My dear friends- the people of the Aylmer-Eardley Pastoral Charge,
My deep gratitude to you all for your participation in the End of Covenant service and the lovely retirement gathering on Sunday evening. It was a classy affair! Your words, your gifts, your hugs, your smiles and your tears touched my heart. I am forever grateful for my time in ministry with you.
I wish you God's blessing as you journey together toward your new future directions.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.
My forty years of ministry as first a diaconal minister, then ordained, have been fulfilling, frustrating, challenging, and exhilarating. I am blessed with many amazing colleagues with whom I have planned, worshipped, co-celebrated, argued, puzzled, wept and laughed. I have baptized, married, celebrated communion, preached, sung, clowned, danced, prayed and sat silently when there have been no words to share. I have anointed the dying, buried the dead, comforted the sick and grieving, and blessed the newly born. I have led adults through Bible study, teens through confirmation class, children through scripture stories. I have gone on retreat and found God at the bottom of the depths of despair. A more rewarding and interesting career I could not imagine!
I have been an active participant in the United Church of Canada since I was a child. I recall moments as a toddler feeling as safe in the church building as anywhere in the world. I had an interior knowledge that God was with me and that I would be okay, even if I lost track of my parents momentarily. As a teen and young adult the church was a place I felt at home. There my presence mattered and I could make a positive contribution. The community that gathered Sundays and throughout the week nurtured me, supported me and challenged me.'
My initial theological training came through the “New Curriculum” of the 1960’s and 70’s. Even then I realized that my church was radically different from other churches that some of my friends attended. I was curious to know why my church was different. So I asked lots of questions. And I was proud of the United Church for taking stands on important social issues.
My participation as a commissioner to General Council in 1988 solidified my trust in the UCC to be leader in justice issues not only in Canada but around the world. What surprised me most at that GC meeting was not the fact that we did indeed vote to “ordain and commission self declared homosexual persons”, but the positive and supportive response from our ecumenical guests. A woman Religious who I had become friends with told me she was so proud and humbled by the boldness of the UCC and believed that the UCC would give courage to her church to move forward. She had unknowingly commissioned me to continue justice work as a high priority for my ministry wherever that would lead me.
As a contemplative and introvert by nature, there are some challenges to overtly speak truth to power. But that was (is!) part of my call. It was inherent in my early years at home and at church. It seeped into my bones during my foundational education at the Centre for Christian Studies. It was named again and again in the work I was called into in Presbytery, Conference and pastoral work and as part of Gender Justice work (Saskatchewan Conference and General Council). I was a GC rep to the End of the Decade for Churches in Solidarity with Women at the WCC in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998. I will never forget nor cease to be inspired by our host African women whose stories still tear at my heart.
About 20 years ago I was invited to develop a program to teach spiritual direction to church leaders through the Faculty of Theology, U of Winnipeg. Thus the Prairie Jubilee Program was born. I directed the program until I left the Prairie many years later. In this work my deep love for the contemplative and my persistent call to serve Creation were able to mesh beautifully. I am grateful to my students and colleagues who taught me so much. I am grateful to be now working with a similar program out of the Tatamagouche Centre in NS - Contemplative Pathways. One retirement project!
I have always had a desire to explore embodied spirituality. So I learned, then taught liturgical dance and embodied prayer, became a Reiki practitioner then studied 3 years of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and more to become a registered massage therapist. It is amazing how well this body work supported my ministry. The integrity of mind, body, spirit became even more important in my work and life.
A number of years ago, at a challenging time in my ministry a friend gave me a pin that was created by women in the Church of England. It says “In spite of considerable provocation I will not leave the church.” It goes with me everywhere. I have said many times over the years “I cannot NOT do this work.” It is difficult and sometimes heartbreaking work, but as people of Jesus it is the work we are called to do. It brings me deep joy to be connected with God’s people and all Creation in this web of relationship.
As for the future Time for family - my husband (retired UC minister Boyd Drake) my grandchildren, children, sister and parents - is a high priority for retirement. As is Support to a place I call home - the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer in Ft Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan.
Thanks to all of you who attended our worship and workshop last Sunday. It was a great success. And it was fun (we promised some fun didn't we?!) We are so grateful to the Rev Sharon Moon who facilitated the process for us.
You listened carefully to the work of the Strategic Planning Working Group. You took time to ask questions and add our own thoughts. You considered four scenarios which the SPWG had developed from the work you had done at the previous workshops. Weighing the pros and cons of these scenarios helped you discern your sense of direction as Aylmer United Church. At the end of the day there was a sense of accomplishment, and a satisfaction about that direction. You let God's Spirit guide you.
If you were not at the event then plan to come 10 or 15 minutes early this Sunday to find out what happened, and to see where your gifts and skills might support to work going forward. Members of the SPWG will greet you and explain the process we went through with the help of visuals.
I am excited for you as you look to the future! I am happy to have been part of this energizing process! If you keep up this good work the future of Aylmer United Church within the community looks bright. Let your light shine. Be faithful to the Spirit of Christ who calls you to listen and to respond, and who calls you to compassion and action. May it be so!
Spirit has been blowing through the planning meetings of the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) these past few weeks as we prepare for our congregational worship and workshop this Sunday! There have been many meetings - often two a week with sub-groups meeting together as well as numerous emails and phone calls. The bulk of the work has been taking what we all have done together in our congregational workshops throughout the year and preparing recommendations and scenarios going forward as the the people of Aylmer United Church. I am so grateful to the faithful members of this group who will offer leadership this Sunday - Anne Little, Darlene Turiff, Deborah Buck, Ewan Vost, Leslie Jamieson and Richard Van Ravenswaay,
Things are happening! Energy is moving! You will definitely want to be part of the gathering on Sunday as we hear and see the work we have already done. You will be asked once again this Sunday to participate in the vision and the direction for the congregation, and to discern the next steps.
Once again Sharon Moon will facilitate our discussions.
There will be lots of food (come at 10:15 for coffee and muffins). We will share lunch together (please bring a salad or desert to share). We will meet in the downstairs hall for both worship and the workshop. We will be finished up by 2:00.
Come and be ready to feel the Spirit of God blow within and amongst us!
As I mentioned last week, the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) has done a lot of reading over the past year. I would be very grateful if you would allow me to share some of the ideas found in Holy Currencies by Rev. Eric H.F. Law, an Episcopal priest who founded an American institute to provide training and resources to churches throughout North America. In 2009, he noticed that half of the 37 congregations that he surveyed had concerns about money. Interestingly, Rev. Law discovered that those who spoke about being missional tended not to talk about sustainability, and those who spoke about sustainability, were often preoccupied by money as the only currency, and tended not to talk about being missional. Sound familiar?
Over half of the church leaders of these congregations also wanted resources to move their churches towards becoming both sustainable and missional. Rev. Law found that there weren’t many resources to help churches become more missional (until his book). So, what is a missional church and why is this important to Aylmer United? “It is a community of people who look outward and are able to connect with others who are not already members of any church organization”. Some of the questions the SPWG asked ourselves included whether we were focussed externally or were we so caught up on finances that we’ve lost the big picture of being a church? What is God’s plan for us and what makes Aylmer United different from the Knights of Columbus or the Optimists?
Rev. Law’s research summarized that in sustainable ministries, in addition to money, at least five other currencies flow through them: time and place, gracious leadership, relationship, truth, and wellness. Essentially, these currencies flow through the ministry and are exchanged for each other (like a barter system), which he called the Cycle of Blessings. I will elaborate on these currencies in future blogs. However, the sequence of the exchanges does not always follow the same pattern and not only replenishes the currency that was spent initially, but recirculates resources and regenerates more currencies, allowing the ministry to grow and expand. This model is based on the premises that God owns everything (we live in God’s creation after all), that God gives abundantly (all of the resources are here already), that we are to circulate God’s resources rather than keep them, and that God’s blessings are then recycled to create more blessings. Rev. Law notes that there is a Chinese saying “Water is money” and talks about how money and resources need to move and flow to do good and that if they stagnate, they become breeding pools for trouble and unsustainability.
The choice is ours, we can choose whether we use our currencies to flow in life-giving, truth-telling, relationship-building and community-building ways, or not. However, to be sustainable, Law summarized that it is the flow that gives these currencies value, that all of the currencies need to be used (not just some of them) and that the flow of these currencies must recirculate back to replenish depleted currencies, in fact making the ministry grow and be sustainable. Law also talked about doing more with less and how there were always people over at his house for Sunday dinner. He did not know that they were not well off and assumed that this meant that his family was “rich”. The reality was that his mother stretched the food into a feast for $3 by bargaining and careful purchasing AND there were leftovers! The interesting thing about that was that each member would refuse to take the leftovers and offer them to another person at the table who was more “deserving”. Each person would name someone else to eat the leftovers with a corresponding reason. Ultimately, they were used in the meal the following day. Talk about a “less is more exercise” and validating each individual person’s worth as deserving!
This is the kind of thinking about abundance and generosity that keeps these currencies flowing and continues this giving and receiving cycle. On Sunday and in the coming weeks, I would like to continue this discussion and try to impart some more of Rev. Law’s findings and how they related to the work that the SPWG is doing.
Pentecost Alert!! Wear your fire colours on Sunday to church. Let's see how much Holy
Spirit-fire we can see on Sunday as we gather for worship!
Come, O Hoy Spirit...set the church on fire;
strike it as the lightning hits a posing spire.
Burn away the structures and consume the sham
of our holy systems:
Come in Jesus' name!
So goes the first verse of hymn 23 in More Voices. The author, The Rev Fred Kaan, who died almost 10 years ago at aged 80, was the foremost of a new generation of post-second world war hymn writers who expressed the dreams of an emerging new humanity. His theology reflected a God committed to a world crying out to be set free from every form of injustice. Fred's poetry centred on a Jesus who embraced the whole of creation and excluded no one and nothing from his love. We have many of his hymns in our United Church hymn books and sing them regularly at AUC.
Kaan was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands. His teenage experience of Nazi occupation never left him. His parents were deeply involved in the resistance movement. His family hid weapons under their floor; and they successfully hid a young Jewish woman and a political prisoner who had escaped from Belsen.
His passion for the Spirit of God - the Spirit of love, compassion and justice - gave him his life's work and his reason to live. He was what I would call a Pentecost person.
Pentecost is my favourite Christian festival! It is so full of life, and possibility. Let those Pentecost winds blow and those fires burn. They are not sent to destroy us but to renew us as God would have us be.
Come, O Holy Spirit ...
Blow away the cobwebs of our stubborn past.
Come, send flying from us myths unfit to last.
Wind of change refresh us and disturb our calm;
teach us what true love is, take our hearts by storm! (Verse 2 MV 23)
“A Mother is one
who can take the place of all others
but whose place no one else can take.”
~ Wise Old Irish Words
Did you know that celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals to honour the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. In the Christian church the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the festival known as “Mothering Sunday, which is still celebrated in the UK.
A precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe (an American who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic) in 1870. Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.
The official Mother’s Day holiday that we celebrate in North America began in the 1900s in the US when Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, wanted to create a special day for mothers as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
More recently Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
No matter what you do for your mother, grandmother, step-mother, mother-in-law or the mother figures in your life, do it with gusto and exuberant love. It will mean the world to her. You may want to give her this blessing:
“May you always know… The fragrance of flowers, The feel of the sun on your shoulders and always – the warmth of your child’s love.” An Irish Mother’s Blessing
In the gift of this new day,
In the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined
let me be thankful
let me be attentive
let me be open to what has never happened before,
in the gift of this new day,
in the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined. Amen
(J.Philip Newell "Sounds of the Eternal")
"What has never happened before" is happening right outside my window. Yours too. Yes, in previous springs in my backyard, the daffodils have bloomed and the rhubarb has sprouted. But not exactly like this year. In this spring of new life, everything is new. And I don't want to miss any of it.
It's not that the differences are "good" or "bad". That's not what it's about. The differences just are. And we are called to engage as we are now, in this moment. We are called to be present, thankful, and attentive.
Go outside to your garden, or on your balcony and notice what is new. Around you and within you on this spring day. Then offer the prayer above.
God bless you!
As St Paul told his friends in the church at Ephesus "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
The next time you find yourself angry with someone, or frustrated, or annoyed - stop for a moment before you let yourself react. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Chances are they are not trying to annoy you or hurt you or dismiss you. Chances are they just look at things differently than you do. And that's okay. Chances are they are just trying to do their best. Just like you.
I have found in such situations that a little reflective time before responding out of anger leads to a lot more understanding. And that understanding leads to an altering of my perspective. And that altering of my perspective usually leads to something better. For example an even better idea, or way forward.
And that new or better idea leads to gratitude. Gratitude for the other person's thoughts and the way they look at things. Gratitude that together we are better. Gratitude for our differences and the many gifts that we offer each other. Gratitude that we are all made uniquely and we all have something precious to offer each other. Gratitude for God's great wisdom in blessing creation with so much variety.
So the next time it happens - that you find yourself at odds with someone in your family or community - practice appreciating their unique gift - their different opinion, their different way of doing things.
Then offer a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving that God delights in the great diversity of God's creation. And that you - as well as that other person - are God's beloved ones and bring God great delight because of that diversity.
It's not always easy, and it's not always fast. But it is the best way forward.
With gratitude and thanksgiving for the great diversity in our church community,
Earth Day is on Sunday. This makes it extra special to be at church to thank God for our earth.
I am Stephanie and I live in Luskville, Quebec approximately 20 km out of Aylmer. I enjoy walks and being able to observe the beauty of my surroundings.
However as the snow melts I feel discouraged as I see a trail of plastic bottles, cans and other litter thrown out of car windows along Route 148 and the side roads. Recently there are many articles and media feeds about plastic pollution floating in the oceans. This is wreaking havoc with fish and other ocean life. Here in Canada I see the same damage in my own 'backyard' and I want to do more to fix this.
Let's all do something about this and start cleaning up the damage. First we can do this by using reusable/refillable bottles. Next, let's continue our work by organising groups to pick up litter on the side of the roads, parks and beaches in our own neighbourhoods .
Celebrate Earth Day by taking care of our earth.
Read more about how we can end plastic pollution.