It has been well over a year since I’ve last updated this site. So much has happened since that time that I will only comment on a few highlights.
First and most important of these is the ordination of Fr. Nilos last October 3, 2015, by Vladika Irene Rochon of the OCA Archdiocese of Canada at St. Peter the Aleut Orthodox Church in Calgary.
Now that we have a priest, we have a full schedule of services, including Great Vespers and Divine Liturgies each week, as well as extra Liturgies on Feast Days and during Great Lent and other special seasons of the Church year.
We continue to have visitors on a regular basis, including people from the local community who are curious about what we are doing here. Our Paschal Vespers service welcomed 33 people, mostly from the local community and only a handful of whom are Orthodox. We also have our first catechumen, who has been a delightful addition.
We are now incorporated and we have submitted our charitable tax status, both of which will help us as we move forward.
Keep praying for us, as we continue to offer ourselves and the natural world around us with Christ in the Eucharist through the Holy Spirit to the Father of all.
Every year I am overwhelmed by the intensity of the paschal joy we are allowed to experience. We enter the eternal moment where the mysteries of the death and resurrection of Christ occur. We are present there at the cross and beside the women carrying the spices to the tomb. We peer into the cave and see the winding cloths lying on the ground and the head cloth folded by itself. Where have they taken my Lord? But he is gone, says the angel. He is risen, as He said He would.
We just didn’t understand before. We didn’t know how real it all is. We listen to the words but it takes us time to feel them in our bones. Each year we understand a little more, the words settle deeper into our beings. We enter the tomb with Him and, holding tight to His robes, we descend into Hades and arise into the pure light.
Our Lenten journey has led us deeper this year as our numbers grow. We traveled to Holy Myrrh Bearers Antiochian Church in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, for Forgiveness Sunday. Although the drive is long and we need to cross an international border, we are so grateful to have Fr Gregory Horton and his parish family close enough that we can celebrate the liturgy with them.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy we celebrated here with a typika service and a procession to our chapel foundations. The children and grownups each chose an icon that was especially meaningful to him or her. I carried the icon of the Theotokos that our son Patrick picked out once when we traveled together to a monastery in New York. He kept that icon in his room in his late childhood and through his teenage years. I pray to that same icon now to keep him safe.
On the third Sunday of Lent, The Veneration of the Cross, Nil gathered some moss and vegetation from the forest to decorate a little table and set the cross in the middle. He added a heart-shaped stone that one of his patients gave him as she was dying. If you are reading this, please pray for Caroline as she journeys to Christ in the Kingdom.
On Lazarus Saturday, we again drove to Holy Myrrh Bearers. On the way home, we picked up a half a lamb from a farm and stored it in the refrigerator at the residence where Nil works to be cooked for our Pascal feast.
Palm Sunday our little community celebrated our typika for the first time in our temporary chapel. We transformed our main guest cabin into a chapel so that we would have a proper place to celebrate the Holy Week and Paschal services this year. Although this space has been valuable as a place of offering hospitality up to now, we have decided it will be even more valuable as a place to pray with our guests who come until we can complete the stone chapel.
It was our joy to welcome Fr. Kaleeg Hainsworth and his family to celebrate some of Holy Week and the Paschal liturgy here with us. They drove from Vancouver on Great and Holy Thursday and arrived to cross the lake as the Northern Lights danced across the sky, shimmering in a curtain of light.
We were honored to welcome His Grace, the Right Reverend Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada to St John in the Wilderness this December. His Grace stayed overnight with Jeremy and Sheree in Kaslo and came to Birchdale during the day. Vladyka saw what we are trying to accomplish here and encouraged us and the young people who have joined us to move forward with our vision.
On Tuesday, Vladyka served Divine Liturgy at St. John in the Wilderness, which was followed by a simple Lenten meal.
On Wednesday, he, Nil, and Tim took a ride up the lake and visited some old growth trees, a waterfall, and some other local landmarks.
Vladyka has suggested that on the first day of each month we should bless one of the water sources that flows into the lake so that eventually all the water coming into the lake will be blessed. We are delighted with this idea!
Fr. Gregory Horton from Holy Myrrh Bearer’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, came up to Kaslo to perform a naming ceremony for Baby Anna in November.
The next week we all went down to Idaho where Anna was Baptized and Chrismated. Holy Myrrh Bearer’s Antiochian Orthodox Church is currently the closest Orthodox church to where we live. Stephen Innocent and I were the godparents for this sweet little one.
A week later, on November 22, 2014, we had our first liturgy in Kaslo when Fr. Gregory came for a visit and celebrated Divine Liturgy with us. We have also started serving a Reader’s Vespers on Saturday evenings at St. Mark’s, the little Anglican Church in town. So far, it has been only ourselves who have attended, but several people in town have expressed interest in coming to see what we are doing. We shall see what happens.
Next post: We had the great blessing of a visit from Bishop Irenee this December!
This morning I watched the pink clouds drifting above the glowing snow on the mountain peaks. So much can be shifted by a simple change of perspective, a little twist that can make sense of what seemed nothing but a struggle. We labour in darkness, then in an instant, a glow breaches the horizon and stark rock softens into a rosy beauty.
In the seven years since we have lived at St. John in the Wilderness, we have received many visitors, but most of the time we have laboured alone. Two years ago when we were at our darkest point, I felt the arms of Christ surround me with the reassurance that all would be well, that His will was unfolding. I needed to be positive and to keep following Him, and everything would be as it should.
Now, two years later, I look back and see how much has happened and continues to unfold. Yes, we have sometimes been consumed with our own personal struggles, but that is not the full story.
We are no longer alone in this wilderness project. One son has moved nearby to practice his acupuncture and has both healed and been a comfort to many, many people.
We have poured the foundation for the chapel, and we continue to have numerous visitors, especially during the summer.
In April, I had the joy of becoming a godmother to Timothy, a man who had visited us here shortly before his Baptism and Chrismation. Another one of our visitors decided to move here with his family. So now Jeremy, Sheree, and their three children have become like members of our own family. We shared the last few months with Doris, Sheree’s mother, and experienced the sorrow of her passing. Two weeks later, we welcomed the birth of Anna Rose Doris, Jeremy and Sheree’s third child.
I was given the honour of being godmother to little Anna (photos to come), who along with siblings Henry and Lucia, now has a special place in my heart.
Praying on the Mountain Top
This autumn we were blessed with the presence of Stephen Innocent and Robyn, both of whom are studying in Nelson at the School of the Arts. They have spent almost every weekend with us since September. We had some beautiful moments together, camping in the high country, where we chanted the akathist “Glory to God for All Things” and cooked our meals over an open fire.
We went to a different place each weekend until the snow blanketed the high peaks, making our passage up the mountain impossible until next summer.
The first place we took them is the logging road up Schroeder Creek. From this perspective you can see Birchdale and the mountains behind it.
Our second trek was to Meadow Mountain. It was a bit further up the lake, but we were able to set up tents and to spend the night.
These are some of the highlights since my last posting until the snow came to the mountain peaks in early October. But so much has happened since then as well!
Tomorrow’s post will include those happenings. God’s love continues to be poured out on us despite our fumbling.
These photos show last autumn’s process of bringing the cement bags across the lake on a neighbour’s barge, pouring the cement into the prepared forms, and the finished foundation for the chapel.
As we look back on the work of this past autumn, we feel inspired to plan our next steps on building this chapel. We’ve been able to finish the foundations for the columns and the walls. Next we will lay pipes for the radiant floor heating and then pour a thin layer for the floor.
Meanwhile we are planning where we will get the stone for the walls. When we purchased this space, we were gifted not only with the location for the chapel but with most of the building materials as well. The sand and gravel for the footings and foundation were here, and the stone will be dug from the surface of the back slope — scree that has tumbled down from the mountain.
We need to make a small road to bring down the stone. After gathering next year’s firewood in the early spring, we will work on bringing down the stone. Our yard will begin to look like a quarry. I wonder what the animals will think.
In the still of winter, with a dusting of fresh snow that brings a sense of peace to the countryside, we go out walking along the paths through the woods and discover which animal neighbours have been visiting.
This winter we have seen the tracks of wolves and of bobcats and of elk. We have the daily passing of deer and tiny trails of mice and squirrels.
Fewer small mammals have been around than usual because of the resident bobcat who has become a regular part of the neighbourhood. Although he is a gorgeous animal, he has made a meal of our pet cats, so seeing him gives us mixed feelings. We are having a hiatus of welcoming new pets into our household for obvious reasons.
Still we marveled at the way the bobcat came straight up to our house on Christmas morning, stopping to let us look at his speckled coat. After visiting with neighbours for Christmas dinner, we came home to see him curled up by the toolshed. We caught the shine of his eyes in our flashlight. Since then we have only seen his tracks here and there when we are out walking.
We are surrounded by God’s creatures with whom we share this sanctuary. On a warm day last week, two bald eagles, fighting over a fish, dropped it on the dock.
Here is a photo I took of the bobcat when he passed through our yard last fall.
We are pleased to report that the footings for the chapel have been poured before the cold weather set in. We hired three local young men and had a marathon few days mixing and pouring cement after first spending a few weeks between hospital shifts preparing the ground and tying rebar.
All now is finished, at least for this first pour. The next two pours will go much more quickly now that the base has been set and now that we know what our equipment can do. We will complete the cement base for the columns and the floor as early next spring as we can. Then the walls can begin to rise and we will see the progress before us.
Here are some photos of the footings in the ground. We were pleased at the smoothness and quality of the finished cement.