Are You Between the Ages of 30 and 45?

Then The United Church of Canada is hoping to talk with you.

If you fit one of these categories, please consider filling out the appropriate on-line survey:
a. Questions for those already attending a United Church congregation who are NOT between the ages of 30-45;
b. Questions for those between the ages of 30-45 who already attend a United Church congregation;
c. Questions for those between the ages of 30-45 who are NOT already part of any faith community.

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Gotta Love the Net

I’m the chaplain for the local branch of The Royal Canadian Legion.

For the past few years, I’ve been concerned about the music for the Remembrance Day services. The cassette that’s being used is old. The recording has degraded.
Not the greatest for singing O Canada or God Save the Queen… let alone being able to tell that The Last Post (Tattoo) or Reveille (Rouse) is being played.

So, I decided to wander the net. A number of small orchestras have put up their performances of National Anthems in mp3 format, cleared for public use. The Royal Australian Navy offered The Last Post… and a bugler from Great Britain has posted his – quite excellent – playing of Reveille.

They’ve been downloaded, burned, and run on my cd player.

I love the net!

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Word-Wide Communion Sunday

This week’s communion is the first where all of the Sunday School will be participating with the rest of the congregation. The children are going to head Sunday School for the first part of the service, for a time of worship and to talk about communion. They’ll join the rest of the congregation during the hymn before communion.

To help the children (and everyone else) understand a bit more about communion, I put together the following liturgy. As I cast about for some way of integrating questions into the liturgy, I remembered the Passover hagadah of our Jewish sisters and brothers. The maggid section of the hagadah is focused on helping the children to integrate the experience of the exodus from Egypt into their own being.

At St. Marys United Church, the minister celebrating the sacrament of communion is seated behind the communion table, between two congregational elders. On this Communion Sunday, we’ll be using the more “traditional” UCCan format (individual glasses and cubed bread).

I’ve asked one of the congregational wise-ones (aka. Everybody’s Gramma) to be the Teaching Elder and one of the younger members of the congregation to be the Child.

The children will join the rest of us during the singing of “As We Gather at Your Table” (VU457).

Let me know what you think!

Child: What makes this morning different from other mornings?
Teaching Elder: Today, we’ve come together to share in a special meal – a meal that reminds us of Jesus’ time on earth, long ago,
and a meal helps us to remember our connection to all of our Christian family thoroughout God’s world–
– people who have already lived and died;
– people who are living now;
– and people who are yet to be born.
Today, we’ve come together to share in a special meal – a meal that helps us to remember our connection to God.

Minister: All are welcome at God’s table – at Christ’s table – and at this table.
People from near or far. Neighbours and strangers. Young and old. Rich and poor.
In whatever way you know the Christ, know you are invited to eat and drink with him.

During the worship, the congregation is invited to respond to some of the things I’ll be saying. Don’t worry if you don’t know the responses. If you are able to read, they’re printed in the bulletin. If you can’t read them, don’t worry! If you would like, instead of words, you can follow my actions… or you can sit quietly and listen to the words around you.

The Lord be with you. (Minister extends left arm to left side, right arm to right side.)
All: And also with you. (People extend left arms to left sides, right arms to right sides.)
Minister: Lift up your hearts. (Minister cups hands at centre of chest and raises hands to sky.)
All: We lift them up to God. (People cup hands at centre of chest and raise hands to sky.)
Minister: Let us give thanks to God, our God. (Minister moves hands from raised cup to folded in prayer, and lowers back to chest level.)
All: It is right to give God thanks and praise. (People move hands from raised cup to folded in prayer, and lower back to chest level.)

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Starting My Exploration of the Articles of Faith of the UCCan

A few posts back I started thinking about what it means to be ‘in essential agreement’ with the Basis of Union of The United Church of Canada.

I set for myself the interesting (and somewhat daunting) task of looking at the articles again… and doing some thinking about where my beliefs fit in.

So… here goes.

Article I. Of God.
We believe in the one only living and true God, a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being and perfections; the Lord Almighty, who is love, most just in all His ways, most glorious in holiness, unsearchable in wisdom, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion, and abundant in goodness and truth. We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory.

Ok… first things first – language. The Basis of Union was written during the first part of the last century. The english language of the day recognized “man” and “men” and “mankind” as encompassing both sexes. The language I use – both regarding people and images of the Divine – does not recognize that archaism. If I’m talking about brothers and sisters or humankind that’s what I’m going to say. When it comes to images of God, I believe that “She” is just as valuable an image as “He”… and vice-versa. If God is Spirit (as stated in the first line), then, from my perspective, God is sexless – except for what attributes humanity connects both to God and to sex. (I’ll add here that I also believe that imagery like ‘Lord’ or ‘King’ also have value – but need to be balanced with a variety of other images… like “a mother hen, brooding over her chicks”.) My biggest problem with the language is its archaic nature. In many ways, it was written in the poetic theological jargon of thday. Unpacking it is… well… pretty heavy.

“the one only living and true God” – I can agree with that… however (didn’t you just know there was going to be a ‘but’?) – that only living and true God is not encompassed solely by Christian understanding.

“a Sprit” – that fits with my experience and understanding;

“infinte, eternal, and unchangeable” – The first two, no problem. Unchangeable, however, does present some difficulty for me. My experience of God is better explained by some of the concepts of process theology. In a really simplistic way, my thoughts go something like – God is in intimate relationship with creation, creation is in a state of constant change, the relationship is in a state of change, thus, if God desires to continue to be in intimate relationship, God, too, must change.

Ok… this is taking a lot more typing than I thought it would.
I’ll be back. 🙂

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A Call to Gather and Prayer of Approach based on MT. 21

One: God called…
All: and I said, “I hear you! I’m coming!”
One: But then…
All: I stayed where I was.

One: God called…
All: and I said, “Forget it!”
One: But then…
All: I decided to follow.

One: God calls.
All: How do we respond?
One: God invites.
All: How do we respond?
One: God blesses.
All: How do we respond?
One: God loves.
God loves!
All: How do we respond?

One: This time we hear, Holy One.
This time we gather, as your people, brought together by your call… and your love.
We ask that you would guide us.
We ask that you would lead us.
We ask that you would remind us of our covenant relationships –
with you, and with each other.
And we ask that you would help us to live all times, like this time,
responding to your call,
not only with word – but with action;
not only with action – but with Word.
In Christ’s name and in your Love, we ask these things. Amen.

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I’m sitting here at Church House – The United Church of Canada’s national offices, located in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Why? Well, I’ve got a meeting in a couple of hours. This afternoon, I get to make a presentation about a new on-line community of the UCCan – The Worship Place. It’s designed to be a webspace to help worship planners (in congregations and other places) to chat with each other, on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis.

I’m kind of excited about it. Our host is CommunityZero. They’ve got a great front-end – very dial-up friendly… and reasonably new-user friendly, too. Part of the hope is that we will be able to get people who aren’t completely computer comfortable, but are looking for support and challenge in their worship leadership, to take part.

Its a moderated community. We’re just working out exactly what that’s going to mean. Fortunately, for this community, I am not expected to be the sole moderator. I’m the overall administrator, but – we’re hoping – to have moderators for each of the folders: Music, Preaching, Sacred Arts, Sunday Worship Planning, Worship Space, Celtic Worship and Innovative Worship (the folder I get to moderate). There are a couple of more folders that I have “in waiting”, until after I’ve had a chance to make the presentation, and heard the thoughts from the committee.

It will be interesting to see what comes of it!

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*splam* They Got Me!

I just added a whole bunch of new words to my “keep comment spam out of my blog” dictionary.

Yep. Last night I got hit with about 15 comment spams. Twelve of them – for such interesting things as an online version of the newest card game gambling craze to rock North America – got through. Three of them – for… well… let’s just say I’m really glad they didn’t get through.

Spammers. Bleh.

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Busy Week – in a Good Way

My parents are down to visit. Rowan is having a great time. So are the rest of us. Dad really likes to keep his hands moving… so we’ve fixed doors, cleaned out tool rooms, set up networks, etc. etc. and etc. I’ve had a number of chances to sit with both Mom and Dad and chat.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to see them!

Some rather cool things have been happening over the week. I’ve been invited to be the Administrator/Moderator of a new on-line worship resource and conversation space in The United Church of Canada, to be known as The Worship Place. I’m in the process of trying to get some content up for a presentation to the National Worship & Liturgy Committee meeting next week. Some really exciting stuff – and, of course, some really great hope and dreams about The Place. We’re hoping for a startup in the near future, so a lot of my online time is focussed their, right now. I’ll be writing more about it as it comes together.

Tomorrow night I get to head to the Church Council retreat for Stoney Creek United Church. Their ministry team has asked me to come as an “inspirational speaker” *grin*, as the Council takes a look at where God is calling the congregation to go in the coming years.

This Sunday I’m taking some time to be with another congregation – Etonia United Church – for their 137th anniversary. Each year, I try to set aside one of my “away from SMUC” Sundays for guest preaching at an anniversary service. Etonia UC is a rural farming congregation with quite an exciting history. I’m really looking forward to being with them for the day.

Congregationally, things are a-movin’. We had our first Council meeting of this pastoral year. At it, I dumped my concern about the lack of leadership being given for our children. We’ve got some great teachers… but no organization or way to help them do what they need to do. From my perspective we aren’t taking our baptismal vows particularly seriously. This, as you might expect, caused a great deal of buzz – and – hallelujah… some decisive action! Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks!

In about an hour the St. Marys Ministerial Association will be meeting. I am looking forward to this gathering… because I get to hand my responsibilities as President of the Association over to someone else. Its not a big deal… but the responsibility for organization does sit there (and pop up when least expected).

A good week, all-in-all… but a busy one!

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As I Wander Through My Referrer Logs

I notice that many, many… many… links to “Looking Back Looking Forward” over the past six days have come from my host’s index page:

Nice to see you here! Be welcome.

I’d appreciate it if you would email me
and let me know
what you think. Questions, comments, suggestions… I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Blessings and peace, all.

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This Is the Day

that God has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

I’m sitting at the computer at the church, getting ready for this morning’s worship celebration.
Its supposed to be “Rally Sunday” – the start-up of our church school programme for this year. (Regular school started this past week, now its time for us to get going.)

So, the worship service is going to be really child-friendly. Most of the worship times I get to facilitate tend to be. They have “intergenerational elements” through them.

Here’s my difficulty with today. I’m beginning to think there’s some kind of breakdown in communications. I have no idea who is going to be facilitating the Christian Nurture programme. In fact, I don’t think we have anyone who has take the responsibility to get anything organized.

Now, I know, for certain, that there are two people in the congregation who are really worried about what’s going to happen. One of them is willing to be a co-facilitator for the programme. This week, I decided to talk with a retired children’s educator in our congregation, to see if he would be willing to help organize something that would help our children learn what it means to be children of God and rollowers of J.C.

He’s going to let me know tomorrow. And that’s great! I’m sure we’ve got people who are willing to be with the children in the nursery. I get to facilitate the Jr. Youth Group (along with my Anglican co-hort) starting this Wednesday after-school. It looks like we’ve got five teen-type youth who are willing to work on Worship Alive with me. Our “Family Time – Together Time” will startup again on the 25th.

But I’m not sure what’s going to happen on Sunday morning.

I’m especially not sure what’s going to happen this Sunday morning. Today. In about 1h15.

As I sit here and type this, I’ve got a couple of ideas burbling away in the back of my head. The first part of the service will be just fine. It was (as usual) built with the children’s participation in mind. The scriptures will be all right.

But, if the children aren’t heading to any kind of a programme, the sermon/meditation that was in my head is going to have to be… well… dumped.

Hmmm… the midrashim from the rabbah on the Exodus might work. I could re-tell the story of the escape through the sea, the destruction of the army, and God’s tears.

O.k. – feeling better now!

If you got this far, thanks for letting me blather.

If you’d like to see what I’ve got planned for the day, it’s “below the fold”.
(Normally I don’t script things out like this, but since there are others taking part in the service, I thought they’d appreciate having something to work from! *grin*)

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“In Essential Agreement”

A phrase which holds a great deal of power in the life of the United Church of Canada.

You see, when the UCCan came together – in 1925 – it was formed through the union of the Congregational Churches in Canada, the Methodist Churches in Canada, and about 70-ish% of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, as well as congregations called “Local Union Churches” that had been using draft versions of the terms of union as a way to come together.

Why did they come together? For many reasons, I’m sure, but the Basis of Union states, “It shall be the policy of the United Church to foster the spirit of unity in the hope that this sentiment of unity may in due time, so far as Canada is concerned, take shape in a Church which may fittingly be describes as national.” (Basis of Union, sec. 1.2)

Each of the groups brought their own special flavour of Christianity to the table. One of the things that was brought by the Congregationalists was the desire that membership not be connected to a specific creedal statement except… perhaps… “Jesus Christ is Lord”. The Presbyterians and Methodists, however, were more creedal-ly connected.

Part of the process of union was hammering out a doctrinal statement. So, section 2.o states,

“We, the representatives of the Prebyterian, Methodist, and Congreational branches of the Church of Christ in Canada, do hereby set forth the substance of the Christian faith, as commonly held among us. In doing so, we build upon the foundation laid y the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. We affirm our belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the primary source and ultimate standard of Christian faith and life. We scknowledge the teaching of the great creeds of the ancient Church. We further maintain our allegiance to the evangelical doctrines of the Reformation, as set forth in common in the doctrinal standards adopted by the The Presbyterian Church in Canada, by The Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, and by The Methodist Church. We present the accompanying statement as a brief summary of our common faith and commend it to the studious attention of the members and adherents of the negotiating Churches, as in substance agreeable to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” (Basis of Union, 2.0)

Quite a statement, eh?

So, why am I blogging about a statement written 80 years ago? Why is it interesting me today?

Well… part of our polity states, “Each Candidate recommended to be commissioned or ordained shall be examined on the statement of doctrine of the United Church, and shall, before commissioning or ordination, satisfy the Conference Education and Students Committee that they are in essential agreement therewith, and that as a member of the Order of Ministry of the United Church they will accept the statement as being in substance agreeableto the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” (The Manual sec. 26.d)

Between twelve and thirteen years ago, I must have showed the Conference Education and Students Committee that I was “in essential agreement therewith”… ’cause they agreed to put my name forward for approval for ordination.

Twelve years is a long time. (Ok… its a long time in one individual’s life – a tick on a blip in the universal scheme of things!) Lots of experiences can be packed into twelve years. Lots of change.

What I’m wondering is, could I still say that I’m in essential agreement with the doctrines as laid out in the Basis of Union?

The only way to answer that question is to take them apart. Section by section. Line by line.
Think about them.
Pray them.
Question them.
Question myself.

And, hey, what better place to do that exploration than right here? I mean, this is a place where other UCCan-types, friends of other Christian connection, and friends of other faith world-views come. This is a place where people love to drop comments. *grin*

So, over the next while, I’m going to do some thinking and writing about the Doctrinal statement in the 1925 Basis of Union of The United Church of Canada… as it relates to me and my faith.

As a good friend would say, “WooHoo!”

Many thanks to Nick for making me think again, about this part of my journey.

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Why Would I ever Password a Post

Reason enough?

Jen, my host, and her beloved, Jon, are in ministry. He as a newly ordained pastor and she as a theologically trained spouse.

I got to know Jen right when I first started blogging, a few years ago, when both of them were still students.

Ministry is not always easy. Either as a minister, or as the spouse of a minister. (And I’m speaking as one who lives both realities.)

Sometimes we ministry-types hurt and need to talk about it. Usually in private, sometimes in semi-private, every once in a while in public.

Sometimes we ministry-types write about that hurt. Usually in private, sometimes in semi-private, and every once in a while in public.

Sometimes we talk about things that people don’t think ministry-types should talk about. Like sex. Like grief. Like anger. Like loss.

Sometimes people don’t want to think that we ministry-types can think (or act) (or live) that stuff.

Sometimes people are wrong.

I am angry.
I am sad.
I wish I could sit with the parish and say, “Ok. So. As a brother in Christ, I ask you, what is going on? Are your expectations fair and just and loving? Where is God in all of this?”
I know I could do that with Jen and Jon.

So, readers and friends, I would invite your prayers…
for Jen…
for Jon…
for those they serve…
for the upset and the hurt and the anger…
for shalom – a just peace – for all of them.

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Thank You Canada for Being Here

Exerpts of an open letter from U.S. ambasador David Wilkins to the people of Canada:
“Four years after the devastating terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, my country finds itself once again hurting deeply.

And today – just as it did four years ago – Canada has come to our aid early and eagerly.

On behalf of my grateful country: Thank you Canada for once abain being there when we need you the most.

Hurricane Katrina is the worst natural disaster the United States has faced in modern history. The death and destruction wrought by this powerful storm is so massive it is difficult to comprehend.

But we do know for certain we cannot face it alone. Just as Canadians helped shoulder our grief and pain in the wake of 9/11, we feel your support now. And it is a real comfort – a reminder that humanity at its best is far more forceful and powerful than any storm…

Prime Minister Paul Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan immediately offered any help when and where we need it…

Gen. Rick Hillier offered the assistance of Canadian military forces…

Canada’s premiers as well as numerous mayors and other officials have offered help as well – everything from teams of electrical personnel and equipment to paramedics, police, fire-fighters and medical materials, food, clothing – even offers to house the homeless.

Likewise, Canada’s business community is there for us, making a tangible difference in the hardest hit areas. Katrina was still battering our shores when Air Canada was implementing its plan to offer transport help. Air Canada was the first foreign carrier to arrive in New Orleans and quickly began its mission of mercy, transporting stranded flood victims to safety…

I also want to express my appreciation to Canadians of all faiths. No matter the denomination or religious affiliation, all are playing their important part in this massive relief effort. I believe in the power of prayer and I thank those who are remembering the victims of Hurricane Katrina and praying for the safety and success of all those involved in rescue and cleanup efforts.

Last week, the governor of Mississippi made a statement that has stayed with me. He said, “Disasters like this bring out the best in most people and the worst in some.”

Thank-you Canada for giving us your very best – your treasure, your talent and your time…

With your continued support, and God’s grace, the United States will overcome both the sorrow and the challenges we face.

And we will remember and always honour you who helped us get there.”

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“That Canada/US Chill”

(from today’s Toronto Star editorial section:)

Remember the poll 10 weeks ago that found Canadians see Americans as “rude, greedy and violent?” The one that found fewer Canadians view the U.S. in a good light today than three years ago? And that the U.S. is “broadly disliked” in Canada and around the world?

Well, the Big Chill turns out to be not so very big, and not so very chilly.

Read more of this editorial in today’s Toronto Star.

My Sunday talk/sermon/whatever-you-want-to-call-it explored the concept that “our neighbour having the ability to help themselves does not negate our responsibility to help them out… they’re still our neighbour, whether we’re happy with them or not”.

Sunday was ok.

This editorial is excellent!

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Once Upon A Thames

Tomorrow is the kick-off day for the upcoming Once Upon a Thames storytelling festival, here in St. Marys. If you follow the link, you’ll find out that this is the second festival we’ve had here. The first, last September, was fantastic.

Tomorrow afternoon, at the Lion’s shelter down on the flats, a group will be gathering to share in some sacred storytelling. Last year I was invited to come and storytell… and I’ve had an invitation to be there again this year.

I’m afraid I don’t remember what story I told last year (I remember far better the others that were told!)

If you’re in St. Marys at 2pm tomorrow, come join us on the flats.

If you’re in St. Marys next weekend – I’ll see you in the tents!

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Why Password a Post

A couple of posts ago, I said that I was going to password a post, and that people were welcome to ask for the password.

In the comments that followed, a number of interesting points were made.

So… I’m now thinking about why I would want to password a post.

I recognize this space is public. I write and anyone who wants to can read. That’s great!

Sometimes, however, I would like some control over what I write. Basically, I want to know that (with those specific posts) people will treat the information as a confidence. By password protecting, I have the ability to chat (well… have an email conversation) with those interested in reading what I’ve written. I can let them know (and make sure they understand) why I wouldn’t want what I’ve written publically disseminated.

Would you password a post? Why or why not?

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