Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

The church as Emmaus presence

Posted on: April 28th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

In a sermon preached 1600 years ago, give or take, St. Augustine of Hippo pointed to the bread on the altar and said, “We call that the body of Christ.” He then gestured toward the congregation: “Yet the Apostle Paul calls you the body of Christ. So it is your own mystery that you see on the table. It is your own mystery you receive when you come forward. When you take the bread in your hands and answer ‘Amen’ to the words, ‘The body of Christ,’ you say amen to what you are. So,” he exhorted, “live as Christ’s body that your ‘amen’ may be true.” (Sermon 272)

That seems like a radical identification between the church and the one whom we name as Lord and Saviour, to be sure. Yet Augustine’s insight is very biblical. After all, as the good bishop noted, Saint Paul makes the same claim in the many ways he refers to the church as the body of Christ.

Augustine’s proclamation continues to echo a crucial insight into our own time and context: the body of Christ is not only on the table; it is also around the table.

We need to underline these as words of tremendous relevance for mission and congregational vitality today. Just as the risen Christ is made known to the disciples in the bread that is his body on the table, so the risen Christ is made known to those beyond our walls in the people that are his body in the world.

I have an icon, as well as many other captivating pictures, depicting the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35), the reel that spins on our lectionary projector every three years on the Third Sunday of Easter and annually during the evening of Easter’s First Sunday. I spend a fair bit of my prayer time gazing at these images throughout the year: despairing disciples heading the wrong way; the stranger who comes and listens to them and “meets them where they are”; the proclamation that causes their hearts to burn within them in a way that prepares them to see; the hospitality offered and accepted that leads to bread broken and Saviour recognized; two once despairing disciples going out as a living testimony to the risen Christ!

My prayerful immersion in this story has persuaded me that it is not enough to identify only with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. There is a larger vision and vocation to embrace: another character with whom it is imperative for us to identify.

The faithful and vital church, you see, is that stranger saddling up alongside people in despair, conflict, or confusion, listening to them and walking with them—meeting them where they are. We are Christ’s ears and his compassionate presence.

The faithful and vital church is the company of people that responds by not only telling the story, but also by actually being the Story of the risen One, kindling hearts and sparking imaginations.

The faithful and vital church is bread—taken, blessed, broken, and shared—through which the Lord Jesus is revealed and recognized.

The faithful and vital church is the inspiration for others to join in the acclamation: “We have seen the Lord! Alleluia!”

The refrain for one of my favourite songs sings these words:

“Let us be bread blest by the Lord,
broken and shared, life for the world.
Let us be wine, love freely poured.
Let us be one in the Lord.”

Just as the risen Christ is made known to the disciples in the bread that is his body offered on the table of the church, so the risen Christ is made known to those beyond our walls in the people that are his body offered on the table of the world. Moreover, if we are paying attention, we will not only recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread: we will see Christ, too, in the faces of those whom we serve.

So let the church say, “Amen,” and may our ‘amen’ ring true!

Jay Koyle

About Jay Koyle

The Rev. Dr. Jay Koyle has a long and fruitful history of fostering congregational vitality and growth in the life of the church. After many years’ experience as both a parish pastor and a professor on a Faculty of Theology, Jay now serves as Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of Algoma. His doctoral thesis addressed the relationship between preaching and the missional revitalization of congregations in the 21st Century. Jay also serves as Chair of Faith, Worship, and Ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada, and Director of Table Song: Eighth Day Perspectives. In both Canada and the United States, he has been acclaimed as an inspirational speaker who brings a terrific sense of humour and an uplifting Christian message. He has been a contributor to a number of journals and a recent book published by Augsburg Fortress.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Community, An update from The Community, April 28, 2017

Canadian churches moving from uniformity to diversity

Posted on: April 28th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Wayne Holst on April 21, 2017
 

Image: Shutterstock


My March Anglican Journal column focused on major “changes” I have observed in many of our churches during the past half-century.

I emphasized the expansive leadership of women, the secularization of Canadian society, increased social justice and care of the Earth concerns, as well as ecumenical/interfaith engagements.

This time, I want to elaborate on the first: how women have played a major role in making Canada’s churches places of increasingly celebrated diversity.

One definition of diversity is “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, colour, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” A half-century ago, little was made of diverse communities of faith. At best, we tended to deny or soft-pedal this characteristic in favour of a certain “uniformity.” Sameness, even combativeness, was honoured. But Canadian social values have evolved. Today, we are much more committed to embracing diversity.

As Canadian society has changed from mono- and bi-cultural to multi- and intercultural, our Christian communities have continued, albeit hesitantly, to reflect societal composition and tendencies.

When and how did we change from being churches that valued uniformity to becoming communities valuing diversity? I believe it was during the 1960s when (at the Canadian centennial) we became more intentionally focused on our distinct identity as a nation.

Gradually, over the decades, we have reassessed our Euro-based history to recognize our global inheritance. Add to this a consciousness of Aboriginal foundations. Now, at the celebration of our 150th anniversary, we have a clearer understanding of what it means to be Canadian. “United in our diversity” is a firm part of that self-definition.

The emergence of women as a strong influence on societal values and in leadership has triggered inclusive—non-divisive—thinking. We are now a society that tries to celebrate diversity. We are enhancing our ability to be inclusive and affirming of our differences.

Building on these holistic “female” values, we have come to appreciate and intentionally engage persons of differing race, culture, creedal affirmation, human ability and sexual orientation. Once, our churches were the acknowledged conscience of society. In more recent times, we have often responded, rather than initiated the higher moral precepts. We have had to come to terms with and adjust to the challenges of progressive judicial and political rulings.

Half a lifetime ago when I started searching in earnest for new models to guide my thinking, I was happily drawn to some key mentors from First Nations spiritual traditions. I learned I did not always have to be right in my beliefs. I discovered that it is possible to hold differing truths in a living suspension until new or alternate truth emerged. I found that everyone has something to contribute to a spiritual community and that I must work hard to retain the different, difficult members.

My ideals have not always held up, but I would credit many women who have long-reflected First Nations influence in the church I love, with ways of modelling, shaping and celebrating diversity.

About the Author

Wayne Holst

 Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for 25 years. He taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and co-ordinates adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colleagues List, Vol. XII. No. 29, April 23, 2017 (Anglican Journal,  April Issue, 2017)

Yanked out of reverie

Posted on: April 28th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Nissa Basbaum on April 25, 2017

Photo: Michaelangeloop/Shutterstock


I have a bad habit; actually, I have a number of bad habits, but I prefer to reveal them one at a time.

In particular circumstances, I have been accused of being rude. People will say that they saw me on the street yet I neither waved to them nor acknowledged them; indeed, they will sometimes say that I stared right at them but didn’t say hello. Not surprisingly, I have no memory of these encounters. Without question, I was there in body, doing all that a body does; also without question, though, my mind was somewhere else, generally speaking, in another time zone, if not another universe.

This habit is by no means unique. For many people, daydreaming is a common endeavour; it is sometimes the only thing that helps us get through the day, and for me, it is also the time in which a number of my homilies and/or newspaper articles get written. When I’m walking, the worst that might happen is that I miss an encounter with someone I know or I walk into walls. I hesitate to say, however, that I have also been known to daydream while behind the wheel; this used to be a rather frequent occurrence when I lived in southern Ontario and had to drive from the Niagara Peninsula to Hamilton via the Burlington Bridge. I would reach the other side of the bridge and find myself wondering how I had got there…perhaps I was lucky that I actually did get there!

One lesson I’ve learned is that people like me need a dog. First thing every morning I take my dog, Oliver, for a walk. True to form, during most of these perambulations, I am off somewhere else, completely oblivious to how many times he takes a sniff, chews on something he probably shouldn’t, or marks his territory. Every so often, though, he forcibly yanks me out of my reverie and almost yanks my shoulder out of its socket, usually when he is just not ready to end one of these constitutional endeavours.

Oliver’s yank is invariably my wake-up call, a wake-up call that each one of us—daydreamer or not—occasionally needs. It is a somewhat brutal reminder that the spiritual life, in contrast to being rather ethereal and airy-fairy, is  solid and grounded—right here and right now.

Nissa Basbaum

Nissa Basbaum

The Very Rev. Nissa Basbaum is dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels,  diocese of Kootenay.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Anglican Journal News, April 28, 2017

The power of hope

Posted on: April 21st, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Mark MacDonald on April 18, 2017

 

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The least spoken of these three “theological virtues” is, almost always, hope. Yet, hope is a powerful and necessary force. It animates both faith and love. Without hope, faith and love have no strength.

Without hope, even what you know to be right is difficult to do. Without hope, there is little reason to move forward. It is hope that powers a better future; hope that inspires both the courage and sacrifice of love and the loyalty and confidence of faith.

In the past few years, I have seen growing positive interest and action across the churches regarding Indigenous issues. There are a lot of reasons for this, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being a big part. But an even bigger part of it has to be hope. People are beginning to believe that things should change and can change—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Hope is not only a theological virtue; it is a political and human virtue.

We should seek hope, pray for it and yearn for it. But we must remember that Paul says it is a gift and grace of the Holy Spirit. It is, like the other theological virtues, a gift of grace and a fruit of the spirit. Let us pray for such grace, so that we may be God’s people of hope.

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, April 19, 2017

Torches of triumph

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Fred Hiltz on April 11, 2017

Pilgrims take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters


(This article first appeared in the April issue of the Anglican Journal.)

This year, I will have the pleasure of spending Holy Week and Easter Day at Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, Ont. On Easter Monday, I will travel to Jerusalem with the Advisory Council for the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem.* I suspect we will not be in the Holy City very long before we make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the only church in the world, as John Peterson puts it, “that houses an empty tomb” (A Walk in Jerusalem).

Just days before, on Holy Saturday, thousands of pilgrims will have gathered at that ancient church for the Great Vigil of Easter. In a silence like no other, they will have waited with great anticipation for the first glimpse of the Light of Easter, carried out of the tomb by the Ecumenical Patriarch. And then, in a joy like no other, they will have shared in a boisterous exchange the greeting of Easter: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

In every image I have ever seen of that Great Vigil, I am struck by the fact that every pilgrim holds not a single taper, but a bundle of 33 candles symbolizing the years of Jesus’ life. When kindled, it resembles a torch. The waving of those torches is a joyful proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, a bold declaration of the triumph of good over evil, love over hatred, generosity over greed, life over death. Truly, this is the feast of the victory of our God!

In liturgies quite likely less dramatic than that in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, yet equally solemn and joyful, we will light Sacred Candle of the Resurrection, praying that its light will dispel the darkness of the world. This candle is lit for every liturgy in the Great Fifty Days of Easter. In a similar way, we should light a special Easter candle at home, drawing light from it daily to remind us of our life in the Risen Lord.

Pray with me that, in our homes and in our parish communities, we be like those tapers so bundled together as to become torches lifted high in a joyful proclamation of him whose resurrection we celebrate—for in him, we see our own and indeed that of the world!

* The Advisory Council for the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem’s trip to Jerusalem has been postponed and a new date is being set likely for early 2018, according to the Office of the Primate. 

Fred Hiltz

Fred Hiltz

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, April  12, 2017

Primate reflects on meaning of Holy Week

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Fred Hiltz on April 10, 2017


Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.  Photo: The General Synod/Anglican Church of Canada


As we make our way through Holy Week – that time of such wondrous love, when for my sake and that of all the world Christ gave himself to death, there are two moments when I am invariably ‘undone’.

One of those moments is on Maundy Thursday.  We will have recalled the Last Supper and the conversation in that Upper Room of long ago.  We will have received the Blessed Sacrament with those immortal words, “The body of Christ, broken for you.  The blood of Christ, shed for you.”  We will have no sooner given thanks for this holy mystery when we behold the very altar around which we celebrated being stripped and laid bare.

Reminded that “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26) we too “Go to dark Gethsemane”.  We recall our Lord’s agony and arrest, his prayer and his passion.  We remember too how “all of them (disciples) deserted him and fled”.  (Mark 14:50)  In the chaos of that moment we are left to consider how we too forsake and flee from him – when his teaching is too hard to embrace, his gospel too hard to embody in the manner of our living.  We leave the church in silence.  For those of a truly humble and contrite heart, it can be a rather restless night.

The other moment is on Good Friday.  We will have read The Passion of the Lord and sung a hymn calling to remembrance his wounds for our redemption.  As the prophet said of The Suffering Servant of God, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

We will have been drawn into The Solemn Intercession, praying for ourselves, for the Church and for the whole world.  And just when we think that liturgy is coming to its conclusion, there is a procession.  It may be but one person – perhaps the priest, perhaps the deacon, perhaps someone else representing the community of the baptized – bearing a cross, its arms across their shoulder, its foot dragged behind.  Given the proportions of the cross, its height and its weight, this procession may be the loving labour of a band of men and women, young and old.

The cross that is borne may be one reserved for use on this day only.  It may be finished and lacquered, or it may be rough and rugged.  In some places it is made from the trunks of the trees that adorned the sanctuary as we celebrated The Nativity of the Lord, now bound together as we remember His Passion and Death.  In yet other places it may be limbs of trees broken and fallen through the storms of winter tied together in a form that is so utterly stark.

Once the cross has been raised in the sight of all the people, the celebrant says “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world” and the people respond, “Come let us worship”.  What follows is a deep and prolonged silence.

And then it starts – a procession, like no other.  All one can hear is the sound of footsteps over a floor of wood or stone.  Some are quick, some are slower, some are a shuffle.  While many come on their own, some come with the support of another’s arm.  All are coming to venerate the Cross, each in their own way.  Some stand before it. Others kneel as they are able.  Some reach out to touch it and then trace its sign over their bodies.  Others lean forward to kiss it.

Some remain before the Cross for a few minutes.  Others linger just a little longer.  For some it may be a time of deeply personal prayer for forgiveness for some sin that has weighed them down for years, some sin they need to lay down and leave at the foot of the Cross.  For some it may be a prayer for reconciliation with someone from whom they have been estranged.  For others it may be a prayer for reconciliation within families, between peoples, among the nations.  For others it may be a prayer for the Church itself that it be reformed and renewed and graced afresh in all the values and wonders of the Gospel it proclaims.

While many come forward for this act of devotion, a few because of infirmity, or reasons unknown to any of us, join it from their places.  Their devotion is no less sincere than anyone else’s.  For however we keep this moment, we enter into it inspired by St. Paul’s teaching, “For some the message about the cross is foolishness, to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When the Veneration of the Cross is completed, the people join in singing a hymn extolling its glory.  Like Isaac Watts’ “When I survey the wondrous cross”, it may call each one to a renewed consecration of their life in the love of The Crucified.  Like Venantius Fortunatus’ “Sing my tongue, the glorious battle”, it may draw the entire community into a renewal of its song and service in the name of The Crucified.

This liturgy concludes with the anthem the Church has sung for centuries,

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because of your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Thanks be to God.

About the Author

Fred Hiltz

Fred Hiltz

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, April 10, 2017

Atrocities and Innocents: A call to prayer by the Primate

Posted on: April 11th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

Atrocities and Innocents: A call to prayer by the Primate

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook153

In our time in history, terrible crimes against humanity are claiming more and more innocent victims.

Last week, the world witnessed horrific images of Syrian children foaming at the mouth, convulsing and dying in the arms of their sobbing mothers and fathers. Their deaths were brought on by yet another round of the use of chemical weapons in the long and bloody conflict that has savaged Syria for six years, claiming the lives of some 400,000 people.

Last night, the world witnessed the aftermath of bomb blasts in two Coptic Christian Churches in Egypt, St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. Forty-four people were killed and scores of others injured. Their blood was splattered over the white washed walls and floors of their beautiful churches, where the faithful in Christ have worshipped for centuries.

All of this carnage and chaos marked the beginning of liturgies remembering The Lord’s Passion and Death. This will be a very difficult Holy Week for Coptic Christians, not only in Egypt where there will be multiple funerals, but throughout the world as they mourn the dead and pray for those wounded and traumatized by this vicious attack.

With them I ask your prayers for Pope Tawadros II and all the clergy and faithful of his flock and for the leaders of other Churches in Egypt as well, including Archbishop Mouneer Anis, the Primate of The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. Pray for their friendship in Christ and for their efforts to bear a common witness to the faith they share.

I ask your prayers for the departed that they be received into the arms of Christ’s mercy.

I ask your prayers for all who grieve, and all who are in spiritual turmoil at this time, that they may find consolation in the sufferings of Christ and hope in his triumph over the forces of evil and death.

In his reflection on “The Holy Innocents” of Herod’s fury and rage, Stephen Reynolds writes, “we live in an age of atrocities, in a time infamous for the slaughter of innocent bystanders who never chose the causes for which they have been made to die.” In remembering them, Reynolds says “we perform an office for them and all other victims of massacre. We become their voice and cry out for God to remember the slaughtered – and to remember them for the sake of Christ, himself the great Innocent who was crucified by the ‘rulers of this age’” (p. 46, For All the Saints).


The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, April 10, 2017

‘Undone, only to be renewed’

Posted on: April 11th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

‘Undone, only to be renewed’

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook235

As we make our way through Holy Week – that time of such wondrous love, when for my sake and that of all the world Christ gave himself to death, there are two moments when I am invariably ‘undone’.

One of those moments is on Maundy Thursday. We will have recalled the Last Supper and the conversation in that Upper Room of long ago. We will have received the Blessed Sacrament with those immortal words, “The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.” We will have no sooner given thanks for this holy mystery when we behold the very altar around which we celebrated being stripped and laid bare.

Reminded that “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26) we too “Go to dark Gethsemane”. We recall our Lord’s agony and arrest, his prayer and his passion. We remember too how “all of them (disciples) deserted him and fled”. (Mark 14:50) In the chaos of that moment we are left to consider how we too forsake and flee from him – when his teaching is too hard to embrace, his gospel too hard to embody in the manner of our living. We leave the church in silence. For those of a truly humble and contrite heart, it can be a rather restless night.

The other moment is on Good Friday. We will have read The Passion of the Lord and sung a hymn calling to remembrance his wounds for our redemption. As the prophet said of The Suffering Servant of God, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

We will have been drawn into The Solemn Intercession, praying for ourselves, for the Church and for the whole world. And just when we think that liturgy is coming to its conclusion, there is a procession. It may be but one person – perhaps the priest, perhaps the deacon, perhaps someone else representing the community of the baptized – bearing a cross, its arms across their shoulder, its foot dragged behind. Given the proportions of the cross, its height and its weight, this procession may be the loving labour of a band of men and women, young and old.

The cross that is borne may be one reserved for use on this day only. It may be finished and lacquered, or it may be rough and rugged. In some places it is made from the trunks of the trees that adorned the sanctuary as we celebrated The Nativity of the Lord, now bound together as we remember His Passion and Death. In yet other places it may be limbs of trees broken and fallen through the storms of winter tied together in a form that is so utterly stark.

Once the cross has been raised in the sight of all the people, the celebrant says “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world” and the people respond, “Come let us worship”. What follows is a deep and prolonged silence.

And then it starts – a procession, like no other. All one can hear is the sound of footsteps over a floor of wood or stone. Some are quick, some are slower, some are a shuffle. While many come on their own, some come with the support of another’s arm. All are coming to venerate the Cross, each in their own way. Some stand before it. Others kneel as they are able. Some reach out to touch it and then trace its sign over their bodies. Others lean forward to kiss it.

Some remain before the Cross for a few minutes. Others linger just a little longer. For some it may be a time of deeply personal prayer for forgiveness for some sin that has weighed them down for years, some sin they need to lay down and leave at the foot of the Cross. For some it may be a prayer for reconciliation with someone from whom they have been estranged. For others it may be a prayer for reconciliation within families, between peoples, among the nations. For others it may be a prayer for the Church itself that it be reformed and renewed and graced afresh in all the values and wonders of the Gospel it proclaims.

While many come forward for this act of devotion, a few because of infirmity, or reasons unknown to any of us, join it from their places. Their devotion is no less sincere than anyone else’s. For however we keep this moment, we enter into it inspired by St. Paul’s teaching, “For some the message about the cross is foolishness, to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When the Veneration of the Cross is completed, the people join in singing a hymn extolling its glory. Like Isaac Watts’ “When I survey the wondrous cross”, it may call each one to a renewed consecration of their life in the love of The Crucified. Like Venantius Fortunatus “Sing my tongue, the glorious battle”, it may draw the entire community into a renewal of its song and service in the name of The Crucified.

This liturgy concludes with the anthem the Church has sung for centuries,

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because of your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Thanks be to God.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, April 07, 2017

The church and the mentally ill

Posted on: April 11th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Joseph Corcoran on April, 03 2017

 

This letter, originally sent to the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, is being published with permission from both the author and the primate.

Last year, the Anglican Journal’s publication of a series of articles on mental health and spirituality resonated with a lot of our readers. It was hardly surprising—an estimated 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Mental illness also “indirectly affects all Canadians,” through a family member, a colleague or friend. It afflicts people regardless of age, education, culture, income level, race or religion.

The author, who has lived with mental illness for more than 40 years, reflects on the role that faith has played in his life.

*******

Dear Archbishop Hiltz,

I am a member of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London, Ont.

I have lived with a mental illness, bipolar disorder, for over 40 years.

It has affected every aspect of my life. Many times I almost killed myself, because I could no longer endure the pain and despair. At such times, it was my belief in God’s abiding love, no matter my condition, that enabled me to choose life.

In light of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, I believed I was not alone in my suffering, because Christ was at my side. I believed that my suffering was not the final word.  The final word was the Father’s faithful love.

I also knew of Christ’s special care for the poor, the sick and the outcasts. It leaps off the pages of the gospels. Christ even went so far as to identify with the least of his brothers and sisters. I cannot adequately express how much all of this meant to me. Mental illness brings with it a profound shame and loss of dignity. In spite of this, I still believed I was God’s beloved son.

Therefore, I have been deeply saddened, to the point of tears, that Christian churches have not proclaimed to the mentally ill these words of consolation. How much suffering would have been allayed. We are like the man in St. Luke’s parable who was left half-dead in the ditch as the priest and Levite passed by.

The church needs to stop and take notice of us, and then climb down into the ditch, kneel by our side and whisper into our ear that we are God’s delight. He will never leave us alone. If the church were to take time to listen to our stories of terror and darkness, it would never pass us by. Remember the words Yahweh spoke to Moses from the burning bush,

“I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3:7). These words initiated the Israelites’ long journey into freedom. Would that we who live with mental illness could hear these words proclaimed by the church. We would know that God was with us as we traversed our personal deserts.

I am dumbfounded why the church has failed to do this. Is it because of ignorance on the church’s part or the stigma attached to mental illness? It is as if we are invisible or unworthy of being cared for. The church, by not seeing us or caring for us, implicitly increases our shame and intensifies the stigma. We are not worthy of its attention.  This is no longer tolerable, given our numbers, the severity of our suffering, the number of us who commit suicide and society’s increasing understanding of mental illness. We are no longer in the Dark Ages when mental illness was seen as a form of possession or the result of sin.

In an effort to increase the awareness and understanding of the impact mental illness has upon a person, on several occasions, I have shared my experience of mental illness with the St. Aidan’s community. I spoke of the importance my faith had been in providing me with a life-sustaining meaning to my experience of mental illness. Jesus’ death and resurrection have been the foundation of my hope. The response of the community has been heartwarming. I do not have to hide. I am loved and consoled in all the seasons of my life. I am free to be me.

With the encouragement and support of the Rev. Kevin George, our rector, our church has reached out to the mentally ill and their families in the greater community. Twice we have held a blessing ceremony for them to manifest that they are beloved children of God. At each of these ceremonies, an Anglican priest spoke of his/her experience of mental illness, thus providing the power of testimony. We plan to continue offering these blessings in the coming years, and we hope they might spread to other Anglican churches in our diocese.

What I am requesting of the greater Anglican church would not require a substantial expense. It would only involve opening its eyes, listening to our cries and proclaiming God’s good news to us. In recent times, the church has reached out to members of the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/ Questioning] community and affirmed their dignity in the eyes of God. In a similar fashion, now is the time for the church to proclaim God’s good news to the mentally ill, to announce God’s special love. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). If this were done, how many hearts would be consoled? If the church were to listen to and act upon the words of Jesus, “As long as you did not do this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:40), there would be no option in this matter.

I conclude with the words of Jean Vanier: “He who is or has been deeply hurt has a right to be sure he is loved” (Tears of Silence).

Sincerely,

Joseph Corcoran, PhD
Professor emeritus Western University (University of Western Ontario)

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, April 05, 2017

 

 

 

Changes

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Wayne Holst on March, 16 2017

Illustration: Nina Rys/Shutterstock


(This column was originally published in Anglican Journal, March 2017)

This spring, I will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation from theological college, which was a big step in my preparation for ordination into the Christian ministry.

I have seen some major changes in the Canadian churches during the last half century and would like to share four of my observations.

The emergence of women in all forms of church leadership has got to be one of the most significant developments. When I was in seminary during the mid-sixties, a few women were fellow students, but none of them, I suspect, intended to be ordained as pastors. They simply enjoyed the challenge of a theological education.

How different it is today! Women occupy positions that were always held exclusively by men in many of our denominations. Even in more conservative churches, contemporary women commonly assume roles that  make them indispensable. Today, female leaders serve as models for growing numbers of young women and men alike.

The secularization of Canadian society is a second major development. Secularization describes a people disconnected from religion. There was a time when  most Canadians considered themselves Christian – either Catholic, Protestant or other. Politicians frequently consulted religious leaders before proposing legislation. The general public linked ethical decision-making to Christian faith. That time is largely past.

Religion now plays an ever-declining role in the public square. Canada is growingly multi-cultural and multi-faith in nature. This has changed our self-understanding as a people. While not dead, the role of religion has changed. Those claiming no faith have increased considerably.

Canadians, often spurred on by the religious presence remaining in this land, have become more sensitive to justice issues and the care of creation. When being Canadian was but another way of claiming to be a Christian, many in the churches were content that Canada was traditionally biased in matters of culture, creed and social status.

Today, largely due to the prodding of visionary and prophetic church leaders, Canada stands as an enviable example of social justice and environmental concern in the view of many nations around the world. While we must constantly be on our guard against both internal and external evils, we can feel justly proud of what we stand for today.

Finally, the ecumenical and interfaith progress we have enjoyed in Canada for the past five decades is really quite amazing. I believe we can attribute at least some of that to the Second Vatican Council and the growing influence of the World Council of Churches after mid-century.

As a young graduate of a mainline Protestant seminary, I had eagerly sought out educational and service ministries that helped me to understand and learn from other Christians and members of other faiths. I still celebrate friends and experiences from those early years that helped us overcome long-standing divisions.

Women’s leadership, secularization, social justice/care of creation and ecumenical/interfaith developments – these are four major influences upon my changing, evolving faith. Each of these themes deserve at least a column for themselves.

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colleagues List, Vol. XII. No.24, March 19, 2017