Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011


It has been an interesting year for ‘empowerment’. Last December, the world started to see citizen movements that began to change the world. Mohamed Bouazizi’s vegetable cart and scales were seized by police. He was an otherwise unemployed citizen of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia just trying to make a living. He appealed to the local governor’s office to get his wares returned. No one would even see him. The humiliation of this act drove him to a very public suicide as he set himself on fire. “How am I supposed to make a living?” he screamed as he lit the match in the street outside of the governor’s office. Within days, protests over Bouazizi’s death in Sidi Bouzid had grown into a revolution throughout Tunisia. Change was gaining momentum.

The Arab Spring which can be said began in Sidi Bouzid has spread and brought about changes in government in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia. Not surprisingly, leaders and governments in many ‘western’ democracies (including the United States and Canada) were encouraged by these grassroots civil rights movements. Many other nations in the region have been caught up in the warming of this desire to not allow corruption and violence and societal compliance to be the sole access points of power. Change is gaining momentum.

Then this past September, a similar sentiment surfaced in North America, as a group of grass roots protestors pledged to Occupy Wall Street in NYC. Inspired by similar actions in Kuala Lumpur and Spain in the summer, a rag-tag gathering of citizens occupied a south Manhattan park to bring awareness to issues of social inequality. The vagueness and broad nature of the concerns have made it hard for opponents to cohesively argue against them. There may be breaches in civic bylaws, but it seems that the civic lessons have made politicians reluctant to enforce those rules. Like the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement (or American Spring as it has been called by some Middle Eastern news organizations) has spread to many cities across the continent and around the world. Even colder weather and forced evacuations and violent incidents have not cooled off the desire for a change in the way people can and should relate to each other and to the wider society. Change is gaining momentum.

There may have been a time (as recently as a half a century ago) that Christianity was so ingrained into our society locally that celebrating the true meaning of Christmas made easy for the church. Regardless of an official freedom of religion, church attendance was almost expected – the church had it made. But, the days of ease are over for us; and I say ‘good riddance’. Now if we want an experience of the true meaning of Christmas, we have to want it bad enough to seek it out!

For many years, churches have laments the increase of the secular December celebrations – the increase emphasis on jolly old elves rather than babes in swaddling clothes has been met with complaints that things have changed too much. All that’s changed is that the church no longer can be lazy about its own practices and beliefs. Our context has changed and so must we.

If we want Christ in our Christmas, we have to invite Jesus to our party. That’s within our power. We simply need to be empowered. Let us, as followers of the Prince of Peace, occupy not the city square, but let us occupy this ‘time’ and our ‘hearts’ with that which reminds us of God’s deep love for us that God’s own child shared our existence: Word became Flesh. Jesus was not a member of ruling or economic elite, but he changed people, one life at a time. Each life changed because, each one became aware of a real spiritual connection to ‘the source of all that is’. May it be so for us! Child of Bethlehem, occupy our hearts!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Here's my submission to the next newsletter that will be ready to read on September 4th.

I had been a minister with St. David’s for less than a year. I had a two month old baby girl and a three year old toddler at home; my big boy had just turned six and was starting grade one [#4 was a miracle waiting to happen]. For me it was a time of hope and wonder – the future was positive and open.

On that Tuesday morning, I did what I usually did: I waiting until the bell rang at East Elementary School and the kids filed in and then I headed to the church office. The car radio had been off for the drive to school, so I clicked it on to catch the 8:30am news. I was obviously late to the party because all of the commentators were long past explaining what had happened – other than to describe things as ‘scary’ and ‘tragic’.

It was September 11, 2001.

I headed home instead to watch TV (no CNN at the church). My spouse hadn’t seen or heard anything yet either. We learned that just minutes before, World Trade Center One, the north tower, had collapsed to the ground. WTC2 was already down. The Pentagon had been hit as well and no one was sure how many thousands of people were dead and how more planes were on suicide missions.

All of a sudden, it was a different world and it would never be the same. My kids are growing up in a post-9/11 world – where everything and everyone is suspect; where invasive security and pro-active war are commonly accepted as facts of life.

Now at the tenth anniversary of that world-changing day, I sometimes find myself swimming against the stream preaching about community, forgiveness, fairness and authority. I hear the silent caveats: but not everyone, right – not those who hate us or who don’t respect us. Sometimes these voices are in my own head.

During this month of September, I am planning sermons that I hope will allow us to confront the challenges of community, forgiveness, fairness and authority. These themes come straight out of the pre-determined lectionary readings. In fact, for September 11th (which is a Sunday), the Gospel reading has Jesus’ disciples asking him “how many times should I forgive someone?” Is there room for any forgiveness on 9/11?

Over the past two years, I have taken some study leave time in eastern North America. This has given me the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in NYC on two occasssions. Both times I have visited Ground Zero. Even over the course of 13 months between visits, I have witnessed progress in the building, particularly of the memorial area. And this overwhelmed me with a sense of closure and hope that I was not expecting.

I know that most people figured things would be further along after ten years and not everyone is happy with the ultimate designs, but I (for one) love the descending fountains right in the footprints of the Twin Towers (see artist’s rendition below). It reminds me of the falling towers, but also of the flow of life. On Sunday, September 11, we will share in the celebration of Baptism. I was tempted to not have the sacrament on the anniversary of 9/11, but the flowing waters of the memorial in NYC inspired me to hold on to what is good and hopeful and life-giving. On that Sunday, the same day the 9/11 Memorial will officially open in lower Manhattan, I plan for us to sing “Like a Healing Stream” as our opening hymn.

I would love that to be our theme for the different world that starts today!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Slow down the world - I'm getting dizzy.  I love Louis CK's take on the expecations of many of us in this day and age.
"Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I am running into a classic problem - there are not enough hours in the day.  I (and others) rely so much on computers and the internet to make life more organized.  But what about when my home computer completely crashes yesterday and I take it to the "shop" only to have the tech go "oh?" when they try to take a quick look at it "you may have to leave it with us".

Help me God,
Remind me that these 'things' are just tools, but that I have all I need to serve you and be a minister I already have within me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


God is ... I don't know.  God is beyond description. 

Certainly any attempt to physically describe God gets silly rather fast.  Instead, we tend to speak of God in the language of emotion (love, care) or action (guide, maker).  But no image is perfect.  One image that we (those of us 'in' the church) use is God is [like] light.  It conjures up that image of guidance, warmth, comfort.  The source of light in the heavens, in all times, is the sun, the moon and the stars.  The source of light on earth (still for us, and exclusively in Biblical times) is a flame - burning wood, oil, wax, etc.  In a few weeks, we will recall the story of Pentecost, where the Flame is an image of the out pouring of God's Spirit.  In that story (as in  many other places in the Bible), Wind is also analogous with the Spirit.

No image of perfect.  How can I get excited about Wind and Flame this year as I watch the devastation in Slave Lake?  As I write this, I still do not know the fate of the St. Peter's Ecumenical Parish's property (the United Church shared ministry congregation in town), but I am sure that whether it still stands or not is of small comfort to those who have lost homes and businesses ... and to everyone, whose lives are changed forever by wind and flame.  My prayers are naturally with the Rev Leigh Sinclair, my colleague in Slave Lake and the people of St. Peter's, but they are also for all of us as we realize how temporary pasts of this life are.  What can be held onto now.

Fortunately, I've never been comfortable with a "God did this for a reason" theology.  I refuse to believe that because it makes no sense and if it did, I would choose not to serve such a God.  What I beleive is that God is with us in the joy and the struggle, whatever that may be.

I will be stubborn in my faith that "God is", even if I can't come up with a good image to describe that right now.  And maybe that's enough.  Maybe it's always been enough.  "God is" - we are not alone; thanks be to God.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


There is a quote from the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, which has been popping up in facebook statuses in recent days: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."  The re-use of these wise words is in response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, the news of which had people cheering and dancing in the streets of many places in the US and in some other countries.  I, too, felt a sense of relief to hear that this man's days of purveying hate and violence were over.  But celebration and jubilation seemed to be an awkward fit.  I get it: the need for revenge.  I watched the events of September 11th live on the news like so many others - I have had the helpless nightmares of being on one of the planes or in the twin towers during the attacks.  I have been to NYC twice in the past year and made a solemn visit to ground zero each time.  On Monday, I put the movie United 93 in the DVD player and watched it again and found myself as emotional as ever. 

I believe in consequences for actions and I believe in justice.  But should revenge ever be sweet? Any joy that is felt (spontaneously or stubbornly) cannot overshadow the horror and grief of the mass killings.  I am ashamed of the glimmer of excitement I felt when I first heard the news.  Sadly, the calls to avenge bin Laden's death have already gone out.  Revenge is a never-ending game which can only end in tragedy not joy.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are called the children of God.  God, help me be your child!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


If you have ventured to this blog over the past several weeks, you will have noticed ... nothing.  I gave up my blog for Lent.  But Christ is Risen and so has this Tuesday endeavour. :)

This has been one of the slowest springs I have experienced in my 48 year lifetime.  April is nearly done, and we have yet to see an April shower.  The snow came so late and melted so gradually that we didn't even see the streams alongside the streets and lakes in the lawns.  I'm not sure what that will mean for the greening of the earth.

This is not every region's experience, in Southern Alberta and in Manitoba and the Dakotas there have been flooding rivers - tornado season has come early and with a vengeance in the middle US.  All of this non-normal weather gets people talking about climate change - is this the new normal in a slightly warmer world?

Not long ago, I heard a program on CBC Radio One that reported on a study that found that in the US, people's belief in climate change varied significantly along political ideological lines:  the vaste majority of democrats and progressives are convinced by climate change science that human-influenced global warming is a significant issue that requires attention, while only a minority of republicans and conservatives held that view.  Interesting.  (I'm sorry I can't leave you a link to the broadcast, because I have since lost my note of what day I heard this story and waht show it was on.)

The point was that, particularly for advocates of climate change action, the debate cannot be seen as one where more statistics are needed.  The conversation needs to take place on the social level - the divide is an ideological one, not a scientific one.  Additionally, the study noted that this ideological divide really became obvious after the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change in December 1997.  That was when national governments in the developed world began looking at what they might be able to do to reduce the human impact on climate.  This meant the potential increase of government regulation and spending, which could have dramatic economic impacts.  So the ideological skepticism on the climate change science had an economic dimension.

An example given during the program was that by the 1950s, the science was largely united on the conclusion that cigarette smoke was dangerous to one's health.  But look how long it too for that 'science' to overcome the socio-economic influences that stood to be negatively affected.  It's only been in recent decades that governments were more prone to sue tobacco companies for healthcare costs than to be influence by the tobacco lobby.

And so, to seek a human consensus on what to do about climate change, the conversation needs to at the social level more so than the scientific one.

As Christians, we should understand this.  We lack any scientific proof of the resurrection of Jesus.  All we have is the biased testimonials of Jesus' followers.  And so we know that discussions of faith are more apt to happen at the heart level, rather than in the head.

If we lose our ability to relate to each other and understand each other socially, we will continue to be divided.  As Walter Farquharson lyricized: 'Walls that divide are broken down, Christ is our unity. Chains that enslave are thrown aside: Christ is our liberty.'

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


It's been a couple of weeks since I last blogged.  Kind of distracted and busy and at a loss for things to say.  I just had a plateful of pancakes and sausages at the church's annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.  Always a hearty good time, that's proably better for the 'feeling' heart than the physical one.

Coming from a relatively-non-liturgical tradition, the impact of the last day before Lent is lost on many people.  That's alright, because one day of a focus on the abundance of God's grace in our lives is not the goal.  Each day we are living in that grace, regardless of the date on the calendar or the colour of the banners in the sanctuary.

Monday, February 14, 2011


When I finished high school, my plan was to be a Chartered Accountant.  So, I went to University and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. I began to article towards a CA with a major accounting firm.  During my first year as a rookie accountant, I could no longer ignore the call to ministry, so I left the the CA program and enrolled in theological college.  Twenty-five years later, here we are.

But there is still that part of me that loves the discipline and language of accounting.  Maybe that is why I signed up for the ABCD workshop this week hosted by Leduc Family and Community Support Services: Asset-Based Community Development.  The concept is to recognise what you already have and move forward from there.  It sounds like a build-from-your-strengths model.  Assets, from an accounting perspective, are the things of value which you have.  The metaphor translates beautifully to the community context.

One of the assets we all have is our time.  It is valuable and we all have the same amount (as long as we each are occupying the same spot in the universe).  Assets are seldom unlimited: certainly time has it's hard edges.  Each day only has so much time.  The blessing is that each day is a new start, a new gifts of 24 hours, but only 24 hours.

How ironic that I will have to miss part of the ABCD workshop because I don't have enough time to give it.  This is one of those too busy weeks for me as a minister: two funerals, church meetings and we are the host site for the winter meeting of Yellowhead Presbytery.  And that is only my minister hat, the husband, father and friend wants a slice of this week's time-pie.

I can't work with what I don't have.  Time is my asset, it is valuable, but it has limits.  There is no sense lamenting the lack of time.  I need to remember my 'asset' training and be calm.  Time will tell.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Sadly, this is more organized than the real thing. :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It's been all over the news: movements for a change at the top.  Leaders often hold precarious grips on power.  Especially if that leadership has been (for lack of a better word) dictatorial.  When any leader tries to force policy without at least some ground swell of support, discontent inevitably brews.  Sure, in a dictatorship, the demands for change can be quashed for a while.  It is common to hear the language of unity and solidarity to justify the directives.  In the end though, unless unhappy people are appeased in some way, changes will happen.

Ted Morton wanted his way with the budget.  Philosophically, he could no longer bow down to the progressives in the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.  There was no worry about opposition from without (the PC dictatorship is strong), but he couldn't penetrate the Premier's call to unity.  So, in good parliamentary tradition, having lost confidence as finance minister, he was set to resign.  Somehow, the word leaked out and Ed Stelmach found out the plan and hastily stole the spotlight, "I will not seek re-election."  It was a fast decision, no time for details of when he would formally resign.  Morton quickly quit his plan to resign ... for a day or two anyway: when everything could be re-spun into his need to be unencumbered in his desire to seek the leader's chair.  Just because the control everything, doesn't mean we have to believe them.

Oh and we are seeing the same dynamics at work in Tunisia and Egypt.

When will they learn that the 'my way or the highway' style usually puts one on the road?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I'm off to the Yellowhead Presbytery (Interim) Executive meeting this morning.  This is expected to be the 'last' meeting of the executive of YHP.  Last week (weak), I agreed to become the new chair of the Presbytery Operating Team, which will in some ways is the replacement for the Executive.  You see, the Presbytery has changed the way we will govern ourselves.  We will spend less time as a whole body of 50-70 congregational reps and clergy making the routine and day to day decisions of Presbytery.  Actually, it almost always was basically a rubber stamp process as the real work of deciding what to do was done by the smaller committee who looked at all of the factors and possibilities and came to the full Presbytery for approval.  The new Operations team, which I guess I am chairing, is charged with making these routine decisions within the policies and mission statements of the Presbytery.  This will free up time for the whole body to focus on learning and spirituality and policy setting and visioning.

I haven't even chaired my first operations team meeting, and I've already been connected to two other groups (the executive today and the Presbytery Council - which as Operations Chair, I am also a member of).  It goes like that sometimes: you say yes once, and it makes more than one connection.

Sure it's an extra meeting or two, but what a wonderful metaphor for the church: we have our one point of entry (whatever it was that first drew us in) and we find that we then are more and more connected by others who have been drawn in as well.  Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The radio talk shows and TV news channels have been filled with conversations about the Tuscon murders and attempted assassinations.  The two main sub-topics have been: (1)  [not surprisingly] the ease of availability of guns in the US and in Arizona in particular; and (2) [surprisingly] the prevalence of 'gun' and 'violent' imagery within political discourse.

I think it is a red herring in the discussion of the actual shooting to stretch a direct connection between Sarah Palin's website cross-hair images (oh wait, her handler tried to 'spin' that these were surveying symbols).  This murderer did not take aim because Sarah Palin used that metaphor in her campaign to 'target' certain democratic districts.  But that doesn't mean that this doesn't raise an important side issue.

It is very clear to me that Violent and War imagery and metaphors are used too freely in political and social discourse.

Talk with your friends about this.  Discover how easily and frequently people can use this imagery in everyday conversation, especially conversations that are adversarial or controversial in any way.

This is a conversation I remember having in 'the church' a decade and a half ago.  The United Church was publishing a new hymn book, Voices United (the first one in 25 years) and there was a minor uproar that Onward Christian Soldiers had not made the final edits.  It had been in the 1971 Hymn Book, but it was not to be marching on in the next one.

The conversation centred around concerns that many people had around the war imagery to describe a faith that in so many other ways is based on peace and compassion.  It was understood that for the generations with living memories of the first and second world wars, this imagery was a more natural fit in their lives, but for those (including me) who grew up during the relative calm of the cold war, the words seemed out of place. 

Yes, our Bibles are fill with war and violent imagery.  That makes perfect sense given the way the world operated in the Biblical times.  Governments rose and fell on the strength of their militaries and sometimes the brutality and strength of their leaders.

Fourteen years ago, I was already being mindful of how I use this kind of language and the place it has in the church.  It seems that current events have expanded the conversation beyond the church.  This is a good thing!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Here are the words of a song I have been listening to lately.  For me, it is a reminder to let faith be life-giving and mystery-exploring rather than confining and limiting.

Cast Off
Written by David Wilcox
(from "Reverie" on What Are Records?)

Your cast was taped over with plastic bags
‘Cause you wanted to wade in the waves
You held your arm high but the water got in
And it itched like hell the next day

The strength that you need, you doubted
The cast was getting rotten inside
But what would it feel like without it
Weakness needs a place to hide

Doc said the cast is gonna have to come off
Try to get by with a brace
You opened your fingers so slowly at first
With a terrified look on your face

I knew what that look on your face meant
Though you didn’t have courage to speak
You wished they would cast a replacement
You felt broken like you’re way too weak

But the doctor explained what would happen
You atrophy the longer it stays
If you wear an old cast like it’s fashion
What’s beneath will just wither away

Have mercy for lives that are shattered
Cast with hard doctrine and creed
If it’s only the idols that mattered
Plaster would be all they need

© 2010 David Wilcox