Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

By Stephen J. Bedard

Tom Harpur was one of the most popular Canadian religion writers over the last half-century. He died recently at the age of 87, after many decades of writing about religion in Canada.

Not many Canadians have had such a major public platform to speakto religious issues: Harpur was the religion editor for the Toronto Star for 12 years, wrote a column on ethics and spirituality for over 30 years, and perhaps had his greatest influence through the 22 books he published.

Tom Harpur was a Canadian Christian author whose views were often controversial with Evangelicals.

In many ways he was a reflection of Canada’s changing religious culture.

Harpur was born in 1929 to an evangelical family. He described his father as a “fundamentalist street preacher.” Harpur’s family of origin instilled an interest in religion, but there was also a reaction to the conservative nature of his family.

Harpur studied at both Oxford University in England and Wycliffe College in Toronto. After graduating he served as an Anglican priest at St. Margaret’s-in-the-Pines, West Hill, Ont. (1957-1964). After concluding his pastoral ministry, he taught New Testament at Wycliffe College in Toronto (1964-1971). Wycliffe is an evangelical seminary within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Continue reading Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

An Interview with the authors of “Theology Matters” study

The recent study “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy” grabbed the attention of mainline media in Canada. The study showed that mainline churches that grow in Canada tend to be theologically  more conservative, led by pastors who engage more regularly in personal religious practices, and attended by Canadians who also engage more regularly in such practices.

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The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today digs into the study and asks questions we haven’t seen asked anywhere else — such as how mainline denominational leaders are responding to a study that shows church growth is found in the opposite direction theologically in which their denominations tend to be moving. We felt like readers might want even more than is in the article, so our FT team went back to two of the study’s authors (David Haskell and Kevin Flatt) and asked more questions. Here is our interview…
Continue reading An Interview with the authors of “Theology Matters” study

The Top Faith Today Blogs of 2016

Blog readers, we salute you. Thank you for paying attention and interacting with the Faith Today blog. Our intention with the blog is to provide you with even more excellent Christian journalism and thinking, to build on and expand on what you find in the pages of the print magazine. As we begin a new year of blogging, here’s a look back on the Top 10 Faith Today blog posts of 2016. 

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  1. Announcing a Faith Today contest to reward your pastor. This blog post invited Canadian congregations to nominate their pastors for a well-deserved break. Canadians loved this idea, because they love their pastors.
  2. Pornography most common sexual sin of men. We invited Kirk Giles, head of Promise Keepers Canada, to write for us after he appeared in the magazine as our featured Question and Answer subject. His topic was provocative and timely.
  3. Goodbye beautiful writer, our lovely friend. We said goodbye to Debra Fieguth, a beloved and highly experienced Canadian Christian journalist this year. The Christian writing and reading community celebrated her achievements while mourning her loss.
  4. Memories of the Christian Brethren. Faith Today readers enjoy John Stackhouse’s great writing and challenging insights. He offered us some warm memories in this more personal piece than we usually see from him.
  5. What I learned visiting churches in Moncton. Sometimes our ideas for blogs come from outside of our writing circles, and we love that. This one hit a nerve.
  6. The 17 year old girl forced to go to church shares her thoughts. Wow! This one really caused some waves. This blog from 2015 still made our 2016 Top Ten list. A 17 year old daughter of one our editors tells it like it is.
  7. We know it will be messy: Trinity Western. Readers responded well to this behind the scenes look at the motivation behind Trinity Western University’s long, long struggle to have their law school students recognized across Canada.
  8. Writing the difficult story of Gospel for Asia. In this blog we explained more about our reasons for writing an investigative piece into one of the world’s largest Christian charities. Some of our readers had wondered if we were in the muck a bit with this one, we think not, and here we explained why.
  9. Faith Today writer shares what it’s like to have a sister in the Olympics. Sometimes a blog is just fun, light, wonderful reading, like this one.
  10. Dear Fundraiser, a letter from Christians who give. Our cover story writer on “Being, Doing, Having” (all about Christians and money) does a spin-off blog on fundraising, and readers enjoyed it.

Thanks again for reading the Faith Today blog. Subscribe to the print issue today and keep Christian print journalism alive and well in Canada. 

 

Resources on Ministry With Seniors

If we can give our readers something extra, we love to! Here is an extended list of recommended books and videos related to “Can Churches Do Better With Our Seniors?” a Jan/Feb feature story by Lisa Hall-Wilson

By Bill Fledderus

The United Methodist Church, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., has an Office on Aging and Older Adult Ministries headed by Dr. Will Randolph. It offers a free quarterly newsletter and good blog posts about recommended resources, caregiving, worship and other related topics at www.aging-umc.org. Don’t miss the blog posts “What Shall I Read First?” and “What Shall I Read Second?

Amy Hanson of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is author of Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults Over 50 (Jossey-Bass, 2010). See her list of recommended resources and more at www.amyhanson.org. Don’t miss her free 16-page PDF from 2007 “Churches Responding to the Age Wave: Top Innovations in Older Adult Ministry.”

A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors (IVP Academic, 2011) is a book by James M. Houston and Michael Parker that challenges the church to embrace and honour the contributions that can be made by its older members while more effectively ministering to their needs. Dr. Houston is an emeritus professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver. Continue reading Resources on Ministry With Seniors

What’s up with Jan/Feb Faith Today?

The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today didn’t start out to be a church-themed issue, but that is where we ended up.

And why should that surprise us?

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For most Canadian Christians, church is a vital part of our lives. It’s where we find community with other believers. It’s where we teach and are taught, love and are loved, forgive and are forgiven, among many other beautiful and challenging things. It’s where we worship God and where we are restored.

Church is also under no small pressure these days, as our cover story written by Canadian scholar and author  Lee Beach says. “If it were true that at one time the Church occupied a place near the centre of Canadian culture, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

Yet, being “Church in exile” or on the margins also gives us a chance to reform, and do things differently and better than ever.

“Exile is forcing the Church to re-engage with its biblical identity as a missional people called by God to go into the world to bring a message of hope, and embody that hope,” says Beach.

What do you think of that?
Continue reading What’s up with Jan/Feb Faith Today?

A new kind of bucket list for a new year

Do you have a bucket list for 2017? Author Ann Voskamp (our Jan/Feb Faith Today Interview) in her latest book The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life, suggests we think bigger than that. “What if,” she writes, “living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?”

Author Ann Voskamp, our Jan/Feb in-depth interview in Faith Today, offers a new and refreshing take on the bucket list idea.

I thought of Voskamp’s take on the popular bucket list idea — where you plot out and list off the adventures and accomplishments you want to achieve before you “kick the bucket” — when I read a Globe and Mail article called “Kicking the Bucket List” on Dec. 30.

The article shares the history of “bucket lists,” and how that name entered the lexicon of popular culture about a decade ago. It also names one of the big weaknesses of the bucket list: “When however it comes to those things we value not for themselves but as markers of success and status, one thing can easily substitute for another. You finally get the specific job — the new title of junior assistant associate undersecretary — that you have been coveting. Two months later, it means nothing to you…”

Anyone who has ever crossed an accomplishment or the obtaining of some desired object off their list knows that feeling all too well. We always want more. We are rarely satisfied.

With Voskamp’s rewriting of the bucket list to a kind of “give it” list however, satisfaction is almost always guaranteed. “More than any bucket list of merely exploring the world, you could live an empty bucket list of expending all for the world.” She asks, “Where are the people ready to do the hard and holy things?”

I spoke more with Voskamp about this in the upcoming Faith Today interview for Jan/Feb. You won’t want to miss it. Meanwhile, why not spend a few moments creating a “give-it” list? What gifts and resources can you share with your community, and the world, in 2017? What might be hard and holy — and I’m guessing ultimately very fulfilling — for you this year?  What do you have to give? I’m sure that list is longer than you can imagine.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe today to not miss the Voskamp interview, and have access to some of the best Christian print journalism in Canada. 

 

Our favourite Faith Today stories in 2016

As a fun end-of-year exercise, we editors put our heads together and chose some of our favourite Faith Today stories from 2016. “Favourite” meaning they resonated with readers for some reason. Or favourite could mean that we just simply loved the end results of the writer’s hard work, or thought an interview subject said some really important things we all need to hear.

We started out the year with a love letter to the Church. See you in 2017!

So, here’s our list (in no particular order, and just for fun).

Artful Discipleship: how the arts can help in spiritual formation. We love this Carolyn Arends piece with the honour it gives to the arts, and of course, with its connection to our first ever, wildly popular colour it yourself Faith Today cover. This was so much fun to pull together and it was awesome to see readers respond and send in coloured covers from all across Canada.
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How I wound up on 100 Huntley St with my golden doodle

It was actually a Faith Today article and webinar that indirectly led to my dog Dewey and I embarking on a journey to become a therapy dog team visiting seniors in a residence.

Dewey the Dog visiting while people talk about him in the background for 100 Huntley St.

While researching and interviewing for a piece about palliative care and euthanasia — of all things — I started to hear a clear message, especially from Bruce Clemenger, president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He talked about the need for Canadian Christians to embrace our seniors and make sure we are being the hands and feet of Christ to a portion of our population who are often  lonely and sometimes neglected by their families, friends, and perhaps even by an overloaded medical care system.

At the same time, I was feeling a clear call to volunteer my time outside of the church circles in which I normally served. Plus, I have a great big, fluffy, lovable golden doodle who loves nothing more than going from person to person in a room, being cuddled and loved and talked to in warm, adoring voices by whomever is willing and available.

So, Dewey and I applied to become a therapy dog team through St. John Ambulance. We went through the process of evaluation and training, and then a four week mentoring period with an experienced therapy dog volunteer.

Each week me, my mentor, and Dewey of course, would meet outside the doors of the Port Perry Villa, and have a conversation about things like what side of a wheel chair to approach, how to handle barking if dogs meet up in this otherwise very human environment, and the most important tip for me: to not get in the way. In my nervousness, I had been kneeling down to be eye level with Dewey, so I could reassure him in this unfamiliar setting. My mentor asked me not to do this, to just trust Dewey to do his job.
Continue reading How I wound up on 100 Huntley St with my golden doodle

Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student

Ins Choi is a Wycliffe College graduate and the creator behind the hit CBC show Kim’s Convenience.

Ins Choi (IC) is an actor and a playwright, who has been called “Canadian Theatre’s breakout star.” His award-winning play “Kim’s Convenience” has been adapted for television and is a new hit for CBC.

But in the halls of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, Choi is remembered in part for his creative take on reading assignments for his theology classes. Choi graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from  Wycliffe, an evangelical Anglican theological college affiliated with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Wycliffe’s magazine Insight interviewed Choi recently about what a theological education meant to his development as an artist.

Here at the Faith Today blog, we thought it would be fun to reprint the interview with the creative mind behind the television show that many Canadians are loving.

You come from a long line of pastors. Is that where Wycliffe enters the story? Were you going to be a pastor as well?

IC: My father’s older brother was a pastor, his youngest sister, my grandfather, five cousins are pastors. It’s a pretty pastoral family. 

I wrote a play called “Subway stations of the Cross.” In that play, which is really more of a spoken word piece, with song, I talk about what made me, me. And in that story is this back and forth relationship with pastoral ministry –  a call to be a pastor professionally and at the same time my call to be an artist, to be a writer, a performer, an actor. It’s a long story and it’s the content of that show. I struggled with both. After I went to York for acting I went to Wycliffe, I began an MDIV but I transferred out of it and ended up with an MTS. I did this while being a children’s pastor at a church for about five or six years. I was at Wycliffe for about four years, semi-part time as I was trying to juggle an acting schedule and trying to get gigs at the same time.

Did studying theology make you a better artist?

IC: It made me a better writer. That was a discipline I didn’t have, the craft of writing. I was never that academic in high school, but being at Wycliffe I was forced to read a lot, and try to be clearer about what I read, and what my thoughts were about what I read. It was that scholarly activity, which is reading and reflection and trying to be precise with words.
Continue reading Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student

Canadian poet creates new collection to help us “turn aside”

D.S. Martin is a Canadian poet and the editor of the Poiema Poetry Series.  His latest endeavour is The Turning Aside, “a collection of Christian poetry from dozens of the most spiritually insightful poetic voices of recent years.”  Martin says, “It is a book I have long dreamed of compiling, and it has grown beyond my mere imagining in its fulfillment.”

Turning Aside is a new poetry collection edited by Canadian poet D.S.Martin.
Turning Aside is a new poetry collection edited by Canadian poet D.S.Martin.

We interviewed Martin to find out more about this project, and why poetry is so important.

What inspired you to create The Turning Aside?

I have found anthologies of Christian poetry to be both inspiring and encouraging through the years. This is how I discovered, or gained greater interest in, such poets as R.S. Thomas, W.H. Auden, G.K. Chesterton, George Mackay Brown, Wendell Berry, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

There have been a number of anthologies over the years, but nothing recently that focused on contemporary poetry, which tried to bring the most significant poetic voices into one volume. This is what I have sought to do with The Turning Aside, so that young poets, and others interested in the art form from a faith perspective, will be given a valuable resource.
Continue reading Canadian poet creates new collection to help us “turn aside”

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