Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teacher Strike?

Is it in the cards?  I think there is a high probability, and getting higher by the week.

For several months now there has been an attempt to get a province-wide agreement between the Alberta Teachers Association and the Provincial government, instead of ATA locals bargaining individually with local school boards.  Such attempts have failed (and of course both sides insist the failure is due to the other side).  ANdd now the rhetoric is getting ramped up.

A couple weeks ago there was a news story about the Education Minister musing publicly about a legislated/imposed settlement.  Yeah, that will help improve the moods at the bargaining table.  NOT!

Then the same minister decided to send out a mass e-mail to teachers directly, bypassing the ATA.  Again, will this improve relationships?

Add into the mix the fact that the upcoming budget is expected to be a fairly tough one because oil revenues are way down (and because in all these years the province has yet to find a way to not be so reliant on oil revenues--in fact made it worse in the 90's under a neo-con finance minister who thought a flat tax was a good idea) and the writing on the wall gets clearer and clearer.  As I read this article I have to say a strike or other job action seems more and more likely.

I am of a mixed opinion about the effectiveness of teacher's strikes.   To be sure a strike is one of the strongest tool organized labour has in its arsenal.  On the other hand a teacher's strike is a very fast way for the union to lose any public support they have.

Will it happen?  Only time will tell.  But an environment where funding cuts to the system are almost certain (even though the province is growing rapidly and the demands on the system are already stretching it severely) and the minister is issuing (barely) veiled threats to the union does not lend itself to a quick settlement.

It should be an interesting spring.....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Did You Wear Pink Today???

Apparently today was anti-bullying day.  At least to judge from what was popping up in my FB and Twitter feeds this morning.

So what does anti bullying day mean?  How do we stop bullying (remembering that bullies beget bullies and that sometimes the bullied then becomes the bully in another setting)?  How does wearing pink make a difference?  It might, I am just not sure.

I understand bullying.  From a deep place I understand it.  And because of that understanding I continue to believe that all those "zero tolerance" policies schools and other gathering places loudly proclaim are a bit of a joke.  Legislation will never stamp out bullying.  Education on manners or respect won't either.

As a person of faith I will have to say that only one thing will bring an end to bullying.  NO not the church.  [Given how many stories there are of church bullies that would be a very sad joke] But a transformation of human interaction.  The transformation needs to happen so that the social stigma/sanction against bullying is strong enough to extinguish it. [For the record the same thing is true of things like drinking and driving or sexual violence or domestic violence or...]  And of course as a person of faith I believe that such a transformation is not only possible but is inevitable.  As Dame Julian said (and I quote so often in worship) All will be well, all will be well, all manner of thing be well.

And this is, I think where pink shirts come in.  I think the pink shirt campaign is a sign that the transformation is happening.  Not complete by any means.  But it is happening.  And that, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.  We are, for the most part, in a different place than we were 30 years ago when my classmates were making school life a misery for me and others in my school. [This summer I connected with one of those classmates and we both were able to name that at least part of our adult life choices had to do with healing from our Junior High years]  We have a ways to go in schools and sports teams and churches and workplaces and many other places but we the transformation has started.  God willing it will continue.  God willing it will gain momentum and each new step will be a bigger one than before.

SIDE NOTE: This evening the St. Albert Public School Board (formerly known at St Albert Protestant Separate School District #6) had a meeting at which they were discussing a motion to pass a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy.  I believe from notes on Twitter that only one other School Board in Alberta (Edmonton Public) has such a policy.  I also believe from a tweet I saw that the policy passed.  Given that 20 years ago this same board was deeply divided about the issue of allowing condom machines in the high school (which would mean admitting to sexual activity by those students after all) in the interests of harm-reduction I can't help but think that this is a sign of how the world has changed

Knowing how these issues are such a part of bullying (even if orientation and/or identity are "normal") I think it is highly appropriate that the motion was on tonight's agenda.  I am sure it is somewhat of a coincidence not a plan.  But sometimes life just fits together that well...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Story Do We Have to Tell????

Two days ago I preached this sermon.  The title is The Church in the World: Witness & Testimony.

It is always interesting to preach a sermon on evangelism in the United Church of Canada.  It is not a subject we broach all that often.  And yet...

How can we not be evangelistic?  If we truly believe there is something valuable about the church in our lives, how can we not be evangelists?

I think it starts with remembering that being an evangelist does not require us to become a copy of Billy Graham's Crusade or the Crystal Cathedral.  Being an evangelist means sharing good news.  ANd if we think there is something of value in a faith community does that not mean we have good news we can share?

In the rest of our lives, as I pointed out in the sermon, we share good news all the time.  Why is it harder when the content of the good news is why church is a part of our lives?

What is the story of faith you have to tell?  What is the good news you have to share?  HOw do you share it?

Monday, February 25, 2013


Yesterday we had our Congregational Annual Meeting.  As a part of that meeting we presented the goals the Council has set for the next year.  There were two that I spoke too:
  1. Building Community Internally
  2. Building Visibility and Community Externally (co-incidentally--or not--I preached on Witness & Testimony yesterday morning.  Maybe a post about that tomorrow...)
These goals grew out of a review of the visioning discussions that the Council has had over the last year or so. When the chair and I looked back over the notes we saw some trends and those trends grew into the goals.

Now of course comes the work.  It is easy to name goals.  But how shall we live them out?  How does one build community?  How does one make a church (a downtown church that has been in the same place for a century and yet some longtime residents drive by it every day and don't know where it is) more visible/known?  How do you build community connections?

We have some ideas.  Some of them are continuing and strengthening what is already happening (like monthly meal-based events, or strengthening the links we have with outside agencies through our outreach committee).  Some are to revive what has been done before but allowed to lapse (like wearing nametags so we know each other's names).  One option I have suggested in my annual report was that I want to visit with more folks--and openly asked for invitations (now to see if anyone actually read that part).  Maybe we will do something about signage.  Maybe finally, after years of talking about it, we will do something to connect with the local college community.

Last year at a council meeting a comment was made that we were the church more people stayed home from than any other church in town.  Maybe if we can work at both those goals fewer of those people will stay home???   And even if they continue to stay at home, hopefully we will be a stronger community, and a stronger community presence because we have given attention to those things....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wholistic Fitness

2 weeks ago we took the 3 older girls to see a local production of CATS (an ambitious choice for a community theater group to say the least).  And they loved it.  But a review of that event is not the purpose of this post.

When talking about the show with my mother she spoke about a radio interview she had heard recently.  In it the interviewee was talking about the need to develop cultural fitness.

That comment taps into a pet peeve of mine. We have pushed the education system in many ways, based on the hot button topics of the day.  Sometimes we have pushed to ensure a baseline amount of physical activity per day or week.  OR we have pushed for more time spent on maths or numeracy.  Or maybe it is science that needs more time.  Or maybe the concern of the era is literacy.  Or maybe technology?  BUt I have yet to hear people complaining that the school system is not doing enough to develop cultural literacy (or fitness as the above interview suggested).  And this is a problem (in my opinion).

Maybe I should name my bias.  25 years ago I was in my first year of university.  I was an Education student with a Drama major.  And I knew that the high school curriculum in this province was changing.  This change was to highlight science.  But the reality was that this round of change would make it very difficult for a student to take all 3 sciences and also carry a Fine Art through all 3 grades of high school.  And those of us who wanted to teach Fine Arts courses were a little disconcerted.

But you see I think we are a poorer society if we do not develop cultural literacy in people.  And to do that you need to do it throughout life.  You can't just expect it to happen as adults.  This is not to say that extra time set aside for physical health, or numeracy or science, or technology or literacy are not important, obviously they are.  But cultural studies and fine arts are equally important in the long term.  In fact it is my belief that one of the requirements for a high school diploma should be at least one fine arts course (music, drama, visual arts whatever).  And in earlier grades a more general introduction not only to performance and technique but also to history and styles of these arts.

Developing a society that is culturally literate will (at the least) help us all do better at trivia games.  Btu I think we will benefit in ways far beyond that. 

By the way the above named changes in emphasis to the education system have had another casualty.  My minor in my BEd degree was social studies (history, geography, civics etc) .  And a lack of emphasis on those subjects also has a detrimental effect on our effective functioning as a society.

So what do we do?  How do we develop an education system that provides a fully wholistic idea of fitness and still have it cost-effective or time-effective?  I don't know.  Given that I also think all students should be heavily encouraged to learn at least one language fluently in addition to their mother tongue and that all Canadian students should have to travel across the country by land as part of their high school education and that all students should have a basic introduction to World Religions (arguably this should be part of the Social Studies curriculum) as a part of basic education I may not be the best person to ask. 

Still we can dream right????

Saturday, February 23, 2013


They are an unavoidable part of life.  But are they bane or boon?

Or maybe both?  Sometimes in the same meeting?

In ministry I have local committee meetings, Council meetings, planning meetings, meetings with other congregations on behalf of Presbytery, Presbytery committee meetings, Presbytery itself, and Conference meetings.  Some weeks they can eat up most of the week.

This week for instance included a Council meeting (2.5 hours) one evening, and a 3 hour session one day working on the policy/procedure manual for the congregation, and an all day meeting of the Presbytery Pastoral Relations Committee (yesterday) followed today by an all day meeting of the Presbytery, and capped off with the Congregational Annual Meeting following worship tomorrow. [Then I come home and crash????]

And to be truthful, while there are some meetings that make me go stir crazy (at least at some point within them) I generally enjoy meetings.  Most of the time, for much of the meeting, I can see the point of what we are doing.

In part that is because I now have fewer bodies that meet "because we are supposed to meet" rather than because there is work to do.  Yes sometimes it seems that the work could be done far more efficiently instead of having yet another meeting that will end with the need for another meeting that will end see the pattern, but truly I think most of the meeting time I spend is in the service of an actual goal.

Some people hate meetings.  They find them an imposition that takes away precious time that could be spent doing "real" ministry.  But in the end I think that they ARE ministry.  ANd so they come down more on the side of boon rather than bane.

Just feel free to remind me of that someday.  OK?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friday Five

Over at RGBP Deb writes:
In these last few weeks there's been all kinds of bad news. Tornadoes and a blizzard. Gun violence and a legislative body squabbling like toddlers over budgets, health care and who knows what else. For those of us in the US, it's tax season. Yuck.

We're only in the second week of Lent. Easter's a long way off. And here in the Mid-Atlantic region, the weather can't seem to make up its mind. Is it winter? Is it spring? Will it snow? Will it rain? Are my daffodils doomed if they actually BLOOM next week like they are threatening to?

So this week's Friday Five is courtesy of my good friends Frodo and Sam. Tell me 5 things that are good in our world. Or your world.

 And how can I not do a meme naming Frodo and Sam???? (and since I will be traveling to and in a meeting all day tomorrow I am doing it early)

1) Princess, Scalliwag, Monkey and Bear (even if they do stress me out on a semiregular basis)

2) Beloved

3) The Congregation with whom I minister

4) Sunsets like this

5) The fact that the event I described in this post is a first for me, and a rarity for most of us

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Use It or Lose It....

When I was younger I took piano lessons.  For 4 or 5 years (from when I was in Grade 2 or 3 until I was in Grade 7).  For years after that there was a piece or two I could sit down at Christmas and play.

Now I can still sit down and plunk out a melody.  It comes in handy when wondering what a new tune sounds like.  I had enough knowledge of theory to understand quickly how to know what note i was playing by counting frets on a guitar neck.  I can still, with time and effort, sight read and identify notes on the clefs.  But that, apparently, is about it.

For Christmas this year the whole family got an electric piano from Santa.  Last weekend I went downstairs to get something out of the freezer and decided to sit down at the piano, just for fun.

With the instrument we got 2 books of music.  One was a collection of classical pieces which are listed as beginner, intermediate and advanced pieces (although really even the beginner pieces assume a knowledge of what notes are where on the clef so not truly beginner).  The other is a book of Christmas music.

I looked up one of the beginner pieces and was fine as long as I only tried one hand at a time.  But both hands was not gonna happen with any sense of accuracy or consistent rhythm.  Then I grabbed the Christmas book and turned to "What Child Is This" which is a piece I pretty much knew by heart 30 years ago.  I believe that the arrangement in this book is very close to the same as the one I learned years ago.  It is (as best I can remember) in the same key.  And I would not play both hands together at all.  I could barely play the melody line and the extra notes in the right hand with consistent rhythm.  Both my music reading and my muscle memory of finding the right keys without looking have long since faded (and to be honest neither was great shakes when I was taking lessons as arguably I was less than consistent in practicing).

Apparently piano is not like riding a bicycle.  Don't do it for a whilee and you can't jsut pick up where you left off.....

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Family Day "Surprise"

The day got off to a nice start.  Both Patty and I had a nice slow start to the day (I think we got up to stay around 9:30).  The girls were not yet fighting with each other.  The only hiccup was that the promised swim at the Eastlink Center was not happening because they did not open till noon (when the Family Day celebrations were going to start and the place would likely be a madhouse).

There were 2 quick tasks I needed to do at the church.  So the Scalliwag and I headed over to do those, then we would meet the rest of the family at the sliding hill.

Got to the church to find my office door, which I had closed when leaving yesterday (and thought I had locked--apparently had not) was standing open.  Strange.  Then on the floor in my office was a key to the exterior doors of the building.  Stranger still.  Then I notice that the connecting door to the secretary's office is also open and the door from her office to the hallway is ajar (both of which were also closed when I last saw them).  Stranger yet.  Then I go into the other office and see that the desk has been thouroughly searched.  File drawers are open, contents (and faceplate) of one drawer on the floor, cabinet doors left open.  And it is obvious what has happened.

So I call the RCMP.  Then I call the Council chair.  And while waiting for them to arrive Scalliwag and I take a quick walk around of the building (several times while waiting in fact -- think I was working off nervous energy?).  As best as I can tell only the offices were touched.  Looking around some more I determine that the only thing that appears to be missing is (our own, family) LCD projector that was in my office to use for a study group starting tomorrow.

Council chair arrives, Patty arrives to pick up the child (since I am obviously busy for a while) and we continue to wait.  Finally the RCMP phone for more details and ask me to take a statement to the detachment tomorrow.  A little disappointed that they are not coming over but really what would they do besides look at was I described (and pictures have been taken).  SO I sit down to do what I first went over to do and to start writing out a statement.  All will be well in the end, this I know.  The church/insurance will replace the projector.  The secretary's desk drawers will be repaired or replaced.  And it is only stuff.  This is why we never keep cash in the building.

But it is unsettling.  When we were first walking around Scalliwag said "this is creepy".  And I was trying to not let it be.  After all it was a crime of opportunity, someone had found a dropped (and labelled--that will stop when keys are given out after this) key, let him/herself into the building and went looking for cash or items that could easily become cash and then left.  Oddly none of the office computer equipment in the offices (monitors, towers, speakers) were touched.  My guess is that a projector in a case with arm strap was easier to carry.  But then this evening when I went back to print out the statement so I can take it over in the morning I realized how unsettling the residue was.  With time it will fade of course...

And we remember the words of Julian.  All will be well, all will be well, all manner of thing be well.

February 19 ADDENDUM:
Turns out that the key which was found is one that had been in the secretary's desk.  Which means access was gained some other way.  Since there is no sign of damage to the doors our best guess is that someone came in while the AA group was meeting downstairs.  Which means we may have to rethink procedures about doors being left unlocked while meetings are happening in the basement.  Which makes things more difficult for those groups...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Church in the World: Gospel in One Hand, Newspaper in the Other

This was week one of my Lenten sermon series "The Church in the World" and it was one of the two that I had the most misgivings about.  The other is the third in the series where the tag is "IN but not OF the World" (the other two tags are "Witness & Testimony" and "Wealth & Poverty").

To start off the series I thought I would reflect on Karl Barth's dictum that theology needs to be done with the Gospel in one hand and the Newspaper in the other (mind you I think the current formulation of that dictum would talk about browser windows rather than documents--and include alternate media sources as well as recognized news sources).  You can read where I thought I would go at this link.

Up until late in the week I was not entirely sure there was a sermon in this topic, a talk/lecture for sure but a sermon?  What would really happen on Sunday?  (The sermon was recorded and assuming the recorder worked properly the podcast will be posted tomorrow or Tuesday).

As it turned out I think it went quite well.  Maybe not a masterpiece but not terrible either.  It helped that when I asked why it was important to do what Barth suggests the three answers that were called out were "because they connect" "vision" and "relevance" -- which was exactly where I was planning on going.

We need to keep the two hands (or two browser windows) so that we keep our faith grounded in, speaking to, and connected with the world in which we live and serve.  Even more, one of the Barth quotes I found said that we need to interpret the world's stories through the lens of the Gospel.  [For the record I think that in the end the interpretive task goes both ways--world through Gospel and Gospel through world.]  This gave me the link to vision.  We read the stories of the world, (from a variety of sources, preferably both sources we agree with and ones we find troublesome) and ask where the Gospel is present or missing.  Then we ask where/how God is speaking to those stories and how God would have us respond.  Filling in that last question gives us our vision, our calling, the place we apply/live out our faith.  I think it all came together.

A final thought, one I also mused about this morning.  I think the task Barth sets out was in some ways easier in his context.  Barth lived and worked long before the advent of the 24 hour news cycle.  Journalism was different then, stories were often more complete before they were broken, journalists had more time to fact-check (with some notable exceptions--"Dewey Defeats Truman" comes to mind).  And also there was not the plethora of sources, mixed blessing that that is.  More sources now means we get more chances to have different points of view.  It also means it is harder to have a clear sense of what the news is. 

What do you think?  Was Barth right?  How do you live out his challenge?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Change Management

Would be a good definition of ministry.  Or maybe SHOULD be a major part of ministry.

I was just reading this blog.  Gary Paterson, the writer, is the current Moderator of the United Church of Canada.  THe Comprehensive Review of which he writes was set up as a result of decisions made at (although personally I believe the real decision was made before the meeting with the vote at the meeting a way of making it formal) last summer's meeting of General Council.  The panel is charged with charting a path forward for our denomination.

Churches, on the whole, do not do change well.  In fact I would say that humans as a species generally don't do change all that well.  Even when we can handle it fairly well as individuals when we get into groups and organizational structures we start to become less-changeable.  But  churches are, in my opinion, one of the most conservative (in the sense of being change-resistant, not as a political/social/economic classification) classes of organizations we have.

Which is why ministry needs to be about change management.  Because change is inevitable.  Sometimes it is drastic, sometimes it is glacial, but it is inevitable.  And some members of the congregation want to embrace some changes (but shun others).  Some want to keep change away as long as possible.  And some want to march off into the unknown ready to chance whatever happens.  Ministry means finding the balance [not keeping everyone happy (that is often not a realistic thing) but finding the way to change that matches who and how God is calling us to be in the world] and stickhandling through those inevitable changes inside and outside the church.

The challenge though is that to be faithful to who and how God is calling us to be we need to have a vision.  And I am not convinced that the church really does have a vision.  Sometimes we come close.  But too often we don't go all the way.  And that won't work.  As Gary points out in his blog, a zero in the mathematics of change (of which I have written before) ends up with a product of zero.  SO we need the vision.  AS congregations, as denominations, as communities of faith of any size we need a vision.

And just for the record, I don't count "keeping the doors open" or "survival" as a real vision.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Five

For Lent this year I have resolved to blog more.  And so doing the Friday Five for the first time in a LOOOOOONG time fits that goal...

1. Oddly this year, the second day of Lent was Valentine's Day. How was this for you? Was Valentine's Day any different being in Lent? Truthfully made no difference either way. 

2. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past? this congregation always has a Pancake supper co-planned/hosted by the Men's Breakfast group and the Outreach committee.  This year the proceeds are going to support the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  When I was young the United Church building was shared with the local Anglican congregation.  The one event a year that was shared between the two congregations was the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper.

3. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?   Never have done much for Ash Wednesday.  In fact I remember exactly once (outside of seminary) where I was at a service on that day, and that was because it was the year we were experimenting with an evening service the last Wednesday of the month in a year when Ash Wednesday happened to be the last Wednesday of February.

4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?  I have signed up for this (but have yet to read about any of the acts), and I have committed to try to blog much more frequently. 

5. Do you have a book or a website you are reading often during Lent? Nothing yet, although I would like to get much farther through Saving Paradise before Easter

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising

2 weeks ago I got a phone call at the office.  The caller was arranging an event as part of the global movement One Billion Rising.

This movement is a response to the estimated reality that one in three women will someday be the victim of gender-based violence.  One in THREE!

SO who do you know?  WE all know many women.  Who do you know who has been the victim of violence, of rape, of domestic abuse, of sexual harassment.....?

It is sobering isn't it?

The caller wanted to use the church space for a time to do this dance:

Now congregational policy is that non-congregational events need to provide proof of insurance and that would likely sink something like this.  But congregational sponsored events are under our umbrella.  And it struck me that this was a very good event for the congregation to sponsor.  SO I contacted the decision makers in the congregation to see if there were any objections to making this a congregation-sponsored event.

To tell the truth, had people objected I would have been both very surprised and very disappointed.  This is the sort of issue that churches need to be making statements about.  So I was pleased when the primary response I got back was basically "how can we NOT do this". (Also one of the goals our Council has set for the year is to increase visibility/build connections with the wider community so this fit right in)

Today was the event.  At first the plan was to use the basement (better space for dancing) but the technical requirements for viewing video and hearing music pushed it up to the sanctuary.  And I am so glad we did that.  It makes a much different statement to use the worship space for this event, a much more powerful statement in my opinion.  We gathered and the first thing we did was watch this video:

Then one of teh local dance instructors taught us the dance and we danced.  They even videoed it:

IT went well.  I am glad we did it.

But really.  1 in 3 women!  We all know them.  They are our neighbours, our friends, our co=workers, our family.  As we danced today I thought of the woman I knew who had been raped once and then had a series of bad relationships (which included more than one date-rape).  I thought of the women I worked with who had been sexually harassed by other people with whom we worked.

1 in 3.  Far too many.  It needs to stop.  God help us, and it will.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Canada's Dirty Little Secret

It is one of those things we don't like to admit.  It is one of those things that goes directly against our self-definition as a national people.  But it is a truth that needs to be said.

Prejudice and discrimination is rampant in Canada.

WE are a country that prides itself, as a whole, on being tolerant and inclusive.  But that self-understanding really is not as true as it should be. A couple of things have shown this to me over the last few weeks.

One was the Idle No More movement.  INM was sparked by a protest against changes made to environmental protections in an (terribly non-democratic) omnibus bill in the Canadian Parliament and grew to be a rallying point around the flawed relationship between First Nations and "settler" peoples in Canada.  Enter the racism.

As the INM protests continued and escalated the racist reaction did too.  First Nations were portrayed as leeches off the government teat, as people who were incapable of running their own affairs, people who were simply trying to get money for nothing.  Sometimes the racism was blatant, sometimes it was more subtle.  But as with every other time in my memory that First Nations people have protested their place in Canadian society there is a large portion of the society that reacts with prejudged assumptions.  Sad but true.

The next one was in the response to the resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.  Undoubtedly there are places where the decisions and actions of the Vatican can be challenged.  Many Roman Catholics are among the challengers.  But in some of the discussions online I have read there is a recognizable rearing of anti-Catholicism.  Anti-Catholicism is a big, though often un-named part, of Canadian history. For many years it was subsumed into the larger prejudice and discrimination against the French/Quebecois but there has always been a religious side to these debates.  Indeed one of the reasons the United Church of Canada was formed was because there were those who felt that we needed a strong national Protestant bulwark against the Papists.  And still there is that tendency to move from honest open criticism into language that borders on hate speech.

And then there are those other stories.  The person I was talking to recently about the local street people and how to support them.  The news that RCMP officers are accused of assaulting aboriginal women in Northern BC.  The knowledge that some people's disappearances are considered more important than others--and if you are homeless, or Aboriginal, or in the sex-trade, or drug addicted you are likely to be in the less important category--in the eyes not only of the general public but of the people entrusted to investigate and prosecute.  Or the gender divide that, while lessening, continues to exist.  Or the reality that sexual orientation is still a cause for discriminatory assumptions and treatment.  Or the transgendered individual I spoke with last year who had people threatening to make it difficult for him to visit his child--because he did not dress "properly".

Yes, inclusive and tolerant multicultural Canada has bastions of prejudice, sexism, heterosexism, racism...

We may not want it to be true.  but it is.

Today, as people of faith are encouraged to remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, as we enter into that liturgical season where we are called to examine our lives, I call upon the people of Canada to seriously look at our society.  Where do we fall short of our own self-understanding?  What needs to happen if we can live up to those worlds of tolerant, accepting, inclusive that we like to use about ourselves?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Book 3 of 2013 -- Still Alice

This one came my way at Christmas time.  It is a novel about a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers.  We follow her from just before her diagnosis to a time where she is no longer really "there".  And it is really a very short journey.

It is suggested that with the increase in our life-span (and the Baby Boomer bulge heading into their senior years) helping families and individuals touched by dementia is going to be one of the key issues churches will need to develop knowledge about in the next generation.  This may be true, certainly it makes statistical sense, and it may not--only time will tell.  But novels such as this are arguably a very good part of how we can gain that knowledge.

Yes there will be a place for "how to" books and articles around caring for families and individuals dealing with dementia.  Yes there will be discussions about how to gently move the church elder out of office when she/he can no longer function.  But a novel like this allows us into the mind and heart of the patient, we see the struggle of a very intelligent, very accomplished woman who is literally watching as her brain fails her.

I encourage folk to read this book.  It is well written.  It grips you.  It is a quick read.  But more importantly, it teaches us.