Another day in the life…

April 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s a strange process, isn’t it? Perhaps it would be better to say it’s a strange set of interacting processes, or even an interaction of interacting processes.

Being.
Living.
Life.

Sometimes, I wonder what kicks us out of the patterns we’ve created – the ones that we build to keep us safe.

Chance?
Providence?
Biology?

Let’s find out.

Christmas Exploration

January 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Happy Child and I took a wander to Telus World of Science in Vancouver, yesterday.

Telus World of Science

Both of us had a great time. The puzzles, the stage demonstrations, and each of the exhibits were a lot of fun. We covered the entire building.

Three times.

The only downside? I think I was overstimulated. When we got home, I buzzed around the condo until 3am!

More photos.

Ahhh, but…

January 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Lego LOTR triptych by bott.richard
Lego LOTR triptych, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

Master Frodo, you will have both friends and allies on this quest. Some who you would expect, whilst others you will find… surprising.

The task is to be looking for them, every moment of every day. Look deeply into the faces and the lives of those around you.

You will be surprised at the goodness you see under their masks.

January 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

projectlifeweek1

What’s in a signature?

January 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

What's in a signature? by bott.richard
What’s in a signature?, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

As I said in my flickr description, I don’t have much of a signature style in my photography or my fashion. (Unless “frumpy” is signature.)

My non-alcoholic drink of choice is Diet Coke ™. My camera choice is Pentax. My Operating System, Linux.

But give me a good fountain pen and some choice paper… that’s a signature moment.

Taking a Risk

January 11th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Taking a Risk by bott.richard
Taking a Risk, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

#projectlife365 #game

Sometimes it’s not a game. As I watch the Prime Minister’s response (or lack thereof) to the Idle No More movement, and the ongoing battle between the Ontario teachers federations and their provincial government, there are times it feels like people think life is a Zero-Sum game.

We need to be constantly working for Win-Win-Win.

Games can have winners and losers, because, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Life. It shouldn’t have winners and losers. Because, in the end… it does matter. A lot.

HappyChild finds a portal

January 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

#projectlife365 #in_a_drawer

I’ve just started playing with off camera flash. I like the concept of HappyChild finding a portal when she opened the drawer, but I still need to work more on the execution. (And I’ve got to get newer batteries for my flash units. They conked out just when I was starting to get closer to what I was looking for!)

Simplicity

January 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Simplicity by bott.richard
Simplicity, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

A rock. A surface. I’m sure there’s some important meaning there. #projectlife365 #simplicity

It’s a coke

January 6th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

It's a coke by bott.richard
It’s a coke, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

#projectlife365 #still_life I realized that the moment I pour myself a Coke, sit back & reflect on the day is my “still life”

#projectlife365 #graceful: Graceful(l)

January 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


#projectlife365 #optimistic: A golden moment…

January 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

image

In some ways, this feels like a snap, but then I look at the story in it. Wandering the trails, the light shining, friends watching… this year is going to be my year. Yours, too.

#projectlife365 #you_today: Man in the moon…

January 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

image

Sometimes, I’m a dreamer.
Sometimes, I’m a doer.
Sometimes, my dreams are as far away as the moon.
Sometimes, they’re only as far away as the moon.

#projectlife365 #resolution: Beginnings begin with endings…

January 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

_IGP1918

and good endings make fertile what comes next.

The thing about resolutions is that they’re as much about old ways dying as they are about new ways growing.

So. This year, I will fertilize my new beginnings with good endings.

(And two of my 2013 hopes are to take photos and blog daily. We’ll see if Project Life 365 helps me get my creative juices flowing – and help me be accountable to my discipline.)

A response to “The Collapse of the Liberal Church”

August 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s the letter I wrote to the Globe and Mail at the beginning of the week. Didn’t make it in – I think I was too wordy. *grin*

As a minister serving in The United Church of Canada, I found Ms. Wente’s, “The Collapse of the Liberal Church” to be both frustrating and enlightening. Enlightening because it was a snapshot of how some outside the denomination see us. Frustrating because it really didn’t say more than many of us of various theological worldviews within the denomination have been saying for some time. Frustrating, too, because many of us believe that the United Church and other liberal denominations have something vital to offer to the Christian conversation and the world at large: a belief that Jesus Christ called his followers to look at everything through the lens of God’s love, and to live that love in every action and every moment.

Much of what we do is relevant only to ourselves. Sometimes, we make decisions that make no sense. But, sometimes, in our congregations and our General Councils, we take steps that resonate in the wider community. Who knows which of these the decision the upcoming General Council makes on the conflict between the people of Palestine and Israel will be? Perhaps in this, in another decision, or in the life of one of our congregations, someone will find their faith and hope in God’s love renewed.

My Moderator Nomination Biography, Vision Statement and Thoughts

May 16th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

The Rev. Dr. Richard Bott

Biography

Richard Bott is passionate and confident about the future of The United Church of Canada. An enthusiastic user of social media, posting thought-provoking and often humorous observations about faith, church and family life, he is a keen liturgist who believes firmly that a good resource is meant to be shared. He even founded a website (ucc-resources.ca) for that purpose. He is committed to exploring good, thoughtful and transformative theology, whether it is orthodox, unorthodox… or other.

Born in Marathon, Ontario, Richard was raised in The United Church of Canada. His earliest memory of St. John’s United Church is of racing his brother, on their bellies, under the pews (his brother probably won). He preached his first sermon at 12 years old, served on the Church Board at 14 and became a presbyter soon after. Supported by his parents, he explored the other faith communities in Marathon, starting a life-long love of ecumenism and interfaith conversation.

Richard studied Sociology and Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa/l’Université d’Ottawa (B.SS), Divinity at Queen’s Theological College (M.Div), and issues around developing structured supportive and caring relationships between clergy at Ashland Theological College (D.Min). A lifelong learner, he continues study in the areas of Adult Education, Leadership and Management.

While completing his theological education he served with Front Road United Church in Belleville, Ontario, and did his internship at Trinity United in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. Following his ordination by the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario in 1994, he was settled to Trinity United in Iroquois Falls, Ontario. In 1998, he moved to St. Marys United in St. Marys, Ontario and in 2006 to St. Andrew’s Haney United in Maple Ridge, BC.

Richard has served in almost every possible capacity in Presbytery, including Chair of Pastoral Relations in all the presbyteries where he had shared in ministry since ordination. He has worked on a variety of Conference committees and served as President of London Conference. With General Council, he was a member of the UCCan/Roman Catholic Church dialogue, a writer and presenter with the Emerging Spirit team, and is one of the many consultants supporting the ministry of The Edge network. (An overwhelmingly complete curriculum vitae can be found at richardbott.com.)

In addition, Richard sings enthusiastically and on key. He speaks English fluently and French better than he thinks. What he is really fluent in, however, is figuring out ways of helping the structure of the church live out the ministry to which it is called. He enjoys exploring The Manual, seeing in it a reflection of the covenant we have made with one another to work together in the faith we share.

Richard tries to be a faithful child of God and disciple of Christ in his life. He is grateful that The United Church of Canada has been a welcoming place for him to use his gifts and skills to help others and the church he loves. He feels called to let his name stand for Moderator and celebrates the wider church’s willingness to discern whether he is, in fact, called to the role. (His 9-year-old daughter, Rowan, thinks he is crazy to be doing this, but is willing to share her dad with the church.)

Vision Statement

Not long ago, a colleague looked at me with some despair and no little frustration, saying, “We’re screwed.” I understand the feeling; I just don’t believe it’s true. I’m not being Pollyanna. I believe that The United Church of Canada has a lot going for it, not the least of which are people across Canada who are living their lives out of a deep sense of faith and a deep connection to this United Church. Working with both rural and urban congregations, I regularly see the energy and commitment that is poured into this ministry by clergy and lay-folk alike.

Here comes the “but.”

I’m not at all sure that many of our congregations or the denomination as a whole would be able to say why we pour all this energy in. I don’t think we could articulate how our actions and our beliefs work together. I’m not sure we could easily name what we believe.

About God.
About Christ.
About ourselves.

For me, the purpose of church is deceptively simple: to help people enter into and deepen their relationship with God (and, if we’re a Christian church) through Christ. How we state that – and how we live it – is going to differ from community to community, congregation to congregation, ministry to ministry. But I’d like to suggest that is why we exist.

For a long time we’ve been quintessentially Canadian, defining ourselves by what we aren’t, rather than by what we are. It’s time we take a look at what our actions and our words say about who we are, individually and corporately. It’s time for us to be comfortable, when invitation arises, to share who we are as God’s people in Christ’s love through the life of The United Church of Canada.

We. Are. United. Alleluia!

We have a unique voice and a unique way of living as people of God and Christ-followers in this weird and wonderful world! Throughout our story, the people of The United Church of Canada have shown that they are prepared to look at everything – our traditions, our history, our beliefs, our actions, our polity, even scripture itself – through Jesus’ “lens of love”. His invitation to love God, neighbour and self with all that we are and all that we have, along with his command that we love one another as he has loved us, has led us into difficult and amazing places. Often we have accepted his challenge and found ourselves in places of doing all we can to mend creation with justice, hope and peace. Thank God!

It’s time for us to celebrate who we are as “God’s People United.” To do that, we need to set aside time to understand our individual and communal faith stories. We need also to explore where those stories fit with Christ’s story. To be able to invite others into whatever it is we are, we have to have some idea of what it is we’re inviting them into. To be able to learn from others about their faith and ways of interacting with the world, we need to have an understanding of our own.

No matter what part of the theological tightrope we’re dancing on in this big tent, who we are would benefit from building in intentional time with God every day. What would it mean for us if we worked together to be:
Uplifted and challenged in daily conversation with God;
Nurtured by regularly gathering to worship;
Inspired through daily conversation with scripture;
Transformed through service to God’s creation (human and other!);
Engaging ourselves and others in relationships based on faith and exploration;
Devoting our resources to God’s mission.

Our task is not to save our denomination.
Our task is not to save our structure.
Our task is not to save our buildings.

Our task is to continue to be God’s faith-filled people in a changing world.

I believe that the people of The United Church of Canada – its congregations, special ministries, partnerships, conversations, working groups, committees, Presbyteries/Consistoires, Regions/Conferences, and General Council – have a vital part to play in what is to come.

Why me??

When I look at all the nominees, I know that they are people who I respect greatly and would support as Moderator. So, why me?

I love who we have been and who we are right now, and am truly excited about what we could become. I understand myself to be a leader in the church. I’m someone called to find the words to describe where it seems God is pulling us, then to build conversation and collaboration to test that vision, refine it, and then help us to live it.

Like most of us in the church, I don’t agree with everyone all the time – either theologically or practically. In the past, I’ve used my skills as a facilitator, mediator, and dreamer to listen and help different groups in the church live out their ministry. If I were to be called to the role of Moderator, I would use all of those gifts and experiences to help us in the challenging and exciting conversations – and to take faithful action, no matter the difficulty.

What would I hope to do as Moderator? I’d hope to support our ministers and lay people with the resources and the passion they need to articulate their faith in God through Christ’s love, so that we might actively and intentionally live into, invite into and share into God’s abundance.

I believe we are God’s People United – children of a loving God and disciples of Christ. Whether or not I am chosen by the church to minister in the role of Moderator, I will continue helping the church to celebrate that reality.

From dust…

February 22nd, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Fireworks in the night sky.
“From dust you come and to dust you shall return.”

It’s usually said solemnly, as a cross of ash is placed on someone’s brow. The dusty ash often comes from the palm fronds of the previous year’s commemoration of the Palms and Passion.

But I wonder…
what if the ash came from somewhere else?

What if the ash came from a display of fireworks, bright and alive in a crisp, dark February night?

What if we gathered it together, strewn by the wind, into a cup, and darkened our foreheads with it?

Lent may be a time of penitence, but penitence doesn’t always require solemnity. Turning around – repenting – is an action that takes energy and life. Sometimes it takes tears and laughter – both in bright bursts and in sustained glow.

What would it say to us if, as that ash were placed on our skin, we felt the presence of the Holy Spirit flashing in the night – if we could feel our faith bursting forth in response?

Would that change how we say, “From dust you come, to dust you shall return?”

Would that change our, “Amen?”

Bread

February 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

We really don’t know how it is we are fed.

We often don’t know who baked the bread.
We often don’t know who milled the grain,
kept the cows healthy,
gathered the salt,
or planted the seed.

But we know

    this

the Divine Presence is in
the planting and the growing,
the harvest and the mix.

God’s love, God’s will,
God’s very Be-ing
permeates that loaf…
even as it fills you
and me.

And, with the bread,
as the bread,
in the bread,
of the Bread,
we are blessed.

Saved or consumed.

Broken or whole.

An ‘alleluia’ of life.

Instituion. Church. Body of Christ.

December 29th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I understand that rules are necessary, really I do.

Even as an individual, we set guidelines and directions for ourselves. Lines we won’t cross. Values that are important to us.

When we put to people together, they set boundaries and rules, conventions that help them work and live together. Most of the time those are unwritten. Sometimes we put them down on paper (or on screen.)

A more formal structure becomes important when a group gets larger than can know one another well. Larger than, oh, a dozen, let’s say.

When those little groups become larger groups, and when those larger groups become groups separated by a number of variables – distance, culture, gender, language, theological understanding or economic realities might be a few – that structure is part of shared identity.

All of my life I have been part of the structure of one part of the Body of Christ – The United Church of Canada. In some ways, it’s part of not only my religious identity, it’s also part of my personal identity. I’ve been an interpreter of the rules; as a minister in congregation, as a parliamentarian, as an arbitrator and conflict resolution facilitator, as one who has chaired committees and Presbyteries and gatherings of a Conference.

I’ve seen the Spirit move in and with and around and through those rules (and the interpretation of them.) I believe that God works with the structures we have created to help us live out our covenant relationships.

There is a “but” here.

But I’ve also seen places where the values espoused by the structure of the church and the values espoused by part of its body are radically different. Institutional structures tend to favour stability. They tend to favour actions that maintian. They tend to look for ways of building conformity.

Sorry. We tend to favour stability. We tend to favour actions that maintain. We tend to look for ways of building conformity.

But, what do we do if the Spirit moves us (and with us) into a place that is not stable? Where maintainence means constant change. Where conformity means stasis, rather than safety?

What do we do with our rules when our rules were built around a different reality – when our structures are built around a certain way of living out those rules, and that way of living out doesn’t work for the reality we seem to be living?

*crunch*

I think we need to recognize that our structures are not immoveable objects and our ministries are not irresistable forces. The ability to change is built into both our structures and our selves.

If we don’t get entrenched in this or that being the only way. It may be the only way we can see. That’s ok. Each of us has our own blindspot. But we need to recognize that there are almost always possibilities we can’t see – possibilities that can be played with to speak to the concerns of structure and ministry.

I also think we need to recognize that neither our structures nor our ministries are perfectly understood. That whole, “through a mirror, dimly,” thing. We need to find the places where our core values mesh and the places where they don’t… and we need to find ways of trusting one another in the process of discussion and action.

We need to be ready to dive into each other’s vision – and to be overwhelmed by each other’s hope and each other’s pain.

But we also need to be ready to be changed, mightily, by that pain, hope and vision.

Our rules need to be tempered by prophetic challenge, at the same time that the prophet needs to be willing to see God’s presence moving and hear God’s voice speaking within the structure itself.

Life is change.

Abundant life is abundant change.

When badges ruled the blogs

December 8th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

An entrance sign on a gray background with fencing and chain.

An entrance sign on a gray background with fencing and chain.

There was a time, not that long ago, when many blogs were covered in badges. They’d talk about our affiliations with different groups: “United Church Blogger”, “Debian Rules”, “Knight of the Cubic Table of Fnarr”.

In some ways, I’m glad they’re gone. Many of them were not particularly beautiful, and some blogs were just covered in the things. As you can probably tell from this space, I’m somewhat of a minimalist. There’s something beautiful about a blank canvas. All of the possibilities, I guess.

One thing I did like about the badges is that it told me, at a glance, what people thought was important enough to share with the world. At a quick read, I could see what they wanted to share. For the most part, I just took it as a starting place. Reading what the writer wrote was actually the test of our connection. But the self-labeling had its uses.

I’m finding that I’m asked to self-label all the time. This week, I got asked if I would consider myself to be “progressive, liberal, or evangelical.” I’m afraid that my response wasn’t helpful. I said, “Yes! I also consider myself to be process and United.”

I really don’t think those perspectives are mutually exclusive, nor do I think they’re points on a spectrum. I think they’re places to start a conversation. Places to begin to understand one another.

In many ways I am progressive.
In others I’m liberal.
In others I’m rather conservative.
In some I’m quite evangelical.
In others I’m rather quiet.

But, really, in the end, I’m me.

Beloved child of God. Trying to understand what that means through being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, who many of us call, “Christ.” Taught by people of many faith traditions and of no faith traditions.

So. Who are you?

What badges do you wear that could be the starting place for us to get to know one another?

How do we decide?

December 7th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Black and White pedestrian crossing signOver the past few weeks, I’ve been part of discussions in the congregation with whom I serve, as well as with other congregations, about ministries which are taking place, or could be taking place. Often, we get bogged down in “stuff”. The “stuff” feels important – where will we find the money, or the staff, or whatever – but I believe it actually keeps us from recognizing the questions that are even more important.

The ones that need to be answered first.

When debating the life of a congregational ministry the first question that must be answered is this, “Do we believe this ministry is God’s desire?” Not an easy question to answer. It’s one that many of us, especially those of us in the “mainstream” denominations, tend to shy away from. We don’t want to presume that we know what it is that God wants. And yet, I believe that, in a Christian faith community, uncovering and discovering what we understand God’s desire to be is central to any action we take. We need to presume.

There’s a second question: “Is it Gods desire for us?” God may want someone to be doing that work, but it may not be us. It may, simply, not be our ministry. It may be someone else’s. (“No, David, you aren’t going to build a temple for me. That’s going to be one of your kids’ jobs.”) The thing we have to be careful about with this question is making sure that we don’t turn away from difficult ministries that God is calling us to, because we think someone else can do them better. Someone else may very well be able to do them better. If this ministry is God’s desire for us, we had better connect with those that are already doing it, or could do it better – because we’re going to need them. We’re going to need their partnerships, their ideas, their resources, their goodwill, their help and their love. We’re going to need their disagreement and their challenge.

If God wants us to be doing this ministry, we’re going to need all the help we can find. Whatever that ministry might be.

I think the third question is, “Is it God’s desire for us to be living out this ministry right now?” Sometimes there are great ideas and great possibilities. And, sometimes, those great ideas and great possibilities are something that God is calling us toward. But we also need to realize the complexity of – well – everything. The people who are here, with their gifts. The wider community. The price of tea in China. Sometimes, the bits and pieces that are needed aren’t lined up to live out the ministry. Sometimes, the bits and pieces are things that we have no ability to get lined up. They’re out of our control. If we’ve answered “Yes” to questions one and two then all we can do in this case is to get lined up what we can line up, and watchfully wait as other pieces come into alignment.

If the answer to any one of these questions is “No,” then we need to seriously consider why it is we want to be doing this ministry. Perhaps it is the ministry of someone in the congregation, but not that congregation’s ministry. Perhaps it is someones’ Call, just not ours. We still have a task to do. We need to help that person, or that group, to live out their ministry. We need to support. We need to challenge. We need to love it into being.

We need to test. We need to be ready to say, “You know, we got this one wrong.” We also need to be ready to say, “Yes. Heard that one loud and clear, God.”

If, of course, we believe we should be aligning our work with God’s.