Vol 13 No. 4 Pre-Board Staff News

Dear friends,

There are so many encouraging and exciting things unfolding in our family of churches that there is no room in 1 letter to touch them all. Next week there will be an awful lot of stories… Stories from Haupi Tombing as a chaplain with the Navy on a frigate over Christmas and from Jodi Spargur (Grandview Calvary Baptist) and Catherine Morris in their work with indigenous concerns to name a few.  There are also some very heartening initiatives so that we might broaden our nominations for the myriad of Boards that we appoint to as the CBWC… These things and much more.

For today we will look at some realignment of staff time. A very gifted and encouraging staff they are.

Bob Webber will assume a greater involvement with the Communications and Stewardship group, along with the new and developing ministry of Legacy, Wills, and Bequests.  (It will be of interest to several of you that Jack and Catherine Farr’s estate passed on a very generous gift in these last few months).

Louanne Haugan, who at present is our Office Manager, and supervises Pensions and Benefits, will be delegating some of those responsibilities and over the next few months, redirecting 40% of her time to development.  Development simply means the encouragement and support of donors who seek to engage particular ministries in our family of churches.  Many of our partner organizations have people in these positions: our sister denominations, CBM, many of our camps, and Carey Centre.

Faye Reynolds will be broadening her portfolio to include some of the tasks Bob Webber has been engaged in and will become Director of Ministries.  The Director of Ministries has 2 primary roles.  The first is to ensure, along with the Executive Minister, all the resourcing needed in our churches and our programs to collaborate in meeting the needs of local congregations.  The second major role is to nurture effective communication between ministries, partners, local areas and regions so as to ensure that the best work is done at an appropriate cost. There are over 3 dozen ministries and areas of service to keep track of and Faye, like Bob before her, has considerable experience and trust in the constituency.  It was a position mandated by the 2010 Board review of Executive Staff.

Zoe Ducklow, who is finishing her Masters in Journalism, will be our new Senior Writer, replacing Ceal McLean, who having served us ably, is retiring.  The role of writing in our denomination has been shared for some time now with Cailey Morgan, who will continue to contribute in this area and will also continue her work in social media.  Ceal has chaired our Communications & Stewardship group, been our Senior Writer, and conducted our communications audit.  She is a remarkable writer, prompter of excellence, and a person who is equally comfortable with the overview as she is with details.  She came to us from the private sector and has been a profound encouragement to this work and this family of churches.  She was a member of Kits Community Church.  She has returned to Victoria with her husband Ged where they used to live.  She is a good friend and a cherished colleague.  She will be deeply missed. Many thanks, Ceal.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy

Quote of the Week: T. S. Eliot’s Father Confessor once commented about Eliot: “He was a thoroughly converted man.”  Am I a thoroughly converted Christian?

News from the Family: Please pray for those churches in transition and in need of settlement. Please pray for Dennis Stone as he works with the Regional Ministers in this very important area.

 

Vol 12 No. 3 The World After an Election

Dear friends,

A lot of emotional energy and relational capital has been expended in the Canadian and American elections and in the perpetual political machinations of Europe.  We often find ourselves too tired, fed up, or simply apathetic to invest ourselves in the political process post election.  Just to talk about the Canadian election alone… (Just to stir the pot up a bit.  Don’t worry I’m quoting others here in the main)  but what do you do with a political process that continues to promise one thing and practice another?  1 federal party campaigns from the left and governs from the centre.  Another political party campaigns from the right and governs from the centre.  Yet a 3rd party campaigns from the left and will probably never govern at all.  Then there is the perpetual Anglican seminary student, Elizabeth May, that lonely Green voice… enough said.  As Christians we have some important things to be and to do in the following of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These things to do, as it were, are a series of voices.

A respectful voice: We are called to honour those in authority (Romans 13:1-7).  It is profoundly irrelevant whether you like someone or not.  I will never forget when I was in seminary at Fuller in Pasadena when my Afro-American neighbour was being harassed by 4 white police officers.  She started screaming out my name and when I ran down the stairs of our duplex to see what was wrong, the police officers disappeared.  I followed them to write down their license plate and had Romans 13 quoted at me.  I need to say to you I have police officers in my family and I respect the calling.  My Afro-American neighbour’s partner was a dangerous fellow even if they should have left her out of it.  Authority while it should be respected should also be open to challenge.

A supportive voice: Supportive is not he same as agreement.  Most reasonable observers know that.  However, it does mean at the very least that we personally, and in our corporate worship, pray for those who are willing to engage in public service.  I was somewhat amused but, more than a little grumpy when, at a Prayer Breakfast in Western Canada the politicians in the room were introduced by name, riding, and party with the exception of the 1 MLA that was not of a Conservative persuasion.  Amusing, sort of, but also sad.  When Christ’s people get together to pray it needs not be a partisan event.  

An accountable voice: It stands to reason that while we “give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s”, we need to accountably remind the Caesar’s of this world what is God’s and they will not tread thereon.  We need to be careful when we make those observations that they are not simply a projection of our cultural biases but are indeed a commitment to holding elected officials accountable.

A prophetic voice: The prophets are full of holding us accountable for the treatment of widows and orphans (for example Isaiah 1:17).  Jesus is particularly clear in Matthew 25.  Furthermore, I will never forget Christ’s comment as he entered Jerusalem that the very stones would cry out if we did not.  May we be the first to cry out for the vulnerable and the suffering, in light of injustice and the caricature of our faith.  Might we not have to wait for the stones to be articulate when we are not. 

We may not like those in power or those in opposition.  We may well also be distressed at what unfolds around us in an uncertain, precarious, volatile, and predatory world.  We might long for leaders that don’t seem to be obsessed with selfies and Twitter.  However, for now, we need to take up our responsibility as people of faith.  It is not how we feel about these things (and believe me I feel passionately about them); it is how we are wiling to act in the months and years ahead.

 

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Vol 13 No. 2 Prayers and a Late Epiphany (a Lot of Them)

Dear friends,

This last week was Epiphany.  That is important for a lot of reasons.  Let me name some.

  • Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th and marks the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) to the Christ child.
  • Epiphany was generally understood to be the end of Christmas for Western Christianity.  Because it is so widely celebrated it is a good opportunity to talk with friends, neighbours, co-workers and family about the Christ of Christmas.  Conversations that can set the table for future conversations, prayer, and hospitality… You get the drift.
  • Epiphany can popularly mean an inspiration, a sudden awareness, or a revelation of some kind.  Historically, it actually means the presentation of Jesus to the “Gentiles” (meaning the Magi) or the manifestation of God… Mouthfuls of words but a very simple meaning actually… How did Christ manifest himself to you this past year, at Christmas, and into the New Year?… How indeed does Jesus make himself known to me each and every day?

Epiphany then identifies with a celebration that many “committed” and “marginal” Christians are aware of.  Epiphany prompts us to look for the “manifestation”, presence, engagement and prompting of Christ by his Spirit each day.

In addition, thank you for those of you who responded to reading the Neil Postman quote last week.  The source of that quote was my son-in-law Stephen Morris who I am grateful to. 

Finally, I am also puzzled that more folk have not taken me up on the invitation to share your own personal devotional patterns.  Mine seem quite narrow, almost impoverished, and I would gain enormously from sharing different ways of entering into personal devotional life.  Could you please share with the larger constituency those things?

In conclusion, there are many things to pray for.  In the interests of brevity 2 in particular come to mind.  Please pray for Dennis Stone and the whole area of settlement.  Please also pray for the Search Committee for the new Executive Minister’s position and the candidates that have applied, giving thanks for Kayely Rich and her leadership of the group.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Quote of the Week: Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV): For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Notes from the Family: There is a temptation for some churches to not partner with the denomination in the dialogues around LGBTQ issues.  This would be important to do.  On 2 occasions we have asked to participate in a church board dialogue and have been declined.  The sad piece was that 1 of the boards was simply misinformed about process and resources available.

Vol 13 No. 1 Happy New Year

Dear friends,

A miscellany today.

First, a personal note on my own devotional cycle in a day…  Not because it is necessarily exemplary nor necessarily yours but I would love to hear any patterns that are present in this particular newsletter loop.  Please indicate in your response if I am able to share your experience.  I have made a commitment to repeating the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed, and Galatians 5:1-6 but most especially 16-26, and the living contrast between the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit.  I continue with a personal study of the gospel of John just a few verses at a time.  It is often augmented by prayers from the book “2000 Years of Prayer” by Michael Consell.  I am reading the prayers of Evangelicals from the 19thcentury at present such as Wilberforce, Shaftsbury, Spurgeon, and David Livingstone.  Over the years I have found the “Celtic Book of Prayer” also very helpful, written as it is by Baptists and Roman Catholics (but that is for another day).  In addition, my wife Kerry and I have a time of prayer which includes prayer for a variety of people and communities that we are part of.  My own prayer life includes much of the work we do in the CBWC family.  There is more but that is it for now.

Many, many things to pray for this month which I will pick up next week but I am particularly excited about the search for the new Executive Minister.

Finally, let me bundle up for us if you will some of the anxieties, longings, and indeed in some places the encouragements, of the last year by quoting a section of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”.  Postman was the Laing Lecturer at Regent College about 10 years ago and had a dramatic presence on the University of British Columbia campus as he spoke.  It might be helpful to Google both Orwell (1984) and Huxley (Brave New World).  You might also be interested in the humour and timing of God when you recall that Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and John Kennedy all died within hours of each other on November 22, 1963.

Peace of the Lord be with.  Happy New Year!

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell‘s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley ‘s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley‘s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. ” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Quote of the Week: Someone showed me a quote from the author of Red Letter Christians, Tony Campolo.  Tony is complicated, so are we all but, God is full of grace.  Tony had a great line about whether you’re an injured child in Aleppo, someone sleeping on the street in Winnipeg in the winter, or a child who visited to 2 different homes to be with parents at Christmas… I was going to start a list but you don’t need me to. Tony Campolo tweeted on Dec 30: “2016 has been a rough year… which makes it ripe for beauty. And resurrection. Happy New Year from RLC.”

Notes from the Family: No names.  No bragging rights.  1 church in the Lower Mainland had 650 people on Christmas morning.  Another church had 300.  An exciting way to start a year.  I get the impression there were many more examples.