Archive for Saskatchewan

Canada: The “Meh” Factor

Wikipedia defines the word “meh” as “an interjection, prescription often an expression of apathy, indifference or boredom.” It is commonly used to express an extreme lack of enthusiasm or positive emotion. This can be a reaction to something you experience. For example, if someone asks, “What did you think of the latest Harry Potter film?” replying “meh” would mean something like, “I didn’t hate it enough to walk out, but that’s about the best I can say.” “Meh” can also be your response to a proposed course of action. If someone asks, “How about pizza for dinner tonight?” and you answer “meh,” it means, “I won’t bash your head in with a crowbar for suggesting it, but I am in no way on board with this plan.”

As I read up on Canadian history, two things strike me. First: pirates. Specifically, Newfoundland pirates like Peter Easton (who captured the Sheriff that England sent to arrest him) and the Kirke brothers (who captured Quebec). The first Governor of Newfoundland was a pirate (David Kirke). That’s just awesome. And the awesomeness continues among the Saskatchewan pirates.

The second thing that stands out is the number of times that Canadian history has been shaped by the power of “meh.” On many occasions, Canadians have been asked (or commanded) to take certain actions (sometimes by other countries, and sometimes by other Canadians), and they have responded with “meh.” Not really responding with outright rebellion or gunfire or massive protests, just an extreme lack of enthusiasm. And that “meh” has created the Canada we now know.

This is a partial listing of some of the prominent history-shaping Canadian “meh”s:

** In February of 1763, France signed away its North American holdings (except for St. Pierre and Miquelon and some of Louisiana). A few months later, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the “Province of Quebec” with James Murray as Governor. The Proclamation was a very good deal for “Canadians,” but a very bad deal for “Canadiens,” and Murray also faced considerable pressure from English Protestant merchants to put the boot down on those Frenchies, lest they start getting ideas.
Murray’s reply: “Meh.”

** In 1775, the Americans were taking a very “non-meh” approach to gaining independence from Britain. During the build-up to the Revolution, the American colonists invited Canada to send delegates to the Continental Congress, and sent the following:

“By His Excellency, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies of North America. To the inhabitants of Canada: Friends and Brethren, the unnatural Contest between the English Colonies and Great-Britain has now risen to such a height that Arms alone must decide it… Come then, my Brethren, unite with us in an indissoluble Union, let us run together to the same Goal.”

The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** As American and British troops fought it out, and American forces pushed toward Quebec City, Quebec Governor Guy Carleton believed that the French Canadians (grateful that the Quebec Act of 1774 permitted them to be kinda sorta half French in their laws and practices) would rise up and happily defend their British overlords from the rampaging Americans.
The Quebec reply: “Meh.”

** During the War of 1812, General Hull marched into Upper Canada, expecting Canadians to happily throw off the yoke of British rule and join the Union (which makes sense, since Americans are composed of 50% Cool, 45% Awesome, and 5% Chuck Norris Jokes, so who WOULDN’T want to be American?).
The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** Last on our list: when it came to relations with the British Empire, Wilfrid Laurier was the “Meh” Heard Round the World. Joseph Chamberlain proposed a Council of the Empire in 1897, so that military and economic power could be consolidated. Laurier said “meh.” And he kept saying “meh.” Military unification? “Meh.” An imperial common market? “Meh.” Boer War? “Meh.” His critics started calling him “Sir Won’tfrid.”

There we have it. The Canadian “meh” is a powerful thing, not to be taken lightly.

What do you think? Does “meh” still resonate in the Canadian heart? Is this the hidden answer to why Canada did not join the US and Britain and Australia in the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Is this the hidden answer to why the 1995 Quebec referendum was defeated? Is this the hidden answer to why so many of my students get to the end of the semester and STILL haven’t picked a paper topic?

Written by Dr. Charles Hackney. Associate Professor of Psychology at Briercrest College and Seminary.

(This Flashback Friday article was originally posted August 2, 2010.)


Summer Is…


…the smell of bug spray and sunscreen and sweat.

…a father spending hours pushing his little girls on the swing set.

…floppy hats with big brims.

…half the town gathering out on the field two nights a week to watch the kids play soccer.

…BBQ chicken on paper plates.

…tractors in the farmer’s field from dawn until dusk.

…squealing children running through the spray park.

…little green army men getting run over by the lawnmower.

…catching ladybugs in an empty peanut butter jar.

…sunday afternoon picnics.

…roasting marshmallows and hotdogs over an outdoor fire pit.

…a never-ending battle against the weeds in the tomato patch.

…prairie sunsets that fill the never-ending horizon.


The Winter That Wouldn’t Die; Community; and God’s Amazing Blessings

It was a simple enough plan. I had an appointment in Moose Jaw (the city closest to us, ed about 15 minutes down the highway) and Chuck had to go to Regina (about an hour further). We got a babysitter for the girls, ailment and the plan was to go to my appointment, order and then continue on with Chuck to Regina. While he did his thing, I would do errands, shopping, and have a little bit of “me” time.

We set out at 2:30. As soon as we got on the highway, we knew it was going to be bad. The wind was blowing; the highway was snow-covered and there was zero-visibility. I sat in the passenger seat clenching the arm rest, and praying that we didn’t run into a semi, or slide off the road. We made it to Moose Jaw, and decided that Chuck would just drop me off at my appointment and keep going to Regina, in the hopes of outdriving the weather. For him to sit in MJ for an hour waiting for me, would mean that the roads would probably be worse by the time we were ready to set off for Regina. We agreed that I would either find a ride back to Caronport, or just hang in MJ until 10:30-11 when Chuck would be on his way home. Hopefully, the weather will have cleared by then, we said to ourselves.

I finished my appointment and walked up to the McDonalds. When I arrived there were several messages from Chuck. He was 1 km outside of Regina and in the ditch. The tow company said it would be hours until they could come and get him.

Thank goodness for free wifi. With my iphone and facebook I jumped into action. I posted a message on facebook and on the community email seeing if anyone knew anyone in Regina who could go rescue him. A flurry of messages and conversations ensued. Within an hour, a seminary student in Regina (who I don’t think I’ve actually met) offered to go get Chuck and take him to his appointment. Not only that, the student then offered Chuck a place to crash overnight, as it was obvious that the roads weren’t going to be getting better anytime soon. With Chuck taken care of, I took a deep breath.


Now how was I going to get home? I checked the road report. The highway between Caronport and MJ was closed. That’s how bad the weather had become. Crud. A flurry of conversations on Facebook ensued, and a friend called our pastor in Moose Jaw and asked if I could hang out at their house. Within half an  hour, the pastor had picked me up and had set up the guest bed for me.


In the meantime, I was talking with the babysitter. Don’t worry, she said, I’ll just crash on your couch. The kids were taken care of.

The kids were at home. I was spending the night in MJ, and Chuck was spending the night in Regina. Definitely not the plan, but we were safe.

The next morning I got a ride back to Caronport with someone who was headed to campus. The road report said the roads were driveable. We quickly learned that they were only technically driveable. They were ice-covered. We didn’t drive faster than 40 km/h, and at several points it was safer to drive on the rumble strip on the edge of the road, than stay on the ice. But we made it.

Chuck got a ride back out to the highway to where he had left the car. It was gone. The RCMP had towed it in the night, but a snow drift was building beside it and spilling into the right lane of traffic. Off to the tow company to retrieve the car. Once there, the tow company put it on a flat-bed and had it towed to a garage recommended by the seminary student who had come to Chuck’s rescue.

It was getting close to 11. And now there was nothing Chuck could do but wait for word on the car. And he waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, at 4:30 word came down. The car was beyond repair. It would have been over $4,000 to fix the 21 year old car. There was no point, and even the mechanic was honest enough to say as much.

(The timing couldn’t have been worse. We were only 7 weeks from getting a new car. My mom is coming out at the end of April and selling us her nearly new mini-van.)

Chuck just needed to come home. He had been gone 24 hours, still in the clothes he had worn the day before. He was tired and stressed. We decided the easiest thing to do would be to rent a car for a week. Enough for him to come home and give us some breathing room for a few days to figure out what to do next.

Off he went to find a car rental office. He then went back to the garage, and emptied out the 92 Lincoln. Car seats. Winter gear. Paperwork from the glovebox. All the random stuff that inevitably accumulates in a car. Good-bye Lincoln. The garage offered to have it sent to the scrap yard. Taking pity on Chuck, they also didn’t charge for their services.

Thankfully, the roads were completely clear when he made his way home. He came home and collapsed. We talked about our options.

We couldn’t afford to rent the van all the way through April. But if we could find someone willing to lend us a car on Monday and Thursday nights so he could go to Regina, we could survive. It would mean not going to our church in MJ for a month or so, but it wouldn’t be a problem to walk to one of the two churches here in Caronport. And Chuck could even do the grocery shopping on Monday nights on his way home. We could make this work.

And then we looked at the weather report. More snow was on its way from Thursday through Sunday. All we could do was laugh.

Even though it was a stressful couple of days, and it will probably be a stressful couple of weeks, both of us could recognize God’s blessings in the situation. From amazing friends who pitched in to help us, to the fact that it could have been so much worse (Chuck could have been stranded in the middle of nowhere, I could have been with him and had no way to get back to the girls on Tuesday morning, etc), God provided for us.

And even today, as it threatens to dump another 10-15cm later tonight, I am amazed at the glimmers of God’s goodness. The three-year-old has declared today to be a summer day and is spending the day dancing around in her bathing suit. Chuck is prepared, and has packed an overnight bag just in case he can’t get home tonight. We have groceries in the house in case we can’t get out all weekend.

I’m teaching my last class related to my internship today. Our opening Psalm, that was chosen weeks ago, is going to be Psalm 136. The repeated response that runs through each verse has been looping through my head for two days: “His love endures forever.” Whatever else happens, whatever stressful situations crop up, none of that negates the fact that God’s lovingkindness endures forever. God is good. And I am thankful.

Off Topic: Christmas Craft Sale in Caronport

Next weekend, viagra November 30 to December 2, pilule I will be participating in the annual Christmas Craft Sale at Briercrest College and Seminary. This craft sale is in conjunction with the annual Christmas Concert put on by the music arts department at Briercrest. To those of you who live in Caronport or southern Saskatchewan and are planning to attend, cure please print off the attached coupon flyer to receive a discount on your Christmas shopping at my table. Merry Christmas!


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Canadian Christianity — Bishop Michael Ingham

On Monday night, site Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s invited guest was Michael Ingham, recipe Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Ingham was introduced as one of the 25 most influential Anglicans in the world, and given the issues and events that have happened in the diocese of New Westminster in the last decade, this is not surprising. I have spent the last two years reading and trying to figure out the Anglican Communion, and I have read about Bishop Ingham, as well as reading some of his own writings. Attending the lecture gave me a chance to see the man himself, and I hope that it will help me to better evaluate his influence and his theology without relying on some of the opinions that are coloured by pain and anger. Saying that, Bishop Ingham presented himself as a quiet, smart, and well-composed. And while there are still theologies and actions that I still strongly disagree with, and believe that have caused damage to the Anglican Church in Canada and worldwide, Bishop Ingham is not the devil incarnate, or the “bogeyman.”

To introduce his lecture, he talked about the recent controversy about whether or not the liberal, mainline churches are dying, as discussed in mainstream media articles like Ross Douthat, Margaret Wente and Diana Butler-Bass.

This leads to a need to talk about what “success” looks like or mean in Christian discourse. Is a church successful if it’s growing? Is it successful if it doesn’t? What does success look like in light of the fact that we follow a Saviour who suffered and died?

Ingham’s lecture was on the impact of the shift from modernity to postmodernity on the Christian Church. For the most part, what he said was not really controversial, as he gave a basic overview of both modernity and postmodernity. His argument was that the labels “evangelical” “catholic” and “liberal” are fundamentally modern in orientation and are thus meaningless and obsolete in a post-modern context. These labels have become political labels that represent ideologies rather than theologies, and they belong to an older generation of Christians, and have no place in the new Christianity of the 21st century. Thus, younger Christians are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves. They are post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-conservative, etc.

Ingham then looked at the evolution that has occurred within the three traditions of Christianity: liberalism, evangelicalism, and Catholicism. So for example, out of liberal Christianity has arisen post-liberalism and radical orthodoxy. From evangelicalism has arisen the emerging church movement, and from Catholicism has arisen communities like Taize.

He argued that part of the problem today is that in spending so much time about the decline of the church, we are missing the fact that new and exciting things are happening. Indeed, he emphasized that the church is not dying; but it is changing. And while changed can feel like death because it is painful, Christianity is in the process of evolving.

It was interesting to observe his confidence that he is right in his decisions and actions in his role of Bishop. His lecture demonstrated that he believes that the issue of SSM has been settled in the Anglican church, that he has won, and that it is just a matter of time before the rest of the Anglican church capitulates to his position. This was evidenced in his emphasis that the new generation of Christians doesn’t want to fight about issues or doctrine. The way he set it up, it was clear that the older generation just needs to get on board with the younger generation; that the reason the young generation doesn’t want or need to fight is because it is right on the issues.

If I had had the chance, (or the courage), I would have asked the Bishop one of  two questions:

First, what will this age of redundant and obsolete labels mean for the selection and task of the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Second, his very concluding observation was that we shouldn’t focus on the people who are leaving the church but rather on the people who are coming, made me want to ask him if he is working at all to reconcile with the conservative congregations that left his diocese for the Anglican Network.

This was my first Luther Lecture, and I think I would go again. In the 40 years of the Luther Lecture, Luther College has hosted a diverse company of scholars and thinkers, including Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kung, Margaret Somerville, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Next year, the Luther Lecture will feature Martin Marty.

Welcome To Caronport

Ah August. Summer is almost over. The evenings are growing cooler. Gardens are almost ready to harvest. College students have begun to trickle back into the ‘Port. New families are moving in and getting settled before the school year begins. Welcome to Caronport!

I thought it would be a good idea to give a Primer on living in Caronport. We moved here in January 2010,  and it has been an experience! So here’s all the information I wish I had had when we first moved. (And if you read this blog and know of someone who is moving to Caronport and would find this helpful, please be sure to pass it along).

1. You cannot buy Pepsi products anywhere in the village limits. Nope. Not a single one. Coca-Cola has a stranglehold on this village, and as I’ve said before I’m not sure about the theological implications of this.

2. Church options. In Caronport there are two churches: The Gathering which meets at the Landing (on Centre Street, big white building you can’t miss it), and Caronport Community Church which meets in the Edwards Chapel in the main college building. It is not uncommon for Caronportians to travel into Moose Jaw (20 minutes down the highway) for church. A full list of MJ churches can be found here. I’ve written about how we prayed and struggled about where to worship, you can read about it here.

3. It is physically, statistically, temporally impossible to shop at Superstore (in Moose Jaw) without running into at least one person from Caronport. Impossible. I’ve never been to Superstore and not run into a Caronportian. Speaking of shopping, because there is no grocery store in Caronport, Moose Jaw is the place to shop. There is Superstore, Sobey’s, Safeway and Coop for groceries. There is a Wal-mart. The mall is pretty sad, but it’s where the movie theatre, Dollarama and Sears are. There are neat shops in the bustling downtown of Moose Jaw, and lots of banks. And of course, Tim Horton’s. It’s also not uncommon for Caronportians to drive an hour to Regina for bigger shopping fare (e.g., Costco).

4. Caronport has a Husky gas station, a convenience store, a Subway and a Coffee Shop all in one building just off the highway. Collectively, this building is called The Point. No, Caronport does not have a restaurant and it hasn’t had one for nine years now. If you spend any time at The Point you will hear at least three tourists ask where the restaurant is. The poor employees have to say over and over again: It closed nine years ago! There is also a hotel, The Pilgrim Inn just off the highway.

5. On campus there is also a little coffee shop that is only open during the school year. It is known as The Bean, or, The Crossroads, and is found where the college building attaches to the seminary wing.

6. If you’re around in the summer, there is a Farmer’s Market that takes place every Saturday from July 1st to Labour Day weekend, from 9am-Noon. You can get fresh garden produce, homemade jams, baked goods, and crafts.

7. This road reports website must be bookmarked by all Caronportians. It tells you the conditions of the highway, and whether they are safe to travel. It is colour-coded based on conditions, as well as it has a description of the conditions. We have learned that if it says ‘icy’ to stay off the road.

8. There is a garage in town called OK Tire. They also have emergency assistance towing. Keep that number handy for when you slide into the ditch on the highway.

9. There is a medical clinic in town, located on Birch Street, behind The Point.

10. If you have family that lives far away and wants to send you care packages, I have found that instead of sending packages through Canada Post, it is actually cheaper to ship them through Greyhound. The Greyhound comes through twice a day (from east and west) and because Greyhound runs on the weekends, packages tend to arrive quicker than when delivered by Canada Post. All Greyhound packages are delivered to the convenience store at The Point.

11. That said, there is also a post office in town. There is no home delivery of mail, instead everyone has a PO box at the post office, which is on Centre street.

12. One of the handiest ways to stay in the loop with what’s going on in Caronport is to sign up for the Community Email. This email list serve is fantastic for listing items for sale, asking to buy things, announcing community events, etc. You can find out about how to sign up for community email here.

13. What to do with your kids? The Caronport Rec Board offers several sports programs through the year including: skating (from pre-schoolers and up), hockey, and soccer (May-June). There is also Jireh Kids Choir for those kids who like to sing. There is an Awana program for school-aged kids (kindergarten and up) that runs through the school year, and in the summer there is usually a VBS. For wee little kids, there are two moms ‘n tots groups that meet weekly (Wednesday/Thursday). There is also a pre-school that meets two afternoons a week for 4 year olds (and now they are also accepting 3 year olds who are potty trained). And the newest edition to Caronport is the Spray Park which is open from Victoria Day to Labour Day Weekend. The elementary school also has a playground. And when it’s really, really cold, don’t be surprised if you see the “stroller brigade” walking the halls of Briercrest.

14. Brace yourself for the weather. It gets cold in the winter. Really cold. And the cold lasts for quite awhile. (For most people I’ve talked to, your first winter is the hardest winter, especially if you come from a more urban area). And the summers get really hot. We live in the basement of our house for about three weeks in July when it gets very hot. And this summer, we had a couple of cool storms, including hail and a few tornado warnings! Oh, and no matter what the weather, it is absolutely necessary that you bike to campus; even if it means wiping out on the icy roads.

15. Caronport has a cemetery. No I’m not referring to the seminary, though that is what the college students seem to think the seminary is. The real cemetery is on the east side of town and if you live on Spruce Street, the cemetery is your stunning prairie scenery!

For those of you who are from Caronport and read my blog, feel free to offer your own advice in the comments below! And for those of you who are new to Caronport, again, Welcome to Caronport!

Happy Canada Day

The best rendition of our national anthem EVER!

On Wicked Weather, Community, and Life

Yesterday we had some wicked weather. It had been hot and humid all day which is not typical Saskatchewan weather. Indeed, decease it was so muggy that I felt like I was back in Hamilton (minus the smog of course!) And then in the early evening, the clouds rolled in. The storm chasers were out as almost the entire province was under a tornado warning.

So what do the fine residents of 5th ave in Caronport do? Why we stand out on the street and watch the storm roll in! Nevermind that this one cloud (in the picture above) was a rotating swirling violent cloud. Nope until the fire truck sirens went off we all stood and stared.

At the sound of the sirens we all scurried into our houses and down to the basements…for a few minutes anyway. The cloud quickly passed, and we were back out on the street staring up into the heavens. Adults, kids, babies. Some of us had cameras in hand; others had glasses of wine.

Meanwhile across the highway, not more than twenty minutes to the south, an actual tornado had formed:

According to the storm chasers it stayed on the ground for about ten minutes.

And then the thunderstorm came, full of fury and lightning, thunder and hail. Once more we ran into our houses. But as soon as the rain passed, out we all came again.

What a strange way to build community.

A wicked and potentially devastating storm draws out the neighbours. Community and conversations were abundant in a way that I have not yet experienced in this town. Even neighbours who are rarely seen out made an appearance. And with school finished tomorrow, families will be leaving on vacation, the town will get even more quiet than it already is since the college kids left in April. So, for a few short hours, the threat and thrill of the storm allowed the residents of 5th ave to share in one last block party.

Living in Caronport

Well we are officially under a tornado watch. The epicenter of the storm is supposedly a 100 km circle around Moose Jaw, sovaldi which means we’re right in the middle of it.

From the official community email:

With the recent predictions of an increased risk of severe weather in our area, recipe the Fire Dept. wants to remind Caronport residents that the lower floor of the Food Services building (Green Room) and the lower hallways of the high school/college/music rooms will be available for residents who want to seek shelter. These structures are deemed to be among the safest in our community during a storm and have several exits for after a possible event passes over. If the local Fire Dept. receives adequate warning ahead of a pending tornado, generic fire trucks with sirens will circle through the residential areas to give warning. American statistics indicate that those living in mobile home parks are at higher risk of injury/death from tornados. There are also many good websites that give advice on the making preparations and finding the safest places to take refuge in your own home; small windowless rooms on the lowest level of your home are usually thought to be safest.
Rod Appleby, Fire Chief

So the Cheese-wearing family is sticking close to home with a well stocked basement all ready to go just in case.

Prayers would be appreciated, especially for those Caronport families that live in mobile homes.

Another Adventure in Anglicanism

It just feels like Anglicanism at every level is in the process of change. And the fact that it’s all happening at the same time is a little overwhelming, check especially to someone who is new to the Anglican tradition.
At our church, check we’ve spent a year looking for a new priest, and so watching how the process of calling a priest to a congregation is fascinating. Our new priest starts in August. We’ve been without a priest for nearly a year. I’m impressed with how well the wardens and the lay leaders of the church kept everything running during this time of searching, prayer and evaluating the future of this little church. And, what is cool, is our new priest has a PhD in New Testament! (see my previous post: What would it look like if more pastors had Phds)

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

It was announced yesterday that our bishop has been elected to be bishop of another diocese. I had just met him and had a wonderful conversation with him May about some of the concerns and questions I have about the Anglican Church in Canada. I came away from that conversation feeling comfortable with stepping my toes into the Anglican stream and not feeling like I was diving into the United Church 2.0. (I lived through the United Church blowup in the 80’s and I don’t fancy doing that again). With the bishop leaving it raises several questions: what does this mean for our diocese? Will we get a new bishop who was as orthodox as our bishop was? A few of my friends are in the process of ordination and I wonder what this will mean for their journey. Does ordination get put on hold until the new bishop is installed?

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

And of course, on the global level, the Archbishop of Canterbury is retiring, and the political machine has started as the Church gears up to call a new ABC. Whoever is called will define the future of Anglicanism especially given the tensions and cracks that are threatening the unity of the church.

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

Sitting in church on Sunday, I was struck by how many of the congregants are “grey hairs”. It’s at least 60%, if not 75%. What is this little church going to look like in 10 years? I lived through a church that literally “died out” because it had a majority senior population. Will that happen to our little church?

The deconsecration of a rural Anglican church in the Diocese of Toronto made the mainstream news this week. It is closing because it is too small to be viable for the diocese.

There are a whole bunch of little churches throughout Saskatchewan. As the population shifts to the urban centres, Saskatoon, Regina, etc, it’s probably inevitable that this will end up happening across this province and diocese, especially since there’s a shortage of priests in Saskatchewan.

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.