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British Columbia, Canada

This continues a web diary covering my 2004 Sabbatical.
The beginning of the diary may be found by clicking here.

Monday, November 15, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

Eight time zones away from England!

I find it amazing to be going to bed at the very hour when my friends in Cuddesdon are getting up for the next day’s morning prayers! Interestingly, the feeling of ‘jet lag’ is not very noticeable - lending some support to the idea (which I have often heard) that travelling West is much less stressful than travelling East.

And what a lot of things have been crammed into the few days since I myself was in Cuddesdon!

Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
Eight time zones away from England!
I’ve had lunch in Toronto with a friend whom I have not seen for 45 years, attended an opera in which my daughter Rachael was performing, flew to Calgary where I met Heather and we both then travelled together to Vernon, B.C.

A wonderful reunion with my son Chris and his family followed.

Sunday found us at worship in the parish of All Saints’, Vernon, where Chris is the Rector. It was a treat to attend worship where the presider and preacher was my own son (and a very good preacher he is, I might add).

Late Sunday afternoon I participated in a meeting at All Saints’, preparing for next weekend’s “Consecration Sunday” event, for which I am to give the keynote address. This meeting was followed by a dinner for church committee members and their spouses. As part of the “Consecration Sunday” process, I was the “after-dinner speaker.”

Today was spent with family - and was mostly peaceful and enjoyable until our granddaughter hurt her hand painfully, requiring much comfort and the administration of ice packs.

Tomorrow, Heather must fly back to Winnipeg, due to her business commitments, while I remain here. I’ve brought some resources, and expect that for much of the week I will be reading, and working on my book - at least during daytime hours, when the family is at work and in school.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

My presence in B.C. has more in common with my normal life than it has with my sabbatical. I am here to take part in a parish stewardship education event, something which I frequently do in churches nearer home.

The family connection is a bonus, and the fact that I am on sabbatical simply makes it easier for me to make the time available than it would have if I were in the thick of parish life.

“Consecration Sunday” is a church programme. Working through a series of meetings, mailings, and brief chancel talks, it culminates in a Sunday church service followed by a feast. The process has only one focus: to help churchgoers see their charitable giving and their offerings to the church in a spiritual light. Is the material fabric of my life - my money, my skills, my home - really “mine”? Or have they been given to me by God in trust, so that I am in fact “accountable” for what I do with them? Is it not true that the more God has blessed me, the more I should be blessing the world around me?

People tend to be touchy when religious leaders talk about money. There is always the suspicion - not completely unfounded - that the person preaching “Give to God” really means “Give your money to me!” Consequently, the “Consecration Sunday” programme deliberately specifies that on the culminating Sunday, the keynote speaker should be an outsider - someone who is not in any way affected by where this congregation gives its money.

When All Saints’ Vernon decided they would do this programme, they were soon faced with the question of who should be invited to be this “outside” speaker. When Chris mentioned that his father had done it a number of times in the Winnipeg region, the planning committee thought it would be really rather interesting to have me, and so an offer was made to fly me to Vernon. Frankly, I was deeply touched that my son would be willing to entrust to me such a pivotal role in his parish, so, as soon as I could adjust my sabbatical itinerary to include a trip to Vernon, I accepted!

Once the decision to come was made, it was only natural to include Heather in the visit to our Vernon family. My flight was from Toronto, with a stopover and change of aircraft in Calgary. Heather’s flew from Winnipeg, also making a connecting flight in Calgary. Thus it was that the first time I saw my beloved after my trip to England was in a Calgary airport!

“Hello!” he said, “Going my way?” And the little round lady with a slight limp kissed the white haired old gent. They held one another and said certain important little nothings, then boarded the aircraft together.

But this afternoon Heather had to return to Winnipeg, and once more I’m on my own.

However, as I prepare the keynote address for All Saints’ next Sunday, I am acutely conscious of this: the opportunity to study and travel - and to organize my thoughts for a possible book - is a gift from God, for which I am accountable - not only to the parish which, with considerable charity, sent me on my way, but to the Lord, who orders all things, and sets out my path before me.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

The City of Vernon...
NOT Horizontal!
Today’s featured activity: go for a walk in Vernon.

I needed to find a post office and a souvenir shop. And I needed some exercise (after all, I had gone from the enormous exertion of a daily bicycle ride, to a very sedentary life).

Well, a walk in vernon does give you a good workout. Hardly anything is horizontal. There is a street near Chris’ house which has been named “Suicide Hill,” for if you were to lose your brakes going down it, you would be catapulted through four intersections into downtown traffic!

It took a while to find what I wanted, but I wasn’t looking very intently, and I ended up walking up, down, and around Vernon for over two hours.

Andrea had a late-afternoon meeting, and Chris was out in the parish, so I was babysitter for my grandchildren after school. Still, I still managed to get forty pages of reading done, too! A good day.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

A former Winnipeg Colleague, the Rev’d John Moorhouse, retired to Vernon and is now a member of Chris’ parish.

When Heather and I went into the church last Sunday, John spotted us and soon there was a great deal of warm greeting and embracing. Following the service, he asked me to have lunch with him sometime during my stay, and we decided that today would be the day.

It was a delightful get-together. Chris joined in for a while, but had to rush off to preside at a funeral. John and I, however, caught up on one another’s news, and mused together about our loved ones, books, the church, and the pleasures of reading history. Although John feels a little too frail to be presiding at worship, he is full of life, and a pleasure to be with. To my way of thinking, he is an excellent role model for retirement with grace.

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Friday, November 19, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

Funny about books: some are so thick and dense that I can report a sense of triumph for getting through forty pages in a day. Others make smooth and easy reading, so that covering a hundred requires no effort at all!

Anyhow, today I devoured one of the books I had brought with me, and accomplished a lot of personal stuff as well - paying some bills online, emailing friends, buying the family a pizza, and playing a “fast” game of monopoly with them (we took about an hour, and simply quit - with the person having the greatest wealth being declared the winner. A good way to play. My grand daughter Alexa won, to her great satisfaction).

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Saturday, November 20, 2004
Vernon, British Columbia

The whole purpose of my being in Vernon is focused on tomorrow. The parish of All Saints, after weeks and months of preparation, gathers for “Consecration Sunday,” and I am to give the keynote address.

There will be two services, 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., at both of which I will preach and guide them through the “Consecration” process. Thus, although I did spend some time continuing my reading in church history, much of the day was spent in sermon preparation. A brisk walk in the sharp, clear air aided the process, and by about 4:00 p.m. I had managed to type a fairly complete outline.

I was thus in a great mood to go to a movie with the family after dinner. We saw The Polar Express with Tom Hanks (who played a number of roles). There is no denying this was a pretty light and fluffy affair, and I have no comment on the “feel good” Christmas message. But what will stay with me for a long time was the utterly amazing graphical effects. There was one scene where children were trying to cross a great chasm on a narrow rail, and I had to cover my eyes! This is animation, you understand, and yet it was so powerful that it activated my innate fear of heights and I could not watch (okay, I peeked through my fingers sometimes, but mostly I relied on Alexa beside me to tell me when it was okay to look at the movie again)!

To bed fairly early. Big day tomorrow.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004
In the Calgary airport, awaiting my flight to Winnipeg

Dad and Son together
Father and Son
Consecration Sunday, All Saints’ Vernon
All Saints’ Vernon is a weloming and affirming congregation.

Naturally they were fascinated to have the father of their Rector preaching, and many of them noted the great number of similarities in tone and manner and gesture between parent and offspring. As well, I was simply deluged with compliments about my actual sermon, to the point where I was feeling quite overwhelmed. Not a few people also wanted to tell the dad how much they loved the son and his family - something which is really very moving for a parent to hear.

They had a strong turnout for their day, with over two hundred staying for the feast in the parish hall. So great was the spirit of good will and the feeling of both optimism and commitment, that the actual “results” - written estimates of support for the parish and its work - were almost anti-climatic.

It was not lost on me, either, that this great and enthusiastic crowd turned out on “Grey Cup Sunday” - a day when Canadians frequently allow nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of a football championship game (for my readers from the U.K., Canadian football is a very slightly modified version of American rugby football. The final contest of the season is surrounded with a great deal of partying, and an air of national festival).

A Parish Feast
A Parish Feast
Sunday, November 21, 2004, All Saints“ Vernon

Now the Vernon leg of my sabbatical is over, and I am on my way to spend a couple of days with Heather before returning to Toronto once more.

It may have been living with children for over a week, or else the stress that comes with serious and significant preaching (or maybe a bit of both), but I am filled with waves of tiredness. I could fall asleep right here sitting in the airport!

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Monday, November 22, 2004
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Home feels strange. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

It doesn’t help that I did not think to bring my house and car keys from Toronto! So, either I have to stay at home all day, or else Heather is stuck in her office while I drive around and come and go from the apartment.

We chose the latter, because I needed to see a dentist. Two teeth had broken (painlessly) during my travels - no reflection on anyone’s cuisine - and I was fortunate that our dentist could fit me in to her calendar on short notice. So, I dropped Heather at work, did some errands, saw the dentist (who made things comfortable and planned some repairs for January), went home and read for a while, then collected Heather at the end of her workday.

In the evening, Troy and Calyn (and Calyn’s friend Morgan) came over for a delicious vegetarian dinner which Heather prepared.

It rained in the afternoon, sometimes heavily, then as darkness fell the rain turned to snow. At bedtime it is now obvious that winter has begun. Snow is deep, and the air is cold.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Daytime today was devoted almost entirely to reading, then in the evening, we drove the icy and slippery streets to a friend’s home.

We had been invited to a unique celebration: fifty years called to the bar! Only those of us who enter our professions young can accomplish something like that. Having been ordained Deacon at the age of 24, and Priest at 25, I have a fighting chance to make it to my own fiftieth year. I wonder if I will?

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