Monday, 30 January 2012

Is the Church relevant in today's society?

I read on Twitter today a story and opinion about the irrelevancy of the House of Lords in the English political system, and similarly the irrelevancy of the Church in the United Kingdom. Although our political system in Canada is not as weighed down with historical baggage as in the United Kingdom (though there is always room for reform), we can still ask the question of the relevancy of the Church in Canadian society. 
Is the Christian faith and the Christian Church relevant or irrelevant to our society?
Book of Genesis: A faith that builds nations
Abraham’s faith is a faith that will give birth to nations: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky...”
Letter to the Hebrews: a faith that forms a people
Moses has a faith that will form a people: “by faith the people passed through the Red Sea”

Gospel of John: a faith that makes people ONE
In Jesus Christ it is revealed that all of humanity is ONE: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him”
There is a sacramental oneness in the Christian faith in the corporate participation in Holy Communion. 
There is a mystical oneness experienced with God and all of humanity in the spiritual practice of mediation and contemplation.
“I am in the Father and the Father is in me, I am in you and you are in me.”
There is the TRUTH, that has developed with the evolving of the human consciousness“...In the fullness of time..” and that is fully revealed in the Christ event.
That truth is that we all share the ONE DIVINE LIFE.
As we come to this awareness, the baptismal promise to “respect the dignity of all people” takes on new meaning. 
Our faith is not only for personal wholeness - though it is that. 
Our faith is designed for the transformation of society.
Our faith is about building nations and peoples that are free and equal. 
The Christian faith provides the principles and foundation on which the Canadian Constitution is built upon.

As our own heart and mind is changed by the Gospel of Relational Love - that we are made to be aware of being loved and loving God and neighbour - we become part of the process of the transformation of our society and world.

There is nothing more meaningful and relevant than personal and relational transformation. It is at the heart of the human experience. It is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. It is at the heart of the Church's mission. 

Is the Church relevant in today's society? You better believe it is!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Becoming a better person

All of us should want to become better people as we mature and grow older. If this is the case, then we will recognize that our lives are a process of conversion and change.

Stability in relationships - family, community, professional, etc - can help foster the process of emotional, psychological, and spiritual development.

Stability within our own hearts and minds - being able to focus and centre and live in the moment - can also help facilitate the growth and conversion of the human person.

Listening - the willingness and ability to open to and be present to another without distraction - is a non negotiable ingredient to healthy relationships.

When we learn and apply stability and listening to our lives, we will find ourselves changing day by day, year by year.  We will find ourselves becoming more open and loving to God and Neighbour. And people will know it simply by how we are living our lives. The people in our lives will benefit because of our ongoing conversion.

Today is the feast of the Conversion of St.Paul. On the road to Damascus St.Paul encountered the Living and Risen Jesus. His life changed at that moment, and it continued to change over time. He became more open and loving to God and others - and others benefited.

Conversion is not just about us, it is about those whom we effect - either positively or negatively - in our lives. The choice is our.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Native Canadians

Today the First Nations Chiefs and delegates are meeting in Ottawa, continuing to seek ways forward for Canada's Native people.

There are some very positive stories of native people and communities from across Canada, and there are some very troubling stories. And as diverse as the stories are, so are the opinions of what the solutions to the problems are.

The Anglican Church of Canada, and hence our Diocese and our parish of the Resurrection, have had a part in the healing and reconciliation of the Church and the North with the Residential Schools Compensation. We have offered financial compensation for those who were harmed in the past in Anglican Residential Schools.

Various forms of compensation have rightly been offered to indigenous communities and people for injustices done over the years and in different contexts.

But there does come a time for moving on in the context of Canadian culture.

On CBC national news last night, there were at least two stories of indigenous people and communities who are saying to other native people that it is time to start looking after ourselves within our communities. And if our communities are not sustainable or viable, then people need to consider re-locating.

Not comparing Newfoundland issues to Native issues, but when fishing could no longer provide for my grandfather and his family, he re-located to an area where there was more economic potential. This is a human reality since the beginning of the human people.

It is a fine and political line to balance the maintaining of cultural living and the need to be part of a viable economy. Individual's have to make those choices. It is good to hear some native Canadians encouraging other native Canadians to make those choices for themselves.

None of us can live in the past. Like the Anglican Church and the North, we have to reconcile for injustices of our history, but then there is a moving forward with the new reality that every day brings.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Mission to Belize

Mission to Belize
As some of you may know, I’ve recently spent 10 days in the diocese of Belize.  Our diocese and the diocese of Belize are in the process of developing a partnership that is to be built on relationships and mutual support.

My purpose in going was to do some work with the various groups in the diocese; to get a sense of the diocese and the country; and to make up my own mind whether this partnership is something worth supporting.

Of course, as many of these sorts of things go, I received a lot more than I gave.

We have a lot to be thankful for
Canada is the best country in the world to live in.
Newfoundland, in my opinion, is the best province in Canada to live in.

The parable of the talents: the more you have been given, the more is expected of you.

As Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and as people of the Christian Church, we have been given a lot in many ways. The consequence of this is that more is expected more of us.

3rd World Country
The country of Belize is so poor.
The diocese of Belize is so poor.
Resources are so lacking.

One of the things that I spoke to clergy and lay leaders about was the building up the church for ministry.

If we, as Christians, want to contribute to our country, province, and indeed the world, we need to be always striving to build up the church.

In the Gospel Jesus calls us to be “Fishers of people”

In another part of the Gospel, Jesus says “I call you servants no longer, but friends”

The Heart of the Gospel is to...
- connect with people
- build relationships
- make friendships

…not for our own benefit only, but to build up society and to draw others into our shared life of love.

This is the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

To fall in love with each other.
To intentionally build relationships, friendships
To organize our selves for more effective reaching out to others.

Every single one of us are called to make a contribution to the life of our local community, our province, our nation, and yes, to our neighbours in Belize. This can only be done with effectiveness out of a collective love and mutual respect in relationships that are joined together for the purpose of serving others. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Belize and Family

My trip to Belize is nearing its end. During my time here I've met with and given conferences to a wide variety of groups from around the diocese. I have had an opportunity to hear the stories from the people who are the church of Belize. I have been privileged to have been exposed to the people, culture and country in meaningful ways.

Bishop Phillip and his diocese have been very warm and welcoming of me. They have really made me feel at home and as part of their diocesan family. I am thankful to them for this hospitality. They have given me a real flavour of what it is to be Belizian, and in their context, Anglican.

My visit culminated today with presiding at liturgy in the small Anglican parish of St.Paul's by the sea in Corozol. It was a spiritual joy to be with the small congregation and to celebrate our shared life and faith. After the liturgy the lay ministers took me to do some some visiting and home communions.

One of the people I visited was very elderly, blind and incapacitated. She was living with her granddaughter  in very poor and squalid conditions. Initially, I had a sense of pity for the situation. But as I spoke to the lay minister about it afterwards, he reminded me that in Belize, families care for their own. They don't have the option to send the elderly off to a nursing home, and he said he won't want to. This lady that we visited today, although in poor conditions, had family members around to be present to her in the best ways they know how. She wasn't alone or abandoned.

Even when I was at the Bishop's house for breakfast with his staff, his mother was happily caught up in the gathering.

Being yet a developing country, Belize may not have a lot of wealth, but for many there is a strong sense of family that others of us can be encouraged by.

My visit to the diocese and country has been rich in many ways, and I am thankful for the experiences and the hospitality.

It is my prayer and hope that we will continue to find ways to partner with the people of Belize that will be mutually beneficial to all parties.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Belize, Diversity, Mayan Calendar 2012

Although Belize is a developing country with many needs and challenges, it is also a country that has a lot to offer. One such area is its witness to human diversity.

Belizian population is made up of indigenous Aztec and Mayan. It also has strong and deep African and Spainish ancestry's. And now with modern mobility globally, other cultures are also finding a home in Belize.

Such cultural diversity has evolved over the centuries to a more and more open acceptance and normalcy. In every gathering I've been part of since my arrival, I am amazed at the very obvious differences in ancestral backgrounds of the people gathered. Yet they are all "Belizian." What amplifies this sense of unity is the common use of Creole - a unique form of broken english that most of Belizians use.

Last night Bishop Phillip took me to the launching of a book on the Mayan calendar and the erroneous stories about the end of the world in 2012. The world will come to end at some time, but there is certainly no predicting it. There is nothing in the Mayan system that says the world will end in 2012; its calendar does end there, but it is designed to start again. What was most important about last night's presentation was how it highlighted for me the very rich and diverse people of Belize.

We can learn from the witness of Belize of how to better live with human diversity.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Challenges and Opportunity in Belize

It is now Wednesday, into my 3rd day in the diocese of Belize. Bishop Phillip and his staff have been nothing but warm and welcoming to me.

After attending the Tuesday morning Eucharist at the Cathedral, I had a lunch meeting with the diocesan administrator and the manager of Anglican Schools.

I am beginning to have a better understanding of how the diocese of Belize operates, and what some of its many challenges are. An immediate concern for the diocese is its need for priests. There are not enough priests to do all the work required in the Anglican Church throughout the country. And with very limited and lacking resources, both human and material, the diocese is also trying to discern new ways to re-connect with the people of the country. Although there may be differences, this is some of the same song we are singing in our own diocese and province.

I am also beginning to get a better sense of how closely the schools of Belize are connected with the various churches. What an opportunity for the church to positively influence the young people of Belize. The government is of course involved in the funding and operating of all schools, but it is in partnership with the churches. Although we in Newfoundland and Labrador will never again know this kind of relationship between church and school, is there something we can learn from Belize about how the church can recover maybe some degree of relationship with local schools that can positively influence students and families?

Last night, Tuesday, the Bishop and I traveled to the capital city, Belmopan (forgive me if it is spelled incorrectly), about an hours drive west of Belize City. There we met with the local church committee on some issues of how they are to move forward in a period of leadership transition. It was very much like a vestry meeting in our own diocese, and the issues are very similar. Growing and enabling leadership and better connecting with the city were of the concerns. After the meeting we spent an hour or so with the men's fellowship group in one of their homes.

This morning, Wednesday, I had the privilege of joining the Bishop at a church service for the re-opening of the cathedral school after the Christmas holidays. 500 students were in attendance, and I had the opportunity of being able to share a homily with them. What a joy to see so many young high school students engaged in worship.

I feel privileged to have this opportunity to get to know the diocese of Belize and some of its people a little more intimately. And i am looking forward to meeting more of these beautiful people throughout the week. This is the stuff of relationship.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Day 1 in Belize

Its a long haul to get from Cupids, Newfoundland to Belize city! But after an overnight in Houston, I finally arrived on Monday at noonish.

Father Eric Richards (a retired priest in the diocese of Belize) and his wife and granddaughter greeted me at the airport. After bringing me to the  small B&B that I am staying at to drop off my bags, happily gave me a driving tour of the city of Belize, before having lunch in an old colonial style building overlooking the ocean, and then delivering me to the diocesan office and Bishop Phillip - who showed me an agenda that didn't leave me much time for being a tourist! But that's ok :)

After conversations with Fr.Eric and Bishop Phillip I quickly came to realize that there are similarities between Belize and Newfoundland and Labrador - which unfortunately does not include sun, warm temperatures, and palm trees!!

The population of Belize is approximately 300,000 (NL is 500k). Most of the country is rural and undeveloped. It has a high unemployment rate. It has significant English and Colonial influence. It speaks mostly English, but has it's own unique or native language. And many of its people move out in order to find work and a better living for their families. Sounds like Newfoundland and Labrador at a glance!

But of course Belize is not Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a very poor democratic country that is trying to find its way forward in making a better society for all its people.

The Church has a role in Belize "finding its way forward." As one comes to know their Divine Life in Christ, they come to know their responsibility to help their neighbour, they come to know their responsibility to build up their town or city, they come to know their responsibility to build up their country. Our faith is not an individual faith, it is a faith that builds up society's that are just, equal and free.

The Church in Belize has a responsibility to help move its society forward.
We too in the Church in Newfoundland and Labrador have a responsibility to help move society forward - both in Belize and at home.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Exploring a Relationship with Belize

The diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador and the diocese of Belize in Central America have begun the process of partnering, coming along side one another in support of a shared ministry to the whole people of God.

I'll be departing on Sunday for 10 days in the diocese of Belize. While there, in addition to seeing various aspects of the diocese and country, I will spend a day in an Anglican high school, get to meet the students, and share a message with them. I'll also spend a day with some of the clergy of the diocese, another day with some of the lay leadership, and spend a day in one of their northern parishes.

Any healthy partnership, any healthy relationship, is meant to work in both directions.

Most of the time, when one thinks about mission in a 3rd world country, it is thought about in the context of money and resources, knowledge and experience, going in a one way direction. "What we can do for them." Such an approach can be a help, but not really a relationship or partnership.

Regardless of what one's financial or human resources are - whether it be a diocese, a parish, a household or an individual -  there is always something to offer in an ongoing relationship.

From cradle to grave, every human being has the potential to offer a unique richness to the family, the community, and society.

Our developing relationship with Belize is meant to be mutually beneficial. It is for us to find ways to do so.

Our relationship with those in Conception Bay North, is meant to be mutually beneficial. It is for us to find ways to do so.

I'm sure I will be blessed by the people of Belize during my visit.
I'm sure I will see ways in which the Anglican Church in the middle the North Atlantic can assist the Anglican Church in the Carribean Ocean.
And I'm sure I'll see ways that the Church in Belize can be a blessing to the Church in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is for us to find ways to do so.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Faith and the beginning of the universe

I listened to Bob McDonald of CBC a few weeks ago trying to explain the latest theory of the beginning of the universe - the beginning of matter. According to this theory, there is a cosmic energy that produced the beginnings of matter and the universe.

In the Christian Church we refer to this "cosmic energy" as the Holy Spirit, God, the Divine.

Life is so much more than we can know or experience. Who could possibly deny such a comment?

Faith alone, reasonable faith, is what is required to move beyond our limits, that we may know our oneness with the "cosmic energy," with God's Divine Life.

Jesus is the Shepherd who leads us into the fullest experience of Life-giving faith.
He is worth getting to know a little better.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Your Neighbour

Our global village is full of neighbours.
Our little towns and city's are full of neighbours.
There are neighbours everywhere!
What is our attitude toward our neighbour? Toward the people living next door? Toward the familiar person and the stranger that you meet daily?

How we "see" our neighbour makes a big difference into how we live our lives.

St.Augustine says "Love your neighbour, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbour; there you will see God."

Wow! Being aware of our love for our neighbour is to be aware of God, for God is love. To love our neighbour is to love God. To love God is to love our neighbour.

In every face, let us see God, and love God. What a world this could be. And it starts with you and me.

Monday, 2 January 2012


As we enter into the new year, we recognize that there are many and varied ingredients that can add to a fulfilling life. Some we may already know and experience, some we may be still wishing or longing for.

One of those ingredients that we should be at least seeking to find and develop is that of friendship.

Friendship is not about using another person, nor about how a relationship can benefit you. Friendship is a gradual opening up to love and respect for another person in such a way that the life journey can be shared in a mutural and supportive process. 

Today the church is remembering Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. They lived in the 4th century, and in addition to their desire to be Christian, they give a strong witness to the value of friendship.

The Church is first and foremost a community where relationships and friendships can be found and fostered, where the journey of life can be shared.