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The Mystic Cave

Author: Brian E Pearson

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An exploration of the spiritual journey. Stories, conversations, and reflections from the other side of conventional religious belief and practice. A sanctuary for seekers along the Unknown Path.
52 Episodes
Burying the Dead

Burying the Dead


In this inaugural episode of the Mystic Cave I greet my new listeners, spiritual seekers meeting on the other side of church land. I state my Intention--to chronicle my journey along this Unknown Path; my Hope--that listeners will share their stories too; and my Dream--that we will discover a new way of being fully, soulfully, and spiritually alive, minus some of the dogma and a lot of the posturing. I launch the series with a reflection about putting the church behind us. It's a piece I wrote for the Alexandra Writers' Centre's 40th Anniversary Anthology, being published later this year (2021). We can't possibly find new life until we go back and bury our dead.Credits:All commercial music used in this podcast is under license with SOCAN, 2021.Interlude sound effects and music are attributed where required and otherwise are covered by a Creative Commons license.Theme music: Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison; performed by Collin James.Help make this a conversation by leaving a comment:Face Book: The Mystic CaveWeb site: www.brianepearson.caEmail: mysticcaveman53@gmail.comTwitter: @brianepearson1 (#TheMysticCave)
Lost Rites: Prologue

Lost Rites: Prologue


This is the start of my memoir about life in the church, titled, "Lost Rites: Leaving Church Land." I wrote the memoir to try to understand why, after a lifetime in the church, almost forty of those years as a parish priest, when I left, I was done. The story starts here, with an unsettling epiphany smack in the middle of a worship service.Help make this a conversation by leaving a comment:Face Book: The Mystic CaveWeb site: www.brianepearson.caEmail: mysticcaveman53@gmail.comTwitter: @brianepearson1 (#TheMysticCave)
I begin my story with my memorable ordination as a deacon. It was a strange experience, being "raised up" to become a lowly servant. Even then, the contradictions abounded. Not like my early experience of church, where it was all about safety and security and, above all, belonging. My childhood in North Vancouver was idyllic, and my family provided a place to learn to manage the tension of being both a willful Leo and an accommodating middle child. The stage was being set for my formation as a minister ... literally, as it turned out. Help make this a conversation by leaving a comment:Face Book: The Mystic CaveWeb site: www.brianepearson.caEmail: mysticcaveman53@gmail.comTwitter: @brianepearson1 (#TheMysticCave)
My childhood, looking back, seems idyllic. Stable home, healthy church, friends and family all mixed together in one big happy tribe. But, as happens, the seeds were already being sown for the person I was to become, specifically, for the minister who was even then taking shape. Life lessons were preparing me for the road ahead, and not all of them would be easy. Credits:1st Interlude: bicycle tires on dirt road or gravel by Garuda1982 / License: Attribution
Our family's move to Montreal was as eye-opening as it was alarming. We found ourselves in the middle of a religious battle zone, where it mattered which school you attended and which church you belonged to. But I had other things to think about than my religious identity. I was entering my teens and the world was waiting for this budding performer to arrive on a new stage. Church could wait. Credits:1st Interlude: GL Hallway 2.wav by PitStop100 / License: Attribution2nd Interlude: homeback.wav by X3nus / License: Attribution
The tensions only increased as I approached my sixteenth birthday. My good and bad angels fought with each other. My brother made home life intolerable. My parents both suffered challenging health issues. I sought solace with my friends. Until we rolled it all up into another move ... and started again. But what was there to fear? In our new church I was to meet Jesus. Personally. Join the conversation: Face Book: The Mystic CaveWeb site: www.brianepearson.caEmail: mysticcaveman53@gmail.comTwitter: @brianepearson1 (#TheMysticCave)
I continue reading from my memoir, Lost Rites: Leaving Church Land. Our family's move from Montreal to Toronto introduced me to a whole new group of friends. It also introduced me to Jesus. Personally. So I was brought to a classic crossroads. What did I really want to do with my weekends? Party, or pray? I was a teenager, yet the answer wasn't obvious. 
In this instalment of my memoir, Lost Rites: Leaving Church Land, I trade in my weekend parties for weekend worship, and for a mission to evangelize the world. Heady times, full of drama, as is just about everything in the teen years. The narrow beliefs wouldn't last. But the faith would. And the importance of the possibility of a "relationship" with the divine. God was becoming more real to me, but not according to any formula I'd ever received.Credit:1st Interlude: Prayer.mp3 by genesis Attenborough / License: Attribution Noncommercial
As Spirit-filled Jesus People, we had the light. But we didn't yet have the depth. For that, we'd need to live in our new faith for a while, testing it against what life itself wanted to teach us. And life wanted to teach me that I wasn't the only one who had God living inside me. Secular professors, a rabbi, and even a prospective new girlfriend--they all had God living inside them too. And sometimes God, in them, was wiser than God in me. So, slowly, a new path began to form, but it appeared to be a path less travelled. Credits:2nd Interlude: carillon talking people 150108 by klanlbeeld / License: Attribution
My fundamentalist beliefs delivered me into the bonds of marriage. I was certain that's what young Christian couples were supposed to do. But my new liberal beliefs were pulling me in directions I could not have foreseen, where faith meant stepping out in the absence of certainty. Life was, in fact, becoming less certain for me, a lesson in faith if ever there was one. And soon I would begin my training for ordained ministry, where certainty was thrown out the window altogether. Credit:1st Interlude: WEDDING-BELLS by Maurice J K / License: Attribution
Trinity College, at the University of Toronto, where I began my divinity training, was a magical place. But as enchanting as it was, and thrilling, not all magic is good magic. I would find that our humanity follows us everywhere we go, even to places of higher, not to say heavenly, education.Credit:Interlude: Story Logo by DDmyzik / License: Attribution Noncommercial
In every hero's quest, the sirens of way-laid distraction eventually appear, calling out, "No, over here! This way!" It's not to say we shouldn't obey them. Maybe we should go over there, to where the sirens are beckoning to us. Maybe, even, we need to go over there, in order to rediscover where our true path lies. Anyway, that's what I  had to do on my way to graduation and ordination. The sirens made such sweet music.Interludes: Sometimes When We Touch  by Dan Hill and Barry Mann / License: SOCAN
There's a children's song for a long car ride that begins, "Are we there yet? Not yet!" That might have been my song as I entered my third and final year at Trinity. Both graduation and ordination were being held out to me as real and tantalizing possibilities. My focus had returned. I felt ready. But was I there yet? Not yet! Credits: 1st Interlude: Dramatic Organ, B.wav by InspectorJ / License: Attribution2nd Interlude: Hand Bells, Chromatic, Ascending.wav  by InspectorJ / License: Attribution 
Following my graduation from Trinity, I was set adrift by my archbishop when he learned that my marriage had broken up. I wouldn't be ordained along with my classmates. But he was willing to give me something, so he sent me as the chaplain to a church camp. It proved to be just what my wounded soul needed. Then, at the end of the summer, he placed me as student-in-charge of a familiar rural congregation, Cookstown, that had been recently abandoned by its familiar minister, Dave Ward. An odd and unconventional start, perhaps, to my ministry. Not being exactly the conventional type, I took it. But it was a small town, and I was a city boy. Nothing about my life would go unnoticed. Credit:1st Interlude: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin / License: SOCAN
I was placed as an interim minister in Dave Ward's old parish of Cookstown. My heart still needed healing. But so did theirs. So we ministered to one another, as “wounded healers.” It was a rich and grounding time, reminding me of my familial roots in North Vancouver. I might have been content to stay there. But my ambition drove me to push for an ordination date, which would mean soul work of a different sort. It was time to align my personal life with the life I wanted, as a priest. Some things would have to go. Credit:1st Interlude: sheep in field.mp3 by soundmary / License: Attribution
Finally, I was ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, both as a deacon and, a year later, as a priest. But it appears we can never lift ourselves too far out of the muck from which we crawled, eons ago. Odd things happen when we do, some of them laughable, some of them humiliating, to bring us back down to earth again. We are, after all, only human.Credits:1st Interlude: Church Organ Ending Tune.mp3 by CGEffex / License: Attribution2nd Interlude: Memorial-Church-Sermon.wav by xserra / License: Attribution
I was a new priest. But I wasn't a new man. And no amount of holy posturing could hide that fact. I was still too young a man and too new a priest to realize that it was precisely my humanity that God, and God's people for that matter, actually wanted of me. So I stuck out my chin and assumed my hopeful role with all the promise and sunniness of a day in spring. Credit:Interlude: Success Resolution Video Game Fanfare Sound Effect with Drum Roll.mp3 by FunWith Sound / License: Attribution
Even the church offers a version of life in the fast lane. It's what happens when a fresh young priest is anxious to prove himself and the church is all too happy to put him to work. It was hard work, in my burgeoning parish of St. Philip's, in Unionville, but rewarding as well, especially as I learned to see my parish as a family, not as an institution. As my professional life flourished, it would be my personal life that would pay the price. Credit:1st Interlude: military march intro.wav by zagi2 / License: Attribution Noncommercial
In my big new parish it was sink or swim, so I swam for my life. But one of the rules of the sea is "women and children first," something I hadn't heard yet. As my work life exploded, my home life all but rolled up into a ball and shrivelled away. I was burning out, with no one to blame but myself. My family history provided an answer to that, though: If you can't change, move! So I started looking. But not for less responsibility. For more.Credits:1st Interlude: PanFlute_Solo_Wet_03-Em.wav by CarlosCarty / License: Attribution2nd Interlude: deserted_OS_37vc2 by Setuniman / Attribution Noncommercial
I thought I was moving up in the world. Having made a splash in my first major parish, maybe I could raise my profile by going to a new diocese. That's what my ego was saying. But just about every other part of me was saying I needed to rest, and to reconnect with my wife and family. Fortunately, Church of the Redeemer, Stoney Creek, in the Diocese of Niagara, allowed me to do both. The parish didn't want my big ideas, just my attentiveness, while the diocese welcomed my newcomer enthusiasm. It proved one of the few times I could rest and work at the same time. Until the bishop suggested I move. Again. 
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