Ten years ago, we were going through a huge family change. Job loss, relocation, back to school, small kids in tow – the whole shebang. Part madness, part adventure and a heap of faith in a pilgrim life. And with that upheaval, I picked up the knitting needles. I’d first learned to knit as a teenager and knit myself a huge blue shawl-collared cocoon to hide in, then moved on to smaller things like mittens for boyfriends.
Most world religions have their version of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a basic societal norm and a trust upon which we build our communities. Yet in a city where two-thirds of the population is either Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish, Calgary had to implement a face-covering bylaw for indoor public areas and public vehicles starting August 1. In July, Quebec was the first province to make masks mandatory. Similar bylaws have since been passed in Toronto, Edmonton and many other cities and regions. One would think that wearing a mask for the sake of others wouldn’t be a big problem in our city. And yet it is.
The year I got my motorcycle licence, our first long distance ride was to Quebec. Jack and I spent one night in Algonquin Park, then traveled happily along the ruggedly beautiful back roads of Ontario. Crossing over to Quebec we toured through more landscapes of forests and rock, and often alongside rivers and lakes too numerous to count.
What does Sabbath mean when we can’t worship together physically because of the dangers to physical health? Do we take a break, essentially “fasting” from celebrating the Sabbath? Are we in “a time of eucharistic fasting, in which we join with the whole communion of saints in longing for the bread of new life and the wine of the age to come,” as the Anglican Church of Canada’s website suggests?
The COVID-19 pandemic has welled up a large inner fear within many Christian leaders in North America. They fear empty pews, forever. I have heard pastors postulating that the self-isolation, necessary in our current pandemic, will translate into a self-absorbed “I don’t need the church community” kind of attitude when the pandemic is over. The church of tomorrow, they say, will be characterized by a hyper-individualism.
Daycare has been open for about a month now, and soon school will be too. At the moment, however, things are pretty homebound here, as they have been since mid-March. That means my attention and energy are still directed toward more domestic pursuits. I’m generally OK with this, but I do feel some pressure to get out there and seize the day, too.
Lament. Lament is an old word we are hearing more. Lament is a prayer that expresses frustration with the world. The most common Biblical Psalms are laments. They address God with poetic depictions of struggles and usually a confession of trust and vow of praise and thanksgiving. They often seem to be written retrospectively, when one is out of the pit.
I cannot remember a time when I did not have a book or two on the go. My childhood was spent at the public library, reading under a tree, or staying up late into the night with a book. But in this time of social distancing and upheaval, my ability to focus has waned and I’ve read far less than usual.
It feels a little odd to reflect on sabbath rhythms at the moment. Even the word “rhythm” feels out of place; were I to use a musical term to describe these last three months, “drone” would feel just as accurate. It often feels like the same day over and over again, which causes a little ennui to creep in from time to time. And as for a sabbath, I don’t feel like I’ve experienced a typical one of those, either, since this all went down.
Heresy is that which deviates from established beliefs. Christianity itself is therefore a heresy. Christianity challenges established beliefs in our culture. It is hard for a heresy to get a hearing because it seems foreign. I completed a strange semester with students at the University of Iowa as a campus pastor this year, while also teaching at a private college with a Reformed heritage. All my students have some church background, but their foreground is more Western culture.
Justin Early toiled as a lawyer in a big corporate law office before feeling a call to become a missionary in China. After grueling studies in law school, a fast-paced legal career and the demands of the mission field, he was exhausted. Years of over-committed scheduling took their toll. He ended up in ER, experiencing a variety of symptoms related to exhaustion. He was told to slow down.
Trustees at Calvin University voted unanimously on May 8 to approve some significant changes in faculty requirements with regards to Reformed identity. While the University webpage headlines “Calvin Deepens and Strengthens Faith Expectations,” the student newspaper declares “BREAKING: Board of trustees vote that faculty no longer required to be CRC, send kids to Christian K-12 schools.” What is going on? Calvin is an official ministry of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA).