Friday, March 26, 2021

Book 3 of 2021 -- Hope Beyond Pandemic


 A colleague posted that they had just read this one a while back and the title jumped out at me. A year in to the COVID-19 pandemic we are starting to think and talk about what life will look like on the other side. How will it be different? What will go "back to normal"? What will we have learned?

THere was a lot of good stuff in this book. NOt necessarily things that had not come up in the last 12 months but good questions, good reflections on what it means to be the church in these days.

The one flaw is that the book appears to have been written too soon. I did wonder how a book with the words "beyond pandemic" in the title could have come out already. Turns out it was written last spring. At that point there were still so many unanswered questions. There was so much we know now that we did not know then. Still, despite being written too early, in the midst of pandemic, in the early stages in fact, Epperly brings out goo issues for discussion. Many people need to read this book as we discuss how we will be the church in the years to come.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Book 2 of 2021 -- Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal


 This is another recommendation from a congregation member. And another good recommendation it was.

This book is, at base level, a collection of short stories. All are from or based on the author's career as a physician and from her own life. But what a collection of stories it is.

These stories touch the heart and the soul. They point to what is truly important in life. They are grouped thematically but the overall theme of the whole book is, as the subtitle suggests, healing. Not curing but healing. Some of them are stories of patients who died, but in the story of their illness and death something else is healed. There are books that should be very widely read. This is one of them. It is not a book of theology, but is deeply theological, deeply spiritual, it is about the real things of life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A Letter to the Local MP Regarding Conversion Therapy

RE: Bill C6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)

Mr Warkentin,
Grace and peace to you this fine February afternoon.

I hear that you are meeting with the Grande Prairie Ministerial Association this Thursday to discuss any concerns the members may have with Bill C6, the much needed legislation to limit and almost ban Conversion Therapy in Canada. I am unable to attend that meeting but I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings on the legislation with you.

I am asking you to support the proposed legislation. I can see no moral, ethical or theological grounds for offering, providing or condoning conversion therapy. Some years ago some members of your party espoused the creation of a “barbaric practises” hotline. As conversion therapy is something that damages the mental and spiritual health of people I would list it as something reportable should such a hotline exist.

We all play many roles in our lives. As I write this letter I want to offer comments from the perspective of the two central roles I play in my life: that of a clergy person and that of a parent.

I have been in ordained ministry for 20 years this May. Before that I was raised in a family that was very active in the church. Learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ has been part of my existence since before I can remember. The Gospel has shaped my understanding of what it means to live in community with others. In the hymn to Creation that we find in Genesis 1 the ancient poet shares that humanity is created in the image of God, and that God calls that has been created very good. This tells me that wherever one may find themselves on the spectrum of sexual orientation or whatever one’s gender identity is we all carry within us the imago Dei, the image of God. Conversion therapy seems to suggest that God made a mistake in creating my neighbours who are LGBTQ+. Who are we to make that claim? At the same time the primary Christian ethical principle, indeed the primary commandment given by Jesus, is that we are to live love for our neighbours, family, friends and enemies. Openly choosing to engage in a practise that is known to be hurtful and damaging to another is in direct contravention of this principle and therefore contradicts the Gospel.

From following discussions in various other places on this issue I am aware that many of my colleagues across the country in various denominations see the ban on conversion therapy as infringing on freedom of religion. Specifically they seem to want to hold to a traditional belief that to be LGBTQ+ is sinful, that LGBTQ+ individuals are flawed, and that the church has a duty to bring them back to the correct way of being. I categorically reject this argument. To begin with LGBTQ+ folk do not choose who they are. They are born and created (in God’s image) as the person they discover themselves to be. Further, discussion of rights is never a discussion of absolutes. Rights are almost always about balancing between competing claims. In the case of conversion therapy the rights of people not to be subjected to harmful treatment far supersedes the rights of a religious institution to hold onto outdated and harmful beliefs.

I fully believe that God is still speaking to the world in a variety of ways and one of the things I have heard God saying is that traditional attitudes toward LGBTQ+ folk need to be changed. In the past the church has been very sure that God condoned racism and sexism. The church has, to a large degree, realized that this is not what God wants for the world. We have come to see the sinfulness of racist and sexist attitudes and actions. Heterosexism and transphobia are just as sinful as racism and sexism. We are called to repent of our sinfulness and take a different road forward. As a person of faith, as a person called to leadership within a faith community, I call on the church to put heterosexism and transphobia aside and see God’s image in all our neighbours. Actively working against conversion therapy is part of how we do that.

Now I speak as a parent, father of 4. This would be a role you and I both have in life, one we share with countless others across the country and around the globe. I ask you, what parent would ever want their children subjected to something that intentionally does them harm? If one of my children were wrestling with trying to understand who they were as a sexual being the last thing I would wish for them is condemnation and attempts to change them. I would want them to be surrounded by people who would support them as they discover who they are and live into that reality. That reality may be to name themselves as heterosexual, or it may be some other orientation. It may mean they claim the gender assigned at their birth or it may not. My job as a parent is to support them in who they are. My experience as a parent shapes my hope for all the children of the world. I want them to be assured of that sort of loving support as they live into who God created them to be. Conversion therapy, telling people that they need to change who they are to match some traditional understanding of what is ‘correct’, is antithetical to this vision of loving support and acceptance.

Conversion therapy damages people. Over the years many LGBTQ+ folk have suffered greatly at the hands of society members who refused to see them as the beloved children of God, made in God’s image, that they are. We have made great progress as a society, we have a ways to go yet. Banning conversion therapy is another needed step along the road to the Reign of God. Therefore I once again ask you to support Bill C6 when it comes to a vote in the House of Commons and to actively encourage your fellow Members of Parliament to support it as well.

Peace be with you.
Rev. Gord Waldie B.Ed M.Div

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book 9 of 2020/Book 1 of 2021 -- Civilization Critical


This book was recommended to me by a congregant about a year ago. Trusting him, I thought I would give it a go. I am glad I did.

Quallman looks at the ways humans have changed how we interact with our world. He also looks at the ways we have changed our relationship with power (referring to energy and fuel more than political/social/economic power). He looks at how the advent of fossil fuels, beginning with coal, has allowed us to change the rhythms and cycles of out relationship with the earth. The image he uses is moving from cycle that are circular and limiting to linear paths where inputs are simply added but not turned back into the system.

Quallman persuasively makes the argument that our current use of resources, our current pouring of waste into the system is a choice that leads to collapse. Mind you it was easy to persuade me of that since I have been leaning in that direction for some time now. The path forward is not going to be in  energy efficiency, or in wind/solar/tidal energy. The path forward is in using less energy and power, in producing less "stuff". Right now anyone paying attention to political and economic policy will know that the assumption is that more growth in the economy is not only desirable but essential. But unending growth is not, in the long term (perhaps getting close to not even in the medium term), realistic. The globe is a closed system, as has been pointed out many times over the years. There are only so many resources, there is only so much space for waste.

Maybe the question is really when we will reach the limits of what the earth can maintain? Or are we already there?

I foresee some very difficult economic discussions in our future. unending growth is not realistic. There is a total lack of balance in our world. ARe we reaching a critical point where the balance will change? Can we find the courage as a culture to plan for and manage the change before massive collapse?


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Book 8 of 2020 Ready Player One


 I actually have had this one on my list to read for a couple of years since my daughter read it in English for grade 10. This fall I decided it was time to open it. Besides I wanted a novel to read for a bit of lighter time.

I had no real idea what to expect. All I knew about the  book was what I had read on the "jacket". Well that and a brief bit  (like less than a minute) of the movie I saw while flipping through channels one night.

IT was an odd story. Basically a quest story set in a dystopian future. Not what I would call a great classic in the making. The end result is somewhat predictable but there are a few surprises along the way. The thematic piece about the tension between living a virtual life and living in the real world could be explored in more detail. There is also a nice theme around economic/social justice that gets played out.

Possibly the thing that made the book the most interesting for me was all the 1980's references. I was never as much of a video gamer or a Dungeons & Dragons player as the character in the book is but the references were fun to track.

In the end it is not a bad read. Kind of fun really. Just not really what I would call high literature.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book 7 of 2020 The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle

 


150 poems.  150 reflections on life. 150 devotionals. All written by women of faith. That is what you find in this volume. I  picked it up because I have read, enjoyed, and valued Martha Spong's writing in one place or another since I first began this blog some 15 years ago. There are other writers in here whose writing I have also read in the blogosphere (do we still call it that?) over the years.

These reflections that jump off from the Psalms are deeply emotive, as the Psalms themselves are. They touch on issues personal and political, as the Scriptural Psalms do. Many a time I found myself wondering when I might use that poem in worship.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Book 6 of 2020 Nurture the Wow

 

No I didn't read this in the week. I had started it earlier this year and then paused while reading Paris over the summer. I have been following Danya Ruttenberg on Twitter and decided I would be interest in reading more of her work. So I took a look and this one intrigued me.

There is wisdom in here. Not only wisdom for parents but much wisdom for anyone who wants to be in helpful relationships with other people. The book speaks to relationships with children, relationships to the world, relationships with the Divine. It talks about these things in real, earthy, and spiritual terms.  A very good read -- even if your children are well past the toddler and preschool years.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Book 5 of 2020 -- Paris


 As vacation started this summer I wanted a different sort of read. I have read and enjoyed almost all of Rutherfurd's other novels (I enjoy historical fiction) so when I found this one I decided it was a good summer read. I forgot how large these novels were and how long they can take to read.

This is different from other epic historical novels. Often the novel starts in the past and follows forward in chronological fashion. This one spends much of it's time in the era fro 1870 onward with jumps back in time to earlier periods as we learn more of the back story of the families we are watching in the stories of the end of the 19th century to the 1960's.

I think I prefer the strictly chronological structure. It was a bit easier to follow who was who and the inter-relations that way. I also found it interesting that while there were many references to the Revolution and the Napoleonic era the novel itself spent very little time in the former and none in the latter. Still it was very enjoyable and a nice break from the complicated reality that has been 2020.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Book 4 of 2020 -- Insurrection

To be honest I bought this one simply because I loved the title. I mean I have been known to use the phrase "when the revolution come" in an Advent candle liturgy and to title my Christmas Eve sermon "The Revolution Begins tonight".

More seriously, I have also long felt torn between the comfort of the church as I have known it and the clear sense that the church as I have known it is not what the church could be. I also am clear in the sense that the church as I have known it is not what the church needs to be moving into the future if we want to be faithful to the Gospel of Christ.

So I liked Rollins suggestions in this book. Not at all sure how to apply what I liked so much about the vision of Christianity he shares in real life but I want to. I want to learn how to be a follower of Christ who embraces the world-changing effect of living by kingdom values, or holding up an alternate way of life.

Much of what Rollins says challenges the church as a place of comfort, or appears to. But the journey of Christian faith has to take us through death. We have to experience the cross, the total loss, in order to be ready for Resurrection. And that will not be comfortable. Can I do that as an individual? Can the church do it as a community?

Friday, May 08, 2020

Ordiversary

Well technically my Ordiversary is not for a couple weeks yet, but today RGBP was holding the May Ordiversary Party.  In the post they ask:
  • something you remember from your ordination service
  • something you have particularly enjoyed about ministry so far
  • something new you have learned in the course of your ministry that they “didn’t teach you in seminary”
1)  I was ordained on May 26th 2001. The service was at St. David's United Church in Calgary. There were 4 of us Ordained that day. Instead of a sermon there was a dramatic presentation (though I can not honestly remember what the drama was about). AS this was a year when our Conference did not have an Annual Meeting the service was on a Saturday afternoon rather than a Sunday morning.

As a part of the service we were allowed to choose up to 3 people to take part in the laying on of hands (in addition to the Conference President and Executive Secretary). I had decided to choose people from 3 stages of my journey to ministry but was unable to get someone from my Camp Maskepetoon days so ended up with two. One was a member of the Youth Group and the Confirmation Class I had helped with during my internship. Ben and I had connected during those months. The other choice was obvious. Jane had been my Sunday School teacher when I was in Grade 6, she had a group of us help with special projects for the Jr (Grade 4-6) department at the time. Years later she invited me to help teach that same age group, which I did through University. She was definitely one of those people who led me into ministry (she continued teaching in that department until the middle of the first decade of the 2000's, so well over 20 years).

WE were also asked to choose one person to be our partner for serving Communion. This is where I brought in family and had my sister assist.

Later that day our family and a number of friends as close as family went out for supper. The next morning I got up and drove to my internship community to lead worship.

2) WOrship leadership has always been my favourite part of ministry. That I expected to be the case. I love preaching, baptisms, serving communion. A surprise has been how much I would appreciate being involved in serving the wider church.I really never expected administration and policy and procedure to be such a good fit with me.

Oh and I like to write stories from time to time!

3) In seminary we never talked about uploading sermons to YouTube and emailing out bulletins and having meetings on Zoom and hosting FB Live prayer times or all the other things we are all experimenting with at the moment.  Then again why would we -- most of these things were not possible in 2001, much less in 1992 when I first walked through the  seminary doors.

PS: 9 years to the day after I was ordained our youngest daughter was born. Ashley was very excited a couple of years ago when she read my Ordination certificate and saw that it was on her Birthday.