Thursday, June 18, 2009


For nearly a decade, I have been interested in intentional community. For a little over a year, I had the opportunity to live in community at Bowers House in Chicago. Day to day living in Bowers caused me to shed my rose-coloured glasses and see that living in community is not the utopian, resource-sharing, hand-holding, Kum-Ba-Yah-singing, isn't-it-great-we-all-get-along? ideal I must confess I held. Managing chores, debating the benefits of composting, fighting over lentils, and arguing about somebody using too much bandwidth are just as much a part of life together as planting gardens, working side by side, lending a helping hand, and sharing in communal meals. But while I may have lost a bit of my romanticism, I remain even more passionately committed to intentional community.

I am particularly drawn to co-housing a form of intentional community comprised of private homes for individual households sharing common spaces (larger kitchens, children's playrooms, gardens, music rooms, libraries, guest rooms, et al). Before and since moving to Edmonton, I sought out co-housing opportunities, but nothing existed here. Until now.

Last night, Craig and I attended a Co-Housing Meet-Up where we met other people who are interested in co-housing, particularly in developing a co-housing community close Edmonton's city core. Developing a community takes time. We are still likely 3-5 years from move-in. But we are ecstatic that such a plan is beginning to emerge. We are delighted to find others who share our values and commitments to community and sustainable living. And we are thrilled to be in on this project from the very beginning.

yea!! Co-housing!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

radical hospitality

Here is the welcoming statement from the front of the bulletin at Robertson-Wesley church:

In response to God's call, we, the congregation of Robertson-Wesley United Church, declare our commitment to opening our hearts and our church family to all people in our community, regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender, differing abilities, ethnicity, or economic circumstance. We recognize that many people's lives continue to be devastated by hatred, prejudice, and inequality, therefore, as a compassionate and caring spiritual community we will stand with those who are adversely affected by injustice, alienation and oppression.
Now, having served as Co-Leader for the Open & Affirming Ministry Team of my denomination, I have seen many powerful statements of welcome and inclusion. One thing these statements all have in common is naming who is included in welcome, naming groups that have often been excluded from communion and ministry within the church. What makes this statement particularly strong is that it acknowledges that just because RWUC welcomes all people does not mean that justice prevails. Instead it says that there is still much work to be done, both within the church and in the outside world, and this community is committed to doing that work.

Understand why I feel so comfortable there?

a place for my soul to rest

In the past three years, I have moved as many times, crossing state or national borders each time. This last move was especially hard because I did not have a supportive faith community. My denomination does exist here, but it is not the same denomination I came from in the States. And most often I do not feel as if there is a place for me (a liberal, heretical, WOMAN pastor) here within my church.

This has caused much grief and sorrow as my denomination was one I CHOSE as an adult, one that allowed and encouraged me to bring my questions and my doubts, one that didn't require me to check my brain at the door, one that nurtured me and sustained me through my education and first decade of ministry. And now, I fear I may have to leave.

In many ways, the Unitarian Universalist Church would be an obvious fit for me. 1) On days when I profess a belief in god, I am more unitarian than trinitarian, and 2) If I consider the possibility of heaven, I would have to put myself into the universalist understanding of salvation. Unitarian? Check. Universalist? Check. And the UUs are so lefty and liberal. I love their commitment to social justice and to peace and the environment. And my Beloved is UU. So it should be a perfect fit. Except...

I am christian. At least, I am culturally christian. I may not take the stories in the christian scriptures to be literal truth, but they are my stories, the ones I grew up with, and the ones that resonate with metaphorical truth within my soul. Some of the christian stories I adore. And many I abhor. But they are the stories I know. I appreciate the sacred stories of other traditions, and I can find truth and meaning within them. But they are not my stories. They are not the ones which quiet the storms in my life or sing to my soul.

And I love christian liturgy, the hymns, the candles, the smells and bells, the familiar words, the stand-up-here-sit-down-there. There is a rhythm to it, and it matches the rhythm of my life. It's what I know.

When I visit the UU churches with Craig, I love the engaging conversations. I love the passionate commitment to serving on behalf of the others and the world. I love the diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives (though not too diverse, not many conservative attend UU churches). But I miss the liturgy. And while the conversations are challenging and engaging, they are not engaging my stories.

What I really want is the intellectually rigorous sermons I heard preached in the churches of my denomination back in the States. What I want is to hear somebody wrestle with my stories, really wrestle with them: to explore the historical and cultural context in which the texts were written, to examine the original languages and see what might have been lost in translation, to ask whether there is meaning in these ancient texts for contemporary followers, and to empower listeners (i.e. me) to respond.

From my apartment, I can see the steeples of two churches just blocks from where I love (when asked about my religious views, I should give this answer sometime). One of these churches is Robertson-Wesley United Church. Earlier this spring, I knew I wanted liturgy for the first Sunday of Lent, so walked down the block, through the park, and through an alleyway, and slipped into the pews for a wonderful reflection (by both ministers!) on the idea of "journey". In the bulletin, I saw an announcement for a bible study which I attended several times in cognito. I have worshipped there on several other occasions since.

I was initially disappointed on Pentecost (my favorite liturgical holiday) when instead of the Pentecost story, the minister began a series on, of all things, the doctrine of the trinity! But the sermon was fascinating - giving the history of the doctrine, acknowledging the lack of biblical support for the concept of a three-for-one, I mean three-in-one god. It was challenging, inspiring, uncomfortable, and I LOVED it. I may not be a trinitarian christian, but I can certainly appreciate how many people find meaning in understanding divine revelation in three different ways. I personally think the number three is limiting, but I get that others appreciate it. And this is pretty much what was said from the pulpit at Robertson-Wesley!!! "We don't need to chuck the whole thing out, but let's understand why people, why our tradition, thinks this is important, and you can decide for yourself if this is meaningful for you."

Yes, this is a place where my soul can rest. After these many years and many moves, this is what my soul is needing. And I think I may have found some companions for the journey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Banff (in photos)

Lake Louise:

Yoho National Park (BC):

Johnston Canyon & Falls:

wildlife in Banff:

"artistic" shots from around Banff:

from Tunnel Mountain:

Epicurious... in Banff

While in Banff for our anniversary weekend, Craig and I did our fair share of picnicking, feasting on the breads, cheeses, olives, fruit and granola we either brought or purchased at the market. However, on three occasions, we did dine out, and here is what we thought of our (limited) exposure to the Banff dining scene (I'll be listing them in reverse chronological order):

Our final morning in Banff, we went to Wild Flour, "Banff's Artisan Bakery Cafe" for brunch. I ordered breakfast, and Craig ordered lunch, so it truly was brunch. The place is tucked away off Banff's main street, but easily accessible (as is everything in this tiny mountain town). A dog-friendly venue, many of the people on the patio had their pups along with them. We managed to snag an outdoor table among the pooches before heading inside to order. I ordered the toasted breakfast sandwich and a latte. Craig got the half panini and the daily soup, a promising chipotle tomato. I found the breakfast sandwich to be very bland, and I understood why it was served with ketchup; even though I dislike ketchup on eggs, it would have been a vast improvement. The latte however was perfect. Craig's soup tasted like Campell's tomato soup with a bit of picante sauce added, and I could detect absolutely no hint of the smoky flavour indicative of chipotle. Just when I was thinking that Wild Flour is not so good with the food, I tasted Craig's panini, which was spectacular. When we return to Banff, I may head back to Wild Flour as I appreciate their eco commitments (plant-based "plastic" lids, composting, recycling, etc.) and the coffee was darn good. But I will still with the paninis. And their baked good looked mighty tasty...

On Sunday night, our anniversary dinner was at a most disappointing Chinese restaurant, The Silver Dragon. The menu seemed promising, with several authentic items listed. The view from the patio was spectacular. And the salt&pepper tofu appetizer was quite good. But the entrees were incredibly bland, atrociously so. My noodle dish was mushy, and the veggies in Craig's hot pot were obviously from a frozen "stir-fry" blend. I have had better food at Chinese buffets in strip malls in suburban Indianapolis. Do not go to Silver Dragon. It was the worst meal we have had in Canada 9thought the company was great and the dinner did not ruin our anniversary celebration).

However, on our first night in Banff, we had what was probably our best meal in Canada, at Nourish, a tiny vegetarian bistro tucked away on the top floor of a shopping mall off Banff Ave. Walking into Nourish, you immediately forget your are in a mall, as the funky, hippy decor (Batik fabrics, eclectic lighting, bold colors on the walls, etc.) transport you from a world of dreary consumerism to a land of culinary delights. When we saw the menu, we had a hard time deciding what to order. In most restaurants, it's easy, we order the one or two vegetarian items and that's it. But when the whole menu is veg, it's no easy decision. Ultimately, Craig opted for the shepherd's pie and I got the portobello burger. Both items had the most unusually delicious textures and explosions of flavour: the burger had brie, artichoke, and "wasabi ginger aioli" (OMG, yum!!!), and the pie was rich ans savory with nuts, lentils, carrots, coconut and a "strawberry pineapple puree". I also had one of Nourish's specially blended roibois teas, and Craig had a delightful mango peace frosty. We finished the meal with a spectacular bread pudding. Nourish may just be our new favourite restaurant in Alberta, indeed Canada...

Monday, June 15, 2009


On June 14, 2008, my Beloved and I hitched our lives together in a lovely and lively Covenant Ceremony. During the celebration, our presiding minister, Sandhya, gave a wonderful children's sermon, in which she defined the term "covenant" and told of the rainbow as being an ancient and biblical sign of "covenant" and promise. During the ceremony, she passed around rainbow colored ribbons and had the kids "cover [us] with the rainbow". Which they did. It was a lot of fun.

Here we are, covered by the rainbow:

On June 14, 2009, my Beloved and I celebrated the anniversary of our union with a weekend trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies. While we were at dinner on the night of our anniversary, there was rainstorm on the mountain, creating a most beautiful, vibrant rainbow, a fitting symbol of our covenant and promises.

Here we are, once again, covered by the rainbow:

Saturday, June 13, 2009


We have learned that if you want good Mexican food in Edmonton (especially decent vegetarian options), you had better make it yourself. So, thankfully, Sarah and Kevin hosted a Mexican potluck dinner last night. Craig made his delicious guacamole. And I prepared Mom's famous green enchiladas and my own delectable chipotle beans. We had salsa, tamales, empinadas (more Salvadoran, but still), burritos, and quinoa and corn (more Incan, but still). And I cannot forget the margaritas. Sarah certainly provided the "top shelf" spirits. And John and I mixed up some tasty drinks. (I fear that, for some, the 'ritas were a little too tasty.)

It was a perfect evening. Good food. Good friends. Babies. Dogs. My two regrets from the evening were that I didn't think to get a piñata until way too late yesterday afternoon; not only is good Mexican food hard to come by in E-town, but so are piñatas. I also wish I hadn't forgotten my camera. Alas, no photos to prove summer has officially arrived in Edmonton.

Friday, June 12, 2009

(non-)wedded bliss

This weekend will mark the one year anniversary of our Covenant Ceremony (or non-wedding thingy). It's hard to believe it's already been a year. And it's hard to believe it's only been a year. What a year it has been. And I look forward to many more with my Beloved.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

bustin' my @$$

Oh, wow. I am so sore. My whole body aches. But the good news is that I know I could never have survived Tuesday's work out a mere two weeks ago. I am getting stronger.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some belated thoughts on Dr. Tiller's murder

The murder of Dr. George Tiller has evoked a strong emotional response within me. First of all, I feel anger and outrage that anyone who is "pro-life" could murder in cold blood. I also feel such sorrow and sadness for this man's family, both biological and ecclesial. I cannot imagine the grief and trauma they could be experiencing now.

But I also feel wildly compelled to correct the malicious lies misinformation about late term terminations being propagated by the so-called "pro-lifers" who oppose such procedures, casting women who make such a "choice" as wanton harlots who cannot be burdened by a pesky little thing such as a living baby. But this is not truth. This is not reality. At least not the reality I know.

My reality involves holding the hands of grieving parents who have made agonizing decisions to terminated longed for pregnancies. My reality has been reaching into incubators and offered blessings/prayers/baptism to dying babies born with myriad fetal anomalies. My reality is comforting grieving husbands whose wives has just died due to complications from their pregnancies.

But my reality isn't what is being told. And my reality isn't what necessarily needs to be told. My reality is one step removed from the real stories of grief, anguish, and heartache.

Obviously, the protesters outside the Tiller's Kansas clinic have no idea the reality of the "choices" these patients make. How anyone can know the heartbreaking truth and still cast these women as sinners is beyond me. But then again, how anyone can call themselves "Christian" and "pro-life" and then murder a doctor in his church is also beyond me.