Posts Tagged ‘Belonging’

It is interesting in the world of business and non-profits (religious included) we float the idea of “Core Values”, yet how often do they just end up as brochure buried on a shelf or bulletin board? How often have we heard, we value all being welcome with dignity– yet accessibility projects are deferred for things such as security systems (or whom holds the power decrees is more important)?

It can be challenging during this time of year not to fall victim to the chimera created by the religious right of the war on Christmas…I have yet to meet anyone who vehemently hates Santa, or the idea of generosity. What is challenging is the man-made hate monger created image of Jesus is challenged–for these are not the core values he professed. It was never about exclusion, in fact most of the challenging teachings were directed at the religious of Jesus’ day for missing the mark– the mark? We can quote Matthew 25 around care for the poor, sick, elderly, widows, the ones society felt were toss away, but we are in the Holy Season of Advent for Christians, and it distills the core values fairly clearly:


These are the core that come from the common truth, that goes back to the Creation story, and that the Prophet Isaiah reminds us of:

Image result for house of prayer for all nationsA phrase many religious gathering in the faiths of Abraham use. This idea of inclusive, but flexed for exclusion for not fully unpacking the full story:

 “And as for the outsiders who now follow me,

working for me, loving my name,

and wanting to be my servants—

All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,

holding fast to my covenant—

I’ll bring them to my holy mountain

and give them joy in my house of prayer.

They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’

to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.

Oh yes, my house of worship

will be known as a house of prayer for all people. (The Message, Isaiah 56:6-7)

It is laying out clearly, that all are welcome, not only welcome, but are a divine image (Imageo Dei) and authentically belong as one of God’s children blessedly created.

One cannot claim a divine-holy presence, if their presence is not open to all of the divine image, and love of God-Self-Neighbour (the Covenant– the Law & The Prophets summarized and lived out).

What is lost in belonging? What is lost is the bondage of fear, prejudice, bigotry, conflict, hate, constant grieving and greed.

What is gained?

Hope, Peace, Faith, Joy and Love.

Further resources on Inclusion/Belonging:

There was a powerful video shared about this congregation at Shelly Christensen’s speaking at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the JCC Calgary today, unfortunately I was unable to track down the specific link, here are some others though to provoke conversation and thought.

Bet Shalom Congregation:

Apirl 2, 2009 Inclusion Video:

Inclusion Innovations:


Yes it is Latin. Domine dirige Nos translated means Lord, direct us. What does this have to do with my journey? Well, for those who have been reading along recently, I have closed one book of the trilogy (writer to stipulate a longer ongoing) of my life, and have written the epilogue, and stepped firmly into the prologue of the next book with my family.

The new journey is bright and beautiful. As I write these words I reflect on the conclusion interruptus to my journey with the Franciscans. Shy of life vows with the Third Order, but what a blessing the choice to leave the Anglican Communion was at that time in my life. My kids got to be blessed by their Granny (my Nan) and some loving adoptive grandpas and grandmas at the church before it all soured due to a few of the money mongers of that United Church (ironically enough whose initials are FU) who could not see the blessed beauty in the children with disabilities our church had been blessed with for Sunday School and youth. But they could not rob the Sunday tradition born of being with Granny for tea, and shenanigans even when she went into the locked facility with her dementia, until she went to the grand tea party in the sky (and the day after when my daughter all of 5 said she had flown down in a plane to tell her she loved her and to play with her).

But ten years out, and emerging into the new me, reflecting on what kept me healthy, and in tune it kept coming around to belonging within those called to the religious life in family and community. So the hunt began for an order that would take one, truly a ragamuffin of monastics and Christianities, to whence the lovely Google stumbled me upon The Order of Saint Andrew: An Anglican Ecumenical Order and the associate (Third Order) became my road to completion, and a new paragraph within the prologue of my new book of the journey of Ty.

It is also intriguing for the Saint it is named after, and the point of the new path my life is seeking:

18 Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

-Matthew 4:18-19 (New Life Version)

Without even a thought, he heard the call, and followed. Hence the Latin and what it means at this point in my life, Lord, Direct me to where I am to serve next.

For my family, it is having spent time travelling 90 minutes outside of Calgary to church the last little bit. Due to health, finances and weather (it is the prairies with early onset winter), not being able to keep up the commitment. Yet, in the journey of discovery and letting the Spirit flow (everything happens for a reason)…seeing what actually can happen within a church, and a community, when prayer is followed by faithful action not reticent fear or worry over money… a clear flowing of the presence of God as my wife phrased it is what we experienced in the Vulcan Church of Christ  , an experience for a place we still resonate and feel connected yet know it is more of visitor than home. But in the being, discovering the sacred courageous space to hear the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.

To set out anew to discover who I am meant to be, who my family is called to be… and knowing that at some point soon there will be work to craft a youth conference that embraces the loving, blessed and very good diversity that is the Imageo Dei so the youth of our city or wherever God takes us, will have the sacred courageous space to truly become who they are meant to be.

Yet, it is the still of the night, and I continue the search for the new.

Okay it is a weird topic of conversation. But stick with me, as I did like using the ethics movie, Pay it Forward, with my youth groups, and Lars and the Real Girl with my congregation.  Centrally, both carry a message of what happens within community for transformation and the ripple effects created by choosing actions of kindness, hope and love. Yes, these were used to teach simple discipleship models from the gospels.

Yet, these can be seen as messages lost in translation within our church world. Some may balk and go, just look here and at this mission and this cause… yet…

This idea came into my mind, with one more organization launching in Calgary- Calgary Alliance for the Common Good which from the press of their launching service is another progressive collective. Now, I am a progressive, but is this group doing something different than many others out there already are? Project Plowshares, Amnesty, Affirming, Kairos, PWRDF, etc… or is it just another way to draw funds away from those they should actually go to? I don’t know, I’ve talked to a few involved, it does appear to be older clergy, and their goal is to bring everyone in…which…

Raises a question for me in what is the purpose of religion or church? Canada has been going through their own Quiet Revolution for the past few decades (mimicking Quebec’s); currently Alberta is in the phase of rebelling against the removal of church from auspices of power. Yet, it speaks to what role should religion play in the public sphere? Power broker? Politician? Law shapers? Lobbyist? Special interest group?

Or, should the gatherings be focused on equipping the faithful (regardless of affiliation) to understand what it means to be within your faith, listening to God in your life, and acting from that? What about the world just outside your church’s front door? Would they notice if you vanished? Now this isn’t just about do we have a food bank kind of talk, but are your members local, and active in the community for vanishing is not just the building, rather it is the people leave the community. Are you a soul formation for those that make the community better?

Are the different denominations locally willing to act outside themselves and their own ego pride to work together to serve the community? Day camps, youth groups, mentorships, community and school volunteers, welcoming and support to create belonging space for new Canadians, welcome wagons for those coming into the community… being a neighbour.

Is the building used for low cost or free by local community groups so it becomes a hub of activity and becomes known as a sacred courageously safe space for making the lives of others better?

These are thoughts that surface in my mind. There are already many collectives acting on the macro level, and do we need another one? I am not sure, because could not the same active quorum within an existing structure achieve the same goal? Rather, what happens if we actually engaged with the values our spiritual homes postulate, and actually live them locally to create space of belonging and welcome. A space to become who you are meant to be. Collaborating with our neighbours to make the community better as a whole, sharing resources, and the praise not for the glory of our own ego, or brand, but for whose glory and love we do it in, Jesus.

That is also realizing that there is not a huge divide between progressive and conservative Christian… we are all in the same cross, it is about actually seeing the other through the lens of the blessed created image, and beginning to talk what it means to love one another, self, and neighbour in an expression of God’s love. Not concerning oneself with the love of money and butts in seat count we have gotten ourselves lost in to the detriment of Christ (not Christendom, which should have the life support pulled on it).

For it is the Body of Christ we are called to be in the world, not (insert denomination here). And within that body each of us has special talents, gifts, and callings that are constantly shifting and growing as we journey through life.

The calling is simple, are we willing to grow where planted, and to share the simple thing that is love.


There are non-negotiables in anyone’s life. Values, and core beliefs that are immutable. This we know for the species we are as human beings. The challenge is over the past 10 years, we have lost the concept of societal non-negotiables and core values. This is not a “God in public School” thing, this is the concept that as a society we were always working towards something better, for collective care, prosperity, and discovery (yes you can see that Star Trek has influenced my thoughts on the future). One only has to look to the current USA primaries, or the Canadian Federal Election currently underway to see that the concept of a core value for our society is now a moving target, and it is not a discussion about how to make this a reality–care for veterans, seniors, multi-culturalism, public health care, societal infrastructure, etc–the stones of the culture built on the Constitutional cornerstones in Canada of Peace, Order, and Good Governance. What exists in its place is headline grabbing gotcha that would make the National Enquirer blush.

I am also old enough to remember when being a member provincially-federally of a party by de facto was an anomaly that the New Democratic Party held (and the Greens would come into as well).  Rather citizens understood the division of provincial and federal powers and would look at the party that worked best for that level, in essence it would mean some held different memberships and different levels or even, gasp, voting patterns. Now it is expected that you not only hold same memberships and both levels, but that you viciously hold to 100% of the policy book unequivocally or you are a hypocrite (perhaps with more questioning the Green Party of Canada would realize that the feds have no control over Minimum Wage, that is a provincial power). The concept of the thinking candidate, voter, citizen is completely removed for you cannot challenge within your own echo-chamber. And so the silencing not only of critical thought, but our Charter Right of Freedom of Expression.  What it leaves us with is the current state of the Federal election.

I would hazard to put out though that the vast majority do not hold these entrenched views. In fact, I would say the silence they parlay into a false sense of belonging. I state false, because they may be a part of a party, but it is a lonely belonging. For they have created dissonance within themselves to belong, and as a result have taken in the loneliness that makes our society less. It creates a communal level of anxiety and paranoia that can easily be tapped into for fear and hate. That tapping into of fear and hate, leaves the ability for courageous safe spaces off the map. See a safe space is not a place where your views will not be challenged, it is not a space where a feeling may be hurt. It is a safe space because everyone is recognized as a person (Imageo Dei) and not dehumanized, which is a state of either side of the entrenchment.

In 2004, to earn my Bachelor of Arts in Leadership & Ministry we had a capstone project. My professor at the time discredited my proposal around Public Health Care being the Christian response, through using sources released during the term from the Frasier Institute (don’t get me started on understanding bias), but what came out of that discourse was a new idea– how to equip the church in understanding and coming to communal answer on policy questions that they then could use in voting or discussion within their own parties.

Key thing to note, at this time there was no “Christian” party. Yes, I had heard this or that in my time ala if you are a Christian it is Christian Heritage, Canadian Alliance (pre-cursor to the Conservative Party). I had heard the false choices, the C.A. is the Evangelical Church at Prayer, the NDP is the United Church at worship, etc. But my experience through-out the different forms showed that each branch had a mosaic of political beliefs, and these discussions could be divisive, yet the hard conversations needed to happen to be able to get people to a deeper spiritual discipline: Holy Listening for Holy Conversations.

I am working on a new version of this 2004 project I used for many times in discussions. It has led to reading some good resources, that I thought I would share around this idea. Brian Jennings’ 2018’s Dancing in No Man’s Land uses the metaphor of war for where the political discourse is in his home country of the USA currently, but can be seen elsewhere. Jennings’ is a pastor at a Restoration Church in America, and has noted the entrenchment. He tosses out the idea that the Christian is called to be in the No Man’s Land. This is a World War I term, where each side would entrench and not get into the area for fear of machine guns, and that due to this entrenchment then the insidious chemical weapons were developed.

His book is conversational, lays out questions and scriptures. What I like is that it percolates discussion, puts the issue up, and then challenges the reader to seek out the understanding within their faith, scripture, and the FACTS. Going deeper, being able to hold space and a conversation with others. That laying out of ground rules in life that used to be enjoyed where hard topics could be discussed, and dissenting views could be put forward and unpacked. His metaphor extends to the idea of the different sides leaving their bunkers, touching on gifts of gentleness and courage, shrewdness and grace, conviction, and discernment. The goal is moving into the path of peace, knowing that it is going to be rocky, but that it is possible through humbleness to leave bunkers, and put down the implements of war– social media, bullying, gotcha, right fighting, etc. and to truly look to the core.

What does it mean for our community? Society? Country to belong?

Belonging should not be lonely. Brene Brown (2017) Braving the Wilderness takes the reader on an unpacking of belonging. It is an excellent read on its own, but also a powerful compliment to Jennings’ book. See Brown takes one through the ways of belonging in self, and community. Explores what happens through dehumanization and how it allows for a false belonging. Yes, the false belonging many can have politically. So in their bunker that in the group all is great (hence, the huge overlooks of unapologetic moral failures). That the root of true belonging is not feeling alone. One can be alone, and it can and is a powerful spiritual practice, but the lonely feeling even when you are with people is not what belonging is about.

What happens when we extend this out to politics?

Simple, there is good people in all parties. In one to one moments they can admit this or that they may not support. Good conversations can happen, yet they do not want to “lose face” in any other venue and as such will fight tooth and nail even if they do not believe. Just look at Conservative Party Andrew Scheer’s comments about same-sex marriages and dogs, unapologetic. The Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau in brown/black face from 19+ more years ago, though multiple times which he was apologetic about. The false dichotomy is that many still look at it as a two party choice in a country that has over 10 registered parties. Perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and ask what happens when we begin to question not only from without (picking the spec in your neighbour’s eye with the lumber in your own if you will), but also from within.

Do we choose from a place of fear and paranoia? Scuttle butt is Scheer was the compromise candidate for his party on the 13th ballot to stop Bernier, who now leads the fascist People Party of Canada, what if it wasn’t about stopping, but the party actually looking at the field and choosing one that could’ve inspired and made their party better?

In regards to Trudeau, lets use it to actually open up the courageous safe space in our nation in regards to racism and prejudice and what it means for our nation today and moving forward. Questioning from outside, but also from within.

Unpacking for ourselves what it means to become comfortable in our own skin. It is never an all or nothing debate as Brown (2017) points out when discussing the gun issue in America. You can enjoy hunting and not think the NRA is right that everyone needs handguns and assault weapons, yet the discourse does not allow for that. Federally in Canada we have put up apologetic blackface to unapologetic LGBTQ2+-hate and created a false choice.

Our politicians only do better, when we demand better. Our politics is only better, when we question from within the bunkers, and are willing to leave the bunkers to create working groups, discussions groups, movie groups, book groups, churches, coffee klatches, that are across ideological lines where people are open to actual discovery and learning. Listening to understand, not zoning to create your response. The scary part of these groups for our world though is not the listening piece. It is the silence piece. If we listen to understand, then there will be silence not filled by something, and what may emerge in that silence is the scariest thought for many.

For in the silence, good happens.

Belonging is authenticated.

April 2017 my son went into the Alberta Children’s Hospital for double foot reconstructions. Yes, it is as bloody painful and arduous as it sounds. It also illuminated the stark contrast between being church, and stewardship church in my mind. The United Church congregation we were at during this time for even though some things were done well, pastoral care and simply being was not among them.

They were an accessible building. Which is truly what accessibility is about, can we get into the building to participate in the events (we shall not discuss washrooms, or their annoyance of locked doors). They were inclusive in that there was space created for people to be a part of with the adults. The children’s ministry was amazing not for the spiritual formation that happened, but rather the lady that ran it created a space of belonging for all children.

Continue reading- Odd.

This week winds the road of discovery, and renewal of Spirit. It acknowledges our holistic self, that is what the Medicine Wheel teaches of the mind, body, soul and spirit. Let’s be honest, to often we get sucked into the idea of puffing ourselves up. Collecting awards, growing our bank accounts, or more that gives us status and prestige in life. In the midst of it all though we forget who we are, and why we are here. It is an easy path to veer off of.

The Christian Testament readings brings us into the Epistles (fancy word for letters) to early gatherings. It is a letter written between 49-55 CE, by Paul. Galatia was a territory in Asia minor, populated by Celtic settlers. An intriguing backdrop as if it has a later writing then Paul is in the midst of the Corinthian conflicts, and just before he wrote to the gathering in Rome. This is a letter used in the 16th Century during the Protestant Reformation debates around faith and justification as Reformers, being used by local monarchs for Empire building, argued with Roman Catholic Clerics the vestige of elder Empire building.

Yet these words are used today, as we come with our own stories and eyes to speak to us. And what is within? The lectionary lays out 5:1, 13-26.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

-Galatians 5:1 (New Revised Standard Version)

Paul levels the opening of this chapter with a huge issue in the ancient world. The role of slavery. Now we like to pretend this has been put to rest, but slavery still exists within our capitalistic globalization in places that do not pay living wages, or more horrendously within human trafficking. What Paul is reminding folks is not to let the divisions that had existed before carry into the gathering.

That is that in Christ, there is no labels of separation. He is reminding folks not to surrender to the old. What are ways that we leave our path? We chase what we assume will make us the next “it” thing. Whether it is technology, fashion, faux body image, the list can go on for what we assume are positive, yet there is also negative labels that we throw down to create separation and keep people divided. Think along the lines of the arguments about are you “insert group here” one of us? That’s our money? the hoops one has to jump through to qualify for aid. The idea the value of the person rests on ability, sobriety, gender identity or economics.

This leads us into later in the chapter with ancient echoes:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[c] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[d] but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,[e] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

-Galatians 5:13-21 (NRSV)

Slaves to one another… does that mean no boundaries? No, it is an ancient metaphor on loving self and neighbour as Paul points out the summation of everything in Love. He directly uses the outcast label, the non-person label as a stark and strong reminder that we are all images of the holy. It invalidates that label. Paul then uses Greek Platonic philosophy to illustrate the false separation of body and spirit. He points out that because we are in the Spirit we are different. The things laid out were the ways that the Empire used to de-value, control and oppress the masses. It was also was the controllers used to suppress their own traumas of what they had survived to rise to power.

It is the seeking of power to the setting aside of the value of love and the image of God.

Let’s hear that again: It is the seeking of power to the setting aside of the value of love and image of God.

Truly, you have made everyone around you nothing more than numbers, labels or functions for your own fulfillment. It is what the current religious right use in our society to point to loss of “God” in our world. Yet what is lost, is God being used to cover up what Paul wrote here of, the separation of the children of God, the abuse, and misuse to build power. Things that should be set aside. The label making remnant of Eugenics in a world where you must prove yourself human enough and worthy enough to exist in society. That is the “flesh” fallacies Paul was writing of, but he did not end there.

While Paul, leads you out of Empire living, into the heart of the Great Commandment Brother Jesus laid out. What happens when we enter into that healthy Love circle:

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

-Galatians 5:22-26 (NRSV)

It is moving beyond black and white, moving beyond labels and coding. To seeing the person before us, and authentically living in the gray of life. A gray that allows the circle of inclusion to be drawn wide, and within the width, authentic belonging becomes the norm.

As the Kingdom is near… will we be the tipping point?

Image result for galatians 5

With Individual rights, come corporate responsibilities of belonging.

Holy Freedoms& Holy Responsibilities Video.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[b]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

-Psalm 8, English Standard Version


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