Friday Letter, January 17, 2020

“There he is, the Lamb of God!”

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I pray that this week you were able to stay warm and dry, that you weren’t stuck in the white stuff, or pushing your car out of a snow bank. It almost always snows in Vancouver, at least once a year. But somehow we seem to forget, and it catches us by surprise. I am looking out this morning to a real winter wonderland. The sun is shining brightly on the heaps of snow in our church courtyard, the walkways have been shovelled and salted, and then shovelled and salted again – and again. We work hard to make sure this place stays open, so that our neighbours can come in out of the cold. This week we had our regular food cupboard, and our community meal. Now the community choir is raising the roof over in the sanctuary. The show is going on!

This coming Sunday we will be marking and remembering the Second Sunday of the Epiphany. We will sink deeper into our story of faith, and wonder with the disciples, what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to take this commitment to heart and the live our lives as if all Jesus taught was true? What would it mean to love our neighbours, to set the prisoners free? What would it mean to live in right relationship with the earth, and the creatures of the earth? There is much trouble and strife around us: we mourn with the families who lost loved ones in the terrible air crash, we mourn with the people of Australia, watching their beloved forests burn. My heart broke when I heard that there may be no more koala bears living in the wild. Dear Lord! What are we to do?

This Sunday’s reading from the prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are God’s own from before we were born. As God has sent the prophet to preach truth to the people, we are invited to live boldly. To be unafraid. To recognize the work of God all over the world: in peace, in restoration, in reconciliation. This is our moment, our time here on Earth. Let us pray:

Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.

Friday Letter, January 10, 2020

You are my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Beloved friends,

This date is important to me. On the 10th of January, 1999, I was baptized. I was 35 years old, and the summer before, after many long days of questioning and struggle, I had decided that I could indeed say, “Yes.” I could become a Christian. I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, though my grandmother, Marjorie Benson, had been a Catholic, and had thrown her lot in with Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She had lived a life committed to justice and challenging all ways of human cruelty. Grandma Benson was the person who had the greatest influence on me as a girl.

This Sunday, January 12, we will mark and remember Jesus’ baptism. It may seem a strange thing: indeed it was strange to John, when God, in Jesus’ flesh, came to him for baptism. Who is he to be the one to baptize Jesus? But, no, Jesus’ baptism marks his beginning, the start of something new. Jesus is now ready to embark on his journey: his life and example will overturn the world as it was, structures of exclusion, rejection, injustice have met their match. That’s what Jesus’ baptism means. What our baptism means is that we have thrown our lot in with this simple carpenter, who was also the King of the Universe. Our baptism means that we have said Yes to love and belonging, no matter what our history has been. 

This Sunday we will renew our baptismal covenant: our commitment to be that love in the world. We will promise to a) love God  b) love our neighbours c) love ourselves. Are your ready? I’ll see you Sunday!

Love,

Emilie

Friday Letter, January 3rd, 2020

New Year, New Beginnings, New Friends

It was silly — as I cycled through the sloshing rain on my way to church I was inexplicably singing: Overtures! Curtains, lights! This is it, we’ve hit the heights, and oh what heights we’ve hit. On with the show this is it! 

Many of us who grew up in Canada in the 1970s would know the opening theme song for the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour on Saturday afternoon television. We’ve been busy at St. Barnabas: Advent, Christmas, the services, the giant meal, our Sacred Singing Circle, and now: our January 5 Epiphany service for neighbours, friends and newcomers. We have been working, a small team of us, Bruce, Bill, Martha and myself, to put together a special “teaching service”. And now everything is ready. 

This Sunday, at our regularly scheduled time, we will be celebrating the sacred meal, and while I preside over the service, our good friend Martha, will be narrating what I am doing. Have you ever wondered: why is she doing that now? What does this word mean? We are hoping that all will be revealed! And you, and all our guests, will be invited to stay for a meal and talk more over in the hall afterwards. 

We have the words of eternal life! Let’s share them with everyone we know! 

I hope you will be able to come to church this Sunday. And bring a friend.

And as we keep busy in these days of chill and damp, there are two Saturday activities tomorrow that will warm our hearts: our Holy Felters group meets at 1pm. And in the evening, at 6pm, we will be showing the film: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. These are both activities for all ages and varieties of people.

Our prayers continue for our neighbourhood and the world:

Fall on us Heaven from on High
And let the skies rain down your righteousness.

Emilie

Friday Letter, December 27th, 2019

Beloved Family in Christ,

The baby has arrived. The time of waiting has passed, and now we are busy in a different way, cleaning up and helping the world return to some semblance of order. Christmas, we know, has become loaded with meaning far beyond the original story. It is true: we should emphasize the “Christ” in Christmas, but I think that we should make that statement with a huge amount of compassion and love.

The shopping madness of the season has, of course, nothing to do with our sacred story. But it reflects a longing, a desire for something. We have been told: if we have this thing, or that thing, our lives will be better. We have been told: if you give this person or that person something precious, then they will love you.

We Christians have a completely different story to tell: there is nothing you can do to earn the love of God. You have that already. Nothing material you can give to anyone will express your love for them. So we invite all our beloved families and neighbours to step back from the huge pile of expectations. Let us love one another gently then.

Christmas at St. Barnabas was a wonderful affair. I’m so glad to have seen so many of you, and those who weren’t able to be there, know that we held you in our prayers.

On Christmas Eve we had two services: a wonderful, crazy pageant which told the story of the coming of Christmas to a small Italian town in the 14th century, where people had forgotten the meaning of this festive time. The story was aided by a pack of wild wolves who chased a poor woman around, and were then converted by St. Francis and St. Claire, and there was a grand procession to witness the nativity scene. Thanks to Luz and Luis and baby Jazlyn for being our holy family (and John was a pretty good wolf too!) This first service we shared with our beloved friends from Shiloh-United. Our second Christmas Eve service was a beautiful glowing celebration of the power of love to overcome all hatred, despair and fear.

Christmas Day was the usual unmitigated mayhem! Chef Amber Anderson made turkey for 200 and we invited the whole neighbourhood. While Martha was busy overseeing the fabulous chaos, Chris was helping in the kitchen. Roland was essential too, while Bob and Chuck and Sathia took turns serenading the crowds. Thanks to the dozens of volunteers and donors who make Christmas Dinner happen! Wow! 

This Sunday coming we will be marking the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents at our regular 10am service, and at 2pm we will gather with glorious singing leaders: Caitlin and Patti and I share in the Sacred Singing Circle. Singing can be a spiritual practice and all are invited to share in the song.

Finally NEXT weekend will be a special time, as we wrap up the Christmas Season. We have had to fiddle with the Family Movie night, due to conflicts in scheduling. I apologize for that, but please tell it over the hill and everywhere: Movie Night, January 4th, 6pm. We are showing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Wayne’s Wonderful Jumbotron. We’ll have popcorn and snacks and drinks. Bring your friends. We will be having Holy Felters on January 4th as well, at 2pm – come one and all to stab many woolen things!

And SUNDAY, January 5th, we’re inviting the whole town to CHURCH. Many people have many questions about faith and church. We are hosting a “teaching eucharist” where people can come with all of their questions, and we will have some explaining to do. Terry and gang will be preparing a vat of vegetarian chilli for after the service, so plan to come, and invite everyone you know!

That’s it for this week. I pray that you are finding some time for rest and peace in these quiet days. The light is returning!

Love,

Emilie

Friday Letter, December 20th, 2019

Dear Beloved Family,

The countdown is on! When you were little, did you ride a wave of excitement as Christmas approached? Trees coming inside, presents, special food, people we don’t see all the time . . . and church, lots of church! Are you filled with expectation now? Or has the season become a crazy-making month? Many people find this the hardest time of year. So now as a little church community let us draw closer together, and gather around the fire of faith, the warmth of the promise of the Good News.

Ever since I became a priest my own family, my children, and now my grandchildren — and Patti — have had to know that they don’t get Mom on Christmas. Priests sink into this season in a different way — how can we best tell this sacred story, in the midst of the world’s Christmas chaos?

How can we focus on what really matters? At St. Barnabas we offer the story of Jesus’ incarnation — God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, coming in human form to our broken world– both on Christmas Eve, with our two evening services, and Christmas Day with our giant neighbourhood meal. St. Barnabas: a place to pray and serve.

At 6 pm on Christmas Eve, we will gather with our dear church-mates from Shiloh United and present a Pageant. This is a not-so-rehearsed event, but a chance to live out and explore with fun and families — what does it mean to welcome the Christ-child into our hearts and lives?

At 8 pm on Christmas Eve, we will gather in a more traditional Anglican service, with song and prayer, and holy communion while a thousand, thousand candles light the evening and warm our hearts. The story of Christmas is about love — love in the midst of bleakness, cruelness, or just plain consumerism and busy-ness. Our God cannot be held in Heaven, but comes to us to break in to the hardness or the loneliness of our hearts.

Then on Christmas Day Chef Amber Anderson is cooking us her traditional meal: everything will be served, from turkey to goodies, and we’ll be welcoming our neighbours. This is an all-hands-on-deck affair, or just come and eat event. This is a meal for parishioners too, so we hope you will drop by. If you want to help out, please give the office a call, and we’ll get you on a serving team.

AND — I am getting ahead of myself. This coming Sunday, December 22, at our regular 10 am service we will mark Advent Four with a service of Lessons and Carols. Because St. Barnabas is such an amazing place, an uncommon place, we will be offering the readings in seven — or maybe eight — languages. That is who we are: the Anglican church in the world, and in New Westminster, whether we speak Spanish, Tagalog, Ndebele/Zulu or Tamil. And we love to sing. We will be singing some traditional Christmas carols, and some chilling and beautiful ones that you won’t hear in other places.

My heart grows a little bigger every Christmas, especially when I see new and old friends making their way into the church courtyard, and up our worn stairs. I hope to see you! And may the blessing of Jesus’ love, Mary’s wisdom, and Joseph’s courage be upon you in these days.

Emilie

Friday Letter, December 13th

Beloved community,

This morning the sun shone, so of course I headed out on my bike without my rain pants. And then I lost my phone. Another normal morning in the life of your priest. Not very prepared! Nonetheless we carry on getting things ready for the coming again of our beloved Saviour on Christmas Eve. There is much to do. Bulletins to be prepared, letters sent, food planned, songs to consider. The piles of paper that must go into the proper file. Friday is the day of our regular Food Cupboard, and this morning almost 50 neighbours came to collect some emergency supplies. 

St. Barnabas sits on this little corner of land, the original home of the Qayqayt nation, of the Coast Salish family of original peoples. And since it was built, in 1891, it has been a place of refuge and welcome. I once heard someone say, “St. Barnabas — that’s where the poor people go to church.” What words of blessing! 

Mary and Joseph, travelling to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem did not go about in grand style, or stay in the fanciest hotels. Of course not! We have heard the story so often that we’ve forgotten perhaps, about how terrifying and wretched their time of travel must have been. But if we are to recover, and preserve, the true sense of Christmas, we can’t simply think of the nativity as a sweet story. God comes to us in the most vulnerable way, to invite us to open our hearts to love, to compassion.

St. Barnabas, a place of refuge for the poor, the poor in spirit, the rich in love. Those who have been told they don’t belong: the refugees fleeing violence, persecution, hatred, those who have been told that they aren’t right because of who they love, or what they believe, the lonely, those struggling with addiction or health issues. God loves us all. We welcome all.

This Sunday, the third in Advent, we celebrate JOY. Not just happiness, or contentment, but a kind of deep joy in knowing that we are loved … and then going out into our neighbourhood and being that Joy with one another, our neighbours, and perfect strangers.

I look forward to gathering on Sunday to sing and to pray, to break the bread of life with one another and to remember the blessings we are on this holy earth.

Thanks be to God.

Emilie

Friday Letter, December 6th 2019

Beloved Family at St. Barnabas,

The trees outside my window are bare, a few dangling leaves hang limp and the branches frame the sky with black. Everything looks dead. We know it’s not, but how hard it is to remember! These days of dark will turn, and in the meantime we are invited to pull ever closer together. This Sunday we will hear Isaiah, “The wolf will lie down with the lamb. ” Words of promise.  Someday God’s Reign will break out among us and we will live in peace. God’s holy mountain will be our home. 

But also we hear about that strange man, John the Baptist. Eating locusts and wild honey, and speaking strong words, “You brood of vipers!” Hmmm, surely he doesn’t mean us? We are nice people, good neighbours, we go to church!

As we continue to prepare a place for the God of ferocious love to abide in us, what are we going to do? How are we going to live out that unconditional, radical love for all of God’s creatures and creation?

Words of promise, words prodding us to action. The Reverend Dr. Jeanette Scott will be our preacher this Sunday. Jeanette is a Deacon who lives part time in Powell River, and part time in our neighbourhood. It is a blessing to have her with us!

Also this week: Tomorrow, Saturday, December 7th, we are hosting with our partner church, Shiloh-United, our annual Bazaar, from 10am – 2pm. Come get your Christmas baking and gifts. Also the Thrift Store is having a 50% sale.

Next Saturday, December 14th we will be hosting a “Quiet Afternoon.” Between 1 – 4pm the church sanctuary will be open, and there will be tables set up for: felting, rosary making, print making for wrapping paper, and sewing gift bags. Come into the quiet and warmth of our circle!

I hope to see you Sunday, and at other times.

With fondness,

Emilie, parish priest

New Weekly Email!

St. Barnabas is beginning a new thing: a weekly (short) letter from me, Emilie, your parish priest. I want to make sure that you are a part of all the wonderful, interesting things that happen week by week at St. Barnabas, and that you know what is coming up in the near future.

Follow this link to see the full letter.