Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It is two days before Christmas Eve and I have just finished planning the special services for that night in Leduc. My to-do list is getting shorter. The things left to are mostly physical (moving chairs, setting up the projector and lap top, etc.). I am starting to think beyond Dec 24th. Is that a good thing? Patti is going away Christmas day: I have the task of making the perogies for Christmas. Fear not, she has taught me well. I plan to ski a mountain when she gets back.

All the while I am listening to John Bell:
First Born of Mary
Provocative Preacher
Itinerant Teacher
Outsider's Choice
Jesus inspires, disarms and confuses
whoever he chooses
to hear his voice

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


For many years, I have offered a simple reflective service before Christmas that honours the pain that some people experience at this time of year. It could be the pain from financial pressures, loneliness, family strains and more. But most often it is the recently bereaved who are dealing with the emotions of facing the first Christmas without a loved one. The service has been called "Blue Christmas" or "Longest Night" (close to the solstice), but the intent is to offer care and support to those who find Christmas a sad time.

I come by the understanding honestly. It was in the early morning hours of December 19th, 1982, when he and my mom were attending a friend's Christmas party, that my dad's heart stopped. Five days before Christmas: the funeral was on the 22nd. I have always found it hard to leap full-long into the Christmas joy.

Likely because I was away for a three-and-a-half month sabbatical, I have only conducted thirteen memorial services (so far) in 2009 (on average, it's usually closer to 20). The last three have all been sudden deaths and all for active church families. Since early November, an aneurysm, a lightning fast cancer and a stroke brought sudden and unexpected grief into three families. At 67, 33 and even 94 these people were all expected to share this Christmas with their loved ones. And yet, there is an empty place at the table and in the heart.

We trust Jim, Robyn and Jo to God's keeping and our faith assures us of their comfort and rest and peace. This same faith holds us and enlivens us, but it does not eliminate the grief.

It is okay to be sad at Christmas. I am every year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It was an odd choice.

My spouse and I felt the need to escape the pressures of normal daily living and so we went to a movie last night and chose "The Road". A disturbing post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son trying to find a place where other survivors may be. They are trying to remain "good guys" who have not turned their back on basic human dignity (i.e. turned to cannibalism). As I said: an odd choice.

The story comes from Cormac McCarthy, the same novelist who wrote "No Country for Old Men", which was turned into an amazing Oscar-winning movie.

The Road doesn't tell us what the disaster was. I assumed that the lack of radiation sickness, pointed to a meteor impact or something like that. Regardless, vitually all plant and animal life seems to be gone. It is a world that is dying. It is a world without hope. It reminded me of "Children of Men", another movie where there is no hope for a lasting future. How will people behave when survival is a short-term goal, at best.

On reflection, the "road" refers to having a purpose in life. Life can continue because there is hope that "down the road" something better awaits. Hope is alive as long as we keep moving down the road. For the father it was hard to trust. He had seen so much violence and expereicned so much selfishness, that he had trouble seeing that there were other "good guys" on the road. In a way, his destination was already near, just a bit ahead and behind him, as others (who were similarly uncertain) kept their distance. But the son could see this (always wanting to share food and clothing).

An odd choice, but in there somewhere is Advent, isn't it? The hopeful path and the need to share good company on the journey.

Nah, it was just a movie.

Friday, December 4, 2009

CIDA Cuts Kairos Funding

Below is information about the Canadian International Developement Agency funding cuts to the church justice group "Kairos". Below that is an email I sent to the government of Canada. I would encourage you all to send similar notes of concern.

On November 30, KAIROS received notice from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that our project proposal for 2009-2013 had been declined. We were not given an explanation for this decision, other than that our program did not fit CIDA priorities. Our 2009-2013 proposal was developed within two priority sectors of CIDA: promoting good governance (human rights) and advancing ecological sustainability (reducing the impact of climate change and addressing land degradation). It was approved at every level of CIDA before being declined on November 30. This decision terminates a 35-year history of cooperation between CIDA and KAIROS and its predecessor organizations, and compromises the work of human rights and ecological integrity in the developing world. (For possible impacts on specific partners, please see the background materials below.) This decision also negatively affects the ability of Canadians to develop skills and knowledge in the exercise of their global citizenship.Please contact your MP to discuss this urgent matter. Please, respectfully and politely, - Speak about your own positive involvement with KAIROS;- Express grave concern about this decision;- Ask that CIDA restore its long-standing relationship with KAIROS;- Emphasize the impacts of this decision on global partners and our work in Canada;- Ask them to call on CIDA to reverse this decision.
Please also write to: The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, pm@pmo-cpm.gc.ca, The Hon. Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, oda.b@parl.gc.ca, and Margaret Biggs, President of CIDA, Margaret.Biggs@acdi-cida.gc.ca requesting a reversal of the decision. Please copy your letters to KAIROS at info@kairoscanada.org.

Further Background Material
- KAIROS submitted a 4-year program proposal to CIDA on human rights and ecological sustainability. The total program cost of the proposal is $9,211,483 over four years (CIDA contributes just over $7 million of that amount). This is consistent with previous levels of CIDA funding to KAIROS.- On November 30, we received a call from CIDA informing us that our 2009-2013 program proposal had been rejected and that KAIROS would no longer be receiving funding from CIDA. We asked for an explanation and were informed that our program did not fit CIDA’s priorities. This was the last day of an extension to our current proposal. No written explanation has been provided. - This decision, if not reversed, would cut funds to 21 ecumenical and citizen’s organizations in Latin America, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, and cut educational work that helps Canadians across the country to develop skills and knowledge in the exercise of their global citizenship.

- KAIROS and its precursor organizations have been funded by CIDA since 1973.- The KAIROS-CIDA 2006-2009 program received a positive audit report and an excellent evaluation.- KAIROS staff worked closely with global partners to develop the 2009-2013 program proposal which focused on human rights and ecological justice. - It was submitted to CIDA in March 2009 and went fairly quickly through all levels of approval. KAIROS made all adjustments to the program requested by our program officer.- The proposal arrived on the desk of Bev Oda, the Minister of International Cooperation, in July 2009. It remained on the Minister’s desk for five months.- In September 2009, when our agreement had still not been signed, we were granted a two-month extension on our previous contribution agreement. During this time we received no communication from the Minister’s office. On November 30, the last day of this extension, we received the phone call from CIDA informing us that KAIROS would not be funded.
CIDA priorities and human rights
- With the support of CIDA staff, and in collaboration with our partners, our proposal was developed within two priority sectors of CIDA: promoting good governance (human rights) and advancing ecological sustainability (reducing the impact of climate change and addressing land degradation). Our proposal was deemed by CIDA staff to be within CIDA criteria and priorities throughout the approval process. - Our proposal places a strong priority on advancing human rights. States are obliged to protect, respect and ensure fulfillment of human rights. Canada is expected to collaborate to fulfill these rights, including providing international assistance for these efforts. Our proposal is one way in which the government can demonstrate that it is providing support to the fulfillment of rights around the globe.- Our focus on human rights is completely consistent with the ODA Accountability Act which came into effect in June of 2008. The act requires all Official Development Assistance "to be consistent with international human rights standards."
Impact of the decision
- This decision, if it is not reversed, will have a devastating impact on the work and well-being of our partners overseas, the hundreds of marginalized communities and the thousands of people who have benefited from their programs. Furthermore, it will decimate our education program in Canada, which enhances Canadian’s commitment to international cooperation.- KAIROS supports partners in countries such as Sudan, the Congo, the Philippines, and Colombia who face extreme human rights and humanitarian crises as well as political repression. Many of our overseas partners risk their lives for the work that they do. KAIROS’ accompaniment, advocacy and education work with partners has saved lives. - In the Congo, KAIROS funding means a women’s legal clinic to address rampant gender-based violence will be established. Loss of this funding to our critical human rights partner, HĂ©ritiers de la Justice, compromises this critical work to fight rape as a weapon of war.- In Sudan, KAIROS is working with Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and its members to mobilize greater action for democratic peace. The full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan is essential to ensuring that basic humanitarian, food security, livelihood needs of women and children and their communities will be met. Without KAIROS funding, the SCC will not be able to adequately pressure parties to implement this peace agreement. In a country with very weak civil society networks, SCC has been an essential voice in negotiating and implementing peace.- In Indonesia, KAIROS, through CIDA, supports KONTRAS: The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence. KONTRAS is highly recognized as a credible human rights organization in Indonesia and internationally, working specifically on human rights monitoring, documentation and advocacy. KONTRAS plays a lead role in ensuring the Indonesian government investigates past military abuses and compensates victims (and the families of victims) of human rights violations and military atrocities. Without KAIROS funding, KONTRAS will lose ground on the achievements made over the years in widening democratic space in Indonesia and will be unable to hold the Indonesian government accountable for national and international human rights covenants.- In Colombia, KAIROS supports a grassroots women’s human rights organization, Organizacion Femenina Popular (OFP), in Magdela Medio, a region that has experienced some of the worst human rights abuses in Colombia. The OFP now has a membership of 5,000 women in the region of Magdalena Medio and runs 22 women’s centers, offering programs which include integrated community development, human rights of women, health and legal services, and education. In a recent letter the OFP appealed to Minister Oda to continue funding to KAIROS, "so that our sons and daughters grow up without being recruited by armed groups, kidnapped or assassinated - so that they have the right to a dignified life."

My email >
From: Rev. Blaine Gregg [minister@stdavidsleduc.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 11:50 AM
To: pm@pm.gc.ca; Oda.B@parl.gc.ca; Margaret.Biggs@acdi-cida.gc.ca; Rajotte.J@parl.gc.ca
Cc: info@kairoscanada.org; info@acdi-cida.gc.caSubject: CIDA Cuts To Kairos

Greetings Prime Minister Harper, Minister Oda, Ms. Biggs and (my own MP) Mr. Rajotte;

First of all - James, it was nice to see you again at the grand opening of the expanded Leduc Recreation Centre. That was a wonderful time and will benefit the health and well-being of the community in which I live and you represent. But I write this email in concern for the well-being of other communities in Canada and around the world.

Now to all of you - It was with great sadness that I learned that the CIDA project funding for KAIROS Canada was cut. As you know, Kairos is a cooperative organization involving several faith and justice groups, who seek to make a positive difference in the world. Because of Kairos, I and many others are regularly informed about the areas of our world and society where human rights are being denied, where oppression and violence are far too dominant and what we can do to help. As well, Kairos’ focus of ecological justice is very much needed. World leader’s gathering in Copenhagen testify to the need to focus on that issue, for all of our sakes. The work that Kairos is able to do in Canada and around the world changes lives for the better! Cutting that is a tragedy.

Kairos (and its preceding organizations) have been connected to CIDA for some 35 years. That is far too long of a relationship of working together to be severed without warning or explanation. Please reconsider this decision and re-establish the valuable working relationship between CIDA and Kairos. I would very much appreciate your attention to this matter.

I would welcome any response from you all.

May this holiday season be joyful for you and your families;
Rev. Blaine Gregg
St. David's United Church
4614-48 street
780-986-2085 (p) 780-980-2624 (f)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Hi all,
It's me. I'm back. I was glad to have this blog as a way of reporting on my sabbatical back in April to July. But I've never been very good about blogging outside that time. I post my sermon notes each week on the church website (http://stdavidsleduc.com) and I have been know to keep a fairly active status update on Facebook. But blogging?

I am going to try and put something fresh here on Tuesdays of each week. It might be an extension of my Sunday sermon or a comment on some world issue or some other theological relection.

Let's see how this goes!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009



It was interesting to hear it said this way:
"Humans are spiritual because we are aware of our certain, eventual death"
Aware of the stretch of time beyond this moment's instinct has us
questing for meaning ... finding value to the time we have ... seeking hope that will endure

Grade eight Social Studies in Alberta focuses on "worldviews",
The mix of values, culture, geography, beliefs and interaction.
We are blessed with a worldview; we have control of our worldview.
We can choose the practices of life and spirit!

Nowhere is it written in all our scriptural heritage,
nor in any holy writings of any system of faith, that
blessed are the greedy.

Greed (preservation of the individual) is part of who we are
but the practices of spirit and faith invites us to self-limit our greed.
We can choose a view of life in this world where
there is holy in each rock and molecule and mackerel and person ...

We strive for vehicles to discover this holiness.
I have spent three months exploring the path forged by
melody, harmony, word and rest
Music is a miracle.

What path is before you?

Sunday, July 5, 2009



So far this has not been the summer of togetherness.
I'm away; she's away; the kid's go to camp or elsewhere.
But the days have only just begun to get shorter.
There is excitement on the horizon.

Jesus sent them out two by two
and told them to trust that they would be provided
with all they could need.
When times and time gets tight, it's good to hear that gospel.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009



To some my sabbatical has always been seen as an extended holiday,
rather than an extended study leave.
Frustrating, but I know the value of what I'm doing.
Even so, summer is here and summer is on the mind.

Too much time on the hands can be a challenge.
So proud of the positive choices of my kids.
And yet our mystery harassers get a 'royal mounted' motivator.

Homework is done for us all.
And I'm the only one going to summer school.

In only a few weeks, all will have been accomplished!

Saturday, June 20, 2009



It was a capital idea for me to attend Worship Matters 2009.
Not only was it nicely practical for my field of study,
but it got me thinking backwards as well as forwards.
This was not a familiar crowd: a bit unexpected
I am used to seeing the same people, it seems.

And yet each day, another stranger was recognized.
Actually it was me they noticed, most often.
But one in particular, went back a while.
Back to when Father's Day counted and ... when it ended.
And yet now, I saw the forest and the trees.

Half a lifetime ago. Remembering hope and sorrow.
All the while singing:
Laughter runs across my pain, slips away and comes again.
(A privilege to hear in the first person.)
Whipped by wind, yet still afloat!

I will miss my kids tomorrow.
This was not wise planning.
And yet, I hope, still, that this time has mattered.
I am in a good place and I see good places ahead.
Nothing stands still: which is always true in a quantum universe.

Let's just admit that we are dancing!
Hallelujah! Amen!

Monday, June 15, 2009



The prospect of finishing up at College is a nostalgic reminder
of how I got to where I am.
When I imagine how it will look and feel,
it is 20 years ago in my mind.

Homework feels good.

Reviewing a "year in the life" touches both
the personal and the professional.
I love the reading and the prospect of presenting.

Almost lost in my thoughts is what is coming much sooner.

Workshops on Worship were the first of my plans.
Very soon, I will be putting that capital to work.
When this sabbath is over, this is what will Matter.
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Monday, June 8, 2009



Month number six has arrived unannounced.
Usually June follows an obvious spring:
but the bees buzzed in the blossoms just last week.
The leaves are finally full
and the first crop of dandilions has harvested.

This time of rest is ticking away,
even with the most formal parts to come
on the downhill portion of the course.
June comes with study schedules and outlines
and homework (for others and for me).

I find myself reflecting on the reality of winding down.
Down is an appropriate word: it brings a sadness.
I am having to chase away the August plans
from my head and my heart.
This moment counts, like no other.

Sunday, May 31, 2009



God was not in the windstorm, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but
in the still small voice.
Elijah was not able to hear God until it resounded
in the sound of sheer silence.

My extroverted friends go on about the value of silent retreats.
I've only been once, twenty years ago.
I found the excessive body language and note passing distracting.
This was not a silent retreat, but a week of work.

But I relished the quiet that accompanied the work.
The mind wandered:
into good and not-so-good places;
through reflection and creativity.

I don't think there was an A-ha! moment.
Other than it was quite obvious from time to time
that I was not alone in my thoughts.
From morning chapel to the quiet of my lopsided bed I was not alone.

Even in the drama of my dreams.

The sound of sheer silence:
the time when it is so silent I can hear.

Sunday, May 24, 2009



It was odd!?

Prepping right up until the very last minute
(and a bit beyond) and still ... it felt lacking.

Not that what happened wasn't good;
it was "tov" - even "tov me-od"
very good, at times, very good.

Have you ever been rushed,
trying to fit it all in,
and discover that the rushing got in the way
of gettin' "it" done?

I could have added just four more clicks
(I should have seen that one coming)
and it would have had the chance to add a layered impact
But the busyness got in the way
and the words were on their own.

Holy Now

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I welcome this final week before structure returns.
Sometimes (a lot of times for me), structure is good.
Spontenatity takes work and patience.
It's not always for me.

Yet, as a minister,
I am in the business of mystery,
of uncertainty,
of faith.

Too much structure can block the Spirit.
But too much inattention can frustrate
my relationship with this Spirit.
So there's that word again: balance!

It keeps coming up,
even when I don't plan for it.

Monday, May 11, 2009


R s
This was a enlightening week.
With four of the thirteen weeks gone
in this time of Rest, Reflection and Rejuvination,
I found myself Re-thinking.

This time could not simply be limited to my 'spare' time.
I needed to be away, even when I am still in town.
Good advice: take ownership of your sabbatical!
And it is good.

I've been retraining the finger; fighting a sinus blockage
trying to be ready Celebrate with song.
Jasmine is renewed and sounding great:
Well, that makes one of us!

I will be Ready;
I am being Renewed,

Sunday, May 3, 2009



Without a schedule, things just happen
I rested, reflected, rejuvinated
Now and again, these opportunities arise
Every once and a while, time comes to us; not the other way around

For the next couple of weeks, it should be like this
Leading the puppy; following the puppy
Under it all is an excitement for things to come, and yet, today ...

Handshakes were optional, as was the bread and cup
One more news story reminds us of the drawbacks of togetherness
No relationship can escape vuleranility; this time is no different
One way or another we will get through this,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


It was perfect. No, too strong. It was as good as I had hoped. That's it!
Stood by and got on. Offered more, accepted less.
With Georgia on our minds,
we were enchanted with the manner in which we were hosted.
Night time guesses made the daylight walk easy.
But first ...
HOspitable PRESence
A new church away from church.
A long windy walk on the beach led to Grace.
And then ...
Why we came!
Start with the Ending through A Microscopic Journey.
I could watch and listen to David Wilcox every night!

Sunday, April 19, 2009



A broken knuckle forces me to open my hand
and to watch where it goes and what it does
Good timing I suppose
the ax is being sharpened

In anticipation of next week
the songs of Open Hand have been in my ear
And then this morning I'm invited to hear the Twin's tale
as an opportunity for the open hands of peace

Soon I'll be needing to open my heart and mind and future
to where my hands have been and should be
All I know for sure is that things will be better
if they stay open

Saturday, April 4, 2009


You may know that I have been struggling with a chronic cough for 15 months now. It seems to particularly flare up when I was lying down (like trying to sleep) or when I am speaking for any length of time (like preaching, or conducting weddings/funerals). In the past year I have been poked and prodded, tested and examined from head to toe. My regular medications have been scrutinized a dozen times. In the past couple of months, my doctor had only one or two things left to try - a new med here; a change in pattern there. VoilĂ . I'm not sure what worked in the end, but I am sleeping better and coughing less. I'm tempted to thank God for this change, but I know God is with me whether I cough or not; whether I am healthy or ill. So, I will simply thank God: not for healing, not for this change, but for simply being present with me, now as always!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We are men of action ...

... lies do not become us.

Anybody? Yes, the Princess Bride. Wesley to the six-fingered man, who had promised Buttercup that Wesley would be released and returned to his ship. "Well spoken, Sir" and Wesley's hands were tied and he was taken into the Pit of Despair.

Translation: "let's just cut through the BS and just be honest."

Jesus had a blessing for pretty much everyone: the meek, the poor, the oppressed. But he did speak many-a word of woe to the hypocrite.

Why is it so hard to be authentic in this world?
Can we ever set aside the "desire to impress" long enough to be honest with ourselves about who we truly are?

I do it. We all do it to some degree. We keep silent, when we know people have read us wrong. We fall prey to the notion that there is this ideal to live up to, or at least we think others expect us to live up to. We all do, but some do it to the extreme.

Imagine a person who has been cheated by their spouse saying: I really don't blame [the other woman/man]. She/he was at living within their own purported morals. My spouse is portraying him/herself one way and acting another. Hypocrisy! Painful to hear, but true!

Even the most vicious person garners some respect, when they openly admit who they are.

How hard it is for some outwardly staunch Christians, who get "found out".
We see them cry, "Forgive me lord, for I have sinned".
We listen to more lies, "I simply have a drinking problem".
And the most annoying theology out there, "the devil made me do it".

We all have two people within us: the one, who our mind tells us we would like to be, and the one who our actions demonstrate we really are. Hypocrites are those whose two people are strangers.

Yes, this is not just a theoretical blog. This past week has found me immersed into trying to help a friend introduce the strangers within. This friend will be challenged to pick one or the other and be authentic. I am hopeful that the "right" choice will be made, but I could live with the other as long as it was honest. At least, then you know what you're getting.

As you wish!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 44th US President

Today's inaugration of Barack Obama can't escape the reality that he is the first African American president of the United States. That moment is history and needs to be savoured and reflected upon. I hope that is not the end.

I am excited about this day for more than the colour of the President's skin.

When Obama said, that America wouldn't sacrifice its ideals for safety's sake; that ideals would not be set aside to allow for expediency, I heard that the US Military will no longer have permission to commit torture (or more accurately, have the definition of torture restored).

When he said, that America will be a friend to other nations, I heard that the era of carte-blanche labeling of some as evil was over.

When he said that change had come, I heard that for some, the change they were seeking was becoming real; and I heard that for others a change in attitude would be needed for them to be part of this new world.

"All [people] are created equal": I am hopeful that this is truly believed and that the fear-based ideal that "some are more equal than others" has been thrust back to 1984.

"There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female", rich or poor, religious or secular, straight or gay, etc., etc., etc., and etc.

I know that there will be the resisters of change. But their voice is waning and even many of them are being changed. Alleluia.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reflective Opportunity

Wow, this blogging is hard. I have been hard pressed to think of something worthy to say. And I've been busy with other things. Updating my facebook status most days has been the limit of my blogging.

Yesterday the top news story was the US Airways A320 that made an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after flying through a flock of birds just after take off. The pilot is hailed a hero, for finding the solution he did which resulted in saving all aboard.

This story hit me in a way that it wouldn't a year ago. My spouse now works for an airline and as such, our family can get pretty good deals on standby tickets. With taking the family to Anaheim in just over three weeks and with my sabbatical coming up in a few months, I will be flying more than a half a dozen times before the middle of the year.

I have found myself asking: how would I react? Would I be calm on the outside? Would I reach for the cellphone and say my goodbyes; would I grab the video camera and record the inside story (I'd end up on Larry King for sure). Would I be a help to others, or would I be focused only on me?

I don't know. But I'm glad for the reflective opportunity.

(PS: I did laugh at the fact that W's final farewell was all but ignored. If only the world could say that for the last eight years!)