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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?"

Monday, January 31, 2011


One of the blogs we follow (it’s RevGalBlogPals over in our sidebar) posted a request for favourite scriptures the other day. At first I thought I didn’t really have any, or at least not five of them I could quote off the top of my head. I used to think I just could not remember chapter and verse at all! But that has changed.

One of the first I recall thinking “I can remember that!” was Jeremiah 31:31. Paraphrasing a couple of verses that begin there: God said, I will make a new covenant... I will put my law into their hearts and I will be their God and they will be my people.

And I recall the old question used to divide the congregation. “Are you a Great Commission Christian or a Lukan Manifesto person?” In other words, do you prefer Go into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28) or would you rather bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free (Luke 4)? I know, I know. It needn't be either/or and can be both/and.

Of course I was delighted to find Mark 12:28 And Jesus had spent all day arguing with the Sadducees. That felt like a verse made just for me, after all, how bad can it be if Jesus spent the whole day arguing? And another I often think of, especially if the dampness has got into my joints: Strengthen the weak hands; make firm the feeble knees (Isaiah 35:3).

Many have grabbed hold of some of the later passages from the Doctrine and Covenants, and there is some wonderful poetry there as well as memorable scripture, but I still like Section 119:8b a whole lot: all are called according to the gifts of God unto them…let them labour together for the work intrusted to all.

Why I even had a passage from the book of Moroni read at my ordination: whatsoever thing is good is just and true; nothing that is good denies the Christ but acknowledges that he is. (Moroni 10: 6) I like the rest of that chapter pretty much too. And I expect several of you to be thinking of King Benjamin’s words.

Several of those who commented on the Gals’ blog quoted Micah. And it’s true. You really can’t beat it: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

So there you have some of MY favourites. Care to share some of yours? And do you remember chapter and verse?

Posted by Marion

Friday, January 28, 2011


“We Human beings discover what we know by listening to ourselves talk…”
- Phyllis Tickle; The Great Emergence, p.19

Something about the above quotation resonates with me. There is an important truth resident within those words. It is often through the process of talking that we are able to clarify our thoughts as we push through the cobwebs that have grown up in the mental doorways we have not needed to enter for a while.

In our home, for some reason we have our best conversations in the morning. It will start with something one of us is thinking about and needs a second opinion on. The discussion will begin before or during breakfast as we clarify the issues, and by the time I need to leave for the office, the conversation will be in full voice. “I have to go, but hold that thought” is a common expression at such moments. Alas, one is not always able to pick up the threads where one has dropped them!

We also do a lot of talking in our office. This is not the casual kind of water-cooler conversation about the previous night’s hockey game, or what one had for dinner the evening before. Instead, we wrestle with questions. Sometimes we work to make sure we are asking the right ones, and then talk together as we try to figure out the best answers to those questions. As the staff of the Mission Centre has become smaller, and the problems and issues have grown more complex, the conversations have become ever more helpful and important.

How can we help congregations move from maintenance to mission?
What can we do to encourage more leadership in the congregations?
How can we further empower our amazing young adult leaders?
How do Witnessing/Inviting ministries differ in an urban environment from a rural one?
How shall we accelerate the pace of our pastor training program (CPI) so as to train more people faster, but without causing a huge increase in costs?
How do we offer ministries and opportunities to Post-Congregational people?
Who are the best people to lead the new What Matters Most workshops?
And increasingly, how shall we deal with some of these issues after Marion retires later this year?

Astute readers of What’s the Good Word? will recognize that some of these same themes also show up in this blog from time to time. It is all part of the process of talking, as we discover together what we know.

The above questions are but a sample of the things we talk about as we seek to empower the congregations and leaders for mission, so I wonder, what about you; what are you talking these days?

Posted by Carman

Thursday, January 27, 2011


“Please come and help us, you’re the expert.”

I hear this a lot. I like to be invited to “come help” and I don’t mind needing (on some topics) to be the “expert.” I have lived a long time and I do have quite a lot of experience and I’ve built up some expertise in some areas. Believe me, there are plenty of areas where I’m no expert and I know what it means to need to call on someone else for the expertise I clearly lack.

But here’s my dilemma. Many of the things I’m “expert” at don’t need to be my exclusive domain. I’d much, much rather be AN expert, rather than THE expert, if you know what I mean. CEM is a broad area with many communities, many people and many more people we could reach or touch if we just had a few more experts.

In fact, you don’t even need to be an expert. If you’d be willing to build your own knowledge about some of the things I know, I’d just be ever so pleased to help you along. I’d surely love to hear of people who would like to learn from me. I’m always on the lookout for folks who don’t yet feel entirely competent or experienced, but would like to learn how to teach a class or facilitate a workshop or recommend a trusted resource or review a promising book. Those are some of the areas I get called on. How I would love someone to co-teach, to take notes, to debrief, to compare opinions. In other words, to build up their own expertise.

We need lots of experts if we’re going to succeed with the goals set before us (2020 Vision). But none of us began as an expert. We all started out just being interested in something, or suspecting we might find a passion if given half a chance. If you’d really like to develop some experience, here’s what I suggest:

Look around for someone you consider an expert. Get to know them better. Tell them, straight out, that you’d like to build some knowledge or skill in the thing you see them doing. Ask if you can spend some time with them. Ask them to recommend something you could read. Suggest you chat about it later. Invite yourself to tag along the next time they’re …fill in the right word…teaching, preaching, listening to a speaker, going to a movie, preparing a budget, searching out a new text book, visiting in the hospital, cooking for a crowd, setting up a sound system, designing a web page. There are just myriads of things where we have experts and where we’ll be needing lots more skill/wisdom/expertise as we say good bye to our retirees and move with confidence into the decade before us.

What do you think? Is there an expert near you that you’d like to nominate as your teacher/mentor?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I stand in line at Starbucks.

A series of monogrammed coffee mugs catches my eye.

Each bears only one word, like Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace, but not Joy, Hope, Love or Peace.


Hmmm... Where does my Passion lie?

Passion for Christ?
Passion for this community?
Passion for a relationship with God?
Passion for Peace, Reconciliation, and Healing of the Spirit?
Passion for my larger community?
Passion for people?
Passion for…


Where does my passion lie?

Where does yours?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Full serve

I was so pleased to find a full service station on my way into London Sunday. A nice young man was willing to stand out there in the cold and put gas in my car. He popped the hood and topped up the windshield washer that had been pumped dry washing off an hour’s worth of highway splash. While I sat inside my warm car listening to my radio.

Full service stations are going the way of the dodo. Two such stations within a couple of blocks of my office have closed completely—gone! I’m guessing they can’t compete with the self serve places. Everybody out of the car; pump it yourself!

I had a friend who always left his tray and the dregs of his McDonald's meal, despite the handy bins and clear expectation that diners clear their own tables. “I’m saving some kid’s job,” he explained. “As long as there are jerks like me who won’t ‘do it yourself’ they’ve gotta keep somebody employed to clean up after me.” I’m always conflicted if I eat in fast food places. One good reason I’m more likely to choose the sit-down full serve place myself.

Have you bumped up against this clash of desire for full service in a culture of self serve? We like discount store low prices but are annoyed by messy shelves, clothes on the floor, nobody to ask when you need help. We’re frustrated by enormous unwieldy plastic packaging on our electronics or cosmetics, forgetting it’s been developed primarily to deter shoplifting in an understaffed store.

So I’m thinking this impacts somewhat on our church, or our congregational life. Is that a place where we’d really like a full serve establishment but forget we’ve chosen to ‘shop’ at a self serve denomination? Are we asking for a complete range of programming options but don’t have time to be on the planning committee? Maybe don’t even have time to register for events, but would like to know they’re there in case we have a free evening or weekend or whatever?

“Communication” is always a hot topic. Ask anyone and they’ll wish for better communication. “Someone” should be doing a better job. With all the technology available, couldn’t we have a classy website, a top-notch newsletter (available electronically or hard copy), regular reminders and telephone (Twitter?) chains keeping us apprised of prayer needs and skating parties at the rink in the pastor’s yard! But who is that someone, or ones who will volunteer the hours or contribute the dollars to pay for these services?

I could go on with lots of illustrations, but it would be difficult to keep them anonymous enough to ‘protect the innocent.’

I had a great conversation recently with a willing volunteer for a certain commission that shall remain nameless. We were grappling with some of these very questions and coming to a conclusion that it is essential to clearly define their responsibility, to have a precise understanding of what they can and cannot do. These folks are willing to serve! But they also have lives, so they can’t be full-serve! But they can tell you where to put your garbage and give you a really great product at a good price, if you’re willing to serve yourself along the way, hopefully with a smile.

Please don’t share your complaints. Skip right to any solutions that are working for you and share them.

Posted by Marion

Monday, January 24, 2011


In this post, I would like to pay tribute to the women and men who make up the Order of Evangelists, especially the twenty-four such ministers who reside and work in Canada East Mission of Community of Christ.

For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with this term in our tradition, Evangelists are not fiery eyed people who preach on television; in fact, quite the opposite. These are some of the most gentle and gracious people I know. Often they may even seem a little shy, and yet they always greet you with a smile, and somehow you can sense that they are genuinely interested in you. These are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Evangelists, in Community of Christ tradition, are an order of mature priesthood members who are called to be Ministers of Blessing. These are not congregational pastors, although many of them may have served in that role in the past. Instead, these are people who stand apart from administrative church work. Their function is to be with people, to listen and to care. Perhaps the most fitting description I can think of for these folks is to say that they are simply teacher/learners and spiritual companions. They do offer public ministry such as preaching, but as former Presiding Evangelist Everett Graffeo once noted, they are not so much a “sage on the stage as they are a guide by our side.”

Amidst all their other duties, there is on thing that sets Evangelists apart from all other priesthood ministers; one thing that only they do. These women and men have the ability to give you something called an Evangelists Blessing. “What is that?” you may wonder. Let me try to explain.

Let us imagine you are struggling with some decision or other. You try to think it through, but you ask yourself, “Where is God in all this? Could God not provide some signpost along the road of life that might help me find my way?” That is where an Evangelist comes in. Here is someone who will be glad to sit or walk with you, and listen to your questions, for weeks or months if necessary. S/he will pray with and for you in an effort to discern whether there might, in fact be “a word from God” that they could share. Then, when the time is right, the Evangelist will bring you that word. Be assured that this is not some kind of magical process, but it is a spiritual one.

If you would like to visit with an Evangelist but do not know who might be available in your area, feel free to contact me for a referral. I will be happy to suggest someone who lives near and who would be glad to visit with you. You will be glad you did. You can send me an email at

In the meantime, know you are blessed today.

Posted by Carman

Friday, January 21, 2011


This morning I impulsively registered for a writing class. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been a formal participant in one of these classes, although I’ve been at least casually connected with my local writing teacher and writing friends for seven or eight years now. One would think I’d have lots more to show for it than I do; no books written yet, despite all the best intentions. (Maybe when I retire!)

Mostly I ventured into writing class to connect with a group of compatible folks who are not part of church and work. While I quite love you all (church and work friends) I felt a need for something outside the spheres where I spend so much of my time.

The first class I registered for was also something of an impulse. I saw an ad for a small group class on “Writing from your life.” Since I had plenty of “life” I expected I would at least have the necessary raw material. The price was right and the time commitment reasonable so I signed up.

It has been a great journey. Melinda, our instructor, is a trained psychologist who practises some wonderful, gentle therapy in this town. And to give herself a change of pace, she teaches writing classes. Groups vary from season to season but generally it’s the same dozen or fifteen people who keep coming back in various combinations of five or six at a time. I’ve been introduced to a number of genres, many of which I would never have tried but for these classes. Certainly I would never have written my “prize-winning” poem without their encouragement. Who knew?!

We do encourage each other’s efforts. Lots of positive feedback and the occasional suggestion have sent many of us into uncharted territory that has turned out to be just what we needed at a particular point in our life journeys.

I’d encourage anyone who wants to take a break from work and life, or who would like to meet some different folks from the ones you see every day, or to discover something about yourself you didn’t know before, to have a look at the classes being offered in your town. What’s going on at the library or the local school? Check out the bulletin boards in your grocery store or the health food store or the local craft outlet or the farmers’ market. I guarantee you’ll see someone is offering a class or a group and for not very much money, you can open whole new worlds.

What have you always thought you’d like to do but haven’t had a chance yet? Or have been too busy to take the time for? Or needed someone to impose the discipline to stick with it?

I’ll keep you posted on my writing classes that start on February 24. Let us know what you register for; I’m interested.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, January 20, 2011


"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” -Matthew 5:13

Salt of the earth; when you think about it, that is such an odd phrase. Why would Jesus say such a thing? After all, salt does nothing good for terra firma that I know of. Ancient conquerors would often pour salt on the land of the cities they captured, and even plow the salt into the ground. (See Judges 9:45) It appears to have been a kind of curse to say that the conquered land would never produce or rise again. Clearly that is not what Jesus had in mind. “Salting the earth” and “salt of the earth” are not the same thing.

My commentaries and Bible Dictionaries shed little light on why Jesus chose to use this phrase in the Sermon on the Mount, but we can presume that the people who heard it would have understood. In that day before refrigeration, salt was used as a preserver and purifier of food, and we assume that this is the simile intended. Without salt, the fish or other meat bought fresh at the market in the morning would spoil very quickly in the middle-eastern heat, but salt would preserved it and made it safe to eat. In other words, used in this way, salt saved the day.

Interesting that we still use the phrase today, and when we do, it is in a very complimentary way. “They are good people, the salt of the earth,” we say. Salt of the earth is not generally a term applied to the influential and powerful, or the rich and famous. It is most often said about ordinary people who quietly go about caring for others. The phrase is not used to describe the dragons of business who amass great fortunes, although wealthy people often do great good with their money; witness Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffet who have given billions to save and improve lives. No, when we use that phrase, we generally mean that the people being spoken of are gentle, humble folk who wouldn’t knowingly hurt anyone else.

The salt of the earth are the kind of people who hear you are sick and bring over a casserole to express their caring and concern. They quietly volunteer at the local hospital or homeless shelter. They give money to causes, whether Alzheimer’s research or animal welfare. They can often be found driving people to the cancer clinic, or visiting the lonely. They are the first to bring canned goods to church when the call goes out that the local food bank is running low. These are people who care.

Thank God for the “Salt of the Earth!” It is people like these who still save the world and make it a safe and enjoyable place to live. According to Matthew, it is who we are called to be.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Once upon a time, in my former life, I worked with many professionals from other countries, especially developing countries, who would come to Canada for several months, usually a full year, to learn the nuts and bolts of “value-for-money-auditing.” (Canada leads the world in its expertise with this particular type of audit, for which I am very grateful as it has given me lots of valuable experience and good friendships around the globe!)

I loved being with the folks from other nations as they learned about auditing, but it was way more fun to watch them learn about us, our country, our culture, our climate. I recall once hearing one African gentleman explaining to a newly arrived Caribbean fellow how to walk in snow. “You might think it’s like sand but really it’s quite different. As you step on it, it just goes away under your foot.”

Then there was the day we had to keep stopping class to photograph the first snowfall as the snow piled up on the street, on the grass, on top of the fire plugs and street signs. The time lapse photography was remarkable to see; I gained a new appreciation for this amazing but very common Canadian experience. I recall Regina, a good friend from Swaziland, coming into my office early in September, wrapped in parka, gloves and scarf! “I’ll never use the word ‘cold’ again when I go back home!” she exclaimed.

One thing these international friends all picked up very, very quickly in their Canadian stay. They would discuss it among themselves. They soon realized that the answer to “How are you?” which they may have used back home, or learned in an English conversation class, was quite different here. More than once someone has asked my why they had been so misled. (I tended to be the person to ask such questions.)

The answer to “How are you?” is not some version of “Fine thank you,” or “I am very well, how are you?” as they had been taught. No, the answer is always: “Busy!” Usually there is a long sigh and then often there will be a litany of the many projects needing work, the long to do list, the many appointments to be kept, the children’s schedules, the renovations underway, the spouse’s equally long and impossible lists.

My international friends could not understand how we had allowed this to happen to us. It just didn’t make sense to them. And it really did tend to slow down the work day to have this ritual conversation every single time. My friends found it exhausting, but unavoidable. Think about it. What is your first response when someone asks that question: how are you? Can you keep yourself from responding: Busy!

A new element has been added as I’m considering my imminent retirement. (You may have heard of it.) Retired folks I know invariably confide that they’ve never been so busy as since they’ve retired. And they tell me with a confusing mixture of despair and satisfaction. It’s as if they were afraid they might fade into nothingness once they’ve stepped off the clock, but now realize they still have purpose because they are still busy.

Congregations and pastors I visit deal with this phenomenon all the time. Scheduling is just so difficult; people’s lives are just so busy. What have we gotten ourselves into anyway? My international advisers tried to teach me, and I’ve tried to learn how important it is not to let myself get so busy that I don’t have time for the things that are most important to me. How about you? Any thoughts on this issue?

Posted by Marion