Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

New church building a ‘command centre’ for ministry

Posted on: February 25th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

The Rev. Sam Rose and the Anglican Church of St. Michael and All Angels met in a funeral home chapel for four years before moving into their new building. Photo: André Forget


The Rev. Sam Rose, rector at St. Michael and All Angels in St. John’s, Nfld., laughs as he tells an old joke about how many Anglicans it takes to change a light bulb. “Change?” says one of the Anglicans “My grandfather gave us that light bulb—why do we need to change it?”

While this stereotype of ecclesial intransigence may ring uncomfortably true in some quarters, for Rose and the congregation at St. Michael’s, change is less an imposition than a way of life.

Not only did they buck the trend of Anglican churches in Canada by constructing a new building for their growing congregation in June 2014, but by purposely situating themselves in a new subdivision, they have been able to explore how they can use their building as a “command centre” for reaching out to the people around them.

“For a church in 2014 to open a new building when everybody’s saying the church is dead and dying, you really need to know why you’re doing that,” said Rose. “You also need to know how that should manifest itself when it happens.”

His biggest fear, he says, “is that we just revert to the old ways of being insular…only being concerned about paying the light bill and the heat bill, and keeping the doors open. If we turn back to that, then I don’t think we’ve learned anything.”

Instead of the church being a refuge from the world, Rose says it should be “reminding [people] of how much they have to go back into the world, to be the body of Christ in the neighbourhoods around.”

This wasn’t the first time that the church has moved. Founded as a mission of the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in 1885 and established as an independent parish in 1922, the congregation of St. Michael and All Angels spent the first 20 years of its existence borrowing space in school chapels. It built its first building in 1904, and replaced it with another in the 1950s, able to seat up to 1,000 people. After the ’60s, however, the congregation began to shrink, and at a certain point maintaining the building became untenable.

In 2007, Rose was hired as a “mission priest” tasked with going out into the neighbourhood to find out how the church could better meet the needs of people. He came to the conclusion that for many people, it was simply too difficult to get out the door on a Sunday morning. In response to this, the church started a Saturday service, which soon grew to around 60 people.

But while the congregation was showing new signs of growth, it was clear that the building was draining resources. On Nov. 1, 2009, Rose took over as priest-in-charge, and two weeks later the building was sold. In January 2010, the congregation began meeting at a funeral home. The symbolism was lost on no one. “We heard the jokes,” Rose says, wryly.

Jokes or not, the congregation of St. Michael’s was committed to staying together. And, according to Rose, it was then that “the funniest thing happened”—the church started to grow. “People started to hear about this church that sort of sold everything and had a plan to build a new home,” he said. “All of a sudden, people started to show up, and stay.”

After four years of meeting in the funeral chapel, the church finally completed its new home; but the work of ministry was only just beginning.

“Ministry means service,” says Rose, “doing something, rolling up your sleeves.” In St. Michael’s current context, this means finding out how the church can serve its suburban surroundings rather than assuming people will just start coming.

Many of the things Rose mentioned—community gardens, community meals, movie nights, daycare—involved utilizing the church’s space in ways that help people feel comfortable entering into it.

The new church has a nursery built into its chapel so that young parents can stay with their children and still feel part of the service, and in a city with some of the highest childcare costs in Canada, childcare is both a critical need for many families and a fertile area of outreach. To this end, St. Michael’s has partnered with a non-profit childcare that uses the space during the week. “It’s not meant to be a drop-off,” says Rose. “It’s meant to be a social thing.”

While many challenges still remain—the congregation of around 180 remains predominantly over age 65—Rose is confident that the best years are ahead.

“I think our job is to bring people together, and then God takes over,” he said. “People connect, new ideas happen, and then the church starts to learn from that, respond to that.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 25, 2015

Community café breaks down barriers for Calgary youth

Posted on: February 20th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Ohana cafe youth gathering

Established in 2012 by St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Calgary, the Ohana Community Café has developed into a wildly popular space for area students who find food, fellowship and opportunities within its doors.

The non-profit café, which operates out of a lower hall in the church, started as an after-school drop-in program for students at Henry Wise Wood High School. The school’s anti-bullying committee provided valuable input, including the name—ohana, a Hawaiian term for “family” that extends beyond blood relations to include adoptive and intentional members.

“The idea originally was to provide a sanctuary or a safe place for students to come, or people in general in the neighbourhood—but students in particular—that was free of any kind of judgment,” youth programming and Ohana Café operator Aaron Havens said.

Every day, the café sells homemade soup and muffins for a dollar apiece, serving an estimated 700 to 900 students each month. A team of volunteers, comprised primarily of students as well as St. Peter’s parishioners, prepare the food in-house.

With the café offering work opportunities through the Calgary Board of Education, many students volunteer as part of their mandatory work hours.

“We do what we can to facilitate that and just encourage the kids to get involved,” Havens said.

Aside from instilling a sense of ownership for the students, he said, volunteering at the café teaches them valuable skills that they can take into the workforce.

In that vein, the café features a weekly cooking class every Wednesday after school.

“We’ve got kids from all different varying backgrounds…working together as a team for one goal, and that is to create a delicious and healthy meal that they can all enjoy together,” Havens said.

“It helps us to break down social barriers and religious barriers and all different kinds of barriers that way, so that they’re just seeing one another as equal human beings and they work together for a common goal.”

March cooking class 1

In addition to serving food, the café serves as a weekly meeting spot for a female aboriginal leadership program that works in conjunction with Aspen Family, a social agency committed to addressing homelessness in Calgary. It also hosts monthly luncheons for a community aboriginal student group based out of Henry Wise Wood.

Support for the café’s operations primarily comes from the community at St. Peter’s, food service revenue and help from Calgary community kitchens. The remainder of funding comes from outside sources.

Last November, the café received major assistance in the form of a $5,000 grant from the Anglican Foundation of Canada. Representatives of the Foundation said the board was drawn to the Ohana Café’s work with disadvantaged students and aboriginal youth and its efforts to reach out to people beyond the church.

“It’s a place that’s really making a difference for good,” executive director Judy Rois said of the café. “It’s feeding people, it’s helping people develop a skill set, it’s mentoring, and it’s all about the value of human community.”

The Anglican Foundation grant will go toward covering operating costs as well as expanded programming. The café is hoping to initiate new art programs in the future, such as drum circles and an after-school breakdancing class.

“Without partnerships like that, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Havens said. “So there’s just a lot of gratitude and feeling of blessedness from those organizations that they would support us.”

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, February 20, 2015        

Microfinance group offers RRSPs

Posted on: February 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By Leigh Anne Williams on February, 18 2015


Using a solar drier and a peeling-and-grinding machine, Aby Ndao processes grains into maize, millet products, bissap powder, coffee blends and flour mixtures in Kaolack, Senegal. She used two loans from the Union des Institutions Mutualistes Communautaires d’Epargne et de Crédit (U-IMCEC) in 2011 to expand her business, which now has five employees. Photo: Jan Groenewold


As the March 1 deadline for buying RRSPs for the 2014 tax year quickly approaches, Oikocredit Canada has announced that, for the first time, people in Ontario can invest in microfinance projects in developing countries as a part of their registered retirement savings plans.

“There’s lots of ways for people to invest in global mutual funds that are invested in stock markets in India and China and Russia and North America and South America,” Eugene Ellmen, national director of Oikocredit Canada, said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “But to actually make an RRSP investment in a way that contributes to international development and helps lift community in the developing world out of poverty has never been possible before in Ontario.”

Oikocredit is a global co-operative, based in the Netherlands and dedicated to helping people escape poverty in developing countries. It has ecumenical support from many churches, and the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development arm, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), has been an investor since 1996.

Ellmen noted that residents of British Columbia have been able to invest in this way for some time through “Shared World” fixed term deposits issued by the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, which works with Triodos Bank, an organization with expertise in the microfinance sector.

The Oikocredit Global Impact GIC is available only through the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), which purchases shares in Oikocredit with the full amount a member invests in the GIC. A minimum deposit of $500 is invested at a variable interest rate, currently 1.3 per cent, for one year. Oiko then uses the funds to promote sustainable development in about 70 countries around the world by providing loans, capital and technical support to microfinance institutions. MSCU receives an annual return on the shares and pays interest.

It’s a model that Ellmen hopes will spread across Canada. “I am talking to other credit unions in Ontario and other credit unions in the west and in the Maritimes as well, and I’d be pleased to start discussions with the chartered banks on it as well,” he said.

Jill Martin, PWRDF’s director of finance and administration, served on the Oikocredit’s international board from 2002 to 2008 and as its president for the last two years. Oikocredit, she said, is “one of the originals,” explaining that it began in 1968 with a call from the World Council of Churches for the creation of a vehicle for churches to invest ethically. Oikocredit Ecumenical Development Co-operative Society was established in 1975. “So it was way ahead of its time,” said Martin.  She noted that North American churches have considered socially responsible investment only in the last five to 10 years.

Martin said that churches have typically been more focused on what to screen out of their investments—“sin stocks” and gambling—and it has been more difficult to swing their attention to what positive investments they could make. “This is one way of doing something that makes a huge difference.”

People sometimes question the idea of charging interest on microcredit loans, but Martin said these kinds of loans can be empowering. “It’s different from charity. There’s a place for both,” she said. “Sometimes people absolutely need charity. They cannot survive without it, and there’s a time when they just need a chance to make their lives better.”

Microfinance loans open doors to money, but also to opportunity, training, advice and community support, Martin said. “These are people who wouldn’t even get into a bank in their communities…The repayment is part of the whole package. The interest rate is not preventing them from succeeding; not having access is preventing them from succeeding.” She noted that microfinance has an extremely high repayment rate, “unheard of in the banking industry.”

Personally, Martin said that she found that Oikocredit bonds were “the most incredible gifts,” particularly for teens who have everything and whose minds are opening up to the world around them. “When they get their newsletters from Oikocredit, they suddenly become really interested in something other than materialism,” she said. “It’s…a practical way of enlightening them, and yet you are saving money for them.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 18, 2015

Growing food, caring for creation

Posted on: February 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features


“The relationship God expects Christians to have with the land and creation is [more like] partner and participant,” says professor-farmer Jerrmie Clyde. Photo: Contributed


(This story first appeared in the February issue of the Anglican Journal.)

Jerremie Clyde has a passion for food—for growing it in a way that is healthy for the people who eat it, for the planet and for a just sharing of God-given bounty.

Clyde, who is a librarian and professor at the University of Calgary, said that he and his wife, Rita, a speech pathologist, were already big into gardening and were selling produce at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market in Calgary, when Rita read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then books by American journalist and activist Michael Pollan. Those writers led them to think more about the effects of pesticides and fertilizers used in industrial farming, not to mention the greenhouse gases emitted by these products. “That really made us wake up to what we were doing to our own food supply,” he said. “And once you know, there’s no going backwards.”

When they were parishioners at St. Barnabas Anglican Church, the couple began a community garden. From their stall at the farmers’ market, they had seen the potential of a space behind the church, which had a great southern exposure. With the parish’s support, they designed some senior-friendly plots. “Most of them had gardened all their lives, but they couldn’t garden where they’re living now, or couldn’t garden unassisted,” said Clyde.

But the garden was also open to non-parishioners. “I don’t know how well it’s worked as a tool for evangelism,” said Clyde, “but certainly in terms of an awesome garden space and community involvement, that’s worked out really well.” It may also have helped, he said, to change non-Christians’ perceptions that the church’s approach is only about “subduing the earth,” demonstrating that “the relationship God expects Christians to have with the land and creation [is more like] partner and participant.”

Clyde has also given gardening workshops at various Calgary churches. He encourages people to treat gardening as a devotional activity, to look for revelations of God in it.

He recently travelled to the Sorrento Centre in B.C. to make a presentation on sustainable agriculture at a food security conference organized by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). “Jerremie helped our group catch a glimpse of what is possible for everyday folk to engage in, in terms of both growing food and care of creation, be it in their backyards, their parish grounds or their community gardens,” PWRDF’s public engagement program co-ordinator Suzanne Rumsey said.

Although the Clyde family still lives in Calgary, they farm 160 acres near Sundre, Alta.  Clyde said he has seen worrying signs of climate change on his farm—such as weeds and insects expanding into new territory. But because the Alberta economy is closely tied to the fossil fuel industry, the topic of climate change is controversial there. Clyde invited Bishop Greg Kerr-Wilson of the diocese of Calgary to talk about the issue while helping harvest the organic rye. With the Rev. Mishka Lysak, an Anglican priest devoted to environmental issues, they decided to start building an ecumenical group focused both on the theology of creation care and current issues. Kerr-Wilson said that Clyde played an important role because of his “willingness to take the small step and do it because it is the practical thing you can do.” As evidenced by Clyde’s farm, he sees value in starting small and building “acre by acre,” said Kerr-Wilson.

About 25 people showed up for the first meeting in early December, and one of the first things they hope to do is to support new Alberta Premier Jim Prentice in his stated goal of phasing out the use of coal.

The Clydes donate about a tenth of their harvest—several hundred pounds of fresh produce—to the local food bank each year, and they have also had some low-income families help on the farm at times. Out there, Clyde says, “there’s no economic divide. You can’t even tell by how people are dressed. Everyone’s just working on the farm, enjoying it together. They all get the same awesome food at the end. God really meant for everyone to have that.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 17, 2015

Eternity is Real

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Eternity is Real

GT_NK_WebA Conversation about Time with Br. Geoffrey Tristram and The Rt. Rev. Nick Knisely.

So many people today seem to suffer from a sense of disordered time; our experience of time is polluted by misuse and abuse. And it’s poisoning our lives—like a disease, really. Yet time is meant to be a gift from God. Geoffrey Tristram sat down with Nick Knisely in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of this complicated realm in which faith and science intersect.

GT: Thanks so much for sitting down with me, Nick. I know that you wear two hats, being both a bishop and a physicist. I’m hoping that you might be able help us to gain a clearer understanding of how time and space relate to each other.

NK: If we can solve that one, we’ll win a Nobel Prize! Well, let’s start with Einstein. Essentially, Einstein took the relativist philosophy of the nineteenth century and began to express it mathematically. To do so, he went back to some mathematical equations that Hendrik Lorentz had devised at the turn of the century, dealing with the mathematical idea that when you move, things begin to change their character, or your experience of them begins to change their character. Lorentz’s equations found a way to express the idea that as you are moving, space begins to collapse or conversely time slows down.  Either way, whether it’s time slowing down or space collapsing, the two effects give you the equivalent result: that light is always the same speed in every direction no matter whether you’re moving or stationary or anything else.

This is a huge deal for physics, because Einstein is able to take this equation and say there is no privileged reference frame. Anybody can say, “I am the center of the universe,” and they would be absolutely correct. Everybody is the center of the universe.  It’s really a quite lovely thing to meditate on.

GT: That’s essentially the theory of relativity, right?

NK: Right.  And what it means is that in a certain class of observers—people who are moving at a constant velocity, people who have been rotated but are not rotating at the moment, or people who have to move from one place to another (they’re called inertial observers)—any one of them has an experience that cannot be argued about by any other observer. This means that your experience of reality and my experience of reality—even though they’re different—are exactly right for each one of us.

GT: What are the implications of this for our understanding of time?

NK: This means that time—which Isaac Newton imagined as a river flowing ever majestically, like the Thames, on down to the sea—does not in fact flow at a constant rate at all. Instead, time bubbles, whirls, slows down, and speeds up effectively depending on what the observer is doing at the moment. This becomes hugely important! Practically, it means that even something as simple as sending a radio message to a robot on Mars has to take into account the relativistic effects of Martian motion, our motion, and then the dual effect of climbing out of our gravitational field, because general relativity shows that gravity also slows down time.

GT: So that’s a quite practical example. And if I understand the implications of it: time itself is not a constant.

NK: Not even close. This idea—that your reality, your experience of reality, is valid for you, and my experience and my reality is valid for me—means that the idea of finding an absolute truth becomes a lot more difficult.

GT: And I take it that this includes any notion of time as an absolute truth. What does this mean, theologically, then for our understanding of God?

NK: I think the poetic imagination is helpful here: I’d say that God is the ultimate truth in eternity, outside of the flow of time. And we who live in the boundaries of time and matter and space can get asymptotically close to God, but cannot cross that barrier—in this life at least.

GT: See, this is interesting: the very possibility of a relationship between God who is timeless (yet who creates time) and we who exist in time. For we do have these breakthroughs, moments where, somehow, we become aware that time is shot through by the timeless. Or, to say it another way, there are moments when we sense that our timeless God had somehow broken through to us, in time.

NK: Well, not to complicate matters further, but there is a whole pool of physicists who argue that time itself is an illusion. There are great problems with time—one of them is called the “arrow of time” problem. Namely, we don’t understand why you can go backwards and forwards in space in any direction—in the X-axis and the Y-axis and the Z-axis—but in time you can only go forward. You cannot go backwards, and no one really understands why. It’s a huge unsolved problem in physics and philosophy.

GT: And in theology! This issue of time moving in one direction is also a huge unsolved problem in people’s lives. In spiritual direction, we hear again and again how much of people’s longing is to go back.

NK: And there’s no reason, mathematically, why we can’t. And yet we can’t. This flow of time—we don’t know why, but it goes in one direction.  Now although time flows in one direction, it can go faster and slower.

GT: Which I’m guessing opens up again the question of relativism.

NK: Well, it doesn’t just open it up—it cracks it right open, and there you have it! It means that there is no absolute truth, at least scientifically, that anybody who is in this universe can access. We don’t like it, but there it is. When you put together the idea of multiple truths and the flow of time, you hit upon the fact that the flow of time is completely and totally subjective. Think about it. This bears out in our experience. When I’m bored, time goes so slowly, when I’m having fun, time goes so fast. And I’m not talking about the perception of time.  I’m actually talking about what’s measurable with atomic instruments.

GT: So are you saying that time actually slows down?  This would mean that each observer in time, so to speak, has his or her own validity. Even if there is no absolute truth, wouldn’t their experience of time still be absolutely true for them? This has to change the way we think, theologically, about the individual’s experience of everything—even God.

NK: Yes! Surely you’ve had the experience of hearing a directee explain their experience of the divine and thinking, “That’s not what it’s like for me.” When I hear this, I know I’ve often had to just shrug and say, “Oh, I’m just wired differently.” Or, “My neurotransmitters are firing differently.”

GT: Yes! Because such experiences are unique to the person having them. The question then is this: is there a point at which you can say to a spiritual directee, “Actually, your experience of God is wrong”?  Do we have any access to a greater truth that we can use to help direct or confirm or deny the experience of others?

NK: I think we can use revealed truth. That’s the majesty of the gospel of salvation history: in salvation history the eternal pokes its nose, if you will, into the temporal.  As a natural theologian and as a natural philosopher, I’ve studied what I can learn about God by looking at the machinery of Creation. And there’s a lot you can learn.  But there comes a point where that knowledge approaches absolute truth, yet does not cross over, because you just can’t get there. So the truth has to be something that pokes into our experience from the absolute. And we, as Christians, would say that the fullness of that revelation is the person of Jesus Christ.

GT: And can you say that this revealed truth, that “God is love,” actually trumps any person’s own particular perception of reality?

NK: That’s where faith comes in. As a person of faith, you have to give your assent to the gospel message. But you can’t make the argument, as much as I’d like to be able to make it, that natural philosophy leads you to God.

GT: But if this God—who is Love—who is beyond time, can nevertheless poke through into time, then that’s incredibly hopeful! Because it means that whatever happens in time, however awful, there will always be love returned.

NK: Yes. You see throughout all the biblical witness that God is actively engaging in human history. And the alternative is terrifying: the idea of the watchmaker, God, who sets this thing up—

GT: —and then just leaves it—

NK: —exactly, it’s horrible. You’re left trying to explain why a God who created the universe and pronounced it “Wunderbar!” wonderfully good, is allowing the slaughter of children in Gaza today, in Europe in the ‘40s, all over the world across time.

GT: But instead we see that God is constantly pushing into reality, into time.

NK: Yes we do. An acquaintance of mine, Bob Russell, is the director of the Center for Natural Theology in Berkeley, California. He and I are both members of a religious order, the Society of Ordained Scientists. He has Ph.D.’s in both Theology and Physics and is an ordained member of the United Church of Christ. He has done some amazing work in thinking through the way that science and theology can find what he calls creative mutual interactions. His latest work is on the nature of time itself and the physical meaning of eternity—all of which is motivated by his desire to understand the meaning of the bodily resurrection of our Lord. What he seems to have proved is that if there is an eternity that contains our experience of the flow of time, not only is it possible that the resurrection of the dead is a physical possibility but, he told me in a private conversation, we can explain why time only flows in one direction (which is why we can’t go backwards in time). In a sense, the argument is that the flow of time and the bodily resurrection are intimately connected to each other.

GT: This makes me think of the old monastic theory that we are surrounded by eternity: every moment and every place in Creation is infused with divine light. There are “thin” moments and places where we can see it, and moments that are “thick,” when we cannot. But your point here suggests that if my perception is that I don’t see any light, or don’t experience that eternal break-through, I can actually be helped to see it.

NK: So then your question is: if it’s not that it doesn’t exist, what’s blocking me from seeing it?

GT: Yeah. It means that our perception is not fixed, and the Eternal is there nevertheless.

 

NK: Correct. It’s not as if your time is flowing at one rate, and my time is flowing at another rate, for our whole lives. It’s that at one moment, your time is flowing at one rate, and at another moment, my time is flowing at another rate. A few moments later, my time may have sped up, but your time may have slowed down.

And this change is actually happening on the order of a nanosecond. You can’t measure it on a wristwatch, but we can measure it. A tenth of a second is the shortest time that we can be aware of, but we can measure time to a femto of a second. That’s a decimal point followed by fourteen zeros and then a one.

GT: So we now live in a world where human beings, using mathematics and tools, can actually think about time—and maybe even build systems and machines that manipulate time—to a femto of a second. I have to second our founder, Father Benson’s worry: as humanity comes up with such technology, one hopes that humanity’s heart keeps up with it.

NK: I think that’s one of the key reasons that the Church has such a critical role to play in re-asserting moral teachings. The Eternal did appear and show us that there are fundamental things that we cannot apprehend by intellectual thought, but which we have to accept on faith.  And these things are important. If we do not order our lives according to these we will all die. We are all going to kill each other off.

You Brothers are a proof that we can choose another way. You are in touch with a different, rhythmic way of living. You are creating a kind of time outside the frantic flow of time in society. And this is a simple proof that time is subjective and relative. People have a choice: are they going to live their lives at Internet speed or are they going to live their lives at human speed, the speed for which we are created?

GT: I think we Brothers could probably say that our rhythm also predisposes us towards perceiving the breakthrough of the timeless.

NK: Absolutely. When I go on retreat and keep a different rhythm—a rhythm of prayer that is deeply connected to the rising and the setting of the sun—I find that I am more in tune with nature, and that puts me more in tune with Creation. My time scale is matching Creation’s time scale. And the author of Creation is that Eternal that I accept, as a person of faith. This means that my perception of the timeless is an actual physical thing. When your time is moving faster, the vibrations are much faster, and you are literally moving in a different time scale than the Creation around you, a rock, say, or a tree. But if we are close to the same time as Creation, then we are resident with Creation.

GT: Can you calibrate your own time, then? Is there actually a choice—that you can move towards residence with Creation, or away from it? Is that more than just a metaphor?

NK: It much more than a metaphor. What we’re talking about is actually real.

GT: This is amazing. You know that, at Emery House, we have been moving towards consciously providing a place where people can get back in touch with the natural rhythms of Creation. And people talk to us about the powerful experiences they have when they go there. Now you’re suggesting that, actually, they may well be experiencing a physical complement with natural rhythms. That their very experience of time may be being transformed?

NK: Yes. They are experiencing an emotional reaction to something fundamental. When you change your time scale, it allows you to be more present to the Creator who made this Creation. You’re living on the human scale—the time scale for which we were built.  Otherwise we’re living our lives at a frantic speed that doesn’t allow us to function as we are meant to. We’re putting the wrong gasoline in our engine, the wrong weight of oil in the oil pan.  It sort of works for a while but, you know, our parts are wearing down. The Brothers, on the other hand, have a rhythm that the great spiritual lights of humanity have discovered again and again. I think you’re living a rule of life that is baked into the nature of Creation.

GT: So it seems that the first thing to do, then, is to get people into a new time scale: break the frantic cycle that is keeping us out of tune with the time scale of Creation. Then the next thing is to help people not just be in the flow of time, but also become aware of how the Eternal is breaking through to us.

NK: Yes, and I think this is where the rule of life becomes very important.  The rule of life—the idea of stopping at least daily for prayer, or maybe four times a day for prayer—changes our perception of time. It changes how we experience time itself, as well as how we experience dropping out of time.

GT: So the rule of life can shape our subjective experience of time.

NK: Ah, but that’s the key thing: I’m saying there’s an objective reality. This isn’t simply subjective, poetic imagery—that it’s better for me if I stop for prayer.  No, it’s objective. It changes us—like medicine.

We were created and have evolved to live on the surface of this planet, with its rhythms, and the surface of this planet was created and evolved by the Creator to sustain our lives. I think the resurrection of eternal life is really about the destruction of death and this ability of our own lives to enter eternity, to break through into that greater reality.

GT: So the resurrection is the moment when you break free from being bound by time to being timeless—

NK: —to living in the now, the eternal now. Bob Russell’s argument, which I find compelling (and boy, if he’s right it’s a very big deal) is that the “arrow of time”—the argument that time only goes in one direction—implies that eternity is real.

GT: And eternity is God’s love.

To download this interview as PDF click here.

It’s time to… Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love

Go to www.SSJE.org/time and subscribe with your email.
You will receive an introductory email and the videos will be sent to you daily.

So much of our stress and anxiety derives from our pollution of time. God has given us the gift of time, and called it holy, yet we often experience time as a curse. In a series of short, daily videos over five weeks, the Brothers of SSJE invite us to recapture time as a gift. Join the Brothers as we wrestle with questions of time and discover how to experience the joy of the present moment.

This series is designed so that everyone in your community can participate. Everyone is busy. Time is at a premium. It is hard for all to come together to deepen our faith.

Each theme is introduced with a video of a Brother priming us for the week’s theme. The theme is then explored in depth in six short reflection videos (around 2 minutes each). A compilation video is also available each Sunday.

Each reflection video ends with a thought-provoking question for you to ponder over the course of the day, then answer on the worksheet.

All the supporting materials are available to download for free or can be ordered at www.SSJE.org/time

A joint offering of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

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Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) e-newsletter, February 05, 2015

How Christianity’s Eastern history has been forgotten

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

 

Rowan Williams reads from Arabic text

Christianity has a history that most of us know little about. A history that spreads eastward as well as westward, writes former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams for BBC Newsnight.

 

We would probably take it for granted that someone reading a religious text in Arabic would be a Muslim – but the truth is that you will find plenty of Christians reading their Bibles and books of prayers in the language.

It is a sharp reminder of the diversity that once marked the Arabic-speaking world.

Chinese Christian

It is a reminder, too, of aspects of Christianity’s history the majority of us have little idea about: a period when there were probably as many Christians in Asia as in Europe.

The familiar story is of the Christian faith moving west, towards Rome – spreading out from there to more remote areas, as far as Britain and Scandinavia, then being spread again outside Europe by missionaries.

But the facts are dramatically different. Christians were active in what is now Iraq and Iran by the 2nd Century. They were in India and the north of the Arabian Peninsula by the 3rd Century.

By the 7th Century there were monks and scholars from Iraq working in China, translating texts and ideas into Chinese and building Chinese-style churches and monasteries.

The Nestorian Stele – an 8th Century stone in Xian – records, in Chinese and Syriac, the arrival of missionaries from Iran. Very soon they were composing poems and philosophical discussions in Chinese.

Chinese Catholics attend church
Findings from Pew in 2010 suggest 68 million Christians live in China, though this is believed to be rapidly increasing

 

In the 13th Century, two monks from Beijing – part of a vast church whose centre was in Iraq – travelled to Europe, getting as far as France and meeting King Edward I of England – a Marco Polo story in reverse.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Christians – speaking and writing Arabic – were a familiar part of the scene in Muslim societies, often referred to in the literature and folktales of the region.

They suffered some serious social discrimination, but were seldom actively persecuted. Often they were doctors, diplomats or entrepreneurs.

It was a situation that continued for many centuries. But Christian communities in these regions steadily shrank in numbers.

And because they were mostly not part of the big European church families – Catholic and Orthodox – as a result of ancient disputes over details of teaching, they had to work hard to make and keep friends and supporters outside the Muslim world.

Late in the Middle Ages, many of these groups suffered genocidal violence at the hands of fanatical Central-Asian warlords like Tamerlane.

It was a hideous foreshadowing of the situation faced by many of their descendants today as they confront the butchers of the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, about 30 kilometres east of the northern province of Nineveh, sit in Saint-Joseph church in the Kurdish city of Erbil
The rise of Islamic State has forced huge numbers of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes

 

Although IS is mostly focused on conflicts within Islam, the history of the last 15 years or so has reinforced for many the myth that Christianity is somehow alien to the region and allied with Western interests.

Communities that can trace their roots back a millennium and a half to the first four or five centuries of the Christian era are treated by militants as if they had no right to live there.

But these communities are a massively important part both of the Christian family and of the history, culture and intellectual development of the nations in which they live.

Many Christians were at the forefront of Arab nationalist movements in the 20th Century. They stand as a reminder that Christianity is not just about European – let alone American – power, but also of the fact that the Arab and Iranian world is not just Muslim in its history.

The current threat to all Christian communities in Western Asia is a threat that seeks to deny something fundamental to the history of human civilisation – that people of very different convictions can still build a culture together.

That’s why the fate of these beleaguered and abused minorities is an urgent issue for us all.

Newsnight is broadcast on BBC Two, weekdays from 22:30 GMT.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, February 10, 2015

Migration a part of life in Newfoundland diocese

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By André Forget

Migration is part of the cultural memory in Newfoundland, says Rev. Jonathan Rowe, curate at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

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It is known colloquially as “the turnaround.”

Every few weeks, thousands of Newfoundlanders make the long commute to northern Alberta to work in the oil industry. They stay there for a “shift” of two to four weeks, and return to their families on their weeks off.

Since the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992, Newfoundlanders have had to be creative in finding work if they want to continue to live on the island. The province registered an unemployment rate of 11 per cent last year, and in 2008 there were around 20,000 Newfoundlanders working in Alberta alone. The turnaround has funnelled money from the oil sands back to the island and allowed many families to continue living there.

But it has not been without its costs, and both rural and urban clergy in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador are aware of the impact it has on families and individuals. “The younger families don’t seem to mind,” said the Rev. Dianna Fry, a priest in the parish of the Holy Spirit in the western end of the diocese “I suppose because they are young. But they also find it difficult in that the mother is alone with the children for three, four weeks at a time. They feel like a single parent sometimes.”

The Rev. Jonathan Rowe, curate at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, has noticed this problem as well. “It can have negative effects on people’s families. I think that it’s a whole lot more of a challenge than most people might like.”

However, this kind of seasonal, migratory lifestyle is not new in that part of the world, he said. “It’s not a long time ago in the Newfoundland cultural memory when this happened anyway, because men went away to fish on the Labrador coast, or they went off on the seal hunt, and they could be gone for stretches at a time.”

But Rowe does believe it is harder now than in previous eras. “Fifty years ago, if Dad had to go and work, well, things were pretty much the same whether he was home or not,” he said. “But kids now have to be in after-school programs and things like that because Mom is working.”

The church has largely responded to this situation through pastoral ministry. There are other reasons, however, that the turnaround may not be a long-term solution. Dropping oil prices have been cause for concern among some in the province. Lower prices would not only affect the province’s offshore drilling operations, it could potentially put Newfoundlanders working the turnaround out of a job. According to news reports, some oil companies have already started laying off workers.

But it isn’t just the turnaround that leads to disruptions in family and community life. Long daily commutes have become common on the Avalon Peninsula in Eastern Newfoundland, and many people who live in small outports are driving to St. John’s for work. The Rev. William Strong, rector of the parish of Upper Island Cove, said that a significant number of his parishioners are professionals who drive the 100-odd kilometres one-way to the city every day. Many of Fry’s parishioners make a similar commute.

This transient lifestyle limits the freedom of some Newfoundland Anglicans to participate in parish life.

While some of the larger parishes, like Strong’s, have managed to maintain a vital ministry in their communities, smaller, more geographically spread out multi-point parishes have greater difficulty doing this.

Fry believes the church must make itself more flexible to respond to these changes in the lifestyle of its members. “We need to somehow be able to find out what the needs of these families are and meet them,” she said, “whether it be a Tuesday or a Wednesday, and not necessarily a Sunday.”

She herself has started to spend more time with parishioners in the evenings, when they are home from work, rather than trying to keep a regular nine-to-five schedule.

The Labrador region of the diocese has to deal with a lot of transience as well, but there the problem is the opposite—many come to work in the hydroelectric or mining industries, and leave when they reach retirement age.

“Our church family never stays the same,” says Nellie Thomas, the territorial archdeacon for the archdeaconry of Labrador. “People mostly when they retire move away, either back to their own homes or to some community where they feel they want to retire.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 09, 2015

Newfoundlanders still see church as part of their identity

Posted on: February 7th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By André Forget

Newfoundlanders still see church as part of their identity

The diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador is a place of contrasts. In its centre, St. John’s, wealthy property developers rub shoulders with fishermen and oil workers just back from Alberta’s Fort McMurray. In its farthest-flung regions, priests drive for hours to visit remote parishes in Labrador.

These contrasts are present, too, in the life of the church.

Like many other dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador is facing serious questions regarding what to do with its property and buildings as its members age. And, like many other dioceses, it is trying to invest more of its energy in new kinds of mission.

But at the same time, there are signs of unusual kinds of growth.

“There are some weird things going on here,” says Geoffrey Peddle, the bishop of the diocese. “In 1961, we were [baptizing] 18 per cent of live births. We’re doing over 30 per cent now. Go figure. There is something happening.”

Peddle celebrated the first anniversary of his consecration in January, but he has been studying what makes Newfoundlanders different from the rest of the church for years.

Drawing on his academic background in empirical theology, which uses statistical analysis to understand religious life, Peddle has come to some surprising conclusions about how the Newfoundland Anglicans relate to their church, and in a talk given at the diocesan synod in May, he presented some of his findings.

“The desire for the ministry of the church at times of deep significance in individual lives remains strong,” he said, citing the increased rate of baptisms and the increased percentage of weddings in Anglican churches. He went on to suggest that there is a large number of “passive” members who, while not necessarily active in parish life, have not turned their backs on the church either.

For Peddle, this requires a refocusing of vision around what the church is for.

“We must consider the needs of the younger generations,” he said. “When our maintenance and cemetery budgets vastly exceed our budgets for children and youth ministry, we need to look at what we are doing.”

Peddle is not the only one in the diocese asking these questions. Many young clergy are actively engaged in figuring out new ways of meeting the needs of their parishioners. The Rev. Robert Cooke, for example, hosts theology nights in pubs, where people can ask questions about the church and explore answers in a more open environment.

St. Michael and All Angels, the only Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, has opened up space in its new church building to house a daycare. In a city with chronic childcare shortages, this is an important way to both bring people from the community into the church and to meet their needs in a tangible way, says its rector, the Rev. Sam Rose.

Jonathan Rowe, curate at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, has a hunch that, despite the supposed decrease in membership, the church may actually be growing—the growth just isn’t being measured properly.

“I think that more people are coming to church now than there were 10 years ago, but they’re not necessarily coming every Sunday,” he said. “There might be negligible growth in terms of average Sunday attendance, or even some decline, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that things aren’t happening.”

He suggested that this might be due to the larger demographic changes happening in Newfoundland: with many people engaged in work that takes them away from the city, the traditional metrics of weekly attendance don’t necessarily yield an accurate picture.

But it is not as though the diocese is without problems. In the outports that dot the coastline of rural Newfoundland, the individual church buildings are a key part of local identity. The twin villages of Chapel Arm and Norman’s Cove in the western area of the Avalon Peninsula, for example, each have an Anglican church.

“In Chapel Arm, they have to go to Norman’s Cove for gas, they’ve got to go to Norman’s Cove for groceries, and they’ve got to pass by each of the churches,” said the rector, the Rev. Dianna Fry. “It’d be great if we could have one church and we could all come together, but that’s not going to happen.”

At the same time, though, this possessiveness can also lead to good things, as the Rev. William Strong saw at the 200th anniversary celebration of one of the parish churches, St. Peter’s, in Upper Island Cove. The building was packed with parishioners and local notables, a brass band played and a banquet for more than 200 people followed the service.

Newfoundlanders in the outports, whether or not they attend regularly, tend to see the church as being part of their identity—and they are proud of their identity and work to maintain it.

So, what is the way forward for the diocese? In answering the question, Peddle stressed what he considers to be one of the most distinctive parts of his church’s identity.

“Religious life here is relational,” he said. “[Newfoundlanders] are not terribly concerned with matters of liturgy, theology, doctrine, ethics. There are no great theologians or musicians produced here; we produce pastors. That’s what matters to us.”

For Peddle, and for many of the priests in his diocese, the task at hand is simply to relate to Newfoundlanders in a way that accommodates the new realities its congregants face in the 21st century.

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Anglican Journal News, February 04, 2015

St. Brigit’s Day

Posted on: February 7th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Saint Brigid's cross. Some rights reserved (CC BY 3.0) by Culnacreann; sourced from Wikipedia CommonsToday is a great day to celebrate! There’s cause to gather together, and I don’t mean some football game. Today is the Feast of St. Brigit—Brigit of Kildare, Brigit of Ireland—Brigit is an important woman in history and in the faith.

One of the patron saints of Ireland, (Patrick doesn’t get all the fun!), she was a nun, abbess, and founder of several monasteries. She is known for organising intentional Christian community for women. There are numerous miracles accredited to her, from healing to righting wronged situations to multiplying rich foodstuffs for the benefit of community. According to tradition, a sacred flame is kept burning to this day at her Kildare monastery. She was revered for her gifts of hospitality and welcome.

She is the patron saint of babies and brewers, dairy workers and fugitives, sailors and scholars (and many, many more). She is further known for her cross, generally woven from rushes on this day, recognising the coming of spring and lambing season. A version of the cross is still given as a gift, with a prayer, to protect a home from any harm.

It’s lovely when there are saints to be recognised in the calendar year. I think it’s important that we remember the saints, who remind us of our communion with one another throughout time and space. The saints, as holy ones of God, encourage us to be steadfast in our own faith. They are the folks who have persevered in loving and serving God (and one another) despite significant adversity.

Saints days are important. They remind us of our history, they connect us with one another and with God through Christ. They teach us much of our history and offer us much inspiration and encouragement. And yet, so often we overlook our saint’s days; by doing so I think we are doing ourselves a disservice. It is not merely a day on the calendar, a rubric to be chosen at will: they are worth remembering and respecting, they are more lasting and much more important than a sporting game or rodent-watching.

So may your St. Brigit’s Day be one of blessings, of learning, of hospitality, and of prayer.

 

A prayer of St Brigit

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.

I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.

I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.


If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering


White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.


Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.


I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,


Because the happy heart is true.


I’d make men happy for their own sakes.


I should like Jesus to be there too.


I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.


I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.


I’d sit with the men, the women of God,


There by the great lake of beer


We’d be drinking good health forever,


And every drop would be a prayer.

Profile photo of Laura Marie Piotrowicz

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a priest serving a 6-point parish in the Diocese of Brandon. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about PWRDF, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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The Community, An update from The Community, February 06, 2015

Thomas Merton: Still relevant after 100 years

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

By Jane Christmas

 

Thomas Merton icon by William Hart McNichols.


January 31 marks the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth. In the same way that people remember where they were when John Kennedy was assassinated, I can recall with intense clarity the moment I discovered Merton.

I was at the convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD) in Toronto several years ago trying to decide whether God was calling me to become a nun or whether I had completely misunderstood his instructions. It was a steamy summer afternoon, and my faith was wilting. While moping in SSJD’s guesthouse library perusing the book spines, my eyes landed on Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. I had heard Thomas Merton’s name dropped into conversations about religion’s great and good, but I figured he was just another boring, time-warped priest banging on about another “revolutionary” interpretation of the gospels. With a resigned sigh, I pulled The Seven Storey Mountain from the shelf, slumped in a nearby chair, and cracked open the book. Two pages in and you could not pry the book from my hands. Five pages in, and I was frantically Googling Merton for his contact information. The crush of disappointment when I learned that I was 42 years too late is still palpable.

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with Merton’s prolific output will no doubt be taken aback by this milestone: Merton seems too modern, too “young” to be 100 years old. Indeed, read anything of his right now and you will be struck by its modernity. The language is confident and muscular, and as precise and piercing as an arrow fired at close range. Take this passage:

 

Harlem is, in a sense, what God thinks of Hollywood. And Hollywood is all Harlem has, in its despair, to grasp at, by way of a surrogate for heaven. The most terrible thing about it all is that there is not a Negro in the whole place who does not realize, somewhere in the depths of his nature, that the culture of the white men is not worth the dirt in Harlem’s gutters. They sense that the whole thing is rotten, that it is a fake, that it is spurious, empty, a shadow of nothingness. And yet they are condemned to reach out to it, and to seem to desire it, and to pretend they like, as if the whole thing were some kind of bitter cosmic conspiracy: as if they were thus being forced to work out, in their own lives, a clear representation of the misery which has corrupted the ontological roots of the white man’s own existence.

 

Or the first lines of his famous prayer, which taps into the zeitgeist with its mash-up of The Road Less Travelled and Psalm 23:

 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

 

It isn’t simply language that makes Merton relevant. He wasn’t afraid to throw a punch. Academic, cultural, political, religious—Merton sparred with it. He loved God, but he was also critical of institutional religion. That endeared him to people back in the 50s and 60s, and it resonates with people today.

During my discernment, I encountered varying attitudes to Merton from nuns and monks. One said that The Seven Storey Mountain had played a role in his decision to enter religious life; another groaned with barely disguised contempt when she saw Merton on my desk. But the overwhelming majority were fans. Merton had a stick-it-to-the-Man cockiness that endears him to the quiet rebel-angels in religious life.

At the time of his death in 1968, tentative steps were taken to elevate Merton to sainthood. He was a sort of pop star for the monastic set, further romanticized by the whiff of the messianic in Merton’s back story—bohemian artist parents (a New Zealander and an American), strangers in a foreign land (France) who were devoted to their son and who gave him a free-range childhood (in the shadow of the Pyrenees). The story moves from tragedy to tragedy as the carefree child quickly morphs into a pampered misfit, a bewildered orphan, an arrogant toff, and then stumbles like Saul toward his religious conversion.

The trajectory toward sainthood, however, sputtered as a deluge of biographies and appreciations published after Merton’s death stripped off his Vatican veneer: Fr. Louis (Merton’s religious name) proved to be a rawer personality than he let on in The Seven Storey Mountain. The drug use and the promiscuity were well known, but after his death the story emerged about his part in a teenage pregnancy and how his wealthy guardian paid off the girl’s family. That the teenage mom and infant son perished during the Blitz allows us to better understand the private torture with which Merton wrestled. There was a further juicy revelation that Merton, while still clothed in his Trappist habit, had had a gal on the side, and at the time of his death was considering leaving his beloved Gesthemane. Yet, how are these falls from grace any different from the recently canonized Angela of Foligno, the 13th-century good-time girl who whored her way through life until she recanted her behaviour, and founded a religious order?

Like almost every saint, Merton possessed a complex personality: his unmonk-like hubris versus his humility; his pining for freedom from his monastic vows versus his determination to stick to those vows; his desire for peace and quiet versus his penchant for sneaking out of the monastery to drink and mingle in the local bars with secular folk. Merton was the contemplative contradiction, and this makes him deliciously relevant and accessible.

Merton’s writing stimulates and edifies, and has much to offer the current conversation about re-visioning the church. The centenary of his birth provides a perfect opportunity to introduce this imperfect monk-priest to a new generation.

 

Jane Christmas is the author of And Then There Were Nuns (Greystone Books).

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Anglican Journal News, January 30, 2015