by Rev. Elizabeth

Today I Pray and Fast for the Climate.  Why?  Because climate change is real, climate change is caused by human action, and because the poor suffer most of all.  The first step in taking action is to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering most from our collective inaction.  I join with the group of Anglican Bishops from dioceses across the global Communion who published “The World is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice.”  Pray, Fast, Act . . . while we still have time.

Watch the Fast For the Climate video below.

Read below, excerpts from “The World is Our Host.”

“At this time of unprecedented climate crisis, we call all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion to join us in prayer and in pastoral, priestly and prophetic action. We call with humility, but with urgent determination enlivened by our faith in God who is Creator and Redeemer and by the pain of our people’s experience in our dioceses and provinces, and their need for seeds of hope. . .

[At our meeting in South Africa in February 2015] we shared the understanding that creation is holy, and that we are called to serve (ebed) and protect (shamar) the earth now and for future generations (Genesis 2:15). We recognized that we have been complicit in a theology of dominion (Genesis 1:26), and realized that human dominion over the earth can only be exercised in the light of Jesus’ command that the greatest is the one who serves (Luke 22.26). We acknowledged that there are large economic and political issues at play in this complex conversation around unexploited fossil fuel reserves and the development of sustainable and renewable forms of energy: including the subsidization of fossil fuel industries and the powerful influence of big business on government policy throughout the world. . . 

We undertake to fast for climate justice on the first day of every month in solidarity with the earth and in acknowledgement that our own common life as a Church has contributed to the current climate crisis. Our fast will continue for as long as we prayerfully discern that we stand in need of repentance as a Church." 

Want to join in praying and fasting for climate change?  Find more info here.


Praying for Refugees

"I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26)

by Rev. Elizabeth

What is prayer?  Is prayer effective?  The theories abound.  I do know for sure that praying can transform my own heart, changing it, in words of the prophet Ezekiel, from a "heart of stone" to a "heart of flesh."  Once when I was working as a hospital chaplain I was paged to respond to a terrible trauma at 3AM.  I had by then been witness to many difficult situations, but I did not think I could be present to the horror that prompted that 3AM call.  The thought that someone, somewhere in the world was praying gave me the strength to go and provide support to the survivors.  Since that morning I never discount the power of prayer.  I found this beautiful prayer for refugees from Uniya, and now I share it with you:

If you want to engage in action:

National Day of Action: Open the Door to Refugees - Thursday Sept 17 5:30-6:30

Prayer for those who seek refuge in our land

"Sheltering God,
You were born in flight,
Your parents anxious and given no rest.
The manner of your birth calls us to
Open-heartedness and sensitivity to the strangers in our midst.
Help us not to flee your challenge.
The violence of the present time teaches us fear of the stranger,
Reluctant to reach out to those who are different.
Grace us this day as we seek
To see you in the faces of those uprooted,
Weary, as they seek refuge and peace. Amen.
Blessed are the wanderers and those adrift.
Blessed are the strangers at our door.
Blessed are the unfed, the homeless on the road.
Blessed is the child crying in pain.
Blessed is the mother working to provide for her children, left behind in her native country.
Blessed are those who welcome Christ to be born again when they welcome these ones.
Blessed are we who struggle to make a place in our hearts for all of our brothers and sisters. Amen.
O God,
You welcome all your children,
And embrace the prodigals ones,
Help us open our hearts
And welcome all who come, searching
As our ancestors did,
For asylum and the promise of a new land, a new life.
Root out fear from our souls;
Help us form the words
'Sister' and 'Brother'
As we greet those who seek refuge in our land.
Let us remember that,
With your grace,
There are enough loaves and fishes
To go around
If we come together
As your family.
Give us the courage
And the compassion
To respect the rights of all
In this country of abundance,
To embrace all in
The name of your love. Amen." 

How can we help refugees?

by Rev. Elizabeth

This is the question that many are asking.  Paul Clarke, Executive Director for Action Réfugiés Montréal wrote this in an op-ed that appeared in the Montreal Gazette on September 9th:

"The challenge now is to harness this new awareness and caring in order to help others, as earlier generations of Canadians welcomed Hungarians and Vietnamese.
The outpouring of support is gratifying. Since last Thursday, people from all over Quebec have been calling us. They want to sponsor Syrian refugees, do we know any? How does it work? People from Berthierville, Gatineau, Rivière-du-Loup. Even New Brunswick. People are offering rooms to Syrian refugees, as well as clothes, translation and furniture.
Next, we need to find a way to match all these offers to help with Syrians already long-resident in Montreal who have relatives stranded in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt — a way to make real the compassion being offered. There is a need for greater co-ordination among the 10 or so small groups in Quebec that work with refugees, and for greater resources, to facilitate matches between potential sponsors and specific refugees."

Many people say to me that it is complicated and difficult to help refugees.  But a colleague whose church paired with another to sponsor a refugee family wrote to me and said that sponsoring a refugee family was far easier than is being described in the media.  Yes, it takes money to sponsor a refugee family.   Their combined youth groups were able to raise 30k to make it possible.  So many want to help at this moment; we just need to harness that will of love and compassion and bring it to action.  How many people do you know who would give, $50, $100, or $500 to help?  Perhaps it's true that individually we can do little, but it's also true that together we could change the world, at least for one family.  

"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?  So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead" (James 2:15-17)

Click here, to read about the Primates World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) suggestions for supporting refugees.  Want to help the work of our local organization Action Réfugiés Montréal?  Support their team in the upcoming Ride for Refuge.

Refugee Jesus

by Rev. Elizabeth

In the Gospel of Matthew the infant Jesus begins life as a refugee:

"an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.'  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod." (Matthew 2:13-14 NRSV)
Aylan and Galib Kurdi who with their mother, Rehan, drowned while trying to escape Syria

Aylan and Galib Kurdi who with their mother, Rehan, drowned while trying to escape Syria

Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled from violence.  Like the Holy Family, the Kurdis fled.  Refugees leave their homeland to escape war, violence, and/or persecution.  Much has been reported in recent weeks about the "migrant crisis" in Europe.  For an interesting reflection on the labels "refugee" and "migrant," see: "Why Al Jazeera will not say 'Mediterranean migrants'".  Chris Alexander, Immigration Minister, promised in January 2015, that Canada would accept 3,300 Syrian refugees each year for the next three years.  In 2014, Canada promised to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees; an update on June 10, 2014 showed that only 58 private sponsorship applications had been approved.  

Refugees are human beings.  Refugees are fathers and mothers, youths, toddlers and babies.  They have individual names and faces.  They are not a "problem" to be solved.  Who is the Herod from whom today's refugees are escaping?  We could, no doubt, list the names of individual leaders who use violence against their people, who persecute ethnic and religious minorities, and who concern themselves only with increasing their own power.  There are plenty of Herod-like figures at whom we could point our fingers.  But blame is all too easy; blame frees us from responsibility.  Do not all of us bear a responsibility for welcoming refugees?  

I understand why Aylan and Galib's aunt was too discouraged and overwhelmed to complete a sponsorship application.  I am an immigrant to Canada.  The complexity of simply trying to transition from a study permit to a status that would allow me to stay and take up the full-time job I had been offered as a parish priest proved so difficult that I had to obtain a private immigration lawyer to assist me.  The amount of information required for a visa that only offers me temporary status was so excessive it took me weeks to complete.  

Many refugees are desperate and understandably will take great risks to try to reach safety.  What can we do?  1) Educate ourselves about Canada's immigration policies and how they have been changing in recent years; more on this also available here.  2)  Insist our leaders make good on their promises about resettling refugees.  3) Challenge our own prejudices and biases regarding immigrants and refugees. Think about how the Syrophoenician woman in this week's Gospel passage (Mark 7:24-37) challenges Jesus.  4) Sponsor refugees.  Maybe our individual churches don't have the resources to sponsor a family on our own.  Why not try working together?  Many individuals and families must have aided Mary, Joseph and Jesus in their flight.  What if those individuals had not done so?  What if they had called them "bogus refugees"  and turned them away?

Interested in how to take action?  Check out the following groups:  Action Réfugiés Montréal.  Solidarity Across Borders.  

Source: neverhome

Source: neverhome

Beneath the Surface

by Rev. Elizabeth

Last week we harvested carrots from our community garden.  Before the frenzy of small children clamoring to pull out carrots began, we established that indeed beneath those tall green stems were carrots.  And yet, the first child to yank on the green stem and pull up a bright yellow carrot seemed utterly shocked; his wide-eyes, laughter, and shouts of delight told it all: knowing something to be true and experiencing it are different indeed.

Since witnessing the children's excitement and surprise I've reflected much about the meaning and complexity of having faith in that which we cannot see.  Long ago, Paul wrote in his letter to the Christian community in Rome: "Now, hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:24-25 NRSV).

Oh how hard it was for the children to wait for the carrots to grow.  As soon as the green tops began to peek above the soil, they wanted to see beneath the surface.  Each time we've harvested lettuce, beans, peas, kale, or swiss chard, a chorus of voices has asked: "when can we pull the carrots out?" and "Why aren't they ready yet!?"  I know that feeling too.  It's not so hard for me to be patient and wait for the carrots to grow, but how often do I plead: "When God will your kingdom of justice and love be fully realized on earth?"  How often do I beg God:  "When will I more fully express the love of Jesus?"  

I don't have a brilliant answer to these questions, but I do trust that the Holy Spirit is working beneath the surface.  And yet even with this trust, I still think it's a good thing to be surprised, delighted and wide-eyed when I see that work come to fruition.  When I'm so confused I'm not even sure what I ought to be praying or hoping for I turn to the very next sentence Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome: "Likewise, the Spirit help us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26 NRSV).

Not long ago, the vegetable garden was no more than a flicker of hope.  And now here it is - providing food for hungry people, teaching children about food and kindness, and drawing people from different communities together.  If only I had a theological explanation for our resident squirrel thieves.  Perhaps I should try preaching them a sermon to see if that scares them away...