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

March 25, 2018

I’VE BEEN THINKING…I wish someone with the writing talents of Milton or Dante (OR John Grisham, or J.K. Rowling?) would render the scene that must have transpired in hell on the day that Jesus died.  No doubt an infernal celebration broke out.  Evil had destroyed good.  God’s Son, sent to Earth on a rescue mission, had ended up dangling from a cross like some ragged scarecrow.  Oh, what a diabolical victory!

Oh, what a short-lived victory.  In the most ironic twist of all history, what Satan meant for evil, God meant for good.   Jesus’ death on the cross bridged the gap between a perfect God and a fatally flawed humanity.  On the day we call Good Friday, God defeated sin, routed death, triumphed over Satan, and got his family back.  God took the worst deed of history and turned it into the greatest victory.

No wonder Jesus asked that we never forget;  No wonder the symbol of the cross never went away.

It took time for the church to come to terms with the grotesque shame of the cross.  Not until the fourth century did the cross become a symbol of the faith.  (Scholars note the crucifixion did not become common in art until all who had seen a real one died off.) Now though, the symbol is everywhere – it’s shaped into jewelry, baseball players cross themselves before batting, and candy makers even concoct chocolate crosses for the faithful to indulge as Lent ends and Easter arrives.  Christianity has become a religion of the cross.

Because of the cross, I have hope. The prophet Isaiah said, It is through the Servant’s wounds that we are healed, not his miracles. Nothing – not even the murder of God’s own Son – can end the relationship between God  and human beings. If God can snatch such triumph out of the jaws of apparent defeat, what might God do with the apparent failures and hardships of my own life?

The fatally wounded healer came back on Easter, the day that gives a sneak preview of how all history will look from the vantage point of eternity, when every scar, every hurt, every disappointment will be seen in a different light. Holy Week, with the cross and then the empty tomb, gives us God’s great promise for history:  Hope for the world, and Hope for each one of us who lives in it.

The Lord Jesus be your companion & guide, this Holy Week –

ORVILLE 

(edited & adapted from writings of Philip Yancey)