Hey folks I know it’s been forever since I posted but it has been pretty busy. Something that I’m excited about these days is the release of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In the mail today I got my starter set, which is just great, so below are the pictures of the unboxing. Enjoy.
Krowen is going to save the kingdom. He didn’t know it yet. He wasn’t even really planning on it. In fact, when it happens, he probably won’t even realize what he had done. But Krowen is going to save the kingdom.
So for this week I’m attending a gathering of the Cruxifusion group. This is a movement within the United Church of Canada seeks to support Christ centered leaders and lay people and hold Christ up as the head of the church, the focus of our faith.
I’m not new to the group, which has a great home on Facebook. I’ve been a part of the group for the last year. This, however is my first time attending the annual meeting of the organization, and to be honest it was only lately that I started sharing in the group on Facebook.
In truth, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the group in the beginning, when I first heard about it. I knew nothing about Cruxifusion other than what others had told me. Some said it was a supportive faith-filled group. Others said it was a staunch conservative group that would hold up harmful theology and exclude people based on sexuality among other things. So I avoided the group for a while. I avoided the group based on the negative perspective and didn’t give the positive perspective any merit, or not the merit it deserved.
A friend of mine who is a part of the group was persistent though, and eventually invited me to the Facebook group about a year ago. In the last year I have found the people in this group to be faithful, supportive, caring, and great to laugh with. What I’ve found to be true of the people in the Cruxifusion group is actually a truth that holds for the whole of the United Church of Canada. We are a diverse group of people with a spectrum of theology as wide as the national church. It would be impossible to say that the group is more “right” or “left” as a whole because we each bring a unique perspective to the focus of the group, which is Christ-centeredness.
It’s strange that confessing a Christ-centered theology automatically gets people thrown into a box, categorized as, “conservative” or “abusive in theology”. It’s strange because Christ was a radical seeking change in a world that was standing still. It’s strange because Christ had a mission of love, compassion, healing, and reconciliation. It’s strange, and yet it is.
I won’t suggest that similar confessing movements haven’t been abusive, oppressive, and exclusive. All I can say is that I have not found this group to be any of these.
I’m a Cruxer. And I’ve got the mug to prove it 😉
So ministry is generally filled with a variety of pastoral experiences, each of which affects people in different ways. One of the more obvious and prominent ones is funerals. We walk with families in their time of loss, hear their stories and memories, and try to craft an experience that is both a reflection of the life lived and the grace given. One life has ended and, in our hope, the lost loved one has embarked on some new adventure we couldn’t begin to understand. There is space for closure here. These are difficult pastoral experiences, some more than others, but they are also prayerful and prayer-filled times where even moments of joy filter in because of the memories.
The truth is that some of the more difficult pastoral encounters are with those who are still very much alive but are not very present in the ways we are used to. Dementia/Alzheimer’s patents have a lived reality that we cannot fully comprehend. Families of those living with Alzheimer’s often struggle with the fact that the relationship has changed, that the growth and movement from moment to moment that we have in our regular dealings with people has been disrupted. This can cause frustration, on both sides, and can lead to broken relationships.
Unfortunately Alzheimer’s and those who live with it are still today treated with a degree of insensitivity that burns at me when I come up against it. I’m not talking about those in the medical or care professions, for they treat these patents like what they are-people worthy of our respect and care. I’m thinking more about those who don’t have personal experience with Alzheimer’s or, if they do, have an extremely negative experience of it. Once, a few years ago I was doing a funeral for someone who had been living with Alzheimer’s. I asked someone in the community I was serving why I hadn’t heard of her since I’d been on the charge for a while. They responded with, “She was pretty far gone. It wouldn’t have done any good. She probably wouldn’t have known you were there.” This grated on me, and I made it clear to my charge that pastoral care for those with Alzheimer’s was just as important as any other person.
I’ll admit it, these are not easy pastoral encounters. In the beginning I struggled with what to say, what not to say, if I should even say anything at all. And what could I say? And how could it matter if in a week or a moment this person, in their mind, is just meeting me for the first time. It took a whole, and many one sided conversations about the weather for me to realize that it wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about building a relationship-generally the most important task in ministry. It occurred to me that a horizontal, a linear, relationship was not possible, but that didn’t mean that a vertical relationship was out of the question.
A colleague of mine did a good deal of research related to Alzheimer’s and he talked about, “parachuting in,” about being present for those moments of grace when they happen for as long as they do. The person might not remember it beyond that moment, but in that moment something profound can be created.
In closing I’ll share what had become a regular practice for me when visiting those with Dementia/Alzheimer’s. I sing to them. Old hymns, music that I’ve learned they enjoyed in their childhood, I sit with them and I sing to them. I’ve found in my limited experience that one of the last things that the mind holds onto is music. Even those who are generally unresponsive take on a brightness in the presence of music they came to know earlier in life. A few even hum along.
These are the moments of grace that I mentioned. These are the moments of humanity that everyone deserves; to not be forgotten though they may forget; to not be abandoned though they may feel lost; to feel for a moment, if only for a moment at a time, that they are not alone.
The village of Coolingpar was a modest hamlet, if it could even be called that. It was more a collection of houses that had sprung up near the shore to accommodate local fishing families and farmers of the area. To its credit it did have a simple general store, though it was seriously lacking in variety; apparently the spice and silk trade had not seen fit to extend this far. The town was also home to a temple to the goddess of Luck Avandra, though since humble was the motif of this place, it too was unremarkable save for the holy symbol above the entry way to the temple itself. The simple nature of this place did not seem to phase its residents, since they too were simple folk. Farmers, fisherman, and a few merchants were the people who called Coolingpar home, and truth be told, they liked their home just the way it was. When something or someone different came along, it upset the long standing order that kept the town running, and so we were greeted with a cool annoyance by what passed for a town guard as we approached.
So you may have no riced last week that I had a few random story posts. Let me give you a little bit of context for what was a surprise for some.
Tobias Warmbread was the name of a Halfling Rogue character from the table-top RPG Dungeons and Dragons. I play weekly with friends via virtual table-top site roll20. For anyone interested in getting a virtual group going, it is a great program, but i suggest using mumble or Google hangout for chat.
Anyway Tobias was not actually my character. He was played by one of the people in my group. However Tobias Warmbread and Grodin Rocksmiter (my character, a dwarf cleric of course) were friends. Recently-September i think-Tobias’s owner left the group, and so the character Tobias had to leave the group as well. It was a teary farewell on Grodin’s part, but it happens.
Since then we’ve met more or less every week, but we agreed that meeting over the holiday break might be a bit cumbersome. But I love D&D, and I hate missing a week. So, I offered the members of my group this Christmas Special which follows the exploits of Tobias immediately following his exit from the group.
I found the writing of the short story quite fulfilling. Yes, there were several moments of parody, lampooning some classic stories and referencing classic holiday movies, but the overall story itself was not overly derivative. Sure there is badness happening in a far off land and the protagonist somehow become entangled and saves the day. This is not a new plot device, but it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed the act of telling the story.
Because the story itself is a little on the long side, I’ve created a dedicated section on the site for it. Just check tales from the road and look under Tobias Warmbread. I’m going to continue to write as I feel called to, perhaps taking a more serious approach, though not changing the style much. My hope is to do three part stories, similar to the ones I did for Tobias. However these will be spread out over a much longer time frame, perhaps a month to a part.
I hope you enjoy reading about Tobias, and encourage you to ask questions or comment on what you read there.
Tobias awoke with a start. For a moment he did not know where he was. Was this some frost elf dungeon? Is this what the inside of an undead dragon’s belly looked like? Is this the afterlife? If it was any of these things, they all looked surprisingly like a room in an inn.