September 29, 2019

The end of a weekend…and mid-way on the latest journey. Friday began with a lunch visit with a colleague, at the restaurant owned by a woman who used to do youth ministry at one of my former pastoral charges while I was there. Her and her husband own “Kavacinno’s” in Lacombe, Alberta. A nice little spot, and delicious butternut squash soup. Perfect for a chilly fall day.

I left Lacombe and headed east – destination, the Preeceville-Sturgis Pastoral Charge in Saskatchewan. Friday’s drive was somewhat uneventful – with the exception of learning how much less our neighbours east of Alberta experience highway maintenance. It became blatantly obvious as soon as I crossed the border!

I had a quiet night in what I would call a very rustic motel…but the price was right. I decided to stop at dusk, to avoid close encounters with critters. Am I ever glad I made that decision. The next day was critter abundant – and with daylight I could enjoy that. Within the first half hour Saturday morning, I encountered 3 moose. One alone, the others in a team…all running across fields of grain. Then throughout the day there were ducks and geese and hawks and magpies – all too numerous to ever try to count. A spectacular eagle flew alongside for a bit. A a deer sauntered across the highway – far enough ahead of me to let me enjoy its grace. Sorry – no photos. These wonders were all on the move!

I arrived safe and sound to a wonderfully warm welcome by my hosts for the evening – Anna and Miles Russell. Miles has been in ministry with the pastoral charge for close to 3 decades. We enjoyed a meal out in a restaurant in the village of Stenen. The building was once was a school – closed due to population decline, and purchased and repurposed into a eatery, social hall, and community gathering place.

Today I worshipped with the people of The pastoral charge – first at Trinity United and then at Grace United. Timing is a great thing – as I got to enjoy the tradition of last Sunday of the month potluck, followed by a quick trip back to Trinity to have our conversations about thriving congregations, and what the folks of this pastoral charge believe helps them to flourish.

I came away with another reminder of how vital an attitude of gratitude is, and how important it is to be missionally focused. There was also a great sense of community support. It is evident that the two congregations are really working together, supporting one another, and serving their communities, reaching out and caring beyond their walls, as well as sharing their spaces with the wider community.

And tonight…a stopover in Saskatoon. Only tomorrow will tell if the snow will let up enough to let me get home. And if I need to stay another day – maybe I’ll find a movie theatre for some Downton Abbey time!

Trinity United – Preeceville, Saskatchewan
Grace United, Sturgis, Saskatchewan

September 26

I realize it’s been awhile. We arrived home from Manitoba a couple of weeks ago – in time to regroup, and spend a day with my dad on his birthday weekend. He turned 91 almost 2 weeks ago. It was the first of the firsts…events without mom. Dad, along with our whole family, is on this journey of grief…and one of the hard things about it is that dad doesn’t talk about mom much. He talks about how much he hates being alone…but rarely speaks about mom. When he does, it’s remembering times when they were younger. It has been interesting to hear those stories of their earlier life together – life before 5 children. I believe some of Dad’s quietness on the topic of mom is related to his dementia; however, I know there’s also some family history around that. The men in my dad’s family rarely speak of those they have loved and lost. Is that a cultural thing? A family thing? I don’t know. Dad is fine with us speaking about mom, and remembering. In fact my sister and I did a fair bit of that, with dad present with us, as together we made her special, well loved “peachy pear jam”. No kidding, this stuff is heaven in a jar! And we all love it. Mom made it every year – enough for all of us to get some on production day, and some for Christmas, and a few batches for her church bazaar.

My two sisters made some earlier this summer, and then yesterday I and my Calgary sister made the bazaar batches. We just couldn’t let there be none of Vera’s jam at that bazaar. You see, mom and a friend were the ones that initiated that bazaar, over 50 years ago. And this year, the Country Store area of the bazaar is being given a new name – Vera’s Country Store. I had never before made peachy pear…other jams, yes, and I’ve helped mom over the years with all the preserves she makes, however somehow, peachy pear was not part of my repertoire. So thanks to my sister for inviting me into her kitchen, where we used mom’s jam making equipment, and created that heavenly treat. Thanks to my sister, I now have the inside scoop on making that delicious jam.

Doing things like that, and sharing the memories helps. Having dad present, watching over the process, was good too.

Today, a little work to prepare for another journey across the prairie, to visit the congregations of Preeceville and Sturgis – a journey that will take me first to Lacombe for lunch with a colleague; then about 9 hours across the prairie, to this pastoral charge that is doing interesting things, and flourishing. I look forward to the journey – although the forecast for snow has put a little hestitancy in my heart. However I will take my time, and enjoy the ride…

The finished product…golden deliciousness, with mom’s canner in the background.

September 8th, 2019

The above photo was taken a couple of days ago…on our journey to the centre of …Canada. My spouse and I are in Manitoba, visiting relatives and beginning the sabbatical part of my journey. That day, we had made a little road trip from where we have been staying in Stony Mountain to Steinbeck, to visit a few antique stores.

My sabbatical journey is taking me to rural churches across the prairies, asking them about what they believe helps keep them healthy and flourishing. Today was the first official visit. Below is a photo of Carman United Church, located southwest of Winnipeg, in the town of Carman. I had been here before, as my late brother-in-law once served the Anglican Church in Carman.

This is the largest point in a 2 point pastoral charge, the other point being Elm Creek, just north of Carman. Being here felt much like home. The welcome was warm, as was lovely soup lunch. Worship was very familiar in it’s style to what we do at home, with a blend of music from Voices United and More Voices, our two United Church hymn books. The sermon reminded us of the value of caring for creation – especially in these days following the effects of hurricane Dorian.

This is a faith community that works well ecumenically to meet the needs of the wider community, and as one person so aptly said “to make a difference.” They have a strong outreach and social ministry. Following today’s service, the congregation had a “farmer’s market” for Mission and Service. People had brought home canning, fruit and vegetables from their garden, and other treats to share…on a pay what you can basis, with all proceeds going to Mission and Service. This was a first, and very successful endeavour, that I am told was easy to organize. And it was fun to see the fruits – and veggies – of people’s labour!

We’ve been in Manitoba for a week now…I’ve connected with a couple of colleagues, in addition to today’s worship and visit with the people of Carman United. My spouse and I have enjoyed some much needed restful days, including a walk in Oak Hammock Marsh, yesterday. There are pictures of nature’s beauty from the marsh walk below.

Tomorrow, we begin the journey back to Alberta. May the week bring peace to all.

Blessings,

Tammy

August 25th, 2019 – Gratitudes

This morning offered me the gift of shifting from the role of ministry leader to being part of the worshipping community. One of the great things that comes with sabbatical! I chose to go to a neighbouring United Church. My colleague is on leave, and worship was very well lead by members of the congregations worship committee, and guest musicians from yet another United Church.

This was one of what we call a combined service -that being a combination of the 5 closest United Churches, who have worshipped together this way 4 times each summer for several years now. We used to call them “joint services” but with the passing of the new marijuana laws in Canada, some thought that might have taken on a meaning we might not want to promote. 🙂

Whatever they are called – those services always bring a sense of community broader than we feel as single congregations. There is much to be said for worshipping in a full church in the summer. And over the years, these services have evolved in such a way that the richness of musical gifts among the communities is shared too, adding to the depth of the worship experience, and a strong sense of the presence of God.

I had planned to do the “I’m on sabbatical, I’m not working” sneak in and sneak out, however that didn’t happen. Yes, I did sneak in a moment or two after worship had started…and sat with members of my own congregation. It’s a whole different world at the back of the sanctuary!

Sneaking out just wasn’t possible. Rural ministry simply doesn’t work that way. And for that I am grateful. There were moments of caring for, and even more moments of being cared for – as people from my community “checked in” with how I am on this journey of grieving, and people from the surrounding communities who I haven’t seen since my mom died offered their love and compassion.

In rural ministry, one cannot be as anonymous as you can be in urban ministry. And again – for that I am grateful. When last I was on leave from my work in an urban congregation, I could worship in another of the city’s United churches, and save perhaps for the minister, be relative unknown by most of the congregation. There were many a coffee time I stood alone before giving up and going home.

For some, that’s a good thing. And at times, it can be. However for now – where I am at in my life, I am so very grateful for the communities of faith in this part of the world; for the opportunity to hold them in love – evening when I’m on sabbatical, and for the gift of being held as I undertake this journey of sabbath time.

Later this coming week, we begin our trip to Manitoba, where I’ll do the first official visits with thriving and flourishing congregations.

Good Sunday, friends!

Tammy

August 18, 2019

It’s been a week of “vacation” camping at a nearby lake. Usually our summer vacation involves a 6 hour drive to get to a BC lake, and a gathering of several families. This year, we switched it up, and stayed in Alberta. The gathering was small – just myself, my spouse, and our two kids (both adults). It’s been several years since we all camped together, and for the most part, it was a good time. Of course, when 4 adults get together, there’s always a bit of readjusting to one another. I found I had to remind myself a few times that these aren’t my children anymore, they are my adult family. I tend to want to ‘parent’ still. Not saying I don’t parent anymore, I just need to do that differently! I took a picture that will be my latest favourite sibling shot – our kids laughing together at the campfire, as they enjoy a rare treat – S’Mores! The smiles say it all. I’d love to show you, but they aren’t crazy about mom posting their faces!

And on the other side of the family configuration, another great photo for my album! My daughter and I spent part of yesterday with my dad. It was one of those times of privilege being with him, as a friend visited that he has not seen in years. He and his friend have known each other for most of their lives. They both turn 91 this year, and they went to school together right from grade one on! The stories, the memories…for both of them short term memory is a struggle, so to be together and share stories that they both lived, really an experience to treasure. Ken’s daughter and I enjoyed the moment, and her mom spoke so lovingly of my mom. An honour indeed. That photo will get printed asap and posted on dad’s cupboard to help him remember the day.

The next couple of weeks are for re-grouping, reading, and preparing for a road trip to Manitoba, where I’ll begin my visits to congregations that are flourishing in these changing times for the church. I hope to find nuggets of wisdom to share that might help other congregations on the journey. Along the way, we’ll be taking a few days of enjoying the prairie landscape, as we’re taking our trailer. We’ll also connect with my spouse’s family, and spend time with them. Looking forward to that, as its something that we don’t get to do often.

Feel free to offer your own nuggets of wisdom, your comments, your suggestions for possible congregations to connect with.

Blessings, friends, old and new!

Tammy

August 10, 2019

I left my mark at a new dinner in Edmonton…

On Friday evening my daughter and I went to a new diner in Edmonton for supper. Delicious comfort food, following which you’re invited to write and sort of message you want on the wall, the table, the bar. It felt somewhat weird to write on the bar, like I was going against things I’ve been taught! A person could spend an entire evening reading the graffiti and not finish!

Today, a leisurely morning, finishing the book I had been reading, and making our way home to prepare for 6 days of leisure at a Jarvis Bay Provincial Campground, at Sylvan Lake. We were hoping for fun in the sun, however what we’re probably going to get is rest in the rain! No worries – we’re bringing books, crosswords, colouring books, games, cards, sweaters and blankets; and me and my spouse, Chick, and both of our kids are going (kids being not quite 30 and almost 32). How did they get to be that age?

The weather may not be great, but the time away, with our little family unit will be lovely.

Now that I’ve mastered inserting a picture, hopefully more will follow this week, that look better than this one! I have memories as a child, camping with my parents and siblings, of seeing the northern lights for the first time from the beach at Sylvan. Maybe, just maybe, the lights will shine for us this week, if the clouds clear enough to let them. And even if the don’t – the annual Perseid Meteor showers will be at their most active this week – so the lights may not dance, but the stars will fly!

Another memory – camping with the kids and lying on the ground watching as the Perseids showers sent stars shooting across the sky, as we counted them. We’re all a little older – so maybe we’ll just lean back in our camp chairs…but it will be just as fun!