Vol 8 No. 4 Revisiting

Dear Folks,
This is a week of apologies and explanations. Carson Pue, who has lead the Arrow Leadership program from many years produces a wonderful newsletter in which he asks people that if they quote him they will quote the entire newsletter and not just part of it. Carson can do that because of the quality of his newsletter and the large readership, I wouldn’t try that for all our sakes, but I would ask that if you do find something that you want to quote, it would be important to mention where you got it from for three reasons:

  1. It protects you if someone doesn’t like that quote
  2. It gives a greater context for the passage (eg. The Mary Oliver poem regarding Paul Mutch was in the context of the fruit of the spirit).
  3. If people know a reference it might draw them to regularly read the newsletter for themselves.


In last week’s newsletter I wrote the following paragraph:

I shared a story at the Heartland Region Pastor’s Retreat of an experience I had while worshipping at Kitsilano Community Church the second week of advent.  Some background info first: Kerry and I were part of the founding group of Kits Church. It has been six years since we have been there and we have been very grateful to the new pastor, David Jenkins, for his welcoming. Part of my restarting at Kits is that I am not involved as a leader. I started reflecting, with gratitude, as I sat there that Sunday, that I had requested that I be a worshipper and not a participant in any other way. Then I began to reflect about what would it be like in several contexts, not just at Kits, if in my adamancy not to be asked to be involved, that people over time stopped asking. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my identity gets caught up in what I do (that was truer in the first 20 years of pastoral ministry than now) rather than who I am in God. So as I sat there thinking what it would be like not to be asked to be involved in anything anymore, I had an epiphany. The epiphany was simply this: In the absence of all the other voices, request, demands and urgencies, when other people are asking me to do things…in their absence, the only thing left, would be to hear the voice of God. It was such an enormous relief. Trading the cacophony and boisterousness of all the competing demands and voices that have filled my life since childhood, only to hear the voice of God. That was the experience of Elijah when after the wind, earthquake and fire, came the gentle whisper of God. That was the experience of Samuel when he heard God call out his name. May it be my experience and yours that we might respond as the child Samuel did in this New Year: “Speak, for your servant is listening”.

I had not thought of a particular perspective that someone sent me regarding my “disengagement” and what an example that would be, perhaps a negative one to other. Here is their comment:

“I fully understand where you’re coming from in not wanting to get involved in your local church again.  You have to let the current pastor be THE pastor, without in any way usurping any of his responsibilities, which some of the people who knew you as pastor may tend to do.  I also understand the need to just listen to God and not DO, DO, DO …

However, have you considered the effect of your example as a leader (you will be perceived as a leader – as a former pastor, as a denominational leader, as a mature Christian) on others who come to the church, and are unwilling to accept any responsibility.  It can be an excuse for a cop-out: “If Jeremy is a good member of this congregation and does nothing, why should I?””

You know it is a very good observation, and I should have been clearer in the way that I expressed myself in the newsletter. First of all, my assurance not to be involved and my desire to be a worshipper was communicated to the pastor and no one else. I guess I missed the point of that confidentially by putting it in a newsletter, eh? I do participate at the church and in any community building and encouragement exercises I am involved in, have also done the hospitability part of an advent retreat and am serving refreshments on Easter Sunday morning. My commitment is not to be involved in leading; so one of the things I am doing is asking for prayer from the congregation (which I have done through the prayer card several times already) for my calling/ministry/work elsewhere, like being the Executive Minister. I should have been more careful. This is a bit of the bigger picture. Point from the respondent well taken, my heart is in listening to God above the other competing voices.

I misquoted Barbara Mutch’s excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145)”. The excerpt that Barbara Mutch quoted is as follows and is a more apt reflection of both the service and I think, of Paul the man. My apologies to all for not being more careful.


I know a man of such

mildness and kindness it’s trying to

change my life.

he  is kind with the sort of kindness that shines

out, but is resolute, not fooled. He has

eaten the dark hours and could also, I think,

soldier for God, riding out

under the storm clouds, against the worlds pride and unkindness

with both unassailable sweetness, and consoling word.


I feel like this newsletter has been all about apologies, explanations and mea culpas. Let me end on a lighter note, which has great meaning for me. My mother and grandmother read this poem to me. Garth Bowen used to sing this at Hobbit House back in the day when it was a coffee house at First Baptist and I was its director. He would often sing it as a request from me and I have it framed. This is a simple poem that is not just about sentimentality about which we could be amused. We end up praying for so many things and others that we often forget to pray for ourselves. Just as I harkened back to listening to God’s voice above all the chatter, I also want to acknowledge that part of our ability to do that is to include ourselves.

Here is the poem; I hope you’ll enjoy it. Okay, I can’t resist, one more thing. The power for me in this poem was not only the pattern and experience of prayer that I learned as a child (and I am thankful to both my mom and dad), but it also reminds me in the sentences: ‘Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed, Droops on the little hands little gold head.’ These lines are a picture of our bright blonde son Andrew who along with his sister, Jessica, and his mother, Kerry, lived out much of this simple poem day after day, year after year…Andrew happens to be 26 years old and 6’4.5”,  but never mind that!

Vespers by A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,

Droops on the little hands little gold head.

Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!

Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.


God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.

Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?

The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.

Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.


If I open my fingers a little bit more,

I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.

It’s a beautiful blue, but it hasn’t a hood.

Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.


Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,

And pull the hood right over my head,

And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,

And nobody knows that I’m there at all.


Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.

And what was the other I had to say?

I said “Bless Daddy,” so what can it be?

Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.


Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,

Droops on the little hands little gold head.

Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!

Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.



In Christ,