We met Christie when we first moved to Peterborough. She was working part-time as a community organizer for the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network. With her contagious enthusiasm she brought an amazing skill set to our shared vision of creating a community hub at George Street United Church.
Christie authored a study of Peterborough’s downtown demographics, and crafted a person to person survey we used at our first community picnic. Yes, the one with the rainstorm that blew us all inside – turning a picnic thrown by a small group of volunteers FOR the community – into a common effort where all hands were needed to move everything indoors – including the buskers on their way home from downtown who played and played and made a party of the picnic.
But this story is about Christie. As the seasons turned, we celebrated the birth of her son Pax – and the birth of the Seeds of Change hub at George Street. We celebrated the birth of her daughter Evelyn – and her new job with the Tamarack Institute. Her focus on Neighbourhoods with Tamarack’s Deepening Community project has given us a new reason to get together and make good things happen.
So Lynn invited Christie to be our guest at a Subversive Faith interview. We have five standard questions designed to elicit stories from our guests about both their faith walk and their walk as an activist – and how the two intersect. At first Christie was unsure. She had never spoken in public before about her faith and the idea was a bit daunting. It was a sign of her trust in us that she agreed.
The small group that gathered on the third Wednesday in February was very glad she did. Veteran Peterborough activists were there along with some new to the work. Church people and unchurched. Christians and those whose spirituality defied labels. Christie’s warm and vibrant character, combined with intelligence and a deep compassion with those who struggle, drew us in as she unravelled her stories.
Christie shared many fascinating tidbits of her journey with us. Of her Catholic father’s and atheist mother’s influences. Of her experiences in India where living with so little revealed an abundance in community. Of a mystical adventure with her friend’s aunt that she’d never told anyone about. We were honoured by these gifts.
She shared how her son Pax has started asking questions about death. How he’d been exposed to two explanations. One story was that there was a home in heaven waiting for them and the other was that our bodies will turn into grass as part of the great earthly cycle. Christie shared her curiosity with us about how her son chose what worked for him – telling her, “I don’t want to turn into grass!”
But it was during the Q&A session at the end of Lynn’s questions when someone asked her “Could you tell us about the spirituality of frisbee?”. Christie’s eyes lit up with a big “Yes I can.” She had shared with us earlier on about her love of gardening, and yoga, and her love of the game of Ultimate Frisbee. And now she drew us into this passion with her… (my words will fail to capture her enthusiasm).
“There’s something about running full out, about pushing your body to its limits, about working together as a team – and you just find yourself in this sweet spot where you are totally focussed and totally alive and it is a beautiful place to be.”
She went on “And my teammates are all as enthusiastic about it as I am. They are such a community for me. When Evelyn was born, my freezer filled up with food and I felt so cared for. In fact,” she laughed, “during Evelyn’s birth I imagined playing frisbee. I was in the end zone making an amazing catch and feeling the high – and out came Evelyn! It was beautiful!”
The women in the room gave a spontaneous cheer for this birthing story. That was a new one for all of us!
Once again, we found in the Subversive Faith stories, a sacred dimension of human experience that defies our usual categories. Christie’s storytelling took us into the fully embodied spirituality of her passion. How the sacred moments of physical highs, combined with the power of our sacred imaginations, took her through the most fearful and painful – and literally lifegiving – experience. How incredible to be filled with wonder and joy at the miracle of our body/mind/souls pushing past the limits we know, to take us where we’ve never been before.
It occurs to me that maybe Pax could find comfort in this story the next time he wonders about death? Might we all call upon our most sacred memories of being fully alive – to carry us through death to a new life?
Our thanks to Christie for taking us along with her on the journey.