By Rev. Dr Catherine Faith MacLean
Also, please read the May 17, 2023, pastoral letter from Rev. Helen Reed, Northern Spirit Regional Council, which includes links to make donations to assist communities.
Holy One, we anticipate Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Haloes of flame resting upon the apostles, and we prepare for exuberance: red preaching stoles, flame coloured-clothing, Pentecost shoes, birthday cake with icing images of the Spirit’s fire.
And yet again this year we put aside these images of fire. We reluctantly open our liturgical resource folder and file the sermon relating to holy cleansing, or rising like a Phoenix, or the rekindled glory of a pink carpet of fireweed across a scorched forest floor. We set aside prayers about the fiery, out-of-control exuberance of spiritual awakening. We purge from our metaphors any reference to burning. We return our red shoes to the closet and hang on the rack the necktie with delicate silk images of flames. We phone the organist to change the hymns for the end of the month: no winds of change, no setting the church on fire or striking as the lightning hits a posing spire. Will we ever sing Ron’s hymn again?
We see helicopters against the cloudy sky. We hear news reports of Drayton Valley fire smoke in Halifax. We receive wildfire alerts on our phones.
Yet again we remember Fort McMurray and Slave Lake. Burned in our memories – oh, there is a metaphor, unbidden! – deeply embedded in our memory are the images of homes and forests aflame, and videos recorded from inside cars as families fled along a roadway with fire on each side and overhead.
We remember Kelowna, Sparks Lake, Lytton, Williams Lake, Coldwater, Barrier, Naramata.
Yet again we are pained by the disasters we remember: flooding in High River, mudslides on the Coquihalla, murder in the Yellowknife mine.
We bring our lament. We pray our sadness. We carry our shock. We resist our numbness in yet another season of wildfire.
Yet again this year, we bring prayers for the persons whose lives are threatened. We bring prayers for the firefighters and other professionals whose work it is to provide to bring safety. We bring prayers for the communities, the families, friends, community groups, gathering places, farms, businesses, ranches – and politics.
We bring prayers from deep in our souls for Creation and the crisis in which we have found awkward ways of living. We are aware of the annual accounting in acres of devastation: forest, wilderness, and homeland. We recognize the environmental collapse in which we live and move and have our being. We confess our attachment to selfish ways.
And as we light the Christ candle, as we bring match to wick, as we ignite a small and tended flame, we become the connection of the small to the large, the here to the there, the local to the province, the prayer to the prophetic. We pray for grace, we pray for help, we pray for rain: we pray in the moment and we pray in community because only in beloved community can we possibly hear hope. O God who is with us, bring us the wherewithal to be the people of Hope.
Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean, St. Paul’s United Church, Edmonton, Alta.
May 15, 2023