Friday, April 27, 2007


This past week has been filled with sadness and worry for members of our congregation. A number of our folk have been keeping vigil with loved ones who are ill and even at the edge of death. As I have stayed in touch with them and offered my prayers I have felt heavy, depleted, as though my batteries have run dangerously low.

On Tuesday I will go away for a few days for some solitude and restorative time. I need to step away from my pastoral role at times and have my own opportunities for prayer. I am sorting through what I will take with me. I have professional journals that I just haven't attended to, and books that I am keen to read but sit on my desk. But I will also drink in the silence. Fortunately my spirit is a renewable resource.

There was an article in Wired magazine recently about research which shows that we need sleep and silence to process the deluge of information that is now the reality of daily life.

I am confident that Christ will be my companion during the time away, as he has been in the past.

The End of Earth Week

Okay, I said that today's earlier blog entry would be my last on the environment for a while, but this painting which was done for Earth Day is delightful.
Check out for some whimsical and quite inspiring artwork on a blog.

Flick Off

A campaign to address global warning has been launched in Ontario, with a target audience of young adults. It has immediately drawn criticism because the logo "flick off" is meant to bring to mind another expression which is profane and rude.

It's unfortunate that officials figure that the only way to attract young people to an important cause is to be a bit edgy. Personally, I think opposition politicians are using this as an opportunity to jab the government and couldn't care less about the moral high ground.

One thing for certain, how we address the state of the planet has moral and ethical implications, along with the obvious concerns about our survival.

I will leave this topic alone for a while, but it should be clear by now that I am convinced that to be Christian means caring for creation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Here Comes the Sun

This week the space agency NASA released new 3D photos of the sun. I can't find my 3D glasses, but the pictures are interesting without the enhancement.
Last night PBS ran an hour-long program on solar energy. Scientists know that if the sun's energy could be harnessed it would meet all our energy needs without harmful emissions. The trouble is, the current technology (no pun intended) is just too expensive to be practical. The good news? We human beings are highly innovative. In countries such as Germany, hardly a "sun and fun" spot, solar energy is a growth industry thanks to government subsidies and sponsorship. Because of the encouragement to individuals and business to "go solar," Germany has created tens of thousands of jobs producing solar panels for use at home and abroad. The solar receptors are becoming smaller, more efficient, and cheaper.
We affirm that God created all living things, yet God has given humans unique abilities for imagination and creativity. It can mean a hopeful present and future.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Song of Faith

This week I'm going to continue the Earth Sunday/Creation Care theme.
Last year the United Church adopted a statement of faith to supplement those that already exist. I like this portion which addresses our belief and trust in the Creator.

Excerpt from A Song of Faith
A new statement of faith UCC 2006

God is creative and self-giving,
generously moving
in all the near and distant corners of the universe.
Nothing exists that does not find its source in God.
Our first response to God’s providence is gratitude.
We sing thanksgiving.

Finding ourselves in a world of beauty and mystery,
of living things, diverse and interdependent,
of complex patterns of growth and evolution,
of subatomic particles and cosmic swirls,
we sing of God the Creator,
the Maker and Source of all that is.

Each part of creation reveals unique aspects of God the Creator,
who is both in creation and beyond it.
All parts of creation, animate and inanimate, are related.
All creation is good.
We sing of the Creator,
who made humans to live and move
and have their being in God.

Monday, April 23, 2007


After worship yesterday a group of about seventy people of all ages, including thirty or so children, made a trip to the last family farm in our congregation. It was a glorious day, so we could sit outside and munch on hotdogs and chat away.
The owner of the farm took a passle of kids down by the creek to plant cedar trees. Then they explored along the water's edge, watching the suckers making their way upstream and generally getting dirty. For me, seeing these children so happy out-of-doors was a holy moment.
In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Richard Louv explores the essential need of children to be outside to develop a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. It's often said that we are inclined to protect what we love and Louv's contention that "biophilia" -- love of nature -- is developed in our earliest years.
It was a great way to spend part of the Earth Sunday afternoon, with enjoyable folk who represented three generations. I consider myself blessed to be part of this Christian community.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

For the Beauty of the Earth

We were out for a ramble on Friday evening at Second Marsh, one of the largest wetlands between Niagara and Bay of Quinte. We all see the marsh as we speed along the 401, in behind the General Motors headquarters at Oshawa, although we may not be aware of how significant it is.

As we walked we saw various birds and mammals and even a butterfly. There was a loon on Lake Ontario, close to shore, and as we made our way back toward the car we could hear its distinctive call.

This year Earth Day and Earth Sunday coincide. Should we sound the alarm about the state of the planet? There are plenty of people who are reminding us of our foolish ways, and rightly so. We have been on overdraught for a while now, spending what we don't have.

Yet as Christians we are called into a life of gratitude and thanksgiving. We also need to say thank you to God our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Life would be so dreary if we couldn't look around us and relish the beauty of our world. This morning I was greeted at the church door by daffodils, a welcome sign of Spring.

Christ be with you this Earth Sunday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Right to Dry

This Sunday is Earth Day and we can all consider how we might leave less of a Bigfoot environmental footprint. Sometimes the task seems daunting and we don't consider the little things we can do, such as using our clotheslines.
Do you realize that the clothes dryer is one of the biggest "energy hogs" in your home? Unfortunately some municipalities ban the use of clotheslines because they are aesthetically displeasing. Snobs.
There is actually a Right to Dry movement with a website --fun!
I doubt that my wife, Ruth, would live in a community where she couldn't hang out clothes. She got hooked when we lived in outport Newfoundland. Monday was washing day, and everyone would hang out their clothing in orderly fashion from the largest to the smallest items. Of course, the wind is always blowing on The Rock.
What are you planning to change to live more graciously on God's good earth? I would love to hear your resolutions.

Just Beginning

I have done a couple of blog entries with "in the womb" images of a child anticipated by a couple in the congregation. The waiting is over, and Isabelle, pictured above, is the finished product. Happily, mom and baby are healthy and whole. Dad is beaming.
Of course Isabelle is not finished, rather, just beginning. This is a sunny moment of hopes and expectations for her parents. My hope is that she can be nurtured within our Christian community. As she learns to walk and talk she can also develop a relationship with the God who created her and with those whose love of Christ can help her grow strong in faith.
Congratulation Chris and Shawna!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lighten Up!

The province of Ontario is going to ban incandescent light bulbs because they are inefficient in their use of energy. They generate far more heat than light, so we will all be expected to use the next generation of light bulbs. That's not correct -- we will be expected to move past the next generation, which is compact flourescent, to LED lights, such as the the night light pictured above. I heard this morning that until the 1920's light bulbs were made individually by glass-blowers. A single machine ended that mode of production.
It got me thinking about the way the church works. We like to say that we reflect the light of Christ in the church, yet we often seem stuck in the solutions of previous generations.
On Sunday St. Paul's called another full-time staff person with responsibility for youth and families.
This is a bold step and God only knows if it will be successful. All the concerns about finances and other things are valid. Yet I also feel that we will at least attempt to move forward as a congregation, which is already one of the healthiest in the presbytery, into the next generation -- or two.
Invention and imagination are in short supply in mainline churches. There is such a "woe is us" pessimism these days, and too many choices made out of desperation rather than vision or mission. I'm so tired of it, to be honest. Where did the boldness of our denomination go?
I figure I would rather fail than not try to be faithful to the mission of being the "light on the corner," which will always be the light of Christ. We'll see!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Good Without God?

June Callwood, a truly great Canadian, died on the weekend. Last night a candlelight walk made it's way through Toronto between Casey House and Jessie's Centre, two of the places of refuge she helped to establish. Thousands of vulnerable people benefitted from Callwood's compassion and determination. The two thousand who walked with candles in hand bear testimony to her light in the world.

June Callwood didn't believe in God, or an afterlife. This life is our opportunity as far as she was concerned. In this season of resurrection for the Christian church we can wonder if it is possible to be good without God. I think we realize that there are many good people who live by their own lights rather than the light of Christ and they are passionate about doing good. And there are those who are full of God-talk who care very little about others.

For me its not a case of either/or. I am motivated by my relationship with the Christ of compassion and eternal life and so many people I have known through the years have acted out of this relationship as well. I figure that whether individuals acknowledge it or not, the good they do is because they are made in the image of God.

I hope June Callwood got the surprise of eternity when she breathed her last in this life. It's hard to imagine that she is separated from the love of God when I consider Jesus' words: "truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it for me." Matt. 25:40

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wondering Why

When a gunman opened fire at Dawson College in Montreal last year we immediately wondered about the safety of our son who attends McGill University, a few blocks away. All was well for him, but these incidents are reminders that any environment has the potential for danger. Our two daughters are also at university and college and there are other possible threats for them.

The multiple killings at Virginia Tech sent chills through both of us as parents, and we tried to imagine the phonecalls which went out to mothers and fathers yesterday.

I wonder about the gun culture in the United States that permits young adults to purchase lethal weapons without much difficulty. A letter in the Globe and Mail today suggested that this tragedy was the fault of the anti-gun lobby in Virginia. If students were allowed to carry concealed weapons they might have stopped the rampage earlier. What sort of warped logic is this? All we need is gun-fights in college classrooms. While mentally ill individuals are able to procure weapons in this country, it is a whole lot harder, and it shows in the statistics for murder.

I pray for the families which have experienced the senseless deaths of loved ones. I say another prayer of gratitude for the safety of my kids.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sights, Sounds, Sensations of the Season

I have spoken with a number of people about Holy Week and Easter in the aftermath of our big week. It's interesting to listen to what makes an impact on the spirits of those who worshipped at St. Paul's for the first time, or for the fiftieth.

Words are very much a part of our Protestant tradition, the Word of scripture, and the words of the preacher. Yet people spoke of the sound of water pouring for the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. Of music in hymns and anthems and refrains, some new, some familiar. Of the aroma of communion bread. Of a cross draped in black on Good Friday, then white on Easter morning.

Our relationship with God in Christ is more than just talk. As people of an incarnational God we experience Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer through all our senses, which contribute to the greater whole of our sixth, spiritual sense.

I'm glad we shared Christ in all these ways.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Getting Old and the Love of God

In the past ten days I visited our two oldest members, one who has reached her 100th birthday and the other who will be 99 in a few months. Both are remarkable women who are intelligent and aware.

Yesterday I saw one of them in hospital and I could tell that illness has caused her to become physically weak and mentally confused. It seemed unfair that I had to come to her as a big masked man, along with the anonymous gown. I did explain who I was and she seemed to grasp this. We talked briefly and then I prayed.

The other person is in a nursing home and I dropped in to visit her just before Easter. Her sight is failing and her hearing is awful. She couldn't hear the phone ringing two feet away and I was forced to bellow in order to have a semblance of a conversation. I realized that this time reading the Easter story would be pointless, so I knelt down beside her and prayed directly into her ear. It would have been a comical sight for anyone entering the room given that I am quite tall. There I was, awkwardly positioned to shout supposedly gentle words about the abiding love of Christ.

Life does have its wry moments, although I felt heavy-hearted after both of these visits. Aging can seem so cruel at times. Yesterday I also visited a man I hadn't met before. I went in on the request of a member who wanted her grandfather to have some solace of faith. He was welcoming and remarkably open. He admitted that the day before he felt that he just wanted it to end, and at age 92 I could understand why. But a couple of visits had lifted his spirits.

We are often preoccupied with the "care and feeding" of the young in our churches, but we need to remember the ministry of kindness to those who are in the twilight of life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter Isn't Over

Blogger made my life difficult for a few days with changes to the way I accessed my own blog. Thanks to our computer wizards I am back at it.

Sunday was a big day at St. Paul's with two morning services, lots of people, and a sense of celebration. There were nearly 500 worshippers which is wonderful. Still...the season of Easter is just beginning. Never in my ministry have we equalled the number of people on Easter morning during the rest of the "Great 50 Days" of Easter.

The season of Easter probably means more to me than Easter Sunday because it says that we will continue to open the windows and unlock the doors to Christ's presence once the party is over.

I am still recovering from the busyness of the past couple of weeks but I am ready to get on with resurrection life in the everyday.

EASTER would hardly have been, for two thousand years, the spring and center of Christian life and prayer, would hardly have provided the focus of Christian worship and the form of Christian hope, if the word Easter were simply the name of something that once happened in the past.

Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Serving in Christ's Name

Today is Last Meal Day in Holy Week, and Foot-washing Day. During his last supper with the disciples Jesus washed their feet as a call to service. I like the photo above because it depicts real people, probably dirty-toed people judging from the pant legs, having their feet washed. That's why they did it in the first century. After a day on the road, this was an act of hospitality.

One year a woman who had dropped her daughter at dance class noticed the sign on our church for a Maundy Thursday service. She had 90 minutes to put in before the class ended, so she came to the service, a stranger. When I invited the pre-chosen "washees" to come forward she didn't realize what had been arranged. She decided to have her feet washed and sat in front of me. Of course I did. There was a rightness in the unpredictability of what happened.

Earlier in the twentieth century a small Baptist denomination in the Deep South included a foot-washing service four times a year, like a sacrament. Each person was given a metal basin and a towel and invited to wash the feet of another. I wonder if it would help us remember Jesus' call to service more, or if we would allow it to become yet another ritual.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Hush

Nothing is recorded in the gospels about the activities of Wednesday during Holy Week.
On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds.
Monday he created a stir in the temple by chasing away livestock and disrupting the money-changers.
On Tuesday he was challenged repeated by religious leaders.
Thursday he shared his last meal with his followers and washed their feet.
Friday he was put on trial before Pilate and died a humiliating death on the cross.

Wednesday -- silence. I wish I could be more reflective on this day, but the pressures of preparation are relentless. I know I will be ready, but it is always a push. There is an article in the latest Christian Century which may help in sorting through the events of this week

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Full Moon Faith

On Sunday evening I walked home from the ecumenical Palm Sunday service held at one of the other churches in town. The worship experience was fine but it was the night sky that moved me. The cloud cover was heavy but broke from time to time to reveal a luminous, almost-full moon. Of course last night was the full moon and the beginning of Passover for Jews. Our Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.

It struck me that nearly two thousand years ago Jesus was in an olive grove, anguishing over his fate. He is often depicted in art as praying with head bent, while the disciples sleep around him. What if Jesus was looking up at the sky and considering the constellations and that Passover moon for the last time in his human experience? I assume that Jesus and his followers slept under the stars often as they travelled. The olive grove in the Kidron Valley was where many pilgrims camped out during the Passover.

We're told early in Mark's gospel that Jesus would arise early to pray and surely he would have noticed the heavens as he climbed the Galilean hillsides. Saying farewell to this life was not easy. Another of of the gospels suggests that Jesus sweat blood as he considered what was before him.

This week we will remember Christ's love "so amazing, so divine." We can also allow Jesus to be human, and in that humanity letting go of the simple pleasures, the beauty of this planet and the stretches of the skies. It makes me even more grateful for the gift of new life Christ brings.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Many churches have taken on selling certified coffee and other products in order to benefit the farmers and encourage sustainable farm practices. Now this is extended to the production of palms for Palm Sunday. I was a little surprised to see an article in the New York Times yesterday about eco-palms. In Southern Mexico and Northern Guatemala palm branches are harvested selectively so that there is less waste and lower impact on the forest. The harvesters receive twice as much pay for their work and the branches are sold for a higher price in the U.S. Our church spent about $40 to buy our palm branches but some American mega-churches spend up to $1500.

The percentage of palms that must be discarded has plummeted from roughly half to a tenth. And the forest that Mr. Corzo uses to make a living is slowly becoming greener, environmentalists say. The program began in 2005 with 20 American churches that bought about 5,000 palms. It grew last year, with 281 congregations placing orders for 80,000 palms. On this Palm Sunday, 1,436 churches will distribute 364,000 eco-palm stems.

This may not make a huge difference in the overall scheme of greening the planet, but it is a reminder that we can integrate the activities of our faith community with care for the earth. I have never really considered where the palm branches we use come from until this article.

Most present-day parades produce a lot of garbage which goes to the landfill. The first Palm Sunday parade used recyclable and retrievable products. You know those cloaks were picked up after Jesus passed by, and the branches would have biodegraded. And the donkey waste? Fertilizer!

Eco-palms address justice for the poor and care for the earth. I think Jesus approves.