Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Searching for the Christ Child

A Simple Massing Priest Christmas Tradition since 2007. 

The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main creche at the parish where I serve as interim priest.  
It is actually a very interesting creche, set up inside the altar itself. A simple wooden chevron suggests the stable, while the remaining figures stand on black satin.  
It was already in place on Sunday last. Actually in the Sunday before last as we compromised the calendar in the interest of the children's pageant. But Sunday last the creche had only its minimalist roof, one ox and one ass. Mary and Joseph were not far away - standing on the altar pavement - but they hadn't arrived yet. The shepherds weren't there yet either, out tending their sheep on the edge of the pulpit. And the magi were in the middle of the aisle at the back of the church, still some ways away.  
Tonight, Mary and Joseph, and after some panicked moments, the Baby Jesus, were all installed in their places. The shepherds were "summoned to his stable" during the gradual hymn. And the magi were now half way up the aisle - accompanied by a helpful "Mind the Camels" sign prepared by my good wife.  
It was a good celebration in a community which seems increasingly hopeful and future oriented. And generally united. There is no parish on earth that doesn't have some divisions and tensions. But this little parish seem quite determined to be a family together.  
We found Jesus tonight at St. James - literally, allegorically and eucharistically. We all came to the same table, together. That is where we belong in worship - at the same table, together.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Premier Wall's Response

Some weeks ago I posted a copy of the email I had sent to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall regarding the urgent need to siexe the moment and initiate the process to abolish Canada's corrupt and anti-democratic Senate.  I indicated then (and in the email to Premier Wall) that I would publish his response here. After some delay on my part, here it is.

Apart from the typo in the date (I've been the acting manager of a correspondence unit so I have great sympathy), the most telling thing about the letter is that it is clearly a form letter intended to respond to the bulk of the Premier's correspondents on this issue, and that it presumes there would be some explicit or implicit criticism of the Premier's move from supporting Senate reform to supporting Senate abolition. I don't have an issue with a standard response, and it does address my criticism up front.

November 19, 2013 
Thank you for your email.  Premier Brad Wall's reply is attached.  If you are not able to open this document, please contact us by email so we may send you the original by mail. 
Bonnie Krajewski-Riel
DirectorPremier's Correspondence Unit 
Novmeber [sic] 18, 2013

Dear Mr. French:

Thank you for your email regarding the future of the Canadian Senate.

As you know, the Government of Saskatchewan has passed a motion supporting the abolition of the Senate. Although not a constitutional amendment, this motion stands as a statement of Saskatchewan’s official position on the Senate to the rest of Canada. Our province may consider a constitutional motion in the future, but will wait to hear the Supreme Court of Canada’s impending ruling on what precisely is required constitutionally to abolish the Senate.

I have long been an advocate of Senate reform, to make the Senate elected and more accountable. However, the complete lack of progress in this regard, coupled with the growing cost, ineffectiveness and lack of accountability of the Senate has caused many people, including myself, to conclude that the more realistic solution is to work toward abolishing the Senate.

While abolishing the Senate will not be easy, meaningful reform is impossible and the status quo is unacceptable in my view.

Some provinces have begun electing Senators, who are then appointed by the Prime Minister. While this may be a small step in the right direction, it still presents a number of problems. First, all Senators including elected Senators serve until age 75 and do not have to stand for re-election every four years like MPs or MLAs. Nor are we any closer to equality reform wherein each province would have equal representation.

Finally, the fact that many provinces have indicated they will not elect Senators means we would be left with a hybrid Senate, only partially elected, lacking accountability and representational imbalance. While the election of some Senators would give the appearance of more legitimacy, I believe this would be a false legitimacy for the reasons I have just listed.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that a future Prime Minister would appoint the elected nominees to form any Senate. For example, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has stated publicly that he supports the status quo.

It is an interesting debate and I appreciate your views. One thing that virtually all Canadians agree upon is that the Senate should not continue to exist in its current form as an undemocratic, unelected institution that is costing Canadian taxpayers nearly $100 million a year.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Brad Wall