Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Seeker Church MUST move beyond it's fear ...

A First Nations friend used to say frequently that when people encounter stressful situations with change as an inevitable reality they will, particularly if they suffer from addiciton and/or dependency issues, react in fear ... He then went on to describe the F.E.A.R. principle that comes into play ...

"Watch," he would say, "they'll live by F.E.A.R."

"What does that mean?" I naively asked.

"F.E.A.R. ..." he said laughing, "F@*& Everything And Run!!"

He was sooooooo right ...

In so many places I've witnessed that very principle at work. People will physically run away from the challenge of the moment ... they will withdraw ... or worst of all - they will LASH OUT.

Since reading the book "Christianity for the Rest of Us" by Diana Butler Bass I've been digging through some of my Church and Theological Resources looking for more information about the difference between a Village Church and what I've dubbed a Seeker Church. This issue looms large in the work I'm undertaking around the Masters Thesis I'm currently writing.

I want to examine the role of Church Congregations as a means of community, economic and social development in rural communities ... given that the Church is often the last Institution to pull out of small rural communities, they would seemingly have opportunities to be MORE than just a weekly Worship service.

Yet, even Churches rich in resources and capital of all kinds, there has often been something hindering these communities from realizing that POTENTIAL ... Reading Butler Bass, the penny finally dropped ... I began to connect some of the theoretical threads ... Butler Bass' view of the Emerging Church ... Friedman's view of the Church as a Family Process System ... the visionary work of folks like Wallis, Stivers and others ... and the works of many calling on the Church to BE MORE THAN JUST A WORSHIPPING COMMUNITY ... have started to come together, as I've been exploring the WHY?

Some churches are just not able to face the challenge of change with anything less than fear ...the same fear that causes the F.E.A.R. principle to kick into play ...

Nelson Granade says it well when he notes:

Communities desperately need leaders to guide the way through the challenges of change, but they often reject leaders because of the anxiety associated with such change.Anxious communities, like anxious congregations, can become unhealthy systems and develop unrealistic expectations of leaders. Just as anxious congregations "over focus on their clergy" and "find it immensely difficult to see the rest of the system," anxious comunities overfocus on community leaders and fail to see the core causes of their apprehension. The community's "blurred vision" generates unrealistic expectations of leaders and distorted ideas about community problems. The leader becomes a magnet for criticism while the community stumbles along failing to see or to address radical economic and cultural shifts. Foundational issues recieve little attention and thus continue to be unresolved, creating even greater and higher levels of anxiety. The unfortunate result is that leadership is devalued and those brave enough to offer leadership often decide the results are NOT worth the effort ...

He then goes on to describe the PROBLEM that community leaders like Clergy face when they are courageous (or stupid) enough to step outside the Traditional Role (and usually unrealistic) expectation they have imposed upon them ... In trying to challenge people to critically examine the Status Quo and seek new ways of doing and being, in a community living in F.E.A.R. they face anger, rejection and ultimately the loss of their employment.

Village Churches today live in a place of F.E.A.R. The world around them is changing rapidly ... the "old" ways are fading ... Today's challenge is for them face the reality around them and overcome their fear, or accept their fate and hang up the "We're Closed" sign.

Change is inevitable ... and like the wise man once said - "we have NOTHING to fear BUT fear itself."

Today the Church (that is YOU and I) that is seeking a healthy active spirituality that transcends the strictures of Tradition MUST face its fear and seek to LIVE its faith BOLDLY and without any F.E.A.R.

Running away is NO LONGER AN OPTION !!!

Now the challenge will be to find the means of helping communities and leadership to assess and evaluate the status of a community and whether it is a Village Church or a Seeker Church ... and act accordingly. A Village Church needs a Eulogy prepared ... The Seeker Church needs a map and a guide book to help make the road ahead an adventure ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Have a Dream:

This week I've been doing A LOT of reflecting on, and revisiting of - the life and writings of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Earlier I revisited his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Today I've been immersing myself in the exquisite truth of his "I Have a Dream" speech ... click below and take the 17 minutes to watch and listen to the video, or scroll down and read his words ... either way, let his words wash over you and hear the profound and prophetic message that continues to reverberate throughout humanity ...

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.

This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Lessons from the Sea

I've heard two variations on the story ... both from First Nations elders ...

The first version is about fresh water crayfish - the second was salt water crabs.

Both stories spoke a truth worth considering in the Church and in small communities everywhere ...

The story (the first version) goes like this:

An old man was catching crayfish and tossing them in a small ice cream bucket. He had caught a couple of dozen cray fish when some young boys strolled by and glanced in the bucket.

"Hey old man," one of the boys called, "your cray fish are gonna escape on you."

"Nay," replied the old man without looking up, "they're Indian Cray fish."

"What does that mean?" asked one of the young men.

"It means that when one of the cray fish actually makes it up to the lip of the bucket and gets ready to climb out," the old man looked up at the boys, "the other cray fish pulls them back down into the bucket ..."

The elders who shared this story with me both lamented the with resignation the truth of this story not only for First Nations communities, but for many small towns where relationships and familial ties run strong. One of them even cited the example of Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth where his reading of the Prophet Isaiah is met with the crowd wanting to toss him off the nearest cliff.

Too often success in small communities, be they native or non-native, is met with derision and criticism rather than support and encouragement ...

The challenge is to escape the tendancy to be like the cray fish and crabs, and rather than viewing those who are climbing up to the edge of the bucket holding ALL of us with jealousy, we need to open our eyes to the possibility that with their success THEY might be able to lead ALL of us to FREEDOM ...

It's true in the Church ... it's true in communities ... it's true across all divides of race, colour and creed ... it's about being HUMAN and moving past petty jealousy to a place of co-operation and community building ...

Sometimes it's worth listening to old fisherman ... they've got much to teach us ... if we dare to hear!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Empty Pews ...

One day, not that long ago I sat in the basement of this building as part of the faith community that used to live and worship there ... and I experienced an epiphany moment ... it was a moment that had a profound and lasting impact and effect on my life ...

In time I would have a second epiphany moment that would lead me away from the Church for a time and send me searching for something more ... it was a search that one day lead me back through the front doors of this building, after an absence of almost 5 years only to be welcomed back with open arms, an offer to teach Sunday School and ABSOLUTELY NO hint of judgement ... I never left again ...

In the coming days I will share some of my stories from this place ... but for the moment I would like to share the first epiphany moment and where it has lead ...

It began with our 9:15 youth group meeting with the minister of the day Reverend Ross Cumming. This particular day Ross hauled in an old "portable" record player (remember those heavy monolithic things from school and church???) He pulled out a black vinyl record and put it on the turntable saying - "I want to share this you ... I think it's important ..."

He then put the needle down on a recording of the 1967 Massey Lecture from CBC that was the Christmas Sermon on Peace delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The words were powerful and I was AMAZED ... it, as I've said elsewhere, lead to me devouring every word I could find about King - at 12 I even bought a copy of EBONY magazine that had a series of articles on King - do you realize the odd looks I got at the little magazine shoppe on Downie St in Stratford when I walked in there one day and as a skinny white kid asked - "Do you carry EBONY?" !!!!

Along the way I encountered and read and re-read King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail that struck a profound cord with me ... particularly where he wrote:

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are...

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust..

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world.

The line - "everyday I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust ..." has ALWAYS stood out for me ... I was once one of those young people, and over the last twenty some years I have repeatedly found myself drawn to those young people as I've struggled in ministry within the Church.

Over cups of coffee, pop and the occasional beer - I have heard countless voices, not all of them chronologically YOUNG who have articulated CLEARLY and CONCISELY what they see wrong within the Church. Over and over I have heard THEM say - "you're not like the OTHER ministers I've met ..." and they expressed an appreciation for my attention and time, and they've offered a deep heart felt desire, usually accompanied by a sigh that expresses the gut wrenching HOPE that one day perhaps the Church will hear them and take their words seriously ...

It's a hope I've always been very very sensitive to, and that I've tried to embody in my ministry ... but too often the faith communities are too interested, as King observes, in maintaining the STATUS QUO, rather than opening themselves up to what those "outside" want ... even the choice of language used within the Church betrays the presence of the very complacency that King was speaking of back in 1963.

Are those who express faith yearnings and who want to return to the Church really outside the BODY???

Or have we so created the boundaries and fences around the Church, that only a small narrowly defined group fit the criteria of "inside" while many of us, perhaps even ME, lie "outside" ... when in truth, we are not outside of anything ... but are instead simply advocating for a dismantling of the walls that would divide people from one another ...

The way things are is NOT working ... that much is clear ... what is needed is the willingness to expand out vision and look at some of the bold brush strokes ...

If we are to be an open and inclusive community the place to begin is perhaps by hearing the MANY voices who express contempt and disgust for the Church and actively and openly wrestle with the things they are saying ... then one day perhaps we will become the transformative community we are MEANT to be rather than a social club of the status quo ... until then we will continue to simply wring our hands over the empty pews and look for excuses about why we are in a precipitous decline ...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Letter from a Friend ...

In 1963 The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr wrote a letter from a jail cell in Birmingham Alabama. This week, as I've been reading Diana Butler Bass' book "Christianity for the Rest of Us" I have found myself thinking about this letter and its faithful and honest criticism of the Church ... words that continue to ring true even 45 years later ...

Below are excerpts from King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail - to read the complete text please click here - what follows are bits I chose to share ... The WHOLE LETTER is worth reading and reflecting on ...

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. ...
... One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. ... My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God- given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal .law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. ...
... We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti religious laws. ...
...the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. ...
... Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great- grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, ...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What Kind of Welcome??

I've always thought the Church could learn a lot from really listening to the music of our youth and young people. I have come to appreciate the lessons offered even more now that my children are developing their own taste in music. A couple of years ago I came to appreciate the powerful messages contained in songs my the rock group GreenDay when my son got a CD of their music for Christmas. The music may not be to my liking, but the message they convey is not one I am uncomfortable with ...
The medium and the message get blurred, but at the end of the day it's the message that MUST be heard ...
With that in mind, as I've been reading, reflecting and musing on Diana Butler Bass' book Christianity for the Rest of Us, I find myself humming the song "Subdivisions" by Canadian Rock Band Rush ... it's a song that came out in the 1980's as I was moving through the transition from High School to University ... and much of its message resonated with me at the time.
Lately as I've been reflecting on the challenges of transition and transformation that is confronting the modern Church, I have found myself hearing the words of the song that follow:
Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

Subdivisions ---
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

This has seemingly become an operating principle in the modern Church - or at least the corners of the modern Church that are hesitant, reluctant or downright terrified of living with the changes that are spinning around us.

Butler Bass cites the example of a congregation who lived a faith motivated radical welcoming hospitality by allowing and encouraging the building of a tent city on their front lawn to house homeless individuals from the surrounding community. She notes that all was not easy - members made it clear THAT if the Tent City went ahead THEY would leave ... others said if the Tent City didn't proceed THEY would leave ... often in the Institutional Church (that is the Village Church we've spoken of previously) the response to such ecclesiastical black mail is to cave and maintain the status quo and reject those who advocate change - OR worse - demand that those wanting change instead conform ...

In Butler Bass' example though it was noted that the Congregation did not cave into ecclesiastical black mail (the old - Give me what I want OR I'll stop giving and NOT come back!!) but instead prayerfully and faithfully approached the issue of the Tent City and proceeded BECAUSE it was the right thing to do.

I couldn't help but wonder what would happen in the United Church of Canada under similar circumstances ... but then I know we have the example of The Rev. George Feenstra who did something remarkably similar in BC, only to be dismissed for failing to maintain the peace of the Church ...

Made me say - Hmmmm ...

What does this radical hospitality that Butler Bass writes about really look like?? (see pages 77 to 88 in her book)

How do we not only live that hospitality, but how do we transform those who would insist on conformity as the ONLY response???

The old Rush song speaks of uniformity, which is the very thing that under girds the Village Church ... in such a setting change is NOT embraced, but rather it is actively resisted ... In that moment, when conformity is demanded rather than change embraced - the outcome is not growth ...

Countless times I've encountered Congregations that say proudly - "we're a warm and welcoming place ..." only to stumble over folks who have never felt that purported welcome or warmth. In some cases it has been people who have been "there" for years and years and years, and still feel very much an outsider.

The congregation is happy to take their time, energy and money, but it remains a cliquey place where inclusion is based on relationships (familial, political, and economic), on worldview, on social class, on employment background, or common history, to name just a few. Those who are not "like us" are never fully integrated into the congregation and remain outsiders.

In the 80's a number of studies challenged the Mainline Denominations to take this issue seriously, yet when the clergy offers the observation that the congregation could do better in living out its welcome the response is often swift, negative and devastating ... Belling that cat can cost ministers their positions!!

Yet, it remains a crucial piece in the survival and more importantly the transformation of the Church. Living our welcome not only welcomes in the stranger's money - it is about integrating the stranger and transforming the community in the process. When a TWENTY year attendee says "I still don't feel part of the community" - they not only need to be heard - they DESERVE to be heard.

We can not set limits, either covert or overt when it comes to our hospitality. Our calling as people of faith is to welcome ALL people, not just some ... ALL!!! Failure to welcome in all of God's children and to open ourselves, our lives and our communities to the potential transformation this can represent is to simply cave into the ecclesiastical blackmail that insists the status quo MUST be maintained at ALL costs!!

Fortunately though, the dreamers, the misfits and the prophets are NOT alone ... they stand on the margins, or just beyond the comfortable doors of our sanctuaries and remind us that the word "welcome" can not have conditions if we are to be people of the Cross.

The Spirit will NOT be black mailed nor held hostage !!!!

Unlike the sign above which clearly puts an asterisk after "welcome" that delineates the limits for those who might be seeking more - our welcome sign as followers of Christ can have no limits, for we are here to offer the gift of God's Grace. A gift that has NO conditions and NO limits and NO boundaries.

We need to stop being gatekeepers trying in vain to protect something that is not ours to protect in the first place, and we should start tearing down the fences and walls that we ourselves have created ... we need to let God's gift of Grace simply pour forth ... and it begins by tearing down the walls that exist within us ...

We need to begin by doing as Butler Bass notes - "Christian people, themselves wayfarers, welcome strangers into the heart of God's transformative love !!"

In the seeker Church ALL are welcome with open arms - ESPECIALLY those with open hearts and MINDS !!!!!

Come Holy Spirit Come !!!!
Thanks be to God !!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

An Internet Search Reveled:

Today I went searching on the net for more information and writings by Diana Butler Bass ... I was NOT disappointed ... There is her own web site where there is whack of information about her six books, appearances, and writings, AND she is also found on a Blog over at BeliefNet hosted by Jim Wallis of Sojourners ...
Diana Butler Bass is one of those voices that the modern church needs to not only listen to, but also honestly and openly heed ... She's pointing in a direction that if we as a Church fail to consider, we may be watching our own demise ...
From her entry at Jim Wallis' blog I found this closing comment:
Frankly, the world has never needed the Christian practice of diversity more than it does today. ... Christians of every imaginable stripe—in the same room, doing important work together. We proved—or maybe discovered—that the only limit to diversity is the love of God.
It says so much ... maybe one day we'll have the courage to not only listen, but to follow ...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Feeding the Sheep ... Heeding the Spirit ...

I've been reflecting a lot lately about being called by faith to action, justice and most of all compassion ... I've had many bits and pieces floating around in my mind as I've struggled to articulate my feelings about this.

I know that everything I do is motivated from a deep sense of compassion and care for others. Even in the darkest moments, when I have acted foolishly, my heart holds to (sometimes it is an erroneous rationalization) the notion that my actions are in response to the cry for caring and compassion.

I have been mistaken ... but I can and will say, that I have been mistaken in my actions NOT in my motivation.

I have been used and misused by people seeking their own ends rather then being honest and open ... but my motivations - the WHY? of my actions - remains focused on caring for and helping others ...

That has sometimes been forgotten ... it has often been overlooked. But this past week as I've reflected back on some things and read more of Diana Butler Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us, I have come to realize or even re-discover, how central that notion of compassion is to EVERYTHING I do and everything I am.

In turn, this commitment to compassion has caused me to see justice not as something that exists "over there" somewhere. But as a need that we find crying out in the streets around us. When I watch or read Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the children cowering under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the young mom huddled in the streets surrounded by ineffective phantoms serve as a stark reminder that want and need are felt not only "over there" somewhere far in the distance, but also closer to home as well.

The prophetic call to justice doesn't send us zooming off to the remote corners of the world to feed and clothe the hungry, but rather it challenges us to see the needs in those remote corners AND around the corner from us as well.

This means that when a voice begins to speak out and the content and tone are not comfortable, as a people of faith - as individuals of faith - we owe it to ourselves, to them, and to God ultimately, to pause on WHY? this voice is uncomfortable and reflect on what it is about the ISSUE that causes this discomfort.

Have we grown complacent?
Are we doing enough?
Could we be doing more?
Are we REALLY being faithful?

The list of questions can quickly grow quite long ... it's about asking ourselves the hard questions that the prophetic voices raise ... It's about confronting the mirror held before us that asks US if we really believe we are doing enough ...

Sometimes the answers will surprise us ... sometimes the answers will condemn us ... sometimes the solutions are simple ... but we will never know unless we're open to asking, addressing, and answering the questions honestly ...

Silencing the voices we dub shrill, or uncomfortable, or blunt, or whatever other descriptor you wish to use will not diminish our responsibility of faith to ACT on the words we so easily utter ... silencing the voices will serve only to intensify the NEED for those issues to be spoken of ... we are called to act on our faith ... generations past silenced voices that spoke out on a vast array of issues ... the Spirit will not be thwarted ... and sometimes when the Spirit is speaking, it is those who believe themselves to be most faithful who are among the last to heed her cry ...

Today I thought of two quotations that speak to the call of faith and remind us to keep our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our minds open to the work of the spirit, and that warn us of becoming TOO complacent in our faith ... The first is from Diana Butler Bass, the second from poet-prophet Ann Weems ...

When I was a girl, Christian charity typically meant sending money to the poor, taking care of people's needs at a distance. We thought of the church as a kind of United Way with prayer. On some occasions when the denomination reminded us, practicing justice meant contributing to the national church offices in Washington DC, in support of some political policy. The most committed people in a congregation might attend a protest rally (but they probably wouldn't tell the rest of the congregation about it). These were worthy endeavours, but EVERYTHING happened far away formthe congregation. Essentially, we practiced charity and justice by paying professionals, who often took largely secular political approaches to social concerns to do it. Throughout my journey with emerging mainline congregaitons, I encountered people doing justice that involved hands on service, linking social concerns and spirituality in LOCAL mission and activism !!! (pages 163/4 Christianity for the Rest of Us)

He said, "Feed My Sheep"
there were no conditions:
least of all - Feed my sheep if they deserve it.
Feed my sheep if you feel like it.
Feed my sheep is you have any left overs.
Feed my sheep if the mood strikes you.
if the economy is okay...
if you're NOT too busy ...
NO conditions ... just ... FEED MY SHEEP.

could it be that God's Kingdom will come when each lamb is fed?
We who have agreed to keep covenant are called to feed sheep

even when it means the grazing will be done
on our OWN front lawns. (Searching for Shalom page 47)

Maybe one day we will learn to heed the prophets and listen to their call ...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Nudge nudge, Wink wink ...

I remember hearing a professor of mine commenting that often in small communities the REAL decisions are not made around Board and Committee tables, but are made outside in the parking lot, down the street in the coffee shop, or even across town in the tavern or pub. He went on to cite the experience of a recent grad from our Theological College who had been struggling with Board meetings that seemingly went no where during their alloted scheduled time, only to have "decisions" made when no such discussion EVER happened around the table ... It took her time to realize that the Board decisions came AFTER the Board meeting formally adjourned and everyone leaned on the box of a pick up truck in the parking lot to discuss "things."

In her case there was no malicious intent ... just the mulling and musings of friends discussing the challenges and finding a way through to the solution that was simply a common sense decision ... Once she became aware of this, the minister in question was able to do two things - one was to stay after the meeting to be part of the conversations and decisions making, and the second was to help change the meeting so that more decisions were actually made during the alloted time, rather than informally after ... This last step has become crucial in the era of vicarious liability and the propensity for litigiousness.

The challenge though, is the tendency for the Greater Church and those who are long in tooth to counsel a truly Monty Pythonesque "nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more" response to these bad habits on the part of our Community Boards and Committees. Rather than address the EXCLUSIVITY of this form of Behaviour, the tendency is to roll one's eyes and say - "Oh, that's JUST the way it is ..." and do nothing to raise the concerns such actions bring.

I remember sitting at a committee meeting once where the entire first hour was taken up by the chair (a lovely person) planning a social event with three of the other committee members. After listening I asked - "Is this a function for every one on the committee?" and the four of them looked shocked and said - "oh no, it's a part for ...," and they could see NOTHING wrong with planning a private affair in front of a dozen or so other people who were NOT invited ... it's a fine line between decisions over the back of a pick up truck in the parking lot, and a committee becoming nothing more than a private clique that excludes those who are like-minded, or even related ...

The challenge of leadership in the Seeker Church will be to remain open and transparent - secrecy will have no role ... and to remain RADICALLY inclusive of ALL people ... leaning on the tail gate of a pick up truck to discuss the committee meeting has its place - it IS an action of building community - but it can only be a decision making action IF room is made for EVERYONE to join in ...

It's a simple lesson in theory ... but it's a harder lesson to practise ... but then, that'swhy it's called practise isn't it??

We need to keep doing it over and over until we get it right ...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Words of prayer and wisdom:

I've encountered two beautiful quotations in Diana Butler Bass' book that I felt compelled to share:

The first is an introductory prayer, the second is from St Teresa of Avila:

Comforter, Disturber, Interpreter, Enthuser.
Come Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Friend, Lamplighter, Revealer of Truth,
Midwife of Change.
Come Holy Spirit.
The Lord is here.
God's Spirit is with us.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.

Now if we could only go out and live these words and be that presence to the world ...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Good Bye to the Village Church ...

I'm still reading Diana Butler Bass' work - "Christianity for the Rest of Us" and thinking alot about Village Churches, which it would seem form the core constituent of current mainstream denominations ... I've realized that my roots lie in two very different, and very funky village churches ...

The first church could rightly be described as MY family church ... it was located across the road from the farm that generations of my paternal family called home for close to 130 years (last year for the first time it passed from our hands ...). The original worshipping congregation met for a time in an old stone building that stood out the back door of my grandmother's house - when enough money was saved up by this German speaking faith community they built a beautiful yellow brick structure that is still in use today ... Years ago my Grandfather was the Sunday School superintendent, and served on the board, and now atleast five generations of my family (including my dad) lie in the ground of the Cemetary on a third corner across from our family farm and the church.

A couple of years ago I was back in Ontario for a couple of weeks and one night I found my self passing by the old church. I noticed a bunch of cars and the lights on, and being a bit bold decided to stop and poke my head inthe door to see what was going on ... Turns out it was a Board meeting - other than the minister, I was related to about 90% of the people gathered around the table ...

Today as I thought back on that church - the church community of my birth ...I realized that it was a rural Village church bound together by geography (everyone was raised or continues to live within a 10 mile radius of the building), ethnicity (all the members are decendents of the German settlers who came to the are in the 1850's), relationship (the extended family is a VERY real thing) and common boundaries, rules, expectations and world views ... that little yellow brick church continues to be a familial village church ...

Because of my father's death as a family we moved to the sister congregation in the city down the road (my mom and dad already lived in "town"), and it was there just prior to the Union of the Evangelical United Brethren with the United Church of Canada, that I was baptised ... and it was there, in the big red brick church in a neighbourhood that had been traditionally the home to the workers at the old Grand Trunk and later CN Railway shops that I was raised.

It too was until the day it closed a Village Church. Originally a German speaking methodist congregation, it remained largely a gathering of descendents of those German immigrants who lived in the shadow of the enormous train shops that for years dominated Stratford's history. About the time the shops started to wither German services gave way to English, but even25 years later as I roamed the old red brick building as a teen, the ties of family were still strong. We shared a common heritage and history, and we were bound together, no by geography - members were scattered all over the city - but by relationships formed in the crucible of being like people with similar backgrounds, heritages, ethnicities, and world views ...

Today that beautiful red brick church is home to another non-United Church Congregation, because like so many other Village churches it could no longer sustain itself as successive generations like mine moved away ... the little Yellow brick church continues to hang tough, but even its days are numbered- there are few under 50's left to support it, but those who are still there are dedicated to keeping their family church open ...BUT - the writing is on the wall ...

Today as I thought about Butler Bass' writings on village churches, and I thought about my own village churches that nurtured me and sent me off into the world, I realized that those faith communities represent a safe harbour in a dark and stormy world. They are like the paintings by Thomas Kinkade - they give us a soft focus ideal of the nostaligic dream we have come to believe ONCE WAS, and could be again if only ...

But there's the rub ... the world ain't no Thomas Kinkade painting, and village churches become gated faith communities that serve only to exclude the outsider ... the comforting commonality becomes the descriptive and the deciding ethos and outsiders need to conform or move on ...

We live in a time filled with folks described by Butler Bass and others as a SEEKERS ... they are not looking for village churches, but rather are looking for open, welcoming communities that embrace the fullness of life, and the complexity of the questions life raises - and they want to be part of the conversation ... In short, they don't want soft and easy answers, because the questions of life are anything but ...

The seekers don't want a Thomas Kinkade version of reality that uses soft light and blurred focus to present an ideal ... they want to engage life on life's terms and create a NEW ideal ... Seeker aren't interested in coming home to a Village Church, they want to create a community that values the journey and is like them, prepared to be nomadic on ALL levels ...

It's a journey just begun ...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Forming a Cyber Community of Faith:

The great prophet voice of Isaiah once said - "the people who have walked in the darkness have seen a great light ... on them the light has shone ..."

Right now we are in the time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway), when the days start getting longer, and the dark of night begins to ebb away ... Spring for some of us is still a long way off, but it is coming nonetheless ... a sure and certain sign of hope, new life and resurrection.

The other day I noticed over a the Blog "The Laughing Pastor" that he was reading a book entitled "Christianity for the Rest of Us" by Diane Butler Bass ... as I found his reference to the book on the sidebar I thought to myself (aloud) - "I have that book ..." and began to search for it ... I found it in minutes (I remember where I PUT my BOOKS !!! Car keys, gloves, toques, and paperwork ... that's another story - but BOOKS - those I remember).

That night I started reading Butler Bass' words ... and I was blown away ...

But what struck me most was her realization, contention and study of the nomadic church that exists around us in the modern world ... People are no longer fixed by geography and family to a single locale the way we were a generation ago ... Village Churches (the traditional faith community) are withering as Pilgrim Churches are beginning to grow ... BUT over arching ALL of this is the simple realization that people "out there" where ever that may be, are hungry for something more...

They want tradition, but not the tired old tradition that they walked away from a generation ago.

They want answers to life's questions, but they don't want black and white answers in a world filled with vivid technicoloured questions.

They want community, but not a community that is conformist and exclusive to a socio-economic, or class group.

They want somewhere to gather and ask life's tough questions and to find a community to debate, discuss and live out the answers ... Butler Bass explores these things at a grass-roots level examining the many currents that are tossing us about as the Emerging Spirit Church/Generation is making its presence felt. As I read her words I also realized that EVERYTHING she stresses as the future direction of the Church is familiar ground to me personally ...

I love the tradition of the liturgy and worship of the church, but I have categorically rejected the narrow definition of "faith" and "theology" that has been a part of denominational labels.

In the coming days, here and over at Prairie Preacher I am going to explore some of the issues that Butler Bass has raised, and I'm going to offer the humble suggestion that one of the things that is NEEDED is the creation of a Cyber Faith Community where real life can be discussed.

This is NOT unlike the modest proposal put forward sometime ago by my blogger-friend Blake over at The Laughing Pastor, who offered the commitment of wanting to become a pastor to the world. I will join (and actively encourage) him in this endeavour, but more than that - between he and I we will CONTINUE to raise and discuss openly the issues of faith that are relevant and pertinent to this emerging Pilgrim Church that is so evident to those of us with eyes to see.

My words here and over at Prairie Preacher will be directed beyond the narrow confines of the community in which I live ... my words will seek to join the conversation already begun that finds people of every age, every ethnicity, every class, every creed, and every background - a conversation that finds people all over the globe asking a simple and profound question - "IS THERE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS?????"

It is a conversation that the Institutional Church fails miserably to heed ... but one that numerous voices within the Institution not only heed, but actively encourage ... So, in the coming days, now freed from some of the chains that have bound me, I will actively join that conversation and with reflections on the works of many who are riding this wave of change and transformation, I will set out to plant the seed of a new cyber commuity of faith that welcomes in ALL pilgrims and offers them a place to sit, reflect, discuss, and even argue while we live lives committed to experiencing the transformative power of the Resurrection ...

Being Pastor to the world is a good goal ... but It's just the first step on the road ... the third wave is growing, and I for one want to be part of it rather than be washed away from it ... so tonight, my BLOGS become a place where the theology, practicality, and theology of the Third Wave becomes central ... my hope is that everyone who reads my postings here will in the coming days tell a couple of friends who are seekers, and those two friends will tell a couple more, and in turn they will tell a couple more ... and soon, this tiny little blog will become part of a tsunami of faith that will with the care and guidance of the Spirit, help to bring about a long overdue resurrection of the People of God on this planet ...

It's a grandiose goal ... but my study of Gandhi taught me that every major social change requires a single action to get it started ... and this my friends is mine ... now - go and invite other seekers to come and visit - spread the word - be good EVANGELISTS ... and let's change the world one faithful action at a time ...

I've taken the first step - the next one is up to YOU ...

Wise Counsel from a Master ...

Please take a pen and a sheet of paper.
Go to the foot of a tree, or to your writing desk, and make a list of ALL of the things that can make you happy RIGHT NOW:

- the clouds in the sky,
- the flowers in the garden,
- the children playing,
- the fact that you have met the practice of mindfulness,
- your beloved ones sitting in the next room,
- your two eyes in good condition,

The list is endless ...

You have enough already to be happy now.
You have enough to no longer be agitated by fear or anger.

- Thich Nhat Hahn from "Taming the Tiger Within"

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The power of story ...

Back in the early days of my training and education at Theology College I was working as a part time chaplain in a Roman Catholic High School with a wonderful Oblate named Father Brian.

Brian taught me much about liturgy, the importance of music within liturgy, the Catholic Church and perhaps most importantly of all engaging your faith, the scriptures and the grey areas of life in a struggle for truth ... Brian and I spent many hours talking about his personal journey and some of the struggles that accompanied it ... but we spent many hours discussing the impact that a faithful life has, and the ramifications it embodies ...

What I remember most was his gentle nature when in the face of crisis he stopped and talked to the young men and women we worked with on THIER level ... his eyes would meet theirs, and he would talk to them person to person rather than as a priest speaking to a wayward charge ... a simple walk down the hall in the school could take three times longer than usual because the kids WANTED to talk to Fr. Brian - they wanted to share their lives with him - they wanted to tell him about their journeys and he took the time to listen, to smile, to laugh, to hold hands and where appropriate to offer hugs ... he was a remarkable man ... and I like the kids at the school grew to love him as a friend.

One week though, he charged me with the responsibility of leading a Religion & Life class for a grade nine or ten class.

"What?" I said more apprehensive than excited, "How can I lead the class? I'm not even Catholic."

"But you've studied the Bible," said a stony faced Fr. Brian.

"Yeah, but ..."

"No 'BUT's. It's a class on the parables. You will teach it ..." and the conversation ended right there.

A few days later I stood in front of a class of teens that I had hung out with in the cafeteria innumerable times and nervously I began to "teach" ... We started with the parable of the Good Samaritan. I read the scriptural texts, then we chatted (it definitely WASN'T a lecture - it was a chat !!!) about who the participants in the story were, where it happened and what Jesus meant to teach all of us with the story. An animated discussion followed as we talked about each person - the victim, the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan ... a lot of time was taken up talking about HOW reviled the Samaritan was in Jesus' world, and how breath-taking this story would have been to his listeners.

The next step was to let the class take the story and create a modern scenario ... we started talking about the locale - almost immediately the "accident" was put on the 401 highway that passed through Kingston from Montreal toToronto ... Next they talked about "who" the priest would be ...

"Father Brian?!" called one voice from the back of the room.

"Are you crazy?" came the reply from one of the girls in the front, "Father Brian would be the FIRST person to stop and help some one. He wouldn't pass by and be worried about getting dirty or anything like that ... he'd be helping ..."

A murmur of agreement passed over the class ... the priest and levite were cast as the principal and the teacher (he was in the room watching - so it was a not too subtle jab at him by his students freed of possible retribution for a moment) ... but the real conversation began when we began to discuss who the Samaritan would be ...

The list of possibilities tumbled out and quickly became long ... they asked the question - "who do we despise and dislike in our culture ?" and they began to offer the answers:

the outcasts ... the mentally ill ... gays and lesbians ... immigrants ... First Nations people ... drunks ... bikers ... the marginalized groups just tumbled out ... and the cast of characters was set ... the drama re-enacted and the victim carried to a hospital by a number of different people held in contempt by the "good" people of our society ... as the class fell silent I stepped up and asked a simple question:


The answer that the kids agreed on was profound in its bluntness - they agreed that the Samaritan was chosen because he WAS an outsider, and Jesus wanted people to open their eyes to see the inherent goodness that lies within EVERY person, but most sigificantly for these teens was the lesson that we must not assume that just because we think ourselves "good people" that we couldn't hone up on our good works a bit more and be more like the dirty Samaritan who did the right thing while the "right" people walked by and did nothing ...

In the silence the kids nodded and the voice that had suggested Fr. Brian as the possible priest earlier said ... "It's about living our lives like Father Brian isn't it?? Helping others I mean ..."

I don't know if Father Brian ever knew how much he impacted the lives of his young charges as chaplain at the school ... I think he had an inkling of this ... but three years ago when I found his obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press I said a silent prayer of thanks for his presence in my life, and I prayed that he knows at last the profound lessons he taught by his example ...

That afternoon the young people taught me far more than they may ever know ... and I've never been able to look at the parable of the Good Samaritan quite the same way since ... moreover, I never looked at my own faith journey in quite the same way either ...

... such is the power of story ...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tonight on the Tube:

It might be over 25 years old, but THIS movie still inspires me as much today as it did when I was an impressionable teen.

I count as one of my blessings the course I took at McMaster on the life and times of the Mahatma, and the exposure I had to his writings and thoughts through that, and other courses I took on Peace and Non-violence while at Mac. Those courses not only deepened my appreciation of Gandhi and what he strived for, they created a thirst to learn and live the principles of Ahimsa and satyagraha ... both noble truths worth seeking not only globally, but in our day to day interactions with each other ...

Like the Mahatma once said of Christianity and western civilization, the only problem with ahimsa and satyagraha is: "it hasn't been tried yet !!!"

Maybe one day ... in the mean time, the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi shows all of us a better way than the path of madness and violence that our world seems to be determined to follow ...