Friday, September 26, 2014

Climate Change and Christian Faith

On Monday October 6th from 7 - 9 PM an event will take place at Christ Church Cathedral - Anglican Diocese of Montreal (1444 Union Ave. Montreal, Qc.) called Climate Change and Christian Faith. It will address the science of climate change and how Christians might address it theologically.

A climate change scientist (and Cathedral parishioner/chorister) Dr. Barbara Winter will speak about the impacts of climate change and the Cathedral's own Rev'd Dr. Donald Boisvert will offer some guidance in how we might think about the issue from a theological perspective.

A conversation will follow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Anglican, Lutheran Leaders offer a Pastoral Message on Climate Change

On September 19, 2014, just ahead of the People's Climate March (September 21) and the UN Summit on Climate Change (September 23), the heads of the Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued the following Pastoral Message on Climate Change:

We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbors and of God’s good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God’s creatures. Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Glaciers are disappearing, the polar ice cap is melting, and sea levels are rising. Incidents of pollution- created dead zones in seas and the ocean and toxic algae growth in water supplies are occurring with greater frequency. Most disturbingly, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising at an unprecedented rate. At the same time we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, has been defiled by pollutants and waste.

Many have reacted to these changes with grief and anger. In their outrage some have understandably focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes. However, an honest accounting requires a recognition that we all participate both as consumers and investors in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy. In addition, as citizens we have chosen to support or acquiesce in policies that shift the burdens of climate change to communities that are most vulnerable to its effects. People who are already challenged by poverty and by dislocation resulting from civil war or famine have limited resources for adapting to climate change’s effects.

While an accounting of climate change that has credibility and integrity must include our own repentance, we find our hope in the promise of God’s own faithfulness to the creation and humankind and in the liberation that comes from God’s promise.

God, who made the creation and made it good, has not abandoned it. Daily the Spirit continues to renew the face of the earth. All who care for the earth and work for the restoration of its vitality can be confident that they are not pursuing a lost cause. We serve in concert with God’s own creative and renewing power.

Moreover, we need not surrender to political ideologies and other modern mythologies that would divide us into partisan factions — deserving and undeserving, powerless victims and godless oppressors. In Christ we have the promise of a life where God has reconciled the human community. In Christ God sets us free from the captivity of blaming and shaming. God liberates us for shared endeavors where we find each other at our best.

While the challenge may seem daunting, the Spirit’s abundant gifts for service empower us to find common cause with people who exercise countless insights and skills, embodied in hundreds of occupations and trades. We have good reason to hope in all the ways God’s grace is at work among us. We can commend ourselves to the work before us with confidence in God’s mercy.

Opportunities to act imaginatively and courageously abound in all our individual callings. The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us as faithful consumers and investors in a global economy to make responsible choices to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and the wasteful consumption of water and other natural resources. As citizens, we have voices to use in educating children about the climate and in shaping public and corporate policies that affect the environment. The Spirit has also given us our voices to contribute our witness to public discussion of just and responsible use of natural resources.

We also have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change in the spirit of the seventh Millennium Development Goal, “to ensure environmental stability”. World leaders will meet this month in New York for a Climate Summit, and in December in Lima, Peru, to discuss global cooperation on climate change. Working under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), participants in the UNFCCC’s negotiations hope for an agreement in 2015 that will move toward reduction of carbon emissions, development of low carbon technologies, and assistance to populations most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.

We encourage you to take the initiative to engage decision-makers in this godly work in all arenas of public life — in government and business, in schools and civic organizations, in social media and also in our church life. We are not powerless to act and we are not alone. “We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Spirit of Christ to give us hope and courage.”i

The present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as faithful individuals and churches in solidarity with God’s good creation.

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate
Anglican Church of Canada

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Bishop Susan Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Equilibrium Photo Essay Exhibition at St. Philip's Church

Equilibrium, is an Art For Peace, photo essay exhibition organized by St. Philip's own Cynthia Nichols. It will take place in the Memorial Hall on Sunday, September 21st, 2014, at 11:30 AM. This event is in support of the People's Climate March which will take place in New York and cities all around the world. Hundreds of thousands are coming together for the March on September 21 to send a message to those in attendance at the UN Climate Summit which is scheduled for September 23.

Equilibrium is an Avaaz People's Climate Event. Avaaz is a global civic organization that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, animal rights, corruption, poverty, and conflict. The organization is the world's largest and most powerful activist network. They operates in 15 languages and have over thirty million members in 194 countries.

According to Avaaz, the People's Climate Events are meant to send a message to world leaders who don’t believe enough of us care about climate change, that’s why they’re still not yet rising to the challenge of saving our planet. They see September 21, as an unprecedented chance to prove them wrong, with the largest climate mobilisation in history.

Cynthia describes the Equilibrium event as a "photo essay presentation of ideas." The images used in the exhibition are a reflection of a series of brain storming events held in Montreal where people shared their views on the term ‘Peace.’ They also expressed their thoughts on the ways in which their Peace was being hindered. Through these interactions the environment emerged as an important theme. The photo essay was assembled with the aid of photographer Nedco Ivanoff, who scoured the City looking for emblematic images to express conversations that augur change.

Please join us in the Hall of St Philip's church (750 Sherbrooke St. West) on Sunday September 21 at 11:30 AM for Equilibrium, a powerful photo essay accompanied by a presentation from Cynthia.

For more information contact Cynthia on Facebook or email her at galleryrealart@gmail.com , @ragsart or by phone at 438-931-6698

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tania Lesack to Further her Worship Studies at St. Philip's Church

Tania Lesack is studying for the Master of Divinity at Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and will be at St. Philip's for this academic year, learning about planning and leading worship. Here is an article about Tania from the Montreal Diocesan Theological College's newsletter:

A few years ago, Tania Lesack was seeking an opportunity and a space where she could discuss her faith with other people:

“Our [Anglican Church] worship services are not set up to give people a chance to discuss; and a lot of people find it difficult to discuss their faith; they’re uncomfortable because we don’t do it a lot.”

Lesack also found gathering people for parish bible study was often challenged by scheduling issues.

Now a graduate of the diocesan Centre for Lay Education’s Education for Ministry (EfM) program, Lesack reflects on how the program provided students with a safe space to explore their faith, look at the basics of Christianity, and gain a level of comfort in talking about faith and issues related to personal faith.

What exactly is EfM? It is a program of theological education for lay people, comprising four years of study total, meeting in small groups with a trained mentor. The program combines academic study with integrative components to help participants take what they learn about Scripture, church history, theology and ethics into their own lives and hearts, supporting them in living out a vibrant baptismal ministry in the church and in the world.

 “I have a much deeper knowledge, certainly a knowledge of the context [in which scriptural texts were written], which is really important. When you attend church services you get snippets of the bible. In EfM, you don’t justread it; you study it. The program texts speak about how the bible was put together and you come to understand it’s not a book you read cover to cover, which is normally how we read books; and it would appear to make sense with the bible because it starts with “In the beginning...”and ends with the events after Jesus’ resurrection; yet it’s not really that sort of book at all. It’s more like a library between two covers.”

One of the books read by the class this year examined the topic of interfaith relations. Lesack remarks that she learned how interfaith relations work most effectively through relationships between people rather than meetings where the topic itself is interfaith relations: “The stories were not about Christians impacting others but how the faith of other people had an effect on the person who was writing the story. Fascinating, especially in a multicultural society where we need to be much more open to interfaith dialogue.” “When you attend church you get snippets of the bible. In EfM, you don’t just read it; you study it.”

For more information about the EfM program offered by the Centre for Lay Education and to sign up for classes starting in September, please contact the Director of the Centre for Lay Education, the Rev’d Tim Smart at: revtimsmart@gmail.com or visit the Centre for Lay Education webpage at: www.dio-mdtc.ca/lay-ed 

Source: Montreal Diocesan Theological College's newsletter

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ecumenical Exchange in Montreal

One of the two new spiritual leaders of much of Canada’s Armenian community paid a courtesy visit to the Anglican bishop of the diocese of Montreal, Barry Clarke, on September 4 and presented him with a plaque of the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian.

The Very Rev. Fr. Abkar Hovakimian, 42, primate-elect of the Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, took the occasion of a short visit to Christ Church Cathedral to exchange views with Clarke on the role of altars, icons and other liturgical elements in the Anglican and Armenian Apostolic churches. Hovakimian was elected as spiritual leader of the diocese of the Armenian Church in Canada last May.

Clarke noted that the director of the Montreal-based Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, Adriana Bara, herself Romanian Orthodox, is a scholar of icons. The bishop will be one of about 14 clergy and scholars at a conference organized by the centre in the Anglican diocese’s Fulford Hall on October 24 to 25, in part to mark the 50th anniversary year of the centre.

The primate, based at St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in the Montreal midtown suburb of Outremont, was born in the Republic of Georgia and has served his church in Armenia, in Hamilton and St. Catharines, Ont., and most recently in Bulgaria.

For historic reasons, the Canadian Armenian community, estimated to be 80,000, includes churches of the Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, linked directly to the ancient see of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia, and the Prelacy of Canada, linked to the Catholicate of Cilicia, based in Lebanon. (There are also Catholics and Protestants.)

Bishop Meghrig Parikian, who has served his church in his native Lebanon and North America, including 12 years at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Toronto and who is known as an author and musical composer, was elected prelate of the prelacy last May. The bishop, 44, is based at Sourp Hagop Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in north-end Montreal.

Source: Anglican Journal

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back to Church Sunday: What are We Inviting People to Come Back To?

Back to Church Sunday is quickly coming upon us. I realize that I am stepping on sacred territory. To be clear, I love the movement and the initiative that this has created. I have heard many great stories from congregations that have seen people come back to church and many who have come back into Christian community.

I’ll confess that when I first heard of this, I thought this was ironic and had an image of someone in full clericals standing on the doorstep of the church, yelling out, “Come back…come back…we’re still here!” I’m glad that we haven’t seen that…I hope. I remember doing some work with a parish, and they really wanted to do something to get people to come back to church. I asked the blunt question, “Why?” What is our motivation? This church’s vestry didn’t have consensus – some wanted numbers up so the offering would be up, some really wanted families that had left over disagreements to come back…and a few really believed that the church offered something that no other group in the community offered.

The movement is about creating opportunity for a conversation. We tried our own version at All Saints a few years back on Valentine’s Day. It happened to fall on Sunday that year. We planned a special service, had some people create some valentine’s to give everyone, made some invites and a few of us took a couple evenings and walked around our neighbourhood to deliver them. I’m glad that I had developed thick skin during the days that I had to do door-to-door evangelism – we had more than a few doors slammed in our faces. I’ll confess, I was wearing jeans and a sweater, and was not robed.

Sunday morning came, and with it 3 new families, including one from the neighbourhood. They loved it; the kids loved the valentines and the candy. Our problem? Next Sunday came. We went back to the normal Anglican liturgy and the traditional hymns – and no candies. The 3 families returned, once. I was horrified and kicked myself. We created an environment that was far from our authentic selves. One of the 3 families returned and became part of the community, and for them, it was because of relationships they built.

In the end, it really had nothing to do with the special treats and it certainly wasn’t the liturgy we prepared. It was the lasting relationships, and the reassurance that they could be themselves too.

What are we inviting people to come back to? Or even to come to for the first time? Is our church even ready to be inviting people to join?

Source: The Community

Monday, September 8, 2014

Signs You’re Not Ready to Hire a Youth Minister

I believe in youth ministry. In the same way we are called to minister to senior citizens as they make the transitions of old age and help those living in poverty find ways to live with dignity and help young families with the challenges of modern parenthood, the Church has an opportunity to serve young people as communities of elders, parents, singles and professionals who can usher young people through the transitions in their lives.

For many churches, the pivotal accomplishment of youth ministry is hiring a youth minister: An individual with the skills, faith, experience and, most importantly, “gifts with young people”. Unfortunately, for many, hiring the youth minister becomes the end, not the beginning of an exciting ministry.

I work with and support many fantastic youth ministers serving God faithfully and, through a lot of hard work and prayerful support from their parishes, are doing some great, creative ministry with young people. I have also sat with too many others who have felt caught in a “bait and switch”. They were excited to accept an opportunity to serve in youth ministry, expecting a community that would support them, only to find that they were expected to create a youth ministry from scratch with no financial, prayer or volunteer support. Not only that, but after a year when they have done some important foundation building but there is no increase in the “bums and pews”, the rumours are now starting that, in next year’s budget, their position will be cut.

You can expect a follow up post about when to know you are ready to hire a youth minister but, more urgently, many churches need to consider the possibility they are not ready. The good news is that none of these are final. These are not signs that you will never be ready to hire a youth minister, but things to start working on within your community before you start writing up that job description.

1. There is no long-term congregational development plan or, worse, hiring a youth minister is your long term plan

If you get nothing else out of this post, read this: youth ministry does not happen on its own. A common solution is, “if we just get more young people, then we will grow.” Any sentence that starts with “If we just…” is oversimplifying and simply isn’t going to work.

Youth ministry is too vulnerable and unpredictable in its early stages to pin an entire community’s hopes on. The pressure of being your only congregational development strategy will stifle any possibilities out of fear that it will not work. A healthy youth ministry exists as part of a longer plan which includes faith development of the whole congregation, stewardship and reaching out to the wider community.

2. The lead cleric has said, “I am not gifted with young people”.

Speaking as a priest, I know I am not fully competent in many areas of running a church. None of us are. Hiring a youth minister does not replace the vocation of every cleric to care for every member of the congregation, “…old and young, rich and poor.” A good youth minister can support leaders in building relationships with young people, as long as they are willing to learn and grow. In the meantime, seek opportunities to learn more about relating to young people. I don’t mean learn how to use the latest technology; I mean learning how to listen to and support them through their transitions and challenges of adolescence.

3. You have calculated the salary based on minimum wage

You may not be hiring an ordained person, but you are hiring a minister; a professional with training, experience and qualifications. Whether or not you have a payscale system, there are many guidelines you can use. Consult with other churches in your area. Start with the average income in your parish, then consider the education level and experience you expect. And do not forget to budget enough in the long term for raises in cost-of living and merit based on increased experience.

4. You have enough funding for salary (more than minimum wage, even) but not program

We can talk about relationships being the foundation of youth ministry all day. I can also talk about the dangers of relying too much on program (in short, without relationships they do not nurture lifelong faith in Christ) but every youth ministry needs a program budget. Mark DeVries of Youth Ministry Architects suggests, between salary and programming, you should budget $1,000 per student. The lower the income of the families in your parish, you want to invest more per student to cover the costs of outings, retreats and supplies.

Another part of programming is continuing education for your youth minister. Make sure time and money is available for her/him to attend conferences, network with other youth ministers and keep up with the latest research.

5. Parishioners and lay leadership express no interest in getting to know your young people

Let’s be honest. Teenagers can be intimidating. They insist on dressing in their own style, they stick their heads into devices we don’t understand and, according to what we see on TV, know way more about sex and drugs than we ever will (this is not true, by the way, but it feels that way). Wouldn’t it be easier to hire someone who already understands all this to deal with them?

Well, maybe easier, but not effective. The Christian faith has survived for over 2,000 years because it is lived out in community. Jesus was always drawing his disciples into relationship with those who made them uncomfortable. As isolated as they sometimes appear, teenagers need community. They need mentors. They need nurturers. They need to be invited to help with dinners and taught how to use the 40 year old coffee urns. They need to know they are loved.

Do you have a prayer team? Ask them to start praying for your young people daily. Try a secret grandparent where older volunteers are paired up with a teenager to pray for them and write them letters. If you start to build relationships across generations, you may even find you don’t need a youth minister at all!

6. You do not take Screening in Faith or your safe church programs seriously

I am getting dangerously close to blaming and shaming churches who are trying to find ways to get around these requirements. I would go so far as not recommending such a church to a family looking for a church to call home.

Every time you try to cut a corner with insurance or screening, you are putting everyone at risk–your youth, your volunteers, your staff and your new youth minister. Youth ministers are not contractors. They are staff. Youth ministry is a community responsibility. Do not look for ways to not have to deal with your insurance broker or police background checks. Don’t think of it as going through the motions. Imagine your church as a place committed to keeping people safe. And don’t make your youth minister solely responsible for the safety of your most vulnerable people. Make it a community responsibility.

7. You expect young people to fit seamlessly into your way of doing things

I remember serving on a parish council as a young person. When I would ask a question or make a suggestion, I was often told, “We already dealt with that months/years ago.” It was suggested I refer to the minutes from years before I was even capable of sitting on a parish council. The other line I heard a lot was, “Are YOU going to do it?” In other words, we’ll let you screw it up so we don’t need to take any responsibility for it’s failure. It seemed no one thought I had anything new to add to that conversation, or maybe what I am suggesting could be worth the risk.

Youth are not the church of tomorrow, they are part of your church…today. The Holy Spirit is speaking through them. Rather than building a church where our older folks are comfortable to hand down to our young people, Christian community means everyone has a voice and an opportunity to serve God with the gifts we have at this moment.

Don’t hire a youth minister if you are not interested in hearing what young people want to create with you in your church.

8. You think your worship is just fine and doesn’t need to change

By hiring a youth minister I can only assume you want to open up your worship to a whole new demographic. You don’t need to immediately invest in guitars, drums and screens. But have you considered what it is like to come to your service for the first time for someone who has never been to church? How easily can a young person understand why you worship God the way you do? You may be surprised to find young people have few complaints about your service except that they are not really a part of it. Can they hear their language and concerns at all in the liturgy? Do you expect them to come just because it is Sunday morning? If so, hold off on hiring a youth minister until you have listened to your young people’s perceptions of your worship service and your leadership is ready to take them seriously.

9. You have not consulted with wider church youth ministry structures

Most churches that are part of a denomination will have some staff or wider network of youth ministry. There is a wealth of resources for your parish at this level. I can’t count how many times I have heard regional youth ministry staff say, “If only they had called me sooner, I could have helped them avoid this.” With only a few exceptions, I’d be willing to bet your denominational authorities who take calls about money and buildings all day would be happy to share some ideas about how to build a ministry with young people.

Don’t be discouraged

If you have reached this point and are beginning to think you have to go back to the drawing board, don’t be discouraged. Just like a new building, a youth ministry needs a solid foundation. Dealing with these issues before you start on that job description will give your youth ministry a much better chance to grow.

Finally, consult, consult, consult.

Talk to your neighbouring churches. Talk to your denominational structure. Most importantly, talk to your young people! And if you are ready for the possibility that they already have all of this figured out, they are just waiting to be asked, then you are even closer to being ready to hire a youth minister.

Source: The Flags of Dawn

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Power of Giving by Monica Patten

Monica Patten is currently Interim Director of the Resources for Mission Department of General Synod. Originally from the Diocese of Ottawa, Monica has served on numerous church committees at the diocesan and national levels. For Ms. Patten the church stands out as a special place for giving and participation. Rich relationships, living out the Gospel message, and supportive community all inspire a strong call to give to and participate in the life of God’s church.

Ms. Patten’s words illustrate the importance of community as the place where stewardship and generosity take root. Consider using this video to as a way of showing how each of us is a source of generosity that can contribute to the fulfillment of the Marks of Mission.

For more information on giving to the various local, national, and global ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada please visit Gifts for Mission.

Click here to see the video.

Monday, September 1, 2014