Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Random Points of Conference-ness

Some notes and thoughts from last weekend's Conference Annual Meeting:

  • One highlight was the theme presentations. The theme speaker was John Ikerd and he was wonderful. He spoke about sustainability and agriculture and ethics and economics. One concept that stood out was that "it makes no economic sense to do anything for others which doesn't benefit us". It is a powerful conscience that can stand up and say "the system is broken".
  • Another definite highlight was the celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry. As part of that celebration we recounted the history of getting to this point in our time. We also took time to lament the church's history of heterosexism/homophobia. Then we had a celebration with rainbow flags and liturgy and made a covenant to be a safe place, an affirming place, a welcoming place. During both the lament and the celebration there were tears in some eyes.
  • One of the highlights of conference every year is the music. Music that we don't get to sing in small congregations that are reluctant to try new music, music sung by hundreds of voices at once, music that enlivens the soul and quickens the heart.
  • $14.03 per resident member (using 2006 statistics). That is all it takes to fund the Conference Budget. Admittedly a more useful number would be $ per identifiable giver, but still that is remarkably low. Yes that money comes, in the end, from local congregations (through assessments to Presbytery which in turn assesses congregations for the cost of running Presbyteries) and therefore comes out of funds available for local work. But still $14.03 per resident member!
  • A constant struggle with these meetings is that there is too much crammed into too short a period. a 13 hour day on Friday and a 9 hour day on Saturday (often with meetings over meal times) coupled with a 2 hour session on Thursday and a 1.5 hour worship on Sunday. Not to mention an 8 hour drive each way... (and children who don't often go to sleep easily in hotel rooms)
  • And even with all that time there was not enough time set aside for business -- or too much set aside for other (yes important and meaningful) things so there were 2 proposals that didn't even get looked at before being referred to the Executive
  • How many times do we have to hear various ways of saying "we don't do it that way" or fear of change/newness?
  • But at least we can laugh at ourselves. OR at least some of us can.
  • Oh and I guess I should mention that at the Presbytery meeting on Saturday I was installed as chair of Presbytery for 2008-09

ETA: The "official" summary statement from the meeting is here

Monday, May 26, 2008

7 Years Ago -- Part B

By this time on this day 7 years ago I was officially ordained.

THere was no COnference AGM that year so the Celebration of Ministry Service took place as a stand-alone event.

WE were in Calgary, my former Sunday School teacher and a young person from my internship charge stood up to lay hands on me, my sister was my communion serving partner. ANd the service was very nice. We celebrated those who were retiring and then 3 or 4 of us were ordained.

THat night a celebratory dinner with family and friends who were pretty much family too.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Conferenc News

Once I have time to synthesize and summarize there will be other reflections from our conference meeting.

BUt for now, since I know some readers are interested, I will report that this proposal passed. Handily.

Not without debateas to the need for it. NOt without comment. But without a doubt in the vote.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So it Begins...

Tomorrow morning we head off for the Annual Meeting of Conference. WE come back on Sunday.

Then I work for a week and take a week of study leave (June 1-7) which will include attending this event.

Then I come back for a couple days before heading to a PResbytery Executive meeting for 3 days. ANd since I am being installed as chair this weekend it is pretty important that I am there.

I am guessing that the last few weeks of June will be a lot of catch-up...

Be Not Afraid?!?

In 1933, a newly elected US President stood up to give his First Inaugural Address. And he gave us a phrase that would echo through the years – “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. To a nation in the depths of the Great Depression Franklin D. Roosevelt offered words of hope and challenge. He reminded them that they could overcome the difficulty they were facing. But first he reminded them that fear – “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance” -- could get in the way of that recovery.

At first glance FDR's words make no sense. In 1933 people had no work, and no prospects of work. People were losing houses, land, hope. People had no way to provide for their families. And remember that in the US (and in Canada) at the time there was little to no social safety net. Certainly there were many things that people had to fear.

But on another level FDR was very right. Fear is a powerful thing. In fact many suggest that the two primal motivators in human life are fear and love. In times of change and upheaval fear gets into our psyches and freezes us in our anxiety. Fear leads us to lose hope. Fear leads us to depression. Fear leads us to give up. This is why Roosevelt was right. Fear gets in the way of change and therefore blocks recovery.

In the first two chapters of Luke's gospel three different people are visited by angels bearing life-changing news. And in all three instances one of the first things the angel says is “be not afraid”. In order to hear and absorb the news about how God is active in their lives Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds need to release their fear.

And I think we can find a resonance between these stories and our present. Certainly the parallels between present-day life in Northwestern Ontario and the US of 1933 are obvious. The only difference is in the depth and scope of the economic collapse. As I listen around town I hear a lot of anxiety and fear over what the future will, or will not, bring. What is it that we have to fear?

But every time of upheaval brings new opportunities. The challenge is that those new opportunities often mean change in our beliefs and our expectations. The challenge is that those new opportunities often come in unexpected ways. This is where I see us in the same spot as a man too old to become a father, a young unmarried woman, and some lowly shepherds on a hillside.

In a time when the world is turned upside down we have to choose how we will react (and we can always choose how we react to things). Do we give in to the fear and anxiety that leads to paralysis and despair? Or do we find a way to let go of that fear and look for the signs of hope in the world around us? Can we embrace the changes that may be coming our way despite the fact that change always brings uncertainty? Can we “be not afraid”?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five -- Grand Tour

From RGBP:
One of our original ring members, jo(e), wrote yesterday about a trip she and her sisters are taking overseas with their parents, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Many other RevGals are headed for the Festival of Homiletics in the coming week (click here for information on a RevGals meetup!!). In honor of these upcoming trips, herewith your Grand Tour Friday Five.

Name five places that fall into the following categories:
1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again Scotland and Ireland. NO Question. Mind you I think I would go to places I hadn't gone to last time, see new things.
2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why) HOnestlyI can't think of anywhere I wish I had never been. THere are places I have little desire to return to though.
3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter So many places, so little time. Beloved and I have a list as long as our arms (and growing) of trips we want to take with the girls.
4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination 3 choices, hands down -- Narnia, Middle-Earth, Hogwarts (and related sites in that world).
5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit nothing comes to mind, but we do have towns called Dildo, Climax, and Come-by-Chance in this country...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Water, Water, Water

This afternoon we got home from grocery shopping, tossed a package of toilet paper downstairs and thought "that didn't sound right".

Go downstairs and find 1-2 inches of standing water throughout the basement. Some sign that there was a bit of back-up at the floor drain, but all else appeared clean water.

Called the Property chair who got the plumber to come check/clean out the drain. Then started cleaning. One of the trustees came with a vacuum and by 8:30 (4 hours after we got home) we had done what all we could for the night.

Now a call to the insurance agent tomorrow and hopefully clean-up crew starting soon. ANd where did the water come from? It rained all day but not that heavily...
Update: most of the contents are now in a trailer. Now we take some wall panelling off and see what else needs to be done...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great song, silly commercial

I have always loved Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf. Is there a better song to act out? But I never would have believed it would make a commerical for cell phones...

Although it is nice to see Meatloaf and Tiffany getting some work.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

HArd Choices

Yesterday while running errands I heard this story:
Child welfare officials have taken temporary custody of an 11-year-old Ontario boy to ensure he undergoes chemotherapy after his father decided to take
him off treatment for his aggressive form of leukemia.
In the interview I heard it was stated that the CAS was called because of the parent's "refusal to seek appropriate medical care" for the boy. ANd, yes that is a very valid concern IT should be one of the criteria for involving child welfare officials in a family's life. BUt is that what was happening here? DOes choosing that enough is enough mean acting inappropriately?

THe interview also said that yes, they had taken into consideration the boy's statment that he did not want treatment. They had tried to assess if he was capable to make that choice (never an easy thing to do).

But here's the thing. In our society anyone choosing not to try treatment (and treatment that has only a 50% chance at that) is often seen as not thinking clearly. The younger the patient the more likely this choice will be seen as invalid. Is the societal refusal to admit the reality that people sometimes die no matter what (just bcause they get sick, not because God decided they should die) colouring what is seen as responsible parenting.

I have no idea what I would do if I were involved in this situation. Not if I were the parent, or a Dr, or the CAS worker, or as a pastor. I really hope I never have to find out.

Hard choices indeed.

Friday, May 09, 2008

What Would HAppen if?

THis afternoon's mail included the agenda book for the upcoming Conference Annual Meeting. One of the proposals to be debated is called Ethical Standards and Blogging and reads thusly:
WHEREAS The United Church of Canada has established Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice for Ministry Personnel; and
WHEREAS maintaining a BLog, or online journal, is becoming a common practice for ministry personnel; and
WHEREAS the established Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice for Ministry Personnel are silent on the practice of BLogging, and other online journaling; and
WHEREAS the practice of many employers is to set guidelines regarding Blogs and other online journals;
THEREFORE we propose that the Executive of General Council direct the appropriate body to include guidelines for maintaining a Blog, or other online contributions, within the Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice for Ministry Personnel.

AS I look at the source of this proposal and know what one of that area's big pieces of work over the last year has been I am guessing I know what brought this forward. ANd of course most ministry bloggers blog very appropriately. But it does make one wonder, what would a denomination consider ethical/non-ethical blogging? What is the role of blogging in ministry?

Your thoughts are...


'Twas a nice sunny day here today. ANd so I thought it was a good day to turn the fall leaves into the garden and loosen the soil.

HOwever I forgot something.

Later this afternoon,my head was itchy so I gave it a rub. Gee that hurt.

I should likely mention that the top of my head has a rather thin covering of hair. ANd yep, it appears that the skin got a bit too much sun.

I guess it is hat season.

But I also guess I should know better.

A Spirited Friday Five

Presbyterian Gal writes:
...it's Pentecost and my very first Friday Five! Thinking about all the gifts of the spirit and what Peter said of the "last days"......

Have you or anyone you know
1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true?
I routinely experience very vivid "deja vu" moments. The details are so clear, accurate, and precise that I'd say they fit this one. HOwever I never remember my dreams when I wake up.
2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later? not that I recall.
3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's) Well what counts as a wonder. I have seen many awe-inspiring skies, featuring everything from sun, clouds, stars, moon, aurora borealis....
4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth? Well of course, I see them at every street corner. In the symbolic use though, I am not much into signs and omens.
5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it? Nope, even having studied them leave me doubtful at times...
Bonus Question: What would a modern day news coverage of the first Pentecost have sounded like? Good one. It would hype the sensationalism for sure (and the story is already pretty sensational don't you think?). But since it doesn't "bleed", the story would likely show up late in the newscast as a "on the lighter side" or "stranger things have happened" piece rather than during the "hard news" portion.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And So it Begins...

MAy is birthday month around here -- all three girls have birthdays this month (11, 15, 21). Up until now there have really been no parties.

But now the eldest has gotten old enough to know what birthday parties are so this year it was a must.

We have decided that we are doing a "Storytime Party" at the local library. Party day is next Thursday, with potentially more kids than there is really space for.

Wish us luck?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

7 Years Ago -- Part A

7 years ago today I was sitting waiting for a phone call.

The Settlement Committee was meeting and this was the day I would get final news.

By now I had a sense of where the news would be (given some preliminary conversations with the chair of the committee before the meeting and a "first step" call during the meeting) but this call was the confirmation. Later that day I started doing research about my new home.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pentecost Prep

Next Sunday is Pentecost, also called the "Birthday of the church".

As is begin to work towards a sermon on Spirit-Language, I encourage people to reflect on the meaning of being Spirit-filled. We live in an era where such language is often reserved for sports teams and fans. We live in an era where church is often seen as institutional and even bureaucratic rather than Spirit-filled and vibrant. What would it mean for the church to become more Spirit-led? Would we notice the difference? Might we be more flowing and variable?

This article discusses the way the church moved from being a Spirited and Spirit-led to a more institutional organization. Given that all organizations eventually move toward a more structured way of being it makes sense. But of course that isn't what the church is called to be -- at least in the minds of many.