Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

A big red door isn’t enough

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Rhonda Waters



One Sunday morning, I stopped in at the Starbucks directly across the street from the Cathedral. The barista asked about my clerical collar. When I told him I worked at the (large neo-gothic) church visible from his workstation, he commented on how nice it was to see it open and lamented that it was usually closed.

“But it’s not,” I replied. “The Cathedral is open all day, every day, all year long.”

The Cathedral has large red doors that are swung wide open every day. The interior doors are made of glass, a deliberate choice made during a development project in the late 1980s. The glass doors ensure that, even in the winter, those on the inside can see out and those on the outside can see in. They serve as a reminder that the church lives in the world and lives for the world; they serve as evidence that what we do is not a secret, not private, not “ours.”

And yet my friendly, curious barista barely noticed our presence.

And he is not unique. I have ceased to be surprised when people tell me they didn’t know there was a church beside the Bay store on St. Catherine’s Street, probably the busiest pedestrian street in Montreal. For more than a few people, we are simply invisible, in spite of the fact that the church takes up an entire city block.

This invisibility is both a serious problem and a great opportunity. It tells us that the church has become so irrelevant in the lives of many Montrealers that they don’t even notice our existence—their eyes simply slide off even our most obvious outposts. We may be proclaiming the Good News, but we clearly aren’t doing it loudly enough to attract their attention.

On the other hand, indifference is not hostility. Some people in church land assume that we know what “the world” thinks of us. People aren’t joining churches because they think Christians are judgmental, hateful, foolish, irrational…According to this view, we have to rehabilitate our reputations before we can hope to have anyone pay us any attention. But, while this is certainly true for some people and in some contexts, my barista would suggest otherwise.

If we are invisible, we have no reputation from which to recover (or upon which to build). There is now a generation of adults whose parents were not church-goers. In my experience, many of these people are curious about what we do and who we are—once they notice we even exist. So how do we get noticed if the wide-open red doors on a city-block-worth of Cathedral don’t do the trick?

We (together as the Body of Christ and separately as its members) need to boldly-but-humbly introduce ourselves to our neighbours, offering our services and our insights where appropriate, extending invitations and accepting theirs as we share in the work for environmental and human justice and in the common joys of music, art, and community life. We need our walls to be invisible…but only our walls. Only then will the church be truly visible and the Good News of the Kingdom impossible to miss.


The Rev. Rhonda Water is associate priest of Christ Church Cathedral, diocese of Montreal.



Kathryn Reklis: Jonathan Edwards and the afterlife of failure

Posted on: October 25th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


A feminist scholar finds inspiration in Jonathan Edwards the experimenter, who had no choice but to reach for new language, new methods and new ideas to make the truth of the divine drama come alive for his age.


Jonathan Edwards

When I’m asked about my research, I rarely make it past the first five words: “I’m writing on Jonathan Edwards.”

“Wasn’t he that hellfire guy?” “The ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ guy, right?” Or my personal favorite, “You know, he believed that children would be tortured in hell for all eternity.”

“Actually,” I am tempted to say, “he only believed that about people who made ill-formed historical judgments.”

It is hard enough to defend a man everyone remembers from high school English as an exemplar of “terror preaching.” Add to this the fact that I am a feminist historical and constructive theologian and that Edwards was a staunch defender of orthodox Calvinism and late Puritan social hierarchy, and the defense is even harder to mount.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t Edwards’s way with a hellfire metaphor that first drew me in. I was attracted to Edwards because he was perched on the edge of a world expanding faster than the ability to take the measure of it.

Caught in the crosshairs of early modern philosophy and early practices of globalization, ministering and writing on the periphery of an expanding global empire, Edwards sensed the world changing around him.

From every corner — the merchant fixing abstract prices for goods acquired and manufactured around the Atlantic world, the mariner relying on new navigational tools to speed his travel, the farmer caught in battles over decreasing communal lands and increasing claims to private property — came cries for personal, sensible experience as the surest form of knowledge.

It wasn’t just philosophers like Locke who demanded to know things for themselves. The material, the measurable and the experiential were becoming a new standard for truth. On this shifting epistemological ground, old-fashioned Calvinist theology was losing its shine.

Edwards was determined to find a way to make divine truth seem as real to his parishioners as the knowledge they got from their senses.

The truth of the world, as he saw it, was the cosmic unity of all things in God’s benevolent and self-giving being. To know oneself as graciously pulled into the interconnected web of God’s being, and held there by God’s grace, connected in love to all other beings, was the main work of salvation.

Edwards experimented with different sermon styles to find a way to awaken his parishioners to this experience of reality.

In the 1730s, he hit pay dirt. Revivals that started in his Northampton, Mass., parish began to spread around the colonies and the broader Atlantic world. The experience of divine reality was so real for people caught up in the revivals, it overwhelmed them, body and soul: people wailed, flailed, shook and fainted. They were, as Edwards began to describe it, “swallowed up in God.”

Faced with detractors who saw only irrationality and charlatanism, Edwards developed an elaborate theological system to account for revival conversion, and in so doing he became the architect of a new style of Christian experience. Today he is claimed as “the bud of the bud and the root of the root” of American (and global) evangelicalism, which is either commendation or censure, depending on one’s perspective.

That we read his life and work as so successful would come, I think, as a surprise to Edwards.

He was dismissed by his congregation after many years of acrimonious discord. He died a relatively young man, at the prime of his intellectual production, having just assumed the presidency of the fledgling College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), but having never written the “new system of divinity” he had long had in mind.

The revivals he helped to prompt, spread and defend escaped his best efforts at ecclesial and theological control and took on lives of their own in more radical evangelical and social movements.

But the more time I’ve spent with Edwards, the more I’ve wondered whether this is the portrait of Edwards most useful to us now, perched as we are, too, on the edge of the world remaking itself.

Not the lambasting terror preacher who proliferated images of impending damnation to startle his “sermon-proof” congregation into some response. Not the erudite systematizer, penning magisterial treatises on everything from “true virtue” to “original sin.”

But the experimenter who had no choice but to reach for new language, new methods and new ideas to make the truth of the divine drama come alive for his age.

Given his aristocratic manner and unswerving Calvinism, what we recognize as some of the greatest successes of the style of Christianity he helped to birth would likely be seen by him as failures — new denominations like Methodism and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the prophetic traditions of black Christianity, and the overall emphasis on the experiential nature of Christian life. And to the degree that he could predict where some of these forces were headed, he was dismayed.

Persevering in the face of these “failures” seems, in retrospect, to be the strongest proof of his faithfulness. Even though he could not see or control the ends to which his preaching and writing would be used, he persisted in following a call to make the truth real in a new way.

In his experimentation, he engaged everything at his disposal. He sought truth from every possible source: in the new philosophy of John Locke, the new science of Isaac Newton, the shipping logs of the Atlantic trade and the gossip magazines of London coffeehouses.

There was nothing too grand or too mundane but that it could point to the more encompassing reality of God’s truth.

I take this as a personal word of encouragement to the feminist theologian lost in the thickets of Edwards’s work and context. Perhaps it is another lesson Edwards can teach our own context: even in historical and theological worlds different from our own — even in the work of that “hellfire guy” — there are truths to learn that just might fund new experiments for present-day revival.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, October 24, 2014

The abundant waters of faith

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Gretchen E. Ziegenhals


At the recent ecumenical gathering of pastors, professors and other institutional leaders, “A Convocation of Christian Leaders: Taking Faith Seriously,” we used a painting by Russian Jewish surrealist painter Marc Chagall as a warm-up on the first day of the event.

The painting, one of Chagall’s depictions of “Moses Striking the Rock and Bringing Forth the Water,” served to introduce us to the themes of abundance and scarcity in our own work, ways of practicing our faith, the character of the prophet, and questions around “What gives life?”

Chagall’s depiction of Moses striking the rock portrays Moses with a raised stick in front of a dramatic sun, looking down at a river of water cascading over a cliff. Chagall uses dark, thickly painted colors to portray the Israelites on either side of the water. The crowd is a somber bunch, many with outstretched arms or hands, empty cups and hollow expressions.

Chagall’s portrayal of the Israelites reflects themes from his own heritage. Born to a simple family in a village in Russia, Chagall filled his paintings with images from village life. Using surrealist techniques like impressionism and cubism, his paintings were dreamlike, imaginative and magical. While he studied art around the world, he was homesick for his village and family and, as a result, his paintings were filled with themes of Belarusian folk life, the Bible and Hassidic Judaism.

With this introduction and the image in front of us, we began by answering two questions in small groups around our tables:

  1. What do you see? Describe what is going on in the painting.
  2. Who in the painting is taking faith seriously and how?

After a few minutes to discuss these questions, we entered more deeply into the painting by answering: “Where are you in the picture? How are you showing up to our week together? If Chagall had painted you into the scene, which figure would you be and why?”

Participants responded by talking about the ways in which they instinctively thirst for living waters, without always knowing what it is they need. The painting helped them express their desire to live “in the light,” to be at times joyful about the abundance that God provides while at other times fearful that what they need might not come.

One participant resonated with the figure of a woman in the painting who simultaneously extends her empty cup while placing her hand over her heart. She at once expresses both her faith and her need for the abundant waters. Another participant noted that while the water is flowing abundantly, the crowd doesn’t seem to be noticing. Are their times when, as poet Wendell Berry says, “What we need is here” but we don’t recognize God’s gifts?

Other participants identified with Moses, the leader who, keeping his face in the light, acts on his faith by obediently striking the rock.

Perhaps Moses, like these leaders, hoped beyond hope that his seemingly impossible act of obedience would bring forth sustenance for his people, abundance out of scarcity. New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson writes that the character of the prophet is one full of spirit, word, embodiment, enactment and witness. Chagall’s painting helps us see both these characteristics of a leader as well as what it might mean to take our faith seriously.

Leadership Education at Duke Divinity,  Faith & Leadership Newsletter, October 21, 2014

The rise and fall of the American seminary (COMMENTARY)

Posted on: October 19th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments



NEW YORK (RNS) General Theological Seminary’s campus in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan is everything you’d want in an urban seminary.

Handsome buildings, a chapel at the center, quiet walkways in a noisy city, calm places to read and pray. All serving a wonderfully diverse student body eager to minister in a changing world.

It’s like the best of historic church properties: harking back to a day of noble architecture and tradition and yet looking outward to a frenetic city and changing religious environment.

Why, then, is GTS on the verge of financial collapse and, now, paralyzing internal conflict? Its dean is under attack, 80 percent of its full-time faculty were dismissed, its board is floundering — all in the glare of press and blogosphere.

Why? For the same reason that historic churches and denominations are trapped in “train wrecks.” Their time has passed.

As other major denominations are finding, the days of the residential three-year seminary are ending. Fewer prospective ordinands can afford the cost and dislocation of attending a residential seminary.

Fewer church bodies are willing to subsidize such an education, because they, too, face budget shortfalls. Fewer congregations have jobs for inexperienced clergy wanting full-time compensation.

Episcopal dioceses have been seeking other ways, such as diocesan training centers, nearby schools run by other denominations and online learning. They’re seeking professional skills training, not academic prowess.

By my rough count, it appears fewer than half of newly ordained Episcopal clergy in recent years came out of the church’s 11 official seminaries. My alma mater — Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., also embroiled in conflict — trained an average of just eight ordinands a year, one-fifth the number when I graduated in 1977.

Does the Episcopal Church — or any mainline denomination — need all of its seminaries? Probably not. To judge by recent graduation rates, it probably needs only four. Hence the anxiety leading to conflict, as tenured faculty, cost-cutting deans and anxious trustees collide.

Many congregations are in the same situation. The needs they filled 60 years ago — neighborhood churches providing a mobile postwar world with a place to belong and to ground the family — have largely vanished.

Some congregations welcomed new purposes in a world of new lifestyles, new expectations, new family structures, new employment patterns and new attitudes toward Sunday morning, and they are thriving.

Most, sad to say, resisted change and now find that time and tide haven’t waited for them. Like GTS, they find themselves broke, conflicted, hoping for a future and yet mired in disdain and distrust.

Seizing a new moment is never easy. It requires entrepreneurial leaders who risk being shot down and declared “other.” It requires mold-breaking ministry providers who move beyond the “way things used to be.” It requires constituents whose drive to serve stirs voices for change.

The tragedy at General Seminary isn’t that its time has passed — for a new time is breaking in, if the seminary will let it. Nor is it that the seminary is trapped in dysfunction and conflict — for God can redeem such moments. Or that money is tight — for God’s work is never limited by money.

The tragedy is that stakeholders at the seminary are belittling each other, questioning each other’s worthiness and allowing hubris to be their guide. Such behavior cannot end well.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited GTS recently and did the right thing: She listened. As combatants issued lengthy statements, she modeled the holy restraint that all need to learn.


(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, October 8, 2014

A way of life for this age

Posted on: October 16th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Mark MacDonald


(This column originally appeared in the October issue of the Anglican Journal)


For the past few years, it has been my practice to speak to indigenous youth about the critical role that they will play in our common future. The highlight has been on the need for courage and vision. I will say, “If we are to turn the negative things around in our communities, in order for our people to have a good life, you young people will need to show more courage, dedication and vision than the previous generation.” While saying this, two things appear to be present and necessary: the love that binds us together and gives us life and the God-oriented traditions—both Christian and indigenous—that give life its meaning.

Recently, it has become clear that the words of challenge to indigenous youth are also necessary for the whole church. In our world of soul-numbing economics and war-producing poverty and division, we are not being asked to reassert a tradition or to recapture the worldly influence of our past. If we are to become the people of God in this age, if we are to make some kind of difference in this world, we must fearlessly follow Christ, boldly represent the essence of our faith and show a level of compassion toward the whole of creation that we have, in recent times, reserved only for our family and closest friends. This will require of us all courage, dedication and vision, all but gone from the routines of contemporary church life.

A number of things will be necessary to have a vital church in the future. Many of them, without doubt, are already in our thoughts and planning. If they are not infused with courage, dedication and vision, they will not be enough. Anything less than that, anything that does not require more than we have ever given before, cannot succeed. It is ours to plead, from now until God grants us the mercy necessary, that we may be inspired to a life that will enact what our time requires; that we may have the capacity of heart to receive the Spirit that animates all that is good.


Anglican Journal News, October 16, 2014

A Call to Prayer

Posted on: October 14th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Once again we are at a moment in history when the world God loves is on high alert. The terrorist movement known as ISIS continues its aggressive campaigns to conquer Iraq, Syria and other nations. The world has witnessed horrific crimes against humanity and in the considered opinion of global leaders ISIS poses a very real threat to international security.

The governments of many nations have wrestled with engagement in a mission to bring this terrorist movement to a halt. Through a vote this week in the House of Commons, Canada is now among numerous allied nations engaged in this mission.

While I am deeply aware of the significant debates among people of faith with respect to “just war,” it is not my intent at this moment to draw us into that discussion but rather to call us to prayer.

I ask your prayers for all people who have been victims in this conflict, all those who have been displaced and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and all those who are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

I ask your prayers for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who will be deployed for this mission, for their families for whom times like this are very unsettling, and for all the CAF chaplains and their ministries.

It is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. As we gather “to raise the song of harvest home” and give thanks for this good land in which we live, let us be mindful of all the blessings we enjoy, including religious freedom Let us remember those who are denied this freedom and persecuted for their faith.

Let us turn to God and pray,

“Lead us, Father, into freedom;
from despair your world release,
that redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.”
(Hymn 576, Common Praise)


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


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, October 10, 2014

Lord, teach us to pray.

Posted on: October 13th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Kyle Norman


“Lord, teach us to pray.”

I have read that statement time and time again.  It frequently comes up in our lectionary.  What proceeds from this request is the institution of The Lord’s Prayer – the most beloved of all prayers.  Through Sunday school lessons, confirmation classes, or just through the frequent hearing of the words, we dutifully commit this prayer to memory.  The words of The Lord’s prayer are so ingrained in us that even those who have not stepped into a church in decades can join in the prayer through the simple prompting: “Our Father, who art in heaven. . .”

We must not forget, however, that these words are an answer to a very serious request from the disciples.  The disciples wish to learn how to pray; they long to hear instructions from He who was their Master and Lord; they desire to receive direction in this most holy and sacred activity.

Today, asking for a lesson on how to pray may seem odd.  After all, when is the last time you went to your priest (or Bishop) and asked for a run down on prayer?  Do I sit?  Do I stand?  Should my hands be cupped or open?  Should I bow my head or look toward the heavens? Today these types of questions seem ludicrous; yet it was common in ancient times for students to request these lessons from their teacher.  Every High Priest, Rabbi, and Teacher had subtle nuances that made up their particular ‘brand’ of praying.  Thus, those who were committed followers of a certain teacher would naturally be tasked with learning these particular nuances.   Just as John taught his disciples to pray, as Saul was no doubt taught at the feet of his teacher Gamaliel, the disciples now request that Jesus unravel the intricacy of prayer for them.

This got me thinking about my own training in the school of prayer.  I don’t know about you, but I was never taught how to pray.  Now I have grown up in the church; I was baptised at 13 days old and confirmed when I was 16; I built the foundation of my faith with Sunday school felt boards and Christmas pageant costumes;  I went on youth retreats and summer camps; My high school years were filled with youth groups, mission projects, and lock-ins.  I even spent three years as a church youth worker before spending an equal amount of time in Seminary.  Yet all throughout this process I do not believe that I was ever explicitly taught how to pray.  It was just assumed that I would figure it out as I went along.

Is this your experience as well or is it just me?

Where did this assumption that we as Christians would just ‘figure prayer out’ come from?  Surely, it isn’t from the Bible.  After all, the disciples asked for a lesson in prayer, and all of the statements about prayer in the epistles are made to a community of people for whom it was assumed would be living out their prayers lives together.  I suspect that this boils down to the overly privatized atmosphere in which we view all things spiritual today.  Our faith is about ‘Me-and-Jesus’ (and notice who comes first!)   In many ways, we still abide by the old adage that says it is ‘not polite to speak about religion in public.’  Sure we may drape this under the rhetoric of pluralism and tolerance, but the result is that our spirituality becomes severed from active life.

When it comes to our prayer lives, then, prayer is seen as a solely personal endeavour.  No instructions need ever be given, no lessons to learn, because prayer is just about how I function within my “Me-and-Jesus” framework.  What is more, given the fact that prayer is seen as something essentially ‘private’ to the individual, we make ourselves the ultimate authority on our own prayer life.  This may sound freeing until we realize that we cut ourselves off from any possibility of growth.  How can I learn to pray when I am the ultimate authority on what it means for me to pray?

Is it any wonder why so many people struggle with developing an active and rich prayer life?

We see here the problem with such an individualized understanding of prayer.  Striving to figure it out as we go, yet lacking the specific desire, knowledge or space to do so, we never achieve the growth (or results) we would hope for in our prayers.  Eventually many of us just give up beyond the most routine of prayers said in a frenzied and hurried manner.  This leaves much of the Biblical statements on prayer seeming like over-exaggerations without any practical or real-world significance.  The charge to ‘pray without ceasing’, for example, is simply an impossibility given the demands of life and our own lack of results in prayer.

E.M Bounds describes this sense frenzied prayer as the manner in in which we ‘drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer.” This, remarks Bounds, is akin to a ‘small boy ringing his neighbour’s doorbell, and then running away as fast as he can go.”  (Quoted from E.M Bounds “Understanding Prayer” pg. 60).  There is simply no time given to this holy act.  This would, of course, explain our lack of results in prayer; we never stay in prayer long enough to hear God respond.  Yet, again, were we ever taught the necessity of listening? Were we ever taught how to quiet our distractions and wait upon the Lord to respond?

We tend to view the matter of prayer as pertaining to what we say, rather than seeing it as internal disposition before our Lord and maker. When this is the attitude by which we approach that most central of spiritual activities, we are lead into one of two serious dangers.  Either we do not recognize our prayerlessness as a problem, or we fail to look for the lessons that can move us into a deeper prayer-filled connection with our Lord.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way.  The disciples asked to pray, and Jesus did respond.  What is more, the Spirit is present to continue ushering us into deeper experience, if we would  but open ourselves to such lessons.  E.M. Bounds writes “The strongest one in Christ’s kingdom is the one who is the best knocker.  The secret of success in Christ’s kingdom is the ability to pray.  The one who can wield the power of prayer is the strong one, the holy one in Christ kingdom.  The most important lesson we can learn is how to prayer.”

May we, like the disciples of old, echo the question “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Were you ever taught how to Pray?  What resources, lessons, and experiences did you use to develop your prayer life?

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on

Weekly update from The Community, October 10, 2014

‘Until all are fed’

Posted on: October 13th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Fred Hiltz



Stalks of corn are tied to the ends of every pew. Apples, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes are nestled in beds of colourful leaves on every windowsill. Fall flowers are tucked among wooden hampers overflowing with cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes and turnips at the chancel steps. Homemade bread and bunches of grapes deck the altar. It’s Thanksgiving and we have gathered “to raise the song of harvest home” (Hymn 262, Common Praise).

As the offertory hymn is sung, wheelbarrows laden with canned goods, pasta and cereals are rolled up the aisle, all destined for the local food bank. The offering plates brim with gifts for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, widely known for its commitment to both food aid in emergency situations and food security for the long term. It’s Thanksgiving and we are praying for deliverance from ways of giving thanks for plenty that leave the poor unfed (Psalm 135, Book of Alternative Services).

One billion people in the world are hungry. Over four million people in Canada live in poverty. Thousands of people in First Nations and Inuit communities live without access to clean water and affordable, healthy food.

As people of faith, we are called to hear the cry of the poor and to do everything we can so that their hope for a better life does not perish (Psalm 9:18, BAS). We have a moral responsibility to press world leaders to have unwavering political will in achieving the Millennium Development Goal “to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” In the monumental task of building a just global economy, we pray that their deliberations will be firmly rooted in the divine will for peace and plenty among all peoples.

Our perseverance in this public witness to our faith is wonderfully expressed in some words from the song that united the 2013 Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea:

How long will we sing?

How long will we pray? How long will we write and send? How long will we bring? How long will we stay? How long will we make amends?

Until all are fed we cry out; Until all on earth have bread. (“Until all are fed” by Brown, McFarland, Morris) 


ARCHBISHOP FRED HILTZ is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.  _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, October 10, 2014

Lessons learned from Back to Church Sunday

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Leigh Anne Williams

The Rev. Clarence Li and parishioner Peter Lamb extend a big invitation to anyone driving in the vicinity of St. Hilda’s by the Sea in Sechelt, B.C.   Photo: Courtesy of St. Hilda’s

At St. Hilda’s by the Sea in Sechelt, B.C, they hung a Back to Church Sunday banner by the road to be seen by everyone driving through the neighbourhood. They printed two different kinds of invitations—one for the Sunday services and one for Taizé and other services during the week, and they handed out invitations at the nearby farmer’s market on a Saturday morning.

“That was a little bit intimidating,” the Rev. Clarence Li said in an interview, “but that was a good experience…It’s all about building relationships. The invitations give us a chance to start conversations with others,” he said. Their efforts were rewarded with about 15 people visiting the church.

Some of the parishes the Anglican Journal contacted followed the Back to Church theme more closely than others, which adapted freely and widely from the template of parishioners inviting friends to church that began in the U.K. in 2004. But those the Journal spoke with agreed that the event’s value is not only for the invited guests, but also for hosts practising and building an invitational culture. “This is a once-a-year event to remind us of the need to be inviting,” said Li.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Charlottetown was part of an ecumenical street party,  organized with six churches in its downtown Prince Street neighbourhood. Each church held its own service, but then they collaborated to put on a barbeque after the services. St. Paul’s had one barbeque on its lawn for three churches, and the three churches at the north end gathered at First Baptist Church. Archdeacon John Clarke estimated that there were about 10 new people at their Sunday service. “I think that’s a great success. If there were 10 in our church and 10 in another, across the diocese that is equivalent to a whole congregation,” he said, noting that the outdoor barbeque attracted the interest of many people downtown who hadn’t come to the service, providing another opportunity for conversation and invitation.

St. Paul’s also shares weekly services and lunches during Advent and Lent with its ecumenical neighbours. “I think the fact that we are together in Advent and Lent and we do the street party together on Back to Church Sunday does give people a sense that it is not about picking Anglicanism over something else—it is about accepting Christ into our lives,” said Clarke.

A note in St. Paul’s Back to Church Sunday bulletin offered a similarly ecumenical message. If St. Paul’s didn’t suit the visitor, the church could help to put him or her in touch with another Anglican church in the city or a parish in a “sister church” of another denomination. “Our goal for Back to Church Sunday (and for whenever someone tries us out) is not to force, trick or lie to people to get them to join us, but to bring people into an awareness of their relationship with the Creator. It is not, for us, about people’s money or joining parish committees—it is simply about creating opportunities for people to give praise and thanks to God for all the blessings of life.” Clarke said one parishioner suggested printing the whole message on cards that would be available to visitors all year round.

Another theme that emerged was about “truth in advertising,” and following advice from Michael Harvey, who co-founded Back to Church Sunday in Manchester, to make sure that the Back to Church Sunday service is not too radically different from regular services, so that visitors know what the community and services they are being invited to are usually like.

Shawn Branch, national director of Threshold Ministries, recalls a well-intentioned Back to Church Sunday event done around Valentine’s Day that he felt went awry because the service was changed too much. “None of us robed. We had a totally different person doing the music. It was different liturgy. We welcomed people with candy and little activity bags for the kids,” he said. “And the next Sunday, we had the organ back and those of us in leadership were robed and it was a BCP service.”

Branch, a lay leader at All Saints Church, East Saint John, says that when the parish has done those kind of events since, they’ve been careful to add different elements but make sure it isn’t “radically different” from a usual service. The parish periodically does picnics or barbeques and since many people were going for breakfast after church, they’ve started hosting breakfasts before church about once a month.

“The approach we’ve taken is to encourage constant invitation,” he said. When a parishioner invited a family to come this summer, they initially said, ‘We’re not sure we’d be comfortable at church. We wouldn’t know how to act.’ All they needed was a bit of reassurance and to hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine,’ ” he said.

Branch thinks that the relationships people build are more important to healthy church growth than programs or “whether it is BCP or BAS or whether there’s a band or keyboard or an organ…We need to be inviting people back into community.”

Archdeacon Clarke recalled that last year, a couple who had left St. Paul’s 20 or 30 years before, were speaking to the widow of a man who had died about maybe returning to the church. “The funeral was just over and she turned to me and [asked] me when Back to Church Sunday is.” He recalled with a chuckle that his answer was, “‘It’s next Sunday.’ ” _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _Anglican Journal News, October 3, 2014

Welby backs airstrikes against ISIS

Posted on: September 29th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By André Forget



“There is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds, to enable oppressed victims to find safe space,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a debate in the House of Lords. File photo: Lambeth Palace

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has thrown his support behind the military airstrikes against the Islamic State (known also as ISIL or ISIS), a radical organization of insurgents in Iraq and Syria attempting to create a “caliphate,” or Islamic government ruled by a single individual in accordance with Sharia law.

In a debate in the House of Lords Sept. 26, Welby acknowledged that “there is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds, to enable oppressed victims to find safe space.”

However, he warned the House that the United Kingdom “will not thus be able to deal with a global, holistic danger if the only weapons we are capable of using are military and administrative.” Instead, he urged Britons to offer “a more compelling vision, a greater challenge and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL.”

Welby’s speech, a copy of which was released by Lambeth Palace, highlighted the dangers of a purely technical response to the crisis in the Middle East. Welby exhorted his peers to “face the fact that for some young Muslims the attractions of jihadism outweigh the materialism of consumer society.” He noted that, “if we struggle against a call to eternal values, however twisted and perverted they might be, without a better story, we will fail in the long term.”

The archbishop was careful, however, not to portray the conflict in the stark and reductive terms of East versus West. Instead, he argued that this “better story” must be an ecumenical one to which all people of good faith have access. “The vision we need to draw on is life-giving,” said Welby. “It is rooted in the truths of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, relying heavily in the Middle Ages on the wealth of Islamic learning, the Abrahamic faiths—not necessarily enemies—and enriched by others such as Hinduism and Sikhism in recent generations.”

The motion to intervene once more in Iraq came in response to a formal request by the Iraqi government for military support, which the House of Commons ratified by a vote of 524 in favour and 43 opposed.


Anglican Journal News, September 29, 2014