Monthly Archives: June 2017

Practical Theology?

I spent the last weekend in May on campus at UBC, at the General Meeting of the British Queer TheologyColumbia Conference of the United Church of Canada. It was my privilege to chair the meeting and watch as the planning team’s conversation unfolded through the careful, wise and inspired leadership of many gifted folk engaged in the ministry of our church. Along with over 400 others, I learned a great deal about the ways we respond to God’s call in the United Church.

Our teachers were brought together, shaped and set in almost orchestral renderings of ‘practical theology’ by Reverend Janet Gear of the Vancouver School of Theology. Using story, testimony and song, they helped us understand, celebrate and uphold some of the more compelling theologies (ways of relating to and in God) of the United Church of Canada in British Columbia. For church folk it was a wonderful, enlivening, fascinating and uplifting way to spend our time together, and get the business done too!

As with all large group meetings, where inspiration takes place daily on the main stage, at table groups, or via twitter, facebook and Instagram, some of the deepest reflections took place almost casually, over breakfast, at coffee, or during late night conversations about theology as we live it in our communities. While I was part of many, a few stand out in sharp relief. Continue reading Practical Theology?

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As posted in the Vancouver Courier and Victoria Times Colonist…Wonder Woman

My partner and I went to Wonder Woman last night, expecting a reinstitution of Super Hero resolution of human trials and tribulations, (we were not disappointed), in the feminine aspect, we were pleasantly surprised to see the movie lift up the reality of the human condition. Humans are good and evil. The same humans. All at once. Oh, and even heroes are on a journey of understanding.

As the movie asserted, humans can be self-sacrificing, empathetic, caring and filled with passionate, protective love. Yes, we can. Humans can also (as the movie more than verified) be callous, harmful, indescribably terrible and completely absorbed in self. Yes, we can. Humans, each of us, contain seeds of both wonder and destruction. Yes, we do.

In the beginning the movie operates out of the premise that incredible evil can be destroyed if one can aim at the heart of those in charge. I have no problem relating to that. I operated out of a similar premise for much of my life. By the end of the movie another understanding begins to take shape.

All popular entertainments, from the Greek mythology of Homer’s ‘The Illiad and the Odyssey to Shakespeare’s tragedies and Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, or the modern day equivalents, such as  Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are mirrors of our culture. They can also be helpfully informative. The god figures in our entertainments, whether humans in leadership with absolute authority, or gods rising out of mythology, are either flawed, or incapable of supremacy over evil, or both. The main characters, usually, transform from helpless plot devices, to helpful plot shapers.

In the end, they tell us, it is not our leaders or our super human heroes that will destroy us or save us, it is us. Although perhaps that’s truer in the DC Universe than in Marvel. Each of us is on an epic journey, but none of us will be the source of new life unless we are willing to undertake a personal journey of our own. To change what we can change we must begin with ourselves.

For me, that is the essential message of Jesus of Nazareth. The One who calls us into grace-filled being because we are meant to be, because we can, and because all of Creation needs us to be. Now is the time to set aside the weapons of war (metaphoric and literal) and to begin the difficult work of listening ourselves and our relations into an era of blessing and love.

Christianity offers many tools and opportunities for each of us to think, act, do, and become people resurrected in the call to love. So do other faiths. Most faiths have wrinkles, hard parts to get over in doctrine, rite, ritual or holy books. Wrinkles that insist we reflect deeply on how a particular step adds to our ability to respond to the world in love, and to assist the world in creating right relationship. Faith traditions and practices can help us overcome our tendencies to forget about the whole thing, living lives oblivious to our greatest potential while dealing out local and global harm in intentional or thoughtless ways.

In the movie, Wonder Woman undergoes a journey of personal transformation and reintegration of faith and belief in life. It was over two hours and still, much of the work she did on herself must have been left on the cutting room floor. But there is enough there for each of us to catch a glimpse of ourselves, to know we too are on a journey from oblivious support of might to engaged awareness of right relationship. What we do with it is, of course, up to each of us. We can journey into the night, looking for a Super Hero to save us, or into some kind of spiritual practice that brings out a practical, communal application that will re-shape us.

We can be one, or find our way into One. Blessings on your journey, may you find light.

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Opportunity for a Course Correction?

The following column appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist on Saturday, June 5 2017

holy-spiritThis coming Sunday marks the beginning of the Christian season of Pentecost. Our scriptures tell us the followers of Jesus were filled with the fire of the Spirit and began speaking in languages no Galilean fisherman should have commanded. Travellers to Jerusalem heard them speaking about God’s deeds of power in their own tongues, and they were mystified.

“What does this mean?” they asked.

Some went to find out. Others sneered: ‘too much wine in Galilean heads,’ and turned away. Some were ready to experience a miraculous turning. Others knew miracles were passé. At best the wine-oiled claims of naïve fishermen, at worst some fraudulent scheme. Continue reading Opportunity for a Course Correction?

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