Thursday, November 09, 2006

Westward Ho

The United Church of Canada had convened a national gathering of rural ministry folk for a consultation to discern what God's call might be for the rural church in our day and age. While Calling Lakes Centre in Saskatchewan had wireless internet access, there was an error in IP configuration that prevented me from getting online. It is with belated pleasure that I offer this recounting of my past few days.

The Red-Eye

I was on the road before 7 a.m. to catch a flight to Regina, with a stopover in Toronto. As I overpaid for a sandwich in Pearson, the cashier stared at me commenting, "Your eyes are so red! Are you getting enough sleep?" No, I hadn't been getting enough sleep; that was hardly a new state of being.

I went to the bathroom to look in a mirror and sure enough, the lower half of both eyes were incredibly bloodshot. Think of the Rage-consumed zombies in 28 Days Later. Suddenly they were very dry and itchy too. Hardly the first (re-)impression I wanted to make with all of the fine United Church leaders I was (re-)meeting.

Monday: Company in the Pigeon Hole

Upon arrival in Regina, we were school-bussed to Fort Qu'Appelle and took up residence in our respective dorm rooms. Turns out that I'd been matched with an Asian man who's with the Ethnic Ministries Council of the United Church. Maybe the planners thought we'd have a lot in common?

Looking as I do, coming from the family that I do, I cannot deny my Japanese heritage. However, being a farmboy from southwestern Ontario, I'm more culturally and ethnically liable to self-identify as Dutch Reform. But then people wouldn't know where to put my baggage.

Tuesday: Café Olé

This rural consultation is following the World Café process where we begin in groups of 4, sharing ideas, opining opinions and discussing a question that is posed to the entire assembly. After 20 minutes, we re-configure into new groups of 4, sharing the gist of our previous discussions and building upon that information.

We spent many sessions in the World Café, leaving me with little energy or inclination to be overly social outside of the intentional discussion groups. I did manage to get away and find some eyedrops. (Everyone's been so helpful with their diagnosis: allergic reaction, diabetic complication, conjunctivitis ...)

Tuesday: Election Night

The evening was open for social time, self-care, and general relaxing. It was amusing to be part of an animated crowd watching the American election results on CNN. With passion that rivalled Superbowl enthusiasts and an Oscar-rivalling eye on fashion ("who wears a green tie on election night?" although, it is eye-catching; "Anderson Cooper has the best hair" and "I liked him better as a reality-TV host"), we witnessed the Democratic overthrow of the House and upheaval in the Senate.

In the midst of all the hubbub and humdrum, someone wondered, "How many people in the States pay this much attention to a Canadian election?" Just asking, is all.

Wednesday: Wisdom Speaks

Every so often, I'll be compelled to speak in large group plenary sessions, and even manage to make cogent, coherent statements. That happened this morning when I suggested that true discernment is open to all outcomes, raised the point of functional atheism in our anxiety and told the rural church to get over itself.

A dozen people sought me out afterwards to thank me for my comments. I'm surprised I could board the bus after lunch, my head was so inflated.

Wednesday: Airport Antics

As we all went our separate ways, there were lots of farewells and goodbyes. And we repeated them all when we met up again at the airport. I was about to pay a special tribute to a couple of people who were also at the sexuality education curriculum training event by doing my special "Furious Dwayne" PT-ing dance à la Little Miss Sunshine, but the little old lady with the bemused smile who was watching me a little too curiously made me reconsider. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

I bought a mindless novel for the flights home (David Baldacci's The Camel Club) seeing as I'd finished my churchy-book (Matthew Fox's The A.W.E. Project) and had left my library book at home (Guy Gavriel Kay's Lord of Emperors).

My eyes were looking somewhat better, but my ears wouldn't pop on the flight to Toronto resulting in muffled and painful hearing. I managed to get home without any further ailments.

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