Dick Hunt's Blog

October 6, 2010

A Vivid Dream

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A Vivid Dream
by Dick Hunt, October 1st, 2010
On September 30th, 2010 I had a vivid dream, packed with people and events of the late fifties and early sixties. I was able to easily recall the names and identify the faces of the people who were active in the places and events that stayed with me when I woke yesterday morning. The events were centered around the early days of my  Ordained Ministry in Stettler Alberta.  We had traded in our 1952 Jeep 4 wheel drive Station Wagon and were driving a 1957 Chev Biscayne Station Wagon, for greater utility and economy and more room for our family of four children.

In May of 1958 I was asked by the Bishop to head up a project in the Diocese of Calgary related to Youth work and Camping facilities.  The Diocesan Camp had for years been located near Millarville and adjacent to Christ Church, a unique log Church with the logs vertical instead of horizontal. Our project called for a twofold effort involving Youth of the Diocese.  We were to  demolish the  buildings of old  Camp Oliver and combine our labours with a Spiritual Awareness theme involving all who attended.  The weekend was  Queen Victoria Day in May.

45 youth attended, ranging in age from 14 to the low 20’s.  My staff included the Youth worker in the Diocese –  Rosemary Sagar, The Rev’d. Tim Nakayama (son of Gordon Nakayama a deeply loved Japanese  Priest and first generation Canadian) and Alex Manson from Stettler who transported 4 youth from Stettler, as I did.  Alex took along his fishing outfit and said that he would go fishing for the weekend and take the young people back on Sunday  evening. As it happened, he stayed all weekend, took a full part in the program and told me  he had never had a more meaningful time in his life.  We arrived mid afternoon on Friday, located our sleeping areas, moved in, set up our kitchen and eating facilities and had supper after Grace was said.
After supper we gathered around a campfire circle beside Sheep River, which was in full spate with the Spring Freshet. I led a Bible Study which centered around passages from Ephesians and there was deep attention on the part of all. Off to bed as darkness settled around us and the camp settled down for the night. Bright and early on Saturday morning we rolled out, Volunteers rallied around Rosemary, Tim  and Alex and we had a delicious breakfast.  Then it was a big push to begin the demolishing of the various buildings, which were quite dilapitated and infested with carpenter ants. We left enough of them standing for habitation and for food  services for Sunday.  Folded into the program were times of prayer and meditation which was fine with the campers. There was one group of five young men from one Parish who were a bit fractious and rebellious; more about them later.

After a very busy Saturday and the burning of much energy, we again gathered around the Campfire. I spoke about Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for us and for all mankind and that due to His Death, Resurrection and Ascention, He has opened the gates of Heaven and Eternal Life for all people in every age who turn to Him and receive Him in penitence and faith. Earlier in the day I had noticed one of the boys throw a dead tree branch out into the River.  It bobbed along on the surface and quickly disappeared around a bend in the river.  I told the gathering about that and that we would never see that branch again; that the Sheep River joins  other rivers and they eventually join the North Saskatchewan and end up in Hudson’s Bay.  The branch has gone forever. I said that is what happems to confessed sin; that Jesus takes it all away as though it had never existed and that we are made free from confessed sin. At that point a lovely Chinese girl, Arlene Wong jumped from her place on the log, and literally leaped and danced around the Campfire saying “I’m free from sin, Jesus has taken all my sins away”.  She had been brought up as a Buddhist and yes her life was changed – she became a new Creation, in Christ.
Sunday morning we had breakfast, washed up, and made our way  up the road to Christ Church,  having received permission from the Parish to use it to hold a Communion Service there at eleven o’clock. I had never been there before.  I had worked diligently to prepare a sermon which I believed would be in keeping with the theme of the weekend.  But on entering the Church I was confronted with a large black silk banner from side to side in front of the Altar, on which was printed in large Gold lettering, “I AM THY SHIELD, THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD”. (Genesis 15:1, King James Version). I was immediately aware that my sermon was to be based on that Scripture and so it was.  As a result of that sermon, which was truly a message from God,  17 young people committed themselves to Christ. Among them was the ringleader of the five from a Parish who had been difficult at the first. He became first a Church Army Captain and then an ordained Priest.  Two other young men were at that time called to train for the Ministry; one  at Oakhill College in Britain, the other at Emannuel College in Saskatoon.

Our group from Stettler was excited and the first thing they wanted to do when we got home was to go into the Church and thank God for his blessings and for their Salvation in Christ.  Alex was very moved to be with them for that time of prayer.  We then took them home and some of them told us later that their parents  were less than impressed with their witness and told them that “they had seen this kind of thing before and that they would get over it. And sadly, some of them did.  But Arlene didn’t.  She went on  to be a glowing Christian, I prepared her for Baptism and Confirmation and Baptised her. She was engaged to a young man called Harold Gee. He had been present at a infant Baptism previously and when I Baptised Arlene he giggled, wondering if I would hold her over my arm, as he told me later. They moved to Vancouver after their marriage and she used to keep in touch with me and share her faith. I  officiated  at their marriage.
I must share with you a hurtful comment loudly spoken by a member of the choir as we lined up for the Confirmation service beside the Confirmands in the entrance to the Narthex.  The words were, “Who let that Chink in here?” I was shocked as were most of the others who heard her.  I was not able to speak with Arlene before the service but did so afterward and explained to her that what she heard spoken by the Choir member was totally wrong and not in any sense in keeping with what Christ taught  and the Bible says.  Not infrequently I have heard similar comments in various Churches and have always tried to set the matter straight. Old prejudices die hard. For years many people spoke of the Anglican Church as “The English Church” and unless someone explained that what was meant was, ‘The Church for and of those who speak English’, some avoided the Anglican Church.  It is most important that all Members of the Church be well taught and nurtured in the Scriptures, in order that such blunders will never occur. Not a few of such bad experiences people have had down the years have kept them from saying yes to Jesus Christ for a lifetime of great joy and gladness in the Church. How  tragic!

After we had completed the demolition and cleaned up the site, we set about finding a new area.  I was one of a group given the task  and we settled on an area in the Kananaskis Forest District, adjacent to the new #1 highway project which was then under construction. Much of the work on our camp project was done by volunteers from the Diocese. There was a small lake in the lease which was used for water sports.  We built ten  Campers Cabins  on  concrete slabs using concrete blocks for walls, accomodating ten persons each in double decker bunks.  We had a large Dining Hall with adequate kitchen attached, a First Aid building, indoor and outdoor chapels and a good sized swimming pool.  For a number of years it served very well and was used to very good purpose.  Eventually the facility was sold and the Lease transferred to a new owner.
A word about the old log Church, Christ Church, Millarville. For some time after my Father passed away, my Mother lived alone in the the old two story house just south of Calgary off the McLeod Trail.  Then at the age of 65 she was married to a widowed Cattle Rancher, Jack King a few miles away to the west of the McLeod Trail, who was well known to our family. I was the officiant at their marriage. I had attended Olds College of Agriculture and Home Economics  with his son Charlie and daughter Betty some years earlier.  They built a new house on Jack’s Ranch near Christ Church, put up a small greenhouse, did the landscaping and settled down to enjoy life.  However, when the major work of development was finished, Jack found life boring, having  always been an active cattleman.  On a visit they paid to us in Stettler, Mother told me of Jack’s restiveness and asked me to try to interest him in a hobby. I suggested to him that he should start a interesting hobby and mentioned woodworking.  He snorted that “the only thing he could do in that line was to fix the barn door”!  I assured him he could do woodworking and would enjoy it.  I showed him my equipment in my basement workshop and some of the projects I was working on.

When they were off home, I fired off letters to various hardware stores in Calgary, asking them to send catalogues and information to Jack King at Black Diamond, their postal address.  A few months on Ruth and I visited with Mother and Jack and Jack showed me his workshop in his basement.  He had bought a   “Shopmate”, the same as the one I had showed him, which was a combination; table saw, lathe, sander, etc. and the work he was doing, all very clever.  He kept that work up very happily until Mother passed away several years later from Cancer.  He specialized in doing inlayed patterns  on cedar chests of his own design, coffee tables and many other items of practical use around the homes of his neices and other relatives. Mother too found  new and engaging activities in  the Community.
One Sunday, in Christ Church, the Rector, Archdeacon Waverly Drake Gant made an announcement about the need for volunteers to assist the Children throughout the foothills area South West of Calgary with their “Sunday School by Post lessons and to report back to Ms. Elsa Bray, the convenor. Mother, telling me later of the response said that most of the people looked around to see who would volunteer and no-one did.  She did a lot of thinking about the challenge, (she was 67 years of age) but by Friday she couldn’t refrain from phoning Elsa to ask if she could help. Elsa was most delighted.  Mother drove into Calgary, spent a lengthy session with Elsa and went off home with lists and maps and all sorts of data and supplies – and Mother had a job she had never tackled before.  The following Monday morning she did the laundry and the usual household chores and announced to Jack what she was about to do.  He was not pleased, saying, “you have no right to interfere in people’s lives”.  But she put her things in her car and set off to make her first call.

Having picked a farm where she would start and finding it on the map, she with trepidation drove into the yard, knocked on the door and as she said to me later, “hoped that no-one would answer”.  But the door opened and a somewhat harried young woman opened the door, blinked and Mother said “my name is Mrs. King and I have come to visit you from the Church”.  The woman looked at Mother for a few moments and then said, “But I have lived here for 18 years and no-0ne has visited me from the Church”.   Mother said, “well I am here”. After some moments that young woman with four little children clinging to her skirts, fell on my Mother’s neck and wept in gratitude and Mother too was in tears. They had  a long visit, she chatted with the Children and Mother was launched on her new life.  And it really was a new life for her, though she had always gone to Church, was devout, a great Christian Mother to us five children, but was really retiring and shy.  She opened like a rose in the sunshine of what she did.
From that moment until she became so ill with Cancer she could no longer serve, she brought great blessings in Christ all down through the foothills. In the Parish there was a Parish Hall beside the Church and she started a Sunday School there which was a first for many years. She started a Flower Festival in the Church, which is still thriving, now in it’s 49th  year without a break. She started a Children’s Choir, which thrived. She was asked to chair “The Ladies Guild” which was a social club and she said yes, “if meetings and activities were Spititual and Nurturing in the Faith”.  The younger members of the Parish then asked her to help them start a Young Women’s study group and she did.  She never stopped serving until her illness intervened.  When she passed away, I was  asked by Jack if I would drive him to the Funeral Home in Calgary as “he wanted to put a rose on her breast as she loved red roses”. As we looked down at her still form in the casket, big tears started to pour down his face and he said with sobs, “She doggone near got me going to Church”. He was a stiff upper lip Englishman and hated to let me see his tearful emotions. And I believe he never changed as he lived out his days in a little shack on the old Ranch, then operated by Charlie and Daisy his wife.

At her funeral, it being minus 40 F degrees in the early days of February, The Rector said, “from the time “Flo” said yes to Elsa Bray until she died, she made all good things happen in this Parish and brought great blessings to all who knew her. And she always gave all the Glory to God who made known to her what needed to  be done and she  trusted God to make it happen and it did”.  In her gentle ways, she never made people feel they were in any sense inferior to her but she asked freely for help and people responded willingly.  Her Father, who was the only Grandparent I ever knew and died when I was 10, was just such a man with a glowing heart and a smile which was sparkling and eyes to match. Mother was full of gratitude and joy when I told my parents I was going to train for the Ministry. Dad was not so sure I chose  well.
The problem was that Dad was a deeply committed Cattle Rancher and wanted all his children to follow in his footsteps.  I was also a very hard worker.  When I had “gone off to War in 1940 in  the R.C.A.F., Dad sent me off with a signed, blank cheque to send  home a “Grain Auger” to mount on the truck as I would no longer be there to shovel grain.  I had for  several years shoveled hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain on  and off the truck the year round.  And that was only one of my skils on a busy Cattle Ranch.  During my studies in Emmanuel College in Saskatoon the Principal, Dr. Ralph Dean during a visit to Calgary in his line of work, was invited to Preach at St. Peter’s, Okotoks on a Sunday. Over coffee later at my parents home, Dr. Dean told my folks that of all his 51 students in the college I was head and shoulders above the rest.  I was also the oldest. Dad began to change his mind about my decision.  The night of his death during the family’s visit in the Hospital, he asked us all what we were going to do with our lives.  Then he said,”when you go home,I am just going to go to sleep and when I wake up, I will be home.  And with his eyes fixed on something we couldn’t see, he described heaven  to us in words that were glowing with faith and Biblical in nature.  Then he said something which made us think he was losing his mind. “Before I go home, I am going to come and sit in easy chair once more”. We all went home,  five of us to Mother’s home, two to their cottage next door and my sister and her husband to their home 60 miles away.  We had coffee, chatted awhile with Mother , I prayed with them and we went off to bed just around 11:30 PM. We lay abed thinking and just after midnight the Doctor phoned to say Dad had passed away.  Those of us  in the house came to the phone and I told them what the Dr. had said. We chatted a bit and with a prayer together and lumps in our throats went  back to bed. At One PM we all heard the front door open and close. We listened for the squeaky old floors. No sounds.Then we all thought of Dad’s words, “I am  going to come one more time and sit in my easy chair”.  To this day we see  that chair rocking, in our mind.
Our Father was born and raised in the Midlands in England  of a farmer Father who was Church of England and a Mother who was a devout Roman Catholic. His Dad was a somewhat casual Anglican and  didn’t take seriously his role as a Spiritual leader.  By arrangement with the respective Priests, as each child was born they were Baptised either Anglican or Roman Catholic.  Dad turned out to be Roman Catholic and always revered his Mother for her Christian influence and devotion.  He  had some doubts about the faith of his Father. Still, he told me of an occasion when the two Priests were in his Dad’s hayfield together, merrily pitching hay onto a hay wagon and having a wonderful time. In the very early days of my parents marriage, the only Church which functioned in the district where we Ranched was Anglican. And in those days, the Clergy were firm in their Faith, happy, loving and kind.  So Dad went to Church with Mother and the Children and was happy to do so.  I do remember him saying on many occasions, “the Lord would not approve of this or that action  and would approve of this action”. He lived his faith.  The only Grandparent I ever knew was my Mother’s Dad, who was a happy, deeply committed man of prayer. He died when I was ten.

We had a very happy family relationship as we were growing up on that Ranch in Alberta.  We worked hard, lived a very healthy life, we all had our special interests  and skils and did our tasks in harmony with each other.  Our parents set a very good example and we grew up to be happy, well adjusted citizens. My mother said to me when I visited her in Hospital in Calgary not long before she passed away: “If the Lord asks me what I have done with my life I will just point to my five children and say I have done my best and I am proud of them all.”  No regrets. Now my three brothers have passed away and my sister and I talk together on the phone twice each day.  We look forward to being with our loved ones again in the very presence of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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