I was born on a farm in Prince Edward Island and grew up as an only child. I moved to Hamilton, Ontario as a teenager. We married at eighteen and while raising a family my husband and I went back to school to further our education. I graduated from McMaster School of Business and family moved to Ottawa where I worked my way up in Finance in the Federal Government. The personal loss of our twenty-two year old son to a rare form of cancer brought us back to Hamilton and my journey into ministry. Thirteen years serving in the northeast end of Hamilton with Fairfield-St. David’s congregation culminated in retirement when the church was sold and passed on to Wesley Urban Ministries. Thirteen years of working in Financial Management with family trucking business followed, and the joy of training and working with three of my grandchildren. Then an unanticipated “recall” into active church ministry arose out of my daughter’s decision to study for the ministry. My work with her for preparation and study reawakened my passion for ministry and I became aware that my journey was not finished and God had more for me to do. Could my twilight years be productive? I certainly have the energy and enthusiasm. When God nudges, amazing things can happen! At the precise moment of my search, Melrose, too began their own search. Not just any church - this was “The” church I was married in, raised my children in, and from which I was a candidate to ministry. At this point in our evolution, we were delighted to find one another. I have been warmly welcomed home! Together in ministry we seek to listen to God’s word, to make Melrose presence know and relevant in our community. It is a joy to work with our dedicated and professional staff and Board. If you are curious or seeking deeper meaning in your life, come join us as we explore what it means to be in the ministry of Jesus Christ together in this challenging world.
Grace and Peace..
Rev. Sonia Ireson
February 22, 2021
TO: Friends of Melrose
FROM: Rev. Sonia Ireson
Greetings in the name of the One who loves us and holds us dear
Childhood on the farm carries many memories to this day for its significant difference in how children play. Then, outside, with sleighs and made-up childish props, rather than now, inside, with electronic equipment. The blast of snow that we have had over this last week was a reminder of the snow forts, snowmen and snow angels. This amount is but a drop in the bucket to growing up in the forties and fifties. Snow came in the late fall and we would not have expected it to be gone until April. Each snowfall packed on the previous one. My time in Bellwood was closer to the experience growing up in P.E.I. Once snow arrives, you rarely see greenery until the spring. It just builds up, drifts, and gets packed down.
Summers were also mainly spent outside from early morning to night. Our unfettered imaginations helped us pass hours in exploring brooks, tall grass, the apple orchard and the barns. I had a friend, Kathern, that was expected to do a lot more farm chores than I ever was, so when I visited her place, I eagerly joined in. When she came to mine, it was like a holiday for her. We had a hired hand that helped my father and mother with the daily chores. Now when my cousin, Beryl, came for a visit, life got interesting. She and I were the same age. Her father and my mother were half-brother and sister. And he ran the local saw mill. I don’t remember too much about what we would have done, other than one memory that remains etched in my mind. We were probably around five or six; we liked to dig in the garden; I think that was her instigation because she liked to eat worms. Yes, worms. Gross! Somehow, she seemed to reach adulthood as a fairly normal adult.
My inspiration for this letter came from our Lenten Bible Study in our small Melrose group. It was after writing the theme portion on “dust” that the memories of life on the farm came back to me of the importance of “dust,” soil, land and dirt, the very foundation of farming life. Dr. Robert Schuller spoke in his book, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do, about his family’s experience growing up in Iowa and the unrelenting dust blowing across their land. One time the storm was so bad, it wiped out their farm and had to be completely rebuilt.
Our study “Lent in Plain Sight” by Jill J. Duffield has us looking at ten everyday common items that are a cross-connection with the period of Lent and Easter. The first week is “dust.” The study begins on Ash Wednesday with the Genesis 2:7 passage – “formed from the dust of the ground…. The funeral phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” comes from the Genesis 3:19 words “thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.”
One of the thoughts that came from our reading related to Jesus’ words from Luke 9 to his disciples, if you are not received into a household as you travel, shake the dust of your feet, and carry on. In essence, he is saying, do not waste time where you are not wanted, move on. This is a good piece of advice for all of us. In our romantic relationships, our friendships, our business dealings; where we are not appreciated and valued, it is imperative that we recognize this and move on to where we are respected and valued for who we are.
Dust obscures and hides the true value of what lies underneath. Priceless works of art, furniture and sculpture are disguised by accumulation of dust and their true value is ignored. Yet, dust can be prevented in the case of Dust jackets, which protect and preserve the covers of books. Pablo Picasso said: “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” That is an interesting thought. I interpret this to mean that life lulls us into a routine and art, jars us into a strong emotional response that can touch the very depth of our souls.
Jessica Khoury in her book The Forbidden Wish says that “time has a different meaning for me, and these events that seem so monumental in the moment will one day be nothing more than a line in a scroll. These humans are but letters to be linked into history. A hundred years from now, I will be free. I will have forgotten their names and faces, and the struggles they have will not matter. Time has a way of burying things, shifting like the desert and swallowing entire civilizations, erasing them from the map and memory. Always in the end, everything returns to dust.” How wrapped up we get in the moment of our troubles; they loom over us like there was nothing of greater import. We assess our failures, our shortcomings, our wrong turns, our losses, with such ferocity, it is as if nothing else matters, but they are really only “dust in the wind.” They come and go like monumental challenges and then fleetingly disappear.
We take up broom to dust out our abodes, sweeping feverishly to eliminate any traces of neglect. Would that we could spring clean the debris from our lives with the same force, our harmful emotions of rage and vengeance and jealously, and our habits that do not serve us well. A fresh clean start gives anyone a new lease on life. Unused talents, forgotten learnings, lapsed exercise, lead us to become “dusty,” mere shadows of our former engaged selves. When we clear away the dust, we need to be careful that we are eliminating it and not just spreading it to other areas where it will further contaminate all that it touches.
In 1977 the rock group, Kansas released the song, “Dust in the Wind.”
I close my eyes, Only for a moment, and the moment’s gone, All my dreams Pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind All they are is dust in the wind.
Same old song Just a drop of water in an endless sea, All we do Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind
Oh Now don’t hang on, Nothin’ lasts forever, but the earth and sky It slips away, And all your money won’t minute buy
Dust in the wind All we are is dust in the wind (repeat) Dust in the wind Everything is dust in the wind (repeat).
A bit of philosophical thinking in the lyrics. I’m inclined to interpret them as reality rather than negativity. They bring me back to my son’s bedside. As I sat on the floor beside his bed, holding his hand, I said to him, we will be together again “in the blink of an eye.” And that is really what we experience in life when stacked up against eternity. We travel this road in physical form for a wee moment in time. It really requires us to make the most of it.
Do not let dust and cobwebs keep you from experiencing the fullness of life. Appreciate its many forms and its basic housing of our DNA imprint from our very beginning. We begin as dust and to dust we return. But, oh, we have a wonderful opportunity to make the in-between, something spectacular.
Be strong! Stay Safe! Be of good cheer!
Together in the Service of Jesus Christ
Christmas Message 2020
A Very warm Christmas greetings to all during this unusual Christmas season!
When we reflect on that first Christmas leading up to the birth of the Christ child, we are struck by similarities in today’s world. The Pandemic is the impetus for separating families today as much as the Census was in early biblical times. Both create isolation that keeps families from celebrating with one another. When the Holy family had to leave their homes and their families to register for the Census in their home towns, they found themselves separated from supportive family, alone, without accommodations, and bereft of care. The child, Jesus, was born into the world without medical intervention. There was no grandmother at the young mother’s side, to coach her and reassure her that all would be well.
As we spend our first Christmas under lockdown orders unable to congregate with family and friends, we become all too aware of how we are not meant to live in isolation, and how much we depend on the company of others to bolster our mental well-being. Reluctantly, we accept the need for these measures knowing that they are intended for our common good in the long run. We face the uncertainty of the unknown future with Hope the virus will be defeated with vaccine, and our collective efforts to prevent its relentless spread.
The Holy parents protected their precious child by removing him from threat of death at the hands of an enraged king, to the safety of Egypt, until such time as the threat was no longer present. We do what we can to prevent the sickness and possible death of our vulnerable, by removing ourselves from their side until such time as the threat is no longer present.
The birth of a child is a major time for family celebration. Mary and Joseph did not have that opportunity. It is a difficult task for us to comply with separation at a time of year when we most want to celebrate the good will of the season. We long for familiar faces unmasked, and emotion boosting hugs that tell us we are loved and connected to one another. We want our familiar routines, our places in the pews, the smiles that let us know we are part of a caring community. And yet, we have to contain all that sentiment and wrap ourselves in the Hope and Promise of a God who got down into the midst of our broken, imperfect world, and whose birth took on the willingness to experience all our turmoil and pain.
This God walks in solidarity with us through all we can face, and understands and shares in our struggles. I can put my Hope and Trust in this God because He put Himself out on a very fragile limb to show me how much He cares for His creatures.
May you feel the Shalom of God enveloping you in His light of love, sustaining you in all you do.
Be strong. Stay safe. This, too, will pass.
Merry Christmas and God bless you!
Rev. Sonia Ireson