July 16, 2017

… but not as much as normally. I am intentionally turning my brain off, &\or toward other interests, beyond writing sermons and leading or participating in meetings. From June 5th to Sept 5th I am following Wikkipedia’s description of sabbatical as “literally a “ceasing”… a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year”. I’ve worshipped in 5 different churches (3 United, an Anglican, and a Free Methodist), I’ve launched a new canoe, read some heavy theology (& 3 novels), swam to an island offshore from our cottage, and had a few good naps. Sabbatical. I’m liking it!
And I’m staying a wee bit connected to Burlington and Wellington Square. Slightly detached, but anticipating some things ahead.
So I want to invite you to join in supporting a Multi-Faith, Multi-Ethnic community festival. It is a positive event to unify, inform and give hope.
Back in February, six people were killed in a violent attack on the mosque in Quebec City. The next night, there was a candle-light vigil here in front of City Hall.
People from all the diversity of Burlington – religious, ethnic, age, social strata and more – all gathered.
Many of us were feeling shock, and shame that this tragedy had happened in Canada. That vigil was an event to remind ourselves that we are a diverse, caring, welcoming peoples; Many of us left feeling that the compassion, inclusiveness and unity displayed that night are part of the true fabric of Burlington.
Wanting that to continue, we planned an event to bring together much of the diversity of our Burlington community, and to celebrate, learn and support one another.
This ‘Festival Day’ will be held on Saturday August 19th at the Bandshell & lawns next to Central Library (New Street).
Included are representation and programming from the Aboriginal\First Nations, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, cultural communities, service clubs and others who join us.
I really believe in this, and I think it’s part of what Wellington Square has lived by, and what we attempt to project to others. We are joyful followers of Jesus, diligent disciples, while at the same time, we support Muslim refugees, and last fall we had the Imam here speaking and bringing greetings. As a Christ-centered community we believe that Jesus calls us toward peace amongst all people of faith and goodwill.
So I invite you to join me at this ‘ONE Burlington Festival’.  I’m coming back for it on Sat Aug 19th (and the TiCats game on Friday evening!).
Meantime, I’ll finish another novel, and try swimming to that island again…
Peace & Rest of summer to you,

June 4, 2017

…about my upcoming ‘sabbatical’. Today is my last Sunday with you until after Labour Day. Over those 3 months I’m hoping to do:
-a lot of reading & walking
-officiate one wedding
-a 10 day visit to our daughter Heather Joy in Vancouver
-2 weeks with family at the cottage
-a lot of thinking & writing (hopefully), toward shaping a book about effective ministry in our 21st century culture.
Much of my time will be spent away from Burlington. I hope to think and pray about Wellington Square’s future directions, and what my personal role can be in that. I am greatly looking forward to this time. I’m not sure if I’m racing too much to get things done before leaving, OR if I’ve overextended myself – but I feel the need to slow down. One day this week, I made mistakes about 2 appointments (wrong day, then wrong time). Time to take the foot off the gas…
The United Church of Canada mandates that ministers are allotted 3 month sabbatical breaks, every 5 years of ministry. It’s an old practice to keep brains fresh and allow time for special projects. In the academic world, educators are granted a one year sabbatical every 7 years.
So I’m relieved and anticipating what lies ahead. Meanwhile, around here, Katie will continue to minister and lead through much of the summer (she does get her regular vacation). We have arranged for a number of guest preachers to cover certain summer weekends, including my brother John for a
Sunday in August, and several other ministry friends.
And I am excited and very hopeful about the present state and direction of this congregation. Wellington Square is a great church. The atmosphere is overall healthy & happy. Wellington Square is Big and complex. There are many moving parts; in general things are working well. There is continual
activity to re-tool and renew. Right now I am happiest about the renewing of our worship, with the confirmation of solid leadership for our music at both 9 & 11 am.
On most summer days ahead, I will pray for our church, and our ministry together. I intend to come back fresh, and with clarity of vision for a path forward.
The Lord be with us all….

May 7, 2017

…about the Blue Jays and the start of their baseball season. They’ve been very weak, at one point having lost 3 times as many games as they’d won. A friend commented that it might be the fault of the Maple Leafs hockey team. As he said, The Jays are NOT normally playing games of any significance until after the leafs are done – usually by the 1st of April. Well this year the Leafs played very well, and made the play-offs!
But the Blue Jays have been losing. However, the players did not seem to be hitting the panic button. One of them, in an interview said, We are fine in the clubhouse. We trust each other, give our best and pull together.
I like that. And its probably the best strategy. In all aspects of life. When facing adversity – trust each other, give your best, and pull together.
I see that in the Church too. Religious affiliations are declining in Canada. We hear that fewer people are going to church. But I have not seen that recently. Last week I was in Niagara at the Anniversary of St. Davids United Church. It was a full house, with kids, and every age of grown-ups. And a Fun and Filling pot-luck lunch afterward. They are trusting each other, pulling together and doing quite well, thank you very much.
And Wellington Square too is in an active period, with both challenges and progress. Our Youth Minister, Spencer Edwards is in long-term rehab, recovering from back surgery, and a team of parents and volunteers led by Heather Mackey are keeping things going. Also, last Saturday a huge team of volunteers led by Lisa Lunski dug, shovelled and built a series of gardens for cultivation on the back lawn; the same day, Alvin Kiers led a work team doing maintenance on lawns, trees and flower beds. Furthermore as Jeremy Cox reported for the BOARD, there are important projects of building maintenance – new energy efficient lighting and heating systems, and plans for Air Conditioning in the main sanctuary. We know, the cost of some $200,000 is very doable; we will trust each other, give our best, and pull together.
Baseball, hockey… good teams trust each other, give their best, and pull together. Jesus’ team too!
The Lord be with us,

April 30, 2017

…about a story Philip Yancey told. In 1991 he was in the Soviet Union as it collapsed. An army general was ordered by Boris Yeltsin to close down all national, regional and local Communist Party offices. “Not one party official,’ said the general, “not one person directly affected by the closings protested.” Then the general contrasted that to the 70 year campaign to destroy the church and stamp out belief in God. He had never read a Bible, but he had heard about it from his grandmother, and older believers. Now this general and hundreds of thousands more, eagerly sought to read and learn the Christian story.
The Church endures. Across the centuries followers of Jesus have been banned and out-lawed, or trivialized and ignored. But the Church endures.
So we’re having our 53rd Anniversary, with Rev. Greg Brawn from London here to celebrate and share faith with us. Wellington Square’s roots go back to about 1820 when the first Methodist preachers came through the area on horseback. I rejoice for our longevity. (I’m in Niagara, preaching at St. David United’s anniversary. Their roots go back to about 1815 – when Methodist circuit riders crossed the Niagara to preach the faith into Upper Canada).
Every anniversary is an achievement worth celebrating. And an opportunity to reflect on ‘what’s next?’
What’s to celebrate this year? Lots… the largest children’s ministry in the United Church of Canada, a successful resettling of the Baroody family from Syria, a new ‘community garden’ being installed, a Christ-centered community that is inviting and invigorating for spiritual seekers, and more…
What’s next? This week there were possibilities and planning toward: – a summer-time city-wide Inter-faith picnic\party; hiring musical leadership to support our volunteer worship bands, conversation about a new local outreach ministry with & to seniors, and ongoing preparation and delivery for all the programs and groups (Youth, Vacation Bible Camp, Adult Discipleship groups, etc). And of course, a 53 year old building expects maintenance and upgrades.
So we celebrate – the Church of Jesus Christ endures, outliving cultures and empires. And in our time and in this place, we continue to live in God’s grace, as we serve and share, in Jesus name.
Peace & Joy to you, ORVILLE