On Church; Deacons & 'Dresses'

Most of my upbringing happened with an Anglican Church as home-base.

I was used to seeing my dad (in the choir) wearing "a dress," and watching people bow to the cross before stepping onto the stage, but I didn't understand why they did. I thought it was strange. I didn't ask questions.

Over the years, I've experienced aspects of God's vast nature through different expressions of faith, opposite ends of Christian spectrums. From conferences at the site of the Toronto Blessing, to our quaint church start-up that began in my parent's living room... from candle-lit traditional vigils, to massive baptist church teaching sessions... from a Presbyterian church in the middle of a corn field to summer camp worship and bible study on a floating dock... from Taizé style music to downtown dance parties for Jesus.. from a highly missional downtown church where I learned that church shouldn't always smell nice, to spotless Cathedrals with full-time janitorial staff... to reciting ancient creeds, to shaking with Holy laughter spouting off words in unknown languages... there's been a lot.

The gift of experiencing God in different ways has empowered me to freely express myself. From reflectively sitting at Charismatic events, to flailing my arms at the back of an Anglican Church. Each community, each encounter with God, each mentor, teacher, leader, and each worship experience have all shaped me. On a sunny September morning two years ago, I biked to a Church in my new city. Carrying all of my experiences, disappointments and beliefs about Church in my heart and mind, I walked into a day I'll never forget.

Thus marked the beginning of my time at Via Apostolica.

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A place where teaching has awakened my love for the Bride of Christ, a place where humble resilience and radical obedience has been modelled, a place where I've discovered the colossal Grace of God, a place where community has redeemed painful memories, and so much more. As our lead pastor (aka Priest, aka rector of the Cathedral --- yeah, we are Anglicans now too!) says on our website:

"Jesus is what holds this church family together.  We are a Christ-centred and devoted Church, full of imperfect people who are endlessly in need of God’s saving grace.  We love this place and though no church is perfect, we are committed to building Christ’s dream - a glorious Church."  (Stephen Barbour)

I find beauty in the Christian Church's extensive diversity. In the reality of Faith in Jesus being all-encompassing, each group of people, each system in the body is modelling an aspect of who He is, together being prepared to be His perfect and spotless Bride. It's all for Him.Thomas McKenzie in his book 'the Anglican way' digs into the compass rose, pictured above. I love every aspect of this. There is room for everyone, in every season, at every checkpoint of their journey with Christ. It's beautiful.

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WHY I'M THINKING ABOUT ANGLICANISM MORE THAN EVER THIS WEEK...

Two of my mentors and spiritual brothers (and another pretty rad dude I haven't gotten to know) were ordained as Deacons on Wednesday.I grew up hearing the 'D' word, but didn't know what it entailed until now.While covered in dust, crawling under the church stage to re-wire XLR cords, I pondered the significance of traditional dress that one of the men preparing for ordination had just explained to me, showing me the alb he'd just picked up days before ordination.

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White robes represent the righteousness of Christ (the word righteousness actually means 'garment' if you dig deep... takes 'being clothed in Christ,' or 'putting on Christ' to a whole new level!) These 'albs' are worn to state that ministers are serving not by their own volition but because Jesus covers them with His righteousness, empowering them to pour out the Love He's given them.

Black robes are called 'cassocks' and were traditionally worn as Priestly streetwear.

Scarfy sash thingies are actually called 'stoles,' and different placements signify different orders of clergy, where different colours represent seasonal themes in the Church. The Deacon’s Stole hangs diagonally from the left shoulder and then is secured at the right side. This is an outward expression of their inward call, to be a bridge between the Church and the world.

Priests and Bishops have different positioning of this piece, according to their calls too. The colours of the stoles are somewhere along the lines of purple or blue for advent and lent, white for Christmas, Easter, weddings, etc. Green for seasons after epiphany,  and red for days like pentecost, saints’ Days, confirmations, and ordinations.

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What I love about my community is it's conviction and capacity to engage with the tradition of these vestments and the sacraments, all the while not taking ourselves to seriously. To hear the Bishop make a joke about his 'silly hat' and then publicly repent immediately sensing a spirit of mockery, perhaps, is amazing. For dudes in collars to play dodgeball, or have arms covered in ink under their albs... pretty amazing.There is room for the Spirit to move when our faith is not in the traditions themselves, but in the Creator, the Redeemer, the Alpha & Omega. He makes a way for singing in the Spirit while serving the elements of the Eucharistic feast. He makes a way for Holy jolts to occur while chants fill the air. He is worthy.Because of His worth, these three men laid down their lives as they've known them to be consecrated to the Lord afresh, in a significant, life-altering and beautiful way.The responsibilities of deacons involve assisting at worship - particularly setting up the altar for the Eucharist and reading the Gospel. They are also accorded responsibility for pastoral care and community outreach, in keeping with their traditional role of manifesting the church in the world. Each of these men embody these characteristics in unique but faithful ways.I am blessed to have grown in awareness of my need for the Eucharist through them, and to have heard the gospel spoken as if Jesus himself used their voice boxes to speak to my heart when I needed hope and forgiveness.I'm inspired by the way they care for people, both in the Church and the community.To capture the evening, I created this video. With all my love for these men, this church, the Church itself, and ultimately for Jesus - the one who is awakening me into greater realities of His immense delight in me as a member of His body.

Hallelujah!

Stop! Look, recognize, celebrate!

I took time this morning to look at past March 27 posts, to recognize the increase of faith, freedom & fun that has been added to me by the grace of God, for the glory of God.

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In celebrating, I'm sharing, trusting that it may too, increase your faith for freedom & fun. I pray that you may see God's faithfulness in placing the lonely in families and healing the broken hearted through words documented.At 16 years-old in March of 2014, I was living in Barrie, Ontario billeting with a couple in their 60s or 70s. I was pursuing my deep desire for excellence in the form of becoming the best possible figure skater I could be. My body-based, kinaesthetic personality type that loves living into personal integrity and self-control, thrived in the competitive skating environment. Especially because I'd not grown up with such caliber of training and atmosphere of athletic excellence, and it was suddenly all around me.My attention naturally goes toward seeing what is wrong, and correcting it. This  is a gift. It manifested in countless hours of drilling technique into my muscles, repeating seemingly subtle, but absolutely intentional, movements over and over and over. It energized me to analyze my every movement and apply the "right" technique again and again until I experienced ability to complete particular elements. It was oh so satisfying.At this point in 2014, I was still travelling to my family's home each weekend, leaving my Monday-Friday-skating-community behind, only to leave my hometown-community each Sunday night.5 years ago last Sunday night, I was lonely. Over my parents' rustic wood dining room table, we prayed a bold prayer. And on March 27th, 2014 (only 3 or 4 days later) it was answered. I wrote this on the private blog I kept for family & friends:"My heart was literally in my mouth and tear ducts as I heard the words 'Yeah, so… my dad’s a youth pastor,' confirming the Max Lucado books and facebook picture- hints I’d picked up on. Sitting on the floor of my new soul sister Jeslyn’s bedroom, looking at recipes to create for our first time hanging out, we started talking about random stuff. I noticed her bible and devo book on her night stand and was just like… bingo. This is the answer to my prayers. Thank you Lord.  It wasn’t until I heard those words come out of her mouth that my face became hot as lava and my heart wanted to explode. Thank you Lord. From that moment on, it felt like our friendship was opened up. We just talked freely about everything and we share the same opinions on like everything due to our compatibility in values and beliefs. What a crazy blessing this is. As I walked into my room back here at Mike and Ann’s, I noticed my prayer board, under the heading “Supplication” saying “A friend, companion, mentor…” Reading that, I’m just simply overwhelmed by God’s timing and crazy ability to just make all things come together. I have most certainly found a friend and companion in Jeslyn.   I am in completely and utter awe of God’s perfectness. THIS IS CRAZY. May I just raise a point? A question if you will? How on earth is God not real? I’m reading Matthew right now, and learning a lot bout the importance of FAITH. Many times in Matthew, I’ve found Jesus explaining the importance of faith and the difference between the woman who reached out and touched him, fully believing she’d be healed, and the crowds that were uncertain, is phenomenal. My prayer this morning was literally asking for guidance in learning how to be more like the chronically bleeding woman. When you surrender something to God (like this situation of friendship) and you just finally let go, saying I HAVE FAITH IN YOU….look what happens."

I recognize the increase of faith that came after this miracle.

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That gift of relationship with Jeslyn developed into opportunity to live with her beautiful, healthy family - my new billets for almost half a year. They welcomed me, loved me, and served me so beautifully. I began staying on weekends and going to church with them.Later, their house was the roof under which I also dove into the beginnings of sadness and broken-heartedness. It was there I laid my head on the nights my dreams shattered, and my butt broke. (Literally, fractured my tail bone.) I lost control over my athletic endeavours and entertained anxious feelings and swirling thoughts.It was after moving out of there and back home that things got worse.On March 27, 2015 I wrote this:"Over the March Break, there were a couple times I was scared. I was so overcome by anxiety, that the way I was reacting was actually scaring me in itself.  I literally felt like I hit rock bottom. The good thing about being down there was that the mention of going any lower (which was in fact brought up at one point) forced me to snap out of some things. Forced me to face anxieties head on, and to be real. So, with many tears, hugs, tears, walks, talks, tears, and kleenexes, came the next step...  Gripping fatigue has enveloped my character. Part of this can be blamed on adrenal fatigue… which is an actual condition and a very strong reality of what i’m dealing with. The recovery from adrenal fatigue…. the fancy way of saying recovering from burnout….  is what i’m considering this time in my life to be. It’s why I’ve been spending a lot of time doing the things i want to do. It’s why i’m passively choosing not to commit to leadership role in a specific church community. God has designed me to be a leader, and i am well aware of that. But since daycare, i actually have been leading. In some role, way, shape, or form. Celine Dion was created to sing, yet she’s had to take vocal leaves and rests. That’s no different. The recovery from adrenal fatigue is why i’m passively choosing not to get involved at school in a committed role. “Yeah, i’ve just been going pretty hard for the past couple years, so i’m learning to just be.” I said, explaining to a friend who recently asked me what i’m up to these days, who responded with “Jo you’ve been going hard your whole life.”  But the other part of my extreme fatigue has been social isolation. The point is, that with the social interaction I’ve been partaking in this week has helped my energy increase! Not only because of the rise in blood sugars by eating more variety, but the actual chemical role that people have on my well being. That said, before this whole skating journey, I didn’t know how to be by myself. It’s refreshing to have an afternoon just on my own after a week of social interaction, and this whole process has helped shape some sort of balance into me that I’m SO thankful."I am experiencing shadows of this gripping fatigue yet again in March 2019. And I trust confidently that the Lord is faithful to guide and to heal.I pray that you will choose to trust in the same promise of guidance and healing. I pray that we all grow in confidence that the human body is more important than we often like to admit. I pray that through it He will show us more of His healing power and deep care for our hearts. Today, I call out the beauty and glory that God has displayed through my story, and while parts of me still feel like they're sitting in pits, He truly has pulled me out of the pit and set my feet on solid rock. I bask in recognizing His greatness through the turmoil, and His greatness in bringing me out of it.I recall this as testimony because I have friends in the deep waters of 200-pound-heaviness on their chest. And I empathize. I feel the weight grief, the swirl of anxiety. To watch people suffer through, is more of a guttural experience of empathy that drives me  to confidently say "This sucks. And there is more to the story. And you will be OK."

I recognize the increase in freedom from anxiety, and freedom from agonizing lies that I am alone.

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Finally, I scrolled through a post from March 2016, amazed that I'm thinking about similar things today...  the significance of routine, the role of discipline, my need of them and lack thereof.In March 2016 captured thoughts like this:The biggest thought I am dwelling on is about routine. Why do I like routine so much. Yes, I am a person who thrives on routine, and to a certain point I’ve tried to honour “who I am” in that… but if I am truly nothing apart from Christ, and I’m after a life just like Jesus lived  (because of His call to us as His followers and my commitment to renouncing the ways of the world,) is that really who I am? No! And no matter what “natural tendencies” I face, there is no excuse for not challenging them, when we have the Holy Spirit. Which I do. Which you can too if you don’t already.  I’m still doing some thinking and learning and listening on this one. I’ve actually been thinking about it for a few weeks since the start of no routine and going bonkers. But this week, amidst absolute inconsistency, no day being the same as the last, and two day streaks of not even having time to go upstairs and check my agenda (yes, that’s right… the girl who lives with her planner by her side)  I’ve found rest. I’ve still been able to function and actually radiate… WHEN I choose to submit my will to the will of God the Father.  And when I am aware of His presence in the moment. Moment by moment. Oh Lord, may that always be my prayer… to abide by your schedule and yield to your rhythms..  

I recognize the increase of fun and the capacity to live such an unstructured, un-routined life.

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At the same time, the importance of routine is making itself known righteously. Not a god, but a value. A discipline. A principal, unto Presence.In light of slowly letting the all-or-nothing worldview be re-formed, I trust there will be an increase in the freedom to yield to routine, because the Lord is in it.  Being a disciple of Christ is more often "both-and" than "either-or."I pray that in this season, you too will be awakened to the fluidity of Christian life. We often divide things into either or, when we focus solely on principal without the reality of Presence.May He continue, in His grace, to draw us near and to eradicate the lies that seek to keep us isolated in our darkness. May you find 'your people,' who will remind you that it's going to be alright, people who God will use to speak Truth to you, to walk with you and Love you unconditionally. May March 27th be a day set apart for annual reflection, a moment to stop, to look back, and to recognize how far you've come. Amen.