Thursday, December 30, 2010


It was the summer of 1981.  I spent many hours in the local hockey arena (which would later be called the "Ducky Dome" after a mural featuring giant ducks was painted on the back but I digress).  We sang, we danced, we practiced lines, we were measured for burlap sack costumes (and oh were those itchy).  And when the time came a group of us waited in the bleachers for our cue.  When it same we marched over the boards and down a ramp singing "13 Mighty Dwarves" in this show.  And so St. Albert Children's Theatre was born.  Tonight (in about 45 minutes as I write this) in a special presentation they celebrate 30 years.  And if I were in St. Albert or somewhere else in metro Edmonton I would be there for the show and to see old friends.

In hte early years SACT was a summer program.  But then it grew.  First a spring show was added in 1984.  Then the summer show became a full camp that same year.  Not only did we prepare a show we took classes in music and dance and drama.  ANd by that 1984 summer the program was so popular the show was double cast (starting the summer of 1985 there were two separate summer shows, divided by age).

All in all I participated in 10 of the shows on the production history on the SACT website (although one of those was actually done as an A.R.T.S show [ARTS was a parallel program with many of the same members that was started as a leadership development program in the fall of 1982] Black Bonspiel of Wullie Macrimmon with WO Mitchell coming to meet the cast and crew).  SOmetimes I was in the cast, sometimes I was on the crew.  But the shows, as enjoyable as they were, were only part of the benefit.

The real benefit is that those people with whom I shared many hours in rehearsal and preparation and in post-show parties were my best friends throughout those Junior and Senior High years.  A few went on to do theatre as a career but most of us didn't.  But we supported each other, laughed together, struggled together.  And of all the people from those years they are among the ones I wish I had stayed in touch with -- although I have reconnected with some through FB.  Yes I developed skillls that a
have served me well in ministry, but the friendships were the really important part.  We were a group, sometimes cliquish, but we were a group.

Not bad for something my mom thought I might find enjoyable to fill the days of summer vacation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sunday's Worship....

A month ago, as we were doing some worship planning, the music minister and I decided that we weren't going to plan anything for Boxing Day.  After all, we reasoned, it seemed unlikely that we would have a big crowd.  So we decided there would be no bulletin, no structure.  People would be invited to sit up front beside the piano, we would ask for favourite carols, maybe some discussion about Christmas, coffee and tea and muffins available in the sanctuary....

And that is what happened.  There were about 20 folks present.  We had coffee/tea/muffins available (mind you nobody actually had any until after the service--force of habit I'd guess).  We convinced people, and it took some convincing, to sit up in the choir loft chairs. and here is the order of things actually happened:

  • We lit the advent and Christ candles
  • sang a carol 
  • a short version of the Wenceslas story was told, followed by singing that carol
  • people were invited to share some Christmas memories
  • a carol was sung
  • some Christmas trivia question (from this test) were asked
  • a carol was sung
  • people were invited to share some memories of a Christmas that was less than merry/more somber
  • a prayer was said
  • a trip of university students sang a song
  • offering was collected with some stories about special gifts told
  • a carol was sung
  • we broke for coffe and fellowship
It went well, in the opinion of many.  And may be the model for next year when December 25th is a Sunday

Thursday, December 16, 2010


This Place is on my mind today.  It is the day of their annual Radiothon fundraiser.

I worked at the Kottage from November 1996 (started just before the Christmas PArty) until August 1999.  It was a gift.  It was a blessing.  ANd yes at times it was heartbreaking. ANd I still carry them in my heart (although most of the staff has undoubtedly changed by now and all the families I met there have children who have aged out of the program).

Why did folks call us? You name it: no food, housing issues, parental or sibling illness, death in the family, parental stress... And they were people who often had, or felt they had, no other place to turn. In my childhood we had close friends (in our case through the church) who could watch my sister and I on short notice if needed. In other people's stories this is what neighbours did.

But what if you are new to town and don't know anybody? What if you have no family close (or no family you trust/ are speaking too)? What if you live in an area that doesn't lead you to trust your neighbour's? Who do you call?

ANd here is a video (not the one I wanted, I wanted the whole song this one ends with) about their ministry.

So here is the question for you, fellow questers.  How do we, as people who believe in children and their parents, provide support when life falls apart?  How do we support the people who have nobody?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Book 20 of 2010

I have looked at this one a couple of times at book displays but never really wanted to buy it in Lent.  So this year I remembered in the fall and ordered it.

I enjoyed it, but then I fully expected to do so.  Not much in the way of new concepts for me, more of a nice summation of a non-literal (and also non-debunking) look at the Christmas stories.

I am thinking of a book study using it in November of 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Christmas Challenge

Fellow Residents of Grande Prairie:

In just over a month Christmas will be here. And so we are in the midst of the annual advertising blitz encouraging us to buy buy buy. On our TV screens, through our radio speakers, in pop-up windows on-line, and in the mountain of flyers within the folds of this paper each day we get told of the great deals just waiting for us to make our choice and put our money (or likely our plastic) down.

There is, of course, nothing really wrong with wanting to buy gifts for family and friends. But the Christmas commercialism blitz has gone over the edge. In the US the Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. Originally this was in reference to the fact that the holiday season is what puts many retailers in the black for the year. But for some of us it has a darker meaning.

What does it mean to buy so much stuff that we really do not need? Is it good stewardship of the world's resources to amass more stuff when so many people both near and far struggle to have life's basic necessities? Is that really the best way to celebrate the season?

Several years ago we determined that it wasn't. And so I am sharing with you a challenge I made to myself. For the last 4 years I have committed to donating at least half as much (often closer to 100%) as we spend on Christmas gifts for our daughters to charity. I challenge all of you to make the same commitment. Imagine the benefit to our favourite charities if every family in Grande Prairie gave a Christmas gift this way each year!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Book 19 of 2010

Putting Away Childish Things, a novel by Marcus Borg.  Yes, a novel by Borg. Something of a change for those of us who are used to reading Borg's work on theology.  And yet not much of a change.

THe novel tells the story of a Religious Studies professor at a small US college.  One sub-plot revolves around a young woman who is struggling to find a theological home between the liberal and progressive Christian worlds.  The main plot follows the professor as she wrestles with an invitation to consider a yearlong appointment at a seminary.

Borg describes this as a "teaching novel", mainly (he says) because he couldn't see how to write any other type of novel.  ANd his theology bleeds through it.  Is the book great literature?   PRobably not.  But it is a good read and a good way to start discussion [note to self, put this one on the next list of potential book studies].  And given a chance I would be happy to take a class from Kate Riley.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Bullying and Shame

I didn't wear purple on Wednesday (primarily because the only purple garment I own is short-sleeved and the weather on Wednesday precluded such a wardrobe choice) but I understood the sentiment behind Spirit Day.

Bullying is a blight upon many of our lives.  Many of us live daily with the scars of it.  Some do better than others, some have healed, some still have raw open wounds in their souls.

I was a bullied child and teen.  My Junior High years were horrid.  And I bore those wounds (now healed-ish scars) well into my adult years.  The voices that told me I wasn't worth much at all kept me from growing until a counselor finally helped me put them to rest.

This morning I preached on the balance between pride and shame (I describe the balance point as realistic, honest humility).  Bullying is about lack of that balance.  The bullied victim is pushed to a place of shame.  And shame cripples, shame weighs us down, shame gutters the light of God that is within us.  In point of fact, shame can kill.  That is what Spirit Day was all about.  It was about standing shoulder to shoulder to those who have been told to be ashamed of themselves, in particular because of their orientation on this occasion.

But what do we do about bullying?  I really don't know.  The reality is that I was a good victim (and got to be a better one as the bullying continued and I became more pressed down and less sure of myself).  My counselor, as he pushed me to stop taking responsibility for what happened kept asking "where were the adults?".  This ties in well to the belief of school systems that they can enforce a bully-free environment in the school.  They can't.  All my bullying was school and schoolyard based and really there is only so much that can be done.  Most bullies aren't idiots after all, they know how not to get caught through a combination of timing and threats.

What we do is that we as children of God ensure that the people in our lives all know that they too are children of God.  We ensure that they know this makes them special and worthwhile and that they have no reason to be ashamed of being who they are.  In the end this is more important than the necessary disciplinary actions we take towards bullies.  We break the cycle of victimhood.  That is the only way to fight the bully.

And sometimes it means we hold a different mirror up.  When I took CPE my supervisor had been minister in my childhood church when I was 11.  Often during that unit she would say "this is not the person I knew, this is not who you are".  No I didn't believe her at the time.  But it was what needed to be said.  When we see people bearing the wounds of bullying we all have to say those things.  We all have to remind people who they really are.

May God help us to do so.

PS> as a lead in for this sermon I read You Are Special for children's time, and re-read the climax of it during the sermon.  The prize line is that "the stickers only stick if you let them".  As a bullied child I never would have believed or understood the wisdom in that sentence.  But now I do.

Friday, Schmiday, I'll do it anyway

Over at RGBP a couple days ago the following queries were posted:

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood?  When I was 3 (or 4??) we were heading up to Miette Hot SPrings in JAsper.  As we were unhitching the trailer for the steep windy road a friend from church introduced us to another family who were new to St. ALbert and the church.  THis family is my surrogate parents and sisters to this day.  Another earliest memory (although a few years later) is of the classmate of mine who lived 2 doors down when I was in kindergarten-Grade 2.
2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend?  I am sure I have many times.  But I just can't name one at the time.
3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet?  THere are a number of folks I have reconnected with via FB, in fact I had the chance to chat with one on the phone last week who I haven't seen or talked to in 15 years or so. 
4) Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one?  Small groups is best for me.
5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you?  Honestly, it depends on the day.  SOmetimes it is really comforting, sometimes ti sounds kind of hackneyed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book 18 of 2010

SLowed up a bit haven't I?  Partly because I got busy.  Partly because this one, Atonement for a 'Sinless' Society, just didn't grab me.  I've been working away at it for over a month and in fact reshelved it without reading teh last couple chapters.

I grabbed it off the library shelf because the concept of finding an atonement theory to counter the issue of shame struck a chord with me.  Atonement theory only works when it speaks to the great longing in our hearts.  FOr some that is guilt, for some it is being isolated, for others it is shame.

But in the end I was underwhelmed.  I was underwhelmed in Mann's description of post-industrialized/post-modern attitudes towards sinfulness and morality. I was struck that Mann only seems to use sin as meaning wrongdoing rather than that which separates us from God.  ANd whiole I think he started on a helpful track, that Jesus' life and death show that he follows the good advice from SHakespeare's Polonius "to thine own self be true" I found that he lost that track.  Mind you he was trying to find the atonement moment on the cross and I tend to find the key to salvation in the resurrection so we were on different wavelengths to start.

A good theses.  ANd a topic worthy of exploration.  But in the end the style of teh writing is what did me in.  Dry dry dry.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2 Songs, One Sermon Concept

To go with the Luke passage of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. And teh sermon title Humility and Shame.

What is the balance between pride and guilt and humility and shame?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book 17 of 2010

No cover image for this one, and no link to it either.  It is a personal and yet a corporate history titled What lies Behind the Picture: A Personal Journey into Cree Ancestry. It was written by a former minister hereabout his delving into his family's history.  But as he does that he tells a great deal about the history of the Canadian West.  Very enjoyable and Vern offers a way of looking at some of the telling discrimination that has long been a part of Canadian society.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday 5: Sing! PRay Twice!

Over at RGBP MaryBeth asks us these questions:

1) Do you like to sing/listen to others sing? In worship, or on your own (or not at all?)  Most assuredly yes.  We make up songs with our children (usually to a familiar tune like Row Row Row or Frere Jacques) at random.  Snippets of hymns or showtunes or other songs come out of my mouth at random times.  The whole household loves music.
2) Did you grow up with music in worship, or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience.  I grew up with an active choir member for a parent and many of the families in our circle of friends were choir families, I sang in Junior birthed in me a liking for worship music.
3) Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall?  definitely worship would be not quite right without music.  I am of a mixed opinion if you can have too much music in worship.  It depends how it is done and how often I suppose.
4) Do you prefer traditional music in worship, or contemporary? That can mean many different things!  I say that a mix is needed, find the right balance--remembering that the balance is measured over time, not by one or two services.
5) What's your go-to music ... when you need solace or want to express joy? Songs from camp sometimes, thumbing through a hymn book sometimes, random paging through YouTUbe sometimes...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday 5 on Saturday--I overslept?

1. Are you prone to sleep challenges? Insomnia, snoring, allergies? Other sleep challenges?  I am a really light sleeper and wake often most nights.

2. When you can't sleep what do you do? Toss and turn? Get up and read? Play computer games?
Toss and turn, play math games in my head sometimes (to try and distract my mind that I have trouble turning off), some quieting/meditative exercises

3. When you do sleep do you remember your dreams? Or just snipets of them?

4. Can you share a funny or confusing dream you've had? Or a dream you have over and over?
As above, I don't remember my dreams

5. When you don't sleep how do you get through the day? Lots of coffee? or a nap later in the day?
Soemtimes a rest, only a nap when the sleep debt is quite high (or it is Sunday)

Monday, September 06, 2010

As Promised

In this post, my review of Reframing Hope has been posted.  Read it here

Is there a blessing for...?

In Fiddler on the Roof, when Motel gets his new sewing machine he asks the Rabbi if there is a blessing for a sewing machine.  And the rabbi obliges.

Along the same lines is this story (the link was posted on my FB wall):

The glow of gizmos cut through the darkness of a modest Halifax-area church Sunday as parishioners raised their cellphones, laptops and GPS units toward the heavens for a special prayer.
"Lord God, we thank you for the many gifts and tools you give us, all those electronic gadgets that make our lives easier in so many ways," Rev. Lisa Vaughn said before a small crowd at St. Timothy's Anglican church in Hatchet Lake on the eve of Labour Day.
Vaughn said the idea to hold a blessing of electronics came after hearing about an old English tradition called Plough Monday in which farmers would drag their tools to the church's door to receive a blessing for a good harvest.
Actually I think that the idea has merit.  It also can be a chance to reflect on the role gadgets play in our lives and our addiction to them.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Being Reshaped (sermon precis/notes)

Well how does the clay feel about being reshaped?  What is the response of the nation to hearing Jeremiah calling them to be smashed down and reformed?  And since we are the clay how do we respond?

These passages tell us that God has shaped and is reshaping us.  DO we really believe that?  One of the myths of North American life is that if the self-made man.  THere is this image of the person who is his or her own creation.  To say the least this is misguided, in fact it goes directly against Scripture, as these passages point out.  The life of faith requires us to remember that we are creations of the Creator -- which is both a scary and a revitalizing thought.

This reading from Jeremiah can be terrifying.  It describes a God who, when the nation (or the church?) is not being shaped as God hopes, smashes them down.  But at the same time it tells of a God who doesn't give up, who keeps trying to reshape and reform us.  We'll come back to that.

--Priestly vs. Deuteronomic theology of the land
--potter image
           --reusing clay, even when dried can be soaked and made pliable, sometimes the reworked clay makes the best pot, clay can be reworked multiple times
          --no such thing as a "perfect pot", no two pieces of real pottery are the same, all have small "imperfections"
          --pottery is a messy business
          --potter as "co-creator" with the clay
           --sometimes the reworked clay can look nothing like the first try
--reshaping the nation
          --needs some soaking, softening for preparation
          --also a messy business
          --are we willing to allow it?
          --Potter adn clay as co-Creators

God is at work reforming and reshaping us for a new age.  That is a sign of hope.  It may be painful.  It may be hard to allow.  So how are we being reshaped?  Will we recognize the reshaped clay?  ANd really, how does the clay feel about it???

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Book 16 of 2010

Just a couple comments on this one for now as a full review will be posted by the end of the weekend.

I quite enjoyed this one.  I especially liked Merritt's idea of a loyal radical since it resonated with me.  Also I liked her approach (inherent in the loyal radical idea) of adapting the existing denomination not giving up in denominationalism and tossing it out.

ANd the conclusion of the book about finding hope in the desert was worth it all by itself!

Friday, August 27, 2010


This week I have found myself pondering what hospitality, real hospitality, Jesus-style hospitality, might be. For some of my thoughts from early this week you can check here.

I have come to think that while Hospitality has become a (perhaps the) watch-word in church circles these days.  If we just get the hospitality piece down pat then people will feel happy and comfortable and come more often.  If we are friendly and welcoming and say the right things then we will be seen as worth coming back to.  And that may be true.  But if we stop there we are missing the point of Jesus-style hospitality.  We are missing what Jesus and God are calling us to practise.

You see, Jesus in this Luke passage reminds us that hospitality is about "the others".  It is about how well we welcome the least and the outcast.  And this, unfortunately, is where the church tends to fall down.

LAst summer there was a motion at General Council that if it had passed as written, would have required all UCCan congregations to be accessible regardless of physical ability or gender or orientation or marital status or race or....

NOw that is a call to radical, JEsus-style hospitality.  So now the question is, how do I issue the challenge?  |In a downtown church where there are often signs of homeless in the area how do we welcome them?  In a denomination that 22 years ago decided that sexual orientation was irrelevant in terms of being called to ministry how are we doing?  In a world where church congregations are notoriously homogenous in terms of ethinc origin and socio-economic class how do we claim to be truly welcoming?  In a time when churches talk constantly about ministering to families do we appear welcoming to those whose family is scattered or different?

HOw can we practise this radical Jesus-style hospitality?  There are 2 stories I will likely include on Sunday.  One is of a person who is clearly "different" coming in to sit on the carpet at the front of the sanctuary and the elderly elder who joins him there.  The other is of a rabbi teaching the class how to know day has come--when you can look into the face of a stranger and see a friend.  It is just the question of how challenging to be one month into a new pastoral relationship that is haunting me.

PS> in my reflections yesterday it struck me that my entire working life has been spent in one form or another of the hospitality industry.  I have worked in restaurants and a golf course clubhouse--things that are traditionally considered part of the hospitality industry.  But I have also worked and volunteered at church camps---moving a bit out of the traditional definitions but still fairly obviously about welcoming, and moving closer to the radical hospitality taught by Jesus.  Then for the last decade in Ordained ministry--a bit further fromt he traditional "restaurant and motel" definition but most certainly hospitality.  ANd the other one is 3 years at a crisis nursery.  Would we have described ourselves as a hospitality industry?  nope.  But without a doubt the whole nature of a crisis nursery is JEsus-style hospitality put into practice.  It was a ministry setting that was all about hospitality.  ANd so that is another thing that will make it into the sermon on Sunday (a little piece of self-disclosure to continue introducing myself to the congregation).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Far Have We Come?

22 years.

22 years of fighting and praying and moving on into a new vision.

22 years since the church was shocked (and in some cases rocked) by the result of a vote.

22 years ago today, August 24 2010, THIS story made the news.

THe decision to state that sexual orientation was irrelevant in terms of one's fitness for ministry was not made easily.  And the next several years were years of turmoil in many places.

But how far have we come?  THere are still wide areas of the church where sexual orientation is seen as very relevant.  It is still a reality that GLBTTQ clergy have a harder time finding calls.  It isn't a reality that we like to name out loud but it is a reality.

Still.  22 years ago we took a giant step.  And that was, and is, a good thing.

See more thoughts here

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book 15 of 2010

No cover picture or link for this one.  It is a little booklet, called And We Came After, a history of the first 75 years of this congregation (with much more time spent on the early years--half of the book talks about pre-1925).

I like congregational histories.  They are a great way to gain some insight into the congregation.  They are also highly enjoyable reading (for the most part).

And most importantly, in finding this in the pamphlet file and looking at the dates on the cover I realized that next year marks 100 years since the PResbyterian Church was first dedicated.  Seems we may have a party to plan....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five: Clutter? What CLutter?

From RGBP:

1. What things do you like to hang on to?  Well Books of course.  ANd photos (even though I have multiple sets of unsorted photos, thye all fit into a box).

2. What is hard to let go of?  Books. And (apparently) kids toys.

3. What is easy to give away?  Old clothing.  I like the  "haven't taken it off a hanger for years" test.

4. Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out?  Both Beloved and I have family backgrounds that include a hoarding tendency.

5. What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire?  Not really a collector of anything per se.  WE just sem to have lots of stuff--far more than we thought as we discoveredd as the kitchen was being packed up.

Bonus: Tell us about recycling or whatever you can think of that goes along with this muttering about cluttering.  I am a big fan of free-cycling, expecially of the informal variety (having never tried a more formal free-cycling system).  When we moved we offloaded a variety of outdoor toys simply by letting folks know they were available and it all disappeared.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book 14 of 2010

Technically this is a re-read (I first read it about 20 years ago).  Tomorrow I am preaching on priorities and using Ecclesiastes for one of the reference points.  SInce I knew Kushner uses Qoheleth's life (as described in Ecclesiastes) as the basis for this book I thought it was a good week to refresh my memory.

I like Kushner's writing.  In fact when I wrote a paper on Ecclesiastes in first-year of seminary I had to include this book as a reference in addition to the articles that the prof had assigned.  Largely because I found it more readable and because I always like to have a Jewish POV on a book from Jewish scripture.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Blog

Over the last few years I have grown accustomed to posting early sermon thoughts on Monday or Tuesday via the church blog.

But I am not at that church any longer and the new church has a full webpage with no need for a blog aas a communication vehicle.  Still I found those early in the week posts very helpful for getting my sermon thoughts congealing.  So there was really one thing to do.

Create a New Blog!  You can find it here

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book 13 of 2010

It has been awhile since #12.  Apparently reading time has been a bit more limited recently (what a surprise with a newborn and preparing to move....).

Anyway, as time to travel drew near I realized I wanted something less heavy to read (the next on my pile was A Secular Age and I knew that wasn't light travel reading) so I went to the bookstore and this one caught my eye.

If you like historical mystery fiction imbued with legends of the mystical/religious sort it is good.  It wasn't exactly a page-turner until the second half/last third.  But it was interesting to see how the past and present ended up being tied together.  A good read.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Getting Closer.....

12 days ago I drove to CIty-on the-Lake to put the dog in the kennel.  Whilst I made that trip (5 hours round) the movers arrived and started packing the rest of the house.  The next day they finished.  The next we left town  (9 years to the day--almost to the hour--after I arrived) to spend one final evening with my in-laws before heading West.

Next day, new month, new adventure.  4 days on the highway with a over anxious dog in the car, caravanning with our van and my parents' car, brought us to the parental abode (which is good since at this point we were technically homeless).  A 2 day pause, then North to the New Home.  2555 km from City-on-the-Lake we arrived.

Today the movers came.  And now we live in a forest of boxes. But a new beginning is in the air.  Or maybe that is just the smell of cardboard and newsprint.

BONUS:  This afternoon the Princess asked mom for a drink and mom offered grape juice "just like we have at church" (technically it was cran-grape but the child didn't need to know that).  Princess took a big drink than mom asked if it was good. "Great, now I just need some bread to dip in it!"

Ah church kids.....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

ANchored or at sea?

As I think through tomorrow's sermon a number of questions come to mind:
  1. when and why is it important to be anchored?
  2. when and why is it important to go whither the wind takes you
  3. when and why is it a hindrance to be anchored
  4. when and why is it a problem to be blown around
  5. what is the balance point/how is the balance point defined
You see I firmly believe that it is not a question of anchored or sailing with the wind being the one best answer.  There is value to both, and danger to both. 

At the same time I also firmly believe the there is something about human organizations that tends towards an overemphasis on being anchored, and so often the task of leadership is to encourage the raising of the sail.

But it can be so hard to find (and agree on) the balance point.  All the more so since it moves around with time and circumstance.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


In preparation for moving I have been working on getting utilities lined up (thinking it would be nice to have heat, power, water, phone, internet and TV).  And what has struck me each time is how remarkably difficult it is to find contact info on the relevant websites.

In the easiest case it was still a matter of at least 5 links to get the contact info I thought would be right.  (although to give them credit the water and the gas/power folks got back to me promptly and once I made contact it was very straightforward.)

What is most remarkable is that the telecommmunication folks are impossible to get to.  The cable website gives little detailed information about packages or pricing.  ANd the first time I used their web-contact form asking about information that wasn't on the website the response directed me to the website which would answer the question (I asked about stand alone TV and the response directed me to look at bundle pricing)

THe phone company (which may also be internet and TV, depending what answers I finally get) was spectacularly bad.  The website kept giving me a phone number that was only accessible in-province (I guess they have no new customers moving in from out-of-province???) and it took 30 minutes of exploring the website and using the chat function to get a number I could call since the website was not giving me the information I needed -- and even then I had to ask teh chat tech at least twice for a number that was going to work out-of-province.  THen tonight I called that number.  AFter 5 minutes of voice mail round-abouting I got to a live person.  A live person who started by asking if I knew the current phone number at that address (just after I said I was buying a house and moving to town) and then procedded to tell me, not what was available but what was currently hooked up there.

In the end the phone company contact needed to do more research to answer one of my queries nas the info at his terminal was indeterminate, whihc is fine.  But it shouldnt have taken so much effort to get to that point.  Isn't a better service model to make it easy for prospective customers to find out how to get hold of you?  All the more so if you are a communication company??

But then I started to wonder.  Are we in the church that much better?  How do we make communication difficult?  Where do we make information about who we are hard to find?  What assumptions do we make about who might want to learn about us?  Do we do a great job of communicating all the time?

What rants are written about our churches style of communicating?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A SOng of Hope

Tomorrow we as a faith community celebrate the 85th annniversary of the United Church of Canada.  Although this piece was written for Hannukkah I think it speaks to our future as a denomination.  I plan to use it for special music (and it is hard to go wrong with Peter, Paul, and Mary)...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book 12 of 2010

This one struck my fancy and I am glad it did.  McLaren does a great job of discussing these 10 questions, questions I agree need to be raised and explored -- preferably without a pre-expectation of what the response will (should?) be.  This too would be a great book for a discussion group.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Ashley Joy
Born May 26, 2010 at 8:34. 3.02kg  (6lb10.5oz), 49cm(19.25inches)
Mom and baby are both well

Monday, May 24, 2010

CHanges Begin

Well not really begin since I firmly believe that the only that is constant is change.

But of the 2 big changes this spring/summer this week brings the first.  (And apparently has robbed me of mmy grammar knowledge -- based on that sentence anyway.)

This afternoon we drove to the City on the Lake.  TOmorrow we meet with a lawyer to sign documents around the house purchase.  THen we go tot he hospital for pre-op work.  C-SEction is scheduled for Wednesday--sometime--we have to be at the hospital for 6am but based on past experience it may well be afternoon before baby is removed.

Details will follow, likely not until I return to the hotel Wed night (unless we learn tomorrow that the hospital has wi-fi, then we'll take the laptop with us)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SAying Good-Bye....

I have been starting to work on this week's sermon.  The Scripture Reading is Jesus' High Priestly prayer from John 17.  The prayer isJesus' prayer for his friends and followers and those who will follow them...

ANd given that it is a month and a half before we move I find that my sermon thoughts are going to one question.  What is my prayer for these people with whom I have worked and churched for 9 years?

THe last while has been a time of lasts, and those will continue.  The week after I read my letter in worship was Palm Sunday (a day when the UCW always has a Ham Supper).  That was the first last--the last UCW meal we will be here for. 

Today was another last--the last meeting I will be at of the Community COunselling Advisory BOard.  Bittersweet moments all.

But back to the sermon.  I have given some thought to what the last Sunday in June will be.  But given the confluence of this Scripture passage and where we are as a faith community can I not share some of my hopes and prayers for this community this week?  Or does it need to wait for the last Sunday????

Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Book!

And I am named in it!!!!!! (in the preface/acknowledgements)

A couple years ago a seminary prof asked if I would pre-read a book he was writing and comment on the accessibility of the writing.  And now it has come out, DOn sent me a copy this week.

Contemporary Christologies looks at 15 post-WW2 writers in terms of their Christology and Soteriology and Atonement Theory.

I will read it as a whole some day (pre-reading was a chapter at a time) but I greatly enjoyed the book in chapter form.  Atonement theory is an area of interest and growth for me.  And this fleshed out various options.

As it happens I am reading chapters for another book by Don.  It is also on Christology, an introductory piece.  It also has been good thus far.

I endorse and recommend this one!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book 11 of 2010

Nice thing about travelling is more time to read.  Although  to be fair I have been working at this one for a while (reading a couple chapters a week between other stuff).

I liked this book.  It was a nice mix of practical with theoretical and theological.  One of my desires is that we in the church remember that one of the blessings we offer is that we are still a truly intergenerational community -- a relative rarity in the world today.  And this book helps in exploring the implications of that.

The one quibble I had was that I kep getting the feeling that the authors were envisioning a worship that really hasn't changed much in form and structure.  There appeared to be a desire to keep worship fairly "traditional" (whatever that means) and just make the traditional worship more "generation friendly".  The biggest sign of this was one chapter when the author wote that children can and should learn the classic hymns of the faith while older generations can learn newer music.  Why only add the "should" in one part of that unless your bias is showing?

This book deserves to be read and discussed within a community so that the community can ask where they are and how it speaks to where they may need to go.  Maybe an idea for next winter.....

Monday, April 26, 2010

House Hunt Successful

AT supper tonight I got a call fromthe realtor that our offer had been accepted.  We get possession on July 7.  THose who know me on FB can find other pictures but here are a couple:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book 10 of 2010

While packing up some books I came across this one and realized that while I had scanned through part of it when I got it years ago I had never read the whole thing.

And since I was travelling this weekend it seemed a good time to read it.

At best I would give it a mixed review.   Berton's strength does not appear to be in comedy and satire.  There are some really good sections, some rather bad ones and a lot that is passable.  And you would really think that a journalist/pop historian would know that 1999-2000 was NOT the millenium change.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Five -- Let's Get PAcking

Some of my Blogging comrades are heading on a cruise.  Alas the only travel in my near future is not nearly as exotic (but far more costly) -- house hunting next week.  And so the RGBP FRiday Five focusses on packing.
1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?  Generally I roll.  SOme things don't roll well (sweaters for example).  Mind you if it is a short trip and I am prepping quickly the toss in the bag option comes into play.

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?
GEnerally it is not a problem because I put my shaving kit, which contains a bottle of shampoo, in checked luggage and only take a backpack or the laptop as carry on.  However the last time I only travelled with a carry on bag I forgot and ended up giving away the shampoo.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?
  Largely that depends on the nature of the trip.  But in the end most things can be either managed without or replacements bought.  I guess my wallet and id would be the most irreplaceable

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?
Nope.  I do usually use my travel backpack and if needed I can unzip the compartment and use the straps.

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)? 
Pretty much depends on my mood the week preceding the travel.  But often I choose something light and "mindless" over something heavier.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Book 9 of 2010

Most years the United CHurch Publishing House puts out a lenten devotional resource.  I generally buy one (in fact there are several of them that I just donated to the church library). This year's focused on issues around money and our attitudes towards same.  Each day includes a verse or two of Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, some journalling questions and a couple of hymn suggestions.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Strange Faith

In many ways Christianity is a faith with some very strange aspects.

Our central symbol is a tool of execution (not a plus sign as the prosperity gospel folks seem to think).  Our central faith observance includes the story of a man who was condemned to an excruciating, tortuous (sp???) death for suggesting that God had another plan for the world.

And then there is the end of the story....

Tomorrow morning I will stand in front of a congregation and proclaim some of the strangest things.  I will tell them that life is stronger than death.  That peace is stronger than violence.  That ideals are stronger than pragmatism.  That love is stronger than fear.  That justice is stronger than greed.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary all those things are true -- in the end.

It is a statement of belief that defies the evidence.  Just as it defies the imagination to talk about and empty tomb and a Risen Christ.  But we are a resurrection people.  We are a people of hope.  The cross is not the final word.  God still has a plan for how the world can be and that plan can not be stopped.  Surely it can be delayed.  People can and do work against it.  But it can not be stopped.  In the end, in God's time, you simply can't stop the kingdom.

Thanks be to God!  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time for a new look

It has been a while.  Only snag is the loss of the nav bar up top with it's quick link to the dashboard....

Friday, March 26, 2010

The NExt Book of 2010

Not going to number this one because it is a re-read of a book I read back in August of 2008.

As we move in to house hunting in preparation for our move (meeting with the bank to talk about mortgage stuff this morning) it seemed time to re-read that one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As long as I have known, Good Friday (and usually Easter Monday) have been public holidays.  And this made perfect sense to me because I was part of a family that was active in the church.  Besides, for many years we went to my grandparents' for Easter and the 4 day weekend made this more possible.

But more and more now I have to wonder why.  AFter all why, in a nation that has no official religion, do we make a public holiday of one religion's holy day?

Book 8 of 2010

The JNAC Report of the church to which I am going named that they are in the transition zone between Pastoral and PRogram.  So when I knew I was interviewing with them and then saw this book at the book display at PResbytery I picked it up.  (interestingly, although it is an ALban Institute resource it no longer appears on their website bookstore so it must be out of print)

I am now wondering if it was worth it.  SOme of the book was pretty good.  Of course you need to translate the US bias in places (Canadian churches generally have different numbers for the various sizes).  But the last chapter, the process left me feeling kind of flat.  Maybe it would be of more interest if you were in the process of planning to implement it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Moving on....

At the close of worship this morning I read out my letter requesting a change of Pastoral RElations.  That is church-talk for saying that I have accepted a call at another church and will be moving.  ANd you know what?  Despite interviews and travelling to visit the place and making decisions te most stressful part of the whole process (thus far, purchasing a house and packing and moving will provide their own stress I am sure) was standing there in front of those people I love to read that letter.

Then when I got home from Bible Study the e-mail was there confirming that the congregation has had their meeting and approved the call.

WE will be going to Grande Prairie ALberta to serve with this congregation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book 7 of 2010

I've been working on this one for a while now.  A couple chapters a week since it was my "in tub" reading.

I have long thought that hospitality was at the heart of being church.  Which is why I picked this one up.  But to be honest I am still unsure how I feel about it.

Some chapters drew me right in.  At least one left me kind of bleh. on balance I'd say it is worth a read but maybe not a "must read".

Book 6 of 2010

On my trip this Monday I read this one (with a 3.5 hour layover in the Calgary airport the book went pretty fast).

ANd oh do I wish I had found it a few years ago.   The process Cawley outlines is one I think would work really well in this congregation to explore identity questions.  But right now is not the right time to start the process.

SHe suggests an identity exercise that leads the congregation into describing the person that the congregation is.  WHat is their gender, their age, their life-stage, their health etc.  And all this she grounds in reminding the congregation that they are the body of Christ.  I heartily recommend this book.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Imagine the Time to Set this up....

Note to USan Conservative (nutbar-ily so) Groups

Even if I were:
a) a US Citizen and so eligible to vote in your elections and had Congresspeople to contact
b) remotely in agreement with your nutbar allegations and paranoia and hatred

Sending me 6-10 copies of the exact same e-mail in 3 days would automatically make me disagree with you.  And why are you allowing your system to add an e-mail adress that ends in ".ca" anyway?????

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book 5 of 2010

AS I was travelling at the beginning of the week I wanted light "fluffy" reading.  So when I saw this I decided to take a chance on it.  And good thing too since the seatback TVs on my flights home were down for system upgrades.

It is a piece of fluff.  But it raises some interesting questions (amidst the gunfights and the hunting for people and the killing) about what it would mean to triple our lifespan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Housing...

This story broke yesterday.  In order to avoid a housing bubble and people getting mortgages they can not afford (especially should interest rates go up) the rules have changed.  Interestingly they did not raise the minimum down payment from 5% to 10% (on new purchases--they did for a 2nd mortgage) or decrease the maximum term from 35 years.  ISTM that both of those would be better tools to help ensure people don't over-extend themselves.  OTOH, I like the rules around people buying investment properties -- that will help keep prices more reasonable (well that ship has sailed, keep them from getting less reasonable).

I also note that there are some strange comments being made on the story (hardly unusual I know).  SOme don't seem to understand what the rule changes are.  SOme seem convinced that this is only to help the rich and the banks.  ANd some are operating under some strange assumption that home ownership is a right and so anything that may make it more difficult to purchase a home infringes on that right.  Home ownership or property ownership is NOT a right.  Nor should it be.  Adequate housing is a basic right (one which is notable for being denied to many) but not ownership.

AS I was listening to the story in the car I reflected on the reality that is clergy housing.  In the past most clergy lived in a manse/rectory owned by the church.  In the UCCan, however, this is no longer true.  Now many live in housing they rent or own and are paid a housing allowance.  In some ways this is a gift -- if one is in a position to purchase a house.   But the standards are that the allowance is to cover the fair rental value of a manse-equivalent in the community (and the only defining standards of manse are that is includes heavy appliances and window coverings -- while the general assumption is 3-bedroom bungalow this is never actually stated ).  Of course this means that if your mortgage payment is less than fair rental value you are covered, with money for taxes too.  But for those of us with no equity to start off, a housing allowance versus manse can mean that a place is not open for us -- we simply can't afford to live here.

OTOH, manses come with their own issues at times.  I have heard too many stories about places which think of the manse as "the church's house" and so forget that it is someone's residence.  THere are stories of trustees or property folks from the church letting themselves into the house unannounced.  One person I know came back from a week away to find that not only had a church group held a meeting in her kitchen, they had left the dirty coffee cups behind.  At the same time, there is the potential that the clergy family can do damage to the house and not be held to account.

In my opinion, there is a solution to this.  Start treating manses as something more like rental properties.  When a new person comes to live there change the locks and have strict control over who has a key (the family and one person from the church [property chair]).  In the current reality of church life there is often an interim period where the manse is vacant and keys get made for a variety of people to check on the house -- a requirement for insurance purposes.  I know when I arrived here this was done because "we don't know who all has keys" was how the Chair put it.

At the same time it seems there would be value in having the clergy person put down a damage deposit, and be made to take responsibility for unwarranted wear and tear, not to mention some expectation that when the clergyperson moves on he/she will take responsibility to do or pay for a thourough cleaning -- again, just as in a rental situation.  This would require that the church set the deposit money aside to not be touched so it can be refunded should there not be unwarranted wear and tear on the house.

Some will say that the damage deposit idea is unworkable.  But the change the locks idea most certainly is.  and I think that with some innovative thinking the deposit would too.  Maybe the Presbytery would have to be the holder of the money....??

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book 4 of 2010

The Archbishop in Andalusia by Andrew Greeley.

A mystery novel featuring the bumbling goodhearted Blackie Ryan.  First time a read a novel with Blackie as the protagonist he was a Priest.  Now we meet him as co-adjutor archbishop of Chicago (with rights of succession no less!)

I love the way Greeley builds his characters and how he weaves theology into the story.  If I could be half the pastor, theologian and philosopher of John Blackwood Ryan I would be very happy (I''ll pass on the murder mysteries though).

Monday, February 08, 2010

An Open LEtter to Town Council

Last Friday I was standing in line to replace my SHAW modem. As person after person was told to just go home and toss out their old modem I started to wonder if that was the best solution.

In our increasingly electronic culture there is an increase in the amount of “special waste” that really should be diverted from our landfill. One example is flourescent bulbs, which are already collected by Public Works staff here in town. But there are 2 other categories I wonder about.

The first is alkaline batteries. These often include mercury and other toxic substances and should go into a special waste handling stream. But what do we do with them here? Is there a special place for collection of dead batteries? We have 2 bags of them we have saved up to avoid putting them in the landfill.

The other is e-waste. This is the one I was wondering about last Friday. Computers, monitors, TV's, cellphones etc. – these are a source of heavy metals in our landfills. Many places across the country are setting up e-waste collection sites. And not only in large centers. Last winter I was in a town smaller than this town and shown their e-waste collection site.

What can we do with our batteries and our e-waste? It is inappropriate to simply toss them in the landfill and let their toxins seep into the ground. Is there a plan now for dealing with them? Is there a plan in development? Could we maybe partner with other communities to make dealing with these special wastes more economical? We have a duty to care for the wondrous part of the province in which we live, I just want to help make sure we do the best and most we can.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Things that make you say Hmmmmmm

AT our COngregational Annual Meeting today we set aside time for some visioning talk.  In groups folks were asked to discuss these questions:
What I like most about being part of RUC is…
Why are we here? What are we all about?
If RUC were to disappear tomorrow what would people (both RUC folks and A. in general) notice...
After discussion time they reported back.  WE still need to compile all the answers on the sheets but one that was interesting came in response to the last question.  THe group suggested that the community may not miss us as much as they should.  The Board Chair then suggested that maybe we could/should ask ourselves why that might be.

THe BOard will be working with the answers we got todayy and doing some visioning stuff this Spring (at least I hope so.  But that answer really got me thinking and wondering.  I think it may be a starting point....

You Know I Love 'Em But....

Sometimes they say the darndest (and not helpful) things.

For children's time this morning I thought I'd talk about what the church does.  The only kids were our 3 but I had no back up story so off we go.

AS part of it I decided to use the finger rhyme "Here is the church...".  The girls know this rhyme, they have done it many times before.

Eldest was in a shy mood and saying nothing.  So when I got to the end of the rhyme I turned to the youngest for help.  "Open the door and see all the..."

Without a moment's pause she called out, at the top of her lungs "FINGERS!" and the whole congregation broke up.

After church, during lunch, I did it with her again.  This time (of course) she quietly said "people".  But not when others were listening.  SOme days you gotta wonder why you don't just read a story.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book 3 of 2010

This book calls us to explore the ethical implications of our lives.  It chooses 7 topics (coffee, chocolate, food, cars, waste, clothing, and debt) and walks through some of the justice issues involved with each.

Such a book could well be a recipe for feelings of depression and powerlessness.  AFter all it would be impossible to suddenly change our entire lives in almost any of those topics.  But Clawson is prepared for that.  She starts out the book by telling the reader not to panic.  She is realistic enough to know that there are limits to what people feel they are able to do.  ANd so he purpose of the book is to raise awareness and encourage people to do something, not everything -- "to tweak, not overhaul" as she says.  OTOH, part of me wonders if focussing on the "Tweaking" may allow some readers to comfortably forget the need for a more complete overhaul -- tweaking is the start, not the endpoint.

One of the best parts about the book is that each chapter includes some concrete, helpful tips on how one can change, where to look, what to do to make a difference.  Each chapter also includes a reference list (books, movies, websites) for more information.

THis book would make for a great book study.  At one time the local library had a book club.  I may check if it still exists and, if so, suggest it.  Or maybe I can convince a group at the church to do it. 

Note:  You can see a discussion of his book over at the RGBP site

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Go with PReaching on Ezra Reading the Law (Nehemiah 8)

Book 2 of 2010

Salvation on the Small Screen by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I loved this book!  I kept laughing out loud.  ANd yet I had to agree with Bolz-Weber that it gave pause for thought at times.  ANd now I can safely say that I have NO desire to watch 24 hours straight of "Christian" TV.  (Actually I really have no desire to watch 24 straight hours of TV period.)

BUt apparently I must not have the rght positive thoughts or must not be sowing enough seeds or something.  Because ministry hasn't led me to the land of the wealthy.

And it is nice to know that I am not the most cynical person in the world.  At least I don't think so, there are kindred spirits out there.  Now I have to go check out her blog...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Five--Planes, Trains and Automobiles


1) What was the mode of transit for your last trip?  Car, well van actually.  The most cost-effective way to travel with 3 kids and a dog.

2) Have you ever traveled by train?
That I have.  A few times: when I was about 8 with my mother and sister, during University I went out to my grandparents ahead of the rest of the family by train, and then when I wen to Britain I traveled exclusively by train (well other than the plane to London and back home).

3) Do you live in a place with public transit, and if so, do you use it?
No public transit here.

4) What's the most unusual vehicle in which you've ever traveled? 
Not sure I have ever traveled in an unusual vehicle.

5) What's the next trip you're planning to take?
The next one will be to PResbytery in February.  No idea what will happen for holiday time next summer

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book 1 of 2010

One  of my goals for the year is to read more (easily attainable if one turns off the screens more often).  The first official book of the year [actually the fifth one I read but the first 4 were a re-read of the last 4 Harry Potter books so I'm not counting them] is this one:

It tells of a canoe journey across the country.  6000 miles over two seasons.  An easy and highly enjoyable read.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where is God -- A Newspaper Column

For the last 2 days the news has been full of pictures from Haiti and the aftermath of the devastating earthquake there. In the face of such destruction and suffering and death many questions arise. For those of us who take seriously the God who is Love one of those questions is, naturally, Where is God?

Where is God when the world turns upside down, when innocent people have their lives torn apart? Why do bad, even evil, things happen of God is in charge? How can we continue to proclaim God's goodness and mercy in the face of the reality of the world.

I can't answer that question. I certainly can't answer it in the 500 words of this column. Better minds than mine have spent careers trying to wrestle with the problem of evil and the WHY question. And they too rarely come up with answers that really satisfy. For one author I read last year the question of evil caused him to give up on faith. Bart Ehrman struggled with the varied Scriptural explanations of evil events (punishment for sin, testing, “a mystery” to name some) and found them all lacking. For more you could check out his book God's Problem.

I agree with Ehrman. Scripture does not give us a good answer to the “why do bad things happen to good people” question. (Perhaps more vexing to some of us is actually the “why do good things happen to bad people” question but that is another column.) Certainly it seems unfair, even unjust. But there is another way to look at it.

The How, Why, and Where questions around evil are all based on an assumption. They are all based on the assumption of a God who is all-powerful. Indeed this is the God portrayed in Scripture (which, in my opinion, is why Scripture can't answer these questions satisfactorily). But Scripture also tells us that God is Love. To my mind these two pictures can not co-exist in the face of the news from Haiti I watched at lunchtime. No all-powerful God who is also Love would allow or cause such suffering.

And so I have come to doubt that God is all-powerful. In fact I have come to believe that I can not believe God is all-powerful. And this was freeing for me. This was the moment I came to believe that God is still relevant. Also, this belief changes the title question of this column. Where is God?

If God is not responsible for the disaster then where is God in the face of the disaster? The late Fred Rogers, who was a Presbyterian minister, used to have an answer. “Look for the helpers”. When disaster strikes look for the people who are helping. That is where God is. That is how God is acting.

Disaster has struck our brothers and sisters in Haiti. God has started to respond. God calls us to respond. Gifts to support the people of Haiti can be sent through the United Church (and a variety of other agencies).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spiritual Trends

I am really not a big fan of trends, I think the whole concept is overhyped.  But this article seems to have some intriguing possibilities:
5 SPiritual Trends for the 10's

The Trends are:
1. Eastern spirituality will flower
2. Religious terrorism will be the new normal
3. Religious liberals will build on advances
4. Religious right will regroup
5. Secular spirituality will strengthen

What do you think?

Well If there was any doubt...

PAt RObertson is an idiot.
This video pretty much proves it (actually idiot is being fairly nice given this video)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

You Have to Love the People

There is a theory that clergy should move every 5 or 6 years to avoid getting "too close" to the people in the congregation.  IMO this is hogwash.  What does "too close" mean anyway?

Is it harder to keep some sort of clinical detachment when grieving with the congregation?  YEs.  Suck it up and deal with it.  But one of the blessings of ministry is to share the lives of the people with whom one lives and works and ministers.  OBviously there is always the need to have some professional distance and so on.  But it is a blessing to grieve with them and to laugh with them (I note that people rarely worry about the "too close" thing when it comes to sharing the joys of life, just about the supposed problem of loving the people whom you are burying).

I was reminded of this yesterday while doing the funeral of a charter member of the congregation.  It is one of the few times when looking down at the family I had to pull myself together as the service started.   But it is a blessing.  Not a hardship.  Not a problem.  A blessing.  TBTG.  Amen