The Mystic Cave

The Mystic Cave

An exploration of the soulful journey. Stories, conversations, and reflections from the other side of conventional religious belief and practice. A sanctuary for seekers along the Unknown Path.

Episodes

January 4, 2021 21 min

In this inaugural episode of the Mystic Cave I greet my new listeners, spiritual seekers meeting on the other side of church land. I state my Intention--to chronicle my journey along this Unknown Path; my Hope--that listeners will share their stories too; and my Dream--that we will discover a new way of being fully, soulfully, and spiritually alive, minus some of the dogma and a lot of the posturing. 

I launch the series with a refl...

Mark as Played

This is the start of my memoir about life in the church, titled, "Lost Rites: Leaving Church Land." I wrote the memoir to try to understand why, after a lifetime in the church, almost forty of those years as a parish priest, when I left, I was done. The story starts here, with an unsettling epiphany smack in the middle of a worship service.

Credits:
Music Credit: "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison, performed by Colin J...

Mark as Played

I begin my story with my memorable ordination as a deacon. It was a strange experience, being "raised up" to become a lowly servant. Even then, the contradictions abounded. Not like my early experience of church, where it was all about safety and security and, above all, belonging. My childhood in North Vancouver was idyllic, and my family provided a place to learn to manage the tension of being both a willful Leo and a lam...

Mark as Played

My childhood, looking back, seems idyllic. Stable home, healthy church, friends and family all mixed together in one big happy tribe. But, as happens, the seeds were already being sown for the person I was to become, specifically, for the minister who was even then taking shape. Life lessons were preparing me for the road ahead, and not all of them would be easy.

Credits:
Music Credit: "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison, perf...

Mark as Played

Our family's move to Montreal was as eye-opening as it was alarming. We found ourselves in the middle of a religious battle zone, where it mattered which school you attended and which church you belonged to. But I had other things to think about than my religious identity. I was entering my teens and the world was waiting for this budding performer to arrive on a new stage. Church could wait.

Credits:
1st Interlude: GL Hallway ...

Mark as Played

The tensions only increased as I approached my sixteenth birthday. My good and bad angels fought with each other. My brother made home life intolerable. My parents both suffered challenging health issues. I sought solace with my friends. Until we rolled it all up into another move ... and started again. But what was there to fear? In our new church I was to meet Jesus. Personally.

Credits:
Music Credit: "Into the Mystic" by ...

Mark as Played

Our family's move from Montreal to Toronto introduced me to a whole new group of friends. It also introduced me to Jesus. Personally. So I was brought to a classic crossroads. What did I really want to do with my weekends? Party, or pray? I was a teenager, but the answer wasn't obvious.

Credits:
Music Credit: "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison, performed by Colin James, from the album, Limelight, 2005; licensed under ...

Mark as Played

I trade in my weekend parties for weekend worship, and for a mission to evangelize the world. Heady times, full of drama, as is just about everything in the teen years. The narrow beliefs wouldn't last. But the faith would. And the importance of a "relationship" with the divine. God was becoming more real to me, but not according to any formula I'd known before.

Credits:
1st Interlude: Prayer.mp3 by genesis Attenborou...

Mark as Played

As Spirit-filled Jesus People, we had the light, but we didn't yet have the depth. For that, we'd need to live in our new faith for a while, testing it against what life itself wanted to teach us. And life wanted to teach me that I wasn't the only one who had God living inside me. Secular professors, a rabbi, and even a prospective new girlfriend--they all had God living inside them too. And sometimes God in them was wi...

Mark as Played

My fundamentalist beliefs delivered me into the bonds of marriage. I was certain that's what young Christian couples were supposed to do. But my new liberal beliefs were pulling me in directions I could not have foreseen, where faith meant stepping out in the absence of certainty. Life was, in fact, becoming less certain for me, a lesson in faith if ever there was one. And soon I would begin my training for ordained ministry, w...

Mark as Played

Trinity College, at the University of Toronto, where I began my divinity training, was a magical place. But as enchanting as it was, and thrilling, not all magic is good magic. I would find that our humanity follows us everywhere we go, even to places of higher, which is not to say heavenly, education.

Credits:
Interlude: Story Logo by DDmyzik / License: Attribution Noncommercial
Music Credit: "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison...

Mark as Played

In every hero's quest, the sirens of waylaid distraction eventually appear, calling out, "No, over here! This way!" It's not to say we shouldn't obey them. Maybe we should go over to where the sirens are beckoning to us. Maybe, even, we need to go there, in order to rediscover where our true path lies. Anyway, that's what had to do on my way to graduation and to ordination. The sirens made such sweet musi...

Mark as Played

There's a children's song for a long car ride that begins, "Are we there yet? Not yet!" That might have been my song as I entered my third and final year at Trinity. Both graduation and ordination were being held out to me as real and tantalizing possibilities. My focus had returned. I felt ready. But was I there yet? Not yet!

Credits:
1st Interlude: Dramatic Organ, B.wav by InspectorJ / License: Attribution
2nd Inte...

Mark as Played

Following my graduation from Trinity, I was set adrift by my archbishop when he learned that my marriage had broken up. I wouldn't be ordained along with my classmates. But he was willing to give me something, so he sent me as the chaplain to a church camp. It proved to be just what my wounded soul needed. Then, at the end of the summer, he placed me as student-in-charge of a familiar rural congregation, Cookstown, that had bee...

Mark as Played

I was placed as an interim minister in Dave Ward's old parish of Cookstown. My heart still needed healing. But so did theirs. So we ministered to one another, as “wounded healers.” It was a rich and grounding time, reminding me of my familial roots in North Vancouver. I might have been content to stay there. But my ambition drove me to push for an ordination date, which would require soul work of a different sort. It was time t...

Mark as Played
February 26, 2021 26 min

Finally, I was ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, both as a deacon and a year later as a priest. But it appears we can never lift ourselves too far out of the muck from which we crawled, eons ago. Odd things happen when we do, some of them laughable, some of them humiliating, to bring us back down to earth again. We are, after all, only human.

Credits:
1st Interlude: Church Organ Ending Tune.mp3 by CGEffex / License: Attribut...

Mark as Played

I was a new priest. But I wasn't a new man. And no amount of holy posturing could hide that fact. I was still too young a man and too new a priest to realize that it was my humanity that God, and God's people for that matter, actually wanted of me, not my exalted ego. But, not realizing that yet, I stuck out my chin and assumed my new role with all the cockiness of youth.

Credits:
Interlude: Success Resolution Video Game Fan...

Mark as Played

Even the church offers a version of life in the fast lane. It's what happens when a fresh young priest is anxious to prove himself and the church is all too happy to put him to work. It was hard work in my burgeoning parish of St. Philip's, Unionville, but rewarding as well, especially as I learned to see my parish as a family, not as an institution. As my professional life flourished, it would be my personal life that woul...

Mark as Played

In my big new parish it was sink or swim, so I swam for my life. But one of the rules of the sea is "women and children first," something I hadn't heard yet. As my work life exploded, my home life all but rolled up into a ball and shrivelled away. I was burning out, with no one to blame but myself. My family history provided an answer to that, though: If you can't change yourself, change your location! So I started ...

Mark as Played

I thought I was moving up in the world. Having made a splash in my first major parish, maybe I could raise my profile even higher by moving to a new diocese. That's what my ego was saying. But just about every other part of me was saying I needed to rest, and to reconnect with my wife and family. Fortunately, Church of the Redeemer, Stoney Creek, in the Diocese of Niagara, allowed me to do both. The parish didn't want my bi...

Mark as Played

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