Monthly Archives: December 2020

Advent Joy in 2020? Part 2

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However, we know that joy isn’t simply the enjoyment of good things, experiences or feelings. In my struggle to articulate the essence of joy, I keep coming back to an essay by poet and community gardener Ross Gay, called “”Joy is such a human madness”: The duff between us.” I’d like to share it with you (I tried to pick out a few lines and just couldn’t.)

“…In healthy forests, which we might imagine to exist mostly above ground, and be wrong in our imagining, given as the bulk of the tree, the roots, are reaching through the earth below, there exists a constant communication between those roots and mycelium, where often the ill or weak or stressed are supported by the strong and surplused.

By which I mean a tree over there needs nitrogen, and a nearby tree has extra, so the hyphae (so close to hyphen, the handshake of the punctuation world), the fungal ambulances, ferry it over. Constantly. This tree to that. That to this. And that in a tablespoon of rich fungal duff (a delight: the phrase fungal duff, meaning a healthy forest soil, swirling with the living the dead make) are miles and miles of hyphae, handshakes, who get a little sugar for their work. The pronoun who turned the mushrooms into people, yes it did. Evolved the people into mushrooms.

Because in trying to articulate what, perhaps, joy is, it has occurred to me that among other things — the trees and mushrooms have shown me this — joy is the mostly invisible, the underground union between us, you and me, which is, among other things, the great fact of our life and the lives of everyone and thing we love going away. If we sink a spoon into that fact, we will find it teeming. It will look like all the books ever written. It will look like all the nerves in a body. We might call it sorrow, but we might call it a union, one that, once we notice it, once we bring it into the light, might become flower and food. Might be joy.” *

To me, this means that there is joy to be found in the common human experience of being mortal and vulnerable. Joy in knowing that we are not independent, and simultaneously, that we are not alone. As I think about Mary, and who she carried in her womb, it occurs to me that one of the greatest gifts that came with the birth of Jesus was that He shared in our vulnerability. He now knows first hand what it means to be dependent and needy. Because Emmanuel (“God with us”) shared in our vulnerability, we have the joy of knowing that we truly are not alone.

The loneliness and vulnerability that have accompanied COVID seem to have come as a shock to many people; those of us who are materially well-resourced are not always used to acknowledging our vulnerability and dependence on others. Many of my friends in Parkdale, however, have know these truths for a long time. They are my teachers in the joy of interdependence, mutual support, raw and honest prayers, and knowing that it’s okay to not be okay.

I feel like these this two part blog has been a bit rambly, so thanks for sticking with me. Advent Joy in the midst of a pandemic. It’s complex, but it’s real and good. I pray for that Joy for you this week.

* Gay, R. (2019) The Book of Delights. Thomas Allen & Son Limited.

Advent Joy in 2020? Part 1

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I can hardly believe that today is already the third Sunday of Advent. Typically, The Dale would have gathered today, like many other congregations, and lit a candle to symbolize Joy (having lit the Hope and Peace candles over the last two weeks.) Of course, things look different this year, but as a community The Dale has still been practising Advent together… but apart.

In late November we distributed Advent packages containing five candles of the traditional Advent colours (three purple, one red, one white), a devotional book with pages to colour for each week, some pencil crayons, a little box of matches, and a pencil sharpener. It has been lovely knowing that we are each lighting the same colour of candle each week, reading the same Scripture, prayer and song, and perhaps colouring in the same design (created by my sister!).

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joy this weekend, and what Advent Joy could possibly mean in 2020. As we all know, it been a year. The first three months had their own set of challenges, including a concerning viral outbreak in China… but then March came and COVID turned the whole world upside down. As a wise and poetic friend (Amanda Jagt) pointed out this week, these past nine months have given birth to so many things. They have birthed incredible sorrow and hardship, and they have also birthed some much needed change (or at least the beginnings of some changes).

At The Dale, these nine months have been full of challenge and change, and also surprising joys.

We have developed relationships with people we might not have otherwise, simply because they saw the line up for meals on Mondays and Thursdays.

We have developed new partnerships with organizations and individuals who have been incredibly generous to our little community, including one group that donated our outreach van (!).

We have been able to do more street outreach than ever, and have shared sweet and poignant moments with friends both new and old. One of my favourite new “traditions” that has developed since COVID is that every time we come across a particular friend walking down the street (this friend is quite elderly, uses a cane, and is a man of very few words), we both stop in our tracks and do a few dance moves, then carry on.

There is joy, even in the middle of a pandemic.

Continued in next blog…