extraordinary time

Have you noticed how the high holy-days of the Christian year cluster together? In less than half a year we travel from the first glimmer of the Advent of Christ, through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, to the fifty days of Easter that culminates in the wind and fire of Pentecost. The genius of this for catechesis is obvious. Those new to the faith – young and old – are invited to join the entire community in rehearsing the gospel every year. In twenty-five Sundays the story of Jesus Christ is retold. Do you want to learn - or relearn - the gospel narrative? Join us from Advent through Pentecost and we will relive it with you. This is a potent means of overcoming the amnesia that causes the church to forget who – and whose – it is.


transplant plus forty-three

Six weeks and counting since the stem cell transplant. The time feels like very slow progress and yet seems to slip by quickly. I expect to be back at UHill part-time in another six weeks. It will be five months since I was last with the congregation.


school for saints

Near the conclusion of the Christian year stands All Saints Day (November 1st). Few in North America mark this ancient celebration. All Hallow’s Eve on the night before All Saints has morphed into a festival of Halloween costumes and candies and parties. All Saints Day passes by forgotten. Or does it? At University Hill Congregation we are among those who are seeking to recover the celebration of All Saints Day. It begins with a recovery of the biblical definition of 'saint'. When Paul writes to his distant congregations and addresses those letters to the saints he is not singling out certain particularly faithful members of the church. When Paul writes to the saints he writes to everyone in the congregation. When Paul writes the word ‘saints’ he does not have in mind a distinction between saint and sinner. Instead, he understands that sinners who are being called into the peculiar life of Christ are, by definition, saints.


the church of the changed mind

I know that I must be feeling better. I am missing the blessing of preaching. It will be awhile yet before I am back with University Hill on Sundays. In the meantime, I am enjoying reading theology and catching up on some writing projects as I have the energy. Along the way I came across a sermon that I preached three years ago at the 100th anniversary of West Burnaby United Church. West Burnaby was the congregation where I belonged as a teen-ager. It so happened that the epistle reading in the ecumenical lectionary on that Sunday was - and remains - the key text for me in scripture. Looking back that was one of those moments when text and location came together in a providential way for me. I look forward to more occasions when text and location come together like that. In the meantime, here's the sermon from that September Sunday in 2008 ...


transplant plus thirty-five

Today has been a good news day. I had an appointment with my lead doctor at the Bone Marrow Transplant clinic at Vancouver General. It has been nearly two weeks since I was last at the clinic (and five weeks ago today since the transplant). The doctor told me that he is very happy with the way that things are going and that my body has responded well to the treatment. My blood counts are returning to normal and I have managed to get through the past five weeks without becoming ill or getting an infection. Like I say, it has been a good news day.


the gathering

When Christians gather to worship we name our collective identity in different ways. For centuries gatherings of Christians have been known in the English speaking world as “churches”. The word church comes from a Greek word meaning “of the Lord”. This is a helpful reminder whenever we begin speaking of the church as if it were our possession. Notice how quickly we welcome others to “our church”. Notice the difference when we are careful to welcome strangers to join us in worshiping with Jesus’ people. It keeps the focus on the truth that the church is a people formed, sustained and led by God rather than by our programs, plans and ministers.


amen in context

Open the Oxford English Dictionary to the word “context” and you find it sitting right next to the word “contestation”. How appropriate! Naming the context in which we live is always a risky contest of competing truths. The word context comes from the Latin meaning “to weave together”. It describes the warp and weft within which our lives, congregations and communities are located and find their purpose. Worship that is contextual seeks to locate Christian life in the real world where we live. But how do we know the truth about what is real and what is an illusion? This is the contested argument in which every worship service dares a surprising answer - an answer that evokes the courageous response: “Amen”.


transplant plus twenty-nine

Another week has passed by and I continue to get stronger, day by day. I am now officially discharged from the Bone Marrow Transplant Day Care Centre. No trips to Vancouver this week for appointments! My next doctor's appointment is a week away. In the meantime I am trying to stay away from illness - so far, so good - and doing my best to eat well and begin to exercise. My taste buds are returning which makes eating much more enjoyable. I am beginning to feel more like myself again for the first time in months. Between being on high doses of steroids in June, July and August before going through the stem cell transplant in September it seems like quite awhile since I've felt at all normal. It feels good to be returning to something like normalcy. I expect that returning to work part-time is still a couple of months away. I will learn more when I see the doctor next week. Thanks for being there, friends!


transplant plus twenty-two

Today marks another landmark in my ongoing recovery from the stem cell transplant procedure three weeks ago. The Hickman Line that has been a part of me for the past six weeks was removed this afternoon. The line has been a very efficient way of taking blood samples and giving me fluids, antibiotic, chemotherapy and my own stem cells back. It has meant that I have not needed to have an iv line inserted in my arm every trip into the hospital. Removing it means that I am coming to an end of my regular trips to Vancouver. It means that my blood counts are rising on schedule and that I will now move to weekly blood tests near home with trips to see the hematologist every couple of weeks or so. The main side effect that I am experiencing now is fatigue. I am still surprised at how tired I am. Fortunately I am free to stay home and rest knowing that all is well at University Hill Congregation. Many thanks to my drivers this week - Pat, Jocelyn, Fred and Gary. There is much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.


practicing gratitude

The long season after Pentecost carries the church through seven months of the lunar calendar. It is marked by the colour green, the colour of growth in the faith. The other seasons of the Christian year pass quickly - Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent & Holy Week, Easter. They carry us through the gospel of Jesus Christ from conception to birth to baptism to ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Near the end of this Pentecostal season of growth in discipleship comes the national celebration of Thanksgiving. In Canada it falls on the second Sunday of October, in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. In most every nation there is a national marking of gratitude for the earth’s bounty, a reminder of our dependence upon God’s good earth for the food that sustains life. This national event provides an interpretive lens for the church’s life post-Pentecost. Or, perhaps more truthfully, it is the church’s weekly thanksgiving service within the rhythms of life after Pentecost that roots the annual cultural festival of Thanksgiving in long term practices of gratitude.


christian seasons calendar

Good news - the 2011/2012 edition of Salt of the Earth: A Christian Seasons Calendar is now available. This unique venture began over a decade ago as we at University Hill Congregation imagined a calendar that begins with Advent and turns with the Christian seasons. The calendar continues to improve in quality and to spread across the continent and around the world.

You can find the calendar at the Christian Seasons Calendar website where you can view sample pages and order online. Single copies of the calendar cost $15.95 (plus shipping and applicable taxes). There is a 20% discount on orders of ten or more and a 40% discount on orders of twenty five or more. Many of our customers buy in bulk in order to give the calendars as gifts or to make them available in their congregation at a reduced rate.

Your help in spreading the word about this mission venture to friends and colleagues is much appreciated!