First things first. I would have no idea that this church or type of faith existed if it was not for my friend and old band mate Rob Billheimer. The guy is a killer cartoon artist that is not afraid to push boundaries, ruffle feathers and make you laugh until you piss your pants! Just to prove it, here is a sample from Rob's line of comics known as The Sausage Party!
For those of you that may not know, Alberta has declared a state of emergency as we are facing the most costly disaster, and biggest evacuation in the history of our country, due to the Fort McMurray Fires. In response, The Sausage party is selling limited edition, high quality prints of some of their best comic strips, and all money raised will be donated towards relief efforts.
Click here to Check it out!
After finding my way to the back door, I entered the "OPEN" door only to find myself in a large open room full of garage sale items! A senior lady asked me if I was here for the Church service aAnd directed me to the service area. So I walked through the garage sale and found my way to the actual church service, it had already started and I took my seat at the back. the service was started with soft and almost trance like piano music... it kind of made me feel strange. Side note: today is Mothers Day. The opening prayer was one for safety, and rightfully so considering the current circumstances in this province. Then they had the young people of the Church come up and light the challis and say a quick prayer.
The offering for the service was then collected. It was announced that the group they were donating to for the month of may was Y.E.S.S (Youth Empowerment Support Services) . The church leader mentioned that in light of recent events, they did consider changing the designation of the donation over to the Red Cross. But they ultimately decided that the now-homeless youth of Fort Mac will be benefiting from the use of Y.E.S.S. as they take refuge in Edmonton, so they decided to keep it as is.
Then the church members were able to come to the front and light a candle if they have any worries or concerns. The church leader also suggested that today they should consider straying from the norm and also doing "spoken candles" if the person feels right in doing so. FYI: Today is Mothers Day.
The spoken candles I found particularly interesting. As you can imagine, there was candles lit for mothers who had passed away or still present. But there were also two spoken candles that stood out to me.
#1. A lady came up and said she lit a candle for all of those people that are not able to be mothers.
On one side of the coin, I can totally understand this. As simple as this holiday might seem, I am sure it is down right painful for the women out there that wanted kids, and for some reason or another, were not able to have them or have lost a child.
On the other side of the coin... I am shrugging and rolling my eyes. If I haven't made this clear before in my blog, let me say it now: I am not having kids. Ever. I feel no lack or disappointment over my choice not to be a mother. My friends know this, and so do my family. And to all you hard working mom's, and children-loving women out there I ask on thing... be nice to us..... Please? Don't lecture, scold, question or attempt to convert us! We are all free women. We have all have the right to make choices. If you show respect and understanding for our choices, we will do the same for you!
#2. Another lady in her 20s came up and lit a candle and explained that she had a mom that was "not very good", and that she was lighting this candle for anyone that has a "complicated" relationship with their mother. This I think is a great topic to bring up. Not a pretty one, but an important one... How are you supposed to feel on this day when you had a mother that was heartless, irresponsible and absent? Or you had a mother with severe mental illness, who physically abused you?!
How does one deal with that? These questions are not easy to answer, but thankfully they are now at least being addressed.
-To all the brave kids that broke up with their toxic moms.
-To the Mothers Hurting on Mothers Day.
-When abusive parents come crawling back....?
"These candles don't change the world, but they change our minds and hearts."
The Church leader then went on to explain some of his thoughts and feelings about the events of the past week. He announced to the congregation that the family of Syrian refugees that they had sponsored will be arriving soon, and that they plan to have a welcome committee come and welcome them at the airport. Strangely enough, just as they are getting ready for the family to arrive the Fort Mac fires start.
So as +80000 people are pouring out of the Fort Mac area, he can't help but feel helpless.
All their extra money has been committed to their refugee family, their extra space has been stuffed with garage sale items, and he was also not able to do anything physically because of an old injury that was bothering him. He felt empty in his lack of ability to act. He explained that sometimes "All we can do is what we can do and we need to see that, that is enough."
"Sometimes the answer is to throw money at something!"
He related the situation to being in a flight emergency. And how they tell you to put your air mask on before helping others. Because if you pass out from no air, you cant do much to help someone else. He also pointed out that some times we are in a position to do a lot. Like the gas station owner that gave out thousands of liters of free gas for people that were fleeing in the evacuation.
He said he was brought to tears, by the competency of the people who were able to conduct this mass evacuation without any major accidents and minimal loss of life.(.... I don't really understand how someone could-be brought to tears over "human competency", but whatever speaks to you I guess?)
He spoke about how he was watching TV and how he saw the mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, be brought to tears! Not from the loss of home and possessions, but by the unbelievable outpour of charity by Edmontonians and the rest of Canada. I can personally tell you that I have seen what he is talking about, not just at donation centers but in my daily life in Edmonton. In this last week, everything has opened up to the evacuees. Every cafe and restaurant has a sign up advertising free food, businesses are giving away free goods and collecting donations, artists of all types are selling their work for Charity, and even the Labatt Beer Brewery stepped up to meet the emergency need for bottled water!
Labatt brewing water to help those affected by Fort McMurray wildfire
I cant help but notice how this reminds me of Isaiah 2:4 ESV.
"He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
He also gave his thoughts on the concept of spirituality "Spirituality to me is a a connection to another human or sometimes nature." He explained that other religions try to frame spirituality in the idea of "God" or "Allah" or "Buddha". He indicated that that was "OK". but "It doesn't cover everything".
After all this we went through what one might describe as guided meditation. We were directed as a group when to breath in and breath out and what to focus on.
Then we had a moment of silence where everyone in the room bowed their head and dimmed the lights. After about a minute, the lights came back on and the service was ended. We all then received the good news that Church members get first pick at buying from the garage sale! As you can imagine I saw the room get up and all the women in their 50's and 60's get up and run like kids heading for the candy shop!
I can honestly tell you that there is some great stuff at this garage sale and it is open to the public and being held at 11715 108 Ave NW, Edmonton AB and the hours are 8am-6pm on May 13th and 8am-4pm on May 14th.
Also! Crucial info for for Fort Mac evacuees!
#1. Get online and register with the Red Cross! Even if you have everything materially and friends to stay with it is sill crucial that you register! They have mental health workers!
1-888-350-6070 or RedCross.ca.
#2 You are entitled to free money from the government to help cover your expenses while being away from your homes! Follow the link to learn more and then click on "Debit Card Relief Funding."
Now that we have this all over and done with it is now time for my RANT!
Some places have been all-killer-no-filler but this place has been just the opposite. It just feels really empty to me...
The candles felt very empty...I fail to understand how just lighting a candle would help my troubles in anyway, or replace wise human conciliation or guidance from the divine.
But what really gets me is that the word "God" was used only once in this service and in a some-what negative context. Spirituality was drilled down to a simple human emotion. Charity and aid were simply defined as "The right thing to do". It was like someone took a hypodermic needle and purposely sucked every inch of the divine out of a church service, and left this barely living hollow-body in a post- spiritual-lobotomy state!
For some one who is used to going to common church services, this felt like living in the numbed colorless, dystopian world defined in the book : The Giver .
As I was shopping the garage sale I bought a pair of bees wax candles and as the cashier and I were marveling over them, I expressed what a beautiful piece of God's creation they were! Then is an awkward moment, she politely corrected me a she said "or Nature"....
Is "God" a bad word in this place?
I am not saying this place is bad in anyway. It has seriously introduced me to some of the most genuine people you will ever meet! But it does nothing for my spiritual thirst. I would more then suggest this church as a great resource for interfaith work and gatherings. I can also imagine an Atheist that is looking for a "church like" community would find this to be a prime option! It's just not for me.....