Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 22, 2011

How long does it take to decorate a Christmas tree? Half an hour, I guess, if you pop it out of a box. Longer if you bring it into the living room and secure it in a tree stand. Much, much longer when you linger over the ornaments.

There’s a sapphire sequined bird I love to place on our tree: it was a gift from my best friend, and though it’s missing an eye, it is still beautiful. In my mind that eye is replaced with all the places we’ve been together, long walks taken, cups of tea consumed, stories and truths spoken. That eye is a lifetime of vision.

What do you see on the Christmas tree near you?

What the shepherds saw astounded them and everyone they told:

They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed.

The Light in our darkness shines into the future. God gives us a vision and the eyes of faith to see it. 

 ‘Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.’

Blessings on you, as you see that which is familiar through eyes of love. Blessings on you, as you peer at that which is new, and trust the Light to shimmer on it. Blessings on you, as you gaze at our beautiful and troubled world and bring your love to it.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15, 2011

People say that the pace of life is frighteningly quick, and that we can’t keep up with technology. They say that as we age, time runs faster. Time is money, they say.

There certainly is lots of chaos around us: climate talks in Durban that didn’t solve our problems, changes in our families and households, a European economy infringing on our stability, icy streets in our neighbourhoods. Sometimes it seems that important things are slip sliding away, as Paul Simon sings.

Is it a brave new world? Or maybe we are called to live bravely in a chaotic new world.

Where do we find courage to live bravely in a chaotic new world? We look outside ourselves. Courage comes from a transcendent place, from a spirit of love and compassion and truth. Mary sang about chaos and the Promise:

God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 
he has filled the hungry with good things,
 and sent the rich away empty.

We say with Mary, this is God’s world and we have the privilege of being part of it. We say with Mary, every person counts and no one will be left behind. We say with Mary, this may seem impossible but it is our Promise.

Blessings on you, as you live bravely in a chaotic new world. May the Promise bring you courage. May there be a song of faith in your heart.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1, 2011

We’re coming up to Christmas and all the festivities we expect. Perhaps there are new things in your life and this year will be different. Maybe you are anticipating traditional events.

For many it is a time to reflect on family. Through Sundays in November we read the stories of Ruth from the Old Testament. She is famous for leaving her homeland, saying to her mother-in-law:

Do not press me to leave you

   or to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;

   where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,

   and your God my God.

Where you die, I will die - there will I be buried.

It is a marvelous expression of commitment. Ruth was an outsider, a woman from a hostile country, and had nothing to offer but herself. 

Did you know that Ruth was an ancestor of Jesus? So it is that Jesus came from a family that had a tradition of welcoming the outsider.

Do you suppose that means we as Christians inherit that tradition of welcoming the outsider? Indeed. And truly, the best we can offer to each other is ourselves: in hope, peace, joy and love. Our true selves are reflections of our deepest gift, the gift God makes in Jesus. 

Blessings on you, as you look forward to the festivities of Christmas, and welcome the outsiders around you with the gift of your truest self.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27, 2011

“Need an ark? I Noah guy.” So reads one of the cartoons on the bulletin board in the Friendship Room. There are lots of Noah cartoons posted there. The story of Noah and the Ark is familiar and we chuckle over jokes about it; we also think of it when we board the ferry to Nanaimo, or pause for a minute after a storm as we search the skies for a rainbow.

The covenant God makes with Noah – and the promise God makes to God’s very self – are of course the main point of the story. We can trust God not to destroy us, or the world. Even when times are rough, or things are falling apart around us, or we feel completely “at sea”, God promises to love us and support us.

It’s intriguing, though, to look for the less familiar parts of the story. Do you remember the raven? God sends a dove that returns with an olive leaf, a sign of dry land appearing. But the raven simply flies to and fro, to and fro. We never hear if she returns, or nests, or gets lost. I think the raven reminds us that many people flit to and fro, to and fro, looking or nesting or lost. How do we reach out to one who is looking or nesting or lost? That is our challenge, our calling, and God’s mission.  

Blessings on you, as you bring your compassion to the looking or nesting or lost.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13, 2011

These autumn weeks we have been thinking about creation stories. Did you know there are two creation stories at the beginning of the Bible?

The earlier-written story features Adam, Eve and the Tree of Life. As we heard it in worship, we were crunching on apples that church members had brought. Who knows what the fruit in the tree was? But we can taste the story!

“Let there be light,” God says in the other story, and as creation progresses, God sees that it is good. That story was written when people were in exile, forced into labour in the Babylonian Empire. It was a time of despair. “Let there be light” reminded them that God does not plan oppressive things for people; after all, God intended that life would be good! And God is with us through the rough patches. Those ancient people wrote the story to give praise to God, despite hard times.

Trusting God when times are bad can be a challenge. We are not alone, however, in that experience. Certainly it’s not that it’s all good, but truly it is God’s spirit who is with us, no matter what. Our ancestors knew that. We can trust in that promise, too.

Blessings to you, no matter what,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7, 2011

There is a large cotton wood tree out my living room window. Summer mornings it shades my neighbour’s lawn. During our brief autumn it is crowned with yellows and golds. Winter afternoons it seems to hold the storm clouds in its branches. In the early spring it glows with luminous light emerald colours, which deepen to richer tones of green as the leaves mature.

The tree leans a bit when strong winds blow, and it reminds me that God holds us, rooting us firmly so we are never separated from God’s love.

It takes some imagination to see the tree-lined street the way it was before someone planted all these cottonwoods, ash trees and elms. Forty years ago, at least, people in my neighbourhood dreamed of shady summer afternoons and pretty winter evenings.  Some of them contributed expertise in forestry, gardening and our local parkland climate. Others were willing to weed, water and prune.

We are a part of this, aren’t we? Certainly as gardeners and stewards of the earth, but clearly as an organic part of it. Sometime it’s easier to see our footprint on the earth than our place in the world.

The youth are leading the congregation in a song by Linnea Good this Sunday, “You are a Part of Everything”. And so we are: this blessed earth is not merely ours to tread, but a created whole of which we are a living, breathing, loving part.

The symbol of the Tree of Life reminds us of deep roots, cool shade and our part in everything. As we enter this season together, let’s rest in that blessing.

Blessings to you,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011

Have you been to Drumheller? This summer I was driving through canola fields and then – presto! – the roads dipped and we were surrounded by badlands. It was dramatic.

In the Royal Tyrrell Museum I met a 90 year-old man who was fairly dancing with glee. I saw young children with eyes big as saucers. And I expect they looked at me, and saw the same wonder and awe in my face.

Something happened when the dinosaurs died. A meteor landed in Mexico, and dust hid the light for long enough to change the world. A two centimeter beige line in the rock marks the boundary between the age of the dinosaurs and ours; the geological term is the K-T line. It separates the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods.

I was mesmerized by this striation of time.

Sometimes in our lives, an event separates that which was familiar in our younger days from the reality that we know in the present. We come through a momentous event and we are never the same. It changes our world.

In the new world, life went on. Flora and fauna evolved, beauty took hold, new challenges emerged. We can often say the same about our lives. In faith, we trust that life will bloom with pleasures again.

The symbol of the Tree of Life reminds us of deep roots, cool shade and growth beyond our present limitations. As we enter this season together, let’s rest in that blessing.

Blessings to you,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 12, 2011

Blest be the Tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love.

This summer we are gathering with neighbours for summer worship again. A week ago Dennis Filips led worship at St Paul’s and this Sunday it was Cathy Martin and Camille Kamphuis. They have taken us out of ourselves and centered us on God and each other. For the next two Sundays, the leader will be Rev. Steven Johann. Warren Mack is at our organ. All these people are part of Knox-Metropolitan United Church. Ensuing Sundays, we of St. Paul’s will lead worship at Knox-Met.

It’s a pleasure to get to know the neighbours. We are already becoming acquainted with some of their habits, such as a greeting time, a regular sung benediction and large-print bulletins. Of course we discover old friends, and see cousins, and share each others’ joys and sorrows. We have much in common.

As always, we make DVD’s of Sunday worship, and you may have a copy if you drop in. Feel free to call Joan and Lesli in the church office and ask them to mail one to you.

On the last weekend of July we will move to our neighbours’ spiritual home for four weeks. David Oberholtzer will be on the bench over there. I will lead worship July 31 on a theme of Sabbath. Frank Robinson, Allan VanderWell and Lee Foote are preparing the subsequent weeks.

We share many ties, and it is good to be connected in our city this way.

Blessings on you, neighbour.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 9, 2011

Sunday we honoured the St. Paul’s Foundation. Almost forty years ago the congregation agreed to purchase the apartments next door. Part of the seller’s intention was that they would continue to be operated without consideration of race, colour or creed, and that rents would continue to be income dependant. St Paul’s was faithful to that understanding. Several members of the church gave tremendously in time and energy to manage and maintain the apartments well.

In 1999 St Paul’s sold the aging buildings and found a way to continue the mission. Proceeds from the sale were invested, and interest is used each year to fund housing initiatives around the city. The Foundation honours the original intention by supporting charitable agencies such as Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club, L'arche, shelters for children and women, and our Benevolent Fund.

Churches make a statement in a community simply by architecture:  buildings “tell” people we house spiritual events, study and worship. In a quieter way, the outreach we offer to housing needs speaks about the faith we share: that God cares, that a place to hang your hat is important, and that safely and security are a right we respect.

This is our heritage, and we are proud of it. 
Blessings to your home from your church, your spiritual home.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 25, 2011

The front entrance to the church is a riot of colour this week. Prayer flags are hanging between two trees. Each string of flags is a different colour:  red, green, purple, yellow, orange and blue. On Sundays during Lent people wrote prayers on coloured fabric and we suspended them on twine in the sanctuary; on Easter we put them all outside. They remind us that prayer goes on beyond our moment of speaking. 

Huge packages of insulation are stacked beside the church steps. The packages are blue. You may be aware that the roof is being replaced right now. The Youth Group coordinated our efforts to insulate the roof and people are making special financial contributions to it.

The insulation makes our church a safe space – a sanctuary – using energy carefully. When you think of it, it’s a metaphor, isn’t it? Your church is a place where people can seek safety for your prayers, your spiritual growth, your souls.

It’s also a reminder that we are stewards of creation: God calls us to look after this earth, our sisters and brothers, and the spaces where we live, grow – and worship.

Here in your church we remember you in prayer. And we know that your prayers, too, move beyond each place and time and bless this wonderful and weary world. 

Blessings to you from your church, your spiritual home,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 19, 2011

Sunday the congregation said farewell to Reverend Dirk Jessen and wished him well. Dirk had indicated early last fall that he would be moving beyond St. Paul’s this spring, and Sunday was our opportunity to acknowledge his ministry among us and to bless him on his way. He also spoke of the seven years with our congregation and blessed the church.

From the beginning people here have appreciated Dirk’s way of seeing the world, his intense interest in individuals and their personal stories, and his sharp wit. Early in his time here we were discussing the merits if bittersweet chocolate in worship, and he was quick: “Do you mean dirk chocolate?”

Here are two images from Sunday for you to treasure:
A poignant moment: In worship Jim Stewart stood at the front of the church, a place where Dirk has baptized, celebrated communion, and welcomed newcomers. In that spot Jim presented a candle he had made to Dirk. 

A tender moment: A picnic in Belgravia Park followed worship, complete with a barbeque, speeches, gifts and many, many desserts. The children made kites, something they have enjoyed with Dirk over the years. As we prepared to leave, five year old Jack stood still on a knoll, flying his kite.

Here is the Gaelic Blessing  the choir sang:
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you

Your church blesses Dirk, and you, with deep peace.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011

Do you periodically wonder how you ended up here?

If someone had told me at age eleven that I would be happily living in Edmonton, I would have been very surprised. Alberta seemed far away to a girl in the Saint John River Valley.

Our lives set us in directions we hadn’t dreamed of. Often that’s a pleasure; sometimes it comes out of grief or loneliness or pain or hurt. The turn in the road onto an alternative journey may come through suffering.

Do you wonder about the suffering in your life? In the lives of your friends, of the world?

Here’s a great truth: Jesus lived a real life. He knew suffering: betrayal, denial, pain, even death. He became one of us and knows what it’s like. God knows what our lives are like.

And what a turn in the road! Resurrection, hope, trust, companionship, fullness of life: he’s been there. Jesus’ alternative journey gives us reason to be joyful rather than bitter, hopeful rather than despairing, compassionate rather than cynical, generous rather than stingy, seeking rather than hiding.

In your church we live into this joy, hope, compassion and generosity. We seek to discover and proclaim Jesus’ leadership on the alternative journey. Whether it’s along the Saskatchewan River or the Saint John, we know God is with us on the road.

How did you end up here?

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26, 2011

Happy Easter!

I trust the pictures on these worship bulletins will help you feel connected to your church. The Easter bulletin displays the painting at the front of our sanctuary, which been inspiring people since it was dedicated a generation ago. The image on the back shows you what we did during Lent. The coloured fabric drew our attention to what was missing, and on Easter morning we saw it: the empty cross.

The Good Friday bulletin features the cross in the Friendship Room, which replicates the image in Elva Frederking’s chancel painting. Hold it next to the Easter bulletin and you’ll see what I mean. Dave McNabb made it a few years ago. As you know, through Lent we have been considering Spiritual Transformation through the Arts, and this cross was one of the images in our very first week, Wood and Sculpture.

The empty cross reminds us that all the fears we have will be defeated, overcome, removed, eradicated by the fulfillment of our Christian hope. The whole inhabited world is transformed. That’s pretty hard to believe when we are in difficult times, but that is the point. God cares enough to be with us, cares enough even to empty the cross and the tomb, and carry on with us beyond our fears. Christ is risen! 
Please know that your hopes, fears and concerns are important to your church, and that we pray for you. A blessed Easter season to you.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011

Finally Easter is arriving!
Palm Sunday we heard familiar words, and considered how we speak or hear phrases that have the power to change lives: I know. Forgive me.  I understand. I love you. You can trust me. Goodbye. Welcome home. Hosanna. And of course, Jesus is the Word made flesh.

In this most sacred week of the Christian year, here are words to pray:

Thank you, God, because through your holy Easter mystery, 
it is as though we stumble out of a tomb,
as though we come out of the shadow, rubbing our eyes,
as though mystery unveils before us, and takes our breath away:
and we see, right before our very eyes:
All our loss and sorrow is turning back
     Turning back from the edge of death
            Death is not the last word
                 The last word is from the heart
                        From the heart comes pain
                             Pain carried by movement, like waves on the ocean
                                    Waves on the ocean rise and fall
                                        Rising and falling we trip again
                                                Trip again and fall on our face
                                                     Fall flat on your face
                                                            Face the truth
                                                                 Truth comes from the heart
                                                                        Heart of the Word
                                                                             The Word.
We pray for you, and the world.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 13, 2011

Is there a building where your soul finds shelter?

That is a spiritual question for you to ponder. For some of us there is a place where we feel most free, most generous and most blessed. It may be St Paul’s. Have you noticed that when you look up into the rafters, the ceiling looks like an upside-down ship? That is an intentional reference to the biblical metaphor of Jesus with the disciples on the sea, calming the storm. Your church is a shelter in the storms of life.

Perhaps it is a community building like the art gallery pictured on the front of the bulletin. The AGA houses works that are transformational. It is a place to be moved in the depth of your spirit by art that is on view for everyone.

For others it may be a place in memory: a childhood church, a cottage, or a grandparent’s home. The back cover of the enclosed bulletin is a hundred year-old log cabin, with new stained glass windows. It has been a home from which people were nurtured to go into the world and into the generations, and now it speaks both of that heritage and the lively reality of a family at play.

Whether architecture speaks to you in awe or in comfort, I hope you will take a few minutes this week to consider how your soul finds shelter. Sheltered, we become strengthened to venture outside once again and face the storms.

And through the storm, Jesus sits with us in the boat, and keeps us intact.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 5, 2011

I trust you are enjoying the sunshine this week, and the delightful sounds of running water as the ice melts away from the sidewalks.

This week in worship we celebrated Spiritual Transformation through Cloth and Fabric. Maureen MacMillan weaves colour with texture, and leave us breathless. Lyle Wiebe cross stitches west-coast symbols, and we can see the running salmon. Margo Fiddes pieces fabric and her quilt is so vibrant, is as though spring melt echoes around us.  

It occurs to me that you may have something special near you as you read this letter. It might be an heirloom cross-stitch. Perhaps it is a quilt made from dress scraps by a great-grandmother; created for a function, it becomes a treasure over the generations. 

Faith can be like that. What we need from faith – a function of courage, comfort, companionship – becomes the treasure of a lifetime’s spiritual experience. Those initial deep encounters with the Holy expand into something we trust.

I hope you have routine that you trust in your day, and that you know we hold you in prayer in your church.

May you feel warmth of blessing today.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011

A song of joy accompanies this wee note. I trust I find you in good spirits – or if not, that this letter lifts your subdued spirits.

This week in worship we celebrated Spiritual Transformation through Instrumental Music and Song. Psalm 100 begins: Make a joyful noise, all the earth! Christopher Fast played his saxophone, Linda Jacklin her recorder, Willi Fast guitar and djembe, John was at piano and organ, the choir had an anthem – and we sang our hearts out.

When your heart sings with joy, what is the song? When times are rough, is there a piece of music that comes to your mind? Do you have a favourite hymn? We try to sing everybodies’ favourites over time – the variety speaks to the wide-ranging spiritual community we are.

In various kinds of music, we hear the voice of God in diverse ways, too. Thanks to those who love drumming, we hear the heartbeat of creation. From those who love the old hymns, we hear the solid foundation of our heritage. Learning from those who love hymns in foreign languages, we hear grace that is beyond our comprehension, yet real.

This is life in a spiritual community: sharing favourites, learning new things, embracing a world of possibility, and trusting that the love of God holds it all together. Trust, spoken and sung, brings a reality of not just possibility but healing and renewal. Easter is coming!

May you hear words of blessing and melodies of peace today.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011

Peace to your mind, contentment to your heart, and serenity to your spirit. I think you will enjoy the beauty of these Sunday bulletins. I hope it touches you warmly that members of your church are offering their art to lift our spirits.

On the back of the March 13 order of service you will see a Bishop’s Chair. In the Middle Ages both bishops and judges traveled into communities where there was no place to sit, so they carried a chair that could easily be disassembled and packed into a case.

When the church I grew up in was rebuilt, wood from the pulpit was given to a member of the congregation, Don Bird. From the wood, Mr. Bird made two Bishop’s Chairs. One sits in Rosslyn Abbey, of recent Davinci Code fame. The other sits in my study. In the photograph you can see the pegs to take it apart.

The Bishop’s Chair reminds me that even when we lose something that we cherish, it is possible that someone with caring and trusted hands can craft something we can cherish in turn.

Life is like that. Well, faith is like that. Sometimes the trust and care of a friend in faith can reshape the bitterness of loss into the beauty of hope.

That’s a poignant truth. I leave you with it for the moment.

May you see beauty in this day. 


The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 2, 2011

I trust this letter finds you in good spirits. How is winter treating you?

This week I had the privilege of attending a consultation in Kentucky. I am part of a selection panel with the Louisville Institute. We called grantees together after awarding them funds for study and sabbaticals.

As part of our time together we reflected on Sabbath. Practicing Sabbath lets us rest in the pleasure of the world and our lives as God intends. Interestingly, Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments: we are not merely invited, or welcomed, or even called to Sabbath: we are commanded. Rather than being hedonistic, pleasure is something expected of us!

Isn’t that refreshing?

And Sabbath is meant to refresh. I wonder what Sabbath practice might refresh you. What could you look forward to regularly? Waiting for the first two stars to appear in the evening, and then lighting candles with words of gratitude? Savouring a meal prepared in advance, with an elegant table all set? Unencumbered time to be with a loved one? Quiet prayer, uninterrupted by the demands of daily responsibilities?

It gives me pause simply to make that short list. I draw a breath, and hope that you may set aside time and prepare a place to let Sabbath come to you. Even the simple pleasure of acknowledging this life can be a prayer. I offer to God a prayer for you:
            that a breath drawn
            a pleasure felt
            and your spirit refreshed
            may be your realities.  Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15, 2011

The light is longer these days. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, our out-of-doors is bright. We can see where we are going.

Often the light brightens our dark thoughts and we find we are freed from worry. Sometimes the light illumines our troubles and they become stark. With that in mind I want to think with you about forgiveness this week. Do you ever feel that you have a cloud binding your heart, a dim shadow through which you can’t see clearly?  Have the hurts you have sustained driven you to a place where forgiveness seems impossible?

Regret, hurt, sorrow, anger and resentment can all surround our hearts with such shadow that we can’t see straight. Then it hurts even more, doesn’t it? Sometimes we find that there is a morning when we waken with our old light-hearted spirit. Then we remember the hurt, and the cloud settles again.

At this point I want to remind you about forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone the thing that hurt us. It doesn’t mean for a second that it didn’t happen. It does mean that we don’t have to live our lives directed by it. Forgiveness means we don’t always have to be peering under the cloud. We can be free.

Sometimes we have opportunities to speak to the person who caused our distress. Sometimes we don’t. That’s not my point today. My point is that we can be free. Sometimes it takes a long time. That’s where grace comes in, God’s constant company that is stronger, more deep, reliable and surprising than anything else, even than the reality of our pain. God can lift us out of the shadow when our own sense of right and wrong cannot. Good news: We are not alone. God is with us.

The light shines, and the darkness has not overcome it.


The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011

Good morning! I hope this letter finds you in good spirits.

Sunday after worship and lunch together we held our Annual Congregational Meeting. It was an opportunity to review the past year, and we had reports on congregational life, children’s programming, youth work, finances, property (including the leaky roof), ministerial transition, trust funds, music, the Paulettes, social justice, worship, the Foundation, a budget, our outreach at the university … everything that we are about as a congregation. We looked at some upcoming plans. We also had a memorial moment to honour people from St. Paul’s who passed away in 2010.

Do you pause occasionally to take stock in this manner? I mean in your personal life, and in the way you are part of the wider world. I take a great deal of encouragement from the words of affirmation we say in worship sometimes: We are not alone, we live in God’s world. Taking stock all on my own could be a heart-wrenching business: what difference can I make on my own? Well, some I know. But the world needs my efforts combined with yours. Together we bring hope.

I want you to know there were moments with questions in the meeting: people talked – and listened to – one another’s opinions. There were peals of happy laughter, and poignancy too as we remembered dear, departed friends. Most importantly, there was a sense that we are in this together, guided by God’s grace, and happy both to change our minds and to step up in leadership. This is an honest church, and you are part of it.

Blessings to you in this wonder-filled world,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27th, 2011

There is something for everyone this week! Bright blue skies for those who crave sunshine, mild afternoons for dog walkers, rainy sit-by-the-hearth mornings for the homebound, and enough snow to bring your delighted eight-year old self to mind: something for everyone.

There is something for every mood, too: wonder, excitement, contentment and of course grumbling.  A friend from the South observed to me that Canadians talk a lot about the weather: I guess it defines us.    

What defines us as a people of faith is the capacity for prayer. During a rough time we call on God for courage; in a moment of irritation we ask for compassion.

What would happen if while we are doing what we northern people do, which is to say wondering or grumbling about the weather, we paused in a moment of prayer? Noticing the sun over the river valley, we could pause with gratitude for beauty. Grumbling about the snow on the roof, we could offer a word of thanks for a home. Or: observing an anxious driver, we might offer a prayer for patience!

A habit of occasional prayer lifts the spirit. A moment of gratitude opens the spirit. A prayer for others connects us through the Holy Spirit, and that is blessing for all.

Peace to you on this wonder-filled day,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13, 2011

Dixon Carmichael passed away on New Year’s Day. His death was unexpected – complications from surgery – and the shock in the church at his memorial service Saturday was palpable.

You may have known Dixon. We will miss him.

Dixon loved the old hymns. He had friends, some of whom are very old and others are teenagers. He cared deeply about people, about the way things are done, about taking sufficient care for the future as well as the day at hand. He held several responsible positions here at St. Paul’s. I believe his leadership came from the relationships he had with us, and the trust that engendered.

I want you to know that at St. Paul’s we expect there to be many ideas about death and the afterlife. We expect lively conversations and openness to different opinions. And I believe that these days we share are part of an everlasting and ongoing life, a wonder beyond imagining. These words from Revelation 21 give me hope for the present and faith in the future: See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,  for the first things have passed away.’

It is bitterly sad to lose friends. It is challenging and realistic to consider our own deaths. It is part and parcel of the wonder of living that we can hold these things in our souls. And it is the nature of the church that we can offer a spiritual home to collect and sit with these realities.  

Refreshing blessings to you in this wondrous life,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5th, 2011

2011! Here we are at a fresh point in our journey. Do you feel
refreshed? Sometimes these deep dark nights can bring us rest, but sometimes they intensify our anxieties. One way to look at the dark of the new year is a passage in a journey: and certainly a journey has a destination. Our destination is the wholeness promised to us by God, the personal wholeness and the wholeness of creation. Whew!

Yet here we are, plodding along or galloping through the days or feeling dragged into tomorrow – but in any case, we are traveling into the future, a future that is God’s promise.

For more than 1000 years, pilgrims have been walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St James. It is a collection of old pilgrimage routes in Europe; some of our St. Paul’s friends tell
personal stories of it. The symbol for the pilgrim is a scallop shell.
Innkeepers could recognize religious travelers, and they in turn could identify safe welcoming places for rest and nourishment.

At St. Paul’s this Sunday, people received scallop shells after communion – bread for the journey, and a shell to put in pocket or purse as a reminder of God’s constant presence. I have one waiting for you, too.
I won’t mail it, but it is here waiting for you.

Refreshing blessings in this journey we make together,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean