Self Portrait

A black and white image of a man, with only his bald head, eyebrows, eyes and rectangular glasses visible.

Have you ever tried to describe yourself? I have to write a few of bios for myself: one line, 200 words, and a page.

How about….

Richard Bott: a partner, a parent, a minister, a guy;
a storyteller, a liturgist, an LGBTQIA-ally;
a listener, a talker, a disciple of Christ,
I’m sure that there’s more… but I hope that’ll suffice.

I know, I know… not serious enough. 😉

What would be helpful for you to know about me?

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Nit picking

Head louse - ???? ???? by Eran Finkle
Head louse – ???? ????, a photo by Eran Finkle on Flickr.

Seriously. That’s how I spent my evening with HappyChild.

We’re fortunate, I guess. This is the first time in her school career that she’s had met up with these little… buggers. So we shampooed her up, put the shower cap on for nearly five hours, did a good rinse – and then I spent another hour with the nit comb and my fingernails, pulling out everything I could find.

Shannon started the bedding and laundry cycle before she headed out for an evening meeting and the stuffies have had their heated “puff and fluff.”

We were fortunate that we had taken her in to have her hair cut this afternoon. The stylist took one look at her hair and pulled me over. “Here’s the situation. It’s a really early case, they’re located in this one area. Go across the street and talk with the pharmacist. Then get her home and get the shampoo on. Don’t worry – you’ll have this taken care of in one treatment.”

I’ve got to say, it’s nice to have someone who deals with hair all the time calmly explain what needed to happen.

HappyChild decided it was an adventure. I’ve decided I don’t want to make a living doing this.

Ever.

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Funerals. Memorials. Celebrations of Life.

The peak of a stone church against a gray-blue sky, a simple celtic cross at its highest point.
Another Cross, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

I attended a memorial service today. It wasn’t for anyone I know. That isn’t strange for me, as someone who ministers at funerals regularly. But, this time was different.

I wasn’t the minister. The minister had asked me to attend, if I were available, to help by sitting in the congregation and singing. The family had chosen two hymns to be sung communally, and the minister wasn’t sure that the folks who gathered would know the songs.

She pegged it. There were a few other voices in the congregation that knew the music, a good 98% didn’t.

What I found interesting; though, was that as long as there was a voice that knew the words and music – and sang out – everyone visibly relaxed, and they joined in.

It was a reminder to me how much we need someone who is willing to say, “Ok. I’ll take responsibility for moving us along – at least until someone else is ready.”

How much we need leaders.

Neither the minister nor I really knew the person who died; but, each in our own way, we did what we could to not only celebrate their life, but to speak a word of hope into a place of grief.

Isn’t that what leaders do? Speak – and live – hope in our times of uncertainty.

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Land of the Silver Birch, Home of the Beaver…


View Larger Map
…where HappyChild and I are heading this week.
Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more.
Boom-diddy-a-da Boom-diddy-a-da Bomm-diddy-a-da boom.

Yes, we’re heading from our home here to visit Nana, Papa, my sibs, and HappyChild’s sundry cousins on the north shore of Lake Superior. To be honest, I’m looking forward; both to the trip and to getting there. It’s been five years since I’ve slept in the house I grew up in – and that long since HappyChild has seen her cousins.

I’m looking forward to sitting on Pebble Beach for a bit.
Pebble Beach And remembering what it was like to be a teenager and a young adult. There were definitely some wonderful times – and some painful ones – worked through looking at that cold, cold water.

Every place I’ve lived in: Marathon, Ottawa, Kingston, Kirkland Lake, Iroquois Falls, St. Marys and Maple Ridge, have become home for me, when I’ve lived there. They’ve all been more than places to lay my head. But there’s something about going back to the land upon which I was born – touching earth, letting the water run over my toes – and remembering how I came to be who I am.

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C’est La Fête nationale!

I wonder what we will become – not only as we work to be French & English together, but as we continue to become more intercultural… and as we work to reconcile with the First Nations and First Peoples of this land?

What will Canada look like at 200?

Tonight’s menu:

  • Three cheeses from Québec on a baguette
  • Tourtiére
  • des Hot Dog
  • Poutine
  • Tarte au sucre; and,
  • “pets des soeur”

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    A Day of Exploring the Horizion

    Shiloh-6th Avenue UCCan Vision Last Sunday, I had the chance to take part in worship leadership and a vision exploration exercise with Shiloh-6th Avenue United Church in New Westminster, BC. My partner, Shannon Tennant, is the Lead Minister with the congregation.

    This is a congregation that I love to work with. They are excited about how they’ve come to be, who they are, and who they seem to be becoming. They’ve been working hard to live out “radical inclusivity” in Christ’s love and are finding hope in what they find that meaning in their life.

    I’m looking forward to seeing who they are in 20 years!

    (You can check out their entire vision statement, along with word and image commentary made by the congregation in this facebook album.)

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    Wedding Photography Tips from a Celebrant’s Perspective

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

    Last summer, I posted some thoughts about photography and weddings over at digital Photography school. (A fantastic website for all of us who love to take pictures.)

    The editor of the forum decided to post my post as an article.

    I’m one of those fortunate people who have been on both sides of the camera when it comes to weddings – as an amateur photographer, as an amateur groom, and as a professional officiant (in my case, clergy).
    Putting on my clergy hat (yeah, sometimes the hats look more than a bit strange), I’d like to make some suggestions about how one’s shooting of the wedding can be a whole lot smoother.

    First, I realize that you may not have much time, but it’s a really good idea to talk with the officiant before the wedding. Realize that – in churches, at least – the officiant has the final say about what can and cannot happen in the service. Introduce yourself. Find out what their rules are for photography and/or videography. If you can make this phone call or get this visit in before the wedding or the rehearsal, even better. This gives you the chance to explore the space, the lighting and what photos the officiant will allow. It also gives you the opportunity to explore the possibility of getting the officiant to expand what they will allow.

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    Sitting in my local Blendz

    Having a cup of Belgian Dark Hot Chocolate and thinking about the experience. You’ve probably seen the YouTube video, What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church?

    What would it look like if it were the other way around?

    When I think of my favourite coffee-shops, there are a few things I notice:

  • Whether there’s a bustle of activity, or a quieter moment, someone notices that I’ve come through the door. It may be with a hurried smile or a quick wave, but I know I’vE been seen.
  • Whether I’m a newcomer or someone who has been there for years, I am greeted with a verbal welcome.
  • If I’m new, and have no idea what I want, not only is there a menu available, there are staff who are willing – and trained – to help me figure out what it is I want that visit.
  • If I’m a regular, the staff knows me well enough to say, “Belgian Dark?” – but also knows that it’s important for me to say, “Yes, please!” before they start. (It may be a Chai day – or a simple lemonade – that I need.
  • The various staff know their specific tasks, and do them to the best of their ability. However, they also know each others tasks well enough to be able to help each other when an overload (or a major mis-step) happens.
  • I can tell that there is a community with other patrons. My presence is acknowledged – again, that smile or a hello – in a way that says, “You’re welcome to sit and watch the world go by, or listen in, or take part in the group conversation.”
  • When something signifigant takes place – a toddler takes off for the open door, someone faints, someone reads something on their cell and bursts into tears – the community reacts, and tries (not always successfully, but tries) to respond in a helpful way.
  • It’s ok to be alone. It’s ok to be in a group.
  • No matter what else we’re here for, we know we can get something to drink.
  • What would church look like if it lived like this?

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    Why are we so down on ourselves?

    Fail! by bott.richard
    Fail!, a photo by bott.richard on Flickr.

    When I gather with colleagues – especially online – our conversation is filled with exhaustion, problems, insoluble issues. It feels like there’s a cloud around us, sucking out our vitality. Draining us of hope.

    You know what it sound like? It sounds like we’re sure we’ve failed. Failed ourselves, failed the church… failed God.

    Can I let you in on a secret? We’re never going to get it exactly right. We’re never going to get things working the way we think they should be. Even if we get close, the world is going to change – and we’re going to find ourselves having to learn and flow and grow.

    But we haven’t failed. We simply haven’t taken the next step.

    Yet.

    Having said that, the more we harp on the things that haven’t worked (rather than looking at them and learning from them and seeing what new can live), the further we get from taking the next step.

    Live. Make mistakes.
    You haven’t failed.

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    United Methodist “Call To Action”

    A tweep pointed out some work that the United Methodists in the US are doing around vital congregations. Though the information doesn’t feel new to me, it does point out some things to think about.

    A vital congregation has:
    Inviting and inspiring worship
    Engaged disciples in mission and outreach
    Gifted, equipped and empowered lay leadership
    Effective, equipped and inspired clergy leadership
    Small groups and strong children’s programs and youth ministry

    They go on to say that there are 16 areas that “drive” vitality, which can be placed in four groups:

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    I’ve moved.

    Actually, I’ve moved away from Drupal. As much as I like it, it’s more than I need for the kind of website I’m keeping. Instead, I’m running a few instances of WordPress: this one for my blog and liturgy.richardbott.com for my liturgical writing.

    I’m going to keep playing with the wiki and keep ucc-resources.ca on Drupal, but I think that the simplicity of WordPress will keep me from playing too much with the “behind-the-scenes” work of a website.

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    We are live – again!

    Because of the .sql injection, my blogsite got banned by Google. I pulled six years worth of writing and started again. Today, I figured out how to do a search on the .sql table and delete the 587 offending instances.

    So, I re-worked everything tonight, moved the drupal blog posts here – and have made a commitment to start writing here again.

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    ‘Beyond the Gods and Back’ – Dr. Reginald Bibby

    I finished my re-read of Dr. Reginald Bibby’s latest book, “Beyond the Gods and Back,” last week. For the past few days I’ve been mulling over what he has written. I’ve been a long-time reader of Reg’s work, and have tried to develop practical ways of exploiting his research within the context of the chuch. (Full disclosure: Reg included one of those attempts in an earlier book and, because of it, I’ve had the chance to co-lead a United Church focused event with him.)

    If you’ve been reading Reg’s previous work, you’ll find much of the first few chapters is review. You get a great sense of what the last 30 years of his own work has shown, and a clear understanding of where that data took him. Get further into the book, I realized that he’s working to pull the view back, inviting readers to see trends in Canada in relationship with trends throughout the world. In the process of widening this view, while still focusing on the Canadian religious context, Reg suggests that rather than secularism taking over or resurgance of faith expression as being the dominant paradigm to understand what is happening – both are taking place. His analysis of the data suggests that polarization of the religious/spiritual sphere has been happening over the course of his gathering the data. With polarization, people that have a connection with religious world-view seem to be moving deeper into it; while those that don’t are moving more deeply towards one of many secular worldviews.

    Important note: I’m generalizing his writing here. I may even be getting it wrong.
    Read the book!

    I see the polarization suggested by Reg’s analysis to be anecdotally evident, from the faith stories of people at St. Andrew’s and in the deeper exploration of both traditional Christianity and post-theistic Christianity in United Church congregations.

    As an ex-sociology student, and as a “practical theologian”, I struggle with how to use this data within both my congregational context and that of our denomination. The data suggests that “mainstream” Christian denominations, like the UCCan in its present form, are not able to adequately serve the spiritual needs of people in either of the two worldviews.

    I need to sit with the last few chapters a while longer – there are some important points in the text that I think speak not only to our current context, but what our future might look like.

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