Beach Day – Gathering Cancelled Sun Aug 31st, 2014

2014 Beach Day copyEvery year on the Sunday of the Labour Day Weekend The Commons takes a trip to the beach. It is a day of being family by sharing food, fun, and lots of relaxed time.

For those of you who can’t make it to Beach Day, please note that Worship Gathering is cancelled on Sunday August 31st. We will be back to our Regular Sunday evening Gatherings at 26 Wilson Street on Sunday September 7th at 6pm.

Everywhere I Look I See Fire

pilgrim-imageOn Sunday, August 24th, Nick Schuurman finished our summer series in Beasley park by reflecting on the book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard. Here are his notes from his Blog for those of you that missed the Night.

I remember when I first read through this book.

It was about this time of year, on the Labour Day long weekend, four or five years ago now, and a few of my old friends and I were sitting around campfire near Lake Erie. I had slowly made it about half-way through, and I remember what I was reading that day – not because I usually remember those sorts of things, but because what I read was, for whatever reason, or set of reasons, profoundly astonishing and beautiful to me in that moment.

I also remember it because I must have ended up reading the following paragraphs aloud to four or five people that day:

“[They] studied a single grass plant, winter rye. They let it grow in a greenhouse for four months; then they gingerly spirited away the soil – under microscopes, I imagine – and counted and measured all the roots and root hairs. I four months the plant had set forth 378 miles of roots – that’s about three miles a day – in 14 million distinct roots. This is mighty impressive, but when they get down to the root hairs, I boggle completely. In those same four months, the rye plan created 14 billion root hairs, and those little strands placed end-to-end just about wouldn’t quit. In a single cubic inch of soil, the length of the root hairs totaled 6000 miles.”

Not everyone shared my fascination with that little biology lesson, to say the least. To be fair, I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not entirely sure what exactly it was about those pages, and those details that stirred something inside of me.

Some background to the book: While in university, Annie Dillard wrote her Master’s thesis on Henry David Thoreau’s memoir, Walden, which Thoreau wrote during and after a stay of two years, two months, and two days alone in a cabin he built in the forest of Concord, Massachusetts.  Published in 1854, it was a book about simplicity, life in the woods, civil disobedience and self-reliance.

A century-or-so later, in 1971, Dillard, who was at that point finished her graduate degree, suffered a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. She decided, like Thoreau, to move away from what seemed like the centre of things, to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. While there, she began (like Thoreau in this regard also) to keep a journal about what she saw and experienced exploring the landscape surrounding her cabin.

Here is how one writer described her writing during that time:

The journal soon ran to over 20 volumes. She transposed the entries onto thousands of note cards and then, for eight months, wrote the note cards up into a book. Towards the end of the eight months, Dillard was working for up to 16 hours a day. She lived mainly on coffee and Coke, and lost 30 pounds in weight. The plants in her house died”

In some ways (though Dillard has repeatedly and firmly shrugged off the classification) the book that resulted bears similarity to other nature writing. Its author writes at length in one chapter, for example, about the various forms of clouds and the phenomena associated with them. She devotes numerous paragraphs to the habits of several insects, and elsewhere discusses, among other things, the history of invasive species of birds and how butterflies taste with their feet. All of which, I realize, probably does not seem like something that would captivate a reader’s attention, unless you are really into those sorts of things, and I am into those sorts of things, mind you, but probably not enough to read a nearly-300 page volume about them, under normal circumstances.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek013So what on earth captivated me when I read this book? What Eudora Welty wrote in her 1974 New York Times review of the book explains a bit of it, I think. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she argued, “is about seeing.” It is, if I can expand on her thought, about an attentiveness to both the beauty and terror of the world, and the senses of awe, sadness and hope that result.

For Dillard, these glimpses into the natural world were acts of devotion – not towards the things themselves (though she has at times been accused of such), but towards something larger and even more beautiful and powerful. Her favorite childhood book, she writes, was A Field Guide to Ponds and Streams. Looking back, she compares it to The Book of Common Prayer. Inasmuch as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  is a book about the natural world, then, it is also a book about what lies beneath the surface of things, and above it.

Dillard discovered what would become her project’s central metaphor when she read a book called Space and Sight, which recounted experiences of some of the first people to have received cataract surgery. Effectively blind, they underwent these operations and were given vision for the first time. Having been unable to see for their whole life, most of them had no frame of reference or language to describe what they saw.

Of one woman who experienced this radically sharpened sense, the author of the old medical journal wrote, “the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed, ‘Oh God! How beautiful!’”

Another little girl, suddenly un-blinded, stood in an orchard, speechless at the sight of daylight flooding over the peaches, until she broke the silence, pointing to what she called “the tree with all the lights in it.”

The “tree with all the lights in it” becomes Dillard’s way of speaking about her experience along the creek in Virginia. Something inside of her is awakened as she spends her time walking through the woods, looking out the window of her cabin and sitting along the water. It is as if she is un-blinded to the beauty and brokenness of the universe, and to the great Mystery that spun things into being.

“Beauty and grace,” she writes, “are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there… so that creation need not play to an empty house.”

That said, paying attention to the natural world around us is at times anything but idyllic. Dillard also writes, as one reviewer has listed, about parasitic insects, killer whales tearing apart sea lions, and a mother octopus that lays thousands upon thousands of eggs, all of which but one will die.

Put otherwise, in the language of another author who has studied her work, Dillard tries to find language for the reality that “the natural world both reveals and obscures God.”

Paying attention to what lies in the woods and water around us will, in other words, expose the staggering glory of creation that the Hebrew Psalmist speaks of, as well as what the Apostle Paul describes as its groaning – the violence, terror and corruption of the universe. As much as Dillard is looked to as a nature writer, then, she has also become known as someone who has committed herself to the consideration of God in light of suffering and evil.

I spent some time these past few weeks trying to pin down what it was that caused this book to resonate so deeply with me when I first read it. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a beautiful book, but a difficult one, which took me a very long time to finish. It seems to lack a narrative, or any sense of continuity for that matter, and readers are prone to both getting lost and losing interest in the minutiae of Dillard’s subject matter.

At that point in my life, though, I was weary, and weary of the language with which I had grown used to thinking and talking about God. As necessary as I understood and still understand they are, I was tired of debate, lectures and lesson plans. As much as I wanted to get at the truth of things, I wanted also to get lost in the joy, goodness and incredible complexity of it all. I wanted, in all my attempts to understand what little I was able to of God, to be left in awe at something much bigger than I could wrap my head around, at something that left me surprised and experiencing delight.

As strange as it sounds, a paragraph about the astounding roots of a single rye plant allowed me that, if only for a little moment. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was for me, in that tired and messy season of my life, a small doorway into a world of wonder. Even in its consideration of the darker, more sinister elements of creation, the book meant a lot to me when I first read it. Dillard didn’t brush these things off, but kept looking, and kept writing, and kept them there at the centre of things. She described them in detail, while maintaining a sense of the sacredness of life, and the presence of God in the midst of it all.

She lost herself in the great show of things, and I lost myself for a little while in her description of it.

After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place,” she writes, “the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagance, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn’t flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.

Nick in WoodsYou can read more of Nick’s ongoing
thoughts and reflections on his blog:
Nec Littera Exprimere

Beach Day – Sunday August 31st, 2014

2014 Beach Day copyGrimsby-20120902-00241The Commons Annual Beach Day is approaching fast. Here is a little Beach Day Q&A:

Q: Where are we going?
A: Fifty Point Conservation Area When is it? Sun Aug 31st (meeting at the Rock at 10:30am) How much will it cost? $15 for Adults and $5 for Kids

Q: What does that price include?
Lunch, Supper, and Admission into Fifty Point.

Q: How will we get there?
A: We will be car pooling to keep costs down.

Q: When do I have to get my money in?
A: Please pay Randy or Susan Neudorf by Sun Aug 17th. That is less then 2 weeks away.

Q: Why should I go?
A: Because Beach Day is Awesome and super fun! and every family (including The Commons family) should get to go relax at the beach.

Q: What should I bring?
A: Bathing suit, towel, chair, hat, sweater, sunscreen, water bottle, games, ball glove, or anything else you need to have fun outside.

Q: Will we be back in time for the Sunday Gathering at 6pm?
A: No Way!!! We are doing the Jesus-y thing and spending all day at the beach together as a community (have you ever noticed how much time Jesus spent on the beach?). Gathering will be cancelled on Aug 31st.

561065_10100414087028797_1844342491_n - Matt

Publication of the banns of marriage between Nick & Meg – Part 3

Banns for Nick and Meg copySunday July 20th was the third and final reading of the banns for Nick and Meg. They are now “ready” to get married. Well, “ready” may be too strong a word, they now have their legal ducks in a row. How could anyone be “ready” to a life time of to sacrifice to one another? None of us are ready to be married on our wedding day but perhaps we can be ready to commit, ready to sacrifice, ready to make vows, ready to be held accountable to those vows.

As follower’s of Jesus we encourage Nick and Meg to follow Jesus’ example of friendship & love in their marriage as a continued way of making themselves ready to be married through their journey together..

John 15:11-15 The Message

11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

We are more then the sum of our parts

FilmloomIt is always fun to discover new music. Today I found out about Filmloom through Noise Trade’s Free download of the band’s album
L i m i t..

When it comes to music I’m not really a “less is more” kind of guy, I’m more of a “more is more” kind of guy. This is why I really love being in The Common Collective at The Commons. When you can get 9 people making music together, each little sound and instrument adds up to more then just the sum of the parts. There is a beauty in simplicity adding up to complexity and contributing to something bigger then your part.

In the video above you see all the instruments Filmloom used to make their song. Now they just have 2 guys multi-tracking the parts in a studio but it illustrates how each simple part adds to the whole. If you watch the sleigh bells or the tom drum, anyone could play that part, it is as easy as clapping or tapping your foot, but in the mix, added to the whole it becomes more, it becomes part of the whole, it adds to the groove. If the the person playing the sleigh bells or the drum dropped out something would feel like it was missing.

Community is like this as well, whether it be a band, a neighbourhood, or a church. The parts we play might be small, or it may seem that all the instruments/people don’t fit together, but they are all needed. We might wonder:

  • Can glockenspiels & synths really be in the same song?
  • Is the band folk or electronic?
  • Is this a community for the poor or the rich?
  • Am I one of the rich or one of the poor?
  • Are we school educated or street savvy?
  • Are we helping or are we in desperate need of help?
  • Am I teaching or am I learning?

The answer is all of the above. Deep community is about being open to more, to adding each small part into the mix. It is really about so many little things being more then just the sum of our parts. We wouldn’t work if we are all the same.

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”

1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 (The Message)