Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chestnut "Chum" Restoration: Part 1

Here is a first look at the Chestnut "Chum" type canoe that we are restoring this winter. This canoe was graciously donated to us, and we planning to restore to her to stock condition, plus fit her with a mast partner so that we can sail her. Yes, we are planning to sail this canoe. We think she will probably end up living at the QCYC sailing club where she can be shared among a group of us for day-trips around the Toronto Island.



-t

Bending Stems

This winter a group of us guys are building and restoring some canoes. In this video, we are bending the "stems" of the canoe. The stems are the structural bones in the bow and stern which create the shape of the ends. To bend these pieces of ash, we first soaked them in water for a week or so. Then we baked them in a "steam box" for a while. The purpose of the steam is simply to conduct heat to the wood, there is no magic in getting the wood moist through using steam. Nor, according to experiments that have been done, is there any point to pressurizing the chamber. We were using a wall paper steamer to generate the steam, and it wasn't quite enough. The rig worked, but barely, so we are going to add some more steam generation when we steam the ribs.

Anyway, so you get the ash pieces hot and then you quickly bend them to shape on the form and clamp the whole thing in place for several weeks. Eventually the ash will maintain it's now shape. This is an ancient technique used by boat builders for centuries.



-t

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Synod 2011 Video Responses

Here are two more videos that Matt and I (mostly Matt) created as part of our coverage of Synod. Part of what we were trying to do was make Synod more approachable for people who have never been, will never go, and have zero patience for reading the reams of paper produced by such a gathering! These are just short little pieces that gather some vox-pop responses to the events of the two days.





-t

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Archbishop's Charge to Synod: 2011

Here are parts 1 and 2 of the Archbishop's Charge to Synod for 2011. It was given to about 700 people gathered on the first day of the semi-annual meeting of parishes in the Diocese. It was a busy and intense few days!

Part 1



Part 2


-t

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's God Up to in the Diocese of Toronto

This was the third and final video created this summer by Matthew Carter, the "Video Intern." He shot almost all of the video for this and did all of the editing. I got a "Producer" credit for mentoring and guiding him at various points in the project. But mostly this is really Matt's impressions based on his summer exploring what God is doing in the Diocese. Some say this is their favourite of the three videos, and I can understand why.

Special thanks to Tim Elliot who volunteered his time and skill to play some of the music you hear on the background of the video. That's him playing Piano at the end (at Messiah). He was impressed by our piano and the acoustic of the church, which made me quite proud. Actually, the church works very well for recording piano.

Funny story, while Tim and I were at the church recording, I left Henry with Tim's son Jeremy at the Paul Hahn Piano store. Jenny Andison, a priest and friend of mine, walked in with her husband piano-shopping. She says to Jeremy, "You have a very cute son, he looks a lot like Henry Moss." "Well," said Jeremy, "In fact it IS Henry Moss...." Small world, heh?

When I came back to pick Henry up after our recording was done, Judy Maddren, Tim's wife and Jeremy's mother, was just returning from taking Henry for a walk. She threatened to kidnap him. So he was clearly in affectionate hands while I was gone.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daube Provençale

This is a pretty simple lamb stew--and follows the same pattern as Boeuf Bourguignon. The only thing is that it takes a little time to simmer down. I have made this dish several times, and I still come back to it. Like it says in Like Water for Chocolate, soup can heal anything.

Alas, I don't have lamb or veal stock on hand. Restaurants get bones by the bag-full and make stock from scratch. I wish I could do the same. Perhaps one day I'll have that kind of time--but don't hold your breath. In the mean time, if any of you know a supplier of these kinds of stocks in the GTA, let me know.

Betsy is working late, tonight, so I'm making this for Henry and me and giving some more to our pregnant neighbours. Pregnant women need stew. The beauty of a stew like this is that you can do it many hours in advance of serving.

Daube Provençale

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

Ingredients
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
3 lb lamb neck and shoulder with bones (or 2 lb boneless) cut into 2" pieces
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. slab bacon, cut into lardons
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. flour
1 Cup white wine
1 Cup strong, dark veal, chicken, or lamb stock (got some demi-glace? sneak in a spoonful)
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 bouquet garni
zest of 1 orange*
2 potatoes, peeled and "turned," meaning cut into small football shapes, or just cuke the damn things into large dice
4 sprigs of flat parsley

Equipment
Dutch oven with cover
tongs
wooden spoon
serving bowl

Serves 4

Prep the Lamb
Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven on high heat. Add the butter. Foam it. Let it subside. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear it on all sides in the hot pan, in batches if need be, until all of it is deep, dark brown. When browned, remove from the pan with the tongs and set aside.

Cook the Stew
Add the bacon to the still-hot pan and cook until it's crispy and has rendered out its fat. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Discard most of the fat and then add the onion, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables have caramelized (browned), about 5 minutes. Using the wooden spoon, stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the wine and scrape up all that brown stuff. Bring the wine to a boil, reduce by half, then add the stock (and a teaspoon of demi-glace if you have any). Bring back to a boil and reduce immediately to a simmer. Add the lamb, carrot, bouquet garni, orange zest, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for about 90 minutes, occasionally skimming the fat from the surface of the stew.**

After 90 minutes, add the potatoes to the stew and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Skim the stew a final time, making sure there is no film of fat floating on the surface, then serve in a big old bowl, garnished with the chopped parsley.

Tay's notes
* I find this to be too much zest, I like it better with about 1/2 an orange zest.
** Using a spoon to skim off the foam at the top of the stew sucks, don't do that. Instead, use a small fine strainer. The point is to get the foam, which is created by nasty protein molecules you want to grab.

-t

Sermon - Reign of Christ 2011

Here is my sermon from Sunday. I was pleased with it, and the congregation certainly liked it. Here are the texts that we read on Sunday. On Reign of Christ Sunday it seems imperative to deal with eschatology and perhaps to unpack all this stuff about "kingdom" and its implications.

I don't love my use of the word "promise" is this sermon--I just couldn't think of the right word to express what I meant about the kingdom conceived in terms of this world. I probably should have thumbed through Rowan Greer's great book on eschatology, Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate. It's been a while since I've read my former professors wonderful book, but people familiar with it will recognize the influences, even if I didn't mention any Patristic or Medieval examples. Anyway, I should have thumbed through the book to remind myself of the arguments and language, but I just ran out time in preparing.

Something positive I noticed giving this sermon is that I felt very fluid and dynamic with the words I was using. Sometimes I can stumble a bit when I'm actually stringing things together. I mean, the meaning will usually be clear enough, but it is hard to have the elegance and poetry of written rhetoric when you are preaching extemporaneously with only a brain tree of spacially arranged concepts in front of you and the memory of what you want to say within. I think what really marks great extemp preachers is their ability to be not merely coherent, but actually poetic and concise and elegant as they speak. I don't always manage that, but with practice I've certainly improved.

One last observation, the image of the cedar tree was something that occurred to me on Saturday during some pastoral counselling. I was trying to describe to someone what God's promises might mean for them--how it was something beyond the mere solution to today's problems--and this image of the tree popped into my head. Bishop Yu often talks about the connection between pastoral care and preaching, and this is another example of the truth of that.

One more point for aspiring preachers out there: notice that when I told the story of the New Yorker Cartoon, I didn't assume I would get a laugh out of people. Remember that the original joke was essentially a visual gag, and those are very hard to convey verbally in a way that will get real laughter out of people. But I didn't need people to guffaw to get immediately into this notion of the two conversations happening.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Foie Gras aux Pruneaux

I made this dish for some friends the other day. It was the first time I've ever cooked foie gras, and I must say that was intimidated by the ingredient. It's precious, and delicate. So I decided to go for a simple preparation and let the one ingredient be the star. the results were spectacular. This is both easy and incredibly delicious.

Expensive? You'd spend as much or more on the main course. Or perhaps two bottles of wine. So, not so bad in those terms. I got my piece of lobe from Pusateri's. I might look for some other sources next time.

Immoral? Well, if the ethics of foie gras really bother you, you can get "foie gras" made cruelty-free from Quebec. I don't know if it really tastes the same. People have been fattening fowl in this manner since at least 2500 BC. There have been studies done that have supported either side, so the jury is out about whether this really causes the animals any distress or not. Keep in mind that ducks and geese don't have a gag reflex, and often store food in their throats as part of the digestive process. So, from what I've read, I suspect that this method of producing food is no more cruel than any other meat product. Anyway, it's delicious: rich and buttery.

Foie Gras aux Pruneaux

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

Ingredients
8 Prunes
1 Cup (225 ml) port
2.5 oz. (70g) fresh foie glas - cut into 4 slices
salt and pepper

Equipment
small bowl
heavy-bottom saute pan, preferably cast iron
slotted metal spatula or fish turner
wooden spatula

Serves 4 (What the hell-make it for 2 and pig out)

Prep
Place the prunes in the small bowl, cover and with the port, and soak for at least 2 hours before cooking the foie gras.

Cook
Season the foie glas with salt and pepper. heat the saute pan over high heat until very hot. Sear the foie gras in the pan (no butter or oil needed) for about 45 seconds per side. The foie glas will shrivel and shrink and kick out a lot of fat. The idea is to sear it quickly on each side until nicely caramelized and brown, without melting the whole thing away. it's almost impossible to cook this dish too rare, so concern yourself with the external color. If it's brown on both sides, lift it out of the pan with the slotted spatula and transfer to a serving platter.

Quickly discard about half the fat that issued so enticingly from the foie, then add the soaked prunes. Using the wooden spatula, stir in a little of the soaking liquid to dislodge (deglaze) any browned bits in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, reducing the sauce, then pour it all over the foie gras and serve.

Serve
This dish is very nice served with a few thin slices of brioche toast to mop up the sauce. If you want to really look like a hotshot, you can also (much earier in the day) reduce some balsamic vinegar to a thick syrup and then drizzle a tiny bit of it over the foie gras and the platter in decorative Jackson Pollock patterns as a sweet-sour garnish.

Tay's notes
Cook this seconds before you serve it--and consider inviting your guests to watch you make it. The port can make a nice flambe effect when it hits the pan.


-t

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Developing Congregations"

Here is another video from the Diocese of Toronto. I was the producer for this one, as well, but most of the work was done by Matthew Carter. He shot all of this, edited, and directed it. He got some help from the Congregational Development department, too. This video is really intended for congregations to help them know what resources are available from the Diocese. Good stuff!



This was shot with a Canon XH-1AS... what a camera! It seems to do especially well outside!

-t

More Wedding Photos...

More photos from Jeremy and Carolyn's Wedding...



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Streetcar Wedding


This photograph is from a wedding I did a few weeks ago. Most people from Toronto will recognized City Hall in the background. I met the happy couple outside the main entrance shortly after their civil ceremony, and led them in procession with their guests with a giant processional cross to a Streetcar stop on Queen Street. From there we hopped aboard a vintage streetcar that had been chartered to take us to the reception site. While we travelled, I blessed the marriage using the "Blessing of a Civil Marriage" rite. Leading the group of people while wearing full vestments (cassock, surplice, stole, cope) through the streets of Toronto was exhilarating. We got lots of attention from by standards with cameras--all of it positive. The groom and several of the male guests were wearing kilts (mine was hidden under my vestments when the picture was taken), and that just was icing on the cake as far the visual delight of the day goes.

I preached about love on the streetcar--short and sweet--but I could have also preached about intersections. Things have a way of coming together in people's lives, and here we had a heady post-modern mix of civil/religious and public/private happening. How fitting it was to bring all these things together in one shining moment with my friends who live this same tension daily. Because so much of life is dominated by the pastoral persona, I forget how complex that interface can be for people who are faithful, but don't wear their religiosity on their chest the way I do.

When we arrived at the reception site I took off my vestments and spent the rest of the night rocking my new kilt. It's worth a blog entry of it's own, in truth, as it is a garment of epic coolness!

-t

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Reach"

This is the first of three videos that I produced for the Diocese of Toronto. I co-supervised Matthew Carter, an summer intern working as a Diocesan Videographer. Matthew did all the shooting and editing, and I think he did a great job. This first video, "Reach," focuses on a micro-grant programme that provides relatively small grants ($500-$5000) to churches that are looking to try new things to reach new people. Mad props to Matt who did such a great job with this and the other three!

This is part of of my work with FEWG - The "Fresh Expressions Working Group" - a committee of folks reporting to the Archbishop that work to promote new church planting and mission work in the Diocese of Toronto. We decided last spring that we needed to do more to tell the story of the what the Holy Spirit and God's people are doing in Toronto, so we came up with this video project.



-t

Sermon - Harvest Thanksgiving 2011

I preached this sermon for "Harvest Thanksgiving" Sunday. I was pleased with how it turned out. Usually I spend some hours reading some commentaries and engaging the text in a scholarly, post-critical way. But the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, Matthew 6.25-33, just didn't seem to ask for that from me, this time around. I did consider giving a meditation on gratitude, per se, and basically just take delight in cataloguing all the things people should be grateful for, but the real question for me was somewhat deeper. What is the relationship between detachment and gratitude? It would seem that they are somewhat contradictory, and I wanted to explore that.

In preparing for this sermon, I spent a long time puzzling over how to tell the stories that begin the sermon--particularly the first story. I didn't use a text, --that whole section appeared as a mere phrase on the mind map I was using as notes. But I had rehearsed telling the story multiple times and refined the exact language and details I would use. I was pleased with the results. Those of you who preach, I would highly recommend trying this method of honing a story--simply tell it again and again and find those details that ring most poetically. Another key, in my opinion, to good story telling in preaching is to be reading some fiction you find compelling. Right now I'm working my way through A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. If you want to be a better preacher, expose yourself to good narrative.

By the way, the image of the people preparing the funeral pyre by the river was based on my own experience of seeing such a cremation done in Nepal. I sat on a smooth river boulder, soaking my sore feet in the cool water, and watched the funeral rites about two hundred metres away. I was alone, and no one from the village spoke to me, but I found out later that our group's language teachers had asked after me, and that villagers had been moved by my quiet, respectful attention. Just watching, sometimes, is all we need do.



-t

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vital Church Planting Conferene 2011 Video

Every year I find the Vital Church Planting Conference to be a wonderful opportunity to be inspired by the new things happening in the church. This year's was no exception, and this video produced by Andy and Sue Kalbfleisch will give you a little taste. Incidentally, a few of these shots were taken by me! Lol.



-t

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Massasauga!

A few weeks ago I decided to introduce Betsy and Henry to canoe camping. Betsy had a little experience camping, but nothing quite as rigorous as what I had in mind. My experience is not terribly broad, but does include a week-long epic trek in Algonquin a few years ago.

We first got our feet wet (figuratively, not literally, thankful) by borrowing a friend's sweet 1950's era Peterborough Canoe on Toronto Island. It's a sweet canoe: wood-and-canvas--tracks and handles beautifully. Smooth and much quieter than a fibreglass tub. We took it out for two trips with Henry. Paddling around in the quiet waters of the channels, Betsy in the bow and Henry napping between us, was like something out of a Victorian Romance. But my favourite memory was when we tied up under the shade of a tree and a three of us took a nap, gently rocking as the boats went in and out of the QCYC marina. This was an important proof of concept. It gave us confidence that Henry would do well in a canoe and not try to crawl out.
_MG_1650
Betsy, Henry, and I at Toronto Island on a day trip.
Henry slept well under his improvised sun-shade


So I went ahead and planned a "real" trip. I chose Massasauga Park because it's close enough to Toronto that we could leave after church on a Sunday and get into a back-country campsite before sunset. I borrowed a friend's canoe--a tripping monster that has seen the watersheds of three oceans! We borrowed some other gear and bought a few things. (Many thanks to Dave and Keith for the loans.) Betsy's parents gave us a tent and some ground pads. Gear-wise, here are some recommendations for those of you thinking of camping with your little ones...

A Five Gallon Plastic Bucket
We used this from dirty diaper storage (and other trash, too). It's airtight and cheap and you don't have to worry about cross-contamination. Plus, it makes a very handy stool for sitting on. I found that it bit nicely in the space behind the stern seat of the canoe.

Platypus Gravityworks Water Filter
When I went on my trip to Algonquin our group used an MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter. It screws onto a standard Nalgene bottle and then you hand-pump water through the ceramic filter to fill the bottle. It was a real chore, to be honest. But the Platypus Gravity fed system is pure awesomeness! You fill up the "dirty" bag with four litres of water and then let it drain through a filter cartridge into a "clean" bag. In about 2.5 minutes, presto, you have clean water! With this system it was easy to have more than enough water in camp our whole trip.

MSR DragonFly Stove
We borrowed one of these camp stoves from an experienced tripper-friend. This is far easier to cook on than an open-fire, and much kinder of the environment, too, when you think about the impact of gathering wood around well-used sites. It can deliver 8700 BTU, which will bring a litre of water to boil in less than four minutes! Coupled with one of these coffee makers, it made mornings far more civilized! Oh, and the flame can be turned down to a bare flicker, which means you could simmer as easy as kiss-my-hand.

Seal Pup Elite Knife
I've always found a multi-purpose camping knife to be handy gear on the trail, and this sweet knife got plenty of use preparing kindling, cutting food, opening wood bags, etc. It might not be essential gear, but it is surprisingly useful. For example, for dinner the first night we had campfire-grilled steak. The "camping" utensils we had were useless at cutting it. This bad boy carved through the meat like butter. It's extremely comfortable in the hand, and so sharp that I could shave off arm hair straight out of the box.

Child-Sized Sleeping Bag
One of our biggest questions heading out was how Henry would sleep in the tent. We were out for two-nights, and on both occasions he did quite well. He did move around a lot, which I suspect he does in bed at home, too. So even we started out with Betsy in the middle and Henry on one side, half way through the night Betsy and I would switch places to put me in the middle with Henry to my right. I'd leave my bag mostly unzipped so I could get to Henry and he could get to me. Sometimes he managed to sleep in or on this adorable sleeping bag. Other times, when it seemed especially cool, I simply pulled him in and spooned him for a few hours. He liked that. When he got too warm (he was wearing two layers just-in-case), he'd simply crawl away from me into the corner of the tent.

I brought along two maglight flashlights, storm-proof matches, a length of rope, a compass, and other odds and ends. One thing I forgot to bring in all my careful list-making and planning was toilet paper. Luckily I had brought along extra baby wipes, so they substituted just fine.

Just like at home, one person needs to watch the boy while the other does anything require concerted effort, like setting up camp or cooking. Henry was thrilled to find so many sticks to play with and new things to point at. "Mah? Mah?" he kept saying at each new thing, looking back at us to see if we saw the bird, or tree, or cliff, too.

We ate well. Here's the menu:

Day 1 - Supper
Steak
Potatoes a Gratin
A pre-made toddler meal (I think it was ravioli with red sauce)
A Tretra-Pak of red wine
Popcorn for dessert

Day 2 - Breakfast
Coffee
Mexican-style eggs (basically just scrambled eggs on tortillas with salsa and cheese)
Milk for Henry
Apples

Day 2 - Lunch
Beef tacos (with taco meat I made the day before we left)
Applesauce and other goodies for Henry

Day 2 - Supper
Pasta with meat sauce and cheese (using dehydrated beef I made a few days before)
Red wine
Milk and other goodies for Henry
Apples
Popcorn for dessert

Day 3 - Breakfast
Coffee
Oatmeal with brown sugar and milk for everyone
Apples

I was quite proud of my menu planning. Opening up the cheese in the morning and then using it up across three meal works quite well. So did pre-measuring the butter I would need and the coffee for each morning's brew. Probably the best meal was the first night. Few things in this planet can match the experience of eating campfire grilled steak with red wine after a few hours of paddling. Loons in the background and the most purple sunset you've even seen complete the picture.

Speaking of pictures, here are a few... the pictures from the trip!



By the third day Betsy, Henry, and I had really found our rhythm and felt as though we could easily have handled a longer trip. As we paddled back to the boat ramp at Pete's Place we felt strong and fast through the water. Henry spent part of that last paddle peaking over the gunwales and part of it sleeping on a blanket between dry packs and Betsy's seat. We got to Pete's place with plenty of time to spare, so we deliberately hung out in the middle of the lake taking pictures and messing around.

I grew up as a country kid, exploring the wheat fields and rail road tracks of Kansas. I have a lot of wander-lust in me, and getting out into the woods reminded me of that part of myself. I felt so alive, so in touch with myself and comfortable with the challenges in front of me. I'm really a different person in the field, and I had forgotten that. I like who I am when I'm preaching or presiding and I like who I am when I'm sailing, but this back-woods Tay that used to sleep on the chicken shed and walk for hours down a creak bed has rarely gotten to shine this last few years. I'm hoping that as Henry grows up I can introduce him to the pleasures of waking up with the previous-nights smoke still in your hair, or the satisfaction of building a fire from a small, still smouldering ash from that day-old blaze. I love the way my muscles ache after a long paddle or how my soft my sleeping bag can feel. It's even more rewarding to share these experiences with my family, which is one more pleasant surprise of fatherhood.

-t

Sermon - Holy Cross 2011

Here is my sermon from Holy Cross this year. Cheers!



-t

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Prayer Like?

This poem by Mary Oliver (from her collection Why I Wake Early) has been on my mind for a week and half or so. The best way to get a song like this out of your head is to share it:

Where Does the Temple Begin,
Where Does It End?


There are things you can't reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the gold fiches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.

And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree--
they are all in this too.

And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
comes.

At least, closer.

And, cordially.

Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unloosing snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold
fluttering around the corner of the sky

of God, the blue air.


Mary's poetry really does evoke me in the same sort of feelings I get where reading Rumi, David Whyte, or the Desert Fathers. Amazing stuff!

-t

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Contemplating Canoe Building

The guy I sail with (Dave) and a few others of us are considering taking on a winter project this year while Peregrine is out of the water--building a canoe. Dave and a friend of his both have a lot of experience building canoes, and it turns out that this is a do-able garage project. Here is a five minute video that shows what the process looks like for one type of home-built canoe:

Pretty, isn't she? So I'm thinking of building something like this this winter...

-t

Here's a Koan for You...

I find myself with a little time this afternoon (a very unusual circumstance), so I can finally do a little blogging. Mostly just some updates and reflections at the end.

Betsy, Henry, and I have had a nice summer. We went down to New Jersey for a little family reunion with my mom, sisters, and their families. Some of my cousins also came around. It was wonderful to spend so much time with them, particularly with my two brothers-in-law. We spent many a late night sipping bourbon on my mother's porch and talking about mutual interests. I even introduced them both to Cuban Cigars (contraband in America, I know, but living in Canada does have it's perks). Henry has four cousins, and it was rewarding to put them all together and let them play. We even organized a "Pirate" day complete with treasure hunt. My birthday included lobster (a family tradition) and we celebrated the 4th of July with BBQ and fireworks!

After New Jersey we headed over to Pennsylvania to see Betsy's parents, sister, and her family. More eating (I was taking a sabbath from my diet) and talking.

Back in Toronto Betsy and I have managed to go for canoe picnics on Toronto Island twice. A friend has a canoe at QCYC (the sailing club where I race on Wednesday nights). It's a beautiful wood-and-canvas vessel made in the 1950's. She tracks gracefully through the water and turns heads. Betsy and I have found that Henry does well in the middle position, and he has taken naps in the canoe on both trips. We put a picnic blanket down for him and rigged a sun screen across the gunnels.

The first time he fell asleep in a canoe we decided to take his cue. We pulled up to the bank of the channel and tied off to a shady branch. Betsy and I got comfortable and drifted off into family-nap time. Bliss.

Another time we ended our picnic-day by meeting up some friends with a boat for BBQ. After we ate we motored over to the Wards Island Beach, anchored, and went swimming off the back. Henry was a bit freaked out by the depth of the water, but I think we'll cure him of that fear with practice.

Canoeing is a real art form. I much prefer to kayaking, to tell the truth. A old joke goes like this:
Canadian: How can tell an American from a Canadian?
American: A Canadian knows how to have sex in a canoe.
Canadian: Nah, any fool can do that--a Canadian knows to take the thwart out first!

Ha. Drifting along with Henry gazing at the wild life, towing a bottle of wine deep enough to get the cold lake water, glancing at Betsy's blonde hair in the breeze... that's summer in Ontario for me.

In truth, these two canoe trips where a test to see how reasonable it would be to take Henry on longer-trek in September. Things went so well that we're planning a three-day (two-night) paddle in Massasauga Park. This is backcountry camping--a seriously ambitious undertaking with a 20-month old! But I'm thrilled. There is something incredibly liberating about getting back into the woods.

I'll have to post separately about the goings on church land. I start to get really intense when I talk about it. The complexity of parish ministry in mind-boggling. I think all pastors probably experience this. The longer you are in a place, the more complex the problems and the joys seem to be. The questions that occupy me now are both the same and different from when I first started. I feel like I've aged a decade in ministry.

Some days I'll have great experiences that make me feel like I am doing exactly what I was put on this earth to accomplish. These are wonderful, joy filled times. Then there are days when I feel like I am an awful person who is wasting everyone's time. Yes, there is some real dark places I can go when I think about all the problems my community faces. We are making progress, and I do believe the church is far better off now than when I first came. Slowly, so slowly.

For example, today I held my monthly "Traditional Communion Service." Usually I get about eight folks attending. We celebrate the Eucharist using the old language from the Book of Common Prayer. I even use the collect that prays for the Queen! It's sweet and unapologetically old-fashioned. After mass we have lunch and chat. But today only one person showed up. The others, unfortunately, had made a commitment to something else before they realized the scheduling conflict. Oops.

So I spent about 30-45 minutes getting the church all ready. Candles on the altar, chairs put out and arranged, lessons marked, etc. I was vested in my number two cassock (number one needs a bath), surplice, and stole. And one sweet, sweet lady arrives. She is hard of hearing, so I gave her one of the wireless headphone sets and put on a wireless mic to help her out.

In my homily I said that such a liturgy was a chance to recall that worship is about an offering made, not a service received. Saints and angels attended, no doubt. But the feelings that this kind of thing stir up are pretty intense and pretty varied. You can feel good about the "craft" of your ministry, the way you smoothly go through the liturgy and make prayers with your hands and even the way you hold your shoulders. And then you feel disappointed that on one wants to see that. Not even free lunch is enough to lure them in! But then you find yourself giving over to the prayer... letting it flow.

A priest I knew once told me that when I prayed the Sursum Corda (the call-and-responses that begin the Eucharistic Prayers), he could sense the energy coming out of the palms of my hands. He said it was like love. That's a nice compliment, but it is also a pretty scary reality to contemplate. What he didn't know is that many years ago, when I was college, I spent many nights praying in a chapel on campus. Usually I would end my prayers by asking God to bless my hands for healing, and I would put them on the smooth, varnished top of the altar. It was an electric and exciting way to pray, and suspect it effected the way I preside at the Lord's table to this day.

Interesting that I would write about that now, I've never told anyone that story.

One time a few weeks ago, when I was feeling particularly discouraged about some crisis or other. Might have been about money or it might have been about the music ministry or it might have been about some programme I was trying to launch without success. Anyway, I was keenly feeling my lack of ability and the thought occurred to me, "They don't pay you for what you do; they pay you for who you are." That's not entirely true, of course, but it's a useful koan for meditation. It's an antidote to the flawed thinking that ministry, or "church", even, is about accomplishing something. It's not about accomplishing anything--it's about the relationships that we are creating and sustaining horizontally and vertically.

"The church rolls on," they say. Indeed she does. And yet the struggles remain essentially the same. For me, the hardest part of this vocation is balancing my own spirituality with the practical stuff that just needs to get done. Floating down a stream in an old cedar canoe is a luxurious indulgence in world of broken, flooding pipes, reports and committee meetings! How to balance? Something about noticing when we go out of balance, I suppose.

'Nough rambling for now. Just wanted to share a bit of what's going in my world this summer!

-t


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sermon - Pentecost 2011

In this sermon for Pentecost I explained a new way of approaching the "problem" of church. Rather than looking at it as though it were a recipe with some missing ingredient, I looked at it like a piece of Origami. Church-as-folding problem means that we can assume that we will still have all the same elements, but we seek to arrange them in a new way. Folding is getting a lot of attention in the world of science because it is a fundamental piece of conceptual architecture necessary for understanding String Theory in physics and protein formation (DNA) in biology. In turns out that that "folding" is something that happens a lot in our universe, and working with that knowledge has born fruit in the "hard" science.

So what does our theology (particularly our understanding of liturgy and ecclesiology--that is, worship and church itself) benefit from this framework? Well, for one thing, it helps move us past the confetti of post-modernism: the bits and scraps and fragments that we, in church land, keep trying to arrange into some kind of mosaic that makes narrative sense our a fragmented world. The old prayerbooks and bibles have been shredded, and we put the pieces together to create a meaningful experience by taking a little from this book and little from this other one. The problem is that in liturgy, to take one example, the effort to create a mosaic sometimes devolves into "Fraken-Liturgy"--a grotesquely imbalanced creature whose un-natural origin is evident to all. In an Origami approach, it is understood that the entire tradition is still present, only it's been folded around into a new arrangement.

For example, imagine an origami leaflet. The congregation receives, when they arrive at the church site, a single piece of paper that has been folded into some kind of a shape. As they unfold it, the liturgy itself is revealed. But perhaps this is not a linear liturgy like we are used to. Maybe instead of flowing, temporally, from gathering to word to table, people flow physically from one area to another. This kind of stational liturgy is in our church DNA, actually, and certainly evident in larger churches where you might find little chapels and prayer areas and votive stations and displays set up. This is worship as environment rather than worship as event. The secular analogue would be architecture rather than drama. People have plenty of experience encountering spaces and inhabiting them, even spaces with a strongly pedagogical intention (think of class rooms, museums, and art galleries).

So once this origami leaflet is completely unfolded and laid flat it functions as a map of both the conceptual and physical space. Suddenly the unity of the liturgy becomes available in a new way. Rather than merely repeating a cyclic story attempting to create drama by suspending our own knowledge of how it ends, the participants are never asked to surrender that knowledge at all. The power comes not from the sequential build-up of tension and then climax as in drama, but in the depth that comes from going down, down, down deeper into knowing a space on its own terms.

Epistemologically speaking, we might expect more change out of people with this approach. There is much more discovery in it, much more participation as the group cooperatively makes worship together. It moves us in the exact opposite direction of movie-theatre style worship with its hierarchies of knowledge and provider-consumer dialectic.

Another appeal of this approach is that it lends itself to adapting another important conceptual framework: fractals. Fractals are a phenomenon where the smaller parts of something resemble or repeat the pattern of the whole. For example, if you look at branch of lightening, you will see a similarity between a very small branch and the entire structure. Snow flakes are also a common example. When we start talking about the Holy Trinity, we quickly get into fractals as we grab examples from nature to show that the fingerprints of Trinitarian thinking are everywhere.

Another thought has to do with the way that mutation works. As we disassemble and reassemble the Gospel, we are actually encoding it and decoding in such a way as to produce variations and mutations. Most of these will be dismissed as noise in the process, but a few of these mutations might be good enough to spur evolution.

So this is something I'm puzzling through right now. Not abstract at all, since I can easily how these concepts find application in parish life. If I want to create a transformational experience of church community, than I need new tools to configure the elements that I've got. I can't assume that some magic element is going to be added into the mix!



-t

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sermon - VCP 2011 Jenny Andison

This is Jenny Andison, the Canon Missioner for the Diocese of Toronto, preaching at the Vital Church Planting Conference (East) a few weeks ago. I shot this video, it was edited by Susan & Andy Kalbfleisch.


-t

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lamb

After Henry was born we celebrated Christmas with this meal: Carré d'Adneau au Moutarde (Rack of Lamb with Mustard), Gratin Daughinois (Gratin Potatoes), and Sautéed Vegetable Medley. This week I recreated that meal for some friends that came over. This is not a difficult meal to do, but it does take about 2 1/2 hours to make, soup-to-nuts. Worth it.

The crucial difference this time around was the lamb. Last year I used New Zealand lamb pre-packaged an shipped to Canada. It's okay, the sort of rack of lamb you find the grocery store. I picked up the ingredients for the meal at my local grocery store, but they didn't have lamb. So I went to Grace Meat Market, and they didn't have it either! Bummer.

I Googled butchers nearby, and ended up calling Vincent Gasparro's on Bloor West. Yes, they had lamb. Not only lamb, but fresh, organic lamb from Mr. Gasparro's farm! This is was some fantastic looking meat. The sort of cut that makes you take a deep breath and say a prayer that you don't mess up such a great piece of meat.

This was, no kidding, the best lamb I have ever made or eaten. I seared it and then roasted it with a mustard and breadcrumb crust. Herbs: rosemary and thyme and salt and pepper. Red wine and stock reduction mounted with butter for sauce. Rare, which worried me for a second until I tasted it. It was amazing. Butter melting tender. It changed the way I taste lamb.

It was so good, I actually thought about the animal from which it came. I thought about that creature and was grateful that it gave its life so that my friends and I could have a nice meal. I felt like a better person for having that lamb. It was so good, I sent an e-mail to the butcher to tell him how good it was.

Man, I love food.

-t

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Pulpit

Pure busy-ness prevents me from posting more often.

This morning Henry woke up earlier than usual, (about 6.30) and spend the next fifteen or twenty minutes sleeping in my arms in a rocking chair. I must say, having my little guy sleeping on my shoulder is one of the best sensations in the whole world. By 7 we were downstairs making coffee and breakfast shakes for mommy and daddy.

Betsy pointed out, helpfully, that I am being expected to function at both a Micro and Macro level of ministry simultaneously. Sometimes I'm being asked to think about the implications of Diocesan-level policies and help shape conversations happening at that level (via the Fresh Expressions Working Group, my column in the Anglican, etc.), and other times I'm being asked to stack chairs and create bulletins. Today, in fact, I spent about 2-3 hours preparing my church for a BCP (that's "Rite I" for you Americans) service we do once a month for about 10 mostly older members. I had forgotten to leave a note telling the cleaners how to set up the chairs. And the volunteer who normally handles lunch after the service had evidently forgotten.

So that left me to set up the chairs, the altar, and manage lunch. While I set up chairs I noted that they had been badly stacked (not the cleaner's fault, a group had been using the space Sunday afternoon)--which made my job more difficult than in should have been and put some scratches in the walls. As I arranged the chairs I reflected on the nature of ministry. Who would have imagined that I would have such strong opinions about the "correct" way to stack chairs? Whether I am being a perfectionist or merely doing what is necessary. What does it mean to take care of people?

So after setting up the chairs and doing everything necessary in the Sacristy (bread, wine, candles, books, holy-hardware), I ordered lunch from a deli just before it was time to Vest and take care of business. Six people showed up. Seriously, I think 2 1/2 hours of set-up plus another hour for the service and another for lunch (4.5 hours, total) is worth it for six people--but I doubt the rest of the congregation realizes what it takes to make a little service like this happen in a place like Messiah. Back when I had an Administrative Assistant I could rely on more of this happening without my intervention, but such is the breaks.

I preached a sermon, and even though I had barely looked at the texts ahead of time, it was a solid little homily and people responded with appreciative nods during and private asides after. When the candles were out I hopped on my bike ("George") and went to the Annex Hodgepodge to pick-up the lunch I had ordered. They helpfully put in a box for me and I strapped that to the rack on my bike. Pedalling back the church with sandwiches for my heniors (in my collar and corduroy jacket, no less) made me feel like an honest-to-God parson. It is supremely satisfying to feed people, especially when I do that it multiple ways all in one morning.

My folks noticed how hard I worked to get them lunch and were deeply appreciative. They said they wished they had known--but of course I had no idea my volunteer wasn't showing up until it happened. I could have called the night before, I suppose, but I certaintly don't think it's a good policy to call every volunteer to confirm their service the day before! Anyway the sandwiches were excellent and my people were very happy and feeling loved.

As my lunch was ending wo guests arrived for a meeting about a new ministry partnership that is brewing. I gave them some extra sandwiches and then had an excellent meeting about a potential project we are developing. My office is being repainted by volunteers, so we had to meet in same room where we served lunch. They didn't mind, meeting some of my parishioners actually gave them a firmer sense of what COTM is about, anyway.

That's my life. One minute I'm setting up chairs and sweeping the floor and another I'm discussing the history of supportive housing developments in my neighbourhood. Betsy is right, this kind of rapid switching from Microscale to Macro is difficult, and yet it seems somewhat inherent in the clerical calling. I don't mind the diversity of work. I enjoy working with hands and solving new kinds of problems. Perhaps the best part of being a priest, for me, is having to learn new things.

Tomorrow I have another morning service, then meetings, and then in the late afternoon and evening I'm going sailing. This sailing season I'm the Tactician on the team I crew with. It's a huge responsibility--a major step-up. And yet there is nothing I would rather do on the boat (which says something about the skipper's excellent discernment of crew roles). I've got a handsome new hand bearing compass and stop watch, and our practice sessions have gone well. Being the tactician is all about synthesizing a lot of information and then doing what you think is best for everybody on board. What more perfect role on a racing boat could there be for a parish priest? (A smart-Alec will suggest "bartender"--fie on him!)

There was a moment last Saturday when we were practising out in Lake Ontario in heavy fog and rain. I had my foul weather gear on and was hanging out on the bow as we approached a buoy that we were pretending was a mark on a race course. My job was to "call the tack"--that is, tell the the rest of the crew when to execute a 100 degree turn through the wind. The key, for me, was knowing just when the buoy was lying on the correct angle to the wind relative to our boat and anticipating the delay between the call and the actual turn. We were heeled over with a strong wind, and I was standing on the bow (front) of the boat with my hand bearing compass out in front of me. I could see the relative bearing of the buoy decreasing as it passed from forward of us to almost abreast of us. Just before it was at the correct bearing I yelled over the rain, "TACK!" and rushed forward.

The four other crew members executed the turn. Rather than retreat to the mast, I had chosen to go to the very forward most part of the boat (the "pulpit") and step over the leading edge of the front sail as it swept across the deck from one side of the boat to the other. It's much like mounting a bicycle, and as long as you grip something solid with both hands, perfectly safe. I was wearing a PFD over my rain gear just in case.

With the sails sheeted tight again, the boat heeled well over. As the buoy passed about a foot from the side I punched the air in excitement "YES!" It was about a prefect a call I could have imagined, and great fun to execute, too.

That's a big chunk of what my life is like, right there. Rain, fog, me with my Weems and Plath Compass waiting for just the right moment....

-t

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bixi - How To

With summer coming to Toronto it's time to bring bikes out of storage and onto the street. For the first 3 years we lived in Toronto we were without a car, so I used my bike a lot. When I became the Incumbent (Rector) at Church of The Messiah, I pretty well figured I would need a car and got one. But I kept my bike and used it frequently until it was stolen out of our back yard! Ever since then I have been bemoaning the lack of a bike. People kept promising to give me old bikes they no longer used, but that never happened, so in the end I just decided to buy a new bike.

George, as I call him, is a "Dutch City Bike." Designed for cruising on paved roads without getting your clothes greasy, he has hub-enclosed gears and breaks, narrow tires, and very upright riding posture. I love it--so smooth. Many thanks to people at Curbside Cycle for taking the time to walk me through this decision.

But I'm not the only one with Bikes on my mind. The city just introduced an initiative called Bixi which puts rental bikes all over the downtown core of the city. You can rent these for short, one-way trips. It's a great idea, and I hope it is wildly successful. I've already seen some people using them, and with the weather improving I expect it will explode.

Here is a short little video (three minutes) that describes the system and how to use it. Very helpful.



-t

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sermon and Baptism - Easter Day 2011

I finally managed to get a good video of a baptism at Messiah! The problem in the past has been finding a place to put the camera on a tripod ahead of time that wouldn't be blocked during the actual baptism. So this time I had a moment of inspiration and handed the camera to a friend of mine who happened to be there and whom I thought would be able to handle the camera without dropping it. (Yes, this was filmed with the Diocese's extra special camera that I have been learning to use.)

This video starts out with my sermon. Like all good Easter Day sermons it is relatively short (10 minutes) and high-energy. It relates baptism and resurrection and also seeks to make the resurrection hope real to people, not merely an abstraction. I have heard some preachers over preach on days like Easter, and I think that's one of the worst mistakes you can make. I kept it pretty loose, which also meant making a few rhetorical mistakes (nothing drastic or heretical, just not as neatly phrased as I might like). Anyway, feel free to fast-forward through that part if what you really want to see is how we do baptism at Messiah.

Alas, I did not get a good video of the blessing of water part of the rite. I also skipped over a little moment I had with the kids around the font where I talked to them a little about the meaning of baptism.



-t

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sermon - Lent 5 2011

Nancy is coming towards the end of her Internship at Church of The Messiah. I will be sad to see her go, she has been a great student. A quick learner, she has picked things up very quickly. For this, her next-to-last, sermon with us, I asked her to "do something different." Nancy is a very good preacher, but I wanted her to stretch herself beyond her comfort zone by doing something new and risky. She decided to go in the direction of using personal story, which is a particular preaching skill.

As it turns out, the texts for Lent 5A are all about death: Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones, the raising of Lazarus, etc. So she bravely went down the road of disclosure and I think people were quite moved by it, I certainly was.



-t

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Psalm 130 - Emergent Psalter

Here is Infinitely More (Allison Lynn and Gerald Fleming) performing Psalm 130 at Church of The Messiah on Lent 5. They are using The Emergent Psalter by Isaac Everett, which I have mentioned on my blog before. It's a very interesting resource for those of you looking for new ways to handle psalms.



-t

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update on the Messiah Challenge

It's no secret that The Church Messiah is facing a financial challenge. After a few years of balanced budgets we saw our income from givings plummet (mostly, according to our analysis, because of the hit the economy took) in 2010. We started a Stewardship Campaign in response, but it was delayed by several factors (my parental leave, a general loss of momentum in summer, and some parish deaths). With few cash reserves to rely on, we started to owe money to the Diocese--now the Diocese is understandably anxious. We had a meeting last night with some reps from the Accounts Receivable Committee and Bishop Yu. It went very well, and I have to say that we were encouraged. There is work to do, for sure, but it is "do-able." The biggest thing we have going for us at the moment is that we are, in fact, growing. If we can sustain this growth for the next few years we'll be fine. But this transitional period of adjustment is difficult.

I just want to say that I am very proud of my leadership team at the church. The Wardens, finance committee, and others have really been pulling together. A plan is beginning to take shape that gives me a tremendous sense of relief. I'm finally feeling like we have a handle on this thing. Whew!

Interestingly, at one point in the meeting I felt a very powerful feeling of affectionate and love for my little church. I'm sure all pastors feel this. It's perhaps the best part of parish ministry--sweet to taste.

-t

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blanquette de homard

When it comes to lobster, I'm normally a purest: boiling water with some salt (perhaps even sea water), melted butter on the side, lots of paper towels and newspaper. But I decided to try something different this time:

Blanquette de Homard

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

Ingredients
8 oz.* haricots verts (skinny French green beans)
salt
12 pearl onions
6 tbps/75g butter, softened
pinch of sugar
2 2-lb/900g lobsters*
1 shallot, peeled and sliced very thin
1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced very thin
1/4 cup/56 ml white wine
1 cup/225 ml light chicken stock or broth
2 cups/450 ml heavy cream
white pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped small (that's fresh--not that freeze-dried garbage, okay?)
a few sprigs of flat parsely or chervil, for garnish

Equipment
large pot
large bowl, filled with ice water
paring knife
small saucepan
big-ass knife, with a heavy-duty blade
wide sautour (a large saute pan with perpendicular edges) with lid, or with foil to cover
wood spoon
tongs or slotted spoon
warmed serving platter
whisk

Prep
First, the haricots verts. In the large pot, bring 4 cups/900 ml of water to a rolling boil. Add a large pinch of salt. Cook the beans until tender, but still bright green and slightly crunchy, about 7 minutes. Do not add the beans to the water until the water is roiling!! if your beans look army-green colored and limp, you've screwed up. Do it again. When the beans are properly cooked, remove from the boiling water and plunge them immediately into the ice water to shock them and arrest the cooking. When cooled, set them aside.

Okay. Take a breath. Relax. Next, the pearl onions. Peeling these little ****ers is a pain, I know. Just get it over with. When peeled, place the pearl onions and 2 tablespoons/28g of the butter, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar in the small saucepan and cover with water. The onions should peek out above the surface. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until all the water evaporates. make sure the onions don't take on any color. That would be bad. if they look like they're starting to get brown, or you think that you need to add a little more water, do it. Just make sure you don't cook them too much; you do not want mush. You want tender, distinctive little onions that have retained their shape but are cooked through. Remove from the heat an set aside.

(Some delicate people like to "kill" the lobster bofer cutting it up, by putting the tip of the knife between its eyes and cutting open the head lengthwise. You can do it that way, but it's really not that much help; the lobster is still going to move long after it's dead.)

All right. That's done. Here comes the ugly part. You might need a drink for this: Cut the still wriggling, flopping, and protesting lobsters' tails into 4 pieces each, crunching right through the shells and leaving the meat intact. Don't worry. Lobsters are essentially big ****ing bugs; they're too stupid to know they're dead. And if it makes you feel any better, they do much worse things to one another. Tear off the claws and crack them, meaning give them a good wallop on top, behind the hinge of the claws with the heel of your knife. Hopefully you're using an impressive hunk of German steel so you're not going to screw up the blade. When the blade goes in, cutting through the shell but not the meat, you can wobble or rock the blade a little, prying open a fissure in the shell with a resounding CRACK! Reserve the unused parts of the lobster--the knuckles and the heads. That's gold, baby. Freeze them and use them some other time for lobster stock or lobster butter or bisque.

Cook
In the wide sautoir, and over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons/28g of the butter until foaming and hot (but not brown) and add the shallot and leek. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with its lid or foil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and crank up the heat again, deglazing by adding the white wine and scraping up all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. When the white wine has nearly cooked away, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Add the heavy cream, reduce heat again, and simmer. Add the lobster claws and tail pieces. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes over low heat. Remove the cover and throw in the precooked pearl onions and haricots verts. Add white pepper to taste. Simmer for another 2 minutes with the lid off.

Serve
Remove the lobster pieces and the vegetables from the pot and arrange artfully on the warmed platter. Quickly fire up the heat to maximum, bringing the sauce to a boil. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons/28 g of butter, the lemon juice, and your no doubt impeccably chopped chives. Adjust the seasoning. Hopefully the sauce the will be reasonably thick (but not gluey--just enough to coast the lobster). Pour it over the lobster and vegetables and garnish with parsley or chervil.

Tay's Notes
Yep, this is is delicious. It goes well with pasta on the side, and crusty bread for all that sauce.
* The cookbook actually calls for "2.5 lb./225g" of green beans. Obviously, 225grams is nowhere near 2.5 pounds! So I think the metric here is correct.
** You can substitute 3 smaller lobsters for the 2 big ones.


-t

Sermon - Lent 3 2011

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday. I felt it important to preach about Japan. I liked out this sermon turned out, but I think the content was better than my delivery. Ah, well! Here are the texts for Lent 3 A: hard to escape themes around recognition and the presence of God.



-t

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lapin aux Olives


One of the the things I do to relieve stress is cook. We had a friend who is currently living in Spain over, so I gave this receipt from Anthony a shot. I've been wanting to cook rabbit for a while, and wasn't really happy with most of the recipes I've found online. This one is much better. Compared to most of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles recipes, this one is relatively straightforward.

Lapin aux Olives

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

Ingredients
4 Rabbit Legs *
1 Small onion, coarsely chopped
1 Small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 Celery rib, coarsely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
2 Bay leaves
2 Sprigs of thyme, plus
1 Sprig of thyme, leaves only, finely chopped
1 Sprig of rosemary, plus
1 Sprig of rosemary, leaves, only finely chopped
1 Sprig of flat parsley, plus
1 Sprig of flat parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 Tbsp/14g whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups/340ml White wine (1/2 bottle)
Salt and pepper
1/4 Cup/56g Flour, for dredging, plus
1 Tbs/14g Flour, for sauce
2 Tbsp/28ml Olive oil
1 Tbsp/14g Butter
1 Tbsp/14g Tomato paste
1/4 Cup/56ml Red wine vinegar
2 Cups/450ml Chicken stock
1/4 lbs./112 g Picholine olives, pitted (or a mix of red and green unstuffed, pitted)

Equipment
Large mixing bowl
Dutch oven or other heavy, large pot
Wooden spoon
Strainer
Serving Platter

Serves 4

Prep the bunny
In the large mixing bowl, combine the rabbit legs, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, whole sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and parsley, the peppercorns, and the wine. Let marinate for 2 hours.

Cook the bunny
Drain the marinade and reserve the liquid and the vegetables separately. Pat the legs dry and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the legs in 1/4 Cup of the flour. Heat the olive oil over high heat in the Dutch oven and, once the oil is hot, add the butter.** Brown the legs on both sides until they are dark golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the legs from the pot and set aside.

Add the vegetables from the marinade to the pot and cook over high heat until they are browned and caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste and the remaining tablespoon/14g of flour and mix well with the wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the vinegar and the reserved marinade liquid. Cook over the high heat until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the rabbit legs and reduce to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender. Remove the legs and set aside.

Finish and serve
Strain the cooking liquid and return it to the pot. Return the legs to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the olives and the chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper, and serve on the platter.

Tay's Notes
* or one whole rabbit, organs removed, chopped up. If you go the whole-bunny route, beware of bones.
** On the advice of my butcher I added some lardons of bacon, about 1/2 cup worth at this stage and rendered the fat after that. Thus the rabbit was seared in olive oil, butter, and bacon fat!
*** Including the marinading, this recipe takes about four hours, plan accordingly.

A note about sourcing rabbits in southern Ontario. The butcher told me that there is really only one supplier of rabbits to the grocery stores and butchers down here. There are no large rabbit farms, there is no money in it. However, farmers like to give their kids a few rabbits to raise as a way to teach them the basics of animal husbandry. People also raise them personally for meat, of course. So this rabbit processing company does a big round-up a few time a month when anyone can come by and sell their rabbits. Mostly, I'm told, these rabbits are actually being raised by Mennonites!

-t

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Return of the Cold

For many weeks I have been nursing a minor cold. It hasn't caused me too much grief, and Dayquil and other meds. have kept me from missing much work, but when I went on retreat last week the cold pretty much resolved completely. Something about all that rest and healthy living gave my body what it needed to finally defeat that persistent cold.

Alas, Tuesday night I was up late working on church stuff (as I have been a lot, lately) and didn't get as much sleep as I need. Sure enough, Wednesday I started to feel the cold coming back. I tried to fight it by going to bed early with half a dose of Nightquil, but my sleep was fitful at best. Ideally, I would have just stayed in bed this morning, but someone had to be at the church to meet a technician from Bell to fix the phone lines. Of course, the tech hasn't showed up, yet, so I went ahead and spent the morning doing sermon prep.

All these are first-order observations. Not very interesting, really. But then I flash to something Mary Gates used to say. She said that colds are a somatic expression of depression. I don't think I'm depressed, but I do carry around a significant amount of suppressed sadness and anxiety. Just yesterday I almost cried when talking about a departed member of our church. The emotion surprised me, obviously there is some unresolved stuff there. No doubt I would be healthier, and perhaps cold-free, if I could unpack some of this baggage.

The problem is that this is such a critical time in my parish's life that I have a hard time letting go of the tiller. Besides the Stewardship campaign, I am in the middle of Holy Week planning. There is also a sermon and bible study for this weekend to prepare. And leaflets. The leaflet for Sunday must be printed before tomorrow afternoon so that the volunteers have something to fold.

Did I mention that today I have an appointment to take a parishioner for her elderly Driver's License re-examination/renewal or that a tire on my car is flat and needs to be replaced with a spare and dropped off for repair?

I'm not complaining, I'm just explaining why my cold hasn't gone away. As busy as I sound, many of my parishioners have lives that are even busier. I know people who juggle incredibly stressful jobs, lots of kids, and multiple volunteer commitments. I have no idea how they do it.

The pastoral and homiletical challenge posed by this epidemic of stress in my community is profound. What is the word of Torah spoken on the street corner to those rushing by? One thinks of Jesus, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Lk 11.41b-42).

Really, Lord? Didn't you also command us to "Go, and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28.19) and "feed my sheep" (John 21.17)? Discipleship, not to mention a call to apostolic leadership in ordained ministry, seems to involve making an attempt to inaugurate God's new kingdom here-and-now. I am trying my best to make my church a place of love and growth, and that requires working phone lines, among other things!

Perhaps the monastery has some things to teach us. The absolute nature of the commitment to a Benedictine organization of time means that prayer takes priority over work automatically. You simply must go to the church whenever the bell rings. Five times a day you go. Does that compromise one's ability to get "stuff done"? Of course it does. Yet everything that must happen does happen. There are still many hours to work in the day, and everyone goes off to their cells or offices to do it.

Unlike in a monastery, parochial ministry seems far more burdened with a Martha-esque urgency. I have people literally begging for my attention and help. And I'll be damned if I'm the last Rector of this historic church!

In a monastery one has a community of peers. I only see most of my community on Sunday--through the week I do most of my work alone or one-on-one. The isolation of pastoral ministry in small parishes is a well-documented problem. I have well meaning parishioners offer their pastoral support all the time, but it would be highly problematic for me unburden myself to any of them. Besides the obvious confidentiality issues, it would be unfair for me to develop special intimacy with any one in particular, a recipe for discord and division. Nope, for that I need peers. As much as I am ambivalent about clericalism, it does create a culture that feels comfortable and supportive. When I go to a "clericus" meeting or a Diocesan Committee I can speak in short-hand code that immediately elicits "me too" sympathy and good advice. Nothing that I am describing here is unique to me, I think all of my colleagues have been in a similar position with a similar spiritual problem.

At their best these encounters bring brief relief, rest, and reassurance. Perhaps some insight comes, as well. Yet this Martha-Mary paradox requires transformation, not accommodation. "Venting" make you feel better, temporarily, but it doesn't usually lead to the kind of sustained change or conversion that is actually the mark of the Holy Spirit's activity. For that, something else is required.

I suspect the answer may dwell in the hearts of my parishioners. If I can infect them with the Gospel... If I can make them Jesus followers... If I can show them how to build God's Kingdom... How would that change the character of priestly ministry in this parish? I try--I try very hard to do this.

For the moment I have no magic bullet to offer, just faithfulness, craft, and love. Will that be enough?

-t

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holy Week Planning 2011

Today I had a meeting with the musician who will be sharing his gifts with Messiah from Palm Sunday, through Holy Week, and for the first several Sundays of Eastertide: Simon Waegemaekers. Simon is a pro, and I am especially appreciating how good he is working with the choir (he has been rehearsing the choir for the past few weeks in anticipation of the Holy Week rigours). Running a choir is a fine art, especially church choirs, especially especially volunteer church choirs. But to paraphrase a psalm, singing together in harmony is like fine oil running down the beard.

Today we had a meeting (along with my student, Nancy) to plan out more detail for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil, and Easter Sunday. It's a monumental amount of work to prepare and plan these services, and much of it has actually already been done. Today we finalized the scripture lessons for those days as well as picked out much of the music.

Last year's Holy Week was epic. Really, some of the finest liturgy I have ever offered-up, anywhere. I think that many of my colleagues would be amazed at what we were able to accomplish, worship-wise, in our small parish. Eric and I worked out a lot of stuff and then brought in more and more people to contribute to that vision. But it didn't take vast sums of money or hired-gun-musicians or any of that stuff. It just took passionate people, two principal leaders, and lots of thought.

This year Simon, Nancy, and I started with last year, and then started tweaking and changing things. I put sheets of flip chart paper on the wall with notes about the various services: date/time, lessons, prayers, configuration of space, music, etc. These sheets are going to live on my walls for the next several weeks. They look fairly neat now, but will be a mess by the time Holy Week actually comes!

So this is starting to make Lent a little less Lent-ish...

-t

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sermon - Reign of Christ 2010

I've been starting to go through the back catalog of sermons that I needed to edit, encode, and post. Naturally, I'm starting mostly with sermons that were preached by other people. Here is another one preached by my student, Nancy. The occasion was the Last Sunday of Pentecost, also known as "Reign of Christ Sunday." It also happens to be the Patronal Festival of Church of The Messiah (in as much as we have a Patronal Festival).



-t

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon - Lent 2 2011

Betsy and I met in seminary, and I've always known that she would be good preacher if she wanted to manifest that particular charism--so I was pleased that she finally took my invitation to preach at COTM this week. I think she did a marvellous job. Here is a link to the lessons for the day.



While Betsy preached and John Hill presided downstairs, I was in the Sunday School space doing church with the kids for the morning. We do this every so often--it's a good way of showing them (and the adults) how much they matter to us.

Here is a link to the leaflet in case you're curious.

PS for you techies out there. This is one of those videos where I really wished I had a "fill" light coming in from the camera's left side. I have sometimes used a video light, but it tends to really annoy my parishioners (those that have to read at the ambo, at least) so I'm afraid Betsy appears a little backlit in this video. Life and liturgy are all about compromise!

-t

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Last Seven Seconds

I've heard of a certain kind of Buddhist retreat that lasts seven years, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, and seven seconds. They say that all the benefit of it is realized in those last seven seconds. I'm experiencing a similar thing today as my time at Holy Cross comes to an end. Just this morning I woke up for Mattins feeling refreshed and alive to the possibilities of the last few minutes. The Office was lovely, and afterwards a spent some minutes watching the sunrise over the Hudson River from the Lesser Cloister.

The "Lesser Cloister" is a brick colonnade connecting the main guesthouse with the monastery church. It is open on the river side and forms one side of a three-walled courtyard with a big old oak tree in the middle. This Oak tree is one of the symbols of the Order of the Holy Cross--by the way, a stylized version of the Holy Cross oak appears as the cross in the stole of my green set of vestments.

Watching the river and listening to the birds, I thought about this retreat time. I slept more than I expected. When Brother Andrew saw me at lunch on Thursday he exclaimed, "Where the hell have you been?" "I asked my body what it wanted out of this retreat and it said, 'sleep.'" "Good for you!" he said.

Normally I get a great deal out of attending the Daily Office and Eucharists, but this time my body needed something else for a time. I've gotten so much rest that my cold has almost completely disappeared. This minor cold has been with me for weeks and weeks, and is no doubt a somatic manifestation of my spiritual exhaustion. So now that I am rested my body is settling into the rhythms of this place--on the last day!

This place is so powerful. If you are willing to consent, and perhaps even if you are not, it will change you. Simply watch the River for a few minutes and you will feel your soul swell. A marble slab over the door to the guesthouse reads, "Crux est Mundi Medicina." It means, "The Cross is the medicine for the world." It is true in many ways.

Hard not to fantasize about living here. Indeed, I have lived here for extended periods a couple of times. They call such people "Residents." There are two houses on the property that have been used for folks. There is also a little suite of rooms in the basement that would work for a small family. I've lived the life of a Resident and known the other Residents who have come and gone well enough to have a pretty realistic sense of what the life style entails. One of the Residents, Tony, used to talk about the "Gate Keepers" who live at the boundary between the monastery and the world. Life always thrives at the boundaries.

I think Henry would love it here. I can imagine him walking around and pulling open every drawer and cabinet to see what it contains. I think we would like the woods and the shale beach. But I think what I want him to experience most is the simple quiet of this place. It's a quiet that goes beyond mere silence or absence of noise--a quiet that goes deep to your heart.

-t

Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Air

The air here is so much cleaner than the city air of Toronto. When you are in the city you don't notice that it's particularly polluted. Indeed, Toronto's air is much cleaner in my experience than in Manhattan or LA, but, still, when I come out to the country I am blown away by how different the air feels. It's a pleasure to breath!

So far I've mostly sleeping and praying--which is ideal for a retreat. I also took my customary walk around, like a cat, to see what has changed since my last visit. Probably the most notable difference is that they repaired the crypt chapel. For many years it had a problem with water, but that's all fixed now. It's a very pleasant space and is where we celebrated a "Contemplative" style Eucharist this morning.

It was Bede's birthday yesterday, and I am planning to take him out for dinner this week. We take our dinner-outs very, very seriously. Since I don't get a lot of "real food" on my diet, I am very much looking forward to this. I am even going to allow myself some wine while I am down here (I've given up alcohol for lent).

Otherwise, I'm settling in and relaxing into things. It feels good to be back--very natural and familiar. Sweet.

-t

Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Monday, March 14, 2011

Safe Harbour

I just got into Holy Cross an hour or so ago. Last night I was up late finishing the bulletin for next Sunday since it had to be done before my retreat started. This morning I picked up the rental car (Betsy's needs the "Red Barron" to be able manage Henry this week), packed, and did a few other odds and ends before starting the trek to Holy Cross. It's an eight hour drive, and I made good time despite a 45 minute wait at the border. I spent the drive listening to some music and podcasts. The Chevy Impala the rental company gave me is a nice cruiser.

On the drive I took a call that told me that a member of the Messiah community passed away. She hadn't come to a service in many years, but she spoke fondly of my predecessor and certainly considered herself a member of the church. Her family wants a church funeral, and cell phones and such make it possible for me to arrange that even as I was driving across New York state. I haven't had too many funerals to deal with at Messiah, actually, but it is a ministry that inherited churches like mine do quite well. There is a lot of wisdom and love to be found in the burial traditions of the church.

I realize that a lot of my colleagues would shun their cell phones and iPads while on retreat, and there is good reason for that. Retreat usually involves a certain amount of ascetic withdrawal. I probably will, too, for some of the next several days. But I am an extravert, and so one of my needs (much neglected in the last few weeks) is talking out loud to process my stuff. And there is a lot of stuff for me to work on this Lent.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Betsy one Sunday evening when I was overcome by emotions I had apparently been suppressing. I had a good cry as I talked about two of my mentors: Mary and Bede. I also talked about the tremendous pressures I am under and my worries and concerns about the church. Looking back over the last few months I can see some moments when I think I did some of my best work ever as a pastor. Then there are other moments when I disappointed myself. Looking forward I see both threat and opportunity. The ways things will turn out is only partially dependent on what I do--so many of the outcomes of things in parish life are outside my control.

The feeling is very, very common among my clergy friends and probably among the non-ordained leaders of our churches, too. It's a mixture of anxiety, holy hope, and desire to do the right thing. But there is also a tinge of apocalyptic dread. The metaphor people sometimes use is "making planes in the air." Imagine falling through the air trying to assemble a wing, a fuselage, an engine.

An image that has more depth, for me, comes from the world of the Aurbrey/Maturin novels. At the end of Desolation Island Captain Aubrey and his crew are in desperate shape. They can barely control their sinking ship, and they are heading further and further away from inhabited land. Jack employes all his skills and technical abilities to keep the ship afloat and attempt to navigate to land, only to experience set back after set back. Much of the crew, including the First Mate, mutiny--putting their hope in tiny boats in rough ocean. Jack and his most loyal crew are left with the stricken ship. Patrick O'Brian manages to build and build this scene. The feeling of exhaustion and fear is incredibly vivid. The way things unfold and the ship is saved is a remarkable study in how organizations turn themselves around from the brink of destruction.

Messiah is leaking money, and we are all taking our turns around the chain pumps. The rudder is partially shot away, and so we are limited in terms of the directions we can go. Landfall is no where to be seen. Somewhere in the din my watch was broken, and without knowing what time it is, all the observations we make only reduce to a partial fix. We must stop the leak. We need more time. We need to find a habour...

Holy Cross has been a safe place for me to hold up and repair for years. I have great hope that the next few days will help me regain some equillibrium.

I may post more about how it goes. I might not. Right now I'm entering into the mode just following where the wind blows...

On my mind this evening: Betsy, Henry, and my parishioners....

-t

Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Sermon - Lent 1 2011

Here is Nancy (my student's) sermon from Lent 1. I thought she did a great job.



Here a link to the leaflet.

-t

Monday, March 7, 2011

Last Epiphany

Yep, I'm definitely starting to get a handle on things, again. Slowly but surely I am catching up the pile of stuff that has been thrown my way--just in time for Ash Wednesday and Lent.

But first, a word about Sunday... Here is a link to the leaflet.

The musical group was "Infinitely More" (Allison Lynn and Gerald Flemming). They did a marvellous job--professional and beautiful. I love working with musicians that have the flexibility that comes from self-confidence merged with deep musicianship. Their style is quite a bit more contemporary than a lot of what we have done, recently, but it was very well done and offered a nice counterpoint to some of the more traditional liturgical music we have done at Messiah. I was particularly impressed with Allison's voice and Gerald's guitar skills. At one point I saw him tapping harmonics, which I believe is a fairly advanced skill. Allison was intrigued with our experience with Paperless Music, and led the congregation in a Gloria she had written using that technique.

Hymn-picking is an interesting phenomenon. Some of the musicians I've been working with can and want to pick the hymns we sing. Others have no idea how to do this. A few know how to do it, but want me to do it for them, which puzzles me. If I was a church musician and the priest asked whether I wanted to have some say about the hymns I would be leading on Sunday, I would be all over that! So I've spent a fair amount of time the last few weeks with Common Praise and other hymnals open.

The journey continues. This season of life at Messiah is definitely calling to be on my toes when it comes to church music!

-t