Chaplain Christopher Wulff – March, 2013
Planning for summer weddings is beginning and it is encouraging me to new questions of what we do when we celebrate the coming together of individuals into commitment.
In a recent class at Emmanuel College, we have been asking questions about what it means to be committed until death does us part. It's interesting to me in that context that few of my fellow seminarians have had any questions about that part from the engaged couples with whom they're planning. In my conversations with two couples recently, they both are looking at replacing this traditional text with language akin to "so long as this relationship remains happy, healthy and fulfilling and we come freely."
This transition has me thinking of a favourite book of mine, Semi-Detached by author Cynthia Holz. In it, her protagonists are a couple living in side-by-side apartments. Each day they must make active choices to continue to be together, to spend time together, to be in each other's lives, to seek and offer welcome and partnership. Their covenant is not with tradition but with each other, and it raises fascinating considerations for the relationships we might have and how we express our commitment to one another, with and without conditions.
I am deeply grateful for the chance to sit with these couples and all those who will yet come, defining and affirming anew a covenant of love not obligation, one that reflects their own faith and commitment, and a mutual respect that wants, always, the best for their partners as individuals.
Chaplain Peter Brydon – September 2012
Child Naming and Dedication
I touch your brow with water from old Nature's infinite sky, water which touches every shore and nourishes every race and people …
These are some of the words we Lay Chaplains use in a child naming and dedication ceremony. We don’t get many opportunities to do these ceremonies, but I was lucky enough to perform one this summer. What made this one special is that there were lots of children in attendance, not only the baby’s older brother and cousins, but also many friends as well. Most of them were age five or less. Children, both friends and relatives are the most important people at a child dedication ceremony, as they will share their lives with the baby longer than anyone else. I wasn’t prepared for the large number of kids, but I did a little ad lib, by directing a question to all the kids, and giving them a moment to come up and touch the baby. It was a special moment for us all.
Chaplain Greg Robinson - June 2012
The Interment ServiceI recently had the privilege of conducting a graveside interment service at Mount Pleasant cemetery. It was refreshing to be in the outdoors so grounded to the earth and sky, and all that surrounds us in nature.
Committal (or Interment) services are usually composed of some short prayers, poems or readings followed by placing the urn or casket onto the earth and a closing blessing. Interment services are not as common as in days past when a combination of funeral and memorial service was followed by a graveside committal or interment service in which the casket was lowered into the ground with the common phrase "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust". However, today a graveside memorial and interment is becoming more common. And, I would hazard to guess that one reason is that nature in some way calls each of us through the grace or majesty of trees, a vast bright blue sky or the clear call of song birds. We seek sanctuary in places that since the dawn of time remind us that our souls are part of the web of life. Maybe you might wish to have part of your memorial service include time to say farewell at your graveside home for eternity.
Chaplain Peter Brydon - May 2012
Living In Sin
Have you heard the phrase “living in sin” lately. Well I did, just recently, from a couple I know who live together. They are planning to have a “living in sin” celebration – complete with a non-vow renewal!
In Unitarian circles at least there is no moral objection to living together: many of us do or have done. Some unmarried couples are choosing to raise children as well. So why do people get married? As a lay chaplain, over the past five years I have performed over fifty weddings, and never once have I asked a couple that question directly. I haven’t even asked either of my sons, both of whom will marry during this year.
But here are some of the things I have found out indirectly. A special feeling pervades the marriage ceremony when you can sense an atmosphere of love and joy pervading the room. There is of course the special love shared by the couple, but when it is clear that that love is interwoven with the love and support which they share with friends and family, people’s eyes light up, and often tear up. The couple is formally “coming out” with their community about the joy and strength that has developed in their relationship, and sharing that with everyone. If they already have children, they have even more reason to celebrate.
Obviously, it’s time I found out some answers directly from the couples I marry. I may be surprised by the answers I get.
Chaplain Greg Robinson, MD - March 2012
Dying with Dignity
It haunts me to this day: the call of my Dad's desperate voice, "I'm still here?"
We had no idea why, with blood cancer, after weeks of refusing blood or plasma products, not a blood cell to his name, life still hung on to his frail body. And, now he was resenting the wait. It had been almost two months since this last palliative admission to hospital.
It haunts me because of his reliance on me as his physician son, and his request to see Dr. Kevorkian. This was Windsor, October 1998 and the good doctor of medically assisted euthanasia was reported to be just across the border. While my father made no bones about mentioning it, he was more reserved with others in my family. Their Christian beliefs would have been strained. Not so with me. I think he knew I held very liberal views on medically assisted dying after years of torture watching my friends and lovers die of AIDS in the 1980s. In fact, I had my own stash of secobarb for the final act until 1996 when life saving HIV medication brought back myself and many other “Lazarus survivors”. How lucky am I to have lived. This allows me to treasure the hope that the life we have should never be extinguished before its time. However, I still want choice in dying. I want access to medically assisted dying if circumstances are such that this is my informed, and uncoerced decision.
It took powerful sedation to quiet my Dad and deeper sedation to allow him to release his body to death. After hearing his cry that day I reassured him I would help him go to sleep and not wake up if he wished. I was able to negotiate deep palliative sedation with the team. And it was so...that team became our Angels.
Our compassion needs to extend beyond palliative care to include medically assisted dying when desired by the individual and medically responsible. This is the next humane step for Canadians. Choice can still respect our diverse cultural, social, religious, health and personal beliefs and practices. We must end inhumane suffering at the end of life and find dignity in all death.
Please join me in support of Dying with Dignity.
Lay Chaplain Emerita Margaret Rao - February 2012
Lay Chaplains' Sunday at Neighbourhood Congregation
On behalf of my fellow lay chaplains at Toronto First I thank you for inviting us here today and for the opportunity to share a few thoughts on what lay chaplaincy has meant to me, now that my term has ended.
There is nothing quite as gratifying as co-creating and celebrating important life passages in people’s lives. For it is in these precious and intimate moments in time that we bear witness to the sacred ties that bind us all. The ceremonies we celebrate together and the stories we share attest to the greater meaning and purpose of all our lives. Having presided over numerous funeral and memorial services in the past six years, I can state that I no longer have the same fear of death I once harboured. Life and death are, I came to realize, inextricably woven into the natural cycle governing the whole cosmos. In fact, it was the death of stars that brought our universe into being. We can literally thank our lucky stars for being alive. We were formed out of stardust and to stardust we shall return. How awesome is that!
Through my lay chaplaincy ministry I also came to realize that there is no greater gift on earth that we can offer than the gift of our presence. By this, I mean being present and responsive to the people, place and purpose for which we gather. Our newest lay chaplain on the block, Greg Robinson, said the one learning that's been impressed upon him is the role of lay chaplain as being 'the still, calm centre' around which the designated members congregate. Would that we heed this sage advice in our personal, as well as our public lives!
In closing, I thank you for the lay leadership role with which you have entrusted me, as I pass on the chalice torch to the caring hands of my colleagues. Together, we will now share with you the opening words found in our hymnal: A human life is sacred. It is sacred in its being born. It is sacred in its living. And it is sacred in its dying. Amen & blessed be!
Chaplain Peter Brydon - January 2012Last June I was asked by some members of the Congregation to perform a “Blessing of the Bicycles”. We held it in the secret garden, and after anointing the bikes with oil we gathered in meditation with the following words:
“Holy Spirit of Life, we depend daily on these our bicycles. May we always be safe when riding them. Guide our lawmakers to act wisely when deciding on bicycle lanes and riding paths. May the drivers on our roads drive carefully and always be aware of bikes. And may we as riders take extra care and precaution when riding in traffic.”
In November Jenna Morrison was killed as she rode her bike on Dundas Street West. Sadly, our blessing did not reach far enough. Later in the week I was contacted by one of her friends who was exploring the possibility of using our church for the memorial service with me as the officiant. What a challenge! I began thinking about her husband and child, her parents, her in-laws and her friends. What a terrible time of grief they must be having. Could I prepare a service that would reach them in their grief and allow her life to be celebrated as it deserved? I was, ironically, driving in my car on Remembrance Day as all these thoughts coursed through my mind. The CBC played Taps and held a minute of silence. In my silence I thought of Jenna and her family. As it turned out other plans were made and neither I nor our congregation was involved in her memorial service.
Later that day at home I was relaxing with a mystery book, as is my habit. In this book, one young woman after another is brutally murdered. I had to stop. Even though it was fiction, even though these women did not really exist, even though the author paid attention to the pain one of the families was going through, I had to stop reading that book. For me right now the reality of Jenna’s, or any tragic death, the way in which it tears at the lives of family and friends, and the process of grief they must go through, is too important to be trivialized in fiction. Although I never knew Jenna, I too am grieving.
When I am sad or grieving I find great comfort in music. The melody which came to my mind was John Rutter’s arrangement of “For the Beauty of the Earth”. The words I found particularly helpful were “For the love which from our birth over and around us lies, over and around us lies….”
May Jenna’s family and friends feel that love; may all who are in grief and pain feel it. Stay well.
Chaplain Margaret Kohr- July 2011
A Wedding High
“Location, location, location” seems to apply as much to weddings as to real estate! Although I have performed several ceremonies here at First the majority of my weddings have been all over the GTA map. Some places have been so elegant I would not normally be walking through the doors; some have been as private as a friend’s back yard. This wedding season my wedding locations have included a candlelit evening ceremony at the Boulevard Club, with a grand and genteel atmosphere; Black Creek Pioneer Village with the white pioneer church as background, perfect for this quite traditional wedding; a Sunday brunch at the Dakota Tavern with a blues and country theme was a real departure – a lot of fun but so dimly lit I could hardly read the service. The most unusual though, was the wedding of two brides at the top of the CN Tower. These young women had been together for 10 years and were now expecting a baby in October. By getting married in Canada, they could both be parents on the baby’s New York State birth certificate. So on US Memorial Weekend Saturday we met at the bottom of the tower in our finery. Their parents and siblings had driven up from Rochester, Buffalo and Binghampton for the day. Staff at the tower were wonderful – zipping us to the top like VIPs, and cordoning off a small area of the platform for the ceremony. It was certainly not an intimate venue, but even with thousands noisily crowding round for the view, nothing could distract from the love sheltering these two within the family circle. Putting their faith in their future, they could begin making their dreams of being a family a reality, with the infinite horizon of possibility stretching before them. Just like the view.
Chaplain Greg Robinson - November 2011
I have had the great honour and joy to join our team of Lay Chaplains at First. This is exciting ministry and I am still in awe of the work. I am a retired physician with experience in clinical and community medicine, research and teaching. As a person living with HIV for many years now, I have dealt with disease and loss in my as well as others' lives. As a married gay man I can attest to significance of marriage in our lives.
I will be replacing Margaret Rao, a remarkable mentor who is providing me with the most enriching experiences. Margaret is the "still, calm centre" that is, as I have learned, a Lay Chaplain mantra. The best way I can share Margaret's caring ways is through her example. On Canada Day this year, Margaret planned a memorial with a daughter who, along with other family members, had outstanding issues with Mom (the deceased). During the introductory interview, Margaret listened and allowed the space for this loving daughter to transform her perspective. The daughter left with ignited enthusiasm and decided to solicit input from family and friends. In the end, family members and friends came together to celebrate and remember, and gradually the timber-beamed A framed hall became a home: the fresh smell of ethnic foods, the displayed photos and albums on tables along one of the side walls, the arts and crafts that Mom had so lovingly and abundantly created, and a projected DVD slide show.
The ceremony was equally touching. Margaret lit the chalice with a young Down's syndrome child. In addition to family who read special passages, there was an open time to remember, and Mom was alive in their stories. Near the end daughter sweetly played the oboe accompanied by a soloist and by the organ. All this was nurtured by Margaret. Now that's love, wisdom and dedication. It will be a tall order to reach the achievements of Margaret Rao. I extend my deepest thanks to Margaret for her years of service to First and our many communities.
Chaplain Margaret Kohr - March 2011
The call came from a downtown shelter – could I do a memorial service for a resident who had died after several years of declining health? He was a much loved character and the staff and other residents needed a way to connect in their grief. The shelter could not pay the standard church fee but would provide a small honorarium. Of course I would do this.
So on a gusty Friday afternoon I headed to the shelter, with some trepidation, not knowing quite what to expect. And once again I learned the loving capacity of the human heart. With few resources, the residents had transformed the meeting room where the service was to take place, into a place of reverence. They had draped a small table with the Harley Davidson blanket he had hanging on his wall, found flowers for the Italian glass vase he had in his room and set up candles in a candle holder he had used. They had printed up an Order of Service which was carefully placed on each chair and provided tissues to wipe away tears. The service I had prepared was based on the sketchy information gleaned from his case worker – not much for a eulogy -- but I was hoping the memories of others would fill in his portrait. Slowly and shyly at first, but then with gathering enthusiasm, his friends, roommates, case workers and other staff shared stories, jokes, warm memories and heartfelt loss. They cried and laughed. After extinguishing the candles we shared his favourite snacks – chips and salsa. When they thanked me for coming, all I could do was thank them for warming my heart and enriching my life on that cold blustery day.
Chaplain Margaret Rao - April 2011
It never ceases to amaze me how our little library can be transformed into a sacred space in the seeming blink of an eye. Bookshelves fade into the background as all eyes focus on a well-placed centerpiece consisting of a clear bowl of water, a delicate rose and a candle. To the immediate right stand the proud parents, holding a sleeping, at times squirming, babe-in-arms while wide-eyed big sister, all of three years, tries to maintain her composure. The baby is oblivious to all the commotion surrounding his impending Child Naming ceremony. There are upwards of 35 cousins, aunts and uncles and friends, not to mention the proud grandparents and godparents, ready to assume their respective roles.
As the ceremony begins, a hush descends over the room and it is the inner transformation of minds and hearts which astounds all the more. I later learned from the baby's mother that big sister had taken the promise to love him and be his best friend and teacher so to heart that she put it into song and sweetly serenades her baby brother each day with those promised words. A promise is a promise after all, meant to last a whole life through. Children know this instinctively. May we all keep our promises to one another in such a loving and nurturing way.
Chaplain Peter Brydon - June 2011
La Cucaracha, la cucaracha,
Ya no puede caminar,
Porque le falta, porque le falta,
Una leche por tomar.
The kids in Honduras sang this nonsense song as they scurried around helping us – or rather we were helping them – build their new school. One of my non-lay chaplain activities this year was to go as a volunteer with World Accord for two weeks to Honduras where we worked in El Aguaje to build a small Junior High School. Every day about fifteen or twenty young people, who were then on their holidays, joined us. Their energy was boundless. Whether it was shovelling sand, lugging concrete blocks or filling in mortar, they undertook every task with gusto. While we sat exhausted on our lunch break, the kids carried on with a soccer game! At the end of the day we volunteers sat in the back of a pick-up truck for the bumpy journey back to our compound, while about half a dozen of the kids clung perilously to the outside of the truck frame to be dropped off with a laugh and a wave at their home communities.
Two other volunteer groups from Canada followed us down, continuing the work we had started. Ulla Stenman and Don Forbes from our own congregation were on one of these crews. I just got word this week that the school is now complete and held its inauguration ceremony at the beginning of the month. Sixty-nine young people are now attending Grades 7, 8, and 9 classes at the school. Many of them should go on to complete senior high, and I know my friend Ronal, a thirteen-year-old boy with a bright smile and lots of ambition, hopes one day to get a university education. Here's to him and all the other kids this school will help.
Chaplain Margaret Rao - September 2011
'Where does the time go?' is an oft heard expression, no more so than at this time of year, in the waning days of summer. My 6 year term as a lay chaplain is also fast coming to an end. What a privilege it has been to serve the larger community, while representing our 'beloved community', in such meaningful ways!
And so, upon reflection, I offer you a few parting thoughts.
Because time is so fleeting and we never know what tomorrow will bring, it's important to pause and be thankful for what we have this day. It's important to take the time to acknowledge the people around us as we go about our daily lives. A smile, an encouraging word or touch lifts up both the giver and the receiver. Standing by people's sides at tender moments in their lives, I've witnessed powerful outpourings of love, eyes filled with tears of deep joy as well as sorrow. It would be good if we could let our loved ones know more often, how much we care for and appreciate them. As I lay down my stole and pass on the flaming chalice to the next worthy member, Greg Robinson, I leave you with the refrain of one of my favourite hymns, "Wait and see, wait and see, what a world there can be if we share, if we care, you and me!" I, for one, can hardly wait. Can you?
Chaplain Peter Brydon - January 2011
As lay chaplains, every time we meet an excited couple preparing for marriage, every time grieving family members open their hearts to us, every time we share in the joy of a child dedication, we are ourselves changed. We develop a deepening appreciation for the important moments in people’s lives, and their relevance to our own. But frequently the poignant times from these ceremonies are just a dance of vignettes in our minds, and we do not have the opportunity to reflect on it all and discover how we have changed as chaplains and as people. Fortunately through the CUC a retreat was arranged where we were able to do just that.
The town of Bouctouche, N.B. lies on the Strait of Northumberland, about a half hour’s drive north of Moncton. Rev. Ray Drennan has retired from his ministry at the Unitarian Church in Montreal, and he and his wife Ann now run the Auberge du Vieux Presbytère in this scenic town. In late October, eleven lay chaplains from Halifax to Thunder Bay spent a weekend at this beautiful retreat thinking about and quietly discussing questions such as what brought us into lay chaplaincy, how we have developed spiritually over the time we have been involved, and how we will progress when we retire from the role. Under the inspired guidance of Rev. Ray and Nicoline Guerrier, a lay chaplain from Montreal, we had a truly restorative and illuminating weekend. Margaret Kohr and I were able to attend and we have returned ready to continue our work in lay chaplaincy refreshed in body and renewed in spirit.
And speaking of “ready,” are you ready? To become a lay chaplain, that is. This coming September will mark the end of Margaret Rao’s tenure as a lay chaplain. Margaret has done invaluable work in this role and we will miss her greatly. If you have ever thought about becoming a lay chaplain, now might be the time to consider this opportunity more seriously. The Lay Chaplains Committee is beginning the search process to fill this vacancy, so that the incoming lay chaplain may train with Margaret as she continues her duties through the summer. Think about it – you might be just the right person to do this rewarding work.
Chaplain Peter Brydon - December 2010
“…Dorothy Peebles… Presente…” As Rev. Shawn Newton read the list of those who had passed away in our community, we all replied “Presente”. Dorothy Peebles was my mother-in-law, and as I heard her name I thought of the many ways she was present in our lives: her lifelong influence on my wife Wendy, her loving acceptance of me as her daughter’s partner and husband and her love and care for our children. But then an instant later Shawn read another name and my thoughts lurched forward.
I met Kay Cook only once, but in September I received an email from a man who had been married by her 34 years ago. He and his wife wanted to reaffirm their vows and he wanted to contact Kay to ask her to do it. I had to explain that Kay had passed away, but that I would do my best to stand in her stead. He dug out the ceremony Kay had written and I reworked it into a vow renewal, retaining as many of Kay’s words as possible. On 30 October, we held the reaffirmation in the same location as the wedding had been held – Hart House Chapel. And the next day Shawn called out the name “Kay Cook”. “Presente”, we all replied. She certainly was.
Chaplain Margaret Rao - November 2010
Little did I realize when I booked an outdoor wedding last year for October 10 this year that 30,000 Canadian couples were planning to get married on 10.10.10. With those record numbers, chances are you may know someone who got married or at least attended a wedding on that most auspicious of dates. Did you know that this three-fold lucky number, historically and through different cultures, represents the perfection of unity, male and female, heaven and earth, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another? Neither did I until I did my google search following radio announcements that the Wedding Chambers at Toronto City Hall would be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm to accommodate the large numbers of couples getting married on Thanksgiving Sunday.
No wonder this once in a millennium occurrence, was chosen by so many. You may not feel a particular affinity with sacred numbers but there is no denying that on that particular day, the marriage of clear blue skies above coupled with the rich fall colours and unusually warm climes below, was heavenly indeed. Surely 10.10.10 will go down in the annals of time as one of the most memorable and marriageable.
Chaplain Peter Brydon
Twice in my life I have had the privilege of being involved in giving a name to another person. It is an awesome privilege and responsibility, as they have to live with that name for a long time. I hope my sons are happy with their names; I know my wife and I are. Over the past year I’ve had the great pleasure of officiating at several child dedication ceremonies. During a child dedication children are welcomed to the family and community in which they will live and grow, and family members commit themselves to their responsibilities to love and support them. But the most sacred point of the ceremony is that moment when the parents speak the child’s name aloud. At that time we confer on the children our hopes and belief that they will grow and blossom into unique, valued and wonderful persons. It is a marvelous experience to be present at such a moment, and we count ourselves lucky to be Lay Chaplains at such a time.
Chaplain Margaret Rao
What do you say to a sibling whose only brother and confidante has tragically taken his own life? What do you say to a single parent whose only child has suddenly succumbed to the use of recreational drugs? Words of condolence seem somehow inadequate. Yet I have learned that a simple, “I’m sorry”, a hug, and a handhold make all the difference in the world. Caring company, whether for a brief time or longer, is all that is really needed in the moment. In these small ways, we let the bereaved know that they are not alone; a helping hand is but an arms-length away. As lay chaplains, the best support we can offer in these challenging situations is a caring presence and an empathic ear. Our task is to listen to the stories being shared and to faithfully reconstruct “herstory” or “history” in a service of celebration of a life well loved, if not fully lived. It is our privilege to accompany family and friends as they grieve, and to assist them in honouring the lives and memories of their departed loved ones.
Chaplain Margaret Kohr
I have a confession to make. After a year of being a Lay Chaplain I have not yet been faced with performing a memorial service or funeral and, my confession, I am relieved. As Lay Chaplains, one of our goals is to provide personal and meaningful memorial services and every Lay Chaplain I speak with is adamant that this is the most fulfilling work we do. But I have been plagued by doubts. Will I be able to capture the wishes of the family and friends in a respectful and meaningful way? Will the eulogy of someone I may never have met reflect them accurately and with true depth and insight or will it be some cardboard, one dimensional representation? How can I get into the hearts and minds of families while they are at their most vulnerable? These have been some of my biggest fears. Taking courses offered through the CUC – Challenging Memorial Services, Create Your Own Memorial, and Grief and Spirituality – and the course offered here at Toronto First, Living for a Good Death, has given me the opportunity to explore more deeply the spectrum of grief and its aftermath. The experience shared by my fellow Lay Chaplains provides ongoing insight and important practical tips. So although I now feel better prepared and more confident that I will be able to deliver the kind of ceremony that will ease the grief of family and friends, there’s only one way to know for sure. To be honest I’m not in a hurry to find out.
Chaplain Peter Brydon
When the Maple Leafs skate out onto the ice, everyone knows they couldn’t possibly perform without the help of coaches, trainers, equipment managers and others. The same is true for Lay Chaplains (although our “win” record is arguably better than the blue and white...). We are greatly assisted by a number of volunteers behind the scenes, including past lay chaplains and the Lay Chaplaincy Committee. Central to our efforts, though, is the Lay Chaplain Coordinator, Beth Windeler, who receives email and telephone requests for our services and then assigns them to us. She is often the first contact with those seeking our services and her warmth and patience has been integral to our success. After serving in this position for a number of years, Beth has announced her retirement. We are greatly appreciative for all Beth’s help and dedication. The Lay Chaplaincy Committee is actively seeking a new Coordinator. If this role of connecting between the larger community and the Lay Chaplains, a position which you do mostly from home, strikes a chord, this could be a perfect fit for you. Contact John Cummings, Chair of the Lay Chaplaincy Committee, or any of the Lay Chaplains (Peter Brydon, Margaret Kohr or Margaret Rao), for more information.
Chaplain Margaret Rao
As lay chaplains who offer services “from the cradle to the grave”, we can’t help but notice that the natural rhythm or order of things, the seasons of our lives, keep close time with the seasons of the year. We have noted the highs and lows of the marrying as well as burying seasons. In Canada, spring unofficially begins on the Victoria Day weekend in May as does the wedding season. Following closely on the heels of Thanksgiving in the fall, is an abrupt decline in weddings, especially those of the outdoor variety. End of life celebrations, conversely, increase once the chill winds of November set in. The first of November, All Souls’ Day in many cultures, is as much a festive occasion, a picnic in the park, or more precisely in the cemetery, as it is a day of remembrance of the dead. I once read of a Rabbi, long ago, who called his faithful friends to his deathbed to celebrate his impending “wedding”, an ecstatic mystical union with the Divine. We Unitarians may not all be mystics at heart but for me the words that we covenant together each Sunday - “to serve life to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the divine”, get pretty close to expressing the heart of the matter - the “super” natural order of things in the great web of life.
Chaplain Margaret Kohr
One of the things I have noticed as a lay chaplain is that being involved in ceremonies to mark life's big occasions has heightened my awareness of other opportunities to celebrate. Preparing a garden for spring planting may be an occasion to take a moment to reflect on all that is bountiful and beautiful in our lives. A child graduating from school or even completing a successful year brings joy, not to mention relief, to the hearts of many. Buying a first house (including taking on the mortgage to go with it) is a big step in life. Just waking up on a sunny day knowing you have the whole day to yourself can be a blessing. Some occasions might lend themselves to an actual ceremony of sorts: mourning the passing of a beloved pet; celebrating a retirement as entering a new phase of life; acknowledging with grace the transition into the wisdom of elder-hood; commemorating an anniversary. Which brings me to my “ah ha” moment in terms of my own life: this June, Richard and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. How time flies when you are busy living your life, raising kids, and doing whatever needs to be done. So on 13 June, during the Sunday service, you are invited to participate in the recommitment ceremony of our wedding vows. It gives us great pleasure to know that June Sanderson, Lay Chaplain Emerita, who officiated at our wedding back when we were young and carefree will officiate once again. She obviously did a good job the first time – we are ready to see what the next 25 years have in store!
Chaplain Peter Brydon
The grieving widower stood to his feet. Reflecting on his long, loving marriage to a most remarkable woman, he smiled and addressed the memorial gathering quite simply. “I’m the luckiest man alive". I felt lucky too – to have been welcomed by his late wife’s family, to share with them their many memories of a multi-talented wife, mother, and grandmother, and to officiate at her service. What a wonderful feeling we have when life has poured out its riches for us; we feel blessed. I had that moment again last Sunday in church. I have always loved John Rutter’s tune and choral arrangement to “For the Beauty of the Earth”, and it was a thrill to be part of our choir when we sang it. But life also hands us struggles and hard times, perhaps as its price for these blessings. Some people seem to get much more than their fair share of tough luck, but manage to find blessings anyway. I can’t help thinking of the late Jan Safdie, who in the last few months of her life found the strength and determination to knit forty-four teddy bears for ailing children in Honduras. Sometimes we receive the greatest blessing when we do something that gives a blessing to others.