Since Labour Day 2011, I've become even more peripatetic and eclectic!
I go back and forth between two United Church pastoral charges [our word for parishes], Wesley in beautiful downtown St Andrews by the Sea , New Brunswick and St James in the hills and ridges north of St Stephen. In St James we go back and forth between two churches, Scotch Ridge and Oak Hill, found on country roads, attended by people spread up and down over many other country roads.
In the winter we go back and forth between upstairs and downstairs: in St Andrews we go upstairs to save heat and enjoy a more intimate worship experience. In Oak Hill we go downstairs to the Friendship Room , with keyboard and drums. In Scotch Ridge, last year we experimented with a few Sundays in someone's capacious living room, complete with resident cat! We're learning that spiritual community and connection can happen anywhere: all we need do is show up!
In my back-and-forth, I serve two very different communities. St Andrews is home to 1700 or so permanent residents but a seaside resort for many other visitors and passers-by . It houses a biological research station, under the auspices of the national Department of Fisheries and Oceans; the Huntsman marine research centre and aquarium; a branch of the New Brunswick Community College; elementary and high schools; a health centre and access to doctors and dentists; a long-term care home; beautiful Kingsbrae Garden; an excellent public library; Sunbury Shore Arts and Nature Centre and several art galleries; restaurants and coffee shops; many small specialized local businesses as well as the usual supermarket and post office and bank; walking trails and much more.
There is an abundance of cultural and culinary and sporting events year round. The Arts Council uses our church and other churches for classical music practices and events. There is a host of volunteer organizations. Two examples only: the Spindrifters organizing social, cultural and educational events for the many over-50s; Save Ocean Science /Save Our Science which has been advocating these last years for the protection of and promotion of government science. Many of us are part of book clubs. The Film Society organizes showing of movies which are later donated to the library.
In contrast, the rural surroundings of St James Pastoral Charge contain fields, forest, spread-out homes , the odd working farm still, and churches and church halls. For goods and services and cultural and educational events, one must travel to St Stephen . A sturdy vehicle is a must.
In a rural setting like St James, the church is a centre of community and connection in a special way. Most of the Scotch Ridge and Oak Hill events are - organized by a small core of very active
church volunteers:church women's meetings, flea markets, potlucks, pancake suppers , community evenings and Christmas teas. The other communal events are potlucks down in Little Ridge organized by the residents themselves, the area firefighters' suppers and fundraisers [many of the volunteers are connected with our churches !] and a community men's club [involving our church men of course! ] which puts on an Easter breakfast and does many quiet good works. These events are widely attended.
"My" two spiritual communities could not be more different.
St James is the backbone of its rural district. Wesley is one church among many , one organization among many, a minority of the population.
St James members were mostly born and baptized there or not far away. They have mostly known each other all their lives and have generations of history together. Wesley members mostly were not born or baptized in St Andrews. Some came here because of work opportunities. Many have retired here, often within the last 5, 10 or 15 years.
Many Wesley people travel , to warm winter climates or to Europe or to visit family. St James people are more likely to go on small road trips, if they travel at all.
The musical tastes, the life experience, the spiritual journeys are very different too!
And yet these two communities are alike in their adaptability, resourcefulness and strong lay leadership. This common ground has enabled them to cooperate, sharing me as their full-time minister. This is good news for them and good news for me.
The result : I have indeed become eclectic and peripatetic, more so than I imagined when I first moved here. It's challenging and exhausting - but it's also great fun!