February 26, 2008

News from Cambrian Presbytery

This past weekend Cambrian Presbytery held its winter meeting. Of note is that this marked the 35th anniversary of the amalgamation of Kenora-Rainy River Presbytery and Superior Presbytery into Cambrian Presbytery.

We met at First Church United in Thunder Bay (part of the First-Wesley Pastoral Charge). THe meeting opened with morning prayer and communion Friday morning at 8:45. AFter greetings and opening procedures we broke into committee meetings for the majority of the day. In the late afternoon we returned to plenary session to deal with minutes of past meetings, hear about KAIROS (with a focus on Earth Hour), hear from the group that is heading to Zambia later this spring, and hear what the 4 Zones of the PResbytery had been up to.

After supper we had the first of two theme presentations. The theme this meeting was issues around Mental Health. THe first theme presentation was hearing the recovery story of a survivor of mental illness. It was a terribly powerful presentation, moving all to silence. THe other theme presentation was Saturday afternoon when we were treated to Photovoice -- a project where several mental health consumers were sent to the streets of Thunder Bay to take pictures portraying their journey through mental illness and recovery.

THe rest of Saturday was committee reports and business. AMong the highlights:

  • Morning worship included a covenanting with the new PResbytery Youth Minister
  • COSA (Christian Outreach and SOcial Action) had two presenters: Rev Neil OTke from Street Reach Ministries (inner-city Thunder Bay) and Hubert Den Draak from the Nolalu Eco Centre who spoke about the need to make serious environmental changes in our lifestyle.
  • COSA also brought forward motions calling on PResbytery to reduce mileage (5% in 2008 and a further 10% in 2009) and to purchase carbon offsets for al reimbursed mileage.
  • Red Lake and Cochenour United Churches will be amalgamating into one congregation, to be called Chikuni United church THey will be exploring what to do with their buildings.
  • Stewardship filled us in on financial matters, including the 2007 results of givings to the M&S fund
  • WE heard who will be taking leadership roles in Cambrian for 2008-09 as the nomination report was given (the chair will be Rev Gord Waldie)

AS always, our meeting concluded with worship on Sunday morning with the host congregation. Rev. Susan Ivany of Westminster United in Thunder Bay preached on issues of spirituality, mental health, mental illness and the church.

THe next meeting of Cambrian Presbytery will take place during the Conference Annual Meeting in Morden at the end of May. Gord will be installed as chair at that time.

FOr more information about the meeting (complete with pictures) read Cambrian Calls Plus

February 25, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 2, 2008 -- 4th Sunday of Lent

This Sunday we will have a report from last weekend's Presbytery meeting.
The Scripture Passages this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 18:1-15
  • Psalm 15 (VU p.736)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Hebrews 13:1-3
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 25:31-40

The Hymns this week are:

  • #374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
  • #117 Jesus Christ is Waiting
  • MV #1 Let Us Build a House (verses 1, 3, 5)
  • #593 Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love

The Sermon Title is Who is the church? Who isn't?

Early Thoughts: Looking at the people who are and aren’t here. How do we make the “unchurched” feel welcome? How well do we live out the duty of hospitality?

Likely the most important question asked by the Emerging Spirit campaign. is "How well do we welcome newcomers/visitors?"

Many, if not most, congregations describe themselves as welcoming and friendly. Many visitors and church shoppers have a different experience. So we have to ask ourselves if our self-perception is accurate and also need to ask ourselves what it in fact means to be welcoming.

One of the traps the church falls into is thinking that "yeah sure we want to welcome people--but they really have to conform to how we operate". Some churches will even name this out loud and admit it. Many more keep it unspoken but make it plain in other ways. But of course the reality is that this is unrealistic. Newcomers, even if they are visiting the area and are active churchgoers at home legitimately won't automatically know "how it works" in this place. And the onus is always on the host to adapt (within limits). THE ONUS IS ALWAYS ON THE HOST. SO you don't get upset of the people who have never been to church talk at an inappropriate time. SO you don't fret about the noise their children make. So you don't, even in jest, make comments about "that's my seat". You welcome them. You go a bit out of your way to help them feel welcomed. And yes, that might mean that things aren't quite what they always are. So be it.

One of the truths of welcoming ministry is that it is almost always several times easier to make people feel unwelcome than we suspect. Unfortunately it is usually easier to drive people away than to actually welcome them in for the long term. A chance comment may be overlooked by a long-time attender but could well be a deal-breaker for the church shopper. Add in generational and other cultural differences and the chances for appearing unwelcoming grow fast.

Being welcoming of new people means changes. It means changes in becoming more openly and intentionally welcoming. It means changes when those we welcome stay on and become part of our community. New people bring new things. Abraham and Sarah welcomed three strangers and their life was changed totally. When we welcome the Divine unawares we open ourselves to life and all its changes. And that is a good thing.

Come join us on Sunday as we explore what it means to ask who is here and who isn't and how to welcome the latter group.

February 18, 2008

Looking Ahead to February 24, 2008 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent

This weekend Gord and Elvin are attending the Winter meeting of Cambrian Presbytery. Thanks go out to Brian for providing worship leadership.

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:5-9
  • Psalm 9 (VU p.732)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 2:14-28
  • From the Gospel: John 4:5-29, 40-42

The Hymns this week are:

  • #395 Come In, Come In and Sit Down
  • #365 Jesus Loves Me
  • #806 O God, Our Help in Ages Past
  • #424 May the God of Hope

The Sermon Question for this week is: Why Church?

Teasers: Why do people make the choice to put church in their lives? When there are other options for our time why make church a priority? This week the sermon time will be sharing some stories from members of the congregation on just that question. What would your answer be?

February 11, 2008

Looking Ahead to February 17, 2008 -- Second Sunday of Lent

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 28:10-19
  • Psalm 121 (VU p.844)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 18:10-20

The hymns this week are:

  • #245 Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet
  • #579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
  • MV #1 Let Us Build a House (verses 1-4)
  • #420 Go to the World

The Sermon question for this week is: Where and when is the church?

Early Thoughts: Only in special buildings on special days of course. Or not. Where else could/should it be?

Where else indeed?

The easy answer is to say that the church is in the world. Last week we talked about how the church is the Body of Christ, the community of faith. And that community can be found in many places. Or, as our hymn says:

The church is wherever God's people are praising,
singing God's presence for joy on this day
THe church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
The church is wherever God's people are helping,
caring for neighbours in sickness and need.
The church is wherever God's people are sharing
the words of the Bible in gift and indeed.

But how does that transfer into reality? How do we carry the church beyond our hour of worship or our meetings or our study groups?

The proof, so they say, is in the pudding. It is in how we live during the in-between times.

Join us this week as we explore where we see the church in our world. Help us discover the truth of a church who is called together not to stay in one place but to be sent back out. And of course we do the gathering and the going out secure in the truth that Jesus shared with his friends: where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am there. And where God is, there is the church.

*Copyright 1959 Carol Rose Ikeler, used with permission under license #C6531 LicenSing--COpyright cleared music for churches

February 04, 2008

Looking Ahead to February 10, 2008 -- 1st Sunday of Lent

This week we begin our Lenten series The 5 Ws of Church.

This week being the beginning of a new season we will celebrate the sacrament of Communion. We will be serving in the seats instead of through intinction this time.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Amos 5:21-27
  • Psalm 63 (VU p.781)
  • From the Gospel: John 21:10-17

The hymns this week are:

  • #457 As We Gather at Your Table
  • MV #1 Let Us Build a House (verses 1-3) (insert)
  • #332 The Church’s One Foundation
  • #481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The Sermon title is What is the church?

Early Thoughts: Social club? Meditation Center? Political Action Center? Drop-in Center? Rites of Passage Co-Ordinator? All of the above?

The church is, at various times and in various places, all of these things. IT is a social club, it is a politicl action centre, it serves as a place to mark rites of passage. And all of those are good things. THe time when problems arise is when we get unbalanced or lose sight of our focus.

AT its heart the church is, of course, the gathered community of faith (next week we will talk about where and when the community is gathered). THis is what separates it from secular versions of all those options listed above. While we do all those things we do it from the vantage point of faith. We do what we do because we feel that GOd is calling us to do it. And so we hope that we do it in a different way, with a different experience than the local coffee shop (social club) or the Parenting centre (drop in) or the quiet place by the lake (meditation) or the Town hall meeting (political action) or any other gathering in our community.

HOw well do we keep the difference alive? Well that is the challenge isn't it. THis Sunday we will chat about how we are all those things and more as we ask ourselves "What is this church thing anyhow?" WOn't you join us, and join in the discussion?