Monthly Archives: November 2017

The gentleness of wisdom

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Next Saturday Erinn will take the second-last step on her journey towards ordination. A group of people, including a contingent from The Dale, will gather in a room, hear her statement of faith, ask questions, and then vote on whether she should be ordained. I will be there, and my vote will be a resounding “oh my goodness, YES!”

Erinn has already been the Pastor of The Dale for many years, but this ordination process is a way to formalize her role within the CBOQ (the Baptist association to which The Dale belongs), and a chance for The Dale community to affirm her call to ministry in our midst.

It is hard to summarize the ways in which Erinn is so suited to her role as Pastor. Rather than try to create a list of her character attributes, I’ll tell a few stories.

The first time I met Erinn, The Dale was still called Parkdale Neighbourhood Church, and the community was in the midst of the transition from being housed to being a a church without its own walls. I knew next to nothing about the community or the immensity of the challenge that Erinn was courageously facing. But I knew, from the first 5 minutes of our meeting, that she loved that community, and that she was deeply committed to the call that God had placed on her heart to lead her folks through this difficult transition, and beyond.

Fast forward a couple of years, and The Dale had settled into its new name and its new weekly rhythm of migration around the Parkdale neighbourhood. We were running our Monday drop-in at Bonar Parkdale Presbyterian, and a friend entered, very much under the influence. This friend was in a huge amount of distress, and Erinn was working hard to provide some physical and emotional stability. Despite her efforts, our friend stumbled and fell to the floor, bringing Erinn along. Rather than getting up and dusting herself off, Erinn stayed on the ground and listened as incredible amounts of pain of poured out of our friend’s soul.

Fast forward another couple of years, and The Dale had begun a new rhythm of doing street outreach with a counselor from the Parkdale Community Health Center. Erinn stopped to talk with a friend outside St. Francis Table. This friend is quite elderly, lonely and hard of hearing. Erinn patiently listened to the long and rambling stories that this friend was in the mood to share. When I made some subtle attempts to move our team along, this friend didn’t hear me and just kept talking. Erinn showed zero sign of frustration, but just kept listening…and listening…and listening. She honoured our friend by hearing him out.

Every Sunday at The Dale, Erinn shares insights from God’s Word in ways that are relatable, challenging and encouraging. She does not shy away from speaking truth boldly, and she roots her exhortations in deep humility.

Erinn loves The Dale with a deep, courageous and committed love. She meets people where they are at, even if that place is the floor. She listens. She speaks with the gentleness of wisdom. Erinn is our Pastor, and I consider it an honour to stand with her next week and affirm her call.

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Showing up

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I realized anew last week that a big element of being in community is simply being willing to show up for each other.

Showing up at the hospital when a friend is facing a scary health crisis.

Showing up to a musical friend’s gig.

Showing up every week to help cook a big meal with a team of friends.

Showing up to Bible Study to read, listen, pray and share ideas with friends.

Showing up to remember a friend at a funeral or memorial.

I am so grateful for the way that folks at The Dale keep showing up in these, and many other, ways. And I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to show up for these friends.

Last week Erinn, Meagan and I showed up for a friend in court. It struck me, again, that all we really needed to do was show up. We had already written letters in support of our friend, and were willing to speak on this friend’s behalf if we were called upon to do so. But all that was required of us today was to sit, wait, go outside for a few smoke breaks, sit, wait, eat some chocolate bars, sit, wait, and then finally accompany our friend into the court room.

There, our friend’s lawyer pointed us out as people from “the church” who had written support letters, the judge acknowledged our presence and thanked us for coming… and that was it. That was the extent of our involvement, but, amazingly, it seemed to mean something to those making a big decision in the life of our friend. Just showing up.

Again, I’m so grateful for the people who keep showing up at The Dale, and for me in my life outside The Dale. You may not know that your presence particularly matters, but it does.

 

Great weather

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This morning Erinn, Meagan and I were walking around Parkdale with our new friend Kirti, from the Parkdale Community Health Center. (Kirti is an addictions and mental health counselor, and we’re really glad to have him as part of our outreach team!)

Today was a relatively quiet day in the neighbourhood, but we came across a few of our friends and had some good conversations. Near the end of our walk we ran into our friend “Barb”, a woman who used to volunteer on Mondays until her mobility issues made standing up to cook or do dishes impossible. Barb has come up to Camp Koinonia with us in the past, and we see her around the neighbourhood from time to time.  Every time I see her, I am struck by the way that she carries herself with such grace, despite the many things about her life which are very difficult. And today was no exception.

Barb greeted us with a big smile and hug. I asked about her family, and she described some unspeakably hard situations- not to evoke our pity, but to let us know how we can pray, and to express her unconditional love for the members of her family who are making harmful choices.

She then asked how we were doing, especially Erinn and Dion. She knows the struggle of living with and alongside chronic illness, and extends deep empathy as a result. She told us that she doesn’t know how she would have survived until now without her faith.

As we chatted with Barb, it began to drizzle. She stood there, unfazed, as she told us about her life and asked us about ours. Then, when she finally did comment on “the great weather we’ve been having”, I thought she was being sarcastic… But she wasn’t! She said “sure, there’s a bit of rain, but it’s so warm for this time of year! We really can’t complain!”

I stand in awe of Barb’s radical gratitude, and the grace of God made manifest in her life. And I’m grateful for the reminder that yes, we really have been having great weather! If today’s drizzle doesn’t damper Barb’s spirits, then I won’t let it dampen mine.