I think John Williams is one of the two or three greatest classical guitarists in the world today. Here’s his performance of a short piece by Scarlatti.
John Williams’ website is here.
I think John Williams is one of the two or three greatest classical guitarists in the world today. Here’s his performance of a short piece by Scarlatti.
John Williams’ website is here.
This is Jim Moray’s take on the old folk song ‘Earl Brand’. He has combined elements from several versions of the song and added some verses of his own as well. I think it’s a brilliant piece of music and a wonderful example of how to take an old song and use it as the basis for something new.
Fall on the prairies comes and goes quickly, not like autumn in England where the reds and golds can last for weeks on end. In Saskatchewan, by late September the trees have mostly turned yellow except for the evergreens, and a good wind can strip the leaves from the branches in a few short days, leaving them bare for the winter.
That Fall of 1984 was unusually mild, though, and there were still some leaves on the aspens and poplars on October 1st when Kelly drove down to Saskatoon to pick up our visitors from England. My mum and Becca were arriving on the same flight as Owen and Lorraine, in the middle of the afternoon, and since Kelly had taken a few days’ holiday before our wedding, she took her father’s station wagon down to the city to pick them up. I took her truck to school, and when I left work at about four-thirty I stopped by the Co-op for a few things, so it was close to five o’clock before I pulled into the driveway of Kelly’s house. I could see that they were not back yet, so I changed into a pair of jeans, made myself a cup of tea, took out the pot of home-made soup that Kelly had prepared earlier in the day, and began to warm it slowly on the stovetop.
It was just after five-thirty when Kelly turned Will’s station wagon into the driveway behind the house, pulling up beside her truck. I was standing at the kitchen window and saw them arriving, so I went down the stairs and out the back to greet them. Becca was the first one out of the car; she gave me a broad grin when she saw me and said, “Tommy! We made it”.
I went over and gave her a hug. “Welcome to Meadowvale; how was your flight?”
“Fantastic; clear skies all the way from the Arctic; the view was incredible”.
“Pretty spectacular, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but your friend has been a pain for the entire trip!”
I grinned at Owen as he extracted his tall, angular frame from the front seat. “Doing a bit of teasing, was he?”
“Just a bit!”
Kelly gave me a smile as she went to the back of the car, lifted the tailgate and began to unload suitcases. Owen went to help her, while I greeted my mother and Lorraine with hugs; “You must be tired”, I said to them.
“I napped a bit on the plane”, my mother replied, “so I feel pretty good, actually”.
“What did you think of the drive up?”
“It’s wide open country, isn’t it?”
“It is. It grows on you after a while, though; at least, it has with me”. I turned to Becca and said, “Is there anything you need from your case?”
“I don’t think so; why?”
“Just throw it in the back of Kelly’s truck; after supper we’ll drive it over to my place”.
“Am I staying with you, then?”
“If that’s okay with everyone? My house is smaller and it only has two little bedrooms, so we thought Mum could stay here at Kelly’s, with Owen and Lorraine, while you bunk over at my place – at least, until after the wedding”.
Everyone nodded, and my mother said, “That makes sense”.
“Well, come on in, everyone, and have something to eat”.
I was actually quite surprised at how wide awake everyone was as we sat around the dining table, eating Kelly’s thick vegetable soup and my biscuits and washing them down with strong tea. Lorraine was quiet, but Owen was his usual boisterous self, making us all laugh with his stories of the practical jokes he had played on Becca on the flight over. Becca stuck her tongue out at him and said, “Well, at least I don’t snore!”
“What, are you saying that I snore? Surely not!”
She made a snorting noise through her nose, and we all burst out laughing. “I remember that sound well!” I said; “I’m afraid she’s skewered you, mate!”
He frowned; “Did I actually fall asleep on the flight?” he asked innocently.
Lorraine grinned and nudged him playfully with her elbow; “Only the middle part”.
When Becca finished her soup she turned to Kelly and said, “So, can I have a look at my dress?”
“Try it on if you like – it’s hanging inside my bedroom door”.
“Sure you can; down the corridor, last door on your left”.
“Can I be excused, Tommy?”
I laughed; “Well, it’s Kelly’s table, so if it’s okay with her…”
“Thanks!” She got up and went off down the corridor, and Owen turned to me and said, “So, is there a program for the week?”
“Not really, at least, not until the rehearsal on Friday night. I’m working ’til Thursday supper time; Kelly’s going to take Becca out to Hugo and Millie’s some time so she can try out the horses. Tomorrow night we’re all invited for supper at Kelly’s mum and dad’s place; I expect Joe and Ellie will be there, and maybe a couple of others as well”.
“If Ellie’s feeling okay”, Kelly added.
“Is she unwell?” my mother asked.
I shook my head; “Just seven months pregnant, and she’s been having some back pain over the past couple of weeks”.
“She’s the fiddler, isn’t she?” Owen asked.
“Yes, and if she’s feeling up to it she’ll definitely want to play some music with us some time this week”.
“Other than that”, Kelly added, “I’ll show you all around a little. I can take you out for a walk at Myers Lake if you like, and if any of you want to join Becca and me, there are six saddle horses at Uncle Hugo’s”.
“Me on a horse?” Owen replied with a laugh; “I don’t think so!”
“I’m glad we’ll be able to meet your parents and your brother tomorrow night”, my mother said to Kelly. “What about your sister? Will we see her before the wedding?”
“Well, she’ll be at the rehearsal for sure, since she’s a bridesmaid. Did I tell you that she’s moved to Saskatoon now?”
“No, I don’t think you did”.
“She and Steve both got their masters’ degrees this year, and Steve got a job with the Canadian Wildlife Service; he’s based in Saskatoon but he’s actually travelling a lot through Saskatchewan, monitoring migratory bird habitat. Krista’s doing her doctorate now, and she’s also doing some part-time work on Steve’s project team. And she’s working as a teaching assistant for some undergrad courses at the university, so they’re both quite busy”. Kelly grinned; “My little sister’s going to be a serious genius, I think”.
“So she’s going to be a wildlife biologist too?” Owen asked.
“Eventually; she says she loves the fieldwork, but I wouldn’t be surprised one day to find her working at a government policy level”.
“It sounds very interesting”, my mother said; “I hope we have a chance to spend a bit of time with her”.
“You should stand by to be overwhelmed on Saturday, Mum”, I said; “There are rather a lot of Reimers and Weins’ coming for the wedding”.
Kelly nodded; “All my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family, and a lot of the cousins and second cousins and assorted spouses and partners and so on”.
I saw the sudden sadness in my mother’s eyes; “I’m so sorry I couldn’t persuade your dad or your brother to come”, she said to me in a quiet voice.
I shook my head and put my hand on hers. “No need to apologize, Mum; you’re here anyway, and so is Becca”.
“Sounds like we’re going to be more than a little outnumbered, though”.
I grinned at Kelly; “Well, those old Mennonite families were pretty big!”
At that moment Becca came back into the room, wearing the maroon full-length bridesmaid’s dress that Kelly and her mother had made for her. She had taken off her socks, and she came barefoot into the dining area, twirling around so we could all see the dress.
“Well, look at you”, I said with a smile; “Aren’t you gorgeous!”
“Does it fit alright?” Kelly asked.
“It’s amazing, Kelly! I’ve never had such a beautiful dress in my life!”
“Did you make that?” Lorraine asked Kelly.
“My mom and my grandma and I made all three of the bridesmaid’s dresses; we were on a tight budget, and they’re both really good seamstresses, so they helped me out”.
“That’s a wonderful piece of work”, my mother said admiringly; “I wish I could sew like that! And the colour choice is good, too – autumn colours, right?”
“Yeah, and we also had to keep in mind that it had to work for two blondes and a brunette”.
“So you’re happy with the dress, then?” I asked Becca.
“I love it!” she replied, going over to Kelly and giving her a hug; “Thank you so much!”
“It was fun”, Kelly replied; “We had a good time making them”.
“I hear you men are just wearing ordinary suits”, Lorraine said to me.
“Yes, I told them all if they just wore black or dark grey, that would be fine; no need to go to the expense of getting stuff specially made”.
“We’re trying to keep it simple”, Kelly added.
“Can I see your dress some time before the wedding?” Becca asked.
“Well, not while my fiancée’s in the house!”
“You haven’t seen it?” Becca asked me.
“Of course not; I get to see it the same time as everyone else: when Kelly walks up the aisle”.
“Down the aisle”, Owen said.
“I’ve never figured that one out”, Kelly replied with a grin; “Do you walk down to the front of the church, or up to the front of the church?”
“I think it’s up the aisle at the beginning of the service, and down the aisle at the end, when we process out”, I said, winking at Owen.
“You’d better get it settled before Saturday”, he replied; “If you get the directions wrong, you might end up in the wrong place and not get married at all!”
Since our return from England, Kelly and I had been slowly working on moving my things over to her house, as well as simplifying our household, getting rid of duplicate items and stuff we just didn’t need. We had left a few bare essentials at my place, enough for Becca and I to be able to stay there until the wedding, and Kelly and I for a couple of days afterwards. I was in the middle of the Fall term at school, of course, and we had decided not to go away for a honeymoon; “We’ll do something at Christmas time”, we had explained to Kelly’s parents when we were discussing our plans for the wedding weekend.
“Something that might include Marmot Basin?” Will had asked with a grin.
“That would be nice”, Kelly replied, “but we’ll have to see what the bottom line looks like after everything else is paid for”.
Will’s first intention had been to host a large family gathering at his house on Tuesday night to meet my mother and Becca, but I had persuaded him that they would find it a little overwhelming. “We’re a family of shy introverts, Will”, I said; “Let’s just keep it small. Kelly’s going to take them around and introduce them to her grandparents during the week, and Mum will probably go out to Hugo and Millie’s with Becca too. And, of course, Mum and Becca will be joining us all for supper at your place on Thanksgiving Monday”.
Sally nodded approvingly; “I like that idea”.
So it ended up being Will and Sally, Joe and Ellie, and the six of us on Tuesday evening; Krista and Steve were still in Saskatoon and would not be coming up until Friday afternoon. Will barbecued steaks on the deck, and we sat around the table for a long time with the conversation flowing easily. Later on we moved into the living room for coffee, while Will and Ellie and Owen and I played some songs for a while.
When we got back to my place at about ten o’clock I made hot chocolate for Becca and me and we went to the living room to drink it; she stretched her legs out on the couch, and I sat across from her in my easy chair with my feet up on the coffee table.
“So, what did you think of the day?” I asked.
“It was really nice. Kelly showed us around town this morning, and then this afternoon she took Mum and I out to the farm. Tonight was great, too, of course. I had a really good talk with Joe at the table; he’s a really interesting person. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever met such friendly people; it’s fantastic that they’re going to be your in-laws”.
“And Will’s my boss, too. I’m really lucky”.
“Yeah. I was actually trying hard tonight to imagine Dad barbecuing steaks behind the house, or sitting down and playing music with us and our friends. Or even just talking with us and our friends as if we were his equals. I can’t picture him doing any of that”.
“No”. I told her how Will had driven down to Saskatoon to meet me when I first arrived in Meadowvale two years ago, and how he and Sally had arranged a rental house for me, and invited me over for supper at least once a week while I was getting settled. “And when I wanted to get a car and some furniture, he drove me down to Saskatoon, and he spent the day helping me find my way around the stores and car dealers. It didn’t feel like I was starting a job; it felt like I was joining their family”.
“And now you really are joining their family!”
“So are you, Becs. You had a good time at Hugo and Millie’s, then?”
“It was great! Kelly’s a great teacher; I was a bit nervous at first, but she was really patient and she taught me how to relax on the horse”.
“You rode Gus?”
“Yeah – she said he would be the best one for me, and he was – really quiet and gentle. I loved Kelly’s horse, too; he’s so beautiful. They looked so good together”.
“She’s had him since she was eleven”. I sipped at my hot chocolate, cradled the mug in my hands, and said, “Did you manage to get Mum up on a horse?”
She laughed; “No, Kelly asked her, but she said she was happy just to watch us. Kelly’s aunt came out for a while to talk to her. They’re really nice people, too, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are. They were Corey’s parents – you know, Kelly’s cousin, who was killed in a car accident last year”.
“Kelly told us on the way out there; that’s so sad”.
“Yeah, they struggle sometimes, Hugo especially, I think. I really like Hugo; he’s one of my favourite people in Meadowvale”.
“He’s a hard worker, but he never seems to be in a hurry. And he’s patient; he’s one of the most patient people I know, actually”.
“Did you ever imagine yourself living in a place like this, Tommy?”
I shook my head. “When I was in high school and university I didn’t give a lot of thought to the question of where I would live when I started work. For the longest time, I assumed it would be back in the UK”.
“You like it here, though?”
“I really do. Of course, it helps that I’m about to get married to Kelly”.
“How does that feel?” she asked softly; “Are you nervous?”
“Maybe a little. Excited, too, of course. We started planning this a year ago, and sometimes I felt like the day would never come”.
“You really love her”.
I looked at her for a moment, my fourteen-year old sister, noticing again how much she had grown up since I had left England. “I really do”, I replied.
Joe and Ellie came over for coffee on Wednesday evening, and a little later on Glenn Pickering came in for a while. Kelly made a tray of oatmeal cookies and we sat around the living room for a long time, talking and laughing together. Before they left, Ellie asked Owen and I if we could play a couple more songs; she had brought her fiddle with her, and we played pieces she had already heard me do so that she could easily join in. One of them was ‘Master Kilby’, which I knew she liked; Kelly had become very fond of it too, ever since she had first heard it on one of the Nic Jones recordings I had given her, and she often asked me to play it for her.
After everyone had gone, Owen and I cleared up and washed the dishes, talking quietly about the people he had met so far. “You and Joe, now”, he said to me ; “I can see you’re good friends with him. I think you two are going to be like you and me before too long”.
I shook my head. “I’ve only known Joe for two years; I’ve known you since we were kids”.
“Yes, but times change, and this is where you live now. We’re always going to be friends, but it’s good for you to make new friendships here. And he’s obviously a great guy”.
“It’s actually quite interesting to see you hanging around with these animally people. I mean, you always enjoyed being outdoors, but you weren’t particularly animally, were you?”
I shook my head; “I suppose not”.
“But now Kelly’s got you into riding, and Joe’s a vet and you’ve gone out with him to appointments sometimes, and their little sister’s studying to become a wildlife biologist. Bit of a theme there, don’t you think?”
I laughed; “Now that you point it out, I suppose there is. I haven’t really put two and two together before”.
“I think it’s great. It’s good to see your interests expanding”.
Saturday, October 6th turned out to be an extraordinarily warm day for our wedding, with temperatures in the low twenties. The men in the wedding party came over to my house to get dressed; it turned out that we were all wearing black two piece suits, and three out of the four of us had red or maroon ties, with the exception of Joe who was wearing a blue one. He looked at the rest of us with a grin and said, “Should I go home and get a red one?”
“Absolutely not!” Owen replied; “We encourage diversity in this wedding party!” He looked at his watch and said, “Well, is it just about time for us to go to the church?”
“I think so”, Joe replied. He held out his hand to me, and as I took it he pulled me in close for warm hug. “God bless you, Tom”, he said. “You be good to my sister, now”.
“Count on it”, I replied.
Owen and Glenn each gave me a hug and wished me well in their turn, and then we went out into the warm afternoon and climbed into the car for the ride to the church.
Kelly looked radiant as she came up the aisle on her father’s arm; she was wearing a simple white wedding dress, and she wore no veil or head covering of any kind. The wedding guests on both sides of the aisle were all standing, and many of them were taking photographs; as we waited at the front, Owen put his hand on my shoulder and said quietly, “Tom Masefield, you are a lucky man”.
“I know it!”
I glanced across to the other side of the aisle where the bridesmaids were standing; Becca caught my eye and gave me a warm smile and a nod, and then we both turned back to look at Kelly and Will as they reached the front of the church. Will handed his daughter over to me with a smile and a warm hug and took his place beside Sally in the front row, and as Kelly and I turned to face Rob she whispered, “Nice suit!”
“Thanks; you look so beautiful, Kelly!”
“Thank you”, she replied with a shy smile.
The service itself was a simple one. We had chosen a couple of Bible readings, and Rob preached a short sermon, commenting at one point on the fact that it was not so very long ago that Kelly and I had stood at the front of this church to be baptized. “Tom and Kelly found love for each other in the context of a shared search for Christ”, he said; “That shared search was symbolized by the fact that they gave a joint testimony to their faith before their baptism, rather than speaking individually. Many of us here were also present on that day and were moved by their testimony. Speaking for myself, I’m also very moved by their desire to keep today simple and real, and to honour Christ by offering their lives to each other as his followers”.
And so we made our vows to each other, and Rob pronounced us husband and wife and prayed for us, that God would bless and protect our marriage. After we had signed the registers we stood at the front of the church for a couple of minutes while people took photographs, and then we processed down the aisle and out into the bright sunny afternoon, where we formed a receiving line to greet our guests. But as the people were starting to come out of the church Kelly turned to me with a smile of pure happiness, and kissed me impulsively; “I love you so much”, she whispered in my ear.
“I love you too, Mrs. Masefield”, I replied, putting my arm around her.
“Wow – I could get used to the sound of that name!”
“I’m glad to hear it!”
Much later on, in the early hours of the morning, the two of us lay in bed together with the blankets wrapped around us. Her head was on my shoulder, my arm was around her, and my hand was stroking her back gently under the covers. The room was lit by the dim light of a single bedside lamp on her side of the bed.
I kissed her on the forehead; “Were you nervous?” I asked softly.
“I was”, she admitted.
“I thought so. What was that all about?”
She propped herself up on her elbow and looked down at me, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear with her free hand. “Don’t be upset with me, okay?”
“Upset with you? What are you talking about?”
“Well, I found it a little hard to forget that this wasn’t your first time”. I opened my mouth to reply, but she put her finger on my lips; “No, let me finish. I wasn’t mad or resentful or anything; I just felt a little intimidated”.
“You mean you were afraid I’d be making comparisons?”
I shook my head. “It never even entered my mind, Kelly. Honestly, Wendy and I shared a few hours of sex in a cramped single bed; it was my first and only time and I’m sure I didn’t do very well. Somehow I’ve got a feeling that this is something that gets better with time, and we’ve got lots of that, you and me”.
“I’m glad, because I don’t think I did very well tonight”.
“What are you talking about? You were wonderful”.
“Yes, really!” I frowned at her; “This is a side of you I don’t see very often; you’re usually so sure of yourself”.
“I know, and I don’t know why I felt so insecure about this; I wanted so much to please you, I guess, and I felt so inadequate”.
I pulled her down, kissed her on the lips, and said, “Kelly Ruth Masefield, I’m lying naked in bed with you; this is something I’ve been dreaming about for the past year. We’re husband and wife, and we’ve got years ahead of us to get better at making love to each other. I don’t think we should get uptight about it; I think the best thing for us to do is relax, don’t you?”
“You’re probably right”. She pulled herself up on her elbow again, smiled at me and said, “My wise husband”.
“Not always so very wise”.
“Oh, I disagree!”
“Is this our first argument as a married couple?”
“Maybe”, she replied with a grin, “and I intend to win it”.
“Okay, I know better than to argue with you when you get that look in your eye!”
“Very good – your training’s coming along very nicely!”
We laughed, and she snuggled down against my shoulder again. “This is a very comfortable spot”, she said softly.
“It feels pretty comfortable for me, too”.
We were quiet for a few minutes; I could feel her breath against my skin, and I almost thought she had fallen asleep until she sighed and said, “This has been a perfect day”.
“Which parts did you like the best?”
“I liked the look on your face as Dad walked me up the aisle”.
“You looked radiant; I’d never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. That dress was so simple and so perfect, but it was just a frame, and you were the picture – the most beautiful picture I’d ever seen”.
“Aw, you say such nice things!”
“It’s true, though. So what else did you like?”
“I liked it when Owen and Ellie started playing ‘Master Kilby’ for the first dance”.
“Yeah, so did I”.
“You’re sure you didn’t put them up to that?”
“No – as far as I knew, the DJ was going to be doing all the music – although I must admit that when I saw a couple of microphones set up on the stage, I did wonder whether Owen was going to pull something off. He’s more than a bit unpredictable that way”.
“I wonder when he and Ellie found the time to practice that song?”
“I suspect they didn’t; she’s played it with me before, and she heard him play it the other night when they were over. They probably just decided to wing it; that would be the sort of thing Owen would do”.
“It was good though, wasn’t it?”
“It really was. I don’t know why neither of us had thought of that song for our first dance”.
“You don’t tend to think of old folk songs in that light, do you?”
“I guess not”. She pushed herself up on her elbow again and looked down at me, her hair tumbling down toward my face. “What about you – what parts of the day did you like best?”
“Well, I really liked the last hour or so!”
She laughed and said, “Me too”.
“I liked Rob’s sermon, especially the bit about our baptisms”.
“Yeah, that was really special”.
“And I liked Becca’s little speech; that was a surprise. I didn’t know Mum was going to ask her to say something”.
“She was so sweet – that thing she said about looking forward to having me as a sister. I’m glad you guys managed to get past your difficulties”.
“Me too – that’s mainly due to you, of course”.
She shook her head; “You just needed to talk things out, that’s all. What else did you like?”
“I liked the people – just being with everyone. I guess some of your extroversion must be rubbing off on me; I loved having them all together, and having a chance to chat with some of them. And I liked introducing Mum and Becca to people like Don and Lynda, and John and Ruth”.
She grinned; “It was kinda neat, wasn’t it? You know, there were some Wiens cousins there I haven’t seen in years. But speaking of guests, you and Owen – that was really good. Knowing how close you guys are, it made me feel so good to see you standing together at the front when I was walking up the aisle. I’m so glad he and Lorraine came”. She stifled a yawn. “What time is it?”
I lifted my head to look over her shoulder at the clock; “Two-thirty”.
“Are you getting tired?”
“I am a bit weary, but it’s so wonderful finally being in bed with you, I almost don’t want to go to sleep!”
She laughed and kissed me. “We’re going to have lots of nights together”.
“I know”. I grinned at her; “Shall we get up for church in a few hours?”
She shook her head; “Not this time. I know we’re not going away on a honeymoon, but I’d love to keep you to myself for a few more hours”. She gave a sudden frown and said, “But on the other hand, you haven’t got many days left until your people go home; if you want to get up and spend a little more time with them, that’s fine with me”.
“No, they’ll keep. I’m sure they won’t be expecting to see us tomorrow; Monday will be soon enough”.
“You’re still planning to drive Owen and Lorraine down to the airport Monday?”
“Yeah, if that’s still okay with you?”
“Sure; I told Mom I’d come over and help her with Thanksgiving dinner while you do the taxi run”.
“I expect my mum and Becca will want to help too”.
“I’m sure that’ll be fine”. She yawned again; “Okay, you’re starting to swim in front of my eyes. I’m sorry, but I really need to sleep”.
“The light’s on your side of the bed”.
“So it is”. She rolled over, turned out the light, then turned back again and laid her head on my shoulder. “I brought my pyjamas, but I’m so tired, I haven’t got the energy to put them on”.
“Fine with me”, I replied, tightening my arms around her. “I love you”.
“I love you too”, she whispered.
And within a couple of minutes, her steady breathing told me that she was sound asleep.
Owen and Lorraine were flying home a day earlier than my mother and Becca, so I drove them down to Saskatoon early Monday afternoon. I had expected to wait with them until they went through security, but Owen wouldn’t hear of it. “You get back to your beautiful bride:”, he said to me, “and your mum and Becca. We’ll be fine here. We’re still newlyweds ourselves, you know, and we’re not tired of each other’s company yet!”
We all laughed, and then they both gave me hugs. Lorraine kissed me on the cheek and said, “Kelly really is a beautiful bride, Tom; you’re a very lucky man”.
“I know; believe me, I really do”.
“And as a bonus”, Owen added, “She comes with a beautiful family, too”.
“Yes, she does”. I hugged him again. “Thanks for coming; I know it was an expensive year for you”.
“Don’t even think about it; we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And now we’ve seen the place and met the people, and we can imagine you and Kelly and your daily routines and all that”.
“Next time you come we’ll take you to the mountains – that’s a promise”.
Owen laughed; “It’s your turn to come to us first, mate!”
“Yeah, I expect we probably will, despite my dad!”
“Never mind your dad; you never see much of him while you’re there anyway”.
“Now go – your lovely wife is waiting”.
“Alright – this is me, going!”
I got to Will and Sally’s place about four o’clock. As I had expected, my mum and Becca were in the kitchen with Sally and Kelly; I could smell the turkey in the oven, and the four of them were making short work of the vegetable preparation. “Krista and I baked the pies yesterday”, Sally said to me, “so we’re really in pretty good shape”.
“Krista and Steve aren’t here today?”
“No, they’re having Thanksgiving at Henry and Bertha’s tonight. Bonnie’s home from Vancouver and Kris wanted to spend some time with her, and they knew we’d have a couple of extra bodies round our table tonight. They were over here for supper last night”.
“You’re having fresh turkey two nights in a row?”
“No; Will barbecued steaks last night”.
I laughed; “Of course he did!”
“Do you want a beer, Tom?” Will asked; “I put some of that dark stuff you like in the fridge”.
“I wouldn’t mind”.
There were thirteen of us around the table; Will’s mother was there of course, along with Sally’s parents and her brother and sister-in-law, and Joe and Ellie. Old Erika grinned mischievously at me; “This is my second Thanksgiving dinner in two days!” she said.
“Where were you last night?”
“At Karl and Suzanne’s; I thought of trying to squeeze Hugo and Millie in too, but I couldn’t think of a way of making it work!”
We sang grace as usual, and Will passed the plates of turkey around. “So, back to school on Wednesday?” he asked Becca.
“I’m afraid so; I’ll probably have some catching up to do”.
“It’s been quite the summer for you”, Joe said to her.
“Both my brothers married!” she replied with a grin.
Sally glanced at my mother; “It’s quite an adjustment, isn’t it?”
“It is”, my mother agreed, smiling at Kelly and me. “I must say, though, that both my boys found wonderful girls to marry, and I get on well with them both, so I’m happy”.
“Do you think your brother will ever come out here for a visit?” Erika asked me.
“Anything’s possible, but I won’t be holding my breath. He’s a lawyer and he’s pretty busy”.
Will grinned at me; “And everyone knows we schoolteachers sit around with nothing to do all day long!”
“Of course; that’s why I became a teacher in the first place!”
At the airport the next day Becca and Kelly held each other for a long time. “Thank you”, Becca said; “It was such an honour to be one of your bridesmaids. Before you asked me I never expected anything like that to happen”.
“Hey, I wouldn’t have had it any other way; you know that”.
“I know. And thanks for the riding lessons too – I can’t believe you took time to do that the week before your wedding!”
“It was fun and I enjoyed it. Next time you come, we’ll do it again”.
They kissed each other, and then Becca turned to me. “Tommy”, she said softly.
I put my arms around her; “I’m glad you came, Little Becs”.
“Me too”, she whispered; “It feels good to have my brother back”.
I felt the lump in my throat; “I’m pretty glad to have my sister back too”. I kissed her on the forehead. “You write, now”, I said, grinning down at her.
“I will; I promise”.
I turned to my mother, and we hugged each other. “Don’t stay away too long”, she said softly.
“I won’t. It probably won’t be next year, but maybe the year after, if things work out”.
“I know it’ll never be completely comfortable for you, Tom; I’m sorry about that”.
“No need; none of that is your fault”.
“I love you”.
“Love you too”.
We held each other at arms’ length for a moment, and then she kissed me on the cheek, smiled at me, and turned to Kelly. They hugged each other while Becca and I watched; I put my arm around my sister’s shoulder and grinned at her. “Next time I see you, you’ll be as tall as me!”
“Not such a Small One any more, am I?”
“No, you’re not”.
Kelly and I watched them go through security, and then we turned and made our way slowly out of the airport building. She took my arm, laid her head on my shoulder and said, “Well, husband?”
I laughed softly; “Yes, wife?”
“I guess we’d better be moseying on before they fire us both!”
“Back to work tomorrow, I guess”.
“Yeah”. She stopped then, and looked up at me. “Everything will be different, though”, she said softly.
I nodded slowly; “Yes, it will”, I replied.
I want to begin today by saying something that might sound crazy, or provocative, or both: in the total ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ, the role of ordained clergy like me is secondary. You people are the primary ministers.
I believe this is a fundamental truth: front-line Christian ministry takes place seven days a week in the lives of ordinary followers of Jesus. It happens in a Christian home as members of the family learn to set their natural selfishness aside and serve one another in the name of Jesus. It happens in an office as a Christian businessperson struggles with the issue of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in an atmosphere dedicated to the creation of worldly wealth. It happens in a convenience store as a Christian behind the counter tries hard to treat her customers as human beings loved by God. It happens day by day as followers of Jesus learn to love their enemies and pray for those who hate them, to care for the poor and suffering, and to share the good news of Jesus with others.
Why am I talking about this today? Because we’re doing a series called ‘Helping My Church to Grow’, and we’re trying to identify things that each one of us can do to help our church grow with integrity. We’ve talked about making a commitment to our own spiritual growth as disciples of Jesus, and making a commitment to welcoming newcomers and visitors to our church as if they were the guests of Jesus – which they are. Today I want to go on to the next thing we can do: making a commitment to ministry. And I want to say very clearly that ‘ministry’ isn’t just something done by people wearing clerical collars. The word ‘minister’ just means ‘servant’. Are you a servant of Jesus Christ? If you are a Christian, the answer is ‘Of course you are!’ We’re all called to serve God as followers of Jesus, and God has given each of us gifts to enable us to do that.
But ministry isn’t just about what we do in church. Ministry is about what God is doing in the world, and how we can take part in that work. The Bible tells us that God is committed to the transformation of the world from a place of evil and hate into a place of love and compassion. And that means success isn’t just more people coming to church on Sunday. Success means that on Monday morning, when you folks get into your cars to go to work, you see yourselves first of all as disciples of Jesus and partners in God’s work to change the world. That means that you don’t just go to work to make a living; you go to make a difference in the world for the Kingdom of God. And of course, this also applies to those who go to school, or those who dedicate their lives to making the home a place of love and nurture for those who live there. Wherever they go, Christians are ministers of Jesus Christ.
So Christian ministry is about the entire Christian community working for God in the world. It’s a team thing! Every member of the team is important, and every member of the team has gifts from God that are necessary to the whole team.
God’s team is a team with a vision. In the seventeenth century a great fire burned down a huge portion of the city of London, including many churches. Sir Christopher Wren was a great architect who designed many of the new churches and other buildings, including the present St. Paul’s Cathedral with its distinctive dome. The story is told that one day a team of visitors was walking around the construction site of St. Paul’s. They knew very little about building, and so they kept stopping and asking the various workers what they were doing. When they asked one man, he replied “I’m digging a hole, can’t you see?” Another one said “I’m hauling stones, obviously”. But the third looked at them with a smile and said proudly “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren build a great cathedral!”
That man had a sense of vision, and because he saw the big picture he understood how important his little job was. In the same way, we Christians are members of the construction team of the Architect of the Universe, and we are helping to rebuild a ruined world. In this work, what we need more than anything else is a sense of where our work fits into the whole plan.
What is the whole plan? In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven”. This is parallelism, a form of Hebrew poetry in which the second line repeats the first, only in a slightly different way. So if we ask “What does it mean for God’s kingdom to come?” the reply is “It means that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven”. At the moment, of course, this is not the case; the reason there is so much suffering and misery in the world is that God’s will is not being done on earth as in heaven. But as God’s kingdom advances in the world, as God’s loving will is done, then our broken world will be healed. And this is what we are doing as Christians: we’re living to heal the world.
This is what ‘ministry’ is: using your God-given gifts and talents to help God’s plan for the world become a reality. Every legitimate human occupation can be a means of doing this. A teacher who devotes herself to the shaping of young minds, or a policeman who gives himself to the protection of vulnerable people – these folks are fulfilling God’s plan every bit as much as the pastor who preaches on Sunday morning. And this means that as Christians we can’t build firewalls and keep God out of our work. Jesus wants to be your Lord at work as well as at church! Sometimes this means wrestling with hard issues. What does it mean for a Christian in business to be part of a corporation which uses cheap labour in Third World countries? Questions like this are tough, but wrestling with them is part of our responsibility as Christians committed to following Jesus as Lord at work as well as at church.
So this is the vision: God wants to heal the world, and the job of the Church is to help that happen. That means we go out into the world to share the love of God in both words and actions. In words, we share the Good News of Jesus and invite people to become his followers. In actions, we do all we can to alleviate human suffering and make the world the kind of place God wants it to be. Keep this vision in mind as we continue to talk about Christian ministry.
We’ve said that God’s team is a team with a vision. God’s team is also a team with no passengers.
Imagine that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are coming to Edmonton to play the Eskimos. The game starts; the Roughriders move out onto the gridiron and take their places. Then, to everyone’s amazement, out to face them on the other side comes the Edmonton Eskimos’ coach. You know what the result would be in this situation! And if the Eskimos continue to ask their coach to be the sole player in every game, two things are going to happen. First, the coach is going to get crucified. Second, the players are going to lose their skills because they won’t have opportunities to use them. So this situation is not only bad for the coach; it’s bad for the team as well.
This is the situation in many churches; the people think that the coach should be the one to do all the ministry. They think that they haven’t really been prayed for unless the pastor prays for them. They haven’t really been visited unless the pastor visits them. They haven’t really been taught unless the pastor teaches them. What’s the result of this? The pastor gets crucified and the church members don’t grow in their ability to use the gifts God has given them.
The reason we have this problem is that we’re working with the wrong model of church life. I’ve been using the model of a team and its coach, but many church members are working with an entirely different model. Their model is a bus and its driver. In this model, the pastor is the bus driver and the congregation are the passengers. This is why they get annoyed when the pastor suggests that they ought to do some of the ministry in the congregation. It’s as if they’d paid for their bus ticket, only to discover an hour into the trip that they were expected to do some of the driving. “Why are you asking me to drive? That’s what I pay you to do?”
But this model of a bus and its driver is completely unbiblical. Every image of the church used in the New Testament stresses the team concept. The Apostle Paul says that the church is like a body with many parts, and he points out that every part has a vital role to play if the body is going to be healthy.
So the proper model for church life is a team with a coach. The purpose of the church is to help Christians grow so that they can do God’s work in the world. The role of pastors is to train Christians in order for them to be able to do that work. Paul says, ‘The gifts (Christ) gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The Church is not a bus. Healthy churches don’t carry passengers. They may sometimes carry injured players who need time to rest and heal up from their wounds. But this is not intended to be a permanent situation. As soon as they are well again, the injured players will be redeployed on God’s team so that God’s work in the world will go forward.
So God’s team is a team with a vision, and a team with no passengers. Thirdly, it’s a team with God’s gifts.
Pastors and preachers sometimes use the phrase ‘spiritual gifts’. What that means is simply this: if God calls you to do a job for him, the Holy Spirit will give you the gifts and talents you need to do the job and do it well. When my friend Joe Walker began to work as a university chaplain, I heard someone say that he had the spiritual gift of ‘hanging out’ with students! That simply meant that God had given Joe a talent for going where students where, doing things with them, and striking up significant conversations.
In the lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible, there’s often this wonderful combination of natural and supernatural abilities. The supernatural gifts tend to get our attention, but the natural abilities are just as important. For instance, one of the characters in the book of Acts is named Joseph, but the apostles gave him a new name: ‘Barnabas’, which means ‘Son of Encouragement’. Why do you think they gave him that name? I can just imagine the coffee row discussion after church one day in Antioch: “That Joseph! No matter how bad you’re feeling, all you need to do is talk to him and he lifts you up!” Or the two young preachers in training comparing notes, and one of them saying “I thought I’d made a real mess of that sermon, but old Joseph came over and pointed out two or three things that he really liked about it, and I felt so much better”. Joseph had the gift of encouraging people, and that’s why they nicknamed him ‘Barnabas’.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans (I’m quoting from the New Living Translation):
‘In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly’ (Romans 12:5-8).
This list has that same combination of the unusual and the ordinary. Some people have the gift of prophecy; they’re able to hear God speaking to them with a message to pass on to others. You might think that’s a pretty high-calibre gift and not one an ordinary Christian like you or me could aspire to. But at the end of the list we see the gift of kindness: some people are really good at feeling other people’s pain and reaching out to them with just the help they need.
Think about all the gifts a church needs in order to fulfil its mission for God. We need parents with the skills to bring up children in an atmosphere of love and nurture so that they grow into mature disciples of Jesus. We need businesspeople who can think through the ethical issues of being in business today and run their companies in such a way that God’s will is done. We need teachers who understand that all truth is God’s truth and who understand that the forming of young minds is a sacred trust from God. We need politicians, judges and lawyers who will put doing the will of God ahead of narrower concerns in their daily work.
And in the daily life of a congregation we need musicians who can lead us in worship; people with financial skill to handle our books; administrators to make sure everything is run efficiently. We need compassionate people who will give their time to listening and being there for others who are in pain, and gifted evangelists who can share the good news with non-Christians. We need people with skill in maintenance to look after our buildings, and good teachers for our Sunday School. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the ministry of pastors yet!
There is hardly a human skill in the world which God does not need for the extension of his kingdom. Or looking at it the other way around: if God asks us to do a job, you can be sure that he will give us the gifts we need in order to complete it.
So we’ve seen that ministry is a team thing: God’s team doing God’s work in the world. It’s a team with a vision: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’. It’s a team with no passengers; everyone works together to achieve God’s purposes. And it’s a team with God’s gifts: God will give us the talents and gifts we need to accomplish the work he’s given us to do.
What’s your place in that work? What ministry has God called you to do for him? Let me close by asking you four questions.
First, what do you enjoy doing? What excites you, what gives you a sense of pleasure when you think about doing it? What gives you the sense of ‘This is what I was made to do?’
Second, what do other people tell you you’re good at doing? Sometimes there are things we think we’re good at doing, but other people know better! And conversely, sometimes there are gifts we don’t know we have, but other people notice them right away! So we need to ask other people ‘What do you think my spiritual gifts are?’
Third, what bothers you when it’s not done well? Sometimes this is a good indicator to us of an area God has gifted us in! When I’m in a different church and the sermon really isn’t very good, it bugs me! And I know that’s because one of my spiritual gifts is preaching. For you it might be shoddy bookkeeping, or grounds that don’t look well cared for. Again, that’s often a good indicator that God has called you to minister in a certain way.
Fourth, what need has God put on your heart? If you are in the habit of praying and listening to God, you know what I mean. Sometimes you’ll just get the sense that God is putting a burden on your heart for a particular piece of work. It might be a surprise to you; you might never have felt any interest in this sort of thing before. But the Holy Spirit is guiding you, and so you do your best to listen, and then you check it out with someone else and say, ‘What do you think? Do you think God might be calling me to do something about this?’
Churches that grow, grow because each member is discovering their spiritual gifts and using them to minister – to serve God as a member of the Body of Christ. You are part of God’s ministry team. So am I. So let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will help us discover our own spiritual gifts, so we can all work together to be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’.
The context for discipleship is Jesus’ announcement that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God isn’t about dying and going to heaven. Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’. So God’s kingdom is about God’s will being done on earth. It is about God healing the world from evil and sin and transforming it into a place of compassion, justice, and peace.
How does this happen? In Jesus’ teaching it is not by political or military means. Coercion (legal or military) will not change the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Jesus’ strategy is to call disciples, teach them the way of life of the Kingdom, and then send them out to share his message with others. All who believe and are baptized are called to be his followers, his disciples, and their daily agenda is to learn to put his teaching and example into practice in their lives. In this way the disciple community becomes a signpost for the world of what the Kingdom of God is all about.
Fellow-disciples of Jesus, we’ve got a high calling! Heavenly Father, help us today to follow the way of Jesus and, by doing so, to further the work of God’s Kingdom in the world.
We took an early afternoon flight back from Edinburgh on the bank holiday Monday, then drove home to Northwood, arriving just before five p.m. It was a glorious summer afternoon, the temperature hovering around twenty-five degrees, with just a few clouds drifting across the clear blue sky. We took our bags to our rooms, washed up and unpacked, and then I went downstairs to the hallway, picked up the phone, and dialled Owen’s number.
“Owen Foster”, he said.
“It’s me. We’re home”.
“How was the swanky wedding?”
“The less said, the better. Except that if yours is even remotely like it, I swear I’ll renounce my newfound Christian pacifism and murder you”.
He laughed. “Do you need a music fix?”
“I believe I do!”
“Shall I bring Lorraine?”
“I’m counting on it. I checked with Mum and the big room’s available after supper; she’s got no students tonight”.
“Shall we have supper at the Kingfisher first?”
“Now that’s a great idea!”
“I’ll pick Lorraine up, and we’ll meet you at the Kingfisher just after six”.
“Okay, I’ll walk down with Kelly and make sure there’s room on the terrace”.
“See you there”.
Northwood was an oddly elongated village by English standards, stretching over a mile from north to south; it was actually more like two smaller villages connected by a main street. My parents’ home was on the north side, not far from Owen’s parents, but the Kingfisher pub was at the southern end, not far from the bridge across the river Thames; on fine summer nights its riverside terrace was a popular place in Northwood for meals or drinks. I had worked there for three full summers during my university years, as well as the month of July 1982, just before I moved to Canada.
“So you were a bartender?” Kelly said with a bemused smile as we walked hand in hand down the high street.
“You are a man of many talents”.
“Well, I did get to be pretty good at drawing a pint, if I say so myself”.
“You’ve never struck me as being much of a bar hopper”.
“Pubs are a bit different over here, Kelly”.
“Well, I’m not saying no one ever gets drunk in them; that would obviously not be true. But I would say that most of the village people I met when I was working at the Kingfisher would far rather go to the pub seven nights a week for one pint than one night a week for seven”.
“I’m not much of a beer drinker, you know”.
“I do like a glass of wine, though”, she added with a grin.
She liked the Kingfisher as soon as we walked through the door; the bar room had a bare wooden floor, dark circular tables, a large fireplace, and a low beamed ceiling. “Oh my goodness, this is so classic!” she said with a grin; “I wish I’d brought my camera!”
“Well, it’s only a fifteen-minute walk from Mum and Dad’s; we can come here for a drink every night if you like”.
We went through to the back terrace and found a table right by the low stone wall, with the river flowing by on the other side. There were already people out there, so Kelly sat down to claim it while I went back inside to get drinks for us.
There were a couple of people ahead of me, so I had to wait a few minutes before the girl behind the bar drew me a pint of the local bitter and poured a glass of red wine for Kelly. I carried our drinks out onto the terrace and stopped for a minute to look at my fiancée; she was sitting back in her seat with her arm on the stone wall and a serene expression on her face, looking out over the river. After a moment she turned and saw me; “There you are!” she said with a smile.
“Sorry; there were a couple of people ahead of me”. I put the drinks down on the table and sat down beside her. “What do you think of the view?”
She looked out over the river again. At Northwood the Thames was still a fairly narrow, meandering stream, with ancient willows hanging over its banks, and the occasional riverboat moving slowly past. On the far bank there were a couple of newer housing estates on the other side of the bridge, but across from us, open fields stretched out in a south-westerly direction toward the next village three miles away.
“It’s perfect”, she said with a smile, picking up her wine glass and raising it in my direction. “To simple pleasures!”
“Simple pleasures”, I echoed, touching my glass to hers and taking a sip of bitter.
“Hello, is someone boozing already!”
I turned to see Owen walking across the terrace toward us, with a tall, red-haired girl at his side. Owen was tall too, with a dark, rascally look about him; I got to my feet and he immediately enveloped me in a huge bear hug, slapping me on the back and saying, “It’s really good to see you!”
“My God, you have absolutely no idea…”
“I think I do”. He released me, then turned to Kelly, who had also gotten to her feet. “Kelly, I feel like I already know you well enough to give you a hug”.
“Go for it!” she replied with a grin.
He gave her another bear hug, then turned and said, “My fiancée, Lorraine Hutchinson – meet my oldest friend, Tom Masefield, and his lovely fiancée, Kelly Reimer. Kelly, did I say your last name right?”
“Reimer – it rhymes with rhymer, as in a maker of rhymes”.
“I’m buying”, I said; “Bitter, is it?”
“Cider for me, please, Tom”, said Lorraine.
“Okay; did you guys check the menu on the way through?”
“They have chicken curry on special tonight”, Owen replied; “Are we all okay with curry?”
“I am so okay with curry!” Kelly exclaimed.
“Four curries, then”, I said.
I went back inside, got drinks for Owen and Lorraine and ordered food, and then went back outside to join them on the terrace. Owen was already asking Kelly questions about the trip to Edinburgh, and as I sat down he said, “Well, you won’t find it quite so posh in two weeks, will she, Lorraine?”
“Oh, no – cold supper and a cash bar, I’m afraid! We’re saving all our money to come to Saskatchewan!”
“Sorry about that”, I said.
“Don’t be sorry!” Owen replied; “How can you say ‘sorry’ when you’re sitting beside the lovely Kelly the rhymer? Mind you, it’s a mystery to me that she can have been so deluded as to take you on!”
Kelly pointed her finger at him; “If you carry on insulting the love of my life, Owen Foster, our friendship will be short-lived”.
He looked at her with mock horror on his face, and then turned to me. “You didn’t tell me she was ferocious!”
“She’s tiny but tough”.
He shook his head and looked across the table at the two of us; “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you two!”
We all nodded and gave a sort of collective sigh, and then Kelly said, “What about you, Lorraine – are you an Oxford girl?”
Lorraine shook her head; “Born and bred in west London; my dad owns his own chartered accountancy business, so my sister Jenny and I were raised in a very ordinary house in Acton Town. Jenny came out here to go to Oxford Polytechnic to do architectural drafting, and she liked it so much she decided to stay here if she could get a job. She was lucky – she found work right away. I visited her a few times and I liked it here, so I thought I’d come and join her and see if an aspiring water-colour artist could make a living in Oxford”.
“Can she?” I asked.
“Well, one aspiring watercolour artist might be able to, but as it turns out, there are rather a lot of us here, so I’m having a mildly successful career waiting tables at one of the local coffee shops while I wait for Owen to take me to the altar!”
“You two met in church, didn’t you?” Kelly asked.
“Yes, that’s right. I’d had a conversion experience when I was at art college – not something you normally associate with art college, is it? But I had a couple of friends who went to a rather lively evangelical church not far away, and they invited me to join them one week. After that one thing led to another, and to my family’s great surprise I ended up becoming a Christian”.
“Your family’s not Christian?” Kelly asked.
“No, not at all. Not antagonistic, though – just completely uninterested. But I got really involved in the church, so after I moved here I was looking for a new church home and I tried out St. Clement’s, and that’s how I ended up sitting in the pew beside Owen. And I think you know the rest of the story”.
“And what about you, Kelly?” Owen asked, looking across at her significantly. “Who actually is Kelly Reimer?”
She laughed; “What do you mean?”
“Well you’re here for another two and a half weeks, and then you’re going back to Canada, and in less than nine weeks you’ll be marrying my oldest friend. So I haven’t actually got a lot of time to get to know you”.
“I’m sure Tom’s told you some things”.
“He has, but I like to go straight to the source, you know”.
She grinned at him; “You’re a little direct!”
“Rumour has it that you are too”.
“It’s true; I can’t deny it”. She thought for a moment, and then said, “I don’t know – I guess I’m a country girl, a teacher’s daughter and a farmer’s granddaughter, and a nurse who loves working with old people”. She grinned; “I’m not used to being self-reflective, Owen”.
“Well, I guess I should add that I’m the granddaughter of Mennonite refugees who fled from Russia in the 1920s to escape from the Communists; that’s when my grandparents moved to Saskatchewan”.
“What actually is a Mennonite?” Lorraine asked.
“Mennonites are Anabaptists; they were the 16th century Christian radicals. They were against state churches and infant baptism, and they were strong on obeying the teaching of Jesus, including things like pacifism, and simple living, and not taking oaths. You’d think they’d be kind of inoffensive, but in fact my ancestors were persecuted almost from day one, by state churches and governments”.
“So your ancestors were Russians?” Owen asked.
“Actually, they moved to Russia from Germany and the Netherlands, by way of Poland, in the eighteenth century. But they preserved their own language and traditions; my grandparents still speak Low German, and it’s not uncommon for them to sing Low German hymns as part of their church services”.
“Your grandparents were farmers, you say?” Lorraine asked.
“Yes, and even though we didn’t live on a farm when I was growing up, I’m more than half a farm girl myself. Two of my dad’s brothers still farm in the Meadowvale area, so we’re not that far removed from it. My Uncle Hugo and Aunt Millie still farm the land my Reimer grandparents cleared when they first came. I like going out there and thinking about what it was like for them when they were homesteading there in the 1920s. And I have a horse there, too”.
“A horse?” said Lorraine.
“I told you about that”, Owen replied.
“Did you? I must have forgotten”.
Kelly nodded; “Uncle Hugo knew I loved horses, so when I was eleven he gave me a foal. Of course, he looks after him most of the time, but now I’m living in Meadowvale again I get to spend more time with him”.
“So you’re a German Russian Mennonite farm girl”, said Owen. “You were raised by a schoolteacher, and you like riding horses, nursing, and working with old people”.
“She also likes listening to music”, I added, “and her tastes are a lot wider than ours”.
“Oh yes? What sort of music are we talking about here?”
I grinned at Kelly; “The first time I met her, she told me she liked all kinds of music except opera and whiney country stuff!”
Kelly laughed; “I’d forgotten about that! It’s true, though; I like the Police, and Dire Straits, and Billy Joel, and U2, and I like the old time bluegrass and mountain music that my sister-in-law Ellie likes to play. I like some classical music, too. Oh, and I’m particularly fond of Bruce Cockburn”.
Owen grinned; “Not a lot of connection with Tom’s style there”.
“Well of course, I love all his stuff, too – and I can’t wait to hear the two of you play together tonight!”
“We’ll try not to disappoint you. So, where have we got to? Kelly Reimer is a German Russian Mennonite farm girl, raised by a schoolteacher, who likes riding horses, nursing, and working with old people, and listening to lots of different types of music”.
“And reading poetry”, Kelly added, “and canoeing, and cross-country skiing, and just plain old walking. But those aren’t the most important things”.
“What are the most important things?”
“Family, and Jesus, and Tom”.
“‘Jesus’ is included in being a Mennonite, isn’t he?”
“Well, in theory, yes, but ‘Mennonite’ is an ethnic identity as well as a faith tradition, and lots of folks who have the ethnic identity haven’t followed on with the faith tradition. And even though I love being a Mennonite, I don’t want to get boxed in by that. Following Jesus is the important thing”.
“Owen told me that you left Christianity for a while”, said Lorraine.
“I did; when I was sixteen I started going through a doubting time. It wasn’t really a rebellion – more of a time of rethinking, I guess. Anyway, I’m back now, thanks to Tom”.
“Thanks to me?” I exclaimed; “I think it’s the other way around, isn’t it?”
“You obviously helped each other”, said Lorraine with a smile.
“I think so”, Kelly replied, putting her hand on mine. “We started talking about our questions and comparing notes with each other…”
“We had a pretty active correspondence when she was still living in Jasper”, I added.
“As well as a lot of phone calls”, said Kelly. “Then we started reading the gospels and trying to make sense of who Jesus was, and Tom was having some conversations with Rob, our pastor in Meadowvale”.
“Also, I was watching Kelly’s family”, I said, “and I was pretty impressed about how they tried to live their faith. And then back in April a year ago Kelly’s cousin Corey was killed in a car accident on the road just south of town. The other driver was a local guy, too, and he was drunk; his name was Billy Collins. I had his daughter in my English classes, and of course he had lots of relatives in town, just like the Reimers. But I was really impressed when Hugo and Millie – Corey’s parents – went out of their way to build bridges with the Collins family. Pretty well the whole Reimer family got involved; that got my attention”.
“I remember you telling me about that”, Owen replied softly.
“It was a milestone on the road for me. It wasn’t long afterwards that I started talking with Rob, and he roped me into playing guitar for the services, along with Kelly’s dad and her sister-in-law Ellie”.
“So was it your conversations with Rob that persuaded you about Christianity?” Lorraine asked.
“No – they helped, but they weren’t the turning point”.
I glanced at Kelly sitting beside me, and then said, “During the Christmas holidays this past year I was out snowshoeing one afternoon by myself – Kelly was sick in bed with the flu – and I had this very vivid experience of the love of Christ…” I shook my head, feeling the familiar constriction in my throat. “Here I go again!” I said, smiling through my tears; “It’s been eight months, now, and I still haven’t gotten through this story without choking up!”
Kelly put her hand on mine; “Tom called me a couple of hours after it happened. He told me it was as if the whole world had gone transparent, and he could see through it to the majesty of God; he felt God’s love reaching out and enveloping him, and he knew instinctively that the name of that love was Christ”.
“Wow!” said Lorraine. “That’s amazing”.
“It didn’t last very long”, I added; “probably not even a minute, but I knew it was real. After that, most of my intellectual questions just seemed to vanish away. Kelly, God bless her, had been waiting patiently for me to catch up with her, and so right away we told Rob that we were ready to be baptized. He did a bit of instruction with us, and we were baptized together in February”.
Owen opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment the waitress appeared beside our table with a tray of food. “Four curries, I think?”
“Right here”, I replied.
She put the plates down on the table with a smile; “Enjoy your meals, folks”.
We thanked her as she turned to go, and then Owen said, “Well, shall we go public and say grace?”
“Absolutely!” Kelly replied.
Much later that evening, at around ten o’clock, Kelly and I were walking together in the garden under a clear night sky; Owen and Lorraine had left about half an hour before. We had sat together in the big room at the back of the house where my mother taught her piano students, and for a couple of hours Owen and I had played our old songs, while Kelly and Lorraine had listened. After a while my mother had brought us a big pot of tea, and she and Becca had sat with us for the rest of the evening.
“That was a wonderful night”, Kelly said as we walked slowly side by side, her arm in mine. “You guys sounded so good together”.
“I was full of good intentions about throwing in a couple of your favourite Bruce Cockburn pieces, but it just didn’t happen; sorry”.
She shook her head; “No, I didn’t even notice. Tonight was about you and Owen and the music you used to play together. By the way, that guitar of his sounded really awesome; what is it?”
“It’s a 1972 Fylde Oberon; they’re a handmade guitar, built in the Lake District. Owen’s really lucky to have it; an uncle of his bought it and then got into electric guitars and lost interest in acoustics, so he sold it to Owen for about half what he paid for it”.
“What is that room we were in, anyway? It’s too big to have been a living room, isn’t it?”
“My dad thinks that when the house was first built it was a small ballroom, used for country dances and that sort of stuff. If I remember rightly, when we first got the house in 1969 there was a carpet on the floor of that room, but at some point, in about 1975 or 76, Mum had the carpet taken up; maybe she put a new wooden floor in, too, I don’t remember. When Becca was little Mum only had a few piano students, but later on she took a lot more. She’s always used that room for her piano lessons”.
“You and Owen must have played in there sometimes?”
“We usually played music at his house rather than mine, but after Wendy started singing with us we sometimes used that room for practices; Wendy liked the sound we got with the bare wooden floor”.
We walked in silence for a couple of minutes, listening to the sound of the leaves rustling in the treetops in the gentle evening breeze. Then she said, “Are you going to see Wendy at all while we’re here?”
“We haven’t got any up to date address information for her. Owen sent her a wedding invitation care of University College, London, but he never heard anything back, so he doesn’t know whether or not she received it; personally, I doubt it. That’s a big university with thousands of students; I doubt if a letter addressed to one of the students and just sent to the general office would actually be forwarded to anybody”.
“Probably not”. She hesitated, and then asked, “Are you disappointed?”
“I wouldn’t have minded if tonight had been a threesome; Wendy’s got a really beautiful voice, and I would have liked it if you could have heard her singing with us. But as for getting together with her – well, she’s obviously decided that she wants to move on, and, to tell you the truth, Kelly Reimer, I’m pretty happy to have moved on too!”
She laughed and laid her head against my shoulder for a minute; “Good to know” she said.
We spent a quiet two weeks at my parents’ house between the weddings. Kelly and I made a couple of trips; we spent a day in London so that she could see some of the sights, and we spent two days tramping around Oxford together. She was particularly interested in seeing the places I had told her about, so I took her to see the college Owen and I had both attended, Lincoln, and we walked down to Jericho and had a drink at the ‘Plough and Lantern’, although it turned out that Bill Prentiss was away that day, so she didn’t get to meet him. I showed her the house on Victoria Road in Summertown where my family had lived before we moved to Northwood, and, as she had asked, I took her walking on Port Meadow where Rick and I had often wandered with my mother when we were little boys. It didn’t take long for her to fall under the spell of Oxford, and we spent our second day there just exploring the city, looking into any college that would let us in, having coffee in coffee shops and lunch at the Eastgate Hotel, walking the perimeters of Christ Church Meadow and Addison’s Walk, and ending with a visit to the University Church, St. Mary the Virgin.
I soon realized that she had really taken to the English countryside. She loved the fact that you could walk for a couple of miles, come to another village, stop for a cup of tea or a drink in the pub, and then walk back again. She loved the deep green of the trees and hedges, the thatched cottages and the grey stone houses, the narrow country lanes and the public footpaths through the fields. That August was one of the warmest and driest on record, and we went out walking for a couple of hours almost every day.
Becca’s fourteenth birthday was on August 13th; she had a party at the house to which several of her friends were invited. Rick and his new bride were still away on their honeymoon, but Kelly and I were there, and Becca seemed happy to have us. Unusually, my father was home on time that night, but he didn’t really take part in the conversation around the table, which was dominated by the back and forth between Becca and her friends. A couple of them were known to me, especially Stevie Fredericks who had Becca’s best friend from their earliest days in primary school together.
During the summer most of my mother’s piano students took a break, but she did have one or two who came occasionally. Kelly, however, was quite fond of classical music and enjoyed hearing her play, and so from time to time they would sit in the back room together while my mother went through some of the pieces in her classical repertoire. Rick and Becca and I had all been taught to play the piano when we were young; Becca was still taking lessons, and sometimes in the evenings we would hear her playing. She liked her privacy while she was practising, though, and she kept the door to the back room closed while she was using it.
A couple of nights after Becca’s party I was helping my mother clean up and wash the dishes after supper; when we were done, I went back to the living room to look for Kelly, only to find my father sitting alone reading his newspaper. “Did Kelly go upstairs?” I asked.
He shook his head; “I think she went out into the garden”.
I frowned; “Is everything okay?”
“Of course; why wouldn’t it be?”
I shrugged; “She usually tells me what she’s up to, that’s all. I’ll go and find her”.
Outside, the air was warm and humid, and I noticed that the clouds were gathering on the western horizon; there might be rain to cool things down tonight, I thought. There was no sign of Kelly in the garden, so I went through to the apple orchard, then followed the path through the trees until it came to the clearing in the wood, and the shore of the little lake. There was a small jetty there, and a couple of benches under the trees on the far bank, and Kelly was sitting on one of them. She saw me and waved, and I wandered around the shore toward her. As I got close I saw to my surprise that she had tears in her eyes. “Kelly – what’s the matter?” I asked, sitting down beside her and putting my arm around her.
She put her head down on my shoulder; “I’m just being stupid, that’s all”.
I kissed her forehead; “You are the most un-stupid person I’ve ever met! Come on – what is it?”
She sighed; “It’s just that I can’t win with your dad, no matter how hard I try”.
I felt a sudden surge of anger; “What did he say to you?”
“It was nothing, Tom; there’s no need to make a big deal out of it”.
I put my hand on her cheek and tilted her head so that I could look into her eyes. “Well, it obviously is a big deal; you don’t get upset easily. Please, tell me”.
She shook her head. “I was just trying to make conversation with him in the living room, that’s all, and at one point I asked him if he was going to be able to come out for our wedding”.
“What did he say?”
“He said he was sure I was a delightful girl, but he wasn’t going to pretend he was glad you and I were getting married. He said he never wanted you to move to Canada, and he always thought you were making a big mistake, and he’d always hoped you would come to your senses and move home. So he said he didn’t like the fact that you’re now making stronger ties with Meadowvale by marrying me, and joining yourself to my family”.
I shook my head angrily; “Unbelievable!” I exclaimed, getting to my feet. “I’m going to go back there right now and have this out with him, and make sure he apologizes to you!”
She grabbed my hand; “Tom, sit down”, she said. “Please, listen to me, and don’t react in anger. Remember everything we’ve been learning”.
“But he had absolutely no right to talk to you like that!”
“Please, Tom, sit down”.
I sat down again, my hand still in hers. “I should never have brought you here and put you through this”.
“Don’t be silly! I’m having a wonderful time with your mom, and I’m getting on pretty well with Becca, too”.
“But my dad…”
“Your dad is who he is, and I’ve got to learn to deal with that. I’m not angry, Tom. Yes, I admit, he hurt me, and I’m sad and disappointed, and I have to learn to accept the fact that there are some people I just can’t win over, no matter how hard I try. But what are we going to do – move out and go over to Owen’s? That won’t help; your mom and Becca will be hurt, and your dad will just get angrier”.
“You’re probably right, but that doesn’t make it any easier”.
“If things here had been easier, you would have stayed here and not moved to Meadowvale, and we would never have met, and I wouldn’t be about to marry you – which is a thought that’s so horrible I don’t even want to try to imagine it”.
I stared at her; “I never thought of that. Well – I guess maybe I should be thanking my dad, shouldn’t I?”
She leaned forward and kissed me. “Hold me, please”, she whispered; “I love you so much”.
“I love you too”.
We sat together in silence for a few minutes, our arms around each other; I was enjoying the smell of her hair and the warmth and closeness of her body. Eventually I heard her say, “Fifty-two days to go”.
“Fifty-two, is it?”
“Yeah”. She looked up and grinned sheepishly at me; “I’ve got a little calendar in my wallet, actually”.
“You made a countdown calendar?”
“I did. For each day it gives the date, and the number of days to our wedding”.
“I wish it was tomorrow”.
“I wish it was today!”
We both laughed, and then I saw her looking over my shoulder toward the path back to the house. “Becca’s here”, she said.
I turned, and saw my sister on the far side of the lake; Kelly beckoned to her, and she walked slowly around the shore toward us. “Sorry if I’m interrupting”, she said when she got closer; “I can go away if you want”.
“Of course not”, Kelly replied; “Come and sit with us”.
I moved over a little to make room for her, and she sat down beside me; “Did one of you have a fight with Dad?” she asked.
I glanced at Kelly, and she nodded and said, “I wouldn’t exactly call it a fight; he and I were talking in the living room, and he said some things that I found a little hurtful”.
“I heard him and Mum talking about it in the kitchen when I went past; he was on one of his rants about how stupid you had been to move to Meadowvale, Tommy, and how he was unhappy that you were settling down there with Kelly. I couldn’t believe he was saying those things. He was going on and on about it to Mum; of course she was trying to calm him down and defend you at the same time”.
“Sounds like you got a good earful”, I said.
“Yes; I listened for a minute and then I went in and told him what I thought”.
I stared at her; “You did what?”
“Well, I really didn’t like what he was saying”. She looked at Kelly; “You don’t deserve that; if he can’t see that you’re a good thing, then he’s the stupid one!”
Kelly smiled at her; “Thank you”. She looked down for a moment, and then said, “I know October’s school time, but I’m still really hoping you can come to the wedding”.
“I want to come. I’ll try talking to Mum about it”.
“Good, because I want you to be in the wedding party”.
“Like, as a bridesmaid, you mean?”
“Yeah. Tom and I each have three people standing up with us. He’s got Owen, and my brother Joe, and our friend Glenn Pickering; I’ve got my cousin Brenda, and my sister Krista, and I’ve been saving the third spot for you”.
“But – you hardly know me”.
“I know you a little bit, but I know that your brother thinks the world of you, and that’s good enough for me”.
Becca smiled at her. “Thank you; that would be fantastic!”
“You’re welcome. And this is not just for Tom, by the way”.
“What do you mean?”
“I have a hunch about you and me”.
“What kind of a hunch?”
“Well, you’re right, I don’t know you very well yet, but I think in the years to come that’s going to change. Even though you’ll be in England and we’ll be in Canada, I think you and I are going to be really good friends. At least, that’s what I want”.
Becca smiled again; “I’d like that”.
“Good; that’s settled, then”.
We were quiet for a moment, and then Becca glanced at me and said; “Can we talk?”
I nodded, and Kelly immediately said, “Would you like me to leave?”
“No, I want you to stay”.
We were quiet for a few minutes; my sister was staring out over the lake, her elbows on her knees. Eventually she spoke softly; “I understand why you had to go away, Tommy, but I hated you for it”.
She sat back in the seat, turning to face me. “Dad doesn’t go after me like he went after you and Rick, but he’s tried to push me toward Law as well, and he’s not happy that I’m not interested”.
“What are you interested in? You’ve never told me”.
“I think I might like to be a doctor, actually, but I haven’t made my mind up yet”.
“That’s great, Becs; you should talk to Owen about that”.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about him; I wanted to ask him about it last week when he was here, but I never got the chance”.
“Shall I get him to contact you?”
“Maybe”. She looked away again; “One thing I do know – I don’t want to study in Oxford”.
She shook her head; “I want to get as far away from here as I can”.
“Well, there are lots of good universities out there”.
We lapsed into silence for a couple of minutes; she was staring down at the ground now, and I waited, knowing that she was psyching herself up to say what she wanted to say.
“Why did you lie to me, Tommy?” she whispered.
“I didn’t lie to you”.
“You did. You told us all you were moving to Reading”.
“Well, I didn’t specifically lie to you”.
“Yes, you did”.
I looked away for a minute, conscious of Kelly sitting silently beside me, her hand in mine. Then I said, “Yes, you’re right; I did lie to you”.
“I trusted you completely; I never thought you would lie to me. That night in the living room when you told us all that you were moving to Canada was a total shock to me. I felt like I’d suddenly discovered that your face wasn’t really your face; it was just a mask that you’d been wearing, and underneath was a completely different person I didn’t even recognize”.
She paused for a moment, running the back of her hand over her eyes. “I knew how lucky I was, you know”, she said. “I didn’t know many other girls my age who who were as close to their big brothers as I was. I knew you liked being with me just as much as I liked being with you; I knew I could always count on you to help me and back me up. And I tried to do the same for you”.
“You’re still doing it”, I said quietly.
She turned to face me, and I could see that she was close to tears. “Why didn’t you tell me, Tommy?”
I looked at her for a moment, trying to choose my words carefully, but then I suddenly remembered Kelly telling me to speak from my heart, and I said, “I was scared, Becs”.
“Scared of what?”
“I knew that you’d be really, really upset if you knew I was going to move to Canada. I thought you wouldn’t be able to hide that, and that Mum and Dad would notice, and they’d get the story out of you. I knew that if Dad once found out, he’d find a way to stop me leaving. I had to have everything ready, every detail in place, and I couldn’t risk him finding out about it until it was so close to the day I was leaving that there was nothing he could do to stop it”.
“But I wouldn’t have told anyone; you know I would have kept your secret”.
“Oh, I knew you wouldn’t have done it intentionally; I never questioned that. I just thought you’d be so upset that you wouldn’t be able to conceal it, and that Mum and Dad would notice and get the truth out of you. But still, I was wrong – I know I was”. I found myself blinking back the tears. “This thing has haunted me for the past two years, Becs. I was completely wrong, and you’ve got every right to be angry with me. I should have taken the risk, even if it meant that Dad would have found out. I shouldn’t have lied to you, no matter how scared I was; you didn’t deserve that. I’m so, so sorry”.
She looked up at me for a moment, biting her lower lip, and then as the tears began to run down her face I put my arms around her and drew her close. “I’m so sorry, Becs”, I repeated.
“I’m sorry too”, she said in a voice raw with emotion; “I’m sorry I threw away your letters and I never wrote back to you. I was so angry with you, Tommy, but I shouldn’t have done that; I shouldn’t have cut you off. I’m so sorry”.
I kissed the top of her head and tightened my arms around her. “It’s okay; I understand why you were angry. I’ve been angry with myself for the last two years, and I’ve been so frustrated because we couldn’t talk it through. I hated that there was this rift between us”.
“It was my fault. I’m sorry”.
“No – it wasn’t your fault. I’m the one who hurt you”.
We held each other in silence for a few minutes; I could feel Kelly’s hand on my back, and I was glad she had stayed with us. Eventually Becca’s crying subsided; I kissed her on the forehead, and she sat back and smiled at me through teary eyes. “Thanks”, she whispered.
“I’m the one who should be saying thank you”.
She shook her head vehemently. “No; I’ve been really, really scared about having this conversation, but Kelly kept telling me to trust you, that it would be okay. She was right, of course”.
Kelly got to her feet and held out her arms to Becca; “Come here”.
Becca got up, and the two of them put their arms around each other and held each other tight. Kelly kissed her and said, “You know that after Tom and I get married, you’ll always be welcome in our house, right?”
“I know, and thank you. I’m actually really looking forward to coming over for the wedding and meeting everyone”. Becca turned to me with a smile; “Kelly’s been telling me so much about her family, I almost feel like I know them already. Especially your mum and dad”, she added, turning back to Kelly; “They sound like really nice people”.
“You’re going to love them”, I said.
Kelly glanced at me; “We should probably be getting back to your mom. I think she might need a hug about now”.
“You’re probably right”. I put my arm on Becca’s shoulder; “Are you okay to go back to the house, Becs?”
“Just give me a minute to wipe my eyes; I probably look like a character from a zombie film!”
Kelly laughed; “I don’t think so!” she replied.
Owen and Lorraine were married at St. Clement’s on Saturday August 18th. It was a simple wedding, with only two people in the wedding party – me as best man, and Lorraine’s sister Jenny as bridesmaid. All of Owen’s siblings were there – his brother Steve, and his sisters Anna and Fiona. His parents were very happy to see me, and Kelly and I sat and talked with them for a long time at the reception.
We were due to fly home the following week, so Owen and I knew this was going to be the last time we saw each other until they came to Meadowvale for our wedding in October. He and Lorraine were due to leave the dance for their honeymoon at about eleven, but before they made their exit, he and I slipped outside to the parking lot for a few minutes.
“So, you’ve had a pretty good visit after all”, he said.
“Yeah, apart from the usual complications with my dad”.
“Is Kelly okay?”
“She’s fine. She’s been getting on really well with my mum and Becca”.
We were walking slowly together, but now he stopped and turned to face me. “You know how lucky you are, don’t you?”
“With Kelly, you mean?”
“Yes. It’s like you told me: she’s totally honest and straight, and she’s warm and passionate and wise – just so unbelievably wise, far beyond her years. How did you succeed in getting a girl like that? Are you sure you’ve told her the truth about yourself?”
We both laughed, and I said, “You don’t have to tell me how lucky I am. If there is such a thing as luck”.
“Yeah, you’ve landed on your feet, that’s obvious – a good job in a place you like, and Kelly and her family, and becoming a Christian – all in the space of two years. I’m really looking forward to seeing the place and meeting the people”.
“We’re looking forward to having you, too – you and Lorraine”.
“Speaking of Lorraine, I need to find her so that we can be on our way”.
We looked at each other for a moment, and then I said, “Thanks for asking me to do this”.
He shook his head; “There was never going to be anyone else”.
“I’m sure Steve would have done a good job”.
“Yeah, but once I started giving one job to a family member, ten others would have lined up”.
I grinned; “I think Kelly’s having that problem in Meadowvale; she’s related to half the town”.
“And you will be too, in a few weeks”.
We hugged each other for a moment, and then he said, “Well, Mr. Best Man, are you going to come in and announce that the bride and groom are leaving?”
“I think that’s in my contract, so I’d better do it”.
“Well, let’s go then, because Mrs. Foster and I are looking forward to getting to bed!”
We both laughed again, and then I followed him back into the hall.