Archive for September, 2018

Dusk Child, Part 2 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the second entry in a series of four on gender identity and my journey toward claiming my pronouns.

For Part 1, click here.



Adolescence is so incredibly awkward. I don’t fit in with anyone.

My hair grows long again and I use it to hide my face. I develop earlier than my best friend and am painfully aware of my curves. I alternate between feeling fat and hyper-sexualized. Subtle and unsubtle jabs come from my mother’s family, where women are generally pear-shaped instead of hourglasses like me.

I go to buy my first bra. The saleswoman, who’s in her fifties, presents me with hideous shiny white monstrosities that make me want to fall through the floor.

My mother, ever merciful, directs me to a younger woman who finds more age-appropriate pieces, but I still feel disgusting.

Older men begin to notice me and stare. Again I disappear into baggy Tshirts and jeans, and yet I adore most of all the sailor uniforms we wear for choir. They look like Japanese fuku, which make me feel like an anime warrior, but they are also sexless as well as elegant.

And in choir, you can be invisible. You can blend into a wall of song, one voice among many forming a whole new creature.

Better by far to be invisible when you trust no-one.


I pick up the pen and manage to hold onto it this time, but I can’t touch it to paper yet.

I open my browser and explore my options. They/them feels too impersonal. Ze/zir and xe/xir are better but still feel odd, like one of those fancy cocktail dresses you can’t figure out how to put on when it’s on the hanger. You have to turn it back and forth, stretch it to discover the shape, wrangle into it and get tangled up and have to wriggle out again, coat it with sweat and idle muttering, hope that no-one sees or hears your struggle in the fitting room.

I become a teen. I have torrid romantic feelings like most teens. I discover I’m attracted to girls as well as boys. A friend tells me she’s bisexual. I have never heard the word before, never knew there was such a thing.

It’s like I’ve been wandering through a pitch dark honeycomb of caves, and suddenly someone’s handed me a lighter.


I write “ze” on the line.

I sit back and think about it.

It’s petrifying to make such a permanent mark on such a beautifully open field of possibilities.

Resistance Lectionary Part 13: (Trans)formed

Today’s citation: Galatians 3:27-29

This is another one of those passages incredibly popular among liberal and progressive Christians. It is often used to celebrate the idea that in Christ’s Church nothing divides us, none of the artificial barriers that exist between people matter. Paul writes to the community in Galatia that the covenant of Abraham has been extended to all who believe, and so the divisions between ethnicities, nations, and even genders should no longer separate us. This truly is a family of love, sharing the same blood, living “like angels in heaven,” outside of human-made hierarchies. The only hierarchy that matters is Christ as the head, the one who brings us into covenant with the Creator.

It’s interesting to note that while Paul could not have foreseen the modern (re)constructions of gender when writing this, he was schooled in Greek thought. Greek philosophy was often heavily dualistic in nature, but there was a most curious notion that gender was, in a sense, fluid, dictated by behaviour. This can be seen in early Christian writings, perhaps most famously in the story of Perpetua and Felicity, both martyred shortly after giving birth. Perpetua recounts a dream in her prison diary in which she fights in the arena as a male gladiator not long after noticing that she is no longer lactating. Emitting fluid was seen as a “feminine” characteristic by the ancient Greeks; failing to do so proved that she was becoming “masculine” in her fight to keep her faith, substantiated by the dream and by her stoic (masculine) indifference to the emotional (again, feminine) pleading of her father to recant.

This trend which we can trace in ancient literature proves not only that today’s discussions around gender are not entirely a construction of the modern era (or perhaps, more appropriately, a deconstruction), but that Paul’s call for us to embrace our identity as Christians before any other can truthfully be labeled as a call to be embraced exactly as we are, whatever pronouns we use or whatever body we are given.

Dusk Child, Part 1 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the first entry in a series of four on gender identity and my journey toward claiming my pronouns. While I hope to examine this topic from a more religious lens in later posts, this one is not explicitly spiritual in nature.



My journey through gender identity



The line on the paper is so terribly blank, like a chasm I could fall into.

In neat letters beneath it is a shocking permission I have never before been granted:


It is the first time I have ever been given this option.

I am twenty-seven years old.

I reach for my pen, pick it up, put it down.

The world spins around me.


I remember being four years old and telling my Uncle Chris that I was a princess in a tower, as I peered down at him from the landing of his staircase. He sang songs to me from below.

I remember being five years old and telling my mother I wanted to be a “ballerina unicorn” for Halloween. I was given a frilly pink tutu and a beautiful handmade felt mask from a store on Quadra Island.

I remember being six years old and tingling with excitement as I was dusted with blue eyeshadow and had diaphanous blue scarves tied to my wrists to finally join the upper level dance class and dance the most graceful dance I had yet seen in my young life.

And then, I remember being done with all of that particular kind of decorative, coltlike femininity for a long time.

I asked for my long hair to be cut off. My mother was probably relieved, as it was thick and troublesome to brush without loud yowls and protests. I exchanged dresses and skirts for jeans and Tshirts. A highlight of the day was to be mistaken for a boy.

But no matter how hard I tried, I felt like an outsider. I wanted to play with the boys, but they would run away from me, or bully me. I wasn’t interested in sports or rough-and-tumble games or climbing trees or riding bikes. I looked up to the tomboys I read about in books, but I never felt like I was one, even though my mother called me one. I liked to look like a boy, but I wanted to be with the girls. They were kinder, less boisterous. They liked to read and loved things I still loved, like unicorns and fantasy and magic.

I didn’t feel like I was born into the wrong body. I didn’t feel like everyone around me was nuts in calling me a girl. But why did it any of the labeling matter?


Class is over, and the empty space is still empty.

I pick up my pen again, push the rounded bottom against my upper lip, put it down.

I get up and go to the library. I take the paper with me.

Resistance Lectionary Part 12: By my Side

Today’s citation: John 8:2-11

Where are you going?

Far beyond where the horizon lies

And the land sinks into mellow blueness

Oh please, take me with you.

These lyrics from “By My Side,” from the musical Godspell, are sung by a character representing the woman in this story. They have always haunted me, asking the question that I’ve asked the text myself: What happened to the woman after this strange encounter?

Many scholars believe this story was a late addition, for it shares none of the language so prevalent in the Gospel of John. It only occurs in John and is unique among all four gospels. Most of the stories where Jesus argues with authorities make it clearer that they are laying traps (there is no lawful basis for not healing someone on the Sabbath, for example) rather than confronting Jesus with the law. It’s also filled with cryptic moments (what does Jesus write in the dirt?) Early biblical scholars wondered if he wrote all of the sins of the men accusing the woman before them, although the text gives no indication that any of them saw what he wrote. It’s significant for the purposes of this lectionary that Jesus literally humbles himself, getting close to the earth. We can see this as a highlighting of their privilege, and a renunciation of his own.

Ancient Jewish Levitical law did mandate stoning for adultery, but required multiple witnesses to the crime. This did not necessarily mean that the law was never abused. It’s also significant that the man is not present, as the law requires the stoning of both parties. Perhaps he was protected by his status, or he had fled. This was in a world that had different attitudes toward rape and sexual coercion, so it’s entirely possible that the act was not consensual.

For the purposes of this story the substance of the accusation or the crime don’t matter, because they don’t matter to Jesus. He even straightens up to speak to her, putting them on equal footing. It may seem presumptuous for him to say, “Do not sin again,” but considering the proscribed response to such a sin, it is even more radical that he tells her to go on her way while still assuming that she has committed the sin.

Letters from the Coast Intro

Welcome to my new writing series, Letters from the Coast! Every single writer I know has emphasized the importance of writing often, preferably every day, and so I decided to use this new series as an excuse to write more, particularly since I’ve left Twitter and Facebook, where I used to share a lot of shorter pieces as posts about different topics.


What’s with the name? Most of you know I’m writing in Vancouver, BC, but that’s not the whole reason.

A coast is an in-between place, a threshold where two worlds blend and allow for transformation, while still retaining a core self.

I’m queer. I’m nonbinary. I’m spiritual and religious. At times I’m anarchistic, and also committed (by solemn vows!) to an archaic hierarchy.

I’m an Anglican, a Christian of the Via Media, the “middle way,” between Catholic and Protestant.

I’m a priest, standing with a foot in the sacred and a foot in the profane, straddling worlds.

All of me is held in the palm of the Creator.

My mind and its musings are free and subject to change, whether drastic like a tidal wave or incremental like erosion.


Posts in this series will drop Thursdays.

I hope you enjoy my letters from the coast.

Resistance Lectionary Part 11: From Weapon to Wonder

Citation: Genesis 9:8-17

This is the kind of the passage that makes a lot of folks think of Sunday School and Noah’s “arky-arky.” When passages become so familiar, they can lose a lot of their “oomph.”

Most of us who know the story of Noah learned as children that the “bow” referenced here is the rainbow – and here is where we learn its mythic origin! We’re not going to explore this scientifically because for a passage like this facts matter less than meaning. To quibble over such things is to completely miss the point.

Nowadays, of course, the rainbow has taken on a whole new added meaning, as a symbol of pride for the LGBTQ2S+ community.

But the story doesn’t lose any of its power when we weave in this new meaning. Quite the opposite.

The English word “bow” used here is not a shortcut to “rainbow,” or a reference to a ribbon or a sign of respect. This thing that God is referring to is a weapon.

And God is laying it down.

God is making a covenant, a promise, to stick with all of us through thick and thin.

The rainbow is therefore no longer a weapon – a tool of fear, subjugation, and violence – but a symbol of the beautiful bond of love that exists between mortals and the divine. It represents God’s commitment to us no matter what happens.

Source: Wikipedia

It is therefore a most appropriate symbol for the queer community, many of whom struggle daily to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. In the rainbow, in our beauty and our strength and our frailty and our lovely messy sexy lives shining through the rain of uncertainty and fear and pain, God rejoices in the love that she promised to each of us.

Come to our open house and fundraiser!

I’ll be playing a short set and selling albums here this weekend! Hope to see you there!

Resistance Lectionary Part 10: Those Sneaky Idols

Citation: Amos 5:21-24

Two weeks after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, a Pennsylvania church affiliated with Sun Myung-moon’s Unification Church held a gun-blessing ceremony. The article went viral nearly immediately. The rage expressed at this wanton idolatry was palpable among devout believers and nonbelievers alike.

The writer of Amos likely didn’t imagine something like this when writing today’s passage, but he did know plenty about blasphemous and hypocritical festivals.

What could it possibly mean to worship a God of justice in a golden palace while people outside are homeless? What could it mean to heap up mountains of animals in sacrifice when people are starving? What kind of God demands tithes so that preachers may fly in private jets, or gathers money to fund racist “missions” trips or psychologically torturous “conversion therapy”?

No kind of God at all.

Of course, lest we feel superior, we must remember that such hypocrisy is not always so dramatic. The Message, Eugene Peterson’s intriguing contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, renders this passage as such:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

Anything, even religion itself, can become an idol.

Let our prayers be for the grace to desire above all things God, and God’s justice, flowing down like a waterfall onto the earth.

Rise up, my love: Summer 2018 Preaching Series, Part 12

Today’s citations:

Song of Songs 2:8–13

James 1:17–27

Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23


Welcome to our final sermon in our summertime preaching series on monarchy.

What a fun journey I’ve had with you all! We traveled from the struggles of Saul through David’s ascent as God’s favoured one through his fall from grace and loss to the new glory of God’s beloved Solomon.

As exciting as this was, what we’ve really been exploring is whether or not we can reclaim the idea of monarchy for God or Jesus.

So we’ve compared and contrasted Jesus against the kings of the Hebrew Bible over the course of this series. Sometimes we’ve found areas of harmony, and sometimes we’ve seen Jesus upset the traditional role of earthly ruler through the embrace of lowliness, vulnerability, and radical generosity.

We’ll explore this more in a moment, but first let’s look at this week’s passages.

They seem quite a departure from the last few week. We’re shot out of the Gospel of John as if from a cannon and land right in the middle of the Gospel of Mark and an odd conversation about unwashed hands and food and bodily functions and heaven knows what else.

We’re especially unprepared for this after the love poetry of the Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon. It’s not strictly related to the dynasty of Solomon, but it’s such an interesting contrast to the Gospel and the Epistle that I thought we could touch on it briefly.

While the letter of James cautions against becoming too involved with the world, the Song of Songs is a whole-hearted romp through the most worldly of all experiences: romantic love. We don’t read from this book much throughout the course of the year. Ancient scholars were baffled as to its inclusion in the Scriptures, but being devout they were certain there was a reason, and so it became mythologized into a love song between God and Israel, or Christ and the Church. There is even a strain in Catholic theology that understands the garden enclosed as referring to the Virgin Mary.

This is appropriate to its use as a sacred text, but if we’re honest with ourselves we should accept that it was probably written as a secular love ballad. This in no way should tarnish it for us. Our capacity for romantic love and sexual intimacy are gifts from God to be celebrated. What better way to do that than to include this joyful text among our holy books?

We can also see it not only as a balance text to other works in the Bible that adjure us to be a people set apart. Christ did not stay in heaven raining down wisdom, but came and walked among us. We cannot be wholly outside the world, and we may delight in the world’s delights while maintaining a critical eye to earthly treasures that provide the opportunity for idolatry and obsession beyond the love of God. After all, do any of us ever truly embrace the God of love through being browbeaten or guilt-tripped? When I think of spiritual giants who have inspired me to greater depth, the faces I see in my mind’s eye are almost always laughing. When I imagine the voice of God, it always sounds vaguely amused. There is a twinkle of mirth in it.

This is the God that seduces us into the dance of resurrection, the God who looks through the lattices of insecurity and mortality and beckons us into not a forsaken world but a world made sacred. We have caught the eye of a king, one who cares nothing for our littleness or our poverty or our fragility. This king wants us to inherit all of his riches, won not through conquest or ransom but love alone.

We could end there, but I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, but what about the unwashed hands?”

Pharisees come to meet Jesus from Jerusalem, from the place of fulfillment, the endpoint of Jesus’ mission. They bring with them a shadow of what is to come. And they try to trap Jesus with criticism about the practice of washing hands before eating, but of course it’s not really about that.

It was not a universal practice among Jewish people to do this back then. It was not even a commandment of the Torah, but lived in the oral interpretations of Mosaic law, hence the reference to “the tradition of the elders.”  Now this rule had its own beauty, for such a law was officially mandated only for the priesthood. Pharisees were therefore saying, “Everyone has the ability to live good and holy lives, not just a select few spiritual athletes.”

Unfortunately they are shown up by our pesky rabbi in several verses cut from our lectionary which are helpful to understanding the gist of the story. Here’s what was left out:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’”

What does this mean?

There was a tradition that said a person could dedicate assets to the Temple, and it had become common for folks to do so with money set aside for their parents. You could even set these funds aside in trust only to have them returned later.

So this is about straining out gnats while swallowing camels. These wealthy temple officials are fine to criticize penniless disciples and their rabbi over a non-universally observed law, but allow the rich to disinherit their own parents and thereby break the fourth commandment.

What does this mean for us, the beloved of Christ?

Perhaps it can remind us that we don’t need to feel unworthy of this incredible king who seeks to woo us.

You can put on a tux or a wedding dress and stand before the altar, but it’s not those things that truly prepare us to marry someone. What truly prepares us is the willingness to give our whole heart. And when we have that, we don’t even need those fancy things to get married! The love shared is just as true in a courthouse as in a church or a beach in Maui.

We don’t have to spend money or dress ourselves up or try to be something we’re not.

Over the last few months, we’ve discovered a king who desires our whole heart above all others, not because he is possessive but because he desires us so deeply, and walked the walk first, giving up everything – power, riches, safety, even his own life – out of love for us.

He does not call us into an easy life; living with and for someone else never is. But what he offers is not only the kind of heady infatuation that makes us do foolish things. He offers us life, life far greater than anything the world on its own can offer, a love that never grows cold, a fire that never goes out.

Some of you may still find the metaphor of monarchy entirely inappropriate for God or Jesus, since the type of leadership modeled here is so unlike any type of monarchy that has ever existed on earth, or because it holds too much baggage. That’s okay. Don’t try to squeeze yourself into a box that doesn’t fit. What’s most important is the depth of fealty to which we are called as Christian people, and while that may seem a bit frightful, it doesn’t need to be.

We are not being called to divest ourselves of our identities.

This is not a political allegiance we are making.

This is a love story, a fairy tale, in the best sense of the word.

Look – he is peeking through the lattice. He is calling.

Church, rise up and run into a world bursting with springtime abundance.

Rise up and run into the arms of the beloved.