Thursday, December 5, 2013
Incidentally, this was filmed by Tim Harry and myself. He was running the main camera and I had a second and also set-up the sound. Tim edited under the direction of Stuart Mann, who was producing the video.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The Parish Council shared these plans with Bishop Yu at a special meeting last week. Below is the "Prezi" I used to do that. You can go through the prezi by pushing the forward and back arrow, or explore freely by zooming and navigating with your mouse. Enjoy.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Host is an enterprise of Moot, a community of spiritual pilgrims stumbling and fumbling our way towards salvation. Our home at St Mary Aldermary is a peaceful sanctuary amidst the noisy, bustling streets of London. We built the café because we want people to feel comfortable and at home in the beautiful and relaxing space that the church offers, as we seek to restore the church building to its true vocation as a welcoming hub for the local community, a public space where friendships and connections can be developed. Since we started running the café in September we have experienced the increase in the life and warmth that people bring to a building.
Alongside this we also want to offer the church as a ‘sacred space’, where there is permission and encouragement to give attention to what is often neglected – the deeper dimensions of life, the self and wellbeing that include the spiritual, without feeling under pressure to conform to perceived ideas of what it means to be religious and ‘go to church’. As part of our weekly rhythm of worship and prayer at St Mary Aldermary we are building a programme of arts, meditation, yoga and discussion groups to enable those who live and work in the City to access points of stillness and reflection.
We think Host is great space to connect, to feed body, mind, and spirit.
They don't have a self-description on their website, really, but I can tell you that this comes closest to a Seattle-style coffee shop that I have encountered in Toronto. It's warm, inviting, and fosters a sense of community.
Led by Rev. Eric Elnes, Ph.D., Darkwood Brew is a groundbreaking interactive web television program and spiritual gathering that explores progressive/emerging Christian faith and values. Here’s a quick video overview:
Based on the structure of the Lectio Divina, an ancient spiritual practice developed by Benedictine monks in the 5th Century, and using cutting edge technology; Darkwood Brew explores The Unexpected Love of God in relevant, challenging and surprising ways.
Featuring world-class jazz musicians, live interviews with international guests, and a variety of interactive media that allow you to participate in real-time, Darkwood Brew is webcast weekly on Sundays at 6pm Eastern, 5pm Central.
This is Christian practice for the emerging faith of our world today. From the Darkwood Brew coffee house, the stage is set weekly for a hearty exchange of ideas and the way is made clear for insights and directions for your unique faith journey. It’s scholarly, it’s entertaining, it’s fun, and it’s enlightening. That’s a tall order. Grab a latte, get comfortable – but not too comfortable – and join the growing number of individuals and groups large and small around the world who are stirring things up with Darkwood Brew.
You might not like it. But, then again, you might.
We strive to provide exceptional breads and sweets that use the finest ingredients and no preservatives, and a nourishing environment that responds to the needs of all those who contribute to the creation of these products. For us, it is more than our breads and sweets. It is about connecting with people, about building comunity. We draw people in with our bread. We believe our bread builds community. St. John's Bakery is a place where people of varying capabilities and social backgrounds come together to do something constructive and creative.
House for All Sinners and Saints is a group of folks figuring out how to be a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice-oriented, queer-inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient / future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
At this stage of this ministry's development I've recruited two people to help do the initial brainstorming and planning work: Kirk and Angela. Kirk pointed me to this resource which proposes a much more organic and simplified way of structuring the business plan: The Business Model Canvas. Invented by Alexander Osterwalder, the Business Model Canvas puts all the relevant information into a one-page format. Here is a one-hour lecture explaining the model and giving a real-life case example.
Our first sit-down with the model produced a lot of good material and thoughts, but we have a long way to go to fit things into the categories provided by this particular model. It certainly isn't the only planning document we will ever need, but it will be quite helpful in articulating what we plan to accomplish and how we plan to do it! I appreciate the aesthetics of the BMC model: it's spatial rather than linear and forces one to deal with constraints.
I'll post more as things continue to develop. I have a feeling that the BSC for Messiah Commons is about to take over one of my whiteboards for a while!
Monday, September 2, 2013
Two of the lessons appointed for the day, Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16 and Luke 14.1, 7-14, challenge us to be extraordinary (even heroic) in our generosity. "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’ (Luke 14.13-14, NRSV). It's the sort of instruction that is as difficult to ignore as it is overwhelming in scope. Just how far can we possibly go in opening our lives to others? Won't we expose ourselves to danger? Won't this be emotionally (and perhaps financially) exhausting? In this sermon about Christian hospitality I explore the problems of getting involved in the lives of others and suggest some strategies for moving toward a more Jesus-like way of doing things.
Here is the leaflet created for the liturgy.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Sunday, August 18, 2013
There is something about Mary–the mother of Jesus has attracted both adoration and controversy for nearly 2000 years. Her story has attracted intense speculation and theological debate at the intersection of gender, the nature of God, human agency, and the humanity of Jesus. In this homily we explored the image of Mary as a vehicle for encountering her life and responding to it. Texts for the day included Isaiah 61.7-11, Psalm 45.7-18, Galatians 4.4-7, and Luke 1.46-55.
Usually when I post sermons I don't include the forum time when I solicit feedback. But because it is so crucial to this particular sermon, I did. Basically, the whole point of this sermon was get people to construct and then engage an icon of Mary in their minds. Another way I could have done this was simply have them look at an icon such as the one I had an the leaflet for this sunday (below). But something about having them do it through guided meditation seemed like a better idea to me at the time.
Here is the leaflet created for the liturgy.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Youngstown Level Regatta 2013, a set on Flickr.
Last year the boat I normally crew on, "Dragonfly," went to the Youngstown Yacht Club for their annual big race (known as the "Youngstown Level Regatta." Since the skipper took his family on a long cruise this summer in Dragonfly the team bought a new boat to race, "Knot Here." Unfortunately, no one except for me was available to go the "Level" race this year, so I hitched a ride as crew one of the fastest boats on Lake Ontario, "Blue Streak."
Blue Streak is a J109 that happens to have the slip right next to Knot Here/Dragonfly, so I bump into these guys quite a lot. In fact, on a recent Wednesday when we were having technical difficulties on Knot Here I raced on her for the weekly club-level race. As it happens, the skipper of Blue Streak was, in fact, short of crew, and was happy to have me.
So I kissed Betsy and Henry goodbye on Friday and hopped aboard "City Side" and we sailed the boat across to Youngstown and met up with the rest of the crew. We raced Saturday and Sunday and partied Friday and Saturday nights.
And boy did we race. We won, in fact, our division. And if they had been giving awards for the fastest boat in the race area, we would have won that, too! Blue Streak is fast, very fast, even when matched against three other identical boats (some with brand new sails and equally experienced skippers).
My role was pretty modest. As the junior guy on the crew they put me in the position of "Squirrel"--that's the guy who goes below deck during Spinnaker ups and downs. The really important part of this is the take-downs, where the role of the Squirrel is to be a vacuum pulling the huge sail into the bow of the boat and then making sure it didn't get tangled. It was my first time racing with a spinnaker and I enjoyed it very much. Of course, there were a few growing pains and learning experiences over the weekend, but we still won.
Did I learn some things from a very successful boat that I will apply to my own? Naturally. But on the other hand I was surprised by how much was the same. The difference between doing okay and being champion racers is really all in the little, little details.
Deep Dale Vacation 2013, a set on Flickr.
For several years now our family has had a little reunion at my mom's house (which we call "Deep Dale") around the July 4th Holiday. This year the gathering was especially poignant because my mom is selling the house (which my Great-Grandfather built) and moving to Virginia. As you can see, between my two sisters and their families, Henry, and the cousins stopping by, there was lots of kid-energy going on!
Sunday, June 23, 2013
What do Blue Jay's Short Stop Munenori Kawasaki and Jesus have in common? In this sermon we learn what it means to travel to the land of the lost. The texts included 1 Kings 19.1-15a (Elijah fleeing from Queen Jezebel), Galatians 3.23-29 (in Christ there is no male and female), and Luke 8.26-39 (Jesus healing the Gerasene demoniac). Besides Munenori Kawasaki, I also discussed this article in the New Yorker about Ittetsu Nemoto by Larissa MacFarquhar. The connections between Elijah's wilderness despair, that of the man possessed by "Legion" demons in Luke's Gospel, and the epidemic of suicide in Japan is worth exploring at some depth.
It's worth noting for you preachers out there that my strangely humorous turn to Kawasaki might have been slightly jarring, but I thought it was important to lighten the mood a bit and introduce the theme of joy, which in an inherent feature of Agape Love. Hard to find that joy in any of the scripture lessons appointed for the day, but it does often appear in other healing stories. I think that it's okay to take the congregation into some dark places sometimes, but you have to take them back home again--you can't leave them there. And all this talk of suicide could be a bit harsh. Sermons should generally be emotionally dynamic, and so going from the bitterness of those desert-depression images to the glory of Kawasaki's home run seemed like a good way to accomplish that, homiletically. It's not a perfect sermon, but it's pretty good for me.
Also influencing this sermon was the hymn "Just as the Deer Longs for the Water Brooks" set to Finlandia (which we sang as the Psalm). That's one of my favourite tunes of all time, and the melancholy mode fit the sermon topic perfectly. On a similar vein, Amy Grant's "Everywhere" was playing as I worked on this sermon last night. I find that listening to music while I'm doing sermon prep is really helpful to get into the desired emotional state, which, in turn, helps me to get the congregation to that same feeling place.
Friday, June 14, 2013
This is a "Prezi"--so you can navigate it by going back and forward in a linear way, at at any time you can manipulate it with your mouse if you want to zoom in or out or take a look at a particular point. Some of this won't make a lot of sense without the audio track of me discussing and talking, but I think those of you who are interested in church and social media will get the point. If the text seems kind of small, that's because this was designed to be projected on a big screen (and it was). I suggest clicking on the little rectangular icon on the lower right to go into full-screen mode. Hit "Escape" to exit out of it again.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Henry (3.5yo) came upstairs and Betsy pulled him into the bed between us. We all went back to sleep for a little longer. Betsy got up and went downstairs to work around 6.30. Henry and I kept sleeping.
I woke up and took a shower. By the time I finished he was awake and asking to go downstairs. I took him off the bed (he doesn't like to slide off on his own) and he trotted down to Betsy's office in the basement.
Henry was already mesmerized by Lego: Star Wars. Betsy was making him breakfast. I made myself a quick shake of milk, frozen mango, frozen strawberries, and honey. Not bad, but next time I'll put in a tad less honey.
Biked to church (about 10 minutes away) and set up for the 8.30 Contemplative Eucharist. Put the chairs and some cushions in a circle.
The Contemplative Eucharist begins. Seven people--which is a little higher than normal thanks to a guest. I felt that my Eucharistic Prayers, which I ad lib for this liturgy, were particularly poetic this time. I chalk it up to a good night's sleep the day before.
Discussed the "Messiah Media" project with a co-conspirator. He and hash through several new scenarios for what shape the project might take. New plans are made. Ambitious, very cool plans that aren't ready to see the light of day just yet...
A guest is ready to talk to me--I make coffee for us and then spend five minutes with the Parish Administrative Assistant before sitting down with him. We talk about the "Messiah Commons" project and some other things I'm working on at some length. He's a semi-retired minister with a lot of experience in church planting, missions, etc. I look to him as something of a mentor and am incredibly thankful to be able to bend his ear for an hour about some of the plans I have for Messiah. He gives some suggestions and ideas. At the end of our time he says a lovely prayer over me. We both walk away feeling inspired to redouble our efforts.
The Administrative Assistant and I tackle and work through some problems around things like office supplies, throwing away files we no longer need to make space, and ordering light bulbs (all of which are far more complicated than you can imagine if you have never worked for either the government, church, or an educational institution). We are both pleased to be able to clean out space in the storage room.
My next meeting starts--this time with a possible co-conspirator in the whole New Media Evangelism/Messiah Media projects. we get to know where we are each coming from. He suggests ways in which he can be involved. We problem solve some issues the Diocese would like addressed (such as bettering communications between parishes and helping parishes adopt new communications methods). I appreciate that he has taken a two-hour lunch break from work to drive to meet with me.
I bike down to a pub on Church Street near Bloor to meet with my two-facilitators for the Fresh Start programme. Fresh Start is a two-year training project for clergy in transition into a new parish. They attend a monthly session which has a didactic component (a presentation, basically, about the subject like dealing with conflict in a congregation, negotiating role clarity, understanding parish finances, etc.) and a case-study component (where the group listens to a real-live issue happening to someone in the group and then discuss it. This is a year-end debrief. The three of us agree that Fresh Start is running really well right now and we love our group. We eventually move on to talk about Diocesan Politics, Toronto Politics, vacation plans, and so forth. A good working lunch.
I rush back (on the bike) to Messiah and do a one-hour counseling session with a parishioner. It goes well (obviously I can't say much more than that).
I rush home, get my sail bag assembled, kiss the wife, and then dash out of the door to my bike. I rode down to the waterfront and hopped onto a Tender (Ferry) to the QCYC Sailing Club for the weekly race. This evening it was just two of us. When I race with Stephen we have pretty much the same level of boating competence, so we "co-skipper." But Charles, who was the only member of the team available, is still learning so I ended up being the honest-to-God-and-only Skipper for my first race. It was really great. We even managed to beat a few boats (only one in our division... but I'll take it!). Even better was the fact that by the end of the race I had dialed in and was catching up to the rest of the fleet. During one particular leg I just focused very carefully on proper sail trim and helmsmanship and found that we were beating the two closest boats, which proves that this boat can be a winner if we sail her well. I can't wait to try again!
After "putting the boat to bed" I hopped on the next Tender back to the city-side and biked back up the hill to home. It's a 30 minute bike ride up a gentle incline. It's nice to notice that my "summer legs" are getting back into shape. Bike riding in the summer in Toronto is really one of the best ways to get around the city.
For supper I had some leftover duck and some grilled veggies that Betsy had made for Henry. Betsy and I had a brief chat, watched the end of an episode of Veep, and then headed off to bed. I came downstairs to my corner and wrote this!
A good, full day. I feel like I made yet more incremental progress in the grande project of turning around The Church of The Messiah. Both "Messiah Commons" and "Messiah Media" are really important to the future of the parish (particularly the former), and it's good to be able to sit with people more experienced than I talk through my plans and hear their feedback. The other meetings were important and good in their own ways, as well. But ending the day on the lake is always magical and deeply satisfying! Now it's off to bed!
Sunday, June 9, 2013
The stories of Elijah and Jesus resurrecting the dead sons of widows (1 Kings 17.8-16 and Luke 7.11-17) invite a troubling reflection: how do we respond to death, particularly the death of children? What do we say about it, as people of faith? I suggest that encountering the deeply troubling and bitter reality of death is necessary in order to embrace the fullness offered by resurrection and life everlasting.
At the beginning of this sermon I read this poem by Billy Collins:
The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
Here is an animated version of the same poem, read by the author:
Toward the middle of the poem I quote this chunk from the essay "As a Door Nail" in Episcopal Cafe by Donald Schell:
It’s not some irreducible, barely glimpsed idealized essence of my dad that escaped and flew free from the fires of the crematorium. He’s gone, what remains is ash, is dead as a doornail. And the whole of him, the hands I marveled at as a kid when he played Rachmaninoff’s B minor prelude, the face that looked so much like mine and which, in the pictures I’ve got still teaches me to smile, the courageous heart that managed to squeeze almost eighty-seven years of living from a terrifying beginning as a preemie in 1921 and scarlet fever a few years later, the whole of that good man was, is, and will be held in God’s love. I don’t know what it means or looks like but I trust it - God’s initiative, God’s creative embrace that won’t let one vibration of one atom that was him out of the old/new whole of God’s making.
The Gospel writers are so determined that it’s God’s initiative that their preferred language for Jesus’ resurrection is that the Father “raised him up.”
The darkness, the abandonment, the devastation and decay and knowledge that we’re all just in remission and each of us alone faces a ‘moment of terror’ and ‘eternal dark’ must sink in, take hold, and be bitterly true. We’re none of us going to make out of this alive. None of us and nothing in us is any match for death. Nothing except the love of God. (source)
Talking about these passages on Saturday at the healing prayer service it was pretty clear to me that the grief evident in both passages is absolutely essential to understanding what God is up to. Attempts to ameliorate that pain by going immediately to the resurrection place--saying something like "he's in a better place"--shortcuts the process in an unhealthy way. Embracing the pain of death is the path toward Kingdom Wisdom. Jesus did it, and so should we. I know it sucks, but there it is.
This is not a sermon I particularly wanted to preach. I don't like thinking about my own death, much less the death of my little Henry. Nor do I wish to remember the deaths of children I saw when I worked in a hospital as a chaplain... but part of the discipline of preaching is accepting the responsibility of preaching the sermon the Holy Spirit gives you, not the one you want.
If you want preaching that is transformational (for the congregation and also yourself) you have to have the courage to go into some dark places in your own imagination. It's tough work. And I've preached many gut-wrenching sermons in the shower that never made it to the congregation. That's healthy, and part of the preaching life. But sometimes that gut wrenching material needs to find its way to the surface and today was such a day.
I'll just mention that the subjective experience of preaching a sermon this "heavy" was remarkable. People were riveted. They listened intensely, and the quality of the reflections and questions offered after the sermon in the "forum" time were top-notch and often quite personal. But after a while the congregation self-regulated all that hard material with some laughter and amusing stories. I've become experienced enough with my congregation that I am very confident that can process stuff like this and find a resolution and balance at the end.
Preaching about the death of children truly sucks--but you gotta go where the Word takes you. In the end I felt really good about this sermon, and it was a beautiful bookend to have the kids choir perform at the end of the service.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Here is my sermon from last Sunday, Pentecost 2, 2013. Bishop Yu was making his annual visitation, so I was thinking about how the Gospel for the day (Jesus healing the Centurion's Slave, Luke 7.1-10) could teach us about the Bishop-Parish relationship. Also on my mind were the brilliantly theatrical Elijah vs. 450 Prophets of Baal passage (1 Kings 18.20-39) and Paul's defensive-sounding opening in his Letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1.1-12).
By the way, Our awesome "Leader of the Readers" had assigned herself to the Elijah reading and decided to dramatize it. She didn't even feel the need to ask me, which is why she is so awesome.
After my sermon, during the response time, there were some really good reflections from people, but I don't feel it's appropriate for me to share those online at this point. Maybe some day. But this week they noted that basically sometimes we are the outsiders, and sometimes we are the insiders, and understanding which position we occupy in which context is important.
A visiting seminary professor paid me the great compliment of saying that our Liturgy of the Word (the first half of the service leading up to the Offertory) was more "robust" than a typical Anglican Church. He was particularly impressed with the quality of the readings, psalmody, and my responsive sermon. Certainly a richer engagement with the scriptural Word has been a priority of mine for the past two years or so.
So it was a very successful visit with the Bishop, and I think it reflected many of the best qualities of Messiah.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Friday, May 31, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Hyperbolic expressions of love, esoteric theologies of Trinity, a handful of water taken from the ocean: our very human need to grasp the un-graspable is part of the heart of the mystery of the Trinity. In it we find a lover's poem of what our people have learned about the divine after thousands of years. This sermon begins with part of the Opera "Einstein at the Beach" by Philip Glass. Many thanks to Fiona Ryan for improvising "Philip Glass-esque" music under that part of the sermon, a task I asked her to do mere moments before the liturgy began!
Preaching after doing a retreat is always great because you have a lot of fresh material, frankly. All that contemplation and meditation and prayer does wonders for your preaching-life!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Back at the marina we blessed and renamed the boat using a liturgy that Dave and Heather developed for Peregrine (their previous boat) and used on Dragonfly. I believe parts of it are taken from the blessing ceremony used by the Canadian Navy, but I'm not certain about that. It's a touching liturgy that hits some nice notes.
Here is the leaflet created for the liturgy.
I'll be on retreat at Holy Cross starting tomorrow. Coming back Friday. A pretty ambitious trip--just like me to do things the hard way! Anyway, here is a picture of me and Betsy for your pleasure...