Rough week

There are a million things that I want to write on here about, and not only do I not have the time, but with some of them I wouldn’t even know where to start.

I got back recently from Israel, which was surreal and amazing and I haven’t yet processed all of what it meant to me to be there. Since getting back, every time I open the newspaper I see the rhetoric of hate which is depressing enough on its own. On top of that I’ve had a bit of a rough and busy week. Nothing was significantly rough on its own but when it all added up I ended up just feeling like an utter failure, even though I had felt pretty good about myself at points earlier in the week.

It all started on Tuesday with my CPE interview. It actually went pretty well and I got offered a place in the program but I was definitely nervous while being interviewed, I would wonder with anxiousness when I saw a number be circled or when the director of the program wrote a note. Then on Wednesday with my mid term oral evaluation; nothing about it was particularly shocking, but it did hit on a point of developing a pastoral identity a few times. Naturally I understand what the word “pastoral” means and I understand what the word “identity” means… but it baffles me as to what a “pastoral identity” could possibly be. On Thursday I got a friendly reminder of all the things that I still need to do, boxes I need to check, before my formal process is finished. It all seems like it is coming so quickly and still so far away at the same time. Friday and Saturday went by without any major stressing factors, I wrote my sermon and practiced it.

On Sunday I woke up early, refused to let the loss of an hour (DST) sway me, and arrived at the church to start the day. I gave my sermon and it went… ok at 8 a.m., choked a bit at 10 a.m., and I gave an edited version at 5 p.m. I felt great about the content as many people had expressed that they really liked the story I included. I knew it was a bit on the short side, and that my delivery- while improving- could still use quite a bit of work. Most of the problem lies in the stage fright that comes over me. I am able to appear calm but a lump in my throat develops and it affects my voice and how much emphasis comes out. In a recording I can hear the lump, I can hear myself trying to put emphasis on words and it coming out only as a fraction of what I intend.

On Monday I took my sabbath, though it was less restful than I had hoped for. I was very tired and didn’t feel well for a portion of the evening.

Tuesday morning life started back up again. My supervisor and I went on some pastoral visits and that took up most of the day but I spent a little time trying to theologically reflect on the experience of doing pastoral visits. I took a few hours out of the evening to prep for my Thursday morning prayer service and discussion group because I had the feeling that I wouldn’t likely have much time the next day. My hunch was right, I had my supervisory time in the morning and it was definitely a hard session. I became slightly emotional over the experiences my supervisor was sharing with me, simply because of their nature. It was all in relation to her trying to show me that while every priest prays they will never encounter these extreme situations, they have to do the hard work of examining a whole host of questions including their own mortality in order to serve those to whom they are pastoring, who are often facing those questions themselves. I understood all this and was fine with the fact that I needed to delve deeper into this area of self- exploration.

Then, since we finished that discussion early, my supervisor suggested we talk about my sermon, as well as few other aspects of the Eucharistic service. I said “sure” and opened up my summary notes of the evaluations I had received back. We talked a lot and over the course of the discussion suddenly all the good feelings I had had about my sermon despite its shortcomings went away- and I was left feeling like I had done nothing right. On Sunday I felt I had made a few mistakes but that it had gone well overall, by the end of that supervisory session I was hurt and a bit angry. I know that my supervisor only means well, but it felt like she only pointed at and focused on what I did wrong and said nothing as to anything I did right… or maybe I was mistaken… maybe I didn’t do anything right after all. If confidence is one of the major things I’m lacking then it becomes extremely difficult to build it in this setting.

As the morning progressed we moved into the Lenten study group. It went well, I think, though it would be nice to find a way to encourage certain members of the group to speak up and for others to allow that space for them to do so.  After the Lenten group my supervisor and I met with the children of a parishioner who had passed away the day before. I had visited this parishioner and so was saddened to learn of his passing. His family was grieving but were able to plan the service and have some continuity with their mother’s service who had passed away a few months previous. I could tell it was hard for them but they got through it. This meeting confirmed the date of the funeral- which collided with a family event I had been planning on attending. It is part of being in ministry but I was still sad to know I wouldn’t be able to be with my family this weekend. I had really been looking forward to it. It is hard being on my own in a big city, it can feel quite isolating and lonely at times, hopefully I will get to see them soon. Even seeing an old friend would be nice right about now.

While I kept it together for the most part throughout the day, I ended up in the evening, waiting for my vegetarian lasagna to cook, sitting on my bed and crying for a short while. All of what I had been feeling just came in a sudden wave and it overwhelmed me. Then, so I could process it, I wrote this blog… like the title of this post indicates… it has been one hell of a week.

Why let a good homily go to waste?

Every Thursday morning I offer a discussion group called Tea and Questions (and coffee too for those so inclined). Before heading into discussion, I also offer a morning prayer service with a short homily. Unfortunately due to various life circumstances and weather and all that- nobody showed up this morning.  one person showed up and we went right into discussion. I figure though, why let a good homily go to waste- I’ll post it on here.

For those who would like to read the bible lessons ahead, they are: Isaiah 60: 1-17 and 2 Timothy 2: 14-26. For reference to this homily I used the 2 Timothy passage.

I speak to you as a sinner to sinners, as a beloved of God to God’s beloved, and as one called to bear witness to those called to bear witness. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening… Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene.”

I imagine all of you have some idea of what gangrene is, if you don’t it is defined as the localized death and decomposition of body tissue. If left untreated the causal infection can spread and cause the gangrene to spread as well.

There are two kinds of problematic quarreling going on in this letter. The first mentioned is when an argument is started by one saying that another is wrong and then stating what they believe the truth to be. Believing differently, or correcting bad teaching is not the problematic aspect, it is when people begin to quarrel over things they cannot know. A good example here is predestination theology… fighting over things they cannot know is often what theologians do best. Theologians, like myself, are often well- intentioned and begin simply by writing or examining a theory to find its truth or lack thereof. It is when we forget about the larger picture and create factions over theories, theories that only God can truly know the answer to, that is where we go astray.

I admit I chuckled a bit because as a Trinity College student, I am aware of a longstanding rivalry with our fellow Anglican seminary across the street: Wycliffe. We wrangle about words like there is no tomorrow sometimes. 21st century Anglicans in the wider Church could sometimes use a reminder of this letter too. Differences divide us it seems on almost every issue: “High Church” vs “Broad Church” vs “Low Church”… liberal vs conservative… democratic vs socialist. These differences and perspectives are important to discuss, and discuss honestly but discussing and arguing are two different things… with an unfortunately thin and emotional line dividing them.

The second type of arguing that goes on in this letter is arguing or talking about holy things in a way that does not treat them as holy. Profane is the word Paul uses, which also means desecration- to make something that is sacred… not sacred. How then do we combat false teachings if we are not to secularize them, and we are not to argue them? Paul answers this in metaphor, he likens us to utensils in a kitchen- some are made of common materials and are for common use, but some are made of more precious materials. Most likely in your own homes you have dishes that you bring out for special occasions, and dishes that you use day- to- day and remain behind- the- scenes. Think of this though, if you went to someone’s house, and needed a glass of water; you go to the kitchen and notice that there are many glasses but all are dirty- maybe a lipstick stain here, maybe some hot chocolate residue or coffee grinds in others. Behind the sink there is a sparkling clean jam jar. Which one are you more likely to use?

When we follow Christ we are cleansed and transformed from being ordinary, everyday, behind- the- scenes into something more special. Then we use our gifts, bestowed by the Spirit and a part of what makes us special, to be kind, patient, and correct those false teachings with gentleness. Nobody’s heart was ever turned by yelling at them, but by gentle and loving discussion. Go and do likewise. Amen.

Until next time

Shantomeye (Brittany)

Sabbaths

I think Sabbaths are probably the hardest part of living a rule of life. Everything from our culture has always either shouted or subliminally messaged us to think “never rest”.

Did you know though, that the Chinese character for “busy” combines the characters for “heart” and “death”. Kinda says something about constant busyness doesn’t it?

Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is that I know what I’m not supposed to do on the Sabbath (work), but what AM I supposed to do? The thing is Sabbaths look different for everyone, because everyone leads a different life. A hallmark of many modern sabbaths for instance is to turn off all electronic gadgets such as cellphones. Here’s the thing though, at least for the stage of life that I’m in, that isn’t restful. Some of my relationships with friend occur primarily via my phone, and friends are good for the Sabbath. I also would be constantly thinking about all the people that could potentially be trying to reach me, for crisis reasons or anything else. Constantly worrying over who might be trying to reach you is not restful. The silly thing is, I leave my phone on, hardly anyone contacts me, and I find rest, don’t even know where my phone is half the time because it hasn’t gone off. So for me, turning off my phone would actually be the opposite of a sabbath, that might change later on in life but it is the case right now.

I’ve been reading a book about rules of life lately, it is called “God in my Everything” by Ken Shigematsu, in particular I want to talk about some things that are written in the fourth chapter, the chapter on sabbaths.

“You may be mentally consumed with … a nagging sense of self- doubt, or are troubled by a vague anxiety that you are not doing enough.” (43) — These notions sometimes bother me during the week, but they bother me most on my sabbath, I realize that is an aspect that I need to learn to get over- but saying “get over it” isn’t gonna get me there, I need to figure out why it bothers me, and why it shouldn’t.

“Perhaps you agree that Sabbath is a good thing, even important, but actually practicing it on a weekly basis is more difficult… Sabbath requires surrender.” (44) — EXACTLY KEN!! That is exactly it, I know rest is good, I know that renewal is important, weekly practice is harder. I will full- on admit that that surrender piece, that has never been something that comes naturally to me, to quote a Ke$ha song: “We were born to break the doors down, fight until the end!”. Now I’m not saying I never surrender, but it is a learned skill not an innate one.

“We need to ask ourselves WHY we are so busy. Sabbath helps us to question our assumptions.” (45) — Ok, you’re talking my language, let’s do this!

“We feel a need to validate our worth. Sabbath gives us a chance to step off the hamster wheel and listen to the voice that tells us we are beloved by God... The Sabbath heals us from our compulsion to measure ourselves.” (45) — Good, we’ve identified the why that makes sabbaths bother me, and we’ve identified the why it shouldn’t, BUT how do we move from the former to the latter?

“Sabbath offers us a ‘sanctuary in time’.” (45)– A “sanctuary in time” eh… so the same reverence should be paid to the Sabbath as is paid to worship. And when possible, Sabbaths should include worship.

So all of this is great for theory, but what do I DO? Some suggestions are to eat different foods, engage in creative activities, notice the differences- like how sleep is better quality during a Sabbath, because it is intentionally restful.

One question… is honoring the Sabbath, and keeping the Sabbath the same thing? I’m not sure how to answer this at this time, but I’m gonna keep thinking about it.

Oh wait! Another question! What constitutes work? Aside from sleep, I can find a way to classify pretty much any activity as work in some way or another. If a Sabbath is about refraining from work then can I go the gym- after all that is physically work, can I create art- after all that involves the mental capacities and physical capacities of creating, can I meditate- after all meditation doesn’t always come easy?

One way I have come not to dwell on this (as much) is by realizing that 1) not all work is the same, and 2) some work is restful for some people. Do I work on the Sabbath, well I breathe ergo I work. But the work is restful, and I indulge in the opportunity to work (no pun intended) through things mentally and spiritually that I don’t always have the opportunity to do during the rest of the week. Is every Sabbath the same? No, sometimes I go to a cafe while my laundry is in the machine, sometimes I go the gym, sometimes I stay home and read books and watch movies, sometimes I draw. I don’t plan, I just do whatever comes to me in the moment, as long as it is not schoolwork or church-work.

Back to quotes: “leisure alone will not bring us the deepest and most profound kind of rest… we need more than simply the absence of work… [we need] rest from the inner murmur that says we are defined by what we do… we need to be free from the voice of self- condemnation.” (51) — I get this, and some days my Sabbath will consist of surface rest, because my Sabbath is not rigid, it is for me not me for it. (paraphrase of Jesus: The Sabbath was created for the people, not people for the Sabbath.) I have at times got caught up in the thought process of what exactly constitutes work, trying to analytically formulate a Sabbath by removing anything that could be interpreted as such… but much like turning my phone off, that isn’t restful, and quite frankly unless you can sleep through an entire day and not feel overslept… its not possible.

In the back of Ken’s book there are some sample rules of life, but I found one that is an awful large coincidence if it isn’t the Spirit moving.

Her name is Brittany… my name is Brittany. She is a graduate student… I’m a graduate student. She is in her 20s… I’m in my 20s. Her overall rule of life is extremely similar to things I already do but don’t have written down as “rules”. I think with some tweaking, her rule of life could easily become mine, though I will continue examining others and adapting to make mine personalized.

Happy resting!

T & C & Q

Today I led the second week of a group discussion called “Tea, Coffee, and Questions”.

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We had two newcomers and this time I actually figured out how to make coffee… (I looked up a youtube video, clearly I am much more the ‘T’ than the ‘C’).

We had Morning Prayer following the Anglican Daily Office Lectionary, today’s readings were Isaiah 49: 13-23, and Galatians 3: 1-14. This component of the group is optional but I have yet to have an attendee that doesn’t come to both. I gave a short reflection on sacrificial love and after concluding the service I invited people into the side room for discussion.

Today’s discussion questions were:

beginning with a leftover question from last week: If you were any animal, what would you be and why? A fun one to start the group off, many commonalities in the answer was a desire for freedom, often manifesting in being a winged creature. We also though had a service dog because the person in question believes service to be the way she shows love and her need to be constantly doing something. I thought that was a wonderfully insightful answer.

The first big question was: what is the difference between hope and optimism? There were varied answers including aspects of hope being more concrete or focused, and along the lines of wishful thinking- whereas optimism was found to be more about something being good, or finding positivism in something whether you want it to be there or not. I personally found a note of difference in the tenses- hope is about the future whether close or far- off whereas optimism is reactionary, its about a present or past situation.

Next was a bit of church trivia: Why are Sundays “in” Lent and not “of” Lent? This question I learned about last year but I encouraged members of the group to try and guess at the answer before I revealed it. For those of you who don’t know Lent is a period of fasting in the Church calendar preceding Holy week and Easter. The reason Sundays are “in” and not “of” is because the Sundays are a Holy day where we are to break the fast, they don’t count as part of the 40 days of Lent.

Then we talked about what infinity is… we determined that for sure it has no end, but couldn’t quite come to a conclusion about whether or not it had a beginning. In the spiritual sense, infinity is akin to God, and so has no beginning or end- but what about other things? What about the soul? Does the soul have a beginning, it certainly has a beginning within the body, but does it have a beginning or is there something that comes before we were a twinkle in God’s eye?

Another fun question: if life was a cake, what flavour would it be? Would it have icing? Would it be layered? etc Well we certainly got some interesting answers. I think all the cakes were layered for sure, some were checkered, some had a mix of colors/ flavors. One was a cheesecake! There was even a fruitcake in the mix. Very few had icing… I wonder what the significance of that is?

We ended by discussing what our favourite bible verses are, we had Micah 6:8 (one I love as well) which is: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

We also had the Ten Commandments, specifically Exodus 20:12; Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

There was Psalm 23 for its comforting words, and personally I can’t pick a verse- there are so many that have helped me in various stages of my life but I love the book of Psalms overall, because they contain every raw human emotion imaginable. In particular, while not applicable at this point in my life, I love Psalm 88. It is perfect for when a person is in a dark time of their life, sometimes other lamenting psalms don’t feel genuine because they always end in some thanksgiving or praise. Psalm 88 doesn’t do that, it is dark the whole way through. I feel like I appreciate this Psalm above others because when I am in the midst of the darkness, I don’t always believe there IS a light, let alone want to thank or praise it.

Overall it was a wonderful discussion, and I look forward to the coming weeks.

I’m famous?

I thought I would post here the link to the Undergraduate Award “Where are they now Wednesdays”.

http://www.undergraduateawards.com/now-wednesday-brittany-cartwright/

I was featured and I kid you not, the  other day the Dean of Divinity at my college emailed me saying I was famous and that students would be asking for my autograph.

Now I don’t actually think that is true- and I don’t think the Dean was being entirely serious (as he likes not to be), but never the less I think it is important to highlight the achievements of young intellectuals who are coming up in the world. This was and is an international competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the people I met there grow up to be the next generation of world leaders, university professors, famous artists, and more.

Or maybe they won’t, maybe they will choose to pursue less limelightey careers- maybe they will switch paths entirely. But let us all acknowledge that they worked incredibly hard on research that might change the world- maybe it already is.

So feel free to check out my little blurb- it probably won’t tell you anything you don’t already know about me, but while you are on the site, go through some of the others who have been featured as well- maybe you will recognize a familiar face, or maybe you will remember the name and face as familiar in years to come.

 

Holy Land Education

Hello out there on the internet!

I am studying Divinity and have an amazing opportunity to go to Jerusalem next semester to study the history, archeology, anthropology, liturgy, and social culture of biblical times. I am hoping to offset the cost (trips like these are expensive… as is being a student) and have created a Go Fund Me page.

Please consider helping in any way you can- check it out at: gofundme.com/2p9p5cfk

 

Love

Brittany

There is but one…

There are a lot of quotes that start with the title of this post. “There is but one…”

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide…” Albert Camus

“There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him…” 1 Corinthians 8:6

“There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted” Frank Underwood

“There is but one Paris…” Vincent Van Gogh

“No cause is lost if there is but one fool left to fight for it” Unknown

“There is but one secret to success: never give up” Ben Nighthorse Campbell

“There is but one crime: to be untrue to ourselves”Francis Parker Yockey

“There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily” George Washington

I could go on forever… but rather today I am applying it to a place where you may have heard it before (or maybe not…). There is but one body of Christ.

Something has been on my mind of late and it is how the world seems to be constantly splitting into binaries. I hate binaries… I really do, it only ever seems to get people into trouble. Our culture is obsessed with figuring out who and what is right and wrong, and don’t get me wrong, it is a noble pursuit in a sense. In other ways however it isn’t, to know right from wrong is ethics, but to pursue universal binaries and demonize the “other” in the process… well there is ironically something very wrong with that.

Someone I know was recently telling a story about an encounter he had with some people who asked him “What type of Christian are you?” To most Christians this question is a bit puzzling at first; they then clarified “y’know, do you hate gay people or not?” (I am paraphrasing). If this was me I could say “oh no… I love them, they are just as much a part of this community as I am” or “I have no problem with gay people” or something else along those lines. Instead, to all the people asking that question “What type of Christian are you?” I’m going to say… “there’s no types”.

Christianity should not be split into two opposing groups, there are many “issues” one can take a stance on but there aren’t two “types” of Christian. I support LGBT people and their marriages, lives, rights, etc… but I don’t condemn those who don’t to being non-Christian or other-Christian. There is no hyphen, they are just Christian.

Don’t believe me? Check out Romans 12:5

“So in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”

or how about 1 Corinthians 12:12

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ”

One Faith

One Baptism

One God and Father of ALL

Yours in Christ

This year…

I’m just gonna jump right in and say… it is exhausting trying to explain how you are “sort of a first year, and sort of a second year”. Don’t get me wrong, with practice the response can roll right off the tongue… but why does it even matter what year I’m in? This past year was my first year as a Master of Divinity student… but because I did my Bachelor degree in Theology- I came in with almost a year’s worth of credits. Hence “sort of first year, sort of second year”. That aside, this year has been crazy!!!!

The year was FULL of changes. I have never lived in a city as big as Toronto before, and it can be highly overwhelming at times… and I haven’t even strayed THAT far away from where I live. When I say overwhelming I mean to the point where I rarely leave the house without ear buds in because it can focus at least one of my senses away from the external stimulation. Where I was living too was a big change, it was an intentional Christian community house, a ministry of a Presbyterian church. Intentional living… is not easy… oh and I’m Anglican. Due to factors beyond me I also lost a roommate and got a new one halfway through the year- but hey, at least the new one came with a cat. Such a cutie-pie and she lets me snuggle.

On top of all of that, a master of divinity degree has elements that are really hard stress-wise. I’ve never had a problem managing on an academic level but there are so many other factors. It probably doesn’t help that this degree leads to a job that goes beyond being my dream, one might even say it’s a “call”. Some of you might think that actually makes it easier… but YOU COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG!!! You see, being that emotionally invested in your future and the degree that leads to it can make the smallest mistake or dumb moment feel like a HUGE setback… and a bigger mistake?- well that makes you feel like you are a failure at anything and everything that is important to you.

I have to be honest and apologize here… I used to hang out with other master of divinity degree students while I was doing my bachelor degree. At times it seemed to me like some of them made a really big deal out of really small things. I never said anything but I thought it… and I get it now, I really do… so I’m sorry for thinking that you were in any way exaggerating.

Thankfully through all this I had a lot of support, some friends were familiar faces that I knew from before I came to Toronto, some were new but just as welcoming. I got a spiritual director to help with bringing more focus and attention to my spiritual life, and I had a field ed supervisor who was very supportive and helpful during my time at his parish. I even got to make use of a counselor for the stress/ anxiety that had a few pretty high spikes. Talking about things, even if that is all I did was just talk, really helped because it got a lot of stuff off my chest- sometimes things that I was struggling to admit to myself but once the words tumbled out of my mouth into the open I could recognize them for their truth.

I am glad to say that even though this year was hard, I didn’t just survive- I grew, and there were a lot of moments that brought happy tears to my eyes instead of frustrated ones. I look forward to this coming year and all the ones to follow.

Yours in Christ

Shantomeye… Tashoni… Brittany

 

Is “religion” a bad word?

Somebody I know (who is entirely well- intention-ed I’m sure)  posted a picture on my Facebook feed. It was one of those motivational-esque meme-like images. Candles illuminating the dark with cursive writing over the image that said: Christianity is not a religion… It is a relationship with God.

Here’s how I responded (saying in my head “here’s the sitch Melody Bostic”)

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“while the second half of that statement is true… the first half is not. Christianity is a religion, in fact its an institutionalized- organized- religion. The word religion is not a bad word- it comes from the Latin “religio” which in turn can be broken down to re + ligio… it essentially means to repeatedly perform a bonding activity. So in the end– the word religion embodies the relational aspect of Christianity… relationship with God, and relationship with the people around you. In a way the statements contradict each other: if the first half is true, the second half can’t be.”

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Some might try to jump and say “but wait, couldn’t someone have a relationship with God without the ritualized activity” … and this is a common misconceived argument. The “spiritual but not religious” debate if you will. I have already thought of this though, so hold on to your hats- because you’re about to be blown away.

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You see above how I broke down the word religion into it’s parts… well you can do the same thing with the word relationship. And we will assume for a moment that if you call yourself “spiritual” that you have something that you might call a “relationship” with a supernatural entity- whether it be emotional, mental, physical, etc.

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You might also be able to see that in fact the words “religion” and “relationship” begin with the same two letters (alright yes the first three are all the same but we’re gonna focus on the first two). RE as in return, redo, reconcile, religion, relationship, re-acclimate, reacquainted, reaction, and the list goes on and on and on… get a dictionary, go to the section where the words beginning with re start… and read (ha didn’t even plan that… read)

Re means to do something again… it is where we get repeat from (another re word, would you look at that). So… if you have a relationship with God– it means you have to turn to God (or should I say return) over and over and over again. Which means even if you are not bonding yourself to other people, even if you describe it as an individual faith, you are bonding yourself to God through your repeatedly turning to Him. Re + ligio… religion. It is etymologically impossible for you to be spiritual but not religious.

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Religion is not a bad word, stop treating it like one. Begin to recognize that it is (certain, not all) people that turn you away. Don’t blame humanity on God- it’s not His fault.

 

never the less… religion is not a bad word

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