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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, December 31, 2010


Thinking about the Top 10 blog posts I discovered that a word that's appeared multiple times already is lunch! What's that all about anyway?

Yesterday I talked to you about dinner, and it's true, I have been thinking about how our dinner practices shape us, what our potlucks say about us. How do we share our values and our identities at dinner? I'll think on this further I'm sure.

But for today, this last day of the year, I'm back with some of the important concepts I've considered as much or more than any other in the year 2010! Who knew? Lunch!

Over this holiday season I've had the great opportunity to have lunch with some special friends. What a good chance to stay in touch, to see what's happening in lives we care about but don't often take the time to hear about. Oh, we ask--and really mean it--but the responses to "how are you and how's the family?" still most likely evoke the quick answer, the automatic "Fine!"

It takes a slower time together, an hour or two across the lunch table to help you both feel encouraged to share the longer story. If we really want to nurture those deeper relationships, the friendships that will endure, we need to give them some time. And for my money, lunch time works just fine.

One of my friends in particular is very much a "lunch friend." While we may not speak in person for months at a time, we can pick right up where we left off and spend three or four hours at lunch every several months and continue to be the best of friends.

My New Year's resolution this year is not terribly profound. For this year of 2011, the year in which I shall truly retire, my resolve is to do more lunches! Maybe this shall also be part of my retirement practice. I know how important it is to keep these important connections with people I care about. So I shall be doing lunch more often. My list of lunch friends is about to grow longer.

Give me a call sometime; let's do lunch.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, December 30, 2010


A new book has just come out and the author is making the rounds of the radio interview shows called The Family Dinner: Great Ways To Connect With Your Kids, One Meal At A Time

The premise is pretty simple, maybe not easy, that families pass on their values and connect with each other around the dinner table. Not just once in awhile, but every day. I got to thinking about this notion. I remembered my childhood dinner table where I sat at the end, with my back to the north. On my left, the east side sat my two sisters and my left-handed brother (on the corner so he didn’t bump elbows with anyone) and on my right, the west side, sat my other brother and my dad. My mother faced me from the south end so she could get up and down easily and do all the things she needed to do; she was always doing something! My mother was the “doer” while my dad was the “talker.”

I include the directions because it was at that table that I learned those directions and for years I imagined myself at the table when I had to get my bearings as to north/south/east/west. I could share other things I learned at that table, picking up as I did, all kinds of information on weather lore, crop rotation, economics, local history, all from my dad. I might also have learned that dad’s word was truth and that mother’s job was to serve the family, because at that table it was so.

We often speak of our congregations’ love of potlucks. (The potluck is sometimes called the ninth sacrament.) Most of us can tell a story about how our church family does potluck. As one who has the amazing opportunity to share at many congregational family tables I have observed many things about how those “families” function. Most have a system of getting the food out and organized—hot, cold, salads, desserts. Sometimes the dessert stays hidden until the first course is cleared away. Others pile everything out and let you eat in whatever order you choose. In some places the children go first; in others it’s the guest. Some places have pretty much the same menu every time; others really mix it up or announce “theme meals” and try new or ethnic dishes.

What are the values lessons we pick up around this family table? Who sits where? Who makes the "rules" and who does the work? How are the tasks shared? Is conversation happening? Do families sit together or do you mix it up? What do our potlucks say about us as a church family? Is this a healthy congregation that gathers in the spirit of hospitality, welcoming all and sharing concern about serving others as well as ourselves?

What do you think? Have you ever thought about what your potluck practices might say about you the people and ideas you hold most dear?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10

As we’re approaching the end of the year 2010 it seems that everyone is thinking about the Top Ten list of some sort or other. What are the Top ten news stories, the top ten movies, the top ten songs or tv shows or novels or whatever? Did the BP Oil spill or the Chilean miners’ rescue or the Haitian earthquake make a greater impact on our news consumption? How does one compare Toy Story with Inception, Harry Potter and Social Network? I don’t know; I didn’t see any of them!

Yet, I do want to get into the spirit of year end and suggest a Top Ten list for us to think about. Reflection is a good thing; it’s one of the ways we learn our best life lessons. So let us reflect a little on where we’ve been. Your task, dear reader, is to provide the content for our Top Ten list.

Do you have a favourite Blog post? What topics do you remember best? Are they the ones that received the most comments? Those would be dealing with community involvement, books and reading, fair trade practices and why people do or don’t come to church! Do you recall those conversations?

In 2010 What’s the Good Word signed on to facebook with more than 200 friends and followers. It’s not unusual for us to have more than 400 “hits” on any given post on our facebook site. Of course, some of those would be me checking on how many hits we’ve had, but be assured, I don’t have time to be running up those stats unduly, so I know someone out there is reading The Good Word.

People ask us how we coordinate out messaging. We don’t! Blog posts arise out of what we’re thinking about, what we’re paying attention to, what the current issues, challenges and good news items are coming to our attention. Carman and I do not compare notes or decide who will write which message. We just post when we feel prompted or have an idea. And we’re usually as surprised as our readers by what’s on each other’s mind.

We know that we are being urged by Church leadership to engage in the ongoing dialogue and discernment process, to figure out together “what matters most.” This Blog is just part of that ongoing conversation. It’s one important reason we do keep urging you to add your Comments, to send us your ideas and feedback. We very much intend for this conversation to have more than one (or perhaps two) perspective(s). I am also assured that the conversation does go on, even when there are no Comments posted. You tell me that you are reading and that you are thinking about what you read and even that you’ve quoted us in sermons or conversations in your congregation.

We appreciate that sometimes the technology isn’t quite as welcoming as we might like and that it just isn’t as easy to comment as we’d prefer. [Just an aside here: if you want to comment, the easiest place is on facebook where you don’t need to create an identity or type a secret password…just Comment for all to see.]

So there you have some of the Insider information about our Blog. Now I challenge you to offer your nomination for our Top Ten List. What was your favourite blog post of 2010?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


If part of your Christmas tradition is to listen to the Queen’s message on Christmas morning, you will know that Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth II broadcast her message this year from the chapel at Hampton Court. This is the palace where in 1604, King James, as head of the Church of England, convened what has become known as the Hampton Court Conference. This gathering discussed problems pertaining to scripture and the use of scripture by the clergy, particularly as articulated by the Puritans, a group within the Church of England.

It was at this conference that the idea was conceived of commissioning of a new version of the Bible. Consequently, a group of scholars were retained and given the task of translating the Bible anew. They would translate the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) from Hebrew, the New Testament from Greek, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin. The 47 scholars worked hard, employing strict scholarly process. They completed their work in seven years, and in 1611, the new Holy Bible was printed for the first time.

King James’ commission was not the first attempt at an English Bible; in fact such efforts are known to have existed as early as the seventh century. This was not even the first try for an “official” English translation, but is in fact the third. The first such effort was commissioned by the Church of England during the reign of King Henry VIII. The resulting work was known as the Great Bible. The second was commissioned in 1568 and was called the Bishop’s Bible. Each Bible had its critics and problems continued to exist. The publication was also not the last such effort. More than 450 different English versions of the Bible are known to have been published over the years.

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the first printing of what we now know as the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. It was a remarkable achievement of scholarship that has stood the test of time. Much more could be said concerning this important accomplishment, however those comments can readily be found elsewhere. There will undoubtedly be many more comments, both pro and con, made in the coming year. Stay tuned!

Some of you may have things you would like to say yourselves on this matter. As always you are invited to click on the comments button and share them with the rest of us.

Posted by Carman

Monday, December 27, 2010


The Christmas shopping frenzy is over. The crowds of people, desperately seeking the gifts they hoped would satisfy family and friends finally went home from the stores on December 24th, needing to get those gifts wrapped, labeled and stacked up around the tree just in time for someone else to rip them open on Christmas morning. Then, often in a matter of moments, its all over. The stuff is everywhere, and the wrapping paper, ripped, torn and crumpled, is scattered across the floor.

I found it interesting this year that the television news people, always needing something to talk about, reported steadily that “retail analysts” predicted every nuance of the spending habits of our populace. They could forecast how many transactions would be made per second across the country, how many purchases would be made by Visa or MasterCard, and how much many millions of dollars we would collectively spend. And we did. According to later reports, Canadians exceeded their expectations. Shareholders of all the various companies involved should feel blessed, for we blessed them.

If one stopped and thought about it logically, one might have thought that all that shopping would be enough for a long, long time; certainly for weeks, probably for months, perhaps even for a whole year. Alas, not so. The Christmas shopping frenzy is over, and now the Boxing Week frenzy has begun. In central Canada, one day after the end of this intense month of shopping, we the people are back in the stores, looking for things to buy. This week we will lug home big screen TVs, cameras, crock pots, and who knows what. Store parking lots are full, isles are crowded, “Sale” signs are everywhere, and we “consumers” dutifully respond.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus would make of all this. What would he think of the frenzy of consumption that happens every year, all supposedly in the name of celebrating his birth; a frenzy that, in fact, has nothing to do with him? Somehow I think he would laugh. I imagine some rather sardonic amusement as he shakes his head and makes his way to the shelter to hang out with some people he loves. No frenzy here, just a crowded but warm church basement, a bowl of hot soup, a slice or two of bread, and a friendly smile from those servers who “get it.”

Well, enough of this early morning musing. I had better get dressed and ready to go. After all, the stores will open soon!

Posted by Carman

Friday, December 24, 2010


Welcome Jesus, you are welcome
in this world made hard by fear;
loving reach us, living teach us,
Jesus you are welcome here.

Welcome Jesus, you are welcome
in the ghettos we have made;
give the tattered, bruised and battered
winter shelter, summer shade.

Welcome Jesus, you are welcome
with the wealthy and the poor;
give the broken love unspoken,
open wide each prison door.

Welcome Jesus, you are welcome;
let your loving light appear.
In our seeing, in our being,
Jesus you are welcome here.

Daniel Charles Damon
More Voices United
CCLI # 1547669

Posted by Marion

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Something is definitely missing. Oh the lights are up outside the house, the Christmas tree is decorated, the nativity scene is on display and the collection of Santas is out. The beautiful Christmas angel is on her perch atop the tree, and the little wooden snowmen bring their "Wish for Peace on Earth This Night.” But with only a couple of days left before the 25th, something is definitely missing. Something is missing in the house, and I confess, also missing in me.

I sit in the pre-dawn darkness and ponder this stubborn absence. This is not a void like that described in Marion’s post, night, nor is it the result of Christmas tragedy or the overpowering loneliness experienced by so many people this time of year. What is it then? Why, in the midst of all these symbols of Christmas does there still remain this cold hollowness?

It is in the midst of this pondering that I realize I have not yet found my favourite Christmas keeper; Angela and the Baby Jesus. It is in a box stored in "the cold room” along with the other Children’s Christmas books I did not put out this year. I repent and go and find it. Mine is “the little edition meant for big people,” not “the big book meant for little people,” as the author would describe it.

This little book, written by Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angela’s Ashes, is the author's retelling of a true story told by his mother. McCourt begins;
When my mother, Angela, was six years old, she felt sorry for the Baby Jesus in the Christmas crib at St. Joseph’s Church near School House Lane where she lived. She thought the Baby Jesus was cold and wondered why no one had put a blanket over his plump little body.

Being all too familiar with being cold and hungry herself, Angela decides to rescue the Baby Jesus, and takes him home where he can be safe and warm. The difficulty arises when her troublesome brother, Pat, discovers her theft, and Father Creigh finds the Baby Jesus missing.

I read the book, and somehow my personal void begins to recede. Would that it were always so easy! Would that reading this little volume could do the same for everyone who finds that something is missing in their heart or home this time of year!

The symbolism is not lost on me. At the risk of being altogether too simplistic, perhaps this little story contains a key. Is it possible that we each need to take the Baby Jesus, wherever and however we find him, into our homes and hearts, to warm him and so ourselves be warmed?

It is the invitation of Christmas, so charmingly captured by the closing lines of the story.

“You can put him back in his little cradle now,” he said in a low gentle way.

“But he’ll be cold,” said Little Angela.

“Ah, no,” said Father Creagh. “When we’re not here his mother, Our Lady, makes sure he’s nice and warm.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am.”

When she put the Baby Jesus back in the crib, he smiled the way he always did and held out his arms to the world.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I considered “solstice” as today’s good word. But I thought I’d better just come right out with it—tonight is the longest night. For a couple of days the major topic of conversation was the lunar eclipse, a rare astronomical coincidence. Monday the question was “Would there be too much cloud cover?” and Tuesday it’s been “Did you get up to see the eclipse?” The eclipse provided a welcome distraction on the shortest day/ longest night.

Some churches in my community are holding Longest Night services as a way of recognizing that for some people this time of merriment and jollity is not so festive. Many are dealing with hard times, with grief or loss, and find all the focus on celebration and fun disturbing.

My kids often tell me I just “know too many people.” I don’t think that is exactly true; but what it does mean is that I often do know the troubles people are dealing with. I know many people have lost dear ones and are missing them especially in this season. Maybe the loss happened years ago and Christmas brings back the memory and makes the sore spot tender again. I know many people undergoing treatment for this or that illness, some serious, some just annoying. I know there are people who are trying to make decisions that will have major consequences for them and their loved ones. I’m aware of stress due to the economy, job struggles or family and marriage stuff. Because even at Christmas, stuff happens!

Most people keep these troubles to themselves, not wanting to spoil others’ happiness. Hence the reason for the Longest Night (or Blue Christmas) services. Carefully chosen music, scriptures that comfort, a worship setting with candles and Kleenex here and there, meant to soothe and calm and support reflecting and remembering. There will be no probing questions, no embarrassing urging everyone to share in some up-beat cheery audience-participation activity. It's OK to come in, sit quietly and leave without conversation,or stay for a cup of tea and a cookie. You won't hear “Are you ready for Christmas; have you got your shopping done; is your family coming for the holiday; don’t you just love this time of year?” All perfectly fine questions, unless you’re caught under a cloud, stuck in this long night.

I don’t know any Community of Christ congregations offering Longest Night services, though I am aware of two or three in my larger neighbourhood. I’m glad those churches are making place for those feeling somewhat sad at this season. I know what it is to feel out of step with absolutely everyone around me. But as I’ve experienced that, I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone and there is a place for me to be sad in this community too. Whether or not we have a Longest Night service we can be sensitive in our celebrating and ensure all are welcome here. And if some decide to stay away, we can be understanding in our responses.

I’m not going to ask for your comment on this post. I just wanted to draw this phenomenon to your attention. May you be blessed, even at this dark time of year as we await the coming of the sun, the coming of the Son.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Prologue: the following are merely some thoughts and questions that stir an analytic mind in a few moments of quiet reflection. They are merely questions, and should not be construed as anything more than that. Above all, they should not be read as criticism of any congregation's worship traditions but should be understood in light of Corrine Ware's Discover Your Spiritual Type.

On Sunday I attended and enjoyed a lovely Christmas service in one of our small but faithful communities. There were twenty of us present, and we gathered in a sanctuary that was beautifully decorated for Christmas. In evidence were the banners, the poinsettias, the nativity scene, and the Christmas tree complete with groceries beneath, all destined for the local food bank. All of these are lovely symbols of the ritual of our Christmas worship.

As I waited for the service to begin, I began to reflect on how many rituals were represented in the sanctuary. The slightly raised dais, the sculpted oak pulpit, the lovely matching heavy oak chairs with the leather seats that have been in use for as long as I can remember; all of these have become symbols of our worship ritual. The rather formal setting with the individual chairs all set in straight rows facing the rostrum speaks clearly of another aspect of our ritual tradition. The bulletin, the order of worship, the music; all are examples of what have become formal expressions of our gathering.

Rituals can be comforting because they are familiar. For those who gather regularly to worship, the constant presence of these symbols may say that all is well in this safe, predictable space. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder how those same ritual symbols would be seen by those unfamiliar with traditional church worship. Would they find the symbols comforting or would their formal nature merely seem archaic? Would the forty chairs in straight rows facing the three officers at the front seem comfortable or cold? How would the seventeen people scattered across the back ¾ of those forty chairs be read? (After all, nobody is going to sit in the front row!)

What would happen if we put twenty-two chairs in a circle, providing two for our expected guests? Would the less formal setting make our guests feel more at ease or less? Would they feel more included and less ignored? What if the heart of the gathering was not about listening to a sermon, but the sharing of stories, happy and sad, that happened the previous week when we were out in the community engaged in mission? Is it possible that we would need to add more chairs to accommodate the people who were attracted to such real ministry? I'm sad to say, I do not know.

What I do know is that the patterns that come into use in one era because they make sense for that day become rituals that remain long after the reasons for their adoption are forgotten. They become "the way we have always done things!" That is not necessarily wrong, but neither is it necessarily right. And that brings me to one more question. Is it time to adapt some new rituals for our day? I wonder what those would look like.

If any of this resonates with you or if you have any thoughts on the subject, lets talk.

Posted by Carman

Monday, December 20, 2010


The bright red and blue neon sign flashes insistently in the front glass door. You know the sign I mean: “Open!” We see it everywhere—the bank, the corner store, the pharmacy, the restaurant.

“Open! Open!” It flashes beckoning passersby to come on in.

This morning, on my way across town I passed St. Mathias Anglican church and saw what I don’t see during the week. The bright red and blue neon sign was blinking “Open” in the front door. St. Mathias was calling me in!

I’ve never seen an Open sign on a church door before. Have you?

(To be honest, the very first thought was that Carman would surely appreciate this congregation’s “Welcoming/inviting ministry”!)

But I had several minutes on my way to my destination to consider it further. What else about St. Mathias is welcoming to me, the unknown bypasser? It’s right on the corner. If I were inclined to turn in, I could come in from two main thoroughfares. A couple of other things I’d noticed before in passing. There are three boxes in the parking lot for me to drop off my used clothing donations or my newspapers for recycling. I’ve often read the sign proclaiming “a progressive and inclusive community” and thought I might someday visit at one of their services, held at 8:30 and 10:00 a.m. Both those words are attractive to me.

I did visit once, on a Sunday afternoon for a very pleasant Taizé service which I enjoyed very much. Because of my job I’m often “at work” on Sundays, but may be coming home in the afternoon. A worship service in the fading daylight, marked by long periods of silence with just a little quality music and a minimum of talk is just the thing for this introvert who needs those very things to recharge after a weekend of talking and interacting with people.

There are several congregations just now who are giving some calculated attention to their buildings. How to guarantee their building best matches their mission, houses the programs and priorities they espouse. Is this the space to ensure a healthy congregation can thrive and grow? Are there easy changes to make? Or must we look for another space, another location, another mission? With regard to our church home, what matters most? Are we spending all this money in ways that hold up our enduring principles and values?

Let us wish them well in their search. It’s not an easy task and might take a long time and be very expensive. It takes piles of dedication and discussion and discernment. Every member of the community needs to join the process. Not an easy thing to do, but essential. They could probably use our prayers for them in their struggle.

Now, who knows where can we find a good “Open” sign?

Posted by Marion

Friday, December 17, 2010


I’ve just read an essay about how the Chronicles of Narnia shaped the writer’s life! After the Bible, says pastor Julie Clawson this work was the most formative in her developing character and theology. Narnia was never part of my literary life, either in childhood or adulthood, although my children and grandchildren claim ownership of this C.S.Lewis classic.

As Christmas approaches and some of us are seeking out that keeper book to give to the readers on our gift list, perhaps we, like Clawson, are recalling some of the books that brought meaning to our own lives, and would be likely gifts to give to a learning to read child (maybe Charlotte’s Web? Or Stuart Little?). Who is ready to meet the Hobbits for the first time? Or maybe Black Beauty, or Treasure Island or the Robinsons (Crusoe, or the Swiss family)?

My reading grandchildren are great library users, but sometimes there are some books that you just need to own for yourself, to keep and be able to read again, or at least to let them live on your very own bookshelf. For example, I see those colourful volumes of Harry Potter everywhere! Those are the ones I try to figure out and find for them.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that two of the authors I favoured as a child were Louisa May Alcott and her writing heroine “Jo March” and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne (with an “e”) Shirley, also a scribbler. The latter even more appreciated because of her Canadian roots and the rural context I could recognize. That row of dull green covers still sits in a place of honour on my own top shelf. I’ve only recently read Jane Urquart’s short but revealing biography of Montgomery and have developed an even greater appreciation for this writer and the literary value of her work. (Check it out here .) I think I'll be pulling one or more of those dear volumes down to re-read over my Christmas holiday.

So my question for the day is not: what are you reading now? But what book or books shaped your life? What are the keepers for you? And if you want to be very generous, share a line or two about why a particular book has been important in your life.

Posted by Marion