Sunday, March 22, 2015

Death and Birth


[From Phil J]


Most people in the community are aware of the recent birth of our son Matthew. I have told many of you about our friend Fr. Matthew Baker, whose recent tragic death prompted our son's name, and I wanted to make this available in a more visible way.

When we were in New York, my family lived directly underneath Fr. Matthew Baker and his family, and they soon came to occupy a central place in our hearts. It was a difficult year for us, and the best of my memories of that time are of sitting on the deck with Fr. Matthew talking about God, the universe, and everything. Our wives also became friends as well, and it did not take long to realize that his wife was in every way his match. They functioned as a remarkably integrated unit. We all shared a great deal in that time. I looked after two of his kids while my wife assisted in the home birth of their fifth child.
That was nearly four years ago, but we have kept in touch, and our kids (who were very young at the time) still rehearse stories about their children (like “George and the beer bottle”), and from time to time name the Bakers (each of them) in our family prayers. Indeed, recently our kids were begging us to take them to visit the Bakers.
The very next day, after serving vespers at the parish to which he had just been assigned, Fr. Matthew was tragically killed while driving home in a snow storm. Within hours we had been informed by mutual friends. One of his friends said that when he learned the news, he “wanted to scream.” So did I. I didn't scream, but I did weep. Well... sob, is probably more accurate. It has been a great many years since anything has hit me so hard. I felt bereaved personally, of course. I loved the man deeply. Knowing his family, I also felt incredible pain for them. But even more powerfully (and in some ways with even less acceptance) I think I felt the loss to the Church. Like many people I had high hopes for Fr. Matthew. I have often expressed that, but even so I don't think I knew how much hope I had until he died.
It was all the more emotionally complicated for my wife and myself because we were expecting the birth of our fourth child, and signs made me think it was likely to come Sunday night (March 1). This news put a halt to that. Biss' body seemed to go into a holding pattern while we attempted to deal with this blow.
As it happened, our son was born Saturday March 7. Holding him in my arms, the first moment I had a chance to glance at the clock, I realized the services for Fr. Matthew's funeral were about to begin. It is an emotional workout to bury a man you love and welcome another into the world at virtually the same moment.
The news of Fr. Matthew's death soon spread like wildfire on Face book and other social media, and many tributes and contributions poured in.
I will not repeat everything that has been said about him, other than to say that none of what I have read has been in any way exaggerated or whitewashed. His genius was indisputable. He knew more than I thought it was possible to know, but more importantly, he knew what it meant, and how it all connected.  At the same time, he was completely down to earth.  There was nothing "ivory tower" about him.  He may have been a genius and a world class academic, but he was also a solid "man's man."
It is also true that his heart was as large and as open as his mind. He loved and made friends everywhere. Not just Face book “friends,” but people he genuinely cared for and to whom he gave freely of whatever he had.
What has perhaps been mentioned less, is that along with the mind of a genius and an equally expansive heart, Fr. Matthew had the spirit of a warrior. I don't mean he was a political hawk. His war was not against “flesh and blood,” but against spiritual darkness in high places. He had a particular hatred for abuse and mistreatment in the name of spirituality. Against such his anger could burn white hot. Even then, however, his anger always felt clean. There was no malice in it, and it never felt like it was directed at any individual, but rather at the destructive distortion involved. Even while still processing personal pain, neither he nor Katie seemed to want to draw people into disliking anyone, or taking sides against people. One observer points out that he was a “man of strength with the scars to prove it.” I have seen some of those scars, and loved him for it.  Although he was only 37 years old, another calls him "solid, like a gnarled oak tree that withstands the winds of change."  He and Katie were certainly no strangers to suffering, but their pain made them not only stronger, but kinder.
He believed deeply in the power and importance of truth – not so much to be able to prove he was “right” as to point out how truth and error aid or distort how people relate to God, the world, and each other.
He was not perfect, of course, but I delighted in the fact that his shortcomings were as bold and as honest as the rest of him.
Fr. Matthew was a wonderful (if unconventional) father, a fiercely loyal husband and a deeply committed priest. What I found most remarkable about him, however, was not his truly astonishing gifts, but the generous and unflagging use of them. Everything he received from God, he offered back to God, wholeheartedly and unstintingly. At least as impressive to me is the fact that he never seemed to misuse those gifts. His mental powers, quick wit and charisma could easily have been used to support personal pride, undermine “enemies,” gain political advantage or to further his own personal agenda. I never observed any such thing. Even when he was the target of misapplied power, I never saw him use his own powers for anything but good.

In his notes for a sermon he never had a chance to deliver, Fr. Matthew quotes from his own hero, Fr. Georges Florovsky.
“What shall pass from history into eternity? The human person with all its relations, such as friendship and love.”
Father Matthew lived and died virtually penniless, but he passes into the next life one of the wealthiest people I know.

Please give prayerful consideration to contributing to support Presvytera Katherine and the six children Fr. Matthew leaves behind.  It may seem like a lot of money has been raised, but raising six children single-handed is not cheap (even for a woman as industrious and frugal as she is), and that money has to last a long time.




AFTERWORD: I have mentioned the emotional contradiction of Burying one man while welcoming another into the world.  In reality, of course, the "contradiction" is illusory.  When my son was born he left a place that had been growing increasingly restrictive, and which no longer provided room to grow.  He emerged into a vastly larger, brighter and richer environment.  For the Christian, death is precisely the same.  In a sermon delivered only days before his death, Fr. Matthew reminds us that in Lent we "renew our commitment to the task of becoming authentic human beings."  He ended that sermon with these words from St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was writing concerning his impending martyrdom in Rome.  St. Ignatius begs the Christians not to "rescue" him from death.

The pains of birth are upon me. Allow me, my brethren; hinder me not from living, do not wish me to be stillborn… Allow me to imitate the passion of my God …when I shall have arrived there, I shall become a human being (Epist. ad Rom., 6)."

The day our son was born brought us another juxtaposition I think worth mentioning. I have lived much of my life around very intelligent people, and reading books written by even more intelligent people. By nature I am very much oriented to the life of the mind. At the same time, however, I have spent a large chunk of my life loving (and being loved by) people with a wide range of cognitive difficulties. This has given me a growing appreciation for St. Paul the Simple (sometimes called the “simple minded”). St. Paul could not always keep all the details straight (Interrupting a discussion with visitors by asking “who came first, Jesus or the Old Testament Prophets?”, he tried the patience even of St. Anthony the Great), but St. Paul never envied the gifts of others or worried about gifts he didn't have. He simply did what he was given to do, and trusted. His faith enabled him to heal diseases and cast out demons that others could not.
Our son was born on March 7. The day we laid to rest one of the great minds of our generation was also the day we commemorate St. Paul the Simple, so it was only appropriate to give him this name as well. Whether our boy has the mental powers of Fr. Matthew or of St. Paul the Simple does not really matter, so long as he has the character of both. Neither of these men were concerned with gifts they did not have, nor did they take pride in gifts they did have. They simply loved the giver of those gifts and used what they had in the service of God and whoever God sent to them. They both trusted implicitly in the triumph of Christ. May they both pray for my little boy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Prayer request

If I may once again beg the prayers of the community. 

Over the next 10 days my mom and grandpa will be undergoing a major transition which will be very stressful and taxing on them both in various ways. My 86 yr old grandpa, who has been blind for about 20 yrs, is being relocated from his current home into a care facility for safety reasons. He is resistant and headstrong: aka, he's German ;) 

There are a lot of issues surrounding this move and my mom had had to take them all on full force, in addition to managing the failing health of her mother and running a business. 

They are both in great need of support and strength and I would be grateful if, over the next week at least, you would kindly remember them in your prayers. They have very little family support and few friends. Your kindness, even from afar, would be a great encouragement.

Kindly yours,

Macrina 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Baby Shower for little Helena!

At the home of Eileen Mountain: 21638 Murray's Crescent 
rsvp Eileen by phone (can be found in the directory).

Will be for cake and sherry. You are welcome to enjoy lunch with the rest of our parish family immediately after liturgy :)


On the Effective 'Raising' of Children


* Disclaimer *  
This is not a post about "parenting", for all those who are already preparing a verbal assault with the 
"you aren't a parent so you have no right to make parenting statements" argument 
(yes, people have actually said things like that.) 
-----------------------

Often we have heard the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child" (It is pure coincidence that Father also used this phrase and touched on this very same subject in his sermon this morning!)  By being a part of a community, we have a collective responsibility in the raising of the children within that community.  Whether directly or indirectly, we are role models of what it means to be an adult, a woman/man, an Orthodox Christian, a spouse, a sibling.  As much as there are children in our lives, we have an influence on them through our actions, our attitudes, our choices and our attentions - both in and outside the Church building!


Children aren't stupid - they question, they test, they push boundaries and they observe everything we say and do against what we teach and encourage.  We teach children to speak nicely of/to one another, but then slander or gossip about others in our 'adult' conversations.  We teach children to respect each other and to treat each other fairly, and then judge or put-down those around us.  As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words: what are the children hearing when they watch us interacting with one another in these ways?

This sits most heavily on me when in Church, either for vesperal or liturgical services.  I am reminded that when brought forth for judgement, I will be asked to give an account for every act done or not done, for every kindness withheld, for every opportunity left abandoned.  Christ himself warns those who lead the 'little ones' astray.  Though traditionally taught these 'little ones' are those who are young in faith, it is equally relevant to our influence on those who are simply young.  We are likewise encouraged by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians to be roused from our stupor and to be vigilant in our acts:
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
We have the power to effect either a positive, life-giving influence on others or a negative, life-denying one, especially children who are impressionable and in the act of being formed. We aren't responsible for what they do with the influence given to them, only to be it and to be it rightly.  The real question is, how?

- How do I set a good example?
- How do my actions speak to my true interests?
- How do I make changes which will provide a positive model for any child who may be watching?
- How do I ensure that in all things, I am reflecting Christ?

Big questions! Questions that should lead us to examine the 'why' behind what we do, the choices we make and the behaviours we exhibit.  These are also very Christian questions, as Christ is meant to be the central focus of our life and every aspect of it, influencing how we spend our time, our money, our energies and our efforts. 

As a community whose child-base is growing rapidly, these questions become vital.  Why are they vital?  Because it is by our example, the Light that shines within us and the Breath of Life that sustains us, that the children of our parish will either stand with us as adults and confess Christ by their lives, supporting the Church by their prayers and offerings, helping to share the gospel by their own examples, or they will abandon Her altogether, finding more to attract them in the outside world, no matter how empty the things of this world are.  It is in this way that I speak on the effective 'raising' of children, and how it is not only the responsibility of the biological parents, but of the entire community in which those children find themselves.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sign up now for camp!

Now is the time to take the plunge!

Send a camper:
Want to send a camper to camp?  Whether it is your own child, a child you know and love, or you just want to send a child in need,  please register your camper or send in a donation today!  Camp is less than 4 weeks away, and we'd like to know who's coming right away.

Volunteer:
A number of people have spoken to us about wanting to come help at camp.  If you are planning to come to camp as a volunteer, please visit www.allsaintscamp.ca to register right away and follow the instructions for application.  We cannot begin your registration process or confirm your position until you have completed this form.  Thanks!

We still need a lifeguard, a cook, and some more counsellors to sign up!

For questions, or more information about camp or donations, please email director {at} allsaintscamp {dot} ca .

Can't wait to see you then!

Biss


Monday, May 05, 2014

Camp is Coming Soon!

All Saints of North America Orthodox Youth Camp 

Camp is scheduled for July 8-13, 2014, and we are still in need of campers, staff volunteers, prayer support, and donors.  


Camp is an excellent opportunity for Orthodox youth to learn more about their faith, get to see other normal people living in "their world" too, and have a ton of fun.




Any questions can be directed to director@allsaintscamp.ca.

More info can also be found on 

Friday, April 18, 2014

holy friday




Sunday, January 19, 2014

[Updated]Lenten Preparation Day

Saturday February 1 
Church activities start at 10am - 2pm
Food preparation activities start at 10:30 am - 2pm



Lent will soon be upon us. This event is put on the day before The Entrance of the Lord into the Temple, which is also Zacchaeus Sunday, already! The thought was to have a few things occur this day. 

First, I'll put together a kids craft, where they get to make a wall chart, Journey through lent, similar to an Advent type calendar. This is also a time for the kids to just get together and play.

Second, for the ladies, there will be a food preparation / tasting / recipe swap. This will start at 10:30 and will occur at the ***Gascoigne*** Friesen/Jordhal residence, just down the street from the church. This will give time for kids and dads to be dropped off, and then allow the ladies to escape.

Lastly for those men (or women), who may not want to do children crafts or food stuff, there will be plenty of opportunity to do work on the church grounds, help clean up around where the trailer once was.

For the events at church, please bring a potluck dish to share for lunch.



From Julia - Information for the food prep get-together:

Please bring one of your favorite or go-to lenten dishes to share, along with a print-out of the recipe (and any other recipes or cookbooks that you think people might find useful.) The hope is that everyone will go home with some new ideas and resources to help get us all through Lent. (We will provide a bit of non-lenten fare as well, since the fast will not yet be upon us!)

If you have a specific recipe binder or box that you use, please bring it along so you can add to it, or if you're in need of something like that, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

If anyone has thoughts of something that would be fun (and not TOO complicated) to prepare together on that day, that could go home and into the freezer, please share your ideas.

I will have some meal planning templates available for those who would find them useful. (I can't get through the rest of the year, let alone fasting periods, without planning out our dinners in advance.)

Take a little bit of time to think about what has or hasn't worked for your family in the past, or if there's anything you're struggling with or something you can give advice on, in regards to meal planning/prep, grocery shopping, finding things that kid will eat, etc.

It would be good to have a general idea of how many people to expect, so please let me know (on here or at church) if you are planning on coming, and please pass this information on to anyone who may like to attend. I'll try to get a sign-up sheet up at church this coming Sunday. I can be contacted at julia_ann_green[at]yahoo.com.