Shaun Fryday, whose faith community emulates his personal hospitality, to be this year’s recipient of the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


Rev Shaun Fryday has been selected by Montreal’s United Theological College to receive the award, established by my late brother, at the UTC Convocation on May 8th, 2013. Fittingly, the ceremonies will take place in Shaun’s congregation of Beaconsfield United Church.

When he received the news, Shaun is said to have been deeply moved, recalling Craig as one of his closest friends and how the award makes Craig seem “very present”.

Craig died on May 9, 2007 as the result of a fall fifteen days earlier which caused traumatic brain injuries. Like me, he had been retired since the mid-1990s when the stress and fatigue of living with HIV had become too much to bear in his capacity as a United Church minister in west-end Montreal. It was shortly thereafter that he first made plans to establish the award, which would follow his death.

In a letter to the college, in which he outlined terms of reference for the award, Craig wrote:

“…it is my intention and desire that this award be presented in recognition of the particular ministries of gay and lesbian people both within the formal, organized structures of the Christian Church and without…to honour those whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear embodiment of such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice and a sustainable environment and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.

“The conditions of eligibility for potential recipients of this award are intentionally and necessarily exclusive in one important respect – the person being honoured must be able and willing to be publicly recognized as a lesbian or gay man. I am sadly aware of the fact that because of the current climate within some churches and certain elements of our society, this condition effectively excludes a good many competent and highly gifted people who are eminently deserving but who do not feel they can risk coming out of the closet at this time. I am all too aware of the oppression many of them suffer and the peculiar irony in the fact that I am creating an award for which I myself would not have been eligible for most of my professional career in the Church because of my own inability during those years to be safely and publicly self-declared as a gay man.”

Craig went on to say that he believed the award would have the potential to create positive, visible role models for gay and lesbian Christians. He poignantly recalled the United Church’s much-debated decision in 1988 to no longer exclude LGBT persons from consideration as ministers. The final decision was made at a Church-wide council meeting in Victoria, which Craig attended with much trepidation, referring to LGBT members in the third person.

Much has, thankfully, changed since then – the Church evenly electing an openly gay man as Moderator last August!

In nominating Shaun, his congregation cited his vision and commitment to numerous social justice initiatives, from guiding the parish in becoming an LGBT-affirming congregation to the creation two years ago of an LGBTQ Youth Centre, a first for Montreal’s West Island (and for any church!). The centre has more recently expanded its outreach to family members of the LGBTQ community as well as to LGBT adults seeking to break out of isolation.

A couple of paragraphs from a congregation member’s supporting letter speak volumes:

“…after working at the front lines of the African AIDS epidemic I needed solace and community…Shaun was not only open about his sexuality, he was willing to explore the injustices the world visited on LGBTQ people and explore how the experience of being ‘different’ in the world might offer us all opportunity to live more compassionately and justly…

“But I also would like to make clear that Reverend Fryday does not confine his zeal for social justice in ministry merely to issues directly impacting the LGBTQ population and their families. He has been a fierce advocate for the indigenous people of the Philippines, and has determinedly brought their plight into our consciousness at Beaconsfield United Church. Indigenous communities in far away places are easy communities for comfortable Canadians to ignore. But Reverend Fryday has demonstrated that to do so is merely to perpetuate the systems of inequality that plague our planet, destroy communities and, ultimately, our planet. And when injustices on this scale occur, we cannot be silent.”

Shaun’s c.v. concludes, “I have a number of leisure activities that I enjoy pursuing. Particularly, I am an avid reader, I enjoy writing, and I love to cook (and eat!)”

Shaun is a tall, and in other ways, large man – self-deprecating, too!

His hospitality figured prominently in the agonizing days that Craig lay dying in Montreal’s Neurological Institute. Craig’s partner, Claude, and sister Lynn kept constant vigil each day asking other would-be visitors (other than we siblings) to respect their privacy. With understanding and compassion illustrative of his pastoral care, Shaun prepared and delivered delicious home-cooked meals a considerable distance each day to the walk-up Craig and Claude shared in the “Le Plateau” district. I was privileged to partake in some of these meals, both in Montreal and Perth (those we took up there for Craig’s burial).

Craig’s family is proud to anticipate Shaun receiving this award!

I’m sure that Craig would be proud of his United Church of Canada electing a gay man as Moderator


The criteria my brother Craig set out for the United Theological College award in his name reads in part:

To recognize the powerful and passionate ministries of gay and lesbian persons and to honour one whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear commitment to such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice, a sustainable environment and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.

Now I’m not making an early pitch for next year’s award but I can imagine that Craig would be pleased and proud of the United Church General Council’s choice of openly gay Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson as Moderator for the next three years. In fact, he was one of three openly gay candidates in a record field of fifteen nominees.

Craig was not completely open with his sexuality right up until he took his early retirement, at which time, it turned out, his parishioners were far more concerned for his health and well-being than his sexual orientation. He had been able to come out to many people in his congregation over the years when he thought it would be helpful but I know he took something of an envious delight in me being as open as I have been for so long.

The United Church of Canada broke new ground, and cracked open parched, dusty ground, when in 1988 – twenty-four years ago – its General Council decided, by no means unanimously, that every Christian, regardless of sexual orientation, was not only welcome in the church but was “eligible to be considered for ordered ministry.”

Craig was at that assembly in 1988, speaking of sexual orientation in the third person, feeling the slings and arrows of the often acrimonious debate. In light of all the love which surrounded us when he died, and the wonderful memories of Craig his parishioners shared, it is still so painful to imagine what that meeting in Victoria must have been like for him and other lgbt colleagues.

That was then. This is now. Although my direct relationship with the United Church has never been the same since Craig’s death, I applaud the decision-makers who re-affirmed the church’s 1988 decision in such a big way.

Craig`s timing


When Craig died five years ago today he could not have ordained that his memory would loom large during this week each year as the award in his name is presented at today`s Convocation ceremonies of United Theological College.

He would not have chosen, for Mom`s sake at least, to die so close to his birthday, either, this Sunday – yes, Mother`s Day, just like it was in 2007.

But it is what it is.

Skies are considerably brighter in Montréal today.

While the sting of the first few years of grief has lessened considerably, this is one of those days when missing Craig is quite a bit more intense.

Two names to be added to Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


This spring’s presentation of the award in my brother’s memory will include a couple of firsts – two individuals are being cited and they’re from across the Canada-U.S. border in neighbouring Vermont.

To be more accurate, one-half of the couple of Dr. Delores Barbeau and Carol Olstad, R.N. will be honoured posthumously as Carol, who incidentally was a Canadian born in Alberta, unfortunately died last October in their adopted home of Weston, Vermont.

The two met in 1983 while working in strife-torn Bolivia, Delores as a Maryknoll nun-turned-physician and Carol a registered nurse working under the auspices of the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board.

Delores had only lived and worked with Bolivians since 1969 and, given the political climate, knew how much safer it would be to avoid becoming attached to Carol.

Bolivian authorities were already suspicious, to say the least, of church aid workers in their midst (let alone white North Americans); not easily dissuaded from their presumptions of CIA connections. Imagine if they knew they were lesbians!

But the Bolivian Ministry of Health assigned the two to work together, within a year of their first meeting, in a remote tropical jungle.

Not more than a year later the government had put Delores on a hit list and the two fled Bolivia, travelling to Nicaragua to work for five years alongside the people defending their dignity and rights against American-backed rebel forces out to destroy the successful Sandinista government.  (This corrects my earlier history-fogged equating of the rebels as the more courageous side to be on!)

In 1991 Delores and Carol returned to the United States, first New York and Massachusetts and then Vermont, sharing their lives openly as a couple while continuing to live the “social gospel” lessons of their respective faiths, even if no longer so affiliated. (They have since enjoyed the community of the Monks of Western Priory in Vermont where Carol was solemnly and happily remembered following her death in October of last year.)

In a letter to loved ones about her experiences, Delores concludes:

So. That was Bolivia.

What was it like?
It changed my life forever.
I learned to love.
I learned to look at things in a new way and walked in many different shoes.
I learned other definitions for family.
I learned that there were priorities.
I learned to dance.
I stood before mass graves, and buried many friends.
I learned what fear really felt like.
…and in all of this I never knew a time when I did not know God.

The 2012 Convocation of United Theological College, during which the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award is presented (and Delores will deliver the Convocation Address), will be held at Summerlea United Church on Wednesday, May 9 – five years to the day since Craig’s death.

With such an early spring, maybe his favourite irises will be in bloom.

Defying the Christmas-based economy


Were it not for Christmas, we hear constantly, many retailers would not make it through a year.  The exploited workers of China, whom we have increasingly employed since local manufacturing jobs became of secondary concern to our finding cheap goods, now make most of our clothes and gadgets (luxury and otherwise).  Their jobs are secure with our collective indebtedness to their freedom-trampling government for our closer-to-home purchases of the necessities of war or war readiness.

From “Black Friday” until Boxing Day there are reports of people fighting – fighting and worse – over gifts in high demand.

Did I mention it is Christmas?  Oh yes, right up there with retail survival.

Peace on Earth.  Good will.  The joy of giving.

Until my niece and nephew either wise up or admit that they know better the rest of the family continues to buy them gifts as if Santa Claus himself can’t manage that himself.  Ingenious as they are in every other way, I believe that we are being taken for fools for at least one more year.  We’re okay.  They’re still kids after all.  They have each shunned birthday party gifts for food bank donations at least once, their status as perfect kids in my books never in doubt.

For the rest of us, for many years we drew names thereby buying and receiving only one Christmas present to a value of no more than $50.  I cannot tell you how sane this made the holiday season, rarely stepping inside a store.

When Craig died we decided to donate those fifty dollar amounts, at least, to his memorial fund.  It is a fund to which anyone can contribute.

There’s one tradition we carry on as well, or better, than even the most extravagant families – we eat a lot! No thanks to me, except for washing dishes, Mom oversees a few pretty amazing meals, with others pitching in with food contributions or some heavy lifting of the turkey.  Although I know Mom puts a lot of thought and work into meals, and bakes well ahead of the holidays, I don’t think she’d have it any other way.

In a world where many go without so much, and others work so hard for so little for our material wealth, I appreciate the degree of sanity our family brings to Christmas.

The happy, and the dreadfully sad, of April 24


Does anyone in Toronto know where I could get French-language greeting cards?

Well, one more time, I had to mail an English birthday card to Craig’s partner, Claude.  Now he’s always up for anything that will improve his second-language skills but, as a gesture, I just think French-language cards for him would be nice.

April 24 is now so inextricably linked to both Claude and Craig.  My brother was carrying bags of stuff home to celebrate three years ago today when, right in front of their beautiful old walk-up in Montréal’s Le Plateau neighbourhood, he stumbled and fell to the pavement.  A shopkeeper across the street saw it happen and called 9-1-1.  Craig hit his head so hard, and was unresponsive, that it was to the Montréal Neurological Institute that paramedics took him (lower hat-pin), just a short walk from the United Theological College to which he made a bequest of a memorial gift.  Canadians might remember the Montréal Neuro for one of its famous founders Dr. Walter “I smell toast” Penfield.  Craig was in the best possible hands.  Unfortunately he never regained consciousness nor, for that matter, did he breathe on his own.  That’s not to say there weren’t many days and nights of hoping.

Map picture

In the whirlwind of that late afternoon Claude had called my sister in New Brunswick, second only to Craig in the family as far as proficiency in French. She immediately flew to Montréal, alerting my other sister what was going on who, in turn, called me that evening. We decided to take on the role of being with Mom in Perth while news from Montréal was still fluid.

Mom took our collective advice to stay at home. She didn’t fight us on that, having just recently spent Easter weekend with Craig and Claude. A few days later, with news not getting any better, my sister and I went to Montréal to see the lay of the land for ourselves. I must say one of the lasting impressions I have of that visit was how the respirator seemed to inflate his slim belly to the point of nearly breaking. I’m not sure any of his “thumbs up” responses were anything more than something involuntary pulled from his memory. The next day there was virtually no response and, as my sister and I returned to Mom, I was pretty sure – or in dread – that I had seen Craig for the last time.

But that was somewhere between April 24 and May 9. April 24 is still for Claude, whom we all love as a brother and son. I can’t imagine being in his head and heart on this date any more, but I know that a friend of he and Craig is making him dinner tonight.

Bonne fête, cher Claude!

A few pictures from Montréal and Perth in April and May of 2007:

   The iconic view from Mont-Royal

 Speaking of icons: Schwartz’s Deli on “The Main” in Montréal

  Beautiful blossoms at Perth’s old fire hall tower

  Coutts Coffee at Code’s Mill in Perth where I tried to blog my way throughout this period

Alyson Huntly receives this year’s Craig Chaplin Memorial Award



From left to right:  my sister Lynn, Alyson Huntly, and Claude on my left2472243872_3ce770b56c_b

Google Alyson Huntly’s name, as I did even before I knew with absolute certainty that I’d be writing this, and you’ll see what an accomplished author, educator, Diaconal Minister, grandmother (and on and on) she is!  Add Doctor, too, Alyson having received her Ph.D. in Education (Curriculum) from Queen’s University last fall.

So for these, and more particular, reasons for many of us it was never a question of if, only when, Alyson would receive the award my late brother Craig left for McGill University’s United Theological College.

I emailed her a few questions this week and she replied with warm and loving memories of a dear friendship.

My first point of contact with Alyson comes from her acclaimed 1998 book Daring To Be United: Including Lesbians and Gays in The United Church of Canada (United Church Publishing House) but her friendship with Craig went well beyond that.

My first question to Alyson was, given her understanding of Craig’s intent for the award, what her feelings are in being selected to receive it.

“I am of course very honoured to be recognized this way. It makes me feel quite humble, though, when I think of all those who are doing so much to work for justice for glbtq people in the church and in the wider community. Although many people think the issue is over, of course there is still so much prejudice and oppression – within the church and in Canadian society. Of particular concern for me is the way that young people experience such hatred and misunderstanding, including from their peers, as they are coming out.

“Craig and I talked about this award when he was first thinking of creating it. I know that his hope was to continue to raise up the issue of sexual orientation, as a way of continuing to place it in front of the church in a public way, through the UTC convocation. He saw this as a way of continuing to name the “issue” that no one wanted to talk about. I think it’s still somewhat the case. I work in a congregation and I am quite sure that there are many who would say that they are fine with me being lesbian, but let’s not be public about it – which is of course a way of silencing glbtq experience and stories.”

Published ten years following the denomination’s historic decision not to exclude qualified lesbians and gay men from ordained ministry, Daring to Be United weaves together the many stories as told by passionate church members on both sides of “The Issue”.

One of those stories was Craig’s and, re-reading it even now, the inner turmoil and fear of those days leaps off the page.  I asked Alyson to reflect on the interactions she had with Craig, particularly in the preparation of the book, and on Claude’s quoting – from the book – of Craig a few years ago that “living in the closet was worse than his personal experience of HIV”.  I remember that even at the worst moments of  “the issue” Craig, like so many, never lost hope completely nor the collective sense of humour.

“Craig was a good friend. We worked together on a few different projects, related to lay education, during the time I was working at UTC (1990-94) and often met for supper to chat about work or just to talk. We often met at his and Claude’s apartment and had long unhurried conversations about everything under the sun. Craig was always so easy to talk to and such a compassionate listener but he also talked about his own life, his struggles and hopes, and about this award.

“I know he was hoping to write a memoir and I have often wondered what happened to that project. He did write a bit, I know. When I interviewed him for Daring to Be United he was more out (that would have been in 1997) but he talked a lot about his experiences of being in the closet and how oppressive that had been. I think it was a great joy for him that later in his life he could be public about who he was. Though many people at the church knew, there was still that oppressive silence hanging over him. I think he was very relieved when that ended and he could be fully out. And, yes, he did have an incredible sense of humour – and a deep love of life. He was an introvert by nature and needed time apart but he also loved people – his friends, his family, and the people he ministered with.

“That is what I remember most about Craig – his loving presence. This award is a reminder of how much Craig gave of himself, and his love and care.  That’s also what is humbling about receiving this award. He touched so many people in such a significant way. And he continues to do so, through this bequest.”

Chaplin was ordained in 1980, in an era when “don’t ask, don’t tell” seemed the norm for gay and lesbian candidates. “I don’t even remember contemplating coming out as a serious option,” he recalls.  “With anyone I did tell in those early years, the response was always the same: don’t rock the boat and everything will be fine.”  He went to enormous lengths to hide his sexual orientation and his relationship from his first congregation.  His partner never answered the phone.  He could only enter the house through the back door.  If anyone came to the door he went upstairs immediately.  The pressure was horrendous.  “I needed to believe people didn’t know he was in the house,” Chaplin explains.  “We managed to eke out a life , but it was very stressful.”

In 1984, he moved to Union United Church in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, near Montreal.  In 1986, when the congregation studied the issue, they invited a “real gay person” to come and talk to them.  It was ironic.  They could have talked to their minister, if anyone had known.  By 1988, Chaplin had come out to a number of key people in the congregation, but most still were not aware of his sexual orientation.  A commissioner to the 1988 General Council, he sat in the auditorium, a closeted gay, HIV-positive man.  When he joined in the debate, he spoke carefully, in the third person.

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Chaplin’s deteriorating health finally forced him to go public.  In 1992, he stood in front of his  congregation and told them who he was.  He would have preferred to come out in different circumstances but knows that, but for AIDS, he might never have done so.  “I’m grateful that if I had to develop HIV, at least it became a catalyst for the kind of growth and change I needed to do,” he says.  It became a very life-affirming opportunity to claim his life back both from the closet and the disease.  He feels both were deadly.  “In many ways, the closet was killing me faster than the virus, spiritually if not physically, because of the enormous pressure I felt to conform outwardly to an image that wasn’t who I was.”

Chaplin recognizes the cost of all those years of speaking in the third person, answering evasively.  As closets go, it wasn’t too uncomfortable.  He had come out to a lot of people in the congregation, but that just meant they, too, were part of the web of silence. “I may be feeling more liberated but, really, all I’ve done is broadened the web of deceit.  I have brought them into my closet.  But they haven’t brought me out into the sunshine.  It was quite different the day I stood up in a public forum and said, ‘This is who I am.’  Because, at that point, I wasn’t inviting them into the closet, I was knocking the door down.”  Chaplin regrets that it had to be done under those kind of circumstances.  “In the best of all possible worlds, it’s not the  kind of script I would have written,” he says.  “But given the hand I was dealt, I did the best I could.”

Alyson has been very involved with Affirm United for many years.  (That’s a group within the Church for support of, and outreach from, lgbt members – ordained, laity and friends.)  I wondered how she sees the Affirming Ministries movement going in the United Church of Canada – ever-growing in some areas and yet, perhaps, a little complacent in others.

“I think the Affirming Ministry movement continues to be very important, even though there are many who would say this issue is just not that important anymore (because we have glbt ministers and gay marriage and so on). Even people who understand the importance of working on issues like anti-racism will say to me sometimes, ‘Why are you still going on about gay rights when there are so many more important things to be done in the world?’ I don’t think people realize how much hatred glbtq people experience just for being who we are, or how hard it is for young people especially. It’s still socially acceptable to be anti-gay even when it is no longer socially acceptable to promote racial hatred.”

Does Alyson not enthusiastically embody Craig’s vision for this memorial award?

I’ll editorialize with some extra emphasis but this is how United Theological College announced the establishment of the Fund at the time of Craig’s death:

The Rev. Craig Chaplin, friend, pastor, teacher and graduate of the United Theological College died on Wednesday, May 9, 2007.

Over a decade ago Craig made the decision to make a bequest to the United Theological College that would support an award recognizing the remarkable contributions of ministry offered by gay and lesbian people.  In initiating this fund Craig envisioned an award that would be given regularly, and publicly, to a gay or lesbian person, ministering within the formal, organized structures of the Christian Church or in other faith traditions.  This award is intended to be not only a symbol of affirmation, but also a means of fostering and encouraging positive role models within the GLBT community.

It was Craig who proposed that this award be announced at the time of his death and that others be encouraged to be Craig’s partners in contributing to it and the vision it promotes.

We are honoured that Rev. Chaplin has entrusted the United Theological College with the disbursement of this memorial fund.  His affirming vision of the ministry of gay and lesbian people within and beyond the life of the Church is one we seek to affirm in tangible ways through our ministry of theological education.  This memorial fund allows us to live more fully into this vision and mission.

During the time Craig was so selectively “out” he would tell me how proud he was of me, and envious, as my eventual coming out (preceded by a “Me thinks he doth protest too much” homophobia at a time when I could have been much more supportive) allowed me to be at lgbt rallies ‘in the trenches’.  In kind, I have absolute goose-bumps of pride reading over those terms of reference for Craig’s Memorial.

Alyson will be honoured as part of the Spring Convocation of the United Theological College to be held this year on Wednesday, May 12 at 2 pm at Union United Church of Montreal (not to be confused with Union in Ste. Anne de Bellevue) located at 3007 Delisle Street near the Lionel-Groulx Metro station (see map).

As this is an on-going memorial, donations to the Craig Chaplin Memorial are always greatly appreciated. A secure on-line link can be accessed from here or gifts to “United Theological College” (Chaplin Memorial in memo line) can be mailed to:

United Theological College,
3521 University St.,
Montréal, Québec H3A 2A9

Just one gift to go


Since my brother Craig’s death in 2007 the Christmas shopping for adults in the immediate family has become even easier than the draw for names that we used to do. We all donate at least $50 (the maximum we used to spend on one gift) to Craig’s memorial fund.

With a niece and nephew just seven and eight we continue to buy each of them a gift but I’m sure they’ll ask us to switch to Craig’s fund in due time as they’ve both already collected for the food bank on their birthdays.

I have Kailey’s gift bought and now I only have to buy something comparable for Brennan!

It was two years ago today


This was the notice published in The Gazette a couple of days later (minus the picture):

CHAPLIN, Rev. A. Craig – B.A., M. Div.

Peacefully in hospital on Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at the age of 51. Former Minister of Sutton (Que.) United Church and of Union United in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Que., a graduate of Queen`s University and McGill`s United Theological College.

He is survived by his loving partner of sixteen years, Claude Lamontagne, and their extended families, Craig`s mother, Madeline Chaplin of Perth, Ontario (predeceased in 2002 by father Arnold Chaplin). Craig was the beloved brother of Kenn, Lynn (Joslyn and Allyson Howatt), Janice (Randy Shiga), and the proud uncle of Kailey and Brennan.

A memorial service to celebrate Craig`s life will be held at St. James United Church, 462 Ste. Catherine St. West, Montreal, on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 7pm. Interment will be held at Scotch Line Cemetery in Perth, Ontario on Tuesday, May 15 at 6pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Craig Chaplin Memorial Fund at the United Theological College, 3521 University Ave., Montreal H3A 2A9 (or online at www.utc.ca) are requested.

Celebrating Craig and a walk (now with map) from Le Plâteau to Outremont and back (Montréal)


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Mom and I arrived at Claude’s on Monday for the second annual presentation Wednesday of the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award to Darryl Macdonald. It was a wonderful convocation ceremony and service, and it was terrific to meet Darryl and his husband Chris (r).

Now Craig’s dream has been realized twice, with many more such occasions to come provided the fund remains viable. With convocation – and the further conferring of this award – likely to forever coincide (almost) with the anniversary of Craig’s death, May 9, it is almost as if Craig would be saying, “No time to be weepy; get on with life (and keep those donations coming)!”

I already have a pretty good idea who next year’s award recipient will be. Right from the start there has been no shortage of great candidates.

With Craig’s wishes so explicit, “To recognize the powerful and passionate ministries of gay and lesbian persons and to honour one whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear commitment to such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice, a sustainable environment and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized“, I am very proud that UTC publicly, prophetically, stands out among United Church of Canada colleges – not to mention any other schools of religious training – in living out its commitment to ensure the equal ministries of LGBT people.

Tuesday I took a long walk from the southeastern-most corner of Le Plâteau neighbourhood to Outremont to the northwest, and then past Mordecai Richler‘s old haunts to rue Gilford and on to Parc Lafontaine before going back to Claude’s.

Did I take pictures!

Darryl Macdonald to receive the second Craig Chaplin memorial award


4907_1016820198480_1764387485_33449_1524709_nThe recently-installed (February) minister of Roxboro United Church in western Montréal, Rev. Darryl Macdonald, has been selected to be this year’s recipient of the prize named for my late brother, Craig, when the United Theological College holds its convocation in May.

Rev. Macdonald was educated at the Presbyterian College adjacent to UTC.

This is where the story gets interesting and makes him such a great fit for Craig’s prize.

Darryl worked as a supply minister and in street outreach for a Presbyterian congregation (he had been a Presbyterian all his life) in Lachine and was then asked to become their fulltime minister.

When he thought it best to reveal that he was gay, and in a commited relationship, he asked the congregation to double-check their decision which they did and in the affirmative.

While most in the regional body of the church were in agreement with this bold move, they and others watched nervously as their sister denomination, the United Church of Canada, worked through its fairly recent decision not to disallow the ordination of lesbians and gay men.  And there were enough dissenters to take the matter to the general assembly of the national Presbyterian Church.

A committee recommended that Rev. Macdonald’s ordination should go ahead only if he ended his relationship and practiced celibacy.

The General Assembly agreed.

The congregation was ordered to remove Rev. Macdonald and otherwise threatened with banishment from the national church. Before they could be cast out, members of the congregation voted to withdraw.

It is living openly and honestly through such an ordeal as this which Craig had in mind when he set out plans for the award in his memory.

As Craig’s partner Claude reminded us at the inaugural presentation last year, Craig often said that living in the closet was much more difficult than living with HIV. Craig used to describe the act of confiding his sexuality to individuals or small groups, while he was still in active ministry, as inviting people into his closet.

He experienced much more freedom in his retirement but that image of people going into his closet, rather than him coming out, is a powerful one.

Sources: UTC, religioustolerance.org

To The United Church Observer


I was certain Pathways to Prayer (Cover Story, October) would be interesting and I was not disappointed.  However, grieving the sudden death of my brother some eighteen months ago, I was left feeling a little empty when the article did not include the story of an intercessory prayer which was not answered with a positive result. If we are to believe that God arbitrarily gives and takes away life (metaphorically at the very least) sometimes, no matter how many intercessors we name, a prayer’s answer is “No”. That’s when faith can be so fragile. I think we need to re-examine old ideas of ‘God’s will’.

Now, had space permitted, I might have gone on to say that I don’t believe in a Santa Claus-style deity with wishes granted and rejected willy-nilly, ‘blessing’ America (or ‘damning’ either).

My belief is in ‘Namaste’ – the divine spark in you meeting the divine spark in me. Nature is Creation or Gaia and is ours to protect. I continue to practice, and question, my faith in a very progressive United Church congregation but nothing I see and hear cannot be filtered through the prism of my beliefs. I’m also looking into Process Theology which offers this untrained theologian a perspective that I don’t recall hearing about, though perhaps I was practising it.


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Jim Loney receives Chaplin Memorial Award; text of his UTC Convocation Address



Further to my description of some of the events at last week’s Convocation of McGill’s United Theological College, when Craig’s Memorial Award was presented for the first time, click here for the inspiring convocation address of the recipient – Jim Loney of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

 

Craig’s death – one year later (updated May 15, 2008)


Friday
It was one year ago today (May 9), while my sister Lynn and Craig’s partner Claude slipped out for a bite of lunch, that Craig took his leave from us in his Montreal hospital room.

This has been an amazing week for Mom, Claude and me as the inaugural presentation of the Chaplin Memorial Award was made at Convocation ceremonies of McGill University’s United Theological College.

I spoke first, then Claude did so in French and then the recipient, Jim Loney, was introduced and his suitability for the award well-articulated. (To read the text of his address click here.)

Here’s how I introduced the proceedings:

On behalf of Claude and my mother Madeline, both here today, and my sisters Lynn and Janice and their families, I would first like to thank the college for choosing this Affirming congregation, where Craig served with such enthusiasm, and was held in such love by the congregation, as the venue for today’s ceremonies.

In 1995 Craig made the request of UTC that, upon his death and with a gift which he would provide, the College create an award recognizing the powerful and passionate ministries of gay and lesbian persons throughout our church and beyond. This would be an opportunity to “honour those whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear embodiment of such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice and a sustainable environment, and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.” It was also, unapologetically, a way in which to raise up gay and lesbian role models to give hope, particularly to young gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. UTC has chosen to name this award in memory of Craig for which, of course, we are most grateful.

When Craig first conceived of the award he had no idea that he would live long enough for the list of potential recipients to grow as long as it was – and will be for some time. However, when we heard that James Loney was to be this inaugural year’s recipient we knew that Craig would be so pleased, humbled even, considering the world-renowned faithful, courageous witness and, may I say, the social justice gravitas of Jim.

This week marks the first anniversary of Craig’s death.

For even a part of Craig’s spirit to live on in you through this award, James, is an honour for those of us who loved him.

Claude followed, speaking in his native French language, and described Craig’s feelings that the closet might kill him before HIV/AIDS. Craig was determined to lift up the potential of people of faith who were, or saw themselves as, marginalized as a result of their sexual orientation.

Even as laws in Quebec and Canada have evolved favourably there are still too many suicides, too much discrimination and homophobia. Claude said how proud he was of The United Church of Canada for its welcoming policies which remain light-years ahead of other faith communities, and that his love of Craig could be publicly honoured.

It was a wonderful afternoon, the award being only one part of the convocation ceremonies, and we met old friends, became acquainted with new ones, and felt Craig’s influence, presence even, as we often remarked, “Wouldn’t he have loved (this or that?)”

To my left: Claude, Jim and his partner Dan

I spoke to Mom this evening. Back home in Perth now she ran some errands today, trying to keep busy. As per a special request from Claude, she also laid flowers at Craig’s grave. It’s only six years ago this week that Dad was buried in the adjoining plot.

The first part of Mom’s May is full of memorable – most not happy – dates: Dad’s death on the 4th (six years ago), his burial a few days later, Craig’s death last year, his birthday (the 13th), his memorial service the next day, and burial on the 15th.

Saturday

I’ve added the picture of a bouquet I put together Saturday afternoon. They’ll be placed in Craig’s memory at the front of my church tomorrow. White irises were Craig’s favourite and I’ve added the Birds of Paradise because they reminded me of the flames of Pentectost, which we celebrate tomorrow.

Craig hated having his picture taken – hated it – but this was one he consented to with his late, beloved terrier Wesley. I took this picture of his picture along with a vase full of his favourite flower – the white iris.

I found this reference by Dominique to Craig’s award and am very happy to have another link of interest to put on my blog.

Tuesday, May 13

May 13 was Craig’s birthday. He would have been 53 today. On this day last year (which was a Sunday – Mother’s Day) my sister and brother-in-law, and my young niece and nephew, drove Mom and me to Montréal from Perth. Another sister and Joslyn and Claude were waiting for us. The next evening, the 14th, Craig’s memorial service was to be held.

Craig’s birthday…Mother’s Day…is it any wonder Mom wanted it low-key this past Sunday?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jim Loney’s Convocation Address has been added to the UTC site. (To read the text of his address click here.)


Digg!

A day of firsts


This afternoon, in a Toronto hotel ballroom, the anthology containing two of my short stories, will be released at a wine and cheese party.  I will not be there as I am in Montreal for another significant event – the inaugural presentation of Craig`s memorial award.  It is a lovely day and Mom, Claude and I are looking forward, with perhaps a little nervous anticipation, to this afternoon`s ceremonies.  Claude and I read aloud our prepared remarks last evening, not only to practice but also to let Mom hear everything we were going to be saying today.  (She`s not given to emotional surprises, and who can blame her in this case?)

Yesterday I took an amazing walk – amazingly long, too – some pictures of which you can see on my Flickr preview (where you can click to go to the entire collection).  The new picture in the header is the floor of the Montreal Convention Centre (Palais de Congres) with the colours coming from the multi-coloured panes of glass in the windows.

I`ll write more later.