Friday, September 30, 2005

Getting at the roots...

Over the last few months I have come to a realization. Part of the problem around here is that people are angry about more than a power plant closing (although trust me they are angry and afraid about that). This town blossomed in the post-war decades because there were 2 iron mines here. And many of the families in town came during that period, a time of milk and honey is almost how it is described. A time when money flowed freely and the Mines were willing to help fund all sorts of community projects, and the population topped out at about 8000.

But then things changed. The mines were closed 25 years ago--they became unprofitable. And people here are still mourning. To some we are still a mining town with a mine that is temporarily closed -- the mine is never coming back, even if the ore was profitable the pit is once again a lake, they would never get permission to drain it again. As it happens, the power plant construction was one of the things that gave the town a new lease on life at the time of the mines closing. And now that is going. Grief on top of grief. Anger on top of grief. Despair in a town which has called itself "dying" for so long.

The challenge now is how to make visible the obvious. Are people willing to name the elephant? Are people willing to accept that "not dying" may not mean a return to the 60's and 70's (mind you I doubt that those decades were as wonderful as memory makes them).

In many ways this is the story of the churches too. AT one point (ca.1955) we had the highest birthrate (per capita) in the country. SO the Sunday School was bursting, there were multiple children's/youth choirs. Now we have a 10 kids on a really good Sunday (when no hockey games etc). Once there were lots of young people to share the work--now they are the same people but are no longer quite so young.

Linking the town and the church may well be the way to help both thrive, maybe not grow in numbers or wealth but to thrive where and who they are now. May God help us to find a way to do so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hope or Danger???

Which does the world see when looking at the USA? Apparently less hope and more danger according to this article. All Canadians know stories of the "ugly American". Many of us have met a member of the species (just as we all know stories of the "stupid American" and have met same). But here is the problem.

A country's leadership is not its people. I have grave concerns about how the US sees its role on the world stage, I have had them since I was a teen. (I remember back in the late-Reagan years watching an American official being interviewed on Canadian TV and asking, honestly, "when did we become the world's policemen" and responding to the screen "you made yourselves that".) But I don't believe that all Americans are too blame. I know that many, especially in the South, ay know little about Canada but how much do I really know about the US? I know that there is a civic religion in the guise of patriotism that is very off-putting, but can we really condemn national pride?

true the US does damage to its image fairly regularly. True, there is a sense of "our way or the highway" when nations meet with them, possibly moreso under the current administration. Instances like the unilateral invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the PATRIOT Act, softwood lumber and the Guantanamo detainees make the US look bad. But still, do we condemn 230 years of nationhood for that? And which of us is from a country that can't draw up its own list of faults/failures?

The US is a big target (and they have helped paint the circles). But there is a line between pointing out our concerns and being unjustly harsh. Let's try to keep on the right side of the line--it is the least we ask of them after all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

GO GO GAdget.....GOne

Don Adams has died. Only man I know of to have starred in one spoof (Get Smart) and then provide the voice to a cartoon spoofing the original spoof (Inspector Gadget). THe CBC story also mentions his incredibly bad TV show Check It Out but that really is best left forgotten in a tape library somewhere. Smart and Gadget though--now they were worth watching.

On Giving (and getting gifts)

It was remarkably simple logic. "To encourage people to give you money make it easy for them to do so". I first heard that when the camp board I was on was trying to start a donation drive. And it make a lot of sense -- people should be more likely to give if they don't have to work hard to do so (although it also makes it sound like the givers are slightly lazy ;) )

But of course it never really works out that way. In the church we have made it incredibly easy for people to give us money (less so for them to give their time and talent). They can give weekly, or by post-dated cheque, or by pre-authorized remittance (PAR for UCCan folks), or by a cheque whenever they remember. They can come in person or mail it in. According to the above logic, money should be coming in torrents right? Anybody out there have that problem--money coming too fast? Some how I doubt it.

Of course the first paragraph misses one key point. We need to show that we are worth giving money to. Not that we need it--the church has all sorts of ways to say we need your money--but that we deserve to get it. There are a lot of voices out there asking for our money, why should we give to the church? And this, I think, is where we in the church (or at least in the UCCan) have fallen down. We think that people know what is done with the money we get, or more appropriately what that money allows to happen.

We are in the midst of a Stewardship campaign and I have realized that we are missing the boat. We don't have a money problem (we just don't have the money). We have a vision/passion problem. We quibble about the cost of running a building without talking about what the building allows to happen in our community. My sermon title for the week is Many Ways of Giving. I was going to talk about PAR, about bequests, about giving time and talent. But I think that will be more of an intro. I think it is time to say "This is what your gifts can make happen". That way I can lead neatly into the fact that our problem isn't spending too much--in fact I don't think we spend enough, having cut back wherever we can--but that we have lost sight of who we are called to be, what we are called to bring to the community.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm, it seems so much easier/safer to talk about how to give. But then who said life had to be easy or safe?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Not Sure what to make of this (the 23:5 meme)

This from Sue (and many other places)....

Here's how you do it:1. Go into your archive.2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

(drum roll fifth sentence is: "So far the only drawback to the week had been that the weather was more like Late August/September than July (a little cool for swimming, much to Sarah's dismay). "

Like that makes any sense without the context! (If you want the context you can find the post here)

THis is SO not a surprise

You are a

Social Liberal
(61% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(6% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
I have always described myself as a Democratic Socialist. So Be It.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Im Baa-ack

Home from Presbytery. It was a good meeting. Mind you any meeting that finishes earlier than expected on both nights is a good meeting in my book. One of the pieces of work I was responsible for was putting forward a Proposal (we used to call them Petitions, not sure why we changed, Petition is the better word IMHO) regarding clergy rights and congregational policy. Actually this was a revised version of one the Richard talks about here (we incorporated some of the changes that he suggested in hindsight). It passed fairly easily, and got people thinking about some of the questions involved. For myself, I think that if I found myself in such strong disagreement with congregational policy that I had to ignore it I would have to consider carefully if that was indeed the place for me to be. Still, as a question of prophetic voice and rights of conscience I think there is something important at stake.

And it appears that a committee I am not even on volunteered me for a job--actually the lay rep from my congregation volunteered me. I get to help co-ordinate a visioning process in our Zone (sub area of Presbytery). Well it should tie in to my hopes to get this congregation looking at vision and "who are we" stuff.

And now I am going to go crawl away and rest. Came down with a cold and cough. I would blame Sue but somehow I doubt that one can catch a cold virus merely by reading the blog of someone who already has it. Actually the virus would not be nearly as annoying if the girls would agree to sleep all night--one of the challenges of wanting to watch TV at night in the hotel room is that Sarah is sure this means she should stay up and watch with you.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hi HO, Hi Ho...

It's off to Presbytery we go. 20+ hours of work in two days. Yee-haw!

Actually it looks like there should be some good discussion this time. See y'all on Sunday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

WEll this is better

First time I tried it I used a short (18?) test and came out Hitler. Much prefer the longer (45?) test result (which actually didn't have all the questions from the shorter one).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Same as last time I think

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Modern Liberal


Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox




Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Monday, September 19, 2005

Communion Prayer For Worldwide Communion Sunday

God’s Banquet is coming. A time when all will gather from North, East, West and South. A banquet where the rich and powerful will sit with the weak and poverty-stricken. A table where young and old will learn from each other. A time when all will sit together in peace, “and the wolf will lie down with the lamb”.
Here at this table we get a foretaste of God’s banquet. This is indeed God’s table, not the church’s, and so all who seek to follow The Way are welcome to eat and drink from it. Come and taste the grace eternal, come and see that God is good.

The Spirit of God be with you. And also with you.
It is time to give thanks to God. Let us pray.
God of the table, as we gather to taste your banquet we offer prayers of thanksgiving,
In this season of harvest we give thanks for the fruit of the earth, for the food on our tables.
In this global village we give thanks for our brothers, sisters, and neighbours both near and far.
In this world of strife and broken relationships we give thanks for your Hope, for the ways your draw us together.
God of the banquet, we give thanks for your witness and work in the world across the ages.
We remember Moses and Miriam and the people they led to freedom.
We remember the prophets who arise over and over again to call your people back to the narrow path.
We remember the countless saints who have gone before us, preparing the path, and we join our voices to theirs in hymns of thankfulness and praise. Holy Holy is your name indeed. Amen.

And in the midst of our thankfulness we remember the one in whose name we gather, Jesus, child of Mary.
We thank you for his witness, for his commitment to your Way, for the way he brought healing to broken spirits and broken bodies.
Thankfully we remember his death, his resurrection, and his promised return for the Banquet of Grace.
And now, as we gather at the table, we remember the last meal he shared with his friends. How they gathered in an upper room to celebrate the story of liberation and freedom. How he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and passed it among them saying, “Take, eat. This is my body broken for you. When you eat this remember me and look for the hope in your world.”
Then later he took the cup. He blessed it and passed it saying, “This cup is the cup of the new covenant, made in my death. Whenever you drink from it, remember.”

And so, God of Cross, Empty Tomb, and Banquet, we remember the life and death of Jesus and we give thanks for the love he poured out on all he met: sinner and saint, leper and clean, Jew and Gentile. We remember and we share that great and terrible mystery: Christ has died, Christ has Risen, Christ will come again. Amen.

God, you call us to eat and drink together. You call us to let the Spirit wash through our lives. As we eat and drink may we feel the fire of the Spirit in our bellies, the wind of the Spirit in our hair, and the love of the Spirit in our hearts. May the Spirit's presence make this meal one that changes us and, through us, the world. Amen.

God of the Banquet that is and is to come, we gather with your people all around the world to remember and share this meal. Creator, Source of Love, Christ, Love incarnate, Spirit, Love’s flowing power be praised. Now and forever. So Be It. And the people all cried Amen. Amen

And now, like children racing into their mother’s arms we say together: Our Father, who art in heaven…

The Bread we break is the Bread of Life.
The Cup we Share is the Cup of Love.
These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Come and eat, the banquet awaits.

Prayer Following Communion
We have eaten, we have drunk, we have tasted your goodness. May this meal we have shared here today fill our souls with Love. May the meal we share with all the world fill the world with Hope. May we leave this table refreshed and replenished, ready to be recipients and agents of Grace. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

THis is NOT Right

I learned this week that under the Ontario Works program (Social Assistance) a single person currently recieves $536 a month at most (of that $325 is designated for shelter). Can you imagine trying to live on that amount of cash? Can you imagine finding basic housing for $325 in a city like Toronto? This is just plain not enough, surely we can do better. (I found a link with the grid of payments. You can find it here.)

This morning in worship we read the story of manna and quail in the wilderness, where everybody gets what they need to eat for the day. We also read about a landowner with a very unique method of paying his workers. Again everybody got what they needed for that day. Had I been preaching on these stories (it was the kick-off Sunday of our Stewardship campaign so I was talking about Stewardship) I think I would have talked about the idea of a Guaranteed Annual Income. I have been in many discussions at Presbytery and Conference meetigs about minimum wage and raising it to a Living Wage. Basic economics suggest that this will never work but would simply prove to be inflationary. Instead we should look at GAI. GAI can work in a combination of wage earnings and governmental support--as it stands now those base (and inadequate) assistance payments are clawed back as soon as you earn above a certain threshold. Under GAI we can determine what is needed for a base quality of life and ensure that people get what they need to survive. OF course what that amount will be will vary according to where the individuals live (some places are more expensive than others). Unfortuantely it has little chance of happening because many will say "it costs too much". WHat exactly is the "allowable" price of letting people live in dignity?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

She seems to be popular

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them
Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Anybody out there NOT Julian?

So Very True

"If we only kept the things we truly loved in our homes, we'd have so much space."
-- A comment from one of the men in boats in New Orleans, helping owners salvage treasures and memories from their flooded homes.

Got this in an e-mail this week. Pretty much speaks for itself doesn't it? What extra baggage am I carrying around?

Friday, September 16, 2005

FLu Update

Some readers may remember that in July I blogged about our illness at camp. Well at a meeting last Saturday I found out what little we learned. The health unit tested the food and water (both drinking water and the lake water) and found nothing. So it was some sort of a bug/virus after all. This confirmed what we suspected but it is nice to know.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sex and the Church

As promised yesterday--some thoughts about sexuality and the church. It is a distillation of a sermon I once gave and then turned into a column (both were well-received).

I hold the church partly responsible for the pornography industry. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about sex a little bit.

For centuries people in the church have talked about sex as something that is sinful, or dirty, or a necessary evil (after all without sex there wouldn’t be new church members). To my eyes it appears that they have tried to de-sexualize humanity. I find many problems with this type of theology but the biggest problem I see is that it opened a door for a de-humanized sexuality. This is where the church holds some responsibility for the pornography industry.

To be as clear as possible, sex is not evil or sinful in and of itself. Certainly sexuality can be lived out in ways that break down relationships or is not life-affirming (and is therefore sinful) but that is true for any part of human activity. The first commandment God gives to humanity is “Be fruitful and multiply”. This is right after God looks at Creation and says, “it is good”. Therefore sex is also good.

There is an alternative. As people of faith, we can teach our children a healthy view of sexuality. We can teach them to be appropriately modest but not ashamed of the fact that they are sexual beings. Sex education is a difficult topic. It is sometimes hard for children and parents to talk about sex openly. But we have to. Schools are really good at teaching the nuts and bolts of sex. Schools are less well equipped to teach about the values and decision-making side of sex.

A faith-based discussion about sex goes far beyond the “just say no” rhetoric we often hear connected to the church. Not that there is anything wrong with raising up abstinence as a value, but if all we say is “don’t do it” we are often speaking into a vacuum. A faith-based sex discussion means talking about our self-image and how sexuality is a gift from God. It means talking seriously about relationships and commitment. It means talking from an early age about values and making choices. It means acknowledging the reality of sexual feelings and impulses. It means taking seriously the fact that we are created as sexual beings but that when we mis-use the gift of sexuality we can damage our relationships with ourselves and our friends and family. Such a discussion starts early in life and grows in complexity as our children develop.

We are sexual beings, that is a gift from God. We are called to live out our sexuality in ways that build strong relationships, in ways that affirm life. This means that we deal with sex differently at different times in our lives. It means that we have to think seriously about the ramifications of becoming sexually involved with someone. It means that sex is far more serious than a fun night in the sack. May God help us as we struggle to understand what it means to be sexual beings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Quiet Sermon

Just got this in my e-mail. Shows how words are sometimes superfluous.

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.

The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his! chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow, and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The Pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

Marriage Musings

According to my list of things needing doing, I am "supposed" to be writing a sermon for Saturday's wedding (among other things). But I am just not into that at the moment. I am also giving thought to our upcoming Presbytery meeting where our theme time will be spent discussing marriage. And a few ideas come to mind. (note that these are sort of stream of consciousness things, not necessarily well written thoughts)

What does marriage mean? What is it's point/intention/raison d'etre?
Why get married?
What makes marriage so much "better" than other committed, monogamous relationships?

Oops, look like my "rabble rouser" side is coming out again but really, think about those questions. They grow out of my experience meeting with couples. In four years of ministry I have yet to meet with a couple who are not living together -- and in today's world a common-law relationship has pretty much the same legal force of a marriage, particularly in terms of child support. Several of the couples I have married have a child together already before they become engaged.

When I meet with a couple for the first time I ask three questions:
  1. How did you meet/get together? (You can get some really good stories out of that one--like the bachelor auction story I heard once)
  2. how long have you been together? (anything from just under a year to over 11 has been the range of answers to that one)
  3. Why get married now? (again a wide range of answers here. I ask this to get a sense of what marriage means to them. At some point in the process I do ask what it means to be married.)

Sometimes in the last year, particularly during the debate in Canada over same-gender marriage, I have mulled over what defines a marriage. Many years ago I came to the conclusion that genitalia were not part of the definition, rather marriage was a statement about the type of relationship the people had. Is marriage perfect? Of course not. Does getting married mean "everything can be worked through? OF course not--in fact I make a point in wedding meditations to name the fact that building a deep intimate relationship is hard work with bumps and curves in the road.

What is marriage? What is its selling point? Sometimes I think people view a marriage certificate as a license to have sex (churches often talk about "chastity in singleness" with the presumption that chastity means celibacy--but my take on the church and sexuality is a whole other rant. As a teaser I will say that I hold the Christian church partially responsible for the porn industry. More at another time.). Well in a world where most couples live together, and many of those who don't have had sex already that is obviously of little meaning. And many couples choose not to/cannot have children so the idea of marriage being for procreation is out the window too.

I believe in strong families. I believe that children benefit from having more than one parent (although the gender of those parents is usually not relevant). I believe that we need to model ways of being together in relationship to our children and that marriage is a way to do that. I do believe that marriage -- faith-based marriage, not just the legal contract -- is a way to strengthen a relationship and to show publicly our commitment to that relationship. This is why we still say "as long as we both shall live" and not "while things are good" or "until trouble starts". The words are not a guarantee but a pledge to work hard for that goal. But sometimes I still wonder why people get married and what marriage means.

UPDATE: I was re-reading this and need to make it plain. I believe in the importance and power of marriage. But I think that the term has become meaningless. The value of marriage, for me, lies in it's faith dimension, the covenant aspect. Unless we in the church find a way to clearly differentiate that from the legal term we don't make our point. I am often convinced that the church should only do services of blessing. We should leave the legal stuff to others and focus on the relationship. Isn't that really what we are all about?

WEll it was him or RADAR

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!

Although anyone but Frank or Charles would have been a compliment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

THanks and GIving

HEre is my write up for our newletter which should be ready to go by the end of the week (assuming that people actually get in the stuff they were asked to have by last Sunday).

It’s harvest time! That time of year when we look at the produce from our gardens and take stock. It is no coincidence that it is also the season of Thanksgiving. When we look at the bounty of the earth we pause to say thank you, not only for the food of our gardens but for all those things that give our lives abundance.

In the church fall is often a time to talk about stewardship. This, too, is a response to the many gifts that God has given us. It has been said that we don’t give time, talent, and treasure to the church because it asks (although it does), or because it feels good to give (hopefully it does that too), or even because we feel guilty. The essence of stewardship grows out of a feeling of sharing the blessedness we find in our lives. We know that we have in abundance and so we give back to God that others would know that abundance.

This week you will get a letter. That letter will mark the beginning of Riverview’s Stewardship campaign for 2005. I admit, part of the reason for doing it now is because we need a sense of what money we can plan on as we make our budget for 2006. Stewardship may not only be about money but it is about money too. During the next month we will take time to contemplate our giftedness and how we choose to respond. God calls us to give. God wants us to share with each other. Giving of what we have, and of ourselves, is not only an act of faith but it is an integral part of our faith. Sacrifice is asked of us, as an act both of gratitude and of praise to the One who gave it to us in the first place. Please, take time to consider how you are able to share the love of God made active in Riverview United Church.

God is a giver of incredible gifts. And so we are moved to offer thanks. But God gives so that we can give as well. As a hymn often sung for Thanksgiving says (in the old words): Lord of all to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise” (For the Beauty of the Earth).

Monday, September 12, 2005

There is Good here:

CBC News reports that "Ontario Premier rejects use of Shariah law". Premier McGuinty has announced that civil divorce proceedings will not be allowed to use Islamic Shariah law as an alternative dispute mechanism.

I do not know enough to have an opinion on Shariah law (except to assume that, like any other law code, it can be used to the advantage of those with more advantages already). The good news is that McGuinty was willing to name the fact that it is all or nothing. In banning the use of Shariah law he is also calling for the end of Jewish and Christian equivalents. This is what it means to have a realistic separation of church and state. In a pluralistic society you can't have one religion's stuff used while banning another--all or none.

Hey It's my favourite too!


You give your love and friendship unconditionaly. You enjoy long, thoughtful conversations rich in philosophy and spirituality. You are very loyal and intuitive.

Find out your color at Quiz Me!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Forgivable and Unforgivable?

A thought I was wrestling with all week as I prepared to preach on Jesus' answer to the question "How many times should I forgive?"--Are all things forgivable?

Are there some things that I can not forgive? Are there some things that should not be forgiven?

More and more I find myself moving toward the answer that some things are truly unforgivable. And as I thought it through I realized that my list of what is unforgivable is fairly close to the Unforgivable Curses of the Harry Potter books. Those three curses (the punishment for which is life imprisonment) are the Imperius {which allows you to completely control another}, the Cruciatus {which causes excruciating pain to another}, and Avada Kedavra {which kills instantly}. It strikes me that to totally control another, to cause great pain, and to kill may well be things that are unforgivable (although in the case of the first two there may be layers of forgivability, just as there may be layers of transgression). It also occurs to me that all these things happen in many different ways and forms in the life of us Muggles.

So if there are things I find unforgivable what do I do about that? What does it mean to say that? And then I remember that what I find impossible is not always impossible. I am not doing it alone. ARe there things that GOd finds unforgivable? That I don't rightly know...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Place for All?

This week I was part of a debate in the coments section over at Locusts & Honey on a post regarding the recent "Hearts of Fire" event at Lake Junaluska.

The debate centered on a question by one commenter about a place in the church for equal respect for Reconciling Ministries and Transsforming Ministries when it comes to issues around sexual orientation.

This is a hard one for me. I have no problem with offering ministry to people who are struggling with/trying to understand their sexual orientation. BUt too many of those in what are called Transforming Ministries state their aim is to help people find freedom from homosexuality--which sounds perilously close to seeking healing from it. When do you know that the line has been crossed between supporting a search and advocating which answer one is supposed to find? In our churches which contain people at both extremes on this debate, how do we find ways to talk to each other, not at each other.

When is our attempt to transform the world getting in the way of our seeing how God has made the world? I hunch that this question could (and should) be asked on many issues in our life. Not to say that the answer will be clear, or that those of us on different sides of the issues will agree, but I think we need to ask it from time to time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

THe CHurch is Dying...So WHat...Long Live the Church!

The United Church of Canada is having a gathering of 100 leaders in Arnprior Ontario to discuss the future of ministry in the church. I sent in an expression of interest but was not selected to attend.

However, the process of naming why I was interested was helpful to me. AS a denomination we are relatively young (80 years this year). My grandparents became United simply due to the fact that their local church became United in 1925 ( though I suspect that at heart they were always Presbyterians). In my letter I said:
I fully anticipate that the church from which I retire will be very different from the church into which I was baptised, confirmed and ordained, just as at 80 it is now a very different church than the one my grandparents became a part of when their local Presbyterian church joined in 1925. I have no problem with that, as change is part of growth, but I would like a chance to reflect upon and to discuss what that change might mean to those of us who live and work within the Church, either for pay or not...It is my firm belief that the United Church of Canada has a lot to offer to the world in which we live. It is also my firm belief that we, as a church, are losing sight of vital issues around identity. I see that we have tried to be everything to all people with the result that we no longer know who we are or where we are going. I have hope that events such as the Arnprior Assembly can help us find our place and our path once again. It is time that we stand proud as the United Church and proclaim a new vision for a world that is changed and changing.
In these words I also find a response to the neverending musing about the impending death of the church.

I hve long since stopped counting the number of times I have heard people complain that the church is dying (usually tied to a sense of loss for the old days that never really were as good as they are in memory). My question is what is the big deal? The church is always dying to be reborn. The church reminds me of the phoenix Fawkes. When Harry first sees Fawkes he is looking very poorly and then bursts into flame. But then Fawkes is the one who save Harry's life down in the Chamber of Secrets. Fawkes burned and was reborn to a new life. So it is with the church.

The church proclaims faith in God who conquers death, who brings life out of death. Why are we so worried about the fact that the church we once knew is dying? It always has been, and always will be. For only in that dying can we grow. What will the church look like when Sarah and Devyn are adults? I have absolutely no idea. But the Christ we proclaim will still be active in the world. God will still be doing a new thing if we are willing to look and see.

The church is dying, maybe even on its last breaths. The church is being born, taking its first breaths. So it is, has been and ever shall be. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Does the world take time to remember this??

"Lewis warns of 'carnage' if AIDS vaccine not found"

I was a teenager in the 1980's. AIDS was on everybody's lips and minds then. THe idea of a vaccine was whispered as a faint hope. Who talks about AIDS now? Where is the public outcry that led to the creation of the massive AIDS quilt? Has HIV/AIDS fallen prey to the 'flavour of the month (or year or decade)' phenomenon?

IN the midst of the war on terror what other chances to save thousands of lives that are now in jeopardy are being lost in the attempt to save lives that may, someday, somewhere, be in jeopardy?

20 years ago AIDS was seen as a public health crisis of the highest proportions. COndom use was widely taught and encouraged, even to the point where schools were installing dispensers in washrooms. NOw, despite the epidemic in Africa, it hardly even makes the news. NOw the US government introduces measures that work against the promotion of "safer sex" in its attempt to promote its moral ideals. What's wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

FOrgiveness, Judgement, Justice...

This Sunday is the 4th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And what is our Gospel reading but a lesson about prodigious forgiveness. Pair this with the story of the Red Sea (which resounds with judgement and retribution) and you have quite a mix.

Some say the church is all about learning forgiveness. We forgive because it is the "right" thing to do. We are called to forgive so often we may seem like a doormat. But is that really what we are about? Is it necessary to be weak, to be a doormat, in order to forgive? I am pretty sure it isn't.

You see, I believe that the church is really about justice. Justice-seeking, justice-making, justice-being. And my would it ever be easier to be about forgiveness. Justice is SO much harder. (Likely why we so often do a lousy job at seeking, making, and being it). Justice is about making judgements and finding ways to make things right. Unfortunately for many the term now only refers to the Criminal Justice system and there are many voices that insist harsh punishment is the only way to make things right. A pure retribution model.

But I am convinced that God's justice combines judgement, payment, and forgiveness. I am convinced that we need to find a way to reconcile our need to strike back (retribution) with the peace-building that comes with true forgiveness (something I think HAS to be accompanied {or preceded?} by true repentance.

Hmmmmmmmmm, seems it may be a lengthy sermon on Sunday. Better find a way to limit this theme.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Power of the Few

A precis of this morning's sermon--one I really wish I had taped so it could be transcribed.

"WE don't have as many people, we just can't do it anymore"
"Wasn't it nice when we were so big and had such a loud voice"

"The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all was leavened" (Matt 13:33 NRSV)
"Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask it will be done...where two or three are gathered in my name I am there" (Matt 18:19-20 NRSV)

"But really, we don't have enough people!"

It strikes me that the power of God is not shown in the many. It is show in the power of the few. God is shown more in the power of a few people off to the side to change the world than in the many voices ready to stay the course. A few determined people can make all the difference. It is like onions.

Once I bought a 3lb bag of onions. But there was a long time between me using an onion. When I went to get one I found that one of them had turned moldy. NOt a problem, but the three that were touching it had mould spots on them. Given time that one onion would have turned the whole bag. The power of the few.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. Dry old grains that sit on my cupboard shelf for years until I make buns again. They look rather useless as I mix them with water and sugar and set them aside. BUt 10 minutes later they are foaming as I add them to the dough. 2 hours later the dough has doubled. The power of the few and small.

As a governmental system democracy has much that is good. But it also contains a lie. It contains and encourages the lie that whoever has the loudest voice or the most votes is right. It ain't necessarily so. Sometimes the majority is just plain wrong. Sometimes we need the voice of the few, the few who notice that the emperor has no clothes, the few who are willing to change a system that benefits them (all governing systems are, in the end, bound to protect the institution), the few who will stand up and shout into the wind until someone happens to listen. We need them to keep us honest, to keep us watching ourselves, to keep us listening for the "still small voice" (1 Kings 19).

Many times in history a small group has made a big difference. Are we willing to embrace the power of the few?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The response is in

This letter (something feels oddly egotistic about linking to one's own blog) was in last Monday's edition of the Progress (local paper). Since then I have had at least 10 people come and thank me for it, saying they were wanting something more positive to come up. So maybe, just maybe, we can start moving on past the anger...

Friday, September 02, 2005

100 Things

There is this idea going around the blogosphere of listing 100 things about oneself. It reminds me of a game I played in youth group--everyone has to take a strip of toilet paper and say something about him/herself for each square. Since I am not an interesting person I always took a small strip (once I knew what the game was).

100 things about me

  1. ALthough not named after it there is a family connection to the Scottish clan Gordon
  2. I have mainly Scottish/Irish ancestors
  3. My paternal grandparents are supposedly descended from sheep thieves
  4. My middle name is derived from the French for King
  5. But I have it as a legacy (I am the third consecutive generation Waldie male to have it)
  6. Should we have a son he will get it too
  7. 4 years ago I was unmarried and childless
  8. in fact I hadn't even met Patty yet
  9. We met at a Presbytery meeting--see good things do come from Presbytery
  10. We were married 11 months later.
  11. I once performed on stage wearing pink long underwear
  12. I was playing Cupid at the time
  13. I have also been on stage wearing burlap
  14. I was playing Thorin Oakenshield in a musical version of the Hobbit
  15. I miss the Edmonton FRINGE theatre festival
  16. My theatre group kept me (somewhat) sane as a teenager
  17. We did a play at Christmas, in the spring, and in the summer
  18. The first time I was in a play was at school in Grade 5
  19. I played Scrooge
  20. Once upon a time I was going to be a drama teacher
  21. but then our minister asked my mother "has Gord ever thought about the ministry?"
  22. I have worked 6 full summers at Church camps
  23. 2 years as a Devotions Director and 3 years in the kitchen at the camp in Alberta I attended as a child
  24. and 1 year as the Director of a camp in Saskatchewan
  25. I blame/thank camp for getting me on the road to ministry
  26. I LOVE camp ministry and think it is a vital thing for the church to continue
  27. The older I get the more left-leaning I become
  28. and the more passionate about social justice and environmental issues
  29. I paid for University working part-time at a gas bar
  30. I learned that no-one buys gas at 3 in the morning
  31. I have also worked in many restaurants
  32. as a dishwasher and as a cook
  33. 3 of them I worked at when they first opened
  34. For 3 summers when in seminary I worked at a golf course clubhouse
  35. I learned that it is amazing how much some people drink when they golf
  36. I was a lousy student from grades 4-9
  37. mainly because I refused to do any work
  38. In University I failed one of my Student Teaching rounds
  39. when I repeated it the next year I sailed through it
  40. THe same cycle happened with my internship for my MDiv.
  41. although that time I took 4 years off in between
  42. The first year I saved money and went to Britain for 2 months
  43. Then I worked at a Crisis Nursery for almost 3 years
  44. I was the first man they had hired
  45. some of the kids would call me dad at times (to the great amusement of my co-workers)
  46. I loved that job but could easily have burned out there
  47. SOme days I really miss that job and those kids
  48. It was a great learning/growing experience
  49. Before being settled here I had never heard of Atikokan
  50. This is the farthest South I have ever lived
  51. and yet it is considered Northwest Ontario
  52. When I went to seminary I attended the church my mother had attended as a child
  53. My parents were married there
  54. and my sister and I were baptised there.
  55. I regularly had coffee with a good friend of my grandmother.
  56. I still have one living grandparent--my dad's father (86 years old)
  57. AS a child and young teen I was regularly tormented by my classmates
  58. and I in turn tormented those lower on the social scale than me
  59. I am sorry for that
  60. #57 had a lot to do with why I failed my first internship
  61. for several months after that I was suicidal on and off
  62. once I stood looking over a balcony thinking maybe....
  63. I was almost 30 before I really learned to like myself
  64. Or to believe that I was likable
  65. Or to trust in my competence
  66. I am still working on those things
  67. One day I decided (unconsciously) to stop letting my past rule my present
  68. I think I can even forgive my classmates now
  69. I am strongly addicted to chocolate
  70. and I am perfectly fine with that, especially since learning that it helps fight off the effects of Dementor attacks
  71. For many years I read Lord of the Rings once a year
  72. I used it for my major paper in Grade 12 English
  73. I also did a Christology paper on it in first year New Testament
  74. One of my favourite times of day is reading books to the girls at bedtime
  75. Or getting a good morning hug
  76. I find preaching comes very naturally
  77. I am most comfortable when I am not reading while I preach
  78. So I don't actually write my sermons unless I have to
  79. and then I usually write them out after I preach them once
  80. Patty thinks I am amazing
  81. I know that she is
  82. And that I am incredibly lucky
  83. #57 has left me with a passion about bullying
  84. But it also left me knowing that more supervision is not necessarily the answer, nor the best preventative
  85. I once split my head open on a chinning bar in Grade 9 when I didn't duck low enough
  86. THis incident embarassed my sister
  87. I grew up in the church, and was made to go to Sunday School
  88. AS a child I sometimes resented that
  89. but I also had a surrogate family there so I loved it too
  90. SOmetimes in Grade 9 the church and the theatre group were the only places I wanted to be, I was safe there
  91. I learned about GOd's presence while walking along the shore of a lake
  92. I first REALLY knew God was with me the morning of my confirmation service
  93. I was walking in a misty playground at the time
  94. I think my parents are proud of me now--I don't think they always were
  95. I was never athletic, and was ashamed of that as a child
  96. I accept it now, and am better at what I do because of it
  97. Over the years I have let a lot of other people define who I am and what I can/should do
  98. I am getting better at not doing that, and not feeling as guilty about not doing that
  99. Sometimes I wonder if the church has a clue
  100. Often I wonder if I have a clue