Thursday, May 31, 2007


Whew! The paper is done - aside from a formal edit from Brigitte (my proof reader) and if I can keep my hands off it. I keep having this temptation to go back and review and adjust and add another footnote and tweak the flow of the argument here and there. I'm like a dog with a bone - I just want to keep gnawing on it. I just have to put aside my perfectionist tendencies and say "DONE!" I topped off at about 10,400 words (in the main body of the essay - not including footnotes or the words of the bibliography). Pray for Brigitte!

I titled it "The End of the World As We Know It." It's basically a survey of the recent literature surrounding trends in the Church over the last few decades. The consensus is that Christendom is over (Christendom being the system of religion that has dominated the Western world for more than a millennium) that's Christendom -not Christianity. The interest in spirituality and Jesus is actually very intense but most would consider the church irrelevant. But there are lots of new expressions of church being done that are having an impact. There are also lots of old styles of worship and devotion being done with equal effectiveness. The new is old and the old is new - sounds like Ecclesiastes.

I'll post some sections of the paper as the days and weeks go by. My next focus is a presentation that I need to do on Count Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf - the founder of the Moravian movement. Very interesting stuff. Two common denominators of most renewal movements is a renewed interest in Jesus and a manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit - both happened with the Moravians. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 28, 2007

More Meanderings

As well as writing, there have been a couple of other things happening.

Wednesday I was at another funeral - but this time I was the musician. That has never happened to me. I played an hour of background music on guitar and sang two songs during the service itself. It was a sad service because it was a six week old baby that passed away from a heart birth defect. The father did a masterful job describing his daughter and all they went through as a family. This little girl, Brooke, was born on April 5th - my daughter's birthday. There were times I had a hard time keeping it together. The family did something wonderful in memory of little Brooke - they established a fund to be given ton one family every year to help with their accommodation costs as they stay in Toronto to be with their child at Sick Kids Hospital. I was honoured to be part of the service.

Saturday we attended our neighbour's Bat Mitzvah party. Tamar, the Bat Mitzvah girl, has always struck me as a shy quiet girl. Boy was I wrong. She loves to act and sing and be in front of people. All the three children in the family did great as they all participated - they do like being in front of a crowd - and they did a great job.

Sunday was the Global Day of Prayer. We went down to Ricoh Coliseum - along with thousands of other - to pray for our city and our country and worship. It was, at times, very moving - surprisingly moving actually. I found myself in tears a number of times as I was impressed at how passionate people are and especially at how much God cares for the people of the city and the world. Millions of people all over the world were praying as well in most of the nations of the world. Check out the global website here and the Toronto website here.

While you're checking out websites, you should check out Kirstyns's. She was also at GDOP and was moved to begin praying for the media in our country. Check out her comments on her blog.

A Blogless Week

This has been a blogless week. I have a good reason though. I've been working hard on my studies for my DMin course. I've got three weeks left before I head back to Boston and I'm in the midst of finishing off my assignments. In particular, between my readings required for the residency at the end of June, and the related assignments and preparations I need to make for in class presentations, I'm putting the finishing touches on a major paper based on my reading over the past year. It's not about writing enough - it's about writing concisely. I was up to 15,000 words at one point, what with all the quotes and comments and ideas. Let's hope I can saw it off at somewhere south of 10 (thousand that is). If any of you really like to read and would like a draft, let me know - maybe we can work something out. It will be online sometime over the next few month as an archive of some kind - maybe over at the Hills website.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Recent Meanderings

Yesterday I was in Guelph to visit my family. My sister Dorothea and her husband Michael were in town visiting from Halifax (yes we went to see them on our road trip). We went to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave and to see the grave stone that had been erected. We conducted a little ceremony in the very-cold-for-May weather and then headed back to my brother’s place for a barbeque. You can see some of the pictures here.

This weekend was another North Toronto 24 hour Worship and Prayer event. I often have a chance to lead worship there and did the 3-5pm worship and prayer slot on Saturday afternoon. It is an amazing time of connecting with God for me and after two hours I leave spiritually refreshed but physically exhausted.

As most of you know I am working on a Doctor of Ministry degree at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. This week they announced that Dr. Haddon Robinson, well known as a great preaching instructor was named the interim president of the college. This is unusual because Dr. James Emery White, who was just appointed as president earlier this year has resigned, effective June 30, 2007, due to family considerations which resulted in his unanticipated inability to relocate as planned from North Carolina to Massachusetts. I’m not sure that it will significantly impact my studies but because GCTS is so influential in Evangelical circles it will create a bit of a buzz. Check out the full story HERE.

Jerry Falwell passed away this week also at 73. Although not a particular favourite of mine, he was influencial in establishing the Religious Right in the USA and getting political conservatives mobilized. His life was significant enough for CNN to publish a story.

And if you haven't already noticed, I've been playing with my layout again. I suppose I won't be completely satisfied until I know html and can write my own blogger program.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Today is my 22nd wedding anniversary! Twenty-two years of married bliss - most of the time anyways. I bought her flowers. We went out for dinner. We took a walk along the boardwalk in the Beaches. We talked and held hands.

Brigitte commented that we still have things to say to each other after all this time. My response was that we don't have anything to fight about after all this time. Both are signs of health. Maybe they are signs of having married a woman of rare beauty who has much grace and a tremendous ability to forgive. It is very nice to have the level of comfort and enjoyment we have and I thank God for a very special gift.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation

I officiated a funeral yesterday for Allen Ilasewich, the chief of enforcement for Canada Customs at Pearson International Airport (now called the CBSA - Canadian Border Services Agency – how is anyone going to remember that?). It was a fairly large funeral and a few hundred customs officers were there as well as family and friends of the deceased. My neighbour works for Canada Customs (or the CBSA) and I have a friend who works at the airport in pre-board screening (those are the people who operate the metal detectors that everyone has to pass through). I thought that one or maybe both would be at the funeral – but neither were. Nor was anyone else knew there. I have been involved in a fairly diverse set of circumstances during my time living and working and studying in Toronto and so I often expect to meet someone I know at various events that I attend – even at the funeral of someone I have never met before. I only met the family of the deceased because I was referred by a friend of mine - one of the funeral directors who works for the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries.

That made me start thinking about the concept of six degrees of separation. Wikipedia describes it this way. Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that, if a person is one "step" away from each person he or she knows and two "steps" away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth. Several studies, such as Milgram's small world experiment have been conducted to measure this connectedness. While the exact number of links between people differs depending on the population measured, it is generally found to be relatively small. Hence, six degrees of separation is somewhat synonymous with the idea of the “small world.”

One would think that a larger population would increase the degrees of separation. That might be true except for the fact that we have developed such an exception communication network in our world. This vast advancement in communication ability actually connects people more closely to one another in a world of six billion than in a more primitive world where there may only have been one billion inhabitants. Hence the term “It’s a small world after all” (with apologies to Walt Disney).

In 1929, a Hungarian author named Frigyes Karinthy published a book of short stories that suggested this concept. In particular, Karinthy believed that the modern world was shrinking due to the ever-increasing connectedness of human beings. Due to technological advances in communications and travel, friendship networks could grow larger and span even greater distances. Karinthy posited that despite great physical distances between the globe's individuals, the growing density of human networks made the actual social distance far smaller.

I have had a number of conversations with people that suggest that each of us in the Western world are probably less than six handshakes away from the president of the United States. Personally I think I am only two handshakes away. I have a friend (a guy I befriended in my days at Stone Church) who is a colleague of a guy who is a spiritual advisor to George W. Bush. So even if you are reading this in Hong Kong or India or South America you are only an email (or a comment posted on this blog) away. Kind of amazing isn’t it?

Monday, May 14, 2007


Brigitte and I went for a walk down on the boardwalk Sunday afternoon. It really is quite a lovely place to walk and talk. The trees were budding and the tulips were out (see the bottom picture). We had a coffee (well at least I did) and shared some ice cream and sat on a bench for a while and watched the lake and the flowers and the people. Toronto is very cosmopolitan. We have commented to one another that we hear so many languages spoken down on the boardwalk. For sure we heard Spanish, German, French, Russian and broken English, and English with a strong accent.

I took a couple of pictures as well. The first one is the Leuty Lifeguard Station - a beach landmark. The second is the Gardener's Cottage in Kew Gardens - a historic site (built in 1902 by Kew Williams) and also a Beach landmark. You can see Brigitte standing behind the tulips.

It's a long trip down there from Thornhill but it always seems worth it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Robert Webber Passes Away at 73

Robert E. Webber, a theologian well-known for his work on worship and the early church, died of pancreatic cancer on April 27 at his home in Sawyer, Michigan. He was 73. At the time of his death, Webber was the William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers professor of ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Ill. He was also the president of the Institute for Worship Studies in Jacksonville, Florida, and professor of theology emeritus at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. The full story is HERE.

I remember reading a book on worship by Robert Webber early on in my ministry that effectively presented the case for much of what we currently do in worship. I recently read Ancient Future Faith because it was one of the required texts for my DMin course. In this book Webber connects the ethic and doctrine of the ancient Church to the postmodern world. The situations are quite similar, he argues, so we need to look more closely at the first century way of doing church in order to apply it to our century. A worthwhile read.

Dr. Webber was influential in the Evangelical mix and contributed much to the church as a whole. I think he will be missed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Third Places

I've been continuing to read Exiles and have come across a concept that has been on my mind since last summer when I visited The Freeway and made some comments about it back in October on the blog. One of the things that the Freeway tries to do is create an interactive Third Place (or Third Space) where people can encounter one another and God.

Michael Frost (in Exiles) gives some background to that term.

"The term "third place" was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and appeared in his 1990 book The Great Good Place a celebration of the places where people can regularly go to take it easy and commune with friends, neighbours and whoever just shows up. According to Oldenburg, third places are those environments in which people meet to develop friendships, discuss issues and interact with others. Our first place is the home and the people with whom we live. Our second place is the workplace, the place where we spend most of our waking life. But the third places in our society are the bedrock of community life and all the benefits that come from such interaction. It might be a restaurant or a bar or a social group like the Rotary club or a quilting circle or a coffee shop or a beach or a mall."

Oldenburg says these third places are crucial to a community for a number of reasons ...
* they are distinctive informal gathering places
* they make the citizen feel at home
* they nourish relationships and a diversity of human contact
* they help create a sense of place and community
* they invoke a sense of civic pride
* they promote companionship
* they allow people to relax and unwind after a long day at work
* they are socially binding
* they encourage sociaability instead of isolation
* they make life more colourful
* they enrich public life and democracy

He also lists several essential ingredients for well-functioning third places ...
* they must be free or quite inexpensive
* food and drink are very important factors (though not absolutely essential)
* they must be highly accessible to neighbourhoods so that people find it easy to make the place a regular part of their routine
* a lot of people should be able to comfortably walk to the place from their home
* they should be places where a number of people regularly go on a daily basis
* they should be places where a person feels welcome and comfortable and where it is easy to enter into conversation
* a person should expect to find both old and new friends on each trip to the place

I have a couple of responses to these concepts.
First of all that sounds like a place I want to go.

Secondly, I think church used to be a third place for our culture and it still is a third place for many Christians but for almost no non-Christians.

Thirdly, church is many Christian's third space and it has isolated us from the very people we want to reach. I think that many Christians are so involved in their own third places (church and small groups and church programs/bible studies) that they are never in other people's third place so they never get a chance to meet people who are not like them. And instead of going to other people's third place we want them to come to ours.

Fourthly, I think this concept invites Christians to do a number of things - it's a call to action!

We need to be incarnational and go into places that are other people's third spaces and share them with one another. Any attempt to model your life on the life of Christ must include a genuine attempt to hang out regularly in third places.

We need to be creating and redeeming third places out of our first place by being good neighbours. I realize that one of the most significant places that I meet others is my own neighbourhood. Now I could drive discreetly into my garage and close the door and disappear into my house until I'm ready to leave again or I can make my presence known and felt by walking and talking and introducing myself to everyone who walks past my driveway or to everyone I encounter on my walk around my street.

We need to be creating third places instead of more church buildings - or have church meet in third places. Use your imagination here. Open a coffee shop or a second hand bookstore and see what happens!

What's the Big Deal? 2

I'm a little surprised but my comments on the role of women in ministry stimulated a rather lively conversation over at Jesus Creed. I posted a comment on this thread that Scot McKnight thought was interesting enough to be a post of its own. My post was basically an edited version of What's the Big Deal?

So far the number of comments on the post is up to 164! There really is a great deal of passion around this issue and I actually deeply appreciate the comments that women in ministry have posted. I think we have grown so used to a patriarchal system that at times it is difficult for me as a man to truly understand the difficulties a woman in ministry really has. Malvern Christian Assembly (PAOC) just recently appointed Ginette Howse as their Senior Pastor and from all accounts the church is absolutely thriving and passionate for God.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Breaking Bread

This morning we shared communion. Although communion has always been significant for me theologically and at times has been a moving experience, I have always felt that there was something more to it than just remembering Jesus' broken body and shed blood by using a symbolic cup and a wafer. These small symbols seem to be missing the substance of the "table." In some churches communion is a heavy, somber, significant event to be lingered over. In others it is more matter of fact - a necessary observance but done almost perfunctorily - let's just get it over with. I think both of these extremes seem to miss the point.

Now I am not really questioning the theological significance of communion. Jesus' body was broken for us and his blood shed and we are to remember that by the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine (For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Cor 11:26). My real question is how did we get to the point of making the meal symbolic instead of real. How did we separate the most significant of events from our daily lives and isolate it into a once a month symbolic observance? Jesus revealed the significance of the bread and the wine at his last supper - which was a Passover meal - a meal that normally is a feast that last hours (if not days). How did it become a five or ten minute addendum to a Sunday morning church service?

Have you ever noticed how significant meal times were for Jesus? He goes to have a meal with Simon the Pharisee and has a sinful woman pour oil over Jesus' feet and Jesus shows that he is God by forgiving sin. He invites himself over to Zacchaeus' house and a transformation happens in the life of a tax collector. He does his first miracle at a wedding feast so the host is not embarrassed and the guests can continue to celebrate (and as the Scripture explains - that his glory may be revealed). There is something about Jesus that makes the mundane divine - something that turns common space into sacred space - something that takes the daily events of life and shows us eternity. Jesus took the mundane event of eating and drinking and made it into a life transforming event.

Jesus was so earthy in his application of truth and we have made it unearthly - separating it from daily life and daily significance. I think we need to be remembering him every time we break bread or have a drink. When we butter our toast and drink our coffee or orange juice in the morning, do it remembrance of him. In our power lunches, as the breadsticks are served and a glass of water is placed on the table - do it in remembrance of him. As we gather around the table and have dinner as a family and the gravy is poured over the potatoes, do it in remembrance of him.

If we remembered his death and resurrection every time we put a piece of food or a drop of drink into our mouths, if we examined ourselves every time we sat down to eat, if every time we celebrated a meal with friends we considered that he was broken to make us whole, would not our common places become sacred and our Christianity display the integrity of our daily devotion to the one who died and was raised again for us? Maybe then we wouldn't be so prone to overeat, or so prone to forget the little ones in our world who starve to death every day. Maybe our business deals would be done with greater honesty and integrity and wouldn't defraud the poor or the widow or the orphan. Maybe our family life would be conducted with more love and consideration and our marriages would not be crippled by such a lack of communication and forgiveness.

Do this in remembrance of me.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What's the Big Deal?

There was a post on Jesus Creed discussing the role of women in the Sunday morning service (WOMEN AND THE SUNDAY MORNING SERVICE by Leslie Robert Keylock, Ph.D.). Dr. Keylock was looking at our North American church practices lamenting the fact that women are often nowhere to be seen on conservative evangelical church platforms and then made some comments on 1 Timothy 2:12. It's an interesting read (reading it will help you understand this post) but it made me wonder why we focus so much attention in Evangelical (and Roman Catholic) circles on this one issue - the role of women in church? Why is it such a significant, divisive issue? Maybe because we are in a house church that the issue is not so significant for me. Or it might be that we are in a denomination (PAOC) that ordains women (and has on and off since the 1920's).

Why should this issue be such a problem when we do so many things in “Evangelicalism” that have not a stitch of Biblical support - or if they do those things are not specifically taught by Scripture - often only mentioned in passing. As examples I could suggest church buildings (meeting in them, constructing them, their very existence and the money to pay for them), deacon boards (or official hierarchical leadership pyramids), orders of service, congregational business meetings, sole paid pastor/elder (as opposed to the plurality of elders - and as opposed to APEPT, five-fold ministry), voting as decision-making, worship teams, organs, Sunday morning at 11:00am gatherings, Christian Education, youth groups, youth pastors (age segregation in general) to say nothing of celebrating Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving or our extensive denominational hierarchy. This seems to be an example of swallowing camels and straining at gnats.

Some denominations have been ordaining women for a hundred years (or more?) We certainly have sufficient biblical justification to include women in leadership and teaching roles (much more than some of the practices mentioned above, i.e. Junia apostle, Priscilla who taught Apollos, Phoebe, Deborah who was a Judge in the OT, etc.). And we have enough questions about the passages like 1 Timothy 2 (the meaning of authority meaning "domineering," etc.) not to prohibit them.

The question still stands: Why is it such a significant, divisive issue? I’m not really sure I know why but I’m fairly convinced that it’s not because we necessarily have such a high view of Scripture - otherwise we wouldn’t be doing some of those other things mentioned above.

I think that one of the beauties of simple church like a house church is that all people can participate. It is a place where gifts are manifest because people get to talk and share and live life together. I can't imagine not having the women in our congregation participate in the proceedings. Our prayer life and our ability to hear from God would be significantly diminished. And to imagine that the hostess of the house in which the church meets should be silent and not instruct the men about where to put their stuff - well now we're just getting silly.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Road Trip Home

I'm finally sitting at my desk in my office again, very tired but home. We decided to drive straight through from Halifax to Toronto without stopping overnight.

We started the day (Wednesday) by sleeping until we got up. For me that meant about 10am. We had a leisurely morning packing up, having lunch and talking with my sister Dorthea and her husband Michael. Then we headed to downtown Halifax with our car packed to browse that CD store and the big used bookstore again. Of course the afternoon was beautiful and I let the boys browse and I walked down by the harbour and took a few more photos (second and last photos).

We met up again, had a coffee and at around 5:15pm (Maritime time) headed out of the city over one of the bridges to Dartmouth (top picture), the city on the other side of the Halifax harbour. The running joke out East is that Halifax has everything that Dartmouth has except a beautiful view of Halifax. (Apparently, Dartmouth is not a very nice place to live or to visit - but don't tell anyone you heard it from me.)

We stopped for a few minutes at Magnetic Hill just outside of Moncton and let our car roll backwards up the hill - three times! It really is strange and it doesn't make sense to your brain. In the picture to the right we are looking "down" the hill that we just rolled "up" backwards. Click on the photo for a bigger view.

We then just drove - taking turns - all night. In case you're interested, you can make it from Halifax to Edmunston, New Brunswick is seven hours, (it SNOWED - heavily - as we were driving north of Edmnston! - click on the picture and you can see it somewhat) to Quebec city (or Levis on the south side of the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec City) is ten hours and you can be in the tunnel to Montreal in just over 12 hours. I did discover that the best way to make it through Montreal traffic is to do it at 4:30 in the morning.

We dropped John off in Perth at 7:30am after being on the road for 15 and half hours. We had a leisurely breakfast with him while people interrupted us to say hi to John (small town life is just so ... well, small). We made it home by 11:15. So if you're planning to drive to the East coast You can do it easily in under 20 hours.

My reflections on the road trip? I loved the relaxed pace. It is so good to be able to stop when you want and get out and look. At the same time, one week is plenty long for a road trip ( that is, unless I could have spent two or three days in each spot camping and hiking - but then it would have ceased being a road trip and become a camping trip). Make sure you have a reliable car - we put over 5000 km and my maintenance was to make sure I started with a fresh oil change, and to check the tire pressure occationally. A final (blatantly obvious) tip is - make sure you like the people you are with and make sure you like to drive and be in the car. This was the case for our trip and I loved being able to spend some extended and relaxed time with my son.

This travel blog has been fun and rewarding. It has helped me process and remember the trip and certainly helps in putting the pictures in their proper order. I hoped you liked it and I hope it helped you experience a little bit of our trip with us. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Road Trip Day Seven

It's hard to believe that we've been gone for a week already. The days have gone fast and the time has been good. We have all gotten along well and have had a number of good conversations. The trip yesterday and today has been through some amazing parts of the country. Cape Breton has been truly amazing - even seeing it through the rain and drizzle. I'm wondering if I could have kept my eyes on the road if it had been clear and sunny. The rest of my pictures are on the Flickr site HERE. Of course the other photos we've already taken can be found HERE at another Flickr site.

Today we started out the day by going to Louisbourg, the French settlement and fort that was built in the early 1700's to serve as an ice-free harbour for France to export coal and protect the Grand Banks and the entrance to the Gulf of St Lawrence. It was one of the busiest ports in the new world in the 18th century. There is lots of info on the internet about this community - just type Louisbourg into Google.

Technically the fort was not yet open and although we saw the cars of a number of the workers preparing it for the summer season, we didn't see anyone at all and had the place to ourselves. We explored for a couple of hours but I could have stayed there for the rest of the day. (I don't know how many of you know that I worked as a guard at Fort Henry in Kingston.) The fort was partially reconstructed in a massive project done by the Government of Canada in 1961 and although what they have done is impressive, it is still only half done. Unlike Fort Henry (which never saw action) Louisbourg was attacked twice and defeated both times - once by the New Englanders (1758) and the second time by the British in 1765.

We left through a "secret tunnel" and cut our walk time back to the car in half. Stuff like that really gets my imagination going thinking about how life must have looked like when the fort was in operation. I especially thought about how the fort was defeated in battle.

After Louisbourg (and after taking a gravel road - something Brigitte would have deeply disliked) we drove down along the coast of the interior lake Bras D'Or which is absolutely spectacular - even in the rain. We then just headed to the Canso Causeway and then down to Halifax where the sun was shining - go figure. In the evening we headed back to downtown Halifax where the guys checked out another used CD store and John found some good cheap tunes.

Tomorrow we will sleep till we get up and then head out for home when we feel ready. With three drivers we will drive straight through to get John home for late Thursday afternoon and we should get home by 9:00 or 10:00pm. I'm ready to head home.