Music Ministry by Amanda Massey
I remember the day I decided I wanted to join the adult choir at my church. I was 10 years old and the choir sang a song about a train, and while I don’t remember what the name of the song was, I do remember that I was excited when I heard it. After that I told my Mom that I didn’t want to sing in the children’s choir anymore, I wanted to be in the adult choir. So my Mom and I joined the adult choir. When I started people were always telling me to sing louder and over time I not only learnt to sing louder I also learnt to become a leader. I found my voice in that church and that choir. Since that day when I was 10 I have gone on to study music in university and to sing in many different choirs, but church was where I have always felt safe to explore who I am as an individual, who I am spiritually and who I am as a musician.
I feel that I have spent my life being groomed to be a United Church musician, so when the opportunity came for me to join my husband Greg in music ministry at Living Spirit United Church I was ecstatic. Looking back at the last four and a half years of worshiping with the congregation at LSUC there have been countless moments of joy, excitement, sorrow and holiness and I feel blessed to have been there to witness all of them. I am extremely proud to lead our music program. While there have been large accomplishments such as choir cantatas, concerts and children’s musicals my favorite memories are of smaller moments; catching the eye of a chorister during an anthem, playing instruments with the children during praise singing, watching our seniors do every action in a kid’s song, and knowing that a piece of music has made somebody feel something. When I was 10 years old I was inspired by the music at church, my hope for the music program at LSUC is that we can inspire more people and help them find their voice.
We have a wonderful community here at Living Spirit and we want to share with you just why …
This past Sunday marks 2 years for me at Living Spirit United Church. It has been a wonderful experience, providing me with many opportunities to make deep personal connections, be of service to others and explore my spirituality.
My LSU “journey” began as I offered to take my mother to church when she was unable to drive due to a fall. I knew how important the church was in her life and I knew she was missing the connection with her friends. I was welcomed with open arms on that very first Sunday. I had already come to know and love many of Mum’s church friends for the consistent support they had provided through 40 years at Westminster, Riverview and, finally, Living Spirit. I very quickly came to know and love many more and have made some deep meaningful connections of my own.
Being of service has been a central theme throughout my life, something I learned at an early age from my mother who rarely misses an opportunity to help others! As you know, there are many opportunities to be of service in our church community. I am honored to sit on the LSU council, at first representing the F4 ministry and at present, as lead for Social Justice and Outreach. By becoming involved in the inner workings of the church, I very soon felt “a part of”, at home, in Living Spirit United!
By far the most personally fulfilling service I have been involved with is our Refugee Initiative in conjunction with Friends Church and Temple B’nai Tikvah. How gratifying it has been to work with other faith groups in support of our wonderful Syrian family. I have found it so deeply rewarding to know that we are making an incredible difference in the lives of Adel, Hiyam and their children.
After a few weeks of attending LSU as “Mum’s taxi”, I realized that the church and its ministry was a fit for me, a safe place to explore my spirituality. I was encouraged to ask questions, of our ministry team and of myself. I felt fully supported as I searched out the answers about what I believe, what else is out there, how to express the Divine within me. I am still searching and digging deeper. I continue to ask these hard questions and through Grace I will be on this journey of discovery for a very long time.
I am deeply grateful to the wonderful people of Living Spirit United Church for their love and support. Thank you all!
Open and Free – September 12, 2016
“This is setting out. The leaving of everything behind. Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions. The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations. No longer expecting relationships, memories, words, or letters to mean what they used to mean. To be, in a word: Open.” Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
There is a difference to being a student and being a learner. I decided to walk away from people I was allowing to suffocate my soul. I put away self-help books, teachings from the Mystics and music. Instead of looking for a formula to teach me, I journeyed deep into the resources and wisdom that were whispering inside of me and I released myself and listened.
Listening is the gateway to discovery. My walking away from what was familiar, but stagnant, freed me to engage myself and others with vulnerable transparency. One of my first discoveries was that I alone was the Warden to my physical and emotional confinements, not the persons or situations that I was giving permission to squeeze joy and purpose out of me. I physically and emotionally walked away from all that I was allowing to keep me imprisoned from God, myself, significant others and creation. My walking out of significant relationships that were limiting me, opened doors for me to live into my gifts more present and more fully aware of divine possibilities. While the outside was unraveling, looking scarce and very untrustworthy, my inner world was becoming whole, filling my body, heart, soul and mind with new beginnings and divine intersections with loved ones and strangers who are becoming holy teachers and friends.
A year ago I used to believe that all problems have a solution and in God’s view and knowledge of things, I am certain this is true. However, in the realm of free will, I believe there are times when we need to walk away from unsolvable realities that limit our beliefs that cast a lens of scarce resources over our understanding and keep us tied to destructive relationships. I have walked out into a new day, a world that was always present but hidden by my limitations. After walking out of the greediness of time where I found myself grasping for more time, I walked into the freedom of creating what I needed with the abundance I already possessed. I have discovered that I possess more gifts and wisdom than I believed and was led to believe, and now I am living in the freedom of who I am and who God is. I am enjoying the fathomless mystery of God, the highest consciousness of all.
Since setting out on my freedom journey, I have been creating life-giving change while some difficult circumstances still remain to teach me. Waiting for a heroic leader to solve everything was like stacking water, so I became the leader I needed to be in order to move through, over and around all obstacles. Because I have welcomed the presence of any obstacle as a compassionate teacher I am enjoying balance and peace. I am accepting the flow of whatever and whoever intersects my day as a gift from the Universe and in being open, I am experiencing creativity, healthy relationships and more joy than ever before. I am open and free
Gifts From the Wilderness – September 5, 2016
Ever experienced a wilderness in your heart? By wilderness I am speaking about a feeling that tells you there is no place home but you can’t find home even when you are sitting on your couch! Every wilderness experience exists to be a sacred sojourner and teacher to us. Even silence and aloneness offers comfort in her presence.
The past two years I lived like a nomad, house sitting whenever I could, creating space for my wilderness to teach me. My journey was a leap of faith as I need to be surrounded by sameness that reflects my life. In the beginning I packed my car to the brim, bringing with me heavy boxes of pictures, clothing for all seasons, at least 50 books, even more DVD’s and all 78 journals I have filled. I lived in a basement suite for 2 months without TV or music. I never watched one DVD on my laptop. Instead, I spent my time exploring the Elbow River, the lessons and love now very clear in my dark nights of my soul journal recordings. I was struck by how profoundly lonely and betrayed I felt when I wrote these journal entries and yet on the other side, the morning side, the lesson learned and wisdom gained side, I see and feel the palpable presence of God blanketing me.
As I journeyed from house to house and sometimes back to my own home, even home and and the homes of others began to morph into oasis’s of comfort and peace. I recognized myself as a spiritual transient who was creating an inward home that was unable to be shaken by anyone or anything external. I began to take less with me until I was carrying only one suitcase. Lightening my load created space for me to be aware that I was creating space in my body, soul and mind to see clearly, receive fully and heal deeply.
Strange places became new friends that allowed me to explore myself with compassion and joy. I befriended my shadows with grace and understanding and felt them dissipate into gifts full of rich colours. My head joined my heart and squeezed out every shred of worry. Trust became my delight and my delight turned my journey into dreaming, creating and holy fun.
One of the clear lessons that was seared into my being was that I needed to leave behind people and ideas that betrayed themselves and me. I am open to the flow of life, living as one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the One that gives life.” The wilderness is a gift so unwrap it for yourself. I promise you that you will be abundantly surprised by joy.
This fall we have lots of different ways to be apart of our wonderful community and here are some of the best ways how!
Spiritual Formation – Chair Shannon Morey
- The Sermon Series this fall will be: Regulations, Responsibilities & Freedoms, Reel Lessons, Rising Strong and Advent: The Hope Awakens. The last Sunday of every month will be Super Soul Sunday where we will meet for worship in Fellowship Hall around tables with muffins, juice and coffee. On this Sunday the youth will be selling hotdogs, chips and juice for $3 to fund raise for a Parish Nurse to help support our seniors.
- Empowered Youth will begin meeting September 9th, 7 to 9 pm and will discuss their fall meeting schedule. Traci and Tasha will be leading the group with volunteers in the church and city coming in to discuss interfaith and social justice issues.
- Super Soul Wednesday begins September 14th. This is a group for women who are interested in spiritual conversations, workshops and activities centered around authentic connection with one’s self, the Sacred and others on a rich and conscious level. Fall meeting dates will be put into place on the 14th.
- Sunday School Kick off is September 18th. Students of all ages are welcome to bring their backpacks as we will be having a “Blessing of The Backpacks” during the service. After the service we will be enjoying ice cream sundaes.
- Spirited seniors kicks off on September 20th and will continue to meet every 3rd Tuesday during the year. A short service including heritage hymns will begin at 11:30 followed by a warm lunch and games.
- Progressive Christianity will begin towards the end of September. Information is forth coming.
- Spiritual Smorgasbord begins Tuesday, October 4th from 7 to 9 pm. Murray Nicholson will be sending out information very soon.
- Celebrate Diwali (Festival of Lights) Sunday, October 30th. Fran Porter is our Guest Speaker.
- Book Club will begin…(contact Leslie Stoddart)
- Basics of Faith course will be held on Saturday, October 15th from 9 to 3. Lunch will be provided. Anyone who is an adherent, not a member of Living Spirit United Church is urged to take this course and be confirmed as a member on “Amnesty Sunday” October 16th. Anyone wishing to reaffirm their faith is welcome to do so on this Sunday. It is important for congregants to know that only members of LSU may vote on matters regarding pastoral relationships. Also the United Church Manual requires every Council Chair to be a member of the church where they are volunteering their time, talents and treasures.
Healing & Pastoral Care – Michelle Smith
- Small casseroles are needed for our pastoral care ministry. Some gluten free casseroles are also needed.
- We have a few requests for rides to and from church. Please contact Mary in the office for names and details.
- “The Walking Each Other Home Group” for people dealing with change or grief will begin meeting Sunday October 2nd after the Worship Service.
- Stay tuned for announcements regarding programmes offered by Yoga and Wellness facilitators throughout the year.
Social Justice and Outreach – Chair Tracie Ontko
- Free Clothing Event October 1st from 1 to 3 pm.
- Good Food Box orders need to be into the office by September 6th.
- The youth will be taking a consistent role in raising funds for a Parish Nurse as we live into our bridge of Supporting Seniors.
- Family Movie Nights and Crazy Fun Movie Nights will begin in the fall. Popcorn and pop will be sold for $3. Information for dates and Movie Titles will be coming in September.
- A Flu Shot Clinic will be offered, dates and time are coming.
Family, Faith, Friends and Fun – Chair Heather Antoniak
- Turkey Dinner will be held on Saturday, November 26th from 5 to 7 pm. Ticket prices are $40 per family; $15 for Single Adults; $10 for seniors and youth 6 and up. Children 5 and under are free. Take-out orders are $15 per person and must be reserved through the office. Reservation cut off for take-out meals is Friday, November 18th.
- Mom & Tots are meeting every Wednesday from 10am until noon.
- 2nd Annual Christmas Cookie Walk Sale Saturday, December 3rd from 10 am to noon. Cost is $20 per box of cookies.
- Super Soul Sunday Hotdog Lunch last Sunday of every month.
- “Whine It Down” begins Monday, October 3rd. This group is for anyone that would like to meet together once a month wop share whine’s from life in the previous month and offer ideas for ways to turn whine’s into opportunities for connection, personal growth and gratitude. Our minister Traci Hubbard will be hosting the first “Whine It Down” in her new home in McKenzie Towne. She will have some fruit cheese to go with your whine/wine. It is BYOB. Coffee, tea and water will be provided. The time is 7 to 8:30pm. This is an opportunity to invite a friend that may be hesitant to walk into a church for connection.
Worship & The Arts – Chair – Jocelyn Massey
- Our Advent Theme is “The Hope Awakens”. Minister Traci Hubbard is writing another exciting play using the Star Wars theme woven into the advent of the birth of Jesus. The play will be offered on Christmas Eve at 7 pm followed by a 9pm Candlelight Communion Service.
- Our youth will be taking a leadership role in the last service of every month. Our interfaith youth will take the lead in the last service in February.
- Blue Christmas will be December 11th at 7 pm.
August 29, 2016 – Tru Love
Intersections are moments that require our full attention. Simply stopping and looking both ways will not open our eyes to the gifts of who and what is crossing our path. A few weeks ago a friend that has a radio show in Ontario messaged me about a person on a radical spiritual quest. She said, “Traci you have to meet this man. His name isTru Stefan and he has let go of everything so he may be open to recognizing the Sacred in all people and in all encounters. He is writing a book and writing and recording music as he crosses the country alone trusting God to meet his needs for shelter and food. He offers himself through music, teaching and energy shiatsu massage.” Honestly my first thought was, “You had me at massage.”
I emailed Tru and our intersection began. A few emails and telephone conversations later, Tru landed on my doorstep last Friday. When I opened my door my new friend’s smile set me at ease. His face was illuminated from within and framed by long white curls that graced his broad shoulders beneath a straw fedora. We spent Saturday walking and sharing our stories while we sipped hot tea, admiring our surroundings. As evening fell we shared a dinner at home that consisted of grilled salmon, olives, artichokes, grilled garlic, cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, three different kinds of Cheese and spiced flat bread, crackers and decadent jellies. Then it happened. Tru took out his guitar and began to share some of the songs he has composed. His eyes, the cadence and sound of his voice paired with a peaceful melodic chart pierced me and moved me closer to the Sacred. I could feel pieces of his story as he played and sang. Then I shared some of my music with him while neighbours slowed down their pace as they walked in front of my open dining room window. On Sunday Tru joined the Praise Band and taught us us a new song The River Flows.. The congregation fell in love with him. We sat down on the chancel and had a conversation in front of the congregation about what it means to live into a calling and a dream. Tru shared 3 more original songs with us and wet our spiritual pallets for a concert he is going to offer to Calgary in our sanctuary in the next few weeks. He is here for awhile, until the Spirit tugs on his heart and says, “Time to go here,” wherever here is. My home has four levels. Tru is temporarily living on the fourth level, I on the third and we meet on the second for conversations of faith, lost love, sweet love, family, friendship and of course food and an occasional glass of wine. Silence or music cascades the second floor where our intersection is second to none. Like Tru, I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I trust who holds tomorrow and I am not in a rush to get there because I don’t want to miss a moment of now. Intersections are holy ground. I am reminded that when I trust the Lord with all my heart and stop relying on my limited understanding while acknowledging that God is with me and knows all my ways of thinking and being, the intersections and perceived or real detours are simply doses of empowerment for my journey. The presence of Tru is a dose of energy from the Giver of Life for all who dare to move beyond looking both ways. May we dare to live greatly. Amen.
August 22, 2016 – It’s Good to be Home
I prefer ordinary days. The no small moments where I am surprised by the palpable presence of God. Last Friday I babysat my grandsons Luke and Jeremy. I didn’t have any spa music softly playing in the background because I didn’t want to miss the sounds of their voices as they played in what I call “The Great Room”. This room is an open space that I intentionally designed to make myself and anyone who entered feel as if they have walked into a cottage on a beach. This summer on July 14th I moved into my new home. The walls were all a bright highlighter yellow but I knew the moment my Realtor and I walked through the front door I was home and four days later the walls donned a soft celery…cucumber colour just waiting for me to hang my pictures and rest my body and soul. The great room holds my dining room on one end with a long and open kitchen with a counter in the center that feels like a welcoming wave and on the other end my living room. The space is surrounded by windows, pouring in light from both bookends and light from a window above that beams into the loft and second floor. The loft welcomes my grandsons into a play room filled with toys waiting for them in blocks within shelves while a pine threaded armour is packed with games and movies. Pictures from generations past and now whisper “I love you’s” and “You did it” all around this space as a radio flyer full of Batman’s and Bad Guys sits in the corner surrounded by pillows to fall upon. The loft leads into a seaside paradise with twin oak captain beds and windows, buoy’s, seashells, an oar, a Captain’s mirror and a dolphin wait for the boys to run to the old boxes at the foot of their beds full of Lego and star wars characters. Their master bathroom has a large bathtub that was quickly named, “The Pool” with a glassed in shower so one can see the old boat and shells around the mirror and sink. Up another flight of stairs awaits my soul’s solace. A large room with my oak Shaker bed and a reading space where my big fat leather chair and ottoman hold a pillow and blanket graced with the faces of family and those I love who have gone before me. When I walk into my room I feel like I have walked into the ocean, soft sand and soft colours, a picture of my girls on the beach, a picture a friend painted for me of the tide rolling in and art that has women in soft repose with flowers surrounding them. I have more than enough space for yoga and strength training and a large nook full of books and my journals. My bathroom also dons a “jet pool” and a shower where I can sit and let the worries of the day wash over me. The basement, yes I bought a home with four levels, waits to be developed into a living and sleeping space for my parents and friends when they visit.
Outside my dining room window I can see a large hill surrounded by walkways and two parks, On top of the hill it looks like a scene from the Lord of The Rings and Jeremy has claimed this as his Jedi Castle. This hill is one of the few legal tobogganing hills in the city. As I write this I can see and hear children playing with their siblings and care givers. When I turn and look to my left the entire wall is a window over-looking my deck and backyard. I can see the wind blowing my umbrella and feel the cross breeze on my face and hands. In the great room are painted water colour scenes from moments spent on beaches and a large credenza proudly holds precious family moments in frames with bottles of sand and candles lighting the faces. Behind me as I write from my dining room table a buffet that looks like it was stolen from a beach house holds shells, old sea sticks woven into a garland and a stone tail of a whale.
I am not writing about my home to brag. I am writing because it is a simple place full of simple ordinary moments that are no small moments. These moments to some may seem like no big deal but to me they are my world. The people in these frames, the people that come through my doors are my world. My ordinary life is full of my family, friends and a stranger that will become a friend when he lands on my doorstep this Thursday and stays for a few days and shares his story and songs with me. This is my life. Today, until a friend comes over for dinner, I am living in my pajamas, researching, writing and planning the worship services for the next two Sundays. I have the sounds of nature playing on the stereo and the sounds of nature blowing through my windows and spirit. My Creator has been all around me today and singing with songs of joy inside of me. I have heard God’s voice as I read the Scriptures today and meditated on their lessons for me in this moment. I have no idea what I am going to cook for dinner but this one thing I know is that out of this ordinary day the Sacred will co-create something with me that I would never have thought of on my own. Ah, it’s good to be home. May you discover the scared extraordinary in your place of solace. Call out and God will answer you in all that is surrounding you and in all that is coming through your doors. May we all dare to live greatly.