at last count 57 years married, 7 children (3 adopted) 13 grandchildren, ordained R.C.A. also served within the P.C.C. and the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. Currently Elder at Hebron CRC.
While I would not argue the points made, one of the things I always seek to point out with respect to both Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter is that everything we do is essentially made up. Most historians are in agreement that it was some 300 years before there was anything resembling Lent. That is likewise true of the church today. It bears little resemblance to the ecclesia of Jesus or of the apostles. It is a sobering but potentially liberating truth.
While there is much I could say respecting the ending of the post, I will simply offer up a thought on the premise of Jesus as a rebel. It really does depend upon how one sees or defines rebel.
If he opposed the Pharisees and by implication the scribes, yes. He seems to have rejected the "traditions of men" which I take to mean what Jews would refer to as the Oral Torah . . or at least the rigidity of it and placing it on a par with Torah itself. His words that "the Shabbat was made for man and not man for the Shabbat" speaks volumes about how the whole of Torah is to be seen and approached. At the ame time, by all accounts he was a conformist in the sense that he was an observant Jew who sought only to do the will of the Father. That is about as far away from a rebel as one can get. He was not a Zealot, as noted, advocating the overthrow of the Roman government. He was not a religious recluse as were the Essenes and/or the people of Qumran. He was thoroughly engaged with people in the world in which they lived. He spoke the word in their language and spoke iot with clarity and understanding and compassion and for this he was highly regarded.
'nough said. . . for now
Posted in: Let's Talk About Numbers
I think I am with Sean on this one. Jesus, of course, was face-to-face. Not sure what he would do with online conversations. So much is missed when you cannot see or hear the other and have only printed words to go by. More than a few times I have spoken to congregations about how we interpret words, using God's question to Adam as an example. There are but 4 words: Adam, Where, Are, and You. You can vocalize them in at least 6 different ways and though the words remain the same, the meaning changes with the vocalization. Then add to this the body language.
I have also been part of too many online discussions that were less than respectful and courteous. I seems like the relative anonymity is taken as tacit permission to say whatever one wants.
Then, again, I just happen to be a very opinionated guy and if I commented on everything I read, I would never leave my computer! :)
That said, I do thrive on a good discussion. I actually toyed with the idea of having a regular group entitled "Let's Talk" where nothing would be out-of-bounds and we would engaged in a respectful and hopefully intelligent discussion of whatever was on people's hearts and minds. Still may do it, but momentarily have set it aside for a group entitled "God Talk: Theology 101" that will introduce interested people to basic theology, theological terms and subjects.
But yes, lets converse,
Posted in: Let's Talk About Numbers
Will certainly agree with that statement. Council here did not renew our pastor's call/contract. I suggested that it would be good to do a "post mortem" to ask what we could have done better, how the situation might have turned out differently, what we were meant to learn from the experience. No interest. When Synod made its decision, and with the ordination of new office-bearers coming up, I suggested that it was important that all be aware of the decision and the implication for the covenant of office and that we needed to engage in a discussion. No interest. One individual suggested that we wait 5 years to talk about it.
I should say that when Council terminated the pastor's call/contract, there was a significant portion of the congregation that was unaware (or forgot) that the call was term and that there were specific evaluation criteria. So, in a sense, these people were blindsided. As I was chairing that year, we held a number of "town hall meetings" to listen and respond (confidentiality respected when appropriate) to issues and concerns. I would like to think that this actually contributed to healing/reconciliation of thoughts and opinions. Good listening, however, does not come easily.
Posted in: Where Does the Church Go Now?
Said somewhat differently, we need to go back to square one. The essence of the first ecclesia/church was intimacy with Jesus (and later his teaching) and with one another. With the disciples this was experienced in boats, fields, homes, courtyards . . . just about any place if we are to believe the gospels. With the early church it was in homes. As I understand it, God does no reside in buildings made with human hands. Not only so, but all of our liturgies/orders of service, are made up. Jesus never dictated how his followers were to worship when they gathered. (Of course the first followers, being Jews, continued with temple worship. There was no thoughtof establishing a new religion.)
The question caught my attention and I both laughed and was captivated by it. Why? Well, in Jesus discourse on prayer he taught that we pray for daily bread, not weekly, or monthly, or yearly. Of course this was a personal prayer, not an institutional one.
I once worshipped in small church that knew just how much they neded to make it from one Sunday to the next. In retrospect this was probably the equivalent of "daily bread." Anyway, they took the offering, the deacons counted it, and if it was not sufficient for the next 7 days, they would take the offering again. If my memory serves me, they passed it 3 times that Sunday.
Then there is the story of Channaka (Hanukkah). Oil for one day, it lasted 8. The challenge we have in walking in the footsteps of Jesus is balancing faith with common sense and prudent thinking and acting.
Posted in: Has Your Church Undergone a Name Change?
Church names are interesting in and of themselves. Often denominations will have historic preferences. They may be named after the community, after saint or historical figure important to the tradition, a biblical place name. Some simply number them. In recent decades there has been a move in some protestant quarters to shy away from naming after saints and biblical places as they have little or no meaning. So names are chosen that are seen to be more “friendly.”
Here at Hebron CRC here has been some talk about changing the name. There are mixed reactions. At a planning retreat is was suggested that the name remain but that “A place of refuge” be added to it to make it a bit more meaningful. The problem, of course, is threefold. First, “place of refuge” is not what Hebron means. Second, while ancient Hebron was one of original cities of refuge, it was refuge for those guilty of unintentional homicide. It protected them from any blood revenge. Third, were the phrase to be added, what would we be saying? Refuge from what? Would the congregation live that phrase out in any significant way? Would it have any real meaning or simply be a catchy phrase.
I have been involved in two name selection processes, one for a new congregation and one for a congregation that had another amalgamate with it. The first name chosen after several submissions, discussions and voting was “Celebration.” It was, at the time unique. It also reflected what we wanted to be: a place of celebrating our faith. It contrasted with the more somber religious expressions around. The second the name change, after a similar process chose Fellowship. It reflected fort our desire to work hard to create a single congregation from two, to seek to embrace one another’s practices and honor one another traditions. It also reflected the congregations welcoming programs and desire to interact with the community in an intentional and consistent way and to create relationships.
As with any change I would ask and clarify why a name change is being considered, what benefit is being perceived. In choosing a name I would want to ask what the name says or will say about the congregation. Will the life and ministry of the church live up to what is on the sign? I would also be sensitive to longtime members and listen to them. They often will have a sentimental attachment to the present name. It may have meaning for them that it does not have for others. So listening, empathizing, explaining carefully the rationale is essential to preserving the unity of the body. Allow time for the decision making process to work itself out before actually deciding and changing. Some people will be on board quickly. The majority are likely to take some time. Patience is a virtue.
Posted in: Ideas for Marking a Church Anniversary?
I have always believed that if an anniversary is to be celebrated, it should be not simply a looking back, but a looking forward as well. Perhaps a vision and goals for the next 10 years and a call to renew one's commitment to Christ and the Body.
Posted in: The First (Female Minister) Through the Wall
One can be first through the wall and then, turn around and find they are the only one through the wall.
We are mistaken if we believe that all change is desirable and/or good. We are mistaken if we believe that everyone is equally open to change. Some come on board quickly and eagerly, other much more slowly and cautiously. We are mistaken if we believe we can leave the past behind. The future is nothing more than the past realized, the present is that infinitely fine line between what has been and what will be. We are mistaken if we believe we can initiate change and not be changed ourselves. We are mistaken if we place change ahead of healthy relationships, which translates into mutual respect for where each one of us are in our journey and a willingness to listen and understand. Every would be leader, when considering change, needs to ask, "Is this change for my good or for the good of the Body?" If the former, drop it. If the latter, then work with the Body, not against it.
This is both on and off topic. Scripturally speaking, there is no precedent for an "ordained" person to officiate. If the origin of the supper was the Passover meal, the one officiating would have been the male host. No requirement that he be a priest or a "rabbi." Indeed, the meal (and it was a meal) was generally held in private homes. This is not even to draw attention to the words, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup..." which would mean annually at the Passover, not quarterly, or monthly, or weekly. If it was not the Passover, then, as well, it would have simply been the host who asked the blessing. The Reformation did not go far enough to divest clergy of their unscriptural privileges. I have argued in more than one circle that as we are not even blessing the elements, let alone believing that some transformation is taking place via the words spoken, there really should be no reason to confine the celebration to clergy.
Being really heretical, one could simply not call it communion/the Lord's Supper/Eucharist. Bless the bread and cup and pass them out, saying nothing more.
To be proper and not stir up controversy, however, permission would be advised. If you were Anglican, the priest would consecrate the elements during worship and then the "reserved" would be given to deacons and others to share with those not present at worship due to being hospitalized, etc.
We have already reduced communion from a full meal to a wee piece of bread and a sip of juice. Time we did an assessment of the whole affair.
Claoing off by saying that while I "play by the rules" I am more concerned with being biblical than denominational.
Posted in: Model for Pastoral Care by Elders?
I would suggest that the place to start would be to sketch out what is required of elders by our Church Order—assuming that we are concerned about Church Order, and then what is wanted or expected of them by council and the congregation at large to be an effective community of faith. It is the old “form follows function” thing.
In many respects our Church Order tacitly assumes day long gone. By that I mean an ear when fewer people commuted, and era when the church was the center of life for most Christians and even for the community, an ear when there were far fewer activities available for both children and adults. So individuals were home more for pastoral visits and elders had more time to make them. For many these are, indeed, days gone by.
In the last congregation I pastored we had the usual districts but faced with a similar challenge we did a few things. First, we asked each member whether they would value a regular (at lest annual) visit from the pastor and an elder or whether they would opt for a “If we have a need, we will call” approach. The vast majority opted for the latter. So right away the number of expected/required visits were reduced.
We then prioritized. Those who still desired would have them. Those who were experiencing difficulties, loss, grief, etc. would be prioritized for a visit “immediately.” The second priority would be individuals who seemed to be drifting away from the faith or the church. Visitors and those seeking membership would be a third priority. I would suggest that this probably reduced the “obligation” by about 75%. The last thing that we did was to encourage each elder to have a district gathering over a meal once a year. Some would host this in their home, some at the church building. It would be a time of community building, sharing, encouragement, and prayer. The elders, as well as myself as pastor, would still make other visits, but this allowed us to focus on needs and relieve the pressure.
There is an interesting take on the 12 spies. As we know, two Joshua and Caleb, were ready to forge ahead while the other 10 spun the story of giants and recommended not crossing over. IKt is found in the Talmud. As the story goes the spies looked over and saw that the land was, indeed, one of milk and honey. They envisioned the people settling, building homes, planting crops, raising cattle, becoming prosperous and losing their dependence on the Lord. They envisioned them trusting their own strength, their own knowledge, their on wisdom. Fearing this, they instilled fear into the people with their narration. Interesting isn't it, they they were correct in their concern, though wrong in their action. Wealth can easily lead to self-reliance. Not surprisingly when Jesus gave his brief teaching on prayer, it was for daily bread, not for cupboards and refrigerators and freezers full. Some of us are so uncomfortable with this petition that we refuse to see it as it is and want "bread" to mean the "Word of God." But remember that Jesus himself was essentially jobless and homeless. Sobering thought.