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Posts from the ‘Community’ Category

Church Matters

I spent a good chunk of this morning in an online discussion about the future of Mennonite Church Canada with a handful of other young-ish pastors from across the nation. It was interesting to be invited as I tend to be less suited to thinking on my feet at meetings or committees or focus groups than I am to writing blog posts where I can hedge my bets and endlessly qualify every statement and default to lame attempts at self-protective humour. I mostly agreed to participate in this converstation because I was frankly giddy at the prospect of being located in the “young-ish” category of something. Read more

Faces

I dropped in on our local English training centre for newcomers to Canada today. It wasn’t a planned visit, but I was having a conversation at a downtown coffee shop about how the Syrian families we sponsored are doing, and I said something to the effect of, “Well, they’re across the street right now in English classes. Wanna wander over there and see?”  Off we went. Read more

Sometimes You Have to Smile

It was nearly 7:00 and I was staring down a long evening of back to back meetings (bible study, followed by a refugee information meeting) in the midst of a pretty frantic few weeks dominated by all manner of logistics with helping our new Syrian friends make their way in this new land. I had been up early for another refugee meeting at City Hall (I’ve been collecting committees as a hobby over these past few months) and the day had been a long one already. The kids needed to be driven hither and yon, there was a church AGM to get ready for the following day, and, as always, a sermon to prepare. And there was the looming prospect of the remainder of the week sans spouse as my wife left town this morning for a conference that will occupy the remainder of her week. All in all, I was not particularly looking forward to the evening ahead. Read more

Found in Translation

trans·la·tion

noun: the process of translating words or text from one language into another; the conversion of something from one form or medium into another.

Over the past few days, our local sponsorship group has begun the process of helping our new Syrian friends take their first steps in Canada. We welcomed them to our city on a brutally cold and foggy Friday afternoon. Several times as I was driving them from the airport to the home we had prepared for them, I wondered what must have going through their minds as they looked out on the frosty white scenes that greeted them. Have they dropped us off at the North Pole?! Read more

Keeping One Another

I voted today. I spent forty-five minutes in an advance polling line to plunk my little x beside the candidate that I thought might do the best job of representing our little corner of the country in Ottawa. Or, at the very least, the one that I thought might do the least damage. Read more

The Heart of a Stranger

I spent part of today listening to good stories. Our church hosted the AGM of MCC Alberta and, not surprisingly, much of the conversation throughout the day centered around the work that MCC is presently doing with the Syrian refugee crisis.

But we also heard stories of what MCC has done for other groups of people in other parts of the world. Saulo Padilla, an immigration educator with MCC USA shared of his own refugee journey from Guatemala to Canada, and the many twists and turns that his story has taken along the way. And he made one comment that has stuck with me throughout the day. Read more

The Church is Actually a Beautiful Thing

It’s 11 PM ET and I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Harrisburg, PA reflecting on the week thus far at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference. It’s been another full day and I should probably be more tired than I feel, but I’ve been sleeping poorly all week so I’m not even going to bother trying until after midnight. I think my body is still on Mountain Time. What better time, then, to try to scramble a few thoughts together on the MWC experience so far? Read more

On Small Churches and Large Worlds

I followed a rabbit trail this morning from a blog that I occasionally read to the website of the church where the blogger was a pastor. It had been a while since I had visited the website of an American evangelical mega-church, and after a few minutes of browsing I was beginning to experience a bit of sensory overload. There was a page for every conceivable ministry under the sun—addictions, young moms, men, young adults, sports enthusiasts… On and on the list went. And then there was the “staff” page. There must have been close to fifty people and profiles as I just kept scrolling down and down and down the page. Pastors for care, for counseling, for administration, for music, for preaching, for teaching, for kids, for “operations,” for seniors, for outreach… I didn’t see any pastors for pets, but maybe I didn’t scroll down far enough.

I thought of our church website’s staff page with its one lonely inhabitant…  Read more

Putting Out FIRES

I’ve been reading Tim Otto’s Oriented to Faith over the past few weeks as I seek to help our church have healthy conversations about sexuality.  Like many churches, ours is characterized by a wide diversity of views when it comes to how the church should live with and think/talk about homosexuality. As we have these conversations, one thing that I am convinced of is that we need to make space to hear from a plurality of Christian voices on these matters, whether it is those who would have an “affirming” view or those whose perspectives would run along more traditional lines.

Or those that don’t fit nicely in any camp.  Like Tim Otto. Read more

Lament for a Small Town Bible School

The official news showed up where all things show up these days: on my Facebook feed. Right there next to cheesy inspirational slogans and idiotic videos and family photos and passive-aggressive politicking…

It is with profound sadness and regret that the Bethany College Board of Directors announces that the conclusion of the 2014-2015 year will mark the end of the ministry of Bethany College in its current iteration.

It wasn’t a surprise to me—I had seen this sad news coming for quite a while, had been talking with my twin brother (the academic dean) about it for months—but I was surprised at the way my heart sank when I read the announcement. Surprised by how surprised I was to see the words on the screen.   December 10, 2014. The day the news came that another small Canadian Bible school—an institution that has been around since 1927­—would be closing its doors. Read more

Faith is Change

A few days ago, we got together with some good friends to share and to pray. These are people we have, in some cases, known since we were teenagers. When we were younger and flush with spiritual fervour and the optimism of youth, we would get together like this more frequently, praying for revival, for victory and blessing, for change, for all kinds of wonderful things that we believed lay just around the bend.

We’re a bit older now. Maybe even a bit wiser. If nothing else, life has left its mark on all of us, in the wide variety of ways that life always does. We have had to negotiate the death of parents and others we love, we have watched relationships fracture and fragment into divorce and separation, we have participated in the elations and agonies of parenting, we have negotiated the challenges of infertility and adoption, we have struggled with physical health concerns, vocational anxieties, and crises of faith. We have seen, in short, that life is a mixed bag, and that faith is not (and has never been) some kind of inoculant from the pain of living.

Read more

You Were Born to Be Loved

I’ve written here before about delightful “holy moments” that I have experienced in the church I serve (see here and here, for example). These are often moments when something unexpected happens, something that spills out of our careful containers of planning and order, something that points simply, poignantly, and powerfully to the hope of the gospel in a way that no eloquent sermon or finely crafted liturgy ever could. I love these moments. Even when I don’t notice them.  Read more

Planted: Book Review

I distinctly remember the first time I heard about the work of A Rocha, a Christian conservation and stewardship organization that began in Portugal through the work of Peter and Miranda Harris, and has since branched out around the world. I was sitting in a first year Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College in 2005 and Peter Harris was lecturing on creation care. Read more

Ten Things I Really Like About My Church

Occasionally, I get accused of being a glass-half-empty kind of guy. I don’t know where this comes from, but I will have to take others’ word for it 🙂 .

So, in an attempt to combat this persistent myth, and because it’s early September and everyone is just staggering into fall schedules and routines, and because there is the usual anxiety and apprehension about what the upcoming (academic) year will hold, and because I’ve noticed that pastors (myself included) tend to feel a bit of pressure around this time of year to “start with a bang” and make a good impression on newcomers when secretly we’re just hoping we can keep it all together with what we’re already doing, and because—well, yes, it’s true, because it’s way easier for me to focus on negatives than positives—I thought I would do something completely out of character and do a bit of bragging about the little church that I am a part of. Read more

Up and Down

My infallible WordPress stats counter tells me that this blog recently passed the 700 posts and 8000 comments mark. We had a little party, WordPress and I, which consisted mainly of the WordPress minions showering me with randomly generated congratulations and what I imagine were intended to be inspirational quotes. I’m not too proud to admit that I choked up a little. So touching, that WordPress would take the time…

At any rate, the passing of this momentous milestone means—that’s right, you guessed it!—it’s time for another tortured, myopic reflection upon the nature of blogging where I predictably vacillate between self-congratulation and self-flagellation and various other points in between. If you’ve seen this movie before, please feel free to ignore the following and put your next ten minutes or so to more profitable use elsewhere.

Seriously.

Still here? Ok, well on with the show, such as it is… Read more

Seeing the Light

Based on my own entirely unscientific observations, it seems that there is a burgeoning market for “recovering pastor who saw the godless light” stories these days. The genre is familiar enough by now, right? Fundamentalist pastor grows up in the church, uncritically swallows the whole religious package, devotes x number of years to serving as pastor in [insert small Bible belt American town here], gradually begins to have doubts, finally has the courage to leave his (it’s almost always a “he” so far) faith behind, is persecuted, scorned and rejected by his townsfolk and former parishioners still imprisoned by the shackles of fantasy and indoctrination he has so recently (and heroically) shed, and eventually staggers into the warm and compassionate embrace of this or that atheist group devoted to helping recovering clergy. And then, for the triumphant finale, our hero embarks on a life of spreading the good news of atheist liberation on [insert motivational speaking tour here] amassing inspiring (de)conversion narratives of other clergy that he has “helped” along the way. It’s not a bad gig if you can get it. Read more

“You’re Gonna Pray for Leroy, Right?”

The following comes out of an experience I had yesterday. I try to be very careful in deciding if/how to share about stuff that I encounter in my daily work. There are issues of privacy, of course, in addition to the simple fact that not every experience I find meaningful necessarily needs to be shared—especially in an online/cultural context where over-sharing is reaching almost epidemic proportions.  

Having said that, I think it is important to hear the stories of our world and our communities—perhaps especially the unsettling ones. Stories move and change us. At the very least, it’s important for me to hear/tell them. There are so many things that I cannot do in light of the many problems in our world, but one thing I can do is simply to write, to tell stories like this one. It is especially relevant, I think, in light of my recent posts on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (here, here, and here) and yesterday’s post on “Normal Unhappiness.” All the names below have, of course, been changed. Read more

God’s Strong Medicine

It’s intriguing to me how frequently our morning worship services will contain a pleasant surprise of some kind, whether an unplanned correlation between a song and a prayer or a testimony that just fits with this or that aspect of the sermon or some other thing. It’s remarkable how frequently the Spirit of God seems to be working in similar ways and prompting similar ideas in the hearts and minds of people in our community. Read more