Sunday, December 17, 2017

Keeping the Faith

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Earlier this year Martin Scorcese's film version of the novel Silence was released around the world. The historically based story is a demanding one of 17th century Jesuit priests who suffer for his commitment to sharing the gospel in Japan at a time when the nation was hostile to foreigners, particularly those attempting to evangelize. It explores suffering and the silence of God. The novel was written 50 years ago by Shusako Endo, a Japanese Catholic who experienced discrimination because of his faith. Scorcese, a Catholic, worked for decades to bring this story to the screen.

The novel won an award in Japan but it wasn't immediately embraced by Japanese Catholics. The film adaptation was generally well reviewed and I do want to see it. One of the stars, Andrew Garfield, was profoundly affected by his role. He enlisted a Jesuit priest to introduce him to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. In an interview Garfield said “What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing.” I was interested to see that Liam Neeson, who was a Jesuit in The Mission is in this film as well.

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The other day I came upon an article about a new three-part documentary called Keeping the Faith about Christians who essentially went underground on the Japanese island of Kyushu for nearly four centuries. The stories told in Silence and Keeping the Faith serve as reminders that Christians have been persecuted and shunned over time for remaining faithful to Christ.

There are Christians in North America who huff and grumble about being persecuted because of the limitations around Christian imagery in the public square in the Christmas season. They use silly phrases such as "the war on Christmas."Not being able to display a Nativity scene in front of a government building does not count as martyrdom. In truth, we know nothing about persecution compared to sisters and brothers in Christ around the world.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Mary for Christians and Muslims

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 And when the angels said: 'O Mary! Allah gives you the glad tidings of a command from Him: his name shall be Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary. He shall be highly honoured in this world and in the Next, and shall be one of those near stationed to Allah.
Quran Sura 3:45

As Christians have increasingly interacted with Muslims and learned more about Islam we've become aware that Jesus is revered as a prophet in their faith. The Quran even recognizes virginal conception and an announcement of Jesus' birth, similar to what Christians term the annunciation. I hadn't been aware until this Advent that Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran and she is mentioned there more often than in the New Testament. Who says you can't teach an old dog new facts!

While Mary is recognized in Islam as the equivalent to the Orthodox "theotokos" or God-bearer she is also known for her intellect and deep spiritual connection to God. Chosen by God “above all women everywhere,” the Quran says (4:32), Mary spent much time in solitude, praying in a place reserved especially for her in the sanctuary.

Learning about this strikes home in a number of ways. It reminds me that ignorance and suspicion are destructive. I realize that my perception of Jesus and Mary will be different from those who are Muslims but I can appreciate their reverence for both. And I like the characterization of Mary as a spiritual person, chosen by God for her life in prayer and a love of solitude which enhanced her receptivity to a life-changing message and challenge.

Those of who are Protestants have become aware that we don't really give Mary or Miryam the respect she is due and which Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians accord her. Perhaps we should be humbled by the way Islam regards Mary as well.

Did you know that Islam holds Mary in special regard? Do you think we should give greater attention to Mary in the Protestant tradition? Would it be worthwhile to have a joint study with RC's and Muslims about Mary?

Friday, December 15, 2017

One Planet

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Some world events capture the media's attention and others seem to come and go without much more than a ripple. Two years ago the COP 21 international climate change conference took place in Paris, France. An agreement was forged during that gathering which we now refer to as the Paris Accord  and eventually every nation on Earth signed on with a common goal of mitigating the causes of climate change. There were many religious representatives in Paris for that conference and prayers of gratitude were offered in churches around the world.

Two years later and the optimism has faded, in no small part because the president of the United States has decided that his country will withdraw from the accord, against the concerns of scientists and advisors. While it hasn't happened formally yet, Trump is not interested in participating in climate talks.

Still, this week leaders from 40 nations gathered again in Paris for the One Planet Summit with President Macron of France as host. Macron has used the phrase "Make the Planet Great Again" as a challenge to Trump's pathetic "Make America Great Again" crowing. Trump was not invited to this summit and Macron has provided grants for a number of the US's climate scientists to do research in France, which is a Gallic slap in the face to a nation which has been a leader in scientific discovery in many fields.

Here is the official description of the summit:

3 goals, 1 commitment: taking action together.

Adaptation, mitigation, mobilization. The Summit’s three key words will be discussed in the afternoon and each promoted by one of the three co-organizers: Antonio Guterres, Emmanuel Macron and Jim Yong Kim. The One Planet Summit is an alliance of hundreds of global leaders from all sectors, determined to demonstrate the power of collective action in addressing such a global issue as the fight against climate change. The aim is to find new means of financing the adaptation of our ways of life to inevitable transformations, of further speeding up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and of ensuring climate issues are central to the finance sector.

While these are admirable goals I haven't heard much about what actually happened at the summit, and I hope this wasn't yet another greenhouse gas producing gathering with limited outcome.

This past Sunday was the second in Advent, with the theme of hope. Hope moves us beyond cynicism and despair, so we can continue with our prayers for decisive action on the part of world leaders, as well as our commitment to make God's planet great again. It's the least and the most we can do as Christians.

Have you followed the summit? Did you know it was taking place? Do these conferences matter or they hopeless?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lady Bird & the Holy

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It is a pleasant surprise that there are several films in the theatres at the moment which are not noisy adaptations of superhero stories and require more than two of three brain cells to watch.
On of them is Lady Bird, which we took in at the late Saturday morning showing. For the first time in our lives we were the only two people in this viewing room of at least 150 seats. What does it say that no one was there to watch a critically acclaimed film? Christmas shopping beckoned, I suppose.

The central figure, played by the wonderful Saoirse Ronan, is a teenager in Sacramento, California during the early years of the 21st century. Her name is Christine but she insists on being called Lady Bird with anyone who will listen. She has lofty, romanticized aspirations for life which include heading across the continent for college. Much of the film involves the relentless low-grade (mostly) conflict between Lady Bird and her mother, whose goal seems to be to deflate Christine's airs.

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Lady Bird balks at the strictures of the Roman Catholic high school she attends, reluctantly. The nuns have their rules, including skirt length and "room for the Holy Spirit" between boys and girls at the school dance. There are many other RC references which are evidence that the screenplay writer knows about Catholic schools. At the same time there is a caring nun who has a sense of humour and a kind priest who nurtures students to excellence in the school musical.

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Hmm. What can I say that won't spoil your viewing experience? We laughed out loud a number of times, which is a bit weird in a nearly empty theatre. It was also very thought-provoking about what religion offers us.

Enough to say that Lady Bird eventually makes room for the mystery of what has seemed like a deadening religious upbringing. This is what we hope for all of us, isn't it? Rather than a rote recitation of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" we desire a sense of the holy, the numinous experience of God which may come out of our shop-worn traditions. In Advent and Christmas we await the living Christ who comes to us in the familiar carols and the manger scene.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Blessed is the Last Cheese Maker

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Through the years I've visited a fair number of monasteries and convents in a variety of locations. They include Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Colorado, New Mexico. Most have been places where silence is cherished and observed. Just the same, I've had the opportunity to chat with a few of the brothers and sisters. These communities of prayer have been Benedictine or Trappist in nearly every instance, which means "ora et labora" --pray and work. Sure they observe the offices of daily prayer, but they are expected to be self-sustaining. The places I've visited engage in everything from cattle ranching, to website designing, to egg-producing, to Christmas cake baking. I accepted the invitation to help with the cake-making brothers and was surprised that their habits gave way to pristine white overalls in an industrial kitchen.

In Canada many monasteries have produced cheese -- think of Oka in Quebec. Except that those Trappist brothers out of the cheese biz as they aged (the monks, not the cheeses.) The same is true in other locations, including a monastery in Manitoba. Brother Alberic is the last cheesemaker at Notre Dame des Prairies, having joined this monastery from Oka. He is the last monk in North America to make Trappist style cheese. This is how he is described in a CBC piece:

Eighty-three-year-old monk Brother Albéric says that if you stacked all the cheese he's made in his life, the pile would reach up to heaven. Every morning, the monk is in the kitchen at the Notre Dame des Prairies monastery near Holland, Man., by 8:30 a.m., crafting fresh wheels of fromage de la trappe — cheese in the Trappist style, made with unpasteurized milk. At that point, he's already been awake for hours, after getting up at 3:30 a.m. to sing and pray with the four other elderly monks who are part of the Trappist order at the monastery. He's in the dim cellar by 10 or 10:30, handwashing dozens of the 10-pound wheels in a special brine as they age, in silent, spiritual contemplation.

About his impending retirement Alberic says "For me, it's the will of God, I'm old, I'm tired, I [have] nobody.… It's time to finish."

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While this sounds like a lament, Alberic is passing on his knowledge to a couple Dustin Peltier  and Rachel Isaak who are preparing to start their own cheesemaking business in the tradition of the  monks. Rachel isn't allowed in to the inner world of the monastery, so she is learning through Dustin.

I'm encouraged to hear that some of these traditions will survive, but I am saddened that so many of these monastic communities are coming to an end and their crafts will move elsewhere. They were places of spiritual and physical nourishment through the years. In the words of the film Life of Brian, Blessed are the cheese-makers!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tweaking the Lord's Prayer?

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Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.
A version of The Lord’s Prayer
from The New Zealand Prayer Book

 Well, the first round of snow shoveling is done this morning and I have the retirement luxury of going nowhere as the white stuff continues to fall. Perhaps I should offer up a prayer of gratitude, even the Lord's Prayer or The Prayer Jesus Taught or the Our Father -- it depends on your tradition. But what version of the Lord's Prayer should we use?

Even Pope Francis is willing to shake up the tradition a little. A few days ago he mused that the problematic phrase "lead us not into temptation" creates a false impression of God's agency in the world and is an inaccurate translation of the original language. Something has been lost in translation -literally-- from Jesus' Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English. In an interview on the weekend Francis noted that French Catholics now say "do not let us fall into temptation."

Already we Protestants are aware that some traditions say "debts" rather than "trespasses". Protestants also add on the caboose of "for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory..." yada, yada, which is not in the gospels.

I think it's good to re-examine the words we use in this prayer so that they are alive for us, are accurate and reflect good theology. Many of you will know that in various congregations I served we would use different versions of the Lord's Prayer, sung and spoken, during the season of Lent. Not everyone liked it (surprise, surprise) but it was a Lenten discipline of paying attention to a seminal prayer of our Christian faith. It's also important to remember that every phrase in this prayer has a parallel in Judaism, which makes sense because Jesus was a Jew!

 Have you puzzled over this phrase through the years? Does your repetition tend to be rote? Do you appreciate different versions of the prayer?

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Grammar of Animacy

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This morning I dropped Ruth off at work before 8, then proceeded to a stretch of unmaintained rough road through an expansive marsh in Prince Edward County. It is only a few minutes away from downtown Belleville yet I nearly always alone there. I love the big sky, water, and solitude.

Alone? That's not true, unless I'm referring to humans. In the warmer months the area is teeming with bird life. Even at this time of year there are creatures to behold. As I came to Sawguin Creek on foot I could see the head of a muskrat peering at me through a hole in the newly formed ice, only to disappear, and then reappear a few minutes later. As I left I saw a Northern Harrier, aptly nicknamed the marsh hawk, patrolling for breakfast. I regularly see deer in the same area, as well as the tracks of coyotes.

I find comfort in the realization that I'm in the midst of a "cloud of witnesses" as I walk. I am enjoying my retirement rambles and find that my deepest communion with God these days is as I walk, either on my own or in Ruth's company. She too can walk in the silence without any sense of discomfort or awkwardness about the lack of speech. Again, I think of Robin Wall Kimmerer and her book Braiding Sweetgrass. In it she encourages humans to "learn the grammar of animacy" (a chapter title.) Kimmerer says that when we listen in wild places we are audience to conversations in a language not our own and we must learn to speak that language. She is a scientist and she is Potawatomi, so she speaks the language of a biologist and is slowly learning the language of her heritage which is more attuned to the cadences of wild places.

In the cattail domain of Marsh Rd. other languages are spoken by creatures that are not "its" but "thous." I want to respect them as God's creation, not as disposable because they're not human, or as a backdrop to my experience. I have a deepening conviction that until we figure this out we will never have the will to care for our planet in any effective way, and time's a wastin'.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Jerusalem Folly

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I have visited the ancient and modern city of Jerusalem several times, although it has been more than twenty years since I was there last. It is a remarkable place where government and commerce help drive the economy of the nation of Israel. At the same time there are constant archeological discoveries from the distant past across a range of cultures. Each visit revealed new treasures. On my last visit we were able to walk up limestone steps to the temple mount which Jesus and his disciples had climbed 2,000 years before. On prior trips those steps were buried by centuries of rubble.

Jerusalem is a contentious city, a hotbed of strife, in part because of its importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There are constant squabbles over which religions and denominations have control of certain areas of spiritual significance. Control of Jerusalem is also the open wound of tensions between the Israeli government and Palestinians. There are many excellent books on the topic of the political significance of Jerusalem, but a very accessible approach can be found in Guy Delisle's thoughtful, first-person graphic novel entitled Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.

Because of the political sensitivity virtually all nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem, even though the Holy City is home to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The United States has been among those countries until yesterday when the Blunderer in Chief, Donald Trump, announced a shift of the embassy to Jerusalem. He has flouted the diplomatic wisdom of decades, as well as the counsel of top advisors.

Why would he do this, sane people might wonder? His "base." For reasons God, or perhaps Satan only knows Trump has developed a diabolically loyal following amongst fundamentalist Christians. They have a bizarre conviction that establishing Jerusalem as the centre of power in a restored Israel is essential to the master plan of Christ's return. Some of them believe that there will be a final apocalyptic battle of global proportions before a "beam me up" rapture of the faithful.

While this may sound crazy, there are members of our families who are convinced that this is true, as are millions of American Christians. They are reveling in this announcement and they're convinced that Trump is God's agent in the fulfillment of scriptural promises. Of course serious biblical scholars insist that this is gross misinterpretation of scripture and point out that the word "rapture" can be found nowhere in the New Testament. We are learning though that this is a "don't confuse me with the facts" approach to faith, and Trump has fed into it.

Violent protests have broken out in Bethlehem (pictured) today after US President Donald Trump enraged the Middle East by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital

As tensions and protests rise we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Jesus asked us to do. Already there been violent confrontations in Bethlehem with tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers beneath the Christmas lights.

We can also pray that the United States will miraculously be given a real president.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Who Writes History?

Lisa Nasson (left); Troy Adams; Mauralea Austin (right)

This morning a memorial service in Halifax's Needham Park will mark the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion. It was 1917 and World War I, so Halifax Harbour and the Bedford Basin were filled with war and supply ships from a number of nations. Two of those ships collided, one filled with munitions. The resulting explosion tore apart the north end of Halifax, killing more than 2,000 people almost instantly, and injuring thousands more. The shattered glass of imploding residential windows blinded many who were watching the burning ships and even today arborists are careful about taking down older trees because some have hundreds of metal shards imbedded in them. To make matters worse, response efforts were hampered by a blizzard the next day which dropped 40 centimetres of snow on the area.

I ministered in a congregation in downtown Halifax nearly twenty years ago and I had several elderly parishioners who could remember the explosion vividly, even though they were children at the time. I wish I'd taken time to write down their recollections.

Canadian readers will likely know the dramatic Heritage Minute which tells the story of Vince Coleman, a telegraph dispatcher who heroically warns an approaching train of the impending disaster. Watch it and you'll see that there isn't a single person of colour depicted on the streets of the city.

Yet we are aware now that a number of black people died in what was known as Africville, a community which was eventually bulldozed by the government in the 1960's. There was also a Mi'kmaq aboriginal settlement where an unknown number died with even less recognition. There is also historical evidence that recovery payments to people of colour were consistently denied or at least 20% less than to white people making claims.

There is currently a play in Halifax exploring the experiences of those affected by the disaster, including African Canadians and Mi'kmaq. (image above) Still, there isn't much which recognizes this component of the story, including in the current museum exhibit about the explosion. I confess that even though I took a strong interest in Africville while we lived in Halifax it didn't occur to me that the community was close at hand to the explosion site. This is another reminder that history is written by the dominant culture, often without much thought to those who are most vulnerable.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Getting By

When director Ken Loach's film I, Daniel Blake was in Belleville as part of the Quinte Film Alternative we missed it, much to my chagrin. It won the Cannes Palme D'Or and received exceptional reviews. Enter Netflix, the fount of second chances for films and TV series.

We watched it last night and both of us found it very moving. Daniel Blake is a joiner (carpenter) who has paid his way his whole life. When his wife is gravely ill he nurses her until her death. When he has a heart attack he finds himself drawn into the maw of the British social service system. His GP and specialist won't clear him to return to work, but a "health care professional" who has assessed him without actually meeting him turns him down for unemployment benefits because he hasn't been seeking work.  When he attempts an appeal he's told he must do so by filling out a complicated form online, even though he knows nothing about computers. In nearly every respect the system is impersonal and Daniel can't understand why staff sitting across a desk from him keep referring him to resources and procedures on the internet.

Along the way we meet others who are struggling to make ends meet in the same maze of bureaucracy which seemed designed to push people down rather than lift them up. Daniel supports a young single mother who is trying her best to provide a stable life for her two kids. Strangers at a centre for those filling out the interminable forms respond to him with kindness and patience. We get a sense of the underworld of society where the poor and unlucky disappear under the weight of just getting by. The title of the film comes from Daniel's eventual act of defiance which results in an arrest.

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I don't want to spoil your viewing experience, so you might choose to stop reading now!

Here is the statement which Daniel writes in pencil for his examiners, which sadly ends up being read at his funeral by the young mom. When I heard it I thought of all the stories I've heard through the years from those whose injury, or addiction, or declining health both physical and mental led them to seek out assistance and understanding. Ruth worked as a counselor in a shelter for women and children leaving abusive relationships and heard similar stories of both courage and desperation. As a Christian pastor I wasn't always patient or kind enough, and at times by busyness and middle class sensibilities impeded me from truly seeing and hearing folk. The film is so honest and touching.

‘I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar nor a thief.
I am not a national insurance number, nor a blip on a screen. I paid my dues, never a penny short, and was proud to do so.
I don’t tug the forelock but look my neighbour in the eye. I don’t accept or seek charity.
My name is Daniel Blake, I am a man, not a dog. As such I demand my rights. I demand you treat me with respect.
I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less. Thank you.’

When the film opened these words were projected on the British Houses of Parliament. Wow.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Hope for the Homeless

The Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness is demanding that the city declare an emergency and open 400 more shelter beds. 'It's up to you, Mayor Tory. Stop. These. Homeless. Deaths. Now,' said Rafi Aaron, as he stood at the podium.

Last week a group of faith leaders in Toronto called upon the municipal government to create more emergency shelter beds for the homeless and indigent in the city. There are an estimated 5,000 homeless people in Toronto, 500 of them "sleep rough" every night, and as many as 100 die each year.

The coalition asked for 400 more supported beds and Mayor John Tory countered with committing to 400 more spaces for the homeless. While this may sound as though the city has agreed to the request, there is a significant difference between established beds with support services such as showers and laundry, and the euphemistic "spaces." The latter often means cramming more people into already inadequate facilities. This over-crowding often results in people in need of shelter returning to the streets because of the tensions which result in untenable circumstances. The faith group has rejected Tory's proposal and continues to advocate for suitable and stable accommodation.

Addressing homelessness is tough. Who are the homeless?  Locally a study is happening under the auspices of Bridge St. United Church in Belleville, my former congregation. A working group to address who is homeless in this city of 50,000 was struck under the direction of the capable Steve Van de Hoef, the Food Ministries Coordinator at Bridge St. Steve readily concedes the challenge of identifying the homeless in this community.

There is no homeless shelter in the city, and I happened to be at Belleville City Council when another faith group presented plans for a shelter.The building had been secured and plans were underway for what would be called Grace Inn. On their website there is a heading Why Dignity? and these observations:

Homelessness is, among other things, a series of losses.  A loss of a home of course, but often also a loss of relationships, a loss of choices, a loss of safety, a loss of hope.   Grace Inn seeks to restore dignity to the difficult experience of homelessness, helping people to feel safe, valued, and empowered.

The plan was to have this shelter open in 2017 but the website now says 2018. The balancing act of funding, permits, and staffing is always a challenging one and housing the homeless just isn't as attractive as other causes.

It may be a cliché to remind ourselves that pregnant Mary and Joseph were without adequate shelter when Jesus came into this world 2,000 years ago, but Christmas in this country coincides with the time of year when the homeless most need these opportunities. God be with all those who endeavor to keep the invisible visible and respond to them with dignity and practical support. 


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Sunday, December 03, 2017

And So It Begins

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When I was a child in the 1950's and 60's there was no Advent. Well, there was no Advent season of the Christian year in the white bread, rather featureless Protestantism of Southern Ontario, There was no time of preparation for the coming of the Promised One, at least in my recollection. The liturgical year became part of my consciousness at seminary in the late 70's. During my years of ministry lots of people were bemused and even angry that we didn't get our Christmas on sufficiently during those Advent weeks.

There was certainly no Advent calendar in my childhood, the day by day reflection on the awakening to Christ's coming as an infant and the "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" of his second Advent. Our children did grow up with an Advent calendar, a wooden 3D version with compartments and flaps with little treats for each day. We did attempt to include Christ in our anticipation but the sweets made a bigger impression.

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I notice that now there are lots of Advent calendars although few of them have any religious content. Advent has become secularized and commercialized, the way Christmas has. I must admit that the wine and chocolate calendars are wildly appealing! It's hard to imagine that many of the people who have Advent calendars could describe what the word Advent means from a Christian context.

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This is a reality of our time, but it doesn't have to be define our preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. As artist, pastor, and poet Jan Richardson suggests, we can choose our Advent door.  
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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Advent Anticipation in the Great Out of Doors

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Anyone recall my blog entry from last year at this time about this Advent book by Gayle Boss with lovely illustrations by David Klein? Okay, just pretend you do.  All Creation Waits develops the theme that the Advent season, which begins the Christian year and ushers us toward the celebration of Christ's birth, is a time of expectant waiting. But it isn't just Christians or humans who participate in this quiet, powerful unfolding. All Creation yearns for the coming of the Christ.

What does it mean to be participants in a time of holy anticipation? How do we centre down and awaken to the possibilities of this season when secular culture almost demands that we be hurried and  harried consumers?

Today Ruth and I will participate in what is called a Guided Forest Therapy Walk. These walks are mindful sensory and connective experiences in nature conducted by a trained person in this particular program. Our walk guide will be Stana Luxford Oddie from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority. Stanna was featured in a CBC news piece and I was intrigued by what she had to offer. I met with her a few weeks ago and enjoyed our conversation, so off we will go in multiple layers of clothing for a non-religious but contemplative walk in the woods with strangers. Here is part of the invitation and instruction for our guided walk: "To allow us to really immerse our senses in the forest we will move very slowly, if at all most of the time. In the 2.5 hours we will go less than 1 km and have many opportunities to sit and be still." 

I confess that this will be part Advent preparation, part curiosity fulfillment, part exploration of what might be applied to my hope of becoming something of a Pastor of Woods and Water in the days before me. I experience God profoundly in the natural world and after nearly four decades of leading worship inside a church structure I have a desire to be an "outsider." I'm confident that others are intrigued by this as well.

Does this stir your curiosity? Do you want me to report back, providing we don't perish on a lonely forest trail this afternoon? Here is the CBC article and another from the United Church Observer magazine. After I visited Stana I discovered that there was a piece there from this past summer! It is quite good, but I ain't climbing a tree.