Tag Archives: Trinity United Church

It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here

There are days when I wish more people could say, “It’s not about me.”There are days when I wonder why people think life should only be about what they like.

I am guilty of it too. But I try to think: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”

I use it at the grocery store when I’m in a hurry and the person ahead of me is paying cash, counting out every nickel. Patience.

I use it in tense meetings. Conflict resolution lessons.

I use it at church every week.

I’m a member of a progressive, affirming congregation. The foundation of our group is that love and grace are available to all people, but beyond that we don’t dictate what anyone should believe. On any given week an atheist could be sitting down the row from a person who believes in the virgin birth. It’s fantastic!

Our conversations are authentic, and deep, and heartwarming,

And challenging. How to balance the content of a church service for people on such different places on a journey?

  • A service about an Old Testament story:
    • “Why do we even use the bible (small b) anymore? It’s thousands of years old, written by men in a patriarchal time. What does it have to do with me? “
    • “Thank goodness we’re finally talking about the Bible (capital B). It has timeless lessons, and it’s the foundation of our faith.”
  • Communion:
    • “It’s a sacred ritual for me. A reminder that I’m not alone and that I have purpose.”
    • “It’s meaningless to me. A little creepy if you want to know the truth.”
  • The cross:
    • “It’s barbaric. I would never wear one because it brands me as something I don’t want to be associated with.”
    • “It’s a symbol of connection with something greater than myself, the reaching and the grounding.”
  • The organ:
    • “The music resonating through the pipes moves me to the depths of my soul.”
    • “How can people endure that horrible screeching?”
  • A short sermon:
    • “It’s about time. No need to go on and on about things. Just get to the point. “
    • “The minister needs to delve more deeply into the topic.”
  • Children in church:
    • “Oh, the noise, noise noise!”
    • “It’s good to see so many children. They bring the place to life.”
  • The hymns:
    • “We need to sing more of the old, familiar hymns.”
    • “Enough of the blood and the sin songs. Let’s sing something new.”
  • The prayers
    • “Oh my God, the prayers are long. My mind drifts off.”
    • I need prayers. They are my time of centering. It’s when I connect with God, and when we connect with each other and the world.”

Every Sunday something happens that I would not choose to include if I were a member of a church of one. (And what fun would that be?) Every Sunday I have to remind myself that the thing I dislike is exactly the thing that someone there—maybe right beside me—is needing. Every Sunday I say to myself: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”

There always is. Something authentic, deep and heartwarming.

A pewter communion cup beside bread and a candle
The cup of hope and bread for the journey.

Divine inspiration: A reason to clean your house

“Yesterday, while I was vacuuming my house,” Jackie Hawley said, “the truth came to me.”

Hawley is the Artistic Director of Cantiamo Choirs of Ottawa, a group that uses our church as a practice facility. She was invited to speak to us about her purpose and the work of the choir, and she told us that when she first started thinking about what to say, she focused on the music education, the performances, and the work in the community.

Then she vacuumed.

The repetitive physical act that required only muscle memory and no mental exertion opened her mind and invited inspiration. Her vacuuming body and open mind allowed her to realize that her purpose wasn’t really the education, the performances or the community work. They were all part of it, sure, but there was a deeper truth.

“I love through bringing music and beauty into the world,” she said.

She realized the truth about her purpose in life by cleaning her house.

Girls' choir on stage
Cantiamo Choirs of Ottawa

Some people say they do their best thinking in the shower. Same idea. I once received a story idea while stirring cooked pudding. Many writers go for long walks every day for the same reason.

Body movement that doesn’t require mental exertion allows the mind to open to ideas, truths, plot resolutions or comforting thoughts.

Suddenly, I feel an urge to do some vacuuming . . .

Sidelined: Released by my word

Many people choose a word for the year. Did you?

Or did a word choose you?

In the early days of 2019, I thought “potential” might be mine. But the minister at my church proposed the idea that, in the same way that wands choose the wizards in the Harry Potter series, a word chooses the person.

At our Epiphany service in early January, we received (distributed at random) a star word. The word Release chose me.

A yellow star with the word Release

Since then I have turned to that word far more often than “potential.” I have found peace in releasing the need to control everything, releasing plans when circumstances changed, and releasing joy too.

The last few days I’ve had to release my need to go to work. I’ve been sidelined by a flu that has left me tired and feverish and achey. I’m not a person who misses work willingly, so I’ve waged a mental battle with myself every time.

“I should go. I have deadlines to meet and not a lot of days to meet them.”

“You’ll just infect everyone there, and they won’t thank you for that!”

“But they’re already missing staff. If I don’t go, they’ll fall really behind.”

“You’re not indispensable, you know. The world keeps spinning without you.

Release . . . release . . . release . . .

My word chose well.

In praise of church bazaars: No unhappy people there

I have never seen an unhappy person at a church bazaar. They just make people smile, and that’s something to think about.

When I finish writing this post, I will wrap up the shortbread cookies I baked this week, put some used books in a box, filter through some of the jewelry I don’t wear any more, and I will head over to help set up for tomorrow’s church bazaar.

Last weekend I spent Saturday morning walking from church to church on a long street in my neighbourhood where the United, Anglican and Catholic churches all hold their bazaars on the same day. They’ve been doing this for years, so “Bazaar Day” is a community event and a much bigger financial success for all three.

Churches hold bazaars as fundraisers, of course, but the annual events offer much more than money to the congregation. They are community-building events and a chance for everyone to smile and get into the holiday spirit.

Bazaars are joyful for many reasons. They offer:

  • a chance to meet and greet people from the neighbourhood they don’t see at other times of the year,
  • homemade strawberry jam,
  • the possibility that you will find the spoon to replace the missing one from your cutlery or a glass to replace the broken one from your favourite wine set,
  • an opportunity to refresh holiday decor with the affordable crafts prepared by the talented contributors to bazaars,
  • a mixing of generations, old and young,
  • the blessing of eating other people’s baking,
  • books, (!)
  • and a delicious lunch, that includes homemade pie.

If you need a smile, look up your local church bazaars and give yourself the gift of a smiley day.

ChristmasBazaar2014_Poster_final_web

I am not a closet alcoholic, but I do go to church

My friend, Susan Irwin, wrote today’s piece—a reflection on her experience in church.

It has been one interesting place

© 2011 Susan Irwin

A good friend of mine moved to the States several years ago. During her first few months there, one of the strange differences she noticed was that within twenty minutes of meeting people they would ask her what church she went to.

Imagine that.

I think you might find it easier here to say that you are a closet alcoholic than that you go to church. Just using those few words, “then I went to church” can create an awkward silence as people wait for you to start Bible thumping or born againing.

This is where I am proud to be a United Church member. No one tells me what to believe. I am encouraged, coaxed, urged, and sometimes even poked and prodded, into thinking of what matters to me as a person and where my spiritual journey is going.

Like many others, I was brought up getting into my Sunday best and heading out to church with the family each week. I still have the Bible given to me for perfect attendance in 1962. They even put my name on it in gold letters—I do recall being very impressed about that.

And, like many others, I fell away from church when I was a teenager. It all seemed so archaic and out of touch with the real world.

When my son was five years old, we were walking down the street one day and he asked me what a particular building was.  “A church,” I said.

“Why don’t we go to church?” he asked.

I was flummoxed. “Do you want to go to church?” I asked him.

“Yes, I do,” was the quick reply.

That Sunday, off we went to our first service. Before I knew it, I was teaching Sunday School. That experience helped me to regain my appreciation that we are part of a larger whole; that the Biblical stories and history I had casually brushed aside are reflected in art and literature, and they help to provide continuity to all generations. I remembered that teaching about compassion, empathy and justice for all is a valuable thing. Both for the child and for me.

Returning to church as an adult also revealed to me that hymns had been imprinted on my neurons and I didn’t even know it. I loved to sing out loud without being mocked for it. And I loved to listen to the choir and the organ. Partaking of the words and music of hymns, both old and new, results in a special kind of enjoyment.

The other thing I tell people is that church is a comfort.  And I mean that in different ways.

It is an endlessly reassuring comfort to know just how many good and caring people there are both in our neighbourhood and our world. In my congregation are folks who do hands-on work to help the less fortunate in our immediate community, and there are groups that reach out to the larger world to make it a better place.

And when facing personal times of trial, like when my mother died, church was my community of caring. The comforting consolation offered by so many members of the congregation still warms my heart.

During my fifteen years back at church, there have been many changes and upsets and happy and unhappy moments. It has been one interesting place. And I thank God for it.

Good work

A tale of two buildings

I am part of a guided meditation group that meets monthly at my church. Each month the week prior to our gathering, Ellie sends an e-mail message to the regular attendees, reminding them of the meditation time and requesting an RSVP. 

Last fall was a particularly busy time for one of our regulars. He replied to Ellie’s message from a business trip in another country to let her know that he was travelling and in and out of meetings. His message showed his stress and preoccupation with the busy-ness of his life. 

Ellie responded saying, “Sorry to hear that you can’t make it. But wherever you are, right now, take three deep breaths.” A short time later, she received a reply: “I did what you said. I stopped and took three deep breaths. You know, the building I’m in is really beautiful.”  Continue reading