No book is read in a vacuum. You may kid yourself that you are “getting away from it all” to be quiet and simply read. But the “all” never retreats very far. And if the book is any good, it will follow you back into the “all” anyway. And there, the book and your life will find each and will tangle and fight and perhaps love, and nothing will ever be the same again.
This happened to me recently when I was part-way through reading Andy Crouch’s newest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2016) for a group I belong to.
I had been diagnosed with stable angina, which degenerated a few weeks later into unstable angina. I was told to stay home for a week, until the cardiologist could arrange for an angiogram. The angiogram, on a Monday morning, revealed four major blood vessels in trouble, one of them 85% blocked, and an appointment was made for quadruple bypass surgery at 9 am two days later.
And then began the wrestling of Crouch’s words and my life. At the worst, it was as though his words began to curl off the page and meld into thin indestructible lines, tying down my life and making me horizontal for the better part of a week.
You know the kind of thing: an unbreakable plastic name band, tubes filling my body with various liquids, lines of nylon thread holding edges of flesh together, lines of metal staples like tiny telegraph poles bridging bloody gashes, oxygen tubes poking up my nose, a catheter to drain urine, a heart monitor with five coloured wires, and thin blue electrical wires poking out of my chest “just in case.” I knew how Gulliver must have felt when the Lilliputians tied him down with their silken cords. Continue reading John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book→
There are a hundred reasons to dislike church. A thousand reasons to suspend your participation in one church, or swap it for attendance at another. I attend church every Sunday and I haven’t church shopped, swapped or dropped since I was in my early 20s (and that was a while ago). I’m married to an Anglican priest, so his church is my church, our family goes every week, and yes, there is bickering and badgering and we are often late.
As I’ve seen people in various churches over the years drop out for a time or for good, or switch churches (usually for a bigger or newer option, and yes, I totally get that there are lots of good reasons to leave a church), I’ve wondered what I would do if I had that freedom. Would I become a circulating saint, as Rod Wilson puts it in his recent Faith Todayarticle? Would I regularly try out other churches to sample the offerings? Would I choose my couch and a good book on Sunday morning instead, and often? Would I let my kids throw in the worship towel because I just can’t stand the arguing? I can’t honestly answer “no” to those questions, because I just don’t know. I hope not, but it is possible that without my built-in church attendance motivation, I might go to bedside Baptist, and poolside Presbyterian and be Lutheran at the lake, and all those other silly names. Continue reading The beauty of church→
Our writer, Lisa Hall-Wilson, takes us behind the scenes of her article, “Can churches do better with our seniors?” including extra material and the background story behind the pivotal “Mr. Brown,” the senior who had such an impact on the spiritual life of the writer as a young woman. Read on…
By Lisa Hall-Wilson
As a writer, often when I write these types of articles I search for a way to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m writing about. My desire was to really give seniors a voice through this piece. One of the things that I struggle with is feeling like I belong in Church. I know I have a unique place within God’s Kingdom, but the local church…not so much always. Over the years, I’ve attended a few different churches and denominations and this feeling has followed me from city to city.
At the very beginning of the article, I mention an intergenerational crokinole tournament that took place when I was in youth group. That’s where I met my prayer partner Mr. Brown. I was saved at 17 and my family did not attend church, so the whole church culture was completely foreign to me. It was my first year in the youth group that I participated in the annual youth and seniors crokinole tournament.
Almost every Sunday, when he wasn’t out working in the fields, Mr. Brown would make sure to connect with me and ask how I was. He sent cards and small gifts all the way through university and attended my wedding. I don’t think he ever knew how much those small gestures meant to a kid who never quite seemed to fit in.
I thought it might be interesting, like the extra features on a DVD, to read some of the interviews I did with the people from Cannington Baptist (I’m not sure that church is even open still) for this piece. In researching any article, I talk to many more people than I am able to quote. Here’s what the pastor and some of the youth (now married with children) had to say about that annual crokinole tournament.
I tracked down Pastor Mark Lowrie in Owen Sound, Ont., just a few days before his retirement. I asked him and his wife Margaret about why the seniors and youth integrated so well.
How did that annual crokinole tournament between the seniors and youth get started?
Margaret and I were leading the young people and I think we just thought this would be a good idea. Probably Margaret’s idea more than mine. The seniors loved it. I’ve seen it done since then. Probably read about it somewhere.
Do you think there’s value in connecting the age groups in church ministry? Have we lost something by segregating the age groups?
I think it’s invaluable to connect the seniors with young people and vice versa. I think there’s way too much segregation in our churches. We slot everyone into their age group and there’s very little mixing except maybe in worship services, and then many divide that up…We do too much dividing up and not enough bringing together.
Our youth guy had cards made up with the teens [pictures] and he partnered each teen with a senior who prayed for them for that year. I was recently looking at the Bible of a senior, and in her Bible was still that teen’s card she had prayed for and the process had discontinued for at least five years.
Michelle Raynor and Megan Elford were two of the 20 or so youth who attended the youth group and the crokinole tournament at Cannington Baptist. I asked them if the tournament helped them get to know the seniors better?
Michelle: Yes! It was a highlight for sure! I think it built relationships within our church…I sincerely did enjoy those evenings. The friendly competition it made it fun to meet the others and help us relate on Sunday mornings.
Megan: Yes, I remember that too! I really believe in intergenerational ministry, but it’s something we don’t see happening as often anymore. It was always an encouragement to know that we had all of these “Grammas and Grampas” that cared about what we were doing and prayed year after year for us. My mom attributed many of the blessings we [my siblings] experienced to the prayers of those surrogate grandparents. I think it probably was a good thing for the seniors too, in that they had a chance to connect with each of the teenagers and with what was going on in our lives.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer for the Canadian faith-based market, who sometimes writes for Faith Today. Subscribe now to keep stories like these coming, and help ensure print Christian journalism stays alive and well in Canada.
Faith Today dove into the question of “what if?” a church loses their charitable status in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine. John Pellowe is chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and is interviewed in that story. We asked him to go even deeper on this subject, and share what churches most commonly do wrong, and how they can get it right.
By John Pellowe
It is always an unfortunate and disruptive event when a charity has its registered status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Fortunately, the situations which result in revocation are virtually always avoidable.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) statistics show that in any given year about 500 to 700 charities will have their registered status revoked for “failure to file” their T3010. Most commonly, this is caused when charities don’t file, even when reminded by CRA reminders to do so. Less commonly, revocation is due to an incomplete filing that is not fixed as requested by CRA. A much smaller number of revocations, several hundred in number, happen for other reasons, including failing a CRA audit. Preventing these situations requires a bit of diligence on a charity’s leadership’s part, but staying compliant isn’t hard.
#1 prevention tip
To avoid the main revocation issue, boards should set a standard item on the agenda of a board meeting about four months after fiscal year end to approve the T3010 for submission to CRA. Board approval is not required, but this is one way to ensure that the T3010 is not overlooked. If it isn’t ready, there will still be enough time to complete and submit it. It must be in CRA’s hands by six months after the charity’s year end. Continue reading How a Canadian church can easily stay in the good books of the CRA→
Here at the Faith Today blog, we wanted to draw your attention to The circulation of the saints story in our Jan/Feb issue. The subtitle to that story is “When people leave a church and you are left behind.” This is likely a scenario that has impacted most Faith Today readers.
Rod Wilson, the writer of that story, shares the experiences of three Canadians in this blog post: a lay leader, a senior pastor and a church member. Read on to hear more personal responses to saints circulating between churches….
by Rod Wilson
I had the opportunity recently to receive written communiques from three different people. One was a lay leader in a church where people had left in significant numbers:
“Among the many things I’ve been told is that ‘The church is not really doing it for us anymore and we already have enough friends.’ So I wonder about the consumer mindset, seemingly so rampant, that seems to be set on finding ‘what’s right for me’ rather than living out a covenant commitment to a church community as it seeks to live out Christian discipleship in the good times and the hard times.”
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.
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→
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?”
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→
Gifts range from $10 for soccer balls in Sierra Leone, to $14,000 for the purchase of one rice mill for a village. Midwife training sessions to support maternal newborn child health programs in Guatemala and Honduras are $40. Sponsor a special needs Guatemalan child for $40 a month, through our kids program.
(Watch for more on this topic in the Jan/Feb Faith Today!)
Less than a week before the U.S. presidential election, the presidents of EFC affiliate institutions met in Mississauga for the annual Presidents Day gathering. One of the speakers was Dr. Lee Beach, author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom (Intervarsity Press, 2015). He asked, “As believers, how do we maintain our cultural identity in exile?” In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, this topic seems more timely than ever.
Beach said that today, Canadian Christians live in a place where our story is no longer known. More surprisingly, we’re losing sight of our identity as confessing Christians. A friend of Beach’s young son saw a nativity scene, and he asked what it was. Beach contrasted this with his own childhood biblical knowledge: even before becoming a Christian, he knew some Bible stories, such as Jonah and the whale.
With so few Canadians knowing the Christian story, we are starting to lose sense of who we are. Beach drew on the example of the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. They, too, faced challenges preserving their identities in exile:
The Babylonians were celebrating Marduk’s victory over Yahweh. The Israelites had to decide whether they believed that Yahweh would actually be with them.
The Israelites had to rediscover their identity in the midst of exile.
They had to rediscover a community distinctively opposed to the ways of the other nation.
[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.
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?→