Posts Tagged ‘Who is my neighbour?’


 What follows below is my speaking notes from this morning, the pdf is just below for the power point slides noted in the bolded brackets throughout.

Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Centennial Presbyterian Church January 26, 2019 

mens prayer breakfast january 2019

Good Morning. We are exploring some aspects this morning of mental health and belonging, as was advertised it is a personal and professional faith journey. In our time this morning we are by no means going to touch upon the entire spectrum of mental health concerns, diagnosis, disorders and spectrums out there. I am going to share a bit about my journey, and the ones that have touched upon me the most. Now I am sure you are probably asking well who is this guy? 

That’s a good question, short answer in my name is Ty, and I have lived in Rundle my whole life, my goal in life is simple to make my own corner of the world a better place. I am currently travelling through the echoes of a life spent fighting back the darkness of our world, and creating safe courageous space for all to belong, but more on that piece later. I am a pilgrim, the ad described me as a monastic-psychologist. It is true, I hold a Doctor of Psychology, I sought it out because I needed to skills to aid folks in healing. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Alberta Bible College, and my Master or Arts is from Canadian Theological Seminary now Ambrose Seminary. Each degree earned with classes that aided me in my goal of making the world a bit better, not for any other reason. I am monastic, because at the core of my journey is a formation in the Franciscan Charism. St. Francis of Assisi founded an order about 800 years ago of the open hand, those that embraced justice, simplicity, and living out the gospel message of love. Many believe it is an anti-educational-intellectual order because of a teaching of Francis that you first must learn the first scripture before going to the next. He was not counselling us to be the frozen chosen, but rather to so live into the scripture that we are living it without even thinking about it, it simply becomes part of our DNA. 

For me, the journey of learning has been centered on the scripture that brought me into organized church and ministry, at 19 years old I was contemplating my 6th attempt at suicide. I had gone through a horrendous time for that time of my life where my then fiancée had decided to abort our child, and re-enter the sex trade to feed her addiction. I was at home, quietly putting things in order, giving/selling things. When I stumbled across the little red Gideon’s New Testament they used to give out in grade 5. It was in the bottom of my closet and the spine was broken open, and these little red letters spoke to me: 

(slide of Great Commandment) 

Something shifted in my depression, and I decided to go see my Nan that weekend, and try out this church thing, and the tumultuous seasons of my ministerial life would begin, as I started to be like the lawyer. 

(slide of Good Samaritan). 

This led me to a life journey involved in many aspects of church ministry, continuing an active writing and activism career that was already in place, building ministries, writing curriculums, entering into service in the homeless sector during the darkest times of our province, as austerity measures created a humanitarian crisis in Calgary where threat to human life was imminent each winter. I would also serve during my time as a chaplain to those with dementia, childrens and youth pastors, pulpit supply, college and university instructor from bachelor to post-graduate courses in a variety of topics, practicum supervisors, mentor for at risk youth and re-integration mentor for youth re-entering society from the young offender’s centre. I would do outreach in many of the cities in Canada for those in need, aiding those camping rough to find safety, and if they could not the next morning aiding authorities in identifying the bodies. Publish a few books. Oh and in the midst, I would find time to run for office and shape many policies for parties at both the Federal and Provincial level, but hey a man needs a hobby. 

Throughout this I began to shape a concept of belonging. That it is about aiding folks in understanding who they truly are, how the experience the world, and how we as community can aid them in achieving wholeness. 

(slide on mental health) 

In my teens and early 20’s like many Albertans I struggled with alcohol. It would not be until later that I would find out about my family’s predilection to alcoholism. But I made a hard decision at that time, after my one birthday where I woke up sore and alone at home, alcohol was not a good thing for me, it made me violent, it needed to end: 

(slide of Dix) 

Addiction comes in many forms.  

(addiction slide)  

It is a form of self-medicating, a numbing agent, a replacement for authentic belonging and authentic self. The challenge in our world, is that so many things that become addictive can be seen as societally acceptable: gambling we use to fundraise for our schools and hospitals and other non-profits, alcohol you are seen as abnormal if you do not drink in social settings- try being politically active and sober? Or a writer; work or fitness or religion- all things that are acceptable, but can also so overtake our lives that we can no longer function. 

(Opioid crisis slide) 

Today we are in a crisis in Canada as a result of our triage and siloed method of dealing with people in health care. We are in what the media and health care have termed an opioid crisis, it is due to the prevalence of Fentanyl. A drug originally designed for end of life pain allevement. Now opioids, when used for pain relief within medicine are not bad, that is the all or nothing view of our world. What is wrong, is those using them to self-medicate their own personal pain. Pain caused by our own inhumanity towards one another. What would change with the crisis if we moved out of isolation and fear mongering, into authentic community? A courageous safe space where we understand pain, we understand the journey of healing, and we are willing to believe and help at a deeper level. We are willing to allow belonging, knowing that the greatest fear in belonging is that when the person is no longer there, we shall mourn.  

That is why we avoid belonging. Whether it is belonging in our own skin (Love yourself) or opening space for belonging for neighbour (love your neighbour as yourself). 

(won’t you be my neighbour slide) 

I have already touched on a bit of my own struggle with depression. Depression is a normal reaction in the grief process of loss, it can also be more than short term however, and that is okay. It is how some experience life 

(Depression Slides) 

It is ironic, as a child I had convulsions, they were so severe in my toddler years I am told there was multiple times I stopped breathing and was blue. In the late 70’s early 80’s the treatment for such a thing was an anti-psychotic- Phenobarbitrol. It is a harsh long-term treatment, but it saved my life and my brain. Many children who were put on it, lost their lives to suicide or addiction in adolescence, or dropped out of life. It is still used in short term cases for stabilization before another anti-epileptic or anti-convulsant will be prescribed. I was on it from roughly age 2 to 9 years old, my convulsions left my brain scarred, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the medication had rewired things significantly. 

As my Mum entered into the journey of Breast Cancer that would eventually take her life; I was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at a church; teaching and writing; working as a vocational coach for persons with disabilities; working on my Master’s oh and just for fun running for office while editing a political journal provincially, and a spiritual journal internationally is when the repercussions of what saved my life would hit. 

(I don’t wanna slide) 

Panic attacks. Tears or anger for no reason. Medication as my brain chemistry was out of balance. 

I was always and still am open about my own journey, if those who seek to facilitate healing cannot be open, how do we expect those seeking help to be open. There was a backlash, churches skittered away from me, as I transitioned back into a leadership role in the homeless sector I was abruptly informed that I was a weak leader for sharing my mental health with my team. That self-care and mental health care were not up to leaders to mentor staff in, it was their job to deal with the challenges of the job. 

Stigma. 

But through medication, self-care, what I termed soul work through spiritual direction and life coaching I emerged through that time on medication for a few years and things had improved.  It was also during this time that I lost my ordination by taking a stand that yes children with disabilities belong in God’s kingdom (but our journey of that is a tale for another time). 

As Shawna, my wife, is always proud to say, I taught many how to care for themselves, while caring for neighbour. Soul care, ensuring you can love yourself and are being the true you, while helping others become the true them. We did not expect what was to begin in 2016, but there are 4 scary letters out there that we need to remove the fear from: 

(PTSD Slides) 

Whether personally or professionally we as a family had created safe spaces for belonging, whether they found me through work, or showed up on our door step. Literally meals can be added to, coffee or tea can go on, kids can play, and life can happen as we just are: 

(Quote slide) 

I am going to share with you an article I wrote about what is happening in the now, it is the outcome of years of journeying in the darkness as the light, and taking a beating for views of belonging. A lifetime, as we spoke of before in a Franciscan way of learning how to live out the Great Commandments, and answer the question, Who is my neighbour? 

(PTSD-PNES Slide) 

613 is my number, what is yours? 

It is amazing the conversations one has as a parent, and then the journey it causes you to reflect upon. Before May 2016 sitting in an ER I never thought I would be here. See, growing up and throughout my life I admit to being socially awkward (to be kind), but there was something that always was wonderful, my mind. When it came to numbers it was something like Charlie on Numbers that the solution would come to me, but has no real idea what took me from problem to solution. My everyday mind would be able to focus on 3 or 4 tasks in front of me, while crunching solutions and dreams/plans for multitudes of other things (one of the main reasons I never took up this thing called driving). 

It is the blessing of this mind, with my heart for changing the world that allowed the drive in school (and the multiple degrees earned and given honourary); building programs; running for office; editing and writing; book publishing; teaching; outreach work; mentoring; life coaching; spiritual direction; public speaking; pulpit supply; and the list can go on in my short life I had packed in multiple life times. Standing in the darkness and walking with those in the midst so they could come into their light. Discover who they truly were; teaching and facilitating others in discovering their passions and ways to make a living at it. I believe my life showed that you can chase dreams, and still hold true to your core values, not having to surrender who you are to make a difference in this world. At one point I looked back on my time in ministry and realized I had the opportunity to speak into nearly 1,000 young lives for the better. 

But it started to shift in May and then October 2016 in the ER with weird brain activity, memory loss, chest pains and left-hand tremors. But I was told I was normal and fine, so carry on at discharge, after a day or two at home back at it. Back at the work of walking with folks to create home and community. 

In the later part of 2017 as summer approached, professional and personal griefs/stressors were there. Waying on one’s spirit. I felt tired, and my brain was foggy. Like I had taught so many though, back to the daily practice, self-care, seeking out those who can aid you in debrief and carry forward, keep yourself healthy. And why wouldn’t I be tired? It was a phase, been there done that. My vocabulary, and understanding of some basic concepts began to fail me. Again, I looked back on what was happening with those in personal and professional life passing away, assumed it was a grief cycle (my son’s friends were passing away, always hard). 

But then my birthday hit and the game changed. 

Seizures (Grand Mal and absent), multiple in rapid succession. Lost memory and time. Not only in the now, but lost memories, I could not recall things. It kept happening, I became the ER’s daily flier if you will…and oh so cold, my body had gone hypothermic, in retrospect to protect my heart. Medical science couldn’t answer the question. Weird things being vomited out. Tests were toss ups. 

But when the seizures hit, and I would come back so would the pain. The life of being a light in the darkness, but only the darkness would come back. Decades of being in the pain, looking back and having my mind lie to me saying that I was a failure, had not made a difference. My memories that would reboot, it was like an old DOS computer with dust on the floppy, the self-care wouldn’t come with it. My healing and growing of scar tissue were gone, it was rapid succession of the pain that cut to the very core of who I was. I tried to work through, my agency was wonderful in their support. 

But I was not me. My beautiful gift, my mind, was failing. Things that I knew by rote, and was simple neurological muscle memory were gone, fog was constant, stabbing pains, tremoring arm, in ability to sleep, hypothermic and I won’t share how when I went down finally for health reasons the days of weird chemicals I had been exposed to expelling from my body (oh and the constant daily seizures, at one point almost 40 a day). Tests of the blood, body and brain, but the flashbacks persisted. 

It wasn’t something that was expected. I had learned to take care of myself, to rely on supports, to keep healthy, to use vacation time and to chase passions. This was against the narrative. But it persisted. Advancing from basic neurology to complex, in hospital observational stays, and all the epileptoligists/neurologists looking at my brain scans and medical files to reach a decision on what was happening. Finally, in the last month or two having confirmed diagnosis, PTSD-PNES, and now due to the Third Way boondoggle that was Klein’s legacy, I wait for the aid to cure and move forward. In the mean time the seizures are not epileptic but bring all the fears of those types of seizures with them everything from falls to sudden death, with no medications that can be prescribed to control them. 

With each seizure my number reminds me of where I have walked. 613 that is 613 in my life of family, friends, children, parishners, and clients I was unable to do more than journey with to the final transition to the next life. Most I was present for last rites or the passing or performed the celebration of life, if not all of it. In the travels I continue to use that which some may say is fruitless. Yet I persist. I pay the price for the persistence to keep going, I am not as good as I used to be, not even close…but I keep trying, working on myself while I wait. 

This time I feel like Alice having stepped through the looking glass, or Kirk into the Mirror Universe. I have seen what the darkness unchecked has done to my soul. I know what the light is. I struggle to believe in myself once more for with each reboot I still have to work through the lies my heart tells me that I am a failure, for even if it is a simple spark I need to hold to it…that I make a difference simply by being. 

What is your number? 

 (Authentic you slide) 

The Great Commandment lays out a challenge for us. It is about realizing that we are created in God’s image. As such we cannot say we love God with our everything, if we do not love ourselves. To love ourselves speaks of belonging in our own skin, having our purpose, it is not about jobs, it is about knowing why we are here and having a means to live it out. It is also understanding we need to love our neighbour who is also the image of God. Creating the courageous safe space for belonging so they can discover themselves. Within that space journeying with one another in the same vein. 

People constantly ask me what’s next? I honestly do not know, step one is to get the healing work done, then look at a return to work. What will that look like? I do not know. In the mean time I have purpose, I write, I teach when I can, I do some research and writing for my Dad and his wife’s project, Countess Country Musuem. I am beginning to work on a family memoir on the topic of mental health and belonging to remove the stigma. Most importantly though in this time of healing, I am a husband and a Dad in an amazing loving family. 

I leave you with a question to mull, 

What’s next for you? 

(Christian Counsellors slide) 

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ac2For the non-comic geek, today is the 1000 issue of Action Comics. Now the rest of you know what I am writing on. Superman. Action Comics #1 in 1938 introduced something new to the world– a super hero. Yes there had been pulp heroes before, and adventure men (Doc Savage, the Shadow), but Superman was something new and different.

There has been a plethora since. How do I know this is momentous? I grew up in public schools from 1984-1996, and comics were verboten.  Could only find them on convenience store spin racks, or comic shops. Yet now they are in book stores, premium shops, public libraries, and yes, my daughter’s school library. We have begun to realize what I always talked about growing up. Pop culture ala comics, graphic novels, sci-fi are rapidly becoming our new meta-narrative. Much like ancient legends and play wrights we studied in school before hand.  It was through the world of comics, that I discovered the myths and legends, classics, a deeper passion for current events, and simple kindness changing the world.

acAnd it began with the most memorable and imprintable– Superman (there are others, Batman, Spider-Man, since the advent of MCU and DCEU many more have come into consciousness), but I digress. Superman is more than simply the 1000 issues of Action Comics. He has been on every medium: Radio shows, television, movies, video games, multiple comic series, book series, toys, models, trading cards, and other collectibles. The S-shield is a symbol. When it is seen, people have an understanding of heroics. Much like others would when they would see a marshall star, or here a Robin Hood story. That is what Superman grew into as the 20th century carried forward. He fought racism, fascism, poverty, injustice and pure villainy whether it was from within or without.

As much as the Christianities have attempted to co-opt it as an allegory of Christ, the roots are in the Hebrew Bible stories of Moses and Judges. Yet has grown beyond the tribal underpinnings to a universal story. It is why the last two films, Man of Steel and Superman v. Batman were panned. For it was not Superman.

The light in the darkness. The one that seeks justice, but does not use the methods of those he battles. The emblem of truth and hope. A throwback to a simpler time perhaps, but in the complexity we have created in the world, the simplicity is still needed. For in Superman what is stripped away is the convolution, and the mask that is Superman drops to the core of the character:

Clark Kent.

Sent to earth, raised by Jonathan and Martha, humble farmers. Whether you were part of the story where the died, or lived until senior years. It was the simplicity of new life, and light, and kindness… helping neighbour that rung true. The humanity, not the superhero that made the story. A reporter, seeking the truth behind the glitz, glamour and show. His love growing and changing in life. A character through ideations we have seen as child, teenager, elseworlds/multi-verses, young adult, adult, married (Finally! to Lois Lane!) and now a father.

Clark Kent lived life. Yes he had powers, yes he had a mask, Superman, that he wore to use his exceptional gifts. But when the world met Superman, the mask was only the awe that stopped them from seeing Clark…for they truly met Clark.

That is the hope of Superman you see. It is about doing whatever you can to make the world better, and have the life you are meant to live. It is about being the authentic you, regardless of the situation.

Superman, neigh, Clark Kent truly answers the question, Who is My neighbour? For it is his simple and complex actions seeking the best for those that is what matters.

Here is to the narrative continuing…and inspiring new generations.

And yes…Clark…inspired me at one point to want to write…


There are many Empty Tomb or resurrection narratives found within the Canonical Gospels, never mind the ones in the pseudepigraph (apocrypha-gnostic—the ones Constantine’s Scholars did not want). There is scenes we are familiar with of Doubting St. Thomas putting his fingers in Brother Jesus’ wounds; talking with disciples on the road; eating fish with them.

BUT-

The oldest text ending we have was what is believed by tradition to originally been recited to John Mark (his folks owned the Upper Room, yeah that one, he was there at the arrest and ran away naked, and he journeyed a bit with Paul) by Peter (the one that Jesus called Satan in one moment, and in another was being called the foundation stone of the Christianities, and Brother Jesus entrusting him with the keys if you will).

This was the original “ending-beginning” (original Sonrise):

 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[a] He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

-Mark 16:1-8 (Common English Bible)

Fear? Seems an apt human response to finding your friend’s body missing. Even with the message, these women had heard the rumblings of the authorities, or of other factions on what to do with the body to break the back of the movement.

Yet the message went to three strong women. It was the true community message time. In ancient world customs took 2 women to equal one man in testimony. Yet here you had a Trinity. Much like a mirror reflection of the Trinity of God (Creator), Jesus (master teacher/way shower) and the promised Holy Spirit (community empowerer). The women were Mary, Mother of James (who was Jesus’ brother)—the co-creator of the life of Jesus; Salome (Herod’s niece who was manipulated in killing John, reborn within the movement, a new child mentored by the women); and Mary Magdalene (once written off as a sex worker in a derogatory manner, now history showing that she was the major sustainer of the community, through her monies keeping things going, and very possibly the wife of Brother Jesus).

An earthly feminist trinity receiving the truth. That even the plans of evil, power, Empire and Religious Controllers were undone. They had heard the message (the Gospel proclaimed of the new Kingdom to come) and they had seen the signs…yet in the midst of the reality. Truly having their society’s meta-narrative shattered, the caste system of religion, economics and colonialism blown away…the fear of change gripped them and they rolled through it as they ran.

Who would do any different in the midst of such drastic change?

With each change in life no matter how minuscule, our emotional intelligence goes through the journey of grief. That is what this group was going through, later accounts tried to alleviate that understanding. This earliest account allows you to enter into it.

Not only enter into it, but after the fear rolls through and you are left with the acknowledgement of what just happened.

Flowing into that moment of new reality. That moment when one realizes nothing can stop radical love. Nobody can stop true belonging. No matter how much “power they have”. For all the powers of the known world attempted to and looked as if they had succeeded in silencing the peasant labourer from Nazareth…and the Holy Mystery and a big Nu-Uh for them as the sun rose on a Sunday.

They may have run in fear…

But what came next is how each of them, and cascading into each member continued to write their own Gospel story.

Empires and religious controllers to come may have tried to set and seal the Christian Testament, but they too missed the moment of fear of the women. For it was in that moment of fear, that they knew the story was no longer about the life lived of Brother Jesus. It was now about the lives living the way of radical love of Brother Jesus and the transformed world to come.

It was now their Gospel. Their political proclamation of radical love and belonging.

It was their answer to the question, who is my Neighbour?

This Easter Sunday, as the sun rose, and you were confronted with the man in white telling you the tomb was empty…where is your fear taking you?

            What is your Gospel? Your political proclamation of radical love and belonging?

            What is your answer to the question, who is my neighbour?


I have been on a journey…quite a lifetime of a journey…on creating space for persons to belong. It is why some have read previous posts and have blatantly stated that I do not believe in inclusion, accessibility and/or affirming ministries.

WRONG!!!

I am a 21st century Canadian. I believe this is where we should be resonating and existing at as community already. Accessibility is a need, but is a physical transformation of space, that can be forgiven if there is a plan to move forward, or allowances and aids to help. Inclusion means that the circle has been drawn wide enough so that regardless of label there is a space for you, and affirming is the simple act that you deserve to exist with the same dignity, rights and privileges as everyone else, because, well you are a human being. The fact we allow ourselves to backslide back into these old debates is astoundingly annoying, hurtful and a waste of time.

Where the conversation, and behaviour needs to happen in community, but especially within the Christianities is within belonging. Belonging is messy, because the first three are the starting point so it is no longer the person’s label at play. We seek to understand how they experience the world, and what is needed for their full vocational fulfillment within our world.  It is the calling Brother Jesus laid on our hearts/souls/beings with his teachings out of the Shema (the great love commandments of God, Neighbour and Self) that he then reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the legalist (read we will keep arguing inclusion, accessibility and affirming just because we are scared of change and sharing power) who asked him “who is my neighbour?”.

The risk of knowing neighbour, and of belonging as written of earlier is that we risk missing the person or being missed. BUT…there is more.

When one truly belongs. One takes ownership of the 5 W’s and H of the belonging. You will hear phrases of “This is my home” or “This is my community” or “My crew/group/residents/patients/clients/customers/students” or “my team” or “my church”. Why? Because they are resonating in belonging to something they were meant to be a part of. It is not about prestige, titles, or money (or anything else to feed ego). It is truly doing what one is meant to do. Being where one is meant to be.

Notice the words: being, be… B-E-L-O-N-G.

Take time in your life, what do you take ownership of authentically?

Why do you take that ownership?

What does this say about what your values are?

If the legalist came to you and asked, “who is my neighbour?” what is your story of ownership? Of Being? Of belonging?

 


I am starting to think I sound like a broken record around the constitutional guarantee in Canada of “Peace, Order and Good Governance”. Many in electoral reform circles like to focus on the method of electing officials instead of the first step being unity of the citizens. As ideological entrenchments begin to outstrip collective good, Americanized fear based media mongering creeping into the Canadian narrative, we are now seeing an entrenched Urban versus Rural mindset.

I have family that lives both sides of this developing divide. Those who are in Rural Alberta, and Urban, I am an urbanite that enjoys the pace and community of the smaller centre life. Some would say the provincial collapse of the PC Dynasty is to blame, but I would point out in that dynasty neither group got effective representation as they could have had. Currently some would point to the NDP-UCP fiasco and that perpetuating the divide, I would say there is plausibility to that theory.

What is hard is that in the current discourse of society we enjoy to out shout someone, to keep our argument to 240 characters (I don’t know whether to thank Twitter for the increase or not), never give ground acknowledging someone else’s point is valid, always seek the one solution for multiplicity could not be possible and that surely there is not shared concerns. I could easily pull a conservative rural troll argument on an Urban issue to prove a point, but I will invert- Jason Kenney, his politicking on the issue aside, tweeted an Okotoks RCMP crime watch picture of thieves…was the response some decent kudos and retweets—no it was the vitriol. We all share these from our area when the police issue them, we even share them from other jurisdictions, but we have become entrenched in the belief that our concerns can’t possibly be the others.

Instead of Rural Albertans and Urban Albertans—howzabout a simple statement, We are citizens of Canada, that live in Alberta (or Albertans). In fact, I would challenge the Alberta Government to look at creating exploratory committees on issues differently (and yes this is the party of the majority, the loyal opposition, and all other elected MLA’s).

Crime is something that is a province wide concern. Rurally you have a mixture of long-term settlers; reserves and colonies (colonies being of Hutterite, Mennonite and Dukhobor), plus persons with disabilities, an aging population. What are you seeing? Oh, an urban population just spread out over more land? Amazing when we talk about who are neighbours are in context what it means. It means though more spread out where someone coming home, as my wife did 3 years ago, will notice shattered glass and a robbery to call police right away, or someone in the yard is only feet away from the house and call the police right away…it means on a large farm it may be a call to the RCMP detachment that services a county of many farms/villages/colonies/etc. with a few constables. It may be reporting what has been stolen, but not right away as you were not in that building every day and just noticed it. It could be hunters poaching animals on your land during hunting season as one of our MLA’s has been found guilty of doing. We know drug use is rampant in both settings, but we know pipelines come through smaller centres (20 years ago it used to follow the old still lines via Water Valley) and then distributes through new city subdivisions down to the core. Same issues, different complexities.

Health Care. We know the idea of population based health care. Leveraging home care so individuals can stay in their homes longer. The need for mental health supports. All these things we do by population numbers (and trust me in urban settings like Calgary we do not have capacity). Yet rurally they have the same instances per capita, yet more spread out, and continually seeing closure of facilities. No, it is not just like travelling via transit or circle road to the next quadrant to access that care or relative who has moved. In some cases it becomes hours via highway to the next level of care or housing. Urban dwellers voice concerns when families are separated due to coding systems and stressors. When quantity of life, and the number a person is, is placed over quality of life. Rurally, it can be whole counties that separate spouses due to their “code” of care. It can even be moving from one town to another, coded to one home, then one physically needs higher physical care, and even in a lower use jurisdiction when there is a two bedroom available and all the experts sign off, the powers that grant housing say NO because the codes are different. No context taken in, not quality of life looked at.

Yet whether you live in a city or rurally, you watch your elders, your children, who are in need suffer. You watch as the need for access to mental or holistic care is denied because you either live in a city where wait lists are huge, or in a rural place where the population does not allow and must travel. Travel is not always a plausibility.

Education… many factors in, we complain about cold days this winter in Calgary, but what of the same weather that literally shuts down bus routes in some areas, how many days are lost? For that time is there some technological solution to ensure all Alberta students regardless of residence receive the best education possible?

Poverty reduction—better term: Improving the affordability of life.

Caring for our seniors so their golden years can be adventuresome not fighting for survival.

See…the political system wants you to view where someone builds a life as another way to create an us-them divide. BUT WE ARE ALL IN THIS.

I propose, and it is out there now as open source policy for any party that wants to think outside the ideological box:

Committees of research and reconciliation be struck to explore these topics in real time. They need to be all party committees. But I challenge some points to really get into the flow (for the action research projects you can use a TRC model or World Café, as they allow the story up to now to be told, but then the impetus becomes on the solution moving forward as one):

  • The chair needs to live in a riding not in the setting (Rural chair needs to be from one of the 7 cities; Urban chair needs to be from rural ridings)-if a government MLA chairs one, the official opposition MLA needs to chair the other.
  • Membership needs to be made up of leading community leaders of the area; but also of some experts on the topic, and MLA’s from the various parties with no majority given to any party.
  • The reports need to grow policy recommendations for a new system that serves all Albertans (if taken federally, all Canadians, because let us be honest it is time to look at the Constitutional Division of powers and what reality of 35-40 million people need to be supported in a globalized world).
  • The role of the legislature with the tabled reports is to work with this as the premise to grow from, not to create partisan hot potatoes.

Other points to improve our democracy:

  • If the premier comes from a rural riding, deputy premier needs to be named from an urban riding, if the opposite does not exist in the governing party they must name from another sitting MLA.
  • Learn from the Yukon, if Premier is non-indigenous, Lieutenant Governor should be named from Treaty or Metis Nations or one of the Colonies as noted above in the article that make up our mosaic.
  • Amend laws for all electoral districts that one must live in the riding they are seeking to be an elected official in. Paper/parachute/write-in candidates cost our system money through vetting and printing of ballots. If a party cannot locate someone to run under their banner in said area they do not run a candidate, running a full slate is not a given.
  • Eliminate PAC donations (I would propose eliminating all donations and just provide free radio air time for the direct candidates’ campaign not the party, and have a certain number of debates set up that the person must attend unless they can document why not (i.e. Sickness).
  • Create a mechanism to encourage more independents to run by allowing Elections Alberta to issue tax receipts for their reported donations lists (if donations continue).
  • All donors’ lists must be ratified by a trained accountant and publicly posted no more than 1 week before vote time (so no fundraising last week of election-that is if donations can persist).
  • Sidebar, the federal idea of bailing out local newspapers has merit in renewing democracy if as part of the money they must carry 50% local content by local writers/photographers, and at least 1/5th of content must be to be looking at politics providing editorial space to a range of voices. Y’know what newspapers were like before conglomeration.

These are my ideas. I am what one would call “post-partisan”. I have always looked at the local candidate to conclude on my vote. Yes, I ran in 2006 for the Federal NDP, but I have also worked with the Federal PC Party and Federal Liberals, so meanderings with Greens and Communists and many other smaller parties and independent candidates. Remember parties are a functionality of our system, not how our system is designed to work so these things and others, are possible to create reform that bring us back together, united in our diversity.

A true Canadian Mosaic.

First we must see them as us, and us as them, or better yet, as neighbour, as citizen building a better future together.


Did you know in Franciscanism there is no historic Reformation?

Just a community constantly called to invention, reformation, restoration and reconciliation.

spong3I am monastically formed. I have done my Curseillo. The wife and I were blessed to be apart of a formation/discernment process for Companions in Mission with the FCJ Sisters that renewed a call to expansive-cosmic Christianity. I would also work alongside the formation materials of the Order of St. Luke the Physician in healing ministries. I continued to learn from the ancient writers, and their orders ala Ignatius of Loyola.

Before that though, I was and still hold to Franciscan formation. It began with a book, John Michael Talbot’s The Lessons of St. Francis when I was trying to understand Christian prayer in 1998-1999 upon returning to church.

From there the journey opened a world of formation and community. For my writing opened the ability to write for and be an editor on an international journal; write for another national religious publication, be a writer/editor for a local publication and locally aided in provided great spiritual formation for youth who had never even heard of Christianity, and created a dialogue within the political realm federally of our nation when I ran. It saw me go through and be mentored by members of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans; Third Order, Society of St. Francis; and as both the OEF and TSSF had no Calgary chapter, but community of Franciscans transcended denominationalism, I could fellowship, journey and learn with the Roman Catholic Order of Secular Franciscans. All these orders were what is dubbed, Third, or as Francis told his fellow Friar when the brother received the call of love…go forth, marry and carry on living the life, for without new families and communities growing the work of the other orders dies away (just ask the Shakers).

It was a formation that some would understand as putting works above faith, yet that is wrong. It is a formation that shows faith and works as so woven together it would be like pulling apart your own DNA strands.

Preach the Gospel everywhere you go, if you must use words.

-St. Francis of Assisi

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The most important part of the formation the drive for mystic wisdom. Understanding it is easy to accumulate knowledge (anyone who has a smart phone knows knowledge is at our fingertips). Within Franciscan teaching it is the application that matters. I am a student of life, psychology, sociology, anthropology, culture, religion, spirituality, politics, history, story—the list can go on. Learning is the first step, but it is not moving from the learning until it is so applied it becomes second nature. Francis discipled his followers not to move onto the next teaching of Jesus until they were living the first one this way. The underpinning to be learned was the Great Commandments for out of that flows everything.

The question asked by the lawyer of Jesus in the market after Jesus shared the Great Commandments, the commandments that had me decide to go back to church when I read them in a broken and discarded Gideon’s New Testament in the bottom of my closet…the question that led to another shaking of the institutional foundations:

Who is my Neighbour?

spongUpcoming: Watch for my review on John Shelby Spong’s last call to reformation Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith today (2018) as he enters retirement following a stroke, here he stands once more.

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Harassing and angry phone calls directed at me.

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

            The bullies WON.

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

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

I WALKED OUT TO PROTECT MY FAMILY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the story of the pain.

This is where the story stands.

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

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

Who is my Neighbour?

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

We CHOOSE L-O-V-E!