Often when I get up in front of the congregation I am a part of on Sunday morning, I will silently wonder why each person has come to church that morning. Did they come hungering for an encounter with the living God? Out of grim duty or rusty habit? For their kids’ sake? To worship? To hang out with friends? Because there were rumours of a soup lunch afterward? There are likely as many different reasons (or combinations of reasons) as there are people in the pews on a given Sunday. One Sunday a number of years ago, I began the service by saying, “I’m not sure what brought you here today…” but before I could finish the sentence, a middle-aged man with a penchant for loudly and delightedly answering any and all rhetorical questions posed from the front blurted out, “The bus!!” Like I said, many responses… Read more
Posts from the ‘Community’ Category
The denomination in which I serve—Mennonite Church Canada—is currently asking its congregations to engage in a lengthy and challenging process of facing challenging difficult ethical issues of our day (issues around human sexuality, religious pluralism, pacifism, environmental concerns, etc.) head on and discerning together what the Spirit seems to be saying to us regarding how we are to respond as followers of Jesus. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an attempt to put hands and feet to our theology. Mennonites affirm, among other things, the importance of community, the priesthood of all believers, the inappropriateness of hierarchical power structures and modes of relating to one another, and freedom of the Spirit to lead us into deeper and truer understandings of Scripture. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an (ambitious!) opportunity for churches to demonstrate that we actually we believe what we say we do. Read more
Over the past two thousand or so years the Christian church has consistently, in its worship, its leadership structures, its pedagogy, and its general ethos, deviated from the spirit and intent of the community Christ envisioned. Rather than becoming a community of believers gifted and called to participate together in the ongoing task of becoming disciples of Jesus in life and worship, the church has become an institution maintained by professionals. There have been exceptions along the way, to be sure, and of course God has seen fit to work with and through the church with all of its errors, but the general trend throughout most of church history has been to move away from multivoiced communities of active participants toward mono-voiced institutions filled with passive consumers. It is time for this trend to change. This is the provocative thesis of Sian and Stuart Murray Williams in their book The Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church. Read more
Every Tuesday morning, a group of older gentlemen—anywhere from 5-15 guys, some from our church, others from another local Mennonite church—gather for coffee and conversation at the coffee shop across the street. The topics vary. Politics, history, current events (yesterday’s wildfires near Lethbridge, for example!), family, and, yes, church—any or all of these and more could find their way into the discussion on a typical Tuesday. Read more
This week, I have been waking up each day to the Beatitudes. Take Our Moments and Our Days is a specifically Anabaptist prayer-book which means that daily prayer is intentionally structured around the teachings of Jesus, his call to recognize and participate in the in-breaking kingdom of God. During “Ordinary Time,” the book follows a four-week cycle of prayers and readings focused in turn on The Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, Parables, and Signs and Wonders. It’s a very different approach than other prayer books I am familiar with, but it has been a breath of fresh air to be daily called to praise, discipleship, and intercession in this uniquely Anabaptist way.
One of the highlights of our last week and a half or so in Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island has been the opportunity to reconnect with some of the many good friends we made during our six years out here. Aside from the irritation of fighting a cold almost from the moment our holiday started, it has been a great time filled with great conversations and great people. Read more
Our summer travels have taken us back to Vancouver Island where we have spent the last three days reconnecting with dear friends and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the west coast. Our first few days have been full. We were barely off the ferry and we were off to a lovely wedding celebration. Then, yesterday we had the opportunity to worship with the church we called home for three years. It has been good to be back.
A few weeks ago, someone who has been worshiping at a Mennonite church for nearly a year, and who had no prior exposure to or experience with Mennonites, remarked to me that, while they had deeply appreciated their time with the community, it seemed to them that Mennonites were basically people who did lots of good stuff and liked to do things together. It is a common enough sentiment. Many expressions of Anabaptist faith can come to seem like little more than an ethical system designed to produce Christ-like behaviour and character with little, if any attention, paid to the indwelling presence of Christ and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Read more
It is not at all uncommon to hear some variation of the story that 18-30 year olds are one of the most under-represented groups in the church today. It seems that young adults are fleeing the church as soon as they leave high school, and only starting to trickle back once they have their own children, if they make their way back at all. While some of the reasons for this are undoubtedly related to the general transience of this age demographic, it’s a worrying trend that has been and continues to be the subject of exhaustive analysis. Read more
This past weekend was one of almost unbearably stark contrasts.
Friday and Saturday were spent with a few of our church’s young people at a high-octane youth conference put on by one of the larger churches in our area. Climbing walls, go-kart tracks, paintball, ear splitting rock concerts, dodgeball, team games, sleepovers on a church floor, etc, all in the company of hundreds of screaming teenagers—this is how I spent a good deal of Friday and Saturday. Not the most natural of contexts for me, I suppose, but it was great to have some fun with the kids and get to know them better.
And then, as we were finishing up our breakfast on Saturday morning and getting ready to head back to the conference for round two, a phone call came. Read more
For the past five years, a number of people in our community have participated in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing project. The way it works is a quarter section of land (160 acres) is set aside, seed, fertilizer, labour, machinery, and irrigation costs, etc are donated by a variety of people and organizations, and all of the proceeds from the harvest are given to the Foodgrains Bank for international relief (I’ve written a bit more about the good work that this organization does before here and here). With the 4:1 matching grant from the Canadian government, this one project has been able to raise nearly $2 million over the last four years!
Well, yesterday was harvest day for the Coaldale-Lethbridge Growing Project, so I headed out to the field to join the festivities and snap some photos. Read more
Well, the lazy days of summer just roll on... After a great few days camping in BC with my brother and his family, yesterday afternoon was spent participating in a local golf tournament/fundraiser for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. My father is one of the coordinators for the local growing project here, and when he asked my brother and I if we wanted to go golfing to support a good cause, we could hardly say no (despite the fact that we are both truly abysmal golfers!).
Times of transition are tough. We currently find ourselves up to our ears in boxes and and clutter and mess as we prepare to pack up and head back across the Rockies next week to begin a new chapter in our lives as family. We have done this moving thing a number of times now, but it never gets easier. It is simultaneously celebratory, reflective, disorienting, emotionally exhausting, and painful. Read more
If you’ve ever snooped around on my About page, you’ll know that I am not a native west-coaster. I have called this place home since 2005, but prior to that virtually my entire life was spent on the Canadian prairies. The past six years have been a delightful time of discovering a place completely unlike the one I grew up in. Read more
At any given time, I have between 25-30 unpublished, half/barely-started posts or links to interesting articles occupying space in my “drafts” folder. Needless to say, things can get buried pretty easily, so I try to periodically root through this folder to see what I once thought was interesting/worth posting on, and to determine what might need to see the light of day (or be consigned to the cyber-scrap heap!). Read more
Once a month or so, a few of us head over to the local Presbyterian church to help out with their weekly community lunch. Every week, this church opens its doors to the community for soup, sandwiches, conversation, or just a chance to get out of the rain. The church is located right beside a high school, so they get a lot of high school students, but they also get a small contingent of folks who don’t have a whole lot and could use a hot meal. Read more
So, Celebration 2010 (a recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren family held in the Vancouver area this past week) has come and gone and I find myself in reflection mode. One of the topics that generated significant discussion and debate was the nature of our Mennonite Brethren identity. Are we evangelical Anabaptists or Anabaptist Evangelicals? What is it, exactly, that we gather around as people from such diverse contexts? Is it theology? A shared history/common story? Is it relationships that have formed between people and communities over time? All of the above? And what happens if/when these individual commonalities and relationships begin to break down, as some see to be the case in the Canadian MB context? Read more