April 18th was a long day – but it was filled with great moments.
THE NURSING HOME
My Grandmother used to sing the hymn “Pass me not of Gentle Saviour.” It was one of her favourites and as a result it has always been a special “old Time” hymn for me. Today I had Marion and Gloria with me at the home. They are two of our NHLers – (Nursing Home Lions). While they were so kind to take communion around the room to the residents, I for some reason spontaneously began signing “Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour,” which was in the songbook that the home uses. Given that it was me signing and that there was no accompaniment, it was perhaps painful for others, but it was a special little moment for me. In that few minutes I was able to reflect on my Grandparents who both resided in a home before their deaths. It has also been a long week for me in many ways and singing the words of that of Fanny Crosby Hymn was in many was very healing. Verse three for instance;
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.
That was a good moment.
LUNCH WITH OUR GODDAUGHTER
Today we picked up our Goddaughter Alanah at school and took her to lunch. This too was a great moment. We had time to laugh together and we had time to be together. It was great to hear her wonderful laugh and it was excellent to see how special she felt to be getting a year older. Looking at her today it is hard to believe that was born just five short months after we arrived in Windsor. What a great birthday gift I thought she was that day, and how much I still think so today. One of my best memories was going to the hospital to see her with my Mom and Dad in tow. It was their first visit to Windsor and they still remember her birthday. Each year they ask us how was Alanah’s birthday? Again this year I can say it was a great success. Later in the day we got to see her again with family and it was, as always a privilege and a pleasure to share in her special day. I also got to teach her about the Newfoundland Tradition of getting your bumps for your birthday!
BAPTISM PREP AND A SERMON
Today I met with a couple regarding their child’s baptism This meeting took place at the appropriate time as I have been in the thick of percolating a sermon for Sunday morning and the nature of what I will be speaking about on Sunday is totally encapsulated in the baptismal covenant . This Sunday is Similac Sunday at it is a great opportunity to preach on the text of 1 Peter 2:1-10. We will focus our energy this week on the idea that we are the priesthood of all believers and that we must move from “Going to church – to BEING church.” It was an excellent moment when the last pieces of my homily came together.
BALL HOCKEY ENTHUSIASIM
I stopped by to see our friends Steve and Ericka at the SA late in the afternoon for a quick minute. Steve was hosting a little street hockey in the parking lot with the kids as they waited to be picked up. I was impressed with the youthful exuberance of the children and their love and joy as expressed in their play. In that moment of today I saw the value of play and of camaraderie. It was clear the love expressed between adults and children at that school and day care.
Today was as I say long – but very wonderful. I’m sort of sorry that it is over. I’m sure there will be one or two great moments for April 19th as well!
From the webpage of LOCKS OF LOVE comes these words; “ Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.”
I was so very proud of our Goddaughter Alanah this Sunday when she showed up at church and handed me most of her hair neatly tied into a pony-tail and wrapped in a bag. She wanted to donate her hair for children who are suffering with diseases such as cancer that cause hair loss. We have a lot to learn from our children. This past year I have become increasingly aware of how the children in my life are teaching me constantly about the very basic principals of decent human behaviour and the power of the human spirit. We teach children about the nature of faith and what it means to live with Christian principals. On the feast of Pentecost 1999, Catherinanne and I were pleased to stand before the congregation at St. Mark’s as God parents for Alanah. One of the biggest promises made in baptism is that we would “strive for peace and unity among all people” and that we would “respect the dignity of every human being.” I want to highlight this one because I think it is a promise which Alanah is learning to do very well. Locks of Love provides a child who is suffering physical pain an opportunity to try as best they can to avoid the pain of being pushed aside and left on the fringe of what is “normal.” By taking the need for these children to ‘return to a sense of self, confidence and normalcy’ seriously, Alanah is offering a good example of what it means to respect each person’s dignity and in cutting her beautiful hair off she is ACTING to make a difference.
I have to say that action makes all the difference. When the leper was left alone and untouched for all of those years and Jesus of Nazareth walked into his life and touched him, embraced him, the miracle was the freedom from being demoralized, marginalized. The miracle was in giving back a little dignity. Jesus acted! Desmond Tutu emphasized the idea that if you, “Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Alanah is doing her “little bit” with a lot of hair and I am so proud of her. On Friday she will be 9 years old and is displaying the truth that we can all do the ‘right things’ at any age. I have been privileged to witness children that we love, each in their own way, doing their ‘little bits’ to make a big difference.
Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
This past week as been blog free. It leaves me asking what I should write about given that so much can happen in a week. So I think tonight I want to write a word or two about community.
George Bernard Shaw said “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.” I can say for certain that the Knights of Columbus and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are good witnesses to that sentiment. Last week, Grand Knight Jerry Marcotte let me know that the Fr. Nicholas Point Council of the K of C here in Tecumseh would be assisting with project “Similac Sunday.” To that end they made a $150 donation. That is a tremendous help. Yesterday Louis Gouin came by the church with two cans of formula and a $100 cheque from St. Vincent de Paul. Again – tremendous help. Tim Brady of Shopper’s Drug Mart in the Ottawa Market was also very gnerous in offering the support of the store allow us to maximize the formula that we can purchase with the donations being made as well as donation to the cause.
This Sunday, April 20th we will collect for the Eastwood Citadel’s Diaper and Formula program. We have already collected well over $500 and I am certain that next Sunday we will do even better. The spirit of generosity expressed by the Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Shopper’s Drug Mart and the people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake is a fine reflection of the community in which we live. Too often we find ourselves being overly critical of our community. It is often easier to focus on the negative aspects of the life and times of the community around us. I must say, that what I see again and again is a tremendous ability to step up and be counted when it is most needed. Dietrich Bonheoffer said that, “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” I believe strongly that this community in which we live shows a great “readiness for responsibility.” I look forward to next week when I can announce to Captain Stephen White how much this community has responded. God has granted such a spirit of generosity and service to our community. We should be all very grateful.
What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
What a day yesterday was. We had what very well could be our best Hockey Jersey Sunday Ever. The church was full and everyone seemed to have a great experience of church. What began a few years ago as a lark has indeed become a powerful way to witness to the culture around us how we can be a reflection of God’s love and God’s joy.
I believe with every fibre of my being that the church in many, many ways takes itself FAR too seriously. In fact, I know that there are those who look down on what we do here at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake as “selling out” to the culture and making light of sacred religious ritual and practice. Not so – I say. I would love to have any of those persons present yesterday. A critic would find it hard to argue with the sense of the divine and the holy in how we worshiped yesterday. The only significant difference in our celebration yesterday was a little fun as a prelude, we all wore Hockey regalia, and we were absolutely full of joy and excitement to be at church. The liturgy itself was not different than the week before and was not different than it will be next week. It was a very basic celebration of Holy Eucharist. In fact, there was real sense of reverence for what is real and what is important, love for God and love for neighbour. The church has often lost that sense of love and compassion and replaced it with reverence for the ritual itself and has become terribly inward focused as a result.
We were able to speak to the Road to Emmaus story by reminding folks that when we promise in baptism to "seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbour as ourselves," that we can do that even when we are at play. We can do that even when we are at the hockey arena. Oddly, over the years the church has taken itself so seriously that it spent much of its time condemning everything that was not church. Christendom was alive and well and God lived in church… at least HIS primary residence was church. In that time there were forms of music and theatre that were bad. There were books that were forbidden. People were urged to focus heir attention on the pure and holy things. Everything is was of the devil. Oddly (tongue in cheek) people got tired of the church. Oddly, the reaction after a time to such closeting of God and all that is holy, was to walk away from the church. The result being Christendom came to an end. Sadly there are still those who are living as though it has never ended. We are still subject to portions of the church that tell us what to read and what to watch. Those who subscribe to that idea cannot accept something like Hockey Jersey Sunday as a valid way to engage people in community or in worship.
But the end of Christendom has really given us a freedom as church to seek to find ways to purge ourselves of the failings of our past. We have a wonderful opportunity as church in this era to seek to find news ways to be communities of love, healing, hope and forgiveness. We have the ability to take off the yoke of judgement that we have carried around for so long as a institution. So many people, for so long, have been excluded by the church and left outside on the fringe. In keeping those we like to judge to the outside our circle, I fear that we have pushed God to the fringe as well, and that is not the church (people of God) that Jesus of Nazareth called us to be.
My experience is that the church really does take itself too seriously and I am pleased that at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake we have gotten past that. I am not sure how I would manage if we could not laugh at ourselves. G. K. Chesterton wrote that, ““It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” Gladly, at St. Mark’s we have learned to laugh at ourselves and we have learned to joke about the church. There was so much Joy yesterday – there is no doubt in my mind that God smiled with us.
I have a good friend who loves to use a smiley face in his salutations and has told me more than once to “keep smiling.” It always leaves me with a reminder of te importnace of keeping all things in perspective. It makes perfect sense to me really. I love to laugh and I love to enjoy the world around me. I encourage us all, in the spirit of the joy that I witnessed in so many on Sunday, to pray that we might all keep a sense of humour a perspective about the church, about our role in it, and about life. One of the greatest lines of Alan Alda was “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.” True!
To quote The Digital Genie -
PS – I have produced a video that should be on the parish web page by Tuesday afternoon. Be sure and check www.stmarkschurch.net and see the great video and audio clips of the day, as well as more photos.
FROM LAST YEAR’S HOCKEY JERSEY SUNDAY
I mentioned earlier this morning that there would be a video posted to the parish web page. I am sorry but that is not the case –
GOOD NEWS – HERE IT IS (If you want to see the web page or videos that the doofus in the this video is referring to, go to www.stmarkschurch.net. There you will find the stuff that he is referring to)
Get your Hockey gear ready – It’s Going to be a good one
This is an exciting week here at St. Mark’s by the-Lake. We have started planning toward Similac Sunday on April 20 (To learn more read my blog for March 29), and we are ramping up to one of our favourite events of our year – HOCKEY JERSEY SUNDAY!
Wayne Gretzky once said that, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” St. Mark’s by-the-Lake will not be accused of not taking its’ shot! While I see so many communities that talk about doing things, I am pleased to belong to a church that is actively going to the net, as it were, and taking the shots and working to even bang in a rebound or two. Yesterday a car load of food was delivered to the food bank, today it was a carload of clothing to the All Saints clothing cupboard, in a few weeks it will be what I hope is a load of Baby Formula. Either way you look at it, we are working hard to do what we can. But we also know how much being a Christian should also be about enjoying the journey and our HOCKEY JERSEY SUNDAY is a great witness to that.
HOLY MACKINAW!!!! TODAY I RECEIVED CONFIRMATION THAT WE WILL HAVE A FULL BRASS QUINTET THIS YEAR FOR HOCKEY JERSEY SUNDAY. Plans are well underway for a day that will include a lot of good surprises. PLAN TO BE THERE!
To see a video invitation with music and photos from last years HJS go to our parish web page later this morning at www.stmarkschurch.net. This HJS is shaping up to be the best one ever. Please let your friends and family know. We would love to have to put out chairs!
I have great faith in fools – self-confidence, my friends call it. ~Edgar Allan Poe
Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, or in my family a sacred holiday. The day is always filled with hoaxes and practical jokes. My nephew Roger is a patron saint of this great day and has brought the level of jokes, on his Grandmother in particular, to levels that regular humanity is not so much accustomed to. He once managed to convince her over the phone, with some assistance from yours truly, that he was the dean of theology at Huron College and that he had an important message to get to her son Kevin. I had already planted my cell phone number with my Mother and told her to only call in the case of something urgent as I would be on a funeral. She called me at just before noon (the hour at which Newfoundlanders bring an end to April Fools Day). She told me that Dr. John Chapman had some good news for me and that it was important that I should hear it before noon. I was pleased to admonish her for calling while I was on a funeral and said that there was no way in my opinion that John Chapman could have called her. She was despondent, “Who could it be?” I asked her if she thought it could be Roger. “How would Roger know Dr. John Chapman,” she asked. “Mom what day is it?” There was silence – “Please tell me that was not Roger on the phone.” It was classic. She explained to me that she took great pains to speak properly and to say how proud she is of her Kevin. All of this very entertaining to Roger, who as the eldest grandson has spent at least 3 cumulative years of his 38 + years on earth playing practical jokes on his grandparents. It was all embarrassing to her and as a result, it was deemed a successful prank and a great April Fool’s moment. Roger is great – good fun indeed.
Sadly for my mother she has more than one fool in her family and is often left having to ask herself how she got such a crazy crowd for a family. I wonder what tricks will be on deck tomorrow morning for Roger’s victims who walk the earth tonight blissfully ignorant of the knowledge that before the clock strikes twelve tomorrow they will feel embarrassed and foolish. They will be left hitting their heads against a wall and declaring, “I can’t believe that I listened to anything that he said to me this morning.”
It is a fun day indeed and is a great cause for celebration for people like myself for whom foolishness is a natural condition set on me at birth. I am told that there is an old proverb that says, “He who is born a fool is never cured.” Not that people have not tried to cure me of this condition. In school more than one teacher gave me a speech about how I needed to be more serious. One teacher reminded me that “I would not make a living being foolish.” WRONG again, I’m making a small fortune (emphasis on small) now doing stand-up on Sunday mornings. A week ago I played to over 400 people on a Saturday Evening/Sunday Morning Double billing! Sometimes my name is even in the advertisements in the paper. Then there was the odd priest or two who through my involvement as youth in the church reminded me that being funny in church was not appropriate. WOW – again I seem to still be getting away with that one too! Then there was the seminary experience which could, at times, be completely humourless. That didn’t stop me from once placing Canadian Tire Money on the collection plate at the chapel. Again – I was still laughing when I left Huron College. The biggest joke was the night they awarded me a Master’s Degree. Then there was the humourless experience of a bishop I once knew who also did not find me very funny. He declared that I would not make it as a priest. Again – so far, so good…I think! Generally, I guess I would say that if I had a dime for every time that someone has said “BE SEROIUS FOR ONCE,” I would be a rather foolish but wealthy man. As Edgar Allen Poe said, I have great faith in fools – self-confidence, my friends call it.
If you can’t laugh at yourself, you really won’t enjoy life too much. I think that we all take ourselves far too seriously, especially in church land. So tomorrow, take a moment and celebrate your foolishness. Laughter is a great way to cure many things – so let’s take advantage of that, since there is NO cure for our foolishness!