Archive for November, 2018

The Grey Waistcoat (Letters from the Coast)

I tried on the grey waistcoat with three or four different shirts before I settled on the gloriously soft Banana Republic sweater and added my grey trousers.

Which earrings, I fretted. The oddly reserved side of me that only came out in front of the mirror said I should choose the sedate violet drops I had made – one of my first pieces, in fact.

The other part, the one that comes out on nights where I haunt the Red Room downtown with Vancouver’s Goth population, said, “Hell no! Scale maille all the way!” And so I choose the chain maille Aura 2 units with the stainless steel scales attached. I’m all monochrome today, we need some sparkle up in here.

Now, the hair. Last night, I slicked it up with product and raked it back along the crown of my head with a comb. I quickly discovered that it wouldn’t stay in place, and laughed remembering my bit part in a production of Grease years ago, how the guys always kept their combs in their pockets and it became a running joke that they would whip them out and use them whenever something embarrassing happened.

I was going to have to pocket the damn thing now!

This time, I don’t want to add product, but I do want that swept back look. I fiddle for ages before combing it back and then braiding it. Having a Chelsea means there’s nothing to hold a clip or claw in place, so that’s out.

I check myself over again. Is this really appropriate? I think, as usual. I mean, this is a family lunch.

Quite practically speaking, most people could give a crap what you’re wearing in my family. Plus I always overthink this kind of stuff. I’m balancing somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Waistcoat adds butch, but the powdery grey soft sweater adds femme.

Today’s ensemble…at least from the neck up!

I’m still me, I think. This is not inauthentic. It’s not a disguise or a compromise. That’s what matters.


Like anyone I slip into a particular role depending on what group I’m with. On my mother’s side of the family, the role is comfortable. I’m myself, for the most part. Topics of conversation are more muted than the ones I have with my friends, and I’m not exactly what you’d call “out.”

Social media has changed the landscape so that I can make proclamations without having to deal with reactions in real time. Although I’ve never written a terribly explicit post about who I am (“You might not know this, but I’m bi and nonbinary…”), I have made reference to these identities as belonging to me while sharing articles about relevant topics. Most of my cousins also know, and I know that some of the older generation knows from being told by them, which I don’t mind as my family is pretty safe about that kind of stuff.

I have been more or less out as bisexual for most of my adult life, but it’s been a much more tentative journey since I’ve begun untangling my sense of gender.

I’m out to my friends, and I’m mostly out at work. But I’m not out to my mother or my stepfather, and while I’m out on social media I have no sense of who really understands what this means, as I don’t insist on my pronouns. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, mostly this is to avoid emotional labour on my part, but it means that things sometimes feel a bit illicit.

For example: Last weekend, I bit the bullet and took advantage of several sales online to purchase some clothes from Haute Butch. Like claiming my pronouns, it felt both liberating and a little frightening.

On the one hand, while women who fully claim a butch identity can come up against harassment, it definitely doesn’t come close to the rage that erupts when bigots see a masculine person wearing stereotypically feminine attire.

On the other hand, “full-bodied” folks like me, who have stereotypically feminine bodies (and in my case, almost archetypally feminine!), can find it difficult to fully embody this look in a way that feels beautiful.

I always walk a weird line between feeling butch and femme. I slide up and down the scale, but most often tend to rest in a place like the one I’m in now, which is why I think I love this waistcoat so much. While it’s cut to accentuate my curves, to me it still adds a pinch of genderfuck to any outfit. I’ve layered it over collared shirts and Tshirts and tank tops depending on whether I’m feeling more demi or more girl.

I noticed that I am increasing stepping away from my dresses and skirts again, although I don’t want to get rid of them. A night out with my spouse nearly always elicits a more femme look, because I enjoy making myself attractive to him and he’s straight. But on my own, and more and more at work, I find myself occupying this new role, the one I chose myself rather than the one that society allowed me to play within.

Fashion has become a playground for me to experiment with feelings I am still learning to fully articulate.

Thank God for this waistcoat.

Resistance Lectionary Part 22: I have set my face like flint

Today’s Citation: John 18:28-38

Studying the Gospel of John is a difficult task, for few works of literature can claim such beauty and such terror. John, one of the masterpieces of any language, is also a work of staggering bitterness, and has been cited by many theologians over the years as license to murder, maim, and massacre the Jewish people. Never mind the fact that the church was not as of yet a faith wholly separate from Judaism when this astonishing text was written. It was enough that the writer used the phrase “the Jews” to set the followers of Jesus against the established religious authorities and thereby set the stage for generations of torment. We have much to atone for.

This is important to mention because the encounter described (in part) in this passage is laden with problematic editorial decisions on the part of the writer, most especially the glaring hypocrisy of the crowd in their chanting of “We have no king but Caesar,” something that no self-respecting Jewish person of that era would dare to have uttered. Likewise the very fact that John’s Pilate unwittingly understands far more about Jesus than Jesus’ own people shows us that John has consigned the crowd to “the darkness,” a fate worse than hell itself.

As responsible theologians of a resistance lectionary, we cannot neglect to name these issues.

But, as stated above, alongside the seeds of bitterness grow blossoms of extraordinary beauty and defiance.

Source: Wikipedia

The encounter between Pilate and Jesus, as problematic as it is, is stunning as a work of art. There’s drama and subtext. There’s confusion and mystery. And there’s Jesus, standing before the hammer of empire like a clenched fist held aloft.

He is so beyond the quibbling of this despot, so beyond the attempts to box him in. There is no fear, no groveling, no capitulation.

I have seen the same steely resolve on the faces of land and water protectors, on the front lines and in court. I have seen it on the faces of Black Lives Matter activists and protestors shouting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” I have seen it on the faces of Idle No More and Standing Rock warriors, demanding justice for their people and the earth itself.

Inside all of us is this spirit of resolve, and it can be co-opted just as easily as any tool.

All of us could stand to use it more often…and all of us are called to discern deeply what merits its use.

Blessed are the persecuted (Letters from the Coast)

I work in an urban parish in East Vancouver. It’s a bit of a change from my last charge, a nearly suburban parish in the once working-class now posh Dunbar Heights.

Despite both neighbourhoods being quite safe, there is a more explicit poverty here, and the problems connected to it are more visible.

This summer, just before the return of the rector from sabbatical, we discovered a cache of clothes and other items, including human waste and a few needles, strewn about the south outer wall, which is partially hidden from the sidewalk by a low hedge. This was later accompanied by rambling, nonsensical graffiti. A former parish lay leader was appalled, and phoned me shortly after phoning the police. The graffiti was especially distressing to this lay leader, who felt that it demonstrated a complete lack of respect for a place of faith.

The depth of this leader’s anger was surprising to me. Of course vandalism indicates a lack of respect, but the fear beneath the rage was difficult for me to understand, and frankly, it rather annoyed me.

I couldn’t put my finger on why until months later. Sitting at my computer in this very parish, I found an email from a mailing list out of a local synagogue with a message of comfort and solidarity after the horrific synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.

Included in this email were different suggestions for actions the community could take. One heading said, “Security,” and the text beneath read as follows:

“Well before this most recent attack, [Temple] conducted an audit of our current security measures. …The technology exists to address these vulnerabilities and to ensure that no one need ever worry about their safety in our Temple.”

Further down was an encouragement for parishioners to take volunteer security training.

This brought up a number of feelings for me. My home parish, which is downtown, has had its share of angry folks who have taken issue with its progressive theology, and it’s also had trouble with folks looking for unattended money or other valuables to take. But as far as I’m aware, we’ve never had a bomb threat, significant vandalism, or arson attempts, and certainly there has never been a mass shooting.

Meanwhile, mosques regularly find the severed heads of pigs on their doorsteps, and similar things occur at Jewish synagogues. I’m sure there are incidents at houses of prayer for other faiths as well.

I have the incredible privilege of never having felt unsafe in a church before.

I can close my eyes and remember the odd feeling that filled me as I walked through the streets of Hebron in the Holy Land, that feeling that live wires were running a low current of electricity through my veins. It was not a safe place, and one had to be on alert at all times.

I imagine having that feeling every single time I go to church, and wince just thinking about it.

To imagine that Christianity’s loss of privilege is a terrible sin is laughable, but it’s even more laughable to imagine that Christianity is now on the same level as any other faith in the West. We will always be the more privileged.

I have heard too many people, both progressive and conservative, complain that “no-one respects the church” anymore.

Did Jesus die for us to have respect as a faith?

I don’t think so.

He died shamed, nailed to a cross like a common thief.

While we complain about graffiti and “Happy Holidays” and no more prayer in schools, our Jewish and Muslim families are paying out-of-pocket for their own security, their own clean-up crews, their own peace.

I’m not saying that any of us deserve or should expect and welcome graffiti or vandalism or violence in our houses of faith.

But I will say that maybe we should consider that if we as Christians aren’t being thrown into the arena anymore, we’re still doing pretty well for ourselves, and a little spray-paint isn’t going to change that.

Maybe we should try standing up for those who are experiencing true persecution, both here at home and abroad.


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:10

Cover Wednesday!

Hey y’all! Sorry this week’s Resistance Lectionary post is late. You get a video instead!

Resistance Lectionary Part 21: Turn, turn, turn

Today’s Citation: Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 3:1-8

The Book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth in Hebrew) is one we don’t normally get to hear from in the course of the regular lectionary years, although there is definitely a generation who cannot hear the latter set of verses without also hearing the musical setting penned by the Byrds in 1965. This book, which is otherwise relatively unknown among the general population, had a profound impact on Western literature, with its praises being sung by the American novelist Thomas Wolfe as “the greatest single piece of writing” he had ever known.

Ecclesiastes is a grouchy yet refreshingly honest text in which the constant refrain is “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.” Far from encouraging the believer to deny herself in order to secure a place in heaven, the teacher claims that satisfaction and joy is to be found in the everyday triumphs and struggles of life. God gives us the gift of happiness today, and while happiness will never be constant and unchanging in this life, that is part of the cycle of life as we have received it.

Not a bad message in a world that has been almost constantly afire with end-times prophecy and obsession with what will come after. Christianity is a particularly egregious offender, always concerned with the return of Christ and the smug self-righteous certainty of those who are convinced they will be carried up like poor Lazarus rather than left behind like rich Dives.

There is another rather profound message in this particular passage, one which assures us that all things occur in their own time. Our culture is quite preoccupied with stability and stasis, claiming that happiness, wealth, personal convictions, and traditions must be held onto by any means necessary in an ever-changing world. To allow oneself to change one’s mind, to choose less for one’s own health, and to throw out that which is no longer life-giving is so often seen as “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” or “flip-flopping.” Ecclesiastes might not go so far as to say, “Adapt or die,” but does remind us that we don’t need to invite change, but should prepare for its arrival. This message seems particularly timely in an era where we are called to decide how we are going to respond to fascists, the violent, and the hateful.

Is there truly a time to kill? Literally, who knows? But figuratively, we do know that there are times of reaping and culling in our lives, and that only when we manage to pick up our scythes and plowshares will we be able to encourage new growth.

Beautiful Broken World, Part 3 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the final entry in a three-part series about my feelings on medical assistance in dying. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here.



I think again of Mary, who has already endured so much hardship in her life and is now watching older and sicker people die around her and feels nothing but envy.

Her tears are heartbreaking, and yet I would love to tell her that life is still worth living in a wheelchair, still worth living when you can’t speak, still worth living even when you need help to do the things you once did with ease.

I can’t do that. I can’t name her experience, can’t push her to accept something that for me is entirely theoretical, rather than lived. I can’t know her pain because I’ve never experienced it.

My life belongs to God, but I choose that. And yet how do I know I would be able to still hold onto that choice when I have never experienced that kind of significant illness, when I’ve never even broken a damn bone?


And then again I think of indigenous gatherings I’ve attended where it is simply expected, without question, that the young and able-bodied should step back to allow the elders to sit, should allow them to come closer so they can see what’s going on, should move them to the front of lines, should listen to the things they say even if it takes a long time to get the words out.

I think of cultures where offering a person with grey hair a seat on the bus never causes a flicker of irritation to pass across their faces. I think of cultures where the word “elder” is not a dirty word, where you can refer to someone as an elder and not have them take it personally, like white people (and especially white women) almost invariably do, because Western culture despises the old and the old know it – again, especially women, who become invisible when they are old.


Dignity is different for everyone, and yet I think too often we allow the narrative to be driven by those who are always in charge of the narrative.

Ultimately only the ill and the disabled should be leading this conversation.

For me, a temporarily (it’s always only temporary) able-bodied young person, the conversation is far too murky. There are too many things about which I am ignorant.


Oddly enough, I found the passing of the legislation to be a blessing.

The conversation is closed. It’s legal, and it’s unlikely to be rolled back. I’m under no illusions that the church in Canada (and particularly in BC) will be able to change the government’s mind.

Frankly, even if I was certain that I thought it was a sin, I’d still think allowing people to choose their time of death under a set of strict guidelines would be one of the lesser sins we allow as a country.

My job is now only to walk alongside those who may choose the option. Colleagues have already shared with me that they’ve not only been asked to discuss it with parishioners, but asked to be present when death occurs.

In my heart, I dread that possibility, because while I feel deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing, I don’t know that I would be able to refuse such a request.

Maybe that tells me all I need to know about where my heart lies.

Resistance Lectionary Part 20: Letters from Prison

Today’s Citation: Philippians 1:12-20

I first began to question the carceral system a few years ago reading The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America by Mark Lewis Taylor. In this timely book, Taylor examines the shifting of society into a mass carceral state, and questions the support for capital punishment held by many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians.

His was the first piece to introduce me to prison abolition, and at first I was shocked by the idea. Of course I thought prisons were overstuffed, but if there aren’t any prisons at all what kind of a society would that be?

Over time, I learned more about the efficacy of prisons as they currently exist in North America, and my mind has changed.

I won’t get into the politics of abolition here, but one thing that has become clear to me is that prisons are less tools for the safety of the people and more tools for the state to exercise its will.

In April of 1963, the Rev’d Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”:

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. …I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Over many years the story of Dr. King has been domesticated until it became unclear what he could have said that would ever have spurred someone to murder him. We forget that while he was alive, the white majority was at best deeply ambivalent about his message and methods, and more often than not derided him for being a hostile “agitator.”

No-one gets thrown into prison for saying things little kids are taught in kindergarten (Be nice, share your things, etc.)

In this way, both Dr. King and Paul remind us that while prison is a tool of the oppressor, it can also be a sort of blessing, in that it reminds everyone that the Gospel of God’s radical boundary-breaking love must not be domesticated. Empire will always push back against a God that mocks the rule of violent law, and those who proclaim that God will be punished for not falling in line.

Christians are called to question everything that is a tool of the Empire, for Empire is most concerned about the gathering and maintenance of power, which will always in the end lead to idolatry.

We’ll end today’s reflection with one of the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prison poems:


Christians and Pagans[1]

People turn to God when they’re in need,
plead for help, contentment, and for bread,
for rescue from their sickness, guilt, and death.
They all do so, both Christian and pagan.

People turn to God in God’s own need,
and find God poor, degraded, without roof or bread,
see God devoured by sin, weakness, and death.
Christians stand with God to share God’s pain.

God turns to all people in their need,
nourishes body and soul with God’s own bread,
takes up the cross for Christians and pagans, both,
and in forgiving both, is slain.

[1] Translated in A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (eds GB Kelly and FB Nelson (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990), p. 549.

Beautiful Broken World, Part 2 (Letters from the Coast)

This is the second in a three-part series about my feelings on medical assistance in dying. For Part 1, click here.



Over the last two years, I’ve heard dear friends tell precious stories of the relief and peace that permeated the room when a beloved was finally helped across the threshold.

Strong and brave people suffering from the terrible thievery of diseases like MS have spoken out demanding the right to take ownership of their own lives, their own narrative, their own struggle.


And yet I am always drawn back to Rose, who is in so many ways utterly dependent on the people around her, and does not wear that as though it is shameful.

I am always drawn back to the terrible history of institutionalization, forced sterilization, and daily struggles of those who are disabled less by their conditions than by society’s reaction to those conditions.

I am always drawn back to the deeply problematic portrayals of the disabled in media, always drawn back to the fetishistic way that many children with disabilities are talked about by society or even their own parents, always drawn back to anti-vaxxers who would rather have a kid dead of measles than a living kid with autism, always drawn back to the horrific sympathy present in society when a parent murders a disabled child to “spare them from suffering.”

We are robbed of that child’s voice, that child’s story. Instead they become an object, a problem, rather than a person.


The word that gets thrown around most often (in my experience most often by able-bodied hale and hearty Baby Boomers considering a long decline in a deathphobic and ageist elder-hating culture of capitalistic slavery) is “dignity.”

But what does dignity look like?


Is dignity about taking charge of your own life, about making a choice to bypass the horrors of a disease that steals, that burns, that swallows you up until you can’t eat, or breathe, or be remembered as you once were?

Is it about sparing others exhaustion and the endless erosion of anticipatory grief?

Is it about refusing pain as though it were unnatural, about pulling the plug before you are forced to come to terms with your own frailty and dependence, forced to confront a sick society where the old and infirm, having been milked dry during their working years, are now spat out to make way for fresh young things to chew up and spit out in turn?

Is it about ending things before you can’t wipe your own ass? That specific situation comes up so often in these conversations.


Rose needs bathroom help, and always has. She can’t walk or feed herself.

Does she not have dignity?

Resistance Lectionary Part 19: Her Fair Share

Today’s citation: Numbers 27:1-8

Despite what so many folks believe (or are led to believe), Christianity has always had a complicated relationship with women, and this is specifically due to the odd relationship the Bible has with women. While self-proclaimed guardians of culture love to argue that “the Bible is very clear,” this is rarely the case, and never more so than with this “issue” (as if concerns relevant to half the human population are “issues”).

The Hebrew Bible itself has plenty of examples of wise, crafty women who are rewarded for their craftiness, some of whom we’ve learned about in this lectionary. It also, in some places, has some pretty problematic portrayals and stories about women, many of which, it should be noted, do not feature God at all, for what it’s worth. Surprisingly enough, however, the Gospels in our canon have a far less complicated view of women, either seeming unconcerned with them or featuring them as beloved, healed and saved, or even first Apostles in their own right, like the women at the tomb. It is only when we get into the epistles that behaviour codes are imposed upon women, and that’s a whole other entry.

Source: Wikipedia

Here, we are given a gloriously unequivocal moment of support from God. After a census of those survivors from Egypt, Moses is able to decide on inheritance procedures for the next generation. As he is beginning this work, the brave daughters of Zelophehad come before the entire assembly, surely no easy feat, and demand their rights. Moses, rather than laughing them off, takes them seriously – so seriously, in fact, that he takes the case before God rather than a court or group of elders. God easily affirms their petition, and instructs Moses to enshrine this into law.

This will be the new law of the land for the People of God, freed from slavery and living into their new identity.

Our prayer is that all of us should take the petitions of the oppressed as seriously as Moses, and should respond as quickly and wholeheartedly as God.

Beautiful Broken World, Part 1 (Letters from the Coast)

This is another multi-part entry, this time on a murkier topic: MAID, or medical assistance in dying.

I’ve found that as I deepened in my faith, my trust in absolutes became more tenuous, and I was shocked to find my attitudes about both abortion and MAID became more complicated than they were before.

Disclaimer: I consider myself pro-choice, would never support an overturning of the right to abortion, and wholeheartedly support the offering and government subsidization of sexual education and contraception.

I am also not doing any political or religious advocacy to overturn the decision on MAID, and I absolutely do not believe that God punishes those who make that choice. I also believe in offering non-judgemental pastoral care to those who choose it.

But still, I struggle with the question of who owns life, when it begins, and who has the right to choose it or refuse it.



The first time I met Rose (not her real name), I was mostly just impressed with my colleague’s easy way with her. Like a lot of folks I had not yet fully considered that a nonverbal person in a wheelchair could have an easily discernible character.

I was so wrong, about everything.

For one thing, Rose wasn’t ever really nonverbal. She laughed – a loud, high, delightful sound of pure joy. And she could say “Yeah,” and, most poignantly, “Amen.” She could also speak through a special computer system which she controlled through Morse code, tapping at sensors set up on either side of her head. She used it fairly rarely however, because it was easier for people to give her a hug when it wasn’t attached to her chair.

She also emailed me sometimes, and those emails revealed a person who was incredibly devout and kind. She worked hard to be an advocate for people with disabilities. She had many challenges, and many health issues that came up regularly, but that’s why she loved what she called “church family,” and all of them loved her.


Years later, I met Mary (also not her real name). Mary also moved with the help of a wheelchair, but had been able-bodied before. She had other health issues related to aging, the last few thorns of a bramble-choked life of pain and sorrow. She was beginning to find life unbearable, but was still young and healthy enough that she could see herself becoming weaker. Feelings and desires were rising up for her that she had never before experienced, and she didn’t know how to handle them in these last few twilight hours of her life. She talked to me extensively, through angry, despairing tears, about her difficult relationship with God, whom she felt was laughing at her.


In 2016 it became legal in Canada to seek Medical Assistance in Dying, which meant it became possible, under a set of strict rules, to ask for and receive help from a physician to die.

The Anglican Church of Canada wrote a paper called “In Sure and Certain Hope: Resources to assist pastoral and theological approaches to Physician Assisted Dying” which explored the issue extensively. At a Diocesan Clergy Day during that year we all talked about it and explored the document. I was proud to witness so much diversity of opinion among my colleagues. Many of us had very complicated feelings.

What moved me most, though, were the stories of death, and in a room full of clergy, there are always many. We all spoke with gravitas and gratitude about our experiences being invited into families’ private stories of grief. We mused that we saw things, sacred moments that many folks do not get to witness in their daily lives. I myself had only just witnessed someone die a few weeks before. A few of us pledged to work toward a coordinated effort to support each other as professionals who are so often privy to these beautiful but heavily weighted moments.


The year before, the parish where I did my curacy hosted a panel discussion for the neighbourhood on Medical Assistance in Dying (which at that point was still being referred to as “Physician-assisted suicide”). We had religious and medical professionals talk about the ethics and the pastoral and spiritual implications. When we opened up the mic to the crowd, a veterinarian in the audience shared, with great dignity, that she and her colleagues were waiting to be consulted by people on the matter, as they had been trafficking in this gentle ferrying of souls from bodies for decades.

There were no patients or candidates for the procedure on the panel.

There were no disabled people either.