How is God at work in Vancouver?

By Jonathan Bird

[Editor’s note: this is an advance peek at an important article we’ll be formally publishing in our Nov/Dec issue.]

Vancouver is rightly celebrated for being one of the most liveable urban regions in the world. Yet Vancouver’s very success has contributed to profound spiritual confusion and social dysfunction among its residents.ray-bakke-jonathan-bird

The gospel has always fallen on rocky ground here in “Lotus Land,” where religion is a four letter word and spirituality is merely an optional accessory for a self-fashioned life in the cultural convergence zone between West and East.

But fashioning a life here is immensely difficult. In this city of immigrants, where elementary schools have ESL rates as high as 65 per cent and the majority of residents move every five years, civic leaders consider loneliness and the lack of social cohesion to be more devastating than the fast-rising cost of housing.

Or at least they did until recently. The century-old joke that land speculation is the favourite blood sport of Vancouverites isn’t funny anymore. With offshore investors driving the composite benchmark price of all housing types in the metro area to $845,000 in April ($1.4 million for a detached house), even secular newspaper columnists are openly wondering if the “resort municipality” of Vancouver is “losing its soul” as it empties of families and young people.
Continue reading How is God at work in Vancouver?

Why we did a story on Christians who swear

I felt a little bit like a little old lady (sorry little old ladies!). I sat in the front row of a Christian writers conference in the States, beside my friend Patricia Paddey. One of the speakers swore a bit of a blue streak from the podium. To make her point. To make us laugh. To shock us.

Get the latest issue to get the latest on Christian swearing. Does it matter?
Get the latest issue to get the latest on Christian swearing. Does it matter?

It did all of those things, of course, as  a well-placed cuss word can.

But it got us talking later about the looseness of language we hear more and more amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ. It seems to be more okay today than before to swear. We may have actually “tut tutted” a bit as we chatted about it.

When I became serious about my faith in university, I set about to clean up my language. I’m a good Maritimer and we are good at swearing and come up with new ways to do it all the time (sorry Maritimers!).
Continue reading Why we did a story on Christians who swear

How do we help those who are suffering? Join us for our next webinar

The other day I walked through our family room, spotted a book on grief, and flipped it over so I didn’t have to see the cover. It was part of my husband’s pile of books and materials in transit. These books live on the side table no-man’s land until they take up permanent residency in his office or in our  home.

I flipped over the book because, in that moment, I was tired of hearing about grief and other sad things.

Grief and other sad things are all a big part of his life in ministry, and my life by connection. And part of my life — and I’m sure yours — by just being human and caring about other people.

Join us for a webinar on how to help those who are suffering.
Join us for a webinar on how to help those who are suffering.

We will explore how best to care for those who are suffering, and also how best to care for ourselves while we do it, in an upcoming EFC webinar on Wed. Sept. 28.

I will be interviewing two Canadians intimately familiar with suffering and caring for those who are in pain or times of deep challenge. Doug Koop is the author of Faith Today‘s Sep/Oct cover story on how to help the suffering and will be joining us from Winnipeg where he is a spiritual health practitioner.  David Guretzki, a theology professor and seminary dean at Briercrest College & Seminary in Caronport, Sask., will also join us. Guretzki teaches, among other topics, “In Sickness and in Health: Biblical Perspectives on Marriage and Chronic Illness.”

I’m looking forward to this time to ask questions like: How do we best help someone going through a terrible time? What can we learn? What can we give? What doesn’t help? And…how do you help when what you really want to do is flip over the book and walk away?

I really hope you will join us. Sign up here.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Take advantage of our great 3-for-1 subscription deal to this award-winning magazine.

 

A Canadian Fall that Bursts with possibility

I have just returned home from my morning walk and a wonderful encounter with a stranger in a pink raincoat with pink rubber boots. I passed by the end of her driveway as she waited to climb into her minivan.

My own rain boots, which match nothing, but are still fun to wear.
My own rain boots, which match nothing, but are still fun to wear.

Our eyes met.

“This is my first day of school!” she told me. I brought my doodle to a screeching halt. Conversations with total strangers on my busy street do not happen very often. And especially not with people whose boots match their jackets so perfectly.

“Wow,” I answered. “I hope you have a really great, fun day.” She answered “I will!” with total confidence.

I believed her. First days are so wonderful when you are young enough to wear matching boots.

Her pleasure and anticipation jolted me fully awake and gave me a smile that lasted all the way up McDonald and clear down Bigelow Street. I thought about all the new projects we are involved with, and all the Faith Today stories we will be printing this year. I thought of my church and all the other Canadian churches that are launching  programs, new and old, to serve their communities.

Fall in Canada, no matter how old you are, bursts with possibilities.

I hope my new little friend really does have a great, fun day. And I hope her mother did not scold her for talking to strangers, because her pleasure was contagious.

 

Our Colouring days are almost over

And now for something a little bit different…The Sep/Oct Faith Today has been packed up and shipped off  to the printers, to so speak, even while the ink still dries on the colour-me cover of the Jul/Aug issue. Many of you sent in your coloured versions of our unique cover. Thank you! (You can still send us in a picture (editor@faithtoday.ca) of your hand-coloured cover by Aug. 31, as well as subscribe and receive a free copy of Restore My Soul: a colouring book devotional journey).

In the Sep/Oct issue we dive into the deep waters of suffering. Doug Koop writes that cover story. He knows the nuances of trying to comfort the suffering. Doug is a veteran writer and editor who stepped away from journalism, enrolled in seminary and became a spiritual health practitioner in Winnipeg. There he visits with the sick, sometimes with the dying, and their loved ones. He listens, he speaks, he prays, and he is simply there as a comforting presence.

Koop writes that pain of “any sort is difficult to be around, even when it’s not your own. The anguish of any individual stirs something awkward in others. Suffering is something most of us would rather avoid. That’s why many people aim to stay clear of hospitals.”

He goes on to offer us insight and guidance into how we can be good company to those in need.

In Sep/Oct you’ll also read about what churches are learning as they sponsor refugees for the very first time. (Spoiler: they are learning a lot). Maybe you are part of a congregation who also sponsored Syrian refugees this year. We’d love to hear from you. Stop by www.Facebook.com/FaithToday and post what you and your sponsorship group are learning.

As always, the Sep/Oct Faith Today is full of other wonderful, rich stories to inspire, equip and challenge all of us. The summer Olympics have provided many great moments to be proud to be Canadian. We’ve loved it. And in matters of the heart and the mind, each issue of Faith Today, Canada’s Christian magazine makes us glad to be part of our vital and diverse Christian community in Canada.

Christians are a peculiar bunch to a whole lot of people

by Karen Stiller

I’ve just returned from an intense two weeks of high level diplomacy work. Sort of. I’m enrolled in a writing degree program in a secular university. I wanted to go to a Christian-based program in an American school but I couldn’t afford it. So, I packed up my trepidation and nerves along with my laptop and a pile of books and took off.

Inter-planetary bridges are built over coffee, Karen Stiller discovered.
Inter-planetary bridges are built over coffee.

And I’m really, really glad I did.

As a writer who has been somewhat cocooned in the Canadian Church Press world for years, writing for Christian publications and editing Faith Today, Canada’s Christian magazine, I was nervous about how my writing would stand beside some truly great writers from across Canada. And, I admit it,  I was worried how I’d be perceived. The  inner grade 3 me (nerd with thick glasses) still cares a little bit what people think of me now (older nerd with frames that are now, finally in style).
Continue reading Christians are a peculiar bunch to a whole lot of people

Visit a gallery, read a story, listen to music and be moved by the arts this summer

by Karen Stiller

We have a painting in our living room that moves me. It’s of a horse, which sounds funny. But it’s a horse emerging out of nowhere, thundering from the background off to one side, clearly racing forward. It is inspired by the famous racehorse Secretariat.

Be sure to read this issue of Faith Today to appreciate anew the role of the arts in our lives.
Be sure to read this issue of Faith Today to appreciate anew the role of the arts in our lives.

And, the painting is inspired by Job 39: 19-24. “Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?” asks God of Job. The artist, Patty Kingsley, is one of so many artists whose work is inspired by their faith, and whose work inspires our faith.

In “Artful Discipleship,” the Faith Today summer story by Carolyn Arends (a Faith Today columnist, author and musical artist) she considers how the arts can help in spiritual formation, and encourages us all to embrace the arts a little bit more this summer. Arends discusses how the arts can help train us to pay attention; to train us in longing, to train for the renewing of our minds; and finally, to train us to appreciate things and people for more than their “usefulness.”
Continue reading Visit a gallery, read a story, listen to music and be moved by the arts this summer

Montreal Church Serves Pokémon GO Crowds

by Patti Miller

We never saw it coming.

Saturday, July 16, we held an outdoor concert to celebrate our church’s 100th anniversary. The concert was in the park across the street, with free desserts and coffee for all who stopped by. Our banners waved in the breeze: “#InsideOutChurch: Do Good. Love Each Other. Reveal Jesus.”

Evangel Church in Montreal is reaching out to players of the Pokemon Go craze.
Evangel Church in Montreal is reaching out to players of the Pokémon GO craze.

We noticed we had a good crowd – better than expected.

And then we noticed that a significant number of them were looking at their phones. What on earth…?

Pokémon GO had launched, and as it turned out, the hottest Pokéstop in Montreal was right in front of our church. Hundreds of people were suddenly there, at all hours of the day, an oddly silent crowd, staring at their phones, moving en masse from time to time as an elusive rare find cropped up.

Right. In Front. Of Our Church.

Monday, we looked out the window and mused, “We should maybe do something.”

Tuesday, we made a plan.

Wednesday, we went shopping and made signs. By Wednesday evening, our entire front glass was painted and backlit, visible from a block away, and we were offering free water, granola bars and charging stations for the hundreds of Pokémon players that were already there, on our own property.

In just over 48 hours, we had served over 2,000. By Sunday, we had served 4,384. At last count, in nine days spread over less than two weeks, we’ve served 7,604 people, and have been spotlighted repeatedly by several news media and social media sources as a church that cares about its community.

Evangel Church is serving the Pokémon GO crowds gathering near their church.
Evangel Church is serving the Pokémon GO crowds gathering near their church.

We’ve never seen such a positive response. Over and over, we’ve been asked, “Who are you? Why are you doing this?” When we answer that Jesus said to love our neighbours (and we suddenly have a lot of neighbours!) we hear over and over, “I’ve never seen a church that cared about its neighbours like this.”

Continue reading Montreal Church Serves Pokémon GO Crowds

To Colour is to Grow, especially when you don’t know what you are doing

by Karen Stiller

Last week I experienced spiritual growth by colouring the cover of the Jul/Aug issue of Faith Today. 

To colour is to grow, discovered Karen Stiller
To colour is to grow, discovered Karen Stiller

It wasn’t so much in the realm of theological insights, but more, I would say, in the area of sober self-examination and humility. I realized, and yes, I am thankful for this insight thank you very much, that I am still rather impatient and messy with an impaired sense of how colours work together (red and pink together, bring it on!)

As I whittled away with a paring knife at the kitchen sink (rather feverishly now that I reflect), trying to sharpen one of those coloured pencils with no actual sharpener within 100 miles, I dealt with existential questions like: Why am I here?

In time, back aching, I forced myself to relax a bit and began more of a loose, looping scribbling, a “get ‘er done,” kind of colouring, much like my boys did so many years ago. Then, I came face to face with my own inflated pride (enough growth already!) as I took a slightly far-off picture of my colouring, so that people couldn’t really see it close up.

But then, squinting, I actually started to grow fond of my creation and tell myself I was quite something after all. Thus began the phase where I left it on the coffee table, hoping for compliments.

So, as you can see, it was actually a marathon of spiritual growth. A veritable triathlon of insight leading me to the conclusion that perhaps I really am best to colour mostly, or only, with words. Certainly not with a deadline. And definitely not with a desire to impress. And clearly with a pencil sharpener on hand.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. It’s not too late for you to send in your own version of our Jul/Aug cover! Email us at editor@faithtoday.ca. Check out the subscription deal this month which will put a wonderful cololuring book into your hands. 

La lutte de l’Université Trinity Western pour la liberté de religion s’intensifie

anglais/English

Les experts disent que c’est une cause importante − pour tout le monde

Par Allison Barron

Jessie Legaree est diplômée de la Trinity Western University (TWU),  avec un baccalauréat et une maîtrise. Ayant fréquenté la faculté de droit à l’Université de Toronto, elle fait présentement un stage à Abbotsford, Colombie-Britannique.

Et elle voit son alma mater traverser une série d’appels et de contre-appels pour obtenir le droit d’avoir sa propre faculté de droit.

Legaree dit que ses études à TWU ont favorisé sa croissance académique et spirituelle, en plus d’améliorer ses futures compétences d’avocate en instillant en elle un amour pour toutes les personnes et un désir de servir autrui. Elle appuie l’idée d’une faculté de droit reconnue à travers le Canada.

« Une éducation juridique chrétienne supporte un plus grand appel qui enracine la défense dans le service, et je ne peux imaginer meilleures assises pour les futurs avocats, » explique-t-elle.

Mais cet avenir pourrait ne pas être possible avec l’action en justice sans précédent que TWU doit subir dans quelques provinces.

Continue reading La lutte de l’Université Trinity Western pour la liberté de religion s’intensifie

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