Thank you for all those who have come to A Robin Hood‘s Musings for inspiration, information, controversy or just a good read. Here is a thank you for your support in 2012, the first two rough chapters of a new adventure and a new world, Enjoy:
The Dalai Lama is hinted at once saying his morning prayer/meditation was when he read the newspaper, answered his e-mails, and other communications. This centered him to begin his day centered with others.
He never served in a church that was struggling to stay alive, with parishioners that as soon as they see the flicker of a light are knocking on the door. Why? For the benevolence aid available for food, or utility/rent payments. So much pain created in the aftershocks of Alberta’s common sense revolution of the 90’s to early 2000’s. Yet I feel the desire to centre myself, so here I am huddled in the Sacristy with a candle, my Book of Alternative Services and Bible doing morning prayers.
The walls are so thin on this brisk fall morning that I can hear voices outside the building. Inside my eyes squint to find to Holy stories for the day. The rustling and screaming outside is getting louder. The use of racial epithets has begun; the Aryan Guard has been trying to create a beach head in this, the greatest mosaic of communities probably in all of Canada. What is it when people are struggling financially or in pain become easy prey to monsters that are unable to see the beauty that is the rainbow children of God. We are the beautiful rainbow given to the sky in the promise of Genesis 9.
More rustling and jostling, sorry Morning Prayer, but what is happening outside sounds a wee nip more urgent for centering my day than this. Leaving the Sacristy, I dart through the candlelit (or should be candlelit) sanctuary (really should pay the Enmax bill one of these days, oh right that takes some money) into the Narthex, need to fix the baseboards here. Hit the dirt path outside to the double ply wood doors (yeah had to sell the oak wood ones last spring to pay a family’s rent), the dirt path is there because the cement caved in and it was the cheapest way to fill.
East side of the building where the community garden is, that is the origin of the screams. Now that I am outside there is also the sound of leather on flesh. The community garden was planted by the Grandmother’s of the community so that fresh free vegetables were always available for those who needed them.
Two rather large bald men in black bomber jackets with iron crosses embroidered on the back, black jeans and jack boots with black hoody’s pulled up over head to try and hide their ugly mugs. So I do what any good priest would do in this situation, as there is a third person on the ground getting the boot treatment. “Hello there!”
The two thugs turn to me. Okay at least they have stopped pummeling the young lad. Now I accomplished plan A, divert their attention, what is the next step in the plan however? They are transfixed however at the site of me in my patched brown wool habit. Perhaps it is the tonsure shaved into my hair that has them mystified. It is possibly the first time a Franciscan Friar has ever confronted them before in their lives.
A young indigenous youth stumbles up. I know the lad, he helped me learn Latin and Cree. “You okay Daniel?” He is a pillar of the positive youth movement within these communities, maintaining a 90.5% average in grade twelve, works two side jobs to aid his single Dad in caring for him and his two sisters, and will probably be the first of his family to go to university (I have personally already sold the original gold communion service of the church to pay his way through, a special church scholarship). The beauty is the reconciliation within God, as his father was a student at a Franciscan residential school, brutalized, yet we were able to come to forgiveness and reconciliation to aid the new generation in this community in breaking the cycle of hate and addiction.
Daniel looks right at me, his left eye is already puffing up. “Yes, Friar.” I nod; he grabs his messenger bag and bolts to the school across the road. The two wannabe men look mad, it is quite obvious they have paced brass knuckles within their black leather gloves.
I bob my head with prayer hands. “Now lads, it is time for you to vacate my parish.” Word usage may have been too large for this dim bulbs, what is it I learned in my Missiology degree, speak the vernacular. “Get the fuck out.”
That they understood, good. The much smaller of the two steps up and tries to intimidate me by inflating his chest and trying to get into my personal space. “Fuck you Friar. We ain’t done fuck all, but we will fuck you up.” Mental note to self, do not laugh at the one ill-equipped for the contest of wits they are trying to engage in. I feel the corners of my mouth begin to form a smile, under the hood I can see the formation of cold sweat beads from fear, and the sweet aroma that sweat breeds. Win.
“Look you little Aryan Guard fuckwit, this parish, these people are blessed through the Holy Mystery and under the protection of the Almighty. You are not wanted here, so get out.”
A shift in the wind. My forearm flips out and connects with his wrist, as a smooth loud snap as small thug’s wrist bends out the wrong way. The sock which probably had a cue ball in it hits the dirt. Aryan Guard one crumples out of my personal space crying like a new born babe at his circumscion. The bigger gorilla is on the move, but thankfully my Birkenstock moves faster and quieter than he. The heel of the sandal to his chin with a new fangled blessing causes both his hands to go to his bleeding mouth and I think there will be a tooth or four to remove from my sandal later.
“Friar, need a hand?” Got to love the thick Tibetan accented English, to keep the church afloat, we sold the Manse to a small group of Tibetan religious, refugees actually that at one point claimed sanctuary in our basement. The five dollars we received for the Manse aided us nicely with seed for the community garden.
“Brother Lao, I think my visitor’s are leaving?” The two white supremacists are already stumbling over their own feet to get away from the pacifist who just humiliated them can move. Brother Lao may clear 5’1” if he is wearing platform sandals, but with the saffron multi-coloured robes of his homeland he looks quite regal as he walks up the crumbling path way to me as I straighten my own robes.
“The ministerial tea still on today?” I smile, for most communities, the Ministerial is made up of the local Christian Leaders. St. Clare’s Anglican is the only Christian church in the communities of the Shire (4 communities, built 40 years ago as a town within a town: York, Nottingham, Worchester, and Berk). So our ministerial is myself, and Brother Lao, the lead of the Tibetan Buddhist Religious (4 elderly nuns, and 8 monks), and a network of House Mosques that on Holy Days pay for the candles to use the sanctuary at St. Clare’s.
The rumble of the 15 year old Dodge Caravan rolling to a stop in the dirt and gravel (more dirt than gravel) parking lot announces the last of our trio arriving. Tarek, the Imam of the Mosque gets out. He could have been a pro-basketball player, but instead used his scholarship for a full ride for a religious studies degree up to and including a Ph.D. Lao and I look at one another, smile and then in unison announce. “Welcome, and how is your better-half, Frank?”
Tarek smiles. “Working far too much, and too hard. It is the lot of the self-employed carpenter.”
Evening green tea, alone finally in my office, tomorrow God will provide the funds necessary to alleviate more pain in this community as the coffers are currently dry. Eleanor, the elderly lady who freely gives her time as secretary has just left (crossed the street home, as Eleanor is truly Sister Eleanor and is one of Brother Lao’s). Soon I will retire to the choir loft, that I converted to my own bedsit to save funds (as we had sold the manse for the great profit).
Why do you ask that a church that is healthier than most in Canada with 200 members and about 250 attendees a week throughout our multiple Masses is so financially strapped? I really have no clue.
I hear the laughter of children from the basement. Since our Tibetan religious moved next door, two families have claimed sanctuary because their deportation back home would end with death.
I rub my temples as I begin a tea meditation. The media will have another round of calls tomorrow, as the slumlords that own all the residences in the Shire are talking selling out for large upscale condo and casino developments, so chances are the rents will go up before Christmas to force the families into the shelters. Which is disastrous as the highest (not average) family income in this area is $25,000 per annum (wait I only make $18,000 I should call the Bishop).
Our church sign still says Anglican, but it is not completely true. Most of my congregations are everything but Anglican (closest we got outside of myself, is Sister Eleanor and she’s Buddhist). We actually also left the Anglican Church of Canada, not because of the “question” (the same-sex marriage bullshit) but rather because we are not seen as a viable parish by the Diocese and they were trying to close us. So we made a shrewd business decision. St. Clare’s closing would have killed these communities as they would have lost one of their major supports. So we petitioned The Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) we used the 2009 Apostolic Constitution of Pope Benedict XVI, Anglicanorum Coetibus and became an Anglican Use parish within the Roman Catholic Diocese. None of the parishners noticed really as we kept doing our own survival thing.
Through R.C. social justice initiatives in the Diocese we get some aid for the basics which helps, as we are a “beachhead” for the Great Commission or some such thing in the Shire. Yet we are still only one disaster away from this building finally being foreclosed upon, and we have no plan B, but the people of this parish are family and family keeps the homestead going.
I take another sip of tea and crack open my Great-Granny’s Book of Common Prayer for Vespers when a new creak is heard. It is just one of those days God, thankfully Franciscan Charism speaks of being constantly in prayerful Communion with the Holy Mystery and only taking certain times to be intentionally focused upon this.
Another creak, not our tenants.
Not the building settling.
A visitor. Guess I should have written the cheque for the alarm system instead of to the public school for tuition for one of our kids over 16 years old to cover the school fees so the child can be allowed to attend class. Drop out one of our kids my ass, totally unconstitutional and illegal, when we actually get the monies together for the legal challenge it will be a grand statement to the Alberta Government.
Move slowly out of the office space into the Narthex. The door is unlocked (okay technically the lock hasn’t worked for three years, but humour me that I simply forgot to lock it). There is someone kneeling in the sanctuary at the altar rail. Long curly red hair, jeans, bomber jacket, hoody, and a nice ass.
“I am sorry my dear, I know God loves everyone, but the Aryan Guard is persona non grata in this House of God.”
The kneeled figure leaps up and twirls around. “Fuck Tuck do I look like some supremacist prick?”
There’s that cheeky dimple-freckle smile I grew up with, and on graduation night almost convinced me not to begin my postulancy with The Society of St. Francis. “Bronwyn, you scared the crap out of me sneaking in here.”
“The door was unlocked.”
I think the bald part of my tonsure must have gone red at that. “Bloody hell woman you know there’s been no locks on these doors for three years, you’re the one that gave me the alarm sticker to try to convince people we were `protected’.” She giggles at my air quotes.
“Air quotes? From the bloke that tussled with two of the baddest asses the Guard has huh? And in the Garden no less, ain’t that for walkin’ with God or somethin’.”
“You really need to come to Mass more often my dear.” A full out belly laugh this time. Bronwyn was/is a cradle to grave Irish Catholic. She is a member of the parish but she only darkens the door on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays when we offer midnight Vespers, as she hates crowds. “The two yahoos decided to play cowboys and Indians with Dan and me. I pointed out the errors of colonization to them.”
Bronwyn gives me a hug and peck on the cheek, is it wrong that if she asked I would seriously consider dropping the habit and leaving with her? Her hand slips an envelope into the side pocket of my habit. “Watch yourself, Friar rumours are they put a price on your head.”
“How much this week?” I ask.
“Thousand.” Is her answer.
“Please, the last thugs offered twelve times that and no one took.” My response, true but simple.
Bronwyn smiles, crosses herself, and begins to walk out. She stops in the sanctuary doorway. “Tuck you’re not Superman, regardless of what your bicep tattoo says.” With that she leaves the building.
I retire back to the sitting room (I long ago gave up having an official office, it looks much more like a tea room with comfy chairs for working, praying, writing homilies, and journeying through the Sacrament of Reconciliation) withdrawing a manila envelope from my habit. Bronwyn’s vocation is to protect and serve, she does this as an Inspector with the city’s finest. She has retained me on a few cases due to my past, the modest retainer has aided those in the parish with food, water, heat, and rent when most needed it.
I open the flap of the envelope, as I lower myself into a cushy wingback chair. There is one 8 x 10 photograph in it. I look at the relic pictured.
“Damn, Bronwyn what have you gotten yourself into.”
- Newtown awash in goods, notes (toledoblade.com)
- Pastors connected beyond borders and background (blogs.windsorstar.com)
- South Florida concerts connect churches, musicians, public (miamiherald.com)
- Syrian Christian Nightmare of a Black Christmas (israelnationalnews.com)
- Leap. – The kind that takes that little thing called Faith. (mommyverbs.wordpress.com)
- A Christmas Prayer for All (notforitchingears.com)
- Sisters of Compassion-the Power of Prayer (ireport.cnn.com)
- Religion Calendar for the Erie area (goerie.com)