Noticings – November 24, 2021

NOTICINGS…

November 24, 2021 

It was kind of surreal. Leading worship in front of actual humans instead of just a camera for the first time in 20 months was a remarkable experience. I will confess to being extremely stressed and anxious about it beforehand. So many details – Will the tech work? Will everyone be ok following the attendance protocols? Will the at-home experience still be as good as it was? It all came together beautifully. A big part of that was that so many people stepped in and made things happen, and I didn’t have to do it! By necessity we’ve been functioning with just a couple people present on Sundays so many of the tasks fell to me. Suddenly, there were others doing them. I arrived ready to print off some bulletins – somebody already did it. I thought I’d have to set up the address lists and check-in tables – already done. I went to adjust something in the worship space – already done. I have to turn on the camera and lights – nope, covered. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to have multiple people pulling together and contributing their piece of the whole to make the whole flow and function better. I guess I forgot what ‘church’ felt like.

I had also forgotten what it was like to hear laughter when I said something amusing in a sermon. The camera doesn’t laugh! But people do! It was glorious to hear. And despite the masks I could tell that people were grinning from ear to ear. You could see it in their eyes. They were just so happy to be back in the sanctuary, worshipping, together (especially the together part). And to hear the voices gently rise in song and praise – it was heavenly.

We still have some things to work out, and over the coming weeks we’ll adapt and change some things about worship as we all figure out how to navigate these new times. I quite like online worship, and I think it has actually enhanced some of the things we do or the ways we do them. But it was indeed wonderful to feel the people in the sanctuary on Sunday. Having done it once I hope I won’t feel so anxious in coming weeks. I imagine it will start to feel ‘normal’ again, just like online felt ‘normal’ after a time. I do hope people will gently give feedback about both their online experience and the in-person experience so we can make them as rich and enjoyable as possible. And in the meantime I will revel in the return of our gathered community of faith. And I’ll especially relish the laughter.

[Click here for a video version of Noticings]

Shalom,
Rev. Larry


Noticings – November 17, 2021

NOTICINGS…

November 17, 2021 

Birthdays are kind of like New Years in that there’s an element in them of turning a page, having a fresh slate, entering a new season. I just had a birthday a few days ago, and for whatever reason this is feeling like a ‘new year’ to me. As such, I’ve been thinking about the kinds of things one might do at such times. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. In an effort to feel more grounded and connected to important things I’ve made a few changes. One is that I’ve taken a hiatus from Facebook. That’s actually kind of a challenge because my personal life and my work life are intertwined in that medium. Perhaps that’s exactly the issue! I don’t know how long my hiatus will last, but it feels good so far to be out of it.

Another aspect of Facebook (and social media in general) that had been souring for me was the increased negativity I was finding myself immersed in. There’s a lot of discontent out there, often for very understandable reasons, but it was just feeling like it was endless. One of the benefits of social media is supposed to be entertainment and escape. If it stops being that then it’s time for a hiatus. I’m going to be taking a hiatus from national/denominational work too. I’m finishing out my current obligations but I’ve withdrawn from the next set of commitments nationally. Some of that is linked to the discontent out there, but mostly it’s just a sense of weariness after a decade of serving in those circles.

My watchword for this ‘new year’ that has emerged is the word ‘savouring’. Instead of skimming along the surface, flinging myself from this meeting to that activity, functioning rather than really experiencing, I yearn for that deep gladness and groundedness that comes when you slow down and savour the present moment. So I savoured my birthday dinner, and I savoured the delicious carrot cake, and I savoured the well-wishing that came my way. Then I savoured my in-person coffee gathering with my colleagues the next morning. And I even savoured the meetings I was in because I went into them with a spirit of openness to the possibility that they could be savoured. And they were – good, caring, compassionate people doing thoughtful, wise, faithful work. That’s something to savour! This morning I tried to be mindful and savour my morning coffee. It was delightful. And yesterday my birthday present was delivered (a new guitar amplifier) – and you can count on me savouring that for a long, long time.

What are you savouring these days? What are you taking the time to be fully present to? What is giving you delight just by experiencing it? The best thing about this is that there are no techniques to learn, no equipment to buy, and no program to attend. All it takes is a pause and a deep breath. What might you need to take a hiatus from in order to create the spaciousness to pause – to free up more head or heart space (or time) to be more present to the present moment? What is calling you to savour?

[Click here for a video version of Noticings]

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – November 11, 2021

NOTICINGS…

November 11, 2021 

Let me be clear. There is really no debate about this. The scientific consensus is powerful and persuasive. The BEST science is unequivocal in support of this idea: being double vaccinated against Covid-19 is the single best way to both protect ourselves and protect one another in this pandemic time. Full stop. This is the science that persuades us, and guides us. And as an act of love, and care, and compassion we at Faith United will do THE most loving thing we can in this regard. Our Faith United Council has decided: We will insist that every single person (12 and over – eligible for vaccination) who crosses the threshold of our church building is double vaccinated.

We are now ready to say that, yes, on November 21st we will be reopening our church for in-person worship! There are two core requirements for that to happen:

  1. Every person entering Faith United will be double vaccinated for Covid-19
  2. Every person entering Faith United will wear a mask
    1. (small groups may choose to unmask if the choice is unanimous, large groups may not)

While it may cause some pain to enact these rules, these are the requirements. If that means a beloved member (or brand new visitor) needs to be told “No, you cannot enter” because they’ve chosen not to be double vaccinated, that will be hard, but it is loving. Love protects the vulnerable. Loves ensures that those with respiratory worries are protected. Love says that those who refuse to comply with basic science can be offered an alternative experience online.

The government has suggested that by January such restrictions will not be necessary. We live in hope, and we will listen carefully to the best science when those times come.
In the meantime, simply put, double vaccination is the key to renewed life as our church.

Here’s what to expect if you choose to try in-person worship:

  1. You’ll need your vaccine QR code, or bring your proof of vaccination receipt.
  2. There will be a line up to get in while information is checked. Plan to arrive earlier than 10:25!
    1. (In subsequent weeks the process will speed up because we’ll already know who has shown proof of vaccination previously.)
  3. Quiet singing is allowed, but for now we’ll remain seated throughout the service.
  4. Physical distancing is not required during worship time, but it is encouraged.
  5. Offering plates will be stationary on a table, not passed.
  6. There will be activity bags for children, but not a formal Joyful Noise class for now.

We know that many people will still not be comfortable gathering in-person yet, so we are ensuring that the online livestream experience will remain excellent.
Oh, and if you’ve become accustomed to worshipping in your jammies, well, you are very welcome to come to church dressed however you wish!

This will be a weird and wonderful time of transition. Some things will feel great – other things will feel odd. We’ll need some grace as we try to adjust to hybrid worship and hope that you’ll be patient as we find our way together.
One thing is for sure – we are finally seeing the end of this trying season drawing near. For that I am truly thankful.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – November 3, 2021

NOTICINGS…

November 3, 2021 

Like many other ministers I know, I have the DVD box set of a British comedy series called “The Vicar of Dibley.” I’ve just finished watching through the series again and I wanted to share with you what I noticed. Ministers are real people! Geraldine shows us that hilariously, tenderly, and poignantly. Geraldine is the lead character’s name in the show. Vicar is a common word for minister or pastor in Britain. In the show, Geraldine is a smart and sassy woman who is placed in a small village filled with quirky, oddball, ridiculous characters. But she’s also a woman, and the idea of a woman vicar was hard for these folks to accept. Happily, here in Canada the idea of women as ministers is more widely accepted, but even so I do have colleagues who continue to have challenges because some congregants only see males in the minister’s role. They should watch this show!

I distinctly remember how startling it was when I first got to know a minister outside of church-land and discovered that he was a real person. I grew up in church, and I always had a sense that the minister was different from the rest of us – you know, holier, whatever that meant. It was an impossible, one-dimensional fiction, but it was embedded. If you watch depictions of clergy on TV or in movies they are often portrayed as a moralistic caricature. They’re usually either a judgmental, prim and proper bore, or a bumbling, clueless fool. Then along comes Geraldine! She shatters the mold as she does supposedly unvicarly things like telling bawdy jokes, or swearing, or imbibing, or talking about sex. She has foibles, and blind spots, and sometimes makes big mistakes. She’s no paragon of virtue – but then again, that was never actually in the job description. We all just layered that on from our own preconceptions.

I’ve started to seek out musicians to play with since I’ve moved to this new town. It’s hard for anyone to break into a new music scene – but even harder when they find out what your day job is! The moment someone discovers you’re a minister they start policing their language, and apologizing for some mildly naughty thing they said – or worse, they assume you couldn’t possibly be a real person that could actually relate to them so they close the door. I have very few non-church friends. Sometimes it’s tough to resist the temptation to act decidedly unvicarly to show them you’re a regular guy. I don’t know, maybe I’m not a regular guy. I’m no paragon of virtue either. Just a guy who has caught a glimpse of Something More and been inspired and captivated by it. Actually, such glimpses can help transform all of us into truly real people – people who love life and love others – people who can help us love ourselves – like Geraldine.

(Click here for a video version of this Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – October 27, 2021

NOTICINGS…

October 27, 2021 

It’s time. Our Faith United Council had a good conversation last week and we have discerned that it is time to have our church return to in-person activities and worship. Soon! The Ontario government and medical advisory groups made announcements in the days after our Council meeting that gave even more assurance to us that returning to church activities is safe to do, with appropriate precautions in place. But of course it’s not as simple as just flinging the doors open and returning to business as usual.

Living through this time of pandemic has taught us many things. One important learning is that we can create meaningful church experiences via technology. We have taken a slow approach to returning to in-person worship precisely because we discerned that the experience would not be meaningful with so many restrictions. Sitting distanced, masked, and silent does not make for an engaging church time. When the pandemic first began we had times when folks were invited to come and sit and pray in our sanctuary because we weren’t able to gather in numbers. Apart from a few curious folks who wanted to walk our labyrinth, no one came. We learned that it wasn’t so much the physical space but our sharing the space together that was the draw.

So we learned how to create meaningful worship online, and our congregation now encompasses a breadth and width that we’d never known before. We have online congregants who may not ever be able to physically join us in the building, but they are absolutely part of our community of faith. In our desire to return to in-person worship we mustn’t leave them behind. So we’re asking you to wait just a bit longer.

Our Communications committee is diligently working on getting the appropriate technology for our sanctuary to be able to provide a meaningful worship experience for both those who will gather in-person and those who will gather online.
Our Reopening Team is diligently working on a plan to ensure that we have the necessary vaccination screening process in place, and that we’re following the appropriate rules (as they are currently changing).

So no, we are not doing in-person worship in the next couple of weeks. But yes, we will be back together very soon – hopefully by November 21st, but that is just a goal, not a firm date. And one of the conditions for attending any event, meeting, or worship time at Faith United will be proof of double vaccination for adults. This is another reason why our online options need to continue to be meaningful.

That’s all pretty newsy – so what am I noticing? I’m noticing that I’m feeling some ambiguity about all this. I desperately want to be back to preaching to a full church, and yet the idea of a full church after being so careful about distancing for so long makes me feel anxious. I want everyone to come back and have a giant group hug, and yet I’m wary that the pandemic is not over, and there are risks to gathering. And I’m a bit worried that as we fall back into our in-person rhythms that we may lose our focus on our hybrid church concept – and that is something I’m strongly committed to continuing to build. So yes, ambiguity is exactly what I’m noticing. Excitement and apprehension at the same time. But it is good to feel that the season is changing.

(Click here for a video version of this Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – October 20, 2021

NOTICINGS…

October 20, 2021 

 

I spent a few days of my study leave last week away at a retreat centre on Stoney Lake (northeast of Peterborough, ON). Solitude is good for my soul. I have been part of a group of men who have gotten together annually for this event. Of course last year it didn’t happen, and this year getting back to it felt more than a little odd. It was so strange after being apart from gathering with people to be back in proximity with them. (Yes, we were all double vaccinated and took appropriate health precautions.) To be honest, at times it was quite overwhelming to have so much stimulus at once – multiple conversations at meal times, sometimes intense sharing in circles, and just seeing other people every time you looked anywhere. It was lovely to be with the guys, but often I felt the need to escape. So I did – to Larry Island.

The guys nicknamed it that because I was spending all my down time on it. It’s not really an island – it’s just an outcropping of rock about 7 metres wide connected to the shore by an arched footbridge. Many of you will recall that when on retreats I often find myself connecting with a tree. Well, sure enough, within minutes of first setting foot on Larry Island last week I noticed a glorious tree. But it wasn’t a majestic, mature tree like I’m usually drawn to. It was a maple sapling only about 2 metres high. It drew me in because even this tiny tree had multiple colours of autumn leaves on it – shining in the unseasonably warm sunshine. With the water sparkling behind it as I looked at the little tree on Larry Island, I was immediately more at peace.

On the last morning of the retreat, as I was saying goodbye to Larry Island and writing in my journal, I heard two sounds that made me smile. A family of loons was swimming in the bay and I was listening to their calls and discussions. Then I heard the sound of some of the men singing softly to greet the morning (from the hot tub – I didn’t say it was rustic!). It was a curious choir to say the least. At first I thought of how marvellous it was that human conveniences and nature can blend together and become one. Then I thought some more, as the choir of loons and the choir of men each offered their songs, and I realized it was more intermingling than blending. Neither choir lost their uniqueness by their becoming a new thing in that moment, and the new thing was a blessing. Kind of like all us guys becoming one in the circle, while still maintaining our uniqueness, yet also being changed by the encounter. I don’t know if the guys in the hot tub heard the loons’ song, or if the loons heard the guys’ song – but I did – and their harmony was heavenly. And, as always, I came away grateful for the things that Larry Island teaches me.

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – October 13, 2021

NOTICINGS…

October 13, 2021 

(I am away at a retreat for my study leave this week. I offer you this reflection by Thich Nhat Hanh, as introduced by Richard Rohr.)

The Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this wisdom through the ceremony and meditation of tea (a Buddhist parallel to the Christian Eucharist):

You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savour the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.
If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that.
If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.
You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.
It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.
When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment.
Then you will begin to experience joy in life.

(In the afterglow of Thanksgiving) as you eat your next meal, enter into the experience mindfully. Savour the aroma. Taste the sweetness. Appreciate the delicacy. Experience the joy—right now—without needing anyone to notice. But they will!

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – October 6, 2021

NOTICINGS…

October 6, 2021 

Autumn is by far my favourite season of the year. I love the cooling temperatures, the crispness in the air, the return of comfy sweaters and hoodies, and most of all, of course, the colours. Yesterday while walking our dog we noticed (it’s amazing what you notice when you stop looking at screens and get outdoors!) a gorgeous maple tree that had vibrant red leaves. We walked by, and on our return trip we saw the same maple from the other direction, only on that side it was still a verdant green-leaved tree. Why was one side colourful and the other side green? Many of you probably know this already, but I’m a guitar player, so I had to look it up.

I had noticed that the red-leaved side was south-facing, which I guess means that it has more sun. What I learned was that that is kind of true, but not in the way I think. Because it usually got more sun, the red side was ‘feeling’ the lessening of sunlight hours that autumn brings and was responding by producing less chlorophyll – which is what makes the leaves green. The green side hadn’t noticed the lack of light as much, I guess. (I hope I haven’t got that science part too terribly wrong.)

That got me pondering. One of the many metaphors we use to describe faith is “walking in the light.” The more light we feel the more ‘spiritual chlorophyll’ we produce. So what happens in those seasons when our spiritual light doesn’t seem to be shining so brightly? Do we ‘change colour’? Do we strive to conceal our inner disequilibrium by putting on some sort of camouflage of over-compensating by being extra colourful in some other way?

We wear all kinds of masks in our lives (no, not the Covid kind). We take on all kinds of roles, wear all kinds of hats and costumes, play all kinds of parts. I wonder if it takes deeper strength and extra light-enhanced spiritual chlorophyll to play the part of the authentic ‘me’? The real me. The one I don’t show anyone else. The one only God sees. And it seems to me that the only way to get that light is to intentionally walk in it more and more, as best we can. That’s tougher when the seasons seem to be working against us, and it feels like there’s less light around, but our faith reminds us that we are not alone.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

I love the autumn, but I think I may never look at the splendour of the changing leaves the same way again. Now as I look at them I may see a heart (my heart?) crying out for more light. And a reminder that there is beauty, even in the struggle.

For a video version of “Noticings” click here.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – September 29, 2021

NOTICINGS…

September 29, 2021 

I absolutely love discovering new praise songs! As I was preparing for worship this coming Sunday I couldn’t find any songs in our repertoire that said what I wanted them to say. So, that leaves two options: write one, or find one. This week I took door number two, and I went hunting. Interestingly, it was actually a pretty difficult task. Most praise and worship style music comes from our more charismatic or evangelical siblings in Christ. They tend not to emphasize the typical liturgical aspects of the mainline church (like us). So while the ‘last supper’ may feature prominently in their theological expressions and discourse, the actual act of celebrating communion is not as prominent. That means there are not that many praise songs about communion, and when they’re written they tend to talk a lot about the ‘blood of Jesus’ – which is all well and good, and I can certainly find deep ways to interpret that – but as an image to sing about it’s hard (for me) to do without wanting to unpack it.

So I hunted, and hunted – and then I found it. My mistake was searching too narrowly. Using the word ‘communion’ in a search for songs by churches that don’t make a big deal about communion is kinda foolish. Then I started to use other words that I’d associate with communion – bread, wine, sacrament, and in the end the one that worked, table. I found a praise song about inviting people to Jesus’ table! It’s called ‘The Table’ by an artist that I quite like, Chris Tomlin, but I hadn’t heard the song before. Now I have it on auto-repeat on my music player! And if you tune into worship this Sunday (livestreamed on YouTube at 10:30 am) you’ll get to hear it and sing it too!

That’s our focus this week. Communion. It’s World Communion Sunday, so I’m inviting you to think and reflect about something that we do every month in church.
Why do we do that? Why is communion important?
What are your fondest memories of communion? Do you have one or two that stick out in your mind?
Because of Covid and not being able to be physically together we’re doing communion at home on our own (although still together) now. What do you like about that? What do you miss?
When you eat the bread and drink the wine/juice, what happens for you? How does it make you feel?
How do you feel about the words ‘body and blood’?
Has your theology of communion evolved over the years? How/Why?

I hope you enjoy reflecting on those questions, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new song. I can’t wait to share it with you. Come to the table!

For a video version of “Noticings” click here
 

 

Noticings – September 22, 2021

NOTICINGS…

September 22, 2021 

One of my devotional practices comes to me once a week via email. It’s from a creative team called Salt of the Sound. Primarily they offer swirly, ambient, meditative music compositions and soundscapes, and they also marry those sounds to nature video loops to create prayerful meditations for both the eyes and ears. They call it [PAUSE].

This week’s offering had a bushy pine tree on a hillside with lots of tall foliage around. The light is muted, and the plants are dancing in the wind, bowing to and fro. The pine tree is the variety that has it’s branches all reaching up, so in the blowing wind it really looks like the tree has its arms raised in the air and is swaying in worship and awe of God. (And yes, I kind of chuckled to myself as I remembered singing the wrong words on Sunday morning about the trees of the field clapping their hands!) There is also a single pink flower, standing alone in a sea of green, dancing along with its siblings. And in the background there are gently floating flashes of light making the sky feel spiritually energized.

I was absolutely drawn in by this flowing image and sound this morning. It transported me back to my favourite place in Ireland called Ardmore – a tiny little coastal town that we just happened upon while travelling. We went for a walk along the ocean coastline and the long grasses in the fields were flowing and dancing in the wind just like in the video loop I saw this morning. I closed my eyes and could feel the wind blowing on my face. I could even smell the ocean. It was a beautiful and sacred moment. Time and space and distance all disappeared. There was nothing but presence. I felt blessed, and full, and grounded.

The [PAUSE] videos also include scripture. This one quoted Psalm 91:1-2 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: Adonai alone is my refuge, my place of safety; God is my God, and I trust them.”

And I raise my arms like the pine tree, and breathe ever so deeply, and praise God for this sacred moment. I wish they were more common, but I know that’s not because God isn’t always present. It’s because I’m usually too distracted to notice. But for whatever reason today I did. I paused. I noticed. And it blessed me. What helps you pause and notice God’s presence?

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – September 15, 2021

NOTICINGS…

September 15, 2021

I absolutely love my new music room/home office. I’ve got my guitars displayed on the wall, a comfy couch to relax on, a spacious desk for my sprawl, and most of all, a door! As in, it’s my own space – not shared or multipurpose or family space. It’s just mine! I’ve never had that before, and I love it. The one thing it doesn’t have is a window. It’s in the basement, nestled into a slope, so there is no window. So I did something fun and goofy. I bought ribbon lights and installed them around the ceiling perimeter. Now with the touch of a remote control I can change my room into any colour of the rainbow. I could even have a flashing disco light show if I wanted (I don’t, it’s too much, but I could). A colleague joked that I could set it up with the colour of the liturgical season to inspire myself.

Not a very spiritually deep start to this week’s Noticings, you may be thinking. What do twinkle lights have to do with faith? Well, they make me happy. They help to transform my physical space into something more enjoyable. When I turn on those silly things I feel better, a little whimsical, lighter. Your physical environment influences you greatly, which means those silly lights are impacting what I preach, or what I write in Noticings on Wednesdays.

(Here’s the tie-in!) Richard Rohr says, “Your image of God creates you.” Your lens, or frame, or way of understanding who or what or how God is dramatically influences who and what and how you are. Just like my twinkle lights influence me, or create my mood, your image of God creates you. Genesis 1:26 says, Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”

You are imprinted with the image of God at the centre of your being. So what you think God’s image is, what God’s nature is, what God’s essence is, is making you from the inside out. So…what’s God like? Warm? Cold? Distant? Near? Judgy? Stern? Frightening? Caring? Loving? I really hope that image is one of pure, holy Love. Your image of God creates you. That is a big, chewy, deep, profound, consequential sentence. Theology matters! Your image of God creates you. Anyone care to join me on my comfy couch, look at my twinkly lights, and ponder for a while?

Noticings – September 8, 2021

NOTICINGS…

September 8, 2021

We are in the midst of some desperately needed rain. (I needed to write this Noticings last week so I can’t be sure if it happened, but the weather forecasts are never wrong, right?) Lawns have been turning brown, crops are not getting what they need to flourish, and people have been uncomfortably hot and humid for weeks and weeks. The heat let go a few days ago, and now comes the rain. Finally!

It reminds me of a great scene from a favourite movie of mine. It’s a Steve Martin movie called “Leap of Faith.” I’m not sure if it’s a fave because it’s about a preacher, or because people say I bear a passing resemblance to Steve (probably both), but I love the movie. Basic plot is a flashy, phoney, revival-tent-preacher’s travelling entourage has a mechanical breakdown and is stranded in a small town in rural America. So they decide to set up and do their ‘show’ to bilk the locals out of their money. (Spoiler alert – the preacher sees the light by the end!) The town is a farming community experiencing serious drought.

So in the middle of a ‘sermon’ our preacher prompts the crowd to ask the question everyone wants the answer to: When is it going to rain? Masterfully, he turns the question around and instead of making it about physical rain he makes it about metaphorical rain, lists all the things that are hard in life, and then says, “When’s it gonna rain? I say ‘When’s it gonna stop?!’”

I’m feeling a bit like that these days. We’re in a loooong season of Covid rain. When’s it gonna stop? Unlike the movie preacher I can’t sell you any answers to your questions. But I’ll give you this bit of wisdom for free. “Every storm runs out of rain.” It’s a marvellous quote from Maya Angelou. It doesn’t solve our immediate concerns, either about weather or life, but it is deeply true. It’s true about the rain we’re (hopefully) experiencing outside right now. Every storm runs out of rain. It was true about the wonderful biblical story of Noah. Yes, it (metaphorically) rained for 40 days and nights, causing great hardship, but every storm runs out of rain. And it’s true about our pandemic rain. Every storm runs out of rain. And do you know what follows rain? Sunshine, light, and growth. Oh, it can’t come soon enough for us. But it’s coming. Every storm runs out of rain.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – September 1, 2021

NOTICINGS…

September 1, 2021

I just glanced at my phone and noticed that it is September 1st today. That surprised me. It’s not like I’ve been away from the calendar, but seeing September caught me off guard. It shouldn’t have. At the time I noticed I was sitting on my deck enjoying a morning coffee, and it was quite cool and breezy. What happened to that oppressive heat? Oh, that’s August weather, I guess.

I think the main reason September surprised me is that the rhythms in my house are different. For the first time ever there’s no ‘back to school’ preparation happening. And, sadly, for the second time now there’s a very different, very muted ‘back to church’ preparation happening. In early summer it was looking like rhythms would be returning to ‘normal’ by September. Vaccination rates were climbing and Covid cases were very low. The optimism was palpable. We’ll be back by September!

But the ‘delta variant’ had other ideas. Vaccinations kind of levelled off in the mid 70% range, and people became much less cautious. In western Canada they relaxed mask mandates and gathering restrictions and now they are being hammered by skyrocketing illness. Our Faith United re-opening team thought that by summer’s end we’d be re-opening. Now we’re feeling very concerned and we’re pressing pause to wait and see what happens.

This is a depressing Noticings. Sorry. There are some hopeful things to notice though. Like how wonderful it was when we gathered in-person outside for worship last Thursday. (Apologies to anyone who didn’t hear about the last minute date change.) It was hot, but worshipping together like that was like a cool, refreshing drink. Hearing voices rise together in song again (masked, distanced, outdoors) was heavenly. And watching folks mingle and reconnect was balm for tired spirits. Yes, we’ll definitely have another outdoor worship gathering in September.

September. It was supposed to be different by now. It isn’t. That’s hard. So we will keep on keeping on. Continuing to be the church in ever-changing ways. Continuing to journey together in worship, in service, in mutual support. Continuing our commitment to love, love, love. If we’ve learned anything through Covid-tide it’s that nothing can deter us from being who and whose we are, together. Last Thursday powerfully reminded me of that. So bring on September and let’s see where the Spirit may lead us.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – August 25, 2021

NOTICINGS…

August 25, 2021

I think my dog is smarter than me. Every afternoon we take her out for a walk. Usually she trots along in front of us. Not lately. The past several days she’s been kind of lagging behind us after about 5 minutes of walking. She slows down a bit, so we give her some encouragement. Then she slows some more, we offer more cajoling, and finally she just stands there and looks at us. It has happened many days in a row now. Everything else about her is completely normal. At first we wondered if she was sensing something in the forest we are walking by. Forests are kind of new for her, and there are all kinds of critters in them, so we thought maybe something had spooked her. So the next day we went in the opposite direction, around more populated streets that she’s walked many times already. Sure enough, the same thing – lagging, then lagging more, then stopping. When she does that we turn around and head back home. And instantly she is out in front of us trotting along again. So we think we’ve figured it out now – she’s just too darn hot, and she knows if she keeps going she’ll be too tired to get back home. Like I said, I think she’s smarter than me!

It has certainly been some hot! So hot, in fact, that we have decided to *change the date* of our outdoor worship service this week. The forecast warns that it will ‘feel like’ over 40 degrees Wednesday, even in the evening. Yikes! So we have chosen to move our outdoor worship to the next day, Thursday evening at 6:30 pm, when it will only feel like a chilly 33 degrees!

I read an article recently that said this is the hottest year on record for our planet. Climate change is all too real. And perhaps you saw the news about the recent report from the United Nations definitively identifying that climate change is more than just a natural phase that earth is going through. Sadly, the human contribution is significant, and devastating. But I think I’ll save further reflection on that until September when we celebrate the liturgical Season of Creation which focuses on such things. It’s too hot to sweat heavy topics like that right now.

For now, I’m just really looking forward to standing up to lead worship and looking out and seeing more than just a video camera in front of me! And do you know what? I’m willing to sweat a little for that privilege! Unfortunately, the advancing ‘delta variant’ of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on everyone’s hopes and plans for doing more things in-person soon. So I’ll take what I can get, and I will savour Thursday evening’s outdoor worship – and I will revel in our being together again for worship – and I’ll pray it’ll hold me for a while. My dog may be smarter than me about getting out of the heat, but I bet my proverbial ‘tail’ will be wagging way harder than hers ever does when I get to worship with my church again. Oh, and I’m perfectly happy to get to do the extra bit of work to put this worship together. In fact, you might say that it’s the one thing this week that I can actually say, “No sweat!” about.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry


Noticings – August 18, 2021

NOTICINGS…

August 18, 2021

I’m back! I’ve spent the last four weeks packing up one house, moving, and unpacking and settling into our new home. It’s fantastic, and we absolutely love it – and I’m happy to be back to work. Mostly that’s because I needed a break! Moving is incredibly hard work. I needed to come back to work for a rest! It has been a never-ending list of honey-dos. Now, I’m generally not a very handy guy, but in these last weeks I’ve painted rooms, installed closet rods, shelves, dimmer switches, shower wands, recycling holders, bicycle racks, towel hooks, medicine cabinets, ceiling lights, reassembled exercise machines, and cut back tree branches – not to mention unpacking a gazillion boxes. Honey-do-this, honey-do-that! It’s endless! (I’m joking, of course! We’ve done it all as a team and it’s been lovely. Hard work, but lovely.)

My favourite thing that I’ve installed are the hooks on the wall of my new music room for my guitars! I have dreamed about having a music room forever, and to have my guitars displayed on the wall. That is now a reality. It’s a dream come true. Those are the kinds of things that have made all the hard work feel so worth it.

The best thing about working through all those honey-dos is that as the house takes shape and we settle in we are more and more able to enjoy the space. When I sit out on our back deck in the morning with a coffee and I look around all I see are trees and pastures. And in those blissfully quiet moments I realize that my honey-dos have become like honeydew! No, not the delicious melon, but the sweet residue that exudes from certain plants in hot weather. It’s kind of like the sweat of your brow when you work hard, but sweet and natural and pleasing.

And that is more or less the essence of spirituality. It’s not escaping to a mountaintop to get away from the tasks of living – it’s the deep awareness that your honey-dos can be honeydew if you are open to experiencing them in that way. That’s harder to appreciate when the air is turning blue because one of your installation jobs has gone south! (Yes, ministers know those words too!) But it’s much easier to see when you pause and breathe deeply – like on the deck in the morning, or sitting in your guitar-decorated sanctuary.

So I’m back to work – and I guess that means my challenge is to savour the honeydews in the honey-dos of ministry. Time to pour another coffee and get to it.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

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