Posts Tagged ‘Christianities’


Humboldt- A small trucking company (1 driver, and 1 owner) had one of their 2 trucks accidentally go through a hockey bus on a snow-covered Saskatchewan high way killing many. A nation is in mourning, as in a country the land mass of Canada regardless of your extra-curricular growing up, you have been the child on the bus, and your parents have been the parent awaiting the arrival. Yet the on-set of social media which can do good, and allow connectedness can even twist this to their own gain. Freelance writers with dumb tweets, special interest group memes trying to get their issues back in national focus, alternative media fundraising, and those Nazi fringes spinning conspiracy theories because of the ethnicity of the company owner.  Then there is the backlash SJW’s (the extremists within the political spectrum) threatening violence from fisticuffs to murder to rape against those that were by any moral or ethical compass being uncivilized.

Now, seriously folks, why are we making the dumbass personal gainers the superstars? Why are you sharing their info to “fame-shame”? Therefore, social media has complaint processes, let it die in the dust bin, report, and move on the focus to where it should be. Let the light shine and confuse/destroy the darkness, not let the darkness envelope.

Show some humanity, and keep the focus on those involved and the ripples it has created of grief and mourning as we process through.

Syria- Violence should always be a last resort. This weekend we were shown what making a decision between two bad choices can look like. Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada and Vice President Pence stated it best (my summation) no one wants to see bombing, but something has to be done in this situation. President Trump of the USA was shamed, lets be honest into leading the air strike France and Britain were already planning, and Canada was supporting.

Why? Assad’s chemicalized weapon gassing of his own civilians (Sarin the type used).  For those who feel it should’ve been a UN mission, this would not historically have been possible, because you would not have gotten Russian onside, which is a historic supporter of Syria. The first Cold War created a slew of issues around the world, with Syria being the latest to have a light shone on it.

Yet, when left with the atrocity, the world needed to respond to show evil that it will not go unpunished. Sadly, evil also hides its factories of death (much like the rest of the world) amongst civilians. These people are not collateral damage, they are humans, that need aid. It is a crisis that once again shows the entrenchment of the extremes. From those cheering Trump and his, Mission accomplished tweet, egging on more violence; to the other extreme trying to make comparisons that Syria should bomb the western world for tear gas/pepper spray of protesters, dirty drinking water and/or mandating vaccines.

What would be helpful, is what Pope Francis always states, first you pray (Contemplate) then you act. Acknowledge the horror, acknowledge the hard choice made…then get the money needed to the on the ground aid organizations to aid the innocents trapped in the middle of it whether it be MSF, Red Cross, Red Cresecent or another…do the research and donate if you are able. If not able to get aid there, do something to make your community better, more welcoming of those displaced. Writer your government officials pointing out that we need to help those who are in need and displaced, create spaces of education, understanding, and well, be neighbourly. Actually, act humanely, and if you claim a religious belief and your response is on either of the extremes, I challenge you to truly go into your master teacher/gurus/prophets/saviours teachings and see what they would do.

Calgary Board of Education– During the summer bussing crisis I was on the news with my fairly blunt statement that the CBE (Board and Administration) do not see Complex Learning needs (nee special needs; kids with disabilities) as full persons with the way they are always scape goated; short changed and treated. The waffling on mandatory vaccinations shows this for those with compromised immune systems. The trickling out of audit results showing misappropriation of funds that was blamed on sky rocketing CLN enrollment they were not expecting (despite decades of data showing this trend to hit) to now CLN transitions, having schools post newsletters to websites without the announcement e-mail as usual, as transition planning is up in the air. The CBE is stating a downturn in enrollment within the community, yet just in October was crying crisis… Transition is hard for CLN families, you are trusting an institution completely with your child, who may or may not have the complete ability to communicate in a way that other children can; change can be hard so as you prepare for a transition year (ala grade 6, grade 9) to go into something new, to have it dashed it creates turmoil in a community that thrives in structure.  CBE, I am tired of the lies and coverups…I am tired of my kid and his friends being your emotional puppets…get it together and show you give a damn.

UCP/WRP– Bill 9, the buffer bill was debated in the Alberta Legislature this week. It is for safe zones around abortion clinics to stop the harassment, threats, abuse and assaults on patients and staff from the “Anti-Abortionists” (nothing pro-life about them). The UCP, her majesty’s Loyal Opposition provincially, walked out, would not go on the record one way or the other. Even though Leader Kenney stated votes like this would be left to his MLA’s conscience. Follow up was Kenney posting a video mansplaining what women need in Alberta (what a train wreck).  I am not a fan of the PC/WRP/UCP. I have served and seen the devastation Kleinonomics caused in Alberta infrastructure and those in need, and creating a bursting poverty service industry. I saw parallels in the UCP Movement, with the CPC movement federally, and feel for Red Tories provincially shoved out (I was one of you federally working on policy shoved out). But it does not surprise me. I remember a few provincial elections ago in my riding (honestly I cannot remember which candidate I was supporting NDP/Liberal/Communist), but we came home and the WRP Candidate’s campaign had been by, seeing our sign, they vandalized our yard leaving their literature nailed to trees and house. Phoning the WRP office the response was “what do you want us to do about it, free speech”.  My only hope is in 2020, Albertans vote for the moderation and discussion of ideas, not ideological entrenchment and screaming matches. Check the rage, and get back to the constitutional responsibility of good governance, the opposition is there to propose improvements or alternatives, not simply oppose.

Reproductive Rights– The attestation box has got the religious right in Canada in a bit of a tizzy. It essentially covers that you won’t contravene the Constitution or Charter or reproductive rights. Some of my alma matters have lost out on summer students because they won’t check the box. And as someone who has been a pastor, spiritual leader, and once (and still struggles to be in) the tribe of Christianities. I am tired of it.

  1. If you are going to say it is only about abortion—well then do your work to create a world where every baby conceived is wanted. Do your work to silence those that are the cause of the buffer zone bill.
  2. It is about more than that though. It is about the autonomy and control of one’s own body. As I have written before it is about control over one’s own body and decision whether to breed. It is about deciding if you want to be fixed or not, regardless of your specialists’ religiosity. More than that, it is also an acknowledgement of the Christianities detrimental and harmful behaviour of perpetuating domestic violence and control; of leading the charge of sterilization of whom they viewed as inferior during the eugenics time (which in Alberta was up into the 1980’s) and included persons with disabilities. Before we meme a black and white pity party martyrdom, let us actually sit and listen, and understand what we have done to do harm.

 

Olympic Bid- With the information the City Council has made available I am firmly against an Olympic bid. I am not in favour of a plebiscite on the issue, what I would like is the city non-partisanly providing the information for Calgarians to then make a decision via contacting their elected official, or online polling much like we do with census. The key is the information. I have a hunch, that the city is yearning for a return to the volunteerism magic of 1988. It was great, I was a kid, the energy was amazing. We were a city coming out of recession, reclaiming glory, and having a good time showing the world our stuff.

I would love to say round 2 would be just as great, yet do we have the substantial volunteer base? Business sponsorship? Many things to be asked, that no one (at least being reported in a transparent way) is willing to get out there.  But much like populist politics to the south migrating north, what we have is a shouting match of buffoonery.  Please just provide info and allow for citizens input or no matter what happens it will become a cluster because the other entrenchment will seek to ensure failure.

IOOFLet’s end with some, did you know trivia. Travelling in Vulcan, Alberta (yes my Trekkie is showing and I am proud). First, having supper with a buddy one night we were talking about the shrinking service organization/fraternal organization/mainline church membership and how shared space may be a solution. Low and behold the wife chuckles as she sees the Lions and Masons sharing a hall, then we loop a corner by Quark’s and see IOOF. The curiousity kicks in. What is that?

A google search at home: Independent Order of Odd Fellows (and Rebekahs) one of them fraternal orders, historically out of 19th century England. A response to the Christianities Empire of only doing good works for praise and paradise. The response was simply to be apart of an organization to do good without praise. Hence they were termed by mainstream society as Odd Fellows. To which my wife laughed and said, “always said you were an odd fellow.”

-30-

Advertisements

Please note: like with other resources I have pointed out the population touched upon can be transitioned to any group seeking belonging, for this article and from my reflections it is persons with disabilities. But it can be the experience of anyone physically or linguistically included, but not belonging.

On March 13, 2018 news broke that Stephen Hawking had passed away. What his passing on the surface revealed is the shallowness of inclusion/affirming culture as the tripe and trout statements for a person with disabilities who had passed were drawn out. “he is finally free of his wheelchair” was one “winning comment”. Showing ableism at its finest. accessibleIt is the type of world where it is okay to still see those who are differently abled as less than; allows the Calgary Board of Education to scape goat children with disabilities for their institutions inability to manage money or tell parents from administrators that there is only stress because you chose to bring THAT life into the world. It is the world where Christianities and other religions easily peddle ideas of “wholeness in heaven” or “if only you believed harder there would be healing”.

These are ideas in inclusive (read—you are welcome, if you do not challenge our notions) and accessible (that is there is adequate close parking, ramps and bars as coded by law) communities. Ones that still allow for the idea that persons with disabilities do not speak; or how wonderful it will be to see them in “heaven/paradise” (pick your form of afterlife) so they will be whole, able to talk, and run freely and really see who they truly are.

This is not belonging. As written about in Risk of Belonging and Risk of Belonging 2 it is about moving beyond these spaces that allow for bullying, allow for entrenchment of us and them. Moving to an understanding that each and everyone of us is different, and as such to fully participate within community as we are called/created to be, means that we need different supports/encouragement/aides. It is belonging by putting value on what the person brings to the community by being there, being apart of, their intrinsic worth and goodness as a person (personhood if you will), and the riskiest of all…that when they are not there…they will be missed.

Missed is the part that creates messiness and awkwardness for human beings. It can be as simple as someone leaving community to join another, moving, or transitioning. When they are an older person struggling with health and a transition to the next life or a new facility happens it is hard, but reconcilable in the lifespan.  Still we are called to allow for humane treatment, and belonging to still exist (something our world needs to work on, check out further thoughts section at the end).

The missing person is grieving the change of their world and what is known, whether our abled world and coding systems state they comprehend or not. The human spirit enters the grief cycle; whichever one your stead fistedly holds to in your theory of change—Kubler-Ross; U Theory, etc. there is a presence on the journey of new and different we have felt the need to quantify. It is hard enough to do when you are adulting. But it becomes even messier when we move into the broader spectrum of family (chosen or blood).

But this is going to hit hard and personal for those families seeking belonging where their child with medical complexities/disabilities/differently-abled is accepted for being a kid. When you have finally found that blessed place. The dramas of driving out the child before belonging because inclusion was enough of a risk… why is belonging riskier? Because you may miss.

How do I know there is a fear of being missed that stops belonging? Simple. To belong, means that individual will be missed. With someone who may not live past toddler years, pre-school, elementary or adolescences it challenges a community’s concept of justice, rightness. It challenges our entire societies basis of quantity of life over quality. It also challenges the ideal that quality comes from being life everyone else in what is termed “typical”.

Even more in our entrenched world it removes the ability for the community to have “the answer” or “the truth” about what happened. For the Christianism (or other forms there of), “well God needed them more than you.” Is going to be vocally called out as “BULL SHIT” whether it is by the family grieving leaving, or fighting back.

Belonging is messy because we risk missing the person who becomes part of our world. That risk of missing means we must be comfortable with having aspects of our world that cannot be explained. We must be comfortable with understanding persons for persons and labels not as defining personality and personhood but rather explaining how the experience the world and what is needed for a strong quality of life. And the greatest fear for those who are spiritual or religious we are confronted with something that conceptually does not make sense, and no one should be able to provide an answer for.

What is the risk of missing?

It is risking being human. It is risking being able to accept tears heal. It is being able to accept that all will morn the empty space in the community regardless of the missing persons age, because damn it, they were part of us.

      AND IT IS BEING OKAY with being in the pain of the unknown.

To risk belonging is hard, because we must risk missing and being missed by one another.

 

Further thoughts from others:

John Swinton interview with United Church Observer

The Solution is Assisted Life

Sharing a Story about Bullying


My politician’s mind is not yet ready to comment on the gong show of “what the” that was the Ontario PC leader vote (may never, as it did seem like reality television run amuck without the fun of a RuPaul Drag Race challenge). But, there has been some thoughts on new readings and thoughts in the religious world I feel like sharing.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Bart D. Ehrman’s Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World (2018) is the latest in his scholarly look at the life and times of Jesus, but also the New Testament World, and ancient Christianity. This is the exploration of the long-held claim that the reason Christianity took over the world, was due to the Conversion of Constantine and thus decriminalizing and promoting the religion. It has a good examination of how gods were interacted with back in the ancient world, belief of their daily interventions or causalities of history. Examination of other monotheistic religions that did not make the “cut” if you will.

The idea though of an exclusive monotheistic religion. Yes, there is power in that. But it was also an Emperor interjecting in theological debates. Ideas held that followers were writing cover letters for early apostles’ writings (idea of Pseudo-Paul letters, as covers for the collection of letters of Paul). How many active writings were out there, and what was to be held. What was to be included in the Nicene Creed, even though an Apostle’s Creed predated. There was already rigorous debate, and an exponential growth. How?

Think of the patriarchal/matriarchal dynamic. If a male household head converted, all in the household (including servants and slaves) became part of the religion. If a wife converted it may be slower, but soon would happen as well. It was communal growth, that moved people away from their localized deity to a universal meta-narrative.

Whether you choose to read it for yourself, part of a book group, or like other historical accounts to understand context of where your religion grew from…it is worth the read.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

For those facilitating conversations that are looking for a different way in. I suggest CW’s Black Lightning for an exploration on family, vocation, addiction, and the difference between inclusion and belonging.

I would also highlight Netflix’s Marvel’s Jessica Jones for those above noted, as well as mental health and trauma, what it means to find who you are and where you fit within the world

______________________________________________________________________________________

Reza Aslan’s God: A Human History (2017) does not bring much new to the table on the idea of the evolution of God as a concept crafted by humanity. If you have followed anthropology, or progressive religious writers the concept is not new. Why this makes my thought pattern is that the brilliant way he presented the journey of Adam & Eve in context within evolution, is worth a discussion group and reading.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

There is an argument fallacy in Christian apologetic and evangelism I wish to address.  It is the idea that the Christianities are not a religion but a “relationship”. This is the basis of the turn-burn movement. It is also the misinterpreted and misunderstood idea of choosing a narrow path in life, a life lived with respect and love for self and others and divinity.

Let’s be honest, people choose to be apart of something that is usually culturally significant or part of their family life. If they move outside that circle of influence, it is because they feel included. But just being included, or having the secret handshake or password is not what keeps them. They authentically must feel that they belong. That is, that if they were not there they are missed. It is the key. It is the missing piece of indoctrination. If one does not know what they believe, why they believe it, how it impacts their life (basics of mentoring in any movement or religion or business) they will not stay the course.

One can find belonging in any religious movement that gives their life meaning, fills the intrinsic piece. Why? Because relationships exist in the divine we meet before us. God is in everything, and everything is in God. It is God who we meet in our neighbour, and God we share to our neighbour through the life we live, and how we belong and aid others in belonging.

Basically, relationship drives every religion, so do rules and rituals…do not lie to yourself otherwise. What grows anything though is: do members feel safe?

Do they authentically belong?


…Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those granted nearness to God.

-Sura 3:46

                The Crusades were a horrific time within the Empire phase of Christianity. It was about anti-Semitism (travelling to and from the Holy Land was a great excuse for the warriors to cull the Jewish in the lands) and to let blood run high in the Holy Land battling the “infidel”.

During one such crusade time a disgraced Crusader received a call to something different. Francis was a party animal, one of those wealthy ne’er do wells many towns and communities know of. He thought to increase his lot by bravery in the Crusades…suffice to say he was not a good Knight, and wound up injured in a burnt out church where Jesus spoke to him through the San Damiano cross calling him to rebuild his church. After stealing supplies from his father, and rebuilding 3 fine parishes he was once again revisited and redirected to actual community based around hope and loved. Even beaten and imprisoned by his own parents, just emboldened this man to cast of (literally) the clothes of wealth and walk naked into the world.

The Franciscan movement is what began. Part of the life lived that receives little mention outside of the international circles (as most just know Francis for his love of animals, not activism) so he has been reduced to the garden statue or fountain. Yet it was in the midst of crusade times this rabble rouser and friends upset the apple cart, and not just in the challenge for equity and justice for the poor. Nope, he also crossed treasonous lines by going back onto the Crusader path to meet with Sultan.

Why?

To pray together.

To talk.

To share bread.

To be community.

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was ever inclined to God and obedient to Him, and he was not of those who associate gods with God.

-Sura 3:68

Francis and his community understood an eternal truth. God is the source of all that is, all that exists within and through and lived out of the Holy Mystery. The source-Love- was not to be confused with the manifestations. That is…the wells are not the river.

We want the labels to divide. Those in power hope that we allow the labels to divide. Yet, there is another way. A way where we acknowledge the One River, and sample one another’s well water in a safe place of community, sharing prayers, sharing discourse, sharing bread. Being like Francis and the Sultan. That piece of light in the darkness.

And he will teach them the Book, and The Wisdom, and The Torah and the Gospel.

-Sura 3: 49

This is why my family hosts an inter-faith Questing through the Qur’an; and a Brunch & Bible (where we travel the roads of the Gospel of Luke & Acts of the Apostles) on alternating weeks. To share the foundation stories. To see where we connect. To hear where we differ.

To know  we are still united in our diversity.

                Much like Francis’ call to bring the gifts of peace, hope, faith, joy and love to Sultan. But also to receive these same gifts from Sultan.

For, what are we in humanity,

if not neighbours….

francis

The Gospel story, the faith story has not ended. It is not sealed. Each of us in our journeys, our lives continue to write in the book of life about how we live within, through and out of the love that is the Holy Mystery. So what is the new chapter you are starting in this moment?


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.


Denominational prayer cycles are part of liturgical practice that has congregations praying for other congregations; leadership throughout the year.

I returned to organized religion in 1998 to a small United Church congregation in the community of Bowness in Calgary. I was in a rough spot emotionally, and my Nan and a long-time family friend took me to their church. It was a good place on the surface to re-enter Christianity, very progressive which for an activist like me was good. The Minister of the time allowed, even encouraged, an expansive understanding of Christian theology/practice/belief.

38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:38-40 (New Living Translation)

Where I had been baptized Anglican, pre-schooled in the Alliance Church, and VBS’ed Presbyterian (explored everything else). This was a space that allowed me to understand my family’s religious culture within my own growing understanding. It was the church I was confirmed in, taught Sunday School in. It was the church I answered my call to Ordered Ministry, and my minister provided a recommendation to a local bible college to attend.

When the letters went out to young adults seeking a youth leader, I answered. It was the group that I first took to a street ministry, and found another outlet for helping. It was where the strict guidelines of the new ministry initiative had to be followed, and groups had to meet on Friday nights. Which caused myself economic hardship, when the youth were told there was no money and we found a way to make some, the church board brow beat us to control the funds as general revenues not ours so they vanished and expenditures for the youth group continued to come out of my ever-shrinking income stream. When the harassment from older board members about me being young, not understanding how things were done, and threatening I did what we did in my circles, full transparency with the grass roots and one Sunday at announcements brought forward I was done and leaving. This led to a phone call of encouragement from our minister on study leave. One thing that still rings in my ear though from the harassers, “this is church”.

The final straw was they decided to post a paying position, and stated I would have to apply to see if I was qualified…which led me off to build another youth ministry as they offered and that is a horror story for other reasons.

But it was a church with fond memories, and my Nan. I was in an out to attend between ministry builds. Some healthy communities that thrived and my time naturally came to an end, others that were not good fits at all. When they hit a snag and their “qualified youth leader” kept flaking off, not showing up, I was asked to help, and I would pitch hit whether it was baking pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, or helping the youth do a service, or some minor teaching…but when time to fill the role they thought elsewhere.

Third time is the charm? Needing a Sunday School ministry, a open nursery and having youth I had returned to the church after a successful, and peaceful time in another denomination and ministerial outreach. Having completed seminary, and now looking to pursuing a doctorate, my Nan was not doing well and a regular weekly time together was nice. I once again as the one that brought the average age of the church drastically down filled roles as needed. My kids attended Sunday School. We had two young adults who were differently abled in the youth group, and two children differently abled in the Sunday School (one was my son). That stirring of the spirit to make ordination official stirred again, and I pursued discernment. A committee was struck and we began the journey to see if there was a call: Ordered, Diaconal, Designated Lay or something else.

I was also holding multiple roles in the Church board, and as Presbytery representative to aid the church in staying “politically” viable according to the United Church manual. We were working as spiritual leaders to ostracize the pain, and heal the wounds, reconcile the community together. Looking back, what should have been a strong sign that there were shenanigans planned for me, was during the meeting to craft a behavioural covenant for the community. The wealthy-power base that had harassed and expunged me previously reared their bully voice silencing the already bullied in the pews.

            Added some pulpit supply and my son and I doing chaplaincy for patients in dementia care as we went along the path less taken. Growing my para-church ministry work at the outreach I mentioned earlier (which becomes important, for the denomination, and multiple congregations were supporters of it).

Continued the work. Doing my best to let the weekly snide comments, harassment phone calls slide off my back like the proverbial duck—for this was church. Even though I knew that I had served in multiple locations that proved this wrong. But for me at this moment and time with my Nan, one of my best friend’s health declining, this was church because I needed to hold it together, it was one of the places my Nan enjoyed going.

Making safer, and brighter spaces within a very inaccessible building for our children who are differently abled. Almost dying from choking on cobwebs and dust while moving the “sacred annals of congregation history” in my deep clean.

            Harassing and angry phone calls directed at me.

Then the Annual General Meeting. M&P (one of those powerful members) had decided it was time to shatter the community. Redevelop the youth leader role. Needing to pay the role (I had not been taking pay, and had put forward that the monthly stipend be put as a budget line for youth monies for events). They motion before me and the congregation she pushed for vote was to hire a more qualified youth leader (keep in mind at this point I had roughly 12 years experience, was manager at the outreach, had a B.A. and M.A from a Bible College and Seminary, and had almost wrapped my doctorate). But that wasn’t the whole motion, it also attacked the differently abled to rip them from their community. The parents blamed me saying I knew. I still do not know to this day if they heard and took in that I did not, my heart was tearing.

            The bullies WON.

A church, that would see my family broken. When my Nan would enter care for her own dementia those that professed to be friends would shun and not show up. Cast us aside publicly. It was heard by me some saying that children like my son did not belong in church.

I was left with a quandary. Nearly done discernment. Looking out at the ABUSE done. Reflecting on my journey. It couldn’t be. Yet my committee I saw as good people, good members of the church, who were struggling to reconcile, asking if I would meet with folks to repair the bridge. I said I would meet but it wouldn’t change our mind about leaving. Those that say what was heard was out of context never called. I chose to end my discernment, but seeing the insidious viciousness of the power base knew I could not walk away stating this was the cause, simply said my call laid in the work I was already doing. I could not risk harm to the larger good being done by the donations and volunteerism, I did not know how much this darkness bled outwards. It was a bad decision on my part. I clearly explained to my committee the journey up to that point. It was a church now searching for a new minister and youth leader. I left it in the leaders’ hands of the church to deal with as I walked out to protect my family. I knew that my ability to be ordained in any of the three types of ministry within this church tradition were done, discernment was a one off. I knew the choice I was making.

I WALKED OUT TO PROTECT MY FAMILY.

            My Mum and Nan always said no matter who you were, how much you make, church was the one place you belong, and you should be welcomed. In my time in ministry I experienced that 30% of the time regardless of tradition. The other 70% money, control and power destroyed or is destroying communities. Churches have mechanisms to deal with ill health, but are unwilling to step up it is left to the congregational level. Then they wonder why members bleed out, staff burn out.

The Roman Catholic church could cover up crap because they moved priests around in a top down control model, churches like this case study could do this because they controlled the hiring at the congregational level. They could force the minister or board members or whomever out when they got to scratch beneath the surface and could force change. The ones who create the issue exert their unhealthy control and continue perpetuating the cycle. The worst part is larger umbrellas that are supposed to handle this allow more and more staff to cycle through.

I thought years ago I had put this to rest in my soul finally (3 years out of Christendom will do that), but we are part of the larger umbrella (in a congregation that made my top 3 for welcome of all) …and that is where this flashback came. It has plagued me all day, and caused horrendous seizures. The kernel that started it, was the denominational prayer cycle where we as a congregation were called to pray for this place.

Liturgical prayer cycles are hard when you lead a service, I have omitted and gotten hand slapped because I knew whom or where was being called to pray could do harm to someone in healing. At the same time, I know I probably have harmed because I did not know. Church communities are not transparent about our pain. It is not specific to a denomination or tradition. Where it can build broader community, it can also harm. Truly our words carry power.

This is my story. Nothing more. Nothing less. I know that as it has been shared and ignored before, it will continue. What I do know, is that all institutions need to become safer more inclusive places. That begins with each one of us.

The journey of reconciliation is a hard one. It begins with sharing the pain. Then it lets the pain stand there as testament. Then comes the hardest part, deciding to walk forward into a new reality.

This is the story of the pain.

This is where the story stands.

This is my prayer that the story will be different from here on. That change will happen.

This is me deciding to step forward and see what becomes…

Who is my Neighbour?

-Last year I shared of my son’s tears soaking my shirt as he thought he had ruined my life due to this congregation of darkness (read post here). Why the tears? The denominational cycle of prayer they had come up again…Same answer as last year: No you did not my son, we chose the light. We chose life, inclusion, belonging.

We CHOOSE L-O-V-E!

 


When you teach your child to undervalue some people, they soon will be able to undervalue all including their parents.”

-Jean-Luc Picard (ST:TNG Chain of Command Pt.2)

December 1992, I was in Grade 9, and already a student of politics, social justice, mysteries and science fiction. A writer. It was also when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired the two part Chain of Command that covered a story of current political climate and historical, and one that still has its place today in discourse. Working with Amnesty International it was the exploration of torture.

                Think of this? What is the purpose of torture? Or as the P.C. neo-right call “enhanced interrogation techniques”? Some say it gets to information, everything points to the patent false hood of this for under duress the human psyche will do whatever is necessary for survival which means information captured in this process on the off chance may be accurate, but truly when one looks at archived information especially out of the Stalinist gulag it is about control. Breaking down the other.

This is where the quote that opened comes from. The scene is the Gul torturing Jean-Luc’s daughter is there in the room. Jean-Luc questions him about why, and he points out the need for them to see the value that their species has over others. To which Jean-Luc begins a counter with the undervaluing of all, the ability to be able to see anyone as the other. No actual communal ties. Pointing what the military-efficiency domination of Cardassians had taken them from a spiritual-scientific culture to this brutality.

Think of it, the breakdown of someone to be nothing more than the other. So stripped of agency that one could rationalization brutalization for they were not your equal so it was okay. History is filled with these atrocities. In fact, the beginning of the torture of Picard begins with the Gul pointing out he will have no name anymore, simply be the human. And yes, the torture involved lies “we killed the Klingon” or “your ship is in flames”. But the forcing of control to see how one had been broken to another’s will through answering how many lights Picard could see? There was 4, the torturer demanded he see 5, it was a finger control trick from the Gulag histories to see if the person had been broken.

Think deeper though, yes this is a bigger issue we can still see today. But look at what is at the core? The ability to dehumanize someone from their intrinsic value of a person. Boil it down so they are less than simply because of X, Y, or Z. It is the essence where bullying, assault, and abuse begin. The needs of me, outweighs the needs of others.

As we enter a time of quasi-enlightenment and seeing the damage removing intrinsic worth, and undervaluing the other has caused perhaps it is time to revisit communal rights and responsibly, along with the accountability.  For even during the pain, if the person does not break there is hope for healing, once broken there is the possibility of rebuilding.  What a better world though would exist if one did not have to endure the attempt to break or the breaking to begin with?

As I have written before sci-fi when done well can create conversations communities may not have the capacity to engage with civilly towards change. As I watched the blu-ray special edition, and remembered I saw part two on Christmas Day as a 14 year old I remembered a story trying to shed light on workplace abuse.

Years ago I remember ministers in Ontario looking at joining Union due to the abuse that had been heaped upon them by congregants. This group within the United Church of Canada got derision from the broader Christianities, yet what was missed was they were the whistle blowers on the unhealthy work and community created for them. It was and is a reality I have experienced and can speak to with my time in ministry and believe if this option had been on the table in some postings for myself I would have sought the support of a bargaining body. Too much was covered up with the “let’s pray about it” to the “it is God’s will” to the “we employ you.” Yet not willing to see harm done, and patterns created to perpetuate harm. If these congregations had been a person doing this to another at the very least they would have been a bully, at most possibly a harasser or assailant.

Yet accountability was lacked, because it was easier to stand with the voice devaluing…to be with the Guls (Cardassians Military) and not those that saw a different path, for those voices were pushed out or silenced. Other means that torture where used, but the valuing system of commodifying the person so that their value could be undercut still existed.

So do we crumble to the torturer, or after one exchange, stand as a Picard, with this closing quote:

Hey I got you to call me Picard.”

-Jean-Luc Picard (ST: TNG Chain of Command pt. 2)