Tuesday, January 31, 2017


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I woke up yesterday to the shocking news that gunmen had attacked a mosque in Quebec City, killing six and injuring others. The initial report was that they had shouted "Alluha Akbar", God is great as they perpetrated their cowardly crime. One of the suspects was of Moroccan background and on social media there was immediate speculation that this was a Sunni/Shiite feud, a "Muslim on Muslim" crime.

We now know that we were being fed false information about the criminals. There was one gunman, a young Quebecois with white supremacist leanings. The other man was actually praying in the mosque when the attack happened and was helping an injured friend. It is remarkable that while he was arrested and detained he harbours no ill feelings toward police because they were doing their job

It is chilling that when innocent Muslims are shot in the back while praying in their place of worship the suspicion is that other Muslims must be the criminals. My heart went out to them and I immediately thought of the Muslim community in Belleville. We have developed a meaningful relationship with a  number of the members of the local mosque through our Syrian refugee project and it's hard to imagine what this would have been like without them. We have visited the mosque several times where we have received a warm welcome. Early in January an event at the mosque crammed more than 200 people into their worship space for food and celebration of the arrival of so many Syrian refugees, all of whom are Muslim.

I will reach out to this community about some sort of gathering to honour those who died in Quebec and to reaffirm our relationship as people of God whose deep desire is to be hospitable to others. While I'm shaken by what happened in Quebec City, we will not be deterred in sustaining this meaningful collaboration.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Blast from the Bridge St. Past

I received this lovely email today from a long-ago member of Bridge St. congregation. I responded by letting the writer know that we continue to live out Christian mission through our three meal ministries, our Syrian refugee sponsorships (23 in total) and the ongoing work of the Bridge St. Foundation. I could inform her that the "First Adventure Child Development" organization her late mother helped to found has received funding from the Foundation a number of times.

Dear Rev David Mundy,

      I have been meaning to contact someone (Mission & Outreach team?)  at Bridge Street United Church for a year or so to thank Bridge Street United church members  for supporting me in the mid-60’s in a community action project in Halifax.  I so very much appreciated the kind support of your church membership.

Around the time of  the “Selma March” in the USA  (February  1965),  there was a  HUGE, peaceful, civil rights “sit-in” at the American Consulate in Toronto in support of the civil rights movement in the US.  That summer,  I was invited to Halifax by Rocky Jones (originally from Truro, Nova Scotia) to  help build a community action project there.   I  boarded with a black family in a very poor area of Halifax while working with a small number of other community activists to bring poor white & poor black people together over common issues and to help find/build solutions. One of the things we accomplished was the building of a community centre we named “Kwacha House”. (In Zambia, “Kwacha” means “freedom”.)  I understand this Kwacha House is still active today.    It was a very special time for me!   As I recall, the money sent from Bridge Street United Church  contributed to my lodging and maybe even some food.

A few decades have passed since my time in Halifax . Two years ago,  in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, I started attending Brechin United Church and joined the Mission and Outreach team.  I had to laugh when last week I was given the Minutes for Mission print-out (“Quinte Deaf Fellowship”) to read this coming Sunday – January 29th.  I have only read the Minutes for Mission 2 or 3 times so it was really fun to see Bridge Street United Church spoken of and that it was me who had been asked to read this…some kind of synchronicity for sure since connecting with Bridge St. United Church to express  my gratitude had been very much on my mind J.         

Again, thank you for your church’s supporting my “mission” so many years ago.  With its encouragement, Bridge Street United Church’s support started me down a path of community concern,  involvement and activism that have stayed with me all these years.   Your  initial support & encouragement has multiplied greatly!     I hope that my letter will encourage your Mission and Outreach team to support other young people in such empowering ventures.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Honest Talk about Mental Health

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On this Bell Let's Talk mental health awareness day I've been thinking of the people I've known in different congregations I have served who've lived with mental illness. Some were secretly ill, even though that was often not the case. Friends and especially family were well aware of the illnesses, everything from anxiety to bipolar illness, which affected loved ones. Parents wanted to help adult children but couldn't even be told diagnoses. Successful individuals struggled to get out of bed in the morning because of depression. Some have died at their own hands.

In Sudbury there was a relatively young downtown guy who would talk to himself and shout randomly, scaring the bejabbers out of passers-by. He ambushed me a couple of times, although only verbally. He wasn't threatening, but jarringly loud.

He also came to church from time to time ( I wish I could remember his name!) He would sit at the very back and never shouted in the sanctuary. He did respond vocally to my rhetorical sermon questions, which was an adventure. I would be trucking along in my message, pose a question as a homiletical device, and he would chime in. He was so smart and so tuned in that other congregants would ask if he had been a plant, which he definitely wasn't. I would thank him, collect myself,  and carry on.

I found out along the way that he developed schizophrenia when he went away to university. He had to drop out, never to return to school. He became the strange dude who everyone avoided it they could.

Mental illness takes so many forms and besets people at different stages of life with varying severity. The gospels tell us that Jesus turned toward rather than away from those whose mental illness caused them to be outcasts. Part of our "talk" today can be about welcoming those into our faith communities who seem different and even scary. We can find the courage to speak to those who we might wonder are dealing with depression. When I read this it seems so straightforward, yet we are still overcoming prejudices and fears.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God & Other Talk

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Early in my ministry, which began in 1980, the UCW of my congregation was asked in a survey about the use of gender inclusive language in worship. One member offered that this wasn't used at St. James, and she was glad. Another member disagreed, and suggested that I was quite committed to using inclusive language, including the version of the bible we employed in worship. Some of the others were surprised, so they consulted me and discovered that this was true, but I just hadn't made an issue of it. While we still used the traditional  Our Father Lord's Prayer, for the most part, we used other versions as well, and the same was true of the Trinitarian formula for baptism.

This was part of my seminary education in the late 1970s and through the decades I have been committed to inclusive language in every way possible, including hymn choices. The language we use says a lot about who we are as a Christian community.

I was interested to see that two prominent seminaries, or divinity schools, Duke and Vanderbilt, ''have issued statements about the use of language. The faculty of two esteemed divinity schools have been asked to use more inclusive language to talk about God in their classrooms. At first I wondered,    where have they been? But this has been the encouragement for years at Vanderbilt. At Duke they have issued very specific guidelines.

Today we are more acutely aware that our use of language is gendered, and that use of exclusively gendered language ... can be harmful and exclusionary. "Man" is now viewed as what we call an "exclusive" use of language; that is, it is seen as excluding women. Therefore, we recommend that you find other ways to refer to humankind in general and use terms that are inclusive.

When we look at the United Church Song of Faith statement of faith we find this about our God Talk:

With the Church through the ages,
we speak of God as one and triune:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We also speak of God as
    Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer
    God, Christ, and Spirit
    Mother, Friend, and Comforter
    Source of Life, Living Word, and Bond of Love,
    and in other ways that speak faithfully of
the One on whom our hearts rely,
the fully shared life at the heart of the universe.

It jars me when I hear news commentators, or politicians referring to mankind rather than humankind, and I wouldn't attend a church (I'll be retired soon!) that hasn't made that commitment.

What are your thoughts? It is this important to you? Are you glad to be a part of a denomination which has made inclusivity a priority?


Friday, January 20, 2017

Our Faithful Elders

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This afternoon I presided at the funeral of a 92-year-old member of the Bridge St. UC congregation, along with Rev. Vicki, our pastoral care minister. There were about forty people in the funeral chapel, not surprising when someone outlives her peers. Beth's 97-year-old husband spoke, as did adult children. Beth was a dependable "church lady," singing in the choir and serving in the UCW. She also had a deep personal Christian faith, expressed through prayer, study of scripture, and inquisitive reading on a number of spiritual topics. We did our best to remember her well and commend her to God's gracious care.

She was the third nonagenarian to die in the past month, along with two others in their eighties. Two days ago I visited a man well into his 91st year who seemed to have every malady imaginable, including Parkinson's, yet continued to live at home thanks to an attentive wife and practically supportive family. He was weak with pneumonia but I was able to speak with Ron, to read a passage of scripture from Philippians, and to pray. Within 24 hours he was gone. He too was a person of abiding faith who felt that God had seen him through some dark days and given him the strength to live with hope.

At times I feel that this is literally a dying breed, gracious and steadfast folk who lived varied and active lives with God and Christian community as the foundation for it all.

Their memorial and funeral services may not be all that well attended, but they have been our elders and will be missed.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

March With John Lewis

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Where did whatisname go? No Lion Lamb blog musings in three weeks! This was not my intention but after Christmas I had a bout of the flu that left me feeling so miserable my blog was the least of my concerns. Now I'm back to work and back to blogging.

On Monday the three volume graphic novel set of John Lewis' memoir arrived. Appropriately it was Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Lewis was a courageous 23-year-old civil rights activist when he walked on to the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with Martin Luther King Jr and many others. Lewis was among those brutally attacked by police who would not let them pass.

Lewis was also one of the Freedom Riders, who toured the South at great risk to personal safety, encouraging black voter registration. In an interview with CNN during the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis recounted the sheer amount of violence he and the 12 other original Freedom Riders endured. In Anniston, Alabama the bus was fire-bombed after Ku Klux Klan members deflated its tires, forcing it to come to a stop. In Birmingham, the Riders were mercilessly beaten, and in Montgomery an angry mob met the bus, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate. "It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious," said Lewis, remembering the incident.

Lewis spoke at the same huge March on Washington gathering where MLK delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream Speech." Lewis has served for more than 30 years in Congress and is a respected political statesman, except for Thug-Elect Donald Trump, who criticized Lewis in his usual classless way over the weekend.

I heard Lewis interviewed recently and he was charming. He mentioned that as a child he had aspirations to be a pastor and would preach to the chickens on the farm where he grew up. He noted wryly that while the chickens never shouted "Amen!' they were often more attentive than his human colleagues through the years.

I was delighted to read that after Trump's denigration of Lewis the graphic books quickly sold out on Amazon. Without intending to do so, Lewis trumped Trump.