By The Rev. Canon Bob Elkin

A woman was asked by her friend how she and her husband made decisions at their house.  “We’re a team”  the woman answered, “and together we worked  out a system a long time ago that works very well for us.  My husband makes all the big decisions and I make all the small ones.”  The friend thought that over and asked:  “What are some of the small decisions you’d make?”   The woman shrugged  and said:  “Oh things like what school the kids should go to, is it time to get a new car, should we move to a bigger house….that kind of stuff.”  The friend looked at her in surprise and said:  “Well what are some of the big decisions that your husband makes?”   She shrugged again and replied:  “Should the Gateway Pipeline Project go ahead, is it time to get Canadian troops out of Iraq, should there be a moratorium on the fishing of Bluefin Tuna?”

I picked up on the flaw with that arrangement right away, but we are often in that kind of relationship with others because we have to be or it doesn’t work.  Me and the Government of Canada have an understanding like that.  I vote to elect a representative and they work with other representatives to make many of the big decisions that we just can’t all get together and decide and aside from some crabbing on my part they do their work without input from me.  On the other hand, I do things that affect me and my family and our lives and the government leaves me alone to do it, most of the time.  As Pierre Trudeau said when he was Prime Minister:   “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”  It’s not a perfect illustration of what I’m saying but it’s easy to remember!

Time, place, and circumstance all have a bearing on our relationship with others.  Twenty years ago, on the Caribbean Island where we lived, clergy were king and could do no wrong.  I came through customs once with a suitcase that gurgled and clinked  but my form said I had nothing to declare and I was waved through.  Thank heavens Anglicans don’t believe  in purgatory for I’m sure that would cost me a year or two!   It wouldn’t happen today because I wouldn’t do it and the customs officer  wouldn’t allow it, but that was our relationship back then.  Things change.

I went to the hospital two weeks ago to visit a parishioner.  I was allowed in, I visited and on leaving I did not self isolate, with the hospital’s blessing.  How is that possible?  It was a critical, end of life time for the person I was visiting and I was togged up like a space-man and put in a clear walled room next to the patient’s negative pressurized  room where we talked and prayed via a phone.  Now hospitals are usually nice places for clergy to go to because  the staff are friendly and polite  and  don’t  mind you coming, but they don’t often pay a lot of attention to you and you certainly don’t take any liberties or bend any rules.  But these are special times and both staff and clergy recognize this and we all  become part of a  team that surrounds the patient and provides absolutely everything that we can for the good of that patient.  Staff and clergy, them and us ceases to exist and one team is produced that is fully  supportive of each other and does what it needs to do.  When this pandemic  is controlled I’m sure we’ll drift back into our previous relationship because most of the time we don’t need to work so close, but in war we do and this is war.

I’m finding this change in other areas too.  Our church has a Food Bank Box and normally people would bring food items in and put them in the box whenever they decided to do that and when there was enough in the box somebody would take it over to the Food Bank.  Right now though nobody can go in the church but St. Luke’s Cathedral figured out a way to collect food safely and take it to where it needs to go.  People donate, volunteers pick it up and it’s delivered to the Food Bank where it is badly needed as more and more clients need help as the effects of lay offs and work stoppages grow.  There is a camaraderie about the way it is done now that wasn’t there before.  Like at the hospital, a team exists now that gets the food from people’s kitchen cupboards into the hands of people in need.

Our  relationships with one another has changed dramatically.  The myth of the self made person has been exploded.  I used to walk into a store, pick up what I came for, drop my money on the counter and then leave feeling very independent.  If someone doesn’t go and do a lot of that for me now I don’t get what I needed.  All of us have become parts of teams which get us our food, visit us in hospitals and help us do just about everything else that must be done and you know what I’ve  discovered?  It’s nice!