Send your pastor out to dinner

by Karen Stiller

I am married to a minister. It is a rich and wonderful life, full of surprises and adventure and challenges. Yes, yes indeed, there are many built-in rewards and joy in clergy life. That is all true. But you know what would be really nice? A free dinner!! In a nice restaurant!!

Nominate your pastor for a dinner out. It’s easy!

In honour of all the hardworking pastors out there, Faith Today, Canada’s Christian magazine, is running a fun little contest to cheer us all up in these last weeks (months?) of winter in Canada. To go along with our upcoming March/April cover story  — about the theology of food and the great ministry we can do with that fundamental part of our lives — we are inviting Canadian congregations from coast to coast to submit their minister’s name for a draw, and tell us why you appreciate them so much. We will randomly select a name from every province and territory, and the winning pastor will receive a $50 gift card to head out to dinner. We will give every pastor nominated a social media salute, which is not quite the same as a sizzling steak, but it could cheer up a person on a grey day.

So, join in the fun. It costs you nothing but the time to send us an email to socialmedia@theefc.ca by March 31. Tell us what the ministry of your pastor means to you and your community and we will enter their name into our draw.

Thanks! And please spread the word.

Reconciliation: We need a new story

Reconciliation is an important part of the Jan/Feb Faith Today. One of our writers, author and professor Mark Buchanan, mentions a ministry called New Story — one day seminars that help churches understand our relationship with  First Nations people. Mark shares more with us in this mini-interview.

Why did you use the name New Story?

The name New Story captures what we believe needs to happen with our relationship with Indigenous peoples. Most Canadians have been part of a story that is largely about hurt, suspicion, and avoidance. That story keeps perpetuating itself.  We need a new story that recognizes the past, no matter how awful or ugly, or how implicated in it we are, but which refuses to get stuck there. We need a story that moves us – all of us – toward a better future.

Read our cover story to find out more about this important take on reconciliation.

Can you tell us what a typical New Story day looks like?

We’ve so far held two New Story events, both shaped a little differently but with many of the same elements. Each has begun with First Nations protocols acknowledging our presence on traditional lands – for us in southern Alberta, that’s Treaty 7 Territory. An Indigenous Elder or Chief has then welcomed us and led in an opening prayer.

Both events have included several Indigenous and a few non-Indigenous plenary speakers and workshop presenters. These sessions have explored various topics – First Nations history, culture, worldview, dance, and themes of reconciliation or “where do we go from here?” In the second event, we used the Kairos “Blanket Exercise,” an imaginative journey, from an Indigenous perspective, through Canada’s history, from pre-colonialism to the present day.

Each event has also featured a First Nations talking circle in which participants are given an opportunity to share their experiences, good or bad, with others.

Is there a typical response you see from people who attend? Are they surprised to learn new facts and the real history?

Often people who attend a New Story event have had some exposure to the legacy of residential schools, or they know something of the history of colonialism, and they’ve come to learn more. But many are shocked, sometimes overwhelmingly, when they learn the fuller story: the harm, both systemic and personal, that churches, schools, governments, settler communities, individuals have brought upon indigenous peoples. There are a lot of tears. Often anger. Many participants repent – of stereotypes, of prejudices, of their actions or inaction in the past. Probably the most surprising part of a New Story event is watching Christians discover the depth and beauty of Indigenous cultures, and how these cultures in many ways are, not just compatible with the gospel, but a rich expression of it.

What are the most important things you want people to take away from a New Story day?

We want people to see Indigenous peoples and their cultures through a new lens, one that corrects previous stereotypes and prejudices, but that doesn’t simplify or minimize differences and complexities – that actually magnifies these things.

We emphasize our shared humanity, but we also highlight real and meaningful differences between peoples and cultures. This counteracts the tendency many of us have to try to reconcile with others by finding a lowest common denominator.

Frankly, that approach is part of the old story. What we are trying to do is find grounds for reconciliation in which no one is required to relinquish or distort their identity. That’s a new and better story.

We hope people come away with a commitment to lifelong and humble learning. We especially hope that many new friendships are born.

 

Thank you!

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The joy of Shrove Tuesday and the solemnity of Ash Wednesday

My entire family loves Shrove Tuesday. When the kids were younger, and we lived in a rectory that was beside the church where their Dad served as priest, they would dash over to the church as soon as they could to “help” and eat as many pancakes and sausages as they could manage.

The kids (and me!), loved it for that reason, but also the community spirit and warmth of gathering in a church basement and eating together with people we knew so well, and also the community members who would wander in for the free feast. Pancake Tuesday reminded us, and still does, that we are part of the family of Christ that worships together, but also eats and celebrates and enjoys maple syrup together as well.

For many Christians around the world, Lent is a penitent journey toward Easter.

And of course, Shrove Tuesday is the night before Ash Wednesday. In the church liturgical calendar, that is the special and solemn day that marks the beginning of Lent. And  Lent, of course, is the penitential season recalling the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, where he withstood temptation and prepared himself for all that lay ahead.

Christians all over the world fast during the 40 days of Lent (excluding the Sundays, which mark Christ’s resurrection, and so fasting does not occur on a Sunday). Christians who observe these times typically give something up during Lent (fasting from a habit or a comfort) in order to free up time or resources that can be offered to God instead.

If you have not been to an Ash Wednesday service, I highly recommend the experience. Find a liturgical church in your neighbourhood and you will likely find an Ash Wednesday service.

The service is moving, deeply spiritual, quiet, contemplative and beautifully poetic. The centrepiece of the service involves the “imposition of ashes” on your forehead by a priest or minister as you kneel at the front of the church. The ashes are made from the burned palm branches of the Palm Sunday parade the year before. The minister will gently trace a cross on your forehead and say these stark and wintery words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And off into Lent we go, penitent and reflective until the joy of Easter strikes yet again.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. The painting in this blog was done by her father-in-law, David Stiller. 

A new way to engage with Lent: commit to care for creation

by Karri Munn-Venn

I used to take a lot of sugar in my coffee.

Several years ago, I cut it out for Lent. It felt good to skip the sweet stuff (while remaining highly caffeinated!). But cutting sugar from my coffee didn’t feel like much of a spiritual practice.

Citizens for Public Justice are inviting Canadian Christians to approach Lent a little differently this year. You can read the whole story in the Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today,

I tried a few different approaches. Then, last year, I finally hit on something that helped me to take my Lenten practice to the next level.

I pledged to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging and waste I was bringing into my home. No more cereal boxes – I have teenagers, so there were a lot of those! – peanut butter tubs, or bags of nuts, coffee, or dried fruit. Instead, I washed out a bunch of old canning jars, picked up a few larger reusable containers and made a weekly excursion to the bulk food store.

It was something I had been thinking about doing for a little while and it felt good to have finally made the shift. There was also something quite rich about bringing more congruence to my life; aligning my faith, my environmental concern and my consumption habits.

I did this as part of Give it up for the Earth! – a faith-in-action campaign that I helped coordinate as part of my work with Citizens for Public Justice. It was powerful to know that I was joined by other people of faith across Canada who were also making changes to reduce their personal and household greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Continue reading A new way to engage with Lent: commit to care for creation

A quick church quiz for you

In the Jan/Feb Faith Today, we have a great article called “Would our  neighbourhoods notice if we left? The Flourishing Congregations Institute probes what is working in Canadian Congregations.”

The article, by Ambrose professor of sociology, and Flourishing Congregations Institute director Joel Thiessen, starts out with that infamous question: “If your church burned down tomorrow, would the neighbourhood notice?” Thiessen then goes on to unpack some of the Institute’s recent findings in their research into churches whose neighbourhoods would most definitely feel the impact if they were no longer present.  You can (and should!) read the whole article here.

But for right now, why not try to answer these questions that Thiessen ends his article with. They are to get you thinking and moving in the right direction, both congregational and personally:

  1. Would your neighbourhood notice if your church were no longer there, or if you relocated from the neighbourhood where you personally reside?
  2. How would you know?
  3. What are the markers?
  4. Are you satisfied in this area of your congregational or personal life?
  5. How might you strengthen your church’s presence in your neighbourhood or your personal involvement?

Would you like to hold this article in your hands and really think about things? You can request a free trial subscription, and ask to begin with the current Jan/Feb issue. Why not give Faith Today a try?

 

Why not, Canada? Learning how to create Disciple-Making Movements

Carol and Murray Moerman

By Murray Moerman

My colleague Trevor Larsen (not his real name) has seen thousands of people come to Christ in a movement doubling every 18 months for the last 10 years – in a cultural environment more resistant to the gospel than post-Christian Canada. The principles are simple and applicable anywhere.

I first heard of Trevor as part of my work with the Global Church Planting Network, and I’m thrilled that he is coming to speak and train at Missions Fest Vancouver this month (and at two local churches in the following days, as you can see below).

We Canadian Christians can learn a lot from people like Trevor. Don’t we often feel the cultural gap between the church and those they seek to reach in the name of Christ? Many Christians sense themselves to be at the margins of society.

At the same time we often hear stories from Africa and Asia reporting effective disciple-making on a comparatively large scale.

Why not in Canada?

A variety of Canadian groups are asking this question also and experimenting with various responses. Here are some examples, many from here in British Columbia, that we should all know about.
Continue reading Why not, Canada? Learning how to create Disciple-Making Movements

Toll Free Line offered now in Canada to help with end of life decisions

By Craig Macartney

In response to Canada’s increased social acceptance and legalization of assisted suicide, a new ministry has launched a crisis line to help support and guide people making tough decisions as they near death.

Check out the Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today, focussed on reconciliation and other topics of importance and inspiration to Canadian Christians.

Compassionate Community Care (CCC) was created because “We recognized that many people didn’t know where to go when confronted with end-of-life issues for friends, parents or loved ones,” explains chairperson Brian Simpson.

Since its launch in late 2016, the crisis line has already had calls from people in every province and even calls from the U.S. “Most of the calls are about end-of-life questions where there are differing values being applied to people by medical and family members than what the person themself believes in,” Simpson says.

“Some people are feeling pushed to procedures or actions which differ from the wishes of the patient.”

CCC’s crisis line volunteers are there to listen, offer support and give clear information about the law and patient rights. They also refer calls to experienced physicians who can provide a second opinion and offer guidance.
Continue reading Toll Free Line offered now in Canada to help with end of life decisions

Ten Commandments of a Disability-Friendly Church

How intentionally disability-friendly is your congregation? Photo: Shutterstock

By Stephen J. Bedard

What do you need to be a disability-friendly church? Do you need a staff person assigned to a formal disability ministry? Do you need a large budget and a special curriculum?

All of those things can be helpful, but becoming disability-friendly is much simpler than that. I have both pastored and attended only small churches over the past two decades and have witnessed the loving and welcoming of those with disabilities.

Any church can become a safe place that embraces people of all disabilities. I have an article on this in the current issue of Faith Today. But you can begin with these ten simple steps.

1. Everybody is welcome.

2. Clear communication between leaders and each special needs family is essential.

3. Never give a dirty look because of an unexpected sound.

4. Love the entire family.

5. Speak directly to the person with the disability.

6. Educate yourself about different disabilities.

7. Develop a theology of disability. What does God intend for us around these issues?

8. Provide a safe environment for any person with a disability.

9. Never make assumptions about what a person can or can’t do.

10. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not okay to stop trying.

The church should be a welcoming place for people of all abilities. This is something that is possible for everyone from the largest megachurch to the smallest rural parish. Taking these steps will go a long way toward creating a space where families with disabilities will feel at home.

Stephen J. Bedard is pastor of Queen Street Baptist Church in St. Catharines, Ont., and author of How to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly (CreateSpace, 2016). Read his article “How to Become a Disability-Friendly Church: Even if your church is small and has limited resources” in our Jan/Feb 2018 issue. Don’t miss more great resources this year, start a risk-free trial subscription now!

Top Blog Posts of 2017 for Faith Today

Here are the blogs that interested you, moved you, irritated you (?) and caused you to share in 2017. Thanks for reading! We have much more great Christian journalism in store for you in 2018…

Watch for more great Canadian Christian journalism in 2018 from Faith Today

The #1 most widely read blogs in 2017 for Faith Today, and counting down from there: 

#1: Christians still love to talk and debate The Shack, and the movie proved no different. “The Shack: Sometimes ramshackle, but with a solid foundation.”

#2: We like transparency. In this blog, author John Bowen reviews a book, but also shares a health crisis journey. “John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book.”

#3: We love to read excellent Christian fiction. And we are looking forward to Mark Buchanan’s upcoming book on David. “A Canadian author tackles the life of David in upcoming novel.” 

#4: The #MeToo movement touches our lives as well. “It’s us too for Christian women, even in the Church.” 

#5: Pregnancy Crisis Centres get a bad rap in the secular press. Are they anti-woman? You liked this blog, but watch also for an upcoming Faith Today article. “Are pregnancy care centres anti-woman?”

#6: Advent gets us every time. Evangelicals increasingly embrace liturgical seasons. This post by Steve Bell captured our imaginations. “Advent is a robust and demanding spiritual season.” 

#7: Many Canadians were impacted by the work and life of American preacher and professor Haddon Robinson. We invited one Canadian pastor to share his thoughts. “The passing of a great one: Haddon Robinson influenced many Canadians.” 

#8: We often look for blog posts to accompany Faith Today stories. This was one of them and we were happy to welcome Ann and Ron Mainse as guest bloggers. “Six habits to enrich your marriage this summer and beyond.” 

#9: We hear so much about young people leaving the Church, what about the ones who stay? Building on her just released book, Why I Didn’t Rebel, our Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach offers insights. “Confessions of a kid who didn’t rebel.” 

#10: We love camp and so do you. This post ends our Top Ten for 2017 list, and includes some of the reasons why camp is so important for our kids, and us. “It’s worth all the dirty laundry.” 

 

Reconciliation resources

Our Jan/Feb 2018 issue includes major articles on reconciliation by Cheryl Bear, Mark Buchanan and Wendy Peterson. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it (www.FaithToday.ca/Subscriptions)

Are you looking for ways to work towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians? Here’s the start of a Faith Today list of resources, compiled in conjunction with our special package of reconciliation articles in our Jan/Feb 2018 issue. Not all are Christian in orientation, but all are certainly thought-provoking. To suggest additional resources or corrections for this list, email us at editor@faithtoday.ca.

150 Acts of Reconciliation, a list of suggestions for everyday reconciliation put together by two University of Alberta researchers

Anglican Journal Archives include many tagged “residential schools” as well as a section of webpages called “Residential Schools Histories”

Canada’s Residential Schools uses Google Earth Voyager and materials from Canadian Geographic to explain why the schools were built, what attending was like for Indigenous children, the aftereffects and how residential school survivors are working to move forward

Church Responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, a Faith Today blog post from 2016.

Circles for Reconciliation, led by Raymond Currie of Winnipeg, offers a good list of practical resources

CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre, a collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University, has published excellent curriculum materials on Indigenous-Settler Relations

Indigenous Reconciliation Group, led by Rose LeMay of Ottawa, offers a good list of practical resources

Reconciliation Canada has produced a variety of resources including a 2017 survey report on The Canadian Reconciliation Landscape and a series of Community Action Tool-kits

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada links to nine major Educational Resources and 11 on Reconciliation, including many church apologies

 

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