Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom God favours!
Luke 2:14

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God,
whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light.
The true light,
which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him,
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God,
who were born,
not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's only son,
full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-14

For thus God loved the world,
so that he gave the only son,
so that everyone trusting in him,
might not destroy themselves,
but may have eternal live.
John 3:16
(as translated by my Greek class in 2004)

I came that they may have life,
and have it abundantly,
John 10:10b

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Work's Righteousness?

A few years ago I had a defining moment in my faith life. My daughter had been in the hospital with an appendicitis attack. I was told she needed surgery. I went to phone my parents to pray for her. In that moment I realized that I could not pray. It was not that I couldn’t say the words and mean them. It was that I honestly did not believe that God would answer me because I was so unworthy. I was not the person that God desired me to be. But I could phone Mom and Dad and have them pray because they were good people with strong faith and God would listen to them. I knew there was something wrong with this thinking but set it aside because I still had my daughter’s surgery with which to deal.

One day, shortly after, I was in the church on a Saturday, setting up something for the Sunday School’s participation in the Sunday worship. I don’t remember what I was thinking or doing exactly but I do remember getting this revelation. Yes, I was not the person I could be. And yes, I was not worthy. But it didn’t make a difference. God loves me. Nothing I did or didn’t do affected that love. God’s love was unconditional. God loved me!!!!!

It is amazing how much that revelation freed me. My faith life changed. It began to grow. About three months later I got the call to the priesthood. A call I would never have answered before that revelation.

Where am I going with this? I entered into a discussion and in that someone remarked that there was a danger, if the church focused so much social justice, of coming to believe or rely upon work’s righteousness. This was after I had said something about believing that the Incarnation was about redeeming the world, but that I believed social justice was very much a part of that redeeming. I mentioned that my call to social justice came out of my knowing God’s grace deep within my soul.

Does focusing on social justice bring one close to work’s righteousness? I don’t believe so. I don’t believe that my small efforts for social justice will earn my salvation. I already have my salvation. That is shown in the whole of the Incarnation. I don’t have to earn it.

“We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: …”

It is so strange that this prayer that paralyzed me because of my focus on my unworthiness is the same prayer that has given me so much freedom. It is the prayer that reminds me of my freedom. All I did was remove my focus from my unworthiness - which places me in the centre of the prayer - to God's great mercies - which places God in the centre of the prayer. Now in response to that - I work, in God's name, with God's guidance, to try and bring that freedom to others. I don't work for my salvation. I work because of my salvation - huge difference.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Friday, December 14, 2007

ABC's Advent Letter

The Archbishop of Canterbury has finally released his Advent letter. (He's also released his Christmas letter.) I skimmed through it but that is all. No major changes that I can see in the brief skim-through. And nothing really about what the Southern Cone is doing.

It always amazes me how much of these things focus on TEC. I recognize that it is because of the election and consecration of Gene Robinson which has taken the issue into the episcopate and means that more people have to acknowledge it. But nothing is said about Canada. Not that I want us to have the hassles TEC is having. I'm quite happy quietly flying under the radar. But the present situation makes it appear more like a vendetta against TEC. Other provinces have also let it be known that they ordain homosexuals in relationships as well as do same-sex blessings. Not a boo is said to them.

In all honesty, as long as only TEC is targetted (and I really don't want other provinces targetted) I will not be able to accept that this isn't "politically driven" at the top. Not that I deny the firm convictions of the people on the ground. But why single out TEC as the issue when a number of other provinces are doing likewise - just not always openly? And why the silence from those other provinces on the matter?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Parallel Chruch Structures/39th Province

I've been watching events in the States with interest. Events in San Joaquin have raised some thoughts and questions in my mind. And Bishops Harding and Harvey make these thoughts relavent to the Canadian Church as well.

When all this first came out, my immediate reaction was to uphold the decisions about diocese made at the Council of Nicea. Now I am really questioning that and San Joaquin and what has been revealed about its process have made me question even more.

From the sounds of it on the more liberal blogs, there was a lot of pain and fear and other harm done in the process in San Joaquin. I wondered - what if the resolution hadn't passed? What would life be like in that diocese for those who support full inclusion/want to stay in TEC. I think of marriages/relationships that have gone poisonous. Is it not better in the latter case for the partners to separate. Would it not be better in the former case for the Diocese of San Joaquin to separate from TEC with some sort of amicable (or at least as amicable as possible) agreement worked out between San Joaquin and TEC. In that agreement, there could be a continuing Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in TEC. In this diocese would be those who share the values of TEC. People would have a choice as to which church they wanted to belong.

What is so wrong with having two provinces in the same area? We have been conditioned to rejecting this out of hand. But, we are not going to be serving the same people. I know that a question that comes up often is - there are different denominations in the same geographical area, why is that different from what is happening? And initially, I reacted negatively to that thought. But then I read about the pain in Forth Worth, in Pittsburgh, in San Joaquin on all sides of the issue. I read the different understandings about how our faith should be expressed and who should be excluded. I thought about talks that I have had with some of my colleagues in this diocese and how I have come to understand that it often comes down to our basic understanding of God and how God interacts with humans. In many cases, we are poles apart on that understanding. I wouldn't go so far as to say that we are two entirely different churches for we do share some things. But there are significant differences and I think we may need to express them in two separate entities.

In light of people moving across borders to the Southern Cone, I have revised my thinking. Which is the lesser of two "evils" - if one considers a 39th province an "evil" (and I need to note here that I am using a common expression. I do not even come to close to thinking that a 39th province or the people involved in "moving" to the Southern Cone are evil). The Southern Cone has a membership of some 20,000 people. With people from Canada and the US "moving" into that province, the indigenous membership will soon be outnumbered. Given the arrogance of humanity, and especially white North American humanity, I don't believe that this will be a healthy thing for the Southern Cone's indigenous membership. Would not the North Americans be better in a province of their own?

For those of us who support full inclusion. Would it not be better to have a Church (or province) that fully embraces that inclusion. I often wonder about my gay and lesbian friends and how they must feel that this debate is about them but does not include them. That they are being discussed but are not being included in the discussion or decision making in any real meaningful way. Would it not be healthier for there to be a structure that fully accepted all people without having to constantly be aware of the tensions.

Would not some sort of amicable agreement be a more healthy thing all around. I realize that this would have to involve a mutual acceptance to disagree on an international level. For one thing, some of the more extreme provinces would have to agree to accept both provinces rather than just the one which reflected their theology and I'm not sure that is possible. But then, I also don't believe that they are the majority either.

I know that transition would be chaotic and painful for all involved. But would it be any worse than what is happening now? And once we worked creatively to find a way to live together, maybe we could start focusing on some of the more important things such as our inner cities, poverty, etc. In the long run, I believe that is what Christ is calling us to do - rather than being bogged down in our differences as we are right now.

Acutally, I have thought further using an experience in my own life. The experience is not a parallel but it does offer some insight to my thoughts. A number of years ago we lived in a small town where the larger school district had decided to close down the local school. Many of us disagreed with the decision (and I still do). We fought the decision. We did the best we could with the structures in place and still the school was closed. Some of the older members of the community thought we should have fought harder. I disagree. I believe that had we carried it to the possible extremes it would have become a very unhealthy situation for our children and still that school would have closed. We did the best we could but ultimately we had to learn to live with the new arrangement. It was painful to see the school close and it was not easy to adjust to the new situation but we did. Maybe the resulting arrangements were not ideal but, being human, not much of what we accomplish is the ideal.

We have fought to maintain our current church structures in place. And maybe we have actually fought too hard. The reality is that we are no longer together. Is it not better to try to come to the best possible arrangements and to learn to live creatively within those? Is it not, in the long run, more healthy for all involved to say that we have tried our best but now it is time to look creatively at the future and do the best we can with what we have available - that we need to sit down and work out the best possible arrangements for all concerned given the reality that we are living.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

The Golden Compass

Last week S's boyfriend, Sc, asked me what I thought about the Golden Compass. I had seen the name on the net but I hadn't really paid any attention to it. When Sc asked me about my thoughts, I asked him what it was. He told me it was a movie. I asked what it was about and he gave me a very brief precis. Then J chimed in that I had given her the book a few years ago. I asked to read it and she informed me that she had given it to the library. I questioned why I would give her such a book. I think I bought it because it was of the genre she likes reading - sci-fi, fantasy fiction and it had a literary prize sticker on the front.

A few days later I got an e-mail about "The Golden Compass" which led me an article on Snopes. I started to question J about her impressions of the book. Shortly after I found posts on it on Simple Massing Priest and Thoughts in Progress. Then this morning Episcopal Cafe had a link to an article on Beliefnet, Spiritual Lessons from "The Golden Compass".

I still haven't read the book so I won't weigh in with any comments right now. I will probably read it during Christmas and New Year's when I have some time off. If I feel so inclined, I will add my two cents to what is out there. But I thought it might be interesting in the middle of such controversy to post a few links to the ongoing discussion.

I will say that generally when outcry happens about so-called anti-Christians books/films, I don't tend to boycott. I prefer to read the book/see the film myself and look at what it has to say to me. If there is hostility toward Christianity/organized religion I think we need to question why. What is the person's perception of Christianity/organized religion? Is it a valid perception? Is the negativity a valid concern?

If I believe the person has it wrong, I will speak to correct the misperception. But if I think they have a point, I will speak to how we can use that to help us grow in our faith. I am not for banning or boycotting because I think it offers us a chance to take a more critical look at ourselves. It helps us understand better why we do the things we do or believe the things we believe. It also can help us to change if we discover that we are doing or believing the wrong things.

I also think that these books/films offer wonderful chances for evangelism. The more controversy the better. It gets people talking and asking questions. This offers us the chance to speak about our faith and to correct misperceptions.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


There have been some conferences lately with people who had some interesting things to say. One of these was in England and another in the US. Below are listed some of the talks that have found on various blog sites.

From Inclusive Church:

When signs signify

Out of the Silence

Each of us was given grace

From Episcopal Cafe

Shaking the Foundations

I haven't had a chance to read all of these but have downloaded them for when I do have the time.

Love and Prayers,

Ann Mare

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Interview with Rowan Williams

Ann Fontaine of Episcopal Cafe has this "lead" about an interview in the Times Online.

"Mylie Veitch, 18, asked him his views on a gay friend of hers who is considering adopting with his partner.
Dr Williams said: “This is a big one. I have questions as to whether same sex couples can provide the same stability as ‘normal parents’. I have no answers really, just questions.

Many would argue that we need a balance of men and women to bring a child up. However, I have seen one fantastic example of same sex parenting first hand and I suppose stability is another key consideration.”

"Asked about his support for gay clergy, he replied: “I have no problem with gay clergy who aren’t in relationships, although there are savage arguments about the issue you might have heard about. Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the Bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t. This major question doesn’t have a quick fix solution and I imagine will be debated for many years to come."

I can think of a number of households where there is both male and female where it is not healthy for children. For me, the point is the relative health of the environment not whether it is male and female. I tend to think it is far better for there to be two parents but that is due to the fact that parenting is a lot easier if there are two of you. I once single parented for two months when my husband and I were living in different provinces. I learned the value of just having someone else around for support - and that's with being able to talk to my husband each night.

I think that a fair amount of pressure on same-sex families is a result of society's reaction to them. It's pretty hard for children do deal with their peers at the best of times. But that is not a fault of the parenting, rather, it is a fault of society's expectations.

My second year here a number of my people would say to me that same sex couples could live together but there was no way they should have children. They learned not to say it in my presence. I'm pretty easy going on the subject of same-sex relationships with my congregation. I realize I'm not going to get anywhere by pushing them. But I have seen far too many children in foster care where the parents have been heterosexual. For me, it is the health of the relationships and parenting. When I think of some of the households that children in foster care go home to because we believe it is best that children be with their natural parents and how many children end up cycling between their family of origin and foster care, I cringe. My understanding is that many same-sex families do well. I will take a safe, healthy, happy environment any day.

In the second quote I would not be disturbed had the words "sexual preferences" not been said. I can accept that manner of life would require that we be in healthy committed relationships (I don't necessarily mean marriage as I consider that a man-made institution-with the emphasis on "man". For me it is not whether the couple is married but whether the relationship is a committed healthy one. I have seen many relationships outside of marriage that are very much blessed by God if we use the criteria of looking at the fruits of the relationship. However, I accept that for the Church, marriage or celibacy is a requirement). Had Rowan said said something about relationships outside of marriage I would find a fair amount more validity in the statement. There is enough debate as to what the relevant passages really mean - especially since there was no concept of homosexuality in Biblical times. Plus the fact that I believe we have to look at passages outside of those which mention same-sex interaction in order to further understand the issue.

Of course, Rowan Williams is a much more learned man than me (considering I'm not a man at all so I guess I should really say that he is a much more learned person than me). But there are times when all the learning from books cannot compete with the experiences of the world around. My experience has taught me that God does bless those in same-sex relationships. It is this experience which leads to my bias when I read the Bible or other books. I will openly admit that. But, it is each persons experience and prior learnings that influence how each of us interprets the Bible or leads to our understandings gleaned from other readings. My experience has provided a start for how I understand the issue but that is reinforced the more I read the books out there - and only a small amount of them deal exclusively with the same-sex issue although the majority of them do deal with human sexuality.

I guess where I stand is that the Bible reflects the culture of its time and can only speak to the limit of the understandings of the time. Witness the texts referring to slavery, the place of women, and even the understanding of creation, especially in regard to the relationship between the earth and the rest of the cosmos. There is deep richness in the Bible, speaking to God's relationship with all that God created. But God cannot be contained by human words and understandings which are limited. Even Jesus told his disciples that things would be revealed to them in time. So as our ability and understanding grow things are further revealed to us. Our struggles to understand human sexuality falls into this category. To even imagine that we can know, without question, all there is to know about God and God's desires for God's creation is place pretty close to creating God in our own image. To narrow what is to be understood to a few texts without looking at the whole is to do a serious disservice to the wonderful book that is the centre of our faith.

I respect that Rowan Williams has the understandings he does. I'm not going to criticize those understandings as he certainly has a right to them and I can't expect them to mirror mine when we are such two different people with different experiences of the world and different world views. However, I do reserve the right to disagree with what he has to say - which I have done because this is my blog.

(Updated: December 12 - Grandmere Mimi has a link to an article in Wales about the interview. She points out that the section on gay clergy is not there. She got the tip from Ann, who is linked above.)

(Updated: December 12 - afternoon - a commentor at Grandmere Mimi's left a link to the actual printed interview.)

Love and Prayers,

Ann Marie

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Reflection

(The following is the reflection I put in the local paper for the special Christmas section.)

I set up my nativity scene on Saturday. Well, “set up” might be pushing it. I try to be somewhat accurate when I put it out. Baby Jesus gets put in a drawer until Christmas Eve. The wise men are placed somewhere at a distance and will be brought into the scene on Epiphany. Mary, Joseph, and the donkey have a distance to travel as well and will probably arrive the Sunday before Christmas. The shepherds are in the field watching their sheep totally unaware that come Christmas Eve, just before we go to bed, they will make the journey to the stable. I look at my nativity scene. It seems pretty bare with only one little ox lying on the base.

Sometimes our world can seem like that. We read the newspaper and watch the television and we wonder if there is hope for our world. We rush around preparing for Christmas and sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of the crowds we can feel pretty lonely. We look at what has to be done for Christmas Day and wonder if we will ever be ready.

Yet, on December 24, as we gather as community and sing our songs, share our meal, and remember about the special birth, there is a feeling of expectation and hope. In the quietness of the night, as we sing Silent Night by candlelight, we are aware of something momentous happening.

Those of us who have held new born babies may understand the feeling. As we gaze into the eyes of the tiny infant, time seems to stand still. Regardless of all that has gone before, regardless of how tomorrow will turn out, for that one instance the world, the future is full of promise and possibilities. We gaze into the infant’s face and our hearts open up in prayer, yearning for all that is good for this child. We pray that he/she may grow up in a world free of strife and full of hope and good things.

Each Christmas Eve, as we join our families in singing in the soft light of the candles in the darkness, we look to a world full of promise and possibilities. For this brief instance in time we understand what it is that God desires for God’s creation. We open our hearts and our minds to the timeless memory of God’s vision brought into our world in the birth of the tiny baby two thousands years ago. It was an event that began a life that transformed the lives of many, bringing to reality the promise and possibility of which most births offer a glimpse. In that moment, past and future come together in the present and we celebrate life.

Come Christmas morning, my one lonely little ox will be in the midst of a busy scene with Mary, Joseph, a donkey, some sheep and a shepherd, and a tiny baby. His lonely and bleak world will be transformed into one of extended family and celebration. Sometime, in the dark hours of the cold and lonely night something wonderful has happened and the future begins anew with promise and possibility.

Love and Prayers,
Wishing you and your loved ones a joyous Christmas and a New Year bright with hope and promise,
Ann Marie


It's been a great couple of days. I've been feeling exhausted for awhile. But yesterday Integrity met. It's such a warm group of people. I celebrated the eucharist with close to my old energy. This is one area of my ministry I refuse to give up. I find it so life-giving. It is the part of ministry that I do for myself - where I am nurtured and cared for (and I realize that as chaplain it should probably be the other way around but I believe that membership and involvement in this group is God's gift to me to help me keep on a more even keel spiritually).

And tonight. What can I say. St. Paul's played host to the ministerial Taize service. This was our first and I wasn't sure how well it would go over. We provided the space and I provided the candles (Candles are my huge weakness. I have oodles and oodles of candles.) Our focus was a meditation on the cross. I never thought to set things out last week and just see how things looked. So tonight I set out the candles and took the cross from the reardos and placed it in the centre of the altar. Oops. Brass crosses do not show up very well when there isn't a solid background for them. What to do? I grabbed the Celtic cross from the meditation area. We could see it but it was so small on the altar. I sat through the practice trying to figure out a way to have a cross as more of a focal point.

Ask and ye shall receive. We have a wooden processional cross. It is a somewhat rough looking thing but it is painted with a gold coloured paint around the edges. My colleague and I managed to figure out a way of holding it in place right behind the altar. I lit the candles and the gold paint picked up the light. We had our focal point. One less worry for the night.

I wasn't sure how my people would respond to the service. This morning it didn't seem like many of them planned on attending. During announcements I told them that was not something that we wanted added to their list of things to do. Rather this was a gift from us (ministerial) to them. A chance for them to come and sit quietly in a break from the business of the season. A number of them showed up for the service. I think, from the comments, that they were very happy they did. Comments from others as they left have shown us the need for more such services so we will probably plan one for Lent.

It was so awesome. I sat at the back of the church looking up to the front with all the candles glowing. I listened to the people singing. We ended the service with a Gloria. It was so powerful. I have come home feeling energized whereas earlier today I was wondering how I would ever make it through the week.

These last few days, I have been truly blessed with communities that have helped heal me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have been in such need of this healing. I give thanks to God for the wonderful people that I have been so blessed to know and work with and worship with. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie