Holy Moments


Woman working in the community garden

Photo © omgimages/iStockPhoto

by Donna Sinclair

I got these beans at the seed exchange. “Crossbred Romano Bean” is written on the old envelope containing them. “MUST BE SUPPORTED” in large letters, followed by “very good.”

I talked to the grower later. “Tall growing,” she added, along with fervent good wishes. The best beans she has ever grown. Eat as pods, or fresh shelled, or dried. Yum.

So now I can’t wait for June 1, the very earliest date you can plant beans in Northern Ontario. I have a vision, and my husband has his marching orders. We need very tall poles. We’ll have to go out in the bush and cut some. And then – I can see it now – the sunniest bed in our not-very-sunny back yard, sky-scraping green-swathed tripods and by late summer, lots of tender beans. Again, yum.

The seed exchange is part of the eco-fair that has emerged as one of the community groups our congregation hosts and encourages. We make space for Transition Town too. A group devoted to ensuring a community’s resiliency in the face of fossil fuel shortages, it features local foods, generous pot lucks, and lots of children who appropriate the toys in the church nursery with a happy sense of ownership that increases with every meeting.

It’s not just me envisioning summer and beans. Our congregation has its own remarkable vision, a sense of outreach that embraces Mother Earth and all her children. I love this church – the music and study, the sermons and prayers, even the meetings – with an almost-maternal tenderness I would not have thought possible years ago.

Then, on Sunday, we had our annual congregational meeting. Maybe sixty people stayed after worship for tuna melts (traditional) carrot sticks and cupcakes. And coffee. And reports, laughter, jokes. And memories. Our minister spoke gently about those elders who had died during the past year. We had the current Issue too – no, not anything about sexual orientation, we’ve been there and survived, flourished even.

This concerned the question of how to be hospitable to our downtown neighbours, people who need a hot meal and who join us on Sundays for lunch.  A few members worry this might discourage parents with young children from attending our church. Others cannot conceive of our building closing its doors to anyone, especially anyone in need of hot soup. Or a tuna melt.

So people said their piece. They spoke about sacred space and safety and justice, compassion and the priority of worship. They spoke with kindness and respect, even when an underlay of passion threatened to become volcanic. They disagreed, and they loved one another.

I sat embarrassed at the tears trickling down my cheeks.

I wish I knew what had caused them. It might have been my mourning for the missing elders, their presence conjured as their names were read. It might have been my awe at the way at the way those speaking opened their hearts to one another, without drama or guile. Perhaps – having spent the week uncharacteristically glued to the television during parliamentary debate – it was a reaction to the sharp contrast between disagreement here (respectful, principled) and disagreement there (outraged).

But I think it had to do, again, with vision. What was occurring in our modest church basement was a little glimpse of the Kingdom of God. I could see it in the stories about holy moments, the time sage was smouldering to provide the Ash Wednesday ashes, for instance – amidst giggles because it wouldn’t catch – and then a stranger, stepping forward to ask if he could smudge with the sudden generous scented smoke.

We could all see it, I think. The Kingdom of God in an instant. The peaceable Kingdom, when all past pain and hurt are banished by what – forgiveness? Love? Wonder?

It’s a rich life here. What more could we ask? Beans that rise up out of the ground and overflow their poles. Tuna melts and cupcakes for all. Deep friendship and loyalty in the middle of dissent. And stories, ancient and modern, that overwhelm us with the love of God.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. Her most recent book is The Long View: An Elderwoman’s Book of Wisdom. She is also the author of The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario.

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Categories: Aging, Christian Life, Donna Sinclair, Gardening, People

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