Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saskatchewan Meteorite

I don't watch T.V. so I often play catch up with the news. This weekend I was at a college council meeting and someone mentioned the Saskatchewan Meteorite (or Alberta/Saskatchewan). I remember sitting in the living room of our house in Saskatoon about the time the meteor would have gone over. The room lit up a fair amount (we were sitting in semi-darkness waiting for Owen to get home from Regina so we could all go for supper). I don't know if that was because of a car or because of the meteor but the timing fits.

I was quite annoyed that I had not seen the meteor. I hate not to be in the thick of things. Oh well. Then I got to church on Sunday and the talk was about a video one of musicians had sent in to the news service. She lives on a farm and has a security camera on top of one of her outbuildings pointed at their fuel storage tanks (fuel theft is a real problem in the rural areas). The camera caught the meteorite. You can see the video here. You can read about it here.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Other Names Meme

I ran into this at Wounded Bird and thought it was cool.

1. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names): Pearl Huntington
2. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): Henry Sidney
3. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): Niannm
4. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Purple Cat
5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live): Biggar (I have no middle name)
6. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning): The Blue None (I am very allergic to any alcohol)
7. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): Anni
8. GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Maple Walnut Gingersnap
9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet’s name, current street name): Beethoven Fourth
10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on): Jeff Tenth

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Monday, November 24, 2008


Water has major meaning in my spirituality. This summer we were able to visit some of my favourite water places. I would like to share them with you. These first four pictures are from Marysville Falls just outside of Kimberly.


This is one of my peaceful meditations pictures. I love the sense of peace it brings. I made a prayer card out this with the scripture passage - "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

These next pictures are from Lundbreck Falls in Southern Alberta.

And last but not least - the Bow Falls from Banff.

Personality Type Indicator

When I was in seminary we used the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. I actually come out as INFP - a feeler rather than a thinker. Interestingly enough my CPE supervisor never did succeed in getting me to say "I feel" rather than "I think."

Joe has a link on his blog that "typalyzes" blogs. I found the results interesting, especially in the light of the post below.

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality.

Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I will admit that I struggle with that second paragraph and will need to pray on what it may reveal about me. I don't generally get the impression, at least with my friends and parishioners, that I come across as arogant, imaptient and insensitive to people but I will certainly take the time to think and pray about the possibility and for improvement in that area.

What struck me as fairly accurate was the first paragraph, although I would say that there are edges to that.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Thinking in Words/Images

I have been reflecting this morning on a dialogue in the post below. I am struggling to put those thoughts into words. Part of the problem is that I don't think in words, I think in images. Unfortunately, those images are not necessarily visual. If they were, I could at least find the words to describe them.

I teach a prayer workshop for parish nursing. The first time I was asked, I was given an outline to follow. Fortunately, for me, I was also told that it was not set in stone. The outline relied very heavily on structured and worded prayer. This is definitely not my forte. I changed the outline to involve a number of forms of embodied prayer. I have found embodied prayer is the style better suited to my way of thinking - it does not require concrete words. I am able to use symbolic actions and images to form prayers that don't necessarily have words.

I was somewhat nervous the first time I presented the workshop. It was very well received. The next time I presented the workshop, there were people there who came partly because they had heard about the first one. One of the things I explain is my difficulty with words - that I think in images - and thus a fair portion of the workshop is centred around styles of prayer that accommodate that. A number of people came up to me and were so thankful because they have the same way of thinking and are so relieved to have things put in a context to which they can relate.

This leads me to the reason for this post. In the comments for the post below, there is a comment about looking at the words and the meanings of the words as written as the defining way to interpret the various scripture passages - especially the ones that are considered to speak to same-sex relationships. I disagree with this method on two grounds.

The first ground is that it sets rigid parameters for interpreting the discussion. To insist on the words only is to limit and box God. I will grant you that language is originally a gift from God. However, it is very human in its make up and thus limited in its scope and understanding. To use words alone is to box God in. To insist on words alone is - to some extent- to insist on being able to control God's revelation. It is - to the same extent - to insist on controlling things so that the outcome is always the same. It does not always allow for the working of the Holy Spirit.

When I read a scripture passage I see images. I don't just see the words in black and white but rather images around those words. I see the culture in which they were written - although I will admit that the image is limited to what I have learned about the culture. I see the possible intent or motivation behind those words. I also see the culture of today and the message the words may have for that culture. For me, this is a much more wholistic approach to reading the scriptures.

I am not being innovative here. I believe the ancient Hebrews better understood the limitations of mere words. Their words did not have single meaning. Rather they were words that promoted thinking in images. Take the word "Shalom" for example. We all know that it means so much more than merely "peace." It brings to mind an image of what that peace is like - wholeness, harmony, justice, righteousness etc.

There is another facet to focusing exclusively on the words. I used to have a real problem with the BCP. A few years ago I would have called it "worm theology" along with some of my contemporaries. The spiritual damage that was done to me was immense and it took years of healing before I was spiritually able to embrace my faith. Actually, the problem with the BCP was not the theology per se but the tendency to think of only the words rather than the images they were meant to convey. When I took my second liturgy class at seminary I was given a real gift. The prof was able to convey the images the words were meant to give and I grew to love most of those images. Where I had problems with the images, I was better able to understand because I was able to see the words in the context and culture in which they were written and thus able to lose a fair amount of my negativity toward them. I now quite enjoy the BCP. The most dramatic of changes came around the Prayer of Humble access which is now fairly central as an expression of my theology where before it was one of the prayers that caused the most harm to my spirituality.

For those who may think that my refusal to engage in dialogue using words alone as terms of reference is a further revelation of my arrogant attitude, my willfulness, my blindness, my being deceived or whatever other term they want to give it, I will only say this in my defense. God gave me the gift of being able to think in images. I realize that any gift as a dual edge, one can use it in service to God or in service against God. One must always be very careful of the way that the gift is being used. Thus, the gift needs to be used surrounded by prayer and meditation. I strive to do that. Now who am I to listen to - human or God? I sincerely pray that it is God to whom I am listening and I tend to believe that because the use of the gift is surrounded by prayer and meditation that it is God to whom I am listening. If that means going against the flow, going against certain cultural expectations, then so be it. I am certainly in good company including that of my Lord and Saviour.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Journey - Stage Four

I am the current Chaplain of Integrity/Saskatoon . I see that role as one of pastoral support and sacramental ministry. Integrity met to discuss what we should do to facilitate dialogue. We came up with the idea of a workshop. I attended the planning meetings but my role was not to direct but rather to be a pastoral presence and a link to the wider diocese.

We chose a young woman who is an ordained deacon in a local United Church. She had done a study session, which a member of Integrity had attended. The young woman was contacted and the group met with her to plan the workshop. During one meeting, I was sitting beside this woman.

I maybe need to explain that I am very much down at the hetero end of the sexuality scale. Most of my homosexual friends were male so I knew that I did not feel threatened in the least by them. I wasn't so sure when it came to females.

At this one meeting we were all sitting their talking. At one point, I realized that the young woman had her arm laying along the back of my chair. Now, if this was a man, I might have felt uncomfortable. And as I mentioned above, I wasn't sure how I would feel in close contact with a woman. Some level of my brain registered that her arm was there and that I was not worried or uncomfortable at all.

I will also admit that I have been uncomfortable with physical expressions of love/affection between homosexuals (but then overt seriously sexual expressions on the part of heterosexuals also bother me). I have discovered over the past year that this discomfort is lessening.

And so I continue on my journey. For me key points have been:
1. My conversation with my father that started this journey
2. My realization that the idea of same-sex relationships did not bother me
3. My study of scripture
4. My prayer/conversations with God on my internship
5. My realization that my support did not rely on the genetic/choice debate
6. My research and presentation to diocesan council
7. My realization that I am becoming totally at ease with physical expressions and with lesbians

As I write this, I am very conscious that I am a heterosexual person with no first hand experience of what it like living as a gay in a hetero world. I have been honest about my questions and where I stand. Usually, I might write with more of an eye to the correct language or with concern as to how my words and attitudes might come across to someone who is gay. I haven't done this here as I think it is important that I be bluntly honest about how my journey has come about. If what I have said rubs people on the raw, I apologize and regret what it is that may hurt but I cannot change what I have said for it is my experience.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

My Journey - Stage Three

During my first year of ordained ministry there was an incident in our diocese that brought the issue of same sex relationships to the surface. As a result a chapter of Integrity was formed in this diocese. The chaplain was my very good friend, Shawn Sanford Beck. Shawn and I had gone through CPE together which gave us a fairly strong bond as well as the fact that we were two liberals in a diocese that was considered fairly conservative.

Integrity would meet for eucharist at the cathedral and then go for coffee at a near by restaurant. This was the first time that I really began to get to know same sex couples. What I saw and experienced brought a whole new dimension to my support.

At the same time, a study on the issue had been mandated by diocesan council. The report was published and as a member of council I was one of the first to receive a copy. I was horrified and disgusted after the first few pages and initially set it aside. I approached the bishop and learned that nothing would be done about the study. I was told that, if I was concerned about the fact that little was done to even attempt to present two different views, it would be up to the priest or study leader to present a more balanced point of view. It would stand as it was. I then approached some of my liberal friends in the priesthood. They too, would do little other than make sure it was not used in their parishes. Basically, they file thirteened it but would do little else.

I then spoke to Shawn about it. He had not seen a copy. He was able to get a copy and he brought it up at an Integrity meeting. Some of the other members also received copies and were deeply disturbed and hurt by what was written. Those of us who felt something needed to be done met together to discuss our options. We settled on writing a letter to diocesan council, carboned-copied to the Bishop asking that the study be rescinded. Members of Integrity were invited to attend and speak to the issue. I was no longer on council at the time. I also felt that those who this study directly affected needed to speak.

I think the next thing that happened is that the motion to rescind had a tie vote and the bishop decided to table it for the time being. Integrity was then asked to prepare a written response to the document. I went back to my research - binders full of it. I did not approach the issue from a biblical perspective this time as someone much more capable than myself was already doing so. This time I concentrated on the doctrine of marriage and the understanding of blessings. I used predominantly Anglican resources from the Anglican Church of Canada - papers by members of the Primate's Theological Commission. I also used Rowan Williams', "The Body's Grace", as well as Claiming the Blessing out of ECUSA (TEC now) and the Anglican Church of Canada's own presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council.

What I was learning convinced me even further. I looked at Jamie Howison's paper on the the purposes of marriage and the changes in understanding based on a study of the 1962 BCP and the Book of Alternative Services - "Thinking Faithfully About Sex and Marriage." I read another paper by Paul Jennings - "The Grace of Eros," and Gary Thorne's, "Friendship and Marriage." (Sorry, my link to this paper no longer works.) Another document I used was the Anglican Church of Canada's "Marriage: An Exploration of Marriage in Church and Society."

I will grant you that my final presentation was not balanced in its approach but then I figured that the opposing point of view had already been presented in the Study Guide (which I figured should have been called the Position Paper - literally). I should note that I do respect and appreciate the time the authors of the study guide put into the document. But I could not in good conscience support the one-sided approach (although someone who is in the know and liberal said that it was a better study than a number that he had seen - I would hate to see some of those others).

Diocesan Council did rescind the guide but felt that something should still be done. The bishop thought it might be best to open dialogue between all people. He approached Integrity for their assistance and Integrity agreed to come up with something.

My Journey - Stage Two

Most of my first year for seminary was taken by correspondence. After four years I arrived on campus. This is where I really began to hear arguments both for and against same sex relationships. I, of course, argued vehemently for them. Most of what I heard against did nothing to convince me differently and I learned more about what lay behind the reasoning of those who supported.

On internship, my supervisor mentor was as much against same sex relationships as I was for them. We found a way forward without letting the issue harm our ministry together. I did ask to borrow one of her books which spoke against such relationships on a biblical basis. I will admit to not being able to finish the book although I did read it half the way through. The approach to interpretation in the book and the approach I had come to adopt at seminary were too different. I found no common ground on which I could base either an agreement or disagreement.

During my internship, I really questioned my stance on the issue. My supervisor/mentor was so much against (although not rabid about it). This caused me to question my own stance. To get to the parish where I was interning was a 45 minute drive on fairly open highway. I was able to spend a fair amount of that time in prayer and meditation. One day I gave my confusion over to God. What I recieved back was two touchstones. One was - does the relationship do any harm? The second was - does the relationship promote the work of the kingdom?

Up to this time I had not really come to know any same sex couples, so the matter was still fairly academic for me. I did know one gay couple from my church. I watched them and their love for each other but in all honesty they were an oddity for me at the time. I was fascinated because they were different, but, although I talked with them, I never really tried to get to know them.

I finished seminary and went into parish ministry. Without having to keep up with my theological studies on a structured basis, I now found time to study human sexuality more seriously. I pulled articles off the Internet from reliable sources. Admittedly the majority of these were pro same sex relationships but I did pull a number off that spoke against them. I also started a more serious feminist study of women in religion especially Christianity.

As I read more and more about the feminine and traditional understandings and experience, the more I discovered how deep seated was the attitude toward anything that threatened the "masculine". Patriarchy had a strong hold on society and religion in general and Christianity in particular. And patriarchy in the church was often based on the thoughts of pagan philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Those thoughts so went against my experience of being female that I couldn't believe that people still embraced them.

At the same time, there were occasions that I was having to defend being a female in ordained ministry. One gentleman mentioned that the Spirit would never call a woman to the ordained ministry. This was so contrary to my experience that I continued to question tradition. If tradition is wrong on the issue of the feminine, could not tradition also be wrong in the whole area of human sexuality.

This idea of fear of the feminine re-inforced what I had come to understand about the passages in the Bible in general and the passage in Leviticus in particular. As my feminist studies continued alongside my studies on human sexuality, I began to see more and more parallels and become more convinced that we were wrong in not accepting the "integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships" (as it was put by GS 2004).

My Journey - Stage One

I first started on my journey toward acceptance of same-sex relationships based on a struggle my father, an Anglican priest, had with the issue in the early 1980's. My father still identifies as a homophobe. But he is a homophobe with compassion. He recognizes that his problem with homosexuality is based on his conditioning by society rather than his Christian faith. Now there's a switch from those who believe that supporting same-sex relationships is caving into society.

I will say that when I look back, I don't believe that I ever had been taught that homosexuality was a sin. I remember in high school that we had a teacher everyone figured was gay. But we mostly made jokes about him and the Zodiac club. It was more an "ick" factor than anything.

I can't even remember the context around my conversation with my father. There had been a church meeting of some sort and something about sexuality must have come up. I remember Dad speaking about the struggle between his head and his gut. His head told him that human kind was created in God's image which meant that we were created to be in relationship. He struggled with denying the opportunity for that intimate relationship to a group of people. And yet his upbringing gave him a major reaction in his gut whenever he thought about two men in a relationship together.

I didn't think much more about this for a number of years. The conversation did remain with me and did provide a basis whenever same sex relationships was brought up. It wasn't until the mid-nineties at a bible study when the pastor spoke strongly against same sex relationships that I realized that I had come to a sort of acceptance of them based on my dad's struggle. The acceptance, however, was more academic or intellectual than anything else.

In the late-nineties I started seminary. My New Testament class opened my eyes further to the wonder of scripture and I encounter feminism interpretations for the first time. I think my first in-depth feminist study was on Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

But it was my Hebrew Scriptures class that really made the study of scripture come alive for me. I think this was because it had a bit more of a cross discipline approach. I have always loved history and had taken classes in Sociology. My approach to things is more anthropological although I will admit to never having taken any Anthropology on a formal basis. During this time I was struck by the understanding of procreation. When coupled with what I understood to be the attitude toward the feminine the prohibitions about same sex intercourse became much clearer.

Looking at Leviticus I noticed that prohibition against same sex intercourse was only directed toward males. This raised a question in my mind. When I further thought on it, I remembered that to be female was to be inferior. When one considers the sex act, one could see where it was believed that one male would have to play a female role or be in a female position. This would have been very demeaning. Add to that the understanding of procreation where it was believed that the male seed was a tiny perfectly formed human being. To plant this seed in anything other than a woman's womb was akin to murder.

Sodom and Gomorrah is said to be about hospitality. To me it is about violence. Yes, hospitality is part of it but the violence of what the men wanted to do stands out more. It is not same sex relations that the men want. It is to violently humiliate the guests by using them as women. The passage disturbs me even further when I consider that it would not have been as bad in the men's eyes had it been a woman who was so violently violated. I should mention that this interpretation is very much influenced now by the realization that the reason God caused the flood was the violence of humans. The humans did evil in the sight of God but the evil that is mentioned most pointedly and consistently is violence.

I was beginning to take ownership of my own stance on human sexuality.

I should also mentioned that my parents were instrumental in providing the lens through which I view scripture. My father is a Canon Emeritus based on his work in the area of Social Justice. My mother was every bit as much involved in that work as my father and certainly holds her own ideas on it. Each of them is a force to be reckoned with. They brought me up in a world of love and inclusion. This is not to say that I am free from racism and bigotry. I can't help my gut reactions that have been formed by the people and society around me. What I can do is not act on those reactions when I understand them to be wrong.

Most telling for me is the gospels where Jesus lifts up those who are oppressed because of the systems and religious misunderstandings of what it means to be fully human. The thing in the Hebrew scriptures (next to the story of Creation) that stands out most for me is God's continual reminder to the Israelites to remember that it is God that brought them out of slavery in Egypt and to respond by looking after the orphan, the widow, and the alien in the strange land. There are the calls through the prophets to do justice.

Then there is the gospels themselves which tell of Jesus ministering to the outcasts - those that the religious system based on the laws (a number of which are in Leviticus) had declared unclean, often for things that were innate or beyond their control. The over-riding commandment that Jesus gives us is the one to love. God loves us. Our response to the love is to love God and to love one another. In the BCP, the book with which I was brought up, I remember being told that on these two laws hang all the laws and the prophets. There is no commandment or law greater than these. This is the lens through which I read and interpret the scripture.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Celebration of Marriage

"The marriage of two people is a holy union. It begins with your desire to
form a lasting, life-long partnership with another in God’s love, and
continues throughout your lives as a process of intentional living and
growing together. In a marriage, each of you as an individual, and together
as a couple, gradually transform and mature in God’s presence and image.

A wedding, then, is a rite of passage, a sacred ritual that celebrates your
desire to enter into a life-long relationship. It symbolizes the ending of
former ways of life and other future possibilities, and establishes a particular
pathway into the future – one that you promise to travel together.

By uniting within the context of a faith community, you recognize that God
is active in the love you feel for one another, and you place your relationship
in God’s care. Your individual stories – and your story as a couple – are
celebrated in the context of the story of God and God’s ways with the
human community, as understood within a particular community of faith.

In a Christian marriage, your personal stories are seen in the light of God’s
action in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s unfolding
pattern in our lives is one of dying to self and rising to Christ, of
transformation, and of self-offering. A Christian relationship is the living
out of a self-giving way of being in community with one another, in the
larger context of the Christian community.

Through a wedding, you as a couple enter into a life-long commitment. You
make your vows before God and the gathered community of family, friends
and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help you
fulfill your vows. Your marriage is a sacrament – an outward and visible
expression of God’s grace in bringing you together and nurturing your love."

The above text comes from St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Washington. Now I will grant you that this is deliberately written so that it can be applied to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. But it does put forth what marriage is quite clearly. When one takes out the language of "male and female" we can see what marriage is at the heart of the sacrament (and I do believe it is a sacrament). Could someone please tell me why a same sex couple does not fit within the definition above?

Or failing that, can anyone tell me what is specific (other than procreation) to marriage being exclusive to male and female couples. I know the arguements from a scripture stand point. I have read them ad nauseum. They are at best inconclusive in the light current research and understandings available to us. Procreation is not an argument as we allow for marriage of male/female couples who are not or cannot have children.

If we believe, as Paul writes, that it is by the fruit we shall know God's blessings upon something, what stands in the way of a marriage that reflects the above?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie