Posts Tagged ‘Alberta Bible College’


Days usually begin for me with checking social media, and the memories feed of Facebook brings back recollections. Today’s feed shared this thought from 1 year ago:

192 is not simply a number. It is my brain rebooting properly. It is my wife and kids having 192 days of the almost old me back, no fear of Dad dropping and not getting back up. In 2016 I had a series of micro-strokes that shattered my mind palace, and the slow decline began from May-October 2016 to my b-day in 2017, during that time overnight terrors, weird flu like symptoms ongoing and unknown at the time overnight seizures… on my B-day 2017 the daily massive almost constant seizure activity started that took me out of work by October, and had the experts asking how I was still working or why I was not dead yet? A year of the unknown and heavy dosage for epilepsy would follow before I would finally be diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures…then by February (and in between 3 bad drop seizures) when treatment would start, it would be added to with Complex and A-Typical PTSD, and a Conversion disorder. Two psychologists at the PhD level later– #roadtohalloween… I write this so maybe, someone who needs to get help knows, it is worth it. No matter what you are feeling, seek the help for your physical,mental, neurological or spiritual health (or all of the 4)–get that tune-up (check-up, physical); just book in with a counsellor or do the drop in at East Calgary to ensure all is well… if something is found, work with the team, do the homework, and get to the new you…its not always easy, and the new you may not be the same…but its YOU. So yeah, 192 DAYS SEIZURE FREE! #PTSD#PNES#Recovery

For those that have read my works Soul Ripples and this long running site, know what this is in reference too. My struggle back from the brink, the loving support of my (then purged) personal circles of support, and accessing the professional circles of support in recovery. Through love and support, I was able to dive deeper between treatments than I probably would have if I had been alone.

Steps in faith, answering the still small voice of the Holy Mystery, had led me in recovery to test the waters of my ability to think and engage, attending a leadership conference at Alberta Bible College (and then a summer intensive course I would audit). As an alumni a healthy reconnection, where I would meet a pastor from a small town church, and as my family and my healing were at a cross roads to maybe not walk away from the faith, definitely the church– reignited our passion for community (that readers will know of in my work and writings).

Unfortunately this cross roads also led us to a socio-economic reason for not being able to continue with our faith family there (gas and travel takes its toll when living on a disability stipend at that moment). We began to explore in the same network of churches…and would find a place to rest in Calgary.

Why this opening? As it takes me through the re-connection of that time of my life. Rummaging deep and spending time in the stories that mattered to me. Connecting again with scripture deeper, and my faith. Having confusion of relationships clarified with those that remain with you in crisis. It also reminded me as my mind rebooted and I became me again, the importance of story. How it raises questions, discussions, and aids in building community. True stories or fiction. Over the last few days thanks to Dollarama I have enjoyed reading the Justice League Darkseid Wars, which explores the concepts of good and evil, life and death, and what happens to one if they are given the powers of a god? What choices are made? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

See in the lens I bring to story, it is what can be discussed? Why does it matter? How does it aid us in understanding where we are at this point in history?

It was my way back out of the darkness of my own life, reconnecting with stories. At that time it was re-igniting my interest in Star Trek, and who knew the catalyst Vulcan, AB (Pastor Dave, and Vulcan Church of Christ) would play in the journey forward to 192.

Now 365 days later, 4 months away from another transition after an epilogue to one story, and beginning another. I continue the daily rummaging. Within the scope many say it was miraculous what happened in my life. Yes, as the path was laid out, community and family came around me, some things are still unknowable– but in the moment what I reflect on is that in those moments, those tears, those struggles in the darkness to find the light– there was the Holy Mystery.

Was it a proud my prayers were answered when so many were not?

No.

It truly was asking in the moment, and each step of the way what is happening? Why and how?

That is what brings me into the next reflection point, from Keith Allan Shields (2020) Supernatural. A scientist and a pastor I knew, and had discussed my engagement with scripture as story at different conferences, personally in our new emergent into a church in Calgary, he would take time with my son each Sunday.

But aside, a book like this illustrates why fiction and non-fiction is so important within our world. In certain moments, when we come to it where we are in our journey informs how we read and what we take away. In this work, in this moment it is reflecting on the understanding of the supernatural.

Do we take it as a atheistic-deistic view of impossible or coincidence? Do we enter into a hyper-super naturalistic view where everything is a manifestation of God’s intervention in our lives? Or is it somewhere in between?

As Shields’ shares personal stories of what could be seen as miracles, reflections of himself and others on where the church is at, and how things have developed. These are all pieces, yet for our own spiritual growth and practice there are two things that are take away (and I do encourage you to buy and read the book):

  1. Science and Religion are not at odds. Science explains the how questions while religion explains the why. They inform one another (much like many aspects of our lives). Take time to reflect.
  2. When a miracle happens or something that may be coincidental, it is not about simply celebrating that it happened. Really, take time to be in the moment, and reflect on what is happening with the Holy Mystery (for me I add within and through you).

This rummaging and reflection continued on this morning, as we awoke during c-tine, with my son being in the highest risk category, we have opted to continue attending church online. So our home (much like when it was the Rainbow Chapel) is a church once more. This morning we entered into service not knowing what to expect with the second part of the series, Closer.

Dr. Stan Helton, President of Alberta Bible College (the course I wrote about taking, was on Strategic Leadership was taught by Stan and there are reflections on the site tied to those as well) was the speaker today. His sermon was centered on, why scripture is part of our spiritual practice, and how to enter into a different way to read or re-read (ties back into that idea around story in general I was sharing that each time we come to the story depending on where we are in space and time speaks to us differently). The practice that was illuminated this morning comes from early Church Father Origen.

The key pieces are the 3 ways that scripture is to be read, as Origen tied it into the 3 ways the person was viewed in his time period. That is body, soul and spirit. The scripture was from St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 3: 1-6 (there is also an example from Hebrews, for the full talk (and yes it is worthwhile) go to the whole service here).

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. -2 Corinthians 3:1-6.

This lays out the 3 fold way of viewing.

  1. Body is the information reading point, as Joe Friday on the ol’ Dragnet show would say, “just the facts”.
  2. Soul is the transformation point as it lays out for the believer how to live (a moral lens and practice of life)
  3. Spirit is the contemplation (the rummaging phase if you will). This is the reading point where the mysticism enters into the energy that comes from God.

The full scope purpose, is that entering into the story is an experience of the Holy Mystery (and just as I have shared Ignatian practices and Franciscan practices around reading, I will also share the guiding questions Stan shared). For each of the 3 points, there is a question to contemplate:

  1. Body- how does this text invite us into God’s story?

2. Soul- how does this text invite us to become more like Christ?

3. Spirit- how does this text invite us to experience God’s spirit?

Take time, and enter into the service, and Stan’s sermon (here), then take a moment and enter into Communion (practice as it is part of the service) but then take this re-reading tool, and be in the text:

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

-Gospel of Matthew 26:17-29 (New International Version)

When you rummage, where is the Holy Mystery in your journey?


What are you hoping to get out of this weekend? Is preliminary table talk at any conference and honestly, I had no clue. It fit my budget and healing goals. The still small voice of the Spirit had told me to click yes, and that’s all I knew. I was not expecting the amazingly courageous safe space that had been created where I rapidly bonded with folks, and opened up to answer “what is it you are doing now?” From the apprehensive mumbled sabbatical to the truth of a forced medical sabbatical after decades of walking with folks out of the darkness to home, and the repercussions living with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures as the Conversion Disorder of A-Typical Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The sessions from Dr. C. Leonard Allen were a point of discovery, re-discovery, and renewal of learning. The Tuesday night talk led by Kelly Carter, Lane Scruggs and Jonathan Straker in regards to the Restoration Movement was another Spirit moment (and having learned about the historic biblical deism, it is quite a thing) …as discovering the Spirit is shaking and stirring many traditions outside of their historic homogenous roots and functioning with the beautiful mosaic blessing that is Canada (the world outside our front door).

The still small voice stirred, as a table mate would coin the phrase at our table as being “odd ducks” how apropos. Odd Duck. My mulling over the days had brought peace to a restless spirit inside me finally in the few quiet moments one could steal in the fun, learning and loving. It was true, because it was finally accepting not fitting fully any tradition, but being a child of all of them on a Spirit-led pilgrimage to discover living the Love of Jesus, and the soul of God. It is why my journey as the progressive Social Gospeler who was equipped at Alberta Bible College fit me so well, even though it confounded many.

But the full-on affirmation by many, to simply abide in the current Wilderness as I heal. Ensure I heal fully for it is possible, do not let the excitement of the new push away the pain. Rather place the excitement of the new on hold, so that I can exorcise the pain, and make the scabs into scars to move forward whole. Like I said, a courageous safe space formed in minutes like nothing never before felt.

And the added blessing, my wife, Shawna would chuckle about as I would come home with the question put to me throughout by different folks, “after you heal, have you ever thought of being a pastor?” or “stay in touch through the healing, and let’s see what happens with this.”

I came to the conference with no preconceived notions, it was simply a check box on a goal sheet for a course. The Holy Spirit knew better, and the still small voice buried in my soul became vocalized by new friends and mentors.

Thank you to all those who created community, fed the body, mind, and spirit.

Alleluia (yes even in Lent sometimes jubilation breaks through).

This piece had been submitted the day after the Summit hoping to make it into the Evangel (Alberta Bible College’s Newsletter), unfortunately it had gone to press before the Summit, hence I thought to share this here.

If you are looking for a post-secondary undergrad practical bible education and spiritual formation I recommend Alberta Bible College  (and not just cause I’m Alumni).


Working through recovery to get back control, to re-wire one’s brain and body for health and healing…part of this mentioned in the resources is that one should take a course as a structured goal. Unfortunately courses are expensive, as I reflect on what to do?

Then Facebook happens and unique things appear in one’s feed. For me it was the Spirit Shake up Leadership Summit 2019 at Alberta Bible College. Yes, I am an Alumni, though as one participant phrased our table we are Odd-Ducks. What does that mean? Anyone that has followed my labyrinth pilgrimage of ministry life know that I do not fit exactly anywhere. I was the ultra-progressive who attended the Restoration movement Bible College. I was not church raised, though I was baptized as a baby and a Vacation Bible School participant. Simply put, a living faith, and much like J.S. Woodsworth to this day if my Bible was to fall open it would easily open to Who’s your neighbour and the Great Commandments.

Here I was though, the price fit the budget for the 3 day conference just a click away (all I knew was it fit a good schedule for my health, and the budget I was unfamiliar with the speaker for the 3 days).

Then Monday night rolled around, and something shifted. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit begins whispering. Not sure what is being whispered yet. But the speaker, Dr. C. Leonard Allen (Dean of Bible at Lipscomb University) opened up a discussion about a movements interaction with the Holy Spirit (or lack of in what he termed Biblical Deism).

There will be time in later posts to explore what I heard and learned in the talks, but this is more about the times of connecting with other leaders, and some of the students at the school. It was like most gatherings, the first questions anyone is asked after name, and which city you are from. It started with mumbling about being on a sabbatical. Not wanting to deal with the usual religious backlash about lack of faith in regards to mental health. Slowly I would open up, as something was different in discussions that were raw and open with others about where they were at, what they were experiencing. It was a courageous safe space. I slowly moved to Forced Sabbatical to Medical reasons, finally breaking down to speaking of the ripple repercussions of decades walking with those lost in pain and darkness to create home and where it has left me with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures and A-typical Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  And expected the usual hate…

It never came.

Discussions about being present in the current wilderness. Taking the time to heal, and get myself healthy again. Acknowledgement of the work before hand being some of the hardest. Not to worry about timelines.

To keep healthy I took times each day there to do a Body Scan meditation to keep healthy, and check in where my holistic self was at. What came through was peace. It was a good feeling with some of the rocky ups and downs I had experienced with some students in my student days. Like I said, it had become this courageous and safe space where the messiness of humanity was accepted.

I had no idea why I had come, but the Spirit knew why I had to be here. It was to for a still small discernment voice to be given physical words outside myself. I am one that believes in communal discernment, and a few times I was asked over the weekend a simple question, that lifted burden from my soul.

“When you have journeyed out of the desert and are well, have you ever thought of being a pastor?”

More reflections from Spirit Shake up to come…

 


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The final morning of the Emerge 2012 conference. The Grande Prairie Worship band rocked it for almost 90 minutes, and you know it’s an energetic set when both Preacher_boi and Princess JLAAR are rocking out with the college and teenage crews. Alan Jones, the pastor from GP brought an amazing story from the perspective of the Israelites in the midst of the Exodus that captivated the imagination. Juli and her crew did an amazing time planning and executing a great weekend to deepend one’s understanding of God’s love.

The invitation to radically live into God’s love and Jesus’ inclusion…to deepen your faith and become the disciple you are truly called to be by entering into Bible College.

Let me know if you want me to be apart of Emerge 2013!


Holy Spirit painting

Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Diocese of...

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Opened sharing a bit of my story, the PG or G version of some incidents in the struggle of being a Christian in Recovery for a lifetime (which long time readers will know)…then moved into the fact that as an institution the church is in Crisis.  Reg Bibby and other sociologists have pointed out that a church a week closes in Canada, 400 in the last few years have vanished. The crystal cathedral went bankrupt and was bought out, Rick Warren has bankrupted Saddleback church twice. Bill Hybels formerly apologized to his congregation of Willow Creek for not doing enough to make disciples.

Plug and play programming has failed us.

Diana Butler Bass speaks of a new awakening, one where the Holy Spirit is moving within believers to renew the church even as the institution is dying around us.

Matthew Fox, the renewer of true Christian Mysticism, speaks of prayer as life, LIFE with God not as some formula or set words.

John shelby Spong speaks of his love of scripture, but his inability to read it for the black and white on the page, but rather for the depth of beauty of the story of life with God while acknowledging the texts of horror that lie within.

All this comes together with my life experience of Christian Recovery to come to these two simple lines today:

God is Love, Love is God

Emerge 2012

March 3 @ 2 p.m.

2 simple lines of scripture in how many thousands, yet 2 simple lines that carry such a wealth and depth of what it means to trust and walk with God.  Where does the Shema come from? The obvious answer is the book of Deuteronomy written by Moses, and you would be partly right…You come to ABC you will get to explore who actually wrote the Torah and the single author versus multiple sources, that’s not the point today no matter how much my geek bone wants it to be.

A people who had walked with God in the wilderness, who legend tells us built an empire with God, moved from a theocracy to a monarchy, then division, crumble, conquering, led into exile by the super power of the day. Some say 10 of the tribes would never return. Walking under a persecution that makes the Rwandan Genocide or modern day Afghanistan under the Taliban if you’re  a woman like the safest place on earth to be. These are a people that new what it meant to turn away from God or to walk deeply in God’s heart. They felt the dryness of the desert and the ecstaticness of joy.

It was during the return, Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall…yet his teammate, compadre, Ezra was with a group of priests reclaiming holy ground…the temple…and in this reclamation they “discover” a lost scroll. A regiving of “The Law” and in the midst of this retelling is this summation:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

What God Requires

12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? 13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.

 

For legalism had led to exile, so let’s get to the literal heart of the matter…then there is 400 years of silence from God supposedly, or simply God working in more covert ways than before. And BAM! We got a revolution.

A simple revolution, I’m not a fancy theologian, I have studied most of my life the sacred scriptures of many, but what I honestly believe is theology is where the living word meets you. Your life experience + learnings +the Holy Spirit while reading the word= Theology. We just need to be open to the Holy Spirit and where she is going to lead us.

I was a child of 11 when I was told there was no place for me in church, at 19 I was struggling once more to find my place in this world when I stumbled across these words in the Gospel of Matthew, red letters in a Gideon’s new testament while cleaning my room, and I was this close to throwing the testament out as the spine was snapped and pages falling out:

Matthew 22:35-40

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”[a]

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.[b] 38 This is the greatest and most important[c] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend[e] on these two commands.”

The Shema came to us between 6-4000 years ago. Almost 2,000 years ago when challenged to rank the legal system Jesus reminds us of it, and then builds on it. For a teen who was searching for God in spite of systems these words hit hard.

For you see love is a reciprocal ideal. If I give this unconditional love to God, it is because God has given it to me. If I love my neighbour then I must love myself. It is a 3 part love, a Trinitarian ideal…L-O-V-E.

A revolution to a people oppressed by rules. Those in the synagogue and marketplaces of Jesus’ time were more used to hearing what shall thee not do rather than, what shall we do…

What are you told what is the big “don’t” on the sin list?

(Audience feed in)

No to Sex. No to drugs. No to alcohol. No to this music, that dress, No to dancing, no to make up, no to this type of show or movie. No to this…

And you know what Jesus’ response was? It wasn’t picking out of the 617 laws, or the sayings of the prophets or the commentaries, or what the religious leaders said, or even what the Roman Empire dictated…Jesus simply laid it out for you: Love God, neighbour and Self with your all. Why?

Genesis Day 6. God made us in Her image. He called us very good. She blessed us and He called us Her beloved.

That’s why. Simple. Lovingly crafted to live out of and into a love that transcends all. A revolution that started at creation—the big bang theory kicked it off, 6,000ish years ago the Great Commandment was laid down, almost 2,000 years ago Jesus hits the religious authorities between the eyes with it in a ministry devoted to living life with God’s children.

A ministry where out of living this 3 part love, hope was renewed in the world. Institutions were shook to their core, and those who gave more credence to prominence, to wealth, and to tracking of attendance numbers.  What was Jesus message in all of this? It was simply what I have learned in my 25+ years of working to make my corner of the world a better place, the only number that matters is 1.

The one person before you now and yes, that one person before us we most forget about in our acts of love, ourselves, matters as well.

So I am asked to speak about what it means to serve and walk with God, it means humbling ourselves in confidence. It means walking with those who we like hanging out with, but taking steps out in faith to those we don’t like or get jittery around. It is about ensuring those with no voice, reclaim their voice, those who are hungry get fed, those without shelter or clothes get those, it is realizing that God’s family is a beautifully diverse collection of colours, genders, abilities, orientations…it is realizing that God is not one of exclusion…this love, this grace love gift that we reciprocate doesn’t come with strings, its not God’s put this out there so I need the magic spell, or the right amount of check marks in the did it, didn’t do it columns that was the system Jesus entered into to shatter and revolutionize. No this love gift is two ways, but we already have been given it by God, God’s just waiting for us to open our hearts fully.

So let the revolution continues. Look around this city, this world, we are all God’s children, and we are all given the same love and the same challenge to use this love to transform this planet for Kingdom is not a future promise, it is a command to build here.

I know these are the important words of God, because when I was preparing for ministry and in discernment for a pulpit call, one of those walking with me came with a prophetic word that summed up how he felt the Spirit guiding my life ministry, it is in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 12:28-34

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

The Primary Commands

28 One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?”[a]

29 “This is the most important,”[b] Jesus answered:

Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.[c] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[d][e]

31 “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.[f] There is no other command greater than these.”

32 Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. 33 And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding,[g] and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any longer.

How are you going to love God, neighbour and self today?

 

 


International Justice Mission

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The day opens with breakfast on campus, as we get ready to gather for morning worship…then into some try out classes.  Some of the participants head into Old Testament Literature, while others go to hear Ryan Skruggs to speak on Modern Day Slavery, and then International Justice Mission to speak on the practical theological applications to end this blight…lunch was a burrito feast thanks to the alumni, and then into worship, and my talk on walking and serving God…there will be another post on the actual speaking notes, but let’s say it was amazing to speak in the chapel, and too watch a new generation engage, while others disengaged over language choice of reference to God (he/she) or that the transgendered among us are as loved by God.

Four students spoke from their hearts and took questions as to how ABC is forming them for life long ministry…and currently they are doing a food/clothing drive for The Mustard Seed, tonight will be a banquet feast, and then more worship and a talk from Lee Primeau.

The highlight of the day for me though was the speech contest participant, Ericka who knocked it out of the park speaking on the love of God in making a life.  Congratulations!


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Okay so it is more like night one, and how you ask gentle reader did I wind up at Alberta Bible College‘s Emerge Youth Conference (Little known fact, I am actually an ABC Alumni shocking isn’t it?). But I actually wound up at the conference with my hunny, because I made a usual smart alec comment (astounding coming from Ty I know) to my colleague who was planning the event, and well she called my bluff so tomorrow I am speaking on walking and serving with God based on the Shema in Deuteronomy.

But I digress, tonight was the kick off and how my Alma Mater has changed… there was an electric energy from the students, an energy that maybe I wasn’t aware of, or did not want to be aware of while attending. The night kicked off with a high powered worship dance montage, then went into excellent worship provided by Grand Prairie Church of Christ’s worship band. The first speaker was Storm Moore from Kelowna, BC speaking on fearing and loving God another good set of worship, then small groups for those in attendance and by the looks of it the night will end with sumo suit wrestling.

So what is my reflection as I prayerfully prepare to do theology with high school kids and their pastors? Simple, that upon reflection too often we look at the age of someone and think we don’t need to go deep…yet for a true spirit of living life with God to “emerge” we need to take the opportunity to go deep with the youngest in our midst and affirm the calls God is placing on their hearts.

So what can be expected tomorrow? Another amazing day where I pray the spirit moves…

As for my chat, well we are going to do theology on the Shema…take life experience (and to be honest my ink and scars (interior/exterior) relate more to a life that equates to HBO than CW) add in one’s learnings in academia, crack open the bible and become open to the Holy Spirit for all this to work together to discover God’s will…

So take a swing by Alberta Bible College on Northmount Drive Tomorrow and see if there’s still room to register, and join the journey to Emerge into the love of God and living life out of this love…Let’s discover our call.


A book inscribed with the Greek letters alpha ...

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Official Alberta Bible College Logo

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Presbyterian Church in Canada

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United Church of Canada

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Arms of the Anglican Church of Canada
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I know when one sees the church in the media it is easy to believe that the division and leading cause of congregational closures (deaths) is due to theological issues ala scriptural interpretation, marriage doctrine, et al… this would be a fallacy from my experience.  I have been traveling with renewed vigor within the church for the past 15 years in both quote/unquote Liberal & Conservative churches, what have I discovered?

That the sins of Sodom & Gamorrah which was not homosexuality as so many have espoused but rather a failure on the cities to care for the stranger, the traveller (inhospitallity is never clearer than desiring to gang rape to travellers let me tell you)…this is coupled then in the Gospels when Jesus sends out his followers 2 x 2 and tells them that towns that won’t welcome them in (being hospitable) and the theme is once more picked up again within the letters of John.

So where does this leave us? Simple, the love of neighbour that God commands us too, is shown through our hospitality so, I guess truly it is a theological argument, because to love God we must love our neighbours as ourselves…

What does this mean? Well I have been well travelled in life, and served/been discipled in many different church traditions to name a few:

Youth Pastor within the United Church of Canada in Calgary (Specifically: Foothills, Symons Valley, Campbell-Stone, helped out with Central).

Youth Pastor with the Presbyterian Church in Canada (specifically: Centennial (also attended their Vacation Bible School as a young lad)).

Director of Youth & Children Ministries with the Anglican Church in Canada (Specifically: St. George’s—also I was the first baby baptized there).

Pulpit supply with Centennial Presbyterian, Campbell-Stone United Church,

Adult Bible Study Instructor at King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church

Lay Professional Leader at Prince of Faith Lutheran Church (was also on the board).

Also served as a board member with Foothills United Church, and a Warden at St. George’s Anglican Church.

Was a Lay Minister of Praise and outreach volunteer at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

Was a Young Adult group leader at Rockyview Alliance Church

Aided with the youth at Calgary Church of Christ

Week of Service with Rosscarrock Church of Christ

Taken Spiritual Directions Training, Global Faith through Emmanuel & St. Chad in Saskatoon Theological Union

Also part of conferences at St. Andrew’s at STU

Earned my B.A. from Alberta Bible College

My M.A. from Canadian Theological Seminary

and I have been a visitor/preacher in several small churches across Southern Alberta.

So this has been my experience of the bad (I will let you reader connect the dots on where you think this has happened):

  • Children dancing and playing in church compared to the den of thieves that the Pharisees had turned the temple into (mass spam e-mailed out to the whole church).
  • Elder members stating “Children do not belong at Good Friday service”
  • Priest apologizing for children being at Good Friday to appease
  • Spam e-mail to church members about the evil of their youth pastor teaching youth to live their faith, love God, read their bible, pray, and ask questions…labelling youth pastor with term “messiah complex”
  • Church board ordering the youth pastor to ask community youth to leave the youth group as they were an “untoward influence upon the other youth”
  • Seniors in the church adopting community youth at the 8 a.m. formal BCP service and sharing worship together
  • Baby Boomers telling youth to leave church service as they did not fit in.
  • Accessible ramps built outside the church so those who are differently abled, and not phased if they cannot join into after church activities
  • A Priest standing up during offering and stating “I served this week overnight at Inn from the Cold with our guests. It is not right that these hard working families have to bathe in sinks, so I ask you to give from the heart as there is a plumber downstairs right now putting in showers for us, and well we need to pay him”
  • We can’t have addicts in here, they just make the place trashy, and smell of smoke
  • We have a member in a wheel chair that can’t join us for potlucks, so we have put in an elevator, today’s offering is to pay for it.
  • A spam e-mail about what was learned in church as a written attack that children are out of control, parents are disrespectful, and there is no Godliness in the younger generations
  • A youth pastor who renewed the sunday school, and planted the youth group, told when the position became paid that he would have to apply as the church council was not sure that he was qualified for the job.
  • Families, and church members opening their homes to host youth events, bible studies and youth retreats as the church does not have a building.
  • A board stating that a ramp was not needed as the end of the parking lot sloped downwards for those who had mobility issues.
  • A church having a few members with walkers putting in a lift between floors so the entire church family can be together
  • Offering their building space to new canadians to grow their community together.
  • Long term members walking out on sermons and meditations
  • After leaving the church to go to another church to aid a family member, having the former church use myself as a scapegoat for all that went wrong with the church.
  • Professor equipping new pastors by clearly pointing out which denominations are cults, and which ones should cease to exist or die.
  • Church splits and arguments where pastors are publicly lynched, fired.
  • Members stating that children should not be in church
  • Maintaining a church’s youth and sunday school, offering to continue as unpaid staff if the money is used to invest in curriculum materials and the offer being rescinded because at 31 and 12 years of building ministries, working outreach was “unqualified”.
  • A strong differently abled young adult population that was active in the youth group still, the church education council deeming that they no longer could attend (killing the youth ministry) and leaving 3 members wondering why the church hated them.
  • Leaders of churches debating on what made a valid baptism, and stating this or that made the believer invalid

Each and all of these things happened in the myriad of different churches and circumstances, yet there was a core ethos the name on the building did not matter, it was if the believers in the pews and their leaders were living into and out of the love that is God the fruit was healthy, for the harmful fruit it was congregations and leaders that paid a lot of lip service to the idea of family, community, and trusting God (i.e. more impetus on the money coming (or not coming) in, rather than what the church is called to be…the soul of the community.

Further thoughts:

  1. Is your building a useful tool of ministry and outreach? A gift to the community? or an albatross that has become a money pit?
  2. Are your council members people who are called or just the ones that make eye contact and you take them to keep charitable status?
  3. Would church members give money even without the tax credit because they believe in the ministry of your church locally, nationally and internationally?
  4. Is your pastor spiritually healthy? Living a well balanced life? or burning out? Do you know the difference?

More to come on this journey through recovery as I continue to look at what the idea of hospitality means, later though…

 


 

Chapter Five

     I was definitely a progressive, if not even a human-theist when it came to my belief structures.  Yet I knew there was more to the Bible as a whole, my Mum had bought me a Good News Bible to aid in my teaching of Sunday School and it was time to grow my understanding.

     This led me to seek out the Bible colleges in the city around 2000, and there were two I found: Rocky Mountain College and Alberta Bible College (ABC).  I contacted both.  The one that got back to me was ABC.  As I got my minister and manager to fill out the reference sections my minister chuckled that I would be going to this college, and I did not understand why.

     My year and a half at ABC was “enlightening” as I began to experience and understand what the Christian Right was about.  But I also learned quite a bit about my faith, what I believed in, and that it was definitely not a form of traditional Christianity.

     One of the major good things that came out of my daytime classes was what was known as Christian Service Lab and Service Weeks.  These allowed me to grow in the pragmatic ends of my ministerial training (which is why I recommend ABC to those entering ministry regardless of theological orientation).

     It was during this time I started my service as a youth pastor officially within the UCC, although the name kept vacilitating we went from Youth Leader to Youth Minister to Youth Pastor to Youth Worker.

     My first day on the job as FU’s youth worker took us to the Mustard Seed Street Ministry to serve lunch to Calgarians experiencing poverty and homelessness. This first contact reignited a passion that had laid dormant for a while, and had shown me what my faith was truly about.

     Later that same year, the Service Week would take me with a team back to the Seed for a full week of 12-16 hour days of serving and I heard that voice again “this is it”. I began working as a volunteer at the Seed, and then would eventually leave my second “call” as a youth whatever the title of the week was, at Symon’s Valley United Church, due to essentially being tired of the congregational bull shit (yup, I was young and idealist, and believed in the Body of Christ, but really hated the institution that the church was, it was no single congregation’s issue just systemic throughout the system).

     I transitioned into Part-time on call relief staff at the Seed after serving as a volunteer youth pastor on the main floor taking street youth out to play basketball. I spent five years with the Mustard Seed.

     It was an amazing five years, I got engaged a second time to a girl far too young for me, not age wise as it was only four years, but experience and maturity wise as my folks raised us to become functioning autonomous individuals, but hers raised her to always be dependent. The time spent with her though was fun, and I learned a lot about myself, as my belief in my personal God deepened, and the realization that I kept fighting was that it was more and more not that which the institutional church had taught since the conversion of Constantine.

     I also had a highly positive experience serving as a youth pastor with Campbell-Stone United Church, an ecumenical congregation without a building that did ministry through the community and members houses and worshipped together in a social room that was rented on Sundays.

     This experience touched me deeply as I saw Christ each and every time we gathered wherever we were.  I witnessed a church that spent most of its money on building a better world than keeping a building aloft, and members that were not as stressed.  Could it be that the buildings and traditional structures were what was weighing the Body of Christ down from truly changing the world?

     Throughout my time with the Seed, I was not the healthiest, my mental health was cracking, but I spent time travelling Canada, meeting politicians, dating great ladies, and doing outreach work.

     In Medicine Hat I helped do some fundraising for their first homeless shelter (at that time they had the biggest homeless population per capita in Canada); I went to Ottawa on a pilgrimage to visit historic political sites, I sat in a Senator’s desk, spent my morning sacred practice time on Parliament Hill as the sun would come up, took in arts and culture, and did outreach to those sleeping rough outside ensuring they would make it through the winter night outside, and if they couldn’t helped to identify bodies the next day.  I met a young teenage transsexual who had a negative experience of God, and was thinking he was hell bound, and I got to reassure him of God’s love and that we would be in Paradise together one day and crossed the river into Hull, PQ.

     I travelled through sites in Winnipeg, and got to experience life there, also spent time in Lethbridge. 

     It was also during this time that I was a lay minister with the Roman Catholic Church. Got to be apart of the World Youth Day pilgrimage for Toronto, as my parish, St. Thomas More, was a hub parish for this grand event of drawing youth from around the world together to learn how to change their world.

     St. Thomas More was a great parish to be apart of. Sister Josie was in charge of our outreach, and I started volunteering at Inn from the Cold (the shelter ran through church basements to house families experiencing homelessness), a ministry of hospitality if you will.  Did the RCIA program to become officially Catholic.  Got to know the priests Father Bob and Father John.  It was during this time I saw what having a building could be healthy as with three things:

1)     Father Bob worked an overnight at Inn from the Cold, he realized that there was no way for the kids and parents to get properly clean for their days.  So he called in a plumber and had them put in.  This project was not in the “budget” so he stood there at offering time and announced it.

2)     We had a member in a wheel chair, once again a quick decision was made so he could fully participate and an elevator was put in.  Another announcement at offering.

3)     An annual St. Vincent De Paul food drive, where offering was not taken for two weeks, one week we picked items out of the offering basket, and the second we brought the items in.

This is what church is…changing the world for the better.

  I would go back to night class at ABC to complete my undergrad degree in Ministry and Leadership taking these lessons with me.

  I would start seminary and leave my ministry as a staff member at the Mustard Seed, in 2005, and start working on my Master of Arts in the same discipline, but I would continue as a prayer partner and donor for the Seed.

  In May 2005 I would win the nomination for the Electoral District of Calgary Northeast, for the New Democratic Party of Canada to run to be a Member of Parliament against incumbent Art Hangar. Quite an adventure to embark upon as a grad student, and starting a new part time ministry as the youth pastor at St. George’s Anglican Church.