Here we are in Lent again, with Jesus’ invitation to us to follow him by taking up our own crosses. I notice that he doesn’t say, “You might have to take up a cross if you’re unlucky.” It’s simpler and harder and more real than that: “Take up your cross.”
We all have a cross. We all encounter suffering. But the way of Jesus is precisely there, in the suffering, and it leads to new life.
As I look back over 2017 it strikes me that it was a year of changes, losses and endings. As a community we suffered. We grieved the death of Alan Dodds, our sexton for more than 20 years, Paul Blochlinger, one of our older parishioners, Peter Marteinson, a young father, Sam Hanna and Alan Ferguson, retired priests, and several others near and dear to our community. There were tears in this building last year.
But listen to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu says:
“Look back from where we have come. The path was at times an open road of joy, at others a steep and bitter track of stones and pain. How could we know the joy without the suffering? And how could we endure the suffering but that we are warmed and carried on the breast of God?”
God’s abiding love and faithfulness are with us, as they have been since time began. Even in hard times we can have an underlying sense of peace and trust. And from endings can come new beginnings.
We said goodbye in September to Matt Adams as our associate priest, and we celebrated the vibrant new ministries that he had helped initiate and shape, now so ably led by the teams he drew together. At the same time Beth Fisher Adams stepped down from her role in youth ministry (and so much more – often behind the scenes) to tackle a PhD. With Matt now an honorary assistant, we’re glad that he, Beth and Brianna haven’t become strangers.
In February, almost exactly one year ago, we welcomed Yvette Gudas as our new director of music ministry, and in May Gemma Snider took up her new role in children’s ministry. Both of those ministries are thriving thanks to their hard work.
In May we had the joy of seeing Bishop Kevin Robertson ordain Michael Van Dusen as a deacon here, to serve the needs of the community and the church, with a special focus on our outreach ministries. I’m delighted to work with him as a clergy colleague, along with Marguerite Rea, our long-time honorary assistant. They lighten the load in many ways.
The last addition to our staff team was Morgan Skelly as our new sexton, who brings his very practical gifts to care for our physical building. Margaret Allen, I’m happy to say, has continued on diligently in her long-held position as Parish Administrator. Her office really is the nerve-centre of the parish, and I’m eternally grateful for all that she does.
I want to say Thank you, too, to you, the members of this part of the Body of Christ, who bring your varied gifts to the vast number of roles and responsibilities that a church like this entails. St Aidan’s is blessed to have you.
When I consider the work this year of the various committees, groups and office-holders, certain holy qualities come to mind:
Blessed Are the Tenacious – The Mission and Facilities Committee members have laboured long and hard over the year to bring the sale of our surplus property towards its conclusion. In countless hours of meetings they have persevered through obstacles, setbacks and complications, and have come to grips with a dizzying scope of knowledge. None of us knew the journey would take this long, but it continues on towards the goal of revitalizing our church building and our mission to the community. Equally tenacious and faithful have been the members of Corporation: Jonathan Hendricks, Amy Ferguson, Geoff Dashwood, Louise Hamilton and Brian Snider. They shoulder the week by week work of managing the parish and supporting me, often in invisible ways. Thank you for your hard work.
Blessed Are the Compassionate – Offering care to our own congregation and those outside our walls, the Mental Health Group, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Out of the Cold volunteers, Community Lunch hosts, East End Refugee Committee and The Beach Cares refugee sponsorship team have made a real difference in the lives of real people, motivated simply by the desire to care for others. Michael and Marguerite make regular pastoral visits to the sick and shut-in, and help us as a community to be the hands and heart of Christ.
Blessed Are Those Who Hunger for Justice – This year we tackled the call to implement learning and action as part of the Truth and Reconciliation journey with Indigenous Peoples. We held two KAIROS Blanket Exercises, visited a former residential school, took part in the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage, held an Indigenous Awareness 101 workshop, attended a dance performance by Indigenous youth, and are currently preparing for a service/learning trip with some of our youth to a Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon. We also had a group of youth and adults visiting Nicaragua for the third time, again to serve and to learn. I’m enormously grateful to those who have dedicated their time and energy to all of this.
Blessed Are the Joyful – There is so much joy around St Aidan’s! Whether it’s the children having fun at Zipline or in Church School, or seniors enjoying a tea, or neighbours gathering here to play euchre, or artists creating their works in the Alan Dodds Memorial Studio, a spirit of joy is never far away. We also had two marvelous occasions in the fall, with the celebration of St Aidan’s and life in the Beach at the Author Dinner in the Balmy Beach Club, and the Night at the Opera with our very own Marcelle Boisjoli and Michael Barrett, and their operatic friends.
My heart is full as I review another active, challenging and rewarding year. It is my honour to be your incumbent, and I continue to learn and grow in my own vocation as I serve here. Who knows what 2018 will hold? We make our plans and set our priorities, but unexpected things will happen – good things and bad, crosses and rainbows. But in it all “we are warmed and carried on the breast of God” and we follow a Saviour who shows us how to live in love and deep trust.
Thanks be to God. Amen.