Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life is full but I keep on preaching

There has been a LOT going on lately, trip to Vancouver with family, Synod, meetings  - plus everything has had a feeling of being 'up in the air' as we consider and reconsider vision - for the Parish, for our Diocese, and in our everyday life.

But the everyday rituals and events of Church life continue, including our Midweek Eucharists.  So here is a sermon what I wrote for today.  Taster here, full text at New Kid Deep Stuff (click [more] for link)

James Hannington Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and His Companions
Martyrs, 1885 — Commemoration

Matthew 10.16–22

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

I’m not sure we should have favourite Bible verses, but today’s Gospel reading contains one of mine!  [more]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When things seem to fit together....

It has been quite a couple of days - just one of those 'meeting to service to meeting to visit to meeting to service to service' kind of thing.  But three things have all coalesced and my thinkings have all come together in a way that seemed to me complementary.

Firstly I had the privilege of presiding and speaking again at the 12-step Eucharist which is offered by Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria.  The Gospel reading for the day and the structure of the service seemed to me (strangely in the case of the lectionary, as you will see if you follow the link) to speak to Grace, even in Jesus' Critique of the religious leaders of the day.  Then we had a wonderful celebration of New Ministry at the Induction of Bruce Bryant-Scott here in Victoria which had a sense of joy and liberation about it which made the whole evening (despite being at the end of a long day) feel very positive.  Then I was preaching and presiding again at our early Eucharist, which remembered Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross - and the readings and prayers and my own thinking seemed to come together in quite a special way.  So here are the links to the sermons - found in full on New Kid Deep Stuff, and a picture of the Clergy at the service.  I have a hippo on my head, 'nuff said.

Sermon 1- for 12 Step Eucharist

Amazing Grace

We live in a society that often seems obsessed with how we look… the clothes we wear, the way our hair looks, or the state of our skin, whether we eat right, exercise, look buff, whatever…  We are obsessed with how things seem, how they look, what impression we give. [more]

Sermon 2 - Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross

Teresa of Avila & John of the Cross

Today is the remembrance of Teresa of Avila, and of St John of the Cross – two 16th Century contemplatives.  We are using the readings and prayer for Teresa, but we keep in mind also her friend and follower John of the Cross.  From the companion to our readings we are told that Teresa of Avila was a Spanish nun of the sixteenth century whose visions of Christ and gifts as a spiritual director have placed her among the greatest of all Christian mystics. She was the only daughter of a minor nobleman and entered the Carmelite convent in her native town of A’vil-a when she was twenty-one. Over the next two decades she endured many illnesses, one of which left her paralyzed, and also a nagging sense that in her prayers and devotions she was doing nothing more than “treading water.”  [more]

Monday, October 06, 2014

Country Music - a guilty pleasure

Amongst all the things I have discovered since I arrived in Victoria, I didn't expect to discover, or rediscover, Country Music.  I grew up listening to Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and others (Many of the Irish families I know love Country and Western Music).  Following a Clergy Day last week I was reminded by the Bishop of a somewhat 'guilty pleasure' I have of enjoying Country Music, though I must admit on the whole my tastes to veer to New Country!

There are two things I have discovered here - one of them is Country Music in French - a genre I should've realised existed as I have seen such wonders as French Country Music albums in French stores, but the fact of French Country as a genre somehow never quite clicked.

The other discovery is that Canada has a thriving Country scene of its own.  Not a great leap of imagination to realise that is the case, the 'Western Spirit' is strong in this pioneer nation.  I always think of Country as 'Southern' music - but that's obviously not the case.

What I do like is that Country Music is able to laugh at itself, and amongst the (admittedly frequent) bouts of mawkish sentimentality and nostalgia that seems to be the hallmark of much Country music... along with lots of heartbreak, there's also some fun stuff.  So here's 'Bible on The Dash' by Canadian Country Artiste Corb Lund. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

On still being here

I have been at St John the Divine, Victoria - serving as their Priest and Rector - for just over a year now. Some recent conversations I have had on Social Media, plus a blog posting which I found very moving on the blog (here), plus some time spent with friends from my MRC (Motorcycle Riding Club)
as both 'pastor' and friend have all caused me to reflect on the experience of the past year or so.  And just why I find this particular place, spiritual community and time in my life so personally and spiritually nurturing.


That's the key.  I believe that the key to our Spiritual journey is the need to be in community.  That doesn't mean that time alone, in prayer, reading, meditation, playing guitar or riding motorcycles (my own influence may have slipped in there) is not important - but to have a sanctuary, a place to share ideas, hopes, doubts, dreams, concerns and above all, love, is crucial.  The Orthodox Church has a saying 'we're saved together, we fall alone' (Or in stronger terms, in the Divine Liturgy - "We're saved together; we're damned alone") - it is certainly my feeling that community is what we are called to, to discern, to wrestle, to pray, to learn, to laugh and to weep and so much more.

A Spiritual Community

For me, this parish, this church, this disparate and diverse group of followers, are seeking to be an intentional Spiritual community.  We participate in a number of activities - including some powerful social justice and Outreach work - we worship together, we study and learn together, we pray, we sing.  All of this is one, there is no distinction between our 'spiritual' and 'social'.  It is an exciting community to be a part of and one which feels very much like a place I can share my journey.  Though I am in a position of 'leadership/servanthood' and have a specific role and calling within the community, it is a safe place in which to voice my questions, share my doubts, discover new ways of expressing ancient faith, learn together with friends what this following Jesus is all about.  That's not to say that previous parishes I have served have not offered such opportunities, but this is a community in which I feel liberated in my preaching and sharing in a way I have not before.  There is an acceptance and an openness to new and old ideas, and it might be that I am just now recognising and feeling confident in joining in that journey - or that I am receptive in a way I have not been before. But the sense of freedom is palpable.

A Welcoming Community

I think in part that this sense of freedom comes because the Church is going through a time of growth.  As new people have come and joined our community there has been a sense that much of this is new to many of us, and that goes hand in hand with a sense of excitement, and a desire to welcome others into our sense of pilgrimage and exploration. This makes for a community which is welcoming and seeking to be inclusive.  We have a commitment to the full participation of all as any wish to, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, background, class or any of the other factors that so easily define and divide us.  That, at least, is the plan!

An Imperfect Community

Before this becomes an exercise in back slapping and self-congratulation, I recognise that we are not perfect - we do not get it right all of the time. I realise that there are some for whom our Church is not a place where they feel at home, or we fail to welcome as much as we think we do.  I know that. We know that. One of the encouragements about this particular part of my journey is being able to live with those imperfections - because I know that we are seeking to work on them, to learn and to grow and to be what God calls us to be.  There will always be those who don't like the decor, the music, the style, the Rector, whatever and disagreement is allowed, even encouraged.  Sometimes those disagreements lead to change, sometimes to growth, sometimes to sadness or frustration, sometimes we have to just hold in tension our disagreements.  But I trust this parish, these people, and I know that not everyone sees things the way I do, and that what I might want is not always the way things are going to go,  This give and take, though sometimes painful, is part of being in community. Something I - and I feel St John's - is committed to.

So I am here, I plan to stay here for as long as God and the people think I should!  Thanks be to God.