Tuesday, 21 January 2014

More on Mum and Daffodils




Today it's 19 years since Mum died. Our Sunday bulletin had daffodils on it, and Wordsworth's poem on the back cover. After our Black History celebration planning meeting, we said it together - only I got teary. Grief has its own time frame - and a reminder that we don't 'get over' it. We just bump less into the furniture with it. We negotiate around, under, over, or whatever.. And, of course, I keep telling myself, tears are normal. 

Thinking back and remembering some of our experiences - 

After Lorne died in July 1950, she returned to work at Pratt & Whitney. She said she used to run home from the bus stop at the end of the day, afraid something had happened to Jim or me. Most people could not deal with her grief. As children, we didn't know how or to deal with our own. (Not surprisingly, I am very, very aware of the needs of grieving children). 

In 1959, Mum was the cook at Wa-Thik-Ane - Girl Guide Camp in Morin-Heights, near St-Sauveur where Lorne drowned. The lake was the same dark brown, deep water. And cold. 

Three Mum memories - as I had a bad cold, I slept with some of the others in the dining area. Open, it was. In the dark as we were lying quietly in our sleeping bags, Mum whispered - "Don't move...!" A skunk was wandering through at our feet.... kept going, apparently not too worried about Girl Guides. Phew! Fortunately, not Pheeewwww!

Do you know the song? 
'I stuck my head in the little skunk's hole....
little skunk said, 'Well bless my soul, 
take it out, take it out, take it out, remove it!' 
'If you don't take it out,' the little skunk said, 
'you will wish that you were dead. 
Take it out! Take it out! Take it out!' 
Pheewwww! I removed it."  
We probably learned that song at camp! It was certainly a Guide song.

Then on the Sunday, we had a chapel service in an open building down the hill by the lake. Partway through the service, Mum left sobbing and went up to her cabin. I, being worried (quelle surprise) went up after her, not knowing what was the matter - but the leader wouldn't let me near Mum. Sigh ... how much better we understand children's needs today... it only terrified me more. I don't know when I found out that Mum was crying because we sang, "Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes." Those words were the last words Lorne had written in his school notebook - part of printing practice, I guess. 

Then, my smart Mum won the staff swim competition - she had, as a child and young woman been an excellent diver at the Longueuil Boating Club. One of the tests was to carry a match across in the deep water from one float to the other and be able to light the match at the other side. Mum put the match head IN her mouth, away from her tongue, and so no lake water got on it. :-) Hers was the only match to light!

We had wonderful food - much better than most camps. She'd done an amazing job ordering food and preparing it with her helpers. Johnny cake was one special item. I'm going to make some tonight... remembering her, and Gram, who also made the best Johnny cake ever. 

Mum had begun teaching in the mid 1950's. She had completed her BA at Sir George (now Concordia) and took education courses in the summers after a bit to get her teaching certificate. She was like me in the classroom - kind of disorganized. My gift to the children I taught in Grade 3 (my only year) was to turn them into avid readers. Part of Mum's gift was her ability to recognize the gifts in children - and it was at the time when people were beginning to acknowledge learning disabilities. She learned about dyslexia and put that knowledge to use. I think of one little boy - who had by then become a big boy who had been required to repeat Grade 1 three times!! She figured out the problem and began to address it. He was a bright boy with dyslexia - and he'd thought he was stupid.

In 1956, she decided she would drive and camp across Canada with Jim and me (he 12, I 10). We had five weeks - Dad flew out to Vancouver to meet us and drove back,  as he had fewer weeks holidays. How brave she was. Our first view of the Rockies. Meeting up with family in Vancouver (Peg and her Mum, Doris, are still there). Ferry to Vancouver Island. 

The journey is a story in itself. I remember stopping at a restaurant, seated on stools at the counter, ordering breakfast. Usually, we had our Coleman stove, and this was special. Jim and I each wanted our own plate of pancakes. "Are you sure you'll be able to eat them all?" says Mum. 'Yes! We will." Pleeeaaase."  Guess what! We couldn't! :-(

Those were the days when we didn't know about the suffering of First Nations peoples, when we played cowboys and Indians and sang Davy Crockett. I cringe now - we knew no better - Jim and I each bought a cowboy hat.

Over the years, we camped all sorts of places - CT, MA, NH, Acadia National Park in ME ... Rollins and Meacham Lake in NY. We stopped for picnics by streams and I twice forgot my red sandals (different pairs) by the water. Mum was not amused. We had more than some did, but funds were tight. 

One night on Lafayette, Mum suggested she and I star-gaze and sleep outside on a  blanket . We lay on our backs looking up - less city lights in those days, and plenty of stars... also, we soon discovered, plenty of mosquitoes - so, after a decent interval of star-gazing, we picked up our blanket and walked - into the house.

Mum belonged to a knitting club. During the war, she had worked at Drummond McCall as a secretary after completing her office course, along with some of her chums, at the convent in St. Lambert with Sister Delia Louise, SNJM. These young women and others they met in their office formed the knitting club. Though little knitting was done, lots of chit chat happened. When we were children they met at each others' homes all over the Island and off-island. At Christmastime,  they held a cookie swap. Everyone baked cookies - enough for each of the others, and each came home with 6, 7, 8 different kinds of baked goodies. These women stayed friends all their lives, even though some moved to Calgary and other points west.

So many stories. I look at the photos of her as a young woman and wonder... how does it happen this life - aging, dying? She was beautiful though she never believed she was. 

Mum, sometimes when I hear the music of the 30's and 40's I imagine you and your friends dancing, laughing, off for a week-end at Slaters in Lac Megantic... marrying, Dad overseas, having children (when Dad was home) ! :-), wrestling with the meaning of it your lives as we do... 


Mum c1936 - aged 17 - the year she was confirmed


As with all Mums and daughters, we had our issues. There are things I wish I'd done differently - and that I wish she'd done differently. However - our relationship didn't end with her death early, early in the morning of January 21st, 1995 at the Brome-Mississquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville. It continues to grow. I do. I expect and hope she does. With each passing year, I become more aware of who Mum was, her history, and how awesome was her strength of character. 

So many memories besides the family quoting "I wandered lonely as a cloud..."  Smiths Florists call me the daffodil lady. As soon as they get the little plants in, I start buying and sharing. Remembering you. Continuing your spirit of giving. Thursday this week the first ones will be in!!!  :-)

Daffodils are such a sign of joy.  It IS fun to bring a bit of yellow joy into others' lives. You'd approve, Mum. You brought joy. You really loved people, and reached out in so many ways. 



I love and miss you, Mum. I wish we could chat. There are so many things I'd love to be able to tell you and ask you. Did you know about our Bermudian slave ancestry? We'll never know. 

I really hope, whatever heaven is, that there are daffodils dancing in the breeze and that your heart, as  does mine, "with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils."


Taken the only time I've been in the UK in spring to see the daffodils



Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Dragons Faced become Allies

A couple of people wondered why I write about the past. Worried, they were. No need.

If I may quote from Joy Kogawa's book Obasan about the Canadian-Japanese internment Camps ... I encourage you to read it if you haven't done. As opposed to An Unquenchable Thirst - which I needed to read, but only you will know if you feel you want to. Meantime, after writing that post about it, the book lost its power, and is sitting passively on a table as if it hadn't come to life - as if it was all in my imagination. It wasn't.


From page 42 of Obasan:
“Life is so short,” I said, sighing, “the past so long. Shouldn’t we turn the page and move on?”


“The past is the future,” Aunt Emily shot back.

Yup - the past affects our futures.  Not that we should live in our pasts, but when our pasts roar like dragons - well, grab your spear or whatever, mount your steed, and head out to confront it.  Actually - wrong image or only part of the image - go out and make friends with it. Like Puff the Magic Dragon? Killing it isn't the answer. Dragons have things to tell us - and p'raps we find they are little anolis :-) with huge shadows that scared us.

In Haiti we called these critters anolis (photo taken in St. Peter's Church yard)

Dragons faced become our allies and can be turned into effective ministry. Dragons denied continue to haunt us and colour our lives and experiences, fears and uncertainties. Probably mixing metaphors here. 

I am well and at peace - weary tonight after my first swim since before Christmas, physio this afternoon after lunch with friends from St. Barnabas, and a bunch of errands done.

I want to say something more about Mary Johnson and her book - to be clear the amount of love that was in it - her struggles for truth and healing - her longings - her courage in facing truths and eventually leaving the community - her thirst ... and I want to make clear - though I hardly know how to express it - the love I had for my community - for the religious life - that I gave my whole self. I was going to say, "but it wasn't enough." And that would be the old way of looking at it. It was enough - I am enough - we are enough. A lifelong journey ... And it was good. And it IS good.

Enough for now - except I want to add some photos - of life ... these ones from Bermuda, Gram's home and one of my homes... 







Somers Gardens, St. George's



The Virtue family pew, shared with my Gram's family -
looking to the slave gallery in the upper background
Bermuda cedar ... mmmmm.... 

Tobacco Bay - Gram's playground so long ago

St. Peter's Church where Gram was baptized in 1891
Oldest Anglican Church in continual use in the western hemisphere

Hands

Olga and her Mum not long before Anita died at almost 100
Nursing home where the old army barracks were in St. George's
Cousins in the Virgin family


I suddenly realized why Gram had so many morning glories
when we were children in Montreal South

Where I danced with my female ancestors, some of whom I had yet to discover


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Remember Our Beloved Haiti - January 12

Image from aumchaiti2014.blogspot.ca (see below for link)


http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/01/10/four-years-later-haitis-resurrection-continues/

Please remember our brothers and sisters in Haiti and of Haitian origin - with thanksgiving for wonderful changes, with prayer that growth will continue - with HOPE.

And please go beyond the negative hype about how little has been accomplished ... imagine the destruction. Imagine the lack of large equipment. Imagine the lack of infrastructure. Imagine the control that has existed for so long from outside sources like France, US, Canada And THEN see the miracles that are happening anyway!!!

http://pwrdf.org/2013/introducing-fred-says/

http://pwrdf.org/2014/fred-says-its-good-to-be-full-of-beans/

Check out PRWDF - Canada - 

We continue to work with people in the Leogane mountains of Haiti with food security through Apeti pou aprann

http://storiesontheway.com/2012/06/26/summer-appeal/

http://aumchaiti2014.blogspot.ca/

Find your own good news stories and please share them.




Puzzled - Wondering - Disturbed

I recently read a book - a 'horrific' (for me) and challenging book. It connected me with my 'old' self (and therefore partly still self) as well as raising life and theological questions big time. 

The book is An Unquenchable Thirst, a memoir by Mary Johnson who was a Missionary of Charity (Mother Teresa's community). It is over 500 pages, and once I began, I couldn't put it down until I had finished it - even though I was feeling sicker and sicker as I read. Literally. Once I had completed it, I cried and cried. Then I looked her up on the internet and found a page about the book and wrote her a brief note in a private comments section. Second sentence - "I feel really sick," I leaped up, grabbed my blue bucket and towel I'd had handy in case,  and vomited. That is how powerful the book was and is. And I am not a barf-type person. It is many, many years since I have done so. Can't even remember when.

So - what is the power of this book? I wrote a few paragraphs it for myself first - and it's more personal than I am willing to share in a blog. 

I hope I'm not in trouble for sharing part of Mary Johnson's story. I need to say up front that she felt called by God as a quite young woman (about 18) to join the Missionaries of Charity. To give her life to God and to serve the poorest of the poor. She loved God. She loved her Sisters. When I told Jim, my brother, how ill reading the book had made me, he asked me why I'd kept reading. My response: "I HAD to."

I suppose if you want to, you can read the book. You may not feel you need to - and unless you were a nun in the 'old' days, maybe it won't have any of the same shocking and disturbing effect. Most communities have grown with our understanding of the human person and community life and our understanding of God. I don't know what the MC's are like now. I know SSM has grown.

After all these years of hard work in therapy and simply growing in understanding, I look back and see some of the unconscious reasons I joined SSM. 

The unconscious, folks:  I was terrified of growing up. Of having a body. Of being a woman. Of letting anyone close to me emotionally when I couldn't know myself. All of the above originated in my terror of people dying suddenly and abandoning me - or sending me away. Walking a tightrope. Life and death. A God that I believed (had to) could be controlled with prayer if I just prayed hard enough. Well, someone had to be in charge and I'd learned early on that neither adults nor God seemed to be in charge - able to protect vulnerable children ...  So - three year old Ros did what three year olds do in chaos - they imagine themselves responsible for everything and everyone. No one else is. Someone has to do it if we are to believe we can survive.

Like Mary, I also loved God and wanted to serve. I loved my Sisters. Still do. It wasn't all about being broken and not knowing it. I see it as part of God's plan - except that I used to believe God's plan came to us from outside ourselves - and now I don't. "Tell me what to do!" "Tell me what you want!" "Tell me - just tell me - and I'll try to do it or not do it so I can feel safe." Guess what!? It doesn't work!

In later years I found some helpful quotes;

"I found God in myself and I loved her. I loved her fiercely!"  Still working on that :-)

"God speaks in your gut. Listen."

Oversimplifying, of course - and not the whole story... but a start.

The old way - which btw had begun to change by the time I arrived in the religious life in 1967 - and may never have been so negative - was also what I held in my unconscious and was, therefore, in some way seeking. Deny the body. Walk -more like a glide, hands folded in sleeves. Nothing showing except face and hands. It was what I needed to hold me together. And it did. So, I don't blame community. And yet, community needed to grow. And did. And does.  Yes, I was also angry. Anger isn't blame - though I probably didn't know the fine distinctions then. :-( I felt I was dying - and I was - but life can come from death.

It's so complicated. Haiti was part of my undoing - because in Haiti people have bodies. Life is real and earthy and challenging and transformative. The poverty and inequalities of life brought long-buried anger closer to the surface. But I was GOOD. Or trying desperately to be. I began to realize I had a mind - but it took a long time to speak my mind AND accept that there is more than one way to do something. 

When I had my 'breakdown' - there were lines that held me...

Psalm 139.
 O Lord, you have searched me and known me. 
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away. 
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways. 
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely. 
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me. 
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it. 

7 Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence? 
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 
9 If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast. 
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’, 
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you. 


"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out... (till he has brought justice through to victory.)"  Matthew 12.20

Threads to hold onto in the Pit.

Back to An Unquenchable Thirst:

Disturbing questions for me.

The Sisters (MC) used the discipline. Cords with which to beat themselves. (See the 1980's movie, The Devil's Playground, and the interpretation which we would find elsewhere that the discipline is an act with sexual under or overtones.  They wore an arm band and/or waistband that cut into the flesh as discipline of the body. 

I felt I needed to suffer. And a theology of my time in our community was "Offer it up." Well, Jesus suffered way more than I did, didn't he? ... it suited me... my theology was also poor. I don't need to go into the reasons it suited me. It's enough for me to know. We each have our own stories of suffering - and why we sometimes ?? set ourselves up to replay our stories until, if we're fortunate enough and willing to work hard enough, we find a measure of healing. Whether it's re-creating abuse or chaos or crisis-creating when things get calm ... whatever it is it's likely what we know how to live with because we grew up with it.

Mother Teresa did amazing work. Something Beautiful for God, as Malcolm Muggeridge wrote.  Mother Teresa was way human as well. I don't understand it. Maybe I should. But some of it feels evil to me. And again - there are connections ... questions ... one can be a saint without being perfect. It's the human saints that touch me and encourage me. Who struggle on. Like Anne Lamott - who probably wouldn't call herself a saint. Like Jean Vanier who knows his own weaknesses and wouldn't of course, call himself a saint. P'raps the saints are the ones who were abused as children and held on (I can think of some) - or were institutionalised and are still able to love. 

Mother Teresa never spoke of herself in the first person. She called herself Mother in conversation. Weird. Sisters who cried were chastised for 'just looking for attention." That one resonates big time for my three-year-old Rozzie. Except tears have other purposes. And are real. And btw, sometimes we DO need attention - especially when we're 3 and feel the world is falling apart. 

Illness was often not properly taken care of. Holidays?? Not that I could see. Days off - I don't see that either. Getting enough sleep ever? Nope.  Power struggles. Unbelievable power struggles at the top and in mission houses. Outright cruelty. 

Where do power struggles come from? Maybe from our own insecurities? P'raps when we're able to stand somewhere and be ourselves, in our weakness and our strength, we don't have to enter into them. 

P'raps we can even learn to rejoice in others' gifts. P'raps we can rejoice in our own gifts and share them without fear of being put down by someone else who is insecure. 

I received such a gift - about three sentences - from one of my former Sisters (who is still my Sister in the deepest sense) about my writing. A beautiful affirmation that she had known long ago that I could and would write. Long, long before I knew it myself, actually.  That is grace. That is love. That is community. 

Question - why do we have to LOOK for suffering? Suffering comes. Suffering is part of life. Are we sooo bad that we have to deny ourselves any and every comfort? That's not grown-up. That's a small child's approach when we feel we are very, very bad. I was 43 when I allowed myself a teddy bear (having given my Bear-Bear away to my cousin at age 2). What a good girl I was - sadly. I found that one of our children with leukemia was dying, and I went out to La Baie that night and bought a teddy bear, told myself it is alright  to be comforted, and Emily Millicent (my Gram's name) is still a comfort.

Is there not enough suffering in caring non-stop for the poorest of the poor? Do there have to be disciplines as well? No attachment to anyone or anything? Shifting beds regularly, even, so you don't become attached to a place or space. 

HOW, I ask myself do we love others if we do not love ourselves? How do we even love God if we don't love ourselves and believe God loves us imperfect as we are? I wonder if Mother Teresa had loved herself, and treated her sisters affectionately (in a healthy way, obviously) if she might have known God's comfort sometimes during those 50 years?


And you know what REALLY scared me? Mary suggested (after Mother Teresa had had several heart attacks) that p'raps she (MT) could allow herself to slow down a little. The response? MT shouted "I CAN'T!!!"  Oh, God. What a terrifying way to live. Anyone else hear echoes of that in your own ministry? I did and do - though being half-retired (sort of) helps.

She, and the community leaders knowingly life professed at least two Sisters whom they knew were sexual predators towards younger and/or more vulnerable Sisters. (Please note: this is not about being lesbian, it is about manipulative, overt, shameful abuse.)

So what is it about this book? Comments welcome. Enough for today. I'm crying - and it's not just to get attention! I'm crying because I was touched by the message from Sister Marjorie Raphael, and that I was known way back then before I knew myself. I'm crying because what was an issue in community many years ago is an issue in our church today - we share very little of our successes and strengths. Are we afraid of being put down? 

I'm crying because I was heard, as well as able to listen. I had the most amazing meeting the other day. I was really worried about it. It went so well, I practically danced home. Something I've worked so, so hard on for quite a few years has moved a step farther towards justice. 

There is so much wonder-full stuff going on out there in our church - diocese - tell me a wonder-full story someone. Someones. Dance and rejoice and share! Please. I promise I will rejoice with you.







Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Deaths in Residential Schools

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/Power+&+Politics/ID/2428753310/

Follow up - Evan Solomon of CBC in an interview with Chief Justice Murray Sinclair (head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) about the thousands of  deaths of aboriginal children in government and church run residential schools in Canada. More than 4,000 in BC alone from c1910 - 1956. There were so many earlier that the government stopped publishing statistics. I hope the link works.

Chief Justice Sinclair said he believes these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine that 4,000+ could be the tip of the iceberg in just one province.

It is from January 7, 2014 - Evan Solomon on CBC

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Following a Star - Epiphany


We have seen his star in the East, and  have come to worship him. Mt. 2.2


Epiphany. One of my favourite feasts. Following stars. Bringing gifts - mainly ourselves. I'm not quite sure how to capture the joy of our service at St. CHL on Sunday. It was amazing - full of wonder - wonder-full.

Collects for Epiphany:
Jesus, light of the world, 
let your bright star stand over the place where the poor have to live; 
lead our sages to wisdom and our rulers to reverence. Amen.

God of light and hope; of stars and surprises: 
open our eyes to your glory 
and our hearts to your presence 
that we may respond with joy to the angel song; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Max, getting ready to process. Ridgy hidden with Martine, his Mum, carrying the St. Cuthbert's cross.

I'm an Anglican priest. Hmmm. How to be an Anglican priest today? Tradition is important, of course - but the Holy Spirit is alive and well. God doesn't fit into boxes or tiny prayer books several hundred years old - though prayer books can be helpful. And certainly are to some. But an Epiphany Service for children and the rest of us? I struggle. I wonder - am I a heretic? If I am, is that a bad thing? Sort of like Mia used to tell me, "If someone calls you a bitch, say 'Thank you.' " Who decides? Who defines us?

We all have our gifts.  Mine are with small groups like our little church. And they were with Mile End Mission. People on the margins. Although we're not homeless - or anything close, we are on the margins of church in some ways. We don't fit with large downtown churches. It's all ok. God works in different ways in different people and in different places. Why am I sounding apologetic? It was WONDER-FULL! I'm following a star God-wards, and ministry is a journey with others who long to follow stars. To find and know God. 

Barry, our diocesan bishop, joined us for this service and was involved in all sorts of ways - including dancing - and he said the blessing. See the end for the final prayers... and blessing...

This Epiphany was ecumenical - with special invitation out to members of Trinity United in Rosemont. We share geographical boundaries with Trinity, a sense of being smallish country churches, history that goes back to late 1800's and especially the early 1900's when masses of people emigrated from the UK in particular to work at CPR's Angus Shops. Canada was spreading west. The railroads were the main means of transport for people and goods. Our little church is built on railroad ties donated by Angus Shops. My great-grandfather and great-uncle and grandfather worked there. Just about anyone whose family has roots in Rosemont has someone who worked hard at Angus Shops, building our country.

OK - so Epiphany is also one of our St. CHL services geared to children and families and all ages. Our parish covers an area of Montreal almost unimaginable for one little congregation. Maybe I can find a map. Many people use public transportation of various sorts to join us. Those with children live farthest away - in Park Extension and Rivière-des-Prairies.


In addition to regulars who live in other areas
(red dots if you can see them! in St-Laurent, Ville Emard, & Cote-des-Neiges),
the red line approximates our parish


Chief Top Leaf had agreed (Yes!!!) to preach and teach at this service. We talk about broadening our understanding of God, of Jesus, of each other ... well - Jesus wasn't blonde and blue-eyed. Jesus was born a Jew, probably with brown skin and eyes, and dark hair. Jesus has been born anew for almost 2,000 years in the hearts of people from cultures around the world - and is today. Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit priest and missionary, wrote the Huron Carol in the 1600's for the First Nations people using images that would make cultural sense to Indigenous peoples in Quebec. What we created on Sunday wasn't new. Well, it was and it wasn't.

Huron Carol - Jean de Brébeuf  1643
Jesous Ahatonhia ("Jesus, he is born")  
1. 'Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunter heard the hymn:
Refrain:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."
Ie-sos wa-hatonni, Iesos waha-ton-ni wahaton-ni
2. Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp'd His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high. Refrain


3. O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy. Refrain



As I said at the beginning of the service, we aren't being 'cute.' We're broadening our understanding of God and of each other. We're opening our hearts to those who were devastated by colonialism, and whose children were 'imprisoned' in residential schools... I could go on - but there's more on that in another blog entry. Chief Top Leaf brought US an unimaginable gift. 

The gifts the wise men in Matthew's Gospel bring Jesus - gold, frankincense, and myrrh - symbolize Jesus as King, God, and his death that will come. We had other gifts - well - a trip to Kahnawake led to our bringing rabbit skins, tiny moccasins, a dream-catcher, sweet grass, a drum...   Chief Top Leaf brought gifts of sage, sweet grass, cedar, and the Three Sisters - beans, corn and squash... He held the attention of all of us from 3 - 93 with his story-telling and explanations. The drumbeat for First Nations people represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Ohhh... I love it! He explained what would have been used for a diaper, since Pampers weren't available 2,000 years ago. (Moss soft and washed and dried). The baby (doll) was in a life-size papoose board. The rattle was made of a turtle shell on a stick. He brought real animals - a lynx, raccoon, snowshoe hare and rabbit, and a red fox. They sat/stood on a buffalo hide. The lynx looked ready to hop out at either us or the rabbit. 


Children processing with the Gifts
See below for new version I wrote of "We Three Kings"   :-) that we sang as the gifts were brought forward and placed before the altar.

Chief Top Leaf explained that in our land, we wouldn't have had camels and other mid-Eastern fauna. And he figured God would, no doubt, have tamed down the wild animals of our forests if they had approached Jesus' birth place.

Mohawk Chiefs and hunters afar           Tune: We three Kings

Matriarchs and children we are
Travelling rivers, fields and forests
Following yonder star. 

      Chorus:  O star of wonder, star of night, 
                Star with royal beauty bright, 
                Sign of glory, Guiding onwards
                Ever to your perfect Light. 

Born a babe in each loving heart, 
Here we gather - gifts to impart
Mother, infant, poor and lonely
We come with you apart.      Chorus

Rabbit skins to offer have I
Wrap the babe as we wonder why
Born an infant here to save us
Under our winter’s sky.

Sweet grass bring we, scenting the air 
kneeling, offering homage in prayer
praising ever, ceasing never
wrapped in his mother’s care.    Chorus

Moccasins for his tiny feet
Deerskin warm, as we come to greet
Infant holy, God incarnate,
Alive in all we meet.     Chorus


Dream-catcher we hang by his head
Sifting evils , sadness, and dread.
Our Creator holds him forever.
He will become our Bread.    Chorus



Martine, Pierre, and Ridgy had made exquisite stars of paper. Two of the stars were placed back-to-back and attached to a long, flexible pole that Pierre carried. An advantage to being a combined parish is: we have three processional crosses. Good thing! Such a tiny church. The littlest members love to be crucifers - sooo... Ridgy and Max are the usual bearers - but Sarah was visiting from Trinity United - and she looked longingly at the two boys preparing to process. Add one! Two are large and heavy and require adult help. The third, St. Hilda's little wooden cross, is the one we usually use. Max, being the smallest, carried that. Ridgy was upset because he wanted that one. I carefully explained that as he is bigger (a bit) :-) he gets to carry a bigger cross. Doubtful look, but it worked. 

I could go on and on - describing the service. It takes quite a while before I can go beyond the overall sense of the service being wonderful, to letting go the sense of anxiety when things seem on the edge of out-of-control - to go back to accepting that it was creative chaos.

What touches me most - the young children were so attentive to Chief Top Leaf as they sat on the floor in front of him. They LOVE participating - so we involve them in absolutely everything they can manage. Bells to ring during some of the carols when a bit of energy needs using. Collection. And then a last minute brainwave - I thought - and it was as it turns out - I asked them to sit in front of the altar with their bells and to ring when I asked them to (explanation given) and to stop when I nodded. Holy, holy, holy. Then when I held the bread up and wine after consecration. They were so intent and involved - I almost cry. It was beautiful. I have quite a time getting adults to participate in the eucharistic prayer by looking up rather than down in to their prayer books. No such challenge with the children. They were in awe - God was at work.

Then, everyone was welcomed to join in sharing God's meal around the altar, including the children. Max was missing in action. The service was long - though mostly didn't seem so. I asked Barbara if she would go and find him. She left the altar rail, found him, and he ran into the church, up the aisle arms out, stood at the rail, put his hands in place to receive the bread, and glowed. His dark eyes sparkled, his little face shone! Oh my - such a gift. Tears again. What a privilege is mine - and ours.


the Gifts: Ridgy (drum) Max (rabbit skins), Abigail, Hannah, Sarah and Tristan
with sage, sweet grass, tobacco, and cedar, and a basket with the Three Sisters: beans, squash & corn
Chief Top Leaf

BTW - Jesus also received two Canadiens bibs - as I'm sure if he'd been born at Kahnawake, he'd be a Habs fan - and maybe he is anyhow :-) No, Karen - he's not Bruins' fan - nor a Maple Leafs' fan, Eileen.  ;-)

Go tell it on the mountain. Bells. Dancing. Pure joy! A circle at the back of the church with a few of the children and a  Mom and me - and then the other children caught on and hands were opened to welcome them. It was like flowing joy. Tom, our organist, is a marvel - a jazz musician who turns our little organ into a heavenly instrument. Friend Kurt joined us with his guitar. After Go tell it on the mountain - jazzed and then some - after the dismissal, he played the A-A-A-Men - jazz form - and so, we danced again and some more. 

Closing prayers:
Doxology:  Glory to God, whose power working in us,

can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever.

When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and the wise ones are home
When the shepherds are back with their flocks
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, to heal the broken
To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner
To rebuild the nations, 
to bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.

Christmas Blessing:  So may the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the magi, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas. And the blessing of God the one who created us, God the one who was born to redeem us, God the Holy Spirit who comforts and challenges us, be upon us and remain with us always.                        Amen.