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Our Christmas Letter, 2006

holly garland

December 20, 2006

Dear friend,

For Heather and me, 2006 has been a very pleasant year, with many good things happening, and nothing really bad.

The year began with me taking up a three-month appointment as the replacement parish priest in St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg.  This particular church is very close to our apartment block, and, upon my retirement, we thought it would be nice to try attending there as parishioners.  We could walk there hand in hand on a Sunday morning, to the delightful sound of St. Luke’s church bells.

St. Luke Exterior

St. Luke’s church in winter
However, being low-key parishioners just wasn’t to be, if only because on our very first Sunday there, the Rector, Bob Brownlie, asked me to be the preacher on their forthcoming financial development Sunday.  And then he appointed me to be his replacement once he went on a sabbatical!

So, there I was, on the second of January, back “in the saddle,” as it were, preparing Sunday worship, visiting the sick, and supervising various church activities.  It was kind of nice for me, because the people were very welcoming, and seemed to enjoy my contributions, but it was more of an adjustment for Heather.  We very much enjoy attending church together, and sitting together (impossible for active clergy, as you can imagine), and once more she was alone in the pew, among people whom she didn’t know, and who didn’t know her.

We both appreciated the extra income, however, which allowed us some very enjoyable special trips to Toronto, a) to attend an opera in which Rachael had a leading role, and b) to attend two graduations, Rachael’s and Ariel’s (both of which took place on the same day, at different times).

Although I had an enjoyable time, in some ways I overdid it those first months of the year (see the typical week I posted online in April) - certainly the many duties of a parish priest, plus the simultaneous preparation of as many as four completely different courses kept me going at a full gallop.

The Book

The thing that suffered most, unfortunately, was the book I have been writing.  A work of church history for the general reader, it is scholarly enough that research is almost as important as the writing.  Although I had completed the fourth chapter by January, since then I have only been able to do a modest amount of research, and no writing at all.  Perhaps 2007 will be better.

The Winnipeg Public Library has been terrific, by the way.  They have managed to bring me scholarly works from libraries far away, which have given my research a depth that would not otherwise be possible in this city.

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Thomas III

It is hard to believe but I have been posting my adventures online for ten years now, and the time has flown by!  Seven years ago, I rejoiced in this space at the acquisition of a brand new, state-of-the-art laptop computer.  I had named my first laptop Thomas (many of my favourite characters from history have that name – most notably Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the Book of Common Prayer) and without much originality I gave its replacement the name Thomas II.  Thomas II was marvellous, and he laboured mightily for more than six years, but I knew that old age was coming upon him when, at the end of 2005, he began giving warnings about inoperable problems with his “cache.”  He died in April this year, on Heather's birthday.

I was still teaching at least once a week, and Thomas II was to display a large PowerPoint presentation in two days, so there wasn’t a moment to lose.  Out I went and acquired Thomas III: a marvellous brushed titanium dual-core Intel-based Macintosh laptop.  This breathtakingly fast widescreen wonder is typing this Christmas message... and is already becoming quite well worn.

The Coming of Stella

In June, ol’Harry died.  He had been on almost permanent loan to a friend, and his death – which was entirely from natural causes – put a severe crimp in her busy life.  As a result, Heather and I made a very big decision: we decided to acquire a brand new vehicle, and send our faithful family car – which we had driven since it was a shiny young thing – to our friend’s house, where it would replace ol’ Harry as her permanent loaner vehicle.

Thus Stella came into our lives: a deep blue Toyota Corolla, right off the dealer’s lot with less than 40 kilometres on her odometer.

Heather & new car in Banff
Heather & Stella,
in front of St. George’s church, Banff
Lending out our main car and buying a new one to replace it wasn’t entirely an altruistic gesture.  Meaghan Schulz – daughter of our good friends Werner and Mary – had invited us to her wedding in Banff on the July long weekend, and we wanted to go, but were uncertain that our old car, with close to 300,000 km on the dial, would be up to the journey.

Stella, with her cruise control, air conditioning, and a truly minuscule thirst for gas, made the trip with ease, and we turned our journey to that wedding into a mini-holiday.  Indeed, following the exchange of vows, we crossed the Rockies into British Columbia, and dropped in on our oldest son, Chris, and his family.  Heather couldn’t leave her practice for very long, so we only stayed in Vernon for a day, then we sped home… but imagine! going halfway across a continent to visit family for a single day!  Spontaneous and crazy, it was great fun, and we’re glad we did it.  By coincidence, our day in Vernon turned out to be Christopher and Andrea’s 19th wedding anniversary, so naturally we took them and their children out for a celebratory feast!

Not long after we got back to Winnipeg Stella was once more on the road.  This time we headed across continent in the other direction, to our cottage in Québec, about which I have already posted some thingsStella, meanwhile, was certainly put through her paces, for there were several trips from the cottage to Toronto and back – a 1,300 km round trip – so that by the time we returned home in September, this absolutely new car had traveled more than 16,000 kilometres!

I have been reasonably consistent about posting the story of my cottage adventures online, so you have probably already read the next event of 2006: my return to the lake after I attended a meeting in Toronto.  Mind you, my online narrative focused on the appalling state of Bell Canada’s customer service, and on the noisy machines and extreme clear-cutting of Québec Hydro, but I should add that the visit to our cottage was still, on the whole, a pleasant time in one of the nicest places on earth.

In the later fall, our life in Winnipeg has mostly been one of Heather working very hard at her law practice, and me doing a variety of fairly peaceful things.  I preach occasionally, at St. Luke’s and in other congregations, I’m working on one or two essays, stimulated by questions various people have put to me; I do “spiritual direction” for a handful of individuals; and most recently I have become the temporary webmaster for St. Luke’s website!

Rachael and Kevin are coming to Winnipeg for Christmas, and over the festive season we hope to have some quality time with them, and with Troy, Sheryl and Calyn.  Heather and I are rather proud of the fact that our Christmas Dinner will be entirely vegetarian – indeed it will be fully “vegan”!

The New Year will see me doing priestly duties in at least two other churches besides St. Luke’s, and I have been fielding requests for a few one-session lectures on various topics.  Watch my itinerary to see what develops.

I sincerely hope that this season is for you a time of joy, peace, and the love of family and friends.

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