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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, do you take them seriously and try to keep them? Do you set out a process to help you accomplish what you set out to do? Does this produce results you find satisfying throughout the year as well as at year end?

How did that practice get started anyway? Why is the practice so trendy? However it got started, it seems to be popular with many people looking back at the past year, either with or without regrets and resolving to be a better woman or man in the year ahead. Such resolutions often take the form of losing weight, or eating healthier meals, or developing more discipline in one’s Spiritual practice. All these are worthy objectives, however long they last.

At CEM, we don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, but we have set out what might be considered “New Decade resolutions.” These were announced at the October CEM conference under the heading 2020 Vision. In many ways, they are and will continue to be works in progress.

During the first days or weeks of 2010, we will be reviewing those goals in this blog, inviting you to comment and be involved in helping our Mission achieve them. I am not sure if you will find that prospect exciting, but succeeding in accomplishing our goals will lay the groundwork for a much brighter and healthier future for Canada East Mission in the decades following this one. We plan to make the 2020 Vision a reality. We can do this. It is important for those who follow after us.

As 2009 draws to a close, on behalf of all the staff at Canada East Mission, have a very happy, healthy, and safe New Year. In 2010, may each of us recognize how remarkably blessed we truly are, and may you experience Joy, Hope, Love and Peace in the year ahead.


Posted by Carman Thompson

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Etched into my mind is the very recent image of one of my grand-daughters on Boxing Day, her brow furrowed in concentration as she worked around the table with her cousins, each one feverishly attempting to build something using her or his new Lego set. It is, for me, a wonderful moment.

Call this a post-Christmas reflection on Lego; the little multi-coloured, interlocking building blocks so popular with children everywhere. You know the ones, the little blocks with the bumps on top that fit into a groove on the bottom of the next one. No matter the colour or the size, each bump fits perfectly into the groove of the next one in the hands of the child. It all reminds me of Dr. Larry Dossey saying that each of us has a God shaped hole in our lives that only God can fill. I find it an effective simile.

When our children first discovered Lego, the systems were pretty simple. There were blocks with eight bumps, six bumps, and four bumps, and there were different colours, but the system was pretty basic. Then one day, more creative minds at the Lego Group in Denmark got the idea of designing the pieces differently. Instead of building simple little walls, and houses, children would be able to build spaceships and castles! Suddenly the limits were removed and children could use the Lego system to build whatever their imaginations could conceive! Yet, despite all the advances, the little bumps still fit perfectly into the little grooves, just the way they always had.

Somehow all of this seems to me to be so much like the church. It used to be that each congregation looked pretty much the same. They were like basic building blocks; each doing the same things in much the same way. Now, however, more creative minds find new ways to express the gospel message, and congregations are beginning to do things differently. They find new ways to reach out to others, design 21st century entry points for people to come into fellowship, and think of inventive ways to serve their communities. Still, underneath it all is the same basic principle of the gospel: God is love and wants to fit into our lives. And people, despite all our modern or post-modern sophistication, still have the same God-shaped hole that was designed to be filled by the same loving God.

I do not know what form church will take in the future, any more than I know what the creative minds of children will build using Lego, but the possibilities are endless, only limited by our own imagination. It is as if God has provided the building blocks with the bumps and grooves of our lives, and invites us to come and play. What a wonderful, creative inventor!

So…what would you like to build?

Friday, December 25, 2009


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
(Posted by Luke)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Posted by Luke)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009



As December moves irrepressibly towards the 25th and beyond, we humans find ourselves faced with a wide array of feelings and emotions. The evidence of these feelings is everywhere, especially in the faces and behaviors of those we meet. For some especially fortunate children, there is excitement about what presents Christmas may bring. For too many parents, there is anxiety because there is little or no money with which to buy gifts for their children. For others, Christmas brings with it feelings of sadness, loneliness and anxiety as memories flood in of losses that have occurred at this time of year. The first Christmas without a certain member of the family is often a cause for considerable stress. For most of us, there is the push to decorate the house, put up the tree, go shopping…the list goes on and on.

It is interesting to consider the juxtaposition of the many, many stresses that Christmas seems to bring us with the angel message to the Shepherds given so long ago. According to Luke, the Angels proclaimed only two things.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace among those whom he favors.” -Luke 2:14 (NRSV)

That’s it! No trees, no Christmas lights, no presents, no hustle and bustle; just glory to God and Peace to God’s people.

As Christmas, 2009 now dawns upon us, our prayer for you is that you will take time for these two precious elements in your own life. Christmas still gives us a chance to sense God’s glory and experience peace because of God’s favor (blessing). It is not found in the department store, under the tree, or in the tinsel, but is found in the stillness of that blessed Christmas night. Even in 2009, it can be found in lowly circumstances and heard in a baby’s cry.

May the peace of Christ and the Glory of God fill your heart this Christmas season.

Carman Thompson and all the staff at Canada East Mission

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Knitting (again)

We haven't discussed this in a long time, but last week there was a discussion of "knitting in church" over at one of the blogs I/we follow.

If you want to take a few minutes to visit the Rev Gal Pals, at this location you may find it interesting. There are lots of opinions from several different denominations.

I find it helpful to get other perspectives from time to time. What do you think?

Monday, December 21, 2009


I've been reminiscing back through ALL the blog posts we've put up here on What's the Good Word? over a few months now. I'm very pleased by the thoughts we've put out there and the comments you've posted back to us.

One way to browse through some of those thoughts and consider them again is to use the "Labels" function at the bottom of each little essay. There you'll find two or three words that the author of each post thought might suggest a connection for you, our readers, and that might send you back to an earlier message with a connection.

I don't do it often, but today I've been clicking on the labels and re-reading what I or Carman was thinking about last August or October about vision, home, or generosity or whatever. Perhaps, if you too are in a nostalgic mood or have an extra few minutes for reading, you might like to do this too.

Who knows what thoughts you might think, or even be prompted to share about something you thought you'd forgotten?
(posted by Marion)

Friday, December 18, 2009


For years I have been fascinated with the power of these two tiny words. They appear in the third chapter of Exodus (the Biblical book, not the novel or the movie), and they change the course of our human understanding of God.

Moses has just had a dramatic encounter with Divinity in the form of a voice that speaks from a burning bush. This amazing voice calls Moses to servanthood, and impels him on an umbelievably dangerous mission. He is to go to Egypt, confront the mighty Pharaoh, and lead the Hebrew slaves from captivity!

In what appears to be a completely understandable but increasingly desperate list of objections, Moses finally asks the Voice, “If I say to the Israelites, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” The words then come in answer to Moses seemingly peculiar question, “I AM WHO I AM.” The Voice then goes on to instruct Moses, “You shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

I AM! It is a self-proclamation of existence! I AM. Where ever two such tiny words endowed with such power? How can such a miniscule phrase contain and claim so much? Two common, almost insignificant words set out what is undoubtedly the most historic and incredible claim for Divine existence and identity ever! So powerful are these little words that they reshape not only Moses life, but transform the entire Israelite nation. Over time, three major world religions can trace their faith directly back to this simple but magnificent phrase.

But that is not all, for don’t those same words resonate with the same power and authenticity today? In its purest form, is this not the testimony of millions of people around the world? GOD IS! We may not understand it; but in our hearts, those words still resonate, and we take comfort and assurance in this most basic and foundational expression of faith.

GOD IS…and we are!

Oh, the amazing power of words!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Africa Diary, an interesting blog by Africa Bureau Chief Geoffrey York of the Globe and Mail, caught my eye last evening. The piece was a brief article on the legendary Nelson Mandela, the man who endured 27 years in a South African prison, then became the country’s president. Because of popular interest in Invictus, the new Clint Eastwood film about Mandela, York wanted to know more about what the man was like in private. In other words, what would those who worked with him without cameras present have to say about him years after the fact? What was this “living saint” really like outside his public image?

To learn the answer, York caught up with Etienne van Eck, a former policeman who had served as a bodyguard to Mr. Mandela from 1994 to 1999. York reports that, “He (van Eck) convinced me that the Mandela legend was equally authentic among those who saw him at close quarters every day”.

Authentic! The word seems particularly powerful when used to describe this legend who endured almost three decades in an apartheid prison, and then “emerged with forgiveness in his heart”. But would the word be any less significant if used to describe us? Isn’t that what all of us would want people to say about us? Wouldn’t each of us prefer to be known as the same quality of person in private as our public persona portrays? Shouldn’t that be a personal goal for each of us? Ought not our individual character be up to this kind of scrutiny? The piece sets out an inspiring challenge!

York goes on to tell several stories from van Eck that demonstrate Mandela’s character. It is an interesting piece. You can read the whole story at the following website. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Now in this moment,
Now in this Day,
God is creating
And leading the way.
- Richard and Barbara Howard, Hymns of the Saints 58

Live in the Now, we are told. Live in the present moment.
Sounds easy, right? After all, what other moment can you live in?

And yet we don’t. When we are young, we spend our time thinking about all the things we will do when we are older. It becomes a habit; an addiction perhaps. A child looks at those who are young adults with all that they can do, and dreams of that day. The young adult looks at those who have established themselves and thinks that would be great. Those established with a career, a home and a family look forward to a future time when the mortgage is paid, the children are older and more independent, and then to the freedom of retirement.

Then a funny thing happens. Often, it seems, we stop looking forward and start looking back! We start remembering; perhaps mentally reliving the days of our childhood or youth. We reflect on things done and things not done, and perhaps wish we had done them differently. Is all this an attempt to avoid the Now?

What is it about the Now that is so frightening? Why do we perform such mental gymnastics to avoid thinking about it or living in it? Books have been written encouraging us to embrace it. Religious practice urges us to live in it. In the end, isn’t the Now all we really have?

The present moment is as it is. Always. Can you let it be?
- Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


You know the term: this is your reporter "on location" at the beach as the hurricane blows in, or at the protest in front of the conference centre where the world leaders are meeting.

Well, this week I'm "on location" at the hospital bed where my mum is busy healing some crumbled bones. (I hope you're drinking your milk, her doctor said to me!)

For all the ways we have to work from remote sites, or view live feeds via satellite or computer, or conference call or meetings on-line--sometime you just have to be there.

Yesterday morning there was a news report of a church that burned in Whitby. The folks will find other places to gather for their Christmas services, but I was touched that ninety food hampers that were ready for delivery to needy families were destroyed.

Needy families won't be much affected by where we Christians do or don't gather for worship or carol singing or preaching. What they will miss is the "on location" support they need from the Christians willing to be out there in the mix of life and living, offering real food, actual mittens or boots or snowsuits, or a real smile at the door of a neighbour.

Foodbanks are calling for our contributions. Shelters will need extra volunteers over this season that tends to bring greater stress to many. Those of us who are able can consider where we can best help out, and it's quite likely to be somewhere other than in the pew or at the office. Think about it. Where can you serve "on location"?

Monday, December 14, 2009


Are you a reader? Do you read a lot? Do you have favorite authors or genres? Do the local librarians all know you by your first name? Do they know your tastes so well they automatically set books aside for you, knowing you will stop in one day this week to refresh your stock?

I used to read a lot of books. Fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, biography; they were all companions I loved to spend time with. Having served twenty-three years in the publishing industry, perhaps that was to be expected. As a former children’s book salesman, my children’s library was also well supplied. Richard Scarry, Mercer Mayer, Robert Munch, and many others were wonderful family friends.

I still like to read, and usually have a couple of books on the go, but I don’t seem to have near enough time for it any more. Finishing a book may take days if not weeks.

What I read has also changed. Even when I lived in California, I was a devoted reader of Canadian fiction authors. It was there I discovered the revealing Vincent Lam and his title Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. Lately, however, I only seem to find time to read books I hope will help me in my ministry. Much as I value the insights gained there, I miss reading great and innovative authors like Yann Martel and his clever story The Life of Pi.

But Christmas is coming! Surely there will be time to take a few days off and just curl up with a good book! In particular, I think it is time to read a couple of works of fiction again!

So let me ask you; read any good books lately? Would you care to recommend an author or a title or two? What about your ministry list; read anything there you really liked recently? Let’s have a good conversation about the books we enjoy! Care to start it off?

Friday, December 11, 2009


Lots of us are thinking this word these days. “Is that cough contagious” “Did you wash your hands?”

I’ve been reading an interesting study about some research that shows more things are contagious than we may have realized. Emotions surrounding pain and suffering really do spread to care-givers and other members of the community.

Even loneliness can infect others and can become a prevalent feeling within a group. That apparent contradiction has apparently been proven by real scientific method and confirmed by separate studies. In fact, say these scientists, loneliness can spread—like a virus!

When someone is ill or unconscious or dies, the body of the community is affected and those members need to be supported and uplifted and helped to deal with these contagious responses. The distress of one registers in the emotions, even the bodies of care-givers, even just observers. Imagine!

There is good news here as well! Healing is also communal. We may have always known this as we’ve been part of the interpersonal web of concern, prayer, listening, sharing, submitting that surrounds those with needs.

Authors of the “loneliness study” (You can read about it here )say how important it is to tend to the needs of the most marginalized and not to forget the truths we, as a community, have always known from our most ancient spiritual practices.

And we in the What’s the Good Word community can be affirmed in our belief that good stuff too is contagious!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


As I tied up the laces on my winter boots the first time this year, I thought again about the galoshes “we;” people of my age or older, used to wear when we were kids. Everyone wore them then; boys, girls, men and women. Women had fancier ones, sometimes with fur around the top and often designed to fit the heel of a certain kind of lady’s shoe, but they were galoshes none-the-less.

I don’t suppose anyone under the age of forty will have any idea what I am talking about, so I am really showing my age here. For you younger folk, galoshes, sometimes called “overshoes”, were a type of loose rubber boot you wore over your street shoes. They were usually brown rubber, lined with a fuzzy thin lining, and had some kind of strap or buckle around the top to keep the snow from going down inside your boot.

In many ways, galoshes were great. They weren’t elegant, but they were cheap and everyone’s galoshes were more or less the same. They would all wind up in a row around the cloakroom, or in a pile around the stove as the students tried to get the wet ones warm and dry. (Yes, I really am old enough to remember the stove in the middle of a one-room schoolhouse!) In fact, we would often have to write our names inside the cuffs to be able to tell one person’s from another. If you had new galoshes, and you went home with somebody else’s old ones, that was not a good thing! Your mother would not be pleased, and to tell the truth, neither would you. After all, new ones were shiny and smelled much better than old ones!

The amazing thing about galoshes was that they worked. Even when you had to wade through deep snow drifts in below zero weather, as long as you kept the snow out and your shoes and socks dry, your feet were nice and warm. In Bruce County, then as now, there were lots of deep snow drifts, and having warm dry feet was important.

Of course, as winter wore on towards spring, galoshes lost some of their luster. Sometimes they would spring a leak and need a patch. The overshoes that were so light and nice at the start of the winter seemed so heavy and bothersome in the mud of March or April, and we couldn’t wait to lose them for the summer.

Eventually, galoshes gave way to boots. It started with lady’s fashions, then went to girls, and finally to men’s and boys. Now, unless you live in a snow-belt area, even winter boots may be passé, at least for high school students. But as I tie on my winter boots for the first time this winter, I remember the joy of coming in from the snow, kicking off my galoshes and having warm dry feet. It was not better or worse than now; it was just the way it was!

Anyone else besides me have memories of galoshes?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This week the Canadian Olympic curling trials are on in Edmonton. My grandson, star soccer player and typical teenager just rolls his eyes when I begin to talk about curling. How can I find such fascination in such a boring game? I don’t even try to explain it to him. But maybe you’ll understand. There are just so many reasons to love curling!

It’s slow. There’s no need for video replay (except to appreciate some genius shot). Men and women can and do play equally well, even quite equitably together. The same is true for old and young. A fun fact of these trials is that one of the male skips wasn’t even born when his competitor skipped his first match.

I like that Randy Ferbey chooses not to play the sexy last position because his third is just better at it. And that veteran skip Russ Howard took third place on Brad Gushue’s very young Newfoundland team who went on to win gold in 2006. I like that we get to know the curling families. Russ’ brother Glenn is a fixture in the finals. The Middaughs, husband and wife, are both active in the sport. I don’t think the Jones girls are related, except by curling. Colleen is a Maritimer and Jennifer is from Winnipeg.
I much prefer curling as a life metaphor to the usual sports analogies, baseball or golf, and certainly hockey! In curling, like life, you just have to keep sweeping! There are always rocks in your way and it generally seems that everyone else has a better view of what you need to do. They keep yelling until something crashes. But nobody ever appears to hold your mistakes or misses against you. Your team just goes on from where you landed.

There are no secrets in curling. Teams discuss strategies right out loud for everyone to listen in. And win or lose they all stay friends, ending a match with hugs and handshakes all around. Word has it everyone meets for drinks afterwards, no matter how tense the actual game. Now there’s a lesson we could all learn. No bones get broken; no mean body-checks get thrown; no grudges are held. Friends and foes are likely to turn up on each other’s team next season.

Curling is a nice accessible Canadian sport with real ice and history and tradition, but not so much risk as to send anyone to hospital or to force a retirement if you really want to keep playing. Trades are pretty much voluntary.

Most of the time we don’t know how the match will turn out until the last rock is thrown. Unless you’re a real fanatic you can still enjoy the journey whoever tops the scoreboard at the end of the day.

So there you have some of the reasons I’ll be following the curling. Why not join me?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have often been struck by the way faith seems to work on many different levels, whether so subtle that we are unaware of it, or so profound that we are lost in wonder at the majesty of our beliefs. Either way, there can be no doubt that our faith and beliefs matter to us.

Even among those who take their faith very seriously, people do not believe the same. Some people’s faith in God is based on a literal understand of scriptural propositions. Others’ beliefs may be much more ethereal, but those concepts will be every bit as important to those who hold those positions. Isn’t it interesting that faith matters so much to both of them?

There is one potential problem in using the term “levels” to describe this phenomenon. What we are discussing is nothing like peeling an onion, for instance, because that might imply that one type of faith was somehow deeper than the other and that is not my intent. Who am I to judge that? I know people in both camps, and their faith works for them. Oh, they may look at each other somewhat askance, but their suspicion of each other’s faith is not the point here. Each believes, and that faith matters. They may understand the nature of God differently; they may approach the Divine in dissimilar ways and have different ways of communing with the Sacred Presence, but for each of them, their faith makes their life richer and more meaningful.

Isn’t it interesting that faith in God works for people, even though they conceive of God quite differently from each other? It is simply another miracle of the divine-human encounter.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Clearly the angels have been shedding. As I walked into the fellowship hall the white tree in the corner had been well and truly trimmed by a team whose decorating principle is "fill every single inch with something bright and shiny."

The floor around was covered with white feather fluff. It trailed through the room into the next, up the stairs, into the sanctuary. Much angel activity has been going on as the children are getting ready for their roles in programs that will be unfolding over the next few weeks of Advent.

A couple of questions about the source of the "mess" were answered with a stern look and a clear message that there will be feathers where there are angels, and there are definitely angels present here. (The feathery wings lay on the table along with tinsel halos, several shepherd and wise man robes and a baby!)

That settled it. No more questions. Where there are angels there may indeed be "mess" but that's just the way it is.

It was part of the message of the morning as well. Although we are in the business of preparing the way, we still have issues of real life to deal with. We will still need to forgive each other, make way for one another, be patient with those whose perspective does not exactly match our own. We will need to come to the table, in repentance and seeking healing and reconciliation.

But other signs are also there. Jesus is coming. There are angels here. Ignore the stray feathers. With real life some feathers will be shed. At some point the vacuum will come out. But for now, sing Hallelujah! Make ready to receive Him.

Friday, December 4, 2009


This is a very “oatmeal morning” for me. It’s your typical late fall day. There were some pretty cold droplets in the air this morning—not quite snow, but certainly not summery. Trees are bare of leaves, except for the row of spindly oaks that hang onto their dead brown foliage through whatever ice and snow winter will throw at them. Our snowless November has enabled most people to get their leaves raked and composted or bagged or vacuumed up by the city. Lawns are trimmed and ready for what’s to come.

And we’ve got omens of “what’s to come.” In our parking lot the neon-tipped stakes are pounded in to the at-risk corners and edges so that over-zealous snow plows can stay on track and not dig up the lawns as they do their job over the next several snowy months.

But back to oatmeal. For me it’s a great comfort food that gets me going on such a morning. From experience I already know that oatmeal is one of those trigger words that prods memories in the brains of many people. Maybe for you it’s a reminder of home. “Nobody makes oatmeal like my mom, or dad, or grandma.”
Maybe it takes you back to camps of your youth, or of last summer. Was it Ruth or Robert, Irene or Isabelle who stirred up that perfect pot of oatmeal and plopped it in front of you every morning?

We could get into long discussions (I know; I’ve done it!) about what the just right topping is for your oatmeal. Brown sugar, maple syrup, raisins, cinnamon, coconut, prunes, heavy cream, butter…Several of you possess the secrets that keep the lumps at a minimum, that ensure the texture is creamy or oaty or whatever magic oatmeal word was used in your kitchen, or around your dining hall table, at your campsite picnic table. I know it; I’ve used this magic word before!

Now let’s all just take an oatmeal moment and bask in our good memories. It will make the grey day a bit brighter.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Sacaba is the name of a village in Bolivia where a most remarkable venture is happening. In this town, a group of young Bolivian women from the local congregation of Community of Christ run the Light of Day Bakery. This little group of women gets up every morning and gathers at 4:00 a.m. They have prayer together, and then begin to bake bread. They do it day after day, providing wholesome and safe bread for the people of the village where they live, at reasonable and affordable prices. The amazing thing about this, however, is not how early they get up, or how hard they work, but the fact that they do this without pay! Their compensation is a few pieces of bread with which to feed their own families.

Why would they work so hard without pay? How can this little group be so dedicated? What motivates them to this service? The answer lies in their desire to serve their neighbours and share the light they have found. That is amazing dedication! Would I do the same? It seems unlikely, and I am truly humbled!

But the dreams of this little group do not stop there. They have their eyes fixed on other projects of service for their community. Noting that their region can grow a lot of vegetables, even though many people are not used to eating vegetables, they dream of starting a project related to nutrition, so people will be healthy and have better lives. Talk about sending/serving ministry! This is wonderful, extraordinary generosity! May Heaven bless these women, and return to them the love they give.

You can learn more about this project by watching the following video. Simply click on the link below, and then on the link for the appropriate bandwidth.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I'm thinking of just how many people have told me about solutions they're part of. You know what they say, if you're not part of the solution you just may be part of the problem!

Some of the problems are huge ones--AIDS, war, hunger and homelessness. And you might think you can't be the solution to those ones. But look again. Today (I'm writing this on December 1) is International AIDS Day and there are the folks in Stratford organizing and attending vigils and creating awareness and support for real solutions.

We think of our good friend Rod Downing who keeps reminding us via his Peace newsletter and truly putting pressure on countries and their leaders to move on solving such huge issues as Darfur. It may be a global issue, but there are things to be done, even by one person.

Many CEM congregations have found community problems they can do something about: GTA West make sandwiches for the homeless hungry; Providence Bay ensures families without means can join in the community skating time; Hamilton provides food and fellowship for their neighbourhood seniors. Many congregations support local food banks and adopt families at Christmas time. You can add to this list I'm certain.

As Christmas approaches you, like me, may be receiving all kinds of pleas to help with this or that important cause. Let's not just reject them all. Let's give some thoughtful consideration to how we can be part of the solution.

We've been considering our various ministries to bring our healthy congregations into greater balance. As the season of giving is upon us, this is a time to answer the call to serve others. What are the calls into community that tug at your heart? Can you moblilize your family, a few friends, even your whole congregation to make a difference, to be part of the solution?

Share your story here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


If one were going to sail across the universe on a voyage of discovery, the journey would begin with several years of activity before the ship ever left the gravitational confines of earth. There would be the need to design and build an appropriate space craft, or at the very least modify and fit an existing one. A crew or staff would need to be recruited, trained, and prepared. We would need to make lists of the tools required. We might even need to create those tools, and then teach the crew how to use them. A long list of supplies would be formulated, collected, and stored. Test flights would need to be taken to see if the vehicle was really up to the rigors of the journey. The list of things needing to be done would go on and on.

It feels like an apt metaphor for CEM. The past week saw several important steps in preparing for that kind of voyage for Canada East Mission of Community of Christ. We are preparing for a journey of discovery and transformation; a courageous trip into the future. Once we embark, the voyage will change us, and there will be no going back to the old and familiar.

A lot has happened in the past week. The twelve pastors in our first CEM CPI cohort met together for a week of formation studies in order to prepare and equip themselves to be better ministers and leaders. The directors of our camps, reunions, and retreats met together for a weekend to talk about how to design safer, better, more effective camps. Our new Camping Commission met together for the first time to begin discussing how our training programs might be able to go to the next level. The “Merrie Bande of Bishops” met with CEM leaders to begin creating a map that will take us where we need to go. There is activity. There is building momentum.

In President Grant McMurray’s famous sermon a decade ago when he launched Transformation 2000, he challenged us with the following words. “We are packed and ready for the journey. Will you come?” In CEM we are not yet packed, but we are preparing. Workers are needed for the crew. Would you like to come aboard?

Monday, November 30, 2009


We're on the brink, the very edge of some new thing about to happen! Do you feel it?

Our CPI pastors began our week together with this announcement from Isaiah 43 and all week we felt it stirring among us as we studied and explored and prepared to go home and be engaged in something new.

As the Christian world has embarked on Advent we're feeling the same sense of immenence. Something is about to happen, something new!

Story after story is being shared about this sense that we're not where we once were. At times we've perceived this as loss, but increasingly we're recognizing that the changes we're noting can mean quite the opposite. We're recognizing that spiral is taking us up to a higher vantage point.

How are you feeling as you enter Advent, as you assume new responsibility, as you consider your next assignment, your next sermon, your next camping season?

Do you see it? There's the brink. Are you stepping up to it or beating a retreat?

The message is hope, anticipation, no fear! Imagine a new thing!

I'll meet you at the brink.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Now there is an interesting word. Context refers to the circumstances in which an event occurs. It is the setting in which something is said or done, and it really does matter.

“Context is everything!” That is a phrase one may hear from time to time. It suggests that one cannot overestimate the importance of our circumstance. I heard this phrase the other day in the midst of a discussion by our CPI pastors. The conversation was on the subject of the mission of a congregation.

Then there is the matter of internal context versus external context. In a congregation, for instance, the internal context might be all about the relationship between church participants, whether supportive or antagonistic, harmonious or tense. External context is about what is happening in the community where the church is located. I find this external context very intriguing, partly because we often ignore it so completely!

What is happening in your external context; the community where your congregation is located? What is occurring in the lives and circumstances of the families who live there? Is the recession impacting them in a serious way? What circumstances are changing in the neighbourhood? Are there needs that the church can and should respond to?

Context matters. External context matters because that is where our mission is.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I remember hearing once that "Feedback is the breakfast of champions"!

I'm so grateful for all the comments that are coming in to our good word blog reports about the things that are happening around our mission. We know you're out there reading and thinking about the things we're telling you. It's really heartening to feel your encouragement.

This week is a pretty special week as our dozen CPI pastors are in the middle of their first, very intense, formation week. You should see them digging into their scriptures, into the Bible dictionaries and commentaries. (Diane actually took a volume of the New Interpreter's Bible Commentary to her room after the movie tonite!) What dedication!

Be sure to let them know you appreciate the effort they're making to equip themselves to be better servant ministers. It's not enough that we all know you appreciate them; it's so much more energizing to hear that kind of feedback. Or to read it in an e-mail or on facebook or maybe even a note. I know some of you still do that. I have a special box where I keep and treasure the cards and notes you send to me.

Of course, the best is that you're out there doing the things we're reporting!

And we'll keep spreading the good word of all those great things you do. Then let's all remember that important principle: feedback! It's the breakfast of champions!

PS Kudos to our amazing instructors Don Compier and Art Smith and to Doug Bolger, our esteemed Coordinator. You are all the BEST!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I was privileged to be part of an intriguing conversation last evening with our Co-missioned Pastor Initiative group about goal setting. One interesting part of that discussion had to do with the difference between goals and activities. It became clear that some activities are undertaken to achieve a goal and some are not. In either event, the activity is not the goal.

Lets say a congregation decides to hold a carwash in the church parking lot. The car wash is an activity, but not a goal. Then what is the goal? That depends on the purpose of holding the car wash. Perhaps the congregation has a goal to send the congregation’s youth on a life-changing mission trip or to IYF or SPEC. In that case, the carwash would be a fundraiser, and there would be a charge for washing each car. The carwash is an activity done with the purpose of achieving the goal to send the youth on the trip.

On the other hand, if the congregation has a goal “to be part of and interact with the local community”, they might decide to do a carwash as a way to meet the neighbours. In that case, they might decide to promote the event with signs and flyers advertizing, ‘FREE NEIGHBOURHOOD CAR WASH. Why would they do that? Because the goal was to meet and serve the neighbours, not to raise money from the neighbours. The sheer novelty of someone doing something for free is likely to arouse the curiosity of the neighbourhood, and people will come just to check it out. In other words, how you configure the activity depends on what the goal really is.

What if the congregation just does a carwash every spring because they have always had one? What is the goal? Probably there isn’t one. Maybe there was a goal originally, but nobody remembers what it was any more. In that case, the activity is more of a habit than anything else.

All of this makes me wonder if I have habits or activities I do with no particular goal in mind. If so, what are they, and why do I do them? I’ll have to pay attention to see! What about you? What about your congregation? Do you have goals? Do you have activities you do out of habit? It’s an intriguing question, isn’t it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Yesterday I ran into a former church member who has not been active in our community for several years. From a distance, I heard this person describing the recent merger of three Toronto congregations as “very sad.” I was interested, because I see the same event as very positive. There is wonderful energy in this new venture! There are children and youth, and the place is filled with life, hope and possibilities. Of course my friend would not know that because he has not been there for years. I sought to share some of that energy, but I am not sure he understood. He felt the church in this area is “just spiraling downward.” If someone sees things that way, I can understand why they would not want to be part of it. That is not, however, the way I see it.

I thought of that conversation again this morning as the reports came in of the good things that have happened in our mission centre over the weekend. Brantford congregation, intent on turning a dying congregation around, had more than triple their normal attendance. Faubert Drive had a very successful Jr. High retreat, filled with life, energy and bursting with potential. Living Waters, struggling recently with some problems, sang their hearts out as they offered praise and worship, then moved into a business meeting to choose their new leadership team for the coming year. LaSalle Road held their annual Christmas program and dinner, and had a full gym for the event. The list goes on and on.

Spiraling downward? I think not! If there is any spiraling going on, it is spiraling up!

There is a lot of good news happening in our mission centre. We need to get the word out and share it. What’s going on where you are? Any good news to share?

Monday, November 23, 2009


I've been hearing a fair bit of frustration expressed around me of late. I've heard it as impatience or dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Sometimes it sounds like a lack of direction or purpose. Maybe the vision is there but the frustration is with those who appear to lack motivation for the task. At times, the frustration is with others who don't feel the same urgency as the speaker.

Often the frustration is with self for being out of balance or unable to deal with life's challenges. Too much to do; too many demands on too little time; a need to readjust priorities, to cut out some stuff.

How can I squeeze these square pegs into the round hole of "What's the Good Word" you ask?

I'm hearing a stirring of the waters. I'm feeling as if there are many people who are being prompted by some good spirit to re-examine their priorities, to make some necessary changes in their life. Many people who've shared these feelings of frustration appear to have come to the point that the status quo just isn't cutting it any more.

One good sister shared that she'd finally decided to listen to her own heart and look into the housing project near her church. She was sure there must be something she could do there. For months she'd felt frustrated by what she judged as a lack of concern in her congregation. But now she's not judging anyone. She just made the call herself! One day I'll tell you how it's going! Another good story.

But today, I'm focusing on frustration as a good word. What do you think? Are you one of those with a heart for mission that needs to make some changes in your own life and respond actively to what the Spirit is prompting you to do?

This is not about urging all you busy people to take on more. It's a call to some of you rare individuals out there whose frustration needs reinterpreting and redirecting and refocusing because you're sensing that it's really a call in a new direction. If this is you, I'd love to hear from you. We should talk.

Friday, November 20, 2009


On impulse, I recently checked on a blog site I had not visited for a while. The site, entitled Flannel Christian, is published by a friend (his name is Christian) who only posts occasionally. When he does put something up, however, it is often thought provoking and worth reading.

The current post is about a peace event Christian is organizing to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Christmas Eve Truce of 1914. On that remarkable World War I night, German and British soldiers in the trenches of Belgium ceased hostilities in honor of Christmas. First the German soldiers decorated the trees with candles and began singing Caroles, most notably and appropriately Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops responded by singing caroles in English, and soon they were greeting each other in no-man's land, then exchanging little gifts of jam, chocolate, or whiskey. Before long, the young soldiers were actually playing football (soccer) together! It is a wonderful story.

Almost as wonderful is the plan to remember and celebrate that night 95 years later in Seattle Washington with a peace event. Someone is thinking! It is a great idea. I wish them every success and blessing. What is more, since “Effective Peacemaking Ministries” is one of our goals in Canada East Mission of Community of Christ, perhaps it is an idea someone should here should take note of. Maybe this is an event we should emulate on the 100th anniversary. Any interested volunteers or congregations out there?

You can read Christian’s blog at

For more information on the Truce itself, go to or try googling “Christmas Eve Truce 1914”.

Stories and songs about this amazing night can also be found on YouTube.

Stille Nacht, Heil’ge Nacht!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Today's good word is lunch. I'm thinking of not just any lunch but of that particular good lunch that is part of our community's funeral practice. You know the one I mean; the one that's provided by the women of the congregation, or supplemented by the neighbours' contributions--a loaf of tuna salad or egg sandwiches or a pan of squares because "You might need this." It's where we all gather back to after the service.

It's the place where the mourners and their supporters start to live without the somebody they've just said one more good-bye to. It's at the lunch that there is laughter shared over triangle sandwiches and trays of pickles and olives. It's here we finally have time to notice how big the baby has got since we last saw him and how much more frail great-aunt someone is this autumn.

Little groups form up around the tables or balance flimsy plates on laps as heads lean togther to share a remembrance while taking care not to upset the styrofoam coffee cup. There's a bit more time to realize who's actually taken time off work, or driven all the way from Kingston or Goderich to be together. People are circulating and saying hello to distant cousins or in-laws from afar, either in miles or years.

What is it that's happening over this lunch? A family is uniting, setting aside the differences that feel less important today; a community is closing the circle around some of its members who need special care. Time is slowing down for just a bit as we remember those ever-so-important principles of what really IS most precious to us.

Take time for one more macaroon and another cup of tea and tell your second cousin how very glad you are to see them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Last Saturday I attended a workshop for GTA-West congregation as they worked to identify their goals for the immediate future. The workshop was attended by 60+ people and directed by a consultant who led us through a carefully planned process. It was a wonderful day.

The day began with a reminder of the congregation’s purpose statement, which had been carefully identified at an earlier event. I am a big believer in purpose statements. Whether you are an individual, a team, a congregation or a corporation, knowing your purpose makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between doing something because it is routine and doing something for a reason.

To take on a task without a clearly understood purpose is rather like driving on the road with no map or GPS and no real idea where you want to go. To quote the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”.

Purpose speaks of determination and resolve. It suggests that there is a desired result at the end of whatever process or activity you are engaged in. Doing something on purpose suggests that you know what outcome you want to achieve. If you know your purpose, you can identify goals that mean something, and initiate processes and programs to achieve them.

My purpose in this post is to say, "Well done, GTA-West! You know your purpose and have identified your goals. You now have a roadmap and a GPS. You are on the road to where you want to go!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Here you are thinking about getting the snow tires on and raking up the last of the fallen leaves; maybe you've stowed the canoe and drained the lawnmower and serviced the snow blower. And here I come with the good word: camping!

Believe it or not, coming up very soon is the first official weekend of the 2010 Camping Season. Directors from all our camps, reunions and retreats will be gathering for discussion, for updating, for sharing ideas and energizing each other for the ministry they'll be offering next year.

In November of each season, we take a weekend to go into retreat, to look back at the season just past and begin to work seriously on plans for future events. What worked well? Which new leaders are stepping up? How can we best use new skills and tap old experience?

Every year our group grows as veterans bring along their current protégés to introduce them to the fine art of event planning--creating the vision, considering the laws and regulations, constructing the best schedule and staffing lineup. The list goes on and on.

It's a time to network, to greet old friends and new, to just hang out together at this end of the season before that enormous sense of urgency kicks in somewhere around February.

If you aspire to be involved in camp leadership let your favourite camp or retreat director know and get an invitation for a test drive at Scarboro Missions, 2010 Directors' Retreat, November 27-29.

This is a "by invitation" event, so let us know if you want to be considered. There's still time.

Monday, November 16, 2009


There is a wonderful and fascinating energy around this word. Former students of Graceland University often look forward to returning to “the Hill” on significant anniversaries of the graduating class: five years, ten, twenty-five, and so on. Recently one of our CEM pastors returned for his fiftieth class reunion. It is wonderful to see old friends, former roommates, and perhaps even a favorite professor or two.

Senior High camp, 2009 had as its theme, “My Camp, My Community.” One of the ideas expressed around that theme is the expectation that campers will be going off into the world, but will always be expected back to this community. “We will be here for you, and you will always be welcomed home.” It is a great concept.

Yesterday, Brantford congregation celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in the current location, and several years more as a congregation. It was billed as Brantford’s Homecoming, and indeed, many former members and associates as well as friends from neighbouring congregations returned for the day. I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all as they celebrated in worship and fellowship together. The old building had been spruced up for the occasion, and there was energy around the ideas of moving into the 21st century. It was a good day.

Homecoming breathes the idea of coming back to somewhere that is or was our spiritual home for a time. Where is that for you?

Friday, November 13, 2009


This is Marion, reporting in. Our meetings are finished and today is a "travel day" so you're not going to get anything by way of major reporting from your CEM team on the road.

I have managed to squeeze in an extra couple of days to spend with family here in the Kansas City area and right now have negotiated a few minutes to update the Blog.

Currently my focus is on a wonderful Sticker Book being completed by Tiona, age three, with my occasional assistance. I am informed that when we have finished we will be making a craft. I am as yet unsure what that will entail but I can assure you all that the person in charge here has enough ideas and I shall be given my assignment shortly.

Tonight I am the designated driver for Eric, age twelve, who needs to go to the library for an amazing evening with vampires and such. This extra-special Friday 13th activity ends at midnight. The chauffeur will be waiting.

For the next two days my attention shifts to another house with three other little girls. Who knows WHAT they'll be up to?

Take a break today my people and just enjoy the folks you're with.

It's all about "what matters most."

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Marion has mentioned that several of our CEM team are in Independence for meetings this week. Knowing that we would be in meetings for several days, from morning ‘til evening, dealing with difficult and complex issues, the planners thought to insert a break in the middle of the week to get away from the meeting for a couple of hours. Consequently, on Wednesday afternoon we took a break and went bowling! It was a wise plan.

It was good to relax and have fun. The most oft heard comment at the beginning had to do with the number of years since most of us had played this game. Gradually the comments turned to offering support and encouragement, whether the bowler threw a strike or a gutter ball. We simply relaxed and had fun with one another.

The problems, issues, and challenges of life can be pretty daunting. Often there is a need to stop and have fun together. Sometimes we need to take a break, relax, laugh, and regenerate. Soon, we will be ready to once again, resume the tasks we face.

What do you do to break the stress and tension that you live with? What works for you? Is there something you can share with the rest of us that may be helpful? What has broken the tension for you at times?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Perhaps it is because of the passing of years and my own increasing age that Remembrance Day feels closer to my heart these days. I need to remember. I want to remember.

I remember my father, a young soldier who married my mother days before he left on a ship for Europe during WWII. I remember the stories he was willing to tell; the funny incidents as well as the scary hours and months there. I remember too that there were months and years of stories he wouldn’t tell. I have always assumed that for him, they were simply too vivid and painful to recount. Having lost my Dad just two years ago, I look at his snapshots of wartime, and remember.

I remember Joan’s Grandfather; a teenage soldier in the trenches of WWI. I remember his stories of almost unbelievable horror and fear. I remember how in that theatre he cried out to a God he didn’t know, and found comfort and blessing in a Spirit he would learn more about when he, miraculously, survived. I remember the strong, faithful man of God he became, and how he blessed the church in Toronto, Ontario and beyond.

I remember Robb, a young man who is the father of some of my grandchildren, who felt the call to be a soldier. He is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in 2010. I remember and I worry.

I remember the thousands of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who have been deployed as peace keepers around the world. I am proud of them, and of our country’s peacekeeping record. I remember too, the soldiers who now serve, this time in combat roles. I think of their families, and also the people who live where they serve, in a rugged and war torn land. I remember and pray for them.

I remember too that we are called to be a peace church. I wonder how a peace church works with the dichotomy of having our countries at war, and our loved ones deployed? It is a challenge.

On Remembrance Day in 2009, there is much to remember.

How about you? What or who do you remember on this sacred, solemn day? Will you share some of your remembrances here?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


We greet you from Independence this morning!

Our whole program team has gathered with our Apostle Mary, our old friend and former apostle Jim Slauter and a great crowd of other people from Mary's field, Canada West and North and Central USA. We're excited to be gathered around the big round council table in the temple.

We're here for some updating, for a little information sharing, a bit of future planning, but mostly to be in conversation with colleagues to strengthen and build up our team. As I'm looking across the table there are Carman, Mike, Jim, Alfredo.

To be really polite and respectful we're leaving computers closed, cell phones turned off, connections back home and abroad disconnected. We're being intentional to connect here and now, at this table with these people. Who knows just how many "Good Words" will emerge from these conversations? I've already got a couple of ideas. But you must be patient and wait for them to percolate, work their way through a couple of days of thinking and sharing.

And if you're very lucky, you may even hear a good word or two about some amazing grandchildren I hope to spend a wee bit of time with over the next few days. It's all good!

Take care of yourselves, everyone back home. We're thinking of you. Check in tomorrow for greetings from your team on the road.

Monday, November 9, 2009


There are a few people I think of as my heroes; or more accurately as heroes of the gospel. For instance, in the High Desert in California, in the city of Victorville, there is a man whose name is Gary. Gary was/is a drug addict who came to church one Sunday morning with his girlfriend Tracy looking for help to get their lives back on track. Gary was in trouble with the law, with Family Services, with just about everybody you could name, but he wanted to do better.

Gary and Tracy knew there had to be a better way to live. They showed up at church and asked for help. Though no longer together, three years later, Gary and Tracy have been baptized and are still off drugs. Gary has custody of his son, attends church every Sunday, and helps wherever he can. He also goes to school. His goal is to become an addictions counselor so he can help others the way he was helped. I love Gary and Tracy deeply; they are my heroes.

There are also other heroes in this story, and they are the people from this little congregation in the desert who supported Gary and Tracy and others while they went through this enormous change in their lives. They are people who really didn’t know how to help drug addicts, but also knew they had to say yes when asked. They learned how to support people who were getting clean, and be patient with them while they learned what it means for them to live a Christian life. It took great courage and patience for them to do that. The members of this little congregation are true heroes of the gospel, and they will always have my undying respect and admiration.

Do you have heroes? Who are they? What do they do that makes you admire them?

Blog Template Updated

On Thursday's (Nov 4) post, Marion suggested that you should click on the link to open the blog in a new window so that you could get access to all the other good blog stuff, such as reading and making comments.

Well, you don't have to do that any more. With a little smoke and a couple of mirrors, I have updated the blog template so that the actual blog is integrated into the website. That makes all the good stuff Marion wants you to see available right here.

As always, let me know if you spot any issues.

Lew (Webadmin)

Friday, November 6, 2009


Rock is one of those many, many English words that can have lots of meanings. In fact, it's a word that can have opposite meanings.

For example, we think of a rock as something stable, solid, unmoving as in a solid rock foundation or Rock of Ages.

Or it can mean a gentle movement as in rock-a-bye baby or a peacefully rocking boat or grandma's rocking chair.

It might suggest a terrific violent experience as in the explosion rocked the neighbourhood or new information rocked his faith.

Some people love the sound of rock music and consider it the highest compliment to say or hear you rock!

I'm off this Sunday to meet with Jesus Rocks! our little emerging congregation in downtown Hamilton. I'll let you know what I encounter there. I'm excited to have this chance to get to meet some folks in this group I haven't yet met. And to hold up Lynn Aquin in her leadership role there.

I leave you now for the weekend with this little message

"Rock On!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009


If you are seeing What's the Good Word on the newly launched incarnation of the Community of Christ, Canada website here then you're being invited to Read the Blog in a New Window.

Please do that!

It gives you access to lots of additional valuable stuff--Comments and ongoing Conversation, an opportunity to Join that conversation, easy access to old posts and earlier conversations, Sidebar suggestions of other excellent blogs you can link into and pictures of some of the folks who "follow" us.

It's almost always a good idea to look through a new window when you're invited to do so. Let's explore what me might find there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Sometimes spending a bit of time with a thesaurus or even my dictionary can help my imagination, my understanding and my vision.

For example: these words from my on-line Thesaurus/Dictionary : vision

* appearance conveying a revelation

* concept formed by the imagination

* the power of imagination

* unusual discernment or foresight

* the power of seeing

* special ability to perceive clearly

* a lovely or charming (or charmed) sight

* the ability to perceive the light through the eye to the brain

* something worth seeing, attending to

Now go back and read this and notice what comes to mind for you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Hello everyone out there reading our Blog! For several days now I've been part of the "lurking" readership. (Thanks Carman for a very exciting series.) Today I thought I'd talk about this name given to those of us who read but don't comment--lurker.

Many people have shared with me that they've been reading along with the blog postings. And that's good! Sometimes they add a sheepish confession that they aren't smart enough, or technical enough, or quick write a response.

I just want to assure all you lurkers that I don't mind a bit. You too have a place in Blog-world. Of course I will encourage you --have even done so from time to time in the blog posts themselves--to screw up your courage and post a Comment about what you're reading there.

But the reading itself is valuable and valued. The conversations you have at the dinner table, or at the priesthood meeting or in the adult class, or via the blog post copied and posted on the bulletin board or in the Sunday bulletin (thanks Woodfield!) are part of the greater conversation going on in our extended community.

One of these days we'll post some statistics about just how extended our community is. Ask around for yourself. How many of your friends have joined the circle? Tell them about it if they haven't. Do join the conversations that are going on there, and someday, let's hear from you too.

Meanwhile, I salute all you lurkers out there. Enjoy your status as a significant, probably even the largest, part of our What's the Good Word world.

Monday, November 2, 2009


A few years ago, a research company conducted a survey of a large number of churches in United States. They asked church members what they thought the purpose of the church was. The results of the survey were very interesting. 89% of members said that the purpose of the church was to look after the needs of members and their families. The remaining 11% of those polled thought the church’s purpose was to reach out to people where were outside the church family and not church members.

The same research company also polled the pastors of these same churches. Interestingly, exactly 89% of the pastors replied that the purpose of the church was to reach out to those who were not members of the church, and only 11% thought the purpose was to look after members and their families. The two groups were exactly opposite!

In a way, this survey demonstrates the difference between maintenance and mission. Maintenance is about me and my family. Mission is about those whose lives would be so greatly enriched by knowing there is a God who cares about them passionately.

The recent revelation to the church we now call Section 163 has much to say to us on this matter. In fact, one might think it should really settle the debate once and for ever.

“Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of person to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.” D. & C. 163:2b

In Canada East Mission, we believe we are called to move from maintenance to mission. The call is the mission of the Christ. It is the mission of the church. It is our mission.

Do you hear the call? Are you ready?

Friday, October 30, 2009


Definition: Care or upkeep, as of machinery or property: With proper maintenance, the car will last for many years.

Maintenance is the work required to keep things from falling apart. It is always done in an effort to retain the status quo. Maintenance is necessary, of course, but it takes a lot of time and work.

The problem with maintenance is that, if we aren’t careful, it can consume all our available time and effort. In church, we can become so consumed with keeping the church running that we hardly have time to reach out and invite the people the church was intended to serve. When that happens, the church becomes about us, not about inviting or serving others. This is a big problem, since that is not what the church is called to do.

If we are already in maintenance mode, the challenge is to move from maintenance to mission. Stay tuned; more in the next post!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Moving always means change.

If a person or family moves from one house or community to another, their world will change. The distance they move will, in large part, determine how big the change it will be. For instance, moving across the street or across town to a bigger or smaller house will mean only minor tweaking to the family’s routine, but moving from Canada to Thailand will involve major adjustments.

Whether moving is positive or negative depends on the attitude of those who are moving.

For some, moving is disruptive because it takes that which is familiar, satisfying, and comfortable, and turns it upside down. Moving is troublesome.

For others, moving is exciting because it gives them a chance to take those routines which have become stale, boring, and no longer productive and modify them for the better. For such people, moving is energizing!

Moving from where we are to where we want to be involves doing the work required to get there. Moving involves cleaning, preparing, folding, packing, loading, unloading, arranging, and then rearranging.

In the process, moving may also mean sorting and pitching things we no longer need or use; things which once served a purpose but which now no longer work. Sometimes it means letting go of things we have stored but not used for a long, long time. Sometimes it may even mean getting new stuff to replace the old and worn.

In Canada East we are Moving from Maintenance to Mission.

Are you ready?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


There are 24 women and men in Canada East Mission who, by virtue of their calling to the High Priesthood, are charged with being “Ministers of Vision.” (This number does not include the eight Bishops and twenty-three Evangelists who have more specific roles as Ministers of Generosity and Ministers of Blessing.) For the twenty-four, what a daunting task! How does one really go about that?

The twenty-four persons in question are people who are highly regarded in the mission centre because of their maturity, experience and wisdom. Often, people look up to them as role models, which may well make them a little uncomfortable.

But the term “Minister of Vision” suggests something more than their stature in the community. It suggests the ability to see or anticipate that which could come to be; that which is possible, or that which might be achieved with an appropriate and concerted effort.

The key is their ability to see, not their ability to create a vision. For example, if the President of the Church articulates a goal for the church, it is the job of the High Priesthood to grasp its possibilities, and then help others to see, understand, and respond to the call. In this way, we have one vision being upheld by multiple people, not 24 different visions being articulated.

At the recent Canada East Mission conference, the leadership team outlined a fresh approach to what we have always been called to do. We are now calling on the twenty-four Ministers of Vision, inviting them to see the possibilities, articulate those goals, and help the church respond.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I'm thinking of a special wedding that happened eight years ago today and I've considered many possible good words for today--love, marriage, ritual, symbol, metaphor, anniversary...But I've decided to just settle on wedding. You're welcome to select among that fine list after you've read my story:

Happy Anniversary Dave and Erin!

Lots of good memories flood back as I recall that day--and the days and years that came before and that have come since. The family and friends had gathered at a renovated historic train station to send them on their journey. We spoke of the significance of that. There were lots of symbols and metaphors in this wedding ritual.

The happy couple exchanged special stones that were part of the foundation of their relationship being laid that day. And as the officiant, I had assured my mother, the nervous grandma, that all would be legal and appropriately sacred, despite her anxiety over what her famously unconventional grandson might invent for his wedding. The stones were only one thing she might have been nervous about.

The groom sang his vows to his bride, with professional back-up provided by his twin brother and the other groomsmen. We all serenaded the newly-weds with our amazing kazoo orchestra at dinner. Murphy, the dog, did not attend, but was given recognition in the toasts I think. (Did you know Grandma was worried about this, Dave?)

Dave and Erin's journey has taken them to Iqaluit where Henry was born and then to the east coast where we welcomed Jane and Alice.

In honour of this special family I give you the Benediction spoken by their auntie at their wedding:

And now, may you rest in each other’s love;
may you grow in each other’s care;
may you enjoy each other’s challenges
and share each other’s adventures.
May those things you undertake together bring great joy
and may the love you share truly help to change the world.
Go forth in gladness and peace, Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009


As Peter Trueman used to say "this is not news, but it is reality." Our folks really do like to sing!It's the thing we've got the most feedback about our recent mission conference--people didn't get to sing as they'd hoped to. OK people! We've made a note.

While we're on the subject though, let me say some other things about "singing." It's one of those areas where tastes vary. While we may really, really like to sing, we also want to sing certain things. Some of us are very reluctant to try anything unfamiliar. Or anything that doesn't feel right somehow. And who knows what makes things feel right or wrong in the realm of singing?

I noted some research on the topic of how our brains work that looked into the areas affected by music. They were examining how music that gets plugged directly into the ear takes certain paths and creates tracks that can endure forever. People are very much motivated by where and when those tracks get laid down. Their emotions and relationships and feelings about everything are tied to those tracks. Young brain tracks get very set and can exert control over us forever! (Even when we're old a gray...) Wow!

I listened to Peter Mansbridge interviewing Anne Murray about her just-released autobiography and her decision to retire--to stop singing! I don't think Peter believed her, but she seemed pretty certain.

"How will you feel about not singing?"
"Oh I'll feel fine. I've had enough of it. I'm tired of singing and I look forward to not doing it."

Too bad she wasn't at our Conference. She would have enjoyed it.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Today I thought I'd say something about our Merrie Bande of Bishops. (We use the olde English spelling just for fun! Besides, these guys are fun and have fun.)

This team of four gifted ministers, working away in their various areas of expertise, serving the membership, the leadership and the church contribute in many ways . You've probably encountered one or another of them at some point in recent years. We would traditionally have called them "self-sustaining" ministers. The new/old term that is being used these days is "tent-making." In other words, they support themselves out of their own work and resources. While they work for the church, they are not paid by the church.

Lew Shepherdson has lots of projects; right now he's working to get our website launched. This is a huge effort that takes special skills. Dave Snell watches the books, the budgets, the tax accounts, helps dig out financial officers who might be in over their heads.

Don Robb is a retired teacher who never really retired. He works with Aaronic ministers, teaches workshops from Good $ense to We Share. He and Mary (a recently ordained evangelist) get pastors together to support and assist as they can. Mel Mills has been serving the GTA West congregation, from its earliest conceptualizing to its current implementation. Now pastor, he's preparing to transition them to new leadership.

I could write a whole series on the terrific work each of these World Church ministers do for us all. But let me sum it up by quoting Section 163. This they embody every day:

Priesthood is a sacred covenant involving the highest form of stewardship of body, mind, spirit and relationships. The priesthood shall be composed of people of humility and integrity.

Tuly authoritative priesthood ministry emerges from a growing capacity to bring blessing to others.

The expectation for priesthood to continually magnify their calling through spiritual growth, study, exemplary generosity, ethical choices, and fully accountable ministry is always present.

(Doctrine & Convenants 163, selections from paragraph 6)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I guess it's the intensity of the season change that brings out the poet in me. Here is a week's worth of haiku from an old autumn poetry class assignment to write a haiku a day:

In poetry’s way
fingers tap out syllables—
Steering wheel Haiku.

Lady Oak awaits
with quiet dignity her
final windy fate.

Blackbirds swell in
undulating wave against
a grey autumn sky.

Birds wait on the line
listening for the signal
telling them “Head south.”

Wings wide, landing gear
down—wild geese follow their feet
into the ground.

Fat frantic squirrel
hides nuts in the window box.
Alas, poor fool.

Orange orange orb
balances on purple hills
then drops out of sight.

Anyone out there want to take up the challenge? The formula is 5+7+5.
Count your syllables and paint us a word picture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Two separate people in two separate congregations were talking in my hearing about the church library.

One was lamenting the location of the church library. Apparently it's in a side room and not very visible to the congregation; therefore, according to the speaker, isn't used nearly as much as it should be.

The other told of a converstion ongoing involving the highly-motivated young librarian to remove some of the old or out-dated books that she felt were clogging up the shelves and giving an "old and out-dated" message to potential readers. The other party to this conversation was a long-time member whose dad's and granddad's books had been donated to the library and whose memory he was determined to preserve.

It does seem that our church librarys do carry this additional "responsibility" of being a respository for some pretty ancient tomes. Sometimes it may be a blessing that these books tend not to be read!

What's the conversation around your church library? Is it visible? Is it current? Is someone looking out for it who cares for the books and cares for the "message" it conveys?

How do you access the best and most current church literature? And does your church's library play a role in that for your congregation? You may be getting a message here that this is something I'm thinking about, so you may be reading more in postings to come.

Happy reading everyone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Those of you who were at Mission Conference on Saturday will have noticed--at least I hope you did--that our team is expanding.

While we've certainly felt the impact of recent cuts to our finances and have had to reduce staff significantly, our response has been to reach out to enlist other parts of our team. You saw many of them in action at conference. You've heard of others who are picking up new duties and will be taking their places on our expanding team.

There will be growing pains as we transition to working from "away" or finding our way with a new committee or unfamiliar duties. As our"public" you may experience these as something less than seamless. That's just the way it is.

But let's give each other space to get comfortable with new roles. Let's celebrate just how many competent people are willing to step up and take on responsibilities. Give them your thanks. Give them helpful feedback. Give them time to learn.

Consider what new or different role you might take on yourself and let us know.

And celebrate with us what a great job we're all going to do as we create our wonderful future together.

Yeah Team!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thank you!

Last Saturday’s 2009 CEM conference was a wonderful day! I personally felt richly blessed, and need to express some of my gratitude to you, the members of this great community.

Many, many, many thanks to all who came to Guelph on Saturday, and also to those who couldn’t come but sent loving thoughts and prayers our way. Your warm response to the invitation and to the information presented was truly a blessing to those of us who carried the responsibilities of the day. Your loving support for our team and your warm reception to the information and ideas presented are not only encouraging but gratifying. Two days later, I am still filled with gratitude and want simply to say “thank you” over and over again.

Thank you too, to all those who responded so willingly to the invitation to take a leadership role. The music, the presentations, the business session, and the conference worship would not have been possible without your gracious efforts. We are so grateful for what you have given and your willingness to step forward when asked. What a richly blessed community we are to have so many fine, capable leaders with such diverse and wonderful skills!

Thank you for your support for the three new Evangelists ordained at this conference: William McCarty, Grace Moor, and Mary Robb, and thanks to those three for their willingness. They take their place in an august body charged with the task of being ministers of blessing. They are, every one of them, equal to the challenge.

As the theme of the day suggests, this conference was all about preparing and planning for the future. Increasingly, I face that journey with excitement. As wonderful and important as our story has been thus far, the present and immediate future now urgently beckon us. We are called, we are sent, and we search the horizon with great gratitude and anticipation as we continue to prepare “For the Journey Yet to Come.”

Friday, October 16, 2009


Have you noticed that everywhere you go, everything seems to be "under construction"? Many main streets in my town appear to be dug up just now. And as I've had opportunity to be around the province, it looks as if we're not alone. Construction sites abound; everywhere we're admonised to "expect delays."

Not just road work, but lots of building is happening. Homeowners are trying to get renovations or additions completed to qualify for tax incentives offered by governments. Colleagues report progress on their deck, their basements; even my hairdresser was telling me about a project to waterproof her basement wall so they can proceed with finishing a new family room.

In the face of all this construction we often ask "Will it never be done?"

The answer to that question is "No." We'll always be building something. In fact, if we were to stop, things would quickly fall into disrepair. We'd outgrow our spaces. Believe it or not, someone would begin to complain about not enough change!

What we're doing here is creating our future. I hope many of you CEM folks will be at Mission Conference tomorrow to deliberate on our future plans, learn how you can participate in a major "construction project" as we create goals, establish direction, set budgets and targets for OUR future -- "Under Construction."

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I’m seeing red this morning.

Out my office window I see a row of red sumac along the fence, a row of red burning bushes along the boulevard, and a row of red brake lights lined up in the Tim Horton’s drive-through.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It appears we're a people who really, really enjoy coming together. We've been finding ways to get together a lot. Recently we've gathered at the Retirees' Retreat (I was there!). Youth and young adults gathered at their annual Thanksgiving retreat. Another small group had a few days of silent retreat in each other's company.

Within recent weeks we've had a men's retreat at McGowan's Lake and a women's retreat at Ziontario. And it's not long since Family and Friends met at Erie Beach. Many of us couldn't get through a summer season without a reunion or a camp experience, be it kids camp or junior or senior high; and others teamed up with Canada West youth for a bus trip to SPEC and IYF.

Now here's my thought on all this togetherness. Why do we do that? Is it because we just love each other's company? Or does the coming together help us do what we need to do between gatherings?

Glenn McDonald in The Disciple Making Church suggests that every disciple needs an Antioch--the place we return to, to regain our strenth. But we also need a Macedonia--the place we're called to go and bring ministry. True disciples, says McDonald, need both.

Go back from time to time to your Antioch, but pay attention to the call to Macedonia. Now that we've all be strengthened and nurtured by coming together, it's time to listen for the call to do ministry in the community. Let's think a minute about where we're being called.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Here's my "tip for the day"

Reading "What's the Good Word?" every morning is good for you. Commenting can even help control your weight!

I'm reading a book that advocates doing a little bit of writing every morning as you start your day. The author claims quite a lot of practical success with this method. Her reasoning appears very good to me.

Taking a few moments to focus, to meditate and contemplate tends to air the issues that might get buried or suppressed. Buried or suppressed thoughts then may give way to unhealthy habits, habits like overeating or craving sweets or comforting starches. Write them out; pray over what's troubling you. If you've been one who feeds them chocolate or chips and gravy you'll understand.

If food can block disturbing thoughts, perhaps words can block unwholesome foods. That's her premise. You can test it out by reading our Blog every day and then writing a Comment. We're happy to be part of your weight-loss program.

Monday, October 12, 2009


So many things I might share from the very rich conversations shared at last week's Retirees' Retreat!

Thanks to Red Butler for suggesting the link between "symbols" and "cymbals." Our discussion had done some spiraling around the notion of sybolism and sacrament. How important is the physical or material stuff we employ in our sacramental rituals? What is the function of this piece of bread, this drop of oil, this pool or lake or river we immerse in? How essential is this symbol? And how to understand its significance?

Then Red raised his arms holding up a grand set of imagined cymbals and brought his hands together with such a flourish we could almost hear the crash.

"It's the coming together of the Divine and the Human, the spirit and the matter. That's the symbol's job. Just like these cymbals." From that point in our week's conversations, whenever we would dig out the kernal of meaning and finally grasp what we'd been seeking, someone would raise their cymbals and we'd hear that Crash! of the Divine smashing into our human minds.

It was a great week!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Thanksgiving; the very word conjures up images and memories! For some, it means a crowded table laden with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash and steaming vegetables followed by pumpkin pie and other delectable treats. For others the word evokes memories of trips to Grandma’s house, there to meet with aunts, uncles, cousins and more. For those who are now the grandparents, the word may be synonymous with homecoming; when the children and their children assemble for a wonderful day of family reunion and celebration. For all of these things, we may be very grateful indeed as we celebrate this warm and wonderful time of year.

Thanksgiving. The word has a wonderful structure, being made up of two words: thanks and giving. It is almost as if the two words have grown together, and been together so long that we hardly notice anymore. But isn’t that structure indicative of the way it should be? Shouldn’t thanks and giving naturally go together? Doesn’t giving somehow naturally grow out of being thankful?

Thanksgiving. What if there were no tables laden with food, no family visits, no squeals of delighted children greeting their cousins and playing together? It’s a different image isn’t it? Sad and lonely somehow.

This Thanksgiving, may we be truly thankful for all those blessings and memories we cherish, and may we also be giving, to those who do not have so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Recently noticed on the paper tag of my tea bag:

"The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment."

Enjoy your moments today.