Saturday, February 28, 2009

Random notes from a Saturday

Not much to say, really. Friday was busy, and somewhat challenging. In particular, I had a challenging pastoral care case that took some delicate care on my part. But I think I managed it fine. Wish I could say more, but can't, unfortunately. Suffice it to say that I learned some lessons and had some old one's confirmed in their wisdom.

Friday night Betsy and I went to a lecture at the U. of T. about Tibetan Buddhism. The lecturer, Jeffrey Hopkins, is well known in his field. He was also the Dalai Lama's chief interepreter into English for many years. It was an interesting lecture, but as technical and detailed as I might have liked.

Today I had our new healing prayer service. Just two of us, but that's fine for a start. Monday I'll have a banner to put outside that may attract a few folks--we'll see!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are Violent Video Games Doing Enough to Teach our Kids?

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?


So I bought some DVD's from England at the Fresh Expressions Conference. I get them home and discover that they won't play on my DVD player. Of course, I realized, they are in PAL format, not NTSC. The NTSC format is what we use for TV in North America and Japan. NTSC is what they use in the UK, Europe, and many other places. The difference, incidentally, came about back in the days with everything was analog and the power grid in North America cycled phases at 60Hz and the UK was on a 50Hz system. Back then it was easier to simply come up with a new format for a TV signal stream than make TV's smart enough to overcome the difference.

Anyway, it's not a big deal since you can buy PAL-compatible DVD players or simply play it on most computers. But I'm too much of a techie to let that go by. So I stopped by my local consumer video production outfit and they said they would be happy to do the conversion: for about $40-60/video! Yikes! So I decided to do it myself.

It turns out that doing the conversion yourself is not a straightforward process (unless you pay for software specifically designed to do it). So it took a few tries with various free video programmes until I finally cracked it and got a disc burned. Here's my path, for those of you interested such things.
  1. Copy the video files (VOBs) onto your hard drive. Remove any copy protections in the process. (I used DVD Shrink.)
  2. Transcode from 25fps to 30 fps. VSO DivxToDVD was supposed to work for this, but didn't. So I used the trial version of Blaze Media Pro instead.
  3. Build a new DVD using the transcoded files. I used Nero Vision for this, which isn't free, but there are similar programmes that will do the same thing.

I feel like I accomplished something figuring this out. And now I can give my wardens and others a DVD that will play in their home players!


Sasha Obama Keeps Seeing Ghost of Creepy Twins

From The Onion:

Sasha Obama Keeps Seeing Creepy Bush Twins While Riding Tricycle Through White House

February 23, 2009 - Issue 45.09
WASHINGTON—A little more than a month after the first family's move to the White House, reports of strange happenings have continued to surface, with Sasha Obama confirming Tuesday that she had once again been visited by the eerie specter of the Bush twins.

Sasha, who was playing in the East Wing of the executive mansion so as not to disturb her busy father, reported seeing the former first twins while riding her Big Wheel tricycle down the Cross Hall corridor. The frightening apparitions, the 7-year-old said, emerged out of thin air and were dressed in identical outfits consisting of spaghetti strap tank tops and denim skirts.

"At approximately 4:36 p.m., we received a detailed account from Sasha Obama about a series of manifestations in the White House," press secretary Robert Gibbs announced. "However, a thorough search conducted by security officials has thus far uncovered nothing."

Added Gibbs, "Whatever grotesque and haunting images the president's youngest daughter thought she saw must have been a figment of her imagination."

According to White House security documents, Sasha told Secret Service agents that the ghostly twins spoke to her in unison and repeatedly beckoned her by chanting the phrases "come play with us," "come play with us, forever," and "Daddy's making fajitas."

White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also detailed a disturbing vision experienced by Sasha, who at several points during her encounter suddenly saw the twin girls lying motionless in a pool of spilled strawberry margaritas.

"She said they kept whispering 'we want to party' over and over again," said one Secret Service agent, who comforted Sasha following the incident. "God, it's so horrifying." (source)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is out on tour again. He is a wise, wise, dude--and I love his music. It's all profoundly impacted by diligent quest for God.
In fact, Mr. Cohen appears to see performance and prayer as aspects of the same larger divine enterprise. That may not be surprising, coming from an artist whose best-known songs mingle sacred concerns with the secular and the sexual and sound like “collaborations between Jacques Brel and Thomas Merton,” as the novelist Pico Iyer put it.

“There’s a similarity in the quality of the daily life” on the road and in the monastery, Mr. Cohen said. “There’s just a sense of purpose” in which “a lot of extraneous material is naturally and necessarily discarded,” and what is left is a “rigorous and severe” routine in which “the capacity to focus becomes much easier.” (source)

Dude that is so true! Check out some of Bede's recent reflections for proof. The monastic life is all about a life style deliberately designed to enable spiritual growth.

That reminds me, I should see whether we could do some Cohen at COTM. I bet there is a lot there that would work extremely well as worship music...


Ash Wednesday

Well, ready-or-not here is Ash Wednesday. I'm feeling like I've mostly caught up on the stuff that piled up last week, but that's only because I worked like a fiend yesterday and today. But I did manage to get many things done.

For one thing, the Healing Prayer Service I've planned for Saturdays in Lent is a "go." I've made up a flier and I have a draft of a banner to hang outside. We'll see if anybody shows up. Maybe, maybe not. But we'll run it for a few weeks and see what happens.

Second, I finally went down to Long and McQuaid (or "Loud and McNasty" as one friend calls it). They are the place to go in Toronto for sound equipment. I went down there to swap the loner sound board we were using for the one we own that was being repaired. Apparently ever since Mackie moved their manufacturing to China they've been having a lot of problems with quality control. So much so that it's ruining the Mackie brand name. When I mentioned this to one the salesman at L&M he got really upset and went into a huge rant about how much he hates stuff made in china and how exporting manufacturing has ruined our economy and poisoned our children. Poor guy--he really cares about where his stuff is made.

While I was there I also picked up a new wireless hand-held microphone that we can use at the lectern--some of our readers aren't as loud as others. I came back to church and wired this stuff up no problem.

Next, I stopped by Fed Ex / Kinkos to mail something overseas and see about getting a vinyl banner printed up to advertise the healing service. I discovered that it would be much easier for me to simply make the PDF myself and bring it to the location with the vinyl printing equipment.

So back at church I was dusting off my copy of InDesign and drafting up sign and poster designs. In the back ground I've been answering e-mails and phone calls as well. Interesting way to spend Ash Wednesday.

Now I think I'm going to start shifting into worship-prep mode. We'll probably only have about 40 people, but these are deep, prayerful people. Time to start moving into that spiritual space.

Incidentally, I did post today on the Mission Church Toronto blog about the Jeremiah Project (New Monasticism). These folks are creating a Neo-Monastic movement right here in Toronto--very cool.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Praise of Kozlik's Mustard

My brother-in-law asked me what Kozlik's mustard was. I shake my head sadly. It's not his fault--he doesn't live in Toronto and he certainly doesn't go to the St. Lawrence Street Market...

I'll quote from the Market's website about Kozlik's....
Kozlik’s Mustard was established in 1948. Jeremy has owned the business since 2000 and has expanded the product line. Did you know that 90% of the world’s mustard is grown in Canada? Or that mustard is the second most popular spice in the world next to black pepper? Their website has many interesting facts, useful information and recipes for mustards.

Kozlik’s Mustard presents many unique flavours of mustards, all made fresh in Canada, in their factory located at Lawrence and Avenue Road in Toronto. They use fresh, all-natural mustard powder, seeds and cracked seeds in the manufacturing process; no preservatives added. From these three bases they create an amazing variety of flavoured mustards. Some of their most popular mustard varieties are: maple, balsamic, fig & date, "Double C" Dijon, horseradish, cranberry and honey. They have over 35 flavours of mustards and are developing more.

On Saturdays they offer sample tasting of their mustard flavours with complimenting meat samples for customers to experience. (source)

It's one of the things I almost always do when I'm at the St. Lawrence Street Market--go up to the mustard stand and try some super hot mustards with a bit of P-Meal Bacon. Yum. Luckily you don't have to go down to the market to get Kozlik's--it's available in my local grocery store.

Good mustard can really transform a sandwich, IMHO. Of course, my brother-in-law won't get to try this Canadian delicacy until he (and my sister and nephew) come to visit...


"One Size Fits All?"

Those of you interested in emerging church, missional church, or fresh expressions will be interested in this documentary recently released about Canadian Church life.

You can purchase a copy through the Wycliffe Bookstore (I believe) or from the movie's website.


Monday, February 23, 2009

The 1848 Jenks Carbine

When I was a kid living in Kansas my dad had three antique rifles hanging over the couch in the living room. One was a colonial flintlock musket made in the 18th century. The second was a muzzle loading civil war era musket of a type that saw a lot of action in that war. It's still in great condition--in fact my dad and I would load it up with black powder and shoot it the back yard sometimes!

1848 Jenks Carbine

The third rifle was much more unusual--an 1848 Jenks navy carbine. It's a short, light-weight rifle designed for use on a ship. We nicknamed it "Tiny." I imagine it was possibly used in ship-to-ship battles or possibly on patrols sent ashore. Who knows how far around this world this rifle may have gone. When I was a kid I was allowed to play with this rifle when I had permission (keep in mind, this in an antique and perfectly safe).

Anyway, my dad decided to donate the rifle to the NRA firearms museum. The NRA blog says this was the first donation they've received from Hawai'i and that they expect to put it on display. Kind of neat to know that something I played with as a kid is now in a museum.

My dad notes the following:
The curator of the museum has determined by serial number that it was issued to the Navy's Pacific Squadron in the late 1840's and early 1850's. That squadron was largely in the far east, and saw action in China in the mid 1850's.


Vestry 2009

It's past midnight on Sunday night / Monday morning, and I'm in a weird overtired place. Last night I slept fitfully, but slept, for about six hours. I woke up at 6 A.M. and was at church by 7. Normally I don't get up that early on Sunday mornings anymore (though I did for the first few years of my ministry). But today was a special day--Annual Vestry!

Annual Vestry is a meeting of the church membership that receives various reports and votes on various motions. They also elect officers (and receive the appointment of others). We review financial statements and approve a budget and do all that kind of stuff.

Normally as part of Vestry the Rector (me) gives a report on the state of the parish. Like many other priests, however, I give my address to the parish during the Sunday morning service so as to speak to those who won't stick around for the actual Vestry meeting. During my "Charge to Vestry" I spoke about some of the current situation of the church and directions forward. I also outlined what I see as some particular strengths and challenges of the church.

One thing that I stressed in particular is the need for us to shift some focus away achieving excellence on Sunday morning and towards starting up Fresh Expressions of church. This is possible, in part, because of the tremendous amount of work we've put into tweaking Sunday mornings to get them humming along. Sunday mornings at Messiah are great, and that might be sufficient to attract a few families a year (as it did in 2008), but real growth is only going to come with new, missional ministry.

As some have pointed out, supporting mission is like supporting motherhood and apple pie--no one is going to speak against it. But actually the implications are far trickier. For one thing, most of us church professionals immediately want to start with worship. We want to design some new service or do some clever liturgy in an existing one. Learning more about more about church growth and evangelism, however, I become convinced that this strategy of attractional church is fundamentally flawed. No amount of advertising or promotion is likely to make a big difference for a place like COTM. We haven't seen much impact from any of the hundreds of dollars spent last year, and I doubt we'll see much in 2009, either. Even if we do, the numbers are bound to be small.

I'm not saying we abandon doing or promoting Sunday mornings. I'm a big believer in the Back to Church Sunday initiative, for example (in fact, I'm the Area Coordinator on behalf of Bishop Yu for that particular initiative)--but it's simply not enough. The roadside is littered with Pastoral-sized churches that tried and failed to lure people to join our way of doing things. More is needed.

Once in becomes clear that attractional-church isn't likely to succeed, the next place many churches go is programme. The idea here is that you can programme your church into growth. Churches create and run all kinds of fantastic programmes designed to either attract interest or develop new Christians. Some of these, like Alpha, can be quite successful. The problem is that the programmatic approach to church growth tends to be resource intensive. Once a church drops below a certain threshold of size, it fails to have the critical mass necessary to execute programme to the point so as to cause new growth. There is a reason "Programme-sized" Churches are called "Programme-Sized"--being a "Pastoral-Sized" place guess where the impetus for growth lies?

Indeed, my predecessor at COTM discovered precisely this. He has written and spoken about how when churches dissipate below a certain critical mass, growth becomes elusive. I would go a step further and say that's only the case if we are working within the the framework of inherited-church and it's emphasis on programme. No doubt there are many churches that are growing quite well with evangelism programmes--but we simply don't have the resources to sustain that at COTM. We don't have enough volunteers and we don't have enough staff.

So if the attractional model with it's emphasis on superior liturgy and advertising is insufficient and the programme approach is untenable because we lack critical mass, what's left? I would argue, strongly, that we need to develop new expressions of church that will appeal to an entirely new group of people. This is not a new idea, but it is finding a resurgence.

The success of something like The Meeting House is entirely due to the fact that they let mission drive ministry. They decided to pursue mission to people for whom Sunday Morning in a traditional church is no good and let that drive everything else. The result has been phenomenal growth. Now I have some critiques of the Meeting House. Note, for example, that only about 50% of the people that come on Sundays actually belong to the house-church groups where the real work of pastoral care and discipleship are supposed to happen. But the take away point is that if you align your ministry with a carefully-discerned mission you are likely to tap into a work the Holy Spirit is already doing.

The hard part is letting go of stuff to free up the resources to do mission-based ministry. I hesitate to even mention some the things I think we could axe in an effort to move forward in ministry. I think that before long I'm going to have to make some even bolder decisions for the good of my community that are likely to make a few people confused or even unhappy. But I really don't see how I can get COTM back into a thriving place where people's lives are changed without it. We are well beyond a time when simply doing Sunday morning well is enough!

I'm haunted by the fact that virtually every priest I talked to has told me that turning around COTM is going to take something like five to seven years. Yet we are in a better place to make that change than many parishes. My people are fearless! They really are. I love it. They really do understand that what we do is about following Jesus--how cool is that? So this transition is totally possible, but it requires a lot of change from both the congregation and from me. Like most priests, I was trained to maintain a church, not transform it!

Anyway, I'm still pulsing with energy from the Vestry Meeting (as you can tell). I'm both exhausted and fidgety. I'm thinking about all the things I should have said or explained more elegantly. I'm fretting over a few people that I meant to thank and didn't (so many to acknowledge). I'm anxious about the $40k deficit for the '09 budget. I'm thinking about some of the people in the parish that I really need to spend some time with. Having a been a good enough pastor to them? Probably not. And yet I'm desperately trying!

Did Jesus have these moments? Of course he did. Remember when he went back to his hometown and he couldn't even heal anyone? How depressing that must have been! There is a reason that he is often taking time by myself to go up mountain tops and pray either alone or with a few key disciples. Me, I'm planning to go to Holy Cross at the end of March. Pray for me until then!


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Tale of the Wondering Warden

Interesting that I would have mentioned the Meeting House yesterday as today I ran into a former COTM Warden who is now a member of that community. He described how disheartening he found leadership in the church. I explored why that was and his description reinforced my commitment to changing the way leadership is done in this parish. We make Wardens do all the crap that no one else wants to do. They have many of the worst burdens of ordained leadership but none of the sense of ministry to balance it. They have poor supports and little training. I've got to make some bold changes in how we do leadership if I want to further the ministry of this place. God help me!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

VCP Conference Comes to an End

I posted many of my thoughts coming out of the Vital Church Planting Conference over on my Mission Church Toronto Blog. One of the things I haven't unpacked yet in either blog was the workshop presented by one of the pastors (Paul Morris) of The Meeting House.
Bruxy Cavey, Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House

The Meeting House is a non-traditional church that has experienced explosive growth in Southern Ontario. They are based in Oakville, but are most famous for gathering in movie theaters all over the GTA where the Oakville sermon/teaching is presented live via satellite. They are focused on people for whom a traditional Sunday Service is irrelevant and unappealing. But don't underestimate how successful a relatively simple formula can be: their Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is just shy of 6,000 (yes, six-thousand) in 2008 and they've been growing at a rate of 35% per year.

The most telling thing for me that Paul Morris told us is that they know their version of church has a self life. The question is not whether the Meeting House will plateau and decline, but when. They've decided that they want to be able to embrace their death when it comes, so they unafraid of talking about it now. They see this way of doing church as simply a tool which they will freely abandon when it ceases to work. Isn't that striking?

Anyway, the conference gave me a lot to think and pray about...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vital Church Planting Conference

I've been at the Vital Church Planting Conference yesterday and today. My second year. Lots of great ideas and discussions and contacts. So much of the centre of gravity of church growth in the Diocese of Toronto is happening at this conference every year that I really don't understand why more people aren't there. This year the registration was around a 135. But I could think of lots of people who could really benefit from thinking about Mission and Evangelism who simple aren't here. 80% of success is just showing up, I think.

I'm too tired right now to tell any stories about the stuff I saw or the people I met. Suffice it to say that this conference is a great antidote to people feeling discouraged by the church's decline. There are lots of examples of the Holy Spirit doing crazy beautiful things all of the place. I'm pumped.

I know a lot of clergy that are really discouraged and burned out. one of the plenary speakers said that he thought the greatest obstacle to church revitalization was our own discouragement. So true. Yet it's not so hard to get out from under that dark cloud--simply go to some conferences like this one and hear some stories that remind you of what ministry is meant to be.

Life is good.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sermon - Epiphany 6 2009

This week for a change of pace I asked John McClaverty to preach. He's a well known church consultant and a very experienced preacher (as well as a member of my congregation), so I'm always glad to have him at my pulpit!

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Monday, February 16, 2009

Heroic Dreams

For some reason, I tend to have heroic dreams from to time. Last night I had a dream that Betsy and I had a daughter and were living in a house in the country somewhere. One night our daughter was being oppressed by some kind of demon. I went to rescue her but the door was blocked. As hard as I pushed, the demon pushed right back on the door.

So I went down the basement and got an axe. Standing by the door again I blessed the axe and then took a hard swing at the bedroom door. It shattered immediately and rushed in to my daughter. I could feel the presence of the demon, but it was invisible. As I held my daughter, Caroline (?), our cat Denise rushed in. She could see it and started hissing at it. The demon apparently was afraid of my cat and so Denise was chasing it around the room and hissing with her ears back. Pretty soon the invisible demon was backed up into a corner of the closet. Meanwhile I'm tossing blessings and prayers like crazy. It disappeared and then the dream changed...

Interesting that in the dream I had both had a daughter and that I even had a name for her! Also interesting that my cat defended us like a real champ!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Love Jesus... But I Drink a Little

One of the funniest Ellen DeGeneres clips of all time...


Article about Contemplative Fire

Recall a few weeks ago when I went on that Contemplative Fire Retreat held at St. Paul's Bloor Street? An article about the event was published in the February Anglican....


Friday, February 13, 2009

Dutch Lose Porn Archive

I'm on a roll with random wacky news. Check this out: the Dutch city of Leeuwarden is missing it's pornography archive....
Spokesman Erik Krikke of the city's historical center said the archive -- which contained photos, drawings and erotic texts with a connection to the city -- may have been taken home ''accidentally'' by an employee or visitor.

''We're hoping that someone will say 'Hey, I have that in my attic' and bring it back,'' he said Thursday. ''No questions asked.'' ...

Krikke said the bulk of the archive had been assembled by a ''fanatic'' curator at the historical center, mostly during the 1960s and '70s. Items such as pictures by local photographers and artists would be difficult or impossible to replace. (source)

Yes, yes... I'm sure it was "accidentally" taken...


Duke Vipperman's FX Blog

The Rev'd Dr. Duke Vipperman (incumbent of the Church of the Resurrection, Toronto) has a blog in which he talks about his experience of Fresh Expressions. It's worth a read if you are interested in such things!


Father Harold Retiring

Yep, Father Harold Nahabedian, the Rector of St. Mary Magdalene's (where I was the Associate Priest for two years before coming to Messiah) announced last Sunday that he is retiring. SMM is well known parish with quite a legacy of Anglo Catholic liturgy and music, so I'm sure there will be a lot of interest in this vacancy. Whomever is called is also following a very long and successful serving incumbent, so it will quite a challenge.


Where I'm at in Terms of Missional Church

Today I updated my much neglected Missional Church Toronto Blog with some info about the Missional Church Initiatives that I'm involved with at the moment. Obviously, I've been doing a lot more with that stuff that I've been writing about, so I thought it would probably be good to update it in case anyone has something to contribute. I think this will get more active as some of this stuff kicks into high gear. The hard part from a leadership perspective is going to be developing the lay leadership that will drive these efforts. All well and good for me to try to start some stuff, but it really does need to come from ground up if it is to have much of a chance!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Body Dragged 20 Miles through New York

Some poor guy was hit by one car and then a van and dragged by the second vehicle nearly 20 miles through New York.
At 7:05 a.m. in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the driver of a red van noticed a pedestrian trying to flag him down, yelling that he was dragging something. He pulled over and made a gruesome find: The body of a man — hooked through his sternum — was affixed to a steel plate that was part of the van’s undercarriage.

The man had apparently been hit by the first car and then dragged by the second one through major arteries of Queens and Brooklyn: the Long Island Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Belt Parkway and Ocean Parkway. (source)

Is that not really messed up?


Indulgences Making a Comeback

Plenary Indulgences are making a comeback among our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. The NYTimes has a full article describing how this change has pleased older members and confused younger ones.
Even some priests admit that the rules are hard to grasp.

“It’s not that easy to explain to people who have never heard of it,” said the Rev. Gilbert Martinez, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, the designated site in the New York Archdiocese for obtaining indulgences. “But it was interesting: I had a number of people come in and say, ‘Father, I haven’t been to confession in 20 years, but this’ ” — the availability of an indulgence — “ ‘made me think maybe it wasn’t too late.’ ”

Getting Catholics back into confession, in fact, was one of the motivations for reintroducing the indulgence. In a 2001 speech, Pope John Paul described the newly reborn tradition as “a happy incentive” for confession. (source)

Interestingly, something very similar to indulgences exist in Tibetan Buddhism. If you do certain practises than you get a certain amount of time taken off your next reincarnation in the Hell Realms, etc. (Oh, you didn't know they had hell in Buddhism?) Of course, this kind of quid pro quo with God drives many theologians nuts--but I agree that it seems like this doctrine is at least not very harmful.
Among liberal Catholic theologians, the return of the indulgence seems to be more of a curiosity than a cause for alarm. “Personally, I think we’re beyond the time when indulgences mean very much,” said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at Notre Dame who supports the ordination of women and the right of priests to marry. “It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube of original thought. Most Catholics in this country, if you tell them they can get a plenary indulgence, will shrug their shoulders.” (source)

Again, it seems like a generational thing. There are some people for whom the notion of discounting their time in Purgatory by doing certain practises is very compelling. But for others this seems like a rather simplistic answer to the problem of sin in their lives.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thoughts of Kathmandu

The NYTimes is running a feature about Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. It's one of my favourite places on earth from when I visited there in the fall of 1997. This has been a sacred place for a very, very long time. It possibly predates the historic Buddha, Shākyamuni. The thing to do when visiting the Stupa is simply to walk around it in a circle--circumambulating. I did this for a few hours, in fact, one afternoon just for the experience of it.

In those days I was experimenting with Buddhism and sat at the feet of some truly great teachers of that religion. I even spent a month taking the Lam Rim teachings at a monastery on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley. I was there with a few hundred others, mostly Westerners, receiving the teachings and learning to meditate. It was very hard work, actually. One of the things I learned was that I was definitely not a Buddhist! I appreciate the meditation and many of the insights that Buddhism has to offer, but in the end the revelation I have received in the Gospel is simply not compatible with some basic tenets of Buddhist dogma. This might seem obvious, but I'm not sure how many people really thoroughly examine and test the world view they inherit. I'm not saying that I did any profound, epic examination, but I did at least try to examine my faith by offering it up for a serious challenge from a worthy contender. I still like meditating with the Buddhists when I can. I think they have many wise and worthy and even holy things to say, but I'm not going to be taking refuge in the Buddha anytime soon!

I miss those days. The seductive quality of Kathmandu and Tibetan Buddhism did not fade after four months of living in-country. When I did need to touch base with my roots I'd simply head over to the British Embassy for Anglican worship (from the BCP, of course) or else go to Mike's Breakfast.

Mike's Breakfast is kind of like "Rick's Café Américain" from the movie Casablanca, except it's oriented around breakfast, obviously, and there is no casino! Sometimes I would sit for hours at a table in the courtyard sipping the ubiquitous sweet tea of Nepal and India known as Masala Chai and reading or writing. I felt like a real sophisticated expat at 21!

In reality I can barely say that I knew Nepal, let alone Kathmandu. I think you could probably live there your entire life and read every book and barely know a place as complex as that! Truly, it's the most complex and layered city I've ever visited--even more so than New York, Istanbul, or London!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Doug C. sent this to me. Ah, yes... The Maniple. Haven't worn one of those since my SMM days! The first time I saw one, shortly after graduating seminary, I had no idea what it was. My spiritual director was mock-appalled that I could make it through seminary and not know what a "maniple" is!

Now you will sometimes read or hear that maniples descend from a server's napkin and is therefore a sign of service. But actually it comes from ancient royal courts where scarves were emblems of authority. It's a good example of how liturgy will preserve things even when they become divorced from their original meaning or purpose. I'm not necessarily saying we should ditch such things, only that we ought to be honest about doing things for the sake of tradition and not necessarily because there is a good rational answer as to "why."


Monday, February 9, 2009

Mrs. Beamish

My Uncle M. ;) e-mail this to me. I think just about everyone in church-land can appreciate this one:

Song by Richard Stilgoe & Peter Skellern.


Annual Report: DONE!

I wrote my Annual Vestry Report today. It's part of the yearly report on the state of the parish that we Anglicans and Episcopalians (and, I imagine, most other denominations) are required to do. It includes lots of statistical and financial information and reports from various committees and staff members.

My report last year was relatively short (page a half), but I had only been here a few months. This year's report is about four pages long! And that was after I decided not to write about a number of things! The point of the report, after all, is to highlight the important stuff, not dump my brain of all the different aspects of COTM and what I think of them!

Next I'm going to head off to the gym and work out for a while. No excuses! I suppose this evening I'll continue to punish myself by eating only vegetables!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

President McDreamy

Judith Warner has a very amusing and insightful blog entry on her NYT Blog about people's passionate feelings about the new President. In particular, she talks about how many people feel they have so much in common with him that it's just possible to imagine having him and Michelle over for dinner and scrabble...
I understood perfectly where these cozy dreams of easy familiarity came from. It was that sense so many people share of having a very immediate connection to Barack Obama, whether they’re black or biracial, or children of single parents or self-made strivers; or they’re lawyers or community organizers or Ivy League graduates or smokers or basketball players or Blackberry users or parents or married or Democrats. A lot of people share the fantasy that having the Obamas over for “dinner and a game of Scrabble,” as one daydreamer put it to me, is something that really could just about happen. ....

Sometimes this sense of close identification turns a bit dark. There’s a subcategory of people who feel that they really should have true intimacy with the Obamas. Because they went to school with them. Because they used to dream like them. Because, with one or two “different turns,” they maybe could have been them. ....

“Will Michelle stay down to earth? She could prove it by joining our book club,” wrote a Sidwell mom.

This is, perhaps, the price of faux-familiarity. If I were Barack Obama (or Michelle, for that matter), I’d be a little scared. After all, when people are wearing their egos on their sleeves, it’s so easy to bruise their feelings. What will happen if fantasy turns to contempt? (source)

Did I mention that I sent a letter of congrats to President Obama? I suspect I may receive a canned reply in a few months if I'm lucky. I actually knew a girl who interned in the White House in the Bill Clinton era. She worked in the mail room and described how many hundreds and thousands of letters come to the President daily. Still, it's the gesture that counts.

Speaking of politics and politicians, all the clergy in the Diocese were asked to meet with their local government reps (City Council, MPP, etc.) to advocate for social justice issues (homelessness, HIV/AIDS, etc.). I'm embarrassed to actually do this, yet. It's one of those side projects that tend to get pushed aside in favour of more pressing concerns...


Saving Lives with IV Vodka

Interesting therapy:

Doctors save man with vodka drip

Australian doctors have kept an Italian tourist alive by feeding him vodka through a drip for three days, medical staff in Queensland say.

The 24-year-old man, who had swallowed a poison in an apparent suicide attempt, was treated while in a coma.

Doctors set up the drip after running out of medicinal alcohol, used as an antidote to the poison.

Medical staff said the patient had made a full recovery, and the hangover had worn off by the time he woke up.

He had been taken to hospital in the northern Queensland town of Mackay after swallowing ethylene glycol - a poison contained in anti-freeze.

"The patient was drip-fed about three standard drinks an hour for three days in the intensive care unit," Dr Todd Fraser said in a statement.

"Fortunately for him he was in a medically induced coma for a good portion of that. By the time he woke up I think his hangover would have well and truly gone."

He spent 20 days in hospital before being discharged. (source)


Friday, February 6, 2009

MLK Sunday -- We Shall Overcome

The COTM choir singing "We Shall Overcome" at the MLK service this year.

We Shall Overcome Church of the Messiah (Anglican), Toronto Martin Luther King Day
Matthew Tran-Adams, conductor, piano
Anne Adams, bass
David Pontello, drums


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Google Earth 5.0

Have you played around with Google Earth 5.0 (beta) yet? Why not? It's both free and cool! Google Earth is an application that allows you to view satellite and other imagery of pretty much anyplace on earth. You can zoom and fly around or look down from above or even go under the surface of the ocean to look at the terrain features there.

Of course it totally integrates with Google Streetview (not available for Canada yet for legal reasons) as well as Wikipedia. It's amazing how all these massive worlds of data are being brought together. Very cool.


MLK Sunday -- Lift Every Voice and Sing

Here is another video of the choir singing at the MLK service this year:

Lift Every Voice and Sing Martin Luther King Day Church of the Messiah, Toronto
Matthew Tran-Adams, piano, conductor
Anne Adams, bass
David Pontello, drums.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

MLK Sunday -- Deep River

Here is a music video of our choir singing the spiritual "Deep River" on MLK Sunday...

The Church of the Messiah Choir (Anglican) from Toronto performs the spiritual "Deep River" combined with Martin Luther King's last speech. This was performed for our annual Martin Luther King service.
Matthew Tran-Adams, conductor


"The Hermit" by Robert Bly

I'm not sure why, but I came across this poem today and felt like sharing it...
The Hermit
Robert Bly

Darkness is falling through darkness
Falling from ledge
To ledge.
There is a man whose body is perfectly whole.
He stands the storm behind him
And the grass blades are leaping in the wind.
Darkness is gathered in folds
About his feet.
He is no one. When we see
Him we grow calm
And sail on into the tunnels of joyful death.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Memories of New York--Lego Style

A very amusing article appears in the NYT by an artist--Christopher Neimann--living in Berlin but desperately missing New York City. He realized that he could represent lots of aspects of NYC life with his son's toys....


Sermon - Epiphany 4 2009

This is a solid sermon (IMHO) about authority. Enjoy...

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Super Bowl Sunday Recap...

Sunday started in the normal fashion. I got up early and took a long shower. Had breakfast (part of the "new way for Tay") and then went to church. I'm always the first one there on Sunday mornings. I unlock the building, tweak the arrangement of the chairs, set up the video camera to record the service, put on the first pot of coffee, start the communion bread thawing, put out the leaflets, etc., etc.

I wasn't exactly sure where I was going to go with the sermon until I started preaching it. Right away I could feel the energy and conviction welling up and I knew it was going to be a good one. Indeed, several people commented on it afterwards. I ended up preaching about some of the ways in which Authority operates in spiritual matters. I discussed the difference between relational authority and positional authority and how authority has changed in our current culture. Finally, I made a strong argument for the notion that the Gospel of Jesus ought to feel authoritative for us--it ought to make us a bit uncomfortable in the way that it is when the Doctor tells us we need to do something about high blood pressure or the Dentist tells us to floss more. Anyway, I was pleased. I'll post it shortly.

After church I did my usual post-church routines--putting away and tidying up various things. When that was done I headed home to prepare for our Annual Super Bowl party. I'm such an extrovert that these kinds of events really feed me, so I look forward to this party every year.

After changing clothes I met up with a buddy that took me in his truck to pick up the keg. Now, I didn't think we'd be able to handle a "Full Keg" with its 58.7 Litres (i.e. 124 Pints)! So instead I opted for a 30 Litre bad-boy that was still about 62 pints worth of golden goodness of the gods. I opted for Stella. I was surprised by how easy this whole process went--no fuss no muss. I get my deposit back when I return the keg and the pump. I put it on the back deck to stay cold. It was a big hit. Now I just have to finish it! Hard to know how much is left, actually, but I suspect I'm close to the bottom. I just hope it doesn't freeze in the cold weather.

Anyway, back to the party. Good attendance: a real mix of people including church folks, University connections, and then random people that Betsy and I know. They brought food and everyone had a great time. One of my favourite memories would be smoking fine cigars (a gift from a friend) on the back deck during half-time.

The game itself was, of course, fantastic. In the end we were all on our feet felling and screaming. What a game!

Cleanup was relatively easy. Monday was a day for being relaxed and doing as little as possible, though I did manage to do some laundry. Today it's back to work, though I had to cancel Trad Com (BCP Traditional Communion) because of the weather!