Posts Tagged ‘Church’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


It is a story told over two volumes:

A stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

cover

Buy Soul Ripples here.

Then enter the healing with Soul Ripples Two by clicking link in the caption of the picture:

centennial coffee

Soul Ripples 2

Enjoy the journey, and please share with those you think need to see that healing is possible…and Hope abounds.


This Ol’ House

 

This Ol’ House is literally the house in the community of Rundle in Calgary, AB I came home from the hospital to as a baby. I purchased it when my folks moved full-time out to the land, Countess, AB during my Mum’s battle with breast cancer and the PTSD that came with it for her. It is the only home I have ever known in my life. I am proud to have been able to raise my own family in it.

Yet, as life progresses sometimes one needs to reassess home. It is an interesting idea of what makes a home. This humble split level had been a hub of home for many on our block, and city. Whether it was just being neighborly, aiding others as a food bank, ensuring the family tradition of any child that enters becomes family or the years that my family ran our own home church…it was a home for many.

During the ART treatment, when discussing with my therapist where my calm place was it was no contest that the calm place was the living room of this ol’ house. Calm? How is that possible, when most think of the calm place they go to it is a beach, peaceful, tranquil, forestry, yet I picked a hub that can have people in it or not and still be calm for it is a space of belonging, the living out of my beliefs.

Within this ol’ house too is the container. What is the container? That imagined mind projection of something seal-able that you can place the overwhelming memories and feelings to have a place to place them to move on with your day.

For me, it is the old, probably falling apart from the inside blue steamer trunk my Nan (Mum’s Mum) brought across from England with her when she was a war bride. It was a place to keep memories, and it was a good memory place. As you work through ART you realize it is about becoming the director of your own memories to work through them to create the tranquil feeling or positive emotions sensations so that you do not freeze or collapse. It was the story of my Nan taking a leap of faith on love to traverse the Atlantic by Steamer Ship, trusting that her husband, the love of her life, was authentic and would be in Halifax harbor for her.

That is why the container was chosen, it is the leap of faith in the treatment process to know that at the end, through love…there will be healing.

As I walk this ol’ house at night, I know it no longer functions for us. As my son grows with his accessibility needs, heck, as I age with my bad knees, the idea of a house that functions through stairs is not usable. The time is coming to close a chapter on this physical structure rapidly, yet taking the heart message of love and belonging to the new home that awaits us on the other end of healing, and new beginnings.

 

What is Youth Ministry?

Posted: September 28, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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It has been a long discourse, bumpy roads, and yes, to grow a ministry that actually disciples an individual into a deeper communion with the Holy, and an firmer understanding is what they believe and why they believe it, and by extension create belonging. Some may be shocked that I say individual and not “youth”. This is because part of the discipleship, is the growing faith for those who provided pastoral care and spiritual direction to the group. These individuals may be paid or unpaid, but should not come with canned responses, should interact the community the youth exist in and how the faith responds and grows within.

Why this topic? Almost becoming a rant? Simple, as my family begins to dream one googles for what is out there for the calls on their heart and then you roll across posts ala this one out of St. George’s in Calgary (read post), a small parish wrestling with how to interact and shepherd youth. I get it. Creating ways to engage youth with the life of the congregation and through an understandable standard ala Scouts makes sense. It is a good path possibly if it works for those who are attached to the congregation. Yet it is in defending that paid youth ministry does not need to happen and stating things like “entertainment” or “babysitting” is saddening and angering. This is why youth have walked out on the church. They want depth, they want to be able to ask questions, investment in who they are.

It is a dodge used by churches who do not feel a youth pastor with worthy of pay. I have heard it many times, or they produce such a low pittance that the investment of time by the pastor breaks down to less than 2 bucks an hour, so when you re-frame it as an honourarium then the congregations balk saying “no we pay you!”… when what is needed is investment in the person and their family who are called, whether it is financial, honouring gifts, and belonging themselves. I am not zeroing in on this congregation specifically, as I had a good time with them as their youth pastor and we had impact on our community, and growth in the faith of youth, but it is a good time to reflect on this concept and what discipleship means?

This is not just an Anglican issue with youth ministry. Across the Christianities I have seen this concept. Only put out dogma, no questions allowed. What can we do this week to compete with (fill in the latest craze or social media blank)…totally missing the point that it is about allowing the youth to question. It is not simply a mind/brain issue, but an emotional/spiritual question, a connecting of the two so a person begins to belong in who they are and how they are created (the Imageo Dei), and then how they fit into the Body of Christ, and the Missio Dei (Mission of God) regardless of age—what are they called to do? What gifts do they have? How are they meant to use them to make the parish better– and the parish is not just the four walls where the group meets or church happens, rather the parish is the broader community they exist in, and the circles of influence they are a part of.

It is investment in time, dsipling on the role of faith, exploring the doctrinal documents of the faith, spiritual practices, and the things they want to know how their faith interacts with. It is truly creating a courageous safe space to be where no question is out of bounds for exploration. Where you crack open the liturgy and the Holy Scriptures for discussion, and debate.

Why does this matter for me?

I am aware of 3 congregations within blocks of each other, at the heart of the Properties Communities’ of North East Calgary. Within the circle of the Village Square Leisure Centre either exploring, on life support or growing youth ministries. Yet, in a community that is seeing a rise in rough campers, pan handlers, economic mental health effects, highly multi-cultural, religiously diverse, socio-economically diverse, sexual identity diverse, the drug and sex traffickers (predators) using the parking lots of these sacred spaces…

And brands (denominationalism) in my heart is stopping them from actually answering the call to respond to the needs of their parish. The Missio Dei literally at the heart of the parish, within their congregations, and at the door step (parking lot stall).  One has to wonder, if ego can be placed aside, and the almost 12 congregations meeting within these 5 buildings can get together and realize that an in-reach and out-reach to the youth of the community, creating that courageous safe space, can actually transform things for the better. Be the light house into the darkness, confusing it, challenging it, and dispersing it– not through fear, but through HOPE.

This is the prayer for my neighbourhood, but all too often when raised to the clerics and boards the answer is fear of the other church, that closes the door.

 

Soul Ripples 2: how do we be church?

Posted: September 19, 2019 by Ty in Soul Ripples 2
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How do we be church?

Stay with the flow as we get back to February 14, 2019 and my first visit with the psychologist for my PNES. The journey was winding though that got me there. It started with exploration, and learning. Learning centered on what it meant to love my neighbour. The question posed in the gospel stories that led Jesus to repeat the Shema that opened this book, but then had social gospel ministers in Canada, such as J.S. Woodsworth, write books about who is my neighbour?

This was the question that I had centered my life on. It brought a lens to reading any holy scripture of any religion. It brought the heart to any spiritual practice in inter-faith or ecumenical settings as I learned and formed my spirit. As a student taking on the practices that made sense for my own journey, resonated and renewed, and letting that which did not fall away and be left behind.

From reading one would assume I hate the church. This is not true, I have a strong dislike for what the church trapped in the denial of the demise of Christendom has become. I yearn for the blessed community that one would read of within the Canonical and Gnostic Gospels. The synergy of these types of writings is found in the newest gospel found in the Christian (New) Testament in the Holy Bible. It is the fourth book, called John, after the writer. There are two-fold reasons for this gospel resonating aside from it being a very metaphysical and philosophical text.

  1. The Sacrament of Service. Within the recording near the end of the Last Supper story, communion the shared meal which many will call Communion or Eucharist is shared. The major highlight though that those that existed historically in the community John founded was this sacrament of service. It is the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. A practical thing with the dust and grime of the ancient Mediterranean world, but one not undertaken by the teacher. Jesus lived the commandment of love.
  2. The character known only as the Beloved Disciple. I encourage anyone to get a Bible, go to the Gospel of John, cross out Beloved Disciple and replace it with your own name.

Now read this passage, it is when Jesus is being executed on the cross for giving hope to the hopeless, and belonging to the outcasts.

Jesus at this point had been betrayed but a close friend, denied by a close friend, his other friends had scattered. His mother and the women of his group followed him through kangaroo courts for a state and religious sanctioned lynching of the one that challenged the status quo (The Empire, much like our life supported Christendom and Religious Right today). Beaten, spat on, ridiculed, strip naked, and then crucified as a sign not to stand in non-violent resistance of love and hope.

This is when he speaks (John 19:25-27, English Standard Version):

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

The role of the eldest son was to care for the family, Jesus knew his time was up and was ensuring that the beloved disciple would take care of his Mum, his family, his most precious gifts (and for me, his wife as well). Now put your own name in that passage and read it. That is the love, hope and belonging that should be the church.

We are here for one another. There is no other. We belong because we are. We know we belong because when we are not there we are missed. That is the greatest risk of belonging, that we will grieve the loss. It is why I believe we have lost the simple act of hospitality, community, welcome.

We have lost the ability to live the simple act of simply being with one another through good and bad, just simply doing life together. When I read John, I see a community that is what the church is meant to be in our new (ancient) reality. That is a church where the Sacrament of Service; Sacrament of Eucharist are what binds us.

For why would one bother with an early Sunday morning service, a youth night or a bible study if it was simply to put money in a collection plate or take up a seat? We bother because we belong. The challenge is finding the place we belong, and in that belonging can simply be church.

The space where we Love the Holy, because it flows through us so we can love our neighbour…and don’t miss the last piece for it is easily forgotten in the modern “martyr” and “selfless” Christianity…

As yourself.

That’s right. Love yourself. It is not selfish, it is expected because you too are an image bearer, and deserve care, compassion and kindness.

 

 


When Phil Jackson coached the LA Lakers he would say if there was a negative player they would be housed on away games in another hotel from the team altogether. Why? That negativity would be infested. It was a corrective action, much like in our own bodies if we break a limb and it is casted, or get a cut and use a band aid (or depending on the severity stitches).

This analogy of body healing came to me as I contemplated these words of St. Paul today and the state of churches in pain:

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

-1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 (New International Readers Version)

The analogy that Paul uses to explain a church is of a body. In more modern times we use the idea of corporation or family. But let’s reflect on these words in times of conflict. In times when deep holy conversations need to happen. There are points when healing needs to happen– ala truth and reconciliation. Think of this as stitches or a caste.  The scarring of the wound is still there, but we have healed and moved forward as one body.

But then there is deeper pains, these are the hates, the prejudices, the bigotries that emerge as a result of fear of change, formation, or simply, deeply held beliefs. The Anglican Church of Canada bishops recently showed these signs with their vote against belonging for the LGBTTQ2+ community within their own church. On a smaller scale, faith healing congregations show this towards persons with disabilities tying their different Image of God to a lack of faith on the part of the person or their family. It can also be an unwelcome, acting passively aggressively or overtly bullying of a person within pews during worship so your lips say welcome, but your actions clearly say you do not belong here and we will remove the safety of the sanctuary until you get the message.

It is a chronic disease. Most notably a fast acting cancer, like negativity on a basketball team (I mean, Phil Jackson should know what he speaks of he did manage to get Shaq better at free throws).

The response in churches I am most used to, is it is ignored, and the leadership refocuses on what is going well for the damage is only beholden to one small segment, usually those that do not give huge amounts of money or is new, so that loss does not matter.

YET, here are the words’ of Paul speaking of the need for every part of the body, and what role they play. What if this person that creates discomfort for better belonging is the agent breaking the artery clog to stave off a stroke or a heart attack? Is the EMDR-ART to heal the PTSD? The CBT that corrects disassociation?

The radiation or chemotherapy or operation that removes the cancer for longer life.

See the toxicity is usually pacified, because good people are also a small portion of the congregation that do a lot of work and are tired. They are also fearful of conflict in this time of shrinking attendance, and fear the time the congregation’s life cycle is at an end. Though by ignoring the cancer, it goes from something small and quickly treatable to, well, cancer left unchecked becomes terminal.

The question for a church, that is a Body of Christ, are what choice are you making when confronted with what could be a terminal illness? Ignore and let it consume you? Take your own life? OR Treatment and healing.

The question is as personal for each Body of Christ, as it is for each patient.

What’s a Sanctuary?

Posted: July 3, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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As the lectionary winds this week we are brought to Psalm 16 which seems a tad bit odd, with the struggling ones put out there. Yet it is another way to connect with the Holy in all the Imageo Dei‘s. This ancient Hymn attested to be from David is of the refuge there is in God through life. Refuge can also be described as a sanctuary. For church goers they default to the architectural idea of sanctuary in that it is the place with the pews (or Image result for psalm 16stadium seating) where you go to hear the preacher, take part in the Sacraments, and be entertained by and/or sing songs/hymns. Sadly, many have defaulted that this is where God is. This is one piece of sanctuary, but I challenge it has a broader understanding and definition for our journey.

I started to contemplate these ideas as I sit sipping my coffee, with my daughter playing songs by ear on her keyboard, my son doing his Power Rangers’ thing and I ponder what is a deeper meaning than just these words on the page:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.[b]

The sorrows of those who run after[c] another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.[f]

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

-Psalm 16 (English Standard Version)

If we go deeper into the love that we are to have, and extend it out into the Shema, it lets us know that refuge/sanctuary is not just in a place and time. It is a space. A sacred space where we are safe, with those around us are safe, we can be authentic just like the book of Psalms in all our emotions. This sanctuary is not one specific building but rather the circle that travels with us. This refuge is with us constantly.

So what is a sanctuary?

It is the courageous safe space in our lives where we can authentically be ourselves and be part of the flow of unconditional love.

What is your sanctuary?