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Snoopy

After over 10 years of life and 4 years as part of our family, we said good-bye to our rabbit Snoopy last Friday. Over the last month we watched him waste away with what had started as only an ear infection, but spiraled into other issues, we think at least partially because of his age.

It has been a hard month, and it has been especially hard to say good-bye to him. In some ways it feels strange to feel such grief for an animal, but he was definitely a part of our family, and in some ways he and his partner Beatrix were the first pets I had.

Over my childhood we had two rabbits, Hoppy (yep) and Pepper, but I feel that in some ways I was too young to completely appreciate them, and I wasn’t the one primarily caring for them. When I was older we got two Siamese cats, Alex and Ashnaa. They were both very special to me, but as they got older they really became my parents’ pets, especially since moving away to go to college.

SnoopyBeatrix

Shortly after we were married in 2009, we went to Rabbit Rescue and after long consideration adopted our Snoopy & Beatrix. This picture is from when we first adopted them, in a large cage we built for the apartment downtown we were living in then. They quickly captured our hearts, and became part of our daily routines, and part of some of our favourite memories as we started our life together, and continued to grow.

In the summer of 2012 we said good-bye to Beatrix as she passed away from cancer, and Snoopy adjusted to losing her. It was remarkable and very sad to see him grieve for her even as we did, and see the changes in his activity and personality after her death. In some ways he became more prickly (he always had some of that in him) but in others he craved more attention from us, especially likely in times when he would have curled up with Bea. They had been almost inseparable, and for the first couple weeks after Bea died, my wife spent hours lying beside him every evening, comforting him.

We’re so grateful for the time that we’ve had with both of them. Though we adopted them a little later in life (we think at age 6 or so, and rabbits generally live between 8-14 years with good care), we feel like they completely became part of the family, and we advocate strongly for animal adoption. Rabbit Rescue is a great Ontario organization that fosters rabbits in volunteer homes, and the Humane Society always has rabbits (and many other animals) needing to be adopted.

Snoopy and Beatrix had both, separately, been abandoned. (Many people abandon rabbits when they realize they are not stuffed toys, and are every bit as time consuming and expensive as a cat or dog to maintain.) They were both very lucky that they were caught and rescued, because domestic rabbits who are abandoned outside usually live only a few days, if that. Both of them were physically and emotionally scarred from their early years, and it still showed by the time they entered our lives. Our other rabbits also came from bad situations. Sammy was being abused, and when we rescued him was near starvation and ill. Dolly was rescued from a rabbit meat farm on Manitoulin Island, as part of a rabbit hoard. All of our buns are special, and there are so many more that need loving homes.

Though I hoped to start January strong with writing, all of this has weighed a lot on my mind, despite lots to write about, including:

I’m hoping to keep moving ahead with writing, and especially to write more about the London political scene, with so much happening this year. 

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broken glass

Our home church of First Baptist London has launched a new congregation based on contemporary worship and meaningful community, called Maitland Street Church. It has been a massive undertaking, and since the launch in November has enjoyed a great start.

This should be a major cause to celebrate. In spite of this, I find myself asking – why bother?

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been part of online discussions with other Christians/theologians around the church’s stance on LGBT, and have been deeply troubled by what I have encountered – ranging from perspectives such as “what science teaches us about sexuality doesn’t trump the fact the Bible says homosexuality is sinful” to appeals to “natural theology makes it clear homosexuality is wrong”, with one person saying the idea of a homosexual Christian is something they hadn’t even heard of until very recently, and they find very confusing.

Yikes.

There’s absolutely no way to persuade someone if (their interpretation of) Scripture comes before everything else. Modern psychology and genetics teach that sexuality is not a choice, which to me would indicate to me that the entire sexual spectrum is intentional, yet so many in the church continue to refer to it as a “sinful lifestyle”. The longer the church holds onto these beliefs, the further it drifts into irrelevance.

What does this have to do with Maitland? Very little. But as part of the global church it is part of the massive upheavals happening across the world in respect to Christianity, and religion in general. CBC posted an article today called “Rise in new city churches bucks secular trend”, reporting on the rise and fall of churches in Canada and the demographics behind it. As well, NPR posted this article, “Sunday Assembly: A Church For The Godless Picks Up Steam”. CBC reports:

“…in Australia where, in late December, one in five residents identified themselves as non-religious. New Zealand numbers are even more stark. There, two-fifths of citizens identified as non-religious, pushing Christianity out of its longtime spot as the clear majority.

In Canada in 2011, about 7.8 million people — 24 per cent of the population — cite no religious affiliation, up nine per cent from a decade prior.”

I found this interesting, especially reading it in conjunction with the NPR article, which reports how a non-religious church is gaining attention by giving people a place to meet, dance, sing and have fellowship without religion. This is how they describe it:

It sometimes feels like church in the auditorium of the Professional Musicians union in Hollywood. It’s a Sunday morning, and hundreds of people are gathered to meditate, sing and listen to inspirational poetry and stories.

But then the live band starts up — performing songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jerry Lee Lewis. And instead of a sermon, there’s a lecture by experimental psychologist and neuroscientist Jessica Cail about the biology of gender identification and sexual orientation.

Churches across North America (and elsewhere) are tackling the massive question of how to keep people interested in going to church, and especially how to draw back the many people that have “strayed” – most churches see about a 1/4 rate of retention from youth to young adults/adult congregants. Reginald Bibby, a University of Lethbridge sociology professor suggests in the CBC article “…many churches need to rethink their roles and become more family-focused, something evangelical churches have done right for decades, leaving them as one of the few not experiencing substantial drops in attendance. Evangelicals take for granted that they need to have a top-notch Sunday school for kids so the little kids are going to look forward to coming to church,”.

To me, these kinds of suggestions skate over the fundamental issues plaguing the church by making it sound like something as simple as shaking up Sunday School is the solution. As a young adult in the church, I’ve heard many snide remarks from senior congregants ranging from bemoaning “the moral laxness of this generation” to how the entire world is going to Hell via the unbelieving heathens. Not new sentiments, but one that young ears are sharp to pick up, especially when pointing at issues youth tend to care deeply about – issues like LGBT rights/equality and reproductive rights. Why would we put up this?

I know that by stepping away from an organization I am stepping away for opportunity to add my voice, and only contribute to the monoculture with my absence. But, I find myself starting this year wondering if I am really changing anything by being in church, and if it would be better to step away from it, even temporarily. I have been a hesitant Christian/churchgoer ever since I started about 7 years ago, but I seem to be finding especially few reasons to go now.

Not that there hasn’t been liberal movements inside the modern church. Pastor Mark Sandlin has been instrumental in creating The Christian Left and The God Article, which among other movements have provided a liberal perspective in what is otherwise an oppressively conservative culture. Pope Francis has shaken the world since becoming the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Time’s Person of the Year as he has challenged the Catholic Church to move in the world with compassion over condemnation, breathing fresh air into the church. Despite maintaining the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality, the Advocate LGBT magazine named Pope Francis their “Person of the Year”. From the CBC article:

The Advocate magazine said it gave Francis the honour because, although he is still against homosexual marriage, his pontificate so far had shown “a stark change in [anti-gay] rhetoric from his two predecessors”. It hailed as a landmark his famous response last July to a reporter who asked about gay people in the Church: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

I’m grateful to have met other liberal Christians through resources like The Christian Left. I shouldn’t expect to surround myself only with like-minded people, but at the same time, it has been an enormous relief to find a wider of community that have similar struggles to me. And they have helped me continue to see the value of being part of a church community, though there are times like this that I still wonder.

So this is what I continue to struggle with. Should I keep with church and attempt to be a progressive voice, or decide that my energy, time and sanity are better invested elsewhere? I hope to remain and to be a positive influence in the church, and to challenge myself to read scripture, research further and work to expand my understanding of different theologies/philosophies in and outside the church. I believe that scientific and spiritual inquiry can and should work together, and I hope to find ways that this can work, and explore methods others use.

2014

Can’t believe another year has passed already! 2013 was a very quiet blogging year compared to 2012, though we’ve had some major changes in our lives. By far the largest was Sarah becoming pregnant in the summer, due mid-April this year. The second half of the year has been a blend of anxiety, anticipation and excitement as we’ve prepared ourselves and our home for our first child. I’ve written a few posts about it, but despite/because of the rollercoaster of emotion I haven’t been really able to express all that I have been feeling about it.

The second has been a change in my work last fall. For about two and a half years I’ve been a self-employed CAD technician as an associate for a company in Milton, working from home. The summer was very stressful because my workload (always unpredictable) became very low, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue doing this work. Things picked back up in the fall though, to the point that the company offered me a full-time position with them, though thankfully still able to work from home in London.

Between these two things (and many others) I feel as if I’ve drifted somewhat from where I had been in 2012, both for good and bad. I feel as if I have life fairly together, but have stepped back from a lot of the things I enjoy/feel are important. Instead of setting extremely concrete goals (lose X lbs. etc.) I thought I’d make my resolutions a few major goals I can break down into single events/achievements.

So, here are a few of my goals for the coming year:

Reconnect:

  • I’ve been away from a lot of the great things happening in London in the past year. I realized last year that I was trying to take on too many things at once and became burned out. This winter I hope to reconnect with all the great things happening and all the people I’ve been able to get to know who make our city great, especially before the baby arrives. Speaking of…

Rest:

  • Not becoming overwhelmed again, and resting before the baby arrives is also very important. I hope to find a good balance between being active in the city/community and relaxing as well. I’m really not sure what to expect (despite reading a lot, while trying not to get too anxious about it), so I figure being in the best mental and physical shape I can beforehand is probably best…I’m told both will deteriorate rapidly after.

Stay active:

  • I hope to stay involved in the city and Argyle community once the baby is born, if nothing else than by being online and writing/posting updates through the community social media and website (we’re currently working on a big communication overhaul, I’ll probably write a separate post about it once it starts falling into place). As Sarah reminds me, babies do travel as well, so we may be out later in the year with wee Gibson in tow, as well.

Write:

  • This may be a tough one, but I’m hoping to write more often than I did last year, even if it isn’t all published here. Considering I meant to write/post this yesterday (have been caught up nursing Snoopy, who is sick with an ear infection and a GI stasis scare) this may not go so well. I realized last year that for some reason the enjoyment had been taken out of writing for me, and the thought of opening this to write seemed a lot more daunting than it should. So, I’m hoping to start the regular practice of taking time to write again, even if some of the posts are left as drafts, or revised repeatedly before being posted. I hope to write on London events and politics (specifically the 2014 budget and election) as well as life (especially our adventure through pregnancy and our baby), but as well I’d like to get back into writing fiction. I haven’t written much since high school, but always enjoyed it when I did…I may share some of my attempts here as well.

I hope 2014 will be an interesting and insightful year. I think it will be.

Wishing you the very best in the coming year, may we make it a good one together!