I can’t believe it’s been three days since I’ve had time to sit down at the computer (well… other than for work stuff.) Between funerals, visits and evening meetings, I haven’t had more than fifteen minutes for myself in the past few days… which means I haven’t had more than fifteen minutes to share with Shannon, either. I’m going to be reeeeealy glad when September is over. Things will slow down next week. Yeah. That’ll help.

But, for tonight, I’m going to blog!

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Psalm of Lament

Have you ever noticed how honest the psalms are? A few years ago, one of my profs asked me to sit down and write a psalm of lament, a psalm of joy, and a psalm of anger. It was powerfully cathartic.

Yesterday, when I was visition someone, they asked me if I ever got angry with God. When I answered, “Oh, yes! There are times I’ve told God exactly how much of a jerk I think he is,” they wept. This person was crying tears of joy, because I had given them permission to rail at God.

And, even in the railing, to know that they were God’s beloved child… no matter what.

God has big shoulders. Hallelujah!

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Season Priemiers Await!

One of the difficulties with this week being so busy is that I haven’t had a chance to watch the season openers of some of my favourite shows. Well… I guess that one of them is my favourite, and the others are Shannon’s favourites. (I like them too, but would probably spend time here rather than in front of the TV, if it didn’t mean being curled up beside her.)

Soooo… let’s see what we’ve got taped from this week. We have CSI: Miami, Crossing Jordan, Law & Order (TOS) SpecialVictim’sUnit CriminialIntent or… (the one I’ve been waiting for)… Enterprise. I may get a chance to see them in the next month. (I really appreciate VCRs.)

(Sure… I watch VisionTV, TVOntario, PBS, and CBC Television. Just not very often.)

What programs do you enjoy following?

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Life is unbalanced, isn’t it?
For the past four hours, I’ve been going back through the past two years of congregational bulletins (orders of worship). Some questions (ok… complaints) have come up about our music. “We aren’t singing enough of the traditional / familiar hymns!” Last year, a committee got together and sent out a survey… one of the questions they asked was about how important familiar hymns were. (Of course, there was overwhelming support for familiar hymns.)
Sooooo… the Director of Music (DoM) and I carefully chose the hymns. We’d check them out with the choir. We’d check them out with the church secretary. Anything that was “new” or even “ummm… we aren’t sure” was either chucked or taught. We went to the congregation, asking for hymns they would like to sing – promising that we would fit them in to appropriate places during the next year.
I thought we had found a reasonable balance.
But you want to know who the complaints are coming from? People who haven’t been participating in worship more than once per month. People who have no concept what hymns we sing… they only know we don’t sing the hymns they want to sing when they’re there!

ok. end rant.

On the other hand… things are exciting about the nexus project. I’ve got about 50 signs up around town. (That reminds me… I’d better put a counter on those pages!) People have already been leaving me e-mail, asking if they can bring anything over to the get-together. Exciting!

…and… I had the mothers of two young families approach me yesterday, asking if I would consider facilitating an evening worship time – sort of a “eveybody bring some food, the kids (if there are any), we’ll have supper and worship together”. Also exciting!

But… where’s the time going to come from?

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Are you prepared to make this covenant…

Today was busy in an exciting kind of way. This morning, I had the chance to meet with two couples who are considering having their children baptised. We spent about two hours exploring the history of baptism, their understandings of the reasons for the sacrament, and the promises that they would be making to their children, to the congregation and to God. It was really wonderful to see them plan how they intended to “teach their child what it means to be part of the family and household of God through Christ’s love”. For some of them, its meant a re-connection to faith community… and to exploring their own beliefs.

The afternoon was also pretty jam-packed. Two weddings… the first a bilingual wedding (french/english) for a really neat couple. His family is english United Church, while her’s is french Roman Catholic. So I had the joy of creating a liturgy that spoke to both styles… in both languages. It was fun! However, as I did my preparation this morning, I realized that I haven’t spoken any french in the past five years. I found myself wandering around the church saying things like, “La grace de notre Seigneur… hmmm… la grawwwwce de… hmmm…”. The family told me they were able to understand though. (Merci, bon Dieu!!)
The second wedding was just as nice, but in a different way. The groom has a seven year old son from a previous relationship. He was the ringbearer and wanted a chance to say something during the service. He had written a beautiful piece of prose/poetry that told his dad and Sonya that he loved them, he was glad they were getting married, and he wanted to help any way he could. Seven years old. Cool.
Tonight, I get to head out to the 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle who live in Stratford, Ontario. It will be great to get together with much of my extended family. We don’t get the chance to do that very often.

I hope I’ll be awake tomorrow!’, ‘, 1, 0);
INSERT INTO `wp_posts` VALUES (81868932, 3, ‘2002-09-20 09:17:02’, ‘The week goes on… and on… and…
The United Church of Canada has a statement of faith that was first written… oh… about 35 years ago. The last three lines are, “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, we are not alone. Thanks be to God!”
When I was doing my theological studies (lo, these 9+ years ago), there were moments of extreme frustration. Like many theologs, I couldn’t understand why we had to read all these dead theologians… why we had to do theory of X… why we had to… (fill in the blank). I wanted to be doing ministry. (Looking back at the last nine years of ordered ministry, I can’t believe how much of that training has come into play. Well over 80%, I’m sure.)
But, in those moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my assignments done, plus the work on my field placement, plus find any time to sleep, I found myself saying, “In life, in theological college; in life beyond theological college; God is with us; we are not alone. Thanks be to God!.” There were moments where that statement carried me through to the next assignment.
I’m not sure what statement it is that carries me through at this point in my life. Sometimes its a wordless cry – “AAAAAUGH!”. Sometimes its heading into the sanctuary and singing through the hymnbook. Sometimes its the words of the daily office.
I know God is with me. I know God is with this group of people. But… I’m not sure we’re going in the same direction any more. There are lots of wonderful things happening. But there’s a sense of malaise – a sense that we’re not going anywhere – that I’ve spent four years trying to dig through.
People are willing for me to take on a new project (like the nexus)… but trying to help them to recognize (and live out) their gifts, while recognizing the limitations, has been like pulling a large rock uphill.
Three steps forward… two point eight steps back.

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Onward Blogging

I realized that I haven’t been blogging as much lately. It’s not that the “first blush” has withered away – I truly enjoy being able to put some of my thinking (well… what I use for thinking) out here. I appreciate the comments I’ve been getting. Some of them have been supportive and some have been supportive in their challenge.

Here’s the thing… I started this during the spring, when everything was slowing down for the summer. Nowwww… it’s September. It’s “start-up” time. For everything. Church programming… my thesis work… projects that I’ve agreed to take on. So I’m not finding as much time to wander my Blogroll, dance through the Blogosphere, or even… gasp… read print on paper.

However. Today (after I got Draft 0 of our “Worship through Celtic Prayers and Hymns” done and off to the Director of Music), I decided to sit down and read Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian”.

Thank God.

Brian writes in an extremely accessible narrative form that is both open and honest. The book is a conversation between two people… one a pastor/minister/clergy-type in the throws of a deep questioning of their understanding of faith, the other a God-send.

So far, I’ve wept through the introduction, found myself bouncing up and down about some of the concepts, and been wondering about what this will mean to me, practically.

By the way, you can order this book at:

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From Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian”:

Here are my thoughts on the church transition question you raised. As I said, much of this is hunch, although my pastoral and lay leadership experiences certianly come to bear.

My guess is that out of one hundred churches, maybe ten would say they want to transition. Most are happy as they are, or they’d rather die than change.

My guess is that out of the ten churches who say they want to transition, probably only two or three really do, meaning that they are willing to pay the full price.

My guess is that of those two or three, one or two could actually do it, but it would be far more difficult than they imagined.

th journey has taken me in a very different direction than a majority of the people in the congregation I serve. What they said they wanted, and what they’re really ready to do are totally different things.

And they’re so tired.

The problem is… I don’t have any signs of being Called elsewhere.

*sigh* ummmm… amma?…. help?

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The World vs. The Way… (ok… vs. my personal interpretation of Christ’s call)

National Review Online writer Rod Dreher is upset that many Christian clerics are calling for restraint as the U.S./U.N. heads towards a possible war with Iraq.

My favourite line in the article: “The Christian religion demands of its followers prayers for enemies, but still, this was jarring, especially for Americans.”

There have been very few times in my life where Christ’s call has not been “jarring”.

(Thanks to relapsed catholic for this link.)

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Thinking About Church Experiences (Part 2)

Ok… I finally get the energy to follow up my Saturday post. (Thanks to Jim, Jen and Bene who shared their thoughts!)

My best experience? It’s a tough call, because there have been a number of really good ones. The most recent one happened last spring. My denomination practices infant baptism, with people making a “confirmation” or profession of faith as young adults. As we work through the classes, one of the tasks the participants take on is to create a personal “statement of faith”. During the “confirmation” worship, each of these 14 to 16 year olds stood in front of 200 members of the congregation and said, “This I believe…” I was moved by the depth and understanding that they shared.

My worst? I lead worship each Sunday, except when I’m on holidays or study leave, so it doesn’t leave me much time to attend elsewhere. During my internship year, I was in a church that didn’t have a Christmas morning service, so I went to church in a nearby community. As worship progressed, we came to the time of the eucharist/mass/Lord’s Supper/communion. Now, for this worship, I was attending a church that follows pretty “high” liturgy.
The liturgist started The Great Thanksgiving… and from “The Lord Be With You”, through to the first person partaking took (without any kidding here) THREE minutes. There was no emotion. No celebration. No breathing. In, out, “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. Blech.

c) If I had an unlimited budget, and the visions I have right now… I think I’d make sure there was someone present to lead the congregation that wanted everything to be the way it was in the 40s, 50s, or 70s… and then go and start some “explore your spirit” groups in the community. One at the arena, one at Tim Hortons (for readers not in Canada, think of any chain of down-home donut and coffee shops), one at the library, one at the teen center, one at (etc)… and then make sure that there were a whole bunch of resources available that people could use as they began to explore their faith.

How about you?

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Sunday, Sunday… mmm.mmm…

I’ve just realized that Sunday is not a good day for me to try and blog. My brain is competely and totally fried. Worship went well, the afternoon was filled with visits, Shannon and I went out for dinner…

and I’m not sure I can string together more than five sentences.

I’ve printed out the responses to my questions from yesterday… I’m going to use them as part of my meditation time, tomorrow. (I’ll post my answers and thoughts then.)

Sleep well, friends!

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Another day

In some ways its been an eventful day, in others, quite peaceful. I did join Dalice at the service of consecration at the Anglican Cathedral (St. Paul’s) in London, this morning. It was a beautiful liturgy, with a variety of hymns (both traditional and contemporary). I found the anointing of the new Bishop to be especially moving… though I don’t think I could tell you why. There is something about the rhythm of ritual that connects to the rhythm of my heartbeat. I immersed myself in it.

There was one moment that I did wonder what it would be like for someone who was a complete outsider – with no history or understanding of the liturgical process. But then I realized that, while outsiders (like me, and like the hypothetical person above) were welcome, this service was truly there for people who have been living that style of celebration of God’s presence out for many years.

For most of its history “inclusivity” has been the hallmark of The United Church of Canada. Many of us have been taught to make sure that our services are accesible to a wide range of people, from a wide range of backgrounds, with a wide range of gifts/skills/abilities. In many ways this is good. But, I wonder… is there not a place for worship that is focussed on those who have been around for a while? (Perhaps I’m asking if there isn’t a place for mystery and questions for which the answers are not completely obvious?

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Thinking About Church Experiences

Jen sent me a wonderful e-mail today – one that’s got me thinking.
(Update: As I thought about what she said, I decided to post some questions… to get a feel for the world.)

I’d appreciate it if people reading this post would take a minute to click on the Comment? link below and answer me these questions three:

a) What was your best experience in an “institutional” church?

b) What was your worst experience in an “institutional” church?

c) If you could walk into any church, with an unlimited budget and your dreams, how would you change it?

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London Conference Travels

Sooo… let’s talk about fun!

I’ve got a really interesting assignment on behalf of London Conference of The United Church of Canada.

Each year, London Conference has an Annual General Meeting. This year, that meeting is going to be held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. (A beautiful city, in a beautiful presbytery. It’s going to be wonderful to head up there.)

One small difficulty. If one takes the Canadian route (London, Toronto, Barrie, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie – ish) the travel time is approximately 9 hours. If one takes a route through the United States (London, Windsor, Detroit, Saginaw, Sault Ste. Marie (Mich.), Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.) ) the travle time is approximately 6.5 hours. BIG difference.

In past years, when the cycle has brought the meeting up to Algoma, people from the southern part of the Conference have chartered busses, hopped on and crossed the border with no difficulty.

The last time was in 1995.

So, my task is to find out what documentation the US Customs and Immigration services require… and what documentation they would find helpful. We really want to make their jobs easy – and we’d like to expidite our travel.

But we’re looking at anywhere from 100 to 300 people – from a religious organization – crossing in busses. It may make life easier for everybody if we simply take the northern route.

So far, I’ve talked to answering machines at US Customs Port of Detroit, the US Consulate Toronto, the US Government Information Services and the Colsulate of Canada (Detroit).

I’m sure I’ll be able to chat with a live human being at some point.

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The PM’s Interview with CBC (part 2)

The Toronto Star has some continuing coverage regarding the Prime Minister’s comments about the Western World’s complicity in the growing divide between poor and rich.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative party, Joe Clark, had a great challenge to the government.

Update: If you would like to see or hear the PM’s comments (and some of the reaction to them), head over to the CBC website.

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I’ve been invited by my Anglican colleague, the Rev. Dalice Sim, to attend the sevice of consecration of The Venerable Robert Franklin Bennet to the role of Suffragan Bishop in The Diocese of Huron (Ontario, Canada), tomorrow.

I am quite excited about this chance. I truly love the chance to sit in the pews, to listen to someone else preach… and to take part in the liturgy as a member of the congregation. I rejoice in the chance to see someone accept this mantle of pastoral responsibility.

A blessing

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The PM’s Interview with CBC

In the words of the Prime Minister of Canada:

“You cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others. That is what the Western world — not only the Americans, the Western world — has to realize. Because they are human beings too. There are long-term consequences,” Chrétien said in the pre-taped interview.

“And I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world and necessarily will be looked upon as being arrogant and self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. The 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more.”

you for your words, M. Chrétien. Now, Mr. Prime Minister, we need you… the head of Her Majesty’s Government… to help Canada’s citizens to build a just balance in the world.

(Thanks to John Janzen for this link.)

Update: There are a whole bunch of people who are right royally… ticked… at the PM’s comments. Check out the posts at Little Green Footballs. If you’re a Canadian reader, make sure you put on your asbestos long underwear. (Thanks to Bene Diction for this link.)

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