Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

425

Posted: May 15, 2021 by Ty in Musings
Tags: , , , ,

Okay c-tine has created a time warp, as I cannot believe it has been nearly a month since my last post, when I was doing quite well weekly. Though there are other items showing sadly this loss of time, as everyday can tend to feel like groundhog day. For long time readers, 425 is of coruse the day count, since the college I had a teaching contract with switched to full online delivery on MS Teams, and staff went home to work remotely.

Who knew that 3 weeks into my contract, that the duration o the contract would be fully on line, as Alberta stumbled through a lack of response to a pandemic as ideology overstepped collaboration and evidence. But it is 2020-21 (though it does, some days feel like it runs together). Though I am not about to complain, it was a unique epilogue to the first book of my life, it was a time as it wound down when there was hope of returning to seminary and then ordination.

Sadly, the National Student Loans of Canada, does not adhere fully to finance rules, and as such funding fell through (still working on removing that barrier)–but requires a bit more emotional capital that I can hope to expend currently. As well, it is a rather ageist thing that the Federal Summer Student program has an age expiry of 30 years old, in an era of history where there are 60 years old getting diplomas and degrees, but I digress.

As the saying goes though when a door closes, God opens a window. It is true, from a wonderful 3/5ths opportunity worked up within a local church for community engagement. Truly, it is what I have been writing and speaking about for many years. A topic where I have pointed out the church needs to shift as Christendom is going through the Quiet Revolution here in Canada, a key piece of reconciliation and decolonization. That is, the church needs to accept and surrender, confess the sin of Empire power… truly it needs to shift back to what I personally read in the Gospels and Acts, being a soul of a community.

In social worky or human services of political policy terms, this is a community hub. A place of connection, resourcing and belonging for the neighbourhoods the churches exist in. A true and fun calling to enter into as a full-time teaching contract closes (though I am on as a sessional). It opens up the ability to take the biblical languages, which I wanted to shape my writing/teaching better, as well as a space where, perhaps, a discernment conversation can also be forwarded.

Day 425, and I look to picking up a new batch of comics and wonder what the new issue of Star Trek & The Orvelle will hold (self-care is a thing, that can be as simple as a hobby one enjoys) or driving through the country laughing with your family, as you pick up drive through donuts before returning home for pizza and RuPaul down under.

May it be a blessed week, where you can hear not only the whisper voice of the Holy Mystery, but experience the calling’s manifestation in your life.

Suggested reading as one institution wrestles with some aspects of inclusion, reconciliation with one group that I am sure Jesus would have called friends:

Keeping our Promises (A letter from the PCC Moderator)

A Precious Gift (A Report by the Rainbow Communion)

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Many moons ago, with a Rosary in my weary end of night shift hand in the sanctuary of a Roman Catholic church awaiting the weekday Mass, the still small voice would whisper to me “build my church”, it was an echo sentiment from years before, in a United Church, where I cam back to church as adult with my Nan, after presiding over the Sunday Service, and greeting faith family afterwards, the still small voice would simply say, “you are called”… To scant months before in my first service, where after singing in pre-sing my Granddad’s favourite hymn, the voice, his voice, would simply say “it’ll be alright”, Each of these instances are a piece of book one of three for my life. The book of laying the foudnations and preparing. Experiencing what it means to build the church. That is simply, to create the courageous safe space of connection, purpose and belonging for the beautiful mosaic that is our neighbourhood (the Imageo Dei)

So many bumps along the road. Stories. Pieces of knowledge, ancient wisdom applied to the modern world, and modern wisdom working on the souls of many. Truly striving and stumbling to live out what home is, and having the true open door that I have been told has blessed many. But at my core, I am a simple story teller. That is the core of my parallel multi-career paths, and the core of the calling as book two opens…for what is the core of blessed community but the story of love and hope at its centre?

It is stories that have shaped my life, and still do. Many look at me weirdly in the academic, political and spiritual circles I exist in for the resonance I have to so many of our modern legends and mythologies. Not only the resonance, but how effectively they can be used as points of connection, intersection and discussion… so many ways to meet and understand neighbour. Whether it is the modern super hero stories (I am sure many know of the reflections shared around Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman, Superman, Flash, the list goes on and on) our modern pantheon of gods and demi-gods as found in anceint folklore and mythologies (which I also love). Or the more recent addition of Doctor Who? The Doctor an amazing story of constant curiousity, inspired problem solving, fun and, yes, new life (ah regeneration, since I went through my own health issues, and now into c-tine, it does so feel like a moment of regeneration?). To the inquisitive nature of Sherlock Holmes, the mysteries solved, and the importance of the right partners.

The Arthurian Legends, stories I so wanted to read as a child, and a system said I could not comprehend, and a Dad that said yes he can…and well, the copy of that hardcover from Smithbooks still resides on my bookshelf, never tell a child they can’t when an interest is shown. The wonder, magic and splendour of Camelot. The idea of quest, blessing, calling, and the connection/belonging of the Round Table. To the first movie I ever saw in theatres, Walt Disney’s Robin Hood, and the core truth that all have value, and every role in society is needed for us to be healthy, how easily power can corrupt (and I have seen it happen to far too many good people) for when power becomes the goal like with Prince John– well, the fact it is actually people involved is forgotten for the pursuit of gold (or is it oil?). When a season of life ended, I hope my team at that time understand the blessing of sharing that story book with each of them.

But a core story that has stayed with me throughout my life. From when there was the one night of the week as repeats aired on CBC, Star Trek. A true reflection for me, of what Brother Jesus taught our world was meant to be. Our universe, where all have equity, justice, equality, hope, can pursue who they are meant to be and we affirm the ideal you they are currently and are becoming. Where we aid others. Each of its iterations has brought a new era of story and contemplations into my life. From the Next Generation to Deep Space Nine to Voyager to Enterprise to (Kelvin) Star Trek movies to Discovery to Lower Decks to Picard…each piece introducing new characters, new allegories to our reality now and where we can be, what we can aspire to.

The re-connection to the stories, happened sharply over the last several years as I started to build myself back. As we unearthed, and healed the darkness, smudge and trauma that almost, yes, took my life, though it took me off of one path and opened up an epilogue/prologue upon a new path. A new story. My loving wife and kiddos that have journeyed through much, and we know eyes wide open what has been in all its diverse sorrows to joys, to what we know can be in a hope seen and soon to be lived.

See, for me, as I reflect back on the journey, the long road of getting here. Some may look at the hiccups, the setbacks, the loss, and say, why bother? Or didn’t so and so ruin your life…No they did not. I still remember the day in the early part of my PNES where a congregational cycle of prayer had my son make that statement as I had stepped away a few times from church based ministry to protect him from their heresy & ableism, as with other members of my family at other moments. For me it is about living love, and it is truly about discerning if there is authentic misunderstanding, or simply a desire for a quick apology so one’s own hates are not revealed on the altar for all to see.

But I digress, see there is an understanding that it is not a pollyanic view, especially in our polarized world where many akin the word Christian or Pastor to some device of hatred and exclusion. Or like in Star Trek V when they finally gound “god” and it was revealed to be nothing more than a monster in godcloaking:

Yet, here we are, a long road, some wear and tear, great learnings, lovings, and discoveries.

As was revealed earlier in the movie with the discussion of pain, and the need for the pain to emerge into who we truly are. So it is with each aspect of our life, all the ups and downs, sorrows and joys, losses and wins…they have shaped us…to be with others. To hear the authentic quite voice once more on this journey, one that others have heard.

“it is time to answer hope’s call”

Taking a risk, at this stage of the emegent chapter one of book two, prepared and now stepping in to the uknown. Accepted back to seminary as a student to complete my Master of Divinity. Awaiting the links to open up to apply for funding. To grow my skills, for my writing, community building, and to step back into ministry within the church. And maybe, perhaps, once settled to finish the journey that started with my Psy.D. to finally get my Doctor of Ministry.

To once more, be a pastor.

To aid others in being authentic communities of hope.

To discover honestly, what the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit is whispering to each of us to live out and transform our world for the better.

And yeah, it is one of the scariest steps in my life I have taken.

But also fills me with simply being

content.


Introduction

Throughout my travels since April 2019 I have come into contact with young and seasoned youth pastors seeking to break the cycle of “trying to compete” and “bigger-better events” to realize it was not creating depth of Christian life. It led to conversations around spiritual formation and discipleship, investing in the person before you, with coffee with my minister it was talk of the emerging discussion of Liturgical Living. That is the rhythm of life. When we think of Liturgy, it is Latin for “work of the People”. It is the way the church year, and worship service is structured. It gives the ebb and flow of birth, life, death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is an emergence of ancient practices for our modern world and led me to bring together some thoughts from my years of community building, and monastic formation with the Franciscans.

Corporate Personhood

On the 6th Day in the ancient Hebrew Poem[1] that is Genesis 1 lets us know that humanity is made in God’s Image (Imageo Dei). What a beautiful image that each of us is a reflection of the Holy? This idea is then carried further by the writings of Paul (Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24) that points to Christ as the head, but we are all parts of the body. Each one of us significant, and different, but together functioning, it is a coming together of the personal and corporate personhood. Within the work of community building this sometimes takes the look at discovery what our own names mean (first, middle, last) and has it had any effect we were not aware or are aware of in shaping who we are. What does the name of our community have on shaping that? For youth, it was the work then of discussion and choosing a name through consensus that reflected our new Body of Christ, and from that flows out who we are.

Corporate Identity

As individuals we encounter tough situations in life. We have our own guide posts. Our own mentors, family and friends that feed into our being whether positively or negatively for our own growth, and shape our core being that is given the guideposts of core values, beliefs, and learning. The corporate religious person is the same. The challenge is that each part of the body exists within a spectrum of spiritual development. Yet, in a corporate gathering we can work together with the guideposts. For Paul wrote to the church of Corinth “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for eyou were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,” (1 Corinthians 3:2, English Standard Version). It is the beginning of a journey, but we are laying ground work and preparing, working as one to cast a vision for who we are now, and who we are being called to be. It is like the Liturgy, for what the Liturgy in a service builds to reflect what is valued most by the gathered community, same as with the spiritual formation process.

It leads to opening up to setting of core values that become the guide posts for behaviour, and conversation creators. I remember in the late 1990’s when I began working with youth and children, doing events and retreats, the standard across mainline and evangelical circles was rules based on “thou shalt nots” and SAD rules (No Sex, Alcohol or Drugs). Discussing with colleagues and finding that incidents were up quite high at events, we entered a time of discernment for something different. That was the shift to the Values, and the who we are, and out of that our actions will be shaped. Much like Jesus when he would sit with the woman at the Well, the religious leaders, or even his disciples…remember when he called Peter Satan? It was a teaching moment to remind Peter who he truly was based on the Shema (the Great Commandments, a prayer of the Temple) and to get out of his head and back to his Godly heart. So too this conversation of Corporate Personhood, shapes the community and creates the courageous safe space for any to enter, and know what they are joining, and that it is a journey of transformational change ahead.

Just like the rhythm of prayers in the Liturgy of gratitude-thanksgiving, grace, confession, reconciliation, assurance of pardon, prayers of the people…so too the community values set the rhythm of life for each gathering. It also allows for the courageous conversations of what topics the gathered are struggling with or curious about to set the Holy Conversations (curriculum) and what aspects of the Bible and faith they want to deep dive into.

One Example

There are many examples that can be drawn of those within church families and those that came from community and the change this type of rhythm created in their life. Positive shifts, minute or major, yet each story is personalized and contextualized. What happens though with the corporate personhood becomes the lighthouse in the community, “Your word is a lamp for my feet,  a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, New International Version). This is what shaped my coming to corporate personhood. It is the benchmarks in the Rule of Life Ministry of the lay Franciscan Orders. I have modified some of the questions that can arise, as I have used this in many contexts of spiritual formation classes for the Christian to the Non-Christian in church, spiritual direction centres, simple communities, and post-secondary classes (non-Christian schools), please note my thoughts are italicized (and on my YouTube channel short thoughts about each):

The Holy Eucharist.

Since we see the Eucharist as the heart of our prayer, our personal rule would call us to frequent participation in this Sacrament. We partake of the Eucharist on all Sundays and all these Principal Feast Days — Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and All Saints Day (if available in your area.)

Eucharist, or communion, a sacred gathering of being family, at the Institution of the Sacrament we have two versions, in the synoptic gospels it is highly focused on the meal and the symbolism. In John, we get the sacrament of service, with the foot washing that became part of early practice within Ana-Baptist communities, and a part of the Maundy Thursday Service, highly powerful if uncomfortable. The symbol of care for feet, the often ignored, but most important part of the body, for one who uses a wheel chair it could be the hands. It is showing care for the least thought of symbolically.

It is also more, for in these stories, it is Christ shifting from Master to friends. The equality of all. There is a structure given, but also the acknowledgement that something holy happens each time we gather in community to eat together. The being present in the now, and listening not simply to respond, but the shift to listening from the heart. That is to understand one another, and discover who each other are. It shows the power, as Peter’s anxiety is revealed, Judas’ treachery, all in the conversation, and letting the silence rest to be filled. It creates space for the corporate Personhood to become healthier, and a place of belonging.

What questions does it raise for the value placed around ensuring enough for all?

Ensuring that all are heard?

That all are valued?

What is the practice of the Eucharist for yourself and community?

Penitence. (Daily Self Examin)

Regular examination of our obedience to Christ is necessary. To be reconcilers we must first be deeply reconciled to God. We practice daily self-examination and annual use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I have used in my own praxis the concept of self-Examin, instead of penitence. The reason of heart is simple, not everything is about self-flagellation. In the course of the day there is oops, could’ve done that better, should apologize, but there is also beautiful moments of knowing the Holy Spirit, seeing God show up unexpectedly, feeling gratitude, joy, hope and love. It becomes a look at our own day, and knowing that God is in it all, and it is okay to have the full spectrum of emotions. The journey takes us through, as Psalm 23 phrases “The valley of the Shadow of Death” but also in Psalm 23 it lets us know that all we need is God, for all the rest creates white noise, that is if we truly come into our understanding how does it shift our experience of life?

What is reconciliation? Obviously not a Presbyterian Sacrament, it is Roman Catholic and-or Anglican. It is not just the sin list, but the work that comes to reconcile with those harmed by actions. Yet, there are a time when that is not safe, or times when the reconciliation is about yourself to God. Sometimes reconciliation is about coming to love yourself, and letting what the world or church has put on you to be blown away with the Ruah (breath of God) to be who we are truly called to be.

For beginning learning about this, the space for positivity can be created by asking for 3 things thankful for, 1 thing to do for health or helping, and one thing that has been learned between each gathering from members.

Personal Prayer.

We set aside a definite time for prayer each day to spend time with God, to pray for others, to meditate and to express our thankfulness. Prayer is the root from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished.

Set times, and all times. It is the discovery of healthy relationship with God and others. Understanding the wide variety of prayers and way of prayers that are out there- labyrinths, art, music, drama, writing, journaling, liturgical prayers, personal, prayers of petition, prayers of celebration, and the list goes on. Prayer is about learning how to build a relationship, to get to know God, you and neighbour, much like the Psalms show us (Billy Graham encouraged a reading of 5 Psalms a day so each month you would read through the whole book, the idea being that it shows how to be with God).

Self-Denial.

This is the discipline of saying “No” to oneself by putting God first. We are often aware of the places in our lives where additional self- discipline is needed, but our Spiritual Directors should be asked to help in this area. We also focus on eliminating the ways we may manipulate others to our own ends.

In Lent we practice giving something up. This is a step into this. The idea of fasting. It can be giving something up to replace that time to know God more. What does it mean? Within spiritual communities I would create the shock by making the time “phone free” that is the youth turning their phones in at beginning of the night to be completely present with one another. It is about understanding that there are moments in time when we step outside of ourselves to be present with neighbour, self and God for learning, discovery and growth. Too often we use things to create walls between ourselves.

Retreat.

Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. At least once a year, we participate in organized or private retreats of at least 24 hours of silence.

Silence is hard for a retreat, trust me. I look to teaching in short spurts to enjoy silence, with prayer working on meditation, and sitting in the silence. But the idea of retreat is important. This is the understanding of Sabbath in life. Turning off the work of the day, the burdens (and yes many times this can be technology). It is also about creating structured times of being with God individually and corporately. There can be themes, specific Bible stories and spiritual practices used, but no fixed outcome. It is not like a business retreat where we are creating a vision, this is about being in the Holy Conversation with God and seeing what emerges for the next of life.

Study.

We all need to learn more about God’s will for us. Study of the Scriptures and of Franciscan spirituality is important to our Christian growth.

How does life and faith interact? What do we need to discover about culture? About our faith? Billy Graham also noted reading a chapter of proverbs a day to learn how to be with neighbour, perhaps this is like that. We spend time with our Bible, and with our newspaper and other scholarly materials to discover the intersection of life. Scholarly does not mean heady tombs, these can be books found in the non-fiction sections of bookstores and libraries on a variety of topics of interest or need.

Simplicity of Living.

Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with “belonging”, can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, eliminating those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God’s love.

Work.

Service has always been an important part of the Franciscan vocation. Daily work is one way in which Tertiaries serve God and others; we are often also called to serve God and our brothers and sisters in individual ministries, ranging from prayer to social activism.

We have a cultural narrative that sets out what is valued. We miss in the cultural narrative that each person has a vocational call upon their soul from God. It is about knowing what work we have to do for survival or paying the bills. There are moments work is a must (you own a house you need to mow the lawn whether you like it or not), chores, etc. Yet, there is also choices of what we pursue in our own time as volunteers or actual callings. We live in a society that takes all types of work for our world to function, and all that needs to be honoured as we help one another discern who we are meant to be, and how to serve, learn and grow.

Obedience.

All Tertiaries are obedient to the decisions of Third Order Chapter. We say the Daily Offices, we support each other by prayer, attendance at Fellowship meetings and a pledge of financial support to the Third Order. We report regularly to the Order on the keeping of our Rule. We have Spiritual Directors whom we see regularly.

What is obedience in this day and age? Being a part of an organization usually has reporting structures. What this speaks to is an understanding of who we are (our core values), and are we living out of those values? What challenges are arising? What times of redirection? Times of change? New opportunities? Doors closing for us? New doors opening? It is about developing one’s character so that we are living our profession, and when we aren’t we are aware and go to the safe (sanctuary) space to renew and replenish.

Conclusion

St. Francis of Assisi was an odd-duck as most of the Mystics and Monastics of the Church were and are. In Franciscism there is no set “Reformation” moment in church history, it is about constant rebirths, resurrections and reformations as we continue to discover how to live the Gospel life and be the Body of Christ in our own pockets of this world. The lighthouse that casts a light. The teaching was simple, you took a Biblical teaching to heart, once it was part of you then you moved on to the next one, not before, so it was not simply knowledge amassing, but wisdom.

In the world of creating youth religious communities, it is the investment, the commitment and knowing that the goal is not confirmation but rather, does the youth know what they believe? Why the believe it? And when they are on their own, will they live it? That is discipleship, which in my humble opinion is the crux of the liturgical life.

 

 

 

[1] Poetry as in Hebrew it rhymes ideas not words as in English.


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

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

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

-The Nurse

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Neighbour at her Celebration of Life Tea

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

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

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

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

Do I miss preaching?

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

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

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

Playlist:

Paul Brandt’s Jesus Loves Me

Brad Paisley’s Me and Jesus

Paul Brandt’s Amazing Grace

End Notes:

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