Ecclesial Cross-Pollination

Those of you who know me, know that I live with a seed grower (Prairie Garden Seeds) whose daughter is following in her father’s footsteps. So the seed language kind’a rubs off on me — I can’t help it. Once in a while, though, that language actually sheds a delightfully new light on church-stuff. Hence the title of this reflection.

Recently I preached on Ephesians 4:1-16. Especially verses 1-4 are classic words in ecumenical circles: I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

It is a massive embarrassment to confess that, over the course of 2,000 years we Christians have utterly failed … utterly failed to live up to this urgent command.  Too often we have acted as though the purity of the church could only be achieved/preserved by dividing, by walking away from each other, by denouncing one another, until the only ones left are those who look, talk, think, and act … like us. Differences are no reason for divisions! Spirit-given differences are not a problem but are God’s good gift so that together we can learn how to “speak the truth in love” (verse 15). God’s calling, the unity of the church, in all its diversity, is God’s gift. How have we distorted and denied this gift! We have outright condemned the gifts of others – often and harshly. Paul’s words therefore should be painful, really painful.

Divisions in the church betray God’s overflowing grace. Divisions in the Body of Christ reveal our self-centeredness: we prefer to be right in our own eyes. We have no time or interest in others, we don’t want to bother learning how to love those who are genuinely different, whether that involves our atheist neighbour, or the congregation down the street, or our brother/sister in the next pew.

Fortunately we can slowly breathe a collective sigh of relief: in the past 100+ years we have been learning to reclaim our God-given unity with fellow Christians. We are working hard to heal the wounds of divisions. We are helping each other to regard differences not as dividing, but as the gifts of God to build up the Body of Christ. Reconciliation and healing, unity in diversity, are the new ways of being church today – whether this pertains to our Indigenous sisters and brothers, to our gay and lesbian fellow-Christians, or to relations among the church traditions.

This summer Anglican Bishop Rod Hardwick from the Qu’Appelle Diocese cycled across Canada (yes, Victoria to NFL) in 62 days (completed on July 31) to bring the message of healing and reconciliation to all he encountered. In the past fifty years numerous ecumenical agreements and milestones have been achieved on local, regional and global levels in the church. Shared ministry arrangements are growing, such as my own Anglican/Lutheran partnership in Watrous; inspiring examples of recognizing each other’s gifts and of healing Christ’s Body on earth. Last year’s world-wide events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation were a shining witness to Catholics and Protestants recognizing Christ in one another, from our own small parish studies, right up to Pope Francis himself. Francis traveled to Lund, Sweden, to join the Lutheran World Federation in prayer. Francis co-presided in prayer with the Archbishop of Canterbury and together they commissioned 18 pairs of Anglican & Catholic bishops for the work of reconciliation and healing between our traditions.

Then just as I was enjoying well-deserved time off this summer, a new ecumenical document was released: Walking Together On The Way, written by the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). Given the ecumenical animal I am, I didn’t waste time. I read the entire document while relaxing in my backyard (and I’ve passed it on to my RC colleague for his summer reading!). I was utterly surprised and delighted at the message in this text. Compared to other ecumenical texts, this one differs significantly in content, tone and methodology. More than any other, the document truly does justice to Paul’s words to the Ephesians.

What is so different, you may ask? Well, instead of stating the usual, “these are the gifts from our tradition that you need in yours,” it reversed the sentence/ question: “what gifts do you have in your tradition that we need in ours?” The entire text is marked by a profound trust and appreciation for the other’s witness to Christ and the Gospel. This appreciation is then coupled with a new, deep humility and honesty about one’s own denominational weaknesses and shortcomings. This is the first official document that applies the principles of what has come to be known as Receptive Ecumenism: Instead of asking what other traditions need to learn from us, we ask what our tradition needs to learn from others, and what we can receive from others which is of God.

This approach requires an ‘ecclesial examination of conscience’ with all the challenging implications of those Gospel words – the courage to be self-critical, to make humility a virtue, to risk openness to conversion, reconciliation and healing.  Here is truly a refreshing wind blowing in ecumenism-land, opening new pathways towards realizing the unity Christ won for us. While this approach is particularly courageous (and therefore new) for the Roman Catholic Church – which is not known for readily admitting shortcomings or errors – every tradition falls into traps of self-righteousness and arrogance. In fact, faced with difference, each of us can fall into the same trap. It’s not easy to stay out of that trap but it’s mighty important lest we betray our baptismal commitment to follow Christ. What would happen if instead of distancing ourselves from different people, different opinions, different perspectives, we learn to seek that of God in the difference? Ecclesial cross-pollination – do you see it?

And so, while Paul admonishes the Ephesians and us, his words don’t spell despair. In verse 13 Paul recognizes that we are still growing toward maturity. If that growth depended on ourselves, we would be doomed. But Paul reminds us that we are held by the calling of God, we are given to one another by the Spirit, and we are united in the Lord who is head of the whole body. The church’s growth into Christ (verse 15) is God’s gift and God’s promise. We have not yet grown up, but it is happening as we continue to foster relationships across differences, encouraging ecclesial cross-pollination, as we encounter one another at the Holy Supper, as we hear and sing the holy Word, as we reach out to meet the needs of the world, and as we serve in the ministries of the church. As Martin Luther once wrote:
This life, therefore, is not godliness
but the process of becoming godly,
not health but getting well, not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.

We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way.
The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on.
This is not the goal but it is the right road.
At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle,
but everything is being cleansed.

  • Excerpt from the new ARCIC document:
    It is our hope that Walking Together on the Way: Learning to Be the Church—Local, Regional, Universal will be a part of an ongoing process of honest self-reflection and growth. In their 2016 Common Declaration, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby declared: ‘While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church.’ It is important to make clear that by ‘together’ the Commission envisages each communion attending to its own structures and instruments, but aided by the support and example provided by the other communion. The sense is of our two traditions each walking the pilgrim way in each other’s company: ‘pilgrim companions’, making their own journey of conversion into greater life but supported by the other as they do so.

    Prairie Encounters

    Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

Advertisements

Pressing a Response

Several friends and readers have been asking for my thoughts about the recent media coverage on Jane Kryzanowski, a member of the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) movement and soon to be ordained a bishop in that movement (July 21, 2018).

I share with Jane the long and painful, passionate and intimate journey into embracing a priestly call within a church that does not recognize or bless such a call. While Jane has chosen to follow a route that places her outside of a traditional ecclesial structure, I have moved to another one, i.e. the Anglican Church. How are such decisions made, and is one better than another? How do we even know that our priestly calling originates in God when the Church denies that possibility? How do we engage the spiritual challenges that come with each path? How do we honour those who choose different trajectories, especially ones we might disagree with? Where is God in paths that make others shake their heads in disbelief?

Our response to such questions varies widely according to personality and temperament, background and opportunities, life experience, spirituality and passions. And so I can only speak from my own history and understanding. In the 26-year dance with my priestly vocation I have run the gamut of responses: from outright denial to trying to run away from God (yeah, I met Jonah on the way), from bargaining with God and minimizing the serious nature of the call, from doubt to fear to finally a deep, all encompassing yes.

One of the paths I indeed explored several years ago was the RCWP movement. I engaged extensive conversations with a member of that movement and entered serious discernment for a short time before turning away from that path. Why? First of all, I am not a political activist by nature. This has been true in all areas of social justice, contentious issues and difficult ethical topics. It doesn’t mean that I am not deeply engaged, I am. But my mode of engagement is simply not one of standing on ramparts, disrupting public gatherings, joining protests or lobbying church officials. Rather, my primary call and inclination has been to serve direct needs on the ground, to honour the earth through simple living off the land, and to engage pastoral opportunities in unassuming ways; I tend to leave the heavy political lifting in both church and society to others. Both approaches have their strengths and pitfalls.

While outsiders may see the RCWP movement primarily about public protest, I am aware that this is not its self-understanding. Its call to witness to injustice within the church is expressed through fostering a renewed model for priestly ministry and through serving direct needs on the ground, especially with those who feel alienated from the institutional church. Regardless of this noble purpose, priesthood with the RCWP movement would have felt to me like adding a political dimension to what I saw in essence as a call to serve the faith community. My priestly call felt too precious and too intimate to be tossed to and fro like that, subjecting it to unpredictable seas of ecclesial confrontation. My desire for parish-based pastoral ministry was far greater than engagement in political activism.

I also struggled with what seemed a rather weak structure of discernment and accountability in RCWP. This aspect has surely evolved and matured since I last engaged its counsel. Discernment and accountability is both a communal and personal matter. I wondered about how to sustain a genuine priestly spirituality, and how to work for reform when the official ties with the existing church are forcibly severed.

I became acutely aware that the pastoral trust and opportunities I was enjoying in parish, diocesan and ecumenical ministry were quite unique; not every RC woman so called had access to these open ministerial spaces. Maybe these open spaces were there for good reason. Joining RCWP  would incur automatic excommunication, resulting in closing the open spaces within every ecclesial  structure, Roman Catholic and otherwise. Ironically, moving to the Anglican ecclesial community does not come with the same stigma. Despite what’s on the books about invalidity of orders, Rome’s 50+ year commitment to formal dialogue and close relations with Anglicans, including clergy, bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury leave little doubt about its practical recognition of Anglican Orders and the Anglican Communion’s Gospel witness.

Paradoxically, the realizations arising from my RCWP exploration clarified my pastoral call and priestly heart with that uncanny peace the world cannot give. I gratefully acknowledged that I had ample opportunities to serve God’s people, while my spirit was guided and nourished from the priestly vocation in my soul. God affirmed the call inside, as well as how I was to continue living that call on the outside.

I discovered that, despite the prohibition on ordination, my ministry career could be surprisingly fruitful. This was possible in part thanks to a deepened understanding of sacraments, encompassing every occasion in which I could facilitate an embodied encounter between God and a person in need. I learnt that priestly ministry need not be limited to the institutionally ordained, that it could be deeply life-giving and love-giving even in the most restrictive circumstances. To increase the probability of such fruitfulness I chose daily to surrender to God, chose not be victimized by the pain but let it teach and hone my spirit, to keep my ego out of the driver’s seat, and to ground my experience in Christ Jesus. While I share the vision and the vocation with RCWP women, and while I certainly gained a greater understanding of what leads one to choose this ordination route, my path was clearly a different one.

But, you may ask, was this response not a capitulation to an oppressive ecclesial system? Was this not a cop out on my part, a cowardly supporting of the status quo? For some, this would have been so. For me, not so. Instead, guided by Scripture and prayer, good mentoring and challenging self-reflection, this response lead me to develop a robust spiritual resilience in the midst of an unjust ecclesial situation. I grounded my priestly identity in God, and only secondarily in the church. I developed skills to avoid feeling victimized by an unjust ecclesial practice and to help me rise above ecclesial limitations, skills that continue to serve me well even now as an Anglican priest.

Undoubtedly there is an ecclesial tension within Roman Catholicism when it comes to the ordination question for women. Our own Scriptures and tradition, our own Pope Francis, continuously remind us of the God of surprises, the God who doesn’t fit into our limited boxes of understanding and interpretation. We embrace God in a person, Jesus Christ, who revealed the radical nature of God’s grace and mercy for all people. Jesus, God’s grace in the flesh, engaged people in need, touched clean and unclean people alike, to the scandal of the religious establishment. He was in many ways a breaker of those human rules that did not serve God’s reign, and thus still continuously calls us to a higher standard of justice, wholeness and integrity.

Every time Pope Francis emphasizes that God keeps doing new things among us, I think of the priesthood for women. In his homily at the closing of the 2014 Synod on the family, Pope Francis said: “God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.” Well, God may not be afraid of new things, but church leaders seem to be. However, time is a necessary discernment tool in both personal and ecclesial development. Time will test the new thing God is doing in women such as Jane and myself who experience a divine call to priestly ministry. All we are asked to do is to be a faithful steward of the tiny part entrusted to us in this larger ecclesial drama, and leave the rest to God.

In order to live this tension creatively, freely and faithfully we need a long view, one that extends beyond our own few years on this planet. But I see a uncanny irony in Rome’s certainty that women cannot possibly be ordained when considering the following words from Pope Francis: If one has the answers to all the questions, that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

There is no denying that each of us can be called onto different paths to fulfill a similar purpose, even if we find ourselves shaking our heads at one another’s choices. Whether inside or outside traditional ecclesial structures, we are all in this together. There is that of God in everyone and in every choice motivated by love. As long as the primary driving energy is love and humility, grace and mercy, with anger, bitterness and resentment surrendering to these four, each person’s journey is deserving of trust and respect despite our own misgivings.

We need to learn to think and say with Pope Francis, who in turn of course echoed Jesus, when he said: Who am I to judge? I share Pope Francis’ dogmatic certainty: God is truly in every person’s life. Taking this reality seriously, my own discomfort or disagreement with paths and choices others take can then become God’s invitation to deeper self-reflection and ongoing grounding into God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Who am I to say that God does not use everyone to further God’s reign of justice, peace and mercy? Would that we can afford one another this mutual trust and respect even when finding ourselves on different routes of life.

  • Here is a personal account by Christine Haider Winnet who joined the RCWP movement.

Prairie Encounters

Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

A Tale of Two Women

I think that last Sunday’s (July 1) Gospel (Mark 5:21—43) cried out for a woman preacher. We don’t get to hear this Gospel very often. It shows up once in the 3-year lectionary and even then it can get displaced by the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. But it is one of the most intriguing sections Mark wrote.

Mark tells the story of two women. One is well-to-do; the other is poor, a nobody. One story begins and gets interrupted by another one. First, Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, approaches Jesus because his young daughter is gravely ill. Could Jesus please come and heal her? Sure. But, on the way, Jesus is interrupted by a woman who also needs help desperately. Jesus delays his walk to Jairus’ house, even though the little girl is at the point of death. He stops his trek to the well-to-do daughter to deal with a poor nobody who had the audacity to take matters in her own hands.

It was no accident that Mark wove these two stories together (and woe to the preacher who omitted one!) Jairus’ daughter is a young woman of privilege – with a leader of the synagogue for a Dad. Entering puberty at twelve years old the promise of full womanhood lies before this young daughter of Israel. The girl lives in comfort and affluence. Her father enjoys power, prestige and wealth. She has the best advocate any little girl can ask for: her Dad. And Jairus does not hesitate to approach Jesus within socially sanctioned propriety.

In those same twelve years that the young girl was growing up, the bleeding woman suffered terribly. Her future was “spent” in more ways than one.
Nameless and destitute, she too is a daughter of Israel. But she has no advocate fighting for her. The promise of her full womanhood was never realized, drained out of her in a flow of blood for twelve painful years.

Because of her continuous bleeding, this woman was not to be seen anywhere near the Temple or synagogue, or anywhere near a religious leader. The bleeding woman, therefore, suffers double isolation. Illness was considered divine punishment for sins, resulting in being cut off from normal social relations. This woman was nobody’s friend. She had no one to speak for her, no advocate. She must take her salvation in her own hands. And she has to do it by breaking social and religious taboos: unclean, an outcast and a woman, she touches a man in public in the vicinity of a leader of the synagogue. According to the customs of the time, the woman’s touch – even if only his cloak – defiled Jesus.

What does Jesus do? Does he call for the purification rites, in order to make himself clean again? After all, he’s on his way to Jairus’ house, a leader of the synagogue. Does he ignore this nameless face in the crowd because he’s on an important mission on behalf of the rich and powerful? No, none of that.

Jesus knows that “power has gone out of him.” It’s the kind of energy that reaches out to another, the energy of love and healing. And in Jesus that energy flowed so freely, that even touching the hem of his cloak gave the woman access to its healing power. Jesus knows that someone touched him with intent. Not only does Jesus attend to this destitute, nameless nobody, he singles her out for her faith, her perseverance, her courage. Jesus uses this unclean, repulsive, outcast woman, the one whom nobody wants, to teach the rich, the religious and the powerful a lesson about faith:“Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

When Jesus arrives at Jairus’ house, he is told that the girl has died. Immediately he tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” But – everyone is skeptical; they even “laugh at him.” No trace of faith here, not in this well-to-do house. Imagine that: the nameless, rejected woman shows stronger faith than the religious experts of the synagogue! Talk about turning the tables … Nevertheless, healing energy flowed forth from Jesus to the young and the old woman alike. ‘Cause God‘s healing touch knows no outcasts, knows no inferior folk, nor is it reserved for a privileged few.

Josephine Butler learned this truth quite dramatically. Josephine was a good Anglican, living in England well over one hundred years ago. She discovered that God’s healing power could flow through her too in the name of Jesus. Josephine embarked on a crusade against a social ill that still demeans an debilitates women today, making women bleed their lives away in prostitution.

Now Josephine did not have to do this. She was a woman of means, happily married with children. She came from an upper-class English family. She had every opportunity – every “right” – to a pleasant, cultured and social life. She could easily have remained untouched by the social injustices, unmoved by the oppression of women in her time. But, Josephine was also a deeply committed Christian. She was devout, sensitive and even mystical in her spirituality.

This deep love and commitment to Jesus, the man with healing power, led her to “touch” the misery of women who sold their bodies in prostitution. You see, Josephine was driven to them by her own grief. Her own little daughter, younger than 12 years old, had died. And she sought consolation by seeking to help women less fortunate than her, women and girls in prostitution. She didn’t join in their profession. Like Jesus, she felt compelled to reach out without fear and to touch their uncleanness in order to bring them hope and healing.

There is something strangely healing about reaching out to someone less fortunate, especially at a time of deep loss and pain in our own lives. That’s not quite the same as “misery loves company.” Josephine met women in much greater need than herself. At first Josephine simply befriended the girls on the street. Then she started to take them into her home so they could live, and die, surrounded by some real love instead of the one-night or one-hour stands. One thing led to another. Eventually Josephine founded homes for the girls. She started to visit the sea-ports to plead with the sailors. The plight of the hookers moved Josephine to become their advocate at great personal risk and ridicule.

Like Jairus, Josephine was grief-stricken over the death of her little girl. Like Jairus, she reached out in faith for healing and comfort. Like Jesus, in her search for healing she “bumped” into dirty, nameless women whose lives had been bleeding for years: women whom nobody bothered to really love. Like Jesus, Josephine’s life was “interrupted” in order to love women who were separated from everyone and everything that was decent and noble in any given society.

It was Josephine’s deep faith in Jesus, the healer, that led her to this radical love. And – to her great surprise – in that outrageous loving of untouchable women Josephine found her own healing. This is an incredibly important lesson still for us today. Suffering, death and other personal afflictions can still rob us of life-giving blood of any kind, sometimes making us bleed for twelve years or more. Sickness and death plays no favourites; rich and poor are afflicted.

But the pain of our bleeding can be touched deeply by faith, love and resurrection. In fact, Jesus has touched our pain on the cross. He entered our suffering and death in the most intimate way possible. That touch of Jesus, in which we share through our baptism, invites us to do at least two things: to let God touch our pain and, even in the midst of our own agony, to interrupt our lives in order to reach out to those rejected by our world because of their stigma: men and women, boys and girls trapped in prostitution, those afflicted with AIDS and HIV-related diseases, suffering cancer, MS, depression – you name it. “Who touched me?” says Jesus as he looks around. Anyone afflicted in mind, body, heart or soul only has to touch the hem of his garment, and that hem – that could be us when somebody reaches out for love and care.

Our own healing journey must take detours to attend to those less powerful and more destitute than we are. Only when the outcast woman is restored to true “daughter-hood” can the daughter of the synagogue leader be restored to new life. That is the faith that the rich and famous must learn from the poor.

Jesus not only had time for the person next to him. The reign of God, which Jesus came to reveal, points to the day when all will be attended to and no one will be ignored, no matter how much life-blood has drained out of us, no matter how untouchable society considers us.

In Jesus, God has promised us not freedom from pain, loss, grief and death.
Those are all part of living, just as joy and pleasure, passion and excitement are. Instead of removing, or protecting us from, that bad stuff, God does two things that are much more powerful:

First, God absorbs all of these human realities. In Jesus, God knows them all – intimately. In Jesus, God lived them all – passionately. By this radical identification with all creation, God has sanctified our lives. God has sanctified our humanity by joining us fully in that humanity through the life, suffering and death of his only Son Jesus Christ. We are not alone, and we matter. In Jesus, God shared and continues to share, our life.

That’s one thing. The other is that God promises resurrection, a resurrection like that of Jesus. This means that, finally, nothing – absolutely nothing – will be lost. God will make something new and renewed of our lives, our bleeding, and of our deaths, and of the lives, bleeding and death of everyone for whom Jesus died. There is both meaning and hope, God says in Jesus Christ, in our little existence, in our pain and bleeding, and ultimately in each of our deaths. God has promised in Christ: God’s word of love will be the strongest word, and the best word, and the last word – for everyone – no exception, no segregation, no exclusion. God has promised to make all creation new, and that we will be a part of that. And God’s promise has already delivered in our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. AMEN

Prairie Encounters

Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

The Rance Trance

In the past few months our city of Humboldt on the Canadian prairies has been rocked by raw and strong emotions. First came the Broncos bus crash, unleashing unspeakable grief and loss, both individually and as a community, a grief that rapidly spread across the globe. All of us got lost in emotional fields littered with shocking trauma, broken hearts and torrents of tears. Would we ever come out of this, would this trance of pain ever end? Then, seven weeks later, the “Rance-Trance” hit us with similar emotional force.

For those who have not been in the loop (that’s most of you regular blog readers), Rance Cardinal is a young Indigenous man who walked 1250 km from Sioux Lookout, ON, to Humboldt, SK, for the healing of hearts, his own and all those affected by the Broncos bus crash. More than 13,000 people “walked” with him through Facebook where daily videos and written updates were posted. Over the course of his 48-day walk, Rance became a living witness of reconciliation and healing, in the power of the Holy Spirit, turning his own life around for the greater good of all humanity — to me it has all the features of a powerful contemporary Pentecost. 

Besides Rance’s personal witness, there is so much other fruit arising from his daring and courageous walk. I became hooked on his daily Facebook posts, not only for Rance’s personal witness but for the outpouring of community, of personal sharing, of healing and reconciliation that this social medium facilitated. I consider it a shining example of the very best social media can be.

The posts and images below are selected from the Facebook page entitled Humboldt Strong WALK. Now I know well the importance of giving proper credit to other people’s words. In this case, I had collected the quotes (and photos) without the names before deciding to incorporate them in a blog of my own. I tried in vain to find the names again on the FB page, but the postings were simply too numerous. Nevertheless I share the words with some images as a witness to the power of healing and reconciliation even in a virtual community of strangers united by the common bond of grief that transcended every border and boundary. The quotes are distinguished by alternating the italics. Should anyone recognize their words and would appreciate being identified or prefer to have their words omitted altogether, please contact me and I will gladly oblige. So now I let the words of others speak for themselves about this Rance Trance:

This tragedy needed a “hero.” Someone to help this nation heal. Rance did that through his journey of walking over 1200 kms. What started out as a journey to heal himself of his own pain became something much bigger and helped many heal from this tragedy. Every step he took, every video he posted, every person he met and the pictures and stories they shared of meeting him has helped us as a nation not only to heal but to come together on this Facebook page to rally behind him and cheer him on. Thank you again Rance for being the “hero” this tragedy needed.

The Humboldt Strong sign and the need for healing is what started this young man on the journey. He started off in the snow not knowing what was ahead but in his heart he knew he had to get to Humboldt. May 27 Rance and his team arrived in Humboldt. What an emotional day for everyone. Along the way he made many new friends , but the person that touched my heart is the man Rance calls his Agent, Charles. Charles met Rance in Regina and instantly knew this young man was someone special and they became inseparable. From Regina to Humboldt Charles walked with him. Charles wept with Rance, laughed with him and walked every step with him. If only we could all be so lucky as to have a friend like that.

Rance Cardinal walks down 18th Street North on Sunday with a hockey stick in hand and his iconic Humboldt Strong sign on his back. (Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun)

One more person who has impacted my life is a woman named Alice. I private messaged her one day after she left our page. From almost day one she has been posting beautiful prayers, asking for strength for Rance, his team and for all those affected by the tragedy in Humboldt. She lead many of us in a morning and an evening prayer. I asked Alice if she was a friend or family to Rance; she told me no she didn’t know them personally and she has no idea who added her to this page in the first place. Now I call that AMAZING. God knew what He was doing. Through her prayers she had hundreds of people saying the same prayer. What a blessing she is.

Rance-Ronnelle Cardinal, thinking of you as the miles grow shorter between you and your destination in Humboldt. We know how healing a journey like this can be. In 2011 a group of us walked over 800 kms from Pinehouse in northern Saskatchewan, to Regina, to protect our lands and water for future generations. It changed our lives forever, as we know it has yours. When we started, we only had enough gas money for our support vehicle to make it to the next community down the road, but all we knew, this was something we had to do, so we did it.

It takes courage and trust to do these things, and in true hockey fashion, you stepped onto the ice when you were called. When you turn your trust over to the Creator, every step with Mother Earth along the way is a prayer of healing and strength. We had a walking staff that carried us, and it’s amazing to see how your hockey stick is that staff for you and does the same thing 😄

The video of you meeting and embracing the people from Humboldt never fails to bring tears to my eyes, because it lays there before us the recognition and bond that is possible between people if we just open ourselves to it. It brings back such cherished memories of our own walk, where we were gifted every day with reminders of how powerful Love is. “Let the tears flow and the love grow.” Love is the most powerful energy in the universe, and is truly what makes miracles happen, as you’ve now experienced yourself.

From the moment you took your first step, you started sending out waves of healing which will continue to radiate forever, in ways that you won’t even be aware of, not only for the victims of the tragic bus crash on April 6 and their families & friends, but for all who were touched along your journey and beyond. They say the root of all addiction is grieving, and by following the call of your heart to do this walk, you began the journey of healing the grief you were holding inside. So many thousands of us are stuck in our grief, and by sharing your story along the way, you’ve helped us to also take that first step in moving on.

Rance writing PEACE in Cree and Ojibway. Photo Credit: Marie Saretsky

Rance, keep on sharing your story of healing for those who may not have heard it yet. We so badly need your message in a world where there are so many forces pulling us away from the red road. There will still be those times when grief for loved ones lost will well up inside you, anger, doubt, frustration, self-pity and all the other emotions that come along with it. But you’re so much stronger now than when you started. When those times happen, just remember how you felt with feet on the ground on your journey, connected with the healing earth and with your loved ones.

Your day arriving to Humboldt is going to be so amazing, so full of all kinds of emotions. It takes courage to walk into that, putting your heart in a very vulnerable place. Embrace the moment; together we are stronger. I wish we could be there, but know you will always be in our prayers for continued peace and strength in the years to come. Thank you to Rosanna and Archie for the amazing job you’ve done supporting and documenting this journey! And Tiniki, Marci Cho, thank you Rance, for listening to the call of your heart and showing us the way.

It’s been so exciting watching you on this journey. YOU MADE IT! It’s also bittersweet because we won’t be seeing your happy, smiling face every day and your awesome updates but you set out to do something so selfless and amazing and you completed it. You should be so proud. You’re such a positive role model and genuine person. So caring and selfless. You’ve made our entire nation and the world extremely proud. I hope you continue to keep us updated with a video here and there, because I’m sure going to miss seeing you daily, as I’m sure everyone else will. God bless you, Rance.

The boys and Dayna must be looking down from the heavens and celebrating Rançe’s journey as he finished the 1200 kilometre walk in their honour. The reconciliation and healing journey sure made us realize we are all the same and we share the hurt for all those affected by this tragedy. It only takes one person to unite us and together we appreciate what he has done. Rance Cardinal will forever the honourary captain for those the hockey community has lost and for those who follow their dreams of one day making it to the N.H.L.

Dayna Brons family welcoming Rance.

Wow…….such an emotional day…well done young man! I’ve been following you from North Carolina and you’re an inspiration to many. Don’t ever lose that kind and thoughtful heart and soul and don’t allow life to harden you. You’re destined to do great and wonderful things, this is just the beginning. My Canadian heart has grown a size or two with pride. Congratulations on a tremendous healing journey for you and many others!

My tears rolled as I seen pics of you walking to Humboldt. Once again I am in Lloydminster doing my job. I had a Smoke for you and prayed. You are our lighting power for reconciliation . You may have started without this connection but you became our idol. You will be forever. I knew the Creator would send help; I burnt my fire till midnight and prayed. When I saw your face in Humboldt with your mom I knew that was going to happen. I knew you were supported 💯 percent! May you stay humble and yes we will meet. Count on it forever; I will for sure meet you buddy 👍👍👍💜💙💜

I am finding it hard to put into words (which is rare for me) about how I am feeling right now. Rance, you have rallied the troops, and inspired not only those in Canada, but around the world. This tragedy affected a lot of people. You have brought not only healing, but hope to those who have been following your journey. Well done.

I’ve seen some suggestions on how people should do this or that for what Rance had accomplished. I’m of the opinion that we need to all learn from Rance. Instead of suggesting what people should do, or who to send this or that to, etc….take it upon yourself. As Rance had recently proven, one person can make a difference. I had a welcoming reception in Regina when he arrived, I never suggested that “someone” should do this for him. I took it upon myself to help him, the same way I offered to help him with the rest of his journey to his destination of Humboldt. I realize that one person has helped us all come together, helped us all feel better about ourselves, began bridging the gap, showed us that we all care, and showed us that we all matter, that person is Rance Cardinal.
Yes, bigger acknowledgements in the media would be nice, Ellen, MacLeans Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Inspire Awards, The Globe and Mail, The Order of Saskatchewan, People Magazine, The Order of Canada, ESPN, Nobel Peace Prize, New York Times, etc. All of these ventures take considerable amounts of time and it really helps to have a connection. Be like Rance, don’t just talk about it, lead it. As he has shown, if you believe, anything is possible. 

So many beautiful words have been expressed about this man who has felt much mental anguish for his own losses and those losses that the community and families of the Humboldt Broncos have suffered. It makes me cry when I read every post. You are one very special, very blessed man! Thank you for coming into my life with your healing powers of love and humbleness. You are so so special.  God bless you and all of your future endeavours because I have no doubt you will succeed in anything you touch!!

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t stop thinking about you. You are a hero and inspiration to many including myself. The Humboldt tragedy took a toll on the hockey family but you stepped up and it was a way for you to grieve and get rid of the pain you were experiencing. Walking over 1200km to Humboldt takes a lot of guts and prayer but look Buddy. Our Good Lord and his now 16 angels were with you every step you took and every mile you made. You made it to Humboldt and enjoy every minute of it.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Here, no one cares about hockey, & hardly no one even heard aout the crash. I care deeply about hockey and I cried every day for a forthnight over lives cut short far too soon. Maybe no one will read this, but I just wanted to say that Rance Cardinal is my personal hero. I am so proud of you, Rance, not just for making it to Humboldt, but for everything the walk symbolizes, all the bravery and vulnerability you’ve shown, all the people you’ve touched, all the good you’ve put into the world after so much was torn away so early. Thank you, Rance Cardinal, you mean a lot to me.

Thanks to the Saskatoon Blades 🏒 for the cap and t-shirt! THIS guy has transformed before us all!!! You, my friend, allowed yourself to be vulnerable, you are transparent… and through that you have truly gained back YOU!
You are an authentic individual 💞 and we all got to see you transform from the shy guy with your head always down to this now truly proud, strong, confident individual! You knew your passion from the start and you trusted… and look 👀 what happened!!! YOU, Mr. Rance-Ronnelle Cardinal brought nations together. I am blessed 🙏🏼 to have been in your space, my friend. I am a better person for it. You have something special, You have greatness within you!

Prairie Encounters

Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

Trinity-style Loving

Every year the Church gives us Trinity Sunday right after Pentecost, and we’re supposed to say something intelligible about this serious theological construct we call God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We have made things complicated over the centuries. The Trinity has filled countless books, all theological and theoretical explanations – well, most anyways. We generally think of the Trinity as a “name” for God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Now that’s certainly correct, but there’s more than merely a name here. Maybe the Trinity is also about how these three aspects of God relate to one another in unconditional and ever-flowing LOVE. Taken together, the Trinity is about relationship. Our God is a relational God. Relating in love, the three-in-one, reveals what God does. God is love, we hear that so many times in Scripture. And for Love to love there needs to be another to love: God so loved the world …

We’re very good at defining God and giving intellectual assent to a God of love. We’re less good, though, at loving like God. And yet, Jesus showed us that we have the capacity to love like God. What would happen if we took seriously the relational character of the Trinity? If Trinity Sunday is merely an intellectual yes to a theological construct defined long ago, a construct that we mindlessly recite in the Creed every Sunday, then it’s not worth the ink in the volumes of books.

But what if Trinity-style loving guides how we live? What if Trinity-style loving makes demands on us that are uncomfortable and challenging at times? What if the Trinity is the primary pattern for being church? And who is the church – we are, together! The church is fundamentally about relationship. Long before the church is an organization, a structure o pr a building the church is about a way of relating, a way of being in the world, patterned on God’s Trinitarian dynamic of loving in and through Father-Son-Holy Spirit.

A Trinitarian way of living and loving embraces the world wholeheartedly. We cannot be church in isolation from the world.
We cannot be church without relating in love to others.
Autonomy and individualism are good goals of development,
except when taken to the extreme, leading to cutting others off and out. Trinity-style loving excludes autonomy, isolation and self-sufficiency. Instead, Trinity-style living and loving always takes into account the effects of decisions on others, and those effects could mean life or death.

Trinity-style living and loving is at the heart of a life of discipleship in Christ. Trinity-style loving means not using Jesus’ words “I am the Way-Truth-Life” to exclude, but instead apply these words to include in our circle of love. Trinity-style living makes our faith very personal, yes, but never private, as if confined to some lofty ideas about heaven. When Jesus claimed to BE the Way-Truth-Life, he referred to a way of BEING in the world that is driven and guided by LOVE – God’s love. However, these words Way-Truth-Life have fueled suspicion and prejudice towards those embracing other paths. But I don’t think Jesus ever meant these words to shut others out, but to bring others in through loving.

So this coming week here in our own community, we have an opportunity to practice this Trinity-style loving, to bring others into our heart and into our orbit of love, to put our faith, our discipleship in Christ, in action. Many of us harbour suspicion and misunderstanding about our Indigenous sisters and brothers. Why can’t they seem to get their lives straightened out? Why can’t they get over it? I hear this often. Yeah, why can’t they? If that question lives in your heart, if you’ve ever spoken that question to another person, then the Blanket Exercise is for you. Because if Trinity-style loving is what God asks of us, if Trinity-style loving is what Jesus showed us how to do, then that type of all-inclusive loving becomes the litmus test for what faith looks like in the world. No textbook in the world has the same effect as real people committing to real God-like loving. And that loving involves being open to learning and understanding how and why others suffer and why they can’t seem to get their life together.

I have personally participated in the Blanket exercise several times. It is a unique and powerful experience of discovery, after which one can never go back to the old preconceived ideas. We cannot successfully address the current challenges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada without understanding how those challenges arose. Truth comes before reconciliation is possible. If Indigenous peoples need to face up to their part in making farms and rural living unsafe, us offspring of the original settlers must own up to the fact that we have not held up our side of the Treaties our ancestors signed.

It seems to be the week for connecting with our Indigenous siblings. Today, in a few hours to be exact, Rance Cardinal is arriving in Humboldt. An Indigenous young man from northern Ontario whose life was falling apart – yes, he struggled to keep his life together – has found the light of healing and reconciliation, arising from, of all things, the Broncos tragedy. In a few hours he will have completed a walk of 1200 km to heal and unite and reconcile and renew the face of this hurting world through his little, simple contribution of … walking. Rance’s meagre offering of three loaves and two fish have multiplied a thousand-fold. Countless people across the globe have been following him (13,000+ on FB alone), and now feel inspired, encouraged and healed by his  witness.  Reconciliation-in-Motion, they dubbed him. A young aboriginal man, an unlikely person, showing the world, showing us all, what Trinity-style living and loving can do for the healing of all – no exception.

As Rance arrives in Humboldt in a few hours, I am convinced that his heart is dressed in God’s own finest Trinity-style wear. His is a true contemporary Pentecost story. What’s more, Rance has been helping countless others to don the same holy attire. His own broken heart and the broken Broncos hearts are being healed and restored and renewed for the sake of this world so loved by God, a God of LOVE we proclaim as Father-Son-Holy Spirit. Rance set the bar high; can we follow suit? AMEN

Homily preached on Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

* Update June 1, 2018. Upon his arrival in Humboldt Rance received an emotional and unforgettable welcome. He spent three days in our community, speaking at schools, playing ball hockey in the arena with the kids, visiting the players still in a Saskatoon hospital, visiting the crash site and paying his respects, being featured on our local radio station. He showed humility and determination, generosity of heart, courage and simplicity. His healing journey touched many not only in Humboldt, but around the world. Rance and his support team returned to Sioux Lookout, ON, by car. We will never forget him. More on Rance in my next blog posting.

Prairie Encounters

Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

God’s Heart Goes On

Who remembers the movie Titanic? The Gospel for this Pentecost Sunday brought to mind a scene from that movie. It is the one where Jack and Rose, our heroes in love, find themselves hanging on to life in the ice cold water,  surrounded by drowned and drowning bodies; a gripping sight, showing the ugliness and ruthlessness of death. Jack is talking to Rose, his whole body shivering from the cold. He pushes her into a promise: “Promise me, Rose, that you’ll never give up in life. I’ll be with you always, Rose. Promise, promise…” Rose panics, fearing Jack will die. She says she wants to die too. Jack says no, and makes her promise that she will not give up.

Like Jack drowning in the ice cold water, Jesus sees in his mind’s eye the shadow of the cross, death waiting to swallow him up. Jesus knows the time with his friends is up. Jesus knows that soon pain and loss will rip them apart. Soon the disciples will experience a fear and anxiety, the likes of which will make all their insides shiver like Jack in the water. Jesus tries to prepare them and to strengthen them, before the blow of his death hits…

… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything… When the Advocate comes, the Spirit of truth will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning…  Words of encouragement in the face of an ugly death. Words of love and guidance in the face of the greatest loss the world has ever experienced.These words are for us too, each one of  us;  words of love and encouragement in the face of our loss, in the face of our death.

For if there is anything sure for those who love generously, it is the reality of the losses we suffer. Jesus’ words immediately brought to mind all the horrible recent losses too many of us suffered: the horrible Broncos bus crash and all that has come with it (and still does); the loss of whales and wildlife due to environmental mismanagement; church bombings in Indonesia; a family losing their Habitat for Humanity home to fire; more than 700 bee species declining due to habitat loss and pesticide use; mass floodings in New Brunswick and BC; a friend receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, communities in our own province evacuated due to wildfires; etc. etc.

And then there are all the other losses, the subtle and invisible ones, the blunt and the slow ones: like losing a job, or not being able to find one; or losing a driver’s license because of ill health or old age, or losing our innocence, or our culture, losing our hope, or our self-confidence. At those times we too can feel the deadening chill of the ice cold water, like our two heroes in Titanic. At those times we too can be swallowed up by fear and despair, like the disciples felt after Jesus died.

Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come; but if I go, I will send him to you and the Holy Spirit will teach you many things. In the face of losses that occur way too frequently, what do these words mean? In the face of Jesus’ crucifixion and death,  who is this Holy Spirit that will “teach us everything”?  Often, the answers are not clear until a crisis hits, facing us with the urgent choice between life and death, in whatever form this presents itself in our lives.

In Titanic, Rose was asked that question only seconds after Jack died. She is heartbroken, shivering in the cold, cold water. The question comes to her in the form of the rescue boat floating by at some distance. The men in the boat call out in the eerie quiet of this floating cemetery. They throw a bright light across the water, looking for survivors. At first Rose does not want to be found, and the tension mounts. Then she remembers Jack’s last words, his last wish. She remembers the promise she made to him, and the Spirit of peace and understanding floods her heart. She rips a whistle off a dead body, and blows it with every inch of strength she can muster … Rose is found, and does end up starting a new life, with Jack’s spirit living on in her heart, as Celine Dion sings in the Titanic theme song.

Like Rose in Titanic, the disciples did not really understand Jesus’ words immediately. Insight grew only after Jesus had died, and when they encountered him as the risen Lord. The disciples did not fully take to heart Jesus’ farewell speech, until they were faced with the shocking resurrection light. Then they were seized by a new hope, a hope they anxiously waited for in the Upper Room. That hope filled them with the Holy Spirit, and they boldly began to proclaim the risen Lord, as reported so vividly in today’s account in Acts (2:1–21). With that bold and courageous preaching the Church was born.

For in hope we were saved, writes Paul to the Romans (8:22-27). Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience – how very true. And so for us too, the Spirit of Jesus is ready to help us in our weakness, in our loss, in our fear. The Spirit of Jesus intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Once we too are filled with that same Spirit, we become bearers of God’s love even in the ugliest and strangest places of life, even in an ocean cemetery such as in Titanic.

Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime And never let go till we’re gone, sings Celine Dion in the Titanic’s theme song. Jack’s spirit went on living in Rose’s heart. Jesus’ spirit too has gone on living after his death, through the Holy Spirit which makes its home in us, imparting a peace, a vision and a joy the world indeed cannot give but desperately needs. Once Jesus’ love touches us one time it too lasts for a lifetime.

As the apostles experienced on that first Pentecost, God’s Spirit is a bright search light that surprises, leaps over barriers, melts away divisions, calms fears, bringing courage, vision and joy. When the bright light of the Holy Spirit seizes us, joy meets us in the midst of struggle, like an oasis in the desert, or the quiet at the bottom of the ocean, while the storm rages on the surface. This bright light of Christ’s Spirit gives hope in despair, fuels the desire to rebuild in time of destruction, provides the calm haven in time of turmoil. The Spirit of Pentecost is unleashed in joyful witness to Good News, the Good News of God’s love in Christ. That bold and universal Spirit breaks through every time we are seized by Love, healed by Love, united in Love, every time when loves moves us to  tears,  when love hurts until we die…

How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Could it be because God’s native tongue is Love, a tongue everyone can hear and receive each in their own language and culture, each in their own context and situation?  Jesus’ voluntary death out of love for us unleashed the greatest Spirit of all: the Holy Spirit…

Our God is a God of surprises, a God on the move, a God of newness. God’s on the move because God is alive and creating and sustaining. For us as the church, Christ’s body on earth, that same Spirit pushes us out the door, out of our comfort zone, and into new waters and uncharted terrain, just as on that first Pentecost. Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime … Jesus’ spirit lives on in each of us. Let us trust, believe and rejoice, living our life soaked in the peace and joy of God’s own Holy Spirit. AMEN

Homily preached on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018.
Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26—27, 16:4—15

Prairie Encounters

Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”

The Ordaining Church

I looked out at the crowd that had filled the Anglican Cathedral on an ordinary Thursday evening. I was amazed, surprised, overwhelmed. They had come, from everywhere, in droves: friends and family, colleagues and ecumenical co-workers. The church catholic was present in its fullest sense: Pentecostal, Baptist, Mennonite, United, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic (with the exception of the Orthodox tradition*). Especially Roman Catholic: a sea of them along with religious sisters, several priests and one higher ranking official. The happy grins spoke volumes: I was not the only one who had looked forward to this moment.

In the midst of this ecumenical community of faith I claimed my call before the bishop, made vows and promises, and knelt for the “holy huddle” – Anglican, Lutheran, United and Presbyterian clergy colleagues as well as two RC priests joining the bishop in the solemn laying on of hands.

Ordained a priest. I still struggle to find the words. The impact of the experience was profound. It was profound in my own heart-mind-spirit, in my experience of church, and in the effects upon my current ministry. Given the ecumenical make-up of the assembly that night, I felt truly ordained by and into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in the fullest sense of that term. I have not recovered from the experience – and I hope I never will.

I have always been mindful of the faith community’s role when one claims a call to ministry; one is called by and for the community, never for oneself. Now this crucial role was expressed in the most tangible way possible – the community’s presence and participation was their fiat. A deepening and affirmation, blessing and mandate all rolled into one holy Spirit-filled act of ordination. No wonder I still struggle to find words.

The next morning I presided over the (Anglican) Holy Eucharist for the first time in a Catholic retreat center, which included a renewal of marriage vows for Jim and I – it was our wedding anniversary. Like the night before, the people of God in all denominational diversity packed the worship space, hungering for a taste of heaven where divisions and barriers melt away: take and eat, take and drink, all of you.

Maybe a number of firsts occurred: RC clergy joining in the laying on of hands, one of whom bowing his head for my first priestly blessing; a religious sister leading music at the Anglican Eucharist the next morning while persons from various traditions served as acolyte, readers, communion assistants; communion bread baked by an Anglican-RC couple; those with different beliefs finding a space of respect and hospitality while getting caught up in the joy and gratitude of the occasion.

That I may at last taste the joy of fulfilling this vocation still feels like a miracle. What seemed elusive for several decades has come to pass. At the same time it was always there, for the priestly call lived in my heart as an animating light, a wellspring of grace and love. For this was the peculiar thing: despite the church’s prohibition, the call persisted. Moreover, despite the fear and self-doubt, the call grew me on the inside in ways that bore all the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

A priestly vocation originates at the deepest level of one’s being, which is one’s essence. Roman Catholic sacramental theology calls it an ontological reality, an indelible mark on the soul. Years ago I spoke with a Roman Catholic friend who had left the priesthood because, as he said, he had all the external affirmation but none of the internal reality. To which I replied with new insight, “Yes, and I have all the internal reality but none of the external blessing/affirmation.” “I know,” he replied. Surprised, we looked intently at one another with waves of recognition, understanding and respect.

And so when the final report on the validity of my priestly call was issued by the national Anglican Church’s assessment body, a year ago now, opening the path to ordination, the tears refused to stop:
We find Marie-Louise to have a clear sense of call to the priesthood, a call which has developed in extraordinary circumstances over the past 27 years … This growing sense of call took place in the context of a lifelong faithful involvement in the Roman Catholic Church.
Marie-Louise has an impressive history of lay ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, demonstrating visionary leadership in the development of numerous ministries, which responded to particular needs in the church. Her involvement in ecumenical initiatives is most remarkable, beginning many years ago with studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon.
We were impressed with her deep Christian faith and her struggle over many years to be faithful both to the ecclesial tradition she has grown up in and her growing sense of call to priestly ministry. We affirm Marie-Louise’s call to the priesthood. She is a passionate servant of Christ and has a sincere desire to serve God in an Anglican context. (ACPO Report, May 2017)

No matter which denomination does the ordaining, the ontological truth, the imprint on the soul, presses deep; it feels like coming home to one’s true self. Even my friend Carmen, just ordained last month in the Pentecostal tradition, speaks of this reality in her recent blog reflection.

What’s more, nothing is wasted in God’s economy. I am now pastoring two rural parishes, Anglican and Lutheran. All the pieces of my life’s puzzle have come together: formation and ministry experiences of the past 27+ years are all bearing fruit in these two small parishes on the Canadian prairies – who would have thought.

Living Christian discipleship in the Anglican household of God now is opening new spiritual vistas and blessings. My heart is growing larger, unfolding like an expanding universe. My capacity to live from contradictions into paradox and relational truth is stretched, deepened and refined. How do I know all this is from God? Because my joy has never been deeper, my love has never been more costly and intently, my spirit has never been more generous, my peace has never been more solid, even in the midst of chaos and turmoil.

Meanwhile my Roman Catholic family of origin continues to occupy a cherished place in my heart; in her bosom my faith was nourished and my vocation was born against all odds. I truly live a double belonging. The increasing opportunities for joint ministry with my local Catholic priest and his parishioners are therefore sources of deep joy and immense gratitude, weaving unity in my spirit and among our people.

We don’t make journeys like this in isolation. I extend therefore a heartfelt thanks for the company and friendship, prayers and support of so many on this road towards priestly ministry. It truly takes a community to call a priest/pastor. Pray that I will continue to fulfill this sacred trust faithfully, placing my priesthood at the service of the full visible unity of God’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

  • This is an expanded version of the last column (May 9, 2018) in a twelve month series entitled Double Belonging, co-published by the Prairie Messenger (ceasing publication) and the Saskatchewan Anglican from May 2017 to May 2018.
  • * The Orthodox tradition is active in ecumenical dialogues and circles, but my personal connections do not include many members of this branch of the Christian family.

    Prairie Encounters

    Thank you for reading this reflection. For private comments, use the Contact Form below; for public comments scroll down further and use the space below “Leave a Reply.”