Reflection for Sunday, September 2, 2018, written by Reverend Jacqueline Samson, St. Stephen’s United Church, Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1: 1-25
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer…
In the beginning God created this incredible, spectacular, extraordinary and totally magnificent planet that we are so blessed to inhabit. This planet we call Earth, our home, is also a part of a vast universe. Truly, there are no words that even come close to describing what God has created, for it is an awesome mystery! Creation is God’s gift of home to each and every living thing on it. Some humans get to choose where they live … where they get to call home. Home is the place where we get to experience the beauty of creation in all its wondrous diversity. This home is where we put our roots down in the soil … where we walk the land … breathe the air … smell the changing of the seasons … drink the water … swim and fish … canoe and kayak … eat the food … care for the gardens … share from our abundance … build our houses … raise our families … work … play … worship … love … live … and eventually die … returning to the earth that we so blessedly inhabited during our life time. “Home is where the heart is!”
In 2014, I received a letter from the Settlement Committee of Saskatchewan Conference inviting me to consider moving to their province to share God’s word and love as a minister. It was an invitation to inhabit a new home … a new place … a new experience of God’s creation on the Prairies. As I was sorting through papers recently in preparation for our upcoming move back to the land of ocean and mountains in BC, I came across this letter. I would like to share some of these well crafted words of welcome because they helped Rob and I to put Saskatchewan as a preferred place to move to.
Saskatchewan is a large and marvellously diverse place. In addition to the wide open spaces that you typically see on calendars, there are forests, lakes, rivers-and even a few hills! Everywhere, however, the land has a compelling beauty and the sky is vast, yet somehow very close. As our license plates advertise, Saskatchewan is indeed the “Land of Living Skies.”
Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound in Saskatchewan. Here, you can fish, boat, swim, hike, camp, canoe, bike, garden and even do some modest downhill skiing-just about anything you want, short of deep-sea diving and mountain climbing.
Our geography is vast but we are connected by a well developed highway/all-weather road system. You are likely to develop a close bond with your vehicle! Many people find that travel provides a time for reflection or enjoying the remarkable landscape (the prairie seems empty only to those who do not live on it … prairie folk find it full of life and subtle changes).
Despite what you may remember from grade school geography classes, Saskatchewan is more than just wheat fields. Cultural opportunities abound, ranging from urban events like professional theatre, jazz festivals and rock concerts to small-town tours sponsored by Saskatchewan Arts Council, to summer arts, theatre and music festivals.
Of interest to ministers new to Saskatchewan, we are pleased to offer the annual September Newcomers event, when ministry personnel such as you (and your partner) gather to learn about life and ministry here and to begin forging new and lasting relationships.
Rob and I went to this Newcomer’s event and learned the new language of this prairie province … a bunny-hug is a hoodie … then there are dugouts and sloughs … when you bleed green you are a Riders fan … a combine pilot is someone who drives too slow … a hummock is a rounded hill … vico is chocolate milk … dinner is lunch … supper is dinner … and night lunch is the meal before bed!!
The Settlement Committee for Saskatchewan Conference spoke to the beauty and diversity of this province brilliantly and the invitation became a call, and Rob and I choose to answer it. We loaded up our belongings and left our home on the Sunshine Coast of BC to journey to this place in Hudson Bay, SK. I have shared with you my panic as I awoke on the road one night with fear of the unknown looming … where are we going, God? What will our new home be like? Lots of questions … lots of trust.
Then we arrived and we were immediately welcomed and included. We were loved into this prairie place … this Land of Living Skies!
The first summer John and Rosalie took us canoeing … we experienced the beauty of the many lakes … Townsend … Isbister … Lake Winnipegosis … we covered lots of prairie water and road … we saw moose … I was captivated by the colours … the changing hues of the landscape … the expansiveness of the sky … the size of the full moon … the rainbows … the abundance of bugs … we actually had to stop and clean our car windows in order to see … then there are the tamarack and trembling aspen trees … the sloughs and dugouts … the endless fields … hay bales … leaf cutter bee huts … old homesteads becoming one with the earth … there were changes in weather … thunder and lightning and … floods … rivers filled to overflowing with spring run-off. The long prairie drives with the music cranked …t he crispness of winter … the frosted trees … the adventure of snowmobiling on the numerous beautifully groomed trails … getting warm in the warm up shelters … learning to cross country ski …the absolute take your breath away frigidness of a -40 degree day … the subtle colours of a sun dog over a field … the season of mud … the prairie crocus with their fur leggings popping up with such strength to meet the warming spring sun. Then there are the sounds of geese flying south and returning … the awesome splendour of a sea of snow geese landing on water … the deer, the fox, wild boars, pelicans … sand hill cranes … bears … elk and moose. Some of my great prairie loves have been riding my bicycle … swimming in an outdoor pool … floating on my back to gaze at the living skies … the beauty of the Northern Lights … tasting the yumminess of wild meat and fresh veggies … and, of course, dainties and fresh Saskatoon pie … and watching gardens grow.
Then there are all the community loves … the prairie hospitality … Sunday worship … rummage sales … farmers’ markets … Heritage Day … Shand Fair … art shows, Allied Arts concerts, old time music, Barrows, Gospel music, baptisms, weddings, funerals, celebrations, pancake breakfasts … Elk’s bingo … cups of tea … walks and potluck suppers, gifts of food, laughs and tears. This prairie place has become our second home!
Rob and I came to this place feeling uncertain and curious. Today ,we can honestly say that we have found beauty beyond measure in this Land of Living Skies. We have found God’s love in the people who have shown us such incredible hospitality and genuine care and affection. We are so filled with gratitude for our time in this place. Rob and I have both found our second home here with you on this land.
We just want you to know that we are going to miss “The wind, sky and earth, the storms and the snow.” We are going to miss each and every one of you!!
Our text from Genesis invites us to have reverence for creation. It is a call to open our understanding of God’s story as one infused with God’s ongoing presence. When we delight in creation and with one another we are worshipping the Creator. Thank you so very much for worshipping with Rob and I. Our hearts will always carry each of you and this Land of Living Skies with delight and joy. So as we come to the end of this particular time of being together let us remember these sage words by Dr. Seuss, “Do not cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Rob and I promise to come home for visits. May it be so. Amen.