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Mothers' Day 2020

Today we remember our mothers and all those who have nurtured our growth and our faith.

My mother died on June 18, 1996.  Although it seems like yesterday to me, I cannot believe it was 24 years ago.  The focus of the Children's Worship for this week suggests finding photos of family members where there is a resemblance.  Take a look at that page to see the photos I posted of my family.

As I prepared that resource for children, I found that looking at photos of my mom and grandmother evoked many, many memories. When I was born, we were living in the tiny village of Winona. Our family home was a safe haven for many family members including my paternal grandmother who lived with us until she died in 1960.  I remember her well, although I was only 7 when she died.

Some might have described my grandmother, Fleda, as "portly." She loved chocolate eclairs and other fine pastries and it didn't take long for that passion to create the layers of warmth and softness I remember as I cuddled in her lap.  She had a well-endowed bosom and as a young girl, I remember thinking she hid snacks in that secret hideaway.  She would refer to me and my brother as, "mortals."  For a time, I thought she was saying, "Morsels," but that confusion was cleared up early on in my life. Without a doubt, she was an early influence in my life, and it is obvious from the photo that our genetic patterns are closely linked.

Several weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday. In a COVID-19 environment, we didn't plan a dinner at a restaurant - or anything special, for that matter - but, I have discovered that the Universe has an elegant way of responding when we are isolated and alone.  That day, I was standing in the kitchen, thinking about my mother.  My birth was fraught with turmoil.  Mom had lost a child before me and I know she was worried. She might have even felt some concern about whether she was being punished for losing that earlier child.  So, picture it: Henderson Hospital in Hamilton, mid-April 1953.  Mom thought her waters had broken and she called the nurse who quickly discovered that my mother was hemorrhaging. Birth was imminent and the risk of losing mother and child loomed large. Quick action resulted in a safe delivery.

I knew this story and on my birthday, I recalled my memories - either of hearing the story or, who knows, perhaps I recalled a memory of the actual event. As I stood in my Wooler kitchen, I imagined the moment when I was placed securely in my mother's arms.  I cannot describe the sense of joy that I felt at that moment in time. I felt joy, but more than that, I felt secure. I was passed from mom to dad to grandmother, and countless others - and I have felt secure through the ages.

Over the years, I have been greatly distressed that the graves of my mother and grandmothers are not marked.  But, I know where they are, and more importantly, I know what those relationships have meant to me - how they have shaped me and made me into the complex being that I am becoming.

As we celebrate Mothers' Day in a challenging environment where touch can lead to a deathly infection, I invite you to ponder the moment you first arrived in the arms of your family. If there was joy, may it be a celebration; if there was sadness or turmoil, may it be healed.

As we celebrate Mothers' Day in the light of the Gospel passage from John, may we remember who and whose we are - our human and spiritual families.  May we celebrate the rich faith heritage that has been passed on to us, and most of all, may we find and manifest joy, peace, and love as incarnations of a divine love that surpasses all human understanding.

At Wooler United Church, we normally hand out flowers to the women in the congregation on Mothers' Day, but we can't do that this year. So, go out in your yard and pick a flower or simply stand in your kitchen and remember how you have been held in divine love throughout your life!

Stay safe, stay home, and PRAY!



Minister, Wooler United Church

Here a Mothers' Day wish and bouquet for all who nurture faith and love and hope!




March 2020

Graffiti and other Signs of the Times

Several weeks ago, Patrick and I were walking from our apartment in Toronto to a restaurant when we came across this graffiti on the side of a building near Yonge and Sherwood.

For many years now, I have been a secret fan of graffiti.  Perhaps this odd addiction came as a result of hundreds of hours spent on trains travelling back and forth across this great country. Or perhaps the addiction took root in another of my passions - aboriginal rock art - an interest that took me over 50,000 miles across North America on a year-long sabbatical journey in search of "what is holy?" The pictograph below was discovered in Lillooet, BC. Although I do not pretend to be an expert in their interpretation, I believe this pictograph tells a story about a large animal like a bear who may have come to the human stick figure as a totem animal as part of a vision quest. If so, then this picture tells a sacred story about the search of a human being for guidance or support from a world that lives on and beyond the edges of our imagination. From all perspectives, the message on the rock points to a sacred reality. The artist believed the message was important enough to record - not so different from countless writers who have shared their messages of holy encounters through the repository of writings, testimonials, and sacred scriptures.

I was deeply saddened to discover that sacred rock art can also be vandalized.

Could it be that someone felt their reality was more important to express? It doesn't strike me that the "overwrite" on that rock made much of a sacred contribution, but then, who am I to judge!  We are all probably very familiar with a reported correction to a rather famous quote:

Many years ago, I heard about a doctoral dissertation that grew out of graffiti on a wall in Montreal:  "Is there really death after life?" I'm pretty sure I could have spilled a few ounces of scholarly ink pondering that question, but a dissertation!  WHO KNOWS!

I like the graffiti at Yonge and Sherwood.  Like all good signs, it caused me to stop and think for a moment, but more importantly, these wise words pointed me to a sacred reality that provides a much-needed backdrop (or corrective) that is much more vibrant than the mundane world of "success." 

As we journey through Lent, an important companion voice hails from the Gospel of John.  Story after story, pointing to a sacred reality beyond imagination, uncovering a set of seven signs that reveal a particular reality...

Here is the definitive list of signs:

Some might say that the graffiti at Yonge and Sherwood is a sign of our times.  What do you think? From your perspective in social isolation, what signs do you see?



Minister, Wooler United Church

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Way to go! I think I recognize that yard... Brighton perhaps?