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Sabbatical, 2004
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Update on our lives, late Fall, 2003

November 30, 2003

Take a look at my entry for December 1999, particularly the first few paragraphs.

I feel much the same way now as I did then.  My website chronicles continue to arise largely from vacations, and very little from the normal day to day occurrences around here.

People who visit this site for personal news and updates are understandably disappointed.  How is Heather?  Not mentioned.  How is Tony?  Same thing.

Of course, it’s not appropriate to write in a public place such as the web, the kind of thing which occupy so much of the thought and energy of either a priest or a lawyer.  Heather and I work with people, and many things happen in the course of the working year which are funny, or sad, or downright interesting, but they can’t be published here without committing a horrible breach of trust!

I can tell you about how stupid I am with a bicycle, or a tree, or trying to mouse-proof a cottage, but I won’t tell you about the people who mean a lot to me, and whose adventures occupy much of my care and concern, no matter how interesting or even funny they might be!

What can I write about?
  1. Parish Life
  2. Study
  3. Research Ethics
  4. Heather
  5. The Offspring
  6. Life in General

Parish life
I attend to the concerns of St.  George’s, most of my waking hours, day in and day out.  There are weddings and funerals (remarks made after one of the latter prompted me to write a short essay, which you can read by clicking here, if you wish).  There are parish social activities.

There are meetings, and projects – the kind that help an organization to flourish, and the kind that make the world a better place.

I can, at least, tell you about some of these:

...helping St.  George’s to flourish
We designed and administered a survey of parishioners this fall, trying to get a picture of our overall characteristics as a parish, from age and gender distribution, to preferences in worship, and personal spiritual activities such as prayer and Bible reading.  The results in the survey were given to the parishioners at a social evening in October, and fascinated many of our members.  We will find the data exceedingly helpful in a variety of ways during the coming months.

As well, in September we launched a professionally-designed website.  At this writing, there are some kinks in the project that need ironing out, but everyone says the site is beautiful, and hopefully it will help us develop our increasingly young and vital membership.

...making the world a better place
St.  George’s parish members really want to engage in projects which do tangible good in the world.  We’re trying to bring in a refugee from Africa – a woman with several children, her own and some orphaned relatives – who is currently stuck in Kenya due to some bureaucratic delays.  We are raising money to install fresh water in a village district in Uganda.  We may be participating in a Habitat for Humanity build next summer, and we regularly support, with both time, food, and money, the work of an inner-city ministry known as West Broadway Community Ministries.

When not directly engaged in the care of St.  George’s parish, I do a little serious reading.  I am part way through God’s Secretaries – an account of the making of the King James version of the Bible, and I am about to begin a biography of Thomas à Becket – the martyred 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury.  In the fall of 2004 I hope to take a sabbatical – for me, the first ever – in which I will, in both Toronto and Oxford, deepen my understanding of the 16th century Anglican reformation.

I went down to Toronto in October, to take in some lectures by professor Diarmaid MacCulloch of Oxford – probably the world’s premier authority on Thomas Cranmer.  He is a rare combination, being both a first-class scholar and a consummate public speaker.  Imagine a lecture which is both informative and thoroughly entertaining!

Once the lectures were done, I went up to the cottage, where I spent two idyllic late-fall days, and topped that off with a quick overnight visit at my sister Janice’s apartment in Ottawa.

Research Ethics
For some years now I have served on a Research Ethics panel for Canada’s National Research Council.  This panel is a committee of scientists, lawyers, ethicists and ordinary citizens, whose task is to review proposed research projects of the NRC’s Institute for Bio-Diagnostics, whenever they involve humans as the subject of research (similar panels also guide projects where the researchers experiment on animals).  This is a wonderful challenge, for I have to understand something about the medical devices being developed, and I learn an enormous amount from the others on the panel with me.  As well, I am told that my habit of thought and my lifelong desire to wrestle with fundamental moral issues has been helpful to the panel, and that I am making a useful contribution to their work, and to society as a whole, which I am glad to do.

Heather’s law practice continues to develop, but so does her pro bono work.  This year, she has become “Chancellor” of the Diocese of Keewatin – a part of the Canadian Anglican church centering in Kenora, Ontario and covering vast amounts of northern forest, countless small aboriginal communities with their own churches and native clergy, as well as the Anglican churches in several towns and small urban centres along the Trans Canada highway.

The Chancellor – Heather – is principal legal advisor to the bishop.  In the course of her duties she has recently found herself being piloted in a tiny bush plane to a remote northern community, and on another occasion driving hundreds of kilometres in a van with other church officials, to another northern town – this one with road access – for diocesan administrative meetings.

The Offspring
All our children went through major changes this year:
  • Christopher and Andrea moved into the city of Vernon – Chris’ parish is there, Andrea teaches there, the children are in school there, so it didn’t make sense to them to commute from their former home in the outlying town of Armstrong.
  • Troy left the big law firm where he was a junior associate, and became corporate counsel for Canada Drugs, a “Mail Order Pharmacy” (known to most of us as an “Internet pharmacy”).
  • Ariel retired – more or less – as a professional singer and is studying architectural design.
  • Rachael and Kevin moved to Toronto.
Heather and I went to Toronto in June, 2003, to see how Rachael and Kevin were settling in to their new home.  I managed to get a lovely picture of our two Toronto daughters and their husbands, out the back of Ariel and Shai’s home.  You can see it here.

In varying degrees, all of them appear to be happy with their decisions.

Life in General
It has been a year and a half since Heather and I sold our big old house and moved into a downtown apartment.  We have not regretted it for a minute.  We love our home; we enjoy the fact that it needs so little upkeep; and we’re having more fun together than a couple of kids!  Although Heather has begun to take medication for a failed thyroid, and suffers considerable pain from her old knee surgery, plus some mystery aches that could be arthritis or repetitive stress injury (her blessed laptop); and although I am tubbier than I would like to be – faithfully exercising in the block’s gym each day, hoping to shift some of that tummy back up to my chest and arms – all in all our life is really very good, thank the Lord.

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