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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?"

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