Canadian Church History Poem

by Jeffrey Mackie

18th CENTURY

I met an Anglican
I snuck into their church
The English I don’t really understand
The people or the language
Their service seemed like ours
Protestant, but not.

I am a Franciscan, sent here
And now I stay, the English are everywhere
Though I think this is where we live
Between here and the ocean
On into and past Montreal

We are from France 
But no longer of France
Our identity found in the land
And the faith we have preserved
This is my country now
Unlike some who only come for gain
To disappear again, seeking money
But not a new life.

The English will they stay?
Will we learn to live with them?
So much wilderness, but somewhere below
More English, but no longer English
We are an island of language and faith
What does God want from us?


19th CENTURY

The Red River Valley
We have come to the Prairie
To have our freedom, not far away
To have our religion, to keep our faith
To live our way

We don’t always understand
And some missionaries have tried to change us
We were promised land
The chance to live in peace
To live our principles

The Red River Valley 
We’ve heard rumours of war
Canada has called out troops
Like the Tsar did against dissenters
I don’t know much about Louis Riel
But it seems he wants to be free 
To live for his community
To live for his faith
In this wide-open land

But it seems even in the wide-open space
A large land that God has given us
That someone wants what you have
That some government or army
Will come to claim it.

I am selling my house
I am getting supplies
The word, God’s word, and a bit of song.

I feel like I have the message
I like the holy spirit wants me to speak
Tongues on fire to those who seek
To those simple folk, making a living
In the bush, a simple house, a simple life

I bring the spirit
Our Lord himself, and blessed intentions
Give them some preaching on a Saturday night
Those long days with no news
After a long winter
A dream that didn’t materialize

You want to hear God loves you
With a bit of emotion
The distinguished men of the Church
Say that I need more education
But our Lord taught from scripture 
Did not once get asked if he had a degree
They asked him where his teaching was from
They asked him for the Bread of Life

Out here there is hunger for the word
And sometimes just plain hunger
Out here the only denomination is people
Out here, they want a message
Out here, they want a few songs

In the silence, you want to know
God is listening,


20th CENTURY

It all moves so fast
The music the cars, the lights
Since the end of the war
The Second World War
You know the first one was
The war to end all wars

Some went to fight
Some followed their conscience a different way
With sons overseas
Some families resented conscientious objectors
The war improved technology
But technology for destruction

We can now destroy a city
I read we could destroy the world a few times over
We live behind our barriers of country, ideology
They say Christianity is dying out here
And one half the world is officially atheist

There are some you people with guitars
And people trying new ways to live the gospel
In Latin America, the gospel promises better
The churches can no longer exclude some people
But what does this mean,
For our practice, for our scriptures?
But surely God doesn’t want atomic fear!
Segregation here and elsewhere
Hunger in a land of plenty.

But some ask is Christ’s message for all,
Or only for some?
What am I to do in the jet age?
Will science replace faith?
I still believe so 
But there is so much to process.
I guess I will pray.
I am still allowed to pray.

Still allowed to pray
Still allowed to write
Still allowed to believe
Still allowed to hope
The mind and the heart must be open
As has always been necessary
Each time is the modern time
And a historical time.

Will some future historian, 
Discover what I wrote here,
And try to determine what I believed,
And to whom I belonged?

Will the struggles we see now,
Become the issues of our day?
Part of the fabric of who we are?

Jeffrey Mackie is an internationally published and translated poet living in Dawson City, Yukon. He is an Anglican priest in the Yukon.

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