A “Moving” Service

Churches are pretty stable entities, so being able to lead a service in a brand new, or even renovated sanctuary, is something all pastors will not be able to experience. This morning, I was privileged to lead the second “1st service” of my pastoral career.


The newly renovated sanctuary in Lucknow as it was in February of 2015. The old sanctuary in York was built in 1971 using the same plans.

The first one was in Lucknow following the major renovation, and repair, that came as a result of a fire in the sanctuary. Many things were put back in the same way that they were before the fire, but changes were made  that enhanced the feel of the place, changed the layout a little, and upgraded the entire audio visual system. That first service was exciting as we came home from temporary facilities in the Presbyterian Church and celebrated with the community in our own place again.


Gathering before the move. The new sanctuary is to the left, behind the plywood wall.

This morning was more than a little different. We were moving into a brand new worship space, one that had been planned and debated for more than a decade. This was not just a new coat of paint, but an entire building project aimed at providing more space for teaching and children and an improved fellowship hall. The new sanctuary though, is the crowning glory of the project. Bright and airy, with padded chairs rather than benches, an improved audio visual system and wonderful acoustics, this place will serve as a beautiful place of worship for many years.


The cross in the new worship space came from the old one, refinished, reminding us of the history of the place and where we find our identity.

IMG_1203We began our service this morning in the old sanctuary, heard God’s greeting there for the last time, spent some time in thoughtful reflection, before moving in procession to the new space, carrying the old pulpit bible, the baptismal bowl and pitcher, and the communion chalice and wine jug, bibles and hymnals.

Once settled in our new place, we spent another moment in reflection, before being greeted by God again, for the first time in this space, and then, sharing the Lord’s Supper together, recognizing that we find our identity in Christ, not in a building.

It was wonderful, again, to be part of something new, to in some small way, lead a congregation in celebrating God’s goodness, God’s provision, and God’s care.


Our Companion

It’s a week since we rolled into Halifax to end our cross country trip, a week of being tourists, of driving hard for home, of laundry, grass cutting, putting flower beds right, and worshipping with our home church. This afternoon, we visited the stone that was placed on my mother’s gravesite sometime during the time we were gone. 

My mother has been a large part of our travels over the past thirteen months. The dark cloud of her diagnosis rode with us through much of last year’s trip which ended in our being called home after making it to Northern Ontario. We were able to visit with her during the last week and a half of her life. She had questions about our trip, about the things we had seen the people we had met, the things we had experienced. 

We continue to grieve her loss.

She came with us again as we picked up the journey, many times as a deepened sense of loss. The recognition that she would not be here when we got back, that she would not be there to ask questions about our experiences, to fill us in on what we had missed at home, how the family had changed, that we would not hear her characteristic “Oh?” as we dreamt out loud about next adventures. 

That’s how grief works, isn’t it. It’s never really gone, you just need to learn how to live into the new reality. 

We visited today. It was a quiet visit in a beautiful space. The stone, with it’s picture of a shepherd and a lamb, the words “The Lord is My Shepherd” carved deeply into it, provides a testimony to a life well lived, a woman sorely missed.

The Liminal Place

Yesterday: 99.5 km, 20.4km/hr, total: 2538km

As we were at the beginnng, May 17, 2015

We have completed our journey across the country. It has taken us ten months longer than we had originally planned. Ten months that have seen more than their share of grief, and loss, and sorrow. We’ve learned through this year that even when we make water-tight plans, we are not actually in control. Since we set off on May 14th 2015 we seem to have been in something of a liminal place.

As we were, May 27 2016

I’d never actually heard the word liminal until I went off to seminary, and then a lot more as J and I participated in a trip to Spain studying pilgrimage. A liminal space, or time, is a time of disorientation. It could literally mean being at the threshold of something. It is sometimes described as an in-between experience, neither here nor there. For some, being in a liminal place in life can be a time of self exploration, of personal revelation. For others, being in such a place is frightening, upsetting, and to be avoided at all costs.

This past year has been a year of transitions, a year of stepping into unknown places. After we began our journey last year, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Worry and grief accompanied us over the mountains and across the prairies until we were called home to be with her in the last weeks, just as we entered Ontario. We went through the liminal experience of not knowing if the call I feel to ministry would actually result in a second posting. After some months of searching a position was offered in York. Another threshold crossed. And then,in February, J’s father was suddenly taken from us. Another transition. 

I know that these transitions in life, these thresholds we need to cross, are not going to end, they are part of life. When we arrive home next week, cross back over the threshold of our home, this one that we have imposed on ourselves will be over. 

Did we learn through the experience? Most definitely! We are not the same people who set out last year. We’ve learned practical things, like the importance of keeping a close eye on tire pressure, and not being fooled off of the planned route by a rail trail that looks like it might be flatter, and that going past a Tim Hortons bathroom might not be a good idea. We’ve learned to accept praise and gifts graciously, and to share our story generously, with encouragement. We’ve learned that, as a team we are strong enough for the challenge in front of us even when we have to walk the odd hill. We’ve been reminded, over and over, that we are not in control and thank the one who is, for protection, and care, as we have traveled in this liminal space.

Pictou to Truro Nova Scotia

68 km, 18.6 km/hr, 2438 km so far

Today wasn’t long in terms of distance, but, as our average speed indicates, it was a tough one. Our route followed Nova Scotia’s answer to Quebec’s Rue Vert, the Blue Route. From Pictou to just outside Bible Hill, the route follows Highway 4, the old Trans Canada. In the middle of the route is Mount Thom.

On the Blue Route

Our B&B host had already mentioned Mount Thom. We had admitted to her that we had a short day to ride, that we felt like we were easing into the finish. 

“Oh, but you’ll have to climb Mount Thom” she says with with her British accent (we’ve already discussed the Brexit vote), and a grin on her face. We really hadn’t prepared ourselves for mountains in this part of Canada and, in the end, it wasn’t a BC style mountain, but it was a category 2 hill, 17 km of continuous climbing, into the wind. 

Fortunately, the end of the ride into Bible Hill and Truro was mostly downhill. We caused a bit of a stir at the local Tim Hortons and the bike shop where we stopped to top up the tires. We are about the first long distance cyclists of the season and our tandem is always a conversation starter.

Over supper we received a surprise text from our ride home. S&M are in Truro. We invite them to join us at a funky brew pub. The look on J’s face when our Jeep came down the street, to park in front of the pub, was priceless. I thought there might even be tears of joy.

The last day is ahead of us. 100km to an Airbnb in Halifax. Not sure how to feel about the end. More on that next time.

Charolettetown to Montague PEI

48.5 km 18km/hr, 2342 km so far

PEI is not very big. A 100km day from Charolettetown in any direction, other than west, maybe, will leave you in pretty deep water. Today our goal was to position ourselves for a fairly short run to the ferry off of the island, tomorrow. Montague seemed like a good jumping off point. 

The lupins are in flower all over the island.

We took our time today and opted to try the Confederation Trail for at least part of the trip. It was way better than New Brunswick’s contribution to the TransCanada Trail system. The path was wide and well cared for. Gates protect it from motorized vehicles and are so tight they almost protect it from us too. The trail was very quiet.

Not a sign we expected on the island.

As we approached Montague we were surprised by a familiar “horse drawn vehicles use this road” sign followed closely by the sign”Eggs for Sale no Sunday Sale” at the end of a driveway with the name Ammon M Miller on the mailbox. Eli J Miller is just down the road. We had heard that a group of Amish from the Norwich area (the source of the St Helens community) had moved to PEI. Here we had found them!! They actually made CBC news back in March when the first family arrived. The Amish had been starting new communities in Ontario (Brockville, Engelhart, Echo Bay) but this is the first I have heard of them trying a new province. They are coming for lower land prices, but some of the locals are hoping they will become something of a tourist attraction, adding to the quaintness of the island. 

Tomorrow we begin the last leg of our trip.

Shediac NB to Victoria by the Sea PEI

91.5 km, 20.1 average, 2248 km so far

We said farewell to New Brunswick today, after a second night in our tent. 

The day was more social than some others with quite a few people wanting to know where we are going and where we came from. There were other cyclists today as well: the couple from Toronto who flew into Moncton and are headed to Yarmouth; the couple from Quebec who were cycling from their campsite in Sheciac headed for Moncton, but going in the wrong direction; and the local lady, at a Tim Hortons, in the middle of nowhere, riding an old mountain bike, who was able to guess that we don’t smoke. Each conversation leaves us feeling a little like ambassadors for long distance cycling. If we can do this, so can you.

The Confederation Bridge from Highway 10 on PEI

We came on to the island on the Confederation Bridge. Bikes and pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge, but there is a shuttle service. We had envisioned a shuttle bus of some sort, but what came was a bridge service truck driven by one of the maintenance guys. The bike just fit, corner wise, in the box, and we had a very informative trip, safely across. 

Our shuttle across the Confederation Bridge was a bridge service truck driven by one of the maintenance crew.

Tonight we are in a B&B in a quaint fishing village. Supper was seafood. 

We spent far too much time trying to find a place to stay in Charolettetown. The hotels and B&B’s are all full, so we are going to have our first experience with Airbnb. At one point it looked like we would need to change our plans and go somewhere else on the island.

Tomorrow we have a short (40km) ride and then we will take a day off.

Hills Begin in Earnest

104km, 20.1 km/hour, 1948km so far.

We started into serious hills today. We climbed out of Woodstock and spent most of the day climbing and coasting. I don’t think we have encountered hills like these since we rode in British Columbia, last year. Google Maps continues to try to direct us to the rail trail, promising that it is flat, but we had enough of that yesterday.

We did use a little of the TransCanada Trail today, an abandoned paved road , and this suspension bridge, saved us a lot of riding.

At a bike shop today, we tried for some sympathy by whining a bit about the hills. Todd, the mechanic, just looked at us incredulously and said, ” You are in New Brunswick you know”.

A tire should’t wear like this.

We were at the bike shop because the tires we bought in Quebec City failed us. They were a good brand name, but we must have got a pair of duds. The front one has a bubble in it which causes the whole bike to shake. The rear one was worn right through to the threads, in a section about eight inches long. We had the tires for eight days. So, we ended up at Savage’s, the oldest bike shop in Canada, established in 1897. Todd, convinced us to go with a wider, 32 mm tire, arguing that the ride would be better, but mostly because he didn’t have the narrower tire in stock. He made a few adjustments to the headstock of the bike, checked out the drive train and sent us on our way, refusing to charge any labour. 

The bike fixed and ready to go again at Canada’s oldest bike shop.

We went out for supper at a restaurant in what was once a court house. We were seated in a “date night” booth, a little booth with only room for two at benches perpendicular to each other. She didn’t know we had already spent the whole day really close to each other.  

Our B&B for tonight. Built by a lumber baron in 1875. It’s huge, with all sorts of character.