All posts by Keith Simmonds

About Keith Simmonds

Born and raised in the middle north (Kitimat BC and Flin Flon MB), I've worked 30 years in Mining/Smelting and the Pulp industry, while engaging in political action, community organizing, and union activism on the side. In and Out of Spiritual Being, my faith journey is through a Christian context, although I honour, uphold and am fascinated by other paths to the mountain. I began my training in diaconal ministry with the United Church of Canada in 2004, and began serving as a minister in Rossland, Trail, Beaver Valley and Salmo BC in 2009. My family and I moved to Duncan BC in August of 2013, where I serve as part of the ministry team. My partner, Laurel Walton, and I have five children between us. Liam attends Cow High, Jonah lives and works in Duncan, Brenna resides in Courtenay, Amy and her partner, Craig are in Vancouver, and Wade is in Calgary. My parents and siblings live in Kamloops, BC.

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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Wonder?

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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On My Life, My Unions, My Understanding of Socialist Engagement, and Ministry

A friend in ministry had some thoughts about the current provincial election in BC. So did I. We were sharing them on social media, until my need to be expansive overtook me. So I’ve posted here. For anyone to look at, if they choose.

Hello my friend,

I hope this is useful for you. It has been for me. My ‘editor’ (Laurel) shares my context, and I have little idea of yours (other than that which we share) and, therefore, have no idea if this will translate, or be of service. It’s too long, I know, and I could edit for publication, or sermonizing, but I am trying to communicate something of my understanding, rather than writing to convince or intrigue, and I have a sermon to write too, so I’m leaving it as it is.  A ramble through my life, Canadian political and labour history (as I have experienced it), and some thoughts about where this goes as it informs my ministry. Thank you for instigating.

My life:

I come from a long line of working people, farmers, coal miners, labourers, skilled trades, the odd engineer and teacher and not a few activists. My folk were part of the army of settlers who came here for the land and were part of the army of soldiers who fought and died for empire and against fascism. My ancestors gave their lives in combat for ideals, and in deep dark holes in the ground, mucking coal and other valuables for the folk that our country gave right of ownership to.

I grew up in industry towns, (Kitimat and Flin Flon), and was steeped in the lore of Company versus Union at our dinner table. My dad (a staunch union member and organizer) would talk about Cadomin and the Coal Branch in Alberta, the company towns where his father and his mother’s family earned a living. His dad was a Legion manager, who was gassed at Vimy, and didn’t really have the lungs for other work. I’m told he could sing “Old Rugged Cross” and play a mean Nova Scotia fiddle. Dad’s mom’s dad and her brothers worked underground in places where you can still see the monuments to men killed when methane blew the bottom out of the mine. Those monuments are everywhere, if you have time to look. They’re still making them, less frequent here than in other countries, but you don’t have to go to Central America and Gold Corp to learn about the willingness of mine operators to risk and sometimes sacrifice life for profit. You can find it here too. And not just at Mount Polley. Continue reading On My Life, My Unions, My Understanding of Socialist Engagement, and Ministry

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On Equity

This post was written in response to a number of articles and posts that attacked the ‘discriminatory’ nominations policy of the provincial NDP that requires a constituency to seek a non able bodied white male candidate for the nomination in a seat currently held by theEquality-Equity-Reality NDP. Called the ‘Equity Policy’ of the NDP, it’s meant to ensure the legislature has the benefit of MLAs who come from backgrounds and life experiences that are more representative of the population than the traditionally selected able bodied white males. The attack from local white males, their supporters and some in the media is meant to unseat
the policy and reinstate the status quo…

 

My how times have changed.

When I was young and learning how we care for one another, my grandmother taught me that those of us who ‘can’ are expected to do for those of us who ‘cannot’. She did that in many ways, but the most telling was on the city bus. If I was in a seat I was expected to offer it to someone who was older, weaker, carrying a load, or less able to stand than I was. There were times when she stood beside me.

These days they reserve seats for folk in those categories, but when they’re all filled, I see folk standing for folk who cannot. I see that in many ways, on the bus, in offerings of help to people who are hungry and homeless, in voices raised for a living wage, in concern for refugees, in those who identify and speak out against racism and homophobia. In those who want freedom of religion, and those who want freedom from it. Voices raised by those who can, service offered to those who cannot. It is good to see my grandmother’s teachings still living in our culture.

We see it even in electoral politics. One party has adopted a policy asking those who can stand for office and easily take the day to stand aside and offer their full support to those who could not otherwise stand and take a place of membership in the councils of governance. Those who are socially privileged standing, making way, and offering their strength to the less privileged so that we might all benefit from the wisdom they have earned and won in hard fought lives. Continue reading On Equity

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Time to start dancing to another tune

One for the money

two for the show

                three for the lady on the radio

           four might be the one you’ll never know

(you’ll never know)

if only there was another way to go…

Seemed appropriate to open with a ‘Trooper’ lyric.

Canadian band, after all.

One for the money

Pipeline three to the US and beyond. Through Manitoba and Dakota?

Two for the show

Kinder Morgan through the heart of Burnaby Mountain. Concentrate the opposing forces. Set the narrative: Greens against commoners; Elites versus working families. Put the battle here, divert, divide, destroy.

Three for the lady on the radio Continue reading Time to start dancing to another tune

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