Tuesday, August 25, 2015
This is my first day back at Bridge St. UC after eight weeks of absence, a combination of vacation time and continuing education. I had no intention of disconnecting from this blog or social media beforehand, but it was what happened.
This was a rare opportunity for which I am very grateful. When I moved to Belleville two years ago I relinquished my planned sabbatical at St. Paul's, so gathering these weeks provided a much needed oasis, a restorative time to renew my body and spirit.
These eight weeks may have been the most physically active period of my adult life. I cycled, rambled, kayaked, camped, swam, gardened, and canoed. I was fortunate that the weather allowed me to be outside virtually every day, and that while wife Ruth was working through many of these weeks we did a lot together. I also went to the gym faithfully but in some respects that was the necessary evil of the summer. I wanted to be outside and was so aware of how this feeds my soul and connects me with God.
I spent two weeks in outport Newfoundland and the weather was raw -- this has been the coldest summer in twenty years. For a week I was alone in an old saltbox home on Change Islands, thanks to the generosity of long-time friends. The painting by Therese Frere is actually the view I had every morning. Fortunately we lived in Newfoundland decades ago and I went prepared with appropriate clothing, including winter gloves. I needed them! The morning I flew home from Gander it was six degrees Celsius and I could see my breath while waiting in the boarding lounge. I still explored each day I was there, regardless of weather. Just over the hill in the painting is the beginning of a rugged waterside trail. I walked it three times in the week I was there, never seeing another human being. I decided that the robins and chickadees I encountered on those raw days were truly courageous creatures.
I have reflected during this time on what it means to be an "insider" and all that this term means. I have been deeply aware during this time that Jesus was an intentional "outsider" in so many respects. He was outside the religious and political power structures of his day, and he also chose to live much of his ministry outside of established places of worship. He walked and climbed, he preached and taught and prayed out-of-doors.
I have been an outsider during these weeks and revelled in it. I will say more in the days ahead. For now I will offer my hello and hope that you will all reconnect with me.