August 26, 2018

I’ VE BEEN THINKING…

    …In last week’s sermon, I floated a trial balloon with the idea that W.Square might consider sponsoring another refugee family.  The Baroody’s, refugees from Syria, came 2-1\2 years ago, and are becoming well settled in Canada. As I was researching that sermon, I talked with our music director Juanita who works as an Immigration Consultant with many desperate cases. She wrote me this story: 

As Canadians, it is difficult to believe that in some places in the world, human rights abuses are a daily occurrence and that some governments do not have the capacity to protect their citizens.

C anada takes the decision to grant Refugee status very seriously as it makes a political statement about the country of origin and, diplomatically, could affect international trade agreements and border crossing.

This is the story of Jose, his wife Sandra and their two boys, Jose Jr and William.Jose was employed as security services officer to the Municipality of San Salvador in El Salvador. He was assigned to guard the Mayor of San Salvador. On his way home from work one night, he was approached by a band of men on motorcycles asking that Jose provide them with access to the Mayor as well as information regarding his schedule and public appearances. Jose approached his Supervisor and explained his dilemma; the Supervisor responded that he did not want to hear about it or get involved. Threats began to Jose’s wife and two boys so Jose made the decision to take his eldest son, then 12, and cross Central America by bus and by hitchhiking, sneak into the United States and head for the Canadian border. There he made an Port of Entry claim and 6 months later was granted refugee status. He got a work permit and began working as a painter. He then made application to sponsor his wife, and their youngest son, William, 10 years of age. Three months after the application was submitted, Mom was walking William to school and William was hit by a bus while crossing a busy intersection. William died in his mother’s arms on a busy street in downtown El Salvador.

As their Authorized Representative, I will never forget the call from Jose. This mild mannered ever polite man with a fervent faith and love of God, was sobbing and gasping on the telephone as he tried to tell me what had occurred. In any other circumstance, a parent who received such tragic news would book a flight home to be there with his wife and mourn the loss of their son together. But, you see, refugees cannot return to their country of origin so Mum was left alone to grieve the loss of her son, and wait another 18 months for application processing. Though Jose and his older son have traveled individually to meet their Mother and wife in Guatemala for weeks at a time; the pain and loss at the end of each visit is heartbreaking as Sandra returns home to El Salvador and bear the grief alone.

Unfortunately, there are many stories like this one; please pray for refugees all over the world.

My thanks to Juanita for sharing from her professional experiences. Can our church consider sponsoring another refugee family? I believe we can, and I hope we will.

Grace & Peace to you all –   ORVILLE

 

June 24, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING …about ‘Change’.

Our ‘VISION’ night last month showed a strong and repeated yearning for new development and experimentation. We don’t want to stagnate and decline. Amongst the leadership and active participants this is a common theme.  It’s in our spiritual DNA and orientation.

This may be what has kept Wellington Square on a healthy path. We know that we want to keep evolving – so that we continue to maintain vibrant ministry and mission. The numbers

suggest that has been happening. I looked this week at our attendance figures for the last four years. (Comparing apples to apples) for the months of November & May from 2014 through 2018. In Novembers, our total attendance (kids, choirs, everyone) was consecutively 432, 438, 432, 412. The GraceLand numbers were even better -128, 131, 129, 135.  There are seasonal ups and downs of course, and there is turnover, as people move, or drop away. But the averages are holding.

I visit & have contacts across the United Church of Canada. To my thinking, we are one of the 3 United Church congregations who has best embraced careful innovation and development.  We will continue to do so.

Innovation and experimentation usually originate in the grassroots – the people in the seats.  An idea surfaces, or a problem needs solving, or a new opportunity is noticed.  And so solutions and new ventures are suggested, and welcomed. Around here that will continue.

Of course it can’t be a ‘wild-west’ free-for-all. The elected leaders must do ‘due diligence’, with the big picture in mind. So the elected leaders will work with innovators, to keep us moving forward in a way that crackles with vitality, and resonates with unity.

Let’s do it together, because… ‘Change is here to stay’.

Grace, Peace, and Joy to you,

ORVILLE

 

June 17, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING…that you can always learn something new, and try something different.

I was ordained in May of 1978 so I’m just finishing 40 years as a minister – and it’s still an adventure much of the time.  And Wellington Square is a constantly evolving community of faith, with all kinds of moving parts, and fresh initiatives.   Like today; This morning, Adam (our Youth & Young Adult staff leader) is starting a new event, with worship & conversation for millenials (18-35 year olds).  I sure hope that is a sparkling success, for all the 20-somethings home from university, and young adults looking for a new way to make a God connection.

And this Ketchup Sunday!  Where’d that come from?  Even after 40 years, it was new to me.  But Linda, on our Stewardship team, had attended a church where they did Ketchup Sunday twice a year.

What’s it about?

It’s based on the idea that Jesus’ team tries for year-round steady & regular support to God’s work, but realizing that life schedules can cause us to be away and behind in our support… Ketchup Sunday was a light & easy way to let us ‘Catch-Up’. Linda explained it to us in a planning meeting, and when she finished, we all looked around the circle and said – “Hey, Why not?  Sounds like fun.  Let’s try it.”

Of course I like the hot dogs.  But it’s the creative idea and proactive thinking that is really valuable.  A light-hearted event like this gives everyone a chance to do something important and good before our summertime travels, vacations and cottages.

Ketchup\Catch-Up Sunday is perfect for me.  Nancy normally writes cheques for our offering most weeks.  We were away a Sunday in April, and I did an uncles funeral in Ottawa, on the May holiday weekend.   So that’s 2 Sundays we might have missed supporting God’s work here.  A ‘Catch-Up’ is perfect timing.

So – Here’s to  Ketchup Sunday, AND here’s to the new initiative with millenials.  You can always learn something new, and try something different. It’s what we do around here – keeping our faith fresh, and our spiritual community vibrant and fun.

Joy & Peace to you,

ORVILLE

 

May 28, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING…about ‘diversity’. At the VISION night discussions, one of the ideas that surfaced in my table group was the hope for more diversity in our congregation.  I’ve been hoping for that too.  After all, we’re a pretty ‘vanilla’ bunch – mostly white, middle-class, middle-management.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that…!

Still, as Burlington evolves,   it’d be kinda nice to morph along with the population demographics… welcome a little more colour and ethnicity, maybe also be radically inclusive to all socio-economic groups.     I actually think as a congregation we’re spiritually wired to successfully do that.  The overall attitude, and spiritual DNA of this place seems to imitate Jesus’ role model of welcome and acceptance extended to all peoples.  Even those different from us.

Having said that, we acknowledge the flip-side.  Most of us are most comfortable with people like us, and people who do things the same way as we do.  At an extreme that can lead to a church that is rigid and intolerant of different tastes.

Only music played on the organ is suitable for worship… guitars and drums are of the devil!”

Thankfully that’s not an opinion you’ll hear around here.  Nor should we hear the flip-side, that stately hymns and anthems are lame & old-school, and true worship has gotta be ‘real’ with the latest tunes and technology. Because the truth is, if a church has genuine diversity, there’s going to be something going on that isn’t to your taste.  And there’s going to be people around who aren’t part of your demographic circle. Thank God.

Jesus’ early team was astonishingly diverse – breaking all the boundaries of previous religious practice: men alongside women, the Roman slaves amongst the rich, racial and ethnic groups blended and united.

Philip Yancey says: “Given a choice, I tend to hang out with folks like me- people who have college degrees, drink only Starbucks dark roast coffee, listen to classical music, and buy their cars based on the gas mileage ratings.  Yet after a short while I get bored with people like me.”   AMEN.

So let’s truly act like Jesus’ team – next time someone ‘different’ sits down in front of you, or stands nearby at ‘coffee hour’, give ‘em a smile, and tell them you’re glad to see them.  Then see what God might make of that…

Grace & Peace to you,

ORVILLE