Searching for Shaka-Re:

Posted: December 25, 2022 by Ty in Spirituality
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A Collaborative Faith Talk with Bruce Callow

For those unfamiliar with the term, you are not a Trekkie either (which can I show you some stuff?) or you are not a fan of the fifth movie adventure of the original series crew, The Final Frontier. It is the journey for the Source, God if you will. Some balk because of the idea, humanity advanced beyond the concepts of religion (or is simply we had advanced beyond the bigotry and divisions that religion used as an opiate for the masses, as a means of power and control?). For those who do not think spirituality (those intrinsic pieces of us that get renewed through certain practices that speaks to the beginning of the answer to the why question of life), look no further, than the show enjoying a renaissance thank to streaming, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, which interweaves rebirth, renewal, de-colonization, reconciliation, science, and religion together. Illustrating the types of questions each is designed for.

Why does this matter? What percolated these thoughts once more, about how stories, like Star Trek, and science, and faith can co-exist together? It began to take shape on the Spock Days adventure, as my friend, Bruce, began to speak to joining the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica, and began pondering the wandering journey that brings us to these moments of pilgrimage. 

Bruce is a musician, a storyteller, a community builder, and an educator. For those regular followers, you may remember the various Friday night space & science conferences out of Costa Rica I would share that he was a part of, or you have read or seen one of his books, or been a part of one of his community building through music projects in Calgary through the Drop In Centre, or the name is memorable from the interview here, and in the Calgary Herald, of his work in Poland with Ukrainian refugees. 

I pondered his openness in sharing the journey of faith, with who he was, and will let him share…

What was your background of Christianity?

I grew up in the United Church of Canada. Parkdale United Church is where I received my Christian formation. That church had a strong social justice culture and my mum was very involved in that stuff. Later, as a high school student I began to learn about Liberation Theology in the fight against oppression which was part of what compelled me to want to learn more about Central America. Nicaragua had managed to overthrow  a dictatorship and it was heady idealistic stuff to be connected to, at least for a while. Several Jesuit priests and university staff were massacred in El Salvador at the time when I was studying political science at the U of Calgary, I had applied for an internship to work with them a few months before that happened. Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Jerzy Popiełuszko of Poland are heroes of mine. Both gave their lives in the struggle against oppression.

When did the questioning or connecting begin?

My reconnection with faith-based matters got going during my time in Poland earlier this year. Christianity was always in the background for me, but this visit helped it come to surface in a more articulated way. The Catholic Church was a subversive organization during the Cold War that helped lead to the overthrow of the Soviet Union. I got a better appreciation of how important the church is in Poland by talking to people there.  That faith and strength rubbed off on me and I think I needed it as supporting refugees directly in a time of war can be a very draining and consuming experience. To do the work I was doing effectively I could not wear a mask. A smile can’t be shared very well  with a mask on.  Visiting refugee centers with 4,000 mostly unmasked people packed in there, well you know that you might catch something. It was a calculated risk and that’s where faith helped me a lot to be cheerful and always give my best to the Ukrainians. I had already had COVID and had had my shots too. My faith has given me the strength to carry on helping Ukraine in other ways this year.  I met someone very important in Warsaw, it was a chance encounter at the busy Central Railway Station where he was assisting new arrivals from Ukraine.I observed him and other volunteers with awe and much respect. That 2 minute conversation led to a chain reaction of activity and a very special friendship. His name is Roman Lakhnyyuk. Roman is a 23 year old Ukrainian but moved to Edmonton when he was 12. I guess you could say meeting him was the reason I went to Poland.  It is amazing how two strangers can connect like that in the midst of all the turmoil and distractions.  We have helped 40 Ukrainians get to Canada this year and now are delivering other projects in Ukraine.

What have you learned on the journey?

I like the saying “Your life is not about you.” There are so many generational aspects going on regarding the impacts you can make. It is a bit like time travel going forwards and backwards and sending messages to the future. Do what you can to help others but try not to sacrifice yourself in the process. But do push the limits of what you can do. Spending time outside your comfort zone is necessary if you want to grow. And denounce what needs to be denounced and that includes about  churches, like the petition we organized about the abuses committed by churches against indigenous school children in Canada. Pope Francis came to Canada to apologize in person this year which was especially important for healing to take place and trust to be restored.

How do you see God in science, space, stories, music, the world?

Verbal explanations of God are too hard for me, I’ll leave that to others. For me God is a quiet voice that tells me to keep going when I think there is nothing left to give. Humility is very important. I think religion and science can be effective partners, at least they should be.

“ This upcoming conference is a good example of how the worlds of science and religion can come together.”

Anything else you would like to share in regard to the journey through spiritual formation in the church?

I don’t pretend to be a guide of any sort. I am happy I completed my Catholic studies this year and to be welcomed formally into the church. It feels like a direct connection to history somehow and there is a lot of cool mystery. Pope Francis suggested yesterday that people have a more austere Christmas this year and give what we have left over to help the people of Ukraine. His commitment to Ukraine is impressive.

Roman and I just arranged the purchase of a diesel generator for the state orphanage in Lviv Ukraine which houses 168 kids, using funds we generated at our recent benefit concert at St. David’s United Church. I feel good we can help Ukrainians in a tangible way to get through this hard winter and I look forward to continuing these kinds of projects working with all kinds of partners.


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