Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the category “Faith Ramblings”

Symbols and Reconciliation

This was first published in The Messenger – the paper of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton.

Recently in Wetaskiwin the local Canadian Tire store rose the Treaty 6 flag over its store. There it flies surrounded by the flags for Canada. The store owner said it is necessary to move forward and to recognize on whose shared territory the store sits and to acknowledge the need for better relationships with the First Nations in that area. For those living in Wetaskiwin and in Maskwacis this is an important symbol of reconciliation in the communities.

In parishes all around our diocese you will hear someone acknowledging the traditional territory on which the church sits at the beginning of Sunday worship. A symbol that recognizes that we are all treaty people and that we are all neighbours on this land.

Why is this important you may be asking? Aren’t concrete solutions better than symbols? The answer is yes and no. Concrete solutions are important but symbols help us to change the conversation. If we all begin to think that where we live is treaty land, then we begin to think of everyone who lives here as human, for we all share the land together. We all begin to know that we are each other’s neighbours and that we are all loved by God.

In our churches we have a number of symbols that speak to us each week – bread and wine for the Eucharist, the different colours for the different seasons, the robes our clergy wear and so many more. These symbols are the ones that speak to our faith and enrich our faith, they are symbols that we would not be without and would be angry if they were taken away from us.

How many of our churches now have a smudge available before worship starts? Not as many as could be or should be, but some do. How many have First Nations art and other symbols up in their buildings? Some do and we all need to find ways to make room for more. How many of us have invited First Nations leaders to pray before an event or during Sunday worship? Some have, more could. See how the conversation changes when we make our symbols present and more concrete.

This past Christmas I was given a ribbon skirt by one of the members of the Reconciliation Team at Immanuel, Wetaskiwin. Gloria and I have become friends. Her input into the work of reconciliation is so important. Now unless you are from a First Nations community or family, and especially if you are a settler, you aren’t likely to have a ribbon skirt. Gloria’s gift to me of this beautiful symbol was a gift of reconciliation, an understanding that our relationship, our bond as women, our bond as sisters of faith, has come to the point where she has welcomed me into the community of women who wear ribbon skirts. My ribbon skirt and my wearing of it is a symbol of reconciliation, it is a concrete action of relationship, it is wearing the prayers and love that were put into the making of it.

Reconciliation and Symbols

The dear one and I on Easter Sunday. I’m wearing my ribbon skirt.

Let’s look for those symbols of reconciliation and realize how they have changed the conversation between settler and First Nations, realize how they are making concrete the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and realize that neighbours are seeing each other in the light of reconciliation. Symbols of reconciliation can and will lead us to concrete actions of reconciliation.

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Forgiveness

Each Tuesday during Lent, my home parish of Immanuel, puts on a Lenten Lunch with guest speakers. Today I got to be that guest speaker. This year’s theme is forgiveness. Here is what I had to say.

Forgiveness: Lenten Lunch

Like many of you, I say the Lord’s Prayer regularly. I use the modern English translation and I have to admit that every time I say, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who we sin against’, I stumble a little. Really, God, you want me to forgive others the way that you forgive me, really! I have often found that it is easier for me to be the one who asks for forgiveness rather than the one giving it. I don’t think I am alone in this struggle.

I want to share with a bit of my story with the church, and just to be clear this is my story and not my husband’s. My story is not that unusual and what happened to me I think happens far more frequently in the church than we would like it to.

We lived in Kenora, Ontario for just over 10 years. The first 7 years or so were good. I made friends, I worked for the wider church, I hosted a lot of parties at our house, I taught Sunday School in our local parish, I was active in making space for new families at the church to feel welcome and helping them to have a place in it, I was raising three busy teenagers and all that goes with that. In other words I was busy and happy.

Then things shifted, really shifted and they shifted badly for me.

My husband had to go on medical leave. I was asked to stop teaching Sunday School (something I love doing to this day). I was asked to step back from my involvement at the church. I was told I shouldn’t be as engaged in planning things for the families of the church. I was told to step back. Those of you who know me, will know that this was a very difficult thing for me to do.

People who I thought of as friends ignored me, didn’t ask how I was doing, didn’t ask how the family was doing. If they saw me in town they would walk away from me. People stopped talking to me. The few times I tried going to church it was made clear to me in looks that I wasn’t welcome. In effect I was shunned by the one place that I expected would be drawing me in closer, the church. It was in fact quite brutal and very lonely for the next three years. I cried more tears than I thought it would be possible to do.

To top it all off, not only did I lose my local church community, I lost my job with the wider church. Thank God for Facebook, blogging and email as they were some of the few ways that I had to reach out to those not in Kenora.

As I tell you all this, I am back in the midst of this pain, it was one of the hardest times of my life.

When we moved here I decided to just bury those feelings. I hoped they would go away. Moving here felt like the well needed fresh start. I think many of you will realize that those feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal, and dismay didn’t just go away. They lived like a stone at the bottom of my heart.

Last September I had the opportunity to attend a Healing of Memories workshop put on by Father Michael Lapsley from South Africa. If you are interested just Google healing of memories and you can find it. The workshop allows you to take a close look at those memories that are the hardest for you to look at and find a way through them and process them. Part of the process is to write on a slip of paper a memory that hurts that you want to let go of and then have that paper burnt along with ones from other participants. The memory that I wrote on that slip of paper was the one that I have been sharing with you today.

When I left the workshop and came home, I felt lighter and freer than I had in a long time. I realized that I could move towards forgiveness. I didn’t need anyone there to apologize to me, although a few have since we left. What I needed was to not let the memory hurt as much. That by forgiving that particular church community I could come to a place of healing within myself. That I could look back on my time in Kenora with more fondness than not. That I could cherish the times that I was held up by friends during that awful time, rather than focusing on that awful time. I could move towards forgiveness.

I will be honest, I am not the whole way there yet, but I have taken some steps along the forgiveness road. I am working on forgiving the sins of others so that my sins will be forgiven as well.

Reconciliation Goals for 2018

What are your Reconciliation Goals for 2018?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. What are my reconciliation goals for 2018 and what are the parish’s reconciliation goals for 2018? I am hoping that readers out there are thinking and wondering the same thing for themselves and for their parishes. If you haven’t then here is a good place to start.

One of my reconciliation goals for this upcoming year is to have more rural and semi-rural parishes fully engage in neighbourly reconciliation work in their communities. Below is a list I have come up to help you think about what you and/or your parish can engage in this next year to further the ministry of reconciliation between Indigenous, settler and newcomer here in our communities.

  1. Read over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action – take note of those which effect you directly, either the church or in your professional life. Find one that you can take action on with others in your parish.

  2. Read some books by Indigenous authors. There are a lot of them out there. Ask your local librarian for some recommendations if you can’t think of any. Why not start a parish book club that commits to reading together and having discussion time?

  3. Ask your parish priest to start Sunday worship by honouring the treaty that we are part of each week. We live on Treaty 6 land which we share with the Cree, the Nakoda, the Metis and the Inuit peoples.

  4. Participate in a Kairos Blanket Exercise – a meaningful way to learn more about the shared history of Indigenous and settlers on this land. Or how about hosting one in your parish? I know there are facilitators out there who would be willing to assist with this.

  5. Find out who your neighbouring First Nations communities are. Invite someone from the leadership to come and talk to your parish about the life of the community.

  6. Learn about white privilege if you are of European descent and how it affects your decision making without you even realizing it. Make steps to live consciously and name the privilege when you see it in yourself and if you can in others.

  7. Learn about Treaty 6 and the impact that it has had and is having on relationships between Indigenous, settlers and newcomers. What from the treaty can help move forward reconciliation between all of us?

  8. Take time to search the Bible for teachings about reconciliation. What do our Scriptures teach us about living a reconciled life? How will that deepen our commitment to reconciliation in our communities?

All of our reconciliation goals should be about deepening our relationships with our Indigenous neighbours, those who live in our communities and those whose communities are neighbouring ours. I am excited by how much our diocese and the parishes that make it up are committed to reconciliation in our communities. I hope that you are as well.

Happy New Year everyone and let’s all commit to being part of God’s reconciling work in the world with everyone we interact with.

P.S. I first published this in the January issue of The Messenger of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. You can find it here.

#AdventWord #Greeting

#AdventWord #Greeting

Here they are the dear one and our son at the airport this morning. Greeting each other and remembering how much they love each other, not that they forget but seeing each other helps. Today has been all the greeting and welcoming our lovelies home for a long weekend of Christmas festivities. I really can’t tell you how happy I am about this family time. Our adult children live in different provinces than we do and we don’t see them nearly as often as we would both like. So we are going to be grateful for these days.

I will greet each moment of the next few days with love and gratefulness and here we are at the almost at the end of Advent and the coming of the Christ Child and the welcoming of my family come together. Here’s to the wonderful season to come and greeting the love that comes with it.

 

#AdventWord #Renew

#AdventWord #Renew

Do you ever just need to stop and breathe? Taking in some deep breaths and then sitting down with a good cup of tea (and today a homemade mince tart) was a chance for me to renew my soul. I don’t know about the rest of you but life is bit busy here at the moment. We are still in the midst of our bathroom renovation, our lovelies all arrive tomorrow and the dear one is busy preparing for all the church services that need to happen this weekend. So yep busy.

Advent is supposed to be a time for the spirit to reconnect and slow down. I always struggle with the need to get things done and the need to just sit and listen to what God is trying to say to me today. So this afternoon, I took my tea and my mince tart and just sat. I didn’t do anything but sit, drink and eat for 10 minutes. It was lovely and it allowed me to have the needed energy to get done the next task for the day. I felt renewed in both my body and my spirit.

We are almost done Advent and I am so grateful that I have had this space to reflect with you dear readers and for all of you who have read these posts. This has been renewing for me as well. How have you felt renewed this Advent season?

#AdventWord #Embrace

#AdventWord #Embrace

I took this photo a few weeks ago when the weather was just lovely outside, I felt really good that day. I’m wearing a lovely scarf that my daughter gave me for my birthday, it’s from Sri Lanka and have it pinned with a favourite reindeer pin. I love how content I am looking here. The word embrace usually inspires an image with a hug in it and that’s good but I want to write today about something more personal for me.

I am embracing who I am – an older woman, a woman who has lived with cancer, a woman, who lost her mother at too young an age, a woman who has lived with joy and sorrow, a woman who has things to share, a woman who is living into her own wisdom, a woman who loves well and openly. To embrace who I am is to love the person God has made me to be. A person committed to living a life of reconciliation, a person who embraces the unknown, a person who walks in this world with love and I hope gentleness.

I am embracing this next stage of life and am so grateful that I get to do so. How about you what are you embracing that is healthy and life giving for you and for others?

 

#AdventWord #Open

#AdventWord #Open

Six days until Christmas, three days until all my lovelies are here and my living room looks like this. Laundry in the basket, decoration boxes waiting to go back downstairs, so much stuff on the dining room table and you can’t see it but the kitchen was a paint centre for a couple of pieces of drywall that have to be painted before they can go on the bathroom wall. Yep, we are also in the midst of a bathroom renovation.

Today I am working on being open to the hope that by the end of Thursday we will have a working bathroom on the main floor, beds will be made for everyone arriving the next day, and that I will be able to relax and enjoy the time with my lovelies and not feel super stressed.

Here I am keeping it real and not trying to glitz over all the stuff that is the chaos that is my house at the moment. I am hoping to get the chaos more to order. I also know that my lovelies will just enjoy being with the dear one and I and will take all of it in hand and not get too fussed. Here’s to being open to the spirit of this lovely season and not letting the chaos get too much of my attention.

#AdventWord #Dazzle

#AdventWord #Dazzle

I will admit, I love the dazzle of this season, I love the lights, the decorations, all the good food, the Christmas music – especially the slightly cheesy stuff – the people rushing about in generally good moods. I love the dazzle. I am aware that we have added a lot of cultural bits and pieces onto the season and mostly I am okay with that. I don’t get upset when I hear Christmas carols before the big day, I am not sure why it’s so important to get that upset about it. I love the Advent carols in church and sing them heartily.

Here is what I know, when I place our decorations out, cook particular foods, sing carols, I am reminded of so many people both alive and dead. I cook Gaspe meat pies and my thoughts go back to Nanny Ethel and her love for our family. I put out my Christmas snowmen and I put the ones my mother collected out with love. I place each decoration on our tree with love as I think of where they came from. I am surrounded with the love of these saints, I am surrounded with by the communion saints.

I will continue to love the dazzle of Advent and Christmas and I will continue to celebrate this season with as much gusto as I can. I hope you will as well.

#AdventWord #Light

#AdventWord #Light

I live in the northern hemisphere – in fact I almost live in the north, at the 53rd latitude north. We have really long nights and short days here at this time of the year. By the time of the winter solstice we will only have about 7 1/2 hours of daylight, not as short as some further north of us, but short enough.

So every year when Advent starts one of the first places in our home I decorate is our mantel and I always put a string of lights across it. This room faces east and in the photo you can just see the sky lightening up in the windows with that lovely blue you can only see in the sky at this time of the year. I love placing lights all over the house and outside the house. In fact we keep the outside lights on until the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) – February 2nd.

We wait for the light to return but most importantly we wait for the light of God’s love in the form of the Incarnate Christ to be come again to our world. Holy light that shines through so many people in our world. Let the Light come!

#AdventWord #Among

#AdventWord #Among

Yesterday’s Advent word was among  – it took me almost the whole day to come up with an image for that word. I realized that I needed to take a photo of the dear one and I – not the best we have ever taken but it is us at the end of a fairly long day. I said with that photo that among all the stuff of life I am grateful to be sharing it with my beloved.

We have lived among people in different communities across Canada – we have had quite the journey of ministry – it is so much of what makes us, us. We have been through some really rough times and we have had an immense number of really good times as well. We are 31 years of married life and let me tell you that God has been among all of that with us.

Here we are among people that have called us to be in this place, here we are among all that life throws at you, here we are among the joys and sorrows of life. I wouldn’t change any of it. It has made us better people and better partners.

 

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