Thursday, June 18, 2015

Church #45 Stony Point Presbyteran Church.


God Save Me! *facepalm. 

Yes it is official! I am south of the border in New York State for the summer, doing an interfaith program at a retreat center. I am lucky in the fact that there are a lot of churches near-by. (I often hear the church that chimes the hour, when I am working outside.) One of the coolest parts about all this would have to be, the fact that I now have access to certain denominations that would normally be much more difficult to find back home.

Before I even left for the service, I was informed that that church "might not have any service at all". Apparently the church was going to, was going thru a period of "upheaval". I decided Not to ask or get into details. I suspected another case of "dieing church" syndrome. There were only 12 people at this service, mostly seniors.

This place literally looks like a little stone castle from the outside. Which is cool.  When you first enter  you immediate you see the ropes the connect to the church bells. Personally I find it cool that they still have it set up that way, most churches have a system that rings their bells automatically.

As soon as I sat down I was greeted by some of the church members and leader ship. Including one middle aged fellow that came over to shake my hand. As we started talking , and I told him about my project. He said "we are small, but we are different."

I definitely got some interesting facts out of today. 

"The book of John was written in the year 100 AD".
I checked into my study bible on this, apparently everyone has their own idea when The gospel of John was written. My study Bible says 80-95AD however other scholars argue that it could be as early as 50-70AD.

"Up to the year 300 Christians and Jews worshiped together."
 This is a piece of information that I have also had confirmed a few times. Including once since I have been here on my interfaith program. I have learned a lot about Jewish belief, worship and ritual since coming here. And in all honesty I can see how that could work, as odd as it might be.

We got a speech on some of the history behind the practice of  holly communion.

Fun fact! The first food and drink that was ever consumed on the moons service, was an astronaut saying a prayer and taking communion, that was prepared for his trip.   

"Everyone is on an equal playing field, everyone takes communion together. Everyone rich or poor are welcome in Christ." 

Taking communion it's self at this church was very interesting. The female minister brought out a very large loaf of  braided bread, broke it. Then, instead of hand delivering the wine and bread to each individual, She encouraged each one of us, to come up, individually, and drink the wine, and take a piece of bread. She stepped aside and left the table leaving the front of the church empty and open for anyone who wished to come up. There was a great hesitation. No one wanted to move too quickly, and the room sat silent for some time. Eventually the people in the room started moving slowly, one by one to the front of the church. They approached the table, carefully tore a modest sized piece of bread and then dunking it in the wine before consuming it, and quickly returning to their seats.

I think this experience was very powerful and more "real" in a lot of ways then what I have experienced prior. I have taken communion many times before, but this was different. I have only seen a pastor actually rip a large loaf of bread in half once before, and this was definitely the first time we had ever been asked to go and tare a piece of bread off for ourselves.

And it all honesty. It was hard. Really hard.

I think I know why some people went so slow, (including myself). Because when you went up to the front of the room, you were not just a number in a line up, that faces the priest/pastor for a quick moment to be hand fed. No, you had to go up alone to the table, look upon the rest of the room that is baring witness to your action, and  then if you are willing and able, accept the body and blood of Christ. I witnesses many people literately freeze in mid action, while reaching for the bread. It was like they had never put so much thought into process even though they had done so many times before.

That was pressure. I can only imagine the weight that the disciples felt. Living under Roman oppression, being abused, living in danger, wanted men, hated by the government, on the run, and then having their leader announce that he was going to murdered,by one of their own, and that they needed to carry on without him.

Now take the bread and wine.
Could you do it?

Today was one of those days where I cried a lot...again. I had a stranger come up and hug and kiss me. Just another day on the job I guess.

I was able to talk to one of the fellows that first introduced himself  to me, and we talked for some time. I told him about the recent turn of power in Alberta, and the end of the 44 year rule of the PC government.  He told me that he can relate, and believes him, and many other young people felt just as hopeful when Kennedy got elected in US. Back In the day.

As we were leaving he mentioned that another group was coming in after them. I asked if it was a different church congregation? He said no. It was actually a group of Zoroastrians.


Ok, explanation time. The Three Wise Men were believed to be Zoroastrians, because of their commitment to reading the stars and seeing the singe that God sent them. From what I can understand this faith has strongly affected the development of the Abrahamic faiths and pre-dates Christianity and Islam.  I have a link to a F&Q page for those that want to know more.

Zoroastrians Q&A

Until next time. 
Peace. Shabbat. Shalom. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Church #44 St. Paul's United Church

Not the first time that I have been to this church. I was here for the prayer service for John Calvin's situation , which sad to say, is not going so well. See the link.
John Calvin Gets notice of Deportation. 

There were 60 people mostly seniors.
This service, was a service of song. It was the 6th annual "How can we keep from Singing!?" event.  There were multiple visiting choirs, with all kinds of performances, everything from traditional worship music to skat singing, to African rhythms. One of my favorite quotes of the day has to be ;"All good things start with a cowbell!"

There was a speaker that came up and gave us some information about a group she leads, called the "Braille Tones" which is a local choir for people with disabilities. 

We also had another fellow come up and tell about his experiences in Africa. He recalls a day when him and his African group members went on a all-day church trip, to be involved with a fund-raising effort, done as an auction. He said that they auctioned off some of the most unusual things he had ever seen. Everything form a glass of cold water, all the way up to a live turkey! He said "Where they found a live turkey in West Africa? I will never know!"

I remember that music is a good way to get thing off your chest. Quote of the day; "So if someone steals your wallet, go home and belt out some Etta James!"

Fact of the day; If you take the word "paradise" and break it down into root words. It translates to "open garden".

But even from the first time I was here, I was intreaged by some of the panels in the window, including a mystery panel.

So as you can imagine you have all of your regulars.
Most of these guys are Apostles, some are Patron Satins.The objects displayed around them give you clues and indications to the stories of their lives.

A panel devoted to a memory of a person that passed away.
But like a lot of stain glass panels, they often have fine details that make you take a second look. And in this panel there is a tiny Orthodox style church in the far back setting.
I asked the pastor why this was and she simply said that "people dont always stay in the places they start out in". But I guess they wanted to recognize some of this persons spiritual past in this piece of art, which I think is cool.

This piece got my attention. I knew who these two women were, and the story behind them. Well before I even read it in my bible. Ruth and her mother in law, Naomi. And how I knew about all this was from an article that I read. Meet one of my favorite online resources for wedding planning! Off-Beat-Bride. com! has everything and anything a person could need who wants to do  their wedding against the norm, or just make it fun!  This is the story of two women that got marred in a christian church, with a christian focus and didn't have to sacrifice love for faith. The scripture that they centered their vows around was this bible passage;

"Ruth said to Naomi, 'Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you" 

Here is more of their story. 
Allie & Megan's traditional Christian wedding goes queer

Another good image of Jesus rocking the boat and freaking out the disciples. He sames to be good at that :P

And then the mystery panel.I didn't get a close enough picture but if you can see, there is a scroll with gold writing and gold flakes that have fallen onto the floor? Anyone has an idea what this symbolizes? Give me a shout out!
The United Church is famous for being excepting and kind to all including LGBT community members. Another interesting aspect of inclusion I found was multi-language prayers in the back of one of their books.

Sometimes as privileged white North Americans, we need to stop and think of the others around us, and maybe use our power to help the rest of the world feel included more often. Just saying.

Go in Peace. And happy trails!