What is the Garry Oak? Yes, it is a unique West Coast tree. But it is also the name we have chosen for an on-line experiment to encourage creative expression. Pre-Covid we published The St Peter’s Review which ran for three editions. On further consideration, we felt that this title seemed rather academic and stuffy.
Then one of our parishioners, Bill Henderson, donated a young Garry oak to be planted in the church garden to commemorate this year which is the 130th anniversary of the founding of this church on this property in the heart of Comox. As we pondered this generous gesture, we saw similarities between the characteristics of this tree and the church for which it is now home.
The Garry oak usually has a life span of some 300 years. St Peter’s has a way to go to match that but for a church in this part of Canada to have offered services for 130 years without a break is significant. One could use the term “enduring” to describe either.
When the Garry oak thrives, its root systems nurture a fungal network conducive to growing Camas lilies whose bulbs along with the oaks’ acorns were a vital food source for Salish First Nations. When St Peter’s has flourished it has nurtured life and faith and caring and generosity in scores of families across generations.
Oak meadows once carpeted the Valley but fell before the ignorance of settlers who did not understand the tree’s vital role in food production. But it survives and its qualities are now widely appreciated so it is protected and grows. It is resilient.
The church in an earlier time was the centre of a community’s social life. But societies change and, with the onslaught of mass communications and technology, they become impersonal, lose their centre. Then a pandemic comes along and we all realize anew how vital connectedness and relationships to each other and to the transcendent are to human thriving. And the church provides those linkages in a way no other can. And we all realize how fortunate we are that it too is resilient.
Enduring, nurturing, resilient are common characteristics of the Garry oak and St Peter’s church. Hence, for an instrument to celebrate creativity, faith and life through this church family, we felt The Garry Oak was an appropriate name.
I'll rest a while like Lazarus of old
Ensconced in burial shroud and frigid tomb.
The cry that 'Jesus comes' will make me bold
Unloose my shackles and dispel the gloom.
The anguish of my darkest night is past
As fiendish fancies wend their irksome way;
Faint stirrings of the dawn I feel at last
And with it hope, of Resurrection day.
I hear the distant rumbling of the stone
Like some distempered Covid roused from sleep,
Its violent protestations pierce the bone
At losing one, it can no longer keep.
I'll pack my rags and bid farewell to night,
And live a life of splendour, in the light.
idris rees hughes
Morning dew calls me to Ride.
Touching you I reach out from the inside.
Of your Deep embrace within
Of salt laden kisses. My face dives
Into time spent as one in the rhythm
of your Soul.
A friend of mine wanted to serve this at her wedding anniversary at a swanky country club. The chef agreed but loftily said he would use fresh raspberry juice. My friend and I agreed it was not a success, the raspberry vinegar really heightens the flavour.
8 beets peeled and chopped
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
11/2 cups orange juice
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 cup créme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt
Place beets, onions, stock and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the orange juice and sugar. Purée until very smooth in a blender or food processor. Pour into a bowl, then add the vinegar. This will give you a beautiful colour, you can either stir in some of the créme fraiche or leave as is. Refrigerate until cold. Place a dollop on the top of each serving, add some herbs to decorate if wished.
For créme fraiche stir equal parts of sour cream and whipping cream in a jar and leave on the counter overnight until thick and tasty.
“Borscht and bread make your cheeks go red” Old Jewish saying
Is someone who encourages others to do well
Is a shepherd to his or her sheep, looking from behind over their flock, letting others eat first, letting others be successful
Who meets others where possible at the point of their physical and mental needIs a good listener, speaks with wisdom, is not judgemental, puts their personal goals second for the bigger good
Is a person who doesn’t stand out to be a leader, to be looked at as a leader, doesn’t have an official title or their own office but shares an office with others
Doesn’t drive a fancy car or have a fancy house
Has a salary based on average income
A person who doesn’t attempt to do anything physically or psychologically to make themselves look like being a leader
Is a person who connects people and connects specially with people who have different beliefs
Is a person who embraces community and personal growth
Who nourishes those who work for them
Who speaks up for the weakest in the society, with a humble voice
Who doesn’t give speeches or sermons but lets the voice of Christ speak through others and gives others the chance to be heard, believing that the Spirit speaks through them
Who encourages others to express those gifts and strengths that bring fulfilment for them and their community; so long they are a gift of service to others.
Peter van Kessel
to the ticking of my clock,
to the silence of the mist.
to curling fog as it unfolds itself
around the town,
through the pores of my skin.
A clear reply
to the unanswerable perplexity
that is where I find myself.
“Be still” we are told,
and so I am.
Long before the days of caravanning in Scotland, or soaking up the sun in the Mediterranean, our family holidays were spent in Llanllechid; a small sleepy village in North Wales, and one dominated by the huge Penrhyn Slate Quarry. We would stay with my great uncle and aunt who lived across the road from Llanllechid Parish Church.
To get to Llanllechid, we had to leave the main road on the North Wales coast, and take the twisting hilly narrow road up to the Village. My dad’s Ford Cortina, packed with our luggage and an extra roll up bed on top of the roof rack, could just about manage the hill. My sister and I, sitting in the back seat, would hold our breath as my dad changed the gears from 4th to 3rd then 2nd , and sometimes to 1st . We always dreaded the thought of rolling back down the hill.
And so it was with much relief we would finally arrive at our destination. The welcome was always a warm one. My great uncle was the sexton and bellringer at the Church, while my great aunt was the cleaner. We had great delight in going with them to the Church; my sister and I would take turns carrying the giant iron door key which was about a foot long and extremely heavy. The moss covered path leading through the tightly knit yew trees to the church door, was quite dark even in daytime, with just the odd shaft of sunlight filtering through. Just to the side of the great door, I would always stop to admire the eighteenth century slate sundial with its Roman numerals.
If only the sundial could talk. What a story it could relate about this little country church with its splendid tradition of choral singing. So much so that it drew the attention of W E Gladstone, Queen Victoria's famous Prime Minister. In the book “Palmerston, Bright and Gladstone in North Wales” by Keith G Robbins, we read: " On Sunday Sept. 15th (1861) Gladstone went to Llanllechid Church, where the singing was noble and moving to the highest degree. Towards the end of his month-long stay he again visited Penrhyn Castle and enjoyed the noble music at Llanllechid church."
The choral music tradition continued to the following century and in July of 1920 the Archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to the Bishopric of Bangor decided to visit Llanllechid church and listen to the service in Welsh.
My grandmother grew up in Llanllechid, and this is the little Church she attended with her family, and where her father faithfully served as church organist. She was a treasure house of information and she would tell us all kinds of interesting stories about her childhood days and of the characters who lived in the village, and these stories would come alive each time we visited. I loved to listen to her story about a huge rock probably dating from the ice age situated in one of the neighbouring fields. She called it the sliding rock because a section of the rock had a smooth and sloping surface, and this is where she and her childhood friends would play and slide.
I often reflect on my childhood holidays in Llanllechid, and whenever we are ‘home’ on vacation in Wales, we make a point of visiting this tranquil place.
The old house now belongs to another and the Parish church is closed, and the noble services long gone; but even so my memories of them are very much alive and are forever with me.
This is fleeting, seen only rarely,
But when observed, wondrous in its worth.
A loyalty communal, a set of binds that hold,
A substance substantial, glimpsed, felt, assured.
When friends and not-so-friends merge and become a harmony, a whole
Who share their love,
Who have the other’s back to the limit of each one’s personhood.
A life communal, shared, constant but veiled.
Born of willed patience, learned respect
Embracing difference, divergent paths
And now lived not as one but plural
Beyond the bounds of family, friend
To those embracing the Transcendent, loved and shared.
This is an old Spanish recipe developed by the Silver Palette restaurant in New York. It was the recipe that made their restaurant famous. This is my simplified adaptation.
It can easily be doubled for a crowd or halved for a few. It is an excellent dish if you have people over (let’s hope we get there soon), all the work is done ahead. Serve it with rice cooked ahead and just heat in a little butter and orange juice before serving.
2 Chickens quartered, (or equivalent amount of breasts or thighs)
1/2 head of garlic
2 Tbsp dried oregano or 3 Tbsp fresh
A little salt and pepper to taste ( check at the end if unsure)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup prunes
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup capers
3 or 4 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
Put everything up to and including the bay leaves in a large zip lock bag, massage it a bit and leave it in the fridge overnight at least (this is essential for the flavours to mingle)
Heat the oven to 350F
Slip all the ingredients from the bag into a large pan, in more or less a single layer, sprinkle the brown sugar over and pour on the white wine.
Fire it into the oven for 50 minutes - 1 hour.
Sprinkle the cilantro over the top and put the whole thing on the table. Smells delicious and tastes even better.
If you can read this you can cook it, it is that simple. Leftovers, if there are any, freeze well for a later day.
“In this house we have eaten leftovers for 20 years, the original recipe has yet to be found!” Anonymous
I read an interesting story the other day in 'The Week's News from Britain'. Perhaps some of you might have read it too. It goes to show how careful we have to be when dealing with elderly shoppers.
I know the incident took place in the UK; but at the same time there's a valuable lesson for Canadians here; yes even for us, in the Comox Valley.
Seniors might not be big money spenders when it comes to grocery shopping, but they can certainly pack a punch and cause a $63 billion UK Supermarket store like Tesco, untold embarrassment when they try to shrug them off. And you ignore them at your peril.
Take 82 year old Doris How for example. She experienced an accident while shopping at Tesco's Hertford store. A bottle of squash fell off a shelf and injured her leg. The shop clerks chose to ignore her but her sister had the presence of mind to grab a bag of frozen peas to control the swelling.
Later the store in its unwisdom had the gall to charge Doris 78p for the one pound bag of Birds Eye frozen peas!
The nation cried foul! A breach of etiquette had taken place. Tesco relented and apologized with flowers, as well as a refund.
Now you might say that this couldn't happen here. Nevertheless, we shouldn't take our Seniors for granted and after all, isn't one's reputation of far more worth than a bag of frozen peas?
idris rees hughes
Jesus asks: Whom do you seek?
I choose you Lord,
I will trust, where you lead me.
Again, you found me in my darkness,
Low and hollow, seeking and tormented.
Broken, wounded, needing renewal.
Lord, I need your living presence, today!
You’ve been there all along, Lord, in my innermost place;
Blinded with overwhelm and an anxious heart.
Sinful, forgetful I lose sight of your hand in mine.
You meet me there, where I am! Lost, alone and blinded with uncertainty.
Thank you, Jesus!
Your steadfast love awaits me,
Thank you, Holy Spirit!
There you met me. Again Lord, in my need.
You renewed me in that dark place, where I lingered.
Aimless, wallowing, questioning, overwhelmed with uncertainty.
You, choose me again and again,
You, lift and protect me,
You, forgive show mercy even I’m unaware.
There you are, ever present, choosing and lifting me.
Embracing and showering me with your loving mercy.
Holding, nourishing me in my brokenness, anxiety and sinful ways.
Even when I don’t realize my thirst.
You quench my soul and strengthen.
When I hunger; you feed me with your living word.
Now once again, I come Lord,
I choose you, choosing trust, I come.
To repent and be strengthened, again.
Your faithfulness, moves me. Challenging my heart to trust.
Unconditional love; teaches me.
Spirit filled, I’m reminded with a swelling sense of your living presence.
Gratitude is on my tongue, sweet alleluias rise from my lips.
I long to praise you, Lord.
A love song, I sing to honour and adore.
Your love, strengthens me.
Why should I fear? Sinfully, I do!
With You in my innermost parts,
Thine enemy flees!
Your sword is mightier than the enemies!
Your child, I am!
Saviour, redeemer you have overcome the world.
You placed the stars.
Every hair on my head, every thought that churns with grief in this restless mind
you have knowledge of.
My sadness, elation, joy and sorrow you know.
You’re ever present! In me. I am Yours!
Your child, I am.
My heart is filled with hope; knowing You made the heavens.
Whom do I seek?
You ask us.
“Whom do you seek?”
I’m answering, Lord!
“I seek you!”
“Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus.”
“Maranatha, Come, My Lord.”
You’re our victor.
You wear the crown of victory.
You paid the price for me.
My sin is forgiven; because I choose you!
Willingly you sacrificed,
For my redemption.
You have overcome the world.
So, I worship you!
Halleluiah, Lord! I come.
Halleluiah, Lord! I am yours.
Halleluiah, Lord, I have chosen.
“Whom do I seek?” You ask.
“I seek you, Lord.”
Morning by morning. I choose,
For Yours is the power.
Yours is the glory.
For ever and ever.