Posts Tagged ‘Centennial Presbyterian Church’


 What follows below is my speaking notes from this morning, the pdf is just below for the power point slides noted in the bolded brackets throughout.

Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Centennial Presbyterian Church January 26, 2019 

mens prayer breakfast january 2019

Good Morning. We are exploring some aspects this morning of mental health and belonging, as was advertised it is a personal and professional faith journey. In our time this morning we are by no means going to touch upon the entire spectrum of mental health concerns, diagnosis, disorders and spectrums out there. I am going to share a bit about my journey, and the ones that have touched upon me the most. Now I am sure you are probably asking well who is this guy? 

That’s a good question, short answer in my name is Ty, and I have lived in Rundle my whole life, my goal in life is simple to make my own corner of the world a better place. I am currently travelling through the echoes of a life spent fighting back the darkness of our world, and creating safe courageous space for all to belong, but more on that piece later. I am a pilgrim, the ad described me as a monastic-psychologist. It is true, I hold a Doctor of Psychology, I sought it out because I needed to skills to aid folks in healing. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Alberta Bible College, and my Master or Arts is from Canadian Theological Seminary now Ambrose Seminary. Each degree earned with classes that aided me in my goal of making the world a bit better, not for any other reason. I am monastic, because at the core of my journey is a formation in the Franciscan Charism. St. Francis of Assisi founded an order about 800 years ago of the open hand, those that embraced justice, simplicity, and living out the gospel message of love. Many believe it is an anti-educational-intellectual order because of a teaching of Francis that you first must learn the first scripture before going to the next. He was not counselling us to be the frozen chosen, but rather to so live into the scripture that we are living it without even thinking about it, it simply becomes part of our DNA. 

For me, the journey of learning has been centered on the scripture that brought me into organized church and ministry, at 19 years old I was contemplating my 6th attempt at suicide. I had gone through a horrendous time for that time of my life where my then fiancée had decided to abort our child, and re-enter the sex trade to feed her addiction. I was at home, quietly putting things in order, giving/selling things. When I stumbled across the little red Gideon’s New Testament they used to give out in grade 5. It was in the bottom of my closet and the spine was broken open, and these little red letters spoke to me: 

(slide of Great Commandment) 

Something shifted in my depression, and I decided to go see my Nan that weekend, and try out this church thing, and the tumultuous seasons of my ministerial life would begin, as I started to be like the lawyer. 

(slide of Good Samaritan). 

This led me to a life journey involved in many aspects of church ministry, continuing an active writing and activism career that was already in place, building ministries, writing curriculums, entering into service in the homeless sector during the darkest times of our province, as austerity measures created a humanitarian crisis in Calgary where threat to human life was imminent each winter. I would also serve during my time as a chaplain to those with dementia, childrens and youth pastors, pulpit supply, college and university instructor from bachelor to post-graduate courses in a variety of topics, practicum supervisors, mentor for at risk youth and re-integration mentor for youth re-entering society from the young offender’s centre. I would do outreach in many of the cities in Canada for those in need, aiding those camping rough to find safety, and if they could not the next morning aiding authorities in identifying the bodies. Publish a few books. Oh and in the midst, I would find time to run for office and shape many policies for parties at both the Federal and Provincial level, but hey a man needs a hobby. 

Throughout this I began to shape a concept of belonging. That it is about aiding folks in understanding who they truly are, how the experience the world, and how we as community can aid them in achieving wholeness. 

(slide on mental health) 

In my teens and early 20’s like many Albertans I struggled with alcohol. It would not be until later that I would find out about my family’s predilection to alcoholism. But I made a hard decision at that time, after my one birthday where I woke up sore and alone at home, alcohol was not a good thing for me, it made me violent, it needed to end: 

(slide of Dix) 

Addiction comes in many forms.  

(addiction slide)  

It is a form of self-medicating, a numbing agent, a replacement for authentic belonging and authentic self. The challenge in our world, is that so many things that become addictive can be seen as societally acceptable: gambling we use to fundraise for our schools and hospitals and other non-profits, alcohol you are seen as abnormal if you do not drink in social settings- try being politically active and sober? Or a writer; work or fitness or religion- all things that are acceptable, but can also so overtake our lives that we can no longer function. 

(Opioid crisis slide) 

Today we are in a crisis in Canada as a result of our triage and siloed method of dealing with people in health care. We are in what the media and health care have termed an opioid crisis, it is due to the prevalence of Fentanyl. A drug originally designed for end of life pain allevement. Now opioids, when used for pain relief within medicine are not bad, that is the all or nothing view of our world. What is wrong, is those using them to self-medicate their own personal pain. Pain caused by our own inhumanity towards one another. What would change with the crisis if we moved out of isolation and fear mongering, into authentic community? A courageous safe space where we understand pain, we understand the journey of healing, and we are willing to believe and help at a deeper level. We are willing to allow belonging, knowing that the greatest fear in belonging is that when the person is no longer there, we shall mourn.  

That is why we avoid belonging. Whether it is belonging in our own skin (Love yourself) or opening space for belonging for neighbour (love your neighbour as yourself). 

(won’t you be my neighbour slide) 

I have already touched on a bit of my own struggle with depression. Depression is a normal reaction in the grief process of loss, it can also be more than short term however, and that is okay. It is how some experience life 

(Depression Slides) 

It is ironic, as a child I had convulsions, they were so severe in my toddler years I am told there was multiple times I stopped breathing and was blue. In the late 70’s early 80’s the treatment for such a thing was an anti-psychotic- Phenobarbitrol. It is a harsh long-term treatment, but it saved my life and my brain. Many children who were put on it, lost their lives to suicide or addiction in adolescence, or dropped out of life. It is still used in short term cases for stabilization before another anti-epileptic or anti-convulsant will be prescribed. I was on it from roughly age 2 to 9 years old, my convulsions left my brain scarred, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the medication had rewired things significantly. 

As my Mum entered into the journey of Breast Cancer that would eventually take her life; I was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at a church; teaching and writing; working as a vocational coach for persons with disabilities; working on my Master’s oh and just for fun running for office while editing a political journal provincially, and a spiritual journal internationally is when the repercussions of what saved my life would hit. 

(I don’t wanna slide) 

Panic attacks. Tears or anger for no reason. Medication as my brain chemistry was out of balance. 

I was always and still am open about my own journey, if those who seek to facilitate healing cannot be open, how do we expect those seeking help to be open. There was a backlash, churches skittered away from me, as I transitioned back into a leadership role in the homeless sector I was abruptly informed that I was a weak leader for sharing my mental health with my team. That self-care and mental health care were not up to leaders to mentor staff in, it was their job to deal with the challenges of the job. 

Stigma. 

But through medication, self-care, what I termed soul work through spiritual direction and life coaching I emerged through that time on medication for a few years and things had improved.  It was also during this time that I lost my ordination by taking a stand that yes children with disabilities belong in God’s kingdom (but our journey of that is a tale for another time). 

As Shawna, my wife, is always proud to say, I taught many how to care for themselves, while caring for neighbour. Soul care, ensuring you can love yourself and are being the true you, while helping others become the true them. We did not expect what was to begin in 2016, but there are 4 scary letters out there that we need to remove the fear from: 

(PTSD Slides) 

Whether personally or professionally we as a family had created safe spaces for belonging, whether they found me through work, or showed up on our door step. Literally meals can be added to, coffee or tea can go on, kids can play, and life can happen as we just are: 

(Quote slide) 

I am going to share with you an article I wrote about what is happening in the now, it is the outcome of years of journeying in the darkness as the light, and taking a beating for views of belonging. A lifetime, as we spoke of before in a Franciscan way of learning how to live out the Great Commandments, and answer the question, Who is my neighbour? 

(PTSD-PNES Slide) 

613 is my number, what is yours? 

It is amazing the conversations one has as a parent, and then the journey it causes you to reflect upon. Before May 2016 sitting in an ER I never thought I would be here. See, growing up and throughout my life I admit to being socially awkward (to be kind), but there was something that always was wonderful, my mind. When it came to numbers it was something like Charlie on Numbers that the solution would come to me, but has no real idea what took me from problem to solution. My everyday mind would be able to focus on 3 or 4 tasks in front of me, while crunching solutions and dreams/plans for multitudes of other things (one of the main reasons I never took up this thing called driving). 

It is the blessing of this mind, with my heart for changing the world that allowed the drive in school (and the multiple degrees earned and given honourary); building programs; running for office; editing and writing; book publishing; teaching; outreach work; mentoring; life coaching; spiritual direction; public speaking; pulpit supply; and the list can go on in my short life I had packed in multiple life times. Standing in the darkness and walking with those in the midst so they could come into their light. Discover who they truly were; teaching and facilitating others in discovering their passions and ways to make a living at it. I believe my life showed that you can chase dreams, and still hold true to your core values, not having to surrender who you are to make a difference in this world. At one point I looked back on my time in ministry and realized I had the opportunity to speak into nearly 1,000 young lives for the better. 

But it started to shift in May and then October 2016 in the ER with weird brain activity, memory loss, chest pains and left-hand tremors. But I was told I was normal and fine, so carry on at discharge, after a day or two at home back at it. Back at the work of walking with folks to create home and community. 

In the later part of 2017 as summer approached, professional and personal griefs/stressors were there. Waying on one’s spirit. I felt tired, and my brain was foggy. Like I had taught so many though, back to the daily practice, self-care, seeking out those who can aid you in debrief and carry forward, keep yourself healthy. And why wouldn’t I be tired? It was a phase, been there done that. My vocabulary, and understanding of some basic concepts began to fail me. Again, I looked back on what was happening with those in personal and professional life passing away, assumed it was a grief cycle (my son’s friends were passing away, always hard). 

But then my birthday hit and the game changed. 

Seizures (Grand Mal and absent), multiple in rapid succession. Lost memory and time. Not only in the now, but lost memories, I could not recall things. It kept happening, I became the ER’s daily flier if you will…and oh so cold, my body had gone hypothermic, in retrospect to protect my heart. Medical science couldn’t answer the question. Weird things being vomited out. Tests were toss ups. 

But when the seizures hit, and I would come back so would the pain. The life of being a light in the darkness, but only the darkness would come back. Decades of being in the pain, looking back and having my mind lie to me saying that I was a failure, had not made a difference. My memories that would reboot, it was like an old DOS computer with dust on the floppy, the self-care wouldn’t come with it. My healing and growing of scar tissue were gone, it was rapid succession of the pain that cut to the very core of who I was. I tried to work through, my agency was wonderful in their support. 

But I was not me. My beautiful gift, my mind, was failing. Things that I knew by rote, and was simple neurological muscle memory were gone, fog was constant, stabbing pains, tremoring arm, in ability to sleep, hypothermic and I won’t share how when I went down finally for health reasons the days of weird chemicals I had been exposed to expelling from my body (oh and the constant daily seizures, at one point almost 40 a day). Tests of the blood, body and brain, but the flashbacks persisted. 

It wasn’t something that was expected. I had learned to take care of myself, to rely on supports, to keep healthy, to use vacation time and to chase passions. This was against the narrative. But it persisted. Advancing from basic neurology to complex, in hospital observational stays, and all the epileptoligists/neurologists looking at my brain scans and medical files to reach a decision on what was happening. Finally, in the last month or two having confirmed diagnosis, PTSD-PNES, and now due to the Third Way boondoggle that was Klein’s legacy, I wait for the aid to cure and move forward. In the mean time the seizures are not epileptic but bring all the fears of those types of seizures with them everything from falls to sudden death, with no medications that can be prescribed to control them. 

With each seizure my number reminds me of where I have walked. 613 that is 613 in my life of family, friends, children, parishners, and clients I was unable to do more than journey with to the final transition to the next life. Most I was present for last rites or the passing or performed the celebration of life, if not all of it. In the travels I continue to use that which some may say is fruitless. Yet I persist. I pay the price for the persistence to keep going, I am not as good as I used to be, not even close…but I keep trying, working on myself while I wait. 

This time I feel like Alice having stepped through the looking glass, or Kirk into the Mirror Universe. I have seen what the darkness unchecked has done to my soul. I know what the light is. I struggle to believe in myself once more for with each reboot I still have to work through the lies my heart tells me that I am a failure, for even if it is a simple spark I need to hold to it…that I make a difference simply by being. 

What is your number? 

 (Authentic you slide) 

The Great Commandment lays out a challenge for us. It is about realizing that we are created in God’s image. As such we cannot say we love God with our everything, if we do not love ourselves. To love ourselves speaks of belonging in our own skin, having our purpose, it is not about jobs, it is about knowing why we are here and having a means to live it out. It is also understanding we need to love our neighbour who is also the image of God. Creating the courageous safe space for belonging so they can discover themselves. Within that space journeying with one another in the same vein. 

People constantly ask me what’s next? I honestly do not know, step one is to get the healing work done, then look at a return to work. What will that look like? I do not know. In the mean time I have purpose, I write, I teach when I can, I do some research and writing for my Dad and his wife’s project, Countess Country Musuem. I am beginning to work on a family memoir on the topic of mental health and belonging to remove the stigma. Most importantly though in this time of healing, I am a husband and a Dad in an amazing loving family. 

I leave you with a question to mull, 

What’s next for you? 

(Christian Counsellors slide) 

mens prayer breakfast ad

 

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Presbyterian Connection is the quarterly newspaper of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, that took the place of the defunct Presbyterian Record magazine. As some know, I am a firm believer community does not take a lot of money, what it does take is time PCC_RGB_BurningBushand talents of those who want to make a difference. Multiple generations have been positively impacted in our community by the simple act of a Vacation Bible School from this small congregation. This summer I was able to attend my daughter’s celebration (she has been at everyone since it was revitalized a few years ago) and it struck me that it was time to see if I could remind churches of this simplicity of giving and growing. I sent in a short piece with a picture of my daughter, and it was published in this quarter’s paper (on page 23).

It is simple encouragement, enjoy here: PC_Winter18


It was the flashbacks I truly did not want to relive. A week from hell for me emotionally, mentally and spiritually as the last vestige of healing scar tissue was torn away through neuro events. But it is the struggle to reclaim what is good in the memory, to re-heal. Not just succumb to the darkness of loss. Yet it is hard when you realize how drastically a system failed her, a system that sees nothing wrong in their actions, a system that blamed her child for not bringing her out of the mental illness they calcified in her soul. Her battle with cancer was long with many ups and downs that saw her transition living facilities many times throughout the years. From homestead to lodge to hospital to long-term care. The unfortunate piece of our health care system is no acknowledging the need for holistic care of the individual for cancer is not just physiological—it strips a person emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Therefore, we see defeat, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety. But the system is not designed to continually engage people at appropriate levels, I saw events planned that would hold no interest for anyone regardless of their capacity or health yet the system pushed these out as “social events” to build resiliency. A system where an ill-trained palliative person told my Mum she was dying. That night on the phone was one of the few times I heard my Mum swear with her “No shit Sherlock” comment…but it was the beginning of the downward, for it had made real that which her faith had been fighting against in our many phone talks multiple times a day, or when my family would visit her as often as we could.

But the time she heard the nurse yell at me in the hallway:

“You’re her son, get her to chipper up she’s only dying and has become a depressing person. That’s your job to make her happy and fix it.”

-The Nurse

                The nurse did not appreciate my retort and it is a family blog. But I saw pain in my Mum’s eyes for now she believed she was a burden.

It took a lot to get through the hassles and hoops of institutions from health to religion to get an Anglican priest to spend time with her. After she was broken spiritually and had given up her phone to speak to the outside world. The time of reconciliation when I spoke with her after the visit brought her soul piece. It proves to me that when talk of being palliative happens with patients there needs to be acknowledgement of their spiritual cultural roots and individuals from those roots should be involved in bringing the news, and reading the situation (and many who have known me know that I have been the one to sit and walk during this time). I do believe her outcome may not have changed, but the path there would have been immensely different.

Her last weekend, though, my old life loving Mum resurged, and she had time to play a little, joke and sing a little with her grandkids. Her Leland, had become her pal of comfort on family times and events ensuring his Nana was taken care of by sitting next to her and even with his cerebral palsy getting her things she needed. Her little Princess, was all about the songs and dancing and fancy Nancy times (My Mum would always chuckle how she skinned her chicken nuggets when we would go to McDonald’s). My kids were born after my Mum was diagnosed, but this weekend, this day I know it was the simpler joy of being family that mattered.

Sadly, a few days later my Mum’s journey would transition her to as my daughter always believes, the “great tea party” in Heaven being simply love.  Centennial Presbyterian Church would continue being apart of the life journey of our family (both myself and my daughter are VBS kids, we as a family had been members for a time).

It was the last place my Mum would publicly hear me preach.

“We could always come to your Mum if our family needed food and she had this pantry”

-Neighbour at her Celebration of Life Tea

It is the spiritual place that opened their building to our family. A place I celebrated her life, and yes even in the whispers I heard the hecklers stating I dishonoured, but allowed the majority of those that saw her light shine through drown out. For I knew I had shared everything she told me she wanted in a simple service, before high tea.

“Everything I have heard today makes me wish I could have known this quirky amazing loving lady who was a neighbour and Mum to many”

-Rev. Smith (from Centennial) attending to support my family.

And months later, it would be the last public sermon I would give in 2014 doing pulpit supply. I stood in the pulpit I had celebrated my Mum’s life, next to the altar that had bore her ashes. Knowing she would never be able to hear me again. Sit in the pew with that smile.

Do I miss preaching?

Yes. I have had opportunities to speak, but no pulpits have called since…perhaps one day one will again.

“One day a church will be brave enough to call you. When that happens, I will join and be there every Sunday to support you and your family.”

My Mum, on the many trials of churches I had traveled through

Playlist:

Paul Brandt’s Jesus Loves Me

Brad Paisley’s Me and Jesus

Paul Brandt’s Amazing Grace

End Notes:

  • I want to acknowledge and honour her family (blood and chosen (close friends)) that continued the journey with her, my Dad who was the hardest working, and loving husband and Dad during this time.
  • My Mum gave me an old King James Bible when I returned to church at 19 years old and began teaching Sunday School. She also bought me the bible I took with me and wore out in my years at Bible College. Growing up each summer until we aged out, she would register me for the Vacation Bible School at Centennial Presbyterian Church, she would always encourage a simple belief in God is love, and to do good things.
  • I did attempt to file complaints and advocate for better mental health care in rural Alberta at the time, but AHS and the Health Ministry under our previous government would not respond.
  • There was nothing nefarious on the timing of my last pulpit supply, I have been booked for speaking, teaching, and life celebrations since, but no pulpits have opened.
  • Mum memorial 

Weird things wind up in one’s mailbox with alumni associations like the one I have with Ambrose University. Like today, where a trial copy of Faith Today with their ½ price subscription offer to alumni and free trial magazine. Now the Evangelical Fellowship is not my theological cup of tea (I know it must shock long time readers), yet the issue contained a 2-page article on inclusion of those with disability within the church community. It started to open a conversation I have been banging away at for decades…church is a place where all are to belong. It is not about creating a “program” or a “ministry for” it is about doing life together and with, it is about valuing the individual for who they are and have been created to be not seeing anyone as less than or in need of healing to fit our schema of wholeness (holiness).

It goes deeper than the functionality of the building. Although physical accessibility is a bonus within a building structure, that is nuts and bolts that can be fixed/adapted. What is harder is changing the heart of the community to full inclusion and acceptance of the wonders that will be opened through the different perspectives that exist across the spectrum of ability.

It was a good article because it was from the perspective of parents who have journeyed like we have as a family, so I thought a little good news in my mail box deserved some good news in cyberspace. For those in Calgary here are 3 spiritual homes we have found that are more the later than the former when it comes to inclusion:

3) St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church

2) Centennial Presbyterian Church

1) Robert McClure United Church

Remember when we are called to love neighbour as ourselves…it is because we all exist within the Holy Mystery and the Holy Mystery exists within us…and no mistakes were made but perfect as we are meant to be.


It is interesting how the universe works to line up events, learning, forgiveness and readings when appropriate. See our family has been on a journey of inclusion, it has been a journey rote with detours and speed bumps. I mean when my son was in his pre-school years the battle for acceptance of those who are blessed to experience life differently transformed the path of my vocational calling. Had me resign from the pulpit, to rest into community recovery work.

Yes, was their grieving of loss?

Of course, whether you abide grief theory or U theory of change it is a process of release, acceptance, transformation, and as recently as this Christmas season entering in to a unique transfiguration of our family to renew a journey with unknown expectations.

For we were leaving progressive spirituality, to be apart of community enter back into churchdom. It is interesting as it was happening near the end of Advent—the preparation for the light to enter truly into the darkness. The gifts of the Holy Mystery within humanity that creates unity when recognized- faith, joy, peace, hope and the greatest:

L-O-V-E!

It was in this part of the journey of the soul, that we were burned, probably an allegory could be made to what Mary experienced as a pregnant teen in ancient times, but why over think. And we went back to the church of my and my daughter’s VBS. A vibrant community, to rest and discern. It is also interesting while we struggle with some points of Presbyterian theology, in Canadian context they do have resources available for inclusion (outside box thinking) and partnering with differently abled community members.

As discernment goes on inclusion and equality. Discussion around the United Church of Canada local congregations. This was where the backlash against differently abled in church had begun for us almost 9 years ago, yet the Spirit was moving. The prodding laying out something to inquire further into.

So, on Sunday morning we found ourselves in a local UCC congregation to experience as we discern. It is a re-entry that was wrought with anxiety for the parents because even though the pain is processed, there is still the expectation of expulsion. It is a hard feeling to shirk, especially when your inquisitive child wants to explore the building and you are hoping nothing is said.

Yet there was a warm welcome, including a special one from the Wonder Kids to let us know how they can support a child with special needs and the experiences if he chooses to join if we come back.  A daughter unit with blue hands from inventing slime, a good soup lunch where quite a few folks were met. A service that echoed Celtic practices.

Are we set where we fit yet in this spiritual world of searching for community?

No. We are going in not only with eyes wide open, but with hearts wide open. For it is the Universe’s humour in bringing the right books into your path during a journey. Where the Calgary Public Library hold system brought Michael Coren’s new book Epiphany (2016) for sign out.

Coren many will know was a conservative Catholic media personality, writer and thinker who over the last 2 years has had a shift in his faith. I have always enjoyed his writing, and other media not because I always agreed with him before the shift, but because in his stances I could see some rationale laid out so it was not just an unseemly shouting match of Conservative-Liberal.

This book has great thought lines, one that resonated was not expecting the church to become more liberal in their walk, but rather to become more Christian. It is true, Churchdom is not a safe space for the most part. There needs to be a thrust of not creating the dogma and living that, but honestly considering the life of Brother Jesus of Nazareth, and for me, what this means in unity of the Cosmic Christ.

That is why a book titled Epiphany is apropos for this season. Epiphany in the liturgical calendar is the 40 days’ post Christmas where the Magi visit, Jesus is at the temple, baptized, and has his first miracle at the wedding of Cana.

What do all these resonate with?

Think about it—Universalism, inclusion, love, hospitality, common story, belonging and purpose. Choosing justice over dogmatic. Choosing life. Choosing Love.

This is the point of discernment for my family currently, it is not the dogma or the belief, though having those closer in line with where the Holy Mystery is in our hearts is helpful, it is truly the community that can choose love.

This brings into the reflection on Coren’s book about his own journey. And since it has to deal with one of the Religious Right’s most precious dogmas “Marriage equality” (and the LGBTTQ Full Inclusion in church) rightly it is a powerful story showing how one who deeply loves their God, and embraces the key points within the rituals knows that they will grow and change. It is in the growth that Coren shares his own personal story, and the attacks brought against him since his shift to being an Anglo-Cath in the Anglican Communion. Sharing his own reflections on the state of the church, very acutely and accurately.

There is the touching look at David and Jonathan, and from the stories in Kings where one reading with history and context can see that is more than just friendship in their love.

The fact that Coren never took to court those who attacked him for his change, and his losses. The idea of trying to besmirch character, throwing out words ala paedophile, or adulterer shows that regardless of the ideology one has, once they have sunk into dogma, they can no longer enter discourse. It is the discourse that is important and will heal our world.

For when one transforms their beliefs, or more accurately evolves their beliefs whether they be on the left or right, the first thing they are accused of is selling out. At a lesser level, many could not believe what I would give up to ensure my family was in the spiritual community that would allow them to thrive no matter the vocational calling the Holy Mystery brought into their being. Yes, there has been losses, and taking stands for what you know to be right and just does not equate to riches one. Yet especially in churchdom with the narrative of Judas, it does seem to come back to money as the driving factor of everything, so I will leave you with this quote from Coren:

I was repeatedly accused of giving in to pressure or, more often, of changing my opinion because I wanted to make money. Reluctant as I am to discuss money, I have lost at least half of my income because of my reformed position on gay issues.

-Michael Coren Epiphany (p. 27, 2016)

Remember, when change happens at the soul level the last thing that is taken into account is the financial ramifications. As Coren would go onto explain in his leaving of the Catholic Church, it was about living in Christ, and the sacraments, but not being able to partake within a church that did not share the same on justice issues.

This is where we are at as a family in discernment, at a crossroads so to speak to find that spiritual home where we are in community, with the rituals that renew…and it is truly authentic with our beliefs.

That is the moment in the season of Epiphany, when it is realized, and the one is prepared for the next part of the journey that leads up to the Transfiguration.

It is the transfiguration into actualized love that matters.

To be continued. . .


Since our decision on December 18 the family has entered contemplative discussion on what is spiritual community? Holistic Community? Yes some may find it surprising that we are going to rest in a Presbyterian congregation starting in the new year until we get an urging from the Spirit, but then the Presbyterian Church in Canada has materials available to aid congregations in including God’s differently abled children as blessings to community life.

But I digress, part of this path laid out is understanding that the wife and I will need more to fill the cup if you will, and that means setting aside time in the week to listen to progressive spiritual thought and discuss, this led to an internet search of Canadian content. Yes there is a difference when you listen to American or European thought, compared to Canadian, we have a middle path (actually very Anglican when you figure we are a former British colony)…so I did some digging which turned up some places offering progressive thought and podcasts/youtube (if you have any more please share).

This list is unvetted, just so you are aware, but feel free to click and leave your thoughts in the comments:

http://www.mcctoronto.com/video/sunday-services-archive

https://soundcloud.com/observerdocs/observer-podcast-episode-5/recommended

https://www.firstmetvictoria.com/first-met-live-archives/

http://gnosticwisdom.net/spiritual-temples-the-liberal-catholic-church-2/

http://revolutionchurch.tumblr.com/   (yes this is American, but Jay Bakker has an interesting preaching style)

http://www.unityofvancouver.org/listen-to-services/

http://www.unityofvancouver.org/unity-tv-2/

http://beaconunitarian.org/index.php/category/sermon/

http://unitarianfellowshipregina.podbean.com/

http://livingspirit.ca/sermons-2/

http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/podcasts/

http://www.friendschurch.ca/messages-podcast/

Now we are not naive, and we know that not any one community can be all. Now the googling did lead to searches for things in our hometown. And yes it was interesting that it was way south (we are trying to be community centered once again and trying not to be destination based).

Yet for those in the South, this came up in my google searches, from Woodcliff United Church from an early mentor whence I returned to Christendom in my late teens, Rev. Linda Hunter:

A Message from Rev. Linda:
THE MAN AT THE BACK OF THE STABLE….
I have always been rather intrigued by Joseph, the father of Jesus. Have you ever noticed in nativity scenes that he is usually found near the back of the stable, close to the cows and sheep and camels. The center of attention is, of course, the wee baby Jesus laying on a bed of straw, with his mother Mary hovering over him. Joseph looks rather neglected back there.
Who is this man named Joseph, to whom an angel came and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Let’s give credit to Joseph here. What the angel was asking of him was unheard of in his culture. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, the cultural norms of his day would have demanded that she be sent back to her family because she was “used” property. He had every right to refuse to marry her, abandoning her to the mores of her day—ostracization or death. But he did not.
Now I may doubt the veracity of this story, and in many ways it enrages me because of Mary’s position in her world, but one thing I don’t doubt is that to stand up to the cultural norms of your day is a courageous act. Joseph engaged in a courageous act by taking Mary into his home and marrying her.
When you look around our world today, do you see quiet, unheralded acts of courage in the challenging of unjust cultural norms? I see it everywhere. Folks refusing to give in to bullying. Folks refusing to give in to racial stereotyping of groups of people because of the colour of their skin. Folks striving for peace when it is so much easier to rush to war. Folks demanding human rights for the LBGTQ community.
Such courage is everywhere and I think we have, in part, Joseph to thank for setting a strong example. Let’s take that fellow from the back of the stable and place him closer to the action.

For those who have followed my speaking and writing career, know this is very close to my take on the Nativity story.  And it shows a strong inclusive message based on the core of creation, Love…all that is missing for me is that the demand of human rights is not just our family in the LBGTQ community, but also for the family in the differently abled community.

In this Holy Season of the 12 Days of Christmas…please let this be the prayer of action in your heart and being…building a house of inclusion (and by the looks of Woodcliff online, if you are in the south of Calgary pop by on a Sunday Morning and see if this is the family for you!).


Ian Rankin (2016) Rather be the Devil was the latest delight of the Calgary Public Library hold shelf at their Village Square Location (and yes I have been around this community long enough that I remember the original library van when I was a kid). But why does this percolate a post even before I have cracked the cover on the newest Inspector John Rebus mystery. The roustabout musicphile of Scotland who is no longer an inspector in the last few outings.

You read that right, he was retired a few novels ago but brought back in a consulting role. Whether or not this was Rankin’s intent with a character he created back during his doctoral days or not is truly not the point of this reflection. For it is something that tickled my mind, coupled with a lasting image from a few nights ago when we popped over by the Community of Temple Fire Hall (okay it was the 7-11 for slurpees as a family, but still).

Next to the Fire Hall used to stand an Anglican Church, St. George’s, a parish that has roots going back almost 50 years in this area as well, but it did not start out as a building. It started out as a parish without walls in local Catholic School gymnasiums. How do I know that? I was the fist babe Christened on the baptismal roles in said gynnasium (even down to the pic with the priest and shamrock backboard behind the head).

Now it is simply an empty field (though the Altar Guild at my farewell gave me a banner of the Saint and Dragon as a reminder that still is displayed in my home), the building had become condemned, the amphitheater I used to host outside concerts and road hockey tourneys for the community just over a decade ago back filled in. The sign with pithy sayings to attract new comers–gone. Just the wild grass taking hold and rumours of one day it being the site of seniors housing, but so far no sign of ground breaking.

It was my last paid post in ministry, there was two other church postings to follow that were tent making for myself as I was paid to be apart of another. But it was that baptism in a school gym that shaped my spiritual DNA of the irrelevancy of labels, walls and barriers we tend to create in the world. Anglicans and Catholics working together. Then in pre-school, at an Alliance Church with the diversity that makes up NE Calgary (loved singing those kids hymns with my Sikh and Hindu neighbours), and a Presbyterian Vacation Bible School (that my own daughter still attends).

I am not going to get into my spiritual journey in Junior and Senior high school, or shaping in Indigenous, Pagan, Mystery or Eastern Traditions or digress into evangelical theological formation in Bible College and Seminary; while serving and practicing in mainline churches, or monastic formation with Anglican, Catholic and Ecumenical Franciscans. Some would say, that I have removed myself from the Progressive Christendom voice by act of, well, leaving the physical church buildings and to be honest becoming tired with the mundanity that Christianity has created for itself in its fear of becoming irrelevant.

Yet.

As I look upon this character who in retirement from his life passion is still pursuing truth and justice, and I look at the reclaiming by nature of the former site of the parish that sparked my journey.

I no longer wonder, I know.

A voice is only not relevant when it is not used.

An act of kindness is only not relevant when it is left undone.

A kingdom act is only not a kingdom act when the source is not the love that opens one soul to the Cosmic Christ, and out of that soul lives in unity with all that is.

The question is not whether or not I am Christian, Progressive, New Thought, Science of Mind, New Age (and yes the litany of the pieces that feed my spiritual piece of the medicine wheel, and by proxy my whole self can go on and on)…the question is whether or not is founded and lived out of Love?

And the name for this love for me is the Cosmic Christ, whose example is the Master Teacher, Brother Jesus, and that flowed from the Loving Creator.

So…all that remains to ask as a life is lived is simply:

What Would Love Do?