I received the following note from Barbara McDougall O.C. who has been very involved in our refugee ministries and was also federal Minister of External Affairs; Employment and Immigration and several other portfolios during her years as a Member of the Canadian Parliament. I was encouraged, though not surprised, to receive her praise for the choir's singing last week at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England.
From Barbara McDougall O.C.
"I was in London last week, taking a few days timeout. I stayed in my favourite small hotel, owned and managed by the same family for four generations, conveniently located near Buckingham Palace, in case the Queen wanted me to drop in for tea. (She didn't call. Shucks.)
It is also within an easy walk of Green Park, on the Mall leading to the Palace, where there is a beautiful memorial to Canada's veterans and war dead. It is a subtle and elegant sculpture, very low key, sensitively rendered, and discreet, and I visit it every time I am in London. It is a reminder of to all of how special our country is, and to me that my father, coincidentally a deacon at Yorkminster Park in the late1940's, was based in London for nearly three years during World War II and lived in Kensington, not far away. I recommend to every Canadian passing through London that this is a special memorial for us.
But last week's visit had a particular highlight: the evensong service at St Paul's Cathedral led by William Maddox and the Yorkminster Park choir. I attended two of the services, and have to pass on to you how beautifully the choir sang, and how superb the organ was at the hands of William Maddox. Although the cathedral is always full of tourists wearing baggy shorts and back packs, many of them walking back and forth and gazing upwards to the spectacular dome, oblivious to the fact that a service is going on, it was interesting that many paused to listen at least for a few minutes. And those who had managed to find a chair and stayed for the full service (only about 45 minutes,) were rewarded with an elegant liturgy - 400 years old according to the program - executed superbly, as one would expect, by the YP choir.
I'm sure there were other Yorkminster people and families there, although I didn't recognize anyone, but my purpose in writing this is to ask you to spread the word among the congregation how proud we can be of our splendid choir and its contribution to a great Christian tradition, and in a great historic place. And please tell the choir members too!"
I am partial to fridge magnets, but Janet prefers more serious souvenirs. Four years ago on a visit to the Carcajou Cherry Orchards on the edge of picturesque Summerland, B.C., Janet fell in love with an unusual poppy which she wanted to take with her as a keepsake. Of course the idea was crazy. Chances are the delicate little flower which seemed to grow wild in the orchard wouldn't have survived a transplant from one end of their garden to another, let alone one end of the country to the next. We didn't take the poppy with us, but we did drive off with a pretty nice bag of cherries.
The Carcajou Orchard was a special place because it was where Jessica and Alex worked each summer after they finished tree planting in northern B.C. A few months after our visit the owners of the orchard, Keith and Jan Carlson, arrived in Toronto for Jessica and Alex's wedding and presented Janet with a tiny momento of our visit tucked inside an envelope. Needless to say it wasn't a fridge magnet, but a pocket full of poppy seeds of the Bombast Rose variety, and each year since, there have been more and more poking through the ground in our Toronto garden and as they bloom we can't help but think back to that beautiful spot where the cherries grow from down on the shores of Lake Okanagan to halfway up Giant Head Mountain, and where the fruit tastes so sweet that even in the winter they call the town Summerland.
Grace and Peace
watching the water below.
He is waiting for prey
It's just nature's way.
to teach us not fear
but to watch and to pray,
day after day after day.
"How's your summer been?" I asked a young college student from down the street whom I hadn't seen since the late spring. "Great so far," he replied. I liked his answer as he was not only positive about what has already unfolded, but still looking ahead to so much more. As the shorter evenings become more noticeable we can lament the loss of summer and fail to notice summer's beauty continuing to burst into bloom.
Summer is a time to slow down, breathe deeply of the splendour all around, and give thanks. I am so blessed each day by new blooms in the garden with their delicate petals, intricate designs and rich bright colours. And of course I am blessed by my children who kept it watered while we were away. Each flower is a call to wonder and gratitude.
I saw a wren again today, or should I say I heard it. I also heard one last summer on the shores of Lake Erie and I am told they sing in Toronto too, but it was earlier today on a walk through a rural estuary that the song again captured my heart.
The wren is not the prettiest bird in the forest and might well be mistaken for a simple sparrow were it not for its song. It is plain brown in colour and pudgy in shape with a tail feather that won't sit down, but when it sings, oh when it sings, it all but gives me wings.
The wren is like one of those remarkable people who always finds the good and virtuous thing on which to dwell. We want such people around. In fact we need to surround ourselves with a choir of such voices. I believe the song of the wren lives in all our hearts waiting to be sung and when it is, we are closer to the Kingdom of God.
I saw some beautiful blue and purple hydrangeas while out on a walk this evening. We are more familiar with the white and pink hydrangeas in Toronto, but in fact the only difference between a pink or red hydrangea and a blue or purple one is the chemicals in the soil. From what I understand, white hydrangeas are pretty much static in terms of their colour, but not so with the pink, red, blue and purple hydrangeas. Those of the red and pink tones simply have higher levels of phosphorous in their soils which can be enhanced with the addition of lime, whereas the bluer hydrangeas have levels of aluminum in the soil that give them their colour.
There is a sense in which we are like hydrangeas. The nutrients that feed our souls give shade to our character. Someone was recently speaking about the way fear and ignorance feed racist tendencies. In contrast the Spirit of Christ, when we abide in him and his word abides in us, shades our lives with the tones of his love and grace for one and all. It is never too late to adjust the soil on which our souls feed and when we feed on Christ, though completely unaware, we enhance our true beauty through acts of love and kindness.