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.