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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?"

Friday, October 29, 2010


I am thinking about thoughts this morning, and how powerful they are. Our thoughts are the prayers by which we create and shape our reality. As an example, do we see some situation we may find ourselves in as drudgery or joy? Are all those appointments on our calendar responsibilities or opportunities? Is this situation a burden or a blessing? So much depends on how we think about such things.

It was in the midst of thinking about all these and many more thoughts, that I remembered the following poem. The poem is probably familiar to you. It is old, so perhaps we can overlook the male language for God.

I offer this merely as a thought about an approach to your day, and not as a sermon.

Reject all temptations toward guilt.


I got up early one morning,

And rushed right into the day;

I had so much to accomplish,I didn’t have time to pray.

Troubles just tumbled about me,

And heavier came each task.

"Why doesn’t God help me?" I wondered.

He answered, "You didn’t ask."

I tried to come into God’s presence;

I used all my keys at the lock.

God gently and lovingly chided,

"Why, child, you didn’t knock."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,

But the day toiled on gray and bleak.

I wondered why God didn’t show me.

He said, "You didn’t seek."

I woke up early this morning,

And paused before entering the day.

I had so much to accomplish

That I had to take time to pray.

- Author Unknown

Posted by Carman

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Following the final edit on Wednesday’s blog post about the communications issues around voting in my mostly rural community, I clicked on an email I had put off reading for several days. It was an article from The Alban Institute, and while they are always interesting, I also knew the piece would keep until I had time to read it. As soon as I started reading, however, I knew the voting post and this article were different parts of the same issue.

The article in question was by Carol Howard Merritt, the author of Reframing Hope and Tribal Church. She is a writer and thinker whose work we discuss from time to time in our various office conversations. This particular piece is titled Virtual Community and you can read it here .

Merritt discusses how pastoral care has changed from the days when you could drop in on a congregation member unannounced, or count on mothers to “host Bible studies in their living rooms at 10:00 a.m. every Tuesday.” She talks about the deep and abiding shift that has occurred in our society, and how it has impacted people.

Merritt describes not only how people’s lives have changed, but the different ways they now communicate with their pastors. “The forms of communication are evolving rapidly from emails, to text messaging, to social networking sites—and we are not sure what might be on the horizon” she says. While many may attempt to resist this new world, the truth is that it is too late. The future is here, and whether we lament it or not, that is the world we now live in.

The good news is that, while the internet has risks, it also has many possibilities which can enhance our communication with our members and with each other. In other words, on-line communities and new social media can make our congregational life richer by providing for interaction and communication in addition to what happens on Sundays. While most of us would have no interest in going exclusively to a virtual community, to ignore this dimension of modern life would be a big mistake.

So read the article, then ask yourself how the internet has changed your life in the past 10 years. You may even wish to share those reflections with the rest of us!

Posted by Carman .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The weeks leading up to this year's municipal election were interesting, and I think I have learned something about the difficulities of the demoncratic process in rural areas. Perhaps I am beginning to understand why voter turn-out in municipal elections is historically so low. At our house we spent several weeks before hand, trying from time to time to determine who the candidates were, and what they stood for. Their communication with their desired constituency seemed to leave much to be desired.

Up to and including the morning of election day, the following is what we had learned. We received one flyer in the mail from the township telling us where and when to vote, and that, “This flyer serves as your household’s voter’s card.” Okay, good start. We now knew we were allowed one vote for mayor, and four for council.

There were a variety of signs around the village and countryside announcing the names of several candidates, but they really didn't tell us anything except that the candidates can put up signs. Who were these people, and what did they stand for?

Our investigation located a document on the township website which told us there were two candidates for mayor (one incumbent), and nine for council. The document listed email addresses for the two mayoral hopefuls, and four of the nine candidates for council. No websites were listed, and a Google search did not revealed any. Hmmm.

We then thought there must be an all-candidates meeting somewhere, so we searched the web for information on one but didn’t find it. Later we learned from a neighbour that there had been one, and she thought she saw a sign somewhere announcing it but wasn’t sure. I don’t know where the sign was, but we certainly didn’t see it. There were no flyers in the mail or posters in the variety store/post office about it, at least that we saw. Unless other people had a better grapevine than we did I am guessing the meeting was probably not very well attended! Our frustration was beginning to build.

Several weeks prior to the election we had one knock on the door from one candidate, who turned out to be a neighbour. He also gave us a flyer with a picture of his family indicating what he supports. He did not spend long, but he came, and we can vote for him. Good Job!

We had one flyer in the mailbox from one of the mayoral candidates (not the incumbent). From it we learned that she has experience on council and was involved with the food bank. Good, I thought. She understands local issues for the poor, and is not afraid to volunteer. I think I can vote for her.

And the flyer was a good sign. Surely the other candidates pieces would be along soon, right? But that was it! Right up to election day, that was the sum-total of communication we received from the eleven candidates running in our municipality!

Then on the morning of election day, Joan went to the post office on her way back from voting, and lo and behold, there were four more flyers in the mail box. I thought, now isn’t that interesting! Since the advance poll was nine days ago, wouldn’t you have thought the candidates would have wanted their information out early?

At the polling booth, we discovered there were five candidates running for the school board. Who knew!

Now, I accept that it is my civic duty to learn about the candidates and be able to make informed decisions about who to vote for. But wouldn't it be easier to do that if the information was readily available? After all, we are all very accustomed to the so called Information Superhighway now, and most of us hardly remember where else to look for information. In this day and age, does anybody have time to chase the candidates for their thoughts? In the 21st century, shouldn't the candidates make the information available on the internet on a site where it is easy to find and in a form where is is readily understood?

Oh well, they are all volunteers, right? They probably didn’t have enough time. At least they are trying.

Is there anything we can learn from this?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Last Saturday evening on facebook, I posed the question as to whether or not the CEM president was allowed to have a favourite congregation. I received some generous responses, at least one of which offered me the grace of forgiveness, which truly made me smile. (And yes, Susan, you are correct, I do have room in my heart for all of them.)

When I think about it, I probably have different favourites at different times, and for different reasons, in fact they are probably all my favourites when I am there. But today and probably everyday, the Montreal congregation is my favourite for several reasons.

  1. They have a wonderful variety of music, including three or four different choirs, a terrific 5-piece praise band including a guitarist who seems to be able to pick up almost any piece of music by the second verse and play it, and a young base player who is just about as fast.
  2. They have lots of beautiful children, and a worship service that can hold their attention, especially the lively music.
  3. When this church prays, they pray with a serious intensity that has nothing to do with elegance or eloquence.
  4. They have a wonderful pastor who really loves his people, and doesn’t mind riding the bus for 1 ½ hours each way to be with them for a Monday evening small group.
  5. And last but certainly not least, there is a certain kind of joy in the worship of this congregation that I have not experienced anywhere else in the mission centre. Clearly this is a people who understand that God loves them, and just as clearly, they truly love God right back!

Now, I know that enthusiastic worship is not for everyone. Some people value the peace and tranquility of a more sedate style. But there is no denying that when you have been to church in Montreal, you know you have been there. This is not the type of worship experience that you can’t remember by Tuesday; in fact this service can make me smile from one year to the next!

So, thank you God, for the Montreal Community of Christ. They are certainly one of my favourites, and I have to wonder if they might not be one of Your favourites too!

Posted by Carman

Monday, October 25, 2010


Here's a posting from the Archives; the good word for the day was journal.

I selected it as a reminder of a special anniversary happening this week. Greetings going out to PEI today.

In this little essay I spoke of my practice with my journal. Our retirees retreat participants recently spent some time considering the treasure we can find in our memoirs. If we're going to have those memories in the future we really do need to write them down today. I hope this post reminds some of those budding writers to get those memories written down, hopefully in a journal someone else can read.

Our "What's the Good Word" archives offer the same sort of treasure trove. Take a bit of time once in awhile to browse back through them for a nugget of truth or pearl of wisdom you may have missed the first time. Who knows what's back there you just may have forgotten. Enjoy a walk through our archives.

Posted by Marion

Friday, October 22, 2010


“What’s the matter with kids today?”

Remember that song? I’ve been thinking of it this morning as I’m pondering some congregational ‘challenges’ regarding some of our beloved offspring. Oh my. What a dilemma some of us have.

We long to have more kids in our midst. We pine for the days of the packed Sunday school and get all nostalgic over memories of past summer picnics, Christmas pageants, Easter children’s choirs. Then in the next breath we bemoan the behaviour of the children who are present among us.

Is it OK for the pastor’s kids to be playing in the gym while the rest of us are meeting in the sanctuary? Shouldn’t that two-year-old’s mother restrain him when he does his reptile act under the pews and through the feet of the worshipers? Must we listen to this little story selected without much theological attention during our “children's moment”? How can we be expected to remain reverent when the youthful reader stumbles over the words, clearly not having rehearsed or perhaps even looked at the scripture before. (Why I remember when we practised for months to memorize all this lines of the nativity story!)

Some of my thoughts; I hope they help.

Perhaps our remembrances of the past have a bit of a glow. We do tend to view our memories through rose-coloured glasses. And those were different times. There are things we really do not want to repeat. The whole “children who are seen and not heard” attitude might just have something to do with why a whole generation of kids are not now bringing their young’uns out to church. Parenting styles do change, have changed, must change, will change. We who are older can sometimes help best by holding our critical thoughts in check.

But some of us who are responsible for those precious toddlers-to-teens might also try to be aware of the needs of the rest of us. A little chat about how many of our dear elder-saints view the Lord’s house and what they’re thinking when they appear to be gritting their teeth could help to bring some peace to our worshiping community.

I revert to my “one rule fits all” advice here people: talk among yourselves about how you’ll be in community and remain friends. And that means talking to each other, rather than about each other. There needs to be some tolerance, lots of love and patience, and maybe some willingness to be a little uncomfortable for the sake of someone else. That someone might be eight, or eighty. It will require some awareness and it might involve bringing a situation to someone’s attention who just didn’t notice. Be sensitive, be caring and remember Jesus' admonition had two parts: “Feed my sheep; feed my lambs.”

Posted by Marion

Thursday, October 21, 2010


In his newest book, A Door Set Open, Grounding Change in Mission and Hope, Peter Steinke notes that all congregations are facing challenges brought about by rapid change. Steinke seeks to apply family systems theory to churches in order to understand the forces that beset congregations, and to learn how to deal with them.

Steinke shares insights learned from consulting with more than 200 churches in eight denominations. In the introduction to the book, he lists fourteen responses he believes contribute to the challenge of change. The list is preceded by the comment that Steinke has found the first three to have been present in every case he has studied. Those three are quoted below. The first two of the three have intrigued and encouraged me; first one, then the second.

¨ Without mature and motivated leaders, little happens.
¨ Resistance to change is far less intense and protracted when change is made for the sake of
¨ How emotional processes are understood and handled plays a major role in outcomes.

The thing about change is that it isn’t easy. Even if the current results are poor, it seems easier to try harder doing what we have always done than it does to try some new approach. The problem is, if we keep doing what we have always done, we will get the same result. Or as you may have heard it said, “If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got!” Trying harder at doing these things is a formula for frustration leading to feelings of failure and guilt. There has to be a better way.

But there is hope to be found in the first three items in Steinke’s list. There is hope provided by mature and motivated leaders. Fortunately in CEM we have such people. I am encouraged that resistance to change is less when done for the sake of mission, because mission is what we are about. And finally, we can all be heartened that understanding how to deal with emotional issues helps solve problems we each face in our congregations. We need to learn that too.

I began reading A Door Set Open about a month ago, but life got busy and I have had trouble getting back to finish the book. There is much food for thought here, and clearly much to learn. I think it is time I got back to reading this book, and I think I had best start again from the beginning!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It may be fashionable to declare a hatred of meetings. Mention “meetings” and someone is bound to say it: I hate meetings! Our little work group has often found ourselves in this round of questions and predictable responses:

Do we need to meet?
Is there anything for the agenda this week?
Can you think of something we need to meet about?
Well, maybe just a short one.

And then we do meet. We have a regularly scheduled meeting every Wednesday morning because we’ve learned that we always do need to meet. For a small team it is amazing just how much needs to happen around that meeting table. After all, we see each other all the time. We share the hallways, the lunch table, the photocopier and fax space. We meet each other on the stairs, at the refrigerator and in the parking lot. Why do we need to have a formal meeting?

Again, the fashionable comment that always gets made sooner or later: isn’t it better to be “doing” than to be “meeting”?

And of course, “doing” is the priority. We must be about meeting all those goals we’ve set and agreed upon. But nothing just happens of its own accord. You need to be strategic. You need to set time-lines and assign folks to tasks. You need to hear about what’s going on in the other parts of the field that just might make a huge difference. You need to hear about the problems people are having and maybe put additional brain-power to work on the challenges. You need to just go round the table and listen to whatever progress is being made. You need to cheer a little for the minor successes and encourage in the face of the hard questions. You need to tap into the synergy that a group brings to an issue. You need to let ideas happen.

At least those are the kinds of things we need to do at our meeting table.

Then you need to watch the clock, wrap up the conversation and move on. So a stop time is also a critical piece, and an agenda—that essential list of things to include. Ours always has the item “Where have you been and where are you going and what do we need to hear about?” This is the main reason we will always need to meet. Because we’ve all been somewhere and will be somewhere else soon.

So if you should happen to call us on a Wednesday morning, be sure to have your message prepared to leave on the answering machine. Everyone is in a meeting!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I have spent the last several days trying to avoid a cold. I’m faithfully doing all the right things—plenty of fluids, as much rest as my cough will allow, keeping sugar intake low, extra amounts of my chosen vitamins and immunity-boosters. I’ve also been careful to wash hands and not to breathe directly on people who insist on hugging me. If you’re one of those people from Saturday’s conference day, you might want to pop some extra vitamin C (or oil of oregano, or zinc something-or-other… or any of the other favourites recommended by the several caring people who noticed my unfortunate condition.

Some of you know I’m also in the midst of moving house, with all the inherent annoyances, frustrations and irritations associated with that process. (As an aside: it’s going well. I’m finding lots to like about the new place and plan to be very comfy there for a long time to come.)

I am enjoying unpacking the boxes I so carefully packed weeks ago, in order to declutter my house for selling. It is lovely to have my beloved stuff back again. It seems a very long time that I haven’t seen this elephant, or that painting, or these lovely jars and tea pots and sugar bowls. I do find my special things give me comfort and security as I’m settling in to the new place. Oh yes, there are still boxes to unload, shelves to erect and books to arrange on them. Books also give joy, just by being there!

Now, for the “good word” I announced. My cupboard is bare and I must fill it one of these days. But for today I have a need for soup! What is there about it that soothes and gives comfort? I believe there is even research to support this notion. (Chicken soup is referred to as “Jewish penicillin.”)

So you may think of me in my cozy chair, with my purring cat. You may send up a prayer for my good health. And I shall eat some soup and have a nap and see you all tomorrow.

Posted by Marion

Monday, October 18, 2010


Last Saturday’s Canada East Mission conference was a truly remarkable day. There were many aspects of this day that I found personally gratifying. I will resist the temptation of do a “top ten” format, as it might risk trivializing such a meaningful day, but a few of the highlights for me are as follows.

First of all, Trinity United Church in Guelph was practically full for the event, even though there was no controversial legislation. There appears to be a high level of interest, both in the proceedings of the day and in the success of our mission. These are encouraging signs.

Second, the content of the President’s Report seemed to resonate with many people in the congregation. That is always very gratifying, since during the months of preparation, you are never sure just how it will be received. Many seemed to understand and relate to the update on CEM goals. To me, this provides more confirmation of the truth and appropriateness of the conference theme, Mission Possible! Consequently, the 2011 CEM budget was passed without a hitch.

Third, we had fun. We were able to enjoy a little good-spirited banter and humor at appropriate times during the day, with no one feeling hurt or frustrated. We also experienced joy in the principle cause of celebration for the day. Nine calls to senior priesthood ministry were presented and approved, with many fine confirming testimonies of the appropriateness of those calls. The conference worship and ordination service, planned and led by some of our fine young adult leaders, was one of the nicest services I have been part of for a long, long time. The Spirit of Love and Peace, so obvious in the ordination service, appears to have touched and inspired many people who were present. Praise God!

I have received several emails and many comments from folks who were present and truly touched by the spirit of the day. I appreciate their kindness, but am even more grateful that people found the day so inspiring.

IN CEM, we have begun to explore anew the path of the disciple; this time seeking to understand and get on with our mission. To paraphrase a sermon from then President Grant McMurray, “We are packed and ready for the journey; won’t you come?

Posted by Carman

Friday, October 15, 2010


I am writing this post on Thursday, so it will probably be old news by the time you read it, but I still think it is worth a comment or two.

This morning, as yesterday morning, the news is all about the successful rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for the past 69 days. In fact, yesterday I don’t think there was any other news! Even the Commonwealth games hardly got a passing mention on the Canadian news channels, and that is highly unusual. Today the rescue is the lead story, but the closing ceremony of the games will also be covered at least, and there will be some handwringing over the fact that Canada only came away with 75 medals. I guess things are returning to normal (sigh).

But it is amazing and wonderful to have such a good news story so fully occupy the attention of broadcast journalists and news anchors, not just here but around the world. It is really quite refreshing. It is lovely to see Chileans proudly waving their flags, and celebrating this successful rescue. Little wonder they are so excited; after all, the entire world is watching. Most of the world probably didn’t know where Chile is, let alone know anything about this remarkable country.

The rescue has given the people of Chile much to feel good about, and clearly they do. Of course they have much to be proud of anyway, but the rescue has given them a reason to hold a wonderful celebration, which I heard described as the “World’s biggest street party.” As the balloons rise, the champagne corks pop, and the streamers fly, our hearts celebrate with the people of Chile. Our congratulations, prayers of gratitude and good wishes join with theirs. Well done! Chile is definitely the good word of the day.

So party on Chile; you deserve it, and may the joy you feel this day last a long long time!
Posted by Carman

Thursday, October 14, 2010


This Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. Canada East Mission will meet together in conference. The location is Trinity United Church, 400 Stevenson St. N. in Guelph. Many pieces of information will be presented, including the planning for a Canadian National Conference in June of 2012. We will discuss progress made in the twelve months since the goals of 2020 Vision were announced, and of course we will be asked to approved the budget for 2011. Our new Apostle, Susan Skoor, will have opportunity to address the conference and begin to get to know us, or at least to get an introduction.

As important as all these things are, they pale in comparison to the celebration we anticipate later in the day. After lunch the conference will be presented with the calls of nine persons to senior priesthood ministry; six High Priests, two Evangelists, and one Bishop. Approving those calls will be the last item on the conference agenda. By 3:00 p.m., we anticipate that this process will be completed and we will then move into an ordination service.

Imagine the impact these nine people can have on the mission centre and on our congregations! High Priests are called to be ministers of vision, and if ever we needed vision in our congregations, now is the time. Evangelists have a very special calling as ministers of blessing, and we simply cannot have too much blessing. Bishops are called to be ministers of generosity, and our bishops have proven to be more than generous with their time, talent and treasure as they have made wonderful contributions to our cause over the past several years. Is it any wonder then that we look forward to this event with such joy and anticipation?

Following the service, we will move to the church gym where we will enjoy some light refreshments and visit with those who have been newly ordained. We hope you will be there to greet them and to part of the celebration as we take another step into our emerging future with God.

It will be a great day. Why not come be part of it?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Do you agree with me that this appears to be a "season of choices"? Maybe it's always, and maybe it's just all those election signs lining my every route these days that are bringing it to my attention, but it seems to me that I'm being faced with an inordinate number of choices to be made these days.

If only it were as simple as "chicken or ham" or potatoes "mashed, baked or scalloped" or even do I want my pumpkin as soup, pie, cheesecake or squares. But no, life is full of very hard choices! For example, in regards all those election signs. I'd be very pleased to be offered a choice among several qualified candidates. Instead I'm offered a choice among several angry or spiteful politicians. I do wish, especially around my city council table, for some people who offer a possibility of civility and cooperation, some indication of a willingness to listen and to compromise. I can't imagine how our town can move into an uncertain future without it.

We had an interesting discussion here last week about the rationale for using Fair Trade coffee. I appreciated Rod Downing's post with some help to make the best choice there. And I very much wanted to note Joan Thompson's post about making ethical choices whenever I make a decision to purchase something.

Here's what she said: I think about this "fair trade" concept in other areas as well. For almost everything I purchase, I have the choice between purchasing it from a store which offers lower prices - but which does so because it insists on lower wages all along the supply chain. Or I can willingly shop at another store, pay a higher price, but know that more fair wages have been paid all along the chain. I hope that some day I can make all my purchases ethical ones.

This was a good reminder for me that not all my choices are frivolous ones and that I need to make myself as informed or enlightened or careful as I can be in those times when it is possible to make my choice responsibly.

So tell us, dear readers, are there choices you're thinking about? What issues are giving you pause to reflect today about making ethical choices?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



1. The gurgling sound made by a male turkey.
2. To devour in greedy gulps.

Canadian Thanksgiving is over. The hours of stuffing and cooking the turkey, making the cranberry sauce, peeling the potatoes and turnip, baking the pumpkin pies and whipping the cream are done. The meal has been eaten and the family has left for home. The house that bulged with the sounds of eighteen people talking and playing is now strangely quiet. The only sounds are the keys on my computer and the quiet splash of the dishwasher doing the last load of dishes for the evening. Ah bliss!

Despite good intentions about not overeating, my waistband feels a little snug at the moment. It must have been the fact that there were four different desserts on offer, and I knew I would be asked my opinion on at least three of them! I am happy to report that regular pumpkin pie with a healthy dose of spice and a dollop of whipped cream is still far superior to cream-cheese pumpkin pie. I can further opine that apple crisp made without wheat flour should only be eaten by people who are wheat intolerant. They will be very thankful for a dessert they can safely eat. The rest of us should stick to regular apple crisp!

All in all, today was a good day at our house. We have greeted each other, talked, laughed, eaten, enjoyed the children, and even celebrated three October birthdays while we were at it. Now we have sent everyone safely on their way home to bed. No better day than that!

Now, so that we don’t forget how and what we gobbled too soon, click on the following link for a very cute You Tube video called The Gobble Song.

Posted by Carman

Monday, October 11, 2010


As Thanksgiving Day approached this year, I decided to attempt a list of what I am thankful for. It was soon quite a long list. I thought perhaps I should try to prioritize or rank these elements, but in the end, I decided I did not know how to decide for which elements I am the most grateful.

Then I made a list of what I am not thankful for. That was a short list. Because it is a short list, I supposed I should decide if I wanted to do something about these few elements. I certainly could. Would it be for the best? Again, I decided I did not know, so went back to the first list.

In the end, perhaps thankfulness is like happiness. Just as we can affect our happiness level by deciding to be happy, in the same way, perhaps it is less important to know what we are thankful for than it is to simply be thankful. Despite my lack of conclusions, I still found this a useful exercise. I recommend it to each of you. What are you thankful for? I wonder how similar your list might be to mine.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May gratitude be part of your day today, and everyday.

Posted by Carman

Friday, October 8, 2010


I just read another great blog here that you might have missed because of its title. (I do hope some of you take a look at the other blogs we follow from time to time; they tell some great stories!)

But this one has a bit of foreboding in the title. And it’s really a great message about a congregation that’s found its mission in the community where it’s planted. Pastor Jan is a Presbyterian minister in Washington D.C. who is struggling to respond to the many professional ordained ministers who seem to be leaving the institutional church. She, herself, is not going anywhere! She’s staying right there in a congregation that has found its place in its neighbourhood.

“Would anyone care or notice if your church went missing?” is a question researchers ask us. And Pastor Jan answers with a resounding “Yes.” Then she goes on to recount several stories of the very folks who would surely miss her congregation if they “went missing.”

After you’ve read her story, spend some time thinking about all the people that would miss your church if it weren’t there. That’s the important part of this posting. We encourage you all the time to think about your mission. What is God calling you to do in the neighbourhood where you’ve been planted? How have you made your congregation indispensable to the people who share that neighbourhood with you? Who would say to you: Thank God your church is here?

Those are the reminders we may need when we read “the mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.” Sec.164:9f

I’m going to quote her:

“Yes, the community would miss us if we were gone. We are truly the church of Jesus Christ in our little corner of suburban Washington, D.C. Our carpets are dirty and our parking lot could use a re-paving job. But we are doing what God has called us to do. And we could do even more.”

How about you? Have you got your eyes off your carpets and your parking lot and fixed them on being Jesus Christ to your neighbours? ‘Cause I hear that’s what matters most.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I recently came across a somewhat surprising court battle being waged in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States. The case involves a struggle between the City of Orlando Florida and the First Vagabonds Church of God, along with other groups who advocate for the homeless. First Vagabonds Church was the brainchild of Pastor Brian Nichols, who was himself homeless for a time as a result of a back injury. His prayers led him to found a ministry for the homeless, and to feed the hungry. Pastor Brian passed away last year in 2009, but his work is being carried on by others.

You can learn more about Pastor Brian and the work he started by clicking on or pasting the following URL into your browser.

First Vagabonds Church of God conducts open air worship services in city parks, and also feeds the homeless there. In 2006, the city of Orlando apparently passed an ordinance that limits group public feeding in city parks to twice per year in any one area. The law was challenged immediately, and has been see-sawing through the courts ever since.

Perhaps the most interesting comment I have read on this story came from Mark L. Vincent, a well known Mennonite author and stewardship advocate. In the September 30 issue of Depth Perception, Vincent questions whether both the city and the church’s attorneys have missed the point. The following is a brief quote from his article.

Feeding hungry people is not a "symbolic expression," but an essential action.
The devout followers of all this world's great religions fill their lives with
service to the poor--not as a symbol that they are religious, but as a
demonstration that they are humble, grateful for what they received, and aware
of the plight of the destitute. They simply cannot not do it.
Vincent’s comments remind us of Jesus prediction in Matthew 25;

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are
blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave
me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you
visited me.'

Mark Vincent believes that where we serve the homeless is not the issue, but instead that serving the poor is among the highest priorities of ministry and as such is not optional. Do you agree?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I am aware of two different kinds of retreat going on at this very minute in our area. I know this, because I received invitations to both. Both retreats have something going for them that I really, really appreciate. In fact, I wish they weren’t happening at the same time, thus forcing me to choose.
This happens a lot. At one time I remember we used to check the calendar and try NOT to book things in conflict. But that was a losing venture. So we just try to remind ourselves, and others, that having choices among more than one excellent event is a blessing.
Now, back to what I was going to say about retreating. As it happens, the two retreats now taking place are quite different. (One might say opposite if one were not careful; but I am anything if not careful, so I won’t say that.) One of them is a silent retreat, focusing on meditation, reflection and loving kindness. Participants will spend time together and in solitude. They’ll eat good food and rest in the peaceful surroundings of the Ziontario campgrounds. The other group of retirees (not seniors or geezers or fogeys, no matter what you’ve heard!) will spend time in community. They’ll eat good food and spend time in study, play, visiting and laughing together in the peaceful surroundings of the Noronto campgrounds.
Both are right on track with ancient definitions of spiritual retreat, whether in solitude or in community. Both focus on the noble goal of separating oneself from the usual environment and happenings of daily life to immerse in a safe and uplifting location or community. Outcomes may be reduced stress, increased creativity and sense of encouragement, well-being and health, physical, emotional, spiritual.
Retreat is a military term too. Perhaps some of the comments about military retreats might help us too. Great care must be taken to understand the purpose of a military retreat or withdrawal, lest it turn into a rout. Excellent military strategists and leaders use retreats to reposition troops or to take a stronger position. An apparent retreat may be “feigned” to throw an adversary off his game plan or to use this time of calm to regroup for a stronger attack.
I like to think in the language of metaphor to see what I can find or learn from considering the different perspectives. What do you think?
Please chat among yourselves. I’m away from my computer connections at a retreat. I’ll check in with you next week.
Posted by Marion

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


At the CEM conference of 2009, we presented a ten year plan entitled 2020 Vision. The plan included five goals, the first of which is Young Adult Leader Empowerment. Simply stated, the goal is to give our fine young adult Community of Christ leaders a chance to lead. If we are successful in this goal, we will have excellent leaders willing to take the church into the future. If we do not succeed, we will have a problem. We are actively working at that goal.

Last Friday evening, a group of young adult leaders got together to work on the plans for an upcoming event; the 1st Presidency’s VISION PROJECT. On November 12-14, 2010, young adults from across CEM will gather at the downtown Toronto church for a weekend of fun and conversation with President Becky Savage. This planning team met to make sure we will be ready, and to determine if we had answered the appropriate questions.

  • How many registrations do we have so far? Twelve, but it is early yet.
  • Have we contacted all young adults in CEM? Not everybody? Well we had better get on it then!
  • Do we have cooks? Yes.
  • Do we have childcare for those who need it? Yes.
  • Do we have sleeping accommodations? Yes, there are 22 cots at the church, and some will sleep elsewhere.
  • Do we have people to lead great fun activities? Yes.
  • Do we have people to lead the workshop sessions? Yes.
  • Do we have people to plan and lead worship activities? Yes.
  • Are those who come really going to enjoy this weekend together? YES!

    It is a pleasure for me to watch these young adult leaders in action. I am there to answer questions if needed, and to offer support, but mostly I am there to listen. I can sit back and let them lead. By being present, I know what the plans are and that the bases are covered. If they need my help, they have it, but mostly they don’t. They are capable, gifted leaders. I am grateful for their willingness and their gifts.

    Shortly, this team will send a small poster to each congregational pastor to be posted at church to help promote this event. Whether you see the poster or not, why not encourage young adults of your acquaintance to come? They will be blessed because they did, and I firmly believe, so will the church.

    Are there young adult leaders in your area? Are they being empowered to lead? If not, can you help? Don’t be afraid to let us know who they are and we will try to help too.

    Posted by Carman

Monday, October 4, 2010


I’ve been doing some follow up thinking stimulated by last week’s thoughts on Rules.

I’m quoting here: “I realize there is not a rule, at least not a hard and fast rule, and I get that there isn’t even an official guideline, but do you think it’s really appropriate?”

Oh my! How do you answer that one?

Is it possible for something to be appropriate one place and not another? And by that I don’t mean something that’s appropriate on the playground may not be appropriate in a theatre. I mean, is it possible that something is appropriate in my congregation that isn’t in yours?

Don Robb recently shared that he’s now lived in this area long enough to know where he needs to wear a suit and tie to church and where he’s better to be more casual with his Sunday wardrobe. I can now name four congregations where it’s deemed appropriate to bring your little dog into the sanctuary during worship. (As long as it really is little and no one knows it’s there who doesn’t know it’s there.) But by the same token, I’ve recently learned of another congregation where the deacon in charge has ruled that a dog in church is not appropriate!

We do have our local cultures rife with long-standing traditions. It may be traditional to let the pastor make those pesky decisions about what is or isn’t appropriate. But then, it may also be traditional to be annoyed when those rulings turn out to oppose what we, ourselves, think is appropriate. Based upon…I don’t know what!

How do we get clarity on this?

I fall back on my original ruling: talk among yourselves; decide how you’ll decide and stay friends. I think that’s still the most appropriate ruling I can give for most of the questions of propriety being tossed around in many communities I visit.

And if that doesn’t work for you, you can always ask yourself: is this what matters most?

Posted by Marion