Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Anglican Church of Canada is Helping Those Affected by Hurricane Sandy

Montreal seems to have escaped Hurricane Sandy, a/k/a "Frankenstorm", relatively unscathed. Even the leaky roof of our Memorial Hall weathered the storm. Other regions, however, were not so lucky. We have all seen the pictures of destruction from New York and New Jersey. Last week, the storm plowed through the Caribbean, leaving 11 dead and widespread destruction.

Our Anglican Church of Canada, through the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, is already helping the relief and rebuilding efforts in Cuba. From PWRDF's Simon Chambers: "PWRDF has pledged an initial grant of $20,000 to the ACT Alliance response in Cuba. Hurricane Sandy has killed 11 people and caused significant damage in Cuba.

ACT member (and PWRDF partner) the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) has activated the network of churches and ecumenical organizations to visit the affected areas and to support the disaster relief work among the population which cannot be covered by the government. CCC will provide food, water, bedding, hygiene kits, as well as counsellors to speak with those affected. This aid will support vital needs in terms of nutrition and health. The CCC is initially targeting 50,000 affected people in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas, with Granma as a priority due to its level of vulnerability. In addition, PWRDF is monitoring the needs in Haiti, which was also hit hard by the storm."

Two years ago, St. Philip's participated in Solid'Haïti's tent drive, which sent a container load of tents to Haiti for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. Unfortunately, many in people are still living in those tents cities, as rebuilding has been slow. Tents do not stand much chance against hurricane-force winds, and the need in Haiti will undoubtedly be great.

Those who wish to contribute to PWRDF`s relief efforts can do so via the collection plate (use the special PWRDF envelopes available from the sidesmen, or mark PWRDF on your envelope), or directly on their web site,

- Rev. J.B. Pratt

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tomorrow’s church: Participation Changes Everything.

In her preceding post , "Welcome to a new era" Church in a Circle blog writer Kathleen Ward discussed the recent cultural shifts our society is going through. Social media allows people to participate and contribute. The internet gives ordinary people access to extraordinary amounts of information. In this post she discusses what this means for the church.

There is an often-told story of a real-estate agent who explained to his client the three most important factors in selling a property. “I would say the first thing to consider is location“, he begins, “followed closely by location, and last – but not least -location.” It may be an exaggeration to say nothing else matters in real estate, but this familiar quote drives home a point – location is not something to overlook.

If you were to ask me the most important shifts needed in church today, I would hold up three fingers and say … “participation, participation, participation.” I’m not saying nothing else matters. I am saying participation is a major element that is missing in churches today – and that we are getting ready to embrace once again. Culture has changed, and it’s not going back. The internet has given people an opportunity to connect, interact and get involved. God’s people would like to participate in church, too. But churches will need to accept some shifts from within, because participation changes everything.

Participation changes the way we meet. If we are committed to allowing God’s people to participate, we can no longer line them up in rows and keep them silent during our meetings. We need to rearrange the seating to allow more interaction and involvement. We should share our stories and connect with one another. The time we spend sharing food and drink together will become more than just a coffee break at the end of the service, and take on a greater significance.

Participation changes the way we learn. Neuroscience has shown us that people learn best when they are actively engaged and involved – hands-on learning is more powerful than passive listening. Did you know that most adults are unable to listen effectively for more than 10-15 minutes at the longest? The Vatican has even recommended that sermons should only last around 8 minutes, as this is the ideal length of time for listening without shutting down. We’re discovering better ways of learning, and we should start using them in our churches.

Participation changes the way we lead. No longer should the pastor do all the talking. It’s time to get everyone involved, get everyone teaching each other, and to rediscover Christ’s leadership for the whole community. The payoff is enormous. When we move from performance to facilitation, we empower God’s people to have a voice, a value and an impact. We enable them to discover their spiritual gifts and use them to minister to one another. We release them to change the world around them.

The Bible compares the church to a body, with Jesus as the head, which will grow in maturity “as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16). The goal of church is spiritual maturity, not numbers. Every one of us has a part to play. It’s time for the church to prepare for participation.

Source: Church in a Circle

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tomorrow's Church: Welcome to a New Era

This is one of a series of posts entitled "Tomorrow's Church," from Church in a Circle blog writer Kathleen Ward.

When I think back to the year 2000, it feels like a lifetime ago, not just 12 years. So much has changed since then in the world around us. 2000 was before 9/11 and the “War on Terror”; before Al Gore told us the inconvenient truth about global warming; before the global financial crisis affected economies worldwide. Back then, nobody had a smartphone, Wikipedia hadn’t been launched, we didn’t know what “social media” was, and Twitter, YouTube and Facebook didn’t exist.

The way we do church still made sense to me at the beginning of this century. It made perfect sense to sit in rows and listen quietly and passively to an expert on a stage. Why wouldn’t we? That is how knowledge had been passed on for many hundreds of years before. In classrooms, we listened to the teacher. At university, we listened to the lecturer. On television, we listened to the advertisers and that faceless entity we call “the media”.  It never occurred to us that there were other ways of learning, or that the people in the rows could be the ones contributing – that just wasn’t the way the world worked. Only the truly passionate and extraordinary citizen would contribute to the conversation – and this usually in the form of protests, or letters to the editor, or writing a book – but you had to be willing to go out on a limb, to commit the social faux pas of speaking out of turn.

Something extraordinary has happened in the past 12 years. Ordinary people have been given a voice, an opportunity to interact and participate – and they’re getting used to it. Like all movements, it started out slowly but then picked up pace, reaching a tipping point where social media stopped being just for computer nerds and young people, and entered the mainstream (analysts believe the “tipping point” happened in 2008-2009, and that an Oprah episode about Twitter was one of the factors that triggered exponential growth and acceptance of the social media phenomenon).  Increasingly, people of all ages and backgrounds are learning how to “have their say”. It might be through 140 character tweets, or product reviews posted online, or through blogs and “vlogs” (video blogs) and Facebook status updates – but each of these people are learning that they have an impact. They have a voice. They have permission to contribute, whether they choose to or not. Seth Godin calls this time the “Connection Revolution”, and predicts it will cause as much social change as the “Industrial Revolution” did two centuries ago.

To many people in the church community, a conversation about social media and the church is just a litany of complaints about how shallow and distracted young people are with Facebook and Twitter. Or a call to improve the church’s web page. They don’t see what business analysts and education experts are realizing – that this is a permanent and irreversible shift in the way our society operates, and we’re only just beginning to see the repercussions for institutions worldwide. They are missing the main point. The world is in the process of moving from monologue to dialogue. Free access and participation has never been available to the general public, and it changes the playing field beyond recognition. Once you give a person permission to engage, interact and contribute, you can’t take it back. Ordinary people are causing the downfall of dictatorships, changing government policy and wresting power away from the established heavyweights. For better or for worse, we are living in a new era, and we’d better get our heads around it.

This is a wonderful time for the church to change the formula it has operated from for the past several hundred years, and create an environment for people to connect, to engage, to participate and to empower one another. This isn’t a difficult theological shift for us to make – it’s in our DNA as the body of Christ; it’s embedded into Paul’s teachings for the early church. It does, however, require some strategic changes to the way we meet, the way we learn, and the way we lead.

Source: Church in a Circle

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Meet the Family" a Personal Story about the Anglican Church

The following is excerpted from Patricia Bays’ book about the Anglican Church calledMeet the Family’, which has been revised and updated for 2012:

Welcome to the Anglican Church! Perhaps you are a visitor or a new member and want to know something more about the customs and traditions of this church. Perhaps you have been an Anglican for a long time, but are curious about what the Anglican Church stands for and are looking for a refresher course.If you are coming into the Anglican Church from another tradition, you may find some of our customs unfamiliar, perhaps confusing. I can sympathize to some extent with your experience.

Let me tell you something of my own story of discovering the Anglican Church. I was born the oldest child of a Scottish Presbyterian mother and an Irish Roman Catholic father, and was baptised and raised in the Roman Catholic Church. We were an observant family, attending Mass every Sunday, reciting the family Rosary, saying grace at meals, fasting on Fridays, attending church schools. Religious customs were part of everyday life.

Our Presbyterian grandmother lived with us. She demanded very strict standards of behaviour from us. From her we learned Bible stories and hymns. She also imparted, somehow, the idea of God as a strict parent — a view that I have had to struggle to overcome in my adult life.

My sister and I attended a United Church girls’ school, a school deeply influenced by the Christian tradition, with daily worship, fine liturgical music and excellent required classes in Christian knowledge. In its daily chapel services, I encountered the worship traditions of The United Church of Canada and its predecessors, the Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches.

Because we were going to a Protestant school, my mother was refused communion at the local Roman Catholic church. So when I was a teenager, my mother decided to attend the Anglican Church as a kind of middle road, and my sister and I accompanied her. I was immediately drawn to the Anglican Church by its worship – the orderly pattern of common prayer, the richness of its music & symbolism. I have remained an Anglican, have studied and taught theology, and been involved with the life of the Anglican Church at many levels — parish, diocesan, national and international. My life as a member of this church has brought me a great diversity and richness of experience. I love the Anglican Church and am committed to living and working within this family.

Here are some of the things that I celebrate about the life of the Anglican Church.

I love the worship,  with its ordered patterns of prayer, the same from week to week and yet varied according to the seasons. I love the rhythm and music of the language of worship, and the colour and dramatic action of the services. Anglican worship, quite deliberately, I think, involves all our senses. Our churches are (usually) visually tasteful, colourful, attractive. Wood stone, fabric, appeal to touch as well as sight; flowers or incense connect with the sense of smell; the Eucharist, celebrated week by week, stimulates the sense of taste. Anglican worship is much more than a performance to be observed or listened to.
I appreciate also a certain “matter-of-factness” about Anglican worship. We join in common prayer. “Common” does not mean “ordinary” in this context. It means that we all say the same words together when we pray. Anglicans use set texts, printed in our books of Common Prayer.

You will not find the priest extemporizing in prayer. Our worship does not depend on the personality of the priest or the quest for novelty or the stirring up of an emotional reaction. we worship God in accustomed patterns, the same week by week. This provides an order and stability to worship, though we do have variations according to the seasons of the year.

The sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, are an important part of being an Anglican. For us, the Eucharist is daily bread, food for our journey. It is to be celebrated frequently, on all occasions, in sorrow and in joy.
I find helpful the importance of reason and common sense in Anglican theology. God gave us minds and expects us to use them. The Anglican Church places a great deal of importance on theological exploration, and I appreciate this freedom to question and explore.

Sometimes this exploration brings controversy. In the 1960s Bishop John Robinson’s book Honest to God explored the Christian teaching about the nature of God in terms that secular society could understand. In the 1990s Bishop John Spong has written for contemporary men and women a number of provocative books exploring the Bible and the Christian approach to human sexuality. Both authors have generated a good deal of debate, in church circles and in the wider world. I value membership in a church which allows and, in fact, encourages such exploration, and is not threatened by the debate.

I also love the encouragement of the life of the imagination. Anglicans find God through art and music and fiction and poetry as well as through the Bible and theological texts. The great Anglican writers who shape and are shaped by our distinctive way of doing theology include such people as George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, William Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Madeleine L’Engle, Dorothy Sayers, and P.D. James. A current interest of mine is using literature in religious education, to encourage the use of the imagination in exploring Christian faith.

I like the Anglican emphasis on the doctrines of Creation and the Incarnation. We affirm that the world and human beings are good because they are God’s creation. In Jesus Christ, God became human and shared in our everyday existence. God must value human nature very highly if God is willing, in Jesus Christ, to “take our nature upon him” as ours prayers say. and if God also raises that same human nature to new life after Jesus endured suffering and death. We must work to bring all of humanity to its full potential as God intended, and I rejoice that we do this by loving God and by being involved in our society to work for change.

I like the diversity which Anglicanism offers. Within our communion we have a variety of styles of worship, of theological emphases. Yet we keep also a strong sense of family, of connections, of links in worship and structure. Through my involvement with international committees of the Anglican Church, I have had the privilege of worshipping in Anglican churches in many parts of the world. In a Nigerian village I was escorted into the church by a group of Women’s Guild members, singing and clapping and dancing up the aisle. The service was in the Yoruba language but the pattern of the liturgy was the same as at home. In Malaysia, in a small frame church on a palm oil plantation, we sat on benches for the Eucharist. The music was supplied by a guitarist and two small boys who played a lively beat on the drums. Outside a young boy tended a flock of small goats and edged nearer to the open windows to hear what was going on.
Everywhere I have travelled there has been a warm welcome for a fellow Anglican, and I have felt at home as the familiar words and actions of the service unfold. It will be an enriching experience for you if you can visit these other “family members” when you go to different places.

I invite you to join with me in exploring what the Anglican Church is like and getting to know your fellow Anglicans or Anglican neighbours.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Build a Church Community that Transforms Lives

Too often, churches become just vendors of religious services for do-it-yourself Christians. They may offer a vast array of programs and activities, but they lack the one thing that can truly transform the people who walk through their doors - genuine Christian community.

People are searching for a place where they're accepted just as they are and encouraged to become all they can be. They want to become part of a community that helps connect them to God and other people through bonds of love. God wants that for His people, too. After all, He is a God of relationship, existing in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Here are some ways you can build a church community that transforms lives:

Understand your church's purpose. Realize that your church doesn't exist simply to help people in their individual faith journeys. It's meant to be a living organism that helps people encounter the living God together and grow closer to Him. Know that God's essence is one of loving relationship because He is a Trinity, and, because He has made people in His image, they're designed to live in relationship as well. Understand that it's crucial for your church to be a strong community to fulfill its purpose.

Realize that if people in your church are to grow into exceptional Christians, they must have an exceptional community to help them do so. Know that the more your church is like God (reflecting His loving relationships), the more its individual souls will become like Christ. Also know that the more your church is the earthly depiction of the divine community, the more the world around you will be drawn to Christ.

Encourage people to avoid the salad bar and share a full meal at the table of faith instead. Although many seekers are tempted to take a salad bar approach to faith - choosing their own individual experiences and activities - they won't ultimately be nourished by that approach. Help them sit down to a shared meal with others at your table of faith, making a full commitment to your community. See the holy meal of Communion as a model of what your church community should be like - believers celebrating together as God uses ordinary elements to reveal His extraordinary presence.

Help people be participants instead of spectators. Present lots of opportunities for everyone in your church to contribute their talents to the congregation's greater good. Encourage them to serve in the ways God leads them, be willing to start new ministries that will help people use their talents, and provide training so people can acquire the skills necessary to do everything that needs to be done - from helping with the worship service to leading home groups. Use sermons to call people to respond to your messages by putting their faith into action.

Make your church as guest-friendly as possible, realizing that you represent Christ to newcomers. Strive to have your church's hospitality reflect God's own. Don't let age or anything else be an obstacle to each member's full participation in the life of your church - make sure young children, the elderly, the disabled, and others are able to contribute their talents in meaningful ways.

Use Scripture to bring about transformation. Let Scripture give you the lens to see God's grace in how He deals with His people. Let it invite you to begin a relationship with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Enter into its story of love by responding to God's call, patterning your life on Christ's example. Rely on the Holy Spirit's wisdom to help you live out Scripture. Consider bringing your congregation together once a week to eat dinner together at the church, then study the Bible together in classes geared toward various levels. Encourage your church's members to share their testimonies with each other. Develop Bible reading programs so that your entire congregation can read and study the same biblical passages together. Offer prayer services so people can meditate on particular Scripture verses together and pray about them as a body during the services.

Image Credit: Community Building Resource