Redemption on the 58

A short story about a bus ride, momentum and mercy.

It had been another frustrating day in the lab, and I just wanted to get home. To grab a beer, drop onto the couch and watch another few episodes of Vikings of Valhalla on Netflix. A perfect segue to the weekend.

“How many times can an experiment fail, anyway,” I thought to myself as I threw on my coat and loaded my laptop into my backpack. In the world of crystallography, you could run out of liquid nitrogen in the middle of an experiment, or a machine could fail, or your measurements could be off. This week it had been a simple failure of crystallization, one in a series of frustrations in my PhD progress.

I walked down Peel Street to the metro, and took the green line west, getting off at De L’Église. Instead of the stairs, I took the escalator up towards daylight, and wandered over to the 58 on Wellington. Settling into my seat on the bus, I noticed a guy walking joltingly toward the back, half falling as he held onto the shiny yellow posts of the bus. He was clearly drunk or stoned. I groaned inwardly as he sat down beside me and turned mumblingly in my direction.

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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!!]


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

So angry he could die #jonah #GodAsksTheQuestions

He is so angry, he could die.

He is so angry, he wants to die.

Last week in our reflections on Jonah we ended on a note of mercy and grace. Jonah had made his declaration: 40 days and Nineveh will be overturned. 40 days and Nineveh will be smashed. But it turned out that Jonah was wrong. Last week we ended our reading in Jonah where our reading for this week has picked up again. With these words: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” A note of mercy and grace.

And now Jonah is so angry, he could die.

He is so angry, he wants to die.

And Jonah prays his anger. Within the Old Testament, we find many instances when God’s people pray their anger. Particularly within the Psalms we have these moments when the God’s people pray their anger in such strong terms. Usually these prayers arise out of situations where God’s people are suffering – usually these prayers arise out of situations where they are oppressed and abused. They wonder where God is. In prayer they express their anger that God has done nothing to relieve their suffering or assuage their pain. In the context of our faith in Christ there is plenty of room to pray one’s anger in this way. Continue reading

Nineveh’s revival – Pentecost comes early #JonahWasWrong

Sermon from today – once again I have followed Phillip Cary’s interpretation in a variety of ways.



“Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

“Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Nineveh is a large city – a three-day walk to get across it. Jonah walks a full day into the city and then begins to make his bold declaration, his repeated declaration:

“Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

The last time I heard a city-centre preacher in the mold of Jonah was outside the Eaton’s Centre, downtown Toronto – it was this past Christmas. Tabea and I were downtown to see The Wizard of Oz at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. And on our way back to the subway after the show, there was a soapbox preacher outside the Eaton’s Centre. We didn’t stop to listen, but the sound bite that hit my ear suggested it was that same old combined message of love and judgment. The tone of the street preacher was the tone that every street preacher or street evangelist of this kind seems to have. Continue reading

What have we done, Kensington Church? #renewal #change# #future

This summer will mark 5 years of ministry for me at Knox Crescent Kensington and First Presbyterian Church. And over the past weeks I have been taking a tally of some of the changes the congregation has been through over the past 7-8 years.

(My family worshipped here before I was called as minister, so I was able to see all of it initiated and implemented.)

Through this period of time, the congregation has made amazing strides. In the 3 years before my time there was interim leadership from the Reverends Allen Aicken and Rod Ferguson (with the Reverends Glynis Williams and Kate Jordan as Interim Moderators) . In the mix during that time were also the (now Rev.) Stephen Jenvey, the Rev. Lynne Donovan, and the Rev. Angus McGillivray.

So here’s a partial tally of what we’ve done as we have worked to be faithful to Christ and to his call upon our life together. And we know that behind each and every one of these changes there was work and prayer, and that there were challenges and doubts: Continue reading