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The Ordinary Life of a Priest in Manitoba

November 10, 1997

An Internet correspondent from California wrote to me in October, 1997, commenting on an email of mine where I had said life was pretty busy for me lately.  He speculated that perhaps my busy-ness was because Christmas was coming.  I wrote back saying that almost the opposite was the case.  Here's an excerpt:

In Manitoba the Summer is short and hot, and Winter is long, and cold.  By hot, I mean two months of almost constant sunshine and the temperature consistently above 30 degrees Celsius (86° F), both day and night.  By cold I mean eight months averaging minus 10 (14° F) and, in January, close to minus 40 (-40° F) – with only six hours of sunshine per day.

The effect of this in almost all walks of life is that everything stops for July and August.  Community clubs take a break, plants close down (I don't mean layoffs, just that all employees get the same vacation time), and few go to church.  On weekends the city is empty – everyone being at the beach, or at some sort of cottage.

In September people stream back to their winter activities.  Community club sports leagues start their schedules, cub scouts and brownies enroll for a new season, and people start coming back to church.  We have an extraordinary cultural life in this city – world class ballet, live theatre, symphony, and opera – and performances in all these media begin to take place.  By October we are all running off our feet – children enrolled in many things, season tickets to performances, and at church... well there are Bible studies that begin, church management committees that reconvene after the summer break, and special events (missions, ecumenical worship, educational conferences and the like).

Four weekends ago I was emcee for a two day conference involving Anglicans from all over our region.  About 250 of them gathered in a school gymnasium to listen to a talented Lutheran pastor speak – peppering his talks with multimedia illustrations – and to attend workshops on prayer, ministry, stewardship, and who knows what else.

Three weekends ago, our Assiniboia Christian Centre mounted a Fall Supper in which about 500 people were served a turkey dinner.  This was a fund-raiser for the Centre, and a mixer for the two congregations.  I stood at a steam table for about three hours serving sliced turkey to endless lines of people, and engaging in good-natured banter with my own congregation and with the members of John XXIII.  “Fellowship building,” we call it.

Two weekends ago Heather travelled to Toronto for a meeting of the National board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Society, and on the Sunday evening I met her at the airport and we drove pell-mell over to the Anglican cathedral where the choir was performing Fauré’s Requiem for All Souls’ Day.  Rachael, you see, is now a soprano of some considerable ability, and was the soloist for this performance.

This weekend just concluded I went on Saturday night to act as pastor/confessor at a Beginning Experience weekend.  People who are recently separated, widowed or divorced come to a church-sponsored conference to share their experiences, pray together, and learn how to cope with the loss, the anger and the resentment.  At a key point they go through a rite of forgiveness – forgiving in their hearts those who have hurt them in the course of their loss, and accepting God’s forgiveness for the things for which they feel guilt.  The Roman Catholic Church is primarily the founder and organizer of these weekends, but non-Roman Catholic pastors are invited to come to the reconciliation sessions because so many participants are either non-Roman Catholic themselves, or are too mad at their own church leaders to be able to successfully work through their issues with an R.C. priest.  So I went, and heard confessions, and helped facilitate the Lord’s healing.

And those are just the weekends!  In September and October, as I mentioned, people start going back to church.  In fact, some start coming to church for the first time in many years.  Perhaps they had lapsed, and now decide “We must go back to church;” which is great, but they always seem to decide to do this starting in September!  So, in October and November I spend many weeknights visiting the homes of these newcomers.  As well, on Wednesdays in October and November, we have been running an Adult Christian Education class in the church.

So... no, my busy-ness these days has nothing to do with Christmas, and everything to do with the fact that our community and our church seems to work on a seasonal basis around here.  This is simply the busy time of year.  In fact, my work will actually let up a bit once Christmas gets closer.  People will be too busy buying gifts and visiting family to do much around the church, so all I will have on my plate are the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Eucharists, a few shut-in Communions, and then plenty of time at home!

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