Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Letter About a Gathering

Wilmot United Church, Fredericton New Brunswick

Hey there my beautiful special friend....x

It's been a long time since I sat down to write you a proper letter, what with the efficiency of emails, texts and the phone and of course blogging it somehow didn't feel necessary to put pen to paper. But, I had such an urge to do so today, partly because I wanted to hang onto the pace I am feeling and partly because when I write to you, I feel enveloped in your presence. It's happened already......and I've only just started. Your smiling face is so vividly present, it's warming me up.

I recommend you go put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea, your favourite flavour, and go sit comfortably in your favourite chair because.......well, you know what I'm like when I get going. My own tea sits steaming beside me. Dinner is in the oven. My family is off busy doing their own thing and the dogs are tuckered out from a romp in the fields. So, I have time too. Time to savour a Sunday afternoon with you and the silence nestled in the music playing in the background. It feels like all is right in the world and I can give you all my contented attention. Ready?

I've had a tough weekend but won't dwell there now. It just seems like everything is piling up in my ever churning head, and it spills out in uncertainty and fear. I don't know what is just around the corner but I am feeling a strong sense of change. As much as I want change, in fact seem to be craving it, I'm scared. I went to my doctor last week for a check up and even she said to me......"follow your dreams......." and she's not one to use terms like that. It made us both laugh, but I know she's concerned about how I'm not handling my stress well. Thank God for therapeutic writing. Thank God for friends like you. Thank God for moments like this when calm and your love sit with me.

Yeah, I could fill a journal with all of my complicated ruminations. Instead, I want to write to you about my morning because I prayed with you in a place of worship .... a place where I believe you would feel a sense of belonging too. It felt very much like I was praying with you because you were so present in spirit sitting next to me. Yes, today for the first time in who knows how long, I went to church....Wilmot United Church. It was a special gathering to celebrate the Minister's last time in front and surrounded by his congregation. I think I have written to you about him before, Peter Short? He has now retired as of today and is moving into a world of writing, which I know he will be just as influential. This man has a gift...a beautiful magnetic gift of words and passion and reverence I rarely see or feel. His beliefs seem so deeply imbedded in him, though I'm sure he's just like us in that he has days when big questions leave perplexing doubts. It's only human.

What is so lovely about his gifts is that they put him right in the middle of the community as a leader from within.....humble, with a good caring smiling eyes face and manners which make you want to grab hold of his arm and say............"c'mon Peter, lets head to the pub and talk about Jesus...... let's talk about the world we live in and how we can make it better. Will you share with me your thoughts because I can learn from you. And, can I tell you what I'm thinking and feeling because it matters to me that you know. I don't know why this is so, but it is..... maybe it's because I think you'd understand. " Yes, I think he would give it a try......... to walk a mile in my shoes, or at least be there when I was trying to walk that mile in my own shoes. Do you know what I mean? I think you've probably met a few of these special people throughout your journey too.

I grew up in the United Church...........a different church setting in another province, but the same approach to religion and faith......the same message of all being one.....united. This church has traditions I am comfortable with and even though I havent attended regularly at all since my younger years, it's like I never stopped going. But it's been years and it feels like a life time ago and when I think of it......the only other time I had the same feeling with a Minister was with the man who presided over my confirmation classes and ceremony and then my marriage. Reverend Johnson took on a young group of 15 year olds to teach them what it means to play a role and to be welcomed in the the body of Christ.

Every Thursday evening throughout the school year, a whole slew of us showed up eager to hook onto this man's wisdom and non-judgement.......this man who seemed to enjoy hanging out with a bunch of adolescents whose hormones were raging and bouncing off one another, kind of half listening. He did have our attention though and handled our unpredictable predictability as a good mentor can. He knew what he was doing as he took us out of school one day, rented a school bus and showed us another world to the comfy one we were used to. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, rooms and rooms with bunk beds for lost souls, group homes........he took us into Toronto and gently but firmly made us open our eyes to poverty, mental illness, to human beings in need. Throughout it all, he was there to answer our questions the best he could all the while expanding our horizons and our sense of what community really means.

I saw this in Peter today as he interacted and responded in compassionate spontaneity throughout the service. From the woman who fell ill just before the service began to the little boy who stood with the group of kids at the front of the church and uttered every single word of a prayer Peter was saying like his echo. I saw it when after the choir sang Every Time I Hear the Spirit in such beautiful harmony, he spontaneously applauded, welcoming us to do the same. And I felt it deeply as he gave his last sermon.

There is something amazing about feeling a sense of wonder and belonging in a church, of being right there in the moment experiencing a connection to a Higher Power. The word that comes to mind is affirmation. Affirmation in fellowship. Its rare with me to feel that because most of the settings I am in, I am looked upon as unique, as an oddity. I feel judgement and the quizzical looks.......and sometimes I think I scare people just by being present. Yes, the combination of what makes me who I am seems to be a different sort of puzzle for some reason. Its not that I can't get along with people.....I genuinely do and thrive on it. I am a person magnet, no doubt about it. My family laughs at me because I tend to get into conversations with just about anybody from the young kid behind the counter at the local convenience store to the old lady who collects bottles from the dumpters downtown to the aspiring politician types. Funny, thats what makes me odd I think! How weird is that??

Anyways, there are few places where I can relax knowing I am accepted as me, eccentricities and oddness included. I do share my opinion maybe a little too much and my politics are seen as a paradox to my passions though not in my own head. Whatever it is, that sense of not being "on" and a bit on the defense rarely happens to I felt it..... affirmation in fellowship. No big conversations, simply a blending in with the congregation, singing, praying, being, listening, pondering...........all internal happenings and it was a good, good feeling. Just to be. Me from the inside out.

Today, I listened to a sermon I could relate to. Peter spoke of the cruxifiction and resurrection of Christ.....of the symbolism of endings and beginnings. He focused on the time between the death of Christ and his rising, which I had never really thought about in depth before. He spoke of the fear and anguish.......fear during the witnessed act of killing Jesus, fear of the unknown after he died, fear of the newness of the Holy Spirit.......anguish over Jesus' death, anguish in the process of mourning, silent anguish felt on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday which wasn't ever documented in the Gospels.......loss, change, transitions, endings and beginnings.

Like a good storyteller, he used the sacred words of a story we know reverently well and emphasized it as a lesson we could absorb and take with us as we carried on in our own journey while touching on the idea that as individuals we may be at different stations. Some of us may be grieving deeply, some may be silently in anguish, fearful of what happens next, and some of us may be rejoicing. "It is finished"......he stated as Jesus did according to his Disciples..... "Be not afraid, peace I leave with you, support one another." And like a good storyteller, he repeated the message as a way to allow the listeners to absorb it. To take it to heart. By the time he said it the third time...... "be not afraid........peace I leave with one another...." I felt it pierce my outer shell. It struck right in the heart of my own fear and it softened. It softened!! The tears welled up in me quicker than I could find a kleenex. I hadn't expected that at all.......why I don't know because you know what i'm like!! I cry over commercials for God's sake! But, I can honestly say it was a huge surprise to feel such a pang of light.

My fear of what will happen to me didn't go away altogether, that would be a MIRACLE. But it did soften as I realized how many others were sitting around me feeling exactly the same thing. It's not a unique feeling, fear, but it sure is powerfully capable of sinking you into a pit of darkness if you let it eh? So many layers of fear we allow to pile up on our shoulders and in the deep crevices of our dark night wanderings that sometimes we mistake it for something else....

After the service, which included a few of my favourite hymns, I shook Peter's hand and wished him well on his new beginnings....he asked me if I was still writing and I told him yes.....and he told me he will be writing more. I could've stood there and talked to him for a long time....I had so many much I wanted to say, but there was a line up behind him of well wishers. It wasn't the time. I don't when that time will be........ as it is with my wonderings about when you and I will have a chance to meet without any disruptions or time constraints. day.........soon? I'd like that.

Life is mysterious isn't it? I mean who knows when our paths will cross? Who knows when my path will cross with the people I am meant to walk a good long mile with? It seems to happen when it's the right time and it seems to happen when God's hand is stirring the pot. There are some people whom we are destined to spend time together, to learn from. It will happen. How do I know? Because somehow God managed to mix up the clay in the creation of you and I and put a pinch of me in you and a dash of you in me, and it is that belief which makes me feel less afraid, more at peace, and affirmed.

I'm sorry this letter is so one sided....I honestly do want to know where your heart and thoughts are these days. I just had so much I wanted to spill out to you, and I feel like I've only touched the surface. I didn't even describe some of the folks who were sitting all around me.....many familiar faces from different parts of my life.....people I didn't even know they were connected to this church. Another time......

The house is filled with the aroma of the roasting chicken. It must be almost ready because I just noticed the sun setting. It has filled this wonderful Sunday with a salmon pink glow..... You know my beautiful friend I don't think twilight is going to be all that lonely tonight. Ah! The dogs are stirring..... must go.......pour myself a glass of wine.

love to you as you are always......xx Write me when you can.... a good long letter full of your thoughts OK?

"Peace I leave with you;

My peace I give you,

Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid......."

words to live by, eh?


Christchurch Cathedral at sunset, November 2008


Niki said...

That was beautiful dana...I felt like it was too personal to read, that I should stop. But I couldn't, and I'm glad I didn't. Warmth and peace to you

Anonymous said...

This was so very beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!

Awareness said...

Niki...I''m glad you read to the end. I decided to write it as a letter to a friend because it helped me pulled my thoughts together. Up until that point, they were pretty scattered. Sometimes its best to have one reader in mind and go from there.

I am also thinking that this may be a method to use if I want to pull some of my pieces together to see if I can get them put them in some form of letter. am ruminating over it right now.

Tabby...thankyou. it was a beautiful experience and a great day. I'm glad to share it with you.

Marja said...

Beautiful heartwarming touching. That is a very special letter.
Thanks for sharing
Nice to see a picture of the other Christchurch too

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way as Niki, as though I was reading something too personal and I should stop because it wasn't meant for my eyes.

Sometimes I wish I had the courage to write a letter like that but it would raise far too many questions I think in both myself and my readers. No I don't think I'm that brave.

Awareness said...

Marja...a pleasure to share. Sometimes writing is the only way to unravel the noodly thoughts and I was very determined to capture some of the service.
Christchurch Cathedral is a beautiful place of worship in Fredericton. I have taken many photos of it....should do a montage one day on the blog. I still want to get inside Wilmot Church too and take some photos. I thought of that when I was sitting in there on Sunday. It's very uniquely painted.

Gypsy Romany...I still consider you a gypsy.... You think that was too open? I was thinking of how it would look in the middle of a book. :) I don't know yet if it's raised many questions in the people who read this. I havent heard from my Mom yet! My previous post, the one on Nostalgia seemed more revealing to me than this one....and far darker which is why I took it down. I think it may have scared the shit out of people because I had a lot of hits on it but no one dared leave a comment!! My daughter thinks I should post it again. I may.

Anonymous said...

genuinely thought i'd left a comment yesterday!

loved it to bits....

Awareness said...

Paul...You would've loved the service and all that happened within the walls of the church on Sunday morning. Life unfolded in such a special way.

I also believe you would enjoy Peter's company. Though I have only had short conversations with him, mostly at the market, they have all held meaning. The last time I heard him speak was at the conference I also spoke at last spring. It was for people who volunteer around the province and help provide housing for the less fortunate. He was the keynote was the most moving and motivating keynote I've ever heard. He spoke about the idea of home through stories of homes he has had the privilege of being in....and what makes up the essence of home. One of the stories he told was his experience and feelings entering Yasser Arafat's home as the Moderator of the United Church of Canada. He has many stories from his travels both around the world and inside his own soul.

He would be a very good person to consider for your Greenbelt festival. :)