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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, June 30, 2010

Canada Day

Somehow Canada Day feels a little different to me this year. A year ago, Joan and I took a couple of days off and went to our nation’s capital to mark the occasion. Despite the rain, we had a wonderful time. It was great to be “on the hill” with our red shirts on along with about a million of our closest friends, listening to concerts by the likes of Sarah McLaughlin and others. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around Majors Hill Park looking at different exhibits or acts, and visiting the bookstores and restaurants in Byward Market. We even watched the fabled RCMP musical ride! It is a great way to spend Canada day, and we decided it is something every Canadian should do at least once in their lifetime.

Since then, a lot has happened. The winter Olympics was a wonderful success, even if Canadian pride was somewhat over the top at times. With a record metal count and our hockey teams winning gold, most if not all of us felt a great glow of pride in our young nation.

Perhaps it is the recent events at the G-20 Summit in Toronto that has tempered my enthusiasm this year. The apparent infiltration of well organized and thoughtful protest marches by those bent on ‘disruption by destruction’ is not something we are used to seeing on our streets. The enormous amount of money spent on security seemed absurd until the riots proved it necessary. The fact that our largest city was reduced to a police state for a weekend is extremely troubling. I suppose it points to how much we take Canadian civility and freedom for granted, and reminds us once again how easily it can all be changed. We were reminded that Canadians are not immune to the problems of the world.

Or perhaps it is the fact that a member of our extended family, a soldier, is now on duty in Afghanistan that has my enthusiasm quieted; the constant reminder that our country is still at war. I have to admit that I hold my breath a little now whenever the news tells of another Canadian soldier who has died. I worry a little more, for him and for his wife and children.

Despite these sobering realities, there is still much to celebrate and even more to be thankful for. After all, we live in a country with enormously diverse beauty and people who reflect the best of culture from around the globe. Further, we still live in one of the absolute best countries on the planet. In fact, the last United Nations Human Development Report listed only Norway, Australia and Iceland above Canada in its ranking of 182 countries and the quality of life of their citizens. Is it any wonder we sing with pride, Oh Canada, our home and native land!

So Happy 143rd Birthday, Canada!
May your grace and diversity continue to be a source of pride, and may we never take your abundant blessings for granted.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Summer is definitely upon us. Carman wrote yesterday about our need for consistent rest. I have mentioned how our summers seem to have changed, to be somehow more full and hectic than I remember. It always seems we need to squeeze just so much into a limited number of warm summer days, weekends, weeks.

In many ways church activities do tend to slow down a bit as congregations shift to a different schedule, some even taking some time off to allow folks to vacation, go to reunions and camps or just step away from congregational responsibilities for a bit. Maybe some will even take a real vacation. But even there, somebody must do the laundry, the packing, the route planning, ticket buying, newspaper stopping, dog boarding, plant watering, lawn mowing...all the things that need looking after before and during an absense from home. Who hasn't said "I need to take another vacation to rest up from my holiday!"?

I'm off to Ziontario next week for Loaves and Fishes. It will be great to spend some time with family--while Art is quite present on facebook, I only get to give Eric and Tiona real hugs in person--so it will be special. I look forward to spending time with people I may not have seen in months with a little bit of slower time for chats under the trees or around a fire. But sometime between now and then I have a couple of sermons to complete and a few other items of business that just won't quit.

So this post is really just reminding us all to Pace Ourselves as we enter the summer season. Make sure to take that necessary rest time, to enjoy the people we don't see so often, to slow down and relax standards where we can, to ensure we set our priorities well. None of us, I venture, will do ALL we want to in the coming summer weeks. But we'll also likely do wonderful things we hadn't even thought to plan for. I think those latter wonderful things are most likely if we are careful with our pace of life and living.

Have a good summer everyone!

Posted by Marion

Monday, June 28, 2010


Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. - Matt 11:28

The past few weeks have seen a number of excellent developments in Canada East Mission. Most of the highlights have been mentioned in What’s the Good Word? already. These include a gathering of ministers who now serve as mentors for several of our CPI pastors. They came together to study and learn about how they could best help those front-line leaders. Then we had MEGA; an event which brought together many young adult leaders with several of the Seventy for a weekend of fellowship and worship. This past weekend saw our nine newest High Priests, Evangelists and Bishop come together to study and learn how they can be more effective in their ministry within the mission centre.

I confess that this has also been a busy time with no days off and little chance for rest. I expected to feel tired, but I do not. Perhaps it is because of being somewhat strategic in planning for each day, deliberately sacrificing some activities in order to ensure sufficient sleep. Perhaps the joy of accomplishment overcomes the weariness of the effort. What ever the reason, I know myself to be blessed.

I was sharply reminded of the need for rest on Sunday evening during a family gathering when several people showed up dog-tired. Some had been working for weeks to get a house ready to sell. Others had been putting in long hours at work, and some I never did find out the reason for their obvious weariness. Interesting that here we were, on the evening of the Christian Sabbath, at the end of the weekend, and everyone was exhausted! It all serves as a reminder that each of us need time to rest. We need rest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

My grandfather used to say, “A change is as good as a rest.” Later, I worked for a man who would often say (when he would think of some smaller task that needed doing), “We can do that sometime while we’re resting.” While there is truth in all these sayings, the fact remains that sometimes you just need to stop.

Consequently, with the Canada Day weekend approaching, we have decided to close the office and give our staff one extra day off. The staff will have a have four day weekend. (Okay three; none of really gets Sunday off!) Of course we will each need to decide what we will do with it; whether we rest or work hard doing something else. Hopefully we will come back rested and refreshed, and not exhausted.

May you also take time for your rest, and for communion with God. And may you also know yourself to be blessed in the process.

Posted by Carman

Friday, June 25, 2010


I’ve recently been thinking quite a lot about sex. (A colleague asked “How’s that working for you?” when I made this statement at staff meeting this week.) Like many words we’ve considered over the past year, this one raises lots more questions than it does answers. But I’m thinking those questions are important ones for our community to be considering. So here goes:

This week the University of Guelph held its 32nd conference on sexuality. This is an excellent conference that focuses on current trends in sexual behaviour, sexual health, education, ethics, even spirituality. I attended one of the workshops a few years ago on “Sexuality and spirituality” and found it extremely helpful. We talk about spiritual wholeness, integrity, and authenticity in the church. I’m not sure we always give sex and sexuality enough place in our conversation or those discussions.

Generations approach the whole subject area in different ways. This factor might be considered a big piece of that troublesome “generation gap” we often deplore. Certainly the generations learned about and speak about sex in quite different ways. One area I’ve been paying attention to in my role as a congregational support person is educating and informing youth workers about abuse prevention, and trying to promote wholesome and healthy relations among children, youth and adults who guide, protect and teach them. ( This is a great text I use in that training. )

I keep bumping in to questions that have an element of sex, how we learned about it, what our values and sense of ethics and morality are and how we came to hold those values. Questions about the sacrament of marriage, how teens and young adults live and make life decisions, what to do about priesthood and members’ “behaviour” –might I even suggest questions of dress and interactions between campers and counselors?

You may look at that list and take issue with my audacity in connecting them all to sex. But have you talked about them? Is there a way or a place that’s appropriate to talk about those questions? It’s a challenge for me. Because I think the church should be a place that finds a way to talk about these very questions and helps people be whole and healthy and well-balanced and lead ethical and moral sexual lives; to decide which values are eternal and which ones really need to change. How will we do that if we don’t figure out a way to talk?

Anybody out there have thoughts or questions to add to my list?

Posted by Marion

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Have you ever had a coach? How about a mentor? Perhaps you have had role models you have looked up to?

At a recent training event for a group of ministers who will serve as mentors for our CPI pastors, we discussed the difference between mentors and coaches. The distinction comes down to the following. A coach initiates the relationship, sets the schedule and controls the agenda. A mentor says, ‘I will be available to talk with or listen to you whenever you need me. The agenda and the schedule are strictly in the hands of the mentee.

My wife, Joan, is an Elder in the church, an excellent analyst and a fine thinker who often brings fresh insights to our discussions. I value her opinions. Recently, while thinking about this subject, I asked her if she had ever had a coach or a mentor. Joan replied that she didn’t think she had ever had either, and went on to mention a time when she had agreed to take on a major church leadership role. She was handed a binder, but given no support or guidance what so ever. She was totally on her own! Her closing comment on the subject was telling. She said, “I did the job for one year, but vowed I would never do it again!”

Joan then compared that experience with the pattern of leadership for a women’s retreat where she was recently a guest minister. There, leaders serve in a team of two or more for approximately two years. The team that will take over from them has already been identified, so while the leaders are serving, they are also mentoring the team that will follow them. The method works well and is a fine model of effective leadership development.

It was also Joan who pointed out to me that there is a third level of teaching in our often accidental apprenticeship system, and that is the “role model.” As I think about that, I realize that in my own journey, most of the people I have learned from were neither coaches nor mentors but role models. I merely watched what they did that was effective and learned from them. It is a very passive form of leadership development, but it can sometimes be effective. At least we can say that it is probably better than nothing.

The notable exception for me was John Bradley. When I was in my early twenties, John was president of what was then the Toronto Metropole. He must have seen some dim glimmer of potential in me because he took an interest in my development. He took the initiative to give me, and others like me, opportunities to learn and to lead. He was there to correct me when I went wrong, and pat me on the back when things went well. He was my mentor and my Barnabas. He was the closest I have ever had to a coach. We need a lot more like him.

So let me ask you again; have you ever had a coach, either in ministry or in life? What about in sports? Have you ever had mentors? Who were they? What did they teach you and how? This is an important subject. I hope you will share your answers.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Dictionary Definition:
- verb (used without object)
5. To reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, esp. to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off (

Chapter 1 of the book Church Planting Landmines is about personal health and growth for ministers. In 13 brief pages, it provides several pieces of excellent advice, however the following quote, which appears under the sub-heading entitled Plateauing, especially caught my attention.

“Plateauing occurs when a person in ministry stops learning and growing, and as a result they settle into a pattern of doing what once worked with very little effort to expand. There is no great vision for the future, and there are no great attempts to get there.” (Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer, Church Planting Landmines, p.23)

Reading this statement has caused me to do a little personal “soul-searching,” and to face an uncomfortable truth. The truth is that, while the demands of my current job push me to keep learning and working hard in order to help the congregations in Canada East Mission, there is a part of me that would really rather relax a bit. Perhaps my sub-conscious mind has grown somewhat lazy. It reminds me regularly that I really didn’t plan to be working this hard at this stage of my life and career. That part of my brain is like the story Jesus told of the rich man whose investments had done well, and he said to himself, “I will store all my grain and my goods, And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” (Luke 12:16-20) You can trust me when I say my investments have not done all that well, but part of my brain would still like to take things a little easier and coast a little from time to time. That sounds dangerously like a plateau.

Plateauing is not the same as retiring. When we retire from our working careers, we get out of the way and let someone else take over the task of producing the results the job requires. Plateauing is different. If we plateau, we are still physically on the job, but we have simply stopped progressing. When we do that, we not only stop growing and learning ourselves, but we hold everyone else back around us.

The problem with plateauing is that it inevitably leads to decline. The body of knowledge is continuously increasing around us, and the world keeps turning. If we stop growing and learning, we soon become out of date on what tools and methods are effective now. We rely on old methods that used to work, but no longer do. Soon, we are falling behind; in other words, declining.

At an earlier stage in my career, I was a sales person for children’s books. Had I grown satisfied with the level of sales already attained and stopped trying to sell more books, I would not only have hurt myself but also held back the company I worked for. Worst of all, there would have been children who would not get the benefits of reading the books I had to offer. That would have been the real tragedy because my lack of effort would have deprived someone else of the joy of reading a great book. The same is so obviously true in ministry.

It is important to keep learning, growing and progressing in our life and work. As the servant of the congregational leaders in Canada East Mission, I offer my renewed pledge to guard against the temptation to plateau. At some point, I will need to retire or otherwise get out of the way so someone else can achieve the needed results. In the meantime, I will endeavor to continue learning new ideas and methods. I invite you to do the same.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I visited Kitchener congregation and listened to John Black's very fine Father's Day sermon yesterday. I'm not going to replay it for you. One illustration John used led him to suggest today's good word. (If John is reading this I'm sure he's quite bewildered.)

He quoted an important commandment from the book of Deuteronomy here wherein Moses urges the Israelites to remember the teachings, to teach them to their children, to bind them to their foreheads and post them on their doors and gateposts. John didn't speak about the Jewish practice of placing this important scripture inside a mezuzah and fastening it on the doorpost of their home. That's what Moses' people still do today in response to this commandment!

John said, "I don't think Moses meant to post it on the refrigerator door!" But isn't that where our families post this kind of important artifact?

What do you have posted on your refrigerator door? I know my refrigerator is well-decked with notes and pictures carefully printed or drawn and mailed to me to post on Grandma's fridge. I have wedding invitations and thank yous for baby gifts. I have my real estate agent's card and the phone number for Health Ontario and a likely pizza place. I have several return addresses torn from Christmas card envelopes (I really must write to that cousin.)

In my travels I see soccer schedules and class pictures and report cards. I see recital programs and classified ads. I see coupons and Weekly Announcements and "Keep this Date!" notices. I see people's lives layed out on refrigerator doors. (Owners of shiny new stainless appliances have had to improvise.)

I'm going to think further about this modern cultural phenomenon. You may hear some more about it as I'm working on a sermon about sharing our stories. For now I'll thank John for the inspiration and suggest that you, dear reader, make the connections for yourself.

What important words do you have posted on this very important door in your house? Could I see your priorities there? What lessons do these items teach the children? Any thoughts?

Posted by Marion

Monday, June 21, 2010


This past weekend, a group of about 30 (mostly) young adults and Seventy gathered at the Toronto West church campus for MEGA. The name MEGA is an acronym for the theme of the weekend, which was Make Everyday a Great Adventure. To avoid confusion about the above references to 30 and 70, perhaps I should explain that Seventy here refers to the priesthood title a group of missionary Elders in Community of Christ, based on Luke 10. There were four such persons in the group this weekend.)

The weekend had several purposes. One was to provide a forum for young adult leaders and potential leaders to come together. A second was for the Seventy to be together in a ministry situation, and a third was to begin to build community between these two groups.

Each of these groups has its own set of characteristics. Young adults are always bursting with energy and ideas, so being with them is always a lot of fun. Just being in their presence will inevitably lead to lots of smiles and laughter. The Seventy, on the other hand, tend to be natural story tellers. These folks have been on their own great adventure with God for many years, and have lots of stories to share. Given these characteristics, it is only logical that putting these two groups together should make for an interesting weekend. It did.

I think it is safe to say that this group found fun in everything they did. Together they played ping-pong, went bowling, and took in a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre, which several still insisted on calling Skydome. Attending the ball game was made even more fun because the Blue Jays actually won! The group also found great pleasure in assembling 150 lunches for the benefit of homeless people in Toronto, and in sharing food together themselves.

On three occasions during the weekend, the group sat around together to share stories. While the Seventy led in this, not all the stories came from them. Several young adults shared their own stories of life; some of which were happy and some of which were not. This sharing of stories led us to amazing moments of seriousness and sacrament, as several people asked for the blessing of laying on of hands for healing in their own life needs; some shared and some not.

Finally, on Sunday morning, the group met together with the host congregation to lead in an outdoor worship service. This too proved to be an adventure (competing with a neighbour’s lawnmower) and a blessing as music and still more stories were shared, followed by a bar-b-que with the congregation.

Should you happen to look up mega in the dictionary, it would tell you that this word is a prefix used to indicate something “large or great.” I suspect the impact of this gathering will be both large and great in the lives of those who participated. It was good to gather, good to have fun, and good to share stories together. We have agreed that this must not be a one-time event, but needs to happen regularly. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, as you go about your day, let me urge you to remember what MEGA stands for, and enjoy your own great adventure today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Attention (2)

Yesterday I spoke of the great gift of attention that writing this blog has given me. Today I'd like to say a bit more about attention.

Linda Stone, a very high-priced tech expert with background in both Apple and Microsoft, has looked at the phenomenon of "multi-tasking." I dare say every one of us considers ourselves proficient in the art of so-called multi-tasking. We think it is what we have to do to deal with the many reponsibilities of our modern lives. Take a second and review the tasks you, yourself, normally handle all at the same time. You've likely got a whole long list of these overlapping things that you're assuming keep you as productive as you need to be.

Ms Stone, however, challenges this notion. And she challenges it so well that I'm rethinking some of my own attitudes and practices. Calling it "Continuous Partial Attention" or CPA, she says this is one more way we're retraining our own brains to work, or not, as the case may be. By using all these techniques, mostly technological, we've shortened our attention spans, forced ourselves to need constant stimulation and novelty.

A couple of major down sides: we're losing our ability to truly focus at anything other than a superficial level and we're bathing our brains in a constant stream of adrenaline in response to this perpetual state of "on alert." Believe me, these are NOT good.

One statement Ms Stone makes that I like very much: "I believe attention is the most powerful tool of the human spirit". I'm going to try to nurture this amazing gift and tool I've been given using some of the things I know will help. Things like meditation, nature, exercise, silence, turning off my communicators; you may recognize these elements of "sabbath."

Check out the linked article and see what you think. Are you suffering from too much CPA?

Posted by Marion

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today is our birthday! Our first anniversary as a blogging entity. One year ago today we went public with What's the Good Word after spending a month test-driving the medium. I wanted to make sure I could actually think of something to say, five days a week (I gave us a sabbath from the beginning; time to catch our breath without the pressure of the deadline). Oh, I knew there was plenty of good news to share, but creating a little "gem" to publish every single day was somewhat daunting.

I need not have worried. Carman joined me as a regular contributor in July with Transformation and by August was also very much sharing the load. He often speaks/writes of the "synchronicity" he observes as our relationship with the blog and its readers unfolds. We hardly ever consult each other about what we will say, what we're likely to post the next day, even "whose turn is it?" It just seems to happen.

Nevertheless, this morning's word: Attention! refers to the greatest gift I've received from writing this piece day after day for the past year. A Buddhist would call it mindfulness and it truly is a great gift! Knowing somewhere in the back of my mind (sometimes in the front as publication time loomed!) that I need to identify the next "good word" and a way to share it that might stimulate thought, or conversation, means I've had to cultivate an attitude of paying attention, of being mindful.

I believe this is the reason Carman and I have not needed to give much energy to collaborating, or conferring about the direction of the Blog. Living in the community as we do, thinking about what matters most for that community, listening to the joys and sorrows that preoccupy our people, has meant that the words that come are the right ones--at least they aren't the wrong ones.

We often ask for your comments, but we really aren't much concerned if you don't because we've heard your live feedback, or we know you're paying attention as well. And that's good for now.

Of course, as I suggested on our facebook page, a real posted comment once in awhile would be a nice gift. But for me, the best gift has been the opportunity to share with you each day and to enjoy the gift of attention it has added to my life as your chief Blogger.

Happy Anniversary everyone, and here's to another good year listening for The Good Word!

Posted by Marion

Anniversary News

One year ago today, What’s the Good Word? went public with Marion’s reflection on that question and on the “Word” itself. It was a new beginning.
Marion and I have each given some minor consideration to how we might appropriately acknowledge this minor milestone of our CEM communication efforts. As its name implies the original intent was to use this vehicle to communicate news of the good things that are happening in Canada East Mission. Over the past year, we have broadened that purpose in order to have conversations with you on a variety of topics; some of them serious, some of them just for fun. We have also used the blog to share our own musings and reflections on matters of import. It has been a good year, and the blog has proven to be a good thing. Given the blog’s original purpose, however, the one year anniversary of What’s the Good Word seems like the perfect time to share some current good news.

At the 2009 CEM Mission Conference, we presented a 10-year plan entitled 2020 Vision. One of the goals of that plan is the planting or re-planting of five new congregations in CEM by 2020. The first of those was FIRED UP!; a congregation with “no fixed address” launched by four young adult leaders. This experiment has had successes and set-backs in its first nine months, but is now preparing to move forward into the future with acts of love and service in its surrounding communities. Watch for lots more good news concerning this effort in the weeks and months to come.

Today I am delighted to announce a major step towards the launch of a second new congregation; this time in the city of Barrie, ON. It is with great joy that we share with you the hiring of Matthew Swain as a full-time Church Planter/Pastor for the Barrie community. Matthew and Irena Swain will be re-locating to Barrie by September so Matt can begin his work. It will be their task to lead us in re-establishing a visible and effective presence of the church in this community and to bless the lives of many people by sharing the Peace of Jesus Christ. For your information, Matthew is an Elder in the church, and Irena is a Priest. Both are wonderful ministers.

Again, you can expect to hear much more good news about this new venture in Barrie during the months and years to come. For today, perhaps that is enough good news. As they used to say during the so-called golden age of radio, however, stay tuned!

So Happy Anniversary to What’s the Good Word? It is, of course, just another day of sharing good things that are happening. The point is, however, that good things are happening! So let us rejoice and share a smile today. And should you happen to have cake, well what better way to celebrate!
Posted by Carman

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


As I've been considering how to recognize our one year "blogiversary" this week I've happened upon the list of traditional anniversary gifts. I note the touch of irony in the first year gift: paper. While we've been producing a year of written offerings, not one of them was offered on the traditional medium of paper. Not one of these posts was created or delivered on paper.

Most of us have heard the question: paper or plastic? And many of us have moved beyond both and try to remember to bring our own cloth or other reusable shopping bag. In the office, the question is more likely to be: paper or electronic? We try to reduce the amount of paper by shifting to electronic files and communication wherever possible. I recently dealt with a smart young woman offering a quote to wash my windows. "We don't do paper. If you need a copy, I'll email you" was her very sensible statement.

I really don't need more paper in my house. It accumulates beyond my capacity to control it! Piles of paper--newspapers, magazines, letters from charities and businesses soliciting my attention, junk mail and advertising flyers threaten my efforts to declutter.

And yet, I do love paper. As a writer I cherish a good pen and a lovely notebook. Even a good old-fashioned scribbler cries out to be filled up with lists, notes, ideas for stories, sermons, lines of poetry. Nothing is more dear--or more menacing--to a writer, than a blank sheet of paper.

I think we still are in a very long transition period between paper and something else. Some of our readers still beg for a paper copy. They want a newsletter, or a paper receipt, or a print copy of something that really only is available (at least for convenience, cost and efficiency) electronically. Does the auditor really need a paper trail for everything? What about the historian? Where will future historians find the stories we tell if they're all stored on some disk, or email archive or lost in the ether of the blogosphere? I believe historians are truly troubled by the question.

But for What's the Good Word, this is the way we'll proceed. Each day, Carman or I will sit down in front of this blank electronic "box" and we'll write a New Post, and hit the word Publish. Our thoughts will vanish from our screen and go out to you, our dear readers. No paper copy, no print version, no collected works or anthologies, just a thought, an idea, a question or a concept from one mind to another.

What will you do with it? It's yours now. Have a good day.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


This morning, joy is a question. I hope you will offer your thoughts on it. What gives you joy? Do you do anything for joy? And what do you do in joy?

Is joy the same as pleasure? Is it the same as fun? If not, what is the relationship between joy and fun?

The Book of Mormon claims that ‘people are that they might have joy’, [2 Ne 1:115 paraphrased] positing an answer to the age old question, ‘What is the purpose of life?’

Do you have joy in your life? Do you have it now? If not now, when did you? When do you expect to have joy again? What circumstances do you expect will lead to your joy?

There is an expression that appears to be inversely related to this question of joy, and that is, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ It is an expression whose truth I fear I am all too familiar with.

So let’s have an open and honest conversation. You can reply anonymously if you need to. Do you have joy in your life? If so, where do you find it? If not, what do you think you could do to change that situation?

And your answer is...?

Posted by Carman

Monday, June 14, 2010


“If you need my help, just ask.”

Have you said that? Has someone said it to you? How often do we hear it or say it? All you need to do is “ask.”

And then, how often have you asked? And how often has someone asked you? I suspect the balance swings much farther to the former than to the latter. It’s kind of easy to say “Just ask.” But it’s lots harder to “Ask.”

Last Saturday I had the privilege of getting together with a group of wise elders who’ve been invited, and who have accepted the invitation, to become mentors for our first contingent of CPI pastors. They have each been paired up with one of these in-training congregational leaders and have been tasked with encouraging, supporting, listening, suggesting, helping, as they are able, or as they feel led. One thing we tell them is that they must do that task, whether or not they are asked.

Our community comprises some of the most generous people I know! Seriously! They’ll do anything for you. They’ll offer the proverbial shirt off their backs. But they are reluctant to ask for help! With this CPI project, one objective we’ve identified is to change this culture. Oh we do not want to make people less generous, or less resourceful. I’m not certain we can ever make people more willing to ask for help—Maybe.

But we want to make our wise elders, our natural mentors, our experienced pastors, leaders, and coaches more intentional about offering support where it is needed, even if they have not been asked. It will take a real effort to be sensitive, to establish deep relationships in order not to offend. It will require developing a new skill set, perhaps. It will be work.

So right now, let me offer my sincerest thanks to this team of CPI Mentors who have willingly stepped forward to learn some new lessons themselves, in support of a hard-working team of pastors and congregations breaking fresh ground for growing healthy congregations and preparing to serve the mission of Jesus Christ—what matters most for the journey ahead. (D&C 164:9f)

Posted by Marion

Friday, June 11, 2010


My family is in the midst of a home search. At some point, before winter sets in, we’d like to be relocated in a new home. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but that’s not the subject of my blog-musings today. Today I’m thinking of differences between house and home.

Because, you may have noticed, I used the word “home” three times in that first paragraph. One technique we’re using to find this home is to go to open-houses. Every weekend we check out the open-house listings, apply our set of requirements, plot a route that fits in the two or three places it’s even remotely possible to look at in the couple of hours allotted to the open-house times and off we go to have a look.

Some of us have believed, during the course of this search, that we surely ought to be able to create a very nice spread-sheet, drop in the required elements, check against what’s available and Bingo! There’s your winner. Pack up and move in. But others of us are pretty sure that won’t work. Even when the boxes have all been ticked, it still doesn’t feel right. Oh yes, there have been some rolling eyes and some shaking heads, but those of us who feel the need for the right “feeling” are holding firm. I do not claim to be able to explain why one set of bricks and mortar, lumber and shingles can feel totally wrong, while another quite similar set of the same bits and pieces feels right. But that’s the way it is. And the search continues.

Last week, Fired Up! spent some time studying author Corinne Ware’s book on Spirituality Types, in our quest to ready ourselves to plan the next season’s events and activities. It was a very interesting and enlightening study as we learned some things about ourselves, about each other and about the experiences we’ve had that have brought us to this budding congregation. We’re trying to figure out what kind of community we’re creating together, and at the same time, we’re trying to discern just what kind of community God is leading us to create for one another, and for those who will find their way to it. Much of what we’re learning is that you just can’t lay out a spread-sheet with the requisite boxes, tick them off as you account for them and move in at closing date.

Building a community is quite a lot like finding a home from the selection of houses available. There are some things you just can’t explain. Of course, there are some elements that must be there, that can be explained and that must be done correctly. Just like the house that felt really good, but that turned out to have mould in the basement and will not be our home after all.

It’s a good thing to have a team working together; and that team won’t always see things the same way. This is good, just as it’s good for a family to house search together, despite their differences. Odds of finding the right home are so much better.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I debated which of several possible words I could use to introduce the thoughts I’ve been having today. I thought about stress, overwork, connection, technology, busy, loaded but decided to go with calm as the most positive word for our focus today.

It all began with a blog post that addressed a common theme of late: just how is our addiction to technology affecting our ability to find calm spaces for ourselves in the midst of busy lives? Apparently scientists have discovered that we may even be rewiring our brains with our constant need to be connected to email, cell phone, the internet; or to keep our attention constantly fed with new information, video games, bobbing from site to site to avoid even an instant of “boredom.”

As summer is approaching I’m noticing that most of my family, friends, acquaintances are speaking more and more of their anxiety about planning, packing, organizing, scheduling. What happened to the days when we spoke of the lazy days of summer, when the livin’ is easy? Where is the calm that comes with the welcome heat?

Is it a shift in the way our culture does summer? Or is it the rewiring of technology-soaked brains that need stimulation 24x7?

I’m hoping we haven’t lost the knack of finding time for relaxation, reflection, calm at some point, even if we have to schedule it! The author of that blog up above suggested that human beings, fed constant stimulus, may even forget how to pray. What do you think? Should I be worried?

No, I think I’ll just try to remain calm.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm not sure just what kind of word this is; it may or may not be exactly the right word for the conversation I want to introduce here. You can let me know later.

Several folks have commented that they faithfully read What's the Good Word every day. They may even consider it as a daily devotional. We appreciate this though it was never really intended to be devotional but to be part of an ongoing conversation about the (generally) good things that are going on in our Mission. We encounter many, many people engaged in wonderful works and we want to let the rest of you know about them, and to encourage you to be similarly engaged and to share your stories with us.

One of the good friends of the blog recently noted how few comments there were to this or that topic that he considered really needed some response. "What can we do to get more people to comment? or to read the comments that are offered?"

I don't know. I'm not sure how important it is. I realize that there are other blogs that I follow faithfully, where I sometimes comment; more often I do not. But one thing I do if the topic is of particular interest to me is to follow-up. By this I mean, I make a point of going back to those interesting topics to see what kind of conversation is going on. And it is in these intentional follow-up visits that I do indeed find real treasure.

Today I wanted to let you in on this original objective of our blog--that is, to start some interesting, relevant, even important conversation on prioirity topics for us in Canada East Mission. Most of those conversations may be happening in your congregation, around your dinner table, at your adult class or with a neighbour across the back yard fence. And that is OK by me. But some of them could also be happening in the Comment section of this very page you're reading right now.

If that is to happen, you'll need to keep reading the Comments. You'll need to occasionally Post a Comment. And from time to time you'll need to follow-up. That is to say, you'll need to come on back to see what has been happening since you first checked in. You may be surprised to see how much has been added to the original posting of Distinctives, or Pastor or even Apostrophe!

Today's post may not be inspiring for your morning devotion, but I hope it's helpful as a suggestion for using this resource in a way you might not have thought about, and that perhaps you'll get to know some other Good Word readers in a whole new way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Probably we have all had the experience of two or more related events occurring at the same or nearly the same time. We call this "synchronicity" when the events are not causally linked and normally would not be expected to occur together just by chance.

We see a lot of synchronicity in our office. Someone will call with an obscure but important question about some subject, and at the same time, the answer will appear somewhere else in a totally unexpected way. Then, in the same day, Marion may come across a post on that very subject in one of the several blogs she follows. Synchronicity! What is going on there? Is this merely coincidence or is there something else at play?

Psychologist Carl Jung noticed the remarkable phenomenon of synchronicity and wrote, "When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them—for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes." (C. G. Jung, Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal, p. 91) Jung was right.

Last Sunday I was scheduled to start a week’s vacation and, while many things were unfinished ‘works in progress’, there was one important task I felt I needed to complete before I left. This would require a face-to-face meeting with a couple, and to ask them to wait for a week seemed quite unfair. At the same time, I had a feeling that I should go to church in Cambridge that day; perhaps 200 kilometres in the opposite direction from the people I needed to meet. What to do?

Fortunately my wife is both understanding and insightful. Joan encouraged me to trust my spiritual instincts, so I decided I would go to church in Cambridge and try to arrange to meet these folks later in the afternoon. It would mean extra driving, but that would have to be okay. When I called my friends on their cell phone to see if we could meet, I discovered that they were already in the car. Where were they going? Cambridge!

Was this mere coincidence? Was God intervening and stage managing this whole process? Did the Holy Spirit know my friends were on their way to Cambridge and therefore urged me to go there too? Was the energetic matrix of our holographic universe merely aligned in such a way as to produce synchronous events? I will leave it to the reader to decide. I will tell you, however, that I myself have not believed in coincidence for a long time.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to click on the comments button and share your opinions with the world?

As for me, I am on vacation!

Posted by Carman

Monday, June 7, 2010


Recently I finished reading a book called Conspiracy of Kindness. The author is Steve Sjogren; a pastor from Cincinnati, Ohio. Sjogren has developed a rather novel approach to evangelism that he believes is modeled after the life and actions of Jesus. He, and members of his congregation, go out into the city to do acts of kindness to the people who live there, and they do it all for free!

On most Saturday mornings, a variety of volunteers from the congregation assemble at the church storeroom and equip themselves with whatever equipment they will need for 1 ½ hours of work, then head off to “show people God’s love in a practical way.” Some pick up rakes and go out to rake leaves for seniors. Others take cleaning supplies and go to the mall to clean windows or toilets for the store owners. Still others might load cases of soft drinks or popsicles to be given away at a local park. Still others pick up squeegees and head for the mall parking lot to wash people’s windshields. The key is that it is always a free act of kindness. When people ask, “How much?” their answer is always the same; “Its free. We are doing this just to show you God’s love in a practical way.” No proselytizing, no preaching, no pressure.

You can probably guess that Sjogren has many stories that have resulted from this approach. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know more, but I will repeat one brief, amusing story here. It seems a father and his eight-year-old son were in the back yard playing catch when the son asked his dad a question he didn’t know how to answer. “Dad, is there a God?”

The father was stumped. He had only been to church a couple of times, and really didn’t know how to answer. “I don’t know, son” he finally replied. The son ran into the house and came back with a helium balloon from the circus to which he attached a note that said, God, if you are real and you are there, send some people who know you to Dad and me. Not wanting to dampen his son’s enthusiasm, the father kept silent but added his own prayer, God, I hope you’re watching.

Two days later, volunteers from the congregation were conducting a free car wash, and the father and son stopped by.

Dad: “How much?”
Sjogren: “It’s free.”
Dad: “Really! Why are you doing this?”
Sjogren: “We just want to show you God’s love in a practical way.”
Dad: (incredulously) “Wait a minute! Are you guys Christians?”
Sjogren: “Yeah, we’re Christians.”
Dad: “Are you the kind of Christians who believe in God?”
Sjogren (with a smile): “Yes, we’re that kind of Christians.”
Dad: (after telling the story of the helium balloon) I guess you’re the answer to one of the strangest prayers God ever received!”

Sjogren has written several books, but the one where he initially describes his method is Conspiracy of Kindness. First published in 1993, the book is old now, but it is still well worth the read.

Posted by Carman

Friday, June 4, 2010


On Wednesday evening, I met with a group of five young adult leaders and two “wise elders” to finish planning MEGA (Make Everyday a Great Adventure), the June 18-20 weekend that our Ontario Seventy will get to spend with young adults and vice-versa. Here, “elder” is used in its age related sense and not to convey priesthood. (Thanks to our dear Marion, I now know the rule for not using an apostrophe to convey possession by a pronoun, and once again, one of my elders has taught me something of value!)

In this case at least, the wise elder members of the team really were wise because they were smart enough to let the younger leaders lead. Each elder member of the team is a capable and experienced leader in his own right who could have taken the reins and led the process of mapping out this weekend event. Had they done so, we would have had a plan, and it would have been fine. But the plan would have been developed from an older point of view, and might have appealed more to a different generation than we would like to reach for this event. I can imagine the younger members of the team going silent; not really excited by the plan but not wanting to hurt the feelings of their respected elders. The plan would not have been as good.

As a result, the plan has lots of time to go and do fun things together, not just sit and talk. We will create new memories of this valued time spent together, not just share about good times from the past. We will play softball and ping-pong together, have an out-door bar-b-que, and go to a Blue Jays game. We will invite the neighbourhood to come for church and stay for lunch. Is the church too small to hold the hoped-for crowd? No problem; we’ll have an out-door service in the back yard. And we will also have time to talk and share stories together. Great! Its going to be a MEGA weekend!

MEGA has a lot to offer young adults, because young adults took the lead in planning it. In part, that is so because wise elders were smart enough to be quiet and let young leaders lead. I am impressed by their willingness to do so.

So here’s to all the wise elders in our community. Thanks for being so wise!

Posted by Carman

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Summer is coming and people begin to talk about their vacation plans. A friend of mine is talking about “staycation” because she has so many tasks to do around home that she just can’t justify leaving for an extended time. But she still plans to spend a few days in a camper at the lake without cell phone or to-do list in order to truly be away.

There are a few pastors we know who struggle with the concept of actually going away. What happens if something happens? They think they’ll take life a little easier and that will be just as good as going somewhere. Or they may go somewhere but stay in close touch so they can hurry back or at least be consulted—just in case.

But that means they really haven’t gone away at all. They haven’t really turned over the reins to anyone. What this means to the folks who stay back is that they aren’t really in charge. They won’t make any decisions or alter any plans; they’ll most likely just preside over things while they coast. They feel as if they need to guess what the pastor would do in every situation. It’s the case of the buried talent. Nobody really learns to be in charge. Nobody really gets to go away.

One good practice of any leadership team is to give everyone a chance to truly go away, and on the flip side, to give everyone a chance to be in charge. It does take some planning, of course, but if we did more of this I suspect we’d have more people ready to take on leadership roles and we’d have lots more people who really get to rest and renew themselves. To have a genuine Sabbath experience, somebody needs to go away.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I once had a boss who used to trumpet “Ask for what you need!” She was adamant about stepping up and making your needs known. She used to say that people operated on assumptions so much of the time that it was no wonder we “got it wrong” as much as we did—as we do, because we’re reluctant to “just ask” instead of hoping someone will notice, or guess, what we need. In fact, said she, it was amazing we ever got it right at all!

Now as I’m reading over last week’s Distinctive blog post, one sentence that jumps out at me is this one: “the sermon is based on the what the leadership team perceives is needed in the congregation.”

If you’re part of a leadership team, how much time to you spend trying to perceive the needs of your congregation? If you’re part of a congregation, do you have a way to let folks know your needs? And all of you, what part of your time is spent trying to figure out what your community needs from you?

From where I sit, it seems we spend a whole lot of time guessing what others need, regretting which of our own needs are not being met and forgetting entirely that we just might be the means of meeting many of those needs, both inside and outside a traditional congregation.

I do know we have some people in our lives who are very, very needy. Maybe there are some who would happily fill your ears with their many unmet needs. But as a truly perceptive leader, shouldn’t you be finding ways to deal with those persons in a pastoral way (maybe by delegating to those with a nurturing gift) while you work with your team as a whole to be about “what matters most”? It always seems to come back to this, doesn’t it?

Join our conversation friends. What bits of this whole conversation are resonating for you?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at the peace awards ceremony sponsored by the Corinth congregation of Community of Christ. I read the essays of the three students who received the awards, and listened to their thank you speeches. All three of the young women were confident and spoke well as they discussed their hopes and dreams for the future: university, career, diplomatic service, possibilities. Their poise and confidence showed through. In that context, I couldn’t help but wonder where life will take them.

I also thought about the advantages they have. I do not mean to suggest that life has always been easy for them; I do not know that, but some of their blessings are obvious. Each of them has a supportive family, good nutrition, excellent health care, and opportunities for education.

Exactly 100 years ago in 1910, my grandmother was a similarly bright eyed and capable young woman. (Some readers might remember her as Jennie Vance.) In 1910, she did not have the advantages of higher education. In fact, I do not actually know how far she got in school, because whenever I would ask her, she would get a rather quizzical look and say something about the “4th book” in reading. While I do not know what grade that would have been, she did learn to read, which she loved to do.

As one of the older children in a family of ten, when times were hard and food was not plentiful as was often the case, she would be pulled out of school to go keep house for some neighbour or relative that was having a baby or perhaps had a health crisis. There, for months at a time she would wash the clothes, clean the house, and cook the meals, just like an adult. While this was clearly child labor, these neighbours appeared to think they were doing her and her family a favour. While I cannot be certain, I do not know that she was ever paid for her work.

Finally, somewhere around the age of 15 or 16 (she would not tell me for sure), she married a boy she went to school with, and they began a life of their own on a farm not far from where they were raised. Life was not easy. They worked hard and endured many challenges, but they made the most of whatever blessings came their way.

As I reflect on the shining faces and bright prospects of the three award recipients in Corinth, I am reminded of the wonderful Dr. Seuss story, Oh, The Places You'll Go! At the same time, I cannot but wonder where similar advantages might have taken my grandmother, and thousands of bright young women and men of her generation.

The point of this reminiscing is this. Let's never take our advantages for granted. They are a remarkable blessing that countless others in our world still do not enjoy. Let's make the most of them, and seek to use them to make this world a better place, both for us and for others. May God bless our sincerest efforts.

Posted by Carman