Tag Archives: Canadian Christianity

An Easter Catechism: Living in the light of the Resurrection

Raphael 1499-1502 via wikipedia.org

It’s been nearly four years since I last preached a sermon. That changed this month, when I was invited to preach at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw on May 4th, 2014. The audio of the sermon has now been posted. Feel free to check it out here.

 

 

 

Graduation Blessing: A Husband’s Prayer For His Seminary Wife

Grad letter and writers blockToday the seminary held a “Blessing of the Grads” chapel service. Each grad was honoured to have a blessing read out from a loved one. What follows below is Charles’ letter to me. I am so thankful for  a husband who has supported and actively encouraged this educational journey.

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Amanda, as I have watched you tackle the challenges of graduate study while dealing with the challenges of work and home, I have been continually reminded what an privilage it is to be your husband.  You have been and continue to be a blessing to me and to our children.  My prayer is that God will open doors for you to develop the immense potential that we see in you.  My prayer is that our children will learn to understand what an amazing mother they have, and will look to you as an example of what a powerful woman of God can be.

Lord, make Amanda an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let her sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, Grant that she may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Amen.

A Summer of Quiet

There is only one more week until graduation and then it will be summer vacation. Caronport in the summer is my favourite, as it gets very quiet and calm when all the college students leave. My hope is to take full advantage of the warm weather and spend as much time outdoors as possible.

In March, I presented an academic paper at a colloquium hosted by the school which looked at why we rest. I argued that rest is best understood when we explore it using sacramental language; that is, that when Christians rest they enter into something that points beyond merely ceasing, something that points to the promise and fulfillment of God’s sanctifying work.

photo(6)My hope is to put my research into practice by resting this summer. I have a large stack of fiction books to read.

I also hope to do some creative writing. I am not sure if this will take the form of fiction or non-fiction, but there is something about writing without a deadline hanging over my head or without the stress of grades lingering in the background, that feeds my soul.

Only after I have read my pile of fiction will I return to reading non-fiction. My bookshelf is piled high with academic books that I have bought in the last year, but  have had to sit and wait patiently as Barth occupied my every waking moment.

I am also hoping that in the rest I will be able to see more clearly what God desires me to do post-seminary. I hope to begin to discern PhD possibilities. So, dear readers, prayer would be appreciated as that journey of applying will begin in the fall.

 

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Canadian Christianity — The Anglican Church of Canada General Synod

The Anglican Church of Canada just completed their General Synod. One of the resolutions presented at this synod was for the 2016 General Synod to consider amending canon XXI on marriage to include same-sex marriage. At the moment there are nearly a dozen dioceses that have authorized same-sex blessings, and while it has been repeatedly emphasized that the blessings are not the same as marriage, critics have pointed out that it’s only a matter of time before the blessing ceremony is replaced with a marriage rite.

Malcolm, who attended the synod, notes that the process for voting on the resolution “went sideways”:

We had earlier dealt with a motion directing the Council of General Synod to initiate a process leading to a draft canon permitting Anglican clergy to solemnize same sex marriages. Several things went or nearly went sideways during the debate. Very conservative bishop Stephen Andrews and very liberal dean Peter Elliott combined to propose an amendment that outlined the consultative and theological work required. A brilliant bit of drafting, it offered some assurance to conservatives that their concerns would be heard. Unfortunately the original mover and seconded did not immediately understand what was being proposed and offered up a subamendment that would have cut the guts out of the very eirenic amendment. The subamendment, fortunately, was defeated.
After a very rational debate, the amendment passed. Then things decided to go sideways again.  A very few people called for question after almost no debate at all on the resolution as amended, the Primate called for the vote and off we went for a break.  When we returned, the Primate acknowledged this error, and also that he’d missed a valid request for a vote by orders….

The Anglican Journal has reflections from both sides, including Gene Packwood’s concern:

…changing the marriage canon to allow the marriage of same-gender couples in church would only hasten the decline in membership and revenues of the church. “I come from Alberta, and when the ELCIC [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] made a decision just for the same-sex blessings, 35 congregations left in Alberta alone and their budget declined by 25 per cent.”

Also, two blogs (Anglican Essentials and Anglican Samizdat) associated with Anglicans who are affiliated with the Anglican Network in Canada, have posted comments, including Peter’s observation that:

I do remember how many folk on the other side of the argument about 10 or so years ago were at pains to point out this was about blessings, not marriage – marriage was not going to be touched. We were not fooled by that, even then.

As someone who is new to the Anglican tradition, I find all of this fascinating and perplexing. I’m left with so many questions.

Is it truly inevitable that the definition of marriage will be altered?

Is it possible to have two definitions of marriage on the books? Or does that become a logistical, theological and pastoral minefield?

If the resolution passes in 2016 and 2019, and the definition of marriage is changed, what does this mean for the conservative parishes and dioceses? Will more churches decide to align with either the ANiC or the Catholic Ordinariate?

What does this mean for the relationship of the ACoC with the broader Anglican Communion? Will this hasten the acceptance of the ANiC as a valid Anglican tradition in communion with Canterbury? Or will it further fracture the cracks in the broader Communion?

Is the definition of marriage merely a “non-essential” or does it in some way reflect larger, “essential” theological disagreements?

I’d love to hear thoughts from Anglicans from both sides of this issue.

 

Canadian Christianity — C&MA Ordain First Female Pastor

On Sunday, the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada ordained their first female pastor, Eunice Smith. Last year, the denomination voted to change the bylaws regarding ordination to allow for women to be ordained. From the news release:

Eunice has served the C&MA for more than sixty years. She has served in the Canadian Midwest District, the Caribbean Sun Region and the Canadian Pacific District. Eunice was ordained in Richmond Alliance Church, in Richmond, B.C., the church that she currently serves and calls home.

Rev. Jon Coutts, lead pastor of Richmond Alliance Church, deemed Eunice’s ordination “a celebration of God’s faithfulness to and through her over the years, as well as a meaningful, formal affirmation of her gifts and calling for ministry in the church.”

Eunice’s son, Rev. Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College, declared that Eunice’s ordination affirms the seeds planted through her teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Eshet Chayil! A woman of valour!

 

The “Unsuccessful” Church

By all modern measures, the little church would be considered a failure. It never grew past 50 in attendance. Its demographic was always heavy on the seniors, with only a handful of people under the age of 25. For twenty years the church gathered in a rented facility, a youth centre, and all of the church’s belongings, from the pulpit, to the collapsible communion table, to the hymnals and coffee supplies, fit snugly into a tiny closet. (People used to joke that the little church would be ahead of the game if Christians became a persecuted minority in Canada because it could be packed up in less than fifteen minutes) In the last decade, the church began to die, literally. Every year at least one member went to be with Jesus. With the majority of the members being retired and on fixed incomes, the church operated on a lean budget. As the congregation shrank, the pastor offered to drop down to part-time status to help on expenses. More than one person asked the pastor why he kept ministering there; it wasn’t like he was making a ton of money as a full-time pastor, and now as a part-time pastor he was making bread-crumbs. His response, every time, was so long as people kept showing up, he would continue to pastor. This was a pastor that took joy in ministering to seniors, and in the ever-increasing race for “families and young people” more and more churches were neglecting their elders. This pastor wouldn’t do that to them. Seniors needed pastoral care just as much as young families.

The church was eventually dissolved. 20 years of ministry and it died. It was merged with another tiny congregation.

“Unsuccessful.” Or was it?

It was the church that I was discipled in. While I was saved through a large Pentecostal youth ministry, it was this tiny, dying church that took me under its wing and helped me grow in the faith. The pastor’s wife picked me up from home every Sunday morning, and drove me to church. I learned about being a Christian, and a woman, and a servant during those car rides. I didn’t say much, but I just listened as the pastor’s wife ministered to me through the stories of her life experiences. I learned about serving by helping to set up the rows of chairs every morning, by placing a hymnal and bible on each chair, by helping to put everything away at the end of the service. I learned about suffering and struggle as I prayed with members who were suffering from cancer, dementia, or the loss of a spouse. I learned about joy as I shared in the celebrations of 50th wedding anniversaries, birth announcements of grandbabies and great-grandbabies. It was in this church that I was baptized. It was in this church that I got to cut my teeth on leading worship and preaching. It was by this pastor that I was married, and that my first child was dedicated to Jesus.

The church may be gone, and church growth experts would say that it was an “unsuccessful” church, but they would be wrong. It’s not about numbers.

It’s about proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s about faithfulness.

It’s about service.

It’s about obedience.

It’s about caring for one another and discipling each other.

It’s about changing lives.

And that’s what this church did. It changed the lives of seniors who would have otherwise been forgotten by larger churches. And it changed my life. I learned about the long road of the life of faith, a life that is marked not by successive mountaintop experiences, but by the slow and steady walk of decades of faithful discipleship.

 

An Exercise in Self-Control

snoopyAfter my semester of chaos I was ready for a break. My plan was to take January off.

No working on my final thesis proposal.

Lots of time to read for fun.

Even some time to play a bit of World of Warcraft (which I actually found to be very, very boring. How weird is that?)

Other than my internship, I didn’t do a lick of school work. While it wasn’t in the original plan, even my blogging took a bit of a sabbatical. A few “hot topics” were buzzing in the blogosphere, and I didn’t blog about them even though I had ideas for posts.

Nope. I rested.

And yet, about halfway through my sabbatical, I was tempted more than once to pick up my thesis proposal.

I have ideas! I am refreshed! I should start this!

No Amanda, you said you were taking the month off, I would tell myself, as I put the thesis notes back on the shelf.

I made it through the sabbatical and kept the original boundaries the entire time and for a student-aholic that is a huge exercise in self-control.

I’m glad that I didn’t pick up my thesis proposal early. I enjoyed the quiet. And now that the quiet is over, I know that the next year will be anything but quiet. Between my internship, thesi,s and life in general, this year will be busy-busy. But when things get chaotic I can look back at my sabbatical and remember how restful it was, and that whether I’m in a season of busyness or rest I have so much to be thankful for.

It helped that I wrote a paper last semester on the theology of rest. It allowed me to think through why we rest, and because of that, I was able to enjoy my rest deeply. On Valentines’ Day I will be giving a lecture in a college class on the practice of rest. I hope to share with them this idea: Rest can and should be seen sacramentally – we rest not primarily because we are commanded to rest, or because it is good for us; instead we rest because God rested first and he invites us to join with Him in the rest that only He can offer.

There’s lots of exciting stuff coming up on the blog this month: stay tuned for a post on theological reflections on the move towards MOOCs in online education, a review of a book by NT Wright, some thoughts on the difference between guilt and shame, and a essay on Paul’s embrace of OT Law for the Church regarding sexual ethics.

Life of A Grad Student

Last night I finished my last major paper for my last class of my seminary degree. Save for a few loose ends that need to be dealt with this week, I am basically done all of my classes. Next week, I start my internship, and in February I start work on my thesis. Wahoo! I’m on track to graduate in 2014.

So as I was printing off a copy of my paper to do one final round of edits (I am the queen of comma issues), I found the following video in my Twitter feed. Yup. It pretty much sums up the experience of a grad student, be it at a Masters’ or PhD level.

2012 — A Busy Year Both on the Blog and In Real Life

Hello my friends. I hope you all had a blessed Merry Christmas. We had a delightfully quiet Christmas with lots of food (and chocolate) and much-needed quality “just hanging out” time. It was a geeky Christmas in terms of presents.

Not only did The Doctor visit and bring the dvd set of first season of Doctor Who with David Tennant, AND the 50th anniversary Dr. Who Monopoly, but we also got the Settlers of Catan expansion Cities and Knights. Chuck and I have been trying it out, and it’s going to make our Tuesday Settlers date nights very very interesting.

I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. It was a very busy year. On the seminary front, I took 8 classes between January and December (Greek, Theology of Forgiveness, Reformation Era, Patristics, Christology, Spiritual Formation, Research Methods, and Pauline Epistles). I have now completed all of the classes for my degree and am gearing up to start my thesis in February, as well as do my internship by helping out in a college-level class for the semester.

Things were also quite busy on the blog. The blog has reached the magical 100,000 hits in a little over 2 years which was awesome. Thank you so much to my readers, and to those who shared posts through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and other blogs. And, in September the blog moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org format. (A big shout-out to Nick who helped me get it all set up).

I think this year had some of my favourite blog posts.

I did a series on Women in the Reformation, looking specifically at Invectives and Insults that leading Protestant women faced for their attempts to proclaim the Gospel:

In light of this new egalitarian theology, women from a variety of backgrounds found a voice and entered into the action of proclaiming the Gospel and wrestling with the new theology of justification by faith. As Daniel Frankforter notes, at the advent of the Reformation, “many women comprehended immediately what it was about, embraced its faith, preached its message and encouraged its leaders.” Unfortunately, the response from the leaders of the Reformation to these women actively participating in preaching and teaching was not entirely positive. More often than not, the women who chose to write, preach and teach were met with invectives, attempts to expunge their writings, and silence.

I did a tongue-in-cheek exhortation on why Christians should never read the Patristic Fathers:

10. They’re boring. They don’t talk about anything interesting. Ever. And they are polite and never ever disagree with each other.

9. People were baptized naked. Yup. Naked. Oh my victorian/evangelical sensibilities!

8. What do you mean there were women in leadership in the early church? Church Mothers? Desert Mothers? Everyone knows that the only biblical model for women is to be at home in high heels and have supper in the oven…

Speaking of tongue-in-cheek humourous posts, I also did a very loose interpretation and reimagining of Proverbs 31, In Praise of the Geeky Wife:

A wife of geeky character who can find? She is worth far more than gold-pressed latinum.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks no season of Doctor Who.

She brings him buffs, not de-buffs, all the days of her life.

She grinds mats and rep and works with eager hands.

She is like Cyrano Jones, bringing her tribbles from afar…

I wrote about how Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Merida from Brave are illustrations of young evangelicals:

I guess what it comes down to is this: I wish there was a little more humility; a little more listening. I get the disenfranchisement of the young people in the church today, I really do. I am of that generation. I think the difference is that I didn’t grow up in the Church, so I didn’t have my rebel moment. I came into the Church at the age of 16 with my eyes somewhat open to what I was choosing. It was (through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit) my choice to respond to the gracious gift of Jesus; it wasn’t forced on me (“you have to be a Christian because that is what this family does”). Add to that, I have spent a lot of time reading Church history, listening to the elders who have gone before, and sitting under their wisdom. It has changed me. It has softened me. It has made me (somewhat) more patient with the foibles and frustrations of a Church that is made up of imperfect humans.

I wrote one post on the Biblical Womanhood hoopla that arose in the blogosphere after Rachel Held Evans’ newest book came out:

For 17 years I have struggled through the minefield of messages and advice, trying to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. And yet, I have also learned that much of the “advice” that is given out by well-meaning lay leaders in the church is loaded with spiritual guilt and peer pressure. Not only is there a desire to be a faithful servant, but there is a social need to fit in. And when those pressures are combined with “biblical” wisdom, it becomes a power cocktail of stress and anxiety, one that leads to a salvation by works rather than a salvation by faith, as women try their best to live up to the expectations.

I introduced y’all to some of my favourite female theologians, and Chuck talked about how to be a smart consumer of the academic literature that focuses on the complementarian-egalitarian gender debate:

First, there is a difference between “gender differences” and “inherent gender differences.” Gender differences (and that includes personality differences) are often substantial, but are the product of both biological and social factors. So finding larger differences than previous studies found does not lock us into the interpretation that these differences are all about God’s design. Also, the CBMW author rails against secular academics who are trying to prove that gender differences are “negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design,” but ignores the fact that the study (which I’m guessing he didn’t read) is about a conflict between academics who expect gender differences to be small and other academics (mostly evolutionary psychologists) who expect them to be large…Pointing to a poorly written study in a poor-quality journal and using it to “prove” an organization’s position actually serves to undercut the credibility of said organization.

On the sci-fi front, I wrote about the theme of apocalypse and the nature of humanity as portrayed in the Whedon-verse and Doctor Who and compared it to a Christian theological understanding:

Indeed, and here is the biggest difference, the Christian apocalypse is primarily redemptive. The Christian apocalypse is not about utter and total destruction. The earth and humanity will not be left in ruin, where the survivors are left alone to somehow bravely rebuild their lives. True there will be judgment (and violence). But even that judgment is redemptive.

So once again I want to say thank you to all of you out there. Some people think that blogging is an impersonal and isolating endeavour, but I have made new friends and even met some of you in real life as a result of the community that has been formed through the blogosphere.

May you all have a restful Christmas holiday. And I look forward to all the conversations that will happen in the blogosphere in 2013.

~Amanda