Category Archives: philosophies

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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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 Gretta?

To read many of the social media comments of folk in United Church 1corinthians13jpeg1-thumb-2circles, Gretta Vosper is the issue at hand, the issue of the moment. But it’s not the issue at hand that’s at the root of my churning. That is almost always the case, is it not? So many commenting and almost no one commenting about the issue we say we’re commenting on. It’s all about us. The eternal ‘I’.

I think some are pretty raw on the whole “United Church has no theology, no allegiance to Christ, no boundaries” calumny that’s often tossed our way by our holier brethren, and they’ve decided to draw the line on Gretta. Others have, well, other things going on. I don’t think a lot of it has much to do with Gretta, or her communication choices. It’s much more likely to have something to do with our own paths, the roads we’ve taken to get to here. Continue reading On Gretta?

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Observing Walrus Spiritual Speaking

Walrus Talks on Spirituality

(see them for yourself on or before April 15 at

What did I think?

Initially I had to get over my pique at the Observer partnering with the Walrus. I’ve had issues with the Walrus taking Enbridge money (constant stream of full page ads telling us how committed they are to the environment while doing all they can to convince small communities that big money and fossil fuel transport needs trump traditional values and concern for the environment). For me it would be like the church accepting funds from the armaments or tobacco or pornography industries because there is no relationship between, as the Walrus puts it, editorial and advertising…as if. Anyway, once past that, what did I think? Continue reading Observing Walrus Spiritual Speaking

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Why I Left the NDP

Although really, it’s more like the NDP left me.Leaving

I guess I should start at the beginning. I was a leaflet weight for a CCF campaign in Kitimat, placed there by my leaflet-dropping 18 year old mother. Since then I’ve canvassed, run election campaigns, worked as an assistant to Cabinet Ministers, and served many Constituency and Riding Executives.

I’ve never been what you’d call a ‘standout’ volunteer, or a brilliant strategist, or a gifted anything. I’ve shown up, done the work, given heart, mind, body and soul to the movement that stood for and with people like me. I loved building an image of a better world together, frustrating as that could be in a movement made up of feminists, environmentalists, trade unionists, anti-poverty activists and radical reformists. Sometimes we left more blood on the floor of policy sessions than in the ground of election campaigns. Continue reading Why I Left the NDP

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