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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,