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Sunday, April 7, 2013

A post for Sunday

King Street United Church, Trenton
Al's work is filled with allusions to his mother Eleanor...crediting, as we all so often forget to do, the enormous influence mothers have on our lives, our memories and our sense of who we are.

And the enormous guilt (intentionally or no) that the burden of their love piles on our shoulders. In Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, Al recalls his religious upbringing in a child's experience of divine omnipresence, and personal guilt...pretty well summing up what most of us glean about those mysteries from even the most well-intentioned Sunday School teacher.
Foresters'  Parade c.1920 courtesy Trenton Library&Archives

"There was a god in my world. He hung around unexpected places, backyards and street corners. He knew everything, saw everything, and was not responsible. At King Street United Church, He was presumed to be always in residence. Especially when the preacher invoked him with a chorus of Thee's and Thou's like stinging bees and cawing crows". (p.260)

Eleanor's overzealous Christianity, and Al's reasoned resistance to it figure in a number of Purdy's poems. 'Funeral,' an account of the funeral service for Al's mother, puts the reader firmly in the uncomfortable pew which Al, and many of us, occasionally inhabit.

King St. United Church & parsonage
"The preacher called beforehand
to make sure God
occupied a place in my heart
or somewhere nearby
I made a mistake
told him the truth
said I wasn't religious..."

Al paid the price for his honesty, and his unbelief, during an uncomfortable sermon directed at him:

"..pinned me to the chair
The United Church minister
kept hammering away
knowing I was a prisoner 
and couldn't escape..."

(Funeral, in A Handful of Earth, 1977)

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