Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

A generation lost

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Daniel Graves

In the mid-19th century, the Rev. Featherstone Osler founded 20 churches in 20 years in Upper Canada. Photo: Osler Library of The history of Medicine, McGill University


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

There was a general feeling amongst the elderly in the community that a whole generation was being lost. Their adult children had fallen away, and their grandchildren knew nothing of the faith at all. One of them proclaimed, “O sir…our children are growing up faithless and our little ones have never been baptized!”

This might very easily be the lament of any of our senior parishioners on any given Sunday in one of our churches. Yet, these were words spoken to the Rev. Featherstone Osler, the first resident clergyman of West Gwillimbury and Tecumseth in Upper Canada, shortly after his arrival in 1837. The shortage of permanent resident clergy and the failure to build churches over the preceding 30 years had led to a whole generation of settlers falling away, and their children never coming to faith at all.

It was into this world that Featherstone Osler was thrust. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, with a profound sense of calling and a fortitude that can only be considered remarkable, Osler went about the work of building the kingdom in the two townships and outlying areas committed to his charge. He wore out more than one horse, proclaimed the good news fervently, and in 20 years founded 20 congregations, established Sunday schools, trained bush clergy and built at least a dozen church buildings. He could have flagged; he could have returned to England and taken up a more comfortable sinecure, for his was a family of means. But no—he laid hold of the yoke his Lord laid upon him, trusting in the faithfulness of God and embracing the hope of the kingdom.

Our age is not so different. We lament the loss of a whole generation in the church. But shall our faith falter? Will our fortitude fail? We may not be called to answer the problem the same way Osler answered his call, but we are called to rise to the challenge. We are called to believe that God will give us the tools to meet those challenges.

And we have that one thing that Osler and so many others before and since have had: the good news of God in Christ. The means of proclamation will vary with the age and place, but the hope of salvation is sure, and our God is faithful as we proclaim the words of life to a hurting world.  

The Rev. Daniel F. Graves is the incumbent of Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, Ont., and editor of the Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society

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Anglican Journal News, March 31, 2015

Seminaries and graduates and churches, oh my!

Posted on: March 30th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Leaders can empower congregations to move with confidence and joy into God’s future.

By Molly Marshall

Marshall Molly ColumnSeminaries are in the news these days as the church continues to shift in social location in our communities. Theological education, in my judgment, can be a source of renewal for congregational life, and it may be the only place devoted to preserving and developing Christian theological identity in postmodernity. I am biased, of course, for this is my life’s work — since shortly after the earth cooled!

If churches are in precipitous decline, as many suggest, then there will not be the necessity of seminary education, with its freight of educational debt. Indeed, a critical question may be “can the church and the minister afford each other?” Compensation patterns in most churches do not allow ministers to discharge educational debt quickly; negligible stewardship among too many congregants makes the calculus more daunting, but I digress.

Churches are in decline where there is a self-preserving mentality, and few are interested in helping patch a listing ship. Churches are in decline when there is not a clear message of what they are for, not simply what they are against. Churches are in decline when they are invisible in situations where moral courage is needed. Churches are in decline when they resist adaptive change, which could make gospel witness more winsome.

I do not believe decline is inevitable; rather, I staunchly believe that this season of reflecting on the church’s mission is healthy and promising. Indeed, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that more than the church having a mission, God has a church to use in the divine missio Dei. A disposition of humility in this can make us much more useful in the divine purpose.

As I write, I am in Myanmar for a doctor of ministry seminar at the Myanmar Institute of Theology, a regular pilgrimage for me in the spring. Meeting with faculty I hear echoes of some of the same notes as at home. Graduates leave the seminary with high hopes of doing the contextual theological work that will move congregations beyond the inherited patterns of the missionaries. When they get to the churches, and they attempt to change the music, reorder the liturgy, engage their communities, or transform the role of the pastors, deacons, or laypersons, resistance ensues. Because ordination may take a number of years, some do not move into the roles for which they prepared. And the church forfeits visionary leadership.

Many faculty members here write about the need to let the cultural forms of Myanmar be the focus for the expression of Christian discipleship, letting go of the transplanted western worship practices. Yet, when I visit the churches I hear hymns from the 19th century. I cannot remember the last time I sang “Count Your Blessings,” “For I Know Whom I Have Believed” and the requisite threefold amen following the benediction. Actually, I do remember. It was last year when I worshipped here.

Faculty wonder if they did not teach their students sufficiently, and churches wonder why they should support seminaries that do not replicate embedded practices. Graduates get discouraged about the process of change, perhaps because they lack leadership skill to bring about the incremental shifts that would make the church more relevant. The necessary partnership between seminary and church breaks down, and churches remain mired in alien or irrelevant expressions of Christian identity. And I am not just talking about Myanmar.

This persistent reality suggests to me that what may be needed in seminary — in addition to theology, biblical studies and the arts of ministry — is even more focused attention to the process of leading change. Leaders of change are characterized by a stubborn optimism that change can occur, that the church is a dynamic organism, that theological insights are not inert and that people can be inspired toward transformation (with the exception of a few old soreheads).

Leaders of change realize that stasis means death, and that coasting inevitably means a downward trajectory. Leaders model and live into the change ahead of the structure they seek to shape; they also learn to build coalitions that will welcome new horizons for ministry. Leaders can empower congregations to move with confidence and joy into God’s future.

Seminary graduates are a treasure to the church. Churches have formed them and encouraged them to pursue theological education, and when they welcome them back in their home or other congregations, it should be with the same openness that faculty desire in their students. Churches should not recommend students to attend seminary if they do not want them to grow and change. Graduates bring energy and fresh eyes to the responsibilities of ministry.

I believe that the gap between classroom and congregation can be bridged, and the relationships of seminaries, graduates and churches can be an alliance that serves the respective interests of each. There is understandable tension between embedded ways and new challenges, but not insurmountable. We need each other, and our participation in God’s redemptive mission depends upon strengthened partnership.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

“I Sit in Silence”

Posted on: March 27th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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In early February I attended a book launch marking the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.  A simple Liturgy of the Word was followed by an opportunity to meet the author and chat with the sisters about their past and their future as a community of religious.

“In the meeting room down the hall”, one of them announced, “are a number of artifacts for the taking. If you would like to make a contribution we would be grateful.”

Down the hall I sauntered and to my delight found a couple of the renowned Oberamagau crucifixes.  I made a contribution and gladly took away these priceless treasures.  One hangs in my study at home and the other I have placed in the chapel at Church House.

Never have I sat before an image of a crucifix of such proportions (three feet in height and two in breadth) for any length of time on a daily basis.  But this Lent, when I’ve been home, I’ve been able to do just that, each evening.

I light a candle. The flame quickly illuminates the carver’s detail in the feet of Jesus nailed to the Cross.  Then my eyes are drawn to his pierced side, his outstretched arms, his sacred head sore wounded with a crown of piercing thorns.  I look upon his face and think of the wood carvers whose skill and precision, love and devotion to Christ, reveal the agony he bore for the redemption of the world.  My eyes are drawn to his and I wonder what he sees in me – what good, what ill?  I wonder what he sees that I can or will not see? I wonder what he sees in his Church – What holiness, what brokeness?  I wonder what he sees in the world – what righteousness making him glad, what injustice making him weep?

Then I find my eyes focussed on his very lips.  I recall his prayer that we be forgiven our sins.  I hear his word of mercy to a penitent thief.  I remember his cry of dereliction and his thirsting that his work be finished.  I hear him drawing his mother and the beloved disciple into a new relationship, and indeed through his reconciling love, all of us.  I hear him commending his spirit into the hands of the Father and I think of all who earnestly yearn for a good life and a holy death.

It’s one or another of these words that has come to mind, depending on what I have been carrying into this moment at the end of each day…

I sit in silence…and invariably I find myself humming words from one of the great hymns of The Passion of Jesus,

“What language shall I borrow
to thank you, dearest friend,
for this your dying sorrow,
your mercy without end?
Lord, make me yours forever:
your servant let me be,
and may I never, never
betray your love for me.”

(Hymn 198, “O Sacred head, Surrounded”)

These words capture how lost I am for words before his suffering.  They humble me to an honesty that leaves my soul naked and in need of that mercy and grace with which only He can clothe me.  They summon me to renewed steadfastness in my devotion to Him.

As they have become my prayer through Lent, I carry them now into the solemnities of Holy Week.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, March 27, 2015

God and the 6 o’clock news

Posted on: March 25th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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The church where I served as student minister has a number of very large stained glass windows: Christ with the children, the women at the empty tomb, and a rather lurid depiction of Christ on the cross, featuring a great deal of purple and agony. My son was three years old while we were at this particular parish and, of course, he loved that crucifixion. As a result, we (or rather, my husband and son, as I was generally otherwise occupied at church) talked quite a lot about Christ’s death, conversations that naturally (for my husband and son, at least) became conversations about oppressive political regimes, torture, capital punishment, non-violent political action, and martyrdom. Holy Week is not for the faint of heart.

Then again, the 6 o’clock news is not for the faint of heart, either. War, terrorism, violence, corruption, discrimination, inequality—such stories make up the soundtrack in our kitchen as we prepare dinner. We have never tried to protect our son from these sad realities. Instead, we have tried to explain the stories as best as we can, working to equip him with some basic tools for understanding geography, politics, history, and ethics. And we have tried to place these stories in the context of Holy Week.

The world is not a safe place. God knew that before the Word was made flesh. Jesus knew that before his flesh was subjected to violence and death. The world is not a safe place, but the Word was still made flesh and Jesus still taught the radical good news of God’s Kingdom because the world is not a hopeless place. In fact, the world is a deeply loved and loveable place, and Holy Week invites us to confront the depth of both of these truths.

As Christians, we need to experience Holy Week in its fullness—and we should include our children in that journey. By participating in Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and finally the Feast of the Resurrection on Sunday morning, we learn together that popularity is not all it seems, that service is a sign of strength, that empire will go to horrifying lengths to preserve itself, that innocent people are sometimes punished, and that good people sometimes suffer. We also learn that God loves the world anyways and that God’s love is always stronger than hate and injustice.

We can’t protect our children from the world of the 6 o’clock news or of the schoolyard. We can’t even protect them from our own fallible human hearts—or theirs, for that matter. But we can travel with them into these dark and dangerous places just as God travels with all of us. This is the journey of Holy Week, in which we emerge beyond the guilt and fear and pain in order to proclaim the victory of love, revealed on Easter but too often hidden from view in our daily lives.

The world is not a safe place, but it is a powerfully loved place. The liturgies of Holy Week give us a chance to not only hear but to experience both of these truths so that we can live wisely, compassionately, and without fear—and that, maybe more than anything, is what I want for all our children.

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

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Anglican Journal News, March 20, 2015

Fasting for the earth

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Brenna (right) and Blake (centre) MacDonald invited their dad National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald (left) out for lunch on March 16, but he didn’t have any food because he was fasting for the climate that day.  Photo: Leigh Anne Williams


Many people observe Lent with different sorts of fasts, but some Canadian Anglican leaders have spent time during this Lenten season participating in a rolling Fast for the Climate that is slated to last a full year.

The Fast for the Climate is intended to be an awareness-raising collective fast. For 365 days, different individuals will participate. The fast runs between the last UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting, which took place in Lima, Peru, in December 2014, and this year’s meeting, to be held in Paris, in December.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the of Anglican Church Canada, was invited by organizers along with many other faith leaders to participate, and he chose to fast on March 6. Speaking about the experience, Hiltz said he was very aware that his fast was something he chose to do. “I know that the next day I can and will eat. Millions can’t and won’t,” he wrote in a statement, noting that according to information from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund’s food security program, the staggering number of malnourished people in the world is estimated to be just under one billion—the combined populations of Canada, the U.S. and Europe. “It troubles me that in the midst of the world’s more than 50 million refugees, a rapidly growing segment is environmentally displaced peoples,” he said. “Climate change has so impacted their lands and waterways that they are forced to be on the move.”

Actions such as the fast must be the beginning of the story, not the end, he added. “I hope my little fast won’t just make me feel particularly pious as one participant among so many in the 365 Rolling Fast for the Climate,” he said. He expressed hope that it would compel him and the church to be more committed to caring for the earth, to be good stewards of its resources and “to challenge any and every indifference to the impact of our choices.”

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald fasted on March 16, and said he was very interested in participating because although climate change is something that impacts everyone, it is disproportionately impacting Canadian indigenous people. “…The Arctic has experienced more in terms of climate change than any place in the world, but it’s completely invisible to everybody,” he said, speaking of the lack of media and public attention to the issue.

He noted that the Arctic has seen the greatest variation in its climate as a centre of global climate change. As a result, people living there have had to cope with issues including traditional and subsistence ways of life that are no longer viable, rising costs due to increased transportation problems that threaten food security and rising sea levels that threaten communities.

“It is so painful to see that the wealth of Canada, a significant proportion of it created by making the problem, is masking the impact on those who were the least responsible for creating the problem. So I think [the fast] is more than timely.”

Jennifer Henry, the executive director of the ecumenical social justice organization Kairos Canada, fasted on March 5. In a blog entry on the website Rabble.ca, she began by quoting the biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, who said that “the key pathology of our time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of the imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted to do serious imaginative work.” Henry went on to write that she was “fasting for imagination. I want to feel hunger and thirst in a symbolic call for the ‘serious imaginative work’ that is needed to address the current climate catastrophe.”

According to the Fast for the Climate website, inspiration for the fast came from a speech given by a Filipino delegate, Yeb Sano, at the UN climate change summit in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in recorded history, had just hit his country, and in an emotional, personal appeal to the officials at the meeting, Sano said that the typhoon had caused staggering devastation in his family’s hometown. Since scientists predict that climate change contributes to extreme weather of this kind and will increase the frequency of such storms, Sano announced that “in solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home…I will now commence voluntary fasting for the climate.” He pleaded with international delegates to work toward a meaningful outcome and concrete pledges to ensure a mobilization of resources for the green climate fund. “This process under the UNFCCC has been called many names. It has been called a farce…This hurts,” he said. “It has also been called ‘saving tomorrow today.’ We can fix this. We can stop this madness,” he said to a standing ovation.

According to Fast for the Climate, hundreds of people from around the world fasted with Sano for the duration of the meeting, but the results were not what they hoped for. Some countries, such as Japan, even began reducing their climate commitments.

Fast for the Climate, however, grew with participation from environmentalists, youth groups and faith-based groups. Thousands of people from 92 countries now fast on the first day of each month, the group said.

Other faith leaders who have participated in the fast include former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary for the World Council of Churches; Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; and Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

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Anglican Journal News, March 19, 2015

Interfaith dialogue close to home

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Wayne Holst

This weekend, I am meeting with two young Muslim friends, Ola and Hana, whom I met first when they were undergrad university students. Both have done well in their academic programs and in Student Union governance. They share with many of their Canadian counterparts a keen sense of justice and a desire to engage in humanitarian service at home and abroad.

Last week, Hana announced that she plans to seek her party’s nomination in a local riding. She hopes to get into provincial politics to bridge the gap “between students and government.” Residing in Calgary, where Naheed Nenshi became the first-elected Muslim mayor of a major North American city five years ago, it’s not unusual for her to consider entering the legislature.

It is an honour for me to be asked to share my views with a possible candidate and her campaign manager. These two very spiritual and politically-inclined women are venturing into a new experience with enthusiasm and optimism.

Observing them over the years assures me that we are involved in a true form of interfaith dialogue that will hopefully become very common for many Canadians in the years ahead.

Ola has been invited to give Sunday morning and other presentations at the church I attend. She joins other Muslim guests who have offered culinary delights, rented worship space and heard lectures on such topics as the role of Jesus in Islam. Over the years, our congregation’s interfaith engagement has been increasing. I now believe we are taking things one step further as we discuss secular public service.

Dialogue can also take the form of comparative scripture studies. In 2009, the Anglican Journal published my review of Noah’s Other Son: Bridging the Gap between the Bible and the Qur’an by Brian Arthur Brown (1). This book emerged from the experience of a Toronto church that held a series of epiphany sermons comparing biblical and Qur’anic hero stories. Jews, Christians and Muslims participated. Jewish-Christian scripture discussions have been taking place in local congregations for some time. Adding members of the Islamic community proved to be a rich and rewarding experience.

Brown has subsequently produced other aids to three-way studies for people gathering together in synagogue, church or mosque to engage their sacred writings and expand their understandings (2).

Local-level encounters can happen in many parts of Canada and not only in major centres. An open spirit of hospitality and a willingness to venture beyond our comfort zones can lead to remarkable breakthroughs.

In my last column I wrote about intra-faith dialogue. That dealt with the importance of facing challenges within our Christian faith communities. Here I attempt to take the same principles to an interfaith arena. What we need to do in all these endeavours is to see each other as humans created in the image of God, to seek common ground, to be open and honest about differences and to function with a spirit of holy manners that helps us transcend our solitude.

Resources

  1. The Bible and Qur’an Compared
  2. Three Testaments (Torah, Gospel, and Quran)

 

Wayne A. Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and helps to co-ordinate adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church in Calgary.

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Anglican Journal News, March 16, 2015

An indigenous teaching that may surprise

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Recently, I was talking with a friend who is, I think, a most important Indigenous theologian. As we discussed the church’s teaching on the Trinity, we observed that many non-Indigenous commentators assume that Indigenous people would have no interest or time for this foundational Christian doctrine.

Our experience, however, is that Trinitarian teaching beautifully complements Indigenous spirituality and life-ways. This harmony appears to have four interacting dimensions: the beauty and power of the scriptural presentation of the divine; traditional Indigenous conceptions of God and creation; the basic teaching of the church; and, most important, the experience and relevance of these ideas in the encounter with creation.

This relational God—a Sacred Circle—is mysterious and hidden, but definitively present in the traces of the divine life glimpsed in the communion of creation and, also, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. These come together so wonderfully in the baptism of Jesus—a revelation of the divine life hidden in creation, the saving power of Jesus restoring life and the unity of the three in love. It is a very Indigenous scene.

Over the years, I have heard far too many preachers say with pride that they never mention the Trinity. It seems that this is related to an assumption that is at the heart of the prediction that Indigenous people would be allergic to the idea of the Trinity: it is falsely assumed that the philosophical explanations for the Trinity—often wordy, complex and seemingly far apart from real life experience—is all there is to this teaching.

It is my hope and prayer that another approach is possible, suggested by my experience of Indigenous teaching. Our ancestors, both Christian and Indigenous, approached God in ways that were more reliant on spiritual experience, interacting with scriptural revelation and the teaching of elders. Philosophical explanation has a place—philosophical speculation, less so, perhaps. But it is the interaction of teaching, prayer, the good walk of life and the love of God, received by grace in all these things, that opens a doorway to this teaching, a realm of a larger and more beautiful life.

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

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Anglican Journal News, March 13, 2015

Choosing simple

Posted on: March 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Kyle Norman

one thingWe live in a world of constant noise and distraction. There is always something to tear us away from what we focus on in any given moment. Images flash before us, ever changing what we are thinking about or reflecting on. Music provides an endless soundtrack to life; we find it in malls, in banks, in hospital waiting rooms. The frenetic pulses of the world we live in, like a migraine that won’t end, eventually takes it’s toll on us. According to a 2011 paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, It only takes a person 4 seconds become uncomfortable with a silence in conversation. Personally, I have noticed the strangest urge within me. Every time I sit at my desk with my Bible open, in preparation for sermon work or Bible study, a small voice goes off in my brain demanding that I check the current feed on Facebook. I wonder if you have ever struggled with a similar thing? Even if we are unaware of it, we are used to something else always going on, demanding our time and our attention. We live in a world where slow, methodical, focus is a detriment and multitasking is a virtue. Because of this we say things like ‘I wish there were more hours in the day’, ‘If I only had a few more hands’ or ‘please stop the world I’d like to get off.’ We feel exhausted and tired because of the ceaseless pace of the world we live in.

Is this there a way to break out of this type of life? Can we combat the overexposure of sights and sounds, the barrage of messages highlighting self-indulgence, and that internal sense of being overwhelmed? Can Jesus lead us into a different way of living?

In her book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson describes the message of Jesus as a radical denunciation of a life lived ‘in bold print’. Jesus points us to a life of unhurried grace. He calls us to not worry over “what we shall eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Pagans run around after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ I have grown up with this verse. I have sung it as a hymn in churches many, many times. Yet I never really thought about what that verse points us to. What does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom in our lives? How do we go about this? And how does living for or in the kingdom of God, differ from living for or in the kingdom of this world?

Have you ever seen the movie City Slickers—starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance? In this movie, Palance plays an old rugged cowboy named Curly, while Crystal acts the young mid-life crisis-baring city person. Crystal’s character is in awe of Curly because, as he says ‘your life makes sense’. In the central scene of the movie Curly, with cigarette dangling from his mouth says to the burden-baring Crystal, “You city folk are all the same. You spend 50 weeks tying knots in your rope and then think two weeks up here will untangle them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is. This. (Curly holds up his finger) One thing. Just one thing.’ Of course, here, Hollywood takes a turn and it is suggested that everyone must find their one thing, but until then, what Palance talks about is very much like the type of life Jesus is pointing us to.

Looking back at what Jesus says in Matthew 6, it seems that Jesus makes a stark difference between two fundamentally opposed manners of living. There is the way of seeking the kingdom, first and foremost in our lives; and there is the way of ‘The Pagans’. The way of the kingdom is unhurried, focused, and diligent. The way of the ‘Pagans’—the way of the world—is to run around in an intolerable scramble trying to achieve that which we are worried about yet can never fully receive.

The way of seeking the Kingdom is different, because the rule of God in our lives becomes the one thing that our lives are directed toward. Jesus tells parable after parable about this very thing; it is a person searching for a rare pearl, a woman searching for a lost coin, a shepherd searching for a lost sheep; a father searching for his lost son. The kingdom of God is to be the sole focus that redefines all of life. Unlike life according to the world—telling us we are to flit about in ten thousand directions at once, chasing everything and finding nothing; spending week after week ‘tying knots in our rope’—a simple, kingdom focused life arranges all actions, duties, and tasks around one unified and definitive principle and goal—life in the kingdom of God; life as a disciple of Jesus.

It seems to me that to living out this singular, simple, kingdom-focus will have dramatic effects in how we live our lives. But maybe that’s what Jesus wants. Our life in the kingdom isn’t to be so internal that even we forget what it means! The kingdom of God should effect how we interact with the world around us. It should change how we speak, how and what we purchase, how we serve one another.

Over the next little while I will be exploring what this singular, simple, kingdom-focused life will mean, both to my inner heart of devotion and faith, and also to the various outward way that we engage in the world around us. I invite you to take this journey with me, and even offer your own insights and suggestions.

What is one outward thing you can do to ‘simply’ your life? Remember ‘Simplicity’ should be defined as a single-hearted focus on Jesus and his Kingdom.

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

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The Community, An update from The Community, February 27, 2015

An open letter to parishes hiring youth workers

Posted on: March 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By
Andrew Stephens-Rennie

 

Dear Parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada:

moleskineHi. It’s me. One of the ones you don’t quite know what to do with. One of the ones who has served the church professionally for countless years. But is strangely not a priest. Nor a deacon. Simply one of the many laypeople who cares deeply for God, for the church, and for you. And, against all of the odds, has been paid somewhat consistently for that service over the years.

I never intended to work for the church. I thought that after a few years at seminary, I’d go back to my career in communications, and write media lines all day long.

No such luck.

And so here I am, writing this post, after seeing yet another disrespectful, unjust, and unrealistic job postings from one of our parishes. I’ve been on about this before (do you remember this post?). It seems it’s the one thing I’m always on about. It’s not that I’m a one trick pony. It’s not the only thing I think about. It’s just one of the things that I fear that we as a church – nationally, provincially, synodically, and in our hundreds of parishes across this vast land – have not yet internalized.

And so I fear I must bring it up again.

It’s not about me. But it is about people like me. Laypeople who love the church, and would love to serve in some way. Laypeople with the gifts and skills and training to minister alongside the congregation and clergy in specialized ways. Laypeople for whom ministry in Christ’s church is, in fact, a call. Even if they don’t end up with that ring around their necks.

Back to my meandering point. This week I saw yet another job description with an impressive list of required qualifications:

  • A lively faith in Jesus Christ
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • The ability to teach the Bible
  • Have access to quality teaching resources
  • Coordinate volunteers
  • Plan and direct creative and relevant programs
  • Provide pastoral support to youth.
  • Ministry degree an asset

This sounds like a great full-time job. It sounds like a great opportunity for someone who has invested in ministry training – whether through EFM, Trailblazing, or seminary. It sounds ideal for someone who has experience with and a love for working with young people. It sounds perfect for someone with a creative spark that will help to engage them as they continue to grow as disciples of Christ.

The only problem, dear church, is that this posting – like so many I see – is ten lousy hours a week. Presumably one full day’s work plus the two hours you spend in the parish on a Sunday.

And so I want to lead us to ask a few questions together:

  • How would you allot the time for each of these tasks?

Taking all of the expectations you have, which one gets 15minutes, and which one gets several hours? Break it out for me in a little table, and show me how this work will be realistically accomplished

  • What are the most important aspects of this job?

As an organisation, what are your parish’s priorities? If it turns out that the successful candidate can only do one or two things well in those 10 hours each week, what would you want them to focus on? What are you willing to let go of?

  • Do you have a strong ministry support team?

Who else will be part of the team that will work alongside your successful candidate? Who have you prepared to accompany and support the successful candidate in their job? Who do you have that will take on the other pieces that cannot possibly be accomplished within the allotted hours?

These are three simple questions. But I think they’re foundational. And I hope you’ve asked them. Perhaps you have. Perhaps you have answers. Perhaps you have a plan to grow this ministry over time. Perhaps you can envision a future where your youth minister moves from 10hrs/wk to half-time to full-time. Perhaps you can envision a future where the role you’ve created is sustainable – for the parish, and for the individual staffing it.

Because here’s my fear: if you don’t build for sustainability, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. You’ll hire someone without half the excellent qualifications you’ve identified in the post. You’ll hire someone without enough experience to communicate and organize; or you’ll hire someone without a lively faith and an ability to teach; or you’ll hire someone without the skills to coordinate volunteers; or creatively plan and direct relevant programs; or to provide pastoral support to young people in one of the most difficult phases of their lives.

So I implore you, dear church. Please ask these questions. Please wrestle with the relative justice and/or injustice of your hiring practices. And please, for the sake of your witness in the world, through this one small, but very important hiring decision, ensure that you’re being realistic (and dare I suggest charitable) with yourselves and with the person you choose to hire.

Image from unsplash.com. Used under a Creative Commons Zero license.

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).

View all posts by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

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The Community: An update from The Community, February 27, 2015

Prayer on the bus

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By David Hawkins

 

For the Rev. David G. Hawkins, taking the bus is an opportunity for prayer. Photo: ​Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

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“Where you go, I go”

—Ruth 1:16 (The Message Bible)

 

“Wherever I am, God is”

—James Dillet Freeman

 

Frequently, I take the bus. Not as a commuter to work but as a sightseer, for pleasure. I go along, just for the ride. I am driven, not to where I have to go or need to go, but to where I want to go.

Here is leisure and time enough to transform my journey into an opportunity for and an occasion of intercessory prayer. But I am beaten to it by Coast Mountain Transit. The company has, for the benefit of seniors, the disabled and infant strollers, designated vehicles as “dedicated” and “kneeling.”

Who do I pray for?

I pray for the dialer commuter, those whose work is stressful, unsatisfying and burdensome; those on sick and compassionate leave, facing redundancy, retirement and disciplinary action. I pray for families who never see paycheques.

I pray for the company’s management, maintenance crews, customer service representatives, transit police, cleaners and my jolly, young driver whose roomy T-shirt proclaims “No means NO!” Give to each, patience and just reward.

I look around. My fellow passengers represent different faiths and cultures. Pray for newcomers to our shores, for the disabled, the slow.

I look up. A route map is displayed. I name the stopping places one by one—those who live and work there.

I look out. I pray for the neighbourhoods and places.

 

“Where’er they seek they,

you art found”

—William Cowper, 1769.

 

The Rev. David G. Hawkins prepared for ministry in the Anglican church at Emanuel & St. Chad College. He served at various parishes around Prince Albert, and in 1973 was appointed chaplain of Vancouver General Hospital before retiring in 1994.

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Anglican Journal News, March 06, 2015