Sunday, May 22, 2011


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.


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....


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.