A while back a film/book came across my desk via the MB Herald called “Lord Save us From Your Followers” (my review for the Herald can be found here). It’s the brainchild of Oregon film-maker Dan Merchant, and asks the question, “Why don’t Christians in America look more like Jesus?” Merchant travels around the USA in a bumper-sticker/Jesus-fish clad set of coveralls in order to generate dialogue with people who don’t think like him—to challenge the confrontational, antagonistic, and polarizing nature of religious discourse in America. Read more
Posts from the ‘Church’ Category
Today I went out for a “pastoral visit” to an elderly couple who came to church this past Sunday. They hadn’t darkened the door of a church in at least a decade, and came now mostly, I think, because they are just really lonely people who don’t have a lot of human contact. They have no children, no living siblings, no nieces and nephews that they are in contact with, no friends at the senior’s centre, no… anything. There were no pictures of family on their walls, no mementos, no heirlooms, nothing. Just two old, frail, lonely people existing in the same space without anyone to care about them in any way. Read more
Scot McKnight is an author that I have long been familiar with but have never actually read, other than the occasional post on his (amazingly prolific) site, The Jesus Creed. Consequently, when he posted an offer to receive a copy of his new book, The Blue Parakeet in exchange for reviewing it on your blog I jumped on the opportunity.
This past week I headed over to the mainland for my credentialing interview at the MB Conference centre in Abbotsford. The purpose of this meeting (and the twenty or so odd page document I had to produce beforehand) was to determine if I was fit to become a pastor in the BC Mennonite Brethren Conference—to see if I would be admitted into the “pastors guild” as it were. There was a touch of anxiety on Tuesday afternoon, but all in all it was a very affirming and encouraging experience for Naomi and I. To top it off, I passed, so I suppose that’s the main thing. Read more
I stumbled upon this article by British writer Julie Burchill around a month ago and it’s been bouncing around upstairs off and on ever since. It’s kind of a scattered piece and there are parts of it that just make me scratch my head (based on my brief perusal of the comments section, my criticism would definitely fall into the “mild” category). Nevertheless, I found one passage near the beginning to be a thought-provoking one. Describing her transition from atheism to Christianity, Burchill has this to say about what it means to be “religious”: Read more
One of the things I’ve found myself doing more regularly since I began as a pastor is praying. Not just private prayer (i.e., pleading with God to help me learn how to do this job well and with integrity and honesty) but public prayer as well. I’ve been given the opportunity to offer something like a “global prayer” during the service on most of the Sundays since we arrived here and it’s been both a rewarding and a challenging experience. Read more
I spent an hour in a Christian bookstore yesterday. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, and it was an eye-opening experience. Not only has it been a long time since I’ve been in a Christian bookstore, it’s the first time my reason for being in one was to check out potential “resources” for people in a church where I am a pastor (still feels a little odd to say that…). Read more
As one who was raised in, continues to be nourished by, and will be working within the Mennonite tradition, I couldn’t resist posting a link to Greg Boyd’s latest post. I think Boyd is just a bit too breathless in his praise of Mennonites (two friends are currently writing theses about Mennonites—one examining just how consistently they have historically applied their ethic of nonviolence with each other, and another on Mennonites’ contribution to an overly individualistic approach to faith), but I think that he does point to some genuinely admirable features of the tradition that the rest of the Christian world would profit from paying attention to.
God knows Mennonites aren’t perfect, but I do think that we understand some things well, and, at our best, embody a way of being in the world that seeks to reflect the means by which God has accomplished his redemption of the world.
h/t: Waving or Drowning
Goodbyes are never easy. We’re being reminded of this as we begin the process of moving (again) to start a new phase of our lives. We just returned from a wonderful evening spent with a great group of friends from our church family. The drive home was a quiet one. Just as it was three years ago, it’s hard to think about picking up and leaving friends and family again, and starting over somewhere new. Every get-together with friends now carries with it a tinge of regret – the knowledge that this may be the last time we get together this way with this group of people for this reason. There is a sense of loss that comes with goodbyes, a sense that something good is slipping away. Read more
Every Saturday night over the last year or so, from 10:45-12:00, I play hockey with a group of guys I connected with through one of the dads at the kids’ school. After the game last night, amidst the usual mélange of sweat, beer, colourful language, and conversation about what this or that guy has “under the hood,” one guy came over to me and said (loudly) “So, I hear you’re leaving us in a month.” “That’s right,” I said. He continued, “and I hear that you’re a minister?” Hmmm, well how to respond to that. “Well, I will be,” I said. “What denomination?” came the reply. Hmmm…. Read more
I came across two pieces of writing today well worth taking the time to have a look at. First, there’s an excellent article by Tom Ryan recently posted at The Other Journal. Here’s a little excerpt from what is an excellent challenge to the church to be honest about both the the inherent limitations (epistemological and otherwise) of being human, and of the uniquely human capacity for spiritual transformation in and through doubt: Read more
A large part of my thesis work involves exploring the historical impact of religion. Does it really “poison everything” or might its influence upon history be a little more nuanced than that? Religion has, obviously, had a massive impact on the development of western culture, some of it—imagine!—even positive in nature, but it’s also proven to be a gift that is easily abused and distorted. For a whole host of reasons, “religion” is a world that seems more likely to invoke negative reactions than positive ones today. Read more
I count it a good Sunday morning at church when I leave the building empowered with good ideas for living well. Among other things, I think, the Sunday morning service ought to provide people with tools for interpreting their experience (at an individual or collective level) through the lens of the biblical narrative. Church ought to be a place where people can go to have both the world, and their beliefs about it (religious or otherwise) rendered in intelligible terms, and in a manner that both challenges and encourages the way in which they participate in it. No small task, to be sure, but this morning’s service managed to accomplish all of these things, benefiting greatly from a little “outside help.” Read more
My parents came down for a visit last weekend and left me with some listening material for the frequent drives out to Abbotsford that I am making these days. The Massey Lectures are an annual Canadian event in which a noted scholar gives a series of addresses on some topic of current interest. Among the many notable past Massey lecturers are Noam Chomsky, Jean Vanier, Margaret Visser, John Ralston Saul, and Stephen Lewis. Read more
Over the course of the last half a year or so I’ve slogged through pretty much the entire catalogue of atheist writings that have come out in the last four years. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t been the most edifying experience I’ve ever gone through, but at the very least it does force one to think carefully about the claims these authors make about religious folks. One of the consistent refrains found in Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Onfray, Stenger and, before them, Freud, Feuerbach, and Marx is that religion is for people who are afraid to face reality as it is. The inability of religious people to deal with the harsh realities of life is claimed to lead them to wild flights of fantasy and delusion in order to provide comfort and security in a universe that, at rock bottom, is characterized by nothing but “blind pitiless indifference.” Read more
This past weekend was spent at a study conference entitled “Culture, Gospel, and Church” held in Abbotsford which was put on by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren churches. Among the highlights of the conference, from my perspective, was Bruce Guenther’s lecture on how Anabaptists in general, and Mennonite Brethren (MB) in particular have historically engaged or, more often, failed to engage the broader culture. Read more
Well, here’s one that falls into the “what not to be thankful for” category on this Thanksgiving weekend. I stumbled across this depressing article this morning. Apparently, some evangelical churches in America are using the video game Halo to attract young people to their churches. I don’t know much about this game except that it is popular, it is violent and you have to be 17 years old to purchase it. Read more
For any and all who have sat (suffered) through a church service saturated with theologically impoverished songs encouraging us to declare that we are “in love” with Jesus, John Stackhouse’s thoughts on the matter might be of interest.
I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to this excellent post other than, to quote a pastor from my childhood, “a hearty ‘Amen.'”