A Year Later, We Return

When Nicholas and I arrived in Ontario last year, I made all kinds of hopeful statements about living there, mostly to keep up my own courage. Many things happened there, but not what we expected. It was a rather long and difficult passage, a pilgrim’s progress. Some of our beliefs and expectations about the church got readjusted incredibly. (There’s plenty to say about that.)

Our return last week to this small city in New Brunswick was a good experience. We have a lot of work ahead of us to start homesteading again, and already some expectations have to be delayed and modified, but that is always the case, isn’t it? Our little abode is in good shape, and as soon as we can ready the systems in it, we look forwad to moving in. It’s a 19′ Prowler RV, circa 1976, well-maintained and nicely refurbished. It can run on AC, DC or propane. We’ll start with a land-line AC connection, shift to DC with solar panels when we move further off the grid, and rebuild the propane appliances before winter as a back-up. Our goal is to build a 12’x20′ A frame cabin, open plan with a loft. Just when that will get done is up in the air. With a temporary roof and shed, we can winter over in the Prowler.

The site is part of a lot that was once a scrap metal storage yard. There doesn’t appear to be anything yucky, but big hunks of metal are still appparent. This sounds pretty awful, but it will only take some effort to move them to a more suitable place to clear the back lot. The sheds on site for wood and tools are in pretty good shape, just needing a little closing in and siding to look Plain-presentable.

Is it true that Plain people are what my mother would call house-proud? I sometimes worry that I am too concerned with my physical surroundings. I cannot abide clutter and lack of cleanliness. I like to have just the very basic articles of householding so that I am not overwhelmed with possessions and their attendant needs. We don’t own much clothing and absolutely nothing “collectible.” But I am concerned that I put too much stock in cleanliness and order.  (All right, my husband doesn’t think I do, so maybe I have the right balance.)

It’s a matter of stewardship. If we take care of what we own, it will be last longer. If we are mindful of how much we take from the environment, we will take only what we need. There’s a lot of talk these days about our “carbon footprint,” whatever that means, but relatively, North Americans consume huge amounts of carbon resources, far more than our share. We have taken steps to reduce that for ourselves, and hope to reduce it even more.

That’s simple husbandry, the basis of agrarian philosophy. God gave us the land to use properly, to make it productive to support life. Instead, the history of humanity is a history of greed and exploitation. We are not following the way of the ancestors, the way of Israel, the ideal given to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

It’s not easy to do this. It is so much easier to run to the store, buy the convenience foods, amuse ourselves mindlessly with television and internet and video games. It is a lot harder to plan ahead, plant the garden, raise the chickens, and find a way to support ourselves until we are self-sufficient. Yes, we can give into the culture and “compromise.” (Although it isn’t really a compromise, because the culture always wins.) We could get out of the Plain clothes, into the business suits, bully and wheedle our way into good-paying corporate jobs, and basically have it all! Have what? Having it all, to us, is having nothing. It’s all a delusion, a trick to keep us from following Christ.

It’s sad to say, but the church has become part of the corporate structure. It’s about numbers and revenue, power and production. We have to compete with the distractions of Sunday morning, we have to build a thriving parish, we have to get bums in the pews and checks in the bank account.  It sounds like a business to me! A simple life of prayer, Christian fellowship and waiting on the Spirit for direction doesn’t seem to be part of it.

I’m sure people think we’re crazy. We’ve had bad experiences homesteading – flooding, poverty, illness – but we couldn’t wait to get back to it. We aren’t anxious, obviously, to rush back into church life. We’ve tried to reconcile, but the cost seems too high. We broke some unspoken code, some unwritten canon, and we are outside and not really welcome back into the marble halls. If the church cannot tell us what it is we did wrong and how to fix it, then there is something wrong with the church, not us. Christianity is not a religion of secrets. We aren’t the masons or the rosicrucians. Jesus welcomed all and didn’t hold anything back. He told the apostles what they needed to know, and they told us.

As we walked around the farmer’s market last week, we were greeted by many old friends. Some are Baptists, some are Evangelical, some are Roman Catholic, some Anglican, and Presbyterian and Orthodox. Denoimination has never been important in our ministry. So many people came to us because they could not find comfort or healing in the traditional churches. And that’s where we need to be, available to those who are outside the structure, who don’t fit into the hierarchy, who need ministry and pastoral care but don’t know where they can turn to get it.

The church today needs to ask itself: Why do we keep hurting people? Why do we shut out the least of God’s children?

There is still much work to do, and there will be until our last day on earth. Signs are that things will not be getting better or easier. Pray that we have the strength and the basic resources for our mission here, that we will be granted a discipline in which we can do good work, that we will find a peg on which to hang our hat! Pray for the lost souls who need comfort and counseling and the presence of Christ.

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8 thoughts on “A Year Later, We Return

  1. Dear Magdelaina,

    I will keep you in my prayers that your relocation/return is used of God for His ministry, for indeed, you are so right; why DO the churches keep on hurting people, be it honestly, humble dedicated workers or laiety? I’m doing a unit on practical pastoral care this semester; bringing Christ to the community; the interface between the body of believers and wider society; May god’s will be done that those broken, hurting, wandering, needing, are brought by our Heavenly Father into your care. On the question of Church Inc., the Sydney Dyosis are not immune; its one thing to launch a mission to place a bible in the home of every Sydney resident this year; its another thing to truly present Christ to those marginalized; the impoverished, the homeless, the hurting, those that Jesus reached out to in His Earthly ministry with healing and transformation. Jesus transformed lives!! he healed, he comforted, he spoke truthfully and straightly but in love and deepest humility; indeed, he couldn’t keep the people away; they sought Him out wherever he was! This is mission; the Kingdom of god is both ;now’ and ‘not yet’…it is up to god’s instrument upon Earth, His Church, to wake up and reclaim its responsibility. may God bless you abundantly in doing your part for the body of Christ!

    I am inspired!

    Oh, and one more thought; in so many of the conservative circles I mix in, women in ministry and even as students of theology is frowned upon (they use the passage ‘woman shall keep silence in the church’ and ‘I do not suffer a woman to teach a man’. this is god’s word. god’s word is inspred, for all scripture is given for our benefit – uplift, instruction correction etc (my paraphrase); but my studies are seen in these circles as controvercial; as one who seeks to authentically follow Christ, i would dearly appreciate some counsel from a fellow sister of the faith who has served Christ’s Church. We’ve also got to study ‘Feminist’ theology this semester; in these same circles I move in, feminism is more or less a dirty word (linked with marxism and the liberty of the ’20’s and the ’60’s… My ingraned reaction is to flinch at the thought of this part of the coriculum. (please excuse spelling). If you could hold me up in prayer, I would be most appreciative. I will continue to hold you up in prayer for God’s leading where He will in the lives of you and your husband.

    Thank you so much for your support; God is using you for His furtherence, I assure you!!

    Sarah.

    • Thank thee for thy words of support and thy prayers. It is evident that the early church included women amongst its deacons, preachers and prophets. Why would not the Spirit of the Lord come upon these creatures of His hand as well? Paul admonished women not to put themselves above their more experienced male counterparts, nor to prophesy wildly as the pagans did. I believe it was a matter of decorum, not doctrine. The Quakers in particular allowed and encouraged women to speak in meeting, as befitting godly women. I know in my heart that I am called to active witness and ministry, or the Lord would not have granted me the particular intelligence of understanding that I have. Even the Eastern Orthodox, as tradition bound as they are, allowed that women had spiritual gifts of discernment and wisdom, and could teach in the monasteries and in homes. The children of the Reformation should not be following the errors of Rome they so strongly repudiated, in the prohibition of women teaching and preaching. We are, after all, also made in the image of God “In His image He made them, male and female.”

      It is important for thee to know about feminist theology. It has been incredibly influential in the churches, and thee will encounter many people who will make their arguments from it. Be of a gentle, understanding heart amongst those who choose to be strident in those studies. They may argue with thee, but do not be afraid. I have benefitted from reading feminist theology with an open mind, for some women theologians have beeen instrumental in redeeming some of the misogynistic interpretations of the past. There are some beautiful passages in Genesis in particular that are of especial meaning to women, and women-feminist writers have worked to emphasize them. Watch for the work of Phyllis Trible and Rosemary Reuther in particular. Thee will probably laugh at the neo-pagan interpretations of others such as Mary Daly.

      God bless thee always in thy family and in thy studies!

  2. Dear Magdelaina,

    I thank you so very much for your thoughtful and considered reply. Perhaps God is using this line of study to draw me to His will and teaching concerning we women in the church. I am most appreciative of your recommendations concerning quality feminist theologians and those to take more lightly. Let us see where this all leads.

    Blessings,

    Sarah,
    Australia.

    • I believe we have to look with discernment at how others have been led by the Lord. Some may have no leading per se; they are writing from their own need and ego. Others may have some teaching for us, at least in patience and understanding! My husband just categorically rejects feminist theology. His seminary experiences were very unhappy with strident women pursuing political agendas in the church. Let us remember, though, that male theologians can be equally guilty of promoting themselves and their own way of thinking!

  3. “Is it true that Plain people are what my mother would call house-proud? I sometimes worry that I am too concerned with my physical surroundings. I cannot abide clutter and lack of cleanliness. I like to have just the very basic articles of householding so that I am not overwhelmed with possessions and their attendant needs. We don’t own much clothing and absolutely nothing “collectible.” But I am concerned that I put too much stock in cleanliness and order.”

    Protestant work ethic. I love it! My mom was like that too and ever since I’ve been with the Amish/Mennonite, I cannot stand dirt!

    • Well, thank you. My Scots-Irish baptist mother ran a tight ship. Baseboards got washed regularly. The modern tendency to clutter drives me crazy!

  4. Dear Magdalena,
    I appreciated what thee wrote regarding ” church has become part of the corporate structure” fortunately we do not see that in the Friends Meeting we attend, but we know it exists in other fellowships. Thea Pollock

    “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ” William Penn/Quaker

    • The episcopal or presbyterian structure of most churches is sort of an instant corporate structure in itself. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but institutions eventually come to exist solely to perpetuate themselves. Friends have a tradition of shared responsibility for the meeting, each other, and all humanity, and it is a refreshing change from authoritarian governance. i can see that the early church was much like that. And I wish we could go back to it!

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