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A Kindred Spirit

I was having lunch in a Steinbach restaurant last week when a woman approached me. I recognized her right away as the mother of one of my students from many years ago.  Her son had made such an impression on me that I had taped a photo of him in my journal during the year he was my grade four student. The reason I remember him so well is because of something that happened while I was reading aloud Anne of Green Gables to the class.  We had just finished the chapter where Anne tells her adopted father Matthew  she believes the two of them are kindred spirits. The little guy pictured below came up, tapped me on the arm and whispered “You know Mrs. Driedger I think you and I are kindred spirits too.”  It was the highest compliment I could have received and I’ve never forgotten that moment.  

The boy’s mother who came over to me in the restaurant last week told me about her son’s stable career, his happy marriage and the fact that he was now the proud father of twins.  She even showed me a photo of his two tiny newborns. I was glad to hear my kindred spirit was doing so well.  

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Anne of Green Gables

anne of green gablesI have several copies of Anne of Green Gables but my most treasured volume has a battered blue cover with the title in faded gold lettering. I’ve had to tape it back together several times. The flyleaf is inscribed with my Aunt Vi’s name and the year 1942. That’s when she received the book as a gift. Two decades later she gave the book to me and I’ve read it many times since. At age ten I became a devotee of Anne’s and in short order read all eight books in the Lucy Maud Montgomery series.
I read Anne of Green Gables to my oldest son when he was six. I wanted him to hear some stories with girls as the main character and Anne immediately engaged him with her hijinks and mischief making. He often begged for an extra chapter before I tucked him into bed.
mlclass 1980'sI taught six to nine year olds for a portion of my career and Anne of Green Gables was always one of the books I read aloud to them. There was rarely a dry eye in the house when we reached the chapter where Matthew, Anne’s adopted father dies. Even the toughest boys in the bunch could be caught wiping away a tear and hoping no one would see.
ashtonOne year I had a boy in my grade four class named Ashton who confided when we were about half way through the novel that he was convinced he and I were “kindred spirits’, a term Anne uses to describe people who understand her. It was one of the finest compliments I received during my career.

I visited Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthplace in Prince Edward Island in 2002. I toured her cousins’ home. It was the model for Green Gables in her books. I was lucky enough to have Carolyn Collins, a Lucy Maud Montgomery biographer as my guide. She provided all kinds of interesting information. Apparently Winston Churchill, with whom Montgomery shared a birthday, was a fan of her books and wrote to tell her so. As a child Montgomery met Sir John A McDonald, the Canadian prime minister. Collins also confided that one of the Montgomery journals contained some very steamy passages about Montgomery’s attraction to a young man named Herman. Montgomery didn’t marry him because he wasn’t her intellectual equal.

I still have the program for the performance of the musical Anne of Green Gables we saw at Confederation Hall in Charlottetown. My husband Dave was singing along under his breath on many of the numbers since he had directed a production of Anne of Green Gables at Elmdale School where he was a teacher.

When I worked for the Winnipeg Free Press one of my faith page columns was about the theological insights to be found in Anne of Green Gables. I republished that column as a blog post two years ago and it has been read nearly 4000 times.
Just goes to show how popular Anne still is. 

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Anne of Green Gables- A Faith Perspective

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Anne of Green Gables -A Faith Perspective

“She’s glad to be a Christian and would be one, even if she could get to heaven without it. “  Anne Shirley, the heroine of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables, speaks those words. If a novel written in 1908 for young girls, isn’t the first place you’d think of looking for theological insights, think again.    

One summer I made the pilgrimage to Ms. Montgomery’s home in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Thousands of people from all over the world, flock annually to Canada’s smallest province to learn more about this international celebrity. I read several Montgomery biographies after my visit to her birthplace, and discovered what an important role religion played in her life. Anne of Green Gables is her most famous story. It is about a young orphan girl who finds a happy home with an elderly woman and her brother.  Its text contains some interesting comments about Christianity 

“She’s glad to be a Christian”, is Anne’s remark after being introduced to the wife of her church’s new minister. Anne finds Christians a rather melancholy lot, until she meets this cheerful young woman. It’s refreshing for her to encounter someone who is serious about their faith, but also takes such delight in living, and finds real joy in her relationships with others. Anne believes Jesus was cheerful too.

She sees a picture called Christ Blessing Little Children, and wishes the artist hadn’t painted Jesus looking so serious. “I don’t believe he looked that sad” says Anne, “or the children would have been afraid of him.”   Anne envisions Christ as someone who enjoyed his life and found happiness in his interactions with others. Positive people make the best faith ambassadors.

 “If I were a man I think I’d be a minister”, Anne declares.  She goes on to say she’d be sure to pick short, snappy texts for her sermons and preach with imaginative creativity. Lucy Maud Montgomery created her lively red- headed character in the early 1900’s when there were no female clergy. How brilliant to use her novel as a way to explore the possibility of women behind the pulpit. Anne goes on to ask “ Why can’t women be ministers?”  She says if any work needs to be done in the church from fundraising to meal preparation, the ladies of the congregation carry out the task with energy and success. Why couldn’t they preach too?  Although many denominations have gender equity in their clergy, there are still some churches where female pastors are not welcomed. They might do well to read Anne of Green Gables.                    

“I don’t think its fair for the teacher to ask all the questions. There were lots of questions I wanted to ask”. Anne makes this observation after her first experience in a Sunday school class. Churches should be places where people feel comfortable asking lots of questions. Adolescents, in particular, need their curiosity affirmed and their inquires treated with respect.

“If I really wanted to pray, I’d go into a great big field. I’d lie down and look up into that lovely sky, that looks like there’s no end to its’ blueness and then I’d just feel a prayer.” Anne makes that observation when she is trying to think of a way to address God and isn’t sure what to say. Maybe we can learn something from Anne imprisoned as we are in our offices during the day and at home in front of television and computer screens at night. If we’re having trouble praying perhaps we need to step outside.  “Feeling a prayer” might come naturally while smelling the lilacs on a walk, or doing a little star gazing in our backyard on a warm night. One particularly beautiful day Anne says, “The world looks like something God imagined for his own pleasure.” I think God imagined it for our pleasure too.           

Lucy Maud Montgomery is a gifted author whose work contains some perceptive observations about Christianity. I think it’s great that as people around the world read this famous Canadian’s books, they will not only be entertained, but will be prompted to think more deeply about religious faith as well. 

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