Category Archives: Autumn

Pushing Down

Last spring I was seduced by a fresh green shrub, waving in ocean breeze by the marine blue sea. Surrounded by my invited Clearness Committee* members, I was asked, “What colour will you be on the afternoon of August 18th?” (They knew that The United Church of Canada would install its 41st Moderator that morning, and I would start a new stage of life.)

There was such confidence in my voice as I declared: “A spring green against a sea blue. It will be a new season. It will not be autumn.”

So much for my confident predictions and memory lapses about how much soul is grounded in natural cycles and seasons! Yes, I’m smack dab in the middle of autumn, and it’s a far better place to be than I would have imagined.

Autumn is a season for going deep into the soil of experience and reflection; of preparation for a winter that will make way for fresh activity in spring. During my new, almost daily walks in Toronto’s High Park, I’m developing a friendship with centuries-old oaks. They’re teaching me a thing or two about these life-giving rhythms.

Water and nutrients are moving away from their leaves, into their stems, and down into their roots. No longer are they preoccupied with the feverish production of chlorophyll. Instead, sugars and amino acids are being produced, so a flow of sap will come when the time is right. Proteins are being stored in roots and inner bark to grow new spring leaves – eventually.

“I’m trying to push you down” my massage therapist tells me. According to her, the pace and inevitable stress of three years of constant motion – not to mention the effects of being in a car accident a few days after General Council – have me living too far away from my core, my roots. She and the trees are getting me to move in the right direction for this season.

As Moderator it was important for me to move from heart to head much of the time. In order to represent the church as fully as possible, I tried to use both the soul’s language of scripture and poetry and the head’s language of order and of reason.

Now, though, is my time to breathe deeply, to push down into the heart again, to read my journal entries and files from three busy years –and to notice the nourishment that’s rooted there to serve new growth in the next season.

Last week I spent five glorious days with other Courage & Renewal® facilitators. Our time together reminded me of the extraordinary blessings of being part of this community of deep spiritual and communal practice. Next week I’ll be engaged in ‘courage work’ again, co-facilitating with Fred Monteith and a full circle of retreatants at Five Oaks Centre. I feel richly blessed.

Discovering seeds of true self is one of autumn’s themes. Thomas Merton put it this way: “We can be ourselves, or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours…. But we cannot make these choices with impunity.”

As the writer of Ephesians puts it, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called… bearing with one another in love.”

May your autumn choices – and mine – reflect the seeds of our true selves and calling.**

* A Clearness Committee is a communal way of supporting an individual in discernment. It is a gift of practice from the Quaker community. Clearness Committees are normally incorporated within Courage & Renewal® retreats. I will be facilitating a number of these retreats in the months to come and will keep you posted. The first is at Five Oaks Centre, Oct. 22-24: in Sudbury Nov. 19-21; and at Tatamagouche Centre, Nov. 24-26.

**If you’re wondering where to find my earlier blog postings written in other seasons, they’re in the process of moving here from wondercafe and can still be found there as well.

Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Moving On

I am grateful for the inspiring and steady stream of notes, articles and messages still flowing from and bearing witness to eight days of faithful work at the 41st General Council of The United Church of Canada.

Yesterday, for example, my friend Jim Champ, President of the Canadian Council of Churches sent me the editorial he’s written for the November issue of the Salvation Army’s magazine where he serves as editor. That issue of The Salvationist is not yet on-line but I commend it to you whenever you get a chance to see it – maybe in hard copy with a neighbour’s help.

Jim was one of our ecumenical and global partner guests at General Council, and among those whom I had invited to speak on Parliament Hill during the Ottawa Pilgrimage for which Youth Forum joined me on the afternoon of August 15th. He writes particularly about this experience in his November editorial.

And the Ottawa Citizen published a big colour photo of our prayer vigil on the Hill, bringing public attention to the young faces of the United Church who represent our community of faith so well. If you missed news of that afternoon, you might be interested in seeing the video account here:

With you, I continue to delight in the gifted leadership of our 41st Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson… and in the gifts of 14 other extraordinary leaders of our church who were nominated for this office.

Next weekend I’ll attend the first General Council Executive meeting since August, doing my best to play a supportive role as Past Moderator.

Indeed, much of what I’ve written here on wondercafe over the past three years is about that which is ‘past’ – including this posting and this website as home to my blogs.

I’d love to stay in touch, so invite you to visit me and my postings at That new website is still in development, and will be for some time. But I’ve begun to write again there, including today’s Autumn posting on Pushing Down:

May this season (and those to come) be blessed for you, our beloved church, and the world God loves!