Reflections from the Rev

November 30, 2018
Woodcliff will be hosting a “Blue Christmas” service on December 20th at 6:30PM. It is meant to be a compassionate and intimate gathering of worshippers. I believe that we can recognize that the Christmas season is not happy or life-giving for all people. The purpose of a Blue Christmas service is to share love and support with those of us who feel like the holidays are a heavy blanket, keeping us suppressed and unable to fully engage with our friends and family.

I want to note that this Blue Christmas service will not be a “cure all”. Nor is this service meant to transform blues into someone who lives and breathes Christmas. This service is one of solidarity. Where we can come together as human beings to show our support and compassion for those who have sought out this service. In having this worship service, we show that we acknowledge that the holidays are not perfect, and that we want to meet people where they are.

If you know of someone who may be interested in or may benefit from this service, please invite them to Woodcliff United Church on December 20th at 6:30PM.
There will be music, prayers, candles, video and reflections as we share our lives with one another.
Blessings,
Rev. Eric

November 23, 2018
Greetings friends,
This note is following up from last week’s note in The Messenger. On Tuesday the issue of Rev. Vosper was added to the agenda. However, we had exactly 2 minutes of discussion. Well, it was less of a discussion and more of a statement. The Chair of Calgary Presbytery, Sue Broderick explained the statement from General Secretary Nora Sanders and Moderator Richard Bott. The statement was well done and really ended any discussion right there.

That is not to say that some of the clergy are feeling anxious about what it means for the United Church of Canada. The truth is, that the settlement between Rev. Vosper, West Hill United Church and Toronto Conference does not impact the theology, training or ethos of The United Church of Canada. The following parallel was used: This issue was settled before the case reached court. The complainant (Toronto Conference) and defendant (Rev. Vosper), reached a settlement before entering the court system of The United Church of Canada. That being said, there was nothing the judicial committee could do since the complaint was rescinded.

Here is a link to an article written by Rev. Dan Hayward that explains the situation and affirms who we are and what we believe as the United Church of Canada: https://daniel-inthelionsden.blogspot.com/2018/11/letter-to-editor-of-cornwall-seaway-news.html?m=1&fbclid=IwAR0YCzhm5C1Xli4Qk0ZcY0ArSKvzbwt1_Dclyjx_ekQ7XRWmG4jMdANLOs8

As problematic as the recent “atheist” minister issue has been, we now have the opportunity as individual churches and as a national body to discuss and lift up what about our faith we find most compelling and what it is we believe as Christians and members of the United Church of Canada.

As always, should you wish to discuss this (or any other issue) with me, feel free to send me an email or give me a call so we can have a chat.

Peace,
Rev. Eric

November 16, 2018
This week has been an odd week for The United Church of Canada. We heard that the Toronto Conference had reached a settlement with Rev. Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church. This settlement comes after many months of posturing, media statements and lawyers debating what should/could legally happen. The details of what the settlement are still sealed, so we are unsure of what exactly this settlement means. On a personal note, the past week’s events have enabled me to think more deeply about my faith and what my role is as a minister who believes in the triune God.

A couple hours after Toronto Conference released its statement, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott released a statement which allowed me to grasp what the leadership of the denomination had to say about an “atheist” minister. (Moderator’s statement can be found here: https://www.united-church.ca/news/moderators-message-rev-gretta-vosper ). This statement reassures me to some degree.

The Moderator declared that “…it is clear that as a denomination we believe in God: Creator, Christ, and Spirit, and that that belief leads us deeper into the Holy Mystery that is God, “beyond complete knowledge, above perfect description.” As a denomination, and as faith leaders, I believe in the Triune of Creator, Christ and Spirit. This statement affirms that we are not a denomination of atheists; that we do believe in the Word incarnate. The United Church has strived to be a place where everyone can be welcome. Where people of all understandings can come together in worship and feel accepted and loved by God. It is usually a pretty big tent church. And I would like to hold that up. There is no barrier to anyone wishing to come in and sing, pray and participate in the sacraments. However, as a faith leader within The United Church of Canada, there are certain things I hold very dear to my heart and that I believe are essential to believe as a Christian (Please come on Sundays to find them out! 😊 ).

There may be some who are expecting me to condemn Rev. Vosper, or take a hard stance on this issue. However, who am I to judge someone’s beliefs and faith journey? I am not a lawyer, nor did I sit on a judicial committee, and, I am biased. What I can do is state what I believe and what the statements of faith of The United Church of Canada state (https://www.united-church.ca/community-faith/welcome-united-church-canada/faith-statements ).

As I have written this message I would like to affirm a few things.
I believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
I will continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my ministry.
All are welcome at Woodcliff United Church (regardless of belief or unbelief).
God loves you.
Blessings,
Rev. Eric

November 9, 2018
Two weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in helping out Habitat for Humanity by being on the worksite December 1st. I was hesitant at first. Not because this is a wonderful cause that has raised almost 1million dollars as part of the interfaith build conglomerate, but because I am not even remotely talented when it comes to working with my hands. Nevertheless, I agreed to be on site to help finish the housing units.

I got to thinking that we are not all gifted when it comes to different tasks and jobs. Yet, we still survive as a church, community and society. We come together to pool our gifts of self and wealth so that we can make a measurable difference in the lives of God’s children. We are called to be the church and one way we live into what we are called to do is to support our sisters and brothers who are in need of affordable housing. This is why I am proud of Woodcliff and the Interfaith team for setting the goal of 1 million dollars. We are at 800,000$.

Not everyone can be on the build site. However, you may choose to be there vicariously through me by sponsoring me to be there! I set a goal of 1,500$. But I have faith (pun intended) that we can surpass that goal. Let’s build a better world together. Please follow the secure link to make a donation, click on my name and then on donate! 😊

https://fundraise.habitatsouthernab.ca/fundraiser/1768444

Blessings,
Rev. Eric

November 2, 2018
On October 28th we had our Trunk and Treat celebration at Woodcliff United Church. What a time of smiles, laughs and far too much sugar. I saw smiles on the faces of every age category that we had represented. There were games, fishing for donuts, information being passed out; but most of all there was the community coming together to celebrate joyfully. I think that it is easy to overlook what a special day that was not only for the youth, but for us as well. (Especially those of us that live in apartments and can’t hand out candy).

Trunk or Treat got me to thinking- how can we celebrate joyfully within the confines of worship? Granted, there are times where worship is more somber or serious, but overall, we come together as a diverse group of people to praise God with each fiber of our beings. Moving forward, I wish we could bottle that joy and wonder that was present last Sunday. Trunk or Treat was not only about doing “something nice”. It was about coming together as a community and living into who we believe ourselves to be. The website says “At Woodcliff we celebrate joyfully, care deeply and strive to make a difference for those in our church family and in the world around us.” The aforementioned phrase was on full display last week. Let’s keep celebrating joyfully.

Blessings,
Rev. Eric

October 25, 2018
This Sunday is the final Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer sermon series at Woodcliff United Church. During the service we are going to be focusing on the line “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.

So, in this message to you, I would like to write briefly on what follows: “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen!”. The language of kingdom and glory hearkens back to something like the feudal ages or in the times of Vikings; you would be right. Kingdoms and empires is the world that Jesus and his contemporaries lived in. But why do we still use that language now? How does it relate?

I’d like to put forward we use that kingdom language because it reminds us, or at least me, that this is God’s world and we are merely stewards of that. Part of what the Lord’s Prayer reminds me is that my prayer life and my life of faith need to encompass more than just my concerns, but all of God’s children.

The Lord’s Prayer is transformational. It is meant to be. Let’s continue to live into these very familiar words.
Rev. Eric

October 18, 2018
This week is part 2 of the sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. I am going to be dealing with the theme of being fed during the sermon. Therefore, I want to use this space to write about the 2nd theme from part 2; which is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy, nor is it something we like being on the receiving end of. Being forgiven implies that something wrong or hurtful has been done. And I, like most people, don’t like knowing that I have done something wrong and that it has caused pain.

As a white, cis-gender and young male I have enjoyed the privileges of being at the “apex” of the social hierarchy. As I have matured, I have looked at systems, whether political, social or educational, that do not show the same level of care or justice towards sisters and brothers of different races, religions or disability. For much of my life, due to my privileged position, I did not have to think about how what I do is not inclusive… Or how my inaction is directly causing suffering in another community.

Some social media posts lament the time where “white people” were comfortable and didn’t have to worry about the discomfort and did not have to acknowledge privilege. That is comfort. That is where many of us can situate ourselves. I guess what I’m saying is that I need to be forgiven. As a church, we have a ways to go so our words AND actions reflect who Jesus called us to be. I would encourage you to take some time this week to think about actions you take every day. Then imagine how it would be different if you skin was a different color, if you were in a wheelchair, if you were on social assistance, if you loved someone that society does not think is the norm… Imagine how your life would be complicated (and I use would be because it would be), by this change in who you are.

Forgiveness… Let’s do better at asking for it, shall we?

Blessings,
Rev. Eric

October 12, 2018
This week we are entering into a 3 week sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer that has stood the test of time, albeit with varied wording and different points of emphasis, but survived nonetheless. This prayer is a central pillar to the Christian faith. It is more than a passive prayer helping us to get by or to nurture our faith. The prayer of Jesus is as much of a call to action as it is asking for help, or seeking comfort.

However sometimes we pray it as if it part of our routine. This has its pros and cons. The pro being that we know the prayer and that it is a regular part of our life of faith. The con? Well, the con is that it is such a routine action, that we it does not require thought or much action, much like putting on a pair of shoes. The next 3 weeks are devoted to exploring this revolutionary prayer and what it means today. Why is it revolutionary? Why has it remained relevant? Let’s talk about this prayer that has withstood empire, church schisms and even the countless denominations that have sprung up the last two thousand years.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
forever and ever, Amen.

I would encourage you to read over the prayer of Jesus, whether you are a firm believer, a cautious doubter or even just curious. What about it challenges you? Affirms you? What calls you to action?
Blessings,
Rev. Eric

October 5, 2018
When we were growing up there were always pets in our home. From birds to hamsters, cats to dogs and even a rat for a brief while. It was never confirmed if it was an actual pet rat or a stray my brother had found… Pets make a house feel a little more like a home. Pets are forgiving, loving and they can be a friend when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Pets can be real blessings in our lives.

On October 4th we had our first annual pet blessing at Woodcliff United Church. The pet blessing serves a few purposes. Firstly, it helps us to connect to the community and the dozens of humans and their fur babies that pass by every day. We get to show the community that we see them, and we want to get to know them (or you if you’re reading this message!) Secondly, we get to celebrate all the joy and laughs that pets give us. Just as we give thanks for food, health and family; we are now making an explicit effort to acknowledge the blessing that all sorts of pets are in our lives.

It is fitting that this celebration falls close to thanksgiving. We are giving thanks for our furry, slimy or scaly friends. It is an opportunity for us to life up the comfort and friendship they provide in our lives. In blessing pets bless some of God’s creatures that have more often than not been a God-send to us. Thank you for your support of the Pet Blessing Drop in. I look forward to seeing what we can do for/with pets next year!

Do you have a pet you’re thankful for? If so, can you remember a time where they were a blessing to you?
Rev. Eric

September 21, 2018
On my way to work there are 4 playground/school zones. The speed limit in those areas are 30 kmh. Therefore, a short trip to the church actually takes me almost twice as long to make.  I think of the different areas in life where we are mandated to go slower.  It could be because of a surgery, age, sports commitments or the volume of work one has.  In those times we need to slow down and be aware of what we are doing; have our eyes on the road, so to speak.  For if we are not careful enough it could result in a ticket and demerit points.
 
I’m aware that there are rarely tickets and demerit points for those school zones in our lives.  But there are risks involved.  Should we choose to move too quickly we can miss what is around us. If we hasten back from an illness we can end up even more sick than we were before.  If we take on more and more the end result could be burnout and a carelessness about what we have going on. 
 
The life of a church has these speed zones as well.  As the institutional church goes through changes, it needs to do the due diligence of acknowledging where we are and how best to get to the next zone.  At Woodcliff United Church we are in a school zone right now.  We’re taking stock of who we are, what we have to offer and how we can best serve those inside and outside of the congregation.  This process may seem slow, but it’s necessary to avoid “fines”. 
 
What have we sped through? Where can we learn to slow down?
 
Blessings,
Rev. Eric

September 14, 2018
This week I started to go through the drawers and cabinets that are in my office at Woodcliff United Church. As I begin to settle in, I am wanting to try and make the office space feel a little more homey. In emptying some cabinets I have found some pretty neat items. I have found a pre-modern expresso machine, a doomsday amount of candles, and a marriage prep course from the 1970’s. It is safe to say that perhaps only one of those belongs in my office…

Despite the diversity items I am excavating from the desk drawers, I am feeling a little like an archaeologist. As I go through my office there are items here that a couple of decades ago would have been the highlight of any office. There are resources that were top of the line back in the 1970’s. One of the more interesting pieces I found was a plasticized copy of the order of service from the inaugural service of the United Church of Canada in 1925. A beautiful service of unity, but with language and a purpose that is foreign to today. As we clean out offices or homes, we have a sense of nostalgia and discovery as we find the items of our youth. There is a great sense of joy and familiarity as we itemize those hallowed spaces. However, nostalgia does not always mean it is great for the present. (Bell bottom jeans, anyone?)

As a Church and as individuals we are constantly taking stock of what is hidden away in secret rooms, bottom desk drawers or displayed prominently. It is a good practice to remember where items have come from but also to recognize that they are from a specific time and place. The author of Ecclesiastes, a book in the Hebrew Bible, knew this, and he wrote the following : “For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens…”

What’s in your desk drawer? What is its purpose as we inch close to 2019?
Blessings,

Rev. Eric

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