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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 30, 2011


I am not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that New Year's 2012 is now upon us, but I am thinking a lot about “spiritual practice” at the moment.

Practice is an interesting term is it not? It suggests that we must actively work at our spiritual disciplines, repeating them again and again. In other words, it is not enough to simply be spiritual; we have to work at it in order to develop our spiritual giftedness.

The classic work on spiritual practice is the book by Quaker theologian and author Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Foster offers guidance about three categories of practice, which he identifies as inward disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, service), and corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, celebration). Although this book is now more than 30 years old, it still has a lot to recommend it.

Of course there are more spiritual practices then the twelve outlined by Foster. For example, the practice of music may be of great benefit to many people, whether singing or playing an instrument. While I personally do not enjoy singing the way some others do, I find it a blessing to occasionally include a Taize recording as part of my morning quiet time. The repetition of melodic phrases may either inspire of quiet the soul.

There are benefits to be gained by regular or daily participation in our spiritual disciplines, no matter which ones we choose to practice. For example, much has been written about the practice of meditation in the last few years. Many people have learned to still the mind and discovered the benefits of this activity, including a sense of inner peace and connection with the universe. The benefits go beyond being centred in spiritual peace and tranquility however. People have discovered they are also physically healthier as a result of this (in)activity. Practitioners often find they lower their blood pressure and reduce stress, lessening the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and other physical ailments.

Spiritual practice has important benefits for congregations as well. Diana Butler Bass, in her helpful book, The Practicing Congregation, notes the following correlation.
One of the lesser-noted findings of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research’s massive Faith Community Today (FACT) study was a link between “personal spiritual practices” and congregational vitality. According to study codirector David Roozen, “The study does confirm that the more emphasis a congregation gives to the values of home and personal religious practices, the higher the congregation’s vitality and the more likely it is to be growing in membership.” (The Practicing Congregation, p67).

Do you have Spiritual disciplines that you practice regularly? Do you find it a blessing? If you do not, let me encourage you to find practices that work for you in the year ahead.

On behalf of the staff and leadership team in the Canada East Mission of Community of Christ, I wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year.

Posted by Carman

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2011 has come. The staff of Canada East Mission of Community of Christ would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May the Peace of Jesus Christ rest within your soul and the generous gift of love bless your heart throughout this blessed season of grace.

Carman, Tim, Mike, Melissa, Cheryl, and Jim

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Perspective

This past weekend, Doug Bolger talked about the need to be sensitive to the Perspective of others and what we can learn from that experience. I find it particularly instructive to listen to children in this way.

At Christmas time, Children's eyes often show the excitement and wonder Christmas and the marvel of the Christmas story. By paying close attention to them, we see what they are learning, perhaps from us, and in the process, we learn a lot from them.

The following link provides a wonderful glimpse into the Children's view of the birth of Jesus. I know you will enjoy it. Click here for a delightful Childhood look at Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the staff and leadership team at Canada East Mission.

Posted by Carman

Saturday, December 17, 2011


As I thought about the differing versions of the Christmas story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke as discussed by Carman recently, I began to think about perspectives. (you can find that blog here.) Last year I was injured and unable to play my usual “old timer’s” hockey. When playing, the game seemed fast and challenging for me as a goalie. Then when I was confined to the role of “spectator”, somehow the game took on a whole new perspective. It was neither fast nor was it as challenging from that perspective. (No wonder we don’t have fans!)

This change of viewpoint has given me pause on many occasions and caused me to try to see the world from the perspective of others. I am particularly impressed with the special Christmas efforts of Hamilton’s “Blue Christmas” and Barrie’s “Purple Christmas”. Are they not seeing our holiday season from a different vantage point and thus providing a much-needed ministry?

I need to work on my perspectives. Whether it is the single, aging adult whose world becomes smaller and self-focused or the young families with their busy schedules and not attending church activities, there are many viewpoints that differ from mine, which I must take time to consider.

The Master teacher was constantly calling his disciples to see their world and their community members from a different points of view. Whether tax collectors, outcast women or thieves beside him on the cross, he loved, forgave, healed and reconciled.

As we come to the end of another year and approach a new one, may we seek out new perspectives and do so with the Mission of Christ in our hearts and minds.

Doug Bolger

Friday, December 16, 2011


Reports are coming in of congregations experiencing crowds that they have not seen for quite some time. Grand Valley had 108 people attend an ordination service recently instead of the usual 35. Hamilton had a very nice response to their mid-week Blue Christmas service. Brydges Street had 75 guests for a Community Dinner, not counting the 40+ members who served. LaSalle had a completely full house (130+) for their annual Christmas choir and turkey dinner, including people they had never seen before. Ottawa had over 100 people at two locations this past Sunday.

I experienced something of this phenomenon myself this past week when I attended church in Cambridge. I walked in just as the service was starting, and the room was completely full. Several people pointed to an obscure empty chair, one of only two vacant seats in the whole place! For a moment it was almost like Luke’s version of the Christmas story in which Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem and seek a place to stay at the local inn, only to be told the rooms are all full.

What is happening here? Has there been a sudden resurgence of interest in religion? Is Christmas provoking some nostalgic desire in people to re-experience church? I don’t think so. Closer investigation reveals that at least three other things are going on.

First, in every case the congregations experiencing these increases in attendance did not follow their normal pattern of just assuming everyone knows they are welcome. Instead, they went out of their way to invite people. The folks at Grand Valley telephoned people, sent email invitations, and even stopped people on the street to invite them to come. Brydges Street folks went door to door distributing 850 invitations. LaSalle is a country church so they advertised through a variety of means including the township newsletter.

Second, those inviting have a positive attitude and an excitement about what is happening. "Something is happening here" is conveyed in their faces and voices when they make the invitation. “Something is happening and you will want to be part of it.”

Third, in several cases, the service or activity was not about the congregation itself but was directly tied to doing something for somebody else. Brydges Street wanted to (and did) do something for the East London community where the church is located; the people they feel called to serve. Hamilton’s Blue Christmas was for the benefit of people in the community whose Christmas will be sadder because of the loss of a loved one. LaSalle raised $700.00 for a local high school breakfast program. Barrie held a Purple Christmas service to raise funds and provide support for women and children in the community who are experiencing domestic violence.
Earlier we heard from Brydges Street with their post Dinner. This week we have been hearing from some other congregations that have reached out to their community.

Full houses in response to inviting, being positive, and serving others; is it possible that being the presence of Christ in our communities and actually fulfilling our mission is catching on?


Thursday, December 15, 2011


LaSalle Road Community Choir celebrated its 16th season this past Saturday. Directed by Carol Manley, this little choir has performed drama and musical presentations for those in our community. The choir itself is made up of both members of the church and members of the community who like to sing.

Every Christmas the choir provides a turkey dinner to the community, complete with all the trimmings. Tickets are not sold. A dish is left on the table for those who can afford to make a donation of $5.00. Choir members provide most of the food as well as assisting with preparation, serving and cleanup. A few other dedicated volunteers take charge of the cooking.

Over 150 people attended this year’s dinner. Representatives from several Community of Christ congregations were present as well as neighbours and friends from our community. The meal was followed by the choir sharing 'On a Silent Night'.

This year the choir became aware of a need at the local high school breakfast program, and wanted to respond. In contrast to the 8 – 10 students who took part in the breakfast last year, this year the program regularly provides a good start to the day for over 200 students. Kelly Knight, a special needs teacher at LCCV and member of the congregation, is an active leader in this program. Her students find an opportunity to reach out to those in need by baking banana bread, serving drinks etc. as part of the program.

The choir presented Correen Wilkinson, director of the breakfast program, with $500.00 from our community Turkey Dinner. Correen stated that, with funds almost depleted in the program, this money will keep the breakfast running for the next 2 months. Who knew that a little choir of 9 or 10 people could have such an impact!

Posted by Wayne Freer
Mission Advocate for LaSalle, Living Water, Sarnia and Wabash congregations

Monday, December 12, 2011

Make it Fun!

Quite some time ago, while discussing an upcoming event at Scarborough, Carman challenged us to “make it fun!” Those words have stayed with me, and bore fruit this past week in another, quite different event, also at Scarborough.

Like most congregations, Christmas is a time when tradition and celebration combine in a long list of worship and fellowship opportunities. One of those opportunities is our annual Ladies Pot Luck Dinner. (Sorry guys, you can only come if you wash the dishes.) Every year on the first Tuesday of December, we get together to share food, fellowship and worship.

This used to be a well attended event, but over the years fewer and fewer people have come out. There are many reasons to explain the decline. People have passed away or moved away. Members live at great distances from the church, and a long, two-way drive in the dark becomes less and less attractive as we grow older. And, we all live such busy lives that sometimes we just can’t fit another event into our already packed schedules.

The Ladies’ Dinner used to be an event to which we gladly invited our friends and family, but once again, over the years, fewer and fewer guests have joined us. It got to the point that we have seriously questioned whether we should continue with the dinner just for the sake of tradition.

One of the main reasons to continue was the Eppleworth Group. The Eppleworth Group is a school for mentally challenged adults and young adults that uses our facility during the week. The school and its extended community is an important part of our community, and the Ladies Pot Luck Dinner in December is one of the few opportunities we have over the year to get together and socialize. We treasure that time.

But sometimes even treasured events lose their lustre, and that seemed to be happening at our dinner. Frankly, over the past several years it has not only become smaller and smaller, it’s also become quieter and quieter. We gathered, we ate awesome food (that was one thing that always remained excellent), we socialized and we worshiped – but somehow something was missing. Perhaps it was the declining numbers. Perhaps it was the familiar faces. Perhaps it was the way that the two groups, Eppleworth and Scarborough, mixed happily around the punch bowl, but always seemed to separate at the tables.

Whatever the problem was, this year we decided to take Carman’s advice and “make it fun.” We decided to do a proper “mixer;” a silly little thing where William had to find his Kate, etc. We almost had to shout to be heard so we could start the meal! Further, since we’ve also been encouraging people to invite, we had extra guests. As we sat down to eat it was wonderful to see how people were sitting in different groupings, and even the new guests were comfortably sitting with complete strangers and having a great time.

People were still talking about what a great time we had on Sunday, when the word was being passed along to those who hadn’t been able to join us this year. More than one person was not only to sorry to have missed the dinner, but will be highlighting the event on next year’s calendar. Who would have thought it: fun works!

Posted by Linda Armstrong, Mission Advocate for Toronto Area Congregations


“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8 NRSV)

There is a lot to think about in the Biblical Christmas story of the shepherds’ encounter with the divine; this event described in such brief but dramatic form in Luke 2:8-20. Whenever I read this, it always gives me pause. To begin with, the text says the shepherds were “living in the fields.” Older versions of scripture use the term “abiding” instead of living. It means the same thing, but somehow “living in the fields” seems more compelling. It definitely catches my attention.

I ask myself, what does it mean to be living in the fields? What is the life of these shepherds like? Are these wandering herdsmen, roaming the hills with their sheep, always looking for good pasture land and water? Do they have backpacks or pack animals to carry their supplies? What predators must they guard against; lions? Robbers? Do they look for a cave to get in out of the weather or do they sleep in a bedroll out under the stars? Do they have tents? Do they take turns sleeping, some in the daytime, some at night?

Are all the shepherds men or are there women shepherds out there too? If they are all men, do they have women at home somewhere? Children? Do they even have a home? What do they eat? Who prepares their food? Do they cook over an open fire? Do they live in the fields all the time or only during certain seasons of the year? Do they ever get time off? How do they bathe or wash their clothes? How often?

None of the answers to these questions are included in Luke’s description. Why is that? Is it because this is a short, summary version (12 verses) of this important event and there is no room for such details? Perhaps it is because such contextual questions were not the point of the story. Or maybe it is because the readers to whom the text was originally written would have known the answers so well the questions did not even arise. Whatever the reason, the daily life experience of the shepherds is not told to us, and we are left to ponder.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary page 683 contains the following statement about the Shepherds. “ accord with Luke’s theme of poverty, the shepherds are the lowly. “Mangy, stinking, bathless shepherds are in their ritual uncleanness an encouragement for all who lack religious status” (Danker, Jesus and the New Age 27).” Oh my!

To me, the life of the people in the story matters as I try to understand. Who are these people and what is their life like? To Luke, however, such details are apparently all inconsequential. Luke’s story is that the shepherds are out in the fields, doing their work, living their lives, and in the midst of all that, God breaks in on them. To Luke, it doesn’t matter what their life is like; they are people and they matter to God! Oh...well then... maybe Luke has a point there. And maybe that is the point.

The second last verse of this story says, “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” I totally understand that; there is a lot to ponder here.


Friday, December 9, 2011


If you invite them, they will come!

The London Brydges street congregation followed the call to enter into Christ’s mission on Saturday Dec. 3. A group of people got together and planned a strategy we hoped would encourage people that lived within 5 minutes of our building to come and have a meal with us. Were we hearing God`s call or were we just not thinking rationally?

Our neighbourhood is made up of a mix of approx. 60% middle class people and 40% with little to no means. We had sent out flyers five times over the last two years; our first for a strawberry social. We had 4 people come. An outdoor barbeque fun day in front of our congregation attracted about 40. This time we delivered 850 flyers to homes. We were moving out in a direction that wasn’t completely unfamiliar to us but we did not know what to expect. Our hope was to feed 250 non members and only feed ourselves with the leftovers at the end of the night. Our meal planners developed a menu of a full course roast beef dinner. No one would leave hungry.

Price: Adults $2.00, Children 14 and under $ 1.00, 5 and under free.

Even with donations of food etc. Our cost was $ 568.00. Members gave of their time (most were there from 10 AM on Sat.). At least 40 helped out throughout the day of our meal. What a feeling of sharing and love was felt as the excitement of the day built towards our 5:00 o`clock invitation time!

What did we receive from God for our efforts? The first people came at 4:40. By 5 PM we had 25 guests. They took the survey sheet and before the end of the evening 25% of the people filled them out with suggestions. We fed 72 people, and in reflection, God knew we could handle 72. Guests shared with each other and with us. Most stayed for at least 90 minutes and some for over 2 hours.

One family of meagre means, husband and wife and a teenage daughter, stayed for about 1 hour. Our members serving them were given many compliments and told how great the evening was for them. As the mother was leaving she was asked if she would like to take some extra food home and she replied, “Oh, no thank you” but exclaimed, "This was the best meal that I have ever eaten in my life!” The genuine way she said this was enough to bring tears to our eyes. Asked again if we could pack something for them, we were told no but they would be remembering this night for a long time and looked forward to more flyers.

A young, more affluent family rushed in just before 7 and sat down explaining their 3 teenage boys had been playing hockey and were very hungry. They had visited another event some months earlier and felt they could not miss this evening. The mother filled out her card answering the question regarding needs of the area. “Awareness of dealing with mental illness”, she stated, and she would like to assist with a program to help with this need. She signed her name with contact info.

Other requests included:
• games night for seniors (we already do this, so another invitation will be made),
• a youth program,
• summer vacation bible school,
• a program for the handicapped (and they would help),
• clean up day for the area (and they would help),
• an exercise program a couple of days a week either free or with a good will offering,
• are we a child friendly church?
• And finally, will we be doing more nights like this?

One set of grandparents came with a grandson of about 10 and another couple. They stayed for over 2 hours. On leaving they asked for take-out meals and then went to their car only to return in a few minutes with a sheepish grin and say that their grandson was still playing in the church with the member’s children. They almost forgot him as they and he were so well entertained that they had hardly seen him throughout the evening.

We invited people to come, God provided them. We fed those with needs: hungry, lonely, and looking for knowledge of our church. We provided literature to those that had inquiries (enduring principles and basic beliefs) and we met in community. Did it end there?

The next day we had a lady visit for our Sunday worship service. (We usually have around 50 for this service but had closer to 80 on this day.) She recently moved into the area but did not receive the flyer. She said she had been thinking of coming to our church for some time and that she knew she had to come this Sunday. Arriving just before the service started, several of our members welcomed her. After the service she stayed and shared her life story with our Pastor for about 30 minutes, then asked if she could be baptized. She is planning on starting classes in the next few weeks. While we were enjoying the extra roast beef on Sunday for lunch, another non-member in our congregation asked an elder if he could be baptized. Two separate requests for baptism within minutes; God’s Spirit in abundance! The energy of the week-end was very high.

At about this time another person walked into our church and asked if we were planning more events for people to come and eat with us. He could not come the night before but his brothers were there, and he came over to discuss our future plans. He was invited to eat with us, and to “just go get a plate.” He said no, but he would like to put his money into the pot we had there. He reached deep into his pocket for his $2.00. After our free will offering lunch we had a net profit of $4.00 for the week-end!

If we are going out in mission with no idea of the outcome does Jesus know what He will provide to us? I do not know the answer, but I can tell you that what happened on Saturday evening December 3, 2011 has us listening to Him for direction. We are now looking into filling some needs with helpers that are willing to assist us in Jesus’ Mission.

HOPE, the theme for the second week of Advent, has been well shown to us at Brydges Street Community of Christ.

Thank you God!

Paul Fitzgeorge

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


There are many things about the birth stories of Jesus I find curious. For example, why does Luke’s gospel place Jesus’ birth in such a humble (not to mention unsanitary) situation while Matthew places this event among the rich and powerful? Of course much has been written about this difference, and those charged with delivering Christmas sermons generally realize the need to discuss one story or the other. Sermons will usually highlight either the wise men or the shepherds; not both unless it is to acknowledge the dichotomy present in the two texts.

Just so that I don’t assume too much, perhaps I should describe the difference in the two texts a little more clearly . In a sentence, Matthew tells us that Jesus lived in a house with Mary and Joseph and was visited by Wise Men who consulted with Kings and brought fine and expensive gifts. Luke, on the other hand, described a birth in a stable with a manger for a crib. Having grown up on a farm myself, I cannot help but think of our smelly stable and the thoroughly chewed, slobbered on and germ laden mangers in the barn.

In the meantime, countless Christmas pageants throughout the Christian parts of the world blend these two narratives together almost seamlessly, and children grow up with a romanticized and thoroughly sanitized story that bears little resemblance to Luke’s reality. It rather reminds me of the difference between the way my privileged, middle class children were raised and the images we are currently seeing on television of the living conditions experienced by children in Attawapiskat and other Northern First Nations communities. It is almost inconceivable that the two are part of the same national, provincial and human experience. My children’s birth would be in line with Matthew’s narrative, while the conditions experienced by infants born in Attawapiskat would be more like those described in Luke, i.e. miserable poverty.

It is tempting here, for me to write, “But setting all that aside,” and go on with what I wanted to say. And therein lies the problem: we want to set aside the images of poverty right here in our own country, and not take action or do anything about it. We see the living conditions but get caught up in our government’s diversionary tactic of raising questions about who is responsible. Why don’t we be responsible? After all, the second Mission Initiative of Community of Christ is to Abolish Poverty and End Suffering. How can we set this aside?

Well, what do we do? First, lets begin by writing or emailing our members of parliament and insisting that this be changed, not just by throwing money at the problem, but by changing the system of paternalism and control that keeps native communities down. Lets do that now! Then lets follow up over the next 20 years to make sure something actually gets done.

Second, I will ask our Peace and Justice committee to give us some further ideas.

Third, we can have a discussion here about what else we can do. This should not be about condemning governments or criticizing First Nations people or managers. It is about ways we can abolish poverty and end suffering. What are your ideas?


Monday, December 5, 2011


I am feeling rather Christmassy!. Is that a real word, or did I just make it up to describe the feeling? Probably the latter I think, but no, it turns out it is a real word. According to and The Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Christmassy is a proper adjective. Well good. Who knew? Over the past few days, I have found myself thinking or using this word more than once.

This feeling is something of a surprise. In recent years, I have gotten around to Christmas late, carrying a busy schedule through to the week of Christmas itself. Somehow that does not accommodate well to sensing the Christmas spirit, does it? So this year, I took advantage of a half day off to put up the Christmas tree early. Out came the glass balls, the icicles, and those special ornaments that have accumulated over the years. Here is that lovely little cardinal given to us by my sister Gayle, the Buck that was a gift from the Nortons at Camp Buckhorn, the ball from the Menzie’s Christmas party at Graceland, and so on. Its not that our decorations are all elegant and beautiful, some are decidedly not, but each is special to me.

And then there are the other special things reserved for this time of year. Here are the various little groupings of angels and the little wooden snowmen, a gift from Teagan that bear a wish for “peace on earth this night,” Here is the little Santa collection and, ahh yes, the (apparently) hand-carved wooden nativity set from Africa. There they are, the wooden Mary and Joseph, the little wooden manger and the tiny wooden baby Jesus, the donkey, the horse, the sheep, the lama (or is it really a camel?), the angel and the five wooden kings with their crowns and gifts. I wonder again that there are five kings and no shepherds. Is there someone somewhere else in the world who has shepherds but no kings?

Last August, a week’s vacation trip took us through Frankenmuth, Michigan, home of Bonner’s famous Christmas store. That resulted in three new pieces to add to the Christmas collection: a lovely glass Christmas ball for the tree, a new centrepiece for the table, and a new “cooking Santa” to make the kitchen a little more festive. Lovely!

Then there are the Christmas books, especially my copy of Frank McCourt’s beloved story of Angela and the Baby Jesus, bought at Borders in San Diego four years ago. (Angela and the Baby Jesus was discussed last year in a What's the Good Word post called Missing. You can read it again here if you wish.)

This morning, the world outside my study is white with freshly fallen snow. I have a choice, I can feel grumpy about it, or I can feel Christmassy. I choose the latter. It is a good thing.

I hope you may also be blessed with feelings you can describe as “Christmassy” this year. It is a good feeling that recalls to memory the special wonder of childhood. Or in the spirit of the little wooden snowmen, “Star light, star bright, wish for Peace, on earth this night.”


Friday, December 2, 2011


Brother Albert Cineus, our missionary and pastor in Montreal, is in need of a car.

Albert is one of the finest, most dedicated missionaries I know. A bi-vocational pastor, he works at his job and does his ministry when he can. In addition to the fine congregation Brother Albert already pastors, he now has a second group meeting in a part of the city quite some distance away. Getting there by city bus takes about 1 ½ hours each way. It also requires walking some distance after he leaves the bus. With winter now quickly closing in, Brother Albert is in need of a little assistance.

Pastor Albert has asked for our help in locating a car he could have to help him in his ministry. Perhaps you, or someone you know, has a car that you would be willing to donate in exchange for a tax receipt. This need not be a new car, but does need to be safe and reliable. The car will be placed in Albert’s name, and he will be responsible for the operating costs, so it will be preferable that it gets good fuel economy.

If you have a way to help, please contact Carman Thompson at the mission centre office, 519-822-4150, ext 34, or by email at If no one is home, please leave a message.

Thanks for considering this request,


Thursday, November 24, 2011


There is a lot I do not understand about the Occupy movement. That fact is more to my embarrassment than to my credit, since I really haven’t taken the time to understand. In fact, most of what I know about Occupy, I learned from watching the morning news. Since Western news media is arguably pretty closely aligned with the status quo, it cannot necessarily be seen as an unbiased source of information, can it? But since I have never personally gone to check things out at any of the parks myself, I have accepted it as the only source available.

Early on, there was a lot written about the unclear goals of the movement. Perhaps these can now be summarized as a desire to create a dialogue towards achieving better balance within the economic system. This has been characterized as a need for less economic disparity between the 1% who are super-rich and the 99% who are not. While that may be a fair representation in many parts of the world, it does not take into consideration the relative comfort of the middle class in Canada and some other Western countries. Therein lies the reason why I, and many like me, have not taken the time to really understand what is at the heart of this movement.

If that insight needs further explanation, it would be as follows. My life is comfortable. That results in less urgency for me to understand the real need for change to benefit those whose life is not at all comfortable. In other words, because of the self-interest of the middle class, including the Christian middle class, we have allowed our allegiance to be aligned with the status quo. The Occupy movement, on the other hand, has aligned itself with the poor. Wasn’t that supposed to be our job? Is Jesus now to be found in a tent in a park somewhere instead of a nice, warm, dry church?

There have been reports that some Occupy tents had been adopted by homeless people and drug addicts. While these reports may have been circulated to discredit the movement initially, I am thinking that is a good thing. Apparently the Occupiers have enough compassion to include and care for the most vulnerable in our society. Can we in our churches say the same?

Since the tents have now been removed from most of the parks, the Occupy movement must now find a new way of drawing to our attention the need for change. Are we now ready to pay attention?

As always, your comments on this post are welcome.


Monday, November 21, 2011


Are you getting ready for Christmas? Have you started preparing? You may be interested to know that, while you are doing that, camp and reunion directors are already meeting to prepared for next year’s camps! This past weekend, 32 people gathered at our annual Directors Retreat to begin getting ready for next year. Tim Stanlick began the meeting by asking everyone to reach around and give themselves a brief pat on the back for this year, but after that, everyone was totally focused on 2012 and beyond.

The main item on the agenda was Emergency Preparedness. Our guest presenter was Darryl Culley, the president of Emergency Management & Training Inc. Darryl led us through a variety of situations that helped us understand why we need to be prepared for emergencies before they happen, since there is no time in the middle of a crisis to figure out what to do. For instance, we were shown a video of a fire which began in a waste basket. At first not much seemed to be happening, in fact you might not even notice, but within just over two minutes, the fire had spread to the point where the entire room was consumed and nobody would have been able to escape. The presentation was very sobering, and I am sure we each of us were thinking about the dorms and other buildings at our camps.

In addition to fire, a variety of other subjects were upheld for scrutiny, including summer storms, violence prevention, intruders on the grounds, loss of power in an emergency and more.

The Board executive of our four campgrounds were all asked to be present and share information on the plans they already have in place for dealing with an emergency. Three boards had representation present. Doug Bolger from Camp Noronto’s board had opportunity to attend a similar workshop last year and has been working hard on a comprehensive plan. Although still in draft form, Doug has generously offered to share this document with the other boards so they do not need to start from scratch.

Social Worker Jeff Stanlick also shared with the group, excellent information about Emergency Preparedness and Mental Health. Jeff shared valuable information about how to recognize serious depression or mental illness, and ways to prevent possible harm.

Mike Hewitt shared information on the new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and what our camps need to do to meet the requirement of this law. More information will be provided shortly to boards, directors and congregations about our new obligations.

While it was sobering to all of us to see the urgent need for emergency preparedness, we also realized that we have been lucky. For example, at least two of our campgrounds have had tornados touch down and do tremendous damage within a very few kilometres of where our camps were being conducted. Both occurred within the past six years. One of those storms struck a neighbouring camp resulting in the death of a 10 year old boy.

So, while you are thinking about your Christmas card list this year, perhaps you might remember the hard working people who accept responsibility for our campgrounds and lead our camps and reunions. These folks are already thinking about you and especially about your safety. I think we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Posted by Carman

Friday, November 18, 2011


First came J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter novels with the famous Invisibility Cloak. Now comes news that various scientists are actually working on such a device, and while the product is not yet usable, they have achieved some early success. Of course the initial applications are likely to be military, but eventually the product will probably make its way to people like you and me. Of course, why we might want to be invisible is a question for which I have absolutely no good answer!

If all that wasn’t enough to make a person wonder, I then came across this quote in the website for The New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary.
Today, a church without a website is as invisible as a church without a yellow pages listing was 20 years ago.
Now that really got my attention! I began to think about the fact that probably two years ago we made web pages available to every congregation in CEM for free. We included basic information such as the name of the pastor and her/his contact information plus the times of services or activities. We then invited congregations to put someone in charge of keeping the information current, add pictures, tell about planned activities, etc.

Now, I don’t want to point fingers or paint everyone with the same brush because some congregations have done a great job with this, but others of those pages haven’t changed since the day they were born! Some don't have a picture of the church and no information beyond service times, and I have to wonder if even those are current. (If you want to check your congregation’s page, go to CEM Community of Christ Congregations, then click on the name of your community.)

All that has me wondering about this invisibility thing. Is it possible that we want to remain invisible? Would we prefer to continue to do business as usual and not tell our surrounding neighbours about it? Do we not want anyone to know when and where we meet, what our activities are, etc? Or is all that internet stuff just too technical for some of our congregations?

If your congregation would like to stop being invisible, there is a wonderful solution. James Clark has offered to help any congregation in Canada East Mission become more visible. He will help by updating your web page, create a facebook and twitter account for your congregation, help you create an email newsletter, and even teach you how easy it all is. Your congregation does not have to remain invisible any longer. Who knows but the people in the houses on your street might actually be trying to check you out!

If you would like to see an example of James’ work, you can take a look at Wiarton Congregation's Webpage. While you are there, why not subscribe to thier email newslatter and click on the link to their facebook page? After that, why not email James at and get help for your congregation?

Oh, and then please, get rid of that silly invisibility cloak!

Posted by Carman

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I have been thinking about that tiny little word, “of.” Grammatically it is a preposition which can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, it can be used to indicate distance or direction from something. An example would be within a mile of the church, or south of Sarnia.

Of can also be used to indicate cause, motive or reason as in: to die of starvation.

Another use could be to indicate composition, substance, or contents: a dress of silk; a book of poems; a package of cheese.

The word of can also be used to indicate attribution: Is that genius of a pastor preaching again this Sunday?

The usage I am thinking about, however, is when of indicates derivation, origin or source. Examples of this could include, the books of the Bible, or the words of Shakespeare. For such a small word, of has quite an impact, doesn’t it? I think you will agree that there is a major difference between saying the books, versus the books of the Bible. Similarly, talking about words is one thing, but the words of Shakespeare is quite another!

All of that is background for one further placement of this inelegant but oh-so important little word, and a question I suggest we need to consider. That question is,
What is the difference in your view between community and Community of Christ?

You are invited to ponder the question, then share your thoughts on the matter here. This is a question of significance.

Posted by Carman

Monday, November 14, 2011


There is nothing like a nice warm coat when the winter winds begin to caress your ribs with their icy fingers! And if that coat also happens to be a stylish Columbia jacket, well what could be better than that? If you are an average, middle-class Canadian or American, you are probably grateful for your coat, but may not think all that much about it. But what if you didn’t have a coat? Sadly that is the situation for all too many people, even in our part of the world.

This weekend, young adults from around Ontario (and Maine and Australia as it turned out) gathered in Toronto for the latest MEGA (Make Everyday a Great Adventure) weekend. On Friday evening the group gathered at GTA-West, along with several pastors who were invited to join in. There was time for lots of fun activities including table tennis and other games, and even some karaoke. On Saturday, the group moved to Scarborough church to get ready for the service project of the weekend. This year, the service project involved coats, bags and bags of coats!

These were brand new Columbia jackets and boots, many needing some repair, that were available to be given away to those who needed them. The group met to sort, sew and glue boots and jackets in preparation for distribution.

But how do you know who is really in need? After all, lots of people would be glad of a nice new jacket, but do they need one? The guidance on that score came from Kris Judd. The answer is, you pray over each one, “God, help us get this coat to the person that really needs it.” Then, armed with coats and prayer, it was time to hit the street.

One group went out with five jackets, all of an appropriate size and style for women, but after several hours, had not found anyone needing them. Time for more prayer. Finally they asked a security guard in front of St. Michael’s Hospital, and were immediately directed to the emergency department. The lady who met them at the reception desk was reported to be practically in tears when she received this precious gift, sharing how desperately they needed those coats for persons within their care.

Another group took many more coats and boots to a local women’s shelter. Sadly, it is all too common for women and children to flee from a violent or dangerous situation and be stranded without warm coats and boots, or even such a simple thing as a toothbrush for that matter! Once again, this group was greeted like angels of mercy, delivering help to those in desperate need. It seems prayers were answered on both sides, those who had opportunity to give, and those who desperately needed to receive.

On Sunday, the venue shifted to Toronto congregation on Bathurst Street. Here the three host congregations gathered to worship with the young adults and pastors who had spent the weekend together. What a joyous day, especially when the testimony of the coats was shared. Praise God! Then it was time to break bread together, sharing stories and getting acquainted over sandwiches and cake or cookies. All in all, it was a wonderful time that really did Make Everyday (of the weekend) a Great Adventure!

If you are invited to a MEGA event, why not join in? Who knows what joy may be waiting for you?

Posted by Carman

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is November 11th. In four hours from the time of this writing, we will each pause from whatever we are doing to remember and reflect upon our own thoughts of war and the need for peace.

I feel some sense of duty to prepare a blog for today, perhaps as a way to continue my life-long struggle with the subject. Remembrance Day posts in 2009 and 2010 have each generated comments from you filled with your own memories and struggles.

When I look back at what I wrote in those posts, it seems not much has changed. My thoughts are much the same. Like humankind, I have made little or no progress. Consequently, I leave you with that quintessential Canadian Remembrance Day poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, who appears to have felt no such internal turmoil. Wikipedia’s biographic sketch of McRae contains the following quote attributed to C.L.C. Allinson. The occasion of this remark was McRae being ordered away from the artillery to set up No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in northern France. Allinson reported that McCrae
most unmilitarily told [me] what he thought of being transferred to the medicals and being pulled away from his beloved guns. His last words to me were: 'Allinson, all the goddamn doctors in the world will not win this bloody war: what we need is more and more fighting men.'

Remember today


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; wait and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields!|

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Read this Blog

About four years ago, I discovered this little book by Paul Nixon called I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church. There was something about the cover or title that seemed somewhat arrogant to me, so at first I didn’t want to read the book and kept putting it off. When I did finally get to it, I was excited and wanted everyone to read it!

I was therefore delighted to see this blog in achurchforstarvingartists and the comments it recieved, both agreeing and disagreeing.

So, to paraphrase the blunt style of the author, Read this blog, then read this book, and lets get moving!

Posted by Carman

Monday, November 7, 2011

Formation Week 3

When I was assigned to Southwest International (Mexico/USA) Mission Centre, I had several pastors who were part of the World Church pilot Co-Missioned Pastor Initiative. They were all busy people, so I was a little surprised at how eager they were to leave home and travel half way across the country to study. I learned, however, that studying was only part of the picture. These pastors were excited to be together. They had found in each other, peers with whom they could share common problems, issues and frustrations as well as joys, successes and testimonies. The cohort had become a powerful, spiritual support group.

This week the group of twelve pastors who make up Canada East Mission’s pilot CPI are meeting together for their third and last formation week. There will be one more weekend gathering in the spring, but this is their last week-long training session. I’m sure they are looking forward to a great week together.

This time around they will be blessed to have President Becky Savage of the First Presidency of Community of Christ and Jim Poirier from the Presiding Bishopric as guest instructors. Marion Smith will make a “guest” appearance as an instructor mid-week, and Doug Bolger will coordinate the week as well as teach. I will also try to make a contribution. In addition, Nelson Rosales from World Accord will join us for a session as will Paul McKenna from Scarboro Missions Interfaith Department. I anticipate a great experience together.

This fall, the emphasis is on some of the “nuts and bolts” a pastor needs to know and understand. Having already been instructed in such topics as scripture, theology and spiritual formation, now they will concentrate on some of the practical aspects of administrative leadership. The list of subjects is long, but some of the basic elements include forming and working in teams, conducting business meetings, and narrative or mission based budgeting.

Oh dear, I think I just heard someone groan! You may not think that list of topics very exciting, but when you think of who is teaching, it probably gets a whole lot more interesting. Who wouldn’t want to spend time learning from one of the presidents of the church? Further, I firmly believe Jim Poirier’s passion can make any of us excited about the budget as a tool of mission! It is wonderful to have instructors of this caliber available.

Still, the teaching is only part of the picture. This group will also join together in worship and fellowship (read fun). They will have time to talk together, to brainstorm ideas and share experiences. Because they are now in year three of this program, they will assemble with hearts already open to each other. They have learned to trust each other and to allow themselves to be vulnerable to both human and divine grace. It is a very good thing.

As we look to the future of the mission centre, we need to provide more opportunities for this kind of sharing and learning, not just for this group of pastors, but for all of us.

*(picture is from 2010 formation week 2 with Apostle Susan Skoor and Jane Gardner, President of the High Priests' Quorum)

Posted by Carman

Friday, November 4, 2011

Quiet Time

Where hast thou gone, oh quiet hour?
I arose so early to greet thee.
The brew is warm within the pot
'Though cold within my cup.
The list prepared by Kris is read,
My Bible's words have spoken,
Their voice now bound by covers closed.
There lie the books that call to me
With words so succulent and sweet
Unread yet one more day,
Yet art thou fled away?

My prayers are not completed.
My friend with cancer stricken,
His grandchild bowed with pain,
Another wracked by fears and doubts
Between tormenting poles.
The churches need upholding,
The pastors need support.
Their neighbourhoods need witness,
The people need a word
Of love and patient listening,
Encouragement, of God.

Oh quiet hour, where has thou gone?
For I am not yet done!
And still the day advances
The race calls to be run.
The treadmill needs a treading,
There are classes to prepare.
The dawn will soon be coming,
Its hour’s march is here.
And yet I sit and linger
Wilt thou not tarry here?

A morning muse by Carman
Be blessed with smiles today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The world is certainly changing. That statement won’t come as a surprise to anybody, since at times it feels as if change is the one true constant in our world.

What has me thinking about that this morning is the continually evolving presence of Community of Christ in the city of Toronto. I am by no means an expert on the history of the church in the city, but I do know that only a few generations ago there was one downtown church on Soho street, and a small northern mission on Sudan Avenue, "way up North" in the Mount Pleasant and Eglington area. To the West was the Humber Bay “branch”, and out in the country, way to the Northwest, stood the old Woodbridge church. Soho Street was eventually sold and replaced by a brand new presence on Bathurst Street, and the North Toronto group joined in. This new building was built in stages and I believe was not finally completed until the 1960s.

In the optimistic period of the 1950s and ‘60s, the city of Toronto rapidly expanded into the suburban areas, and so did the church. New “missions” were established in Scarborough, Downsview, Cooksville and Oshawa, and a new church was contructed in Woodbridge. By 1970 we had six congregations in the so called Greater Toronto Area; Toronto (Bathurst Street), Scarborough, Willowdale, Woodbridge, Etobicoke and Mississauga, all with good, solid, and mostly new buildings. The Oshawa group continued to meet sporadically with the members eventually joining Scarborough.

In the latter part of the 20th century, the post-WWII optimism of the church was confronted by the unforeseen reality of the so called “post-Christian era”. Increasingly empty pews led to a period of consolidation. A much smaller Willowdale made the decision to sell the building and become a house church. The three congregations on the West side of the city, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and Woodbridge, decided to amalgamate and form one stronger unit, now known as GTA-West. This congregation is currently in the process of searching for a new location where they can be effective in their mission, and positively impact the larger community for Christ.

The recent rapid growth of Toronto’s population has seen an insistent demand for housing, especially along the subway routes. A few years ago, Toronto’s downtown congregation began to be approached by developers seeking to buy the property for a condominium site. While such approaches were initially rebuffed, the high cost of maintaining and heating the big building eventually led to a deal, and another change began. As the end of 2011 nears, the congregation is still using the old building but is in the process of planning for a new future; perhaps as part of the new condominium. Once again, the question to be answered is, “How can we best fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ in this community?” This small group of faithful disciples is working to discern the answers.

In Canada’s largest city, the presence of Community of Christ continues to evolve. Currently we have three congregations, Scarborough, Toronto, and GTA-West. All three are working to be about their mission. In this, they follow the example of Jesus who said it best so many years ago;
“I must be about my father’s business.” (Luke 2:49).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Once upon a time there was a very powerful king who invaded all the neighbouring kingdoms. This king was very clever. He realized there were many people living in those conquered city-states who had skills and talents that he could use to enrich life in his kingdom. Consequently he rounded up all the rulers and leaders, skilled trades people, priests, artists and artisans, and took them back to his capital city. He left behind the ordinary farmers and labourers, and a most extraordinarily troublesome man who claimed to speak for God. The intelligent king, of course, was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the troublesome prophet was Jeremiah. Probably the king reasoned that it would indeed be smart to leave this rabble-rousing poet behind!

Some time after this exile began, Jeremiah sent a most unusual letter to the captive people in Babylon. This message was not filled with his usual diatribe against wickedness and unfaithfulness. He did not say, “I told you so,” but rather, offered some advice that must have seem equally frustrating to the readers. “Build houses and make yourselves at home. Settle in. Plant gardens, you’ll still be there to eat what you grow. Find mates, get married and have children and even grandchildren; you are going to be there for a long time.” And then he said the most challenging and difficult thing of all. "Seek the welfare of the city where you live, and pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Pray for our captors? Seek blessings for them? Ouch!

One of the blessings of scripture, even the parts that seem challenging, is that reflecting upon it may allow truths to emerge that have direct application to our own lives. As different as our current circumstance are from those ancient, captive Israelites, somehow the words may speak with equal applicability. In this day of shrinking congregations, is it possible that our hope lies in the communities where we live? Does Jeremiah’s advice call to us with relevance across the past 2600 years?

“Seek the welfare of the city where you live, pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” What if our congregations did that? What if our work was for the benefit of our neighbourhoods? What if our ministers saw their stewardship as a ministry to the city, town or village where they live? What if we saw our true calling as being, not just to church members but to the people who live in the community where the church is? If the church were truly a blessing to the community, would the community not also bless the church? Isn't this worth our time to think about?

Of course Jeremiah’s words also find an echo in a modern prophecy, but perhaps that is a subject for another day. For those who are impatient, however, you might want to look at Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a.

May our days be blessed with opportunity for both reflection and action.

Posted by Carman

Monday, October 31, 2011


As Marion indicated in her Last post, we have been talking for some time about the future of What’s the Good Word. It is clear from many of your comments and questions that some of you are wondering too. You deserve an answer, so the purpose of this post is simply to share with you what we have in mind.

We began the blog in June of 2009 as another channel of communication and conversation. Marion chose the title as representative of all the good things that were (and are) happening in Canada East Mission, which is primarily what we wanted to share. Marion took the initiative to get it going. Within two weeks I began contributing occasionally and then regularly. For almost 2 ½ years, we have blogged 5 days per week. I guess we must have had a lot to say, because between us we amassed over 600 of these short essays.

During that time, you, our faithful readers and friends, have been generous with your appreciation, often shared with us personally if not in the comments section. We have highly valued your thoughts. At the same time, it sometimes felt a little daunting when people would tell us the blog had become part of their morning devotions! We were glad people found the blog so helpful, but "devotional" really was never our intent. We talked about that, finally deciding (in Marion's immortal words) "it is what it is," and then went on with what we do.

For both Marion and me, writing is part of what we do, and it is generally more of a pleasure than a chore. Still, it takes a little time each day to prepare a thoughtful piece, and Marion’s retirement represents a major transition. Were I now to take on the task of blogging 5 days per week, the task would indeed become a chore and perhaps a burden. We do not want that to happen. Our conversations together should always be joyous and never an obligation.

Consequently, we have decided to shift What’s the Good Word from a Monday to Friday blog to a more occasional one. Occasional is much more the norm in the blogosphere, with many bloggers who began writing daily, moving to semi-regular offerings. We will continue to share good news as it occurs, probably along with other musings, not every day but perhaps two or three times per week. We hope Marion may still contribute occasionally, and who knows, perhaps some of the other CEM staff, either in the office or out, may also find they have something they wish to say.

It you have subscribed to receive the blog by email, you will continue to get it there. It will also continue to show up on facebook. If you miss receiving a daily piece, there are half a dozen fine blogs listed to the left that you may wish to follow, and there are many others available. We may add more from time to time, and you may also wish to suggest some that you especially like.

So…today marks a transition of sorts, or at least a shift in the frequency of the conversations we enjoy together here. As we have often tried to point out, a conversation flows two ways, so let me ask you, dear friends, What’s the Good Word for you today?

Oh, and by the way, Happy Halloween!

Posted by Carman

Friday, October 28, 2011


This is my last regular contribution to What’s the Good Word. More than six hundred posts ago, we launched this blog as a way to stay in touch with the membership of Canada East Mission. It was intended to be somewhat less formal than memos to pastors or weekly announcements. It was offered to any who wanted to read it, no directions, no filters. We meant to let the general population know of all the positive things that were going on in the various congregations and neighbourhoods around our extended Community.

We decided to focus on the idea of the Good Word and to keep our news upbeat. That really hasn’t been difficult, as the good deeds continue to happen and to spread! Our blog evolved as Mission President Carman joined in with an occasional good word too. His participation now is roughly half the postings, so he won’t have any problem continuing as the primary blogger. (But please encourage him with the occasional response; it makes him feel good when you comment.)

In talking about the future of the CEM Blog, Carman and I have identified several ways we have benefited. Identifying a “good word” or a “reportable item” has given our ministry an important focus. We’ve never collaborated or consulted with one another about what we’ll post; and yet, we almost always find ourselves lifting up similar issues or questions or wonderful observations we’ve noted in our travels and communications around the Mission. Sometimes our “news” turns into an almost-meditation as we try to articulate feelings we’re having or struggles we’re thinking about. We long ago decided that these too qualify as “good words.” So those postings that feel more like poems have crept into our blog.

Both of us have poetic tendencies, as you’ve noticed. And this has been an excellent writing practice for me. But herein lies the reason for my decision to make this my “last post.” I really do want and intend to establish an ongoing writing practice. I need to shift my focus from a daily five-hundred word commentary on a current Mission issue and let it loose into whatever new country my imagination needs to explore. I need to unhitch my thoughts from the discipline of regular blog-writing into something new.

I believe Carman intends to allow me the occasional guest blogger position. I know he needs to change his implied promise to a daily blog. He may even be able to recruit some other guests to help him maintain this essential conversation. In other words “What’s the Good Wordwill continue! But for me, I wish him and all of you a bright future. Thank you for all your encouragement, for your faithful reading and thoughtful reflections. This is my last regular post, but I’ll let you know when my writing practice yields something new for you to read (perhaps even a personal blog, eventually). Meantime, keep on with following “What’s the Good Word.”

Posted by Marion

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I have shared previously in Whats the Good Word that my morning quiet time has brought me to a review of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah in the Hebrew scriptures. This morning I am thinking about the shepherds in Jer. 23:1-4. Jeremiah used the term “shepherd” in a different way than we normally do today, so perhaps that is the place to start.

For me, and perhaps for you, the image of the shepherd is coloured by years of Christmas pageants and the many idealized and romanticized paintings of Jesus the Good Shepherd we are probably all familiar with. In the gospels, Jesus uses this pastoral image to describe his own role. This must have been quite jarring to the people of his day, since shepherds were not the normal, ideal role model for a teacher/rabbi.

Jeremiah uses the image of the shepherd to refer to the kings of Israel and Judah. The author blames the rulers of the nations for destroying and scattering the sheep, referring to the invasion of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity. In this text, the scattering of the sheep is a direct result of not being faithful to God and allowing the people to chase after other deities.

Today it is common to use the image of shepherd interchangeably with that of the pastor. The pastor/shepherd is one who watches out for and cares about the well-being of the congregation, the people within her/his care. Rather than destroy or scatter the flock, the pastor is expected to protect the sheep, see that they are spiritually fed and nourished, and generally tend to their needs.

Perhaps the oldest question in Scripture is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Am I expected to guard, protect, or attend to those around me? The testimony of both Jeremiah and Jesus is a resounding YES! The thing all of the above images have in common is the idea that we have responsibility to care for others, especially those within our sphere of influence.

Inevitably, that bring me/us to a consideration of my/our own pastoral ministry. Am I/are we being a responsible shepherd in caring for the needs of others? Do I/we attend to them, notice when they are missing, go visit them and check to see if they are okay, assuring them that they still have a place within the flock? Or do I/we simply lament the fact that they have wandered away somewhere,and the flock keeps getting smaller? Am I, as a pastor responsible for all of that? Once again, the testimony of both Jeremiah and Jesus is a resounding YES!

That peaceful, pastoral image of the shepherd can be most disturbing at times, can't it?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Here we are at the turning of the seasons, yet again. And at the same time my own life is in a transition into something new. As Carman and I have been talking about how the blog will continue into this new season I am recalling one more poetry exercise that seems to have a bearing here. It's a thought that has occurred to many a poet over the centuries; I do not claim originality here.

This eternal question shows up in this poem of mine "Is life a circle too, or just a line...?"

I wrote this sestina in the spring, but no matter. I think it fits today. I share it with you as I'm considering this new transition in my life. Perhaps it will give you something to think about for yourself.

Seasons, A Sestina

Standing still I hear the sound of running water
Is winter done? I listen and I wonder
at the changing of all matter
This space I’m occupying, is it really mine
or will it melt and run away for good
Will it come again, like every season

“To everything there is a Season”
quotes the preacher, and the water
illustration can be good
and yet as I perceive the world with wonder
I cannot help but question what is mine
How best ensure my little life can matter

The snow, the mud, drab grass, uncovered matter
mark this, as yet, unflowered season
Too soon to walk out into that garden of mine
All that grows there now is under water
and yet I know it’s there, all tucked in wonder
waiting for the warming sun and good

warm wind and drying days, for good
signals that it’s time again to matter
Geese arrive in squadron formed in wonder
instincts intact, smaller birds too read the season
Fat robin waits on hedge, finds water
worms and grubs to mine

Swirling signs that seasons change around me. Mine
a life amid the birds, the plants, the melting snow, all good
I try to read the message of the seasons
Where in my lengthening days will I find water
How do robins teach me what can matter
What must melt away, what remain with wonder

Is life a circle too, or just a line, I wonder
As seasons change this puzzle still is mine
It seems so clear that each returning season
washes out the old, returns the good
springs up anew the precious things that matter
like life responding to that fresh spring water

Where is that refreshing water to renew my life I wonder
How shall I ensure all my days matter, that new energy is mine
Be certain every good comes round again in each transforming season

Posted by Marion