Round the Table

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

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November 29, 2016

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night…

As we enter into Advent, we bring to mind the birth of Christ and the mystery of the Incarnation. It’s a time when we become a little more awe-filled with the chaotic, gracious business that is Emmanuel – God-with-us.

When I read over the nativity account from Luke’s Gospel, I’m struck by the proclamation of good news of great joy for all the people. A messenger of God brings the good news of Jesus’ birth to a group of socially-outcast “public sinners”:...

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November 18, 2016

I have had a long love affair with Leonard Cohen, or rather, with his words. I furiously read his poems in university; I saw him in concert in 1970, when he came to play in a small indoor hockey rink in Kingston, Ontario; I learned to play “Suzanne” on my guitar, and channelled Cohen’s angst-filled love. I was envious of his time in the Greek Islands, and was determined to do the same, even to the point of taking a year’s worth of evening classes in conversational Greek – but alas, my visit only lasted a couple of months. Just a couple of years ago my spouse got us tickets for Leonard’s...

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November 14, 2016

Everyone loves a carnival, especially if it is free.

That is exactly what North Bramalea United Church in Brampton, Ontario, has offered to the community every second Saturday in July for the last 16 years. On that day, the Lucas Holtom Carnival Day fills a city park behind the church, with area residents — approximately 5,000 this year — coming out to enjoy the event.

“People are amazed at the size of the carnival, and the fact...

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November 9, 2016

I have run in the intense heat of Ontario summers and the deep cold of Arctic winters, but if I am ever asked about the perfect day for running, what will come to mind is this past weekend in Toronto. Cool but not cold, with the sky deep blue and yellow and orange leaves on the ground and still clinging to tree branches.  

On these glorious late fall days, the words from Isaiah 65 in this week’s lectionary passage feel so right.

…. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

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November 8, 2016

My visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, to take part in the Amplify 16 Conference, has been an eye-opening experience.

On the opening day I offered the morning keynote address at an LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning) symposium. It was hosted by the Jakarta Theological Seminary, one of only two LGBT-affirming seminaries in Asia. When seminary principal Stephen Suleeman invited me to the conference, he explained that many Indonesian...

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November 1, 2016

The stories of Jesus often make me uncomfortable.

We - Grandma and two of the grandsons - were rushing towards Safeco Field to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Seattle Mariners. The delay at the border had been long, traffic had been heavy, the shuttle was overbooked and the hotel was a distance from the ballpark.

We were scurrying. All hope of seeing batting practice had been abandoned; the goal now was simply not to miss the first pitch.

Not only has the yearly journey with the grandsons to see the Blue Jays and Mariners become a semi-sacred yearly ritual but...

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October 25, 2016

A glimpse into the lives of LGTBQ people around the world who face real struggles most of us can only imagine, by freelance journalist Kaitlin Bardswich.

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October 24, 2016

A United Church in Winnipeg has found a unique way to reach out to and engage the surrounding community: through art. For 11 weeks, from late February to mid-May, Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (CFRUC) held art-related activities at the church, complemented by a three-day art show in April.

When asked about the impact in terms of church attendance and outreach to the community, visual...

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October 13, 2016

The important work of Canadian missionaries in China in the years from 1892 to 1950 comes alive through hundreds of historical photos in the Canadians in China: Old Photos from Sichuan exhibit at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto, from Oct. 14 to 18.

The exhibit is in conjunction with The Canadian School Association, a group made up of those who attended The Canadian School in West China from 1909 to 1950. Although the school closed almost 70 years ago, executive member Marion Walker says members...

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November 4, 2016

Within hours of arriving in Cuba for celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the ecumenical seminary in Matanzas, rumours spread through our group that Hurricane Matthew was headed our way.