October 28, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING…about a conversation I had with an 83 year old member who told me “I came just before you arrived, and I joined the choir.  Loved it! & sang there for about a decade.   When my voice and strength slipped, I moved out into the congregation. 

 The first Sunday, I sat down beside a woman and asked if it was okay.   She smiled and said, ‘my husband used to sit right there’.  I started to get up to move, but she stopped me and said – Don’t leave.  I’m happy to have you with me.” 

I like that story!   It reminds me of the warm atmosphere any church should exude.

And energy.   My former choir friend also commented that in her early years at W.Square (20+ years ago), when she and I were both ‘newcomers’, there was a fresh energy, a spark of enthusiasm and even anticipation for the new beginning that was happening.

I sense that same experience lies ahead.   Even as my official ministry is winding down, I sense that this church is approaching a new beginning.    Focus on that.

We’re going to finish well together, and maybe have a few moments of feeling a little sad.  Fair enough.  Perfectly normal.   And then – I’m passing off to new leadership.  If together, we can all pull off a smooth transfer, It will bring spurt of energy and momentum.

The image I have is of a relay race team – the best ones are able to have each participant push themselves as far and fast as possible, for their part of the race, then just before they run out of gas, they hand-off to the next team-member who is un-fatigued and bursting with energy.    Zoom – Zoom!

A new minister next year will bring that Zoom, just by showing up!

I’m ALSO very aware that all newcomers who join a Christ-community bring with them, their own spiritual and personal energy.   Every new member to Jesus team contributes to the atmosphere with their spiritual hunger, their dedication to serve, their curiosity and yearning for growth, their willingness to give of time, talent, treasure, and more.

Next month, we hope to receive new members.  If you’ve been around here, and haven’t yet officially joined – I’d love it if you’d let us welcome and receive you now.

Then in a decade or two, you can repeat your version of the story from my 83 year old friend (above).  You can tell the next minister that you were part of the renewing spirit that welcomed them to their start.

Grace & Peace to you,

ORV

Oct 21, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING…that the image of religious faith is a bit distorted in our part of the world.  You probably wouldn’t have guessed this, but the human race is actually becoming more religious, and the  Christian Church is actually growing in many places around the world. 

However, knowing the decline in church attendance in Canada, and the trend to identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’, we might think it’s all downhill.

Not so.  This week, at a church leaders conference at Queen’s, I was reminded that the world is actually becoming more religious, and the Christianity in particular is growing.   Whereas a generation ago, 78% of the human race was actively linked to some religion, that number has increased to 90%.

What’s causing the upswing?  For one thing, when communism collapsed, millions of people, formerly forced to be ‘atheists’, were allowed to investigate and engage their spiritual side.  Now churches in Poland, Romania, etc. are packed.   Even in China (although still communist) churches are being allowed to exist, and flourish.

Beyond that, throughout much of Africa and Latin America, Christianity is expanding.  There is a hunger for faith, for justice, for hope –  and Jesus team, (both Catholic and evangelical protestant) are helping to satisfy that yearning.

What about us in Canada? In Burlington?   There is some decline; there is always change.   Some older traditional churches are struggling to survive;  Other congregations that have been gently joyful about Jesus are doing better, especially if they’ve allowed themselves to change  their ‘style’ – the way they do music, and welcome strangers.

I kinda think we’re one of those congregations – softly enthusiastic about a trusting faith in God; adapting and evolving to stay current and keep Christ-centered spirituality Fun.

Because of that, I’m confident about the future here.   Bit of a change coming… with my ‘finish line’ happening early in the new year.  No worries.  This place will be fine.

Todays’ meeting reporting the ‘Needs Assessment’ is a good step forward.  Then lots of prayer, thought, discussion (and more prayer) will take you through to a new chapter and a new leader (by next summer?).

The Living God is at work in faith lives throughout the whole world, even and especially Wellington Square.     All will be well.

Grace & Peace to you,

ORVILLE

 

September 23, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING……about ramping up, and winding down.

September can feel like a new year.  The summer season brings a huge break in schedule for many people, and now we start again.  Back to work, back to school, clubs and activities and regular duties ramp up again.  I’ve always felt this in the church too.   Since 1978, when I started in New Brunswick,   September has brought a renewed energy and activity in the congregation.   Crowds are back, attendance is returning in the children’s programs, newcomers checking things out, hoping to find a spiritual home.  It’s all good.

For me, this year is different.  In this 41st September since I became a minister, I’m winding down, even as our congregational life is ramping up.  On July 1st, I began half-time ministry, as I prepare for retirement.  By February (when I turn 65) I will have concluded my work at Wellington Square.  Our leadership team has been working well toward the next chapter –  identifying the future needs, and preparing to call the next minister to serve here. Meanwhile, what does 1\2 time look like?  When am I around? What am I doing?

So far, it seems I am doing all that I always did, only less of it.  I’ll be preaching and leading worship twice a month.  I’m still partnering with our elected leaders and volunteers in meetings and church events.  But this fall I’ll get to our cottage north of Kingston more, go to the theatre with Nancy more, play with my grandson in Kitchener more often (while waiting for his baby brother to arrive in the next 2 weeks).             Some Saturday nights it feels strange, to not have a sermon dominating my thinking.  It’ll take some getting used to, for me.  Yet at the same time, the life of the faith community is making the adjustment.

There is ‘succession planning’ going on;  there are people studying the surveys and input from hundreds of you, to sketch the new Vision path forward.  And I know that people are praying for the yet unknown ‘new minister’ who will be arriving sometime in 2019. Jesus Church carries on, and works together toward the next chapter of the life of this congregation.

So let’s have some fun together.   I’m going to enjoy this autumn season;  And like many of you, I’m already kinda curious and anticipating the fresh start that lies ahead for Jesus’ team here.

Grace & Peace to you –  ORVILLE

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