On Thanksgiving Monday, a relative emailed a photograph of a postcard my great-grandfather Robert (“Bobby”) Fyfe Easton Paterson received from the young woman Catherine (“Kit”) Hill Cobb who would eventually become his wife. Seeing it confirmed my sense of Scottish heritage. Later in the day, my eldest daughter, Emma, told me she was impressed by the statement in the worship bulletin from Church on Sunday that showed appreciation to the Indigenous People who walked this land before us. I, half-jokingly, reminded her that maybe the Indigenous People who walked this particular land might not be very happy that we, as unofficial members of the Nulhegan band of the Cosook Abenaki were living on their land.
“I don’t choose to identify myself as Indigenous … I’m only an ally,” she said. I was taken aback.
The countdown is on. I will beginning my second sabbatical in less than 24 hours.
Now I have to expand on this term “sabbatical.” First, United Church ministers who remain in their pastoral charges more than five years are entitled to a three-month sabbatical (i.e., time away from normal ministry) for every five years they serve in a charge. So, I’ve been in the South Mountain-Hallville Pastoral Charge (SMHPC) for 14 years and about to take my second sabbatical.
Today is April 1st—yeah, I know, “April Fool’s Day”—and I begin my 15th year as the minister at Hallville, Heckston, Inkerman and South Mountain United Churches. I can’t say that I didn't intend to be here for this long (generally, most ministers in the United Church stay in a pastoral charge for three to five years). I know that I feel called by God to be here and “be” is in the present. I know that I wanted my daughters to grow up in one place and get to be a part of a community, church, school, civic, etc. I know that Karen (my wife) is a teacher, and teachers need to stay in their school board in order to retain their seniority.
Memories. I remember seeing a picture, a photograph maybe, displayed in Mrs. Pennell’s Grade 5-6 classroom at Bel-Aire Elementary School in Calgary. That school is long gone—there were maybe 60 kids from kindergarten to Grade 6. To get there, I walked out my back gate, across the “alleyway” with the HUGE alliance church beside it, and through the soccer field.
A debate occurred on a Facebook group to which I belong. It was typical of the group—we’re a bunch of ministers (mostly United Church). One of our members posted that she did not think the sermon was an important part of worship anymore and was thinking about replacing it with a mixture of plenary chats, video clips, art installations and the like.
Where does the time go? Twenty years ago—December 1996—I was a student at Queen’s Theological College (QTC) and a student minister at the Bathurst Pastoral Charge. Bathurst Pastoral Charge, which consisted of Althorpe and Bollingbroke United Churches and Calvin United Church (Dewitt’s Corners), had been a “student charge” for over 100 years.
A friend of mine is working on a research study in Toronto called the HALO project. This project originated in Philadelphia and looks at the impact of places of worship in the community; specifically, what would it cost the community to replace the services/programs offered by the faith community.