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.

November Events at St. Barnabas

Worship every Sunday, 10:00am

November 2nd, An Evening of Coco and Cocoa ~ join us for a screening of the delightful film Coco, and enjoy a cup of cocoa, 6:00pm

November 5th and 19th, New Westminster Community Choir, 12:30pm ~ click on Singing at St. Barnabas – New Westminster Community Choir above for more information

November 8th, 9th and 10th, Healing Energy Workshop

November 17th, Outdoor Club, Burnaby Lake, 1:00pm

November 22nd, Family skate at 8 Rinks, Burnaby, 8:oopm

November 23rd, Holy Felters, 1:00pm

November 24th, Sacred Singing Circle, 2:00pm ~ click on Singing at St. Barnabas – Sacred Singing Circle above for more information

Click on Calendar above for more events!