Nature has Been My Ballast

The last few months have brought storms and strange currents to the people and organizations to which I’m tethered. My spirit has fallen, risen, and fallen again. My legs have ached, not from training for the marathon I was hoping to run, but from sitting too long in my makeshift office, an old table in a corner of the basement. There, a roaring water heater and furnace drown out virtual meetings.

The thud of my kids’ feet on the floor above is rolling thunder. The dog steals their erasers or hats. They give chase. In the din and swirl, I read notes from quarantined congregants, contemplate layoffs and lead prayers. The ship has stayed afloat. Its ballast has been rocks and trees, sun and cloud. Continue reading “Nature has Been My Ballast”

Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question

Here’s a piece I wrote some time ago “in partial fulfillment of the requirements” of a course I was taking. If you’re hoping for some spiritual or theological reflections from me, this will not scratch that itch. While I do think the question of whether or not nature should be granted “rights”  is of theological and pastoral significance, that isn’t the lens I’m using here. I’m posting this piece as an invitation to reflect on what I think is a provocative and important question. (I’ve removed the footnotes below, not to avoid attribution but to make it a bit less tempting to borrow.)  Continue reading “Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question”

Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home

Some time ago a friend explained to me that he had baptized his children at home. This was in the context of an Anglican church, so it wasn’t the baptism of children that was the surprising part. The surprising part was the ‘at-home’ part. I forget exactly why the family chose to do this—it had something to do with work schedules, children not behaving well in public, and a general frustration with the ‘institutional’ church. A parent baptizing a child at home was (and still is) welcomed by some churches in extreme situations, but in our own situation it’s helpful to think a bit about why carrying out practices like baptism or Communion at home is not generally a good idea. Continue reading “Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home”

Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?

Many religious traditions have ascetic streams. The ascetic take on life is essentially that we need to deliberately give up things that appear to be satisfying in order to contribute to a flourishing world and find a deeper sense of satisfaction. Continue reading “Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?”

Unity and Diversity – Thoughts for a Church Newsletter Some Months Ago

‘Unity’ and ‘diversity’ can simply be words to us—vague values we hope somebody else puts into practice. Or these words can represent the pain of separation or forced uniformity. They can represent actual people and communities and the everyday struggle for connection. Diversity is natural enough. Pairing it with unity is the hard part, and it seems to me that unity is either hard or it is dangerous.

Continue reading “Unity and Diversity – Thoughts for a Church Newsletter Some Months Ago”

Viral Theology #8 Preventing Every Death We Can?

Let me be clear, I think social distancing is the right strategy. I don’t think churches should be flouting the rules. It’s important to keep the number of infections at a manageable level. However, something about this situation caught my attention today. A Canadian public health official said this, “We cannot prevent every death, but we must prevent every death we can.” This is odd . . . or worse. Continue reading “Viral Theology #8 Preventing Every Death We Can?”

But We Can’t Make a Difference . . .

Some time ago, I found myself sitting in front of a very crowded room. I was part of a panel discussing Christian responses to climate science. Earlier in the discussion, a fellow panelist had told the group that he didn’t believe human activity was causing climate change; therefore, he saw no need for any particular Christian response. The third panelist and I had disagreed with his take. The room was divided—and emotionally charged. The moderators did their best to tamp down the shouting and wring questions for us out of long statements from the floor. We were just about out of time when someone asked a question that I thought was really provocative: “Given the fact that Canada’s CO2 emissions don’t make up a very large percentage of the global total, what would be the point in making any costly changes?” Continue reading “But We Can’t Make a Difference . . .”

Thinking about Jean Vanier

I have not been feeling well for the last day or so (don’t worry, it’s not a certain highly charismatic disease). This affliction has allowed me to sidestep a few things on my to-do list and contemplate the pattern on the ceiling. As I do that my thoughts keep returning to what we now know about Jean Vanier. It was not long ago that Vanier was being celebrated as a living saint. His work creating community for disabled people around the world was remarkable. To have had such a description used by public media in Canada is remarkable too. News outlets here are so cynical that I had would not have believed them capable of landing on such a description.

To put matters bluntly, we now know that the living saint “sexually and emotionally abused multiple women who came to him for spiritual ‘accompaniment’ over several decades” (Higgins).* What should be added is that the report also tells us that Vanier looked the other way, even facilitated similar actions by his mentor Fr. Thomas Philippe. Continue reading “Thinking about Jean Vanier”

The Climate Strike, Scripture and the Deep Question of Value

How much is a great whale worth—alive? One study puts the number at $2 million. Whales are an important part of marine ecosystems. They sequester carbon and distribute nutrients.  But putting a number like that on a whale brings up deeper questions about value.

Yesterday young people led a global protest against the lack of serious action on climate change. Let’s be clear, the debate is not essentially a disagreement about the relative importance of the economy or the environment. There are jobs to be had and money to be made on both sides. The real issue raised by these activists is one of value. Continue reading “The Climate Strike, Scripture and the Deep Question of Value”

Vocation and the Economy of God

On my desk I have a sticky note with a few key words that guide my preaching. One of them is the word ‘meaning’. I think we’re all looking for meaning. We want our lives to mean something and we want to participate in something bigger than ourselves. We want to make a difference in something that really matters. Yet I think it’s increasingly uncommon for people to have this sense, this deep conviction that their lives mean something. This is one of the reasons that I’ve found myself drawn again to the theological concept of vocation. Continue reading “Vocation and the Economy of God”