Archive for September, 2013

Jesus Loves the Little Children

This is the last entry in the three I wrote during the week the TRC met in Vancouver. I participated in the walk two days later on Sunday, September 22nd, and it was a triumphant if soggy completion to the Vancouver events. Our work is by no means finished, but we’ve begun it and have added our own accomplishments to the work of a nation’s lifetime. God was with us the whole time. I could see Her in the faces of all who were there.

One of my earliest memories is of lying in my bed in the dark listening to my mum recite the Lord’s Prayer. I treasure this memory because it is the earliest conscious memory I have of my mother’s voice. When I think of it, I feel warm, safe, and protected. I know who God is and who I am: loved, worthy of love, and worthy of instruction in a faith tradition that has existed in my family for generations.

549084_10152228773721963_1583392511_nYears later, when I learn that First Nations children were stolen from their parents, beaten for speaking their mother tongues, and separated from their cultures and traditions, my heart breaks a little at this memory. I try to imagine what it must have felt like to have only the memory of my mother’s voice as I lie alone in a cold bed far from home with the sounds of weeping children around me in the dark.

I heard twelve testimonies from survivors today, six in the Forum and six in the Church’s Listening Area. I was especially moved and disturbed by a man who stood in the middle of the listening circle, turned restlessly, and called out for “the Catholics.”

A seated nun, her face crumpled with tears, raised her hand. He addressed her directly and pointed at her. Later, he said, “She didn’t do it. I know who did it. But she’s from the same group. She’s with them.” I saw her nod, and wept along with her.

As he left the circle, she took his hand, and they stood there for a moment, looking at each other.

I was reminded of the words in Amos 5, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” My mind unravels the words and re-knits them:

“I hate, I despise your commissions, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your apologies and your blankets, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your cheques and settlements I will not look upon…But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

It is hard to teach harp later that day. As I sit in the studio beside my student – a shy 8-year-old Asian kid – I imagine her brought in pretty new clothes with her twin sister into a cold grey brick building. I imagine her led to a chair and her long black hair cut short and institutional like the little girls I saw in photos. I imagine her separated from her family. I imagine her little hand strapped for asking someone where her sister is in the only language she knows. I imagine, when she makes a simple mistake during the lesson, that instead of saying, “Oh, not quite like that – watch my hands, I’ll show you again,” I say, “You’ll never learn. Stupid Indian.”

When she gets up to leave I want to hug her and tell her how precious she is. I thank God that if I did that she would probably say, “Uh…yeah. Now let go of me,” instead of crying or covering her face to hide the shame written into her by hard leather straps and harder angry voices.

Later that night, as I read Psalm 74 during Evening Prayer, I weep:

“Your foes have roared within your holy place;
they set up their emblems there.
  At the upper entrance they hacked
the wooden trellis with axes.
And then, with hatchets and hammers,
they smashed all its carved work.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they desecrated the dwelling-place of your name,
bringing it to the ground.
They said to themselves, ‘We will utterly subdue them’;
they burned all the meeting-places of God in the land.”

This is the voice of every First Nations person that came home to a village with no children, that found totem poles torn down and the sacred Potlatch outlawed.

We have been the foes. We have desecrated their faith, their offerings to the Creator, different from ours but no doubt accepted as the same if we truly believe in a loving God. We, like those we have wronged, have been made sick from what we have perpetrated. We, the oppressors, also need to heal, but we need to heal from who we once were, who our history often still tells us to be.

Could there possibly be forgiveness for us?

Thankfully, we know the answer. I found it in the reading that followed, which happened to be Matthew’s Beatitudes. We are given the lessons that can change us, and the fact that most of the white faces I recognized that day belonged to church people and people from VST tells me that, however many difficult steps there are left to walk, we are committed to walking them.

I know I can’t change what has happened in the past, just as I can’t change the colour of my skin, or the fact that my own family has directly or indirectly profited from this shameful past for generations.

But I can teach my own child in my own language to respect all children from all languages, and rewrite the language of shame into a language of love for all children – young and old.

Fishing and the Round Dance

This is the second of three entries I wrote on my experience at the TRC. This gives my account of Wednesday, September 18th.

I arrive at the PNE grounds on Wednesday just after 8am and join friends and teachers by the Sacred Fire site. As we chat, a First Nations woman wanders among us with a strong voice: “All the ladies, come forward to stand around the fire. We are going to say a prayer and offer a song.”

Heartfelt prayers and invocations to the Creator resonate in the circle, which is really a spiral, composed of several rings. The inner ring is dominated by “grandmothers and great-grandmothers.”

Eventually, I hear the beating of a drum. We begin to sing, turning to face the four directions, then heavenward, toward Mother Earth, and finally upright, to the ancestors, as we invoke the powers and presence of each.

I reflect on how at home I feel, even as a white participant. These rituals, songs, and stories are written into the land in which I was born.

When we are finished, we are ready to make our procession to the Coliseum for the opening ceremonies. We are led by men with drums festooned with beautiful feathers and ribbons. Their voices are strong and resonant. I can feel the drums beats in my bones. I let the survivors pass ahead of me in the line, and walk beside friends from the Cathedral and VST.

We walk into the Coliseum. The singers and drummers enter and then loop back and exit as our MC outlines the program. The singers and drummers enter again, this time with a retinue of chiefs, elders, government officials, church leaders, and survivors.

We are led in prayer by three beautiful First Nations elder women, who display great pain, deep heart, and humour. Thereafter in the program they are referred to as “the grannies.”

Many others speak. It is solemn but not heavy. There is laughter as well as applause and tears. An Inuit woman attempts to light a traditional fire but can’t get her wick to light properly. A protester with a sign stands underneath the podium when Christie Clark stands to speak. People joke over the time – “We haven’t kept to the white man’s schedule. By now we’re on Creator’s time.”

When we are done, I leave and go back to the Agrodome. I end up at the Church’s Listening Area, where a pile of blankets and cards signed by children is placed in the middle.

We join in prayer for each other and then the tent is open, with private or semi-private places set aside for survivors to speak one-on-one to church officials, trained volunteers, and smaller listening circles. I eventually don a volunteer T-shirt and join the greeters. I meet many people, and some of them refer in passing to their stories.

1000277_10152228773576963_2073611916_nWhen finished, I go outside and see a circle of six or seven men and women around a large drum which they beat together while singing. I’ll stay for one song, I think.

I end up standing there for about an hour. Some other women and I even join in a small round dance, the second I’ve done in my life. The first was much larger: in the middle of Georgia Street during earlier days of the Idle No More movement.

Later that night, during Evening Prayer, I happen to read the “fishing for people” story from Matthew 4:18-22, and it reminds me of the importance of the salmon as a source of physical and spiritual sustenance for the Coast Salish peoples. I marvel briefly at that beautiful synchronicity of cultures before reflecting on what this passage could say to me – and all of us – in light of the events of the week.

During a round dance, one or two dancers begin the movements, but then invite and acquire more participants along the way – like fish gathered into a net. This is definitely the kind of liturgical gesture that fishes for people! In these times of gathered support, testimony, transition, and escape from old lives of bondage, I believe the Creator calls us to cast our nets – or extend our hands – and reel in those who will enrich our bodies and spirits, or widen the circle of our dancing.

A Song of Flame

This is the first of three entries I’ve written during the events of the TRC. This one gives my account of Tuesday, September 29th, and the canoe procession.

1743443_10152228770706963_1562190559_nOn the way to Vanier Park the sky is pearly grey, the air cool and damp. After weeks of warmth and sunshine it’s finally starting to feel like fall.

Through breaks in the trees I see flashes of red – the lifejackets and sweaters of those who gather near the marina. There are people of all colours milling around in their “Namwayut” T-shirts. The atmosphere is both cheerful and relaxed. Everyone is smiling, taking pictures, running back and forth for muffins and coffee.

I see six of my VST colleagues suited up to row with the Kairos canoe. We get our pictures taken, goof around, munch apples and croissants.

They eventually head off to bring the boat into the water. I continue on back toward the mountains and stop to stand above the rocky outcrop overlooking the channel which passes underneath the three bridges. Across from me is Sunset Beach, and I see a few curious onlookers on the piles of rocks leading down into the sea.

1795780_10152228771051963_2095964804_nI hear chanting from one of the teams still waiting on the shore. Voices also drift up from the water and canoes below. I see one group of four or five canoes packed tight together side by side, almost as though they were one big multi-leveled boat. One man stands at the stern with a megaphone and chants from what must be the very bottom of his feet. As he sings, the others in the boat sing along, sometimes rapping their oars on the bottom of the boat. A flag at the stern tells me this canoe belongs to the Songhees Nation.

Some of the boats are painted with animals in a traditional Coast Salish style. I see a lot of salmon, maybe a bear and a beaver or two. Some canoes look like the ones you might see at camp or in the movies, with the ends turned up like an elf’s shoe. Others have long prows which jut out from the bows like a pointing finger.

I see a smaller canoe move along the water, smooth as silk, carrying two elders who wear beautiful feathered headdresses, all in red, black, white, even purple and pink. Another boat holds a pack of college aged kids who trade a chant back and forth.

As time goes on more and more of the boats on the grass around me are lifted up and taken to the water. A First Nations man next to me comments that he is glad to see canoes modelled on the old birchwood boats that people from the Interior traditionally used.

I ask him what kind of boats the Musqueam use. After a pause, he says dryly, “Motorized boats.” We laugh.

I also ask him how the Songhees boats manage to stay so close together. “Are they hooked onto each other, or do they just hold on with their hands?”

1798742_10152228770646963_693651637_n“They’re just holding on,” he replied. “They’re all one people.”

We stand in silence for a bit, and then as he leaves and says goodbye, he touches my shoulder.

As I continue to watch, one boat goes by with the rowers decked out in red. As they pass, they lift their oars up and shake them. The oars are painted with red stripes that look like hands.

From where I stand, they look like tongues of flame, and I think of the Holy Spirit, and a wind granting speech. Today, I think that speech will sound like tongues that are rarely heard, tongues retained by strong grandparents and prophetically wilful children. I think of the many nations that I later see in their canoes in front of Science World, welcomed, treasured, and held – like buttons on a button blanket, each necessary to complete an image that will convey power, status, and proud, un-hidden identity.


“When the god of human self-confidence is found wanting, the God of the cross finds room.”

–Brian Thorpe (From “Transformation in the Encounter: Reflections on a Dispute Resolution Process.” Touchstone Journal, Vol. 24 Number 2, May 2006).

Paradox (Poem)

I thought, “When Dawn comes,

I will run out and scream aloud

that the day is new and the day is forever.”


I thought, “When the sun clears the horizon

it will shine on me and I will be glad.

The world will finally listen.”


I told you it would be the True Dawn,

the Dawn behind all shadows of dawns,

the Sunrise over the wreckage of all previous sunrises,

a chorus in the morning that will summon all flesh

to catch fire in its great light.


You shook your head and walked away.


The sun set.


Now I am alone.

The Hidden Work: Baptismal Covenant

On Friday, six Anglican students and a priest drove out to Surrey for two nights at the beautiful Rosemary Heights, a Catholic retreat centre. The retreat was undertaken in order to strengthen bonds between the students and to do some formation pertaining to the sacraments. This first retreat – one of four we will have in this academic year – was on baptism.

Very few of us had been baptized at an age when we would remember what it felt like. Our retreat leader, VST’s director of Anglican denominational formation, asked us to think about what happens in baptism.

“What,” he asked, “does it mean to be ‘saved’? What are we being saved from?”

A whole host of answers followed. Our DDF graciously challenged many of them, pushing us to expand our assumptions. Once we had exhausted our theological coffers, he continued. This is not just about being saved from hell. It’s also absolutely not about learning that Jesus was a good man who loved us and wanted us to be nice to one another. There’s nothing particularly earth-shattering in that. “That,” he said, “simply makes us a religion club. If you like golf, you join a golf club, and if you like being religious, you join a religious club.” None of that actually changes a person’s life totally and irrevocably.

Really, we’re talking about a Christ-process, a process of death being the soil for new life. It’s about something happening deeply and widely, throughout the whole universe. If we are made of carbon, then we are the product of the death of stars. The Christ-process is something that infuses all of existence: a universal truth. This makes sense, if “baptism always carries an eschatological dimension.”[1]

What implications, then, does this have for baptism?

“We are drowning,” our DDF said quietly. “We drown and then rise, newly alive.” And if we are newly alive, dead to what we once were, then a change of behaviour radically follows. We are called to model the cruciform life for all. To illustrate this, our DDF had us read Romans 6:1-11.

It was very important that we recognized this not merely as a concept for our minds to ponder, but as a physical, cellular truth. And this was why we were to undergo a “baptismal experience” at 6.30am the next morning, if we chose to do so.

I rose at 6am, “while it was still dark,” dressed myself and stumbled to the conference room again. We celebrated Morning Prayer, and then broke off into groups of three for the experience.

My group found a large bowl and two jugs in the kitchen, which we filled. We had brought a Bible. The experience was to be as follows: One person would read the section from Romans we had studied the night before. Another person would lean their head over the bowl and hold their breath as long as they could. The last person was to continuously pour water over the other’s head. When the second person’s breath could be held no longer, they were supposed to stand up straight and inhale. The other two would then stop what they were doing and say, “Alleluia.”

I poured water first. I didn’t really “feel” much while I was doing it, although I appreciated the symbolism behind it. Then it was my turn.

I had thought the water would go in my nose and eyes and the like, but it didn’t. It felt a little like when I wash my hair under the faucet sometimes. I quickly remembered I was supposed to hold my breath and sucked it in. I could hear one of my partners reading the Romans passage, but I couldn’t understand all of it – just a couple of stray words or phrases: “do you not know,” “death”, “buried,” “grave.” My body started to feel constricted as I held on, wanting to prolong the experience as long as possible.

I don’t know if I made it for a full minute, but it certainly felt like it. I do know that my body started to shake. My muscles were tense and straining. I can imagine a conversation under my skin, perhaps between my lungs, or my blood cells: “What the hell’s going on? I didn’t sign up for this!”

Finally, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I stood up and took a big breath in.

It was rather shocking because I didn’t expect that big breath to be so loud. For a moment, as the water coursed down my head and onto my shoulders and down my torso and legs, I really did feel like I’d clawed up from death, from many deep, dark fathoms. I felt my shoulders tense, suddenly very emotional, as I felt my partner’s hand on my shoulder, and heard her quiet voice in my ear: “Alleluia.”

I stared out the window at the grey sky. Unfortunately, the clouds were thick, so I couldn’t see the rising sun. I knew it was there, though.

I whispered, “Alleluia.”

Many people still retain a surprising amount of Medieval theology around baptism. They talk to priests about getting their babies “done” for some imagined check-list. Anabaptists proclaim “believer’s baptism,” which is only performed on someone who can intellectually assent.

With no intent to offend, I don’t agree with believer’s baptism only. I personally think that the requirement for “intellectual assent” can be a cover-up for a struggle between communal culture and individualistic culture. Are we saying that God can only begin a work of redemption and vocation within those who are intellectually capable or willing? The Bible is predictably vague, and this seems limiting to God. Jesus’ disciples did not need a catechism class or assent to doctrinal rules. He said only, “Follow me.” Likewise, the model Jesus chose for discipleship was a child – not chosen for “innocence” or “humility” (idealizations of childhood), but vulnerability.

At whatever time we were baptized, something beautiful and inextricable happened. Whether we were brought as tiny children to the font or whether we walked there ourselves, we were given a gift. We found ourselves in an in-between place that only lasted for minutes but remains before and after us in every sacrament – a moment held in tension, outside of time, what Christians call kairos time. We became both infant and elder, submerged in a womb or a tomb (don’t you think it’s amazing that the only difference between those words is one letter?). We focus on the death one dies in the waters of baptism – being buried into Christ’s death, as Paul would have it – but water is present during birth as well. St. Cyril of Jerusalem called the waters of baptism “[our] grave and [our] mother.”

There is something beautiful in a work being begun in you before you were even conscious of your own individuality – just as beautiful as a work begun that you acknowledge fully as an adult leaning your head into the font.

The most important thing to remember about your baptism is that it was solely the work of God. The Church gathered to witness and to proclaim it in words and actions…but ultimately it was the expression of a truth that was proclaimed long before you were born and will continue long after you die – a truth you will join in proclaiming.

I like to think of it with a little help from a great spiritual advisor, Florence Welch, of the band Florence and the Machine. The track “Drumming Song” illustrates a woman’s love, which she experiences as an inner sound:

“There’s a drumming noise inside my head that starts when you’re around.

I swear that you could hear it; it makes such an almighty sound…

Louder than sirens, louder than bells, sweeter than heaven, and hotter than hell.”

I have always interpreted this song baptismally.

The first thing we hear in the song is a strong and tribal drum beat, which I interpret as the calling of God. Florence does not sing for a bar or two – her response follows the call. We are first invited, and must respond. Florence continues:

“I ran to the tower when the church bells chimed,

I hoped that they would clear my mind.

They left a ringing in my ear,

But that drum’s still beating, loud and clear.”

Here, she goes to church, and in my creative re-imagining, becomes a catechumen. This does not soften the call – indeed, it gets louder still. She sings:

“As I move my feet toward your body, I can hear this beat.

It fills my head up and gets louder and louder.”

I (perhaps fancifully) interpret this as the journey toward her first Eucharist. Finally, she seeks to drown out the call through what I interpret as baptism:

“Down to the river and dive straight in:

I pray that the water will drown out the din,

But as the water fills my mouth it couldn’t wash the echoes out…

I swallow the sound and it swallows me whole, ‘til there’s nothing left inside my soul.

I’m empty as that beating drum, but the sound has just begun.”

As she is immersed in the waters of baptism, she hopes that this will satisfy the restlessness of this call, but instead, she is hollowed out until there is nothing left of who she was: she has been given a new identity in Christ – and “the sound has just begun.” Her new identity is not the end of her journey – she now rises up and like us is expected to “come and see.”

Did you hear drums when you were baptized? I don’t remember that far back…but on clear nights (or cloudy mornings, as water trickles down my head) I can still hear the echo.


[1] Sacraments as God’s Self-Giving, James White, [year], 37

Sede Vacante

Well, today is September 2nd and it’s official: the Right Reverend Michael Ingham, bishop in the church of God, is retired.

It seems bizarre…and yet not. 19 years is a heck of a run, and it was certainly a generation’s worth of change he helped us through…maybe even more than a generation. I shall never forget his grace, courage, and gentle heart. I actually saw him at a funeral on Thursday and really wanted to say hello but, as he is wont to do, he vanished as soon as the thing was over. He’s actually a rather shy and quiet person most of the time. He’s inspiring not only to a young firebrand Christian but an occasionally shy one as well. ;)


So now the real work begins. This is going to be historic for me! I was only 9 or 10 years old when he was consecrated – still living in Ottawa and only barely aware of how the workings of the church functioned. Now, aware and in awe, I get to witness not only the selection of a bishop, but a real honest-to-God consecration!!! It’s going to be magical! I am so desperately curious about who our candidates will be. I have one or two preferences in mind, but unfortunately I’m not eligible to vote. It’s likely that by the time I would be, the candidate will already have been chosen.

So are you curious about how this works? I’ll give you the run-down!



Of course the first thing that happens is that the currently serving bishop retires or somehow vacates the seat. Then, in this particular Diocese, we begin the process of selecting a new one according to the laws laid out in Canon 2.

Since the selection of a new bishop is a very involved process that takes quite a while, the Dean of the Cathedral will become the Diocesan Administrator, taking care of administrative matters and directing Synod. The sacramental role, however, cannot be assumed by the dean, of course, because there are certain offices that only a consecrated bishop can perform, like ordinations and confirmations. For those things the help of a retired bishop can be recruited.

At the next Diocesan Council meeting a 10 member Search/Nominations committee is elected. Diocesan Council here has already met, in June, and so a committee has been formed, although I don’t know who is serving on it. The committee does contain five ordained and five lay members of Synod who will do the work of any search committee, receiving and evaluating nominations, which will then be distributed to the members of Electoral Synod. The last time this happened, in 1993, there were videotapes made of each candidate which were then circulated to each parish for review. A profile of the Diocese is also provided to each candidate.

Anyone who is a member of Synod can nominate an eligible person to stand for bishop, “eligible” being defined as “a priest in good standing in the worldwide Anglican Communion, ordained for a minimum of five years.” I, unfortunately, will likely not be able to nominate or vote, because I am not a member of (or, in our terminology, a delegate to) Synod. Postulants for ordination are automatically made members of Synod, but the earliest possible time I could be a postulant would not be until May, and we’ll likely already have a bishop by then. This is why I’m praying so hard for the work of the committee – because I don’t get a vote! Haha.

A second committee (which for some reason is ALSO called the Nominations Committee, blargh!), comprised of 2 lay and 2 ordained people, “receives notice of nominations up to ten days before the electoral synod. These are people not already vetted by the Search/Nominations Committee.”

Once the See is vacant (which was officially the case yesterday), Diocesan Council requests permission from the Provincial Metropolitan to call an Electoral Synod. Our Metropolitan is the Most Rev’d John Privett. Within 30 days of his permission, the call must be sent out to members of Synod, and they must meet within 3 months of the call. All of its members will be the same as those who attended Synod as voting members in May of 2013. At the beginning of this Synod, further nominations may be offered by delegates from the floor. As clergy and laity are part of two separate groups in Synod called “houses,” voting is done separately by each in rounds (candidates with fewer votes are dropped in each successive round). To be elected, a candidate must have a majority vote in both houses – that way a candidate can be truly said to have been chosen by both ordained and lay members of the church.

Finally, the election is confirmed by a majority of the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia. Then, consecration!


All of these notes are paraphrased or quoted directly from the Christ Church Cathedral’s bulletin of May 5th, put together by both the Very Reverend Peter Elliott, our dean and rector, and the Venerable Dr. Ellen Clark-King, our vicar and Archdeacon.

They also provide what I believe to be a very helpful note at the end of this summary: “This is a process of communal discernment, a prayerful journey open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t appropriate to talk of people ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ an Episcopal election.”

How very true. If I might be a bit flippant for a moment, anyone who is truly called to episcopacy should never think it a prize to be won, but rather a willing burden to be shouldered. Being a bishop is one of the hardest things to be. Priests already sometimes speak about how their lives are not their own, and how much more the case for a bishop, a shepherd not only to churches but to their priests as well! All I had to do to learn that was to go down to the archives one day in search of materials for a project on the blessing of same-sex unions in this Diocese. As I discussed the case briefly with the archivist, she asked dryly, “Do you want to look over all the hate mail Michael received? I’ve filed all of it.” I told her, wincing, that I’d give it a pass.

I guess at this point we’re still going through all of the nominations. The process has been largely kept under wraps, of course. I’m very glad I get to sit out of this nomination committee! I was actually suggested as a replacement to the student representative on the principal search committee at VST, and accepted. It was a very educational process, but it was also immensely draining and at times very frustrating. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy! I know it won’t be the only time I’m required to sit on a committee like that, but at least the next time I’ll know what to expect.

So there you have it. Are you bursting at the seams with knowledge? I am! (Not really). I am, however, tremendously excited for this new era of our Diocese.


UPDATE: The Electoral Synod now has their own website! You can look at it here.