Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 5, 2013

In the snapping cold I am aware of holiness: the beauty of the brilliant clear sky, the pressure of the dark of night, the warm sanctuary that is indoors. Even cherishing the sheepskin on my steering wheel, the pleasure of my mittens, and the snow piled high alongside the walkway, I am aware of holiness. When I am aware of holiness, I am in prayer.

This Thursday evening at Day 5 we read a lot of prayers. Some famous prayers have lasted hundreds of years: lasted because they speak to the soul, famous because someone spoke them aloud and kept them alive.

The soul needs words. The soul needs many things, and certainly we need words to express sorrow, gratitude, joy, and milestones along the quotidian journey.

Here is a prayer that may speak to your soul, bringing you closer to God’s Holy Presence. It comes from a Gaelic source.

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 the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you:
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you.
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you.
Deep peace to you.

Enjoy. Settle in and read it aloud. Then listen. You may hear God speaking back.

Blessings on you – blessings of warmth, prayer and Holy Presence,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, November 8, 2013

November 8, 2013

Is there a song that pops into your mind unbidden? Do you find yourself humming as you vacuum or whistling as you reach for the mail? I do. I find myself humming hymns, and singing songs – sometimes I don’t know the words so I make them up. It can be quite funny, or embarrassing, especially when I find myself doing it out loud at London Drugs or the grocery store. Sunday in worship Susan Farrell, our Music Director, spoke about a song that she’s been singing since she was a child in church: “Like a Sunflower”. Betty Simmonds talked about “Take Time to Be Holy” and how it was with her in her teen years and in nursing, and it still inspires her today. I was in worship singing “When Morning Gilds the Skies” and I could hear my Dad’s bass lines – all the way from Nova Scotia! Song carries us. It matters whether we sing a song with uplifting words, or one of honest lament, or a different one that pulls us into the mire. I hope the song you sing lifts your spirit and connects you with the Love in the world. Whether you get the words right or not, I hope Love is the tune. Blessings on you – blessings of song, word and heart, The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, September 27, 2013

27 September 2013

Sometimes life gets out of hand. In the old days when the people had seen mighty works, the country was strong, and the rulers tried to be faithful, there was a sense of a golden age. Then along came new governors, new technology, and a feeling of entitlement. That may sound familiar, but it’s the ancient time after King David and King Solomon I have in mind – days so long ago they are buried in mystery and myth. Life got out of hand. No-one cared about the widows and orphans – the litmus test of ethics – and one king after another suffered from swollen head syndrome, figuring they were larger than life. Then along came Elijah, poof! out of nowhere and told royalty to get it together. He said they’d done wrong. Then God told him to run away, run away fast. Have you ever had to do that? To call a friend on their behaviour, stop a shameful act, put a pin in the balloon of selfishness, speak truth to power? I expect you have. And I expect it was difficult. Elijah did. And God sent him away to absorb the magnitude of what he had done, and to prepare him for more. While Elijah was hiding out, God sent ravens to feed him. Relax, Elijah, the ravens will bring you breakfast and supper. I hope you have time to relax, to absorb the important things you have done, and let others look after you. Blessings on you – blessings in the hand and over your head, The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean 1 Kings 17: 1-16 as told in The Message And then this happened: Elijah the Tishbite, from among the settlers of Gilead, confronted Ahab: “As surely as God lives, the God of Israel before whom I stand in obedient service, the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise.” God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.” Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook. Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.” So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?” She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’” And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!

Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013

The thunderstorms are awe-inspiring. Late afternoon, right after supper, midnight, five in the morning: the sky turns cloudy, then indigo and grey-green. Delphinium and peonies bow under the hail. Cars drive through water rising halfway up their tires. Sirens shriek and dogs howl. Lightening seems to flash right down my spine. Old Testament voices spoke of the holy power of storms. Something awesome this way comes: power, might, change. They had something right. Not a personification of God, but an awareness of change. What comes to mind for you in the strength of the storm? Is it something you fear? Some change you anticipate? Worry for our environment and our stewardship of the earth? Childhood memories of storms in campgrounds, or a gentle voice singing you lullabies through the thunderclaps? In the life of faith God calls us to examine our responsibilities, face our fears, encourage our friends, comfort our children and step up to the power we have. The questions that come to mind in the seconds between the lightening and the thunder often lead us into those deep reflections. Blessings on you in the spiritual moments of these summer storms. You are not alone, The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 5, 2013

After the rain the roses grows thick and pink. After the thunder the sky
is silent. After the river has swollen past its banks and destroyed much of what is valuable to our neighbours, the impact settles like mud on dry ground.

Grief and loss sink deep into the spirit.

As the cleanup proceeds, your church is present. Before you knew it, people and funds were on the ground. Volunteers are showing up. Church givings are being delivered through the local congregations in  High River, Siksika and Calgary. We can make donations through
The United Church of Canada website ( and through cheques mailed to St. Paul’s. Cheques should be made out to either The United Church of Canada or St. Paul’s United Church, and marked “Alberta Floods”. All the administrative expenses are covered by our Mission and Service Fund, so every donation we make goes in
its entirety to relief efforts.

And we are listening to the stories, offering the spiritual care Christ taught.

We will shoulder some of the work, some of the grief, some of the heavy lifting. And we will pray for our neighbours.


The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013

I let my poet’s eye fall on my neighbours’ doors as I walked with my dogs this morning. A gloriously carved oak door with a wee peephole, a completely stained-glass door through which the shadows must dance in colour in the eastern light, doors open to screens to allow the rain-refreshed breeze, other doors closed tightly against street sounds and passers-by.

Who are my neighbours? The lady with the corgis, the dad who shares his love of cycling with his daughter tucking her into in a bike trailer, the recently-widowed gardener with flowers hanging over her fence. Their doorways offer a hint of their character, their hobbies, their fears.

Friends in High River have lost their front door. Water damage has shriveled and stained the friendly, bright red paint. Who knows what will be salvageable?

Thank God for friendship, I say, and generosity and compassion. Thank God for grief out loud. Thank God for the holy call to be neighbours.


The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013

We got a letter from the mailman yesterday. A real letter, written longhand and signed. Imagine! Who ever heard of getting a letter from the mailman? Delivered by the mailman, yes, but from him?

Randy brought us the mail all winter. This spring his family chose to move to Kingston. He sent us a postcard from his new home. He wrote to Joan and me, saying thank you for time together, however brief (mail carriers move quickly!). He remembered that we had shared chocolates with him too.

This church is a place of welcome and hospitality, where each person is important. You are important. You matter.

Our mail carrier found sweets and welcome in your church. I trust you share that sweet hospitality too.

I send this letter with warmth as a reminder that you are cherished at the heart of God, and here in your church.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30, 2013

Last night I went out for ice cream. Dairy Queen makes a soft ice cream cone that is like tasting clouds. The full moon was bursting through the sky to the east and the light was rushing out of the western horizon as fast as my ice cream melted in my cone.

There is so much in this life to be grateful for, to enjoy and to savour. In the midst of difficult global situations, mayhem erupting in cities and despair at hospital bedsides, there is still so much for which I am thankful. I’m not being selfish, it’s not an escape thing, or “there but for the grace of God go I”, or even about privilege. It’s the deep sense that in the verities and realities of existence, Love holds us, Faith guides us, Hope transforms us. It’s not magic. It’s not na├»ve. It’s real.

And so my prayer for you is that whatever travail confronts you, you know that you are loved. You are cherished. You are not alone. You are God’s beloved. 

May sweetness and light bring you delight.


The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12, 2013

We are praying for you.

We always pray for you. During Lent, however, we are making a particular commitment to pray for one another.  

As we get acquainted, we become aware of the many ways those around us touch the city. In our congregation there are librarians and landscapers, a bus driver and a baby-group member, politicians and potters, artists and activists, researchers and reverends! Some of us are preparing for professions and others are retired. Some are mentors and others put their shoulder to the grindstone.

As we move about the city, remembering to pray for one another, we see the gifts of thoughtfulness, care, and spirit that keep us persevering in neighbourhoods, school boards, nursing homes, associations and friendships. The energy to maintain and nourish hope comes from a deep abiding place, and I for one could not keep on without it.

Or, as John Wesley said, “The best of all, God is with us.”

May the nourishment of prayer sustain you
the need to pray encourage you, and
the nearness of God hold you.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8, 2013

The last time I saw my friend Tom Faulkner we had tea near his home in Winnipeg. I asked him about his longtime practice of Sunday church attendance. “Catherine,” he said, “Sunday worship is the only time many of us have to sit quietly.” We talked about listening to familiar scripture stories, the relationships created in preaching a sermon, music that soothes and excites, and being called to prayer.

Your church provides a time for the regular practice of worship. It takes care and welcoming and study and practice. It takes people, love, and spirit. It takes a deep affection for the city you see pictured on our bulletin. It takes our energy and the Love of God. And it takes the prayers of neighbours who attend as well as those who are not able to, but hold the worshipping community in prayer.

After the Good Samaritan story this week we gathered for the Annual Congregational Meeting. We discussed study groups and music, family faith formation and budget investments, building security and repairs, and the pleasure of being an open and invitational spiritual home.  

Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story after someone asks him “Who is my neighbour?” The answer to that question is a Samaritan who went ‘way above and beyond what a person might do to help a stranger who was an enemy too. We are called to be neighbours and it is a sacred calling.

Thank you for your spiritual practice of holding our Sunday morning worshipping community in prayer. You strengthen us to be the neighbours this city needs. May we all have a moment to sit quietly and be open to God’s presence.

Blessings of quiet, intention, and love,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

I got stuck in my own driveway this morning. Completely my own fault: I reversed into a pile of snow on the side of the drive instead of moving straight back.

The very first thing that went through my mind was: “Don’t spin your wheels”. I guess that mantra was embedded from Drivers’ Ed many years ago. I certainly know it to be true. But what did I do? You guessed it. “Just a little try,” I thought, “just a little.” Well, I was stuck thoroughly in seconds.

I do have a good shovel, and I have warm boots. So I began to dig.

And you may well guess what happened next. A kind neighbour brought another shovel from across the street, and together we released my tires from the snowbank. I drove forward, turned, and reversed straight into the street. Perfect.

You know that our theme this year is “Who is my neighbour?” I’m grateful to Colin for helping me dig out, and it was a pleasure to chat with him a few minutes.

I wonder what the astronaut Chris Hadfield thought when he tweeted the photo of Edmonton, with the snowy fields and river valley so well defined. You’ll find it on our bulletin cover. He may or may not have had any idea of the neighbourliness we give one another. Nor the love of God that inspires some of us to keep it up.

Blessings of neighbourhoods and grace,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean