May 28, 2008

NEws from Conference

Some notes and thoughts from last weekend's Conference Annual Meeting:
More in-depth news can be found here
  • One highlight was the theme presentations. The theme speaker was John Ikerd and he was wonderful. He spoke about sustainability and agriculture and ethics and economics. One concept that stood out was that "it makes no economic sense to do anything for others which doesn't benefit us". It is a powerful conscience that can stand up and say "the system is broken".
  • Another definite highlight was the celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry. As part of that celebration we recounted the history of getting to this point in our time. We also took time to lament the church's history of heterosexism/homophobia. Then we had a celebration with rainbow flags and liturgy and made a covenant to be a safe place, an affirming place, a welcoming place. During both the lament and the celebration there were tears in some eyes.
  • One of the highlights of conference every year is the music. Music sung by hundreds of voices at once, music that enlivens the soul and quickens the heart.
  • $14.03 per resident member (using 2006 statistics). That is all it takes to fund the Conference Budget. Admittedly a more useful number would be $ per identifiable giver, but still that is remarkably low. YEs that money comes, in the end, from local congregations (through assesments to Presbytery which in turn assesses congregations for the cost of running Presbyteries) and therefore comes out of funds available for local work. But still $14.03 per resident member!
  • Oh and it may be worth mentioning that at the Presbytery meeting on Saturday Gord was installed as chair of Cambrian Presbytery for 2008-09

May 20, 2008

Looking Ahead to May 25, 2008 -- 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

This week marks the Annual Meeting of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Thanks to Noreen for providing worship leadership.

This week we are using a worship service prepared by the United Church Observer.

The Scripture passages are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 8:32-35
  • Psalm 33 (VU p.760)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
  • From the Gospel: Mark 4:13-20

The Hymns this week are:

  • 382 Breathe on Me Breath of God
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 343 I Love to Tell the Story
  • 675 Will Your Anchor Hold

Just a quick reminder about the eavetrough Buy a Foot campaign. For $10/foot you can help us put eavetrough on the church and help prevent water flooding the handicapped washroom.

May 12, 2008

Sunnycove Forms Now Available!

Hot out of today's mail!

Sunnycove this year is July 7-11. DUe to scheduling changes campers are nto to be dropped at the camp until 4:00 on the Monday afternoon.

Forms are available at the church office. Give us a call if you want one, or if you just want more information.

Looking Ahead to May 18, 2008 -- Trinity Sunday, First after Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
  • Psalm 8 (VU p.732)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 1:1-2:4a

The Hymns this week are:

  • 409 Morning Has Broken
  • 291 All Things Bright and Beautiful (refrain 1st and last only)
  • 293 We Praise You Creator (tune #264)
  • 220 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

The Sermon Title is Creation? Evolution? Imagination?

Early Thoughts: Why do we read this story of creation? What meaning does it have in our worldview?

Within the culture wars of the last century and a half it is possible that few topics have caused more dissension as the creationism-evolution debate. Accepting the Genesis accounts of Creation (at least one of the two -- or more likely some version that combines the two) as actual historic fact has become something of a litmus test of faithfulness in some circles. The one debate becomes a rallying point for the whole debate around Biblical Literalism/understanding of Scripture. On the other side, requiring people to accept Genesis as science/history despite the plentiful and compelling evidence to the contrary has likely been one of the factors that pushed many people away from the church. What do those of us who remain people of faith but also people who accept the scientific evidence do?

One, likely common example is to pretend there is no problem. This approach means we separate our faith from our reason on this issue. At church we talk about God as Creator, elsewhere we read about evolution and rarely do we ask how to reconcile the two. For obvious reasons I find this approach lacking.

So what role does this story have? What does it mean to talk about God as Creator and yet to consider the Genesis accounts as myth?

That is where we will go on Sunday. For now let us mention that the two (God as Creator and evolution) are not automatically exclusive. Let us mention that Genesis 1 is mythic poetry that may never have been intended as literal fact. Let us remember that many cultures have their own creation myths, with some similarities and some differences between them. And most of all, let us always remember that calling Scripture myth does not belittle it or mean it contains no truth. The truth of the Creation account has little to do with what really happened.

For further reading on this topic (and to read something that will inform the sermon this Sunday) check out this essay.

May 06, 2008

Looking Ahead to May 11, 2008 -- Pentecost Sunday, Mother's Day

A reminder that this week being Mother's Day means we have our annual brunch following the service. Also, as it is Pentecost Sunday we will celebrate the sacrament of communion.

The Scripture readings this week are:
  • Numbers 11:24-30
  • Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
  • Acts 2:1-21

The hymns this week are:

  • 198 Come, O Spirit, Dwell Among Us
  • 195 On Pentecost They Gathered
  • 480 Let Us Break Bread Together
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The sermon title is: Spirit Language

Early Thoughts: Do we know what to do with people who are moved by the Spirit? What is the role of the prophet in today's society?

Earlier this year the US election was rocked by snippets of sermons given by Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the church where Barack Obama has attended. As sound bites the quotes were potentially troubling. Those who have read or heard the whole sermon say they were words of truth-telling, words of challenge, words of prophecy in a Biblical sense.

What do we do when the Spirit moves us to speak out against the norm, against the commonly accepted knowledge? Often we react defensively. Often the power-brokers react angrily. Often there is derision and condemnation. And that is what happens in Scripture when people become Spirit-filled and speak Spirit language. The Spirit often seems to break into our world and push us to re-evaluate what we believe. No wonder such action is often met with anger, derision, defensiveness.

What is the Spirit blowing into our lives and minds today? What fills us with fire and excitement so that we can hardly keep quiet?

and here are some other reflection questions around the Scripture passages for this week:
Is there a time when you have been overwhelmed by the “spirit of the moment”? How did that feel (great, terrifying, awesome ...)?
Often in our Scriptural story people do not know what to do with others who are moved by or filled with the Spirit. How do you imagine you would react to people acting like the Spirit-filled people in the readings?
Have you felt someone or something pushing you to say something unpopular and yet were sure it was the right thing to say? How do we react to that disagreement?
Where do you feel the Spirit leading you at this point in your life?

May 05, 2008

Pentecost Reflections

Next Sunday is Pentecost, also called the "Birthday of the church". Tomorrow a preview of our worship will be posted.

But today I encourage people to reflect on the meaning of being Spirit-filled. We live in an era where such language is often reserved for sports teams and fans. We live in an era where church is often seen as institutional and even bureaucratic rather than Spirit-filled and vibrant. What would it mean for the church to become more Spirit-led? Would we notice the difference? Might we be more flowing and variable?

This article discusses the way the church moved from being a Spirited and Spirit-led to a more institutional organization. Given that all organizations eventually move toward a more structured way of being it makes sense. But of course that isn't what the church is called to be -- at least in the minds of many.