After 27 years of working inside as a chaplain, I wondered what it would be like overseeing a correspondence ministry. Would I miss the face to face contact? Would it be the same impact?
One of the first emails I received was from Raymond in Nigeria, “Dear People of Christ, My name is Raymond Ajagbe, from Nigeria. I was once an inmate at the Don Jail in Toronto between the year 1996-1997. I am very happy to tell you that your prison Bible courses were of help in developing me spiritually while I was there. I still have about 10 certificates in different bible courses your ministry gave to me. After leaving Don Jail in 1997, December I had to go back to my country Nigeria to start a new life. Today, I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a ministry that rehabilitate alcohol and drug addicts.”
Looking up Raymond, I saw he was featured in the Nigerian Tribune in March 2014 for his work with those who suffering with drug and alcohol issues.
Much has been written recently about the death of the Canadian church. With overall attendance or religious affiliation numbers on the decrease, and those without any religious affiliation on the increase, it certainly seems like churches are in trouble.
A careful parsing of these statistics has been missed in some analyses. While mainline denominations are on the decrease, even they’re trying to stem the tide. Since returning to Canada a couple of years ago, Lakeside Downtown pastor Graham Singh has shared his experience as a church planter in England. Now seconded part-time to Church Planting Canada, Graham was part of Holy Trinity Brompton’s (the home of ALPHA) ministry to re-open a number of shuttered churches. (Disclosure: I attend Lakeside Downtown and Graham is my pastor).
Also missing in the analyses of Canadian church life is an acknowledgement of the vibrant growth and ministry found across the country. A scan of Faith Today’s pages provides this proof, especially when you read the stories told in the “Kingdom Matters” section.
I have to admit to some bias in that last statement because it’s been my privilege, over a number of years, to provide some of those “Kingdom Matters” items. Sometimes because I’ve come across something I think Faith Today’s editors would be interested in. Following a short e-mail conversation with Bill Fledderus or Karen Stiller to work out the details—word count, deadline, angle—I begin researching, interviewing and writing. Others have their genesis in an e-mail I’ve received from Bill or Karen about an assignment so intriguing I agree to work on it.
These assignments have led to articles about:
Good Seed Sunday, part of A Rocha’s three-pronged approach to environmental stewardship: conservation science, education and sustainable living.
A musician’s project to create worship songs based on the Heidelberg Catechism.
The Messy Church experience that provides a multi-generational, multi-sensory form of Christian education.
A Winnipeg filmmaker who takes well-known parables and places them in a modern context.
A church plant in the Ottawa area that uses kickboxing classes as a way of building relationships and bringing in needed funds.
I enjoy writing “Kingdom Matters” articles for a couple of reasons. First, I never know, from one assignment to another, what I’ll be exploring. Second, every article is an adventure in getting to know what’s happening with the Church in Canada.
With apologies to Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the Canadian Church have been exaggerated. Hopefully, I’ll continue to be assigned more “Kingdom Matters” articles, giving me a chances to let Faith Today’s readers know how alive and vibrant the Canadian church is.
Robert White is a veteran journalist who specializes in reporting on faith and spirituality. He lives in Guelph and writes a regular faith column for the Guelph Mercury and hosts Arts Connection on Faith FM radio. You can check out Faith Today‘s Kingdom Matters here.
Bible reading challenge Gloucester Presbyterian Church in Ottawa resolved to increase Bible reading with a New Year’s challenge. Congregants were invited to sign up for a New Year’s resolution to read all of Luke, Acts, Romans and Colossians in January. After a February service the church threw a party, serving a cake with the names of everyone who completed the challenge written on it. “We get so busy doing all the other things around Christmas that the habit of reading the Bible gets shoved off. The discipline of this gets you back on track. It’s like getting in shape for the soul,” says congregant Geoff Matthews. www.gloucesterchurch.ca
Taking a little bit of the sermon home Côte-des-Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal is using simple, tangible reminders to help their congregants live out the Sunday message. On the last Sunday of a sermon series about worrying, the pastor, Joel Coppieters, displayed a collection of riverbed stones. Tying the display into a chorus they sang about “peace like a river,” he invited congregants to take a rock home as a reminder of a concern they were entrusting to God. “One single mom keeps a stone for each of her two little ones on the windowsill, where she looks at them while working in the kitchen. Several of the stones are now sitting next to people’s computers at work and a few are apparently kept in the console armrest of a car,” Coppieters says. www.montrealpresbyterian.com
I’d never been to a strip club before. And so I admit that even as I forced myself to put on my fearless journalist’s hat (for the sake of my husband and daughter who accompanied me) my heart was beating just a little bit faster as I walked through the doors of The Manor strip club in Guelph, Ont.
I remember wondering, for a fleeting moment, how my 98-year-old mother-in-law would react if she knew I had invited her son and 18-year-old granddaughter to accompany me on a work-related assignment to a so-called “gentleman’s club.”
But this was church, after all. And reporting on the Church at the Manor would not only offer the novel opportunity to get my first ever glimpse of the kind of space where women disrobe for men’s entertainment, but it would allow my husband and I to worship with our youngest child – who had moved away from home and into residence at the University of Guelph a few weeks earlier. Even if that worship would happen in a dark, windowless room adorned with mirrored walls and glass “bubble pipes.” Continue reading The Day I Went To Church in a Strip Club→
For 120 years, over 150,000 Aboriginal children (Metis, First Nations, and Inuit) in Canada were forcibly separated from their families to attend Indian Residential Schools run by churches and funded by the government. They were stripped of their culture and many suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
As an immigrant, I certainly did not know about this when I first moved to Canada in 1990 from Hong Kong.
The effects of residential schools still impact societies, cultures, and families today. These residential schools were designed to “kill the Indian ” and to assimilate them to become English-speaking Christians.
As I settled into my new Canadian life, I learned more about the history of the Aboriginal people from first-hand experience when I served in an inner city church (New Beginnings Baptist Church) for over 10 years through worship ministry.
Charles Lewis is a familiar name to many Canadians as a veteran journalist with 33 years of experience in the newspaper industry. For the last 15 years he was with the National Post, often covering religion.
Since his recent retirement, Lewis has turned his attention to the issue of euthanasia in Canada. He speaks to churches and other groups about his own experience with chronic pain and the dangers of legalized euthanasia. The Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today has a short story about Lewis’ passion for this issue and his concern for Canada. We decided to go further with Lewis and interview him about why he is so concerned – and why we all should be.
FT: You are a well-known Catholic Canadian. Fighting euthanasia together would seem a place where Catholics and Evangelicals can work together.
CL: First of all, having spent about 33 years in media, 15 of those at the National Post covering religion, what I found out was that of course Evangelicals and Catholics have many things in common, many social issues. That shouldn’t be a surprise. We are in the camp of orthodox Christians.
What we have in common is a belief that life issues are extremely important. That goes for abortion and end of life care, as opposed to end of life killing, which is what euthanasia is.
The other thing similar is that both groups have not been very quick to pick up on this.
Both groups suffer from some Christian shyness; this is from my perspective as a reporter. I don’t have studies to base it on. We have become afraid. We don’t want to admit we are Christian because a lot of people find that off-putting and frightening. We want to keep our friends from getting irritated. Also, we fear that if we come out on an issue officially, people will write it off as another one of those Christian things trying to shove our morality on people. That has been a common theme in this debate on euthanasia.
Before the early ‘80s, there were no food banks in Canada. They were introduced as a temporary measure, but have since been entrenched—according to one long-time food bank volunteer—as “the grocery stores of the poor.”
In October, 45 volunteer groups in 36 Canadian cities hit the streets for an event dubbed “Chew on This!” organized by Dignity for All: The campaign for a poverty-free Canada. Everyone from food bank volunteers to anti-poverty coalitions to Christian university students hit the streets with a simple message: Canada needs an anti-poverty plan.
Food banks, meal programs and shelters are currently necessary, but they are also effective at masking Canada’s poverty rate. Approximately one in seven people are poor, and one in eight struggle to put food on the table.
While many Christians are drawn to important frontline charitable work, “Chew on This!” co-organizer Janelle Vandergrift explains that food banks don’t address the some of the factors that keep people in poverty.