This continues a web diary covering my 2004 Sabbatical.
The beginning of the diary may be found by clicking here.
September 12, 2004
What do you imagine Heaven is like? Many people look forward to reunions with loved ones, but what about the rest of it? Sitting on a cloud, studying your Learn to Play the Harp in Twelve Easy Lessons handbook?
Seriously, although no one can know for certain until we get there, Ive found that almost everyone has some kind of expectation - a picture of life beyond the grave that enters the mind without being bidden or thought about.
Whats mine? I wonder if I can find the words to tell you.
... being one of a large throng of people all facing in the direction of the Presence of God. I dont envisage that Presence itself - it is not a visual kind of thing - but the crowd of humans in which I stand is visible, and all are focussed on a central, immensely joyful, place which I cant quite see. The other people - I mostly see their backs and their profile - are beautifully clothed in formal robes. There is singing - angelic singing. And a deep organ thunders. Sonorous words float in the air: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, and Blessed is the One who Comes... Hosanna in the highest. Tears of pure happiness flow freely.
Thats the best I can do for now.
Sometimes worship in the Anglican church can get close to my vision of what Heaven is like, and it did this morning at St. Thomas, Huron Street. Beautiful liturgy, reverently done; perfect choral music; the scriptures proclaimed clearly and well; the sacrament distributed and received in humble gratitude; and a brilliantly played pipe organ.
It didnt hurt that I sat with my well-loved son-in-law, and that one of my daughters was among the perfect choral singers.
The sermon was given by David Neelands, Dean of Divinity at Trinity College, who will be my personal academic resource for this sabbatical. We spoke briefly after church, and I will be going to the college tomorrow morning to get the official paperwork completed.
Following lunch with Ariel, Rachael and Kevin (Shai was on a one-day visit to his parents home in Guelph), I sat down at the computer and spent the next several hours writing a proper outline of the book I hope to write. The basic chapter structure - much of it came to me during my drive here - is now complete, plus most of the major concepts I hope to explore. Ill take it in to David Neelands in the morning, and see if he has any suggestions I can use.
Then I wrote an article for our parish newsletter, the byGeorge!, and finished up preparing for a meeting I must attend on Wednesday. In all I put in about seven straight hours at my desk. A productive day.
September 13, 2004
I now have a University of Toronto student card. It cant be activated until tomorrow, but then I will be able to borrow books from the John W. Graham library. It has been suggested that the Graham library is the best theological library in North America, if not best in the world. What I need to look at is there.
This mornings visit to Trinity College began the process of making me an official reading student in the Toronto School of Theology. It was exhilarating just being on an active university campus as I walked here and there to appointments.
This afternoon - back at Ariel and Shais - I worked some more on the outline of my book. Then, after a late dinner (prepared by Shai - an excellent chef) I watched a bit of Monday Night Football with him, and am now calling it a day.
September 14, 2004
She sat there in the subway car, hands folded in her lap, asleep. She looked as if she had spent much of the day cleaning someones house. Strands of grey hair escaping here and there from the bun at the back of her head. It had probably been done up tidily this morning.
Here she was, resting briefly in a life of hard work. Did she have anything but monotony to look forward to? Did any of the others in that car - the students, a man balancing big boxes, young mothers with children?
By contrast, I was full of vitality. I had just spent hours in the Graham library. My backpack was full of fascinating books, I had been helped by knowledgable librarians, I have ideas and plans and wonderful things ahead of me, and I felt - not guilty, in comparison with all those people - but extremely fortunate and blessed. I could only hope that they - the sleeping worker and all the others - may, at least once in their lives, be as blessed as I am.
And then... Canada won the world cup of hockey! I was reminded that the game was on when I went online after dinner (I seldom watch television of any kind, but I go online a lot) and the first period score - a tie - appeared on my favourite news page. So, about forty minutes later, I put away my laptop and went downstairs to watch the last five minutes of the game. Marvellous hockey, beautifully played!
Then Heather phoned, and husband and wife talked for quite a long time.
What more could a person ask?
September 15, 2004
Ol Harry is starting to smoke. Its a nasty habit he takes up in extremely hot weather (regular readers will know that ol Harry is the name I have given to my rusty old car).
I first noticed this smoking habit last year when he decided to break down about 25 km. outside Winnipeg. It was a furiously hot day, and while I waited for the tow truck to come, I kept the engine running so I could sit in the pleasant air conditioned interior (the breakdown was in the wheel; the engine worked just fine, or so I thought). After about ten minutes of idling, however, I noticed that the car was becoming enveloped in a thin grey cloud. Something unpleasant was coming out the exhaust. It went away if I revved it up, but whenever I let it idle, ol Harry became a regular Marlboro Man.
My Winnipeg friends, who have endured the coldest and wettest summer on record, will eat their hearts out to learn that it has been hot and sunny here in Toronto since I arrived. Oh yes, and muggy! Toronto is a humid city most of the time, and when the weather is hot, your body can feel like it is enveloped in steam. Now, add big-city traffic: Stop, and go. Go a little more, and stop. Heat shimmering on vehicle surfaces.
I was to be in two different places today - there was a meeting in the morning at Anglican Church of Canada headquarters (I have recently been appointed to a national church committee), and in the afternoon I wanted to spend some more time at the Graham library. I thought I should be somewhat formally dressed for the meeting, with clerical shirt and blazer, but feared becoming sticky and damp in the heat, if I were to travel by bus and subway, so I decided instead to drive ol Harry downtown and enjoy the luxury of air conditioning.
I had forgotten ol Harrys smoking habit. Shortly after setting out, the line of cars had stopped - again - when I noticed the grey haze drift by my window, and the distinctive smell. As the traffic inched forward and stopped again, I realized that the person behind was leaving a large gap between himself and my tailpipe. He clearly didnt enjoy directly inhaling what ol Harry was aiming his way. I, in my clericals, was embarrassed to be such an automotive nuisance, but, stuck in the traffic, there was no possibility of taking myself away! Each time we stopped, the noxious cloud appeared, and over time it got worse.
I finally took to turning the off the ignition every time we came to a halt, and anxiously cranking ol Harry back into life as soon as the line began moving again. Of course, turning off a cars engine also turns off the air conditioning. During longer pauses in traffic, the interior slowly became an oven. By the time I got to my meeting, I fear I looked pretty damp after all.
A fine way for a new member to be introduced to a committee! But the meeting was interesting, and productive, and the meeting room, while not frigid, was cooler than outside.
By afternoon I was back in the library, getting gracious help from the librarian in locating some of the more arcane and obscure items in their collection.
Then, long before rush hour I drove back to Ariels - so that I would have to endure ol Harrys smoking as little as possible on the way home.
I had pizza delivered to the house for dinner, then spent the rest of the evening working on the outline of my book, which is really starting to take shape!
September 16, 2004
The Revd W. David Neelands, M.A., M.Div., Th.D., D.D. is the Dean of Divinity at Trinity College Toronto. As a scholar specializing in church history, he is, as well, academic advisor for my Sabbatical. We met for an hour this morning: I gave him the outline of my book, which he proceeded to read in my presence, and as he read, he gave extremely encouraging and helpful comments. He suggested some reading; he lent me some rare books from his own personal collection; and offered to try and arrange, when I am in Oxford, an introduction to a particularly well-known authority in my area of interest. He completely accepted my proposed plan of attack in the writing of my book, and committed himself to read the manuscript whenever it is ready, with a view to catching any blatant historical inaccuracies.
David - it is a sign of my advanced years that I remember him as a fresh-faced undergraduate forty years ago and relate to him on a first-name basis - is a genuinely likable person. I came away from my meeting with him having taken great pleasure in our conversation, and both encouraged and optimistic about my project.
In my reading later today, I learned about a man who will probably appear in my book: William Akers. In 1581, the Ely Consistory Court was informed that, on Easter Sunday, Akers had spoken evil words of his parson, saying that Mr Bowler did preache such a sermone . . . as was not mete for a man to here, And sayd alsoe that if he preached soe in some place he woulde be pulled oute of the pulpit like a rascall. It seemed that the Revd Mr. Bowler was very interested in some of the new puritan ideas and William Akers was not going to put up with it. Among other things, under the parsons influence, the parish had stopped ringing the bells during the Eucharist, so Akers went and rang them at the proper time himself, no doubt creating something of a tumult in the congregation!
I love this stuff, and when we put it all together I think people like Akers and Parson Bowler can help us figure out what to do with the pressures of change and dissent in the church today.
My other daughter Rachael, with her husband Kevin, dropped in after dinner, and we all had a pleasant family evening together. The young couples indulged me somewhat - by getting me into my saga-telling mode. I love telling funny stories about the things that have happened in my life, and they seemed to really enjoy listening to my tales of fascinating church characters Ive known. I have, I confess, sometimes been the Parson Bowler, and certain wonderfully unique parishioners have sometimes felt called upon to play the corresponding part of William Akers! Rachael said I should write it all down.
Next: Deep Study
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