Posts Tagged ‘Christendom’


Tod Bolsinger’s (2018) Canoeing in the Mountains is another addition to the ideas of what to do as leaders in the post-Christendom world. We are witnessing the death gasps of the old modality, especially ramped up during our current pandemic. The crux of the journey, with a touch on the parables drawn from Lewis & Clark, but truly deep dives into Dr. Bolsinger’s time as a PCUSA pastor, what does it mean to traverse change in leadership?

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A book mentioned in a course, 2 years later found at Red Deer’s Parables Store.

It is a book that was mentioned during my reboot/healing work months in 2019, when I attempted a course at Alberta Bible College on Strategic Leadership (as an audit), as we explored leadership. The concept as leaders, being not necessarily to try and read everything available on the topic, but rather pick one title a year. A little like the advice I was given wen I started out in ministry last century in regards to conferences, not to be overwhelmed by the amount but rather pick the 1 or 2 that have value added for learning, but more importantly renewal (like the Leadership Summit I attended at ABC in 2019, but sadly, covid).

Though it brings forth in this reading some reflections, as I continue to deep dive into what it means to grow healthy spiritual communities.

What does community look, neigh, love like through a gospel lens?

This book, with ones such as a Church Called Tov are intriguing in how to do things differently, as Bolsinger points out apptly, when it comes to traversing the journey of change churches default to what they have always done (not necessarily what has always worked or even been enjoyable). It is the quick fix, the knee jerk reaction for as people, especially people in change pang (yes, death may be a part of it) is to default into what they have always done. It also is what creates the fight-flight-freeze response when new folks, or those shifting their journey begin to ask questions as to the why (rationale behind) actions, decisions, methodologies, etc. I would equip practicum students to ask my teams the why questions, if we cannot go beyond the “that’s how we have always done it” type of cliche, then it is something to be explored. That is, it is a sacred cow not necessarily an effective tool or community aspect (and from a leadership book of yester year’s title, sacred cows make the best burgers).

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For in reflecting on the idea of adaptive leadership within Bolsinger’s book, and his other twinned motto, failing only as fast as the community can handle, it becomes clear part of the learning curve for shifting gears is to work with congregations within the concepts found in Senge et el (2008) Presence which is about being present during change, during the move through the U Theory of letting go, letting come, prototyping new ideas, before crsystallizing the new reality. What I feel when I read Bolsinger’s text is being adaptive enough in leadership to act like an investigative journalist sync life coach to dive to the root of the issues at hand, to root out what is holding the community into the old paradigm, and to be able to let it go. Part of that work, as we know from working in coaching with internalized gremlins, is an often missed step, thanking that which we have always done. It has gotten us this far, but after thanking it, ritual of releasing it, so that the altar is cleared for the new call, the new commissioning.

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The New Community that is and will become.

What communal gremlins are holding back the church from becoming that which it is meant to be in a post-Christendom world?

How do we live into what Brother Jesus called us to authentically be, before Empire interrupted?


It was a simple tweet last night, but one that really did sum up where our family is after almost four years of a rolled back existence (yes I know covid has only been 370 days– but there was health complexities that slowed our roll and disrupted our normal before that). Simply putting out there, that our home is quieter than it has ever been. We miss the open door, we miss the shared table, the discussions, the tears, the laughter shared by our family (yes biological and those that belong with us). Yet, even as we, as my wife phrases it, are getting tired of each others’ faces it speaks to something that Covid has laid bare in our world, society, communities and chueches. This goes beyond the polarized view in our Christianities or presented in the media. From beyond the local congregation struggles to understand and implement restrictions, or pretend faux surprise when they outright refuse to comply that there is consequences for their actions. Truly that has been the surprise twist in the story of covid, so many discovering that rights are shaped in communal responsibilitiy, and it is not a cancel culture but an accountability.

But I digress, for it is also seeing the challenge of our driven highly strutctured and booked world that came crashing down in covid. How do we actually connect with one another? The reality being that we had a busy world, where it was easy to trip into small talk with another, but were we connected? What does connection look like? What does it mean? As restrictions ease in Alberta, many churches are shifting to multiple services to cultivate connection again as we have missed gathering.

Is it connection? Or simply proximity?

My experience is porximity. We have cultivated a cultural dissonance, that being around people means we are connected. Taking the concept of not being physically alone, alleviates loneliness, which is not always true. It is the concept that to be together in community, means mass (or restricted gatherings), but if interaction is not there, is it truly connection? Some will remember my writings and teachings around the belonging pyramid, and the inverted structure supported by Agape. I think this is what is happening as we struggle with our disconnect from busyness, and our lived dissonance of what we believed belonging was. The light has shone into the darkness, and confused it. This is the soul fog we are existing in, and beginning to emerge from. The question though is our desire to return to normal, going to silence and sideline what can (re) emerge in our religious communities?

Will true belonging emerge?

What is being put out there is that simple accessibility is connection and belonging. No, being in the building together (and if a building is up to code being able to enter the building) is not connection. Having a space for the person is not connection (it is rudimentary inclusion). This is what passed for connection and belonging in our hyper-programmed/hyper-business cultivated Christendom in the before times. In the before times where we expected our spiritual leaders to be experts in all things strategic, knowing how to grow numerically, financially, online, and have the key plug and play programs to bring sucess. It cultivated an experience where we sainted the busy, where access and connection happened due to where you were plugged in and giving (experienced this many times in Urban churches, where what level of tithing equated to level of faux belonging, not always treasure/money but also time/talent). Yet, there was no belonging, because you are not valued for your intrinsic worht in the Imageo Dei only for what you can give. In other words, we mock politicians and business leaders that speak of human capital for driving worth, yet as Christians, we have exaclty cloned that belief system into action within our own communities (for some intriguing contemplative thoughts on the history of church, I have been enjoying Dr. Stan Helton’s Caravan series on the blog of my Alma Mater, Alberta Bible College. Read here.).

Belonging takes effort. Belonging takes risk. Belonging takes bringing our Boards/Elders/Pastors back to Christian Testament community. It is scary. It is challenging. It is affirming. It removes polarization/dualism.

It destroys the community sin of Us versus Them.

Which can be scary for it makes community fluid. Responsive to those who are there. It challenges both big and small T traditions. The key question is “why do we do this?” and if it comes down to “it is the way we always have done this” but removes belonging, should it remain? The greatest challenge in the shift, is that it blows wide open our concepts of the image of God, and what the table for Communion/Eucahrist means in bringing together the Family of God?

This mullings have come from rasing a diverse family in Churchdom. Knowing the blessings of being a part of many church families, my kids in pre-school choosing to be baptized a year a part on Palm Sunday because they knew the love of Jesus their Granny taught them to sing about in Jesus, Loves Me, and their Nana shared with them. That they felt in the church families, but also the pain and hate brought to bear upon them in various communities not accepting who they are in the Image of God, because it challenged the big and small T traditions. Also, as I reflect back in some communities, my worth only tied to that which I could give, and in instances where I had nothing more to give no longer being seen as worthwhile within the church (and yes this was experienced by all members of my family).

It is also a challenge, for with the program lens, it can be simply, if you do not fit somewhere, you will not have any social connection. Look at the church coffee or pot/grace lukck times. Is there interactions with many? Do you stay within the scope of the comfortable? It can be challenging when we look at belonging those steps beyond inclusion, those steps that blow accessibility out of the water. This is not a polarized idea stating one type of Christianities is better than another. I have journeyed through the spectrum. Over c-tine, I have witnessed the rise of upperclass privilige within progressive church circles that overlap into the Q-Anon cult, and lower socio-economic challenges in fundamentalism that have overlapped at the same point of the Q-cult that has shone a dark shadown out there that only certain folks matter in the family of God, and many are exependable.

And sadly, the refrain is not Jesus loves me, but boldy from the pulpit, if you die I’m okay for my rights mean more than your life.

It is a struggle within to understand if the still quiet voice being heard within and communally is the Holy Mystery, or our own ego run amuck. For even good can come out of darkness, and that is the hardest challenge.

Yet, I sit here and continue to mull, for I know my family’s journey of joy and sorrow, has shaped us. How we entered c-tine has shaped us. Sadly, entering into a new relationship with church having to be reaching out for benevolent aid so you do not lose everything shapes your reprehension in reaching out to connect. Coupled with it being the same week picking up food hampers for survival from a former parish you were a leader in, humbling, but shaping the wall of protection more. It is something many givers and program makers forget. Especially in church, the socio-economic lens, shapes how connection happens. We are thankful to have cultivated a healthy summer camp relationship with our daughter, but there was another that could have been cultivated by the institution was locked into their socio-economic lens and myth story that broke the relationship. Now, is needing aid breaking a relationship? No, I raise the example, for the shaping then is always the wondering if you are to reach out again will it shape the interaction? Good intents can also be, unfortunately, shaped in the receiving. When the only personalized connection from a church family is in regards to aid, and not simply being. Yes, it is good to reach out to help, but it does shape in the receiver an understanding of relationship dynamics (true or false). How to shift, I am simply raising the contemplation at this juncture.

For part of the risk of belonging, is that sharing the space together- cyber, phone, or physical. The scent in the film Lars and the Real Girl, when the ladies group from the church comes to be, nothing more. Always brings up the concept, that appears to be lost in our busyness cycle of urban church. The fear when we talk about going back to normal, was normal truly that functional for belonging? Or was it functional for celebrating behaviour addictions that did not risk connection, for with connection (belonging) comes the risk of emotion?

What I have learned from c-tine, is confirmation of where I have existed. What I mourn in c-tine, is facing into the cup, and seeing revealed the dissonance we accepted to simply have a butt in a pew. What I pray emerges truly out of c-tine, is not how church was in the before times. I truly pray, communities of belonging are cultivated, with all the beaufitul risks that come with it.

My scariest moment, is my family standing with me, to take the step forward to risk belonging, and answering the call fully.

Amen.

Some intriguing reads for Lenten contemplation as we head towards Palm Sunday, the day Kingdom of God (belonging) met Empire Parade of Power, Money and Careers: Your Addiction to Outrage is Ruining Your Life | by Pete Ross | The Bad Influence | Medium


First, let’s lay it out, the term gospel is not simply religious, it is political. It is a call to action to over throw oppression, love neighour–y’know all that good stuff plus what is in the Beatitudes, though since the conversion of Constantine (or at least his narrative) to unify the divided Roman Empire under one religion he called the shots in, Christianity (the version of Christianity Empire approved) has been Christendom, which since the beginning of the 20th Century has been entering life support in their political power. The last gasps are being seen within Dominionism movements, Trumpers, Neo-Nazi, and certain Social Conservative circles. This vein of power cloaked in a Cross or a Creche is trying everything to maintain the power it is accustomed to. Though from my humble view from the pew, it is a changing throughout all the Christianities in loud and quiet revolutions, unfortunately the good happening is lost in the gasping tantruming that is harming our world (note Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., USA yesterday, and such staunch support still from folks such as Franklin Graham- Samarian’s Purse ready to punt your founder (or ex-communicate to use churchese) or you fine enabling hate and violence?).

Anyways I digress. Part of this tantrum, is Christendom’s death knoll, is trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that they are oppressed within the Western World. This oppression narrative is not new, I would say it has been amplified due to the ease of social media to spread. I can only imagine the pearl clutching and scripture thumping in some quarters of Christendom with each new right whether Labour, Women, Human (minority) equality rights, environmental, Children, protections of incarcerated, universal health care, pensions, employment insurance, minimum wage, and the list can go on and on (imagine Catholic Justice ministers legalizing divorce and homosexuality back in the day?). Oh wait, it wasn’t as loud because most from the pews were in the streets moving these agendas forward with neighbour…

I’ll let you pause on that.

I’ve also heard it around harm reduction (whether we are talking sexual education, contraception, substance abuse/use, compulsive behaviours, food banks, or…like 2020-21—-gasp—hand washing and masks). Talk to the over 2,000 Alberta families mourning the loss of a loved one due to our opioid overdose crisis this year on the importance of harm reduction and recovery centres (and let’s not think of the emergent meth epidemic and syphilis’s outbreak currently as well in our province). I have also heard the minority pulpit slam and fear monger around losing the ability to preach the scriptures due to hate laws (yes, we have ordained some winners in this great country from sea to sea to sea), and when same-sex marriage, simply became part of marriage (and later the divorce laws) screams of government interference on whom the church could marry (it’s a sacrament y’know. Actually only if you’re Roman Catholic, and possibly Anglican-in that it is part of the 2+5 formula). What it was, was the church had to confront the fact that the sacrament/blessing of marriage was not a church act within the Body of Christ.

Remember that fella Constantine? Well since him clerics have been functioning as agents of the state in performing marriages which were legal under law (that line about with the power invested in me by the province of) it was power being threatened, nothing more, that was causing the vitriol spitting from pulpits in some areas (not all for many it is a non-starter or issue). They had to truly begin to understand why they were marrying? That bit where Jesus spoke about what is Caesar’s? Or perhaps not able to serve two masters? Which is why I have advocated simply that religious marriage should be a blessing within the scope of the Body of Christ, if a couple also wants the governmental paperwork then fine.

But why does this matter? Are you seeing the failed attempts at creating this oppression narrative? A narrative some have bought into? Remember in harm reduction when I mentioned masking? Yeah, this is what is coming up now. This idea of the religious being oppressed. Poor Poor pitiful me in Christ. We can’t meet in person, so let’s lead anti-mask protests with the reprobates of society (yes Calgary, it is our shame). What? We can only be at 15% capacity with masks and distancing and then online? Unacceptable, how can I know my Creator if I can’t be in God’s house? I am not going to argue the concept of worship in a building or not having a building (if churches rent or whatever), but there is something in discipling processes that has to point out buildings are not where the Holy dwells but with each of us, as we connect. with the other.

But going so far as to attempt to sue the government as Heights Baptist Church and Northside Baptist Church did to get a stay on restrictions (read here) or being one of a few that have ignored rules and been ground zero for outbreaks and watches (for example in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Coalhurst, Calgary, Northern Alberta prayer gathering) throughout the last ten months, with a few that have been fined for violations with restrictions (for example in Edmonton, Calgary) the majority have been compliant, during these unique and challenging times with follow through.

For those that have not been such terms as tyranny or gestapo have been thrown around in regards to our Health Inspectors and Law Enforcement holding them accountable. Essentially keeping the citizenry accountable for personal responsibility to be able to think beyond ourselves. It is not an infringement on rights, as our Charter in Canada is couched in communal safety and responsibility. It is not oppression. No one is losing rights or being harmed. The case for civil disobedience is not made as it has been in the past situations that opened this post the church walked with and served within for transfiguration within our society. How does this non-compliance bring the Kingdom of God which is near (just through the Thin Space) to the now?

It does not.

What it does it create a self-fulfilling prophecy, makes the church the scape goat for a pandemic the provincial government is struggling to manage, and that is overwhelming Health Services:

Statistics of Covid 19 in Alberta on January 7, 2021 (1217 families and communities mourning)

This is the time when we can shine Christ, or we can let the darkness reign as seen most recently in Fairview Baptist Church Calgary whose leadership has invited members to continue to violate rules even after sanctions (read article here).

From my Facebook on Jan. 7, 2021.

Truly, church, we are at a point in time in history, where we can live Christ, or Empire Tantrum. It is your call on the world we are called to build.

Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version)

Matthew 1:20-23 (New King James Version)

A rather innocuous passage in Matthew is often overlooked, similarly to the passages within Luke in regards to the visitation and questions of Mary. Here, we have Joseph, doing what any man of his era would be doing in finding out his recently betrothed bride to be (she of approximately 13-14 years old) pregnant. Pondering what to do? Shall he declare the crime? Have her taken by the Edlers outside the city gates and stoned to death? Simply cast outside quietly to turn into a beggar? A play thing of the Empire on the road side? Or quietly divorce her and let her family deal with her?

See, Joseph was struggling with pride and reputation. When Holy Love comes into his life, and this is the key moment for him. Do you hear it? That aha moment in the heart? That moment when he realized the power in his wife to be’s YES to the Holy. The “Yes” that shattered the bastardized topsy-turvy world the Empire and Religious oppression had stripped them of. The love, to feel the true awe of…becoming a Daddy (Abba).

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Saint Joseph and Toddler Jesus, according to Roman Catholicism, St. Joseph is the patron saint of Realtors, families, fathers, unborn children, expectant mothers, immigrants, travelers, explorers, pilgrims, house seekers, craftsmen, engineers, and workers. He is the patron saint of many villages, towns, cities, churches, and countries including- Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, Austria, Korea, Americas, China, Croatia, Indonesia and Phillipines.

Now this is where fundgelical praxis theology of the lovey-dovey thoughts hits the snag. See, Joseph became a Daddy with Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus grew up in a loving home, learned the faith from the Matriarchs, and the way of work from the Patriarchs in his family. Having grown up in a trades family, I can guess, he probably had a pretty cool experience with all the building things to play with. Unfortunately, instead of reading the gospel stories of Jesus’ family with the lens of love and belonging in family. Too many take the view of “step” or “adopted”, that is they impose an extra layer of distance the relationship with Joseph and Jesus. The default being, well, Jesus spoke of his Heavenly Father.

Except, the Holy Spirit that came upon Mary is usually in the feminine. Except, in the creation story in the Hebrew Bible, both male and female are created in God’s image. Yet, we do not speak of Mary, as the earthly mother, just as Mum.

So why the differentiation? To allow for a perpetuation of unhealthy dynamics, one that harkens back to the genealogy lists within the scriptures that prove ones “pedigree” (or worth) in society. Yet, what is missed, is that the pedigree of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is of Joseph.

So whose his Daddy?

Is it not time to move beyond this antiquated view of Empire imposed familism?

Do we not yet understand that the point of the birth narrative is to show that the bond of family and belonging is love- FULL STOP- and that Jesus was blessed with an amazing family with both human and divine parentage?

Next time you hear the bad exegesis about Joseph, not being or needing to be his Daddy as Jesus was not his son, simply reply with the theologically best answer I can come up with “bollocks”.

Which is point one of this ecclectica, the other was trying to be politics free on Christmas Day, and only doing spot checks of social media, The United Conservative Party proved my social media musing with the new Covid restrictions/exemptions that had been announced in Alberta a few days before Christmas:

And yes church it was shown once again, for a tweet storm emerged with the UCP sharing of a Christmas greeting:



Found in Revised Common Lectionary Cycle B (found at Vanderbilt University: Year B – Christmas : Revised Common Lectionary (vanderbilt.edu)

Now we can argue over which translation of the Holy Bible was used, and whether the term was government or authority, but it is found within the Revised Common Lectionary for the readings. A lectionary is the reading rhythms that within a two year cycles of Sundays the church will hear all the Bible (and/or major themes) read from the pulpit. This is the example of what the Christmas Day readings looked like this year:

For finding scriptures I suggest http://www.biblegateway.com

Now, there are some things of note.

  1. The meme actually got more air time via progressives attempting to shame, call out, or otherwise put down.
  2. There is some issue with the meme any believer should take, when the Gospel reading of the day is from Luke, the birth of Christ, the scripture should have come from there. Unfortunately, Luke is the gospel written to and for the disenfranchised in society to empower and give voice, it is a rallying cry which with the track record of the government currently would have come across as higher hypocrisy than normal.
  3. The image of the Holy Family used is uber Blonde European. The traditionalist church images used, and not very historic. Some may say minor, some may say major point, but on point for the message.
  4. The use of the government in the quote is to be seen as a nod that the ruling party is there by divine right, yet who is Isaiah? Will share a bit on that.

Isaiah is a major prophet in the Holy Bible, respectfully from the Hebrew Bible portion. His book is 66 chapters in length, which has led some protestants to equate it to the Protestant Bible as an allegory (note I said Protestant as there are many bibles with books in as apocryphal/deutero-canonical or canonical that are beyond the scope of these 66). There was more than likely more than one Isaiah as a writer within the book, through textual historicity, the first writer would be the one who wrote the passage in the meme. Many of the Hebrew Prophets have had moments when their words have been pointed to foretelling the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, or more mystically, the Messiah (for if you are Jewish, he has not yet come). Most of the work was probably written during the Babylonian captivity, around 8th century BCE. The prophets were not necessarily future oriented texts, as much as social justice texts.

The prophets were called out of Israel to literally call Israel out. To point out what they were doing contrary to the heart of the Holy. It was framed in contrary to the Law, yet what is at the core of the Law and the Prophets? Love of God/Self/Neighbour. The prophets laid out unabashedly the harm being done under the guise of the name of God, and then what the repercussions were to be (reaping what one sows), in two cases at least the exiles under Babylon and Assyria. Then the inter-testimental period of silence were Rome seized their world. The world that the angels came to both Mary and Joseph to let them know, much like Zechariah and Elizabeth, that they would become parents of blessed children. Blessed children, what Brother Jesus let his followers know was each and every child.

So yes, this is a simple Merry Christmas from a political party. Yes, it is a message of Christendom (the Christianity of Empire) that speaks to a minority seeking to hold power, but lose the gospel, and yes, it is from the actual scriptures.

What is also clearly shows, like the story of Joseph, is a tool that can be of division, scape goating, and used wrongly.

What it leaves us with, is will we take the deeper message of the birth of Christ? The context of the word’s of Isaiah and the prophets knowing that a governing party just did one of the greatest self owns in history by literally turning the finger back on themselves to say- hey guess who isn’t meeting the call of justice? Guess who is willing to enter the exile for power?

Take time, and yes, it is a time when anyone of religious stripes who wants to speak up clearly and honestly. Share your faith, share how it has been used to harm, share how it has helped, and when politicians or religious leaders or fellow congregants attempt to use it to harm, call them out.

For we are all blessed children, loved, with family that embraces and loves us at this time of year, as today we enter the journey of the Magi following the once in hundreds years astronomical event to warn of the impending genocide.

Be the clarion call to end injustice.

Stand in love.

Amen.

Hi-Jacked Faith

Posted: April 18, 2020 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hope wins

Is the shattering truth of the empty tomb

and the new life,

celebrated a scant few days ago

the blood over doors

the exodus of the persecuted

a false regime propped up on religious eyes

shattered.

Religious oppressors

Empire dehumanizing

2,000 years ago give or take a few years

depending on your historical lens

Constantine’s swords sleighed

bastardizing Brother Jesus’ words of the Kingdom being near

not sword and steel to rule all,

but a transfiguration of the world

true belonging due to simply being created

in the wonderful mosaic image of the Holy

Sacredness breathed in

acknowledged,

blessed

Love wins

We continue to miss the mark

our corporal sin,

bastardizing love with qualifiers

to sink into our own badge of “sinful” forgiveness honours

to create dissent,

exclusion

contrary to the words, and life lived, lost, and resurrected

Still today

horrors cloaked in a faux cross

to pacify the masses, like an opioid

so they will believe they do note

deserve equality, equity, justice

health care, belonging

affirmation of inherent worth

for being human.

We allow too many,

as the quiet revolution speaks from the whispers to the shouts

the empire of the faux cross rattles as the embers burn away the  crucifixion wood

dominion to destruction of creation

like our neighbour

that we were blessed to inherit, to curate, cultivate, care for

to serve and live in cocreation with the Holy.

Willing to succumb to the absolute evil

that the sacred writings of those on the journey spoke of

greed in the lust after money

the lust after the matarial

the lust of defining our worth based on bank accounts, belongings owned, that has always led astray.

Mixing up material belongings and money, with values and belonging.

For the kingdom as Brother Jesus said, is near…

we can touch the thin space.

We simply need to throw off the yoke and shackles of the Empire

The faux cross we clamour to,

and stand in the margins,

with the labourer who taught us through living

that

Hope Wins

Love Wins

Are you willing?

 

 


It is a question that gets asked of me quite a bit. Why Church? In this era when most of my generation has checked out, and as frequent readers know over the years the headaches we have had with church (for some of those fun anecdotes I direct you to my memoir Soul Ripples ), everything from a pastor trying to break up my family to another stalking me from church to church to being fired in an AGM as the church did not want a youth group made up of children with disabilities…sigh….

Anyone can write the litany of why the hell not to bother with church. I mean this past Sunday I sent in a prayer request to our Calgary congregation because due to some douches (it is a very holy word I promise) bullying in the pew my son does not feel safe in worship. We are working with my son to re-discover the love of the Holy Trinity that has it his life from when he was never to leave a hospital bed to being the awesome fun loving teen ager he is today. Church was also part of that love.

See that’s the crux of it. Where many point to abuses (and yes those who abuse should be tossed, no questions asked, and turned over to appropriate authorities); or to the worship of money (go to an AGM and you will discover what your local church holds to be true about money, for more structured church services where they place things speak of its value–that is the closer to the end the higher the value). In regards to money, we visited a mentor’s church of mine this past Sunday, and offering was after the few opening worship songs, my wife had heard me pontificate about the idea of Liturgical structure, but the freedom this created in the person not to worry about money during service struck home, simple placement.

But I digress.

Do I attend with my wife and kids, as others we know speak of going- tradition, habit, and-or fear of going to the warm place with the pokey things? NO

So why the hell do I bother with church?

Simple, we attend because we believe. We believe in Love as lived by Jesus, we believe in the community birthed by the Holy Spirit, and the creation we have been given care of by the Creator.

I have seen the good of church. In my own life, it was a place to heal after a storm. I saw my kids eyes light up with wonder when they chose to be baptized.

I have seen the church as a whole activated to care for those in need, the literal homeless, ill, caring for elders, and those with dementia. Creating space for celebration of birthdays and weddings and life victories. Journeying with those in love, who are in transition or mourning.

Standing in loving justice that all are blessedly the same but gloriously different.

My Nan told stories of the church in England during the war, the place of comfort and meeting. How the Salvation Army ensured all were fed.

The children of her neighbourhood told stories no matter who they were, the Mays was always a safe place and Granddad and Nan were their second parents.

My Grandma wrote in her journals of the blessed belonging different churches created for her and my Dad and Uncle during their years.

Small groups caring for neighbours…generational homes being spaces always open for those that needed a port in a storm.

Note what is missing? Politics. Love of Money. Deciding who is Holy.

What is present, is a simple response to the Image of God before you with love and belonging.

Why do I bother, because it is in my soul– the HOPE that should and will be there with church when the Spirit moves…

The Pilgrimage continues…

Early September 2019 through the Presbyterian Church in Canada is an awesome resource coming that I was blessed to be a part of on being a church that visitors will want to call home. Watch for it!

 


It is weird. I have been called the nihilistic or pessimistic Christian for quite a while. Okay, since I came back to church for sociologically and anthropologically I would look at the institutional church in Canada, regardless of the denomination (or in social media speak hashtag) and see that it was dying. Either butts in the pews or depth of spiritual formation. I mean heck for me to get spiritual formation that was not offered at the local congregation level I pursued degrees from a Bible College, Seminary, and formation in a third order monastic tradition.

It was a topic of a sermon at a Youth Conference years ago I gave, Emerge, where I spoke about the life support system of the Christendom (the Christian Empire since Constantine “converted”). As there is growth within the 2/3 world, and decline in the Western World (Quebec in the 1930’s and 1940’s had their Quiet Revolution to remove the Roman Catholic Church control, this is what is happening in the rest of the Western World, and why the Church has established bulkheads ala Religious Right that fight fog issues such as Abortion and Marriage Equality instead of living the Great Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, but that is an article for another time).

It is a time in the life of Church, where we are struggling to decide what church is? What do we offer differently from an intramural sports league, community association, book club, political party or service organization? These waters were even more muddied by the “seeker sensitive” approach of the mega-churches that became plug and play for many smaller churches. A space where we stripped away what made church different, and how to disciple for a space that was open. It created a space of accessibility and inclusion (there was a seat), but it did not create belonging for as huge numbers ebbed and flowed, none were missed. There was no roots grown.

This is the era we now sit in. See, there is a yearning for the good ol’ days, when churches were brimming full. It was the inverse of the seeker culture of the late 1990’s early 2000’s…or is it? There was a compulsion to be a part of a church and active for social and economic acceptance not because of actual belief within the tenants of faith. Both Christendom and Seeker Sensitive created a breadth with no depth, and we are still sitting on life support. As Christendom dies, and as many mega churches collapse under their own numerical success and corruptions we are left to ponder what is to be?

This is what went through my mind, as the grief cycle of Churchdom is stuck in U theory on the letting go phase, so what is to come cannot gain full traction. It was a great service of what happens when one as community lives the Great Commandments, yet the first hymn stuck in my throat and I could not sing. It was a hymn of Christendom, one that spoke of what started the cycle of falsity, and muddied the waters, and relegated key pieces of the Trinity to the sidelines. Jesus was a focal point, but only as we worshipped literally the stories of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament, yet the shift was more to power and money with these as mere illusions. It is where one ponders if God is alive, and as many scholars have begun to write, we have sidelined the Holy Spirit. That’s right, whether you are charismatic or not within the Western Context, we have confined the Holy Breath to check boxes of what is “appropriate”, we no longer live into the Holy Mystery and blessing of creation.

So what hymn stuck and struck? Onward Christian Soldiers it is a war hymn, and as music is used to teach throughout the years concepts. It teaches the concept of Christendom, that we are meant to conquer and control, be a new Empire. Not be subversive, healing, and transfiguring of a world. It is one example, the chorus culture has created pop light love songs that do not allow believers to actually feel a full gambit of emotions, both cultures have created a Learned Helplessness for church goers and members.

What does that mean? If you do not believe Christendom should reign, and tack on to all the lightning button fog issues then you are not a believer. For the seeker culture, if you are not continuously happy and blessing seeing you lack faith, for it is the little faith that leaves you with other emotions. It removes the assertive voice of the created one blessed by the Holy Mystery. Both remove the blessing of the fully created soul and person in the Imageo Dei. To be included, you must adhere to the decrees of the church and if you do not function within that realm of belief, then you are truly not saved.

Let that sit for a minute, and then I ask you,

Why is the church dying?

It is because we have truly lost our path, corrupted by the things of Caesar as Brother Jesus would say, and then corrupted by not following through on living life together. We chase simple plug and play solutions that treats humanity like a computer code. That is we function as an institution, and when it does not work we are at a loss.

When being a belonging community for all, is a messy endeavour.

How today, are you being messy and creating belonging?


Nadia Bolz-Weber is a minister, founder and former pastor at House for Sinners and

Her: “Why do you think the church has tried for so long to control human sexuality?”
Him: “Maybe the church has always seen sex as its competition.”

Saints, writer, and practical theologian. She exists in the margins of life, that are meant to be belonging within the Kingdom (just read a Gospel folks). Her latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Revolution (2019) is well worth a read. I will not be reviewing the work, as much as becoming a piece of the journey by using touchstones to reflect on pieces of my own journey, and getting Christendom off the pillar and back into people’s lives authentically.

It is about moving one of the greatest gifts the Holy Mystery created us with, pleasure (sexual or otherwise) out of the world of condemnation and fear. Of embracing how we are created, and that it is the journey of that life that shapes us. Bolz-Weber writes honestly and openly about the need for an ethos of Sexual Stewardship.

Read those two words again: Sexual Stewardship.

We talk of being stewards of God’s gifts. The norm for stewardship campaigns is when they are asking for our money or volunteerism. Yet, there is more to being stewards of God’s creation. On the 6th day we were created in our creator’s image and called Very Good. Even after we screwed up and “sinned” (love the sharing of Francis Spufford’s definition of sin on p.180 “HPTFU”-the human propensity to fuck things up) we were given all creation to care for and be stewards over.  Wow, does that read like a punishment or a blessing? Like when you leave home for the first time (or like me your parents sell you the family home and they leave) you literally have the keys to the King/Queen/Queerdom (much like Jesus reminded Peter of by giving them to him again).

The Nashville Statement was a regressive and barbarous statement I refuse to share, read the response The Denver Statement here.

Bolz-Weber sharing of trying and succeeding in getting a sexual education booth at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s youth gathering. It took a bit because parents would buck against it. Let us pause. Back up, and think about our own learning about sex, pleasure and how it has shaped us. I was blessed by learning the nuts and bolts through harm reduction focused sexual education in schools, and my parents encouraging and sharing their own values around intimate relationships, I only hope I can do the same with my own children.

In my own journey I have ran the gambit of the theological spectrum, and neither has been very comfortable when it comes to my pedagogy and spiritual formation for youth and young adults. They get to guide the discovery of the topics and bible stories we explore. This meant a lot of talking about Sex. In a positive manner, and sharing honestly and openly the journey. It is not something you can hear about in a negative and hateful way, then end up in a committed relationship and a magic switch flips to gain healthy ground on it.

One of the ways I got in trouble with the progressive church was by teaching sexual education. I did not default as others have by bringing in the “public health nurse”, our youth should and do get that in schools. They need to honestly hear the raw truth, and education from their elders and mentors. They need to see the spectrum that is out there, from A to Zed. I would explore (and even my volunteers would struggle) from Abstinence to Harm Reduction, talk openly about STI’s; about cherishing who you are, pleasure, and consent. Many times during these series, I would have youth attending from other denominations (we already got quite a few community youth out–and yes those ones knew belonging they would attend our traditional service, not contemporary, because that is where the grandmas and grandpas were that had “adopted” them as part of the family). Those other youth pastors would phone and e-mail me viciously about being the anti-Christ, and trying to steal their flocks. They did not like when I simply asked, “do you not enjoy sex with your spouse?”

Never truly knowing if it made an impact, but then at a middle of the road church where I was their Youth Monk, Brother Ty,

a Holy Spirit moment:

A call from a local high school’s guidance counsellor almost giddy with joy fighting through tears thanking me. Why? They had been worried about a few of their students high risk sexual behaviours, one had been at youth group on the talk of consent. This youth had come to talk about getting birth control, and how she knew she could say No for it was her body, and about mutual pleasure. She was more than just a receptacle. It had start a bit of a ripple in her friend circle as well.

We are to be stewards of all the gifts of the Creator,

Sexual Stewardship

Creates wonderful miracles.

An Odd-Duck Memory:

In Bible College taking wisdom literature, each student was to lead a session of opening or closing devotionals. Mostly to shock I chose Song of Songs (renamed in one era Song of Solomon, as this ancient Hebrew erotic poem was castrated to be about a man writing about Jesus and the Church, head scratcher their folks).

It is Ancient Wisdom and imagery of the love, pleasure and passion one feels when two become one, or when one truly embraces and loves themselves.

 

 


I have always enjoyed reading the practical current events spiritual magazines/newspapers published in Canada. Most are denominationally specific. Among my top 3 were: United Church Observer, Anglican Sower and Presbyterian Record. The last two I also had the privilege to write for and share thoughts, unfortunately they are also no longer publishing (the fact they carried my works has nothing to do with the ceasing of publication I believe). One can also trace in my spiritual journey, denominations or religious traditions have not been high, I have drank and do drink from the many wells the one river feeds, yet it is the one river that I thirst for.

As I wrote a few days ago after a cascade of flashbacks triggered by a denominational prayer cycle (Read post here) it is unique that the latest issue of the United Church Observer in their Question Box column, Spiritual Solidarity, touched upon clerical unionization.

                “Clergy conflict reflect the ongoing turmoil and anxiety within the wider United Church.”

-Christopher White

Workplace and community conflicts are part of existing together. They are to be expected, what is not to be expected in civilized society is such harassment, haranguing and trauma that individuals leave their employment, or wind up with deep rooted scars. This article triggered flashbacks, part of the work of trying to rise above my flashbacks is acknowledging the pain, but also acknowledging the good I have seen and been apart of.

Obviously, the article is centred on the organic transformation within the United Church on this issue, but I can attest it crosses Christianities tradition and denominational lines. Following is a few thoughts on the good and bad I have been apart of.

“I also believe that more and more…is moving from primarily seeing ministry as a covenanted relationship to seeing it as a contractual one.”

-Christopher White

  1. The small congregation that hired me as a youth leader leaving my first experience, and then a minister. Both with contradicting missions. The congregation responding to the pain their abuse had caused catastrophe with previous ministries, allowing those with the money to run rampant. Online abuse existed before social media it was done via cc and bcc on e-mail as my character and personhood were attacked by those in the church that did not like their children/youth thinking. The harassment also continued through the office of clergy towards me, and some youth with mental health concerns. Meetings were held; then it went up to the Presbytery level to meet with the congregation and even though these meetings concerned me I was not allowed to attend. Eventually they beat you down, and I chose to surrender my ministry—yes the majority wanted to bring me on as minister, but even with mechanisms to sanction the vocal minority bullies—they refused. How did the organization reward this community? With more money, bigger space…message sent to those targeted—you do not matter.
  2. Being a Lay Professional Leader in a congregation doing things such as contemplative worship services, pulpit fill in; leading a bible study. Yet the wealthy in the aging congregation got their tempest in a tea pot over kids at play, noise, and the online attack campaign begun. Unwillingness again to call out a spade as a spade from those higher due to—yup you guessed it—money at play as donors.
  3. Stalked on and harassed via social media by a congregation and their pastor—why? As a family, we attempted to advertise our home bible study and potluck on the church Facebook page. My wife encouraged to distance herself from me and my unChrist-like influence. When she refused, and we chose to leave as a family those that said they were our “friends” shunned us like leaving a cult.
  4. My son’s joyful noise at a Santa Clause service being called out in vehement anger by the minister and called to leave service. Shunned by the supposedly “inclusive” spiritual home. In the moment those who preached standing up for injustice became the bystanders while the bully postured and the bullied was left believing he was on Santa’s naughty list.
  5. In Bible College having a professor point blank tell the class when I answered in favour of inclusion “that is why your church must die”…and being taunted in the halls as the “fag church member” still standing strong and up as best I could, leaving the learning environment to be battered in my “church homes” as I tried to build ministries.
  6. Para-church directors head hunting to fire me for my political and/or theological beliefs not aligning with their personal understanding.
  7. Being the family scape goated by an ill-equipped children’s educational ministry, because we had the “special needs kid” and not looking seriously at the bullying issue by the children of the long term generational members, and having the “r word” used to describe my son.
  8. Hearing during service a priest being called out on the rug because he took a stand for inclusion of God’s children, and love for those who are differently abled.

That is the darkness. Some can see through that a need for the mediating voice, but a union is not just there for the darkness, they are there to create a support network for successes. A place where the story can be shared for what has transformed, what has been overcome, and can create a relationship where clergy can easily move between denominations.

  1. I have been apart of wonderful churches that have had no actual building. Where ministries and retreats for youth were sponsored by church family members (with or without kids) in their own homes.
  2. I have been there when seniors have continued to answer the call to serve our children as they closed in on 100 years old, as we created “Elders Time” where a big comfy chair was created and the Elder could share the story, and then have the youth be their hands and legs for the activity.
  3. I have seen the passion of inclusion, where walls were broken down and churches laughed off the “tradition” of church youth/community youth time tables to have open youth group for all where spiritual formation was encouraged, and critical thought.
  4. I have seen youth and young families forego the “contemporary” service to be apart of the old liturgical service because it is where the seniors were, and allowed those without grandparents to find that role in their life in church.
  5. I have broken bread, shared meals, lifted many families and friends within my own home around simple things as movie discussion nights, bible studies…where life was done for those shunned by churches they did not fit the mold for due to life circumstance, simple acts of kindness and love allowed the journey to continue… and yes, the noise of children is apart of that.
  6. A Children’s Ministry coordinator coming and speaking directly to my son about coming and being part of the group, not asking us, asking him and listening close for his body language and spastic voice if he wanted to come.
  7. Having a priest during High Mass while blessing the host pause, as my son cheers loudly, and state to the congregation overflowing, “May we all have that excitement to be one with Jesus!”
  8. A minister that contacts my son about if he wants to be in the Christmas pageant, and then the congregation learns about inclusionary communication tools.
  9. Simple things, like a free half day Vacation Bible School that I was blessed to be apart of growing up, and then my teacher asking if my daughter would attend as they are re-launching (and yes, this past summer she learned some French!).
  10. Offering scholarships for VBS’s that have a cost so no child is turned away.
  11. Celebrating the diversity in our unity as spiritual beings from who we are to where we are from…whether it is being Affirming or Dancing our Offering to the Altar to everything in between and not even dreamed of yet.
  12. A Priest taking the flack for replacing offering over two weeks of masses to ensure the food cupboard is overflowing with blessing.
  13. A nun that gathers toys to deliver with food hampers to families in need, and when families without homes sleep in the church ensure that even the volunteers have what they need.
  14. A priest that is troubled by persons with mobility issues not being able to get to the dining hall with dignity for church meals, installs and elevator.
  15. A priest that volunteers with homeless families and realizes they do not have the opportunity to shower in the parish before going out for their day. Installs showers, and announces offering from that weekend needs to be generous to pay for it.

For every horror story there is good stories, even great ones. Yet we cannot say the good outweighs the bad. We cannot say “this is church” to allow for the bullying. People are essentially good. We need to be generous in our ability to do what we can to build a better world, one simple act of kindness at a time.

A union for church employees on the surface may be something to be scoffed at, but it creates a mediating body, removes the ability of congregations or higher church authorities to cover up for PR reasons. It creates an environment with standardized codes of care and conduct that cannot be shouted down due to the “wealthy donor” paradigm. It levels the playing field, much like the gospels pointed to.

This is my story, my experience, my opinion. My act of reconciliation as the story stands, the truth told…now it is time to move forward…into a new day, and a hopeful healthier relationship in the congregation we have settled in.


A non-Western-centric view of the spread of Christianity shows the tree branching out from the roots in the Middle East (Judaism), into a trunk that is Orthodox, to branches of many different flavours (i.e. Coptic, Mormon, Jehovah Witness to name but a few), from the Roman Catholic branch breaks out Protestantism, and then subdivides from there (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and on we go, then those break down more into the more esoteric-metaphysics movements such as New Thought, Christian Science to the spiritual-aesthetic ala Unitarian-Universalist).

As well off R.C.’s comes the religious life.

That is the beginning of the tree of Christendom. Yet there is two prevalent branches that happened in the Western World that is a thrown into the mix as overarching branches, especially in the microcosm that is North America, and more specifically the Untied States of America and Canada, that has back benched some shaping of national identity: Prosperity and Social gospels.

Now these may look at first blush as new movements starting late 19th-early 20th century.  BUT they are not, they actually can be found in the very root system of the tree. A cursory contextual-anthropological reading of the Hebrew Bible books of Judges-Prophets shows both systems at play.

  • Prosperity Gospel- Those who are in tune with God, and are blessed will thrive and grow in riches.
  • Social Gospel- A community centered movement to care for all of God’s children (widow, orphans, aliens, etc.) in a just world.

What would usually happen is that the blessed nation would get off track in the social gospel end, embracing the prosperity above all, thus creating the cycle of deserving/undeserving of blessing, and a judge or prophet would interject to get them back on track. The wisdom books tried to show the cycles of life detached from this ideal of prosperity being blessed, with the best example being the use of the Satan character to challenge the devout Job to show that bad things happen to good people, and it is what happens in the midst and how the community responds that matters. Are we a Job or his friends that scatter?

It is this dichotomy that can be seen within the religious movements that have shaped social policy in both Canada and the USA.  The official writing of the social gospel came from a writer in New York named Rauschenbush.  In later 20th century in America the movement would latch onto the idea of Red Letter Christians, in Latin America it would become Liberation Theology, still other dubbed theology of the margins would also crop up that would fall into the broad category of Social Gospel.

The Religious Right though would take the strong road of prosperity, and one just needs to look at how the social system of the U.S.A. has been developed, and barriers created to see that outcome. Especially in the battle for something as simple as universal health care, and acceptance of refugees. It underlies the drive of the meta-story of America of coming in to independently achieve the American dream.

In Canada, the Social Gospel really took root in church basements sprouting out labour movements, suffragists, and tied strongly into socialism which brought about politically Progressive Party, Labour Party, eventually convalescing into the CCF federally whose ideas so shook the status quo that it forced the two major parties to shift their focus onto just society, and yes labour rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights and universal health care.  It underlies the Canadian story of working together in a mosaic to create a home for the world.  Highlighted by such stalwarts as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, William Aberhart, Pierre Trudeau, the Famous Five and many others who should be named openly…and I would say continues with many most notably, Elizabeth May.

An aside of experience, is during the rise of the social gospel movement, the movement created a “Christian Flag” to rally behind in protests showing the lie the oppressive forces of the day chasing prosperity no matter the human cost stating it was “Christian” and “ordained by God”. The movement shook the establishment and walked with all to craft a different story.

Years ago in Arizona I was witness to a very fundamentalist church saying a pledge to the Christian flag. It was driven as a pledge with the underlying beliefs that they were to out breed the other religions. It was said as a pledge to support shooting the illegals crossing the boarder as the Gospel of Christ proclaimed. The rallying cry was used for exclusion to ensure their own prosperity would continue. I almost did not get out alive pointing out the history of this artifact and what it was meant for, the fact I was an “ill-informed” Canadian in their mind is probably what saved my life.

That is a small story that shows what happens in the extremes of forgetting who our neighbour is and what it means to love our neighbour and ourselves as we love our God. A very linked triangle that shows all pieces need to be in place for healthy self and society from a faith perspective.

The question in the dichotomous and dogmatic world we live in is one right or wrong? That is dependent upon one’s point of view. Yet is it worth being prosperous, if it means leaving behind many in poverty and pain where they need to decide on simple matters like food/heat or rent? Setting a broken limb of a child or homelessness?

There is shift’s happening, and yes, the prosperity mind set is taking root in the world, but should it? What is the counter? What changes if all move forward healthy and prosperous? What if, as has become a movement in our schools we move from ME to WE not just locally, but hold to our roots and truly live it?

You see, this is the underlying narratives within our nations, though not founded on “Christian principles” as many want us to believe, the stories crafted the narratives of expectations of the people. Now we are in a time when the narratives have allowed hate in some circles to over shadow love in the pursuit of money…

So, what choice will you make for yourself, your family, your community?

If you state you are of faith, what will you choose, prosperity or social gospel?

Individualism or community good?

To end, it is a question asked by Rev. James Shaver Woodsworth, when he was the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission that was the open doors for the immigrants and refugees to populate the prairies. It shaped his view, his founding of the labour church, his stance against the money-making war machine, and eventually to surrendering his vocation. It is a simple question for you to answer:

Who is my Neighbour?