A Faith Story – A Spiritual Journey
Good morning…my name is Tish Buckley and as some of you know, I have been around Wellington Square for a long time, actually since the early 80s. When asked to consider sharing my faith journey with you, my first reaction was “but I have nothing to add. My story, while one of privilege is very, very ordinary.” My privilege is having been born into a wonderful, loving, Christian home – going to church, saying our prayers together and serving others was just the way it was. Interestingly, while both my parents were deeply committed to serving and to going to church, they and we never talked about it. Being a Christian wasn’t something I thought about – it just was. This was in no way unusual during the time I was growing up. Dad was in the armed forces so we moved a lot, but family, school and church were the constants. No matter where it was, Sunday meant church, Sunday school and usually catechism classes. Then one summer while I was still a student, I went off to teach swimming at a children’s camp just outside of Quebec City. The campers were all francophone quebecoises, and they were also mostly Roman Catholic and they were required to attend Sunday mass. Someone found out that I wasn’t Catholic but had a reasonable knowledge of the Bible (thanks to those Sunday school catechism classes), so I was assigned the 5 or 6 campers who were not Catholic and told to do something ‘church-like’ with them.
Three things happened as a result…one, I realized I would be a teacher; two, I discovered the spirituality of discussing religion and beliefs in a beautiful clearing on a mountain top on the south shore of the St Lawrence River (truly a spectacular setting); and three, -most importantly – I found that thinking about what I truly believe and why I believe it, then listening for the voice of Christ, is a life altering experience. I had found the power in being aware of and intentional about my faith and that has made a big difference in my life. This all percolated away for a number of years and life happened. I chose to live in Ontario, became a teacher, got married, had three sons and moved to Burlington. Life was fine! Then I got divorced – unfortunately, not an uncommon experience – and became a single mom. I decided life was tougher than expected. But my sons continued to grow happy and healthy and people at Wellington Square were always supportive of me and of them. There were lots of opportunities for service. I decided that my faith didn’t provide an easy life or all the answers – especially when the boys were teen-agers – but it led me to understand that God has a purpose for us. It isn’t up to me to understand that purpose but rather to lean on Him, find comfort and joy in Him, and listen for His direction. A Christ-centered life is awesome. Comforting too at that time was my teaching. Because I worked for the Catholic Board of Ed, I was able to bring my faith openly into the classroom as we discussed things like imagery and literature. I found that powerful. A couple of years ago, I retired from teaching, realized my sons were all in good places in their own lives, continued my involvement in different aspects of the congregation at Wellington Square, and life continued to be fine. But there are always twists in any path, and almost two years ago I started a five month course of chemotherapy to fight breast cancer, an unfortunate but all too common experience. Again, my friends here, my bell choir cohorts, our ministers and the Board were all wonderfully supportive. No one should ever question the impact of supportive prayers. I felt their power. I continued on, went through surgery, and five weeks of radiation – none of these are great experiences – but as this was happening, my first grandchild was born – a little girl…Sloane Parker Buckley and she is just beautiful. She has turned two now and lives in Calgary….but she spent March Break here in Ontario with me. Life doesn’t get better than this. I am so thankful. I don’t know where my journey will take me next but I do know the joy and awe that an intentional faith brings is an amazing gift. Thank you Orville for asking me to share because this is an important thing to remember especially at Easter. Happy Easter!
Tish Buckley, April 2015
A Faith Story – A Spiritual Journey
Hello everyone, my name is Hannah Mackey. You may or may not know me, but if you’ve been coming to Wellington Square for a while then there’s a good chance you’ve seen me around here.
I guess I’ll start from the very beginning! So – I have these two parents, one of them is the guy that plays drums every other week, Paul, and the other is the lady that runs the children’s ministry program, Heather.
Since I can remember, these two people have brought me to this church every Sunday along with my two older sisters and my little brother. I guess you could say that Wellington Square has always been like a second home to me…and I never questioned if we were coming back the following Sunday, I just knew we were.
Growing up in a Christian home we prayed before every meal (we still do because I’m not really grown up yet) prayed before we went to bed and my parents always made an effort to include God in our everyday lives. For example, my mom writes things like “God loves you” on my lunch napkin almost every day…and she’s been doing that since I was 4! I also knew all the bible stories and knew that Jesus died on the cross for me, so I was able to accept Jesus into my heart from a very young age which has been so amazing for me in my life.
Anyways, it always seemed right to have God in my life…and I never really questioned God’s existence because he answers my prayers, gives me comfort in hard situations and Jesus has just always been that guy that I can go to about anything and everything!
However what I struggled with the most as I got older was finding my purpose and finding my value. I had, and still do, have a bad tendency to compare myself to others. Growing up I always felt that I wasn’t old enough or talented enough to do the cool things that my sisters got to do, and I would get really mad with God because I felt like I wasn’t given the experiences and opportunities that they were given. It also just made me feel undervalued because I felt the need to compare to them and live up to what they’ve done.
However, I’ve also realized that God has a plan for me. God has a plan for everyone, and it is far better than any plan I could pick out for myself. The first time I really understood this when I went to LID camp this past summer.
For those of you who don’t know, LID is a two-week program that stands for “Leadership in Development”, and we basically travel and learn all about God and how to be real followers of Jesus! When I was there, it was as if God was using all the gifts that I had and he was giving me all these amazing opportunities. I was playing drums (something I love to do) in a worship service that I got to help lead, I was going on my own adventures, meeting amazing people and I also really understood how close you can become with God when you spend time with him and make that effort.
Many times in the camp world you come home from what some call a “spiritual high” and you try to read your bible and pray just as much but life gets in the way and you get distracted and it usually doesn’t work out. This has happened to me many times in the past!
However when I came home from LID this past July I felt like God and I had drawn so much closer that I didn’t want that connection to go away. So, to keep my relationship with God active in my life I pray to him every day. These prayers are different then what they use to be. I really talk to God, and I don’t just go to him when I need something but I go to him with almost everything because I know he’s listening and he will help guide me to make better choices.
Another thing I do is I set my alarm to Christian music because I find like it’s a really great way to wake up and start my day. I also continue to come to church every Sunday, and I play drums in the Graceland band every other week. It’s important to know that I do these things because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.
I want God to be a part of my life because he’s got amazing plans for me, and through God I find value in myself. Someone once told me that if you want an easy life, don’t be a Christian, but if you want a rich life full of love and true happiness, then follow Jesus. I’m only 16, and I don’t know everything, but I’m excited to see where God takes me in my future! Thank you!
Hannah Mackey, March 2015
A Faith Story – A Spiritual Journey
I have always believed in God, but like many people kept my faith at a respectful distance, afraid to draw closer, too distrustful to believe in a personal, intimate relationship with God. I was suspicious of organized religion. I saw the church as patriarchal, hierarchical, and sexist. Some of the most vociferous Christians I knew were domestic tyrants. It was easy to be judgmental and to rationalize away the mysteries of Christianity, selfishly calling on God when I needed Him and reverting to ignoring Him when I thought I could manage on my own.
I have been retired for over four years now. I found the transition difficult, as many do. All my life, I focused on school, family, work, responsibility and busyness. I was happy to avoid introspection. Now at last, I had all of this “free time”, surely a gift, but I was unable to make proper use of it. I didn’t want to do anything structured, but felt guilty because I wasn’t contributing. I felt a profound uneasiness and a lot of inner turmoil. During this time, I felt drawn to participate in small groups at Wellington Square. Simultaneously, and largely on a subconscious level, I began processing my lifetime of experiences.
This request from Orville to share in church came unexpectedly, and was – is – terrifying for an introverted nerd. However, the process has been a catalyst to view life through a new lens and I would recommend the spiritual exercise to everyone.
Now I see that God has always been right beside me, closer than I ever imagined. He was there through all of the positive and negative experiences and working through mentors and supporters.
Through a series of what I then thought were unrelated events, I began a late career working in prisons. I started to recognize God’s presence in the lives of everyone within those prison walls, not only offenders and victims, but also their families and friends, correctional and professional staff, and agencies that work with offenders and victims.
I saw firsthand the reality that we all possess free will. I met offenders who had chosen to sincerely repent and were striving to change. I saw others not yet willing to abandon their criminal lifestyles, or willfully choosing deviant behavior.
I witnessed the healing that comes for those who choose to try and forgive the unforgivable; I saw the torment in those who chose differently and futilely, to be consumed by anger and a desire for revenge.
I saw and experienced these things but did not then, nor do not now fully understand. All of us have similar opportunities to witness God working in our daily lives. We are all works in progress. In sharing our experiences, we help one another.
Now, I am less in turmoil and more at peace. I am thankful for the many blessings in my life.
Jan Hillyer, March 2015
A Faith Journey
“Follow Me And I Will Make you…”
1937. I am 3 yrs old.
Very excited. Holding Mumma’s hand. Mumma. Mary Jeanette La Rouche, the youngest of 11 children. Her teacher in the one-room schoolhouse said she was brilliant and she was a natural teacher. 4 ft.10 in., never weighed 100 lbs. Physically handicapped, she lived in constant pain. Deeply devout Roman Catholic. Going to meet Daddy when he finished his shift at the Buick Plant!
We walk out into the almost blinding light of a June day. Everything is fresh and shining, bursting with life. Flowers are blooming everywhere.
“Mumma, who made the flowers?”
God? That was a new word.
Then I heard the music. The trees were ” sh-sh– shushing” softly and the birds were singing.
“Mumma, who made the trees and the birds?”
God? Who was this God?
Mu-mm, the air smelled so fresh and so pure.
“Mumma, that nice smell that’s in the air- – where does that come from?”
That did it.
“Mumma,” pulling on her hand.
“Manon. We’ll be late to meet Daddy.”
“Mumma. Could we go and meet Daddy tomorrow? I want to go to God’s house. I want to meet God.”
“No,” Mumma said carefully. “Not today.” My devout Mumma. She heard me.
That was my awakening to the presence of God.
Mumma and I are slowly making our way up many deep, difficult steps, and into a huge, dark, cold place. Dead silence. I shivered. We slide into a pew.
“Mumma, what is this place?”
“This is God’s house, Manon”.
I was shocked! She pulled the prayer-kneeler down and a cloud of dust swirled up and I’m coughing. Eyes everywhere, This is God’s house? No music, no beauty, stale air. Not much life here. A child’s impression.
“Mumma?” touching her hand gently. (Not s’post to interrupt Mumma when she’s praying.)
“Mumma?” “What Manon? Sh-hh.” “Mumma, this is not God’s house, but I will look and I will find it.”
That was my Genesis, my beginning. I started to talk to God wherever He was, Whoever He was. I knew He was out there. I just didn’t know where. I’m following, but from a distance.
1942. I am 8 yrs old. “Mumma, please, can I go to Vacation Bible school?”
“Is it Catholic?” “No.” “What do they teach there?” “They teach about Jesus.” “Well, doesn’t matter if it’s Catholic. There’s only One God. I’ll speak to them.”
I loved those lessons about Jesus on the flannelgraph! We moved away shortly after, and I had moved too, a little closer to God. I am drawn to that Jesus.
June again. 1950. I’m 15. Flint, Mi is plastered w/ posters advertising “Revival Meetings” in a huge auditorium. I was riveted by those posters. It’s Sunday, and I’m showing off my first pair of 3 inch high heels. Slowing down, because my mind is swirling with the images of those posters. Thinking. I turn around, go back to the RR tracks, and follow them, in high heels, walking in the gravel between the RR ties, to the auditorium.
I enter the hall, and there’s a Holy Spirit-filled hush everywhere. “This is a holy place”. My shoes are clicking on the cement floor, so I bend down and take them off. It’s mid-afternoon, and no one is there. I come into the mammoth auditorium and sit in the very last row. But as 7:30 approaches and more people come, I keep moving forward and end up in the 3rd row. That evening, I saw the face of Jesus. I heard His voice, and I felt His powerful presence. When the altar call is given, I run up the aisle, carrying my shoes and up the stairs and behind the curtain where there are chairs. I kneel down, and I try to pray. Everyone is weeping except me. I tried to cry, but I couldn’t. Joy and laughter just softly bubbled out of me, and I begin to speak in another language. Stopped that. Realized later God was baptizing me with a Holy Spirit prayer and praise language. The light of Jesus shining into my soul was even more blinding than the light of that June day, 13 yrs earlier. I was blind to everything else except Christ Jesus, my Lord.
I came home from school one day in Sept. and Mumma was on her knees and crying. “O, Mumma, please don’t cry. What’s wrong?”
“I want to know Jesus the way you do and I want my life to be changed the way you’ve been changed.”
My Mumma wanted me to lead her? Everything I knew about God I had learned from her. That was the most humbling moment of my life. I did my best to pray with her. I was baptised in water and so was she, 3 weeks later.
I am not denominational. I can worship God anywhere. My family is Catholic. No problem. I’ve attended some beautiful Catholic services. I really like Pope Francis and I really like The Rev. Tom Chire.
2006. Following Jesus, I came to WS. Yes, we can worship anywhere, but we cannot accomplish all of God’s purposes by ourselves. Church is God’s plan to love the world. Sierra Leone; Mexico; Friday Night Community Dinners. What a barren place this world would be without church! For God so loved that He gave. I love to give; a joyful part of my worship. I’m helping to put a new roof on my church! Yay!
I need the ministry gifts God has planted in His church, especially the guidance of my Pastor/Shepherds, and I need you. It’s God’s way. No Lone Rangers. I know that I am a distinct part of God’s great body of believers, but I am incomplete without corporate worship, and the fellowship and teaching of the church; we are like-minded pilgrims on our quest to follow Jesus. I draw life from all of you, and I need my personal Quiet Time in the Scripture; journaling, listening, and praying for special needs. It centers me.
Finally, and this is a must: I have to be able to invite my neighbors and my beloved family to my church and to know that this is a place where they can follow Jesus. I entrusted my precious daughter, Kathy, to you, and you were the heartbeat of Jesus to her. I try to copy you. You are a warm, loving, inclusive and nourishing people.
Jesus said, Follow Me and I will make you…
He will. He does. He is.
Ruth Manon McAlister March 2015