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Rector's Message

Advent letter 2014

“Here we sit like bumps on a cedar log, bumps on a cedar log, bumps on a cedar log, waiting for the chief to speak. Waiting, waiting, waiting…”

When I was chaplain for a Junior Girls camp in the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, I heard this song at almost every mealtime as the campers awaited instructions from the director. This Advent, it comes to mind again. That’s because I’ve spent a good bit of time lately thinking about this Advent theme of waiting. It started last month when I attended the St. Clement’s College of Preaching, held at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga. I was fortunate to be one of 32 Anglican clergy from across the country (and one of six from our Diocese) invited to share in this wonderful learning opportunity. Our leader was the Reverend Dr. Tom Long, a Presbyterian minister currently teaching in Atlanta, Georgia.

We spent a lot of time over those days reflecting on Advent, learning more about the themes of the season and about the readings we’ll hear during Sunday services throughout Advent. Each of us also prepared and delivered an Advent sermon while there and critiqued one another’s sermons. I was humbled by the graciousness and helpfulness of the comments I received and those I heard others give. The spirit of collegiality and respect was a gift. I was blessed to meet colleagues from the Dioceses of the Arctic, Algoma and Toronto. It was a rich few days and I’m so grateful to have spent most of a week steeped in the themes and stories of Advent, to hear excellent preaching and to get some tips on how to improve my own.

And then there were those conversations during mealtimes, where we talked honestly about the stresses and challenges of preaching and leading in this time in the life of the church. There were clergy serving small, struggling urban parishes considering closure or amalgamation, as well as clergy serving large urban parishes bursting with new life. There were clergy serving small seasonal congregations in “cottage country,” and clergy serving small year-round congregations in remote northern outposts. Yet, in spite of our differences, there was a shared hope for the life of the church and a shared sense that God was actively doing something new in our midst; that we were part of something important and exciting. That was inspiring.

In case you’re wondering what any of this has to do with waiting and the season of Advent, I think it’s this: that the God who came to us in Jesus continues to come to us in the midst of the changes and uncertainties that we face. Advent is indeed a time of waiting, but we wait for the One who has come and is coming and will come again. That means Advent is rich with the expectation and hope that God will meet us in our daily living, and that our waiting is not in vain.

The prophet Isaiah writes: “Thus says the Lord: ‘I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’” (Isaiah 43:19) As Advent unfolds, may you know the presence of this God who is still doing new things in our midst, the One who makes a way for us, the One who came as light and love to share our humanity in Jesus Christ. As we prepare once again to celebrate the birth of Christ, may we also celebrate his abiding presence as “Emmanuel” or “God-with-us.”Merry Christmas!

Archdeacon  Sandra Fyfe, Rector