February 1, 2019
January 25, 2019
I am going to be referencing the Kids in the Hall sketch “Things to Do” in this week’s sermon on the Wedding in Cana. It may not seem like an obvious illustration at first, but it provides a glimpse into how I’m going to approaching the text and message on Sunday. I have included the link below for the sketch.
Sometimes we have to prioritize what is most important on those lists and therefore make some tasks more important than others. There is some degree of necessity to do so. However, that Jesus guy isn’t always about what is conventional. Take some time to reflect on the “lists” we have in our lives. Perhaps take stock of where most of our time and checklist items go to. Note what often gets pushed further down the list. I’m not saying to tear up those “To Do” lists. Nor am I saying that your priorities aren’t important. Rather, I think we just need to assess what we deem conventional, what society deems as conventional and what we are called to fulfill as followers of Christ.
January 18, 2019
Well, it was only a matter of time before the snow returned. It really was inevitable. And it is inevitable that a Chinook will come and bring warm(er) weather back to Calgary. There are countless things in life that are bound to happen. We are going to trip up, we are going to cry, shout for joy, dance and wonder what’s for supper…
In Scripture it is written “for everything there is a season”. I believe this to be fundamentally true. From the hardships in life to the joys we experience. There are not many earthly (or even celestial) bodies that last forever. I find this oddly comforting. It may sound cliché, but, the promise of God is that we are never alone.
I do not often have the opportunity to speak with all of you in person, therefore, I do not know the life giving activities and the life draining activities y’all are involved in, but I do know some. However, I would like to get to know more. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me to chat, and to share in all of the seasons that life has to offer.
January 11, 2019
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
The except above is from the reading from Isaiah 43:1-7 for this Sunday. This passage is meant to reassure us that we are not alone. And I know that we say this a lot, but I think that we truly need to hear it. Life can get hectic. We are multitasking the majority of our time. And sometimes it gets to be a bit much. At Woodcliff, we have a ton of stuff going on (which is great), but it can also get stressful.
This half of the year sees us spend some more time, energy and resources in hearing from a diverse set of voices. Voices that offer different interpretations of scripture, offer up different experiences of the church and its work. I believe that the words spoken and energy spent can be challenging. As we hear stories of Treaty 7, Truth and Reconciliation, or as we hear stories from the pulpit of being marginalized by virtue of whom they love, this has the potential to be a lot to take in. These experiences have the chance to stir up anxiety or uncertainty. I get that. It is possible to wonder: “What about me/us?” As the Church, we are called to speak truth to power and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And believe me, this is not always easy, nor is it usually comfortable. However, I would encourage you to again take a look at the scripture passage from Isaiah. God is with us, no matter the rivers we need to cross, no matter how strung the current is and no matter how high that fire burns. God is with you.
Join me in dipping a toe into the water.
January 4, 2019
I thought I would follow social conventions and try to find a quote that we as a church can embody in 2019. After some time spent on Google I found the following by Tom Peters: “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
As a church, we are called to lift up God’s creation. Celebrate the joys, stand with the lonely and advocate for the marginalized. As a United Church, and as a vibrant and active church in Wildwood, this is something that we are pretty adept at. But let’s continue to celebrate God’s justice and help bring it about in 2019. On January 13th we are going to hear from Tony Snow during the service. On January 19th we will be hosting a blanket exercise that is specific to Treaty 7 territory and the new United Church of Canada Region 3.
Let’s celebrate that! Let’s come together and not only make events like these a numerical success; but let us celebrate the good work of Right Relations, Affirming and the countless initiatives our church ministries live into. There can never be too much joy in the world. There can never be too much solidarity with the forgotten, oppressed and racialized. Let’s celebrate what we want to see more of, not only as a denomination, but as Woodcliff United Church.
What do you want to see more of in 2019? Are you ready to celebrate it?
New Year’s Blessings,
December 28, 2019
New Years often means that millions of people worldwide are making resolutions. Some to finally use that gym membership, to read a book a month or maybe to finally clean out the garage. The list goes on and on. Normally, I don’t like making resolutions because they are far too vague and one can feel defeated if they aren’t accomplished. On the other hand, they give us an opportunity to work towards a goal, to some improvement, or rather, development of oneself.
I would like to ask you folks to make a New Years resolution that is faith related. (The Joint Search Committee never mentioned I liked to assign homework, did they?). Ask someone if you may pray for them. On Sunday, or during the week, go up to someone, ask for their name and ask if you could pray for them. I know that I could be asking a lot with this request. At the very least, you will get to know some new names…
Prayer has been seen for millennia as being transformational. Whether prayer silently, out loud, with music, via sand garden or via gardening, prayer takes many forms. Take a moment during this year to pray for someone by name once a week.
I pray you will join me on this spiritual journey.
December 21, 2018
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
We have finally (or only) arrived at Christmas. There is so much going on during this time of year. Take a moment to breathe and maybe to have some chocolate. Take some time for yourself.
This season we have a Blue Christmas service, 4PM Family, 7PM Candles and Carols and a 10PM communion service. We have a lot going on. That is a good thing. It is a blessing that we are able to have these various services that speak what is important about the Christmas season to each one of us. Maybe we only attend one of the services, maybe we attend all of them. The diversity of services reflect the different places and headspaces where we are at in our Christmas journeys.
I want to assure you that wherever you’re at personally, professionally or spiritually, that there is something for you at Woodcliff United Church. On Christmas Eve we are going to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is easy to make light of a story we have heard hundreds of times. However, we cannot overlook that this birth arguably changed the course of human history; and that is not something to take lightly. You know, it’s kind of funny. There are so many “what ifs” within the Gospels. What if it was a cloudy night and the shepherds couldn’t see the star? What if there had been room at the inn? What if Jesus had arrived early? What if… Before something happens there is almost infinite possibilities to what may happen. Take a chance this holiday season. Try something new, volunteer, join a ministry, try out a new genre of music, or maybe bake some shortbread for a minister you know…
Whatever service you attend (or don’t), know that you are loved. Know that God’s love goes beyond denominational, familial and personal history. May hope lead you, peace envelop you, joy lift you up and love empower you during this season.
December 14, 2018
Joy is a wonderful emotion, isn’t it? I have been thinking about joy a lot this week as we prepare for worship on Sunday. I have been myself: Is there a minimum amount of joy? A maximum? How do we share joy? The one question that I think that we as a church have to ask is: How can we foster joy in our communities? It is fair to say that as individuals we know what gives us great joy; such as receiving fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies, visiting with relatives and maybe finally getting that one question right on Jeopardy…
I admit that I do not know 100% what gives the people in Wildwood joy. What gives our neighbors happiness? I think that as a church, we are tasked with seriously considering this question. If we can’t answer it, then it is possible that we have some work to do. Rather, we have the joy of going out into the world and discovering what causes the community to leap for joy, smile, applaud or hug.
I do know that firefighters, teens, dogwalkers and families have enjoyed the community advent calendar. As a staff, we have seen countless smiles and selfies. A lot of good work went into creating this project and we can tell that it is appreciated by the community. With each drawer that opens, we have the chance to create moments of joy in the lives of all who participate.
There is much to do before the arrival of Christmas morning. However, I would like to add one more item to your list. Ask someone what gives them joy. Listen to it. Don’t think about how you might respond to what they have said. Hear what they are saying and take that with you. Joy is a wonderful emotion. As Woodcliff United Church, we have the possibility of fostering and growing joy in the community. Let’s spread some joy this Advent season. After all, it’s biblical. 😉
December 7, 2018
Last night, Michelle and I sat down to watch a classic Christmas movie: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. We did not watch the Jim Carrey one, but the older cartoon one with the limited color palette. We have both watched these movies with our respective families for as far back as we can both remember. I also shamelessly admit that we watch all those corny Hallmark Christmas movies. We can’t help it.
This year is the first year where we will both not be with our immediate families for Christmas day. There is an opportunity to forge new traditions and plan out the trajectory of Christmas traditions for generations to come! This could very well be a make or break Christmas…
That being said, there is a lot of expectations that come with Christmas. It is so easy to get swept up in the bajillion things each of us have going on. I have a few tips for making the holidays just a little bit easier:
1. Come worship Woodcliff United Church!
2. Visit your local animal shelter and pet ALL OF THE ANIMALS.
3. Write a letter to someone, anyone, and share a memory you have with them.
4. Remember: God loves you. There is nothing that will ever change that.
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.
November 23, 2018
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.
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.
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! 😊
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?