The Epistle of Q — Chapter 188

And yet…

Sometimes things change, sometimes not so much

If there is anything useful out of the evil Hamas invasion of Israel (thus breaking a cease-fire agreement) it is that I have a better understanding of how the Nazis came to take over the mindset of many Germans in the lead up to the Second World War. The big difference of course is that now the Nazis are left wing megalomaniacs. On the other hand, listening as I occasionally do, to USA news casts, I learn about how Hitler rose to controlling the workers socialist party (or whatever it was named) as I listen to the demagogue called Trump. As I have said in the past: not sure what kind of a world I am bequeathing my grandkids. My only hope is twofold – that the Israeli military deal Hamas a death blow and then perhaps the Arab world can reflect on the value of a two-state future for the Palestinians and the Jewish people. And maybe also North American Christians can seriously consider investing in Palestine to the degree the Jewish community have invested in Israel. Instead of aid that gets diverted into the Hamas war machine, investment might even give kids real careers to look forward to, instead of serving as human shields. But you know all this, so I will close with this request: Those contextualizing Hamas look in your mirror and see the swastika on your forehead.

Actually my autumn has been much more positive that the October 7th massacre might have made it. I completed the ROOTS VI tour which was special and the Knowledge Network provided me an opportunity to relive parts of it by showing two documentaries related to the West Highland Rail Line. As I said at the time of the tour, the way to see Scotland is by train! I also had a delightful & thoughtful trip to Ontario and Texas. And that may be the best reason for writing this Epistle. I should also mention that for the first time since early in this millennium I did not go to Grey Cup (and probably that is why the Blue Bombers lost, although I went last year and they did as well, so I retain no guilt – I do wish the hosts had done a better job re being bilingual, but I will raise that with the owner of the BC Lions so that next year all Canadians are welcomed to GC #111).

My trip east was primarily to attend the AME (Association for Moral Education) AGM & Conference at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The conference was okay, but more interesting was its impact on my sense of membership, of belonging. As I sat in on Sessions and Plenaries, as I wandered through refreshment breaks, I became acutely aware that the vast majority of my AME colleagues were either dead or retired. I had first connected with this group while in my doctoral studies in the mid 70’s, almost fifty years ago. Not much wonder that I now felt more like an observer than a participant, more like a visiting stranger than a relevant member. And then it began to dawn on me that this organization and I were at a crossroads; I would not pass this way again (even though I did learn a couple of interesting things while at TCU, beyond the fact that the Horned Frog which is the name of their athletic teams is claimed to be able to spit blood from its eyes!!). Goodbye AME, thanks for all the learning, all the memories, and the collegiality.

On the plane back to Ontario, I began to reflect a bit deeper. I thought about the Sunday before I left for Texas, when I preached at St. Peter’s Presbyterian in Madoc. Several old colleagues, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades were there and two in particular actually took me to lunch. The conversation was extensive, but it also reminded me how long ago I had left that congregation (where my father was minister) to go to my first mission field (St. Luke’s in Bathurst NB) as a student minister right out of Grade XII. I was further reminded of the summer after Grade XI when I was in the military on an experimental program for young men. One of the four of us had suddenly died the week before and a tribute to him was made prior to the service starting – those summer memories came flooding back as well. That got me thinking about the forthcoming Sunday when I would be preaching the Anniversary Service in St. Andrew’s Tweed. It would be the same sermon (Is the PCC awake or just woke?) and there was the likelihood of another high school friend from MHS being in attendance. My thinking never really subsided although I kept it internal and as I ascended into the pulpit that second Sunday morning, I felt a deep sense of farewell. I realized it was likely the last time I would preach anywhere. A journey that had been initiated in that pastoral charge sixty-one years earlier had come full circle: the scenes of the beginnings were now the settings for the endings. Like AME, the pulpit was something I will always respect, always cherish; nevertheless, it is time to move on

And so here I am, reflecting also on 2024, hoping the evil Hamas gets smashed into oblivion, that the Palestinians get help in rebuilding their future in some kind of two-state setting, that the Presbyterian Church in Canada finds its leadership voice once again, and my world is subtly rejuvenated in writing, relational strength, being a grandpa, along with physical/mental/spiritual stamina.

A sidebar to all this happened at a recent VEES game which was honouring a team from the seventies upon which was a player who had billeted at our place when he played the following year. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him that evening and he admitted some advice I had given him while a Junior Hockey player he should have taken – not doing so, took him a long time to correct. I told him that I often ignored advice too – but look, we both are still standing and taking in a VEES game, so all is not lost!! When he was back at home in California he sent me an email. Somehow it helps summarize why I now think I am to move into a somewhat different world, I have done some good things in the past, and I should be grateful for having been given the opportunities to do so…
Glenn: It was so good seeing you Sat night at the game, a lot of great memories. I can never thank you enough for taking us in and being so generous to us that season… You looked out for us like we were your own sons, protected us, gave us great advice throughout the season and set a great example of how to live the right way. You’re a good man and I am proud to know you and better off learning from you.

And so, my friend, sometimes no matter how much we enjoy doing something, how long we have had success at certain tasks or opportunities, there comes a point where one realizes that enough is enough. I will still go to conferences. I will still write. But hopefully I will spend more time in relational activities – grandkids, loved ones, emotional/spiritual journeys…

Happy American Thanksgiving