I love it when people ask me where I met my wife Catherinanne. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to say, “I picked her up at a Roman Catholic Seminary!” I feel fairly confident in saying that I am the only man to have found a wife at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. It makes for great storytelling too. I admit that of all the places to try to meet women, a RC seminary does seem an odd place to look. That being said it worked for me. The late great Bob Giuliano our professor of homiletics used to say, “The greatest thing to come out of Huron’s ecumenical evenings with St. Peter’s Seminary was Kevin and Catherinanne hookin’ up!” Those were good days. Hard to believe that it was 18 years ago that I was in the chapel at St. Peter’s for the first time. How curious I was when I met Catherinanne there that night. What was this fine lady doing in such a place? A few questions later, we were married. It has always been a special place to me because of that night and that chance meeting – or was it chance? But I digress!
This week St. Peter’s Seminary celebrated its centennial. There was a grand celebration on Tuesday evening that began with a Mass at the chapel and concluded with a wonderful dinner at the Great Hall on the Campus of Western University. It would be fair to say that outside of Vatican City that evening it would have been hard to find so many black suits and clergy collars anywhere on the face of our planet. It was a wonderful gala with fine food and drink and speeches befitting such an auspicious occasion.
How pleased I was to look up from my aperitif and see the friendly face of The Rev’d Dr. Bill Danaher, Dean of Theology at Huron University College. He was stopping by my table to say hello. Somehow that moment made me feel a little less alone. (That being said, I was kept in good company with long-time friend The Rev’d Larry Brunet a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who had taken up residence at our table.) Bill was in attendance to bring greetings to St. Peter’s on behalf of Huron. When he took the microphone a little later to congratulate St. Peter’s, Dean Danaher gave an eloquent and inspiring speech about theology and its importance in the life of the church. One statement jumped out at me more than the others.
“Theology is, as our greatest lights have taught us, a process and not simply a product… it is a journey & not simply a destination. Theology is ever in motion & satisfies us by increasing our longing for God.”
This brought me back to my days at Huron College nearly twenty years ago. Being honest, I would have to say that as a young man I think I came to Southwestern Ontario seeking a product. What I found was very much a process. I thought our beautiful Anglican Seminary at Huron College (as it was then known) was a destination. But Huron became a place of journey for me. What I realized while I was in process and on a pilgrimage with others, was that I have a longing for God that only increases when I engage in theology. The study of theology at Huron did not give me a parcel of knowledge to carry under my arm as I traipsed off to my first appointment in Labrador West. In fact it was quite the contrary. What Huron gave to me was a place to empty some of my baggage, lighten my need for firm answers, increase my willingness to ask, and deepen my hunger to be in communion with God and God’s people. Dean Danaher was very articulate and I was proud to have the Dean of my alma mater offer such thought-provoking and inspiring words.
I was nostalgic while on campus this week. I journeyed to a day that seems so long ago and yet in the paradoxical nature of these things, feels like it was just a day or two ago. We have journeyed many miles since those days. We have been engaged in theology at the parish level. It is so true that the more willing we are to explore theology with the people of God at the grass-roots level, the deeper the yearning people have for God. When I enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary three years ago it was also another opportunity for me to seek a closer communion with God. What was so special about my time there was the surprising number of ways that I was able to engage theological discourse with God’s people in the church. Again, I was reminded of what a tremendous journey theology is and what wonderful places that journey can take us.
I have longed more for God because of how I have learned from people at Huron University College. That longing was increased in learning alongside the people of the parish of Labrador West. My yearning for God’s presence was increased in the many opportunities I had to learn in a near fourteen year period with the people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. In my colleagues at McCormick I found more pilgrims on a journey who loved seeking, asking, and longing. I feel confident that when I have opportunity to enter into theological living with the people of St. Aidan’s in London, my yearning for God will increase yet again. I am thankful for theology and the role it has played in bringing me closer to God and God’s people. I am thankful to Dean Danaher for reminding me of how much we take that process of living theology for granted.
Oh…. and I am thankful to St. Peter’s Seminary for one of its greatest graduates and one of the greatest pilgrims on the faith-filled journey — my wife!
This is a guest blog entry by Catherinanne….
I cannot believe that three years has now passed, and that Kevin has graduated. Could it even be possible? If I had not seen the countless hours of study, the myriad of books (I was certain I was married to a body with a book for a head, along with a computer for hands), and the plethora of edits, I’m not sure I would have believe it even happened! So many of you have supported both of us through this incredible journey, and we are so very grateful. Please join me to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the Reverend Canon Dr.(!) Kevin George and his faithful sidekick, Curious George.
It is most fitting that such an auspicious occasion should occur at his most usual place of study…Boston Pizza. We have reserved ‘his’ booth, the bar side, and several tables throughout. Please plan to join us (with your well wishes only) on Saturday, June 2nd between 3 and 8 pm for an Open House at Boston Pizza, Tecumseh Rd and Amy Croft Drive. We would appreciate knowing approximate numbers so that we can order appropriate food…you can RSVP by emailing Kevin at email@example.com or by calling the church office at 519 735 4921 or leave a comment on this blog. I would usually have set something up to contact me, but it is not a surprise this time, and my energies need to be in London. I will get the numbers from Kevin.
If you need to speak with me about anything besides an RSVP or directions to Boston Pizza, you can leave a message at 519-981-1303.
We look forward to seeing you, and to celebrating with you, as we thank God for the wonderful gift we have in Kevin, for his faithful service to the Church (15 years now) and God’s world!
“We are living in a generation where people think that [people of faith] are redundant. But we know what we do. We eat, sleep, and drink service… we need to collect data on the many hours of service that we give to our community…it’s time for us to stand up, to roll out the data to the city, the province, and Ottawa and show that we deserve a voice.” – Glen Pearson
Tonight I was pleased to attend the Soup and Sandwich Dinner in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank. This annual event raised funds for this very important program in the city of London. The guest speaker was Glen Pearson who is Director of the London Food Bank. Glen gave a very impassioned speech about our need to ‘talk the walk.’ He made a strong case for people of faith to find a voice to speak to power and let those who are in power know the level of work that people of faith are doing in our communities. Glen pointed out that we need to speak up about what we are doing to help others not because of pride or a need to brag. Quite the opposite. We need to speak up because we are being disregarded and our voice is largely unheard. We need to find a voice to talk about our walk. He pointed out that the room was full of people who had become quite adept at walking the walk. The trouble is we are taught to not speak up about what we are doing because we have learned humility.
I thought his address to the room full of people was fantastic. Upon returning home I picked up Robin Meyers the book I have been reading. Its title is, Saving Jesus from the Church. (I love reading on this iPad by the way).
It occurred to me as I read more of this book that there was much to think about given what I had heard from Glean earlier tonight. Meyers writes, “Indeed, a quick glance around this broken world makes it painfully obvious that we don’t need more arguments on behalf of God; we need more people who live as if they are in covenant with Unconditional Love, which is our best definition of God. This is so very true. In the context of ‘talking the walk’ it would seem to me that we need to become more adept at find articulate and intelligent ways to communicate the progressive message of Jesus whose life was defined by love. We need to find a voice that articulates the many ways in which the people of God in progressive churches that have seen the need to live the social gospel and have come to understand that being a Christian is a pilgrims’ way. Faith is a journey, not a destination. The best definition of God is indeed a radical acceptance of Unconditional Love. In the words of Meyers, “If the church is to survive as a place where head and heart are equal partners in faith, then we will need to commit ourselves once again not to the worship of Christ, but to the imitation of Jesus. His invitation was not to believe, but to follow.” Glen Pearson rightly pointed out this evening that Jesus was not shy about finding a voice for those who were voiceless. Meyers makes clear that we have become so engrossed with following Christ that we forget that the pilgrimage that we make from baptism forward is following the One who cared enough to speak truth to power and to do so, on behalf of a community of faith.
That being said, we also know that it becomes easy for law makers to disregard us when what they know of us is a loud a narrow-minded group who argue a lot about what we believe and judge those who cannot fit the mold of ‘right belief.’ How is it that those concerned with right morality, and right belief have the mic all the time? When will we stand and sing? Meyers writes, “Contemporary Christians have declared war on individual immorality but seem remarkably silent about the evil of systems, especially corporate greed and malfeasance. Glen Pearson as he wound up tonight said, “We need to unfold our hearts – that we might show people what we do. We need to sing our experience” Amen Glen! AMEN! We need to let the powers that be know what we DO. Not what we believe.
There were a couple of questions from the floor that seemed to indicate that we, as a people, have lost our voice due to a loss of religion in schools and because of globalization and its resultant pluralism. Glen responded that we need to find ways to cooperate with other faith partners. He suggested that the place to begin is where we have commonality. I would like to echo those words and suggest that Meyers is right when he asserts that we really ought to become concerned much more about who we are, how we live, and what we do as followers. Our obsession with what we believe is keeping us divided from others, irrelevant to lawmakers, and missing the mark of where Jesus calls us to be. Jesus call to those who followed in Galilee was experiential. That call for us today continues to be experiential. The church which is calling for justice for those who suffer needs to speak of its experience. We need to find a way to do what Glen Pearson suggests. Let us collect the data of our lived experience with the poor and speak to our municipal governments, our provincial governments, and the federal government. Let us tell them we deserve a voice. Let us make known to them that we are not all a people who are wrapped up in arguments about human sexuality and proper creeds…are we?
Let us find that voice to articulate the experience of our faith.
Last night I was privileged to attend a reception for the Doctor of Ministry students at McCormick. Even more privileged am I to be one of the people lucky enough to have attended this great Seminary. The ten doctoral graduates were given opportunity last evening to speak to the family, friends, faculty, and staff who had assembled in our honour. One of the things that I shared was how wonderful I feel to have been a part of such a great program for the last three years. McCormick has structured a D. Min. program that is having a direct impact at the ground level in church communities.
As I celebrate this accomplishment today I do not do so alone. First of all, because McCormick’s ‘cross-cultural, urban reformed ecumenical’ approach is effective at impacting ministry at the grassroots of the parish, I celebrate today with a community of people at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake who have participated actively in my education. I also celebrate today with my friends and family who have been so very supportive over the past three years and indeed in my lifetime. It was so wonderful to have Helen, and Elaine and Jack, and James and Clara by my side last night. So pleased to have them with me knowing that with me in spirit are Gary, Robert and Jo-Anne, Lloyd and Jackie, and Darryl and Karen as well as the multitude of nieces and nephews that have sent well wishes. How fortunate I am to have friends who travelled from Windsor as well to be there last might. Over twenty people joined Catherinanne and me at the service and there will be twenty more added to that number today. I celebrate today with the staff and faculty of McCormick whose work and commitment to the church are gifts with which God is well pleased. I celebrate today with my wife Catherinanne. Without her unwavering commitment and support, advice and encouragement, I would not have finished this program. I celebrate today with my friends and colleagues in the Doctoral program. Rick, Cynthia and Julie are wonderful ministers whose work in this program is a gift to the church.
I celebrate today with Curious George who attended every class with me and is now decked out in academic dress ready for today’s march across the stage – many thanks to Major Sharron Young for the fantastic academic garb that he now wears. This silly little mascot has come to represent so much. A gift from Catherinanne when I went back to school, this monkey reminds me to not take myself too seriously. He reminds me to laugh. He reminds me that others who are not with me at all times who love me are always thinking of me and praying for me. I celebrate today with mom who is unable to be here but who is so very proud of me. I celebrate today with my Dad who died in 2009 but lives yet in the lives of all that he impacted. I celebrate today with a lot of people and in so doing I celebrate with God. We are a great gift to each other. Perhaps these events serve to remind us that when we come together like we have this weekend, we are giving thanks to the Creator whose love has brought us into being and sewn us together as a people. I celebrate today with God.
Last night’s worship was awesome. Ted Hiebert’s sermon on Micah 6:8 was tremendous. The music was inspiring and the celebration of the Eucharist brought me to tears. Thank to McCormick for reminding us in worship last night what our joy today is really all about. Today will be a wonderful day — more than anything – today will be a day to give thanks to God for the many wonderful things that God has done! God has been so wonderfully present on the journey. Let us rejoice in that presence and that love and make a glad shout to God today in celebration of the many whose lives have been touched by this placed called McCormick Theological Seminary.