Church in a Barn

Yesterday I went to church in a barn — a big old empty red barn. Light came in through the open door, the windows at one end, and cracks in the walls and ceiling. We sat in circles of lawn chairs. The weather was chilly and rainy, but there were lap blankets to share. It was all quite wonderful — the singing, kids’ story, homily, prayers — and the joy of being together was palpable. Some 90 or so people of the faith community Helmut and I became a part of when we moved to B.C. six years ago and here we were, meeting in a barn, and I couldn’t help thinking of the early Anabaptists who also met to worship in houses, caves, and barns.

This wasn’t some gimmick to take us back to the sixteenth century, however, because we’re actually kind of homeless at the moment. It’s been a rough couple of months; our former congregation has had a calamitous collapse and the majority of us have left. I don’t want to recount the whole sad story here, except to say that it happened, and since my weblog concerns my life, I need to mention it. (For those interested, journalist John Longhurst documented it at Anabaptist World as well as at his blog. And let me be clear, I stand with our pastors and for LGBTQ inclusion.) There’s plenty of hurt, anger, grief, but community means everything in situations like this, and as I said, yesterday morning the joy lifted into the rafters. The barn belongs to a couple in the group and may be our “cathedral” for a few months, as we continue to process the circumstances and journey into something new, into clarity and forgiveness. 

One thing I did last week to “process” for myself was to sit in my car at the former place and do a quick loose sketch of that beloved building. I’m a person who’s strongly affected by places and spaces. What I mean is, I often have as vivid a memory of the location as the details of what occurred in it. The surround of the environment becomes inseparable from, or even stands in for, what it hosts and contains. Following the lines of the building with my eye and hand, though only approximately for sure, felt like a caress I had to give it in gratitude and farewell. The right side ended up squished into the coils of the sketchbook, but never mind that, it was just a little exercise to help myself on the way!IMG_0860

 

Speaking of women…

In a kind of offshoot from my previous post, I find myself checking in at my 2006 journals, to see whether my memory of the awe, even euphoria, I felt when the Mennonite Brethren conference I was part of passed a resolution freeing women for ministry leadership (this after a long process of debate and study over many years) is accurate or if it has been imagined into stronger color over time.

I find it’s accurate enough. I was trembling through the final discussions of that particular convention, I noted, because it mattered that much, and then came the surprise, even shock, of the resolution passing, solidly enough (the news report here), a sense of “wow” as it began to sink in. “I feel that something has been loosed on earth, as we prayed…” my private pages said, bursting with gratitude.

Nearly six years later, I confess I’m disappointed in the “since then.” My impression — anecdotal, I realize, since I’m no longer involved in the conference — is that while women’s participation goes on a-pace in some congregations, the ethos of the Mennonite Brethren denomination as such has not changed to reflect that decision — or “the spirit, the direction” it represented, as one of the men who worked hard on that process put it to me recently. Perhaps it’s even regressed. Continue reading

A splendid idea, wouldn’t you agree?

One evening last week I attended a poetry reading. Four local poets read, but it was Joanne Epp’s evening in particular, as she launched her chapbook, “Crossings,” a lovely collection of 17 poems in two sets: reflections on a train trip and on places in Saskatchewan.

            We stay close to the ground
            so the wind will not blow us away. (from “Wild Strawberries”) Continue reading