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Centennial Homily

Bishop Geoff shared the homily below with us on September 25, 2022 during our 100th Anniversary Celebration


102 + years

It is an honour to re-join you today, to celebrate, to re-member, to reckon call, and to proclaim the faith that is in us.

Knowing you, you have been reflecting upon the dynamic history of the parish St Paul, led well by historians and story keepers. I thank God for the witness you make in the circles and settings with which you journey, rest and care. God’s work exercised through you, even in 1920, is visible and beneficial today.

If I am not mistaken our dear sister in Christ, Helen Leggo, was the first person baptized in the presently consecrated St Paul, of course it was an entirely different dwelling place back then, but the house God was building was not to be known for its clapboard or bricks. No, this house under construction was built on a corner-stone carried through the ages, and wouldn’t you know, it first rested with Helen, that is until the next baptism. And the next, and the next.

The folk of the Cabbage Patch, the ecclesial care offered by St Alban, St Luke and St John, and the process of becoming/electing an Anglican parish identity all contributed to and carried the story which God continues to weave. Through 102+ years people, families, and the short-term visitors came and stayed, came and went, but all were the utterance of a prayer and a shout hanging in the spirit of the dwelling. Our memories attest to the greatness of God expressed in the gifted individuals who, even momentarily, joined as One, One Dwelling.

Helen was the parish historian, and publisher for the Fort Garry Historical Society, of which she published two collections: Fort Garry Remembered, and Fort Garry Remembered VOL 2, compiling story and passion from several local story keepers and story tellers. She taught many of us in this room today. Helen is a great reminder of how the Christian story is timeless, how it is transported, and how it is received.

I went to see Helen in Riverview one morning, members of her family had asked me to visit her, and to break the news that her sister Judy had died in the night. Helen was asleep when I arrived, so I sat quietly by her bed-side. A few minutes passed and she opened her eyes and greeted me warmly, then, surprisingly she asked, “Are you here about Judy?” “Yes, I am” I replied. Helen then told me that Judy had died early that morning, and that she said farewell in her dream. It was an awesome reminder that disciples are also saints in light.

Kirk came to me at the end of a ceremony, tears welling in his eyes. “Your talk about Jesus dying made me sad and made me think. Last week I found a butterfly that had damaged wings, and it was becoming less lively each minute. I knew it was going to die, and there was nothing I could do for it. So I stayed with it until it died. I know it was the right thing to do, but I find it almost too hard.” He, like every Paulinian, has a unique connection with God, and a strong pull towards the heart of Christ in the Body.

So many rich stories from so many generations, and all bearing great proclamation to Christ in the “all whom we meet”. Christian identity is transported through time and social dynamic to now – the only moment we truly navigate within.

Rick is a saint, quietly teaching, testing and reaching. On many occasions Rick suggested music and ideas outside my comfort zone, outside Church walls, and always within the beauty of creation. He equipped me to “try out” two songs for use on Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, Dust in the Wind by Kansas and Anthem by Cohen. Both songs pushed/challenged me hard to re-articulate what I thought these great holy days were all about, his relationship, and those songs, introduced me again to Christ in ways one sermon would never have enough room to articulate. He facilitated the gift of courage.

The magnitude of power in the Body’s countless relationships is infinite, it thwarts unjust structures, lifts up the lowly, gives calm in the fiercest storm – even the storm that has pummeled the eastern seaboard. Relationships fulfill God’s promises – death no longer has dominion over the love that Rick and I, and many others share, though we physically see one another no longer.

For many a saint, you and I have answered the question “Will you do all in your power to support these disciples in their life in Christ?” and we responded the “We will!” It is an obligation which we are called daily by God to fulfill; but it is also our joy to do so, as promised by God, with whom we live and breathe and have out being. We who know these things and do them know God in our midst in all of life.

So I ask you today “Will you who have witnessed vows, journeyed in pain and joy, dipped into the well of living water, do ALL in your power to support these disciples in their life in Christ?” -------------

Out of the mouths of infants . . . we hear God’s call.

In a world of distraction, self-indulgence, and consuming, you and I sacrifice all so that another might have life, and have it abundantly. O this Body is an awesome dwelling place, decked-out better than the lilies of the field, and as shrewd as a serpent. Disciples make it known to the world that the kin-dom of God has come close, that love prevails, and all are blessed.

May Creator God continue to love us into the BODY.

Amen