#GS2010 Day 6: Called to risk mission

As we began our day on Tuesday, we sang one of my favourite hymns by John Bell, Will You Come and Follow Me? This line has been resonating with me since I sang it.

“Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?”

We then watched a performance by the theatre group, Roots Among the Rocks. This group of young people offer up stories that tell a story of our church, our passions, our joy, our history, our current life. So much of this play were lightening rods for me. They struck me and rippled into many areas of my life as a priest and child of God.

Of course, everyone was blown away. The house stood and applauded for longer than for anyone else. They called us to risk a faith walk that attracts and scares.

The irony is we then heard our feedback from our sexuality discernment a lot of caution and fear of causing controversy in the Communion. I hope that those who stood so quickly and were so obviously moved by the performance will return to their groups Wednesday morning carrying that courage and call to stand apart.

We also heard from Archbishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori. For a church whose mission was supposed to be in crisis because of disagreement, well, wow! They are doing a lot of amazing work!!


The Anglican Covenant: A Matter of Trust

One of my favourite people to visit is Claire (not her real name). Claire is originally from Northern Ireland and moved with her husband to Canada to escape “the troubles”. She has a quick wit, and always leaves me laughing, wondering if I should be. But she laughs along too.

The other day she was talking about a man who had made a delivery at her home. “He was sleeky,” she said. “Sleeky?” I said. “Claire, did you make that word  up?” “No!” she replied, “It’s a real word. It’s even in the Oxford  Dictionary,” (It’s not in the one I have, but I did find it online). “It means,” she paused, “Sleeky. It means mistrustful, like he was up to something, or would be up to something if given the chance.”

Well, that’s how the Anglican Covenant feels to me. Sleeky.

This post is not a critical analysis of the document, because my reaction to reading it was not very critical. It was more visceral.

I was encouraged by the first line and most of the first two sections: God has called us into communion in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1.9). As one who chose the Anglican church as a young adult, having been a loved member of different churches, this is what I stress; that our communion is not with anyone on Earth or any structure, but in Jesus Christ. It also acknowledges the different manifestations of the expression of God’s love and mission through different church families.

Throughout it I was waiting for the “but” moment. It all reads as a document most Christians could agree to in our diversity. That also means it is open to many interpretations. That’s OK by me. Scripture works that way, and I give thanks for the many expressions that come out of our Christian tradition. But in the back of my mind this thought rolled over and over: I agree with that. Others agree with that. But many have judged me and said I am not living faithfully. I uphold the authority of Scripture. You uphold the authority of Scripture. What happens when that looks different? Majority rules? That doesn’t make great theology.

As my friend Mark Chiang, a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Canada, said, “Sounded lovely to me until Section Four which, to a Presbyterian, seemed very dark and scary.”

As an Anglican, it seems pretty dark and scary to me, too. We have never done well in this system. We have always honored the authority of national churches, provinces and dioceses (as long as we have had them) and loved one another through differences in doctrine, liturgy and pastoral practice. Every time we have tried to have one single expression of Anglican thought on any doctrinal matter, heads have rolled. Literally.

Except that we vehemently fight about sex. I can’t think of anything in recent history that has produced more vitriol and bile amongst ourselves than the place of genders other than straight men in our institution. Over those years, I have been called revisionist, selfish and heretical among other things. At our last diocesan synod, I and others of my persuasion were publicly told we were in violation of our ordination vows. Now them’s fighting words.

I’ll just say it. I don’t trust all my sisters and brothers in the Anglican Communion. And that makes me very sad. Many have called me names, committed violence against people I love, slandered my vocation, and have forced people out of the church that I love (four out of my tiny congregation of 40 alone). I’m sure many of my sisters and brothers don’t trust me, either.

And now I am placing my “membership” in their hands. With a document that, at first glance is a no – brainer to sign. But I would sign it with the a foreboding that I am signing something that, no matter how hard I work at it, I’m gonna fail. I’m signing up for failure.

I know this has happened on both sides. I can only write from where I am. We are not reconciled. We need reconciliation. I need reconciliation. I need reconciliation and peace in my heart to sit along side those who differ from me, and I need genuine expressions of regret and reconciliation for the violence that has happened. Without a sincere reconciliation, a covenant isn’t worth the paper it is written on, particularly one that threatens me with expulsion while, at the same time, removes my voice from the councils of the Communion. I need some reassurance that you can hold my trust, because I feel bullied, excluded and hurt.

I don’t know where reconciliation will lead us. It may lead us to different paths. It certainly has before. It may lead me down a different path. But I’m not there yet. I don’t think I can move right now until there is an attempt at forgiveness.

What do I give in return? I don’t know if it will be enough, but it is all that I have. I will share a place at the table in our disagreement. I will accept the Body and Blood from you even though you will not accept it from me. I will listen without defense to how you have been hurt. I will not ask you to perform a rite that causes you a crisis of faith and conscience. I will honour your expression of God’s love as I would hope you would honour mine. I will continue to acknowledge Christ in you.

Is that enough of a covenant, for now?

Why are we here? Pt. 1

As I have been preparing my worship planning for the next few weeks, a question has been milling around my mind.

Why am I here?

No, I am not going to answer this in one post. No, I am not questioning my current position as rector in this place at this time. I am not having a career crisis (no more than usual, anyways). No, I am not feeling my life is pointless.

In the past year I have been drawn to the sense of purpose that Jesus had. I always wondered if he knew his fate, really. I mean, it is easy for writers to look back and write dialogues based on vague writings attributed to Jesus, but really, did he know? It wasn’t a question that shook my faith. There was room in my faith for both possibilities. Either he knew and went for it or he didn’t know and accepted it.

Digression: One of my favourite scenes is from the film, Dogma. Alan Rickman plays the Voice of God (VoG). A character asked him what was the hardest message he ever had to deliver. He told about the day 12 year old Jesus stayed behind in the temple while his parents started home. According to VoG, that was the day he told Jesus what his life meant, and what would befall him. He talked about holding the boy, who cried, but was also so brave.

When I was in a young adult group we studied the work of N Armstrong. He taught that we were constantly under attack by evil forces and the key to victory was fully claiming our identity as children of God. I have shifted theologically since then, but in the first chapter of his book, he asks, “Who are you?” You may respond, “I am a Christian”. No, he would reply, that is your religion. Who are you? “I am an engineer”. No, he would reply, that is your occupation. He would continue on this thread until he reached the point that who you are is who you are in relationship to God.

So, I am beginning this quest by identifying my vocations.

Vocation is calling…

I found this post today, originally written in November. I am leaving it as is because there is more to share, but I can’t go back to where I was when I wrote this in order to complete it. Instead, I am posting it as a start to more posts coming soon. My how things have changed, but the quest is the same as I continue to live these questions. More to come.

Another Invitation

I know I know it is shameful that I have gone this long! Parish life is challenging and fulfilling and VERY VERY BUSY! But I am loving it. I can’t believe that in…um…how many sleeps? Marc would know… 25! 25 sleeps and I will be ordained as a priest.

But before I get to that, I have three churches. St. Mary the Virgin in Bayfield is a small wooden church overlooking the water with acoustics comparable to Indian River! Holy Trinity in Country Harbour is also small and wooden and in the woods in the interior of Nova Scotia in Guysborough County. It is on a beautiful drive that always soothes my soul. St. Paul the Apostle is the “town church” with a diverse congregation and some wonderful talent. You can keep up on our happenings by weekly visiting the parish blog.

Some of you attended my ordination to the diaconate, for which I am extremely grateful. This ordination will make me a priest, able to celebrate at the Eucharist among other sacraments to which I feel called to fulfil the ministry God has called me to. Do you get the called bit?

So, here is the official invitation–there’s another one, so keep reading:

By the Grace of God and with the consent of the people
The Right Reverend Frederick Hiltz and
the Right Reverend Susan Moxley,
by Divine Permission,
Bishops of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island
will ordain

Beverly Dawn Dickieson

to the Sacred Order of Priests
in Christ’s One Holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church.

Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of May, the eve of St. Andrew,
in the year of our Lord
two thousand six
at seven thirty in the evening,
Cathedral Church of All Saints
1340 Tower Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Your faithful prayers are required and
your gracious presence is requested.

You are also invited to join me at the chapel of Atlantic School of Theology on Thursday, November 30 at 8:15 am for my first Eucharist.

Blessings, Rev. Dawn

I’m back online with pictures to share

Hi everybody. I’m back! And I have pictures. I’ll post one or two every day or two or seven. You will notice I have already posted my past three sermons.

Yes, I am now the Rev. Dawn Dickieson with the collar and the beautiful stoles handmade by Mom and Bev Roach to prove it. It was a glorious night. I still get goosebumps.

Since most of the pictures were taken by other people, I am still waiting to receive copies. But they will be up soon.


A note from our ordinand

One of my responsibilities in St. Thomas and St. Margaret’s is to put a note in the bulletin with some thoughts on my week and to introduce the readings. I would like to share this with you all. When I get my own computer set up I will post my past notes. Dawn

May 28

“Do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to the life and work of a deacon?”
“I believe I am so called.”
The Examination, Ordination of a Deacon BAS p. 655

As the time for my ordination is approaching, life is getting very hectic and exciting. My older brother, who arrives on Sunday from England to present me to the Bishop, tells me he is proud to “give his little sister away”. We don’t really use that language any more, but it is a huge transition. On Friday I spent the day with my classmates for a quiet day with the Rev. Charles Bull at Seton Centre in Terrance Bay. This was a time of contemplation on our calling to the life of ordained clergy.

I give thanks for the ordination of 5 of my classmates into the United Church of Canada, taking place today at the meeting of Maritime Conference in Sackville, NB: Helene Burns, Gloria Churchill, Joan Griffin, Joan MacDonald and Debra Baker-White.

This week I worked on the parochial return. Many thanks to Helen and Gail for taking the time with me to work on this important item in our parish life. It is a blessing to work with such dedicated lay people. I visited three of our parishioners and spent Tuesday evening to do some visioning for outreach in the fall.

You are most welcome and warmly invited to my ordination on Wednesday night at the Cathedral Church of All Saints at 7:30. Blessings, Dawn

Introduction to the Readings

This gospel reading is all about security, a big issue in our society now. Walter Brueggemann talks about how our society is consumed by anxiety, how perhaps we ought to have a prayer of anxiety instead of a prayer of confession, and respond with an assurance of…what? protection? comfort? hope?

In the gospel reading, Jesus talks about guarding, protecting the disciples in the difficult time to come. This is very much our world about which he is talking, a world in which Jesus is no longer a physical presence and the cultural environment is dominated by the powers and principalities. He speaks about his disciples being guarded in this new world by their unity (verse 11), by Jesus’ joy (verse 13), by being sanctified in the truth (verse 17), and by Jesus’ example and leadership (verse 19). Psalm 1 may give some idea about what being “sanctified in the Word” involves! Jesus also commissions the disciples: we are sent as he was sent, into the world. How different is our security, and our calling, from the cultural norm!

In verse 23, it is our unity in particular which not only protects us, but is our principal asset in mission. Gathering: Lent/Easter/Pentecost 2006, United Church of Canada

Tabs, shells, and Father Tuck

On the Friday that classes ended, I and two of my friends dashed to the Diocesan Bookroom to seek out clergy shirts. It is one of those things you feel you really don’t have the right to do until you are ordained, but how else are you supposed to have your clergy shirt on at the reception?!

First of all, why are womens’ shirts $25 more than mens’ shirts? And why do the women’s stock only fill two shelves while the men get a whole section? Message to manufacturers-we have been ordaining women for about 30 years now. It’s time to update your catalogues!

And who would have thought that neck size was so important? No one who wears pullovers 90% of the time (yep, that would be me).

Then there is the question of tab or full collar? Shell or button down? I’m going with a shell-which is a very light polyester blouse that buttons in the back to which you attach a full collar. But I also got the black standard button down for those moments when only the traditional will do.

As we were trying to decide between styles and colours and such, an incredibly helpful lady named Lorraine told us, “By the way, for your ordination, you must wear black”. This is one of those gnostic secrets that you learn as ordination looms on the horizon. Its about three steps below turning water into wine. Hmmm. Should I be sharing such secrets on my blog? Sure. I’ve never been a fan of the gnostics.

Since our local clergy shirt distributor is a book store, not a fashion house, we shuffled down the hall towards the bathroom, trying to avoid the eyes of clergy who may recognize us playing dress-up.

At this point I should pause and tell you my dream about wearing my clergy shirt. In my dream, I am in this exact bathroom, removing my albe after the ordination, and the time comes to put the tab in the collar. I put it in, look in the mirror, and immediately throw up in the sink.

When I went out to check the fit and show my friends, one turned to me, “Put it in”.
“The tab. Put it in.”
“Noooo. I’m not quite ready for that.”
“You have to. I did. You have to, too.” (If this is starting to sound like the bathroom at a high school dance, good, that means you are paying attention!)

So, I put it in, but didn’t look. “Look in the mirror,” my friends egged me on. “Not yet,” I replied, talk to me some more”. So they gave me their comments on the size, the cut. I talked about how I would have to shorten it so it looks less like a nightgown. After a few minutes, they would let me stall no longer.

I took a breath, and turned towards the mirror. I saw the shirt, the tab, began to see my hair, and immediately I turned away and ripped out the tab. “Nope! I’m not ready yet,” I exclaimed, and we all burst into giggles of laughter. I took a peek to make sure that woman with the clergy shirt and the red hair was not still behind the mirror somewhere.

We each had our own experiences with that little white piece of plastic that afternoon. I felt a bit like cheating. Although day by day it is becoming a little more real, it is not that real, just yet. I must confess, I like that moment of a magic trick when the bunny disappears, and you have just witnessed something impossible. It is the moment just before you realize that there must be a reasonable explanation. I don’t think this is supposed to be real, just yet.