My morning prayers rise like smoke. Yesterday’s living a burnt offering. I am grateful for change.
While many of us have heads swirling with the change this seasonal shift brings. From summer’s ease to September busyness. From having time to watch things grow – drawing in the summer’s heat – to not enough time to get ready – as the long slow exhale towards winter begins. Today, with the equinox shift, instead of being overwhelmed by so much change, I am appreciating the power of change.
Our guest at last wednesday’s “Subversive Faith” interview, Ann Naylor, started me down this path. Some of the things she said have stayed with me. Listening to someone’s story of faith can stir the embers of our own stories.
Ann told us about her grounding in a family where church was integral to their living. And I was struck by her description of her large blended-family of kids gathering every Sunday evening for a family council. It was a time for personal check-ins and a time to discuss and decide issues facing them all. What struck me was how this intentional process echoed through Ann’s life of justice and peace-making.
This same kind of circle process is key to the learning at the Centre for Christian Studies where Ann has taught for the past seventeen years. This co-learning process has shaped our thinking about what Bedford House might offer.
Ann’s stories were not just about going round and round but also full of progress made against the odds. How the sting of hate towards bi-racial families was an awakening to her childhood sensibilities of what was right and wrong and worth fighting for. How a church so ready to fight for justice in the world couldn’t deal with its own male-female power imbalances. How peace-making meant staying in relation with opponents and making the conversations not only political but also personally compassionate.
Ann held senior offices at the national united church during the 1980s when sexual orientation was the change at hand. At the same time she walked in solidarity with Latin American liberation leaders and stood between Quebec police rifles and first nations protestors at Oka.
When one of us asked how she keeps hopeful in the face of enduring opposition to change she quoted Pete Seeger, “Music surrounds hatred and makes it surrender.”
Ann teaches with music. It both feeds her spirit and is a way of sharing the messages of peace in a way that reaches all generations. Many of her best lessons, she shared, come from the children she teaches weekly in Sunday school.
When asked about her own endurance in the struggles, Ann spoke of how “the people of God” have always faced incredible odds and so often suffered violence. She is inspired by those who have lost everything to hatred and yet still work from the mysterious place of love. When the people of god have all else stripped away what endures is the vision for peace that love inspires and the ancient-core-heart-courage to go on.
The people of god. Not necessarily church people. Not necessarily Christians. The people who god calls together into the hope that is humanity’s divine destiny.
Ann’s stories rekindled that calling in me. I could feel it like a shared heartbeat in the room as our small group listened. People can change. Thank god. People can change the way systems work. Thank god. People can attune themselves to the ways of the earth – at peace with both living and dying, seeding and harvesting, plenty and want. In right relations with all life there arises a harmony that surrounds hatred and makes it surrender. Thank god.