We could see the green copper roof of the Parliament building through the wide glass windows surrounding us. We were on the top floor of the University of Ottawa’s business building, just a few blocks from the center of Canada’s federal government. It was day one of our orientation to a program of studies in environmental sustainability. We had to introduce ourselves: I described myself as a pastor and a theologian. I felt entirely out of place.
So, here’s the cover of the book. It should be available sometime in October. One early reader, Stephen Backhouse who is author of Kierkegaard: A Single Life and Director of a fascinating project called Tent Theology has this to say:
“This is an excellent book for anyone interested in helping Christians think Christianly about their own Christianity. Siegrist writes with clarity and ease. His thinking is biblically informed, historically grounded and personally tested. His theology is generous, winsome and deep. In my work as a teacher and traveling theologian I am often asked to recommend books to people new to theological thinking. Siegrist’s work has shot to the top of my list.”
Thanks to Stephen for the kind words and to the good folks at Herald Press for the design work and editorial advice along the way.
The group left the lake behind and pushed further into the bush. They needed to make camp, but staying by the side of a lake was too obvious. The thick ice made the water virtually inaccessible anyway. There were seven in the group, in various states of health and fitness. If you were to cast a group on the move, you would not cast a group like this. Among them there were no weightlifters, no action stars and no lanky beauties. Only two of them could have even been described as young, Dorcia was about twenty and Andy was fifteen. Phoebe, who had a persistent cough, as well as Eunice and Matt were all over 50. Mary and Simon were somewhere in between, but nobody new exactly and it hardly mattered. Dorcia walked with obvious stiffness; you could see the lump of a bandage under her winter layers.
By most standards the group appeared leaderless, which is to say, nobody barked orders and none of them new this country particularly well. Only a few could even tell the full story of how they had come together. They usually just said they “met along the way.” Continue reading “Inhabited by the Word – a short story (183)”
An essay of mine recently appeared in the Collegeville Institute’s web magazine. Here are the first few paragraphs:
The trouble with being a pastor is that you are supposed to know what to say and do in any situation. People get sick, have babies, engage in relational acrobatics, embarrass themselves on the internet, fail in school, become estranged, crash their cars, win the lottery, get engaged, die, fight with their neighbours, play in the orchestra, get promoted—and in every case a pastor is expected to have the right words, the right gesture of support. It is like a never-ending, three-dimensional pop-quiz.
Beyond the personal questions there are those dropped on us daily by the news. Some of the most difficult involve responding to yet another shooting or vehicle attack with massive innocent casualties. These events are horrific. When they happen in a pastor’s own community, I see leaders rise to the occasion. They speak a community’s grief; they sound notes of reassurance and resolve. The question is immediate and local. Many respond well.
But what do we say and do when these events do not touch our communities directly? A little over a year ago in Quebec City, some 400 kilometers from where I pastor in Ottawa, a young man entered a mosque after prayers and opened fire. A trigger was pulled. Children lost fathers. In the following week, Christian ministers throughout the city of Ottawa sent notes of sympathy to Muslim leaders in our community. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they would feel vulnerable. Our churches prayed for them too. We wept for them. We wept for the state of things
Such a response was not nothing. Yet, when worshipers are intentionally cut down by bullets, praying and weeping can often feel like nothing. . . .
Here’s the link to the rest of the piece. It includes echoes of some of my prior posts here.
Some of Margaret Atwood’s fiction features a religious group known as “God’s Gardeners.” A short piece I wrote on their relationship with actual Christian environmental concerns was recently published on the Collegeville Institute’s website.
A draft version of the essay appeared on my blog some time back.
What does it take to call yourself a Christian?
The answer often depends on whom you ask. Some people would respond to the question by immediately rattling off a list of things you have to believe in order to call yourself a Christian. They might mention the triune character of God or the divine inspiration of Scripture or maybe something about miracles, the significance of the church or the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Others, Mennonites maybe, would respond to the question by saying something about following Jesus. If you would ask them why, they would probably respond by telling you what they believed about this ancient rabbi or what they believed about the need for peace today.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever.”
I live in a busy house. In addition to two hapless parents, our house more or less contains three active boys. Each day is swarmed by running, jumping, wrestling, tackling, flying, pushing, throwing and whacking. Each day also brings a host of interesting visitors. Superheroes come by quite often. So do monsters, transformers, explorers, hunters, space travelers, historical figures, deadly creatures, knights and ghosts. They all know their way around our place. Being a parent of young children has required me to get re-acquainted with the world of the imaginary. It’s been a good thing.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. – Psalm 107
Not long ago I had the opportunity of being the intermediary of an anonymous gift from one member of our congregation to another. A young couple was expecting a baby and someone else wanted to help them prepare for the new addition to their family. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this sort of thing—to see the face of a recipient light up, to know that they have received not only some small practical assistance but also the knowledge that someone else is thinking of them.
Giving is another of the central practices of Lent. Christians have historically used the term “almsgiving.” In a world where so much of our material success is a result of luck (a result of the country in which were born etc.), giving to those with material needs is a way of pursuing justice. It can be something else too. Many people I talk to also say that for them giving is a expression of their thankfulness. Continue reading “Lent IV – Giving”
“To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust . . . .”
I once asked a monk what qualified as prayer. I was asking because my own practice of prayer had evolved quite a bit in the previous decade of my life. Really, to say it “evolved” gives the wrong impression. The way I prayed had changed, not just once but several times. These changes weren’t prompted by the idea that my contemplative practice was getting better; I wasn’t becoming a professional or anything like that. The changes happened simply because a new way of praying seemed to fit a particular situation. As a graduate student I found myself most often praying in either a formal worship service or while I ran. Most of that prayer was verbal: questions, sorting and sifting. When I began working fulltime the best space for prayer was during my walking commute to my office: the beauty of mornings, the cracked sidewalks, winter ice—all of these became analogies of God’s way with the world. Then, during a sabbatical, I began praying something equivalent to the daily office. I appreciated the structure of that way of praying. It was good to be drawn out of myself into ancient forms of encountering God. Continue reading “Lent I – Prayer”
I stood beside an Indigenous man, an artist born on an Ontario First Nation. He was, oddly enough, wearing an Amish straw hat. I asked him about the prints he had displayed on the table in front of us. I could see the connection in his work to that of the widely-celebrated Ojibwa artist Norval Morriseau. He seemed pleased when I mentioned it. The story of the artist I was talking with, the little I know of it at least, is worth telling. But it’s not my story to tell. Our conversation drifted to the link he and I shared: his people had been sent to institutions known as Indian Residential Schools; my people had run them. Continue reading “A Failure of Good Intentions”