Month: July 2007

Custodian of Paradise

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I am back at it after a few days to visit Catherinanne and enjoy Quebec City. I left on Thursday Morning and came back on Sunday morning for the 10:30 Mass – (I am told I made the longest commute to church this past Sunday of any clergyperson in Canada). It was a short trip but a good little break for sure. Quebec City is probably our favourite place to vacation – the place is simply beautiful. Now – Catherinanne was not able to vacation too much she is after all working. I on the other hand was able to take a little breather and that was well appreciated.  A couple of reflections from my trip I felt I should share –

 

1.       A Refection of Food

 

The Môss Bistro Belge, means mussels and fries, beer and chocolate. What a magic moment it is, indeed, sitting down with friends and having to choose a drink, when the place offers a unique selection of world renowned Belgian beers, including the famous Stella Artois. What an exquisite pleasure you feel, smelling the spellbinding aroma of the mussels simmering to perfection in an infusion of fresh herbs, celery and carrots.”

 

The words from the web page linked, give a fitting summary of a place that I love to go. A Dream – Belgian Beer and Mussels in one place. Not just mussels – but 14 different varieties of them (i.e. prepared in 14 different sauces etc). I need to add FOUR simple words – ALL YOU CAN EAT! It is a remarkable place as you sit in beautiful ambience and enjoy each others company while thinking which kind of mussels you might order next. Mussels prepared in curry, in mustard, in garlic and butter, in three tomato sauce, in wine and herbs, and in at least 9 more ways. Each time you order they arrive steamed in a pot and you get enjoy the aroma of such fine cuisine. For the tidier folks like Catherinanne you can have them come, in the sauce already shelled. The whole thing is great and It was a big thrill for me to be there with Catherinanne in Friday evening. We had a wonderful date!  Thank You Catherinanne. I hasten to add that this is one of sooooo many places of great quality and ambience to eat and to socialize. From restaurants, to cafés, to pubs, to patisseries, to gelato stands, it is a paradise if you like to eat – and I like to eat!

 

2.     A Reflection on Words

 

I forgot to take one of the many books I have been meaning to read of late. So at Pearson Airport I purchased a copy of Wayne Johnson’s The Custodian of Paradise. I have read over the half the book and am anxious to get the rest read to find out how the pivotal Character Sheilagh Fielding is doing.  It is a marvellous book. Johnson is a Newfoundland author who has had several bestsellers and is known for his ability to write historical fiction.  This is to say that he include historical figures in is fictitious stories, most notably Joey Smallwood who has a small role in this book. Miss Fielding was a non-pivotal character in his book The Colony of Unrequited  Dreams. The Custodian of Paradise gives the reader a look into this Fielding who played piece in the earlier novel. If you have not read either of these I recommend both, and it really does not matter so much which order you read them in. One review I read last evening, in fact, said that the reader had wished he had not yet read “Colony” before he read this book telling the tale of Miss Fielding.  The book is a great journey of a woman who struggles with her inner demons by seeking solitude and self examination. It really is hard to put down. Sheilagh has sought out an isolated island where no one lives and is living through her own journey and I am riveted to know what is happening next in her life. She comes from privilege but has a host of problems. This is a great journey into the human dynamic and is a thrill to read.  I shall let you all know when I am finished if the second half is a great as the first – I have no doubt that it will be.

 

These two things come together for me if for no other reason than the title – "Custodian of Paradise." Quebec City is for me and I would say for Catherinanne and I both, a little piece of Paradise. The three days there gave me a reprieve in which to be custodian of not just the paradise of Quebece City, but also of the paradise of time and tenderness with the person i have missed for most of the last 12 weeks. While Catherinanne has made a couple of trips home it is always busy when she is here. So much to do and accomplish. It was a good way to have a visit. I was for a couple of days "Custodian of my own Paradise."

 

That’s all for now – The day marches on! 

Summer Church

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Summer is a great time to take in so much – it is an excellent time to understand the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. So much so that often we get caught up in it all so much that we neglect to take in God in the public assembly we call Sunday Church. Now one of the most common things we hear this time of year is that we can experience God in nature, at the campground, on the golf course, on the lake, etc. I AGREE – wholeheartedly I agree that God is to be found in all of those places. Now I am grateful that I am a member at a parish where the “summer numbers” are not so bad. Now, we have seen some decline I the past couple of weeks, but it is NOT as drastic as it used to be. This change in attitude about summer worship has not happened by accident. We have taken the time over the past number of years to remind people that we worship each and every Sunday of the year – all 52 weeks. This week our Wednesday Liturgy had 25 people. That is an excellent number especially for summer. In some communities the Wednesday Mass is cancelled, the early Sunday Mass is cancelled or both Masses are moved to make one 9:30 AM Liturgy. What this says to the people of God and to people searching out a community is – summer attendance is less important than winter attendance. Many parishes have a Sunday in September, straight after Labour Day that is actually called “Start-Up Sunday,” giving the loud and clear message that the church has been shut down over the summer.  I ask the question, do we cease to need to offer ourselves in the summer? Do we cease being hungry for spiritual food?  I am guessing that the answer to those questions is no. Oddly, our spiritually often becomes far more of a “private matter” in the summer – God in nature etc. But we all need to be reminded that while we all have a relationship with God and that relationship is indeed is a personal and private commitment, public expression of that commitment is like oxygen for the Christian. In our baptisms we commit to “witness to the apostles teaching in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.” We commit to be present at the table – at the weekly communal feast.

After all the talk of Wedding Anniversaries this past two days [See the posts for July 17 and 18] perhaps this would be a good reminder of how Madeline L’Engle views this subject of church attendance given the way we all have a private relationship with God. She states, “So I go to church, not because of any legalistic or moralistic reasons, but because I am a hungry sheep who needs to be fed; and for the same reason that I wear a wedding ring: a public witness of a private commitment." This is a good analogy – our marriage is very much a private commitment and a private relationship between two parties – BUT – our wedding banns are a witness to all around that we have made that commitment and that we are in that relationship. So it is that my attending church – even in the summer – is a statement to the world that I am in love with Jesus and public profession of that is important. If we make room for God on Summer Sunday mornings we witness to our family, friends and neighbours that God is important in our lives and can be important in theirs as well.

So in the midst of your planning this summer – plan to take time to worship as well. If you are staying in town – come on out to St. Mark’s – we will be here – worshiping as usual, teaching Sunday school as usual, singing and praying as usual. If you are out touring this summer – plan to visit a church and see the expressions of faith that other communities have. Pray about how we might be able to better witness to God all year – after all God never vacations from us.

 

Edward Everett Hale once said:
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do
The something that I can do.

See you in church.

Brazil VS Scotland

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Today July 18 is the memorial for ST. THENEVA. She was a British princess who had a sad story indeed. When she became pregnant before marriage, her family threw her from a cliff. I have heard of parents being upset at things their kids did – but my heavens! Remarkably she was reported to have survived the fall unharmed. She found a boat, floating with no one in it and got into the boat and sailed across the Firth of Forth to land at Culross where she was cared for by Saint Serf; he became foster-father of her son, Saint Kentigern.  She is the Patron Saint of Glasgow along with her son.  

 

Now all of that brings me to Scotland – “No one provokes me with impunity."  Being from Scotland usually affords the quality of character that lives up Scotland’s motto.  Scots are proud people and a very determined and patriotic lot. One of my very favourite Scots is a woman by the name of Jean Anderson. She has displayed well the good Scottish heritage that she has grown up with – mostly in her ability to keep her husband John on the straight and narrow. John and Jean are celebrating their 5th Anniversary today.  It is hard to believe how quickly five years go by. The wedding day was HOT – very HOT! Nonetheless, it was a fantastic day a we all got to celebrate a union that came about at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. It is legend at this time that when John started courting Jean he took it slow on Catherinanne’s advice. January to July is not TOO FAST! We must remember that John is Brazilian, their motto being "Order and Progress." While Jean’s origins may essentially say "Who dares meddle with me?" John is hell bent on making progress with good order and good prudence. So John’s Brazilian charm and sex appeal overcame the determined nature of a Scottish Princess. Just as Theneva displayed a great ability to hang in and make it even when it is tough – so to has Jean. 

 

On a serious note it was great to see these two people come together.  John and Jean are a wonderful couple and I am so pleased to have been a part of their wedding – and before that to have had a part in their meeting. On their wedding day I reminded them of what their names tell them. John means “God is Gracious.”Jean means “God is Gracious” I thought then that was significant because in each case I believe that God has shown the gracious nature of the Divine in each of them. They are good people and they bring out goodness in those around them. Indeed, since then having been able to watch them grow together I think the fact that their names mean “God is Gracious” is very apropos. In their life as a couple we see the gracious nature of God and God’s love expressed.

 

Congratulations to a Warden of this parish and his beautiful wife on your anniversary – you are both so fortunate to have each other – So to sum up – with order, John made progress with jean despite the fact that she was not to be provoked unless he was willing to pay the price – John paid up willingly and they are a happy and wonderful couple. – this is what happens when mottos come together!

Keep it going -54 more years and you will catch up with Geoff and Margaret Dibbs!

 

A Big Anniversary

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In the Episcopal Church (Our American Church – or should I say Ecclesial Body) today is the commemoration of William White (Bishop of Pennsylvania). Now our great Honourary assistant The Reverend Canon Geoff Dibbs does not need to be reminded of this at all – his is after all not just an American Citizen he winters in the Episcopal Church in Arizona. Now if Geoff were writing this he would probably remind us all that William White was the first, and the fourth Presiding Bishop (American Primate) of ECUSA. Geoff would think it important that we be reminded that while he held a long pastorate at St. Alban’s in London, ON, William White was rector of Christ church and St., peters for 57 years – now that is a long pastorate! Geoff would remind us that he was the only bishop to side with the revolutionaries during the war as the others remained loyal to the Crown. On second thought, given that The Reverend Canon Geoff Dibbs was once the Queen’s Vicar, he may leave this detail of William White’s life aside.  Now truthfully, I suspect that Geoff would not tell you much about this being a feast day for a pioneer of the American Church. I think instead he would tell you about the bigger feast being kept today. – What is that you ask?

Glad you asked! This is the Anniversary of f the Marriage of Geoff and Margaret Dibbs – 59 years ago TODAY!  There are some photos in the photo section of this blog. Most notably – the wedding photo! (What a happy and wonderfully beautiful bride and groom) The other neat photo is of Amanda’s wedding to Larry Kovacic (Another beautiful bride and groom). They are great pictures – be sure to take a look-see. Geoff and Margaret are great people and they have been a wonderful addition to this parish. I believe that the time is drawing nigh that we start campaigning for full time residence on the Canadian side and a short winter vacation to Arizona – we miss them so much when they are not here. You have all heard me sing Geoff praises for his gifts of priesthood – I need not say more about that – his head swells too much! But I will offer my reflection on his tenderness and care for Margaret and her devoting and care for him. Geoff has been a devoted ordained minister for well over 50 years and that has meant a lot of sacrifice for both Margaret and their children. As much as the ongoing gag says that we work one day a week – I know that the devoted clergy are working non-stop – Geoff fits that bill (Wait a minute I have to stop that – the head will be swelling). Margaret you have been a fantastic minister as well. You too, have reflected the light and love of God in your own personal witness, beyond being supportive of Geoff and his ministry. I am so impressed with their tenderness for each other. The words of invocation for marriage in the Book of Alternative services reminds us that “The union of a man and woman in heart, body, and mind is intended for their mutual comfort and help, that they may know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of love [and that they may be blessed in the procreation, care and upbringing of children]. As I reflect on this couple married for 59 years, these words are rolling around in my mid. They have in recent years (as I am certain they have all of their lives) displayed a great ability to be each other’s “mutual comfort and help.” And really who do we know with a better sense of “delight and tenderness.” They are wonderful people who have raised two wonderful children. They have witnessed well the sacrament of marriage. Geoff would have used these words from the Book of Common Prayer 59 years ago – “I Geoff take thee Margaret to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.” Margaret would have used the same words changing the obvious parts. Geoff and Margaret have had theirgood times and bad times, they have enjoyed good health and have faced challenges, they have loved and cherished each other and have been a great witness to the world of marriage. Thank you both for loving each other so well and for witness to all of us God’s love.

In 1948 Madeline L’ Engle was writing books already – perhaps by that time a young Geoff and Maragret may have been reading her work. She has and interesting take on marriage;

 She writes in The Irrational Season "If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation." Geoff and Margaret remind us that marriage is just that – participation. When you hear Margaret talk about Geoff and when you hear Geoff speak of Margaret and their ministry it is clear that Margaret was not just a “clergy wife.” Margaret and Geoff have participated well in being a devoted married couple. Let us all who are married pray that we might look to our husband/wife/spouse and let them know how much we love them and how much they mean to us – let us all delight in the great gift of freedom that comes in being participants in the lives of each other.  

Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple.

The Collect for the commemoration of William white is a fitting prayer with which to end the epistle – as I think we can see the same virtues cited in this prayer to our beloved Geoff and Margaret.

O Lord, in a time of turmoil and confusion you raised up your servant William White, and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper, that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace: Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders, that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

John Ferguson Sr – Rest in Peace

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On Saturday John Ferguson Sr. died after a courageous battle with cancer. While I did not know John well, I was pleased to have been in his company many times over the past 8 years and was the recipient of his gentlemanly nature and his obvious kindness of heart. I will not forget our first meeting. I am a life-long Montreal Canadiens fan – this was a big moment for me. Given his fierce and competitive nature on the ice I think I had a certain expectation of what this man would be like. I was so surprised to be quickly disarmed from being star-struck because Mr. Ferguson was such an unassuming and gentle man. It was a privilege to meet a true Habs hero but now I realize that it was more a privilege to meet such a thoughtful and benevolent human being.

John was a founding member of the Circle of Seven Charity Group here in Windsor of which our parish’s Rob Agnew is a member.  This group has raised over $2 Million dollars for local charities – our church is one of those charities. John supported our Annual auction each year which to date has raided in excess of $140 000. I want to take this opportunity to offer our parish’s prayers and best wishes to the Ferguson Family and the Circle of Seven Family at this very difficult time. John will be missed by a lot of people – this community has lost a kind and gentle leader.  God be with you all as your mourn and be assured of the love of God and the prayers of the community at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake.

I leave with this video from YouTube showing John doing what he did best – such a fierce competitor – John finished his life by fighting cancer – and he took it on with all courage and strength that we saw him display on the ice. – hear how John Jr. described his Dad’s battle with the disease: "My father battled cancer with the same spirit in which he played the game of hockey," Ferguson Jr. said in a release on Saturday. "He showed courage, strength, class and tremendous character. He had deep appreciation for the support he’d received from so many people beginning with his initial diagnosis. My father’s spirit will continue to live on in all of us whose lives he touched."

Rest Eternal grant unto him O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him,
May he rest in peace, and rise in glory – AMEN

I work for an “ecclesial community????”

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From The CBC Today comes this report

“The Vatican issued a document Tuesday restating its belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ…. The document adds that Protestant denominations — called Christian Communities born out of the Reformation — are not true churches, but ecclesial communities. "These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood … cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense," it said.” To read the rest of the article click here.

This is alarming indeed! Cardinal Ratzinger issued a similar document in 2000. This thought process and theology is now housed in the office of Pope in the name of Benedict XVI.  For us Catholics who are not Roman Catholic, this is alarming. This news comes fresh after the news that restrictions on the Tridentine mass (which includes a prayer for “the conversion of the Jews”) have been lifted. So much for moving forward.  I fear the Roman Catholic Church is moving in a direction which is not in keeping with the message of Jesus of Nazareth. Sadly this statement from Rome places me on the outside of “church” looking in.

I care deeply for the Roman Catholic ecclesial community and I have been involved with the RC ecclesial community for almost 15 years as I have admired my wife’s devotion to God and her ecclesial community . Thankfully I can say that this attitude is not what I have come to know from Roman Catholics in general. I have been respected and included by priest, lay person and bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. My Orders (Priest and Deacon) have been respected by most. For instance, one of the sweetest moments after my ordination to the Priesthood was, in fact, a conversation between Fr. Joe and me in Labrador City. Fr. Joe was the Pastor of The RC Cathedral for the Diocese of Labrador City/Schefferville. I had just returned to Labrador after my Ordination to the Priesthood in my home parish. I went to Mass with Catherinanne and at the end of Mass I was greeted with an embrace from Father Joe. After he embraced me he took off his stole and placed in over my head and onto my shoulders. It is a multicoloured stole that was woven by the women of Latin America where he was a missionary and sewn by the Innu women in Ungava Bay where he also was missionary. With this very touching gesture came these kind and very heartfelt words; “Kevin you are Priest now. God Bless you – this is my gift to you.”  

Where does Rome’s present attitude leave this devoted Oblate Priest who accepted my sacramental priesthood? Where does it leave the millions of faithful who have worked hard to build bridges to other communities in a spirit of ecumenism? Where does it leave the holy conversation of seeking and serving Christ in the midst of all peoples?

I am going to choose to take Fr. Joe Baril’s words as proper catholic teaching. I  want to say that I am grateful that the RC people that I know, love and respect do not profess this attitude and I am certian will be dismayed by today’s news. I will pray that Holy Spirit will influence the hearts and minds of those who write encyclicals from Rome that they too might hear the voice of love that the faithful are hearing. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy worship and sacrament and discipleship in my own chur….oops sorry “ecclesial community.”

I Know THE Secret

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Good Sunday Morning All.

I am so looking forward to church this morning that I thought I would send along a note – if you’re in the Windsor Area – drop in and see us – this morning I will be telling EVERYONE – “The Secret.”  My hope is that at the end of liturgy this morning it will no longer be a secret and more and more people will hear what this sensation is all about.  So if you have been curious about “the Secret” – save yourself some money – there is no need to buy the book or the video. I will tell you this morning. Please don’t tell the producer – Rhonda Byrne that I am about to "spill the beans" that she is so busy counting. 

More to follow after I share it with the church! (If I give it all away here – who will come to hear it? – this of course is all a part of “the secret.?

 

CONTINUED

Rhonda Byrne is the producer of “the Secret.” She and her people espouse the “law of attraction” as the answer to all that is troubling, all that is problematic and all that is constricting. There are those who have quite self-righteously pronounced to the rest of the world that what they really need is “The Secret.” It is quite well packaged in the motif of the Davinci Code with scrolls and wax seals and hearkens to mystery and the mystic and is attractive to many. Even the name of this prepackaged self help is a great marketing coup – what better to sell than a secret – everyone is anxious to hear a secret.  Ultimately thought – nothing in this is new and it is certainly NO secret.

Now why was I speaking to this today? – Well the Gospel today is a reminder about the sinfulness of self-righteousness. Jesus had commissioned 70 people to go out and be disciples for the kingdom. They did so. They came back and were very proud to tell Jesus of their conquest over demons and the power that they possessed. In what was a complete ignorance of who gave them that authority in the first place these folks proudly told Jesus of their great ability. Jesus does not accept this with bravdo but instead reminds those called of a little thing called humbleness. His reminder is gentle and loving and it is assuring as he reminds them that their names are already written in the kingdom of heaven. It was a reminder that the glory is God’s and that we who are disciples are servants – not masters. Nowadays this is not valued so much. In fact some circles of Christianity are preaching something called the prosperity gospel which essentially posits that if you are praying right and living right then God will “bless you” with riches. Now the self-righteousness of the 70 was probably very bold in the day of Jesus of Nazareth. But today we often see this behaviour and see it as an annoyance of personality but it really is more than that. While our society gladly promotes individualism and “every man for himself” it is not ultimately of God and certainly not a part of God’s agenda. We have all been subject to being told that someone else’s answers are the answer for us. We may have even been guilty of trying to tell others that our way is the right way. This behavior is very prevalent. Theologian Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us that this behavior is very destructive and indeed sinful:

“In a culture that sanctions every individual’s right to seek his or her own path to perfection, self-righteousness can seem only an irritating character flaw. One person decides that steaming vegetables is the responsible way to eat and turns pale when her friends order meat. Someone else discovers the aerobic benefits of running and begins to badger all his sedentary friends. We all do it on some level. We find something that gives us life and we want everyone else to have it too. We want to share the good we have found, whether it is as simple as a new way of losing weight or as profound as a new way of approaching God.

But when I turn my good into your duty and judge you for your failure to perform it according to my standards, then my wish for your well-being becomes something darker and more dangerous. My altruism becomes self-righteousness, which is no longer an annoying habit but a pernicious pride that works evil in the human soul.”

I quite agree with her assertion. She is making clear the need for us to step back from vain pride and arrogance and accept that we do all things by God’s grace. That to me is really THE SECRET. It is as simple as understanding that our names have already been written by God in the kingdom. It is accepting that we are loved by God, others are loved by God, and we do not always have to feel that everything is going to be alright. “The Secret” is big on the power of positive thinking and on attracting others towards self.  It is big on telling others and is exceptional at getting the message out. Its positives are very positive. We as a church can learn from that as we should be sharing our secret –we should be reminding others of what Jesus reminded the disciples of in today’s Gospel – simply Love is free – Forgiveness is free – God already loves you – you are already forgiven and your name is already written on the palm of the Divine’s hand. The Secret is self directed and not God centered. I read this criticism from Wikipedia:

Prof. John Stackhouse, Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, in a commentary at his blog, calls the film "the newest packaging for Gnosticism".  He portrays the film’s message as just another choice among many religions to choose from, not the "Lowest Common Denominator of all religions". And notes:

[The film] is wishful thinking that does not correspond to the way things are. Some of it does, yes, which is why people can honestly testify to good things resulting from it. But some of it does not…  Stackhouse finds the good in the film "genuinely nourishing" and the bad "genuinely toxic". He makes it clear he is "…all for proper positive thinking" — the alleged good aspect of the film — and finds fault with Christian culture for not being better at it:

By God’s grace to us, we know better, we know Christ and his Gospel of new life, and yet often we have failed to speak to the spiritual realities so skillfully addressed by proponents of The Secret.  The alleged toxins are, in Stackhouse’s eyes, a spiritually lethal concoction. The identified "poisons" include: blaming the victim refusal to admit" that life has worthwhile "trade-offs … [and] sacrifices It’s all about me and it’s all up to me

 

The secret that needs telling is that God is present with the victim and does not blame the victim for the state that she or he is in.  Reading what I have read so far from this well packaged self help program, I am certain that those involved would argue that if Jesus had only known the secret, he would not have been crucified. The real secret reminds us that selflessness and sacrifice are important and were modeled by Jesus of Nazareth. The real secret, as opposed to the well polished “secret” directs energy toward service towards others instead of self promotion and preservation.

Yes today we are reminded of a secret – Jesus Loves us – and we ought to love one another.