Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Party

Our Christmas tree
(picture taken with my cellphone)
Yes it's real

We had our annual neighbourhood Christmas party last night (Sunday). A regular stream of people came through - close to 40 altogether and more than half of them our Jewish neighbours. People seem to enjoy it and have a chance to meet and reconnect with neighbours they haven't seen since last year. Kirstyn sang again - did her song 3 times during the evening so that everyone could hear it. She did a song by Jacqui Valesques called You're Only A Prayer Away. She really does touch people's hearts with her singing - a number of people with tears in their eyes - there is an anointing on her singing.

Maybe I should explain ... This is our 7th annual Christmas Party. We live on a stree that is about 90% Jewish. We know most of our neighbours and invite 70 or 80 of them over once a year to reconnect with us and with one another. It's a busy time of year and they don't always make it - but most send their regrets. Someone suggested that maybe we should throw a Hannukah party because we're in a Jewish neighbourhood - but honestly I wouldn't know how. For now - untill someone else wants to throw a Hannukah party (hopefully inviting me) - we'll keep up the tradition of getting our neighbours together in the winter when nobody comes outside.

Check out some of the goodies - of course all home baked by my lovely wife.

New Website is Up

You can head over to our new website. We finally have it up and running. It's nice and simple and just tell you a little bit about ourselves at Hills. The website is and a link is on the sidebar there to the right. Check it out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

An Interesting Guy

I talked to a very interesting guy yesterday. He's my son's friend and has just gone away to college in the Hamilton area. He was looking for a church to attend and decided to go and visit a number of churches to see what they were like. His criteria were "Were these churches friendly and accepting?"

Not so interesting you say? Actually, it's the way he went about looking for a church that caught my attention. He dressed up like a homeless person (adding appropriate smells) and went church to church, Sunday by Sunday to see how he would be received. There were some who accepted him, others who suggested he clean up before he comes in and still others who told him to leave. No one offered him money or a meal (except for a church that was having a meal for visitors that Sunday).

He went back to some of the churches dressed as most people would attend church and found that many of them were not much more accepting than when he was dressed as a homeless person.

As someone who has worked with the homeless for a number of years, I'm left feeling a little uneasy. Now it's not because I haven't been tempted to do the same thing (because I have). And there were times when we actually "set-up" the churches I spoke in, and had a staff person come into the church dressed up as a homeless person interrupting my message. Let me tell you that created quite a stir.

I'm not sure if I'm uneasy about the churches or the activities and attitudes of this young man. Some questions come to mind. What is a "good church?" Why do you attend one and not another? Can you determine whether or not you would attend a particular church based on one visit? Does visiting a church and attending its services really give you any basis for knowing whether or not it is a good church? Sometimes I think that what happens during Sunday services is almost irrelevant to what a church is really all about. Too often we think that church is a place or an activity rather than the gathered body of Christ. Should a church be judged on how people are welcomed at the door or by the kind of relationships it has among its own members and with its community? Does outreach happen on Sunday morning at church or on every day and in every situation?

I would also wonder why a homeless person would come to a church in the suburbs. It takes a great deal of energy to go so far out of your way. If that happened during one of our church services I would try to determine the person's need - because normally it is not "Hi, I'm just checking our your church to see what you're like." It's usually an acute need - whether it be spiritual, physical or financial, or an invitation by a friend - that would drive them so far out of their way to come to Suburban Community Church.

A church should definitely be a good neighbour and have compassion for the poor but most suburban churches will be very ineffective if they based their ministry to the poor on the number of homeless people who came through their doors on a Sunday morning. There are suburban churches that have effective ministry to the poor but they usually do it by partnering with an urban church or mission and supporting them with people and finances. To measure a church's effectiveness we should look at their financial records and activities of their members and perhaps their list of programs.

But then maybe I just analyze things too much.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Canadian Way

I'm not sure why I'm so patriotic on my blog, but I was sent this email and I thought I would post it here. It speaks of the truly great but quite unrecognized contirbutions Canada has made to world peace over the years.

Sunday Telegraph Article (date uncertain)
Salute to a brave and modest nation
Kevin Myers, The Sunday Telegraph

LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.
It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower ... that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world.
The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of ourse, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular on-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan? Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.

It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This week, four more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.