Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual growth’

Brother Jesus lived out around me,

Brother Jesus live out by me,

Brother Jesus within me.

(After Communion Prayer with the physical making of the cross)

We have been in pandemic mode via physical distancing (some in quarantine depending on symptomology, exposure or high risk of contraction) for four months now in Calgary, AB. It is a time of anxiety, reflection, work, discovering new resiliencies and strengths, needing to humble one self and move into the aid available through professional circles of support.

Though it also raises more questions, what is going to happen? Is the economic re-opening working? Will schools re-open in the Fall? Is it possible? Why does the government so hate educating our children that they keep changing the formula per student to reduce funding? And not being willing to provide extra funding for the measures proposed by AHS? Why would anxiety exist within this time?

It is also a time of spiritual rumination. Is this a time of discovery? As one travels through the Psalms, it becomes apparent that times like these The Holy Mystery uses to aid us in discernment, understanding, and discovery. Yet, for anyone (like our household) who has spent time on the journey of chronic conditions, this is a time when we can look at this type of teaching and go…yeah, but I do wish God would use another method for us to come into the presence.

There is, but as our world shows, this time has ripped off the veil–the band aid— and exposed the societal dualism we have sunk in to. Dualism? The developmental stage according to Erikson we are supposed to have successfully overcome in emergent adulthood, circa 18-22 years of age. And yet, here we are, en masse in this media/social media debacle.

A familiar meme on social media re-purposed to explain dualism

The idea that one side has to be accepted whether it is true or not, is a debating fallacy. As well, the concept that within dualism one side has to be completely evil for our viewpoint/opinion to be completely good and valid. What happens is an inability to critically think, to unpack and discourse. It is a world that’s stage was set at the end of World War II and the emergence of the Cold War, where capitalism or communism had to be completely true in this ideological battle. Note any other emergent ideological battles?

In Canada recently it is the shock and horror that a) we have Nazi monuments and b) that for some reason vandalizing them is a hate crime. Uhm no. Nazi’s were the epitome of the rising fascism, anti-Semitism, before the Second World War, the war should have ended the movement. Sadly, through the continuation of white supremacy and neo-Nazism we have seen it continue, though at times outside of the last four years, being knocked back to the shadows and routed.

What does this monument show us? A dark history that needs to be exorcised. Questions around who approved, where are others in our nation? Yes, Ukraine was taken over by the Nazi’s, some were taken in at gun point and then ideologically converted, others joined gleefully as they saw a divine mission by Hitler’s regime. Either way, the core is still the same, whether you are a Humanist or Christian (or anything in-betwixt)– Nazi’s are bad, and should not be honoured, remembered or celebrated. It is almost like a real time story of the Last Supper, where these communities and monuments are our own Judas Goat, now exposed to the light will we let the darkness continue?

These are the challenges ahead as we move through reconciliation, Black Lives Matter, Universal Basic Income…these are the calls to transfiguration for our society during c-tine. A time to allow the dualistic thinking that has allowed for oppressive-racist-misogynic-dominionism structures to be imposed upon the people, and to reclaim the heart of love, inter-connectedness and hope for our world.

As we move into month five, where are you taking your journey–

Further into the darkness,

Or into the Light of Life?

Scholars believe Peter, the one that is held as the Apostolic Succession by the Roman Catholic Church, wrote these words in 1 Peter between 60-64 CE, in the seat of Imperial power, Rome. As has been noted in earlier posts there were many different types of Christianities all existing under one huge umbrella. Peter’s as seen in the first chapter held to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, but also to the life, teachings, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. What is lost in translation, is that the simple fact of the “gospel” they chose to live as followers of the Way was an act of treason. Say what?

Yes, you read that right. TREASON. See the term gospel is a political proclamation. The way the followers of Jesus of Nazareth deemed to live was in direct confrontation and contradiction to the Emperor’s Gospel. It created a scenario where in different jurisdictions persecution, imprisonment and even execution was valid. Paul, when he was Saul was a lead inquisitor from religious oppression on this front (and it was one of the reasons the other Apostle’s struggled with trusting him). In 64 CE Nero’s contempt and rage would reach a crescendo as he attempted to cover up his own burning of Rome, and yes it would lead to the execution of Peter.

Yet Peter still brings these words to the second chapter:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”[a]


“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

-1 Peter 2:1-12 (English Standard Version)

Peter dives into personal holistic formation. A rebuilding of the self within the new reality of wholeness. As the Holy Spirit/Breath has been attuned within you. That’s right, it has always been there, but now you are aware and living in the Oneness with God. All the religious barriers created were thrown away. It was about being the Law and the Prophets as Brother Jesus had brought them together in the Great Commandments of Love-God, Neighbour and Self. This is what we are now living into, and living out of. By doing this, even if you are not understood or seen as weird, what cannot be questioned is the actions of compassion. Even when those actions destroy and eliminate societal levels creating a community where all belong.

Spiritual formation. Holistic health. Mentoring. Or to use a Biblical word- discipleship. Not about huge numbers, but about a depth of character created that makes a true positive and holy change in the world.

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[b] whether it be to the emperor[c] as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[d] of God.17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

-1 Peter 2:13-25 (ESV)

This is a passage that can be used for evil (ala weaponized) so easily to create sheeple. For it sounds like Peter is telling his gathering to surrender and do whatever the government and other institutions tell them to do. Whether it is right or not. Think of how this has played out in time with slavery, holocausts, genocides, sexual abuse cover ups (and the list can go on). In a way saying that you cannot question authority. But that is a shallow and twisted hearing of the words for a man that lost his life to stand against the Empire.

Look at the key words: Do good, Love, Live as a free people. People in the Empire were not free, they were controlled by a strong caste system, and many were seen as nothing more than property. Things were hard to change in the era. But these key words are inspirational to those that want to bring change. Stand firm in your belief of faith, know that it will be challenging (as the second piece walks one through what happened to Jesus with his stance of equality, justice, and love).

It is about throwing off the oppressive labels and shackles that still exist in this day and age. What stigma causing labels are holding you back? Do you accept them, but know that you are just how you are meant to be? Or do you hear the words of Peter and live into the defeat that the labels are used to bring about?

It is the choice between light and darkness. For darkness exists because the hope has been snuffed out. One is left to believe that their life is dark and defeated, hopeless. No hope to return. This is what Peter is saying, there is hope. You have done the work destroying the sludge that had buried the light of your soul. Let that light shine, and know that change will happen.

Will you choose to live the light?

The greatest fallacy of community building is that there is a magic formula one can pluck from one setting and insert into theirs and “voila” numeric and monetary growth happens. The “Eureka” moment. Formulas can be positive or negative for the human condition. Focus on a shining light, or the darkest night. Yet, what is universal is that the community wants something simple to grow numbers without changing their normal operating procedure.

I know this. I have experienced this. For it is the uphill climb that happens when building communities of authentic welcome, and the burning shit storm that rains down on the change agent, even going as far as character assassination. Yet the truth remains the same. A community needs to understand first who they authentically are. What follows is a simple treatise on growing a religious community, and communicating to new, old and inquiring spirits as to how things work and what is available. Most churches in Canada are small to medium sized (less than 200 active members) which leads to falling into the non-communication phase of operations. That is, they are not used to new members, voices, inquiries and assume everyone knows everything already. This needs to be the first step of change. Also, it does not speak into the pilgrimage of spirituality, for what may at one point not spoken to one’s journey may now, and the information is lost in the non-communication abyss.

So yes, this is a religious treatise, but can be adapted to any organization that uses small groups/committees/insert other name for same group here.


  • Clearly outline governance. Break it down simply, so folks understand who to take ideas to.
  • How does one create a new group? This includes not only the idea, but what it takes to be lead on any new group ideas (i.e. teaching, outreach, community building).
  • What existing groups already exist? Are they Open? Closed? Membership decided on a demographic? This needs to be a simple hard copy brochure, and a tab on the webpage. Outline contact information, and what the group is about.
  • Since worship or web page can be first point of contact for new folks, and existing folks, it does not hurt to keep a current info section. This should include upcoming Sunday (monthly schedule if possible) on the speakers, short 2-3-line bio on the speaker (yes this may seem monotonous to some when it is the cleric speaking, but much can be shared in 2-3 lines so even new things can be learned), and if topic not available, the text that will be used.
  • Social Media presence: If you have a web page, twitter, YouTube, WordPress, blog site, Facebook, etc. ensure they are being used and update regularly as any and or all of these can become what someone new or old views your organization as being.
  • If the building is the hub of activity, ensure you have properly labelled meeting rooms, and directional signs up pointing which way is which (washrooms also visibly signed and directed) and use of whiteboard schedule so new folks know where they are going. If you are without a building, or use folks’ homes to meet in, ensure that information is communicated clearly and the leader is able to share the directions to the space either publicly or when messaged.
  • Any changes need to be clearly and transparently communicated, this also includes why the change was made, and who was there when change was decided (we all understand we miss a meeting thing can change).

That is the preliminary. Moving forward how do things happen?

Figure out types of groups happening and yes this includes one off events.

Outreach I view as volunteer groups. This is things such as volunteering as a group for this project (i.e. volunteering at a local homeless shelter, seniors’ manor, school, making sandwiches, community meal, etc.) something that anyone of any age can be involved in, but are outside the local church community or things within the church that are for the broader community (i.e. clothing giveaways, church garage sales, community cupboards, community gardens).

Service is also volunteer groups, one off, or ongoing, but it is basic running of the building or background services. This can be someone willing to take on IT trouble shooting, running the social media or webpage, hospitality for worship or other church functions; grounds keeping, maintenance, does the church have a library? Keeping that up; cleaning, any other project within the grounds that needs folks and their time.

Social is well social events. Games nights, outings, recreation leagues sports teams; BBQ’s, movie nights, books clubs, craft clubs, etc… a social event that may or may not have a spiritual component but is about getting people together to get to know one another. Please note these can and do intersect with the next one, so there may be a layer of leadership required dependent on what your church deems necessary.

Educational/Formational featured speakers, conferences, book groups, spiritual studies, movie nights, what is colloquially known as Sunday School, Church Camps, Vacation Bible School, Youth (or other age specific groups), etc. What are the qualifications to form and lead? What is the purpose? Who is welcome? Also this looks to specific sacramental teaching and membership groups.

Worship – these are the ones that bring us the smallest portion of the church week, but the one the most time can be spent on. Who shares the pulpit? How is music groups designed/chosen? How do we advertise? How are all generations connected with? What are key points that need to be communicated/explained if there is someone new attending even if they have a history in church but not our church? What are terms we use others may not?

Political– This is whatever leadership group heads up your church body (i.e. synod, board, committee, etc).

Beyond the headings?

This gives a group of headings to break up information in for people to understand. It also allows for ease of communication (i.e. we have a choir new member accepted from Sept-November or Raj’s Bible Study always open coffee is on Thursdays).

Also, breaking down who can lead which type of group. What are qualifications? Membership? Baptism? Sacraments? Who can be involved in worship? Who can spearhead a social gathering? Who can take lead in an educational/formational group? Who is allowed to have a seat in the political spectrum? Outreach and service? These are questions for your community to address, answer and advertise transparently. The other piece that will need to be addressed is what happens when someone bucks the system, what honestly is the community willing to do about it?

Beyond all this though the deepest question to be answered when entering a process of growth is answering authentically: Which type of growth? Spiritual? Numeric? Monetary? Most will say all, but being authentic states knowing what your community honestly values and it may surprise them.

It is true, to find a place where you can truly be the true you, takes time, and effort. Sometimes one falls effortlessly into a spot, other times the journey builds up a lot of open wounds, bruises and scar tissue to truly find respite and belonging.

My journey has been an in between, sadly some placed we thought availed of spiritual belonging attacked the youngest of us (still a certain Lutheran Church sadly my son cannot go by the parking lot of without having a meltdown) or a certain non-denom cult that the humour of being kicked out for a bible study invite still stays with the wifey…yet there is a spiritual home for everyone….it is just about finding the right hole to fit your peg, the right puzzle piece that connects…

And yes even with diverse family units such as ours there is a puzzle that can fit all our pieces. Currently I feel we are in such a place. One where the kids can grow, we can grow, and it is not necessarily because of what happens with each Sunday, or even all the courses/workshops offered at the Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living, although they help the curious learners within…

Nope, it is the type of puzzle that allows your mosaic to thrive, so not just fitting into an ideology or dogma, but a place where you can think and grow as you are meant to within the Spirit and the Spirit within. A place that allows for questions, diversity and evolution of the self and the whole. A holistic communion if you will.

For our family, it is that place to belong, for we can still be curious, we can still journey outside of the metaphoric four walls of the Centre and sample other things, grow in other ways (Nods to you Unity of Calgary and UCM Alberta)…and know that no judgment is held when we come home with new ideas to banter about.

It is through authentic belonging, that then authentic purpose can be realized for all within the family and community for there is no falsity in fitting in, or trying to be something or one you are not. Regardless of life lived, or being lived, or who you love, or what path you are one, or ability/differently abled there is always a way to realize where Spirit calls and a community to walk with in realizing that call.

Just thoughts that percolate in the work I do in aiding others in building home and coming to peace in my own self as I truly am at a place of Thy own self be true if you will.