Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Jerusalem ministry transforms Ottawa priest

Posted on: April 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments



Three years ago, Major the Rev. Canon John Organ left behind his 20-year career as a military chaplain to serve as chaplain to Archbishop Suheil Dawani in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Now at the end of his term, he and his wife, Irene, are preparing to take leave of people and a place they have come to love deeply in order to return to Canada, where Organ plans to take up parish ministry in the diocese of Ottawa.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Anglican Journal that Organ’s presence has helped to give real substance to the Canadian church’s commitment to strengthen ties with the diocese. “We couldn’t have had better—his expertise, his experience, his diplomacy, his compassion. He’s just been great.”

A condensed version of this interview was printed in the May issue of the Anglican Journal.

Excerpts of Organ’s e-mailed responses to questions from the Anglican Journal:

How did you approach your new role?

That first year was one in which both Irene and I…embraced completely the Palestinian community, which is predominantly the community our church here is made up of. From eating Palestinian food to sleeping in Palestinian homes, from travelling throughout the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, we gave ourselves fully and completely to the diocese and the wider, especially Palestinian, community. That first year I personally suspended all judgment and bias and attitude of any kind, and simply observed, listened and learned.

What were you most surprised or struck by?

The resilience of the people…the capacity to enjoy family gatherings and fun-filled times despite all the suffering and hardships. There is very much joie de vivre among the Palestinian people, as well as tremendous generosity, hospitality, warmth and welcome. Right beside that would be the seemingly endless patience with suffering and oppression…There is a capacity to put up with such extraordinary disadvantage, cyclical military conflict, loss of life—mostly of young people—and seemingly endless destruction. Palestinians are literally locked down and locked up, especially in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. They are the only people I know without a state, without basic human rights protection, without a strong enough government to fully care for them and without real prospects for any resolution anytime soon.

How has your understanding of the place and the people changed during your time there?

I have come to love the people, and by people, I really mean Palestinians, because it is with Palestinians that I have worked and lived these past three years. I have totally come to love the desert and the Bedouin people. I wish I could actually live with them for a time. The land is holy for me. [For me,] it is still the Holy Land, though often referred to as the Land of the Holy One.

What has changed is my understanding of the people’s leaders. I have been given a front-row seat here to experience up close religious and political leaders. I am moulded by the biblical prophets’ cry for justice on behalf of the poor and the oppressed, often pointing the finger and blaming their leaders. I am somewhat there. Servant leadership could do so very much for the people here.

What are some of the highlights of your time in the diocese?

The people and congregational life…Confirmations can still have up to 30 young people. When they take on their baptismal vows for themselves, it is more than a religious ceremony—it is identity, purpose and meaning. A young person takes a stand for Christ in a society where doing so literally places him or her in a very small and sometimes very vulnerable minority status. In Gaza, for example, there are 1.6 million people and just 1,500 Christians. Their faith and witness are real and genuine and not taken lightly.

In addition, there are the diocesan institutions. Though struggling to afford such costly services as health care and education, the diocese has two hospitals, several clinics and rehabilitation centres, as well as 17 schools, caring for thousands of patients and teaching thousands of students, most of whom are Muslim.

I have been able to have access to all the holy sites of Jerusalem, basically on a daily basis. I have run or walked past the Mount of Olives almost every day, gone to the Holy Sepulchre often, and sometimes early in the morning when hardly a soul was awake, recalling Mary’s journey to the empty tomb. I have been to the Sea of Galilee many times and the desert almost weekly. I have walked from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and back. I have celebrated three Christmases at Shepherd’s Field and in Bethlehem. I have had amazing encounters with people of faith—Jewish, Muslim and Christian.

All of it has been a precious gift, and I am grateful to Primate Fred and Archbishop Suheil for giving me this unique and wonderful opportunity.

What were the challenging aspects of your ministry?

Religions…[all] have some real weaknesses. The Christian church is not exempt. It can be as removed from the real needs of suffering humanity as can any other organization, especially in challenging circumstances. There can be less than ideal stewardship. The church can lack courage. Churches can be competitive, and within churches there can be real personal ambition and self-interest. I think Pope Francis is making that not only obvious but trying hard to sort it out. I think the Anglican Communion also desires a church [that’s] more servant-oriented. I recall Primate Fred’s sermon on New Year’s Day 2014, at the cathedral in Ottawa, calling on Canadian Anglicans to become the church of the poor. More of that focus and practice will not only bless the needy but the church as well.

I have also witnessed here two major wars and many smaller conflicts. Shocking for me around that is the silence of the world and the seeming ease of states to inflict tremendous harm, suffering and death, largely upon innocent and helpless people. Having terrorism to blame covers a multitude of sins. So, too, violence carried out in God’s name can be alarming and shocking.

Moreover, any fair historical record of the Middle East reveals the West squarely in the middle of it, and often making things worse not better…The story of Iraq in recent decades has not been fully written yet. It is talked about a lot here, though. The West will have much to answer for there.

Is there a moment that you will always remember?

Some months ago, there was a fatal attack on Jewish worshippers in a synagogue in Jerusalem. The heads of churches in Jerusalem, including Archbishop Suheil as well as Muslim leaders, went to this synagogue to bring condolences, to stand against violence—especially religious motivated violence—and to pray for peace. The religious leaders were all seated in a…square, and standing behind them were many Orthodox youth, who were religious students at this synagogue. One young boy, maybe 12 years old or so, was standing immediately behind Archbishop Suheil, and he would often lean into the archbishop’s shoulders. Here was a Jewish kid, leaning on the shoulders of a Palestinian Christian leader, with great interest and seeming comfort. I took a picture of that moment in time. It will always be [an example] for me of what is possible between Israelis and Palestinians—it was a truly human and also holy moment when all barriers were gone.

How has the ministry changed you?

As Heraclitus said,“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

I have been given a powerful example of resiliency. I have seen people carry on with life when perhaps others would have given up. I have witnessed Gazans rebuild their homes after having had them destroyed, and not angrily, but with true happiness that there was something left to rebuild.

I have learned something else as well. Passion, no matter how well founded, must always be tempered. You may have right and might on your side, even in human relations, but at the end of the day, only love matters. One Corinthians 13 came alive for me here. There is lots of religion, personal and collective. But all of it is noise if there is no love.


Anglican Journal News, April 24, 2015

Remembering Paul Almond: Anglican author, film/TV producer and lay minister

Posted on: April 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Barbara Burgess

Canadian writer, producer and director and Anglican Paul Almond often dealt with Christian characters and themes in his productions and novels. Photo: Jay Iversen

(Editor’s note: The author shared this article with the Anglican Journal.) 

Paul Almond, OC, beloved by so many in the North American Anglican community, died on April 9. He was a lay eucharistic minister at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in Malibu, and also preached at Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City, Trinity Memorial Anglican Church in Montreal, St. Andrews in New Carlisle, Que., St. Martin’s-in-the-Woods Church in Shediac Cape, N.B., as well as at St. Paul’s in his native Shigawake, Que.

Paul was also known internationally for his work as a writer-producer-director in television and motion pictures, and later in life as the author of the eight-volume Alford Saga, covering 200 years of his family’s history. Some 140 newspapers around the world published articles about him after his death. Most of them highlighted his work in film and television, notably the creation of the legendary Granada TV documentary Seven Up! (1964). What was less talked about was his active role in the Anglican community and his creation of televised religious plays for the CBC.

In the 1950s, when Paul started his career at the newly created CBC, he collaborated with the Rev. Brian Freeland, head of religious programming at the corporation. In his autobiographical novel, The Inheritor, he recalls discussing his next project with Brian: “Probably another religious play at Christmas, Our Lady’s Tum­bler, by Ronald Duncan…From a story by Anatole France, based on a 13th-century medieval legend.” Paul also wrote, produced and directed The Hill, a portrayal of Christ’s ascent of Golgotha. It was telecast in Canada in 1956, coast to coast on CBC television; its impact was such that in 1959, Paul was asked to produce and direct it live on Good Friday for the BBC.

In the early 1960s, Freeland asked Paul to produce a documentary about the Holy Land, also described in The Inheritor: “The idea was to capture on film images that Our Lord might have seen two thousand years ago as He walked His land, preaching and healing…Here at last, Paul could walk the land where God had been made flesh. Now, he could know Jesus better by feeling how hot or cold He’d been, where He walked each day, what clouds He’d seen, what rain cooled Him, what clothes He’d worn. Imagine!”

Paul went on to produce a second religious documentary, Journey to the Centre, described as “a meditational film, [which] used extra footage of churches and monasteries that marked key moments in the ministry of Jesus.”

No fewer than four of the novels in Paul’s Alford Saga feature Anglican ministers: his father, World War I veteran, the Rev. Eric Almond (The Gunner and The Hero), and his uncle, the Rev. John Almond (The Pilgrim and The Chaplain). The Gunner and The Hero recount how Eric suffered terrible “shell shock”—what we would call PTSD today—and eventually became a minister. In The Pilgrim, we learn about John’s adventures as a young clergyman on the Lower North Shore of Quebec, while The Chaplain details his exploits as one of the first Anglican chaplains in Canada’s military.

Following his numerous launches of these books in churches and cathedrals across Canada, Paul arranged that, on most of these occasions, 50 per cent of the proceeds from book sales at the event would go directly to that particular church. In 2011, the Anglican Journal reported that more than $4,000 had been raised in this way.

I was privileged to have known Paul as a friend and colleague, handling much of his correspondence and working with him for the past two-and-a-half years. Paul’s last words to me, in his letter sent April 4, from Cedars-Sinai Hospital, L.A., were about prayer and the Lord.

Barbara Burgess worked as a publicist for Paul Almond and handled some of his literature-related correspondence for the past three years.


Anglican Journal News, April 24, 2015

Turning churches into housing a unique challenge for developers

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Turning churches into housing a unique challenge for developers (link is external)

Boston Globe: Abandoned churches are increasingly attractive as condominium developments but tinkering with the old and the holy, it turns out, comes with a particular set of challenges.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 21, 2015

The man who may one-up Darwin

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The man who may one-up Darwin

On a sunny afternoon, near Stanford University’s Palo Alto campus and more than 5,000 miles from his home, an assistant professor from MIT is talking about science. Very advanced science, OZY reports. His name is Jeremy England, and at 33, he’s already being called the next Charles Darwin.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 21, 2015

L. Gregory Jones: Asking more of laypeople

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Influential laypeople yearn for deep relationships with Christian institutional leaders. We can nurture those relationships by entering the worlds where laypeople live, think and work — not seeing them primarily as church volunteers and funders.

The billionaire businessman, a devout Christian, told the denominational executive that the denomination’s leaders needed to be more visible and bold. They needed, the businessman said, to ask more of laypeople like him.

The executive, unsure, hesitantly asked, “How would you like to be more involved in the church?”

But the businessman had already “done his time” serving on church committees to fill a slot rather than accomplish a purpose.

The businessman was imploring the denomination’s leaders to demand more about how he lived his discipleship in the world — and not by prophetically criticizing the wealth he had accumulated while regularly turning to him to support capital campaigns or building maintenance (a common experience among the wealthy).

When I witnessed this exchange, I interpreted the word “ask” as a request.

The businessman wanted church leaders to make a claim on him to help him live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ in his daily life. Church leaders could be more thoughtful in seeing laypeople as disciples who yearn to connect more explicitly their faith with the ideas, insights and imagination they have developed in their vocations.

More recently, I have become aware of a deeper interpretation of the businessman’s plea: we can discover what is in laypeople’s imaginations only if we focus on what it means to “ask” in the sense of inquiry. The businessman was seeking holy conversations with church leaders, hoping that church leaders would ask more of him by asking more about him.

What are the issues he is wrestling with as a business leader? How might his faith inform his responses to management challenges and his thinking about leadership? How should his faith help him decide how to schedule his time? Nurture his personal and professional relationships?

Inquiry is a central activity for Christian institutional leaders in cultivating teams and discovering innovative possibilities for an organization.

It is also crucially important for developing deep, personal relationships with people on their own terms rather than just fitting them into “our” contexts. Christian institutional leaders often engage with empathy when laypeople come to us for spiritual direction or in crisis — but we often forget the importance of inquiry in our day-to-day leadership of Christian institutions.

Why do Christian institutional leaders forget to practice inquiry?

Perhaps we believe that our role is to provide expertise, to offer answers to life’s questions. Or maybe we feel insecure around people who have been better trained, and have more experience, at leading and managing organizations. So we become defensive and assert that our work is different and somehow better, more pure, because we run not-for-profit organizations.

Or perhaps we believe and act, unwittingly and sometimes wittingly, as though the church and its institutions were the only arenas in which Christian discipleship can be faithfully lived. Rather than recognizing, rightly, that the church and its institutions are central contexts for worship and the formation of Christian identity, we turn them into idols where they are our exclusive focus.

Our forgetfulness typically involves a combination of these dynamics.

Their cumulative impact results in Christian institutional leaders assuming that border crossing goes only one way. We will welcome others to cross from the secular world to the church world, but we don’t choose to leave our comfortable perches to venture in the other direction. That can alienate the laypeople the church needs to bear faithful witness to God’s kingdom.

Through genuine, mutual inquiry — not just asking what you can do for me or I for you — Christian institutional leaders will experience the vocations and contexts of laypeople.

Our efforts ought not to be limited to those already involved in church but should extend also to those who might be outside or even marginalized by our institutions. Christian renewal movements, such as the Wesleyan revival of the 18th century, have typically been led by pastors and other Christian leaders who were adept at crossing multiple borders to inquire after people.

In so doing, we will need to cultivate the trait of interpretive charity, which requires us to listen to the perspectives of others with the most charitable perspective we can imagine. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with the others, but it does involve patiently listening to what is said and why it is being said.

Early in my service as dean of Duke Divinity School, I was invited to meet with a wealthy business leader.

I was tempted to focus on what he could do for me, namely, make a large gift to the Divinity School’s capital campaign. I was also aware of my biases about wealth and greed, but I knew I likely wouldn’t get what I needed either by challenging him to give his wealth away in general or by asking him directly for a gift.

We didn’t have a relationship, so I asked him how he had gotten into his business.

He told me that he had considered going into ordained ministry but ultimately had decided that his calling was to business. He then described how he had learned to practice his business as a lay ministry. He described how his vision had helped articulate his company’s mission and its relationship with employees and customers.

As I asked him about how he expressed his faith through his leadership, I was humbled to learn that his company has often undertaken education and health initiatives, because the company believes it is important to support its employees and the people in the wider community. He was more attentive to the community’s ministry needs than are many congregations and Christian institutions.

Our conversation turned out to be the beginning of a long-standing mutual relationship in which we each ask much of and give much to the other.

We have discovered that as our border-crossing Christian relationship has developed and deepened, we will often challenge and even critique each other. But because the borders have been crossed in more than one direction, my challenges and critiques of him, and his of me, are typically life-giving rather than polarizing.

Christian institutions have been started and sustained, renewed and transformed over the centuries through remarkable partnerships among leaders of Christian institutions and Christian leaders of other kinds of institutions. We need to ask more of each other, in the first instance by learning to ask — to inquire — in fresh ways.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 23, 2015

Pollination gardens embody stewardship of creation

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Butterfly Garden 7

Doing their part to restore balance to the local ecosystem, Anglican churches throughout the Diocese of Huron have planted pollination gardens to feed area bees as part of the Garden4Bees project.

The area in recent years has seen a noticeable decrease in the number of pollinating insects, a problem exacerbated by the use of insecticides. The diminished bee population threatens the local food chain, as farmers rely on the insects to help pollinate their crops.

The EnviroAction Committee, a grassroots organization that has been active in the diocese for nearly a decade, supported the Garden4Bees project last spring. Member Murray Hunter developed the pilot project to study which plants on bee lists were most effective, easy to grow, non-invasive, and drought-resistant.

“We decided to work with groups that had their own land and their own volunteers,” Hunter said.

“Churches seemed an obvious option, so we contacted Anglican churches in Huron Diocese.”

With funding from the Julia Hunter Fund and the London Community Foundation—and the added incentive of a cash prize to offset costs—Garden4Bees challenged churches to plant a pollination garden or add flowers to existing gardens to encourage bees and butterflies to feed and pollinate.

Ten churches participated in the project. Among them was St. James Anglican Church in Cambridge, where parishioners designed a butterfly-shaped garden that wowed judges and earned the church a $500 bursary prize.

“We were calling it a butterfly garden, and I guess the image of the butterfly just caught one of the participants’ imagination,” Canon Linda Nixon, rector at St. James, recalled.

“She drew up the plans for a butterfly-shaped garden and everybody loved it, so we went with it.”

Nixon led a team of volunteers that planted the garden over multiple weeks. A celebration ensued when it reached full bloom, with Bishop Robert F. Bennett blessing the garden and an area beekeeper discussing the plight of the bees with parishioners.

The visual appeal of the pollination garden has enhanced the landscape and attracted the attention of the local community members—often leading to in-depth conversations about ecology—while still serving its primary purpose.

“It certainly has attracted more types of flying insects than I’ve ever seen before,” Nixon said. “So it’s working, as far as being an attraction for bees.”

Noting that St. James is located on the edge of town near a large cornfield, she added, “We are constantly reminded about just where our food comes from…The pollinators are so vital to everything that the farmers are trying to grow that we need to be reminded of that.”

Another church that participated in the Garden4Bees project was St. Andrew Memorial Anglican Church in London, which grew the pollination garden as an adjunct to its existing vegetable garden that helps feed neighbourhood residents and supply the local food bank.

Pollination garden

Reflecting their commitment to the fifth Mark of Mission—which counsels Anglicans “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth” —members of St. Andrew also helped rally support for a petition to the Ontario government to ban the use of neonicotinoids—insecticides that have been in use for the last 20 years and that have contributed to the decline of the bee population. (The government has since passed legislation limiting such insecticides.)

The Rev. Pastor Marty Levesque, pastor at St. Andrew, called the pollination garden a “natural extension” of the church’s focus on food security.

“By this small act of putting in the pollination garden,” he said, “we were able to take that next step towards caring for all of God’s creation.”


Anglican Journal News, April 22, 2015

Breaking the stigma of addiction

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Rick Tessier, layperson in charge of prison ministry and aftercare at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in St. John’s, Nfld., has been working with those suffering from addictions since 2001. Photo: André Forget

Newfoundland may be characterized in the minds of many by its remote outports, bucolic fishing villages and slower way of life, but these picturesque communities, like the province’s larger cities, are dealing with a distinctly modern problem: abuse of prescription and illegal drugs.

“Everybody has known that alcohol was a problem in Newfoundland because there are more alcoholics per capita [here] than most of the other provinces,” said the Rev. Curt Clark, a hospital chaplain with Eastern Health who has been working with people with mental health problems and addictions even before he moved to Canada from Pennsylvania 20 years ago. “But now it is drugs that are the problem.”

In rural Newfoundland’s Conception Bay North (also called Economic Zone 17), “we heard all of this anecdotal stuff about how drugs are a really big problem,” said Clark. “The research scientists looked at the average alcohol sales in Newfoundland, and found it was actually lower in Economic Zone 17. But they said, here’s the OxyContin sales…it was way off the charts.”

Overall, Newfoundland has an alcohol and drug abuse rate of 12.69 per cent, above the national average of 11 per cent, according to the CBC, quoting a study conducted by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 2007.

The abuse of prescription drugs is a problem that reveals some surprising dynamics, said Clark. In recent years, there has been extensive media coverage of significant drug busts involving the trafficking of cocaine and other illicit drugs by organized crime in Newfoundland. But, said Clark, prescription drugs are also being sold by some seniors who are “being overprescribed by their doctors and selling that to supplement their income.” The demand for prescription drugs is, in part, driven by the large number of Newfoundlanders working out of province, mostly in Alberta’s oil sands, he added. Because the companies they work for often require drug tests, prescription opioids such as OxyContin have become popular due to their availability and the fact that, because they exit the body within a few days, it is easier to test clean after using them.

OxyContin has also fallen into the hands of young people. An education department survey, conducted in the 2012–2013 school year, found that about 10 per cent of high school students in the province have abused prescription drugs, according to the CBC.

In response to the growing drug problem, supports such as the U-Turn Drop-in Centre in Carbonear—which is run by people in recovery and which sees around 450 people a month—are being established. However, addiction is a complex problem, and there is still much work to be done.

Clark noted that the problem goes beyond the individual with the addiction. He recalled a situation where a friend of his who had been in recovery for cocaine addiction for about a year was given an 8-ball of cocaine (one-eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams) and a flask of whiskey for Christmas from his wife.

“She was so used to him being the bad one, the one with the problems,” Clark said. “As he started working on his problems, well, she had significant childhood issues herself, but she’d never dealt with them because he was the problem, she was the good one.”

For Clark, this is further evidence that communities need to be open and honest about the reality of addiction, and how wide-reaching the effects of drug abuse and addiction can be. “The people in relationship with the alcoholic or the addict—they’re hurting, too,” he said. “The church needs to realize that if there is a couple or a family, everyone is going to need help…just to break the stigma.”

The Rev. Curt Clark Photo: André Forget

Fighting the stigma that comes with addictions is work that Rick Tessier has been doing for many years. A quiet, thoughtful Newfoundlander who spent much of his adult life in Nova Scotia, Tessier is the layperson in charge of prison ministry and aftercare at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in St. John’s. He has been sober since 2000, and since 2001 he has been involved in helping others along the road to recovery.

“People are becoming more aware of [stigma] in a slow process,” he said, “but sometimes we do a good job of talking the talk but not walking the walk.” He noted that while some people in church are very supportive, “there are others that quite frankly look at [people struggling with addiction] rather questionably.”

Increased drug abuse, however, has driven some of the problems more into the open.

“The inmates are getting younger. Street drugs and prescription drugs are becoming more prevalent,” said Tessier. He cited the example of a 24-year-old, now serving time in Stephenville’s West Coast Correctional Centre. “His grandmother says to me, ‘I don’t know what happened to him. He was brought up in such a good environment. We didn’t have this sort of thing.’ But that’s what we’re facing today. This touches everyone. There are no borders.”

Tessier also criticized the failure of the justice system to deal with addiction in a constructive way. “These people…come out of the prison, and first of all, they have nowhere to go…And unless they have direct supports within the system, they are probably going back to the same place,” he said. “That is the cycle that has to be broken.”

For Tessier, that means getting people into a healthy and supportive community as well as providing for their material needs. “I’ve been bringing guys from the halfway houses to church, picking them up on Sunday morning for five, six, seven years,” he said. He also takes them to the church’s coffee hour and lets them integrate “into a ‘normal’  society, if you will, that they may not be seeing otherwise.”

For similar reasons, Tessier is a great proponent of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous, which seek to build strong relations of accountability among those in recovery.

“Being an alcoholic and a member of AA, consequently I made it part of my ministry to take people…to the meetings in evenings and so on, and to try to help them try to resolve their addictions in a spiritual way,” he said. Recovery, he stressed, is about more than just abstaining from substances.

This was an important point for Clark as well, who emphasized that addiction has to be replaced with something positive. “You can’t just have abstinence,” he said. “That doesn’t have a long-lasting effect, usually.” The reason for this, he explained, is that abstinence allows all of the negative emotions that drug use kept submerged to rise to the surface, and with them, the unprocessed shame connected with the negative things done while under the influence.

Clark believes that the ugly things that surface with sobriety can only be combatted through a positive spiritual reckoning. “One of the things Jesus died for us was to take away our shame, so that can help people…go for a fresh start,” he said, a point that Tessier, who made this journey himself, recognized as well. “They’re human beings, they’re children of God and they’ve got to perceive themselves that way—and they all deserve a second chance.”


Anglican Journal News, April 22, 2015

Reinhold Niebuhr combined “tough-minded political realism with a sympathetic understanding of society’s injustices”

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

Reinhold Niebuhr combined “tough-minded political realism with a sympathetic understanding of society’s injustices” (link is external)

Reader’s Almanac: An interview with Reinhold Niebuhr’s daughter Elisabeth Sifton, an editor and book publisher, on why Niebuhr’s writings continue to fascinate and challenge today’s readers.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 09, 2015

Generosity 101

Posted on: April 18th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Peter Misiaszek


The 154th Regular Session of Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto is held at The Doubletree by Hilton Toronto Airport, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.As a stewardship educator, most of my time is dedicated to teaching—and hopefully inspiring—members of our congregations to embrace a life of generosity and enthusiastically commit to supporting the ministry of our church through their gifts of time, talent and treasure. All too often I take for granted that most of those who will benefit from our diocesan stewardship resources are familiar with church life, accustomed to Anglican worship and have been imbued with knowledge of a faith-filled upbringing. This is no longer the norm.

The vast majority of newcomers to our churches have never had any contact with us. They are unaccustomed to our style of worship or how our church is organized. While they may realize that the church operates thanks to the benevolence of its members, they are not familiar with how to give, what to give and how much to give – the idea of a collection plate being passed along a pew is completely foreign and perhaps a bit intimidating. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that the only donations they may have made was through a fundraising event or a memorial gift at the death of a loved one. The concept of Christian stewardship is entirely remote from their life experience.

To help with the orientation, I’d like to reflect on perhaps the most frequent question I hear: “why should I give?” The answer to this very specific question can be teased out by responding to some more general queries that I often encounter from newcomers.

What is stewardship?

Quite simply, stewardship is an acknowledgement that everything we have, our life, our talents, our accomplishments, our families and our material possessions are gifts from God. And that we cherish and tend to them in a responsible and accountable manner, sharing them with others and returning them with increase to God. We are caretakers of our gifts of time, talent and treasure.

Why should I practice stewardship?

Practicing stewardship intimately ties us to who we are as a Christian people. Stewardship is an expression of faith. It is not simply the church’s way of raising money; rather, it is a spiritual discipline that encompasses our very being as Christians. It is a radical departure from our secular understanding of charity where we give to an external need.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Simply put, a Christian is a follower of Christ. But more than that, it is choosing to model your life on His example. As stewards, that inclines us to be selfless, generous, gracious, humble and disciplined. Being a follower of Christ entails a lot more than simply showing up for church on Sundays. It is a lifestyle to be embraced always through our thoughts, words and actions.

What does being a Christian have to do with money?

It might come as a surprise, but Jesus spoke about money more than anything else except the Kingdom of God. And while he doesn’t necessarily condemn wealth, he does caution us about its abuse, our preoccupation with it and how it changes our behaviour. For the most part, Jesus talks about giving money away – to the poor, orphans, widows, the church, and those looked down upon by society – and to avoid becoming a slave to our riches lest they become false gods in our life.

Why does the church need my money?

Giving should never be taught at church except within the context of doing ministry. The church does not need your money simply for the sake of amassing wealth. Rather, we give through the church so we can passionately support worship, outreach, pastoral care, evangelism, education and fellowship. Since our churches rely almost exclusively on the gifts of our parishioners to ensure vibrant and healthy ministry, we need the support of all our congregants.

Newcomers need to be invited to give generously to sustain our important work. They also need to learn what joy there is in giving in addition to receiving. Church leaders do themselves no favours when they avoid conversations about money, generosity and giving. Unless we make a determined effort to educate seekers on the importance of stewardship in our church, places of work, our home and of God’s creation we cannot expect or presume that they will know why to give, let alone how much to give.

Peter Misiaszek

About Peter Misiaszek

Peter Misiaszek, CFRE is the Director of Stewardship Development for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. He is responsible for parish stewardship education, annual giving, legacies of faith, The Bishop’s Company of Toronto and oversight of The Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation. His department has produced numerous parish-based resources in support of stewardship education including: “The Narrative Budget – Writing Your Parish’s Sacred Story” and “A Program to Encourage Joyful Giving in Your Parish.” In 2010, the Diocese of Toronto launched a diocesan-wide major fundraising campaign toward a goal of $50,000,000 – the largest ever fundraising effort in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada. He and his wife Ginette live in Whitby, Ontario with their three young children. He is a member of Christ Memorial Anglican Church in Oshawa.

The Community, An update from The Community, April 17, 2015

How Charles Darwin used rest to be more productive — and how you can, too

Posted on: April 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


How Charles Darwin used rest to be more productive — and how you can, too

Americans work among the longest hours in the world, and most highly prize workers who log the most hours at the office, the Washington Post reports. But what if we’re wrong? What if the most productive and creative work gets done when we also take “serious rest?”


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 14th, 2015