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Late-summer update, 2007

August 6, 2007

We’re back at the cottage once more, for our 2007 annual vacation.  The lake is blissfully quiet on this August Monday, and it seems natural to reflect a little on some recent events in my life.

A new-found family
The single most interesting thing to happen to me has been the re-discovery of my extensive Harwood-Jones family, which I mentioned in an earlier note.  I have been in electronic contact with over fifty family members, many of whom were totally unknown to me a few months ago, but now, through the wonders of the Internet, seem like life-long good friends.  We have told our stories and traded pictures; we have teased and laughed and made horrible jokes; and through these various connections I have now been able to identify 159 descendents of my paternal grandparents.

This re-discovery has given me so much pleasure I decided I would try to meet some of them in person this summer, and on the 18th and 19th of August Heather and I will go to Toronto for that very purpose.

The passing of a friend
The other important recent event was the death, in June, of my friend Larry Jamieson.  Ours was a relationship begun in philosophy, and matured in laughter. However, in recent years this friendship became mostly a memory because, for complex reasons, Larry withdrew into himself, cutting off contact with almost everyone, to my sorrow, and to the perplexity and regret of all his friends.  Heather and I sat with his wife, Rene, as Larry died, and a few weeks later I was privileged to emcee a “wake” for him, where we shared wonderful stories of his unique and creative gifts.  Since then I have been typing, on and off, a memorial to this remarkable man, which I intend to post in this space when it is ready.

A legal secretary?
A third notable thing of recent months is rather funny: for one week in July I was the secretary and receptionist at my wife’s law practice.  Her real assistant was on vacation and Heather needed someone for the short term.  I thought it would be fun to try.  Usually it is not recommended for a husband and wife to work together, but we actually managed very well.  I think Heather was glad I could see first hand the kind of pressures under which she works; as well, she was able to concentrate on complex cases, or on her clients, while I took the phone calls and ran the errands.  I don’t think I would like to do such work full time – I have enjoyed the freedom and unstructured life of my retirement far too much to relish the idea of being fettered by any job – but I learned quite a bit about the running of a law practice, and I think I could do a reasonably good job for Heather should it ever be absolutely necessary.

General Synod
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada which took place in Winnipeg at the end of June, pretty much invaded our home, because Christopher – our oldest son – was a delegate from B.C. and stayed with us. Meanwhile, Heather was also a delegate, representing the diocese of Keewatin, where she holds the office of Chancellor.  So, although I was not in any way a participant myself, I was driving them both to and from sessions, and in the evening would listen while they compared notes on the doings of the day.

It really doesn’t matter now how the two of them voted, nor is it my place to reveal such a thing even if it did matter.  But the fact is, once the votes are counted, motions that are defeated become of no consequence to the life of the church, and motions that are enacted – by whatever margin, large or small – become the policy of the church, and with that we all must come to terms however we can.  The Anglican Church of Canada came out of that General Synod having made two extremely important statements: (1) that a formal liturgical blessing by the church of a same-sex relationship is not in conflict with the core doctrine of the Church; and (2) that this Canadian church will not authorize such blessings at the present time.

Frankly I am content with such an outcome.  It sends a message to the rest of the Anglican Church, and to Christians in general, that we are not approaching the normalization of same-sex relationships from mere sentimentality (eg. we love gay people and want to make them happy), but have a theological and rational basis for so doing.  At the same time it says to the rest of the church that we will not act unilaterally; that we can wait; but we are requiring intelligent discourse on the matter, not hysterical responses (eg. allegations that Anglicans in Canada have abandoned the faith and must be expelled immediately from the worldwide church).  Given all the factors, I believe this is the wisest of outcomes, and I sense the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Into the woods
Towards the end of July I was able to go for a week of solitary camping in Riding Mountain National Park.  It wasn’t true wilderness backpacking; rather I simply went to the most remote public campsite that is accessible to Winnipeg, set up a small tent and a dining shelter, and was exquisitely alone with nature.  It mattered not that a torrential downpour struck on my third day in, or that armies of mosquitoes feasted on any exposed flesh they could find.  I loved the silence of the forest at night, the birdsong as daylight approached, the wind in the trees, and the infinite stars.  When I wasn’t just sitting and enjoying the wild; and when I wasn’t praying and attending to my spiritual requirements, I actually did some serious writing – most particularly the memorial to my friend Larry, but also work on my book began once more to flow.

That book upon which I have been working since 2004
Not much has really happened here for more than a year.  I continue to read widely in 16th century history, but with all the things I have mentioned here, you might understand that getting the focus and concentration to work on a serious and semi-learned book was sometimes pretty difficult.  The week alone in the forest helped, and, who knows?  The project is certainly not on the shelf.

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