Sunday, December 23, 2007
We experienced a little communitas this morning at Ascension when we arrived to discovered the batteries in the thermostat were dead and the furnace in the church hadn't been on for some time. It was icy cold so we moved the service into the hall. The whole feeling of the service changed with people sitting around the tables in a rather oddly shaped circle. People spoke back in the service and everyone seemed in great spirits as we moved books and brought in candles and improvised an altar. What fun!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I think that it is unfortunately that one Roman Catholic school board has responded to the books by banning them and in doing so have acted exactly as Pullman expects. For the most part I suspect that most readers won't realize that Pullman has a (anti)theological point of view. I have a friend who has taught The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for years and only recently realized that the novel is a Christian allegory.
So I don't think Christians should boycott the movie - see it and talk about it. But pay close attention to what is said about freedom. The underlying message is that freedom is more important than anything else and freedom for Pullman means freedom from any authority, constraint or tradition. At several points in the movie the words, 'freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...' ran through my mind. It is questionable whether such freedom is possible never mind desirable.
At the same time, the suggestion that our souls walk beside us as daemons in animal form was really appealing to me...especially as Robbie struggles with another bout of congestive heart failure.
Monday, December 17, 2007
So last night, after a very busy weekend with the pageant and two baptisms and book study I went to bed at 8:00 pm. Since I normally go to bed around 1:00 am this was a big deal. Unfortunately Robbie didn't get with the programme and he woke me up at 9:30 to go out, 11:30 for a treat and water, and 5:00 am to cough. Sigh. It was a long sleep over all but in individual pieces it was actually just a bunch of short sleeps.
Today some volunteers and I are going to spend a lot of money donated by the good folks at McKillop United to put together hampers for needy students. I love this time of year. I'm always exhausted but it is fun. Come Wednesday though I'm done except for two services and some parish visiting until the 2nd of January!!! Yeah!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Today for the first time I had a part in a Sunday School Christmas pageant. I played Herod.
Today for the first time I forgot something in the service...okay, that wasn't a first. I forgotten things before but this was the first time I forgot a scripture reading. Oy. Shouldn't try to officiate and play a role in the pageant on the same night. This will be the first and last time I do that.
Today is the fifth anniversary of my first Eucharist (unless my first was the consecration of more wine at my ordination - see below).
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I am not sure what to consider my first Eucharist. We ran out of wine the night of my ordination (about 90 of us were shoehorned into the church which holds 70 and another 90-100 were in the hall watching on a video feed so it was kind of hard for the bishop to estimate numbers) so I had to do the quick prayer of consecration for more wine. So I guess that was it.
Monday, December 10, 2007
In the course of looking for readings for the service I came across this quotation from a long time favourite theologian of mine (I did doctoral work on him - didn't finish the degree but learned a lot), Karl Rahner:
If God's incomprehensibility does not grip us in a word, if it does not draw us into his superluminous darkness, if it does not call us out of the little house of our homely, close-hugged truths...we have misunderstood the words of Christianity.
from Poetry and the Christian, cited by Kathleen Norris is Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Grace
Friday, December 7, 2007
It has been an insanely busy couple of weeks as we wind up all our end of term programming at the college and university. I love this time of year but it is exhausting! Here are a few scenes of the ways in which we try to cheer up students and give them a little boost as they head into exams.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Perhaps it is a sign that I’m getting older but I’m finding myself grow increasingly impatient with movies that don’t capture my imagination quickly. And I’m finding myself increasingly irritated by the number of recent movies that tell their stories out of order so that you have to work especially hard to figure out what the story line is.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those films that starts near the end, moves to the middle, then to the beginning and then back to the end so that it takes a while before you can figure out what is going on. And I knew something of the story line before I watched it.
Yet despite this I enjoyed the movie and I was glad in the end that I had persisted through my initial frustration. For Eternal Sunshine says some interesting things about the nature of memory and relationships.
The title of the film is taken from Alexander Pope’s poem ‘Eloisa to Abelard’ but unlike these storied lovers the two main characters, Joel and Clementine, have a tumultuous relationship. Jim Carrey plays Joel, a restrained and rather colourless character who meets the very colourful and extravagant Clementine, played by Kate Winslet. For viewers who are used to seeing Carrey play the manic comedic role this role may be something of a surprise but Carrey has shown before in other films that he has a wide range.
Joel and Clementine have met, fallen in love, fought, grown nasty towards each other and separated. Then Joel discovers that Clementine has taken advantage of some new technology to erase all memory of him and their relationship. Lacuna Inc has developed the ability to map the brain and erase portions of memory while leaving the rest of the memory intact. Joel is so angry that she would reject him like this that he decides to undergo the procedure as well. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that getting revenge on someone who doesn’t remember you doesn’t make a lot of sense. While he is undergoing the procedure, however, he begins to realize that even though he has lost Clementine he doesn’t want to lose the memory of her and what she has meant to him.
It is at this point that the film began to engage me as we see Joel and Clementine desperately trying to hide her in some part of his memory so that he won’t lose her. Despite their efforts, however, the procedure is successful and he wakes up with no memory of her. Then it becomes clear that the meeting at the beginning of the film was not their first meeting but their second when some impulse draws them back to the place of their first meeting. And as in their first meeting, they fall for each other at their second. But I won’t say more about what happens with love the second time around.
What intrigued me was the question of whether or not I would want to erase certain memories if the technology was available. Joel is confronted with the realization that he will be losing good memories with the bad and he comes to see that despite the ache of losing her he values what they had together. So I began to wonder why he and Clementine couldn’t have just erased the bad memories of their relationship and left the good.
The film actually gives something of an answer to that question in another relationship between the doctor and his receptionist but I won’t even begin to try to unwrap the complicated plot twists involving the Lacuna staff. Suffice it to say that the film seems to suggest that even painful memories of the hurts we do to each other are part of the process by which we learn and grow into better people.
Is it impossible then to ever forget hurts inflicted and received? The theme of forgetfulness is a rich one in the book of Isaiah and what we read there is that God will forget the sins of His people and they will forget their shame. But this is a forgetfulness that follows the hard process of truth speaking, repentance and forgiveness.
Lacuna Inc offers what many of us would like, a painless, fast and easy means to forget pain. In the end, however, the film seems to suggest that Joel and Clementine will choose a more difficult but also more rewarding path towards forgiving and forgetting the hurts they have done each other.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Today's article only further attests to the staggering absurdity of our current college admissions game: students are now "branding" themselves - a term we used to use for differentiating cattle herds and is now used to describe slick and often superficial ways that advertisers and marketers distinguish nearly identical products. This same term is now embraced by both institutions of higher learning and their potential students in the effort to differentiate themselves - and may have just as much substance as the marketing techniques to which they refer.
Read the rest here.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
But Aaron's question remains: what stories of Jesus are your favourites?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Aaron, over at Aaron's Head, makes an interesting observation about the way in which people's favourite story of Jesus says something about who they are. My favourite stories are the prodigal parables from Luke's gospel. Part of the reason they resonate so deeply with me is that these were the stories my grandma told me over and over again when I was little. Part of it is because the story of the lost sheep came alive for me in my conversion when I was seventeen. Part of it is because I had a confessor who read me the story of the prodigal daughter once. I have known what it is like to be lost. I have known what it is to have been found. I have known what it is like to wait hopefully for the lost to return. I have known what it is like to go searching for the lost. And I've known what it is to be the resentful older brother. If I had only this chapter and the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus I think I'd have the heart of the gospel.
I know that it is important to teach people to read Scripture critically (in the proper sense of that word and not the negative sense), but I like what Aaron asked his study because I don't know if we encourage people to read with love enough in mainline churches. I think I'm going to ask the folks in our bible study the same question to see what they say.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A friend of mine who farms nearby talks about the costs of eating iceberg lettuce off season. He factors in the cost of the pesticides, the fertilizers, the water, and then the oil to truck it here in refrigerator trucks. He concludes that it is extremely expensive to eat something that doesn't even have nutritional value. Here is good reason to eat frozen and canned local produce.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
There are some really tense moments but this isn't a car chase kind of movie - instead the tension comes from the emotional turmoil of Clayton's character as he's torn between his own demons and claims of friendship with the other lawyer (who is wonderfully played by Tom Wilkinson). Great movie!
Monday, November 12, 2007
We use the Good News Bible in our church. I often don't like the translation and the 18th chapter of Genesis is a good example. One Sunday, when the first reading was Gen. 18, one of the women, a middle-aged woman, got up to read. The Good News bible reads this way:
Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah had stopped having her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself and said, "Now that I am old and worn out, can I still enjoy sex? And besides, my husband is old too."
As she was returning to her pew she looked at me and rolled her eyes. I had a hard time containing my laughter. But there was more. After the service she opened the door into the hall, forgetting that all the Sunday School kids would be there, and says loudly, "I'm sorry, but you are never too old to enjoy sex!"
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
In response to Taylor Deneen says:
I grow increasingly convinced that our more just society is based not upon a deeper commitment to justice per se, but our increasing liberation from having to care about the fate and condition of other people.
He goes on to point to signs of this in both pop culture (Seinfeld) and in the dissolving social safety net.
The horn of the dilemma for me is suggested in what he says about the old more communal ways of relating:
As Tocqueville predicted, it would be the ascent of individualism itself that would give rise to the felt need for a "tutelary State" to compensate for what had once been provided - albeit unevenly, informally, unequally - within the thicker webs of familial and local life.
The problem is that these goods are provided unevenly and unequally because they are so often informal. So much may be decided by class, race, gender, kinship ties that it is hard not to see the problems with it. George Grant wrote something to that effect in one of his books. The problem with criticizing liberalism, which he did, was that it has brought benefits we don't want to give up. And yet, I agree that we are paying a huge price for this loss of social ties.
Now I'm off to church to live out my communal ties.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
The experience of God's silence changes all such hopes and casts apologetics into a new framework. What it forces on modernity is a recognition that although Christendom may have died politically in almost every modern Western nation, it continues culturally. The silence of God is not to be equated with his absence by either Christians or their cultural despisers; if God were truly dead, one could not speak of or rage against his silence - there would be no silent one to designate. In the modern West, even anti-Christian rhetoric is forced to build its new edifices with or within the collapsed remnants of cathedrals. God is remembered in the remains of the Christian day, sometimes clearly enunciated in acts and institutions, sometimes barely recalled, always present in words, but silent to the times. The purpose of his body, the Church, remains evident in the post-1984 world, defended by some and rejected by others; its meaning, however, increasingly cannot be grasped.
from Peter Erb's Murder, Manners, Mystery: Reflections on Faith in Contemporary Detective Fiction
Friday, October 26, 2007
Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Contemporary Worship Song vs. The Traditional Hymn
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church.
He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well", said the farmer, "It
was good. They did something different, however. They sung praise choruses
instead of hymns".
"Praise choruses?", asked the wife. "What are those?"
"Oh they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different", said the
"Well, what's the difference?", asked the wife.
The farmer said "Well it¹s like this if I were to say to you "Martha, the
cows are in the corn" well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I
were to say to you,
Martha, Martha, Martha,
Oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA!!!!
The cows, the big cows, the brown cows,
The black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows
The Cows, the COWS, the COWS are in the corn
Are in the corn
Are in the corn
In the corn, CORN, COOOOOOORRRRRNNNNNNN!
Then if I was to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would
be a praise chorus"!"
As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the
city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked
him how it was.
"Well", said the young man, "It was good. They did something different,
however. They sung hymns instead of regular songs".
"Hymns?", asked the wife. "What are those?"
"Oh they're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different", said
"Well, what's the difference?", asked the wife.
The Young man said "Well, it¹s like this if I were to say to you "Martha,
the cows are in the corn", well that would be a regular song. If, on the
other hand, I were to say to you,
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their head is no shadow of sense
Hearkenest they in Gods sun or His rain
Unless from the mild tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broken free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth and reborn
Where no vicious animal makes me soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
Then if I were to do only verses one, three and four and change keys on the
last verse, well that would be a hymn.!"
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|You scored as Orthodox|
You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.
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|You scored as Catholic|
You are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Some people celebrate birth days, some birth weeks, some even birth months, but I celebrate birth quarters!!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
J.K. Rowling reveals Dumbledore is gay
Last Updated: Saturday, October 20, 2007 | 11:04 AM ET CBC News
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has revealed that she conceived of one of the major characters, Hogwarts school headmaster Albus Dumbledore, as gay. She drew a round of applause from a packed house in New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday after making the revelation in response to an audience question.
Read the rest here.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I should have stayed home to write last night but instead, since it was the only evening this week when I didn't have a commitment I went to the movies with friends. We went and saw Elizabeth 2 and enjoyed it immensely. I guess it hasn't had very good reviews but I thought it was really well done. I've been a huge admirer of the first Queen Elizabeth since watching the mini series Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson as a kid. Everything I've ever read about her since has convinced me that she was a truly remarkable woman. And she was an Anglican!
My favourite part of the movie? when it becomes clear that God really does like the English Protestants best! (big grin here in case you want to take offense - and bear in mind that I consider myself a catholic, not a protestant).
Monday, October 15, 2007
Tonight our theme for Unchurch was the Tree of Life. It was a great evening. Sleeping Monday night is always a challenge! I've had a passion for the image of the Tree of Life for years. I've painted, drawn and created umpteen versions in all sorts of different media. So I was very excited to talk about it with them.
We looked at the passages in Genesis, Proverbs and Revelation concerning the Tree of Life and then some of the other 'tree' passages. In the Middle Ages the cross was interpreted as the tree of life (picking up on some of the Acts, Galatians, and 1 Peter passages that talk about Jesus dying on a tree). Legends developed about how Seth put a seed from the Tree of Life in the Adam's mouth as he lay dying. From Adam another tree grew and the wood from it eventually was used for the cross. A further legend said that the wood of the cross burst into leaves and flowers when Jesus was nailed to it. Now I understand why there are crucifixions in which the cross looks like it is made of branches or actually looks like a tree. Another variation on the tree image in the middle ages were Jesse trees. Based on the Isaiah passage about a shoot coming forth from the stump of Jesse, a Jesse tree is a picture of a dead or reclining Jesse with a tree growing out of him. At the crown of the tree is Mary holding an infant Jesus.
I love the way the images run through the Bible playing off each other like themes in a symphony. It is so neat watching the ways in which an image like the tree of life keeps generating new insights, new representations, new appreciations for the generous vitality of the life God gives us.
I ended my meditation by asking what difference it makes that so many of the central images of God and our relationship with Him are organic. We ended up talking about the devastation of the forests in BC by beetle infestation, Eugene Peterson's take on the poetry of T.S. Eliot, our experiences gardening, the possibilities of new life in the worst of devastations physical, emotional and spiritual, and a sermon by my friend Andrew on the Isaiah passage about the stump of Jesse. Afterwards we sang "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" twice because we knew two different tunes for it.
I'm loving the ways in which people are sharing insights, praying, singing, providing food.... Our liturgy is evolving slowly into something pretty loose. We sing, read scripture, preach, talk while we eat, sing, and pray. I love it!
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I’m wary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Today was the blessing of the animals at Ascension - Fr. Michael officiated and I helped bless. What fun. Robbie loves church. It is one of his favourite places in the world. He's attended most of the Anglican churches in the south end of the diocese and listens very carefully to the sermon. So this blog is becoming all about Robbie. He is doing really well health wise and is a really happy playful dog these days. He has a new little friend in Rosie and about once a week we've been going over to visit her. It has really rejuvenated him. She hauls on him and drags him around by his bandanna and he loves it...mostly. Now he plays with his own toys more and is just plain goofy.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
BTW, I think this season of Boston Legal continues to show promise although I'm missing some of last year's characters. I've watched four episodes of season three again and am loving it even more. Denny Crane.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
- That I have a good vet to keep Robbie healthy and found a good doctor to keep me healthy
- that we hired three great students to be student chaplains this year
- that I got to spend a week with my goddaughter this summer
- that I got to go on holidays to Saskatchewan and Winnipeg
- that I've discovered the joys of playing scrabble on facebook
- that I got to serve Ascension for another year
- that I got to celebrate another birthday with friends
- that I have a new office at the college and a new espresso machine at the university
- that I finally bought a denim jacket
- that I discovered Prismacolor pens
- that I get to watch Boston Legal Season 3 with friends this weekend
- that I got to spend last weekend playing scrabble with friends
- for East Indian food, especially the green chicken at the Royal India in Calgary
- for Bonny and the Round St. Cafe
- for Unchurch
- for my best friend and my Ya Yas
- for the kids in my life
- for B who mows my lawn and J who cleans my house and for all the ways they make me laugh and delight at how they are growing up
- for the ECM board and the golf tournament committee and all the volunteers who make the chaplaincy work
- for jig saw puzzles and cards and lazy evenings
- for lattes
- for adopted family, for meals spent with them, for finding home in Lethbridge
- for friends and family, for home and hearth, for dogs and cats, for faith and grace, for books and music, for films and plays, for food and drink, for work and rest, for love and tenderness, for joy and surprise
- for the opportunity to plant vineyards and eat its fruit
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Just got home from hearing the Darby and Joan Club play at the Slice. It was great! I love live music and I really like their British pop sound. They debuted a new song tonight that was really good. I went with a friend who's my age and I figured we'd raise the age of the crowd considerably but there was actually a table of 50+ year olds who did more than us to change the demographics. The Slice is a neat bar - pretty mellow crowd and good live music. Check it out!
Volf has some very interesting things to say about the connection of memory to personal identity both in terms of how we are shaped by memory and of how we shape our memory. We ended up getting into a long discussion of the ways in which formative memory may be both personal memory and collective memory.
We also talked about the problem memory poses for us now when we have the technology to record so much of what is happening and yet seem to lack the cultural tools to interpret and remember events. The example one of the students gave was of parties where everyone is taking lots and lots of pictures so that they can run home and post them on facebook rather than actually participating in the party. Experience becomes a form of commodity.
Volf says this:
Currently added to this dangerous moral ambiguity of memories is a powerful sense of their importance. There is today something of a memory boom, a widespread desire to memorialize events -- at times almost an obsession with remembering. This memory boom has, I surmise, two principal causes (plus many subsidiary ones). Almost paradoxically, the first is the fast-paced, novelty-obsessed, entertainment-saturated culture in which we live. On the one hand, it makes most of us quick to forget -- forget even those things that once meant a great deal to us. As the media nail us to a narrow strip of the extended present, and as the new replaces the old with breathtaking speed, the past seems like a landscape viewed from a fast-moving train -- a blur that quickly fades to black. On the other hand, as we lean forward in time we extol memory and memorialize experiences to counter the slipping of the past into oblivion, to prevent our memories from faltering "like old veterans parading," as E.L.Doctorow puts it in City of God.
Witness the readiness in the U.S. to erect memorials to events that have only just happened. Debate about the appropriate monument for the victims of "9/11" was running full speed only a few weeks after the terrorist attack, when we could not possibly have had enough time to absorb the impact of the disaster and reflect on its meaning! We demand immediate memorials as outward symbols because the hold of memory on our inner lives is so tenuous. And then, because we have tangible, observable memorials, we feel absolved of the obligation to remember on our own; we feel free, in good conscience, to immerse ourselves in the blur of the present. Thus does the memory boom try to compensate for an actual memory bust.
The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 39-40.
Monday, October 1, 2007
The thing I love best about Unchurch is the conversation after the sermon. Tonight we started to get into all the other interpretations of Adam and Eve but Becky drew us back to the issue of knowledge and we got into a very interesting conversation about the difference between knowledge and understanding or wisdom. We talked about the way in which knowledge can change us, particularly the knowledge of evil. And we talked a lot about the relationship between intimacy and knowledge.
We are becoming a little community too. People are sharing more and seem more and more comfortable together. At the same time a friend of mine came for the first time tonight and seemed comfortable sharing despite being new. He was also included in the conversation which I thought was really neat.
I'm loving this!
We got ourselves a suite and the Holiday Inn staff kindly found us a table and extra chairs for our board. We took some breaks for meals and some shopping but managed to play 15 games. We each won 5 and one husband told us that was very socialist of us. The games were fun and we had a lot of time to talk and listen to music and just enjoy hanging out together.
We also enjoyed Indian, Thai and Greek food. Yum. What a weekend.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Last summer I spent an afternoon with a group of friends and we had a long conversation about community. We split into two distinct groups. For those of us born and raised before the age of internet (I only got email about 15 years ago) community was about eating meals together, taking soup to a sick friend, lending a hand with a chore, spending an evening watching a movie.... For the group born more recently community was about finding a like minded group, usually on line, to talk with. The conversation became quite heated as they argued that it wasn't safe, nor desirable, to get to know your neighbours.
Part of the issue was their perception of safety and vulnerability which is a whole issue in itself. But part of it was what Tim is raising and that is the tendency to disembodied or 'gnostic' relationships. I think he is right that we are tempted to find in internet 'community' relationships where we get none of the hassles, or the joys, of relating to real live in the flesh people. I don't think it is a coincidence that none of the younger folks in our conversation were involved in a church or community organization where they would be forced to work together with people very different than themselves. I too think that this is really problematic.
I guess my point in raising Paul and 84 Charing Cross Road was to say that it is possible to develop relationships of significance only through written form. But I certainly agree that in those relationships is also a longing for physical presence. Helen laments that because of circumstances she is unable to make it to London to meet Frank in the flesh before he dies. And Paul had visited these churches he would later correspond with. And I look forward to meeting Tim one day too :-)
Part of the issue Tim is raising relates I think to the issues of vulnerability and safety that my friends raised. Part of the advantage they see in relating through the internet is that they think that it is safer. They can conceal their identity, they can choose what they reveal of themselves to others, they can conceal themselves if things get creepy. We tried to argue that it makes you safer when you know your neighbours (never mind enriching your life in so many ways) but they didn't buy it.
What astounds me now that I'm on facebook and reading blogs is how often people don't seem to worry about safety (emotional, financial, physical) when they reveal all sorts of things on line. And as Tim points out people are often not very civil on line. One of the older participants in our conversation last summer made the point that people have a really odd inverted sense of 'privacy' when they don't want their neighbour to have their phone number but they talk about their sex lives on the internet.
I have discovered all sorts of interesting books, music, films, art by reading blogs. And I've 'met' some interesting people. I've read some interesting reflections and I have gotten some great ideas for my ministry. But I'm mindful of my friend who said she decided she should start spending more time with her 'in the flesh' family and less time on line with her virtual community.
Btw, our spring lecture series put on by the chaplaincy/university/college and public library this year will be on friendship and I hope one of the talks will be on virtual friendships. Stay tuned for more details.
Re-Enchantment of the WorldDANIEL J. MAHONEY
We live in a strange time.
We live in a strange time, in which religious belief seems to be flourishing, church attendance is high, evangelical preachers are household names and traditionalist congregations are more populous than ever. And yet one has only to turn on the television, go to a movie theater, look at a newsstand or read about, say, sex-education courses in the public schools to feel that our society is almost militantly at odds with revealed religion and biblical teaching.
Meanwhile, tracts on atheism ride the best-seller lists — alongside books of soft spiritual uplift from mega-church pastors. What age are we living in, exactly?
A secular one, says Charles Taylor, the distinguished Canadian philosopher and political theorist (and winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize). But his answer is complicated and in no way meant to suggest that religious sentiment is fated to disappear anytime soon. Far from it. A Secular Age tries to explain the modern world to itself in all its contradictions. These include, within a secular culture, the persistence of profound religious conviction and fervent religious observance.
In previous works — such as The Sources of the Self (1989) and The Ethics of Authenticity (1991) — Mr. Taylor had described the genesis of a distinctively modern self-consciousness as well as offering a broadly "communitarian" reflection on the strengths and limits of liberal society. A Secular Age is the culmination of Mr. Taylor's intellectual project, a project aimed, ultimately, at defining what it means to be modern.Read the rest here.
Historically a number of famous friendships have been maintained through letters.
84 Charing Cross Road, the book and the movie, is a true story about a friendship that is conducted almost entirely through letters. Frank died before Helen met him.
Does this say something about the possibility of friendships/community being established or maintained through letters?
Are letters different than the internet?
Are we ruder on the internet because we are disembodied from each other or are we ruder because we are becoming less civil everywhere?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
From Tale Spin
Tim’s late night questions about the Internet.
I’ve been musing on these issues on and off for the last few days. These questions are rough and in no particular order:
Is it possible to find real community on the Internet?
Does real community not necessarily involve physical presence, body language, shared meals, hugs and so on?
If you said “No”, to the above, aren’t you some sort of Gnostic?
Why do so many people use pseudonyms on the Internet?
How is it possible to find real community with people when we aren’t even willing to tell them our real names?
Why is it so easy to demonise people we meet on blogs?
Why do so many blog discussions degenerate into name-calling?
Why do so many blogs become gatherings of the like-minded instead of places of genuine dialogue?
Is it possible to have real community amongst the like-minded? Don’t we need dissent and difference? Isn’t it a bit of a snare to be able to choose our community, rather than having to learn to love the real community we find ourselves in?
Why do I let myself get so involved in blog arguments and discussions, when experience in the real world has taught me many times that argument hardly ever changes anyone’s mind?
Would you say that this scripture describes the Christian blogosphere?
'Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you'.
I was just wondering.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Our discussion afterwards was incredible. My favourite element of Unchurch is the response to the word in our conversation. The starting off point was someone's objection that God would choose some and not others and that He would kill the first born of Egypt. So we had a long conversation about the problem of reading troublesome texts. And then the issue turned to who belongs to the community and who doesn't and what happens if you feel like you are the kid Jesus didn't pick to be on his team. We're getting to know each other better and people are speaking more and more personally about their struggles with faith, the church, Scripture. I don't know where this is going but I am so grateful to be a part of it. The only problem is that I can't fall asleep Monday nights anymore because my brain is going a mile a minute.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
This is a huge carnivorous spider, and an invention of JKR. The name derives from the Latin "acro", meaning "highest" or "extreme", along with "-antula" from the word "tarantula", a large spider. Therefore the name may be interpreted as "extreme spider".
The Acromantula is covered in thick black hair and can grow up to 15 feet in size [FB]. It was created by wizards, and probably intended as a guard creature. They are, however, untrainable and extremely dangerous. They have near-human intelligence and are capable of speech, but this doesn't mean you can reason with them. Hagrid had an Acromantula called Aragog as a pet while he was in his third year at Hogwarts. It was suspected to be the creature from the Chamber of Secrets (which it wasn't) and Hagrid was expelled from school. Aragog escaped and set up what is now a well-populated colony in the Forbidden Forest [COS15]. Aragog is now deceased, but the colony continues to thrive [HBP22].
Lord Voldemort somehow convinced the remaining Acromantula to join the Death Eaters in their attack on Hogwarts, although it is not made clear how he did so. It seems fair to assume it involved an offer of letting them eat a lot of fallen enemies, however. They scaled the walls of the castle in search of prey: on one occasion Harry held them back with a Stunning spell, but it seems unlikely that it kept them away for long [DH32]. Voldemort later used their deserted nest as his base within the Forbidden Forest as he waited for Harry to come and give himself up [DH34].
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Last weekend our student chaplains and I went on retreat. We went to the Martha Retreat Centre for some time apart to get to know each other and to do some planning. Part of what we did was work with some material from Corinne Ware's book Discover Your Spiritual Type. Ware develops a questionnaire on spiritual preferences using the classic spiritual typology developed by Anglican theologian, Urban Holmes.
The diagram is my rather pathetic attempt to use the paint programme to draw the typology. The horizontal axis is about whether you know things through your head (speculative - ideas) or through your heart (affective - emotions). The vertical horizon is whether you are drawn to the ways in which God is revealed (kataphatic) or to the ways in which God is mystery (apophatic).
If you are head/kataphatic inclined your spirituality is more centred on the head - doctrine, theology, sermons etc. If you are heart/kataphatic then you are more centred on the heart - feelings, experience, heart felt faith etc. If you are heart/apophatic you are more drawn to the mystical, the spiritual journey (journey is a big word for you), and aren't concerned too much about colouring inside the lines. If you are head/apophatic you are more drawn to a spirituality of the hands, service, embodied spirituality. Ware is interested in what happens when there are differences between the spirituality of a congregation and an individual (particularly that of clergy - this is an Alban Institute publication). Ideally people move to an integrated spirituality and Holmes suggests that it is helpful to try to find balance by moving to the opposite. And this I think is true of groups as well as individuals.
The four of us represented all four types and had an interesting discussion about what moves us and why. Part of it is personality but part of it is also experience. I used to come out heart centred which I think was the balancing of my work life which is so centred on the head. But after more than a decade of ministry I find myself more and more drawn to the mystery of God.
I did a service once where I choice hymns from each of these types, a heavy theological hymn, an old emotional revival hymn about personal experience, a simple chant and a hymn about service and talked about Holmes typology in my sermon. I think my parish is heart and hand centred for the most part and people are pretty generous about differences so we don't tend to have worship wars. But I did think that it was helpful to be aware that different things feed the souls of other people. I've come to realize that if I preach a really idea centred sermon that people don't really get into it. The ideas have to be connected in strong ways to experience.
I think with the chaplaincy that we are aware that we need to offer different ways for people to connect that reflect these kinds of differences in spiritual preferences and so we're glad we understand all four of them between us. I'm excited to see what the year is going to bring and to see how these gifted young women will grow in their ministries.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Congratulations to James Spader. Alan Shore, you are my hero.
Season 4 begins September 25th. Amazon sent me an email today saying Season 3 is in the mail to me!!!!! I see a marathon Boston Legal session in my plans for Thanksgiving weekend.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I just came back from a retreat with our student chaplains and it was sweet. We went to the Martha Retreat Centre across the river from the university and did some great planning and bonding. The sisters are wonderful and we ate well and felt really cared for. Sr. Claire took this picture of us looking over to the university. I'll write more later about some of what we talked about - I have to get the powerpoint presentation ready that we're giving to Christ Trinity Lutheran Church tomorrow. But it was a sweet time.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I opposed the policy and my parents supported me. I argued that if there was a bomb threat they would call the police and under those circumstances the police had the right to open a locker without consent. If they suspected drugs they should call in the parents and get their consent and failing that they could get a warrant. It certainly wasn't an emergency in that case.
My parents argued with the administration as well but in the end I chose to go without a locker rather than sign the consent. The vice principal told me sternly that if I stored my stuff in another student's locker that they could still search it. I told him that wasn't the point. I didn't use drugs, I didn't keep contraband in my locker. The point was that I was entitled to certain civil rights and he was infringing on them. I still think I was right.
Today the CBC reported that Stockwell Day's office is trying to make it possible for the government to gather information on people's phone and internet use without a court order. The requirement that the state has to get consent from the court before prying into a person's private life is one of the forms of checks and balances we have on their powers. The thought that this government is quietly trying to remove those checks and balances terrifies me. The stakes are a lot higher than they were in high school but the principles are the same.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
The baptism this morning was really wonderful too. I preached about the way in which Jesus challenged family relationships and created a new family of brothers and sisters in Christ. (In there I spoke about the women who were martyred in the early church for defying their fathers). I talked about how we made a commitment to be family to the people baptized in our church. I finished by saying that we don't just renew our baptismal vows today but we also renew the vows we made to our children to support them in their lives of faith. The only glitch was that I forgot to invite the kids back in for the baptism. Oy. Robbie is having another bad episode of congestive heart failure and I was up most of the night with him. I was so proud of myself for getting everything set up this morning and not forgetting anything and then I forgot that. Oh well. I had them come in afterwards and gather at the font. We talked about the significance of baptism and the kids blessed themselves with the water. People seemed to appreciate it and no one gave me a hard time about my memory lapse.
Robbie is doing a bit better and I had a great afternoon with some friends. They gave me a Chapters gift card for my birthday (Charles Taylor's A Catholic Modernity? is ordered and on its way already!) and one of my very creative friends made this wonderful collage for me. I can't get the light quite right so you miss some of it but trust me - it makes me smile!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Rest eternal grant unto her O Lord. And let light perpetual shine upon her.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
This weekend I rewatched Entertaining Angels. It is an okay movie about an amazing saint, Dorothy Day. She was a communist journalist who came to faith because of the way she saw the church care for the poor. Her commitment to the poor and oppressed took on a whole new dimension as she lived a voluntary life of poverty creating soup kitchens and homes of hospitality through the depression. Later she was active in the civil rights movement and then the anti-nuclear movement. She was getting arrested for demonstrating into her 70s and continued to inspire generations of young people to spend time in Catholic Worker houses serving the poor. Her courage and faithfulness has always made me really uncomfortable with the comfort I live in.
I was mindful of her witness as I read Tobias Haller's latest posting on the Martyrs of Memphis. His very moving account of the witness of these people who cared for the sick in the midst of a Yellow Fever epidemic makes a really important point about what the virtue of fortitude looks like in the face of danger. We may be called on to commit spontaneous acts of courage but we are certainly called on to make those long term commitments of courage to serve those who are in need. Again, his posting made me uncomfortable with my life of comfort. This is a very different kind of discomfort than that produced by reading the reports from Nigeria.
Jesus said, whoever serves me must follow me — and sometimes that following will be the headlong leaping to cover a grenade with ones’ own body, or to enter an inferno and throw someone else to safety even as one perishes; sometimes that following will be a sudden bare-handed wrenching apart of the lethal mass that threatens life and limb — but more often, that following will be the slow and deliberate way of service to others, the way that with hands busy putting others first, sets the self down unselfconsciously on the shelf, sometimes misplacing it, and sometimes losing it. The way that follows Jesus is the way of the cross. Whoever serves him must follow him, and like it or not, that is the way he went, and that is what he carried.
Whether on the road to Jerusalem or the road to Memphis, Jesus goes before us, bearing his cross, and where he is, there will his servant be.+
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
I also found out today that the college, which dropped the word 'community' from its name in the spring, has also adopted a new logo and colours. Despite the attempt to rebrand the college the place still felt the same...the same chaos, the same confusion, the same energy, the same excitement, the same feeling of new beginnings....
I love the beginning of a new term!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Today was NSO at the university - that is new student orientation for those of you not hip to these things. It was a lot of fun handing out candy and brochures with two of our new student chaplains. The president of the university, Bill Cade addressed the crowd and got them fired up. Which is pretty good because a lot of them looked like bunnies in the headlights when I was chatting with them. Many of them said that they felt really overwhelmed. One of the great things about working on campuses is I get that first day of school rush every year myself. Gotta love it!
Monday, September 3, 2007
Saskatchewan is great and my holidays were wonderful (as you can see Robbie enjoyed some relaxation too) but it is fun to be back to see my new back porch. The long list of work emails and phone messages were less exciting. I don't have pictures of my porch yet and cabinets of some sort still need to go in but here is the picture of the tile lay out that my friend who did the work sent me for approval. Love that cross design! Now that the tile is grouted it is straighter than it is in the pictures. And now that all the old carpeting is pulled out the dumpster is full! And I have a lot more purging to do yet.
The other treat I came home to was a brand new copy of Peter Erb's new book Murder, Manners, Mystery: Reflections on Faith in Contemporary Detective Fiction. Thank you Amazon! Peter and I share a love of detective fiction and this is his reflection on the theological themes that appear in some contemporary mystery writers. Peter was my MA supervisor and he has a delightful ability to make insightful comments on 19th cent. Catholic theology one moment and rhapsodize on the joys of cheezie movies the next. I've started the book already - haven't even finished unloading my van - and it is delightful.
On that note one of really enjoyable time of my holidays was spent reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. After a miserable divorce Gilbert takes a year to travel to Italy, to eat pasta, to an ashram in India, to pray, and to Bali to find balance (and incidently fall in love). She writes really frankly about her personal struggles (sometimes so frankly I blushed) and she sees the humour in a lot of it. I laughed outloud a lot while reading it.
Now I have to finish emptying the van.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I have had a chance to do some reading and movie watching. I reread Chaim Potok's The Book of Lights and the new Marcia Muller mystery. I'm now reading Donald Miller's Searching for God Know's What. I have also been rewatching season one of the West Wing for the first time in years. Last night I watched Reality Bites. I need to write about this but it will have to wait until I get back to a computer. My time on this one is about to end.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
One of the hardest things about chaplaincy is that you get to meet really great students and become friends and then they graduate and move away. One of the things I love about the summer is that students come back and visit. I got to see Kris who is now teaching college and Frank who is at grad school. Sarah and Nathan have been back all week visiting from Iqaluit where they are now teaching. Sarah came out and helped us out with VBS and today we got together for breakfast. We had some interesting conversations about their experiences living up north. And like always we also talked about God and faith and books and music and art. I miss them a lot.
As I've been sorting through stuff and figuring out what needs to go to the dumpster and what goes to recycling or the thrift store I've been struck by how much junk I have. Part of the problem is that we can get so much cheap stuff made in the third world with little regard to environmental or labour concerns. The temptation is always to buy four cheap things instead of buying one good quality thing. And more to the point, there is always the temptation to buy a new one when you can't find the one you have already.
I've also come to realize that I go through a lot of paper that I don't file and therefore could never find if I needed. I run off articles all the time thinking that this is of interest and that I might use it in a sermon or a class. But then it gets thrown in a pile where it languishes. So now I'm asking myself whether or not I will file an article before I run it off. Hope it helps.
Maggie Dawn has a great principle for getting rid of junk: would I pay to ship this across the country? Unfortunately I have. It was 23 boxes of books and papers and miscellaneous stuff I had stored in friends' basement. After I went through it several years after I had paid to bring it here I found that there was little that I actually wanted or needed in the boxes.
So I was really preaching to myself last Sunday (see below). Now I just have to listen to myself!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
It has been really busy these past few days - no time to blog. Mom and Dad arrived Monday to take me out for my birthday and help me set up for VBS. Tuesday our VBS started and then I had a bbq in the evening for my folks. Yesterday they left early, VBS continued and then I was invited out for sushi in the evening. Today we finished VBS and now I focus again on chaplaincy work.
VBS was a lot of fun. We did the Augsburg programme Great Bible Reef and it was really good. The kids had fun, we learned some neat songs, and our older kids really grew into their roles as leaders. Our group was small - about a dozen - but that is about what we can handle with our small church and small group of volunteers. Two of my friends joined us to run the programme so we had 7-8 volunteers helping out. Most of our kids are under 7 so we need lots of grownup help. Our 12-14 year olds lead and do a fantastic job.
A while back there was a debate over at Fr. Jake's about packaged VBS programmes with lots of people praising home made simple programmes. I'm fine with keeping things low key but boy I appreciated having all the ideas and resources of the programme we bought and so did our cook. And the music was really really good.
We did add to the programme. On the second day the story was the healing of Namaan and we did a little session on baptism including learning how to bless ourselves with the baptism water as a reminder of our own baptisms.
Our main activity was to make aquariums to house all the great reef animals they made. They turned out beautifully.
Now I want to have a nap!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
You’re St. Melito of Sardis!
You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.
Thanks to Dead Apostle.