(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Relevant

This blog was originally published
May 20, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Relevant is a hard word for the church …

I often hear, from those seeking or simply rejecting organised religion, that the church is no longer, if ever it was, relevant in their lives. On the other hand, as if that is not challenging enough, when I work and walk with congregations asking questions about purpose, mission and their role beyond their walls, there is lament about how to be relevant. At the very least, both this challenge and grief help us navigate where the two might meet …


Image: Steve Johnson

For those for whom the institution does not seem pertinent – well, we’re not even on their radar. And – if we are – often the first place we might be a blip is in the realm of social media and – particularly – around topics of social justice and prayer/mediation/centring. For those for whom the question of relevance is a concern, often how to respond requires a shift to realise that the world that has been our normal in many ways no longer exists.

Even in these connexions and differences, I believe the tricky part is the word itself: relevant. The initial or historic meaning of the word comes from a Scottish legal reference to that which is ‘legally pertinent.’ I think this is helpful as a way to ask what is the intention, as opposed to the definition, of the word we are using? What do we mean when we use the word ‘relevant?’

In our consumer based culture, this legal terminology seems telling. As such, here are a few ways we might frame the word in this legal and consumer context:

  • How can you give/convince me what I want?
  • What do you have that I want?
  • What do you have to say to me that allows me to hear what I want to hear/expect to hear?
  • How do I make sure what I am offering sounds like something you want?
  • How do I sell you something I have, which you may not yet know you want?

And – if any of these questions fit – a contract is established, a sale is made and both parties are happy … except in our consumer culture this is always temporary. The product is – ultimately – simply the means by which we perpetually consume.

As a people of faith, with millennia of spiritual practice, we have to acknowledge this is quite different than what we likely mean by being ‘relevant.’ As Christians, we have to realise this is not Good News … this is not a temporary product, but a way of life that invites people to embrace and live love, in order to bear light into shadowed places …

Definition vs. Intention?

Definition or Intention?

As I paused and mused about this tension, I discovered a set several of synonyms, which caught my attention. These alternatives for the term ‘relevant’ seem to create a bridge that connects those seeking and those sharing. Words that might describe a space where those who find something is missing and those who think they have one way to bring meaning, might meet.

  • What might it mean, if we substitute relevant for related? Instead of asking how are you relevant to me, we might ask, how are we related? What binds us?
  • What might it mean if we substitute relevant for mutual? Instead of asking what can I get from you to bring me meaning, we ask how we might mutually bring depth to our lives?
  • What might it mean, if we substitute relevant for reciprocal? Instead of asking what can I get from you to bring me meaning, we ask how might we reciprocally recognise that in one another we are more than what we are told if we accept that we meant to simply consume in isolation?

I’m not sure what the answers might be, but I have an inkling that the conversations themselves would begin to reveal potential and possibilities worth imagining …

(Spirit) Taste of Jubilee

We are excited to share the following invitation from our friends and partners at the Prairie Jubilee Programme:

Post: Jubilee

Come Get a Taste of Jubilee!

April 27, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
47 Bronstone Blvd., Winnipeg MB
We’ll be gathering to share stories and insights about Jubilee. The focus will be to provide information to anyone interested in the program. The next two-year cycle starts September 15, 2016.
You will hear from leaders, alumni and current students, with lots of time at the end for one-on-one discussions.

For more details on the program please visit http://prairiejubilee.ca/course-outline/
RSVP tracy@prairiejubilee.ca

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Hate

This blog was originally published February 2, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: ‘hate is all the world has ever seen lately’

There I am on my morning 10k run. Boomer at my side – enduring my slow, plodding bipedal gate – surrounded by the beauty of hoar frost embracing any and every surface upon which moisture might cling and above a brilliant robin’s blue sky pushing out the morning fog, when suddenly the lyric, “‘Cause hate is all the world has ever seen lately,” jarred me out of the longed-for-runner’s-high!

For me, my daily run is the time I set aside to try to reflect on the day that has been, what might lie before me and where I might be called to reflect. In essence, this is one of my spiritual disciplines … and with any ritual or practice, there’s always the potential that you get stopped in your tracks … this was one of those times …

Now I know this may not be a surprise to you, really it is not as such to me either – at least from a head space perspective. But something, today, was shocking … shocking because – I guess upon reflection – I was surrounded by beauty. And this lyric cut through all of that beyond my intellect into my body and my heart and there was this ‘duh aha’ moment.

Gallery: ADM (2012)

What Would Jesus not do?

It’s unequivocally true … lately likely being the entire course of human history is pocked, marked, scarred with hate. Have you read any of our Hebrew Scriptures lately? Not exactly a lot of egalitarian love going on in there – in fact quite the opposite: people rationalising murder, mayhem, genocide all in the name of ‘God.’ After all, we all know God is on our side, right? Well at least insofar as those who get to write the story are able to shift the narrative from hate to God’s preference, from oppression to protection, from selfishness to self-preservation, from offence to defence …

I have blogged – loosely – about this during Advent in A Deacon’s Musing: Advent & the Rattling of Swords, but there is more than simply being in a culture of war that I have not explored. A constant message of hate, which is so easy to internalise and with which then to paint everyone whom we meet, is insidious. It becomes a pattern that we repeat without knowing … in a text based environment, one of the revelations has been that ‘more offence is taken than is ever intended.’ This insight is born from the reality that most communication is non-verbal – so the words we use do not often necessarily mean what we are actually saying!

What’s the point? In a culture inundated with various media that do not require interacting with another human being, it has become easier to ASSUME what people actually say before we even meet them. This race is like this, that person does that, their culture always responds this way, is a recording that becomes part of our ASSUMPTIONS when we finally meet someone new …

And, of course, into the fray comes Jesus – the one whom Christians use as a guide, gauge, mentor, teacher – that not only challenges those whom we have come to call the Disciples, but those of us who continue to endeavour to share his message! And, as is evident in the discomfort when you start to listen to him, hate is really not part of his vocabulary. A recent image from facebook seems to sum this up by using examples of what Jesus would NOT do:

• Harass Single Moms
• Beat Homosexuals
• Picket Their Funerals
• Shoot Doctors
• Shoot Anyone
• Join A Militia
• Run A Network
• Own A Weapon
• Run For President
• Burn A Cross
• Hate His Enemies
• Attack The Poor
• Side With The Rich
• Put His Name On Merchandise

Hate – it’s insidious! Until we confront how we ourselves are affected by it, it is likely we will be defensive when we are told we hate so & so or such & such … but if we take Jesus’ ministry seriously, if we aspire to be LOVE in the world, maybe we need to be jarred out of our assumptions. When we hear the challenge that ‘all the world has ever seen lately’ is hate, maybe we need to Take a Look Around. In turn, we might have to reflect on how we might be something different …

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