News Blog

A little confession

Posted by on Friday, May 25th, 2012 in Minister

Can I make a confession – I mean, there’s just the two of us here.

I love so much of what I do in my job but, if there is one particular part of the job that I have never really liked, it has got to be the “recruiting.” I just don’t enjoy going to people with hat in hand (at least that’s what it feels like) and saying to them “Please, would you take on this job or fill this position for us.”

I think that what I mostly dislike about it (apart from the inescapable fear of rejection) is that the underlying message of the conversation usually seems to be the similar to what I referred to in my recent blog post:

“Because I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years,” she said impatiently, and I’m really tired. It is time for someone else to do it instead.”
In other words, the conversation is all about needs and people taking turns and how somebody needs to do something. It really isn’t about what actually matters.

That is why I am so happy about my recent “recruitment” efforts. Last month at St. Andrews we gave an opportunity for the entire membership to tell us who they thought should be elders and deacons by writing names of other members on ballots. Once all of the nominations were tallied, the task fell to me to contact the nominees in the order of the number of times their names had appeared. I wasn’t really looking forward to the job.

But, I’ve got to say, the whole thing was a real pleasure. I decided right away that I was not calling people in order to ask them to be deacons or elders. I was actually just calling them to tell them how much they were loved and respected by the people in the congregation. I was calling to tell them that their peers – their sisters and brothers in Christ – had perceived that they had special gifts and abilities that God could do great things with.

I was not calling them ask them to do anything. I did ask them if they were willing and able to respond to the calling of the congregation and of God but did not feel that I needed to pressure them at all.

To my surprise the process of filling the positions that the session had asked for (4 elders and 6 deacons) took about a month. But this was not because many people turned me down but merely because they (wisely and responsibly) needed to take time to think and reflect and pray before answering and in many cases (mostly because there were people nominated in both categories) I needed to wait to hear back from people before I could call further down the list. Though I was sometimes impatient to be done, as I look back on it, it really was a joyful experience.

In some ways it feels like it is a shame to stop calling now. There still remains a large number of people in the congregation who have been named – who have been identified as having special gifts and who are respected by the congregation  -- wouldn’t it be nice to tell them so? 

But we do have to draw the line somewhere. So let me just celebrate the wonderful people that we have in this congregation – so many other them – and note that we are truly blessed.

I won't post the names of the new deacons and elders here. We'll announce them during worship once the session has added its approval.

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Surprised by Iris

Posted by on Monday, May 21st, 2012 in Minister

The house that we purchased when we moved to Hespeler came with a beautiful back yard planted with a lovely perennial garden and adorned with a fish pond bursting with an enormous population of fish. It has very quickly become our favourite place to hang out.

Not being expert gardeners (but willing to learn) it is like an adventure each time we head outdoors. We don't know what those who have worked here before us have planted and we just get to sit back and watch it all explode in life around us. What a privilege.

Today -- on Victoria Day afternoon -- it was a wonderful surprise to look up and see that four beautiful iris flowers had just appeared. What a pleasure to be blown away by unexpected beauty!
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Living in Christ, Sharing his Love.

Posted by on Thursday, May 17th, 2012 in Minister

St. Andrew’s Hespeler: Living in Christ, Sharing his Love.

St. Andrew’s Hespeler Presbyterian Church has what I think of as a motto or a slogan. It is emblazoned on a plaque at the main entrance of the church and often printed on such things as letterhead. It is, I know, a slogan that means a lot to some of the people at the church – a slogan that has encouraged us to stretch towards worthwhile goals like getting more involved in our community – reaching out to people and helping to meet needs.
So I hardly want to mess with a good thing. This slogan really has helped make us who we are.

But I do sometimes wonder if it is enough given the challenges being faced by the church in these days. 

It is possible to read that slogan in a completely non-challenging way. It is kind of like being in favour of mom and apple pie. Of course these are good thing and we are in favour of them but are they really pushing us to be more and do more in the name Jesus?

The other night, as we were engaged in our Long Range Planning exercise, I was struck by a thought though. That motto can only seem safe and non-threatening when we leave it abstract – when we don’t think about what it means practically to live in Christ in this world, when don’t consider how we share his love are with whom.

So I’ve started to think that we need to dig deeper into that slogan and map out what it means. What if we were to expand it like this?

                Living in Christ   …alongside people who think differently from us.
                                                … in the workplace, at school, in the mall.
                                                … when we don’t have all the answers.
                                                … when we’re sick or lost or grieving.
                                                … when we’re surrounded by people who practice other religions?

                Sharing his love … with those facing mental challenges.
                                                … with those who scare us (for whatever reason).
                                                … with people who have different taste in music or in worship styles.
                                                … with those who are bringing change into our lives.

I’m just starting to think about this and these expansions are just off the top of my head. I’d love to know what people think about it – am I on the right track?
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“Would you like to join the altar guild?”

Posted by on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 in Minister

In her most recent book, Christianity after Religion, Diana Butler Bass tells about a conversation with a woman in her Episcopal (we’d call it Anglican) Congregation:

"Would you like to join the altar guild?" asked an older woman, a member of a church where I was a member. After all, you like to arrange flowers.

She was a nice person, diligent in her service to the church. Most every week, she showed up early on Sunday morning to set up the altar. She ironed the altar cloths, shined the silver chalices, and laid everything out. Sounded like holy housework to me.

Instead of saving yes or no, I responded, “Why?”

“Because I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years,” she said impatiently, and I’m really tired. It is time for someone else to do it instead.”

Not exactly an appealing invitation. I turned the offer down. I suspect that the woman had a rich faith life. I always wondered what might have happened if she had answered the question this way:

You know, I’ve been serving on the altar guild for thirty-five years. Every Sunday, I awake before dawn and come down here to the church. It is so quiet. I come into the building and unlock the sacristy. I open the drawers and take out the altar cloths and laces, so beautifully embroidered with all the colors of the seasons. I unfold them, iron them, and drape them on the altar. Then I go to the closet and take out the silver, making sure it is cleaned and polished. I pour water and wine. While I set the table for the Lord’s Supper, I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to set the table for Jesus and his friends. I’ve meditated on what it must have been like to be there with him. I’ve considered what it will be like when we eat with him in heaven. And I’ve learned a thing or two about service and beauty and community. You know, I’d like to share that with you. I’d like you to learn that too.

I know how I would have responded: “Sign me up.”
I was struck by how much that interchange reminds be about how we do so much in the church. Whenever we talk about the things that we do in the life of the church we speak of them as duties – as things that need to be done. When we recruit new people to take on somebody’s old job, we talk about how it is somebody else’s turn. We rarely talk about why we do things beyond the simple assumption that they just need to be done. We don’t talk about the things that we do as spiritual practices and disciplines that bring meaning in and of themselves.

We really need to start asking the why question – why do I sing in the choir, why do I teach Sunday School, why am I an elder – with a willingness to go deeper into the meaning of it all. The answer that it just needs to be done is no longer good enough.

Tonight many leaders in the congregation will gather to look at our long-range plan – to renew our objectives and think about how they will work out practically. This reminds me that we cannot do any of that without a willingness to talk about the why questions – about what our purpose really is and how we can all get meaning out of what we do.
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