All Saints Day 

Sán uu dáng G̱íidang (Trans. “How is the state of your soul?” – Xaad Kil, the Northern Haida language)

There is a powerful longing that geography calls from us. You know it when you feel it.

In 2018, my sisters and our beloveds got on a ferry in Skidagate Haida Gwaii. It was part of a month-long journey, and this leg was capped off with an eight-hour ride across the Hecate Strait. The ferry was coming in, and finally, we saw the outline of green; that was where my mother was born over ninety years before. I was not surprised that I was emotional as the lush green island rose from the ocean or that the sun was out to greet us. What I was surprised about was how familiar the green, lush land was and how it felt like home when we stepped ashore.

My mother had been taken from this place in 1929, 89 years before. She was taken and put on a tramp steamer and shipped 23 hours down the coast to the Indian residential school, St. Micheal’s in Alert Bay. My mum Beatrice, Sandlaanee, a member of the Haida tribe, never came back to the Islands. She did buy land in interior British Columbia in the early seventies, and that is where I spent all of my summers. My mother never came home, but the piece of land she purchased was on the east shore of the south arm of Kootenay Lake. Kootenay Lake is a long, narrow, and deep fjord-like lake located between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.

Who we are often comes from two things: the where and the ancestors. They may have taken my mother from the land, her culture, and her family, yet they never took it all from her, and the land where my mother is from, she carried, and she gave to me. The place is important, family is too, and in the church, our chosen family is larger than we can even imagine. The church year tries to acknowledge it.

I am going to teach for a second. You all know that the church likes things in threes: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; Mother, Child, and Spirit. We want to acknowledge a larger sense of God than we can know or imagine.

We have these three-day periods in the church called the Tridium. The Holy Week Tridium is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Last year I talked about one that we have, which church geeks would call Allhallowtide. First, All Hallows, or as we know it, Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, Hallows TO MAKE HOLY, the evening before All Saints. All Souls’ Day. At the start of November, these three days mark a time that society does not want to acknowledge. (It is also a way the Christian Church stole Saimhaim from the pagans, and I get that, yet it does still point us in the same direction.)

Today, we acknowledge All Saints Day and honor the saints who came before us. All Souls is the remembrance of everyone else, not St. Mark, Luke, or Winifred. And all hollows is to say that all of it is Holy. It is a time to remember that the time we have here and now is precious and what we have, so we should make the most of it. The Dalai lama is quoted as saying that the biggest mistake in life is to think you have more time. None of it is guaranteed; we will die, and this fall, Tridium is an acknowledgment. Live. Make the most of it.

Who are the people who came before you? We are not reading a Necrology this year, so this is your chance to name them. Call them out.

“Can you hear them? Can you hear them as they pass by, whispering in the wind? Can you feel them, feel their warmth, when they draw near, standing just beside you? They are the ones who have gone before, the saints who have touched our lives, whose memories shape us still. They are the family to which we each belong, ancient and never-ending. Our ancestors watch over us, their constant vigil keeping. Their wisdom and care surround us, a river of healing flowing just beneath the sands of time. Can you hear them? They speak of a love they have seen, love beyond imagining, a love that holds us safe until we rise to meet them.”  – Bishop Steven Charleston

We are called to acknowledge those who have come before because we carry them with us in a sense of place in the language we use. It is why we have this church, why we do the work we do, and why we ask for you all to participate in the annual stewardship campaign; it is about setting us in place. Today we acknowledge that connection, and we love and support them as we carry on. Our reading this morning reminds us not as a how-to manual but as a reminder of our blessings and how we are blessed.

Our call is to carry on, carry them with us, living deeply into what is good and right and working to shake off the broken and the unhelpful. We are a product of those who come before us, and if we are to live into our blessings, we are called to remember today and strive for change tomorrow.