawn out
on a thread of wonder.
If I bear burdens
they begin to be remembered
as gifts, goods, a basket
of bread that hurts
my shoulders but closes me
in fragrance. I can
eat as I go.

Denise Levertov

Thursday, July 9, 2009

a propos of this week's events in Prairie Metropolis, and elsewhere...

Oh, the glamor, and the clamor that attends the affairs of state
tend to fascinate the rabble and impress some folks as great.
But the truth about the matter in terms of loss and gain,
there ain't one inauguration worth a good, slow, two inch rain.
-Carlos Ashley
1904 - 1993

"Inaugurations" being in the same list with the pompes funebres of over-publicized popular entertainers...and the liturgical faux pas of elected officials...and you can fill in your own list, I think.

A tip of the Rambler-Hat to the Fraternal Unit for the quotation!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

in which the Rambler rejoices some more....


Nice steady pounding.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Signs of the Apocalypse...

So you know the feeling that NOW you've at last seen everything? And what a fleeting state that is.

Departing from the premises of Most Holy & Undivided on a recent late Saturday afternoon...I observed a wedding party, bride, groom, parents, attendants, the entire catastrophe, cheerfully having their wedding photos taken.

ON the premises of MH & U. Where they had NOT been married, and to which they were Complete and Total Strangers...

Could not figure out how to smite them hip and/or thigh with mildew and blasting as per the prophet -- without Spoiling the Poor Girl's Wedding, which one would rather not do... so drove away. Did not even drive over the bride's father's foot, which was in the driveway and therefore Fair Game.

but did you EVER?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

in which the Rambler experiences disproportionate elation...

Things that produce euphoria (this week, anyhow):

1. Cathedral staff who address the parochial clergy (on first acquaintance), as
"Hon" -- "Hi, Hon, are you here to do the noon Eucharist?"
2. Bright sun after hard rain...
3. Parish knitters chowing down on year-end lunch -- roast beef, baked ham, and all the farm style go-withs -- prepared by "Fabric Committee" aka Old Guys That Fix Stuff...
4. Long walks with fellow clergy and amiable canines.
5. Beautiful new T-shirt logo'ed "MH & U Knit Wits"...
6. Second-hand compliments
7. Second-hand compliments to other family members: "Hey, I didn't know he was your brother!!! What an awesome teacher!!!"
8. Breakfast with old friends.
9. Flags and fireworks...
10. Beethoven piano sonatas as drive-to-work music -- just me and Alfred Brendel, woot woot.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

in which the Rambler opens the carton of blue bags...

I figure if I fill one of those big blue recycle bags with paper and so forth every day of the week from now on... I should be about able to walk out of the door on R-Day and hand back the keys without, as they say, a backward glance...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


the project this morning is to find a parishioner...not just any parishioner, you understand, but Mrs. N.
Mrs. N is a widow. She is all but completely blind. She has no siblings, and only one child who lives in another country.
On the weekend she suffered a fall in her assisted-living seniors' residence. She MAY have fallen as a result of a mild stroke.
Or, of course, vice versa.
Her two most attached friend-households were both out of province at the time. One of them was reached by phone and persuaded her to let herself be taken to hospital.
We know which one.
We are told that she was discharged from the hospital.
We are told that she has not returned to her apartment.
We have no idea whether she was transferred to an auxiliary facility (this is our fervent hope); or whether she was simply ushered out of the primary-care hospital without follow-up.
Getting this simple piece of information, "What have you done with Mrs. N?" is unbelievably obstructed by a piece of legislation, referred to unlovingly as FOIPP.
(which stands for "Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy")
The institutional cry becomes, "we can't tell you that because of FOIPP." One of the things that "they" can't tell is whether a patient has been transferred to another facility, and if so, which one. No, no. That would be a breach of FOIPP.
So this morning I shall commence calling all the auxiliary-care hospitals I can think of, enquiring, "do you have Mrs. N there, by chance?"
The rationale for FOIPP is personal protection. It doesn't work that way.

***Late Breaking News~ FOUND HER, FOUND HER, FOUND HER. TBTG. Still at the acute-care hospital where she was first taken.

Sometimes the problem is FOIPP.
And sometimes the problem is D.U.M.B.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


...struggling with creeping disorder in my life...

My sleep pattern is seriously out of whack, and I realize that I've carefully conditioned myself in some unhealthy ways: for example, getting home is the signal to collapse onto the couch and abandon useful activity for an indefinite period. Not good for energy levels, digestion, or mental health generally.

However I did attend to some overdue domestic details this week, getting caught up on laundry a was high time ("high" in whatever sense you choose to take it).

I found a cache of damp items in the bathroom hamper which had developed a fine colony of mildew. Good news, folks, chlorine bleach still works. The tricky part was finding a "venue" for soaking that wouldn't be accessible to Nefertiti the Terror of the Plains. I didn't fancy coming home to a black-and-white cat...

Finally I found a sufficiently large plastic bucket, and filled it with dilute bleach and the blighted items of laundry, shut the whole project in the bathtub/shower enclosure with shower doors closed and bathroom door closed.

The cat didn't get into the bleach, the laundry came up white without just falling apart, and life rolls on.

Need to find some way to con myself into doing some yardwork, the abode looks like "a widda-woman's place" -- and you will have to imagine the infinite scorn my grandmother could put into THAT phrase!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

since you asked me...

"was the Princess NICE?"

Yes, she was. The little girl she is greeting here has profound hearing challenges; she is one of an African family sponsored by Most Holy and Undivided.

Monday, June 8, 2009

and upon reflection...

Well, it was quite a Sunday. I'm not sure we've ever revved ourselves up to quite the same pitch of excitement in the time I have been here.

Sunday of course was preceded by Saturday -- and even Friday -- Friday was the wedding rehearsal, and Saturday the wedding...half an hour before "Dearly beloved" a wedding guest accosted me, "Excuse me, I don't know if you know, but the ladies' washroom is flooding..."

This would be the ladies' washroom renovated with infinite pains in the preceding weeks...and it had flooded in such good earnest as to flood the OTHER ladies' washroom on the floor just below, gravity being what it is, still.

And also considerable acreage of floor space on both levels.

Turn off little twiddly valve, and yell for help.

Parishioners rushed in from the garden, snatched off their shoes, rolled up their trousers like bit-players in "The Good Earth," and mopped, and mopped, and mopped, and was just aitch-too-oh, not sewage, thanks be to God. And nobody the wiser, come Sunday.

Sunday was epic. Vehicles parked where their owners had been told they mustn't. Told in written form, yet, on letterhead...and great was the grief and hand-wringing thereat, until a large military person observed the reaction and murmured, "We have five tow trucks on hand, Ma'am, this will not be a problem" and whisk! it was not a problem.

Arrivals of caterers, bearing smoked salmon in great quantity. Arrival of military band, with preliminary whompings of bass drum. Arrival of florist to deposit Princess's nosegay in a Safe Place ("I looked it up, she loves white roses, I've given her white roses and blue iris"). Arrival of volunteers, with ropes and stanchions and clipboards and lists and charts. Arrival of large solemn watchful gentlemen with curly wires in their ears, very imposing.

Assembling of choir (and friends). Deploying of volunteers to control access to building.

Military parade in the block in front of the church, causing murmurings: "she marched them up to the top of the hill and she marched them down again..."

And then it was 10:30, "Welcome, Your Royal Highness" and away. we. go.... "Holy, Holy, Holy," Children's focus time on the symbolism of the pronghorn on the regimental flag, three readings including "Nicodemus" which is substantial, the Venite, the Te Deum, the Jubilate and the Psalm, all to proper Anglican chants my dears, sung minor litany, sung collects (thank you, precenting SIL), "Bright the Vision that Delighted," Sermon, prayer for the Royal Family, General Thanksgiving, Prayer of St. Chrysostom, "God Save the Queen" and "How Shall I Sing that Majesty" (little editorializing there), and Walton's "Crown Imperial" for a postlude, and signing of the guest book and out the door to talk to our Sunday School children and have pictures taken, INSIDE THE HOUR...
And then downstairs to consume the sumptuous lunch and "process" everything we had seen and heard and thought and done...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

in which the Rambler comes out of retreat and revs up for Royalty...

Hello all.

It froze overnight, here in Prairie Metropolis. In Other Prairie Metropolis, 300 km. south, it's snowing.
"Oh what is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days."


I've been away at a Roman Catholic retreat centre in the suburbs (in the posh suburb, as a matter of fact), with three young men, well, younger than me, who will be ordained DV on Sunday night, one as a deacon and the other two to the priesthood.

I don't know how effective a preparation this was for them but we came away in a state of considerable charity with each other and that has to be good, right?

We had a good time and ate a lot and talked almost incessantly -- so much for silence -- and covered many topics such as the poetry (and prose!) of George Herbert and the regulations governing clerical weaponry (agreed that we should confine ourselves to inflicting BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA only in the proper mediaeval decorum)... the potentially mixed blessing of the clerical "assistant"... selected bons mots of the late Ed Friedman, and the dreadful lacunae in seminary training in the "choreography and legerdemain" aspects of Practical Liturgy. NONE of these men has had a "dry run" through the Eucharist. NONE. And it's not that they have graduated from Punkin Corners Seminary and School of Mines, not by any means.


And it would appear that the Rambler will be doing hands-on tutorials next week...

And apparently nobody ever, ever, learns to sing any more, in preparation for liturgical leadership.

This isn't right, either.

We also went to the pub nearby on our final evening...

MEANTIME, "princess is comin'" and the cleaning up has been done and we are all in a tall state of furbishment,and have coped with the announcement that the Child Most Likely to present a nosegay--and all the child's siblings--were diagnosed on Wednesday with pediculosis...

I have a wedding at 1 p.m. today as well...good rehearsal yesterday afternoon, with a STELLAR ringbearer of maybe 8 or 9. Boys at that age are WONDERFUL. No irony. Pre-pubescent towers of strength, one and all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

reflections on teaching, and "Can you spell VOCATION?"

We are rejoicing -- or maybe just exhibiting reprehensible smugness -- at MH & U these days over our NINE, count'em, confirmands. Each provided with a mentor, too; and none of the mentors likely to cause harm of any sort to their charges.

This is all good! The young people are mostly boys, just a couple of girls, ranging in age from a very mature 9 to 16.

This means lots of adult males involved in the mentoring, also good.

I also have a handful of wee ones interested in first-communion instruction and/or baptismal instruction.

The issue here is that we welcome whole families with a range of ages and a range of theological backgrounds including the Anabaptist, so there are anomalies in the ages at which our children do things for the first time.

I thought I might economize on effort and energy by teaching the whole mob (the little ones are 6 or 7 years old) through the most basic "Life in the Eucharist" work and then get stuck into William Willimon's material on "Making Disciples" for the balance of the confirmation instruction.

And so on Sunday I found myself in the nave of the church with about 8 of the confirmands, and mentors according, and two bright-eyed church-oriented little girls, and a small crowd of parents, various.

We had spent some time last Sunday on the ante-communion part of the liturgy.

So I moved a small table to the head of the aisle, set it with my travelling communion kit, including wafers, wine, and water, and called the little girls to me, because I thought that doing the teaching "fishbowl" style might be best -- two participants and the rest observers... this seemed to be OK for the group.

I borrowed the two long white brocade bookmarks from the altar-book and put them on the little girls like stoles...and then encouraged them to see what happens at communion time from where the priest sees it...we counted out wafers, poured water, poured wine, washed little hands with the lavabo bowl...we recalled the story of the Last Supper which we tell every Good Friday as part of the children's Way of the Cross.

and I asked them to wonder how many of the roughly-a-dozen of young people there might find themselves doing this work as their life's work. (Actually, I said, "I'll just bet that at least one of you, someday...")

I had NO IDEA how that thought would go over, at all. But it did seem to me that a way to pull them through their confirmation instruction might be by applying the superior magnetic effect of ordination...I still don't know with any confidence whether that's legitimate, or inspired, or unscrupulously manipulative, or what.

But they were MIGHTY thoughtful. The little girls meanwhile were INTO IT...surreptitiously stroking their stoles, and -- one of them -- extending a very small forefinger to touch the wafers in the paten.

So we wrapped up the lesson with some discussion of ways that communion is shared in different churches and in different situations, and they all went home.

But I had feedback...indirectly, from the parents of the little girl who isn't yet baptized. At home with her parents, she told them, "THAT WAS THE MOST MOST SPECIAL THING THAT I HAVE EVER DONE."

And I think that is, after all, what I wanted them to feel about the Eucharist.

Monday, May 25, 2009

oh the difference...

Yesterday was intense.

Fifteen hours from arrival at MH & U in the morning to pulling out of the parking lot en route home in the evening...

Saturday was spent MOSTLY at the church as well, on the periphery of madly energetic cleaning-up going on indoors and outdoors. Most of it pretty good work, but some of it pretty mindless. "Let's clean up the chancel, and let's start by unplugging everything and leaving it that way." "Let's clean up the narthex, and let's start by gathering up all the little church-front portable easel signs, and HIDING THEM SOMEWHERE." Somewhere remote from the front door, which of course is where they're deployed.

I didn't sleep very well Saturday night, and arriving at church to find these...anomalies...produced something close to a clerical meltdown, I am embarrassed to say. Running about of churchwardens, "It's OK, Rambler. It'll be all right. We'll just ask the congregation at announcement time, where the signs went. Just be calm. You're OK."

The assistant preached in exemplary fashion... it is such a blessing to have the stimulus of another preacher on the premises...especially when his work evokes the "yes-indeed-but-on-the-other-hand" Anglican response. Leading me to reflect on the difference between statements of fact and statements of truth. (not wanting to think about statements of cornmeal mush, which constitute most of the preaching one hears.)

Got through the second service. (Signs were duly produced at announcement time, expressions of injured innocence all 'round.)

Lined up to get invitation/ticket from Ticket Maven. Accosted in line-up by Exemplary Laywoman reminding me that the "youth" were awaiting me for their confirmation class. Came "this close" to biting said laywoman right in the goozle for asking me to be in two places at once...she retreated, prudently.

Got ticket, had confirmation class, worked through prayer of consecration with little children while big children looked on. We have NINE, count'em, NINE confirmands for the service in October, and at least a couple of baptizands, it's all delightful.

Co-ordinated perceptions with Ticket Maven Lady and sent her off to phone Chronic Stayers-Away lest they show up the Sunday AFTER the royal hoo-hah, and then the screaming begins, again.

Worked on paperwork all afternoon barring quick dash out for a lunch/supper pizza.

Back to computer at 6:35 and wrote sermon for Evensong (Choral) which happened at 7 pm, attended by members of Prairie Metropolis and Hinterland Council of Churches, and a few parishioners, and, God bless and reward them, a solid phalanx of choir.

There was chanting, Anglican chanting, big time.

Preached on Jeremiah 31:1-13, Ephesians 5, and ecumenism with reflections from John 17 (from the morning services).

Sang lovely Anglican evening hymns too..."O Gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ" (Tallis), "Light of the World, in Grace and Beauty" (Rendez a Dieu), and "Day is Done, But Love Unfailing" (Ar Hyd Y Nos). MOST satisfying to one and all.

Then convened and chaired AGM of Council of Churches, which went well despite no-shows and no-replies (and no minutes -- my fault)...and wrapped up evening with "whining and cheesiness" supplied by the Very Forgiving Laywoman who had narrowly escaped being Rambler-bitten earlier in the day.

And so, as they say, to bed.

All in all, a good day.

And, I'm happy to say, a good night's sleep, which made all the difference today!

Friday, May 22, 2009

a moment

Friday again...a robin is enjoying the sunshine in a tree out by the sidewalk, and telling the world.
It wasn't QUITE so cold this morning, and hasn't snowed today -- nor yesterday, in which we had enough sun to activate possible "weather lore" about the Feast of the Ascension as a predictor for the rest of the summer...I didn't realize it's in the same list as Groundhog (Lammas) Day and St. Swithun!
Two 'congregation' yesterday for the eucharist, a bit of a chat about the meaning of the Ascension one way and another, then a long, long pastoral conversation with one of the congregants contemplating a shift of membership...annoyed and fed up with clergy in her current parish.
The ethics and etiquette of "parish visiting"...the competing rationales for "the minister calls upon the sick, the shut-in, the elderly"...
Her priest doesn't visit. She has a nonagenarian father in the local veterans' hospital/residence...physically frail but cognitively present. A founding member of the parish (and then the note I dread hearing, "and after all the money he gave"...)...and the priest has not been to visit him.
The priest is heavily involved in a community-organization movement which is sound, practical, effective, strengthens community among those who take part and strengthens the communities they form within the larger political unit. (I know this, because he recruited me...but when I could not find an energy for this work within the parish I serve, I drew back...thinking this would have to be a lay-led endeavour or nothing at all, it couldn't be "another of the rector's Lead Balloons." I still don't know whether that was right or not.
Apparently there is little energy among my colleague's congregation for lay-organized pastoral visiting either...
And it may not matter very much once the expectation has crystallized in the form, "the minister/priest should visit more..."
I don't know how to be clear in my own mind about the standing, moral and theological, of that expectation.
What is the model that is really driving that demand? And what is the model behind the way it is answered?
Ambiguity everywhere.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

in which the Rambler...pulls the pin...

So after considerable cogitation, and even dithering (you know the sequence: "I cogitate, you dither, she is hopeless"), I decided that Sunday last, Sixth of Easter, was The Auspicious Day to tell the congregation here at Most Holy and Undivided that the arithmetic indicates that 2009 is the Rambler's Year to Retire from full-time ministry, and from this parish -- without specifying a precise final date.

The Wardens and Vestry want to make a serious start before we are into Deep Summer (when, as we all know, Nothing Can Be Done in Churchland), on the process of seeking and interviewing the next Rector. And it seem easier to do this, without inciting the MH&U folks to their customary paranoia, if it's out on the table that a new Rector is on the wish list. Less tippy-toe-ing about and whispering behind half-opened doors.

Reactions to the announcement were mixed but nothing spectacularly ungracious. To people who made protesting noises at the door, afterward, I just said I didn't want to become "The Previous Vicar of Dibley" -- the one who expired in his prayer desk during Evensong and nobody noticed.

And from now on I can think, overtly, that much of what I wrestle with is about to become "SEP" -- Somebody Else's Problem. This in itself is good for morale!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

request for input

Dear blogging pals and gals,

It turns out I am supposed to conduct a pre-ordination retreat here in about 3 weeks (48 hours in duration) for three men (two to be priested, one to be made deacon). I know one of them a little, the other two hardly at all.

I remember my own retreats fondly especially the first, in which I was one on one with the director.

But I have no assurance that what we did will be in any way suitable to these candidates.

If a pre-ordination retreat has been part of your experience, please, please tell me what went well, what worked, what was helpful -- and what WASN'T.

And you will greatly oblige...
the somewhat distraite Rambler.

just in case you're not glad you live where you do...

it's snowing again this morning in Prairie Metropolis...

I am extirpating stale e-mails from the inbox and setting up for the eucharist in fifteen minutes and answering hard questions about the clean-up and refurbishment and repair and renovation going on all around me. Making a fuss about the Royal Visit, you ask me? Oh pshaw no, why would we do that...

Nefertiti the Wonder Cat has a new mission in life. Her relationship with my little table-top fountain (water jet at the top of what looks sort of ziggurat-ish, like a Maya temple perhaps) has been complex. First she drank out of it; then she peered down the central outlet while it was unplugged (naturally inciting us to plug it in and squirt her in the nose); and now, when it's running, it's her Sole Purpose to DEFEAT IT, which she does by scooping flowing water off the sides, flinging it behind her, and standing up with both front paws pressed down on the main outlet: "I got it! I got it! it can't get out!" -- except, of course, sideways under increased pressure, until she, and the living-room, and we are all sufficiently sodden.

Anybody else out there have a water-play kitteh?

Monday, May 11, 2009

the state of affairs...

The only way I can describe how the last week has felt... is to say that I think I have been rolled out like phyllo pastry, beaten out like gold leaf, or maybe just pounded and stretched out in all directions like schnitzel.

-- the royal person's visit plans continue growing ever more elaborate. Fortunately externally generated funds are available to underwrite the more extravagant proposals (hanging baskets? what do you think this is, Aunt Granny's Ye Olde Tea-House? hanging baskets?)

-- annual general meeting for the local Ecumenical Gaggle HASTENING upon me, ready or not (and it's "not").

-- annual general meeting of MH & U, come to think of it -- this will tell you how fraught everything is, that the parish's annual general meeting, Part II, Parish Officers, the election of, is a matter of "meh" at this point.

-- timing of the first demi-official announcement of the Rambler's pending departure from active full-time ministry, also on the front burner.

-- baptismal and confirmation prep "oh yeah" -- there's a baptismal service on Pentecost...marshalling the candidates and trying to tell them something coherent.

-- a curate, rushing down upon us like the wolf on the fold, and requiring some sharp and salutary lessons in authority (mine) and obedience (his) before he's a month older.

-- oh yes and on the EVENING of Trinity Sunday, also the day of the royal person's visit... there's an ordination: two priests, one deacon, the deacon a product of MH & U. And the one in the purple hat, upon whom be peace, has tapped the Rambler to conduct the pre-ordination retreat ... three days in sequestration away from the parish, in the week before the arrival of the royal person.

-- and I am dealing with three different police forces, and the army. "BRING'EM ON," I say. "Qu'ils y viennent, un a la fois ou tous ensemble..."

The Rambler is feeling the strain just ever so slightly.

But it was a great Mother's Day with all the young'uns and nice supper and wild games with Nefertiti, and a laser pointer. During which we proved conclusively that cats DO get dizzy. And when they do, they fall over. Hilarity ensued.

Monday, May 4, 2009

home again

back at my desk late in the morning after a tiring but very happy weekend elsewhere.

word is that the Honorable Assistant held the fort in exemplary fashion on Sunday.

good times among the ladies of the diocese of Up-Yonder...including two long drives from and back to the closest by-air arrival point...coming back to the airport yesterday, a very special stretch of roadway alongside Major Northern River...

beautiful country with big rounded velvety hills and great tracts of plough-land -- farmers out "on it" already doing preliminary disc'ing.

Saw some deer in the distance -- also elk, but that was cheating because they were on an elk ranch.

The ladies were most receptive to discussion of Julian of Norwich, mysticism generally...

And it was a happy time!

Back to 55 unopened emails, also phone messages, 'space-hook' messages...plenty on the plate and a very long and mostly futile meeting this afternoon.

Home now. Maybe a little work in the yard before dark.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In which the Rambler...rambles

Just about to hoist suitcase into vehicle and make tracks for the airport, bound for the next See City to the north of us in Prairie Province.

Carrying Big Suitcase (boo) to accommodate VESTMENTS, as part of this trip includes presence and preaching at Wee Cathedral on Sunday morning.

The rest is leading a group of 50 Mothers in Zion through some of the lesser intricacies of the Shewings of Julian of Norwich, blessed be she.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

of notebooks, and pens, and so forth...

As my family know only too well, I am a notebook addict. That is, "notebook" as in "journal" as in "diary" but not the kind with too little space per day and a non-brother-proof lock.

In fact for much of the last 25 years I have been unable to pass a stationery store without checking out what may be on offer in the shape of a nice journal.

And I'm fussy. No coil bindings, thank you; a sewn binding if possible. Paper with a surface that will accommodate a fountain-pen without getting all smudgy. Just the right spacing of lines, not too narrow, not too elementary-embarrassing wide. A nice but not too pictorial cover; black imitation morocco is ideal. Other colours if available. Between 150 and 200 pages, all firmly attached. and ideally about 6 inches by 9 inches, so that it can fit in the outside pocket of my smaller really, and not too much larger.

IT SEEMS LITTLE ENOUGH TO ASK. There was a supplier in the former Czechoslovakia who got it exactly right ("Pragotrade" if you're interested). Seems to have disappeared. East Asian substitutes, not so satisfactory.

But in the last two weeks I have branched out,and purchased a new product from our Mega-Barn office supplies retailer. These notebooks are manufactured from sugarcane waste, apparently -- "bagasse" is the technical term.

And I am using one to write down EVERY COTTON-PICKING THING, in a DONE-DID list instead of a TO DO list. The effect on morale is...electric. I can see the top of my desk. There are no visible horrible pink phone slips. My vital signs are all happy and peaceful.

Even more gloriously, having scuttled all the horrible little bits of paper on my desk, I can find my PENS also! And ensure that they all have tops! and ink! (all the better to write in the Bagasse Notebook with)

So here I'll be, all skilled up and so forth, just in time to retire!