Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HAlloween -- Part B

ANd now here they are ready for Trick or treating--On a night with snow/ice pellets in the air and a windchill of -12C
ADD: IT appears that as excited as they were to go trick or treating they were far more excited about kids coming to their house. You'd think it was the best thing in their lives.

Halloween -- PArt A

HEre are the costumes the girls wore for indoor parties this year. They also have outdoor costumes that fit over warmer clothes--maybe they will come up later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not Again!

They're buying us off. It is really that simple.

The Federal government has announced plans for $60 Billion in tax cuts:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has tabled a motion that calls for $60 billion in personal and corporate tax cuts over the next five years, including a further cut in the GST to five per cent, effective Jan. 1.
NOw I think that tax cuts are always a bad idea. THey always seem to end up benefiting the rich more than the poor. Take teh GST cut for example. Canadians like to hate the GST, have done so ever since it came in almost 20 years ago. It is an irritant. But on reflection I really support the GST. AS a consumption tax it means that those who consume the most pay the most--that means the people in higher income brackets pay the most. But of course that means that they also save the most with this cut.

If governements really want to alter the tax system to benefit low income Canadians I have some suggestions:
  • raise the basic personal exemption (note that they are doing this) -- this helps to raise the floor level income at which people start paying tax -- maybe teh poverty line is a good goal, you earn less than that you pay no income tax and get a much larger GST rebate
  • lower tax rates for lower income people (again this is part of the package)
  • makeit illegal for provincial welfare plans to claw back benefits such as the Child Care credit
  • raise the GST rebate to low income families

The government's own numbers for their proposal show that the higher your income the more you benefit from their plan -- by a factor of 3.

ANd please--lowering corporate tax rates? THat is a priority? THat generally increases corporate profits far more than it encourages job creation.

Mind you I also think the taxing of income trusts was a good thing, that a carbon tax is worth considering, and that a governmental surplus means that the government did not spend enough-not that they collected too much (and don't get me started on the EI surplus).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Liturgy For Nov 4

THe one standing task I have for Monday is to get the Order of Service done. Here is part of it. Tomorrow some other preparatory notes will be posted on the church blog.

The crowd gathers, excitement buzzes in the air.
There, over that way! God’s Chosen One is here!
We stand on shoulders, we climb trees, anything to be part of the action.
Hey! Look! See me!
In our excitement we come to meet God, to feel God’s presence, to be changed people.
Hey! Look! Over here! Wait, what was that about being changed?
Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon enough. Now let us pray…

God, like Zaccheus, we come seeking to join the crowds around you.
We go out of our way to make time to be here.
Like Zaccheus we find ourselves changed by our experience of your love.
You fill us with the impulse to help improve the world around us.
May our next hour be a time of re-energizing, of opening to your Way of love and life.
May this time together continue to re-orient our lives and our priorities. Amen.

The crowd still gathers, the buzz still rings.
We have met, we have visited, we have been invited to change.
The encounter leaves us different than we were before.
Experiencing the presence and love of God leads us to pay a price.
The cost of our meeting is small compared to the blessing we receive.
And so we go out to share and to spend our love and our life.
As you go, remember that the God who changes us is always with us, that the Christ who challenges us also supports us, that the Spirit who emboldens us also lifts us up.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh Boy...

We had a congregational meeting and supper this evening. One of the discussion questions was "Something I think we should try is...."

I think we are going to be BUSY. Options such as an alternate spirituality experience once a month (sort of an alternate worship but not really), a study group on the "get to know your neighbours/faith siblings" idea, a different worship format, a church drama group, special events, providing coffee houses for people to get together, youth group...

All good ideas, but a lot of work to get details put together and implement even some.

THe ones that catch me right off are an alternate spiritual experience (and I think I know where to go for support and help in making that happen) and changing the worship format/order of service.

On the latter, currently our ORder of Service could best be described as "Standard United Church worship" And while it works I am tired of it. But I am not entirely sure how to rebuild it. What have you folks out there done with your order of service???

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leadership and the Dying/THriving Church

THis Afternoon whilst waiting for my co-travelers to finish their shopping I finished reading I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.

While I disagree with some of Nixon's interpretations, and while I found some of his suggestions were based for the urban, larger church far more than the small rural congregations many of us actually serve, there was a lot of food for thought in this one.

It was a lot about choices: life/death, community/isolation, fun/drudgery bold/mild, fortress/frontier, now/later. Parts of it tied in well with tomorrow's sermon about a world of abundance. Parts of it will come up during the Lenten sermon series I am planning. ANd since my plan is to spend time this year encouraging congregational visioning it will certainly come up (along with a couple others on the bookshelf--such as this and this) in that work.

But in the mean time it was time for some lighter fare. SO tonight I started reading this by Rick Mercer. Multiple laughs a page in that one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pumpkin/Apple Friday Five

SingingOwl writes at the RGBP site:

All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t. Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year. Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What's more, the "Holiday Season" will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child? Parties at school (dances in later grades), maybe trick or treating if I was allowed--although I don't remember being an avid trick-or-treater anyway.
2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do? Not really. THere is a kids party in town we often go to. But the kids are just really starting to get excieted about HAlloween.
2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? Neither. If I want to eat an apple a plain apple will do.
3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them? Take bets on how long they stay whole sitting on the step after HAlloween? Target practice for slingshots?
4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures. I don't, the beloved does a bit: pumpkin lights on thefront step, some clingys and some kids art on the window Decorating the house for Halloween is relatively recent in Canada and is growing by leaps and bounds.
5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality? I love dressing up. And the costume certainly helps move into the character.

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones. I don't have a recipe but when having Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law's family I remember having a pumpkin cheescake with chocolate crust that was truly scrumptious.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

PAstry Ministry

Every year I spend 3 mornings in October doing pastoral visiting over pie dough and apples. For pictures from today's work see the church blog

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is UnAmerican

Seen a variety of places today, I think it works equally well for Canada.
remember to read with tongue firmly planted in cheek...
  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.
  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

ANd why is this a big deal???

So apparently J.K. Rowling envisioned Albus Dumbledore as being gay.

Great. But really, so what?

A fictional character, who has been killed off, who has been pretty much asexual throughout the story was envisioned as gay by the character's creator. Does it affect teh story line at all?

Not as she wrote the books. I suppose it could have, as part of the back story around Grindelwald. But since it wasn't mentioned it makes no difference.

Why make a big deal about it?

Unfortunately some will. And some will look for "sinster overtones" in all of the interactions between Dumbledore and Harry.

Abundant Liturgy

This is week 2 of our (my?) 3 week Stewardship series. THis week the topic is living in a world of ABUNDANCE.

Amidst the busy-ness of our lives,
we gather to share quiet time with God and neighbour.
In our worry and anxiety,
we gather to share God’s words of promise and hope.
In our concern about having enough,
we gather to be reminded that God fills our lives with abundance.
We gather to worship the God of abundant life and overflowing love. Let us pray…

On a first day the work of Creation was begun.
On a first day the promise of new life was reborn.
On this first day we come here with God to celebrate life old and new.
On this first day may we be refreshed and energized.
In our worship and in our work, you are with us God, and so we offer our thanks and praise. Amen.


We have been given so many things.
We celebrate the abundances in our lives
We have heard the call of God to share that which we have.
We offer a portion of our abundance that all may benefit.
Let us present our offering…
God, our Source, all that we have and do and are flows from you,
here we make an offering out of the abundance with which you have blessed us.
May these gifts of paper, coin, time, and love be empowered to do your work and spread your hope.
May the sharing of these gifts empower us, the givers, to be active agents of your love. Amen.

As our worship ends, we go back out to our work in the world.
We go out remembering to counter the world’s claims of scarcity with a message of hopeful abundance.
As our worship ends, we go back out to our work in the world.
We go out as proclaimers of the Love of God, who gives us great bounty, who gives us Life.
As our worship ends, we go back out to our work in the world.
We go out knowing that God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is with us every step of life’s journey. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Worth Reading

Just finished reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

THe premise of the book is to answer the question of what were to happen if humanity were to suddenly disappear from the earth and leave the rest of its living things and structures in the same state they are in currently (if we were all to be Raptured for example).

Partly apocalyptic, partly hopeful. It is quite interesting. I decided to order it after seeing the author interviewed on The Daily Show in late August.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Could be worse!

Hat tip to Sally

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Calvin

You are John Calvin. You seek to be faithful to Scripture, and to harmonize difficult sayings. You believe that in the Lord's Supper those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet in a real way.













Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stand up to Stamp out Poverty

TOday is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This afternoon I participated in a rally at which we shared the following pledge (also available here as well as other stuff)

We are standing now with millions around the world on this symbolic day, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to show our commitment to the fight against extreme poverty and inequality.

We are standing because we refuse to accept more excuses in a world where 50,000 people die every day as a result of extreme poverty and the gap between rich and poor is getting wider.

We are standing because we want our leaders to honour their promises to meet the Millennium Development Goals – and we ask them to exceed these goals.

We join in solidarity with people from over 100 countries to say:

To the leaders of the wealthy countries –
We urge you to keep your promises on poverty – debt relief, more and better aid, trade justice and gender equality.

To the leaders of poorer countries – make it your first responsibility to save the lives of your poorest citizens. We ask you to tackle inequality, to be accountable to your people, to govern fairly and justly, to fight corruption and to fulfill human rights.

Today, and every day, we will stand up and speak out against poverty. We will continue the fight against poverty and inequality and to hold our leaders to their promises.

We are asking not for charity but for justice. We are millions of voices standing in solidarity to say, no more excuses - end poverty now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nature and SPirituality

On thursday I am giving a presentation at the local library titled "Nature and Spirituality".

Tomorrow I will start building the power point for it.

So now I am thinking, what is the key part of that link? Why is it so common that people find their spirituality in the outdoors and not in churches?

For sure a part of the presentation will be a discussion of "thin places".

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Knock, Knock -- Justice Calling

Next Sunday we have the story of the persistent widow. Personally I believe that if God is a character in the story then God is the widow knocking on our windows and doors until we give in. Anyway, here is some of our liturgy (the other prayers--Opening and Commissioning/Benediction) I "borrowed" from Seasons of the Spirit):

All is silent and yet we hear a sound that never stops,
a voice crying out for justice, a plea that the people of the world would live together in peace.
All is silent and yet the call keeps coming.
Calling us to respond, calling us to be part of the solution.
We who have heard the voice come together to listen more closely.
We who hear the pleas come together in response to the invitation.
Let us worship the God who calls us to be workers for justice. Let us pray…

Persistent God, we hear you knocking, knocking, knocking.
And we wonder whether to open the door.
We hear you crying out for justice.
And we alternate between wholehearted response and selective deafness.
For the times we choose to ignore the door, to be deaf to the pleas,
we ask forgiveness and pledge to try again
…time of silent prayer…
Because God is persistent in the call for justice, we know that we are given a second chance. God’s forgiveness is just as persistent as God’s cry for justice.
We are forgiven. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Offering Prayer
God, over and over you call us to action,
here we come to respond to your pleas for justice.
You have given us the tools and the will,
help us use them to spread your love in the world.
We offer these gifts in Jesus name,
may they continue the ongoing work of love and justice in the world. Amen.

THis Morning'sWOrship

THis morning we did something different. We used a service first prepared by Poor MAd PEter.

The service used silent meditation instead of a sermon (PMP talks about it here). Afterward teh comments were mainly variations on "You're right, that was different" but the consensus also seemed that it was a nice change. I don't see us doing it all the time though.

THanks PEter, it was nice to have on hand in a busy week (a 3 funeral one).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sing to the Lord, Sing out a New Song (Psalm 96)

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song
(Joe Raposo)

As a child, had you asked me what my favourite part of church was I likely would have said: “the singing”. It was also my favourite part of camp, and school (yes we actually learned to sing when I went to school “back in the day”). I liked to sing songs I had known for years. I liked to learn new songs, some of which then became part of my musical repertoire and some which faded away. I liked, and still like, to sing.

There are many reasons why we sing. But a big part is that our very core is musical. All cultures in all times have had music. And why do we sing in church? Well, in part because church is part of life and we are intrinsically musical beings. But also because Scripture calls us to sing – the words “sing or song or praise” occur over 370 times in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Obviously there is more to our church music than “we’ve always done it that way”.

There is something special about singing. Music has long been known as an art form that touches us far deeper than the spoken word does. When we sing our joy or our praise or our grief or our lament then we express our feeling far stronger than in reciting prayers, no matter how beautifully written the prayer. And of course one of the blessings of congregational song is that it is a shared act. Church worship is one of the few places left in our culture where music is participatory and not a performance.

And of course because music touches us so deeply it is a prime cause for disagreements. Remember all those diatribes against Rock & Roll over the years? Ever notice that each generation argues with their parents over what makes for “good” music? Have you ever asked “why can’t we just all listen to/sing the good old familiar songs”? Communities can either be drawn together or pulled apart by songs.

In the end we can’t just sing the “good old familiar songs”. They have their place but we need to make room for the new. One of the gifts music gives us is that it speaks to the realities (happy and sad, good and bad) of our lives. As the world changes we need new music to talk about new realities. Sometimes it does this prophetically – as a teen I remember a song called Video killed the Radio Star that came out just as MTV was launched and turned out to be eerily accurate.

In the life of faith we need the hymns of our ancestors to link us to them. But we also need the new hymns written today and tomorrow to stretch us forward. But whatever we choose to sing we need to sing, sing a song. La-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la-la.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sing, Sing A Song

Yesterday I was doing some prep work for a column I have to write this week (amidst the 2 funerals). THe column is going to be titled (I think) Sing to the Lord or Sing Out a New Song.

AS part of my prep I found the old Carpenters hit SIng. While it was playing I started singing it, and the girls loved it. EVer since yesterday morning they keep asking "Daddy, sing the song again". By last night the oldest was starting to sing it along with me (especially the La-la-la-la-la part).

Now I know why Sesame Street chose to use the song in the first place.

COincidentally this research fed into my sermon for this morning as I also looked up HOw Can I Keep from Singing? on CyberHymnal and ended up using the first verse (read, not sung) as part of my sermon on singing songs of praise in the times of lament. It speaks to the Christian Hope that breaks through the trials of life.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A germ of an idea

No not a gem, at least not yet, just a germ so far.

Every year in Lent I like to do a sermon series. THis winter I am hoping that the congregation will do some visioning. I am trying to come with an idea that links the two of those.

SO I am thinking a series called "CHURCH: Who? Why? How? WHat?" (maybe When and Where too?). One of those weeks is PResbytery and I could envision getting people to share their own stories (or write for others to read) about what the church means for them. BUt that is all I have so far. Lucily LEnt is a few months away....

Mind you my planning for ADvent is somewhat lacking.

Monday, October 01, 2007


In the last few years the UCCan has instituted a policy saying that every one in paid ministry is entitled to a 3 month sabbatical (at full salary and benefits) after 5 years of continuous service (and presumably every 5 years thereafter). Great, important thing to do.

But here is the thing. THe guidelines are such that you need to announce your intention to take this sabbatical 12 months beforehand, to allow for a plan to be developed (the plan needs to be approved by Presbytery 6 months beforehand). And this is a good thing, very sensible. Also the person needs to commit to remain in that Pastoral Charge for 1 full year following the end of the Sabbatical AGain this is very sensible, the Charge should get the immediate benefit of the Sabbath time, after all they pay you for taking it.

However, this means that the moment one gives notice of intent to take a sabbatical one is committing oneself to remain in situ for at least 27 more months (which really means at least 3 years). I understand and agree with the logic of the timelines. But I have trouble knowing where I want to be in 3 years...

Mind you I have no idea at present what I would do on Sabbatical anyway.