(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: White Privilege|The Elephant in the Room

A version of this blog was originally published
November 17, 2016 by The United Church of Canada
in the At the Heart of Justice feature
and was entitled
White Privilege: The Elephant in the Room

Understanding White Privilege

The system of the supremacy of whiteness was created to serve white men who were heterosexual, able bodied, Christian, wealthy landowners, to keep power and control in their hands. If we truly want to understand white privilege, the intersections of identity elements on which privilege systems are based and how each serves to support the others are an essential puzzle piece.

Kendall, Frances E. Understanding White Privilege

White Privilege

White Privilege

That our United Church of Canada is undergoing change goes without saying. This change began in the mid-1960s and has been accelerating. Much of this has been discussed and explored.

As generational and demographic experiences of church have shifted, the church has been exploring many matters, which centre around diversity and inclusivity. For many, 1986 (Apology to First Nations People) and 1988 (in which sexual orientation was determined not to be a barrier to Ministry) are the moments in which the momentum of theological analysis, which began in the 1920s around gender and women’s role in society, began to bear fruit.

Where the church now finds itself, enmeshed in structural change, has left many feeling disconnected from a sense of purpose, even identity. Though we have done well in academic analysis around culture and colonialism and our complicity in Empire, there seems to be an underlying floundering as to who we are in a world that is foreign to our modernist structures, processes and polity.

As I begin to translate my current PhD studies into practical denominational applications, I would suggest we must confront our White Privilege. In this time of change, the ideological underpinnings of White Privilege continue to constrain us at an institutional and congregational level. Though we have begun some work, in respect to Intercultural Ministry (2012), we may be unable to embrace the potential that lies before the church as it journeys further into postmodernity.

Inaugural Service

Inaugural Service, 10 June 1925, Mutual Street Arena
Image: The United Church of Canada
https://flic.kr/p/7YUsRo

As we wrestle whether we will divorce ourselves from the trappings of power, about which some still romanticise, I invite us to explore that Empire is grounded in White Privilege. In this male centred preference, as the opening quote summarises well, we might begin to revisit seriously the early church’s metaphor of the body: it is whole only when all members are afforded dignity. Regardless of the structural change ahead, until congregations find ways to have challenging, and yes difficult, conversations, we will continue to flounder as we long for identity.

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|White Privilege & Lament

A version of this blog was originally published
October 31, 2016 by KAIROS
and was entitled
Spirited Reflection: White Privilege & Lament

Understanding White Privilege

The system of the supremacy of whiteness was created to serve white men who were heterosexual, able bodied, Christian, wealthy landowners, to keep power and control in their hands. If we truly want to understand white privilege, the intersections of identity elements on which privilege systems are based and how each serves to support the others are an essential puzzle piece.

Kendall, Frances E. Understanding White Privilege

Reclaiming Lament

We understand lament to be a public acknowledgement, protest, complaint, crying out against the pain of grief, loss, misery and/or injustice. It is an active, ongoing process for overcoming denial, one which requires a sharing and naming of being in the depths. It can be an expression of anger, a release of energy, which involves the identification, naming and blaming of the enemy. It accepts the intricacies and identifies the complexity and interconnection of many different forms of pain and injustice.

Duncan & Rainey, Reclaiming Lament

161102-kairos

KAIROS

The work that KAIROS does and the places of human shadows into which it walks reminds us to appreciate the work accomplished and to acknowledge that which remains. This ongoing, often faithful journey, confronts issues such as injustice and pastoral care, the charitable and the liberating. It is a long walk that recalls for the scripture: But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).

The challenge, however, for most mainstream protestant Canadian experiences is that there is a very big elephant in the room. One that is so very pervasive, even ubiquitous, we are often paralysed as how to name it, need alone recognise it: White Privilege

As one KAIROS member, The United Church of Canada (UCC) began its own attempt to name and deconstruct it with our 1986 apology to our Indigenous friends, Sisters and Brothers. We have endeavoured to explore academic words like colonialism, Christendom, supersessionism, and Empire. Yet, as 2016 unfolds and the denomination finds itself in the throes of structural change, I suggest that this intellectual work and focus on structure and governance perpetuates the status quo. Until this information transforms into heart’s wisdom, we will flounder to move from a dis-eased call, in which we were complicit (as Settlers) in colonialism, to one that seeks reconciliation and collective liberation.

This is not easy work. We have endeavoured to bear witness during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yet, in many instances, we have not translated this experience into our homes, our congregations. It is on the ground that we must begin to move from head to heart, body to soul, in order to integrate this work and recognise the challenge that our white church benefits from privilege and power.

This is not easy work. It is faithful work. We are invited to mutual healing, which requires recognising such atrocities as the 60s Scoop, the Residential School System, and treaties unhonoured.

But how do we do this?
How do we address guilt’s paralysis that privilege affords?
How do leave our homes when the world has moved on?
One that looks totally different than what we take for granted within the church?

White Privilege

White Privilege

There are no easy answers. Trauma theory helps to reclaim an ancient Judeo-Christian practice that witnesses the suffering in which we have been involved: Lament. Trauma theory reminds us that, for those who have experienced extreme pain and suffering, time is not linear. Reconstruction is often impossible. Resurrection only occurs when the Other’s dark night of the soul is heard and witnessed by those who listen. To listen is not an act of fixing, but witnessing: to witness becomes mutual when we realise our own unspoken pain, doubt and fears. For the Christian journey this is called Lament.

There are no easy answers. As KAIROS members attempt to follow, chase, long for the Spirit, we need reminding that even in Lament, when denial’s temptation sings, there is abundance. More pointedly, Lament throughout Holy Scripture is grounded in Creator’s radical hospitality and plenty. Whether it is the Psalms or Paul’s letters, we are reminded that in all human woe, God freely gives and we are invited to awaken to our role as co-Creators with Her.

This only begins, however, when all live with dignity unfettered. There can be no dignity unless Creator’s diversity is recognised and protected. Until elephants are named, privilege lulls those who have to perpetuate systems that construct others who do not.

  • The Good News is that the spark Divine, which binds us, whisperingly rages for righteous deliverance from our collective bondage to systems of oppression.
  • The Good News is that, though not easy, when those who have ears, listen, and those who have eyes, see, we recognise Spirit in the place of White Privilege. Then scales begin to fall and what a glorious awakening that was, is and shall be …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Structure & Passion

This blog was originally published
March 04, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

“Structures and passion? A church blog, Seriously?”

As we are close to halfway through the Christian season called Lent, reflection is a constant touchstone. It seemed to me that these two realities – structure and passion – would be an appropriate matter about which to muse …

Think of these two ideas as dance partners and – right now – it seems that our wee The United Church of Canada (UCC) is trying to find the right harmony, the right tune, rhythm or rhyme to get this party started! And – if we are to be honest – that’s proving to be somewhat of a challenge.

broken structure

broken structure
Image: Scott Swigart

In the world of organisational change and culture shifting, whenever any group of people are together – whether they gather as a church denomination, non-profit group, business or family – change is inevitable. How we live into that, however, can unleash creativity, playful wonder, and curiosity or entrench a sense of oppression, cynicism, and even apathy. How we do that with intention can propel our imagination or quench the fire within. I think it is fair to say that for many – in the UCC – we know the stage has been set, we’re just waiting to see if anyone will show up with their invitations in hand!

Part of the disconnect I have experienced, is that our structures are grounded in a time called modernity. A time that began to shift in the late 1950s. In a modern context, answers and binaries are valued. Certainty and identity are found in affiliations, degrees and designations. Though our structures and the way they operate – sometimes called governance and polity – have a long history, they are confronting values and ways of being sometimes described as the postmodern.

Through a postmodern lens of the world, there is comfort in paradox and uncertainty. There is often a sense that change is the new norm and that embracing it can be exciting. Often the relationship between the modern and postmodern is tense, anxious feeling and disheartening. For those who long for certainty, postmodernity seems wishy-washy and ambiguous. For the postmodern, the binaries and right & wrong of the old structures feels judgemental and stifling. Needless to say, these eddies and waves, undercurrents and tides are awash in the UCC. And – unfortunately – these two partners often find themselves looking at one another from across the dance floor dressed in differing generational costumes. The music’s playing, the party is started, but no one is dancing.

purple passion

purple passion
Image: Anthony Easton

For the last few years, the UCC has been focused on structures as a way to address this tension. Though there is certainly value in figuring how to do things that might release energy and time, often the underlying motivation has been fiscal in nature. Such a rationale, however can be a challenge, if that for which people long is passion’s embrace: a desire to connect with the underlying mission that emboldens people to do wild and weird stuff called ministry. In Christian speak, the passion for which we long is intimately grounded in the ‘Good News.’

As I pause near the end of this week’s blog, I am sitting in a gathering of Sisters and Brothers who have gathered from throughout the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Needless to say, the geography those of us gathered represent is vast and diverse. Needless to say, these structure conversations have arisen. Needless to say, that the uncertainty implicit in structural change has not been – necessarily – life-giving. I would not claim that is a universal experience, but I am struck by the idea of ‘flow.’

Flow is one of those ideas often associated with passion. It’s that synergy or connexion when time seems to disappear. As flow recedes, often the clocks hands have shifted dramatically, there’s a sense of fatigue and – ultimately – a sense of accomplishment. I hope – as this gathering draws to an end – there will be a sense that this was faithful time well-spent.

  • As we – as a denomination – realise we are now walking into structural change, and regardless of how we have arrived at this juncture, where is your passion?
  • Where is our sense of collective mission?
  • How might we tap into memories that connect with the transformative potential called faith?

These are the questions and encouragements that now invite us into dreaming dreams. Hopefully these new ways of being as the UCC tap into and honour our stories, as individuals, congregations and as a denomination. Stories that may be particular to our context, but speak to a universal thread that helps us shine bravely in the midst of shadows that gather in this time called Lent

Blog links:

 Image: passion
 Image: structure
 Wikipedia: Flow
 Wikipedia: Lent

 Wikipedia: Modernity
 Wikipedia: Postmodernity
 Wikipedia: The United Church of Canada
 YouTube: Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|The Goal

This blog was originally published
November 6, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stay focused

Stay focused
Image: Ed Schipul

“Keep your eyes on the goal,” he concluded with encouragement.

That’s sort of how President Joey Dearborn of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario completed his verbal report to those of us who were gathered for the Executive face-face, which just ended this week. Before I continue with Joey’s intent, let me not assume you know what I’m talking about!

For those who don’t know, this adventure called The United Church of Canada is structured within 4 concentric circles that help us be church in the world: 1) Congregations; 2) Presbytery (think city or rural municipality); Conference (imagine provinces); and General Council (kind of like the federal government). Of course once you get that, you have to know there’s lots of variation, but in general it’s a helpful parallel – well I hope so!

This structure allows us – or has allowed us – to shape how we imagine we want and are called to be the church. In church speak this is called ecclesiology. How process and structures connect with vision and mission is where – when we’re rockin’ it – the proverbial rubber meets the road and we get on with getting on! Problem is that, for sometime, we have known that we’ve not been playing our ‘A’ game.

Joey offered this concluding encouragement after sharing and reflecting that some of the ways we have been trying to imagine newness has consumed more time and energy than might be helpful. In particular, rather than sticking with the goal as the marker to help imagine these new ways of being, it sometimes seems like we are getting stuck in the design phase. And that – he acknowledged – is both frustrating and tiring. How then, can we understand what the goal is and what do we do to keep the passion alive, I was wondering?

The great gift of the church is that we have a lot of really great wise and challenging voices. If Joey’s wisdom opened this door for discernment of the goal, our newly-minted Moderator Jordan Cantwell was present on the second day of our gathering to move the ball forward. During this time, she shared her priorities – more on that shortly – and she also seemed (unknowingly) to expand further upon what Joey had begun the previous day.

So, what’s the goal? To borrow from Jordan, we’re called to follow Jesus. Following: the very image of movement implies two things to me as I started to muse about these connexions.

  1. Motion implies we are not called to be stationary or monolithic, something that happens when we put down roots; and,
  2. There’s no real sense of arrival, which implies a need to be constantly responsive and reflective. In other words, what would a reflexive church look like?

The goal: follow Jesus. Simple enough? So what?

Follow the Yellow Mint Road

Follow the Yellow Mint Road
Image: Neal Fowler

The church often stands accused of looking after its own. Sometimes, we’re even appropriately challenged for causing unspoken hurt and having an agenda of judgement and conversion. How then might we reorient ourselves to this goal, while also realising that the goal may very well help us imagine the structures and processes we need in this reflexive journey? In other words, how can we be both (goal)/and (structures)?

And – this is not definitive remember, just a musing – I think that Jordan’s priorities help as possible lenses to apply to Joey’s initial encouragement and challenge:

  1. Living into right relations with our Indigenous Sisters and Brothers, as recommended through the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
  2. Embracing and exploring ecumenical and interfaith relationships that mirror we are a stronger voice for justice and change when our common values align and we speak with integrity mutually; and,
  3. Youth and Young Adult Ministry. We have known – the church that is – that our values align well with those who are not in the church. The challenge is how do we become a relevant voice when no one knows who we are? And for those who have some inkling, how do we begin a new conversation that addresses everyone’s assumptions, when we may seem but a vestige of a past that no one really wants to revisit?

I don’t think I have a conclusion, but I think as Joey’s words began this musing, perhaps Jordan’s might continue the conversation:

“We are called to follow Jesus, the structures and process should help that happen …”

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Trust & Hope

This blog was originally published
September 11, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Behold

Behold
Image: UCC

Hope can exist without trust,
but trust cannot exist without hope.

I think this leads to a very difficult set of assumptions and – especially in context of change –reveals a stark set of implications. Most of which are too often life-draining and – in respect to faith communities – can be soul-devouring.

As many who will be reading this first blog following General Council 42 will already know that – as an institution – The United Church of Canada has been exploring change with some intention for the last several years. In our context, this has been carried out under the leadership of the Comprehensive Review Task Group (CRTG). Regardless of the many differences of opinion around this process, the reality is that substantial imagining has and is occurring in our midst. In turn, this has led to a series of steps to change the church structurally and culturally.

Though there are many rationales for this change – for me – the one that is most energising is to imagine how the church might become more nimble and responsive to a culture that changes as quickly as the next YouTube video or cell phone release. In a disposable culture, I believe the church has a mandate to find ways to allow people to embrace that they – as just one part of Creation – are blessed, valued and NOT DISPOSABLE.

So after several years of exploration and study, listening and dreaming, the CRTG work was passed onto GC42. The gathering of this Court had the mandate to approve, change, tweak, or modify the work. With over 400 decision makers present, it obviously created an interesting way to move an institution forward that finds itself 10 years from its centennial birthday.

So – as I listened to most of the live broadcast and subsequent conversation with others who were in attendance – I am struck by two reflections:

GC 42 Worship

GC 42 Worship
Image: UCC

  1. There is a real love and passion for this faith expression that is lived out as The United Church of Canada; and,
  2. The model of decision making that we use is not grounded in trust: in fact, its birth and evolution arise out of a place of distrust that was intended to ensure that change was VERY difficult. The context comes from an era in which debate and adjudicative language preferenced a particular gender, educational experience and societal class. We have moved far from those days with much to celebrate – much that defines an egalitarian movement of justice-living, as opposed to justice-talking – and yet we must acknowledge that much of that system remains in place.

As one who loves organisational change and development, in particular from an appreciative perspective, here’s the challenge: if you always do, what you’ve always done, you’re gonna get what you’ve always got. As we endeavour to change, if we continue to use the same decision making processes that have formed us, then we will likely not experience change that is transformative.

The questions with which I am left, therefore, at the end of this blog are also assumptions that I think would be helpful for us as church – and anyone experience change in general – upon which to reflect. I offer them as neither final nor authoritative: rather to continue to move us into that which we might be through the catalysts of dialogue and story:

  • We are longing for change: what ways might that occur in order that all might share their very best experiences of transformation?
  • We are longing to trust: if we know that where we are is not where we imagine we might be, what ways might we explore new ways to make decisions that includes everyone?
  • We long to be embrace diversity: what might need to be changed in how we interact with one another, in order to not silence voices that long to speak? How might we shift a preference for debate and argumentation to one in which consensus is generative? And,
  • We are a people of hope: as Christian community, we are informed by a way of looking at reality through the lens of Easter. If we are seeking renewal – resurrection – what is it that is keeping the old alive and keeping us from dying into that which will be? How might we find ways to honour that which is without judging those who have come before us?

Blog links:

 Image: GC Logo
 Image: GC Worship
 UCC: 42nd General Council

 UCC: Comprehensive Review Task Group
 Wikipedia: Appreciative Inquiry
 YouTube: The New Moderator: Rev. Jordan Cantwell

(Design) #uccan WordPress Templates

It is with excitement that we share a recently completed and launched WordPress project. With collaboration with A+ Computers, the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario of The United Church of Canada and Halftone Pixel, we have created multiple templates branded specifically for The United Church of Canada UCC). The intention of this project is “that this resource will allow for both recognition of a United Church ministry and enough flexibility to reflect well the blessing of each specific context.” Please checkout the Mailchimp blast for more information about this exciting denominational and national opportunity for ministries of the UCC!

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Revival

Revival

Revival
Image: Fabienne D

“That felt just like Revival!” she said to me during that in-between-time that is a United Church of Canada fellowship gathering. A space after a service in which there is more food than the wandering of Moses and the Exiles could eat. Where people linger longer than anticipated. A time when smiles are shared, sometimes truths are spoken unreservedly in the midst of communal publicity, and when new friends are met and old ones embraced. And that – Dear Readers – was the catalyst for this week’s musing!

For those who do not know, this wee experiment called The United Church of Canada (UCC) is experiencing change – perhaps fundamental. Often, we whisper our opinions, avoid eye contact and most definitely do not gather with others from outside our clan. Sometimes it feels like we have been holding our collective breath for two years and this August 8th – just maybe – we will exhale and once again notice the Spirit’s ever present dance. Last Sunday – however – was a most pleasant challenge to a narrative of avoidance – in might even be called a Revival!

This last Sunday I was gifted to be with two UCC congregations that came together to worship. Not just any two congregations, but ones from different Presbytery’s (Church-speak for municipality-esque). Not just any two congregations from different Presbyteries, but one rural and one urban. Not just any two congregations, but one that is the oldest UCC congregation in the province of Manitoba (Little Britain) & the other (Kildonan) that is the last most northwestern UCC before one leaves Winnipeg. A congregation surrounded by a growing population and development.

Corner Brook

Corner Brook
Image: The United Church of Canada

Into this faith community’s building (which dates to 1874) we gathered. Being held by stones that remember lives and memories, tears and joys, music and harmony we crammed in. And – lest there be naysayers out there – the organ rang true as we sang with richness, clapped our hands and even stomped and danced! A Message was shared that threaded our journeys into a collective vision and … of course there was food!

We’re built with old bones, this experiment of ours. Dating to 1925, we – as the UCC – stand on shoulders that have been brave and courageous. In changing times, those whom we follow embraced union over dissolution. They saw commonality where others might see division. Last Sunday – for a moment – was a revival not of institutions or polity, process or governance: it was a reminder that it is in community faith is lived out. In places of worship, men and women are emboldened to leave safety of the hearth to offer care, advocacy and justice to those for whom such a privilege is a distant taunt, a longing for hope …

I’m leaving on holidays next week, with but one musing left before then. How these old UCC bones might be reimagined and reborn is anyone’s bet. But here’s what I know, in these bones are beauty:

• A beauty that defies our tendency toward paralysis or apathy;
• A beauty that – when truly recognised – opens doors to see we are and continue to be true disciples of a Rabbi named Yeshua;
• A beauty – when embraced – sees Christ not just here, but everywhere. Not just in everyone, but in everything; and,
• A beauty – when shared – reminds us that not only are we not alone, not only is the burden light, but when all shine, innovation and newness abounds from old bones longing to sing …

Blog links:

 Image: Corner Brook
 Image: Revival
 UCC
 UCC: Little Britain UC

 UCC: Kildonan UC
 Wikipedia: Christian Revival
 Wikipedia: Holy Spirit 
 YouTube: Beauty in these Broken Bones (Red Moon Road)

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking with Children

A Rainbow of Stoles

A Rainbow of Stoles
Credit: Shelly Manley-Tannis

One of the blessings that continues to touch me in my Ministry with congregations is the trust and love that is offered to me by the children of the community. Each time I hear the door of the hall open and small feet running toward my office, my name being yelled out loud…I marvel at the gift I have been given. I am reminded, each time an arm goes around my waist or a small hand takes mine or a question comes my way that I am being offered the most privileged, sacred relationship possible: the trust of a child.

The children in my congregational experience have taught me many things, they have reminded me to be authentic, and they have challenged me every single time I make an assumption. I have learned that sometimes they really ARE paying attention! That it’s okay to ask ‘why’ and that some of our scripture stories are indeed very sad. Recently I learned something else…

November 20 is the United Nations Universal Children’s Day and The United Church of Canada encourages its ministries to celebrate on the Sunday closest to the date. And because they continue to ask me, and love to offer their help, I knew that the children in my small-but-mighty congregation would want to be the leaders of this celebration in worship on November 16th. They chose the story to be read (The Penguin Who Wanted to Be Different), discussed the theme, picked out music and heard some of my ideas. They ‘got’ the story of the problem with hiding our gifts and talents, and during the service itself they told the story, announced the hymns, read the prayers and blessed the offerings, and the congregation on their way.

Snow Angel

Snow Angel
Credit: Shelly Manley-Tannis

The one thing that in the planning of that service that I would not have thought of, if it were not for them asking, was the importance of liturgical garb. In my office, my stoles of many colours – gifts from loved ones, hand-made and/or handed down from my father – hang on a lovely wooden holder also made for me by a friend. During one of our ‘practices’ for the service, one of the children pointed to the stoles and asked ‘we’re going to be wearing those, right?’. The other children nodded in agreement, but my response was a little slow in coming – my mouth hanging open a bit and I mumbled something about figuring it out.

Later, I thought about the question and my hesitation. Was there really any reason that they should NOT wear the liturgical stoles that mark them as leaders of worship? I couldn’t really think of one. The only concern was that I didn’t have enough of the same colour – for “ordinary time”. But then I realized, what better to celebrate Children’s Sunday than a rainbow of different shades – EVERY season must be a time to celebrate children. And I proudly wore my blue hand-made yoke with the ‘children of world’ design on it. Luckily, quite a few of my stoles belonged to my father and he was not a tall man. Still, some of the fringes touched the floor as our small, beautiful group of kids stood to read the final blessing – and a very blessed congregation knew that they had seen the face of God and the body of Christ in their midst.

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Old Seeds, New Soil

Old Seeds, New Soil

Old Seeds, New Soil
Credit: Richard Manley-Tannis

This week’s blog offers the fruition of the musing of two previous blogs: Seeds & The Word. Both of these blogs were used to prepare for an opportunity – for which I remain humbled – to share the Reflection at Westminster United Church on July 20, 2014. The audio and a somewhat cleaned-up transcript can be found below.

Reflection (Audio: 16:28)
Westminster United Church
(July 20/14)
Reflection (Transcript)
Westminster United Church
(July 20/14)

As well, I will be enjoying a time of Sabbath beginning next week. As a result, A Deacon’s Musing will likely not be updated until my return in September. As such, I thought that I would highlight two previous blogs that speak to the idea of Sabbath and Lifelong Learning. Both feel contextually appropriate to share once more. I pray that they are of interest and – Dear Reader, friends, family, Sisters and Brothers – I pray that the rest of your summer is filled with the gift of surprise. In particular, when the unexpected becomes a blessing may you be aware of potential in your midst. I sincerely look forward to musing with you once more upon my return from Sabbath & Holy Days.

Icon: Link A Deacon’s Musing|Lifelong Learner

 In this previous blog, I was exploring my own connexion with lifelong learning: both as a  facilitator in adult learning contexts and I was also about to embark on my own return to study in a Doctoral programme. In between my acceptance and attendance, the programme shifted, however, and I found myself six months later withdrawing.

At this juncture, I have again enrolled in a PhD programme, this time at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. It has been quite a journey since 2012 and rest assured there have indeed been many gifts that were born in surprise!

Icon: Link A Deacon’s Musing|Control

 This week’s musing – in its variation – is indeed an interesting way to begin a time of Sabbath. This blog was written prior to my Sabbatical in 2012, which was connected with the previous Doctoral exploration I have mentioned. Little did I know how significant the idea of control would be and what letting go might mean. As I finish this musing, I am struck by the power of surprise and what happens when we find a way to navigate through it and discover how old seeds do indeed grow in new soil!

Blog links:

 ADM: Control
 ADM: Lifelong Learner
 ADM: Seeds
 ADM: The Word
 Reflection (Audio) July 20/14

 Reflection (Transcript) July 20/14
 Tilburg University
 UCC: Westminster
 Wikipedia: Sabbath

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|#swanriver

I really do think that this vocation of mine is filled with rich blessings and opportunities. Sure ministry can be filled with challenges, but usually even those can be surprisingly wonderful! One of the things that is great about where I find myself is the privilege to see and experience diverse communities. Whether that’s simply within the bounds of Winnipeg Presbytery, further afield in The Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario or nationally or globally, it is an honour to experience human choices that strive to be the Kingdom in the now. This last month – I even got to hang out in the town of Swan River!

Swan River (1887)

Swan River (1887)
Photo: Thomas Fisher

Now this is not a travel blog about Swan River – though if you like fishing, golf and/or the outdoors, I think you would certainly be well pleased. In fact, what got me musing this week is the idea of privilege. There is an ongoing and appropriate analysis of what this means in our church culture. And – unfortunately – at times I think we respond with either guilt or apathy. And I get why that is … I also worry that sometimes we do not fully embrace the choices that come with the privilege we possess. Privilege is not a neutral state of being and leads to choices that are either informed or not. As those who aspire to be an Easter people, informed choices can affect lives and offer healing to our selves, God’s Creation and the Stranger.

Being in Swan River, I was reminded of the beauty of nature and the real power of hospitality. In the almost 20 years in which I have walked with The United Church of Canada, I have never seen dance offered as a way to share a community’s richness. And that is indeed what happened during one of the lunches. On my morning runs, my right arm was actually growing tired by the waving to which I responded by women and men in cars passing me by!

There I was (with about 300 hundred other UCC folks) …

privileged to be able to afford to travel;
privileged to experience a community that welcomed us; and,
privileged to recognise that there is blessing and work to be done …

  • I do not think it is inappropriate to note that hospitality to the Stranger, which we were, does not preclude that acknowledging that prejudice continues to exist in ourselves and others; and,
  • I do not think it is inappropriate to note that the semblance of earth’s bounty, which was clearly in bloom in Swan River, does not preclude that we collectively contribute to environmental degradation.
Priv[e|i]lege

Priv[e|i]lege
Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

And – here’s the thing with which I have been wrestling: as we (denominationally) sometimes get stuck in what we imagine we no longer have and (in turn) pull back owing to a lens of deficit, we remove ourselves from relationships. And without relationships, how can we affect the change for which we long? How can we share what know to be Good News, when we tell ourselves (too often I would have to admit were I able to look into that mirror) that there is not enough?

The Annual Church Gathering in Swan River is grounded in privilege and safety, which is not shared by many on Planet Earth. And by going to these places we are able to note things that sometimes staying at home we may not recognise. I pray that as we continue to explore change and the possibility of restructuring that we do not forget that staying under someone else’s tent is as important as the words we use to tell those we love how dear they are to us, because ‘life happens to us while we are busy making other plans …’

Beautiful Boy (Lyrics)

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