Quebec and Religion: Response

In the light of Quebec’s proposal of a new “secularism” law today, I share this (entirely appropriate and relevant) statement of the Presbytery of Montreal from 2014.

Response to Bill 60 from
The Presbytery of Montreal, of
The Presbyterian Church in Canada (2014)

The Presbytery of Montreal, a body of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, hereby offers its response to Project de loi no. 60: Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’ accommodement. We offer our response in terms of the following affirmations and the following areas of disagreement.

  1. AFFIRMATIONS

1.1  We acknowledge and celebrate the unique identity of Quebec as a Francophone nation and province within Canada, and acknowledge the particular religious and cultural history that has shaped its values, laws, and social fabric. We also acknowledge and celebrate the presence of other linguistic and cultural communities within Quebec – including a large Anglophone minority – and celebrate the contributions such communities have made to the history, identity, and success of Quebec as a liberal democratic polity. We believe that Quebec has been enriched by this diversity.
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Belonging and Exclusion – A Conversation

The latest issue of the Christian Courier takes the question of belonging as its theme, with a particular focus on issues of race and culture. Here is my “column” for this issue.

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The theme of belonging is rich with challenge and possibility and it seemed to me that I would do better not to try and explore this theme merely on my own. As a result, I share with you the content of an interview/exchange I had with the Rev. Oliver Kondeh Ndula, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and a graduate student at McGill University/The Presbyterian College, here in Montreal.

RDV:  The idea of “belonging” is understood in variety of ways. How do you understand “belonging”?

OKN:  I understand “belonging” to mean the ease with which people get integrated into communities, especially communities other than those of their origin. From this perspective the concept is dualistic. On the one hand the other needs to take the initiative to get integrated into his/her new community. On the other hand, the new community can either facilitate or impair the process.

RDV:  Do you think it is possible to fully belong in some place or community? Continue reading

Rocks, boulders, pebbles, alive?

Stones of all kinds were a feature of my family’s vacation this past month – a vacation that included two weeks on the West Coast. We spent time in and around Vancouver, and then up the coast into Alaska. Everywhere there were stones.

With the tide out, wandering on rocky beaches – more stones than could be counted.

On a Sea-to-Sky hike and climb near Squamish – scrambling across rock falls and around boulders.

Along the coast and inland, too, mountains and massive outcroppings of rock – Mount Baker, The Chief, Grouse Mountain.

IMG_3930 (1)

Near Juneau, Alaska.

Rocks define our world, the earth, so why would they not define a summer holiday, also?

Sometimes those rocks and stones even appeared to be, somehow, alive. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: A Baptismal Defense

A talk presented to a conference hosted by the Presbyterian Committee on History and The Presbyterian College – as part of ongoing celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Still in somewhat rough form, but clear enough to follow.

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Some days you feel like you’ve drawn the short straw. And let me confess that I feel a bit that way about this line-up of five events over five years, with each year dedicated to one of the famous Solas of the Reformation tradition.

Sola Gratia – Grace Alone

Sola Fide –Faith Alone

Solus Christus – Christ alone

Soli Deo Gloria – For God’s Glory Alone

And our sola for today, of course, is Sola Scriptura – by Scripture Alone.

I’ve got to say that when I thought of this line-up of topics, I said to myself: “Grace alone. That’s such a beautiful and compelling theme of the Reformation – that our lives are gift and grace – that new life in Christ is grace upon grace. Grace Alone is a beautiful and is such an uncontested theme of Christian life and faith. Who wouldn’t want to offer reflections on that topic?” Continue reading

saying goodbye – with grace in Christ

How do you sign off your emails? How do you say good-bye in the age of electronic communication?

It’s a surprisingly complicated question.

Traditionally, of course, when you write a letter by hand to someone, you might sign off by saying “sincerely,” or perhaps by saying “with love.” Ending a letter with those words was almost like ending a prayer with the word “Amen” – it was intended to show that we are invested in the words we have written or spoken.

But in the world of email – in the world of back-and-forth electronic communication – it’s complicated. Ending an email by saying “sincerely” feels too heavy and formal – saying “with love” would often be way too substantial.

Some people will sign off an email with the light sounding “cheers.” And in a way that word works because it’s quick and light – it matches the not-too-significant nature of most of our emails. But on the other hand, if you’re not the kind of person who would say “cheers” in everyday conversation, it may feel odd to sign off an email that way. Continue reading

division, baptism, unity — or, who we are

Let me begin this morning by reading again just a few words from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. For me these particular words are more than a little odd – they almost stick out like a sore thumb – and for that reason I want to start with them. Paul writes these words to the church in Corinth: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” Aren’t these curious words? “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.”

These words become astonishing when we realize that Paul is the one who founded the church in Corinth. These words come from the apostle who went to that city and who debated in its marketplace and synagogue, with the result that women and men came to faith and were baptized. These words come from the pen of someone who lived with the Corinthian church for 18 months – leading them and caring for them and teaching about their new life in Christ.

To this church, to this group of people with whom he has had such a significant and personal relationship, Paul writes: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” Strong and strange words. Continue reading

“may I have a word” — confession and correction #sermon

Has anyone every pulled you aside and said: “You know, what you are doing is really not a great idea.”

Has anyone ever pulled you aside and said: “You know, you better stop and think about what you’re saying.”

When someone pulls you aside it’s generally because they care about you – they want to put the brakes on something you’re doing or saying before you get carried away. They care about you, and so instead of speaking to you publicly in a way that might make you look back or shame you – they gently pull you aside to have private word with you. Continue reading

change in the church – free to experiment

Presbyterian Record cover June 1964An article printed in this month’s Presbyterian Record, based on a blog post from a year ago. [The image to the right is of the cover of The Presbyterian Record from 50 years ago!!]

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Change has been in the air at Kensington, Montreal, over the past six years as the congregation has adopted global and contemporary songs in Sunday worship. While we still sing many traditional hymns, there are new melodies, harmonies and rhythms rising into the air from sounding board, vocal cords and even the djembe.

Change has also been in the walls and in the ground and in the pews and in the programs and in the financial outlook. So here’s just a sampling of changes made in our congregation’s life over these past years, beyond the embrace of new musical expressions. Changes made in a spirit, I would say, of faithful common sense.

We have moved our worship from a traditional worship space (a beautiful sanctuary that seated 700) to a bright and simple church hall that will easily and comfortably accommodate our 65 – 70 Sunday worshippers. That traditional sanctuary is up for sale.

We are incorporating audio/visual elements within Sunday worship—images and visual liturgy that are appropriate to the aesthetic sensibilities of the congregation (and wider community) and also true to our faith in the God who has created and reconciled the world in Christ. Continue reading

Congregational Aesthetics – beyONd our walls (3/3)

In this short blog series I’ve been exploring this question: What is the aesthetic profile of your congregation. Otherwise put: What do the artwork and architecture and liturgical accoutrements of your congregation reveal about its faith and identity? And how do they shape your faith and discipleship?

In my first post I explored how we might respond to the artistic heritage passed down to us from earlier generations. In the second post I considered the importance of contemporary, artistic expressions of faith in our IMG_2868worship and community spaces. Now in this final post I want to push us out of the church building, into the wider community.

Too often the church has thought of itself in terms of a fairly strict separation from the world. The church has failed to identify with the world – it has failed to live for the world, in the world.

While we have to think about these issues carefully (theologically speaking), I’m of the view that we can and must conceive a much more porous boundary between church and world. This doesn’t mean watering down faith convictions, but it will require transforming mindsets and structures and programs – and in ways we may not yet be able to imagine. Such transformations must be defined precisely by our life for the world and in the world, since this is the only life that we can possibly embody in faithfulness to the one who is our life – Jesus Christ.

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