Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Justice. Love. Humility.

Three parts of a Franciscan Community of Reconciliation. Why does it matter?

Well let’s share a story that brought me to typing this now.

Mnay moons ago when I was still a student at SAIT, I went back to church with my Nan and Aunty Bert. In that process I inquired about prayer, and was given an answer that peaked more of my curiousity. As I had just recently started working at a bookstore, I stumbled across Talbot’s Life Lesson’s of St. Francis, one of the early works in my reading to shape my understanding of the gospel (this with the Great Love Commandments that brought me back into church began shaping, unconsciously, my ministry).

Over time I would move from a less structured spiritual formation to inquiry and postulancy with the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, when I would serve in the Anglican church, I would transition to the Third Order, Society of St. Francis, to complete my postulancy, and two years of novitiate and fellowship with the RC Secular Franciscan Order (as my Dad would call us the shit disturbers of the church. A quick history lesson, third/secular orders exist as St. Francis realized not everyone was gifted with celibacy, and as such needed to go make babies, as he blessed Brother Leo to go forward and have blessed family.

When a new blessing would emerge, as my Nan needed extra help, I would rejoin her in church, and the great the barriers of church labels would halt my official membership in the orders, and would move forward in the work of living my rule for continuing to make my own part of the world a better place (which is debatable to some if I did or not).

There was times the orders would touch base about re-joining, but I did not have the right church pedigree in those moments, and as such nothing moved forward.

That has changed, with an ecumenical community out of the new monasticism paradigm, my life vows (24 years on from the first opening of Talbot’s book) have been accepted.

No matter how impossible things may seem, if you are called, never give up for there is a path for it to be light.

Pax et bonum (peace and goodwill)


Sunday Thought

Posted: February 13, 2022 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid
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When I share reforming thoughts/challenges to the church, some had given feedback “yeah but it’s the current church you’re in” and the answer is NO! I have been blessed in the journey to be in ministry leadership in churches/ministries from charistmatic-fundamentalist-evangelical-Roman Catholic-Conservative Mainline-Neutral Mainline-Progressive Mainline-Universalist-Metaphysical and then the Monastic outside, these thoughts come from the accumulated experience, and like Irshad Manji’s book, The Trouble with Islam (that I challenge Christians to read, and replace Islam with Christianity), these thoughts/questions/challenges are universally applied. To borrow from `80’s Saturday Mornings PSA’s It’s one to grow on…

Some writers to engage with dialogue with your existence to grow a new church in the collapse (yeah) of Christnedom- John Shelby Spong, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, John Michael Talbot, Leonardo Boff, Matthew Fox, John Paul II, Pope Francis, Murray Bodo, Nikos Kazantzakis, Leo Tolstoy, FyodorDostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, Phyllis Tickle, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Thomas Merton, Napoleon Hill, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Eric Butterworth; Henri Nouwen, Diana Butler Bass, Rachel Held Evans, Jay Bakker.

Topics to engage with from the social sciences and belief systesm: Homelessness; Gencoide; Holocaust; Critical Race Theory; Addictions; Social Work; Disabilities; Mental Health; sexuality and gender; feminism; political science; ecology; Truth and Reconciliation

These blocks, and as you explore other writers, thinkers and researchers will open up to you. The dialogue individually, interdependently, communally, and in between communities will create the connections needed for reformation in 2022 and beyond…and yes…it will mean a dissolution of the current denominational segregations…

Are you willing to answer the call for the dialogue?

Okay I admit if one were to watch my binge habits this week, they may think this was about the television show that has 2 seasons currently on Netflix Canada by the title, though an excellent pyshcological thriller with unique premise this is not about that. No, this post takes us into an ancient Parable, that Brother Jesus used to teach about being lost. Missing the mark, redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation. That Henri Nouwen, would take time to share his own meditations a Creatio Divina on the painting of Rembrandt’s of the last image we are left with.

An image in the story when the lost son (as modern translations title the story) comes home, and is lovingly embraced by his father. I encourage you to take time to explore Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, but this post is not about the writings of Nouwen, or the haunting image, where at different places in time in our own faith journeys we play the roles of father, eldest son, or prodigal son ourselves and for others.

For this is the story, take time to read aloud with friends, or listen to an audio, or read aloud to self, three times. As you read take a moment to enter into the crowd, to the time and space. Each reading rest into one fo these questions:

  1. Where you exist in spiritual community, which of the three is the community like?
  2. Which son do you feel like currently on the journey? What memories are coming with this feeling.
  3. What is the calling for next steps you are hearing within the journey for your community?

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with [a]prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the [b]pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, [c]‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”

-Luke 15:11-32 (New King James Version)

As I have contemplated the prodigal son story this week it struck me, as we navigate the current messy, honking demise of Christendom (the empire Christianity), and its peeling away to the branches that once and will be of the vine…that many times the established church hears this story as a call to evangelism. A call to convert the heathen, the other. A warning label for the ills of the world out there (blatantly ignoring the ills within, the cancers eating the Body as it were).

What struck me during this time of resting into the story, is how the church is the prodigal (yes I am quite aware of the good church has done within our world, and regular readers know this as well, so it can be seen as the Eldest, yet…currently as we conflate naitonalism-white supremacy-swastika’s with Jesus… it can be a statement that blows away as the house built on sand). Took by force or by crook an inheritance that truly was not theres (heresies of dominionism, doctrine of discovery, heterosexism, ableism, systemic racism; queer hate to name but a few in the not all church, but the meta story in the public’s eye). That has abused power through covering up elder and cleric sexual abuse of congregants (both of adults and children); spiritual abuse; forced conversion at the tip of a sword or threat of economic sanctions, exlusion, eugenics of persons with disabilities, the list of communal harm, injury and death can go on…to the most atrocitious, that we are being called on for reconciliation and truth, some slow to act or try to distract by saying “not my denomination”. Yet, the vein that caused residential schools and Indigenouse genocide exist within the institution regardless of label on the building.

We know the truth.

We are the child, looking at the pig slop, trying to say it’s holy and good.

Literally wallowing in the blood shed and excrement, and saying nothing’s wrong we are the chosen.

At what point.

Does honesty break through?

Do we actually come back to the Jesus of the Gospel. The to heart of the calling:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Matthew 22:34-40

As an institution, are we ready to leave that which kills behind?

Are we ready to see the beloved disciple in ourselves? Within our neighbour (each person created in the beautiful mosaic that is the image of God?)

And by that, live the reconciling love of the Holy?

As the portrait and words paint–

Collapse into a hug of true healing?

Sunday Thought

Posted: January 23, 2022 by Ty in Spirituality
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A historic thought, that has contemporary sociological significance (cause I can be a geek)-the Reformation was really plausible coming out of the black plague as the people had seen the church was not untouchable, and if disease was due to sin, then the church was just as culpable. As we navigate through the death of the Christendom that became entrenched at Reformation, with the challenges of Covid, what new is percolating in the longing for authenticity, care, love, hope and belonging?

Isolation. In what some dub, the before times, there would need to be a share of the statistical evidence to understand the disconnection that exists between neighbours in our highly cyber connected world. As we emerge from the restrictions in Alberta, and lockdowns almost in some areas of Canada, the known truth of isolation and that it can be complex simplicity that can solve it. Why complex simplicity? For isolation is disrupted by connection, but connection means letting others in, which comes at a risk but it is that risk of invitation inwards that the writer of the Gospel of Mark would pinpoint as the Kingdom being near. Vital relationships, a relational hub where you can meet and be, authentically who you are created to be. This has should be the journey church is on as Christendom gasps its last.

We need to develop and live into a new understanding of being relational hubs, that step beyond resourcing in a community hub, to the connection of people together and what happens there. But where to begin?

Is this possible? Can the church shift away from a command and control power base, to being what the earliest writers and livers of the Way were? An interdependent community? Sharing in common, speaking truth to justice. Acknowledging harm, repairing that harm done. For the key is the love triangle of God-Self-Neighbour, which rests in relationship.

The biggest challenge?

Surrendering the pride of institutions. Realizing that in the transfiguration, the brand/denomination on the building does not matter, rather it is the people and how they live out of the love of the Holy Mystery to be their truly created and called authentic selves for the betterment of the community.

Can we radically open ourselves up to do life together?

Some viewing to grow our understanding:

Archbishop Desmont Tutu on UBI

A brief video overview of The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s role in colonization and residential schools is now available to watch at…/20/video-residential-schools-pcc

This video presentation is intended as an educational tool to help people understand the ways in which racism and colonial attitudes shaped the church’s mission, with devastating consequences. (Image and text from Social Media Post, please note there are questions for group and/or self reflection while viewing the 30 minute video).

This coming Friday out of Costa Rica TEC Seminars:

This Friday July 23 at 6pm (Costa Rica / Mountain) MIT professor Dr. Jeff Hoffman will join us for a webinar about the MOXIE experiment. MOXIE will demonstrate a way that future explorers might produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere for propellant and for breathing.

Dr. Hoffman is a veteran of 5 Space Shuttle missions and logged more than 1,211 hours and 21.5 million miles in space.

The link to register is below.— with Daniel Francisco Pérez Murillo and Andrea Jimenez Fernandez.

A vigil Mulling

Posted: April 3, 2021 by Ty in Spirituality
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Mulling. It was a word that when shared from me, would cause those leaders I served under or communities I served in, to respond with an arched eyebrow that would make Spock proud (and a few, I am sure, unintelligible utterings under their breath). For the time of mulling, usually meant, that my mind would be processing through the usual tasks of the job, while mulling many ideas under the surface. Yes, some days I do miss how my mind would work before the downturn, but the rebooting is still wonderful.

This is what happens in the moments of vigil. Taking time to be in the presence of the Holy Mystery. Which, we are in and is in us throughout daily life. Vigil is taking time to unplug and tune in to the quiet soft voice of creation that speaks to us. At Easter, the Vigil night is simple. It is time spent waiting. For some, during c-tine, it can feel like we have been in a constant vigil. There is deep truth in these statements, as there is yearning for life to return to the normalcy of the before times, yet was that normalcy truly what was of benefit for our communal wellness? For our holiness? Or was it simply the same oppressive systems Brother Jesus lived his life against, that took him to Golgotha. Drove his friends and followers into hiding for those 3 days, the vigil time. Where in the First Century they huddled in fear, afraid of being found and added to the next wave of crosses on the Jerusalem road side as a message.

May be an image of text that says "A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone's skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that? Óscar Romero"
Remember, the oppressors of Latin America so feared the love preached by Bishop Romero, they had him assasinated during Mass, while holding up the Holy Host.

That same fear does not exist within Canadian Christianities. But there is still a purpose for vigil. For me, it was taking a moment to begin diving into the new DIana Butler Bass book, Freeing Jesus, I first entered her work back in my Youth Monk days with the Anglican church in Calgary with her work Christianity for the Rest of Us. Freeing Jesus’ introduction brought forward sentiments that I have shared (and shared others who have shared similiarly) for quite a while on the state of Christendom, and the Christianities. She dove right in about the many walking away from the Churchdom due to how the power has corrupted and gutted, yet still have a resonance with the life, teachings, miracles, and Easter Morn of Brother Jesus. Yes, as she aptly points out, many traditionalists will say the church is the body of Christ and without the church you are not a believer…

And that is the crux of the Holy Heresy

The Body of Christ is responding to a cancer. That of Christendom (empire, abuse of power, etc), by exorcising it through leaving. It is not the Body that is not wanted, it is the politicized institution of trauma. This is a moment in time in history where c-tine has forced a stop of the inertial force that was Christendom, and has given space where we can actually go.

As we head towards another celebration of Sonrise, under restrictions, lockdown, online or at a distance…where is the Spirit calling you in the walk to the tomb? When we find it empty? What is the calling being heard you have been ignoring? This vigil night, engage in the conversation of renewal of Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace and LOVE for the Body of Christ lived out to our world? Or do we continue the death march out of fear for taking a step into the unknown?

Do we continue or do we transfigure?

Just like the early community around Jesus, in this time of c-tine, what mullings have arisen in your soul during the vigil of awaiting? Unsure of what is to come?

See the source image

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.


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

We as a world are changing gears and being stuck in the cycles of grief most congruent with anger and denial. I believe, and have observed, as it is the only thing that makes sense for the rise of hatred, and entrenchment in our world that for my side to be right it must be wholly good, and the other side needs to be completely evil, and the majority that usually exists in the pragmatic middle in most belief/ideological spectrums need to be viewed as weak, traitorous or complicit. Those are some political thoughts as we are hopefully at the end of the Polar Vortex here in Alberta, with normal winter returning. Another sign, that the environment is trying to keep us moving slower to allow for space for more healing, I mean, the pandemic hasn’t slown us. In fact it has illustrated the rise of faux labels we apply for prestige or perhaps, attempting to cry persecution for what is simply accountability and expectations of good citizenship. The current thought world of dualism, has created this weird space, where we so desperately want to assert our independent rights, but do not want to take on the interdependent communal responsibilities that come with those.

When I would speak on the history of povery and homelessness in my province, it was a key challenging question I would lay out to the first year students:

How did you get here today?

Many would postulate good grades, and hard work. I would stop them short and challenge them, did you appear fully grown and educated? Was there no adults who provided guidance and the necessities of life for you? Did you build your own house? Dig your own sewers? Treat your own drinking water? Grow your own food? Write and publish your own textbooks? Train your instructors? Build the school?

In the literal sense, one of the few times I like using the literal, did you pour the road? Make the bus/car? Drive the bus?

You didn’t?

But you had just told me that you got here through your own hard work, nothing more?

It is a simple truth our world has lost. An understanding of community, at times such as now, a leaving behind of the before times that perpetuated this fallacy, it should be a moment of renewal. Yet… fear that drives anger and denial… stops us…and creates more chasms between, silos, and perpetuates things such as the QAnon CULT (yes, cult, not in the anthropological senses of any religion, but rather the 20th century mainstream understanding ala NXVIM, Branch Davidians, Raelians, Moonies, Jonestown) all the pieces that perpetuated those tragedies brought to life online, and to bear on Jan. 6 with their faux Messiah, Donald Trump, still flexing his rage muscles against accountability at his impeachment trial (but shouldn’t this also be a criminal matter? The world is watching).

But it touches on what has been noted in Alberta during the pandemic, yes some decisions can be and are driven by the science (though lacking the transparency of knowing the CMOH recommendations fully to the UCP governing caucus this is an unknown). What is apparent is there are pockets within our province, that keeps talking personal responsibility and education in regards to restrictions, 333 days in it is time for accountability. Whether the small pocket of church or business or Member of the Legislative Assembly (alohagate, Anti-Lockdown Caucus to name but a few), need to be held to account. Business and non-profit licenses pulled, the full organizational ticket levied, coupled with those in attendance receiving full charges and tickets for breaking health orders. In regards to the MLA’s that do not comprehend crisis leadership, communal support, and health orders, they need to be expelled from Caucus. FULL STOP.

Yet, we live in a bizzarro world, like an elementary school playground that plays appeasement for the bully, instead of accountability.

For some, they will point to trauma awareness or being trauma informed. Both these lenses are highly important for creating the courageous safe spaces for healthy change and healing of a world on pause. Wondering and readying for re-imergence and knowing what has been shown as smoke and mirrors of our society before. What these lenses do not stop is accountability. They do not let one now have repercussions for actions. They aid us in understanding the actions of the person, and how to support them in the accountability for what they have done. The appropriate applications of these lenses in our public schools would have continued the powerful work of WE Days and Challenge Days in Anti-bullying, creating healthier and safer communities, instead of tying the hands of those responsible for shaping the future of our youngest citizens and leaving the bullied with the bad maxim “snitches get stitches” as they know what they share there will be no aid. A true shift needs to happen, and not just policies and false platitudes, actual resourcing and capacities needed.

Just as we need in our public health system in the prevention to treatment to cure of all that falls under health umbrella for holistic beings (emotional, physical,spiritual and mental)–or as some may see it, a Medicine Wheel, as our Indigenous siblings would guide us away from a quick triage model to an interdependent living and healing model.

Which bounces back to the yo-yo effect of open schools during a pandemic, without proper resourcing. This is not only speaking to PPE, or staffing to lower class numbers to allow for breaks, and proper distancing. It is the rolling effect of quarantine of classes after exposure (reactive measures), the lie of resilience being put forward on our children. Yes, they can be, but true resilience, well watch the brains….

See? Understand? We are creating the space for perpetuation of a complex trauma due to our desire for Twitter byte driven policy and practice decisions as adults. Instead of actual robust discussions, and reality of what is needed to ensure health and true resilience within our youth, and the adults that support and facilitate their learning. The key reason I hold, is this drive of grieving where we are lost in this tantrum like a toddler, of “my rights” instead of “our community responsbilities to one another”…

The fatigue is showing, and so is the strain, and the ripple effects. Most notably with my boy, I do not blame his school, he was on recovery day from some of his neurological conditions with barometric pressure changes and missed school. On that day he missed, his very secure cohort for medically complex kiddos was exposed. His support crew in the cohort, and the larger school are exhausted (we know and feel this). We were not called as he was not there that day. In the actual protocols this was appropriate. In a system with proper capacity (seeing the actual human supports necessary for thriving, not the false argument on human services as a debit on the lie of debit-credit household budget banksheet budgetting for governance that our Conservative populist governments try to push), there would have been enough fresh eyes to make the call to those that were not there. For those that were not there, still had a choice, to understand it was safe for their child to come, but that they would have 1 aide, and be by themselves in the classroom connected to the others via video conference. The call was not made, my son went to school, he came home, and the first thing stated to me was “they all died” and then later “I don’t want any more dead buddies”. See, in my son’s lived experience, when his chums go missing for a few days from school, he has learned at his young age, and about 16-18 times, they are now at the Tea Party in Paradise (our analogy for death, and the afterlife, our tradition calls Heaven, we created when our kiddos experienced the loss of their Granny at 5 & 6 years old).

See where proper interdependence creates robust health? Creates space for calmness? For healing? Space, where trauma is minimized, and healthy choices can be made. In the case of my son, it could have been proactive discussions on what school was to be like, or to keep him home and function with the rest of his class online. Instead we are now in a fear and grieving cycle that disrupted his learning and kept him home for the 2 days before the Teachers Convention break, and we have made the choice he will return to class when the class does.

There is no malice. We as a community are in uncharted territory, and mistakes happen. The difference between a mistake and harm, is the intent.

Which leads me to share a simple reflection from reading this week of James L. Gorman’s (2017) Among the Early Evangelicals: The Trans-Atlantic Origins of the Stone-Campbell Movement, for those unfamiliar with this version of Christianities it is collectively known as the Restoration Movement (Churches of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and my undergraduate alma mater, Alberta Bible College). The book explores the formation of the founders, and their, what is classed historically as primitive, but read through a 21st century eye…ecunemical. The movements within missionary societies, key traditions/denominations (what corporations would call brands) such as congregationalists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc. coming together on core values to accomplish, in this case evangelizing and building the Kingdom. It also touches on the challenges that began to arise, as the focus narrowed, and it became more about, what kept others out (perceived heresies) rather than what bonded.

See the source image

Made me ponder, as we move through c-tine, and I re-affirm a calling to ministry (and some equipping to come, your prayers are appreciated). Through things such as the Religious Right, Alt-Right, QAnon, other conspiracy theories,Domnionist, anti-masks, anti-vax, anti-lockdown, sadly- white supremacist and Neo-Nazi movements, MAGA that have all become aligned and affiliated with evangelicalism and Christendom (the term for Christianities tied to political power, Empire since Constantine). That is even before we touch on the horrors of Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Roman Catholic and Quiverfull child abuse scandals, Fundamentalist Mormon trafficking across borders of minors, Residential Schools, Truth and Reconciliation for the heresy of the Doctrine of Discovery and Dominionism., and Churchtoo (ala Willow Creek, RZIM, Southern Baptist Convention, and the list goes on). Obviously some labels and brands are broken beyond recovery.

To paraphrase a teaching of St. Paul, if a name on a building or a label on a baptism certificate causes one to stumble (or a chasm be opened)– perhaps, it is time to let it go (and can you tell Frozen was played a lot in the house). As we move through c-tine, worshipping and connecting at a distance and online what is to be on the other end? Is it things such as Conservative or Orthodox? House? Institutional? Liturgical? High? Low? Primitive? Evangelica? Pentecostal? Baptist? Anna-Baptist? Emergent? Progressive? Creation Spirituality? Anglican? United? Victory? Red Letter? Salvation Army? Monastic? Gnostic? Mystic? Methodist? Alliance? Missionary? Holiness? Lutheran? Restoration? Missing any? (Probably quite a few).

But what if, we take a lesson from those who came to be in Jesus company back in the writings of the Gospels, or as reflected in Gorman’s work, or really the stories of saints and others. It is rarely an independent faith of one modality or formation. Rather it is interdependent community (family, chosen, sometimes biological) to grow in and with.Which brings me back around:

The challenge in church, is the same grieving as with society.

As we move forward, let’s draw the circle wide. Let’s grieve the loss, the change, the Transfiguration and then boldly step into it, not as fractured brands, but as a means together in renewal.

For me, what hit my heart as I thought of what can come as we let go, and prototype, a new term came clearly into view for the church ahead:

The Divergents.

Let’s become a beacon of healing, and doing life differently. Authentically, together in community, in the beautiful rainbow splendor of the Imageo Dei. Be the soul, that we were called to be for and of our world.

This past week, many have hit the c-tine wall. Lockdowns in some areas, restrictions in others, seeing neighbours die, and wondering if something will shift couppled with the sweeping cold of the polar vortex pushing us more into hibernation. One begins to wonder, ponder and mull.

As we rest in c-tine, what is the still quiet voice revealing about your experiences?

What calling is on your heart, and are you ready to step into it?

“I think of one little buckaroo” – Gabby Hayes

The above quote is from Tuttle’s (2019) Exactly as you Are: The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers, and is part of a story of the early days where Rogers’ was a producer on the Gabby Hayes Show in the 1950’s and asking the lead, in they empty studio and with only Rogers’ there when he was talking to the camera what he thought of. It is a quote that opens up a reflection for me, in a life of community building. Where too often we can be side tracked by the numbers game. How many attended? Sadly, in some ministries, how many baptisms? How many confirmations? And completely missing the point of the one little buckaroo. What happened, happened, and who was meant to be in that part of the journey was meant to be in that part of the journey whether it was 100’s, 1000’s or simply, 1.

Which as I read Tuttle’s book, the reflections on my time in children and youth ministry, how the work I did, was counter to the prevailing ideas of the time (and still run counter to many of the prevailing ideas). See it doesn’t worry about serving those part of the established conclave or community, it doesn’t worry about reaching out to the broader community. It focuses on the welcome of the person that has stepped into the space, and being present to ensure belonging and discovery. It is not about flashiness, or about creating emotional highs through the use of images/music, or about events that excite. It truly is about belonging. These concepts tied in with dumping quite a bit of money into the idea of pre-canned curriculum can create a false sense of spiritual growth for the younger members of the faith family, yet a mark is missed at a community level for we are not building disciples, rather we are building consumers.

Which always did not sit well with me. Though I am the first to admit I was not raised in “proper church”. So that piece of indoctrination never took into the DNA. I was a part of a Vacation Bible School, which was focused on discovery of the stories and belonging, and had relatives that lived their faith that has led to a different lens when I first started out. The other piece is I never believed in the gender fallacy of it being weird if men stepped up to teach Sunday School or youth; or that there is a functional best before date when it comes to being a youth pastor (as I was continually past that) or that one would ever be too old to serve, it was up to the ministry to create space for our elders, and in so many ways it happened as 90 year olds in different settings would provide food and teaching or create the story telling space and then have youth aid taking the youngsters through the activities to reinforce the story.

But I digress, see it is about community, belonging and purpose. For other pieces that shaped my understanding was stories and television. As I reflect back there was pieces of Mister Rogers (though he was more my brother’s favourite than mine), but there was also pieces of learning to do things from my favourite show growing up that stuck- Mr. Dressup, who had worked with Fred Rogers’ before landing his own show in Canada.

Both shows took subjects, and spoke to children where they were at, included creativity, and other pieces that re-inforced the learning. They also both communicated clearly that you were already the ideal you and becoming the ideal you as your grew.

Which brings me to some thoughts on creating the courageous safe space for inter-generational discovery and learning with those 0-17 years old in our churches. I have already shared that which I did not buy into, and I can already feel those reading this going with the “yeah but”. The discomfort is okay. A quick aside, if you are using pre-canned curriculum it is not a time saver, you still need to invest time in your volunteer teachers/leaders on how to use the curriculum, roll with resistance, leverage silence, and create the courageous safe space for discovery.

This is the first step when gathering community. Create the Courageous Safe Space. It does not mean topics are avoided for safety, but rather how do we enter into the difficult conversations, how do we wrestle with ideas/concepts, how do we have respectful dialogue. This can be taken and crafted age appropriately, as you explore with the children or youth what it looks like to them, and provide some prodding or own ideas as well. It also gives a reference back as guideposts. I want to touch on the idea that some will just default to “Christian behaviour”; or something similar. This is the discomfort, for it is a subjective catch phrase– What does it mean? Unpack, wrestle with key teaching points (scripture stories) as pillars and what it looks like in action.

In cultivating belonging, a great piece of fun is naming the space. Take time to discover what names mean including members, then have them look at the courageous safe space, if someone was asking what was happening here what ideas/names arise? Move beyond the age groupings to what actually is (and yes this can be revisited each September, another aside, I realize many spaces use the outdated school year rhythm for children/youth, what I encourage and have shown each time, is that having these ministries open year round provide space for different learning activities, and different generations to engage, so yes September as a renewal, but not a re-start/boot).

Now, how do we teach/disciple?

For children, I love the concepts Patricia Bays’ (1997) shared in her Great Adventure. It is this rotational model, where there is 3-4 stations per story, and it takes a month to go through each story. Why do I like it? A superintendent or children’s pastor can spend time with core volunteers/families brain storming the stories. Then break it down into 3-4 teachings (for larger groups they can all be live at the same time, for smaller groups, I would have a station a week). The stations? Simple, share the stories and see what talents (passions/skills) emerge from the faith community to facilitate. This is where the idea of Elders’ chair came from as an elder in a church who had almost 80 years of teaching Sunday School but couldn’t keep up. We created space each month where she would read the story, and bring her ideas for song/activity, and then our youth partnered to ensure it happened (things like puppet theatre). Some may share ideas around age appropriate First Aid teaching (Good Samaritan). But yes, it is about creating belonging through connection of various adults within the child’s life.

Before leaping into youth, I do want to pause to discuss the courageous safe space, and what may appear at first blush as accepted safety. Sadly, not always. The concept of police/vulnerable sector checks for those that serve. Yes, these are a necessary step. I know some may balk as they are church members and “we know them” (but honestly how much can you know of someone?) and then some may dive full bore with even more restrictions (this is where gender/age/sexual orientation can be demonized in the equipping phase) as they see a pedophile within every adult. Neither scenario is helpful in creating the courageous safe space. The checks are in place as they weed out the scared/caught predator. Those that are scared of making anything official, or those already caught. It also creates a courageous safe space for conversation/equipping for volunteers (yes this training needs to be ongoing in the church) for adults, and Junior Leaders (more on those later) to understand what healthy boundaries, consent, the mandated adult/child ratio by government and duty to report are (and yes I have facilitated these trainings, and worked with churches in developing healthy policies). By normalizing these conversations, it also creates space for conversations that are open and courageous before and after the ministry with the correct and appropriate vocabulary.

Now with that intermission, we move into the idea of Junior Leaders, these are older youth (possibly Junior High to High School) that want to be involved in the nursery and Children’s ministry. It is designed for those who feel a passion to help, and are willing to work with the adults, learn, and serve. It not only creates a healthy intergenerational approach, but equips the leaders of now. The key is not to turn over running of the younger ministries to the older (for they are still growing as well), but to create healthy partnerships with the volunteers, and see what develops. For Grade 11 or 12 students I also expand Junior Leadership into Youth Group opportunities to officially bring them into leadership and learn/develop a skill set. The boundary conversation here is key, as with all leaders, but especially in pointing out that this step will preclude them from dating members of youth group as they begin to learn and understand authority, power differentials and the law.

Within the scope of Youth Ministry, the creation of Courageous Safe Space, naming of the community are key. Taking time, to ensure what is being learned in that night, and the activity portions tie together to re-enforce and take the message deeper. I have always used a balance of Salvation Army understanding of communion (eating together, even if its snacks); spiritual formation (learning and practicing different ideas/techniques of service, prayer and study); taking time each 1/4 to have the youth take time to brainstorm what books of the Bible they want to learn, and what topics they are curious about in learning how a gospel formed life understands/responds (which may lead to guest speakers); as well simple things of giving as I always loved a spare change jar where each month youth picked a cause to support. This way they learn about the good in their world, and get in the rhythm of giving.

Seeing how, regardless of the form (small community, or larger group with small groups break outs) there is a rhythm given of the call to reach through the thin space between here and the Kingdom of God, and learn to live out the bringing the Kingdom here. It is active discipleship. It is working with those who are called to be leaders, to learn, discover and apply the skills of discipleship and being spiritual guides for the youth. A ripple effect model of servant leadership. It is getting the leaders comfortable with hard topics, and when to pause the guided discussion, and dive deep when a hard topic is thrown out. It is never a simple throw away comment, youth are looking to see if we are living the courageous safe space we profess. Or as one put it to me, “seeing if you actually give a damn about me”.

These are the thoughts that emerge, as I reconnect with stories of others in creating community. As during this time of being a part, technology has been leveraged to keep us together. As we await the next steps, when we can fully be together. What has been heard in the still quiet time? As we emerge out of c-tine, is it about doing the same old same old, or igniting something new, that equips and grows one another?

Ah, it is astounding how many will flock to a political party or ideology because they state it supports their religious beliefs and freedoms. Regardless of the morals or ethical character demonstrated by the leaders or elected representatives when it comes to behaviours, abuses, bullying, frauds, etc. It does give clear case study examples of the last gasps of Christendom with the ventilator removed in the Christianities if you want a visual. Truly the Quiet Revolution of ending Empire Christianities is rolling nicely, and for those who are not driven by power but the Holy Call to love, it is renewing communities on what is important.

These last gasps are becoming evident and clearly on display as Covid restrictions to lockdowns are levied across the world, and what effect it has on worship gatherings. We are living in a time of real-time scientific learning and discovery, with a virus (and its mutations) that is doing what virus’ do, thrive for survival. This is why we are seeing push back. Too many have bought into the fact the church should have and/or still has power, is not bound by worldly laws, or that freedom of religion and gathering are no couched in corporate/communal responsibilities. This is also tied in with a rampant selfish individualism, and sadly, a perpetuated idea that the church building is God’s House. That is one point and place in time to connect with the Holy.

Now, pause. For, as everything else has to close, and churches (religious centres) were allowed to remain open (though with a less than 15% occupancy), is a political move from our government to set them up as a scape goat, and in some instances it is working. Sadly, the Shepherds and Sheep within the congregations living into this are not seeing it. Across Canada we have seen certain church’s flout the laws (and yes Health Orders are laws, and the way our system functions they supersede every other law). We have seen in Manitoba churches break gathering restrictions, here in Alberta two have joined a lawsuit, and one, Fairview Baptist, is just not getting it (and the local community schools are now having battles with the virus…) note how we do not exist in isolation. Decisions and choices matter. Though the attitude within some does not shock me, there is sociological, social psychology and theological reasons as to why. We have churches that exist on a spectrum that fall into 3 large categories: 1) completely online, 2) hybrid (online, with booked in person attendance in line with protocols) and 3) the law breakers. Sadly, the third category so far appear to not being held to full account within our province.

There is a key thing at play though that needs to be addressed for these communities, and one that is difficult. See it is not about the things alluded too around freedoms, or conscience, or individualism…the key cornerstone issue that needs to be addressed in our transfiguring Christianities as Christendom is finally placed in the grave, is the building.

Which is why I love the song shared earlier, some may say it is a song about rampant individualism and not getting the Gospel. Whereas I look at it as the circle being drawn wide, for the show, theatrics, false prophets are thrown aside, our numbers may be small, but it is authentic in US LIVING HOLY LOVE in our world and community, gathering in places and embracing them Holy. Not simply because it was purposed as a church. Now I am not against buildings, they are wonderful tools (same as money, same as our vote) to create a better world. To allow Courageous Safe Spaces for people to grow, serve, learn and discover.

BUT it can’t all be about the building. Too many wonderful faith family’s are on life support because the albatross of the building. Whether it has been deemed a historic site, and now they cannot pivot with it for needed modernization or simply the socio-economics of members have shifted and the ability to keep up with preventative maintenance has lagged. Yet it is amazing when you connect to discuss options, a congregation would rather disperse than lose their building and continue in a different way in community.

Let that settle in when we cannot understand why some cannot understand worshipping online or in other ways. It is that change is hard, change brings grieving, and hard conversations and discovery. It is easier to push back on the shift, than live into the shift. It is about discovering what each congregation is called to be, and it is not about the sin checklist, or about the smoke and mirror issues that politics uses to create block voting. It is simply about the Great Commandments- Love God, Love Neighbour, Love Self. True holy interdependence. One cannot exist in a healthy way, without the others. When understood a religious community’s response to their C-tine life shifts as well.

Now, with this understanding, that it is about people not buildings (or power or money, all useful tools but the love of each of these three corrupt and lead to evil) how does one’s heart shift on mission and life in c-tine?

As you hear the words of a new version of Tom T. Hall’s Me and Jesus is there something in there for your faith family wherever you are, however you gather, and live out your faith?