“Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing “Embraceable You” in spats.” ~Woody Allen
I do love Woody Allen!
What brings up this quote? Well…On Sunday night I have that dreaded experience of once again taking center stage to sing (as an act of my own) and I do think that spectacle has all the beauty and charm of a moose singing “Embraceable You!”
St. Vincent de Paul hosts an annual event at St. Anne’s Church in Tecumseh to raise a free will offering for the many good works that they do. Their dynamo, Louis Gouin has been remarkable at recruiting talent to sing at this thing. For the laugh component he recruits me! And as much as I do not relish the thought of singing alone with the comfort of friends and an appropriate beverage, I would not say no to Louis Gouin.
Last year’s event was a musical extravaganza and was enjoyed by all who attended. I would encourage any of you who are free on Sunday Evening at 7:30 pm to join us at St. Anne’s in supporting a great cause and enjoying an unbelievable show. They had me sing last year after Lee Asciak, whose voice could rival Andrea Bochelli – and I am not kidding! No pressure for me right? …but I have humour on my side, I made fun of Mr. Asciak suggesting that I was nervous no longer because of the obvious lack of talent that preceded me…brought on great laughs. It was a good night with something for everyone’s musical taste.
So take some time on Sunday evening for a night of good music and fun and support a wonderful cause as you enjoy the Musical Musings of those who support St. Vincent de Paul.
The motto of St. Vincent de Paul is “Serviens in spe”…”to serve in hope.” The Society’s motto reflects its global nature and the Society’s desire to serve the hope offered by Christ to all. SSVP’s webpage says that “Vincentians are called to alleviate suffering and its causes, serving everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender, opinion or age. Poverty doesn’t always or necessarily involve being in need of material goods. We are all poor in one way or another.” I am impressed with the work that SSVP is doing nad have heard personal accounts of the meaningful ways that people’s lives have been changed by the serving hands of the folks who work and volunteer at this great organization. I am not a singer and it makes me nervous to perform, but it is a small offering and a very small sacrifice to do this for a group that does so much for so many. I only hope that you have the time to come on Sunday and show your support with your presence and with whatever offering you can bring…that may be a prayer of thanks and it may be a monetary gift for the cause…it may be both. Most of all bring yourself to this great musical event!
Learn more about our local SSVP by clicking here
EDITORIAL FOR TOMORROW’S ISSUE OF THE TECUMSEH TRIBUNE
How wonderful it is that the Town has secured the funds needed to develop our Tecumseh waterfront park. We should all celebrate this news as the property at the end of Manning Rd. is a gorgeous place to be with family and friends. It gives unfettered access to our Lake St. Clair and allows us to interact with nature. Some may not fashion themselves environmentalist, but we should realize that we all engage our environment for better or worse whether we realize it or not.
This announcement is important for all of us who live in a ‘built environment.’ North Americans treasure cities. We build our neighbourhoods with great planning and try and make them interactive spaces for living, working, and playing. That is what is known as the ‘built environment.’ We are urban creatures nowadays and many of us have long forgotten the beauty and wonder of what it means to interact with the earth. When we see vacant space our attention often turns to what it might profit us. We value property by the foot and square foot, placing a price on what was a part of the created order that was and is truly priceless. The fact that we are not developing the waterfront property at Manning and Riverside Drive causes my heart to sing. For me this is a spiritual matter. I believe that we are called to take part in creating our built environment. I hold strongly to the notion that believers should celebrate this announcement as an opportunity to now speak about the need to embrace the fact that there needs to be space wherein we can reconnect with God in soil, grass, sand, water, and open air. Thi gives us opportunity to thank our council and mayor for not giving into greed. The per foot cost of that property is high, the loss of it to more urbanization is even higher. It is a cost that cannot be paid in human currency. Barry Commoner writes in The Closing Circle:
“everything is connected to everything else.
everything must go somewhere
nature knows best
there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
As many of you know, I am currently engaged in studying my Doctorate in Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Each group that moves through the program chooses a name which is reflective of the group’s identity. The group to which I belong, chose the name “The Bridge.” We did so because we felt that we are called to bridge so many differences and help people come together. In many ways it felt like the group that came together had crossed many bridges themselves to come together in the first place. This blog is dedicated to my group: Jack, Ray, Lew, Ericka, Rick, and Cyn… THE BRIDGE.
“There’s a land of justice,
cities filled with pride
A mountain of hope, just on the other side
Across a river of indifference,
and a valley of despair
There’s a tower of courage,
piercing through the air
I have a dream for our children,
I want to take them there”
Those are the words of Kevin Cronin. Those who grew up in the 1980s would be familiar with a group of Chicago legacy rockers known as REO Speedwagon. Loyal fans would remember them from the seventies especially if you are from Chicago are indeed the midwest. Cronin is the group’s lead singer. The band’s popularity certainly waned during the 1990s but they continue to tour and to produce music. In 1996 the REO Speedwagon released a CD entitled “Building the Bridge.” The words above are a verse from the CD’s title track.
I had not heard this CD or song until ‘my other brother Darryl’ emailed me a YouTube link to the song yesterday (You can view the video below – Thanks Darryl) What a great song. I have discovered that while this album did not achieve the commercial success of their earlier albums, most notably ‘Hi Infidelity,’ the song writing on this album is superb – the title track especially.
I love the imagery of building a bridge across a ‘river of indifference and a valley of despair.’ Cronin’s song-writing here strikes at the heart of what is keeping people apart. He is in good company in highlighting the danger of indifference. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard insisted that “at the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference.” Our greatest challenge as a people is to overcome the complete lack of concern for our fellow human being. Once we bridge that gap there is hope, the there is justice, there is a pride that is pure.
Bridging that valley of despair whose banks overflow with the waters of indifference is no small task. Between us and that better world lies vanity, arrogance, theology, doctrine, creed, race, orientation, gender, the economy, politics, (you can complete this list). If we would come to care enough to remove our indifference, we would empathize with others and embrace the notion that we all suffer when one suffers. We would understand that another’s suffering is not something that we should just summarize with a ‘whatever.’ How often have we uttered, “It’s not my problem?”
I believe that as a society we have drunk far too long at the river of indifference. Our bellies are full of that poisonous drink! It has causes us to lie down in that valley of despair and succumb to the idiom that ‘the problems of this world are too big for me to change.’ Since I have begun working more diligently in interfaith relations I have felt, more than ever, that the ‘enemy’ of the church is not any other creed or profession of faith. It is our own indifference and our own lack of verve for our own profession of faith. It is our indifference. It is time for us to purge ourselves of the belly full of indifference that we are lugging around. We need to heed the words of Revelation 3:
“I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. After all, you say, ‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.’ You don’t realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. My advice is that you buy gold from me that has been purified by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothing to wear so that your nakedness won’t be shamefully exposed, and ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see. I correct and discipline those whom I love. So be earnest and change your hearts and lives. Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me. As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne, just as I emerged victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. ”
I would like to think that Kevin Cronin was influenced by his Catholic upbringing in Evanston IL. and that he was seasoned in scripture and steeped in a faith that taught that being lukewarm is just never enough – that may just be wishful thinking, but it really does not matter. The important part here is that he has penned a great poem encouraging people to embrace passion for change. Such a powerful song, and in fifteen years I have not heard it. I have not heard it because it received little commercial ‘success.’ I am not surprised that people were ‘indifferent’ about this album. I think we like it better when our artists do not rouse us from indifference but keep us entertained and distracted from what is around us. Good on Kevin Cronin for taking the risk and producing a song that is more than just entertaining. The words of Cronin’s song are a great reminder to all of us that we are called to work to build that bridge to bring humanity together. It will take work and patience but we can bridge the divide with hard work and love:
We are building the bridge
One small stone at a time
With a lot of love
And some help from above
From your heart to mine
“It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it … and I feel fine.”
Those are the lyrics of R.E.M.’s 1987 hit song titled ‘It’s the end of the worlds as we know it (and I feel fine).’ I have been singing this song since yesterday but really cannot get it out of my head at all today…I wonder why?
I have been told today is the end……
but I feel fine!
The great soothsayer Harold Camping has calculated the day for the beginning of the end to be today at 6 pm local time. The local tome thing was a mistake, if you ask me. You see at the time of writing this it is already 6 pm in New Zealand, and I checked on line and there are no signs of the beginning of the end there today. I think that telling people in Christchurch to get ready for an earthquake at 6 pm was a little unkind myself considering what they have suffered through.
So it is past 6 pm local time on May 21st in many regions of the world, and the rolling earthquakes have not begun. What has begun is the laughing. Atheists around the globe have had a great chuckle at Christians and have pointed out how silly we are. Mr. Camping’s publicity campaign has lowered the level of intellectual conversation about God and what we believe about God. Instead of spending his considerable resources mobilizing people do feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the lonely, or give drink to the thirsty, Mr. Camping used is money and influence to encourage people to quit their jobs and journey the plant warning those of who are considered ‘heathen’ to get our act together for this ‘rapture.’ What it has netted him is a wider audience, more listeners on his radio station and subsequently more advertizing and of course more profit! How many people have offered him everything they have for this campaign because they believe that this is the end?
Jesus encouraged the people of God to embrace a new and risky way of living. It was summed up in what he called ‘the kingdom of God.’ It was a place where the weak and the vulnerable have primacy. It is a place where service is valued over power. It is a place where divisions are erased. It is a place where old models of living are replaced with new ones that seek to destroy the chains of oppression and bondage. The kingdom is a place where all of God’s children are given worth and value and none are cast aside. It is a place where forgiveness is offered without hesitation and love is the anthem of the redeemed. I want a place in that kingdom. But I don’t believe that I need to wait to see it and I don’t believe that Jesus taught that either – quite the opposite. What Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed was a covenantal way of living that should be embraced now. It is a message whose time has come. It is time that we seek to seek Christ in the weak, the lonely, and the oppressed. It is time that we embrace what Henri Nouwen called downward mobility. The time has arrived for us to seek service over power. The people of God are a people of the towel and not of the sword.
Perhaps those who do not believe might take us more seriously if we lived as Jesus calls us to live. In other words, rather than focussing on apocalyptic, fear driven predictions about the end, we should focus on beginning a new relationship with God that wall call us to loving service to one another. Instead of having people using their time, talent and treasure to warn people of impending doom, we need to be using our time, talent, and treasure to bind up those who are hurting, feed those who are hungering, bring peace to those who are warring, and be the people of love and forgiveness that Jesus calls us to be. As Ghandi once famously said, “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The circus that is Harold Camping and his doomsday predictions that are ‘guaranteed by the Bible,’ are the very displays of domination and abuse of power that Jesus pushed back against, so should we. This is not who we are.
Let us strive together to be Christians who resemble our Christ.
As many of you know by now, on Sunday at the opening liturgy of the 169th Synod of the Diocese of Huron, Bishop Bob Bennett appointed me to the Cathedral Chapter of Canons. It is a tremendous honour for which I feel undeserving. I was humbled by Bishop’s invitation to be a Canon of the Diocese of Huron. I thought of the words of St. Augustine who insisted, “The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.”
In many ways, I feel that this is an honour that should be bestowed upon a congregation. I have ministered in this diocese for over twelve years. Every day my ministry has been alongside the people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake Church who have done much to become an open, inclusive, mission minded church. There was a day when few knew much about St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Those days are gone. Not because our community has become loud or outspoken, but because with grace and humility the ministers of this parish have taken up the call of Micah: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. I believe strongly that in honouring me with this appointment, the Bishop is also honouring the many ministers of St. Mark’s.
So for those who were not there on Sunday here is the blow by blow!
The Bishop appoints new Canons most years at synod. It is unknown who will be appointed until it is announced in the liturgy. (You can imagine the surprise of the St. Mark’s delegates when my name was called.) This year there were four new Canons appointed to the Cathedral Chapter of Canons; The Rev’d Canon Nancy Adams, The Rev’d Canon Lance Smith, The Rev’d Canon Perry Chuipka and me. We are called forward after the bishop’s charge to synod. When arrived at the front, we stood at the chancel steps. The Bishop then asked:
“Kevin, You are about to be appointed and installed as a Canon in the Diocese of Huron. Your role, when called upon, is to assist the bishop with counsel; to be a member of the Cathedral Chapter, to study and demonstrate the discipline of ministry which is of interest; and to be an influence toward the health and welfare of the diocese. Will you endeavour to do these things?”
I will, the Lord being my helper
The The Bishop says: Dean Dixon, I ask you to install the new Canon please.
He escorts me to a stall (in this case a chair) and says:
“By the authority of the Bishop of Huron, I receive and recognize you as a Canon of the Diocese of Huron. May God richly bless you in your association with this Cathedral Chapter.”
Then I am seated!
It was quite an operation! The night was fairly painless, a little embarrassing, it was very humbling, it was inspiring, and it was reaffirming. Those of you who know me well know that I am uncomfortable with being complimented, etc. So the embarrassment comes from being signalled out and raised up. The physical aspect of leaving the seating on the floor to sit with other canons in the chancel is an uncomfortable notion for me. I like it when we are together. It was humbling in the sense that while I feel that I am undeserving of this, I know that gratitude is an important aspect of faithful living and I need to accept gracefully this gift and this honour. I am humbled because I have looked to others who have been part of this Chapter to be my counsel at times and they gave me guidance. It is an awesome thought to be considered worthy to be someone that others might look too. It was inspiring to me because of the words quoted above. With God being my helper, I am inspired to do more to assist, to study more, to inspire ministry that is of interest more, and to seek to be more intentional about seeking general welfare of Huron. It was reaffirming because at times we all need someone to affirm who we are and what we do. I minister because I love Jesus. It is good when another of Jesus’ ministers affirms my love for God.
Many have asked what this means. Good question – I’ll search out the answer. It is an honour, it is a title and it comes with some responsibility as noted above. It is not an order. I am not relocated to the cathedral or anywhere else. It means that Canon Dibbs has to move over – really looking forward to his return. My name is still Kevin. I still love hockey and I am still looking forward to Hockey Jersey Sunday this coming Sunday. So come this week and see how a Canon conducts a liturgy on a ‘feast’ we call HOCKEY JERSEY SUNDAY.
Joseph Campbell who was best remembered for saying ‘Follow your bliss,’ also mused,
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”
Is he right? Is it true that we find more within ourselves when our life is most challenged? I suspect that it is difficult for us in the moment of our greatest challenge to see Campbell’s wisdom. Yet somehow after we come through those challenges we discover that we have reached a place within ourselves that we had hitherto been unaware of. Think about that for a moment….
When the greatest darkness has surrounded you and you were certain you could never see yourself surviving the circumstances that surrounded you…what brought you through? Who delivered you? I have a thought or two about that.
When we are most challenged, we discover that no matter how out of touch we have been with God, God has not lost touch with us! When we reach into that place where we are often scared to go, there is the One who supports us, guides us, weeps with us, and strengthens us along the way. Sometimes that feeling can be quite intimate, and sometimes so far, far away. But God is there.
Tattoos seem very popular today. Everywhere you look there is amazing body art to be found. I would hasten to add that I have seen some tremendous Christian tattoos. Some people tattoo a faith symbol on themselves to be reminded that God is with them. In fact I had my body marked for the same purpose. It is a cross, although it is not that obvious to most. There is a powerful little sentence in the baptismal liturgy in the Anglican Church. After being baptised with water in the name of the Holy Trinity the priest says to the newly baptised:
“I sign you with the sign of the cross and I mark you as Christ’s own forever.”
These words are accompanied by the act of tracing a cross of the forehead of the newly baptised with ‘oil of chrism.’ On my little forehead, when I was less than a month old, a priest traced a cross and ‘marked me as Christ’s own forever.’ Oddly, no matter how many places I have been I cannot wash that ‘tattoo’ from my forehead. I have tried. I have turned my back on God too often I am ashamed to say. But God never turned God’s back to me. When I have turned back toward Jesus his arms have been open and embracing. That little cross, invisible to most, speaks to something deep within me that I (we) often only am able to access when I face the greatest adversity, but I (we) am (are) called to access every day. When we do find the courage to let that cross be shown to others we have to be prepared that it often comes with a cost. Bearing witness to that cross for Jesus is not always easy as the work of justice, love, and compassion for all is not always welcomed by a world obsessed with consumerism and individuality. But we persevere in speaking the word of love for even those who seem loveless.
How powerful it is to be marked as Christ’s own forever. Are you aware that you are God’s beloved? Do you know that God has stuck with you? How are we to respond that awesome grace, that amazing grace?
I try to remember that I am God’s own as I struggle through my challenges in life. When I am heartbroken or feel alone., or when i have been devastated by loss, I remember that I am God’s own. But it works in day to day life too…As I work to get healthy I lean on God to give me strength. [On that note, some of you have been asking…I am now down 16 lbs, 34 more to go. And my running is getting better each time out…be sure to watch for me on the big race on June 11.] When I am challenged with writing a thesis I lean on God. As I am challenged with being a good priest I lean on God. As I struggle with being a good husband, friend, son, mentor etc …I lean on God and remind myself that I am one of God’s own….forever…and when I forget that I simply look in the mirror to see the ‘tattoo’ of the cross on my forehead.
Over the last couple of days my blog has had record traffic because of my last post. I have also had opportunity to communicate with many people some who agree with my position and some who wildly disagree. Some comments were so rude and demeaning to people who are on the street and/or to me that I refused to post them. Personal insults are the characteristic of people who cannot carry their muster in a debate. That said, I will respond here to a number of issues raised by people upset with my last post:
There were those who suggested that I have no business in this discussion because I serve in a suburban parish and that I might have a different attitude if I served in the downtown core. These people are the ilk that has no understanding of who I am or of the work that my parish has done on the ground and with organizations who work on the ground. Nonetheless, I fully expected this and am glad that people pointed out that I am in the suburbs. I do not have to come downtown to work, to eat, to socialize, or to have an adult beverage. Yet I do. I love downtown Windsor. I go downtown even though that means encountering people on the street who are looking for help. One of my favourite places to frequent is Chanosos, as I noted in my last post.
Some have called me another member of ‘the Christian right.’ Clearly not a person who has read mush of what I have written in previous posts, or who knows anything about me.
Some have accused me of threatening Mark Boscariol’s livelihood. In this vein I have been told that I am using my ‘pulpit’ as a place to make political statements. It has been suggested that the people who belong to the church where I serve have ‘impressionable minds’ and that they hang on my every word. It was even noted that I am using my position as a celebrity sometimes does to advance my political agenda. To quote some of the politicians from the recent election: “Let me be clear…” If saying that I believe that Jesus calls me to respect the dignity of every human being is a political statement than yes I am using my personal blog to advance the politics of Jesus. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake are not mindless drones who hang off my every word. I am sure that many disagree with me on this point, some have expressed it in the comments on the last post and others have communicated with me directly. That is life. I was accused of preaching in this blog post. Fair enough. Preaching is about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. I am a priest, not a businessman. I have no celebrity and I did not bring Mr. Boscariol’s restaurant into this conversation. It was there when I arrived.
Some have suggested that my suggestion that Mark Boscariol open his restaurant to the homeless is unfair. One person asked if I would be prepared to take ‘the mentally ill’ and alcoholics into my home for a meal and suggested that they would purchase the groceries for the feast. Now having people in my home, is not even on the same plane as suggesting a restaurant have a night to feed those on the street. Nonetheless I have dined with those others would not acknowledge…but I have a long way to go in doing more of this.
Clearly, Mr. Boscariol and I have a difference of opinion. He and some others who have posted on here are concerned about having ‘safe’ streets, free of ‘annoyances.’ They see those who ‘panhandle’ as a threat to their business and subsequently their bottom line. “Let me be clear…” that does not mean that Mr. Boscariol is heartless, mean-spirited or does not care about those who are on the street. He has communicated with me directly and I get the sense that he genuinely does care about those who are ‘less fortunate.’ But we have to acknowledge that the driving force for him is downtown revitalization. I have a different concern. I and some others who have posted on here are concerned with the people who are found on the street ‘panhandling.’ While Mr. Boscariol has clearly acknowledged that he likes to help those who are in need through the work of organizations etc, his primary concern is to remove, reduce, or restrict people from begging. At the very least where they can do so. He is telling tell people that they cannot give directly to those who beg for money. I resent that as much as he resents me telling him to feed the street people in his restaurant. Point made – we cannot tell another how to give to those who need it.
Mark Boscariol and I disagree on much. That is where this rests. The rest of the rhetoric served up in comments on my post as well as in personal messages to me only reinforce the feelings that people have about those who live on the fringe of society. Some of us have argued that they are valued children of God who need to be treated with respect and that there are root issues that need addressing. We have maintained that while organizations need support to continue to do their good work, there will always be people who are found on the street and we should indeed not be told that we cannot give them change. Others have described people on the street as ‘god-awful,’ ‘annoying,’ ‘a nuisance,’ ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back,’ ‘mentally ill,’ ‘alcoholics,’ ‘cheats,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘bum,’ etc. This all tells me that there is much work to be done.
I have found this thread quite enlightening. The traffic it has received, over 1000 hits, suggests that it is a hot button issue….we need to come together in a public forum and work on this…for some, this issue might be revitalization of downtown streets. For me this issue is about human dignity. Nonetheless we might find a common ground on which to work to accomplish our goals. I want to encourage dialogue and discussion and think that we are on our way toward that.
So let me say that I have another idea… I love the food at Chanosos. I have not been to Mark’s other restaurants but I hear they are fantastic as well. If you are downtown – Go to Chanosos for a bite. Let them know your feelings on this matter while you are there. If you agree with Mark, pat him on the back. If you disagree with him, call him to task. Let him know why you feel the way you do. I expect that since he weighed into this conversation he will be big enough to engage in a dialogue and debate with you in an intelligent manner. He has, for the most part, done just that with me. I hope to see him on my next visit, over a stir-fry…spice level 7!
Would love for you to read a great article from The University of Windsor Daily News. You can read the story by clicking here. It highlights the need for more work to be done with both funding and educating business owners etc. Janice Crawley who is an assistnat professor of nursing and who specializes in research on the homeless has her work highlighted here.