“On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.” – George Gordon Byron
On Saturday last, Catherinanne threw an awesome party at Boston Pizza in honour of my graduation from McCormick last month. It was a great day. Many of you came and I was pleased to see of you. I wish there was more time to spend with each of you. It would be fair to suggest that we adopted the slogan, “Let Joy be unconfined.” It was a good and informal day of fun and frivolity… I think there may have been too many ‘glowing hours.’ That being said, I enjoyed every minute. Thank you Catherinanne for your kindness and love in throwing me such a great celebration — you have been such a great support in all of this. Thank you as well to Kirsten and Rob Haglund, owners of Boston Pizza — my favorite locally owned sports bar and restaurant for your help with a great party. Not to be forgotten — To Kelly and Jessica managers extraordinaire, you are the best — thanks for everything.
(my world was made complete when my fav locally owned Chinese Restaurant – Fong’s Villa sent the best Hot and Sour soup in the world to BP — Chinese food at Boston Pizza — you gotta love Margaret and Lucy!)
Now we move on to our plans for one more celebration. The parish of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has planned a Roast as a farewell for me and Catherinanne. I would be most pleased to see our friends from within the parish as well as our many friends and partners in the Windsor Essex Community. Our church has grown in no small measure in these past years because of the the partnerships with have built. We look forward to seeing as many of those community partners together in celebration on June 22 at the K of C Hall on Lesperance. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased from the church office by calling 519 735 4921 or by emailing email@example.com. As tickets were understandably restricted to parishioners only until this past weekend you should call or email early to get your seats as space is limited.
It is hard to believe that we are now down to four more Sundays before we move on to our next home to new challenges as rector of St. Aidan’s in London. As each week ticks by it is increasingly more emotional to think of walking out the door of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake for the last time as rector. I pray that you have opportunity to join us for these last few weeks of worship together. I hope we see as many of you we can before we depart. On July 1st we will have a Celtic Mass at 10:30 am with loads of music and loads of fun. Plan on being there for what will be a memorable time of worship.
This entire saying goodbye business can be tiring. At the same time, I am reminded of Winnie the Pooh’s words, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” These next few weeks will no doubt remind me of how very lucky and how very fortunate I am to have something so special in my life. I will endeavour to take opportunity each day that I have left with the people of St. Mark’s to give thanks for the many ways in which God is made manifest in this wonderful community. May God give us good time together in these next few weeks.
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!
Tara Brach writes
“the spiritual path is not a solo endeavour. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.”
There is something special that happens when we come together. That special something revolves around the notion that we are community. We are designed to embrace the interconnectedness that comes with being a party of the human race. That is often hard for us to see, let alone embrace, in a world which preaches individualism on a regular and ongoing basis. Every now and then we are given glimpses of what Kingdom living looks like. Each of those glimpses seem to revolve around people coming together. Each of those instances involves loving, sharing, and taking on the common joy or the common sorrow that comes with being a child of God on a journey of faith. Scripture says to us:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap. - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Today was RAY DAY at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Today the community honoured the life of Ray Hinton by embracing the notion that we are better together than we are apart. Ray Hinton was an integral part of the community of faith in general and a wonderfully devout parishioner at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. When he died so unexpectedly in March we were all saddened and we were all concerned for Marion. The Parish Council, under the leadership of Warden Christian Paulton, chose RAY DAY as a way to show Marion how much love we have for her as well as giving the people of God in this place a way to come together to and be present to one another in their grief. RAY DAY was a day to clean out the gardens and ready them for the spring and summer months ahead.
It is not uncommon to see Marion Hinton tending to the church gardens. It was not uncommon to see Ray, assisting her in the gardens. Ray has gone to his glory. So today 35 or so of Marion’s church family walked into the church garden with Marion and helped her the same way Ray would have if he were here. My Dad always said, ‘Many hands make light work.’ I saw that come to life today. It was awesome to see all of those people today supporting Marion and supporting one another. We had to leave for a wedding this morning and it was a wonderful feeling to drive away seeing so many of the people that we have grown to love so dearly tilling the soil together as they remembered Ray Hinton. The group cleaned out all of the gardens and they constructed a new tiered garden at the main entrance to the church/hall offices. The Ray Hinton Garden is highlighted by a beautiful stone that says, ALL ARE WELCOME – In Memory of Ray Hinton.
It is an awesome new addition to the property here. All of the gardens out there are amazing after today. There were bags and bags of yard waste prepared as they trimmed out that which is no longer needed and allowed new life to spring forth.
Watching them trim this morning I was reminded of the words of John 15.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit.
Judging by the amount that was trimmed away LOVE SPRINGS ETERNAL at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. There will be many fruits of love, justice, compassion, and healing to be harvested at our church because of the willingness of this community to embrace each other, and to reach out to one of its dearest members and hold her in prayer and in action as they tended to pruning that which no longer has life, to embrace the fullness of new life.
When I returned to the church at 5:15 pm it came as no shock to see that there was one person left in the garden…
You guessed it – Marion! Her smile, even through the tears, was tremendous. She was so very loved and honoured today. I am so humbled to be a Priest among many faithful priests of the faith at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I would like to say thank you to all who came and assisted today. You were a diverse group of all ages and you made the church look great – more importantly – you reflected well the Light of the Gospel. A day like today is a sobering reminder of what a special church community St. Mark’s by-the-Lake is. You never cease to impress me with how well you can reflect the hope that comes with being a Kingdom people.
We Will dedicate the Ray Hinton Memorial Garden tomorrow morning after both the 8 am and 10:30 am liturgies. Please join us.
You can see more pictures of today’s activities by clicking here.
On Tuesday evening I got in a ball game at Comerica Park. It was a great night with three great guys. Thanks Mark and Dan and Rob for a good night – with special props to Mark for the wonderful seats. It was a wild evening.
So much happened — well everything happened but the Tigers winning. I will miss getting to the Tiger games. It is so much fun to be at Comerica with friends. Not to say I won’t make the trip down the 401 after July 1st to get in a game or two – especially if our Tigers make the playoffs. I enjoy the games and I enjoy meeting new people each time we go.
I was pleased to be seated next to a lovely young couple name Pheape and Anthony. (Note: this couple has allowed me to blog about meeting them). They are a delightful couple from West Bloomfield who are engaged to be wed on April 7 of next year. They seem excited to be getting married and told me all about the church where their wedding will be held. We really got to know them when shortly after we sat down a foul ball was headed our way. I have never had a foul ball come near me in over 13 years of attending Tiger games. Sadly, my first thought was, “How will I ever preach at St. Mark’s or St. Aidan’s if I have a concussion.” So I put my arms over my head and I ducked. Yikes…Anthony (sitting right next to me) caught the ball! The one time I have a chance at a foul ball and I was crouched over in the fetal position. Terrible!
I got to know this young couple a little over the next few innings and it turns out they knew, somehow or another, that they would be on the new Jumbo Tron in the sixth inning. “Would it be possible for you to take our photo when we are up there?” she asked. “No Problem!” But that was without thinking too much about it. You see it never occurred to me that I would be on that Jumbo Tron too as I was sitting next to them as they kissed for the kissing cam. So taking a look at the photo, I am the guy in the red jacket holding a iPhone and taking a photo while the lovely looking couple next to me smooched. I have never been on the Jumbo Tron before another big first. From what the boys say, I have never been so vivid either!
Anthony and Pheape are a good example of how you can have a lot more fun if you are willing to engage with those you encounter on a daily basis. Our conversation was interesting. They were quite surprised that I was a priest in the Anglican Church – I cannot imagine why? But then I flashed my St. Mark’s by-the-Lake jacket and they knew for sure that I was not foolin’. Each opportunity we have to bear witness and speak freely about the fact that we are people of faith is a gift and I was pleased to share that gift last evening. They had many questions about the Anglican Church and how it compared to Chaldean Catholicism. Chance encounters are also a good opportunity to bear witness to the fact that even clergy enjoy a good ballgame. Well ok — the ballgame was not great but it was a great time. Albert Schweitzer said, “We cannot possibly let ourselves get frozen into regarding everyone we do not know as an absolute stranger.” I could not agree more. Many of us, in urban settings especially, could spend many days among many people who are unknown to us become fixed into the idea that we are all strangers. But most are not absolute strangers. A Conversation with ‘the stranger’ often allows to us see very quickly that we have much more in common with strangers than we think. I try to live by notion that strangers are just friends that I have yet to meet. There are not many days that pass by that I do not meet someone for the first time and engage a conversation. You never know who you might meet when you reach beyond yourself welcome the stranger into conversation. Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I am grateful for having had time with strangers to talk, to learn, to listen and to laugh. Who will I entertain tomorrow? Who will you entertain tomorrow?
Today is the Feast day of St. George the Martyr. A Big day for someone with the surname George! The day is made all the more special for me because I grew up in the church of St. George the Martyr in Whiteway Newfoundland. What a wonderful little church it twas! Well … is….It is still there and people still worship there weekly. This small church, whose patronal feast is today, would seat about 40-50 people. It has no running water or facilities. This meant that from time to time as a little boy you would find the side of the church that was ‘in the lun’ or out of the wind in order to ‘go pee.’ This gave new meaning to the term ‘sprinkling rite.” The lack of running water also means that if you are on altar guild you bring a jar of water when there is a baptism.
In the words of a good tv advert…. “but wait there’s more!” I also attended St. George’s High School. What is there not to love about the name George?
The Saint is often depicted slaying a dragon, saving a lady from certain peril. It is said that the lady is God’s truth and that the dragon is evil and wickedness.
This great saint is also the patron saint of England and his cross features prominently on the English flag as well as on the Union Jack. As much as the Irish venerate St. Patrick and Scots celebrate St. Andrew, the English strive to celebrate St. George. This is also a great day for Scouts everywhere as they celebrate their Patron – St. George!
On this feast day I ask myself about dragons that need slaying in my life. Can I call on blessed St. George to give me strength to face those things that are threatening my spiritual life? What are the issues in my day-to-day journey that should be slain so that the love and truth of the God who loved me into being might be set free to shine in my life? Can we all ask ourselves these difficult questions? It is difficult to acknowledge to others that we have dragons that need slaying. It feels better to have the world believe that we have it all together.
Today I pray for the courage to recognize the need to see myself in others. I pray for the courage to slay the dragon of pride that allows me to forget my interconnectedness to the world around me. We are all members of the one body. When we forget this it is easy for us to judge and condemn those who are different that we are. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov prayed; “Teach me to search for the fine qualities in others, to recognize their immeasurable worth. Teach me to cultivate a love for all Your children, for no one, no one is without redeeming value. Let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.”
I think I would like to slay the dragon of negativity. The good Rebbe had it right. If we could but focus of the good in ourselves, in others and in this world, the compelling power of love could take root. It is difficult for that seed of love and hope to grow in soil that is often loaded with the toxins of hurt, judgement, shame or guilt. So may God grant me the strength to seek to lay aside judgement and embrace hope and love. God grant us all the courage to slay the dragons of hatred of others and pride in self that keep Peoples divided and enslaved in a state of darkness. In celebrating the feast day of St. George we pray for the ability to recognize dragons in our own lives that need to be put down.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter
This weekend was incredibly hard for very obvious reasons but it was also very liberating. I had been carrying around a lot of worry for a few weeks and that is never easy. So standing before a congregation that I love so dearly and delivering the news that I would leave St. Mark’s in July was difficult, but it feels so much better to have ‘the news’ out there.
One of the reasons that it is so much better stems from the first part of Lao Tzu’s quote above. Being deeply loved by someone gives strength. I could not imagine being more loved and feeling stronger than I do at this time. Like most at St. Mark’s, I have no clear vision of what the future holds. I know a little about the Christian community that I will be joining. Presumably, they know a little about me. But collectively we really do not know a lot about each other. So I am preparing to set out on a journey with Jesus as my Compass and my Guide. But make no mistake; I cannot be certain about where that journey leads. Judging by what I have seen so far, I suspect it will lead us to wonderful places of discipleship with a community that shares a zeal for mission and an interest in the transformative power of living the Gospel. Setting out on a journey with limited knowledge of where it might go requires strength and I am drawing that strength from being loved by so many. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake responded so well to the news of my departure. In fact, when I finished my announcement that I would be leaving, I got a standing ovation! What does that mean? – kidding! The love and appreciation mean so much. We have received countless messages via Twitter, Facebook, email, and this thing called a phone – so much so that it is overwhelming. Then there were the messages sent by homing pigeons – kidding again! We have also been so surprised at the messages from across Windsor Essex from outside the church community. Also touching was the messages from those people of St. Aidan who await our arrival. It means so very much to be so very loved. Catherinanne and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the care and love that you have all expressed. I also want to express my gratitude for the messages that I have received from clergy within the Deanery of Essex and to the Clergy in the Deanery of Medway who sent messages in anticipation of my arrival in July.
The second half of the above quote is also instructive to what I am currently feeling. Loving someone deeply gives you courage. While it may difficult for some people to understand, the decision to depart from St. Mark’s at this time is not simply about what is best for Kevin or for Kevin and Catherinanne. This move is also about what is best for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I love this church and the people in it very deeply. That love for you is what gave ne the courage needed to decide to answer the leading of the Spirit and be stirred from my complacency and to allow this church to be stirred from its complacency. There comes a time when a church needs its leader to have the courage to make change happen. If the church leader is sitting in the comfortable pew that decision becomes a very personal choice. Coming to the conclusion that the Spirit was leading me to acknowledge that new leadership will be necessary for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake was tough – it is hard on my ego to acknowledge that a group of people who I love so much need a change in leadership. But loving so deeply has afforded me enough courage to heed the leading of the Spirit.
The parish response to this challenge is wonderful. I never really doubted that it would be any different. Winston Churchill said that “the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has always been a church of optimists. Over the last 14 years I have marvelled at the ability of the people of God in this church to find opportunity in every challenge. the Parishioners of St. Mark’s have been through leadership changes that have been less than pretty. In each and every challenge this church has faced, the people have come together and found great opportunity. I see these the months ahead no differently. The strong and dedicated people of this church will come together to make the best of this opportunity that has been presented.
Now we forge ahead together toward July 1, 2012. We will have many worship opportunities together at St. Mark’s and I encourage you to come out so that we might enjoy each other in the sacredness of liturgy and in the joy of community fellowship. There will hopefully be an opportunity to formally say farewell in the weeks ahead. Please feel free to come and see me with any questions or concerns that you have. Feel free to stop by the office and reminisce about the last thirteen plus years. I would welcome hearing from you.
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I love the poetry of Robert Frost. At the end of Church this evening Christian and Bob brough before us a twelve-foot cross and filled it with candlelight. The light of the church was extinguished and before us was placed a very striking and moving painting of the crucifixion by Joe Pastovich. As all of the ornamental hangings and decor of the church was removed I could physically feel us moving into the night. As I fixed my eyes on the painting of jesus before us I was transfixed into the night and these words of Frost came back to me….
“I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street…”
This is such a powerful night. As a people of God we know that we are acquainted with the night. Good Friday is a day that we can with honesty of heart acknowledge that darkness is a part of life. Sadly, we must also acknowledge that we participate in that darkness. I pray that we all be held in tenderness through the long darkness of Good Friday. We all know people who have travelled through many Good Fridays. We enter into this one secure in the knowledge of what we are waiting for in three days.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
There is no need to explain… we merely enter into the darkness —- it is a place we must all journey from time to time….