Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blessed are the Peacemakers

On Canada Day we drove to Kleinburg and the McMichael Gallery to see the exhibit of paintings by the late Indian poet, peace activist, and, near the end of his life, painter Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for literature and he was greatly admired by leading British poets of his era (he died in 1941.) He was friends with Mohandes Gandhi and he wrote and spoke eloquently about ending war and promoting peace.

I have to admit that as a painter he seemed to be a fine poet, but it was good to learn more about this great man no one has heard about. The story of Tagore's life reminds me of what a Eurocentric view of history we have. It's likely that we don't know much about him because he was a colonial in the British Empire and not part of the Judeo-Christian worldview even though he was a peacemaker.

Have you heard of Tagore? Has anyone else seen the exhibit? The McMichael Gallery is always with the trip.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Last Call at the Oasis

I spent some Continuing Education time in the western state of Wyoming a couple of weeks ago. Wyoming has been spared some of the terrible fires which have beset neighbouring Colorado, Montana, and Utah, but people have been antsy about the potential. For the first time since records have been kept more than 50% of the US has been experiencing drought conditions and some of the fires have consumed huge areas, while crops are withering across the country. Many of the beautiful places we visited in Colorado last year have been off limits this summer because of fire.

In this part of Southern Ontario it has been hot and dry by times but we have received timely rain along the way and June was actually above average in precipitation. Not so in other parts of the province and the country.

There is a recent documentary called Last Call at the Oasis which has received lots of acclaim and looks at the far-reaching implications of too little water, and poorly protected water. What will happen when (not if) we run out of water?

This is a deeply spiritual issue, it seems to me. Every religion has prayers for rain, although the assumption is that we pray for the blessing of rain in season, not the expectation that God will conjure up rain even when we tinker with the climate and squander this blessed resource.

Perhaps if we returned to a sense of water as sacred, not just a commodity, there is a chance for the burgeoning population of the Earth.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Magdalens

Yesterday we got on a ferry at Souris, PEI, and begn the five hour, 140 kilometer journey out to the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St Lawrence. This archipelago of islands is about 60 kilometers long and there is plenty of hiking, biking and kayaking. We hauled our bikes and kayaks along and will explore today. We had an elegant Japanese breakfast(go figure) at out B&;B. While these islands are part of Quebec and French speaking our hosts are originally from Japan.

Actually, we have now spent the day walking a couple of the dozens of fine sand beaches and learning some of the rich history which stretches back several centuries. There have been about 400 shipwrecks off these islands, more then anywhere in Canada other than Sable Island. What an amazingly diverse country we live in, and so beautiful.

As always I thank God for the variety of land and seascapes within our own nation. If I can I will keep you posted. Have you heard of the Magdalens? Intrigued?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Big C

I hadn't heard of The Big C until the reruns began on W a while ago. It turns out to be a clever, funny series on what is really an unfunny subject --cancer. The show stars one of my favourite actors, Laura Linney, who is very good as Cathy, the school teacher, wife, mom who changes once she discovers her diagnosis of terminal cancer.

To avoid pity she tells no one to begin with, but she does a number of things which are contrary to her character. She kicks out her husband, tries to reform her slacker teen son, has an affair, spends money indiscriminately. Through all this we are invited to consider how we might respond is we were told we had the Big C.

Over the course of thirty years I have done my best to support a far too large number of people diagnosed with cancer of every kind. And I have seen so many different approaches to dealing with it, living with it, dying with it. I hate cancer more than any other disease except perhaps Alzheimers.

I think my first hospital visit as a newly ordained minister was to a young mother in hospital, losing the battle with ovarian cancer which had spread elsewhere  in her body. She was courageous, determined to carry on as long as she could so that her young kids would remember her. Of course there have been many situations where people have recovered and returned to everyday living.

It's curious that so much of pastoral care is connected to cancer, yet there was no such diagnosis in Jesus' day so there are no biblical stories of healing or support.

Have you seen The Big C? Have you dealt with cancer yourself, or with a loved one? What spiritual resources have you drawn upon?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Call me Grandpa

Recently we were beaming over some of the best photographs we have ever seen. Granted they were a bit grainy. And they were in black in white. We didn't care at all because they are the ultrasound shots of our first grandchild!

Two months ago our son Isaac phoned to say that he and his wife Rebekah are expecting a child next January. This has been an excruciating eight weeks or so because the grandparents and one great-grandparent were the only ones to know for a while, then siblings and a few others. It has driven me crazy to be sworn to secrecy until they got through the crucial first trimester. Several times I almost let the news slip with other family members, friends, co-workers. And did I ever want to "spill the beans."

We are both thrilled and in fact I think I am more excited than when we realized Ruth was pregnant with Ike thirty years ago. Don't get me wrong, he was planned and I was a happy guy. But what did I know about being a dad, and what if I was lousy at it? Didn't this make me grown up and responsible in a way that was a bigger challenge than anything I had done before?

As a prospective grandfather I can trust that these two will be terrific parents and I can savour a very different role. As a minister I have celebrated with so many happy grandparents who turn into delightfully sappy, bragging fools when their grandkids come along. Now it's my turn!

We are now open for business for congrats and comments.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rumour Has It

All of these words whispered in my ear
Tell a story that I cannot bear to hear
Just 'cause I said it, it don't mean that I meant it
People say crazy things
Just 'cause I said it, don't mean that I meant it
Just 'cause you heard it.

These are lyrics from a song by the marvelous British singer Adele.   She can make rumour and gossip sound great but most of us were brought up to believe that both are destructive, in part because scripture says so. We may have been the subject of rumour, innuendo, and gossip and know painful it can be. It is very much a part of cyberbullying, not to mention old-fashioned schoolyard bullying.

Now there is a study suggesting that gossip can be a good thing. It serves as a form of social control, the argument goes, and helps set boundaries. Hmm. Isn't that how people ended up being executed for witchcraft in another day?

Church gossip is the worst, it seems to me, because it often deceitfully maquerades as "concern." The truth is that some people just want to know everything about everybody, and a few aren't beyond just making it up. I have seen ministers be crushed by cruel innuendo and congregants who leave because of gossip, either because it was aimed against them or because they didn't want to bre part of a community where people could be so cruel.  The apostle Paul knew the destructive power of rumours and gossip and told congregations to knock it off.

For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find
me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy,
anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

There is nothing wrong with being concerned with the well being of others and congregations can be wonderful places to support one another. But we can all ask why we want to know, and how much we really need to know and why we get a buzz from being "in the know."

What are your experiences with gossip? Have you ever felt badly about engaging in it? I have. Are churches breeding grounds for gossip? Can gossip be good?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creativity and Character

Pablo Picasso was a bad, perhaps even an evil man. He delighted in pittinng his several wives against mistresses and one actually took her own life in despair. He was a self-absorbed philanderer.

Picasso was also a brilliant man, arguably a genius. It's hard to dispute that he is one of the great figures in the history of art. How can both observations be true? How can a a terrible man be a great man?

I attended the Picasso exhibit currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario even though I was somewhat reluctant to do so because he was an abusive man. And I was deeply impressed by the scope of his creativity as a painter and sculptor. II can say that pondering some of them was a spiritual experience. Even more remarkable is that his work spanned seven decades. 

What came to mind was the movie Amadeus in which the mediocre Salieri rails against God for allowing the immature, scatological Mozart to possess such prodigious talent. It is sobering that character and creativity are just not tied together. Lots of morally impressive people aren't much good at anything else, although morality isn't something to sneeze at.

Have any of you seen the Picasso exhibit? Have you ever wondered why some total cads are brilliant?  I suppose this is why the psalmist asked  God "why do the wicked prosper?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Run and Not be Weary

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;
 they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk,
and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

You have probably heard that the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius made the Olympic relay team and since then was named to run in the 400. This would be impressive under any circumstances but even more so given that he is missing his legs, or at least part of them. Pisptorius is nicknamed the Blade Runner, or "the fastest man on no legs." He has overcome the obvious impediment to become a world class athlete, running on carbon fibre blades. Strangely, some wanted to ban him from the "abled" Olympics because the blades would give him an unfair advantage.

I listened to a Canadian paralympic athlete who is happy for Pistorius because he has broken through stereotypes about what physically challenged individuals can accomplish. I am very impressed  by what he has achieved, even before he gets to London.

What are your thoughts about Pistorius and others like him?

Sunday, July 15, 2012


The cutesy way of describing celeb couple Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes was TomKat. But should Cruise be considered TomKult? The couple has split, apparently at Holmes instigation, catching Cruise by surprise. Another perfect looking celebrity couple bites the dust.

There is lots out there to suggest that the break-up is because of Holmes increasing concern about Cruise's enthusiastic endorsement of Scientology, a quasi-religious organization founded by the enigmatic L. Ron Hubbard. The celebrity gossip is that Holmes wants to protect their daughter Suri from the troubling teaching of this organization. Scientology is recognized as a religion in the US but not in some other countries. In France it is considered a cult.

What is a cult? In this time of aggressive atheism some would claim that all religions are cults promoting delusions teachings about deities. We have heard that in the States conservative Christians who despise Barack Obama are leery of Mitt Romney as well because he is a Mormon. There are plenty of fundamentalist Protestants who will tell you that Roman Catholics aren't Christians. Are Jehovah's witnesses a cult

On the one hand we uphold freedom of religion. But what if the group is secretive, controlling, shuns those who don't comply without question.

All I know is that Tom Cruise's ecstatic couch jump on Oprah is looking loopier all the time.

Have you got it figured out? Can you define a cult? Have you ever been part of one?

Saturday, July 14, 2012


A couple of months ago one of our members fell off his roof. Well, he wasn't technically on thr roof, but the drop from the top of the ladder broke his pelvis, smashed a heel, and ripped up a hand. Bad for anyone but worse for a guy in his mid-seventies, even one in good shape. The result was surgery and a long, slow process fo recovery which is far from over.

But there was Bill in worship Sunday morning, although in a wheelchair. And when it came time for the anthem, he wheeled up with the rest of his friends in the choir.He is quite a guy, and  I was really touched by his presence and the fact he came ready to sing. For me it is a reminder of the importance of gathering to be the worshipping community. Seeing him there justified the 30 grand we spent renovating the elavator last year.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Going Deeper

Belden Lane is a Protestant theologian teaching in a Roman Catholic University. I have appreciated his books The Solace of Fierce Landscapes and  Ravished By Beauty, Both invite readers in very different waysto consider God's preseence in Creation. There is an intellectual depth to Lane's writing which speaks to me, so much so that I am my way to Wyoming today to spend a week with Dr. Lane, Yup, Wyoming, one of the least populated states in the Union, and not all that easy to reach from Canada. I am going to Ring Lake Ranch, a Christian conference centre which sounds like a beautiful place.

It would be great if some of these opportunities to spend time with leading theologians were closer to home but I have enjoyed the landscape of New Mexico, Colorado, and now Wyoming and the conference centres where they teach. Because we are in residence at these places there is plenty of opportunity to chat over meals with the presenters and explore some of their ideas, Last year I met William Brown, an Old Testament theologian who has written a brilliant book called The Seven Pillars of Creation. I told him that his chapter on Job was my favourite. He smiled and told me it was the one he most enjoyed writing, so perhaps that came through.

I won't be able to report on what I have  experienced until after my return, but I will fill you in. I love these opportunities to go deeper.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feet Up, Feet Moving

I am into my first week of vacation, and this year my summer hiatus will include Continuing Education time. I simply won't be able to post as often during these few weeks but I will both leave some blog entries and see if I can add some as well.

This has been a very busy year in the life of the St. Paul's congregation and I am really looking forward to sabbath time, along with as much fun as we can manage. We will try to combine "feet up" time as well as keep moving.

Please keep checking my blog (including tomorrow) and I will return.

Thanks for being such faithful readers!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Stampede

Yee Haw! The Calgary Stampede is under way and this is the 100th anniversary of this rodeo and general outdoor phenonemon which may attract three quarters of a million people this year. There are folk from St. Paul's who plan to attend.
There is controversy about the Stampede because of the danger posed to animals and the perceptions of cruelty in events such as bull riding and bronco busting. It always seems to me that the critters are winning, but I do appreciated the concerns. In Britain travel agents have been asked not to book trips to the Stampede and Bob Barker has been calling for an end to the event.
It's hard to know what to think. Some of the veterinarians involved point out that while the chuckwagon races may place horses in danger, many of them would have been destroyed after careers on the racetrack if it weren't for the Stampede. And there are cowboys out west, who wear stetsons and pointy boots because this is what they do for a living. Sure there is a pro circuit for riders, but the activities reflect a culture we don't know much about.
I find it interesting that a couple of thousand First Nations people attended the first Stampede because the organizer invited them even though the Canadian government discouraged it. Apparently the government felt that a good Native was one who stayed on the reserve.
So far the United Church hasn't called for a boycott of the Stampede (thank God, we have enough on the go already) but it is worth considering how this fits in our outlook on how animals are treated.
Have you attended the Stampede, or are you planning to go? Are you okay with what happens, or does it unsettle you? Do you book an appointment with your chiropractor just thinking about the bull riding?

Monday, July 09, 2012

The God Particle

God Particle, God Particle, God Particle. There, I said it three times, so I suppose I now know what this means. Nope. I bet you don't either, even though the news in every format has been inundated with God Particle talk. The folks at the Large Hadron Collider (how cool is that name?) tell us that they are quite sure that they have found a Higgs boson which is different my friends from the regular boson we all know and love. Here is an explanation in our terms:
The Higgs boson has been labelled the "God particle" in the mainstream media because of the fundamental questions it could answer about matter and the creation of the universe, and although most physicists avoid using the term, they do agree that the Higgs boson plays a key role in what is known as the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the particles from which everything in the universe is made and how they interact.
When a crowd of physicists gathered to hear the announcement they gave the Higgs boson a standing ovation. They were not looking to the Deity in supplication and praise, as the photo above might suggest. In fact, God really doesn't have anything to do with this, at least not from their perspective. Isn't it interesting though that so often when unified theories are posited or broad spectrum discoveries are made, God is invoked.
Why do you think this is? Do you have a clue about the Higgs boson? Are you wishing you paid more attention in physics class? Do you figure God is bemused or amused?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Forever Friends

In good times
And bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for...

Do any of you remember Dionne Warwick singing this lovely Stevie Wonder song?

Today I will speak about friendship, a reflection on the relationship between the biblical David and Jonathan, brothers-in-law who were also loyal friends. I will explore whether friendship is a gfit from God, a sustaining and life-giving force in our lives.

It's fascinating to me that the term "friend" has been radically altered by the phenomeon of Facebook. There are now 900 million Facebook users worldwide, all of whom have multiple 'friends." Except that these friends may be distant acquaintances, curiosity-seekers, even enemies who want to sneak into the virtual tent of one's Facebook account. There are no criteria for friendships, such as loyalty, mutuality, generosity --traditional qualities of friends. Now there are articles about the etiquette of blocking friend requests, or "unfriending" individuals. On the other hand, friends reconnect or stay connected through this virtual resource.

Are friendships important to you? Do you think friendship has been enhanced or debased by Facebook? Is one gender better at friendship than the other, or is it just different? Are you a "true blue" friend?

"Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin." Proverbs 18: 24

Saturday, July 07, 2012

When The End Comes

Last week I chatted with a physician about the assisted suicide ruling in British Columbia for Gloria Taylor who suffers from ALS. She brought it up, and she wasn't addressing it from an overtly Christian perspective., although she is a Christian. The observations she made were interesting and I have heard them from other doctors, including some who wrote letters to the editor of one of our national newspapers.
One was that people seem to assume that doctors are okay with being promoted to god status, making decisions about administering drugs which would end a person's life, just because they have knowledge and now permission to do so. She is involved in palliative care and appreciates the checks and balances for physicians which are currently in place, in part because families sometimes want to make decisions about life and death in the midst of deep emotional distress.
She also offered that we can get caught up in individual circumstances when we also need to ask what is in place for the greater good of our society. Obviously Ms Taylor deserves compassion and ALS is a terrible disease. Still, we have both been part of situations where unscrupulous family members can hardly wait for a loved one to check out. Then there are the individuals who feel they are a burden to their families so assume that ending one's life is the only solution.
She pointed out as well that people often think that the decision-making will be straightforward, that it will be evident when the time has come for death. Again, both of us have seen how uncertain and confusing all this can be.
I think we agree that there needs to be a larger societal discussion about the sanctity of life and the opportunities for a dignified and relatively painless death which isn't directly tied to suicide. Families are generally not good about having these conversations other than a cursory "don't make me linger" notion.
When we had our End of Life Issues seminar last Fall we addressed some of these issues, but there is nothing simple about this and one event is not enough.
Have you talked about "The End" with your family, physican, clergy person? Does the BC ruling reassure you or concern you? Are you suspicious that your teens would gladly "pull the plug!"

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Fired Samaritan

Jesus' Good Samaritan parable in Luke's gospel has to be one of the "top ten" bible passages in many peoples' repertoires, and the term Good Samaritan is part of our cultural vocabulary even if folk are vague about its origin. The last episode of Seinfeld was built around the conviction of the self-absorbed group of friends who are convicted of violating a Good Samaritan law and laughing at someone in distress.
Can you imagine if the parable concluded with the Samaritan who goes out of his way to help a man beaten and robbed getting fired for violating company policy? Read the story below:
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA.—Lifeguard Tomas Lopez helped save a drowning man and got fired for it.T he reason?: he left the section of a south Florida beach his company is paid to patrol. The Orlando-based company, Jeff Ellis and Associates, says Lopez broke a company rule and could have put beachgoers in his section in jeopardy. The Sun Sentinel reported Lopez was on duty Monday at Hallandale Beach when a beachgoer asked for help. Lopez said he ran to assist a man struggling in the water south of his post. By the time Lopez arrived, witnesses had pulled the drowning man out of the water. Lopez and an off-duty nurse helped him until paramedics arrived. The victim survived and was hospitalized. Afterward, Lopez was fired.Two other lifeguards have quit in protest.

I blogged a while ago about a school bus driver who was fired for stopping to help a stranded motorist.The bus was empty and the driver was returning to the depot but he was dismissed for varying from his prescribed route.
Methinks the world is getting weirder. Your thoughts?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

State of the Church

I am so grateful for the St. Paul's congregation in many aspects of our life together. We are far from perfect and we have our worries but there is plenty of vitality. I love that we are what I call a four generation congregation, with everyone from infants to nonegenarians (people in their 90's.) We actually have an active Sunday School and youth groups and strong leadership from people in their thirties. Our recent membership Sunday with newcomers from three of those generations was very hopeful.

This said, we are part of a denomination in serious decline, and the recent report called The State of the Church was rather bleak. I always wonder how much of this sort of information to share with folk. Does it make any sense to ignore our denominational circumstances? We need to celebrate the good news which we pray is Christ's Good News in our congregation, but our we naive to pretend that our United Church reality is changing. Our members return from visits to congregations from their past with tales of woe about is happening.

One of the real shockers in the report is the aging of United Church clergy. Read this:

Mission and ministry take many forms in the United Church, but those who serve as ministry personnel offer key leadership in congregations and other ministries. At present, the United Church is served by approximately 1,970 ordered ministry personnel in paid accountable positions. There are some troubling trends in the demographics of our ministers. Of the 1,970 ordered ministry personnel serving in pastoral charges as of April 2011, 6 (0.3 percent) were under the age of 30, 383 (22 percent) were under the age of 50, and 1,376 (78 percent) were 50 years of age or older.12 The average age was 56.

Our son Isaac was amongst that tiny group of under-thirties in ministry until two weeks ago, and lo-and-behold, I am above average as a 57-year-old! Hmm. This isn't the sort of "average" I aspire to.

It seems to me that our goal should be to pay attention to the grim realities of the broader church but build on our sense of God's active presence in our midst. Christ isn't done with us yet! Of course, I strongly believe that congregations must be "soft around the edges, solid at the core" and that strong centre is the living Christ. We can pray for new beginnings rather than succumb to "beginning of the end" thinking.

Now if we could figure out how to reverse the aging process for us old-timers...

What are your thoughts about this?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Simpler Time

Stop the presses! Stop the internet! Stop...something. I actually bumped today's original blog entry to tomorrow because of the news that Andy Griffith has died at age 86. He was in that unenviable category of "oh, I didn't know he was still alive" but lots of us will be saddened by news of his death. In his Matlock days Griffith and my late father-in-law looked remarkably similar, and no surprisingly Max was a fan.

Most of us, though will remember The Andy Griffith Show which ran from 1960 to 1968 and starred Griffith as the amiable but shrewd sherriff of little Mayberry, North Carolina. It was hugely popular and TV Guide named it the 9th best show in television history. How do they establish these things? I can still whistle the theme music without having to think about it.

Griffith actually was a man of strong Christian faith, He was a choir director before he became an actor and recorded a gospel album after he retired.

Little Opie grew up to be film director Ron Howard, but back then he was Andy's boy. In one episode he offered up a prayer:

"God Bless my Pa, my bird Dickey and my dog Gulliver and my lizard, also
wherever it is he ran away to, and Barney Fife and my white mouse and Jerry,
Tommy and Billy and my snake. Amen. I forgot somebody very important. God
Bless Rose, even though she ran off and got married."

Opie was obviously an early environmentalist with an avant garde theology of the web of creation.

Any tributes or reflections on Andy and the values the show represented?
I decided to acknowledge Griffiths death because I wrote about a bible study called The Way Back to Mayberry based on the moral and ethical truths in the series. That blog entry got the most responses of any I have written! I suppose the yearning for a simpler time with clearer truths, along with the charming tone of the show stirred up a lot of nostalgia. And hey, why not? Even though I don't think many of us would really want to go back to those "good old days," -- I don't recall any people of colour on that show -- nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

O Lord Hear Our Prayers

On Sunday I included Syria in our prayers but honestly, what do we pray? Do we ask for the violent overthrow of a despotic leader, Bashar el Assad, who is evil incarnate? Do we implore God to smite the tyrant and his minions? We have seen how ineffective military initiatives in the world's trouble spots can be and even when one tyrant is struck down, others spring up with a seemingly unlimited willingness to inflict harm on their own people. The torture and murder of civilians, including children, makes me heart-sick.
We are now being told of defections by Syrian military personnel, including generals, along with diplomats. Perhaps Assad's regime will rot and collapse from within, but it may take far too long.
In the meantime we can keep praying for and with the Syrian people as a sign of solidarity, if nothing else. We seek God's direction and presence in this and other confounding circumstances.
There is a simple little Taize community prayer, meant to be repeated in a meditative way:
O Lord, hear my prayer
O Lord, hear my prayer
When I call answer me
O Lord, hear my prayer
O Lord, hear my prayer
Come and listen to me.
I hope God listens to the prayers of the Syrian people.
Are you frustrated and distressed by what you hear? Do you think Canada could do more?

Monday, July 02, 2012

59 Cents

Yesterday a fair number of those in church wore red or tee-shirts with Canada emblazoned on them, or, in the case of one woman in her eighties, a towering Canada hat! I took along my Dominion Day tee-shirt, the vestige of a campaign started by the Globe and Mail newspaper to keep the term Dominion Day, rather than change it to Canada Day. People may have forgotten that the name Canada Day is only thirty years old and that the previous moniker came from psalm 72 which speaks of a "dominion from sea to sea."

It was great to see this patriotism and thanks to an idea from colleague and reader Anne we sang all Canadian-written hymn tunes or lyrics, then finished  with a rousing rendition of O Canada.

In the service I invited folk to consider participating in the 59 cent campaign. This initiative asks Canadians to mail 59 cents to Prime Minister Harper, which is the per capita cost of providing health care to refugee claimants. Of course Canada was and still is made strong through immigrants and refugees but on this Dominion/Canada Day weekend many health benefits were cut off for refugees. As mentioned before, there have been protests in a number of cities by doctors and other health care professionals who provide these services and are deeply concerned about this mean-spirited withdrawal.

I shared an open letter written by Christopher Majka whose parents were refugees. His father became a physician while his mother Mary Majka received the Order of Canada for her environmental work in New Brunswick.

I'm sure some thought my urging was too political, but sometimes justice and compassion have political implications.

Have you heard about this campaign? Will you participate? Just won't work? Other thoughts?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow

In ministry we don't know what a day may bring. Friday morning I got a call from the hospital chaplain in Oshawa about a request for prayer from the daughter of a woman dying in Bowmanville hospital. We do have a chaplain here, and a good one, but she works part-time. The apologetic chaplain wondered if I might respond to this request, even though the family has no St. Paul's connection.
I was able to go right away, and I had the curious experience of introducing myself to strangers in one of the most difficult and intimate moments of their lives. We talked for a while, then I read the 23rd psalm and prayed before getting on my way. To complicate things further, the dying mother is from Oshawa, the daughter from Newtonville, and their United Church involvement is in the distant past.
In reflection, this says a lot about the sorry state of government funding for chaplaincy in this province. Obviously people can't plan their crises around the diminishing hours for chaplains. In Bowmanville the ministerial raises nearly half of the funds for hospital chaplaincy, but it isn't enough.
It was also pointed out the sad reality of the growing number of people who have no connection with a faith community but come to realize the need for God's presence in tough times. We respond regularly to those of our congregation who are hospitalized but we can't care for everyone. I could go this time, but I have my own flock to tend to, and would put that priority first if I had to choose. Ah well.
Any thoughts or comments about all this? Should chaplaincy be a hospital priority? What is the obligation of the wider community?