Saturday, March 24, 2007


Wednesday I went off for an overnight Momentum retreat. "Momentum" is the formation program for newly ordained clergy in the Diocese of Toronto. This overnight took place at the Convent of the Sisterhood of St John the Divine. It's a lovely place with a nice spiritual atmosphere about it.

These events with my my momentum buddies are the most spiritually and professional fulfilling of my life, these days. There is something enormously satisfying about being with each other and discussing our challenges and celebrations. I'm a year or two ahead of most of the people in this program in terms of priestly development, but the fellowship is far more important to most of us than the didactic content, anyway.

One of the issues that I got to explore in some depth with my collegues is whether I should stay at SMM or take another church. Talking it over with them, it became clear again that I really need to do some careful discernment about this issue.

I went to bed Wed night feeling fine, but was feeling quite ill in the morning. I ended up sleeping in that morning and missing the morning sessions (mosly on-your-own prep for a 5 minute homily exercise in the PM, anyway). But I preached anyway when it was turn and did just fine. To bed early that night back at my own place. In bed much of Friday and into Saturday. I went in for a few hours today to teach my Confirmation class and make sure I was all set for tomorrow. Luckily I'm not preaching tomorrow, just Celebrating two masses and taking care of some other random stuff!

My wife wants to go on a run to Grand & Toy. So I'll have to write more later!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Preaching Life

I was on the hook to preach today, a task made slightly more complicated than usual by my father's arrival in town. This his first trip to Toronto and one of the few times he has been able to visit me on my turf. Because he lives in Hawai'i, it often makes much more sense to go there for reunions.

He came into town and then managed to get a severe cold (or flu?). That meant that my normal routine for engaging the week's texts was confused. I also was prevented from doing much work on my sermon during the week by the extra load of work occassioned by Fr Harold's absence from the parish on a short vacation. So I ended up getting up at 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning to do my preaching prep then. I won't say that I wrote a sermon. Instead I meditated ont the texts for a few hours, read what some other people had done, kicked around a few ideas, and then threw myself on the mercy of the Holy Spririt. I love the Holy Spirit, she's always helping me out of jams.

So, the sermons turned out just fine, and I'm looking forward to a well-earned day off!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Advisory Board

Today felt very productive. I managed to answer a lot of e-mails and even a few phone calls. I also attended what amounts to five services! And managed to attend the first Advisory Board meeting of the new Board. It went very well, which is a relief. In the mean time I've got plenty of my plate.

At the Annual Vestry meeting a few weeks ago I took the position that SMM doesn't need an Associate Priest. I'm starting to doubt my conclusions in that report. I do have an important ministry at SMM, but it doesn't look how I think it should. So perhaps I need the humility to recognize that God has me doing a good thing even if it is done in an unexpected way. I suppose I need someone outside of myself to convince me of that.

Anyway, it's all very confusing. I need to do some serious discernment. I think that means a trip to Holy Cross Monastery, NY. But when? Before Holy Week, I guess. That means I need to map out my time between now and then and simply pick a date. That means turning down other projects, but you gotta do what you gotta do!


Saturday, March 10, 2007

A week!

Has it really been a week since I've posted? Probably a symptom of how busy I've been since Fr Harold has been on vacation. I've been working on a bunch of different projects, including the SMM Website. In particular, I added a page to put some of the resources that I've developed at/for SMM (for instance fliers and a book for prayers to say in the Vestry before services). It's pleasing to lay some of those out on a page and see how much I've done since I came to the church.

Lots going on tomorrow, of course, including Evensong and Benediction. I'll be celebrating the 8 and 9.30 Masses and then be the Assisting Priest at 11. Originally I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't on to preach, but now I'm really glad Fr H scheduled it this way. No worries, I believe I'll be on next week.

Anyway, time to go home. I'm sure my wife is missing me!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

I heard a sermon the other day that implied that the reason crime is on the rise and society is falling apart is that society has abandoned God. I've heard this sort of claim before, of course, and it really bothers me. For one thing, it isn't at all clear that society is, in fact, falling apart. The claim is often based much more on perception than fact. For instance, the people supporting this claim often point to the rise in violent crime. But a quick look at Stats Canada shows that crime in this country (as is America) has been falling steadily since a peak in the early 1990's. in 2003 the homicide rate reached a 36 year low! Hardly evidence of a society in moral decline.

Of course, I'm not trying to argue that Canadian society has not become less Christian, merely that we Christians cannot go around claiming that terrible things have happened because of this loss. Our missional claim on the societies of the world need to be based on a positive message rather than nostalgia for a more civilized time. I hear Christians in Canada constantly tell and retell the story of how they once had incredible cultural cache and have lost it all. That narrative simply isn't a part of the Episcopal Church's story south of the border that I grew up with. Typically, when someone keeps telling the same story over and over it's because they haven't found the transformation they seek by the telling. I mean, they haven't gone beyond the story to the next stage. I could say a lot more about the role of story telling in healing, but I'll spare you. Essentially, there has be some kind of counter-story that responds to and transforms the presenting narrative. It's not just an interpretation of reflection; it actually uses the characters and world of the presenting story to construct a new, healing reality.

Anyway, all that is to say that the Canadian Anglican Church is still trying to figure out how to exist in a society that doesn't require it's existence. It's a question of vision. Yet who is brave enough to go into the desert to find it? Usually only the people God had driven into the desert. Sigh.


Thursday, March 1, 2007


Like most clergy, I find myself extremely busy in the course of a typical day, but not necessarily with the sort of things you might expect. For instance, since arriving at 7 A.M. I've spent about 1h 10m saying liturgy (Mass + Morning Prayer + Evening Prayer). And I spent about 30 minutes installing Dreamweaver on our Admin. Assistant's Computer. Then spent about 1h 30m giving her a tutorial on how to work with our website. She was very excited with what I was showing her, and I'm sure she'll be making all kinds of progress quickly. After that, I spent a few hours tweaking our website, mostly by cleaning up a few subtle design issues here and there and adding some fresh photographs (which meant editing them first with Photoshop).

After that I spent about 1h 20m on the phone doing pastoral care. Then I stepped out for about 2 hours to do some church errands (mostly dropping off some archive VHS tapes to be transferred to DVD). The weather outside is absolutely horrible, and even the subway was experiencing grid lock (let alone the streets). So I managed to make it back to the church just in time to send/answer some e-mails and write this blog. Evening Prayer is just around the bend.

So this brings up an interesting question: why do clergy end occupied with some many little projects like this? The immediate answer may be that we don't have anyone else to do them and feel that they need to be done. But a scary reality is that a lot of clergy keep/make themselves busy because it makes them feel as though they are accomplishing something. It's hard not to feel guilty spending a few hours reading, for instance, even though this is VERY important to good ministry. But shoveling a sideway (as Fr Harold just finished doing) makes you feel like a real man!

And yet there is some deeper level to all this that I have yet to penetrate. More on that when I get some insights...