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
Posts from the ‘Pastoral Ministry’ Category
In what is becoming a most enjoyable annual tradition, I find myself back at Regent College for their pastors conference during this, the first month of May. This year, the theme of the conference is the interaction between science and faith and is called “Wonder and Devotion: Bringing Science and Faith Together for the Church.” We’ve talked about creation and evolution, the immanence and transcendence of God, issues around the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and a whole host of other very interesting things. It’s been a great week thus far. Read more
The past two days were spent at the annual provincial conference of the churches in our denomination. There was a mood of celebration and excitement. We heard a lot of reports about what people were doing for God, how God was leading and directing this or that ministry, how/why our churches should give to the work of God. It was a weird combination of refreshing and exhausting. Read more
During my first year as a pastor, a wise friend told me to make a habit of journaling through and about the many and varied experiences and people that I encountered in my daily work. I’ve not been as regular with this as I should, but I have found that when I do make a practice of writing about experiences and how they affect me, it invariably brings a measure of clarity and, often, newfound resolve to whatever situation happens to be looming large, whether positive or negative. Read more
A feature ran by The Washington Post yesterday has generated a bit of discussion around a study called Preachers Who Are Not Believers by prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola from the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University (those familiar with “The Four Horsemen” of the new atheism will know Dennett well). The study outlines interviews with six “courageous” clergy who maintain their jobs in the pulpit while privately nursing unbelief. It is a classic modern tale of the triumph of reason and the inconsistencies and dissonances that come with the slow, inevitable drift away from faith in the modern world. Read more
Perhaps surprisingly, given my occupation and the fact that one of my main (and most rewarding) tasks on any given Sunday is leading our congregation in prayer, I often find prayer difficult. The reasons for this vary. Sometimes I am paralyzed by the relative insignificance of my own needs when compared by the suffering others are facing (this week has been an especially difficult one for prayer, given the situation in Haiti). Sometimes I don’t know what to pray for. Sometimes I don’t know what prayer accomplishes—in my own life and character and for those I pray for. Sometimes I am simply lazy and undisciplined. Sometimes the silence of heaven wearies me. Read more
I couldn’t help but be curious when I saw the title of Vancouver Sun spirituality and ethics columnist Douglas Todd’s latest article come through my reader this afternoon: “Embattled Clergy Could Use Christmas Empathy.” Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I read on to discover why I might be the appropriate destination for someone’s Christmas empathy. Read more
Around here, Thursdays are the day where a good deal of the work of preparing the Sunday morning service begins. I am always amazed to see the sheer diversity of the people who come through our doors on any given Sunday. I am equally amazed to discover the potpourri of needs, hopes, joys, fears, longings, frustrations, and anxieties that accompany them. Of course it is impossible to craft a service with the specific intention of meeting every perceived or real individual need that might show up on a Sunday morning. Yet one of the mysteries of the church is that when we gather together somehow our individual stories can find their place within the broader story of God and the story of his church—that by simply being together to pray, to sing, to hear from Scripture, and to share our lives, our needs just might end up getting met (however oddly or unexpectedly) along the way. Read more
From a recent journal entry.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The call comes—someone’s looking for a priest. Of course, you’re not a priest but you’re close enough. There’s been some trouble and someone wants to talk to a “holy man.” They want a man of God to come. Read more
My brother just sent me the link to a series of posts by William Willimon where he offers advice for those starting out in pastoral ministry. I’m approaching the end of my first year of pastoral work, and frequently found myself nodding and mm-hmm-ing throughout this very helpful set of posts. They are very balanced and wise reflections from someone who has been down the road and knows what he’s talking about. There is much worth thinking about (and implementing) in this post, but two quotes stood out. Read more