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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?"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This morning the weather is changing. It had to happen. It always does. We have seasons; the weather changes.

Change is one of those things we both dread and embrace. Most of us admit to a twinge of fear when change is imminent. And yet, if everything stayed the same, we'd all be looking to inject some change into our lives, our homes, our habits, our selves. It's a paradox, isn't it?

I'm busy just now getting ready for the Retiree's Retreat happening next week at Camp Noronto. (Find the information here) This means I'm reading up for some in-depth conversations about the Sacraments. One thing I'm learning is that change is inherent in any serious thinking about sacraments. Danny Belrose, in his text "Vulnerable to Grace" reminds us:

Participation in the sacraments presupposes that there will be change in understanding, attitude, and behaviour by the worshipper.

In other words, it's why we DO sacrament--to make us different!

The kind of words we use for this type of change are more like transformation, redemption, renewal, growth but all those words mean change in some positive and hopeful way.

It seems to be human nature to be apprehensive about changes that happen to us. Let's try to imagine all the wonderful changes that come with growth and regeneration and sacrament.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Driving to and from the near north this weekend I was struck by the beauty of all that rock! Roads continue to be pushed through granite and whatever, exposing layers and colours and striations to reveal the movement of earth in ancient times. Nothing is ever just level, it seems.

A couple of rock-related items. It has become the fashion to erect little inukshuks on what appears to be every accessible rock peak, and several that seem un-accessible! These little critters have migrated out of Arctic landscapes and line all the rocky highways and byways it seems.

Of course there are also the perennial painted announcements that Clare & Enid, or Bobbie & Ryan or even the Class of '07 were there!

My current musings on these phenomena is that they're connected with identity.

"I was here!" they proclaim. And since this rock isn't going anywhere
"I am important!"
"I am connected to this solid piece of the earth--and don't you forget it, the rest of you mortals who pass this way."

"OK," think I, "I see your mark and I salute you!"

Monday, September 28, 2009


For those of us who are somewhat quiet and reserved, yesterday’s worship theme, “Speak Boldly,” raises a challenging dilemma. Yesterday was one of those unusual Sundays when I was not preaching anywhere, so got to listen to a lovely homily on this very subject. The speaker began by admitting that he is, by nature, somewhat timid and perhaps a little shy, and not given to speaking boldly. This quiet, self-contained man is just the kind of faithful worker that over the years I have grown to respect and admire. There are many such people. They know what being in relationship with God has done for them and can do for others, but they are not forward in speaking that truth to others. Such people are not being hypocritical or spiritually lazy. Its not that they don’t care; it is just that they are quiet, respectful people who are reluctant to push their views on anybody else. There is a lot to be said for that, and yet there are many people who are starving for the spiritual food such people have stored up in the pantries of their lives. For quiet people, this is a real quandary.

Yet our silence has a price; perhaps one that is being paid by others. Recently I met a man who came into contact with the Community of Christ, and found it an amazing blessing. He was profoundly grateful for what it brought to his life. Not long after finding this new spiritual home, he attended church and met a lady who worked in the same office as he. This was someone he had known for a years, and he was startled to learn that she was also a member. His surprise quickly turned to anger, and he said to her, “You mean you have known about this wonderful thing all this time and never told me?”

I wonder, are there people in my community who long for the food that is stored in my spiritual pantry? Are there in yours?

Friday, September 25, 2009


I love an island!

It's hard to describe the good feelings I feel whenever I get a chance to experience an island. I've never met an island that didn't touch that special island nerve somewhere in my soul. I've never lived on an island (yet!) but have visited Cape Breton, PEI, Vancouver Island, Tahiti and its little partner Moorea, St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Quite a variety, you'll agree. And yet each with the same emotional tug.

My most favourite island--where I've spent the most time, or at least have visited more frequently--is the Manitoulin. I've been there in all seasons and there's not a one I don't love. I could go on at length about things I cherish there.

Island time feels quite a lot to me like what I've read some writers say about sabbath time. The pace of life slows down. Pressures of work ease off. It really seems possible to catch your breath, maybe think more important thoughts, consider what matters most, set aside imposed assumptions and expectations.

Some other people I know will be finding their sabbath this weekend in a canoe! What a terrific way to spend this first autumn weekend.

I'm off to Manitoulin in the morning! I haven't even mentioned the people yet. I look forward to catching up with Madeleine and Marilyn, Red and Marie, checking in with Weston and Gail; I'll probably not see the rest of the Providence Bay folk this trip as I'll be focusing on Little Current. But I know you're all there, part of that special island place in my heart.

Watch this spot for more island tales. Have a good Sabbath everyone.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Thanks to the great folks in St. Thomas last evening. It really was fun!

I'll let them share the stories as they emerge from our plans to sprout some new community relationships. They're off to plant and cultivate the seeds of an idea that's starting to swell there.

A couple of people at the meeting really latched onto this quotation:

Jesus said "Feed my sheep" not "Count my sheep."

Now, it's off to see which particular neighbourhood sheep and lambs need feeding. Stay tuned for more St. Thomas stories. The stories will be part of the harvest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I learn so much from paying attention to sidebars!

Those are the extras that bloggers and web-designers put over there at the side of the main content. I've tried to put some useful stuff into the sidebars of this blog as well. I hope you go over there to the right side of your screen and look at the other blogs we're following.

Every day you can choose to link to A Church for Starving Artists, or Tribal Church. I can pretty well guarantee you'll find something useful there.

And for a little bit of fun, check in with Tomato Transplants or Beauty Tips for Ministers. I like them; I hope you will too.

If you're receiving What's the Good Word? via your e-mail subscription, you'll need to go the the actual Internet site to get these bonuses. Please make a point to do that every so often. You'll want to go there as well to check in with the Comments. Conversations have been known to pop up and take us into some new and interesting territory.

Just check the sidebar for added value.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


While we generally like to report to each other about the great big groups who've attended or supported this or that activity or event, I'd like to remind us that some of our "small" gatherings can be the best for knitting those important relationships we so value.

I recently discovered a new magazine on Church and Culture called The Next Wave. The lead article this month is called What on Earth is God Up To? The main idea the author of that article is holding up is what he's noticing in dynamic congregations he visits--high energy, Spirit infused, small groups.

It's not just intentionally formed, formal small groups created for a purpose, but a dynamic trend to various kinds of groups springing up, even in the midst of larger congregations.

The example that came to my mind was a Conditions of Membership circle recently gathered in one of our larger congregations. At first participants were disappointed that more people were not there. Then they realized what an amazing and deep conversation they'd had together.

Ask any of the folks who were part of a rather small junior high camp at Erie Beach this summer about the Spirit they experienced there.

I'm off to Little Current this weekend to help that congregation imagine what the church can look like in their community as they cycle into a smaller phase of their existence. I'm hoping we can discern a Spirit that will be there in the midst of their smallness that is just as fine and nurturing as when they had larger numbers.

I'm not suggesting we don't pay attention to growing our congregations. I'm trying to wrap my head around how to do that with the tried-and-true principle that small can be beautiful.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It really does seem that many of the folks I know about, Monday has become a "day of rest."

What a busy weekend this has been! I'm still waiting for updates from a number of folks. But I think several of them are still catching their breaths.

Fired Up! launched at a camp-out this weekend. Seventy-five women gathered at a Ziontario retreat. Ottawa welcomed Doug Bolger, CPI coordinator for a couple of workshops. Hamilton was setting up for today's Joybringers gathering. Niagara Falls Community Outreach is swinging into another season of feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. New leaders are ordering Temple School course books to prepare for expanding ministry.

And I could go on and on. That's just a few of the Monday morning reports that are in! I need to rest myself. Whew!

Keep those reports coming in. You're doing a great job everyone.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Not far from where I live, there is a lovely little church that sits on a quiet street in a nice neighbourhood. This church quietly sends out very mixed signals to the community. The design of the building says, “This is a church!” The grass gets cut in the summer and the walk gets shoveled in winter, which signals, “Someone is looking after this place; someone cares!” This care is apparent, even in the summer months when there are almost never any cars in the parking lot and no sign of church activity at all.

But from there the signals get confusing. There is no sign on the lawn to confirm that this really is a church; in fact, there has not been a sign for a few years now. No mail is ever sent from the church to the community to invite people to come, and there is no notice in the paper about worship times or other activities. An internet search reveals no website for this location; in fact Google is unaware of the little church at all! The search does identify 10 other churches in the area, however, and should the searcher happen to know the name of the denomination that sponsors the little church, the internet will provide you with an address in a neighbouring city just 44 kilometers away.

Ever stand across the street from your church and ask yourself what message you are sending to the neighbourhood? Ever conduct an internet search for your congregation? What signals is your congregation sending out?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


What shall we call the folks in our group/comngregation/community?

Most congregations have left behind the naming of each other formally as Brother This and Sister That. Some are truly family and Uncles and Aunties abound. Sunday school classes are taught by Gramma and attended by cousins. And Grampa is preaching today.

But how do we think of each other?

Friends? Closer than friends? Family? Somewhere between? Acquaintances, associates, colleagues, companions?

Mr. Rogers used to welcome everyone as neighbour. Many have grown up with the lessons taught by the neighbours on Sesame Street. People who live on my street and in my town are my neighbours. And Jesus asked "Who was neighbour unto him?"

Might the name we use when referring to, or even just thinking of, each other give some indication about the genuine closeness we have for each other? We've been exploring here the shades of meaning of the various communities, congregations or groups where we associate.

Will you be my neighbour?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


While I had a pretty good idea of the thoughts I wanted to share this morning, I was uncertain which "word" to select. I've opted for group.

Last Sunday I enjoyed a wonderful brunch with a great group of women, some of whom I've known for ten years. It was my writing group. Some time ago, after moving to my new town and new job I was feeling the need of a different sort of connection. I'd say friendship but at the time I had no idea that I was looking for friends or certainly that I would find friends in the class I signed up for.

I happened to notice that a class was being offered on life writing. That sounded interesting to me, and like an opportunty to write for fun with some amateurs totally unconnected with my work and my work community.

Since then, I've tried each year, spring or fall, to find a writing class that works with my schedule. In the process I've been introduced to memoir, poetry and most recentlly fiction. (More of this another time, perhaps.) Because the more valuable thing I've found is a group of fifteen or twenty women who've been part of those classes.

All of us have "other jobs" although some of us have been pretty regular and serious published writers. Mainly we listen appreciatively to each other's work, offer genuine and helpful critique when asked, and laugh and eat together as often as we're able. Usually the get-togethers, even the scheduled classes have only five to eight at a time because of the necessities of our other life. I'll not be doing a class this fall as I cannot synchronize a class schedule with my busy work calendar.

But I know my friends are there. We are connected. So I guess, by definition, we are a community. We care about each other's success and well-being. We follow one another's journeys. We lament each other's trials.

What connected us in the first place? I think it has to do with sharing story. I believe there's something about the discipline of being authentic together. I suspect the regular sharing of food has something to do with it. (It doesn't hurt that Anne is a published cookbook author and the rest of the gang are amazing foodies!)

Do we share a mission? I've pondered on this one; but I think the answer is Yes.

What does any of this have to do with the ongoing conversation about community and congregation? And how much does it matter if I happen to call this bunch of friends a group? What groups do you belong to? Do you share any of my experiences with your groups?

More thoughts from you readers out there?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I was reminded of this relevant quotation by a very wise elder:

Son, don't pound your stakes in so deep that you can't pull them up again. You just might need to move them one day.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I'm borrowing this great word from the lead article in the Ottawa congregation's newsletter.

"Pastor Pam's Prattle" starts off this very newsy collection of summer events--including some great pictures!--and announcements of things to come. This is a busy and active congregation!

I suspect if you email Carol at you could get on their mailing list.

If you want to know what's up in the southwest corner of the Mission, send a note to Elaine at for a copy of the latest Eleven O'clock News that has recently gone electronic as well.

If other areas or congregations want to share the prattle from your neck of the woods, just let me know and I'll get the word out.

And a very big thank you to those who've taken on the responsibility to manage the communications for your folks. This is one of the things that help build that community we've been reflecting upon.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today is September 11, eight years after we each stood mesmerized by our television screens and watched incredulously as planes crashed into buildings in New York and Arlington. May we take time time for thought or prayer today, and may our thoughts add to the peace of the world.


She stands in the middle of her tiny, two-room house that appeared to have been built with scraps of old plywood and material scavenged from who knows where. The floor, where there is a floor, is bare cement, and the walls have never known a coat of paint or plaster. The signs of poverty are everywhere including in her face. Across two languages, I do not learn her name, and only a fragment of her story.

Yet in the midst of the sorrow and difficulty of her life there is peace. She knows she is blessed! You can see it shining from her face when she smiles; a grace that is every bit as evident as the one tooth that still remains to her.

“I did not go to church,” she says, “until my son was in a terrible accident. My son died, but I found God.”

Something in my soul responds to her. There is recognition: God lives within! In this tiny woman, in a small house, on a dirt street, at the side of a steep and rocky hill, in an arid and remote part of my former mission center, God lives within! God lives within as surely as GOD IS, and out of that surety she gives away what she has. It pours out of her in her testimony and radiates from her face; it is God’s own love. I see no evidence of want or envy. If she feels the lack of material blessings, it does not show, and I suspect it does not matter because she knows she is loved by God, and it is enough. In fact, it is more than enough. God’s love fills her soul, and in this moment, confronted by strangers, it overflows from her life into our ears and our hearts. She is a disciple of Jesus, and this is her generous response.

Would that I were so generous! Would that I would risk giving away all that I have, or at least that which I hold dear! Jesus said that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also, and this woman’s heart is with God. She gives out of the overflowing abundance of God’s grace, which knows no limits. I, on the other hand, often give out of the poverty of spirit that frequently inhabits the souls of the materially comfortable. I harbor within me the secret fear that if I give away what I have, there may not be enough left for me. This parsimony is a reflection of spiritual poverty; a lack of trust in God’s grace and sufficiency. In the contrast between this woman’s heart and mine, I reflect again on the words of D. & C. 163.

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. (163:2a)

“In the midst of”, not “instead of.” This woman still grieves for her son, and she is still poor, but she has received divine peace, and shares that with all who will accept it. And that is Grace!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Community provides cause for reflection on the difference between a congregation and a community. Out of the many definitions offered, consider the following.

Community: a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.

Congregation: 1. A body of assembled people or things; a gathering.
2. A group of people gathered for religious worship.

People long to be part of a community. We want to feel understood, loved and valued by a group within which we feel deeply and personally connected. We want to know we are accepted by this group no matter what. We want to know there are people we can count on when we need help, whether that help is to carry boxes when we move, or assistance with some ministry or cause. And when we feel that connection, we are willing to help other members of our community in the same way.

It is to community we are called, not congregation. (Community of Christ, your name, given as a divine blessing is your identity and calling. - D. & C. 163:1) So how do we create communities of people that deeply share common interests, but that are distinct from the larger society within which we exist? Do the methods used fifty or one hundred years ago still work? What works for people now? For those who will be attending “Family & Friends” this weekend at Erie Beach Reunion Grounds, we will have a chance to explore this topic together!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This tiny little word can create all kinds of repurcussions. If you read any of the Blogs we follow, you may have noticed a little conversation between a self-confessed "hippy type" and a UU pastor.

Visitor commented on how all the men in the congregation, especially those in actual "positions" -- greeter, reader, receiver of offering -- were wearing ties. (I'm thinking they probably had the whole getup that goes with a tie.)

Pastor expressed some satisfaction that folks in her congregation usually tended to "spiff themselves up" for church.

But the visitor noted he had to adjust his hippy assumptions and remind himself that, despite their suited uniforms, those men did indeed "have good hearts underneath those ties."

Now this felt a bit like a reversal. Most of the popular stories we tell each other in church have the "properly dressed" folks in the pews being reminded that the scruffy visitor is also a child of God and we need to be accepting of them.

With Mission conference coming up, I am aware of certain mission officials who will be discussing just how "up" they will dress. Never having worn a tie myself I'm not so directly involved. But I have been in a place where I've had to make decisions about suitable apparel for a minister, or for an occasion.

I recall hearing years after the fact just what an uproar was caused when I wore a YELLOW dress for one of my first sermons. Actually I chose it because it was the only skirt I owned that had pockets for my notes! It never occured to me that my nice cheery dress would offend.

How are things in your congregation? Do you wear a tie for church? (Or its "spiffed up" equivalent, if you are female?)

What is acceptable as to formality or informality of dress? What are the conversations in the side rooms when someone is improperly dressed, according to the congregation's convention?

And do those conversations come back to the quality of the heart underneath the tie?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Although it is a rather grey day here there's plenty of colour around.

The leaves on the big old maple outside my bedroom window are tinged with red and gold! The sumac outside my office window is on its way from green to orange. And I noticed more than one red tree shouting brazenly from the green woods along my country drive this weekend. Country roads lined with goldenrod and purple asters.

The gold finches were busy pulling seeds out of the pink cone flowers in my garden while I was eating my oatmeal. Both Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal are checking out the bird bath and I see (and hear!) the blue jay has returned to remind us all who's really the boss in this neighbourhood.

The streets this morning are clogged with big yellow buses and on route I saw lots of pairs of bright, white and clean new running shoes along the sidewalks.

I'm imagining those backpacks with their boxes of crayons, pencils, markers and pristine pink erasers. Do they still give out those wonderful fat red pencils to first timers beginning their writing careers? Probably not, alas.

What colour is your day? How do you plan to colour the coming season? What ideas do these colours plant in your imagination?

Friday, September 4, 2009


Things are starting to cook!

I just had a great newsy chat with Cheryl Brooks over at the Corinth congregation and things are cranking into action there. Of course they have that great new kitchen, so you could just watch for any opportunity to share in the literal "cooking" that goes on in there. You'll never be disappointed!

But things are cooking in other ways as well. Watch for a collaboration with a group of community United Church folks about a recent world mission trip to Congo. Check the Weekly Announcements here:

New ideas and ways to spiff up the bulletins, the Christian ed area are in place; new workshops in the planning. It was great to hear that this is one congregation where lots of good things are in the planning stages and getting ready to unfold over the coming season.

What's cooking where you are?

Thursday, September 3, 2009


News bombards us from every angle, every day it seems: good news, bad news, old news, even sillly news. (I read somewhere that for a certain demographic, The Comedy Network's Daily Show is their main source of news!) Then there are the news junkies who must have their constant stream of breaking news, delivered by their source of choice be it CBC, CNN, Fox, Newsworld...

I think some of us get so swamped with all this "news overload" that we just check out and stop hearing or paying attention. I know lots of people who claim to never read a newspaper or listen to any news, good or bad, on radio or television. For them, it's considered self preservation.

I know I meet folks in my travels who claim NOT to have heard what I thought was well announced, well publicized, thoroughly covered in multiple ways with e-mail, Weekly Announcements, brochures, flyers, posters, facebook, newsletters, blog stories...and yet, somehow -- they missed it.

I hope we can all make good news choices. And I think it really does require us to make a choice as to how we'll stay informed about the news we really need to hear about.

One good choice, if you like to stay informed about what's going on in the Church, and what's coming your way that you can really, really use is the Ten Minute News!

No kidding! I just read the September issue here ( and it is chockablock FULL of great stuff. Coming events, ideas for study groups, world mission news and information you don't want to miss.

Make it a habit, every month to check in with the Ten Minute News, whether you read a hard copy or subscribe to the electronic version or just check in at the web site. You'll be glad you did.

And so will I; I love it when you're well-informed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Any of you ever have a whole day when this was the word of the day?

Today was such a day.

Still smiling though. Check in again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It's time. Some of us are in back to school mode. Therefore it's time to give a thought to homework.

I've been reading something by David Brock that serves as a kind of homework assignment for disciples.

If I have any inkling of the theological task, it is that we, like each generation of the community of faith, are invited (or is it "required"?) to live in an ongoing dialogue with the tradition and preserve what is true, beautiful, and good within it. At the same time we must work out our witness in dialogue with the particularities of our own sociohistorical situation. That is our vocational duty and our privilege.
What this moment of time demands of us is...that we raise up a community of thinking Christians who are able to bear prophetic witness to the truth of God as it manifests itself in the life of the world.
In this postmodern age...only a thinking faith can survive. Indeed, it may be that only a thinking faith can help the world survive.

Brock admits to borrowing from theologians Douglas John Hall and Karl Barth. He sums up our assignment to be actively engaged.

"Ourselves in motion, we perceive now and then, here and there, the traces of a God on the move."