Round the Table

Sharing stories of life, faith, and ministry in the United Church and beyond.

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January 24, 2017

Last week I published a blog, 5 Reasons the Church May Not Find a Way Ahead. This blog is the counterpoint.

First, a couple of preliminary clarifications.

When using the word “church” I do not mean the abstract theological concept of wherever there are people who try and follow the Way of Jesus there is church. While I believe that is true I have in mind some version of a more mainline oriented church, like The United Church of Canada, who hold some centre like the Basis of Union and...

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January 18, 2017

On the wet, West Coast of Canada, where I live and work, we have grown accustomed to the decline of the mainline church, particularly The United Church of Canada. We now whine very little about the unfair playing field of a consumer society, soccer on Sundays or undisciplined Christians.

The sod has settled over the grave of Christendom. The church and its leaders no longer carry the clout that existed when many current leaders were in their youth.

Camps and congregational properties are being liquidated, often with deep and profound grief. Leaders attempt to re-allocate...

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January 13, 2017

Congregations undoubtedly do amazing work. We have health services, food banks, children’s programming, leadership development, summer camps, long term care facilities, and programming to support every subsector of society with almost any challenge (not to mention supporting our communities with spiritual grounding, emotional support, and connection).

If we were for-profits with these fantastic results, we would be shouting...

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December 19, 2016

If you are part of a group working to improve the social good of your community — or if you have skills or experience that could help such a group grow and expand — the Social Mentor Network wants to hear from you.

The network is a joint project between the...

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December 15, 2016

It’s Advent, a time of preparation.

With the lives we lead, juggling various responsibilities, are any of us ever just preparing for one thing?

If you saw my office right now, you would think that I am preparing for a big move. And you would be right. We are moving ahead with a plan to condense two-and-a-half floors of offices onto one floor by September. We will all be working in an open-space environment then, and there will be no place for the many pictures, books, and mementoes that currently cram my office. I think it is a good plan, because it will save the church a...

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December 12, 2016

Art has always played an important part in churches throughout the ages, ranging from simple sculptures to Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The Rev. Jim Keenan of Bradford United Church in Bradford, Ontario, recognizes the important intersections between art and religion. “A healthy arts community is integral to the spiritual and overall health of the community and the overall well-being of its residents,” he says.

Since there is a shortage of performance and...

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December 8, 2016

For one evening every month, Grace United Church in Hanover, Ontario, is filled with the sounds of group drumming. Leading the session is the Rev. Micol Cottrell, who has led similar groups at two other United Churches in the last five years.

For Cottrell, Drum Circle Worship is much more than just making music.

“Drumming really engages people, as it helps them open up and connect with each other,” he said. “It’s quite an amazing,...

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December 7, 2016

One of my all-time favourite compositions is Edward Elgar’s Op. 36 (popularly known as Enigma Variations). This piece is a love story where each movement is a tribute to one of Elgar’s friends. It is complex, playful, and heartfelt; it rouses my heart, my memory, and my imagination all at the same time. Starting when I was 14, my high-school concert band played an arrangement of the adagio movement, “Nimrod,” all the time as a warm-up piece. Eventually, the constant repetition started to dampen my enthusiasm and love for the music...

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December 5, 2016

Moderator Jordan Cantwell had a busy November. It started with her keynote address at an LBGT conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. She then “chilled” at a youth forum in British Columbia, before heading back to Toronto to take part in difficult discussions during a two-day meeting of the Executive of the General Council. She discussed the importance of these three events with Paul Russell.

Paul: In early November, you were a keynote speaker at Amplify 16, a lesbian, gay, bisexual,...

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November 28, 2016

General Secretary Nora Sanders on the racist graffiti attacks in Ottawa. Even when acts of fear and hatred are in the news, we must keep our Christian values.

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