Monthly Archives: April 2010

Wading into the abortion debate

Pun intended. ‘Roe v Wade’ was a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. In the States in 1973, the decision was that a woman’s right to an abortion is determined by her current trimester of pregnancy.

It seems that Canada – at least our current, federal government – is wanting to step back from a forward-thinking way of doing things (which, I think it’s fair to say, is how Canada has been perceived by the international community until recently – we have been forward-thinking).  Here are some words from parliamentarians this week:

“We’re focused on how to make a positive difference to save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world,” Conservative MP Jim Abbott told the House of Commons Monday. “Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortion.”

Abbott is the parliamentary secretary to International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who arrived in Halifax Monday for a two-day meeting with her G8 counterparts.

In a parliamentary debate on the issue last month, Oda said, “what we have said is that we are open to considering all options, including contraception, and addressing them.”

In Halifax, Oda confirmed that abortion funding is off the table so far as Canada is concerned but she committed to Canada to funding other family planning programs in developing countries, including the use of contraceptive methods.  (The Vancouver Sun)

An article in today’s Ottawa Citizen reads, “Abortion was ruled out Monday by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who is meeting with her G8 counterparts in Halifax. It was the first time she had indicated whether Canada’s contribution to a G8 maternal health project would include financial support for family planning and abortion.”

I don’t always turn to an Okanagan-based publication for a progressive take on an issue, but I think this UBCO student has some worth-while words to share:

I want to take a moment and offer you, kind reader, working definitions of both Pro-Choice and Anti-Choice. To do so, I would like to present a hypothetical example. Let’s meet Anne. She’s a woman who hates abortions, thinks they are evil, would never have one no matter what and would do her best to dissuade the women she knows from ever having one as well. Is Anne Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice? As long as she is willing to admit that the final decision should be left up to the other women, Anne is Pro-Choice. Pro-Choice does not necessarily mean that you would ever have an abortion yourself because it’s not just about abortions; it’s about allowing women the right to make their own very important choice on this extremely important matter. Therefore, Anti-Choice should be used only to apply to those who would seek to deny women of their reproductive rights. In this context, is it so outrageous that some people might express happiness at the idea of Anti-Choice arguments being less prevalent (though, as I have argued, I do not believe this is really the case on this campus)? When a group is solely organized around the aspiration to roll back or remove the rights of women, why shouldn’t women who disagree fight ferociously to silence those who would deny them their rights? I, personally, am absolutely sick of some of the actions and strategies employed by the Anti-Choice movement as a whole, and I am sick of pussy-footing around and trying to seem respectful and concerned about a group whose goal is innately disrespectful to me. (The Phoenix News)

It seems to me that we run the risk of entrenching rules that we wouldn’t even apply to ourselves, when specific situations come in to play, and that leads to a fundamentalist way of thinking.

In principle, I do not agree with abortion.  However, I would never entrench that in law, nor would I disallow it in the broader conversation around birth control in my country or another.  I am “pro-choice” in the sense that we need options – not just some of us, all of us (domestically and internationally).  To remove that is to limit freedom.

Freedom is what the gospel story is about.  …that’s this political pastor’s stance for today!

Fourth Sunday of Easter

It’s April 25th, 2010, and we’re roughly half-way through the Season of Easter in the church-year.

In the church year, there are seven Sundays of Easter – a week of Sundays!  Numbers have symbolic importance in the Bible and in Christian tradition (as they sometimes do in culture – often stemming from some earlier religious meaning).  The number seven is symbolic of completion – a full cycle has been made, a duration of time has fully passed.  The colour we hang on the walls of the chapel-space, and the colour of the stole I wear over my alb (liturgical robe worn by worship leader) for this season is white – symbolic of the spirit and purity; and we light the Paschal Candle (a large candle situated by the baptismal font) symbolizing the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ.  And, I wouldn’t debate those who point to ancient pagan tradition, and changing of the seasons, as also influencing these symbols.  Without a doubt, the number seven is the number of days in a week, a rhythm which even early peoples’ could figure out; and the white colour is a bright one, which is like light that is now breaking through in Spring where what was once Winter darkness.

Another symbol held up on this Fourth Sunday of Easter is that of Jesus as “The Good Shepherd.”  Part of what Jesus says in the gospel text for this Sunday (John 10:22-30) is that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and the sheep trust the shepherd.  When he speaks of his followers as sheep, Jesus also says that he gives his sheep eternal life.  Jesus is saying that people follow him because he offers a vision that goes beyond any one person’s lifetime. Jesus’ followers are to be mindful of future generations.

We started the morning, here at All Saints, with some technical difficulties.  The streaming program we use wouldn’t open, and we weren’t able to web-cast our service.  Being someone who likes to have everything as close to perfect as possible (though I am rarely even close to it…), this did not start the day off well for me.

But the morning ended well.  While we were singing the post-Communion canticle, I looked over at the two children in the service – each sitting in a different place, and neither of them with their parents.  They weren’t looking in hymn-books, or necessarily even paying attention to the part of the service we were at, but they were mouthing the words – singing along, even! – to the liturgical music the congregation was singing.

This was the story of the Good Shepherd, and a living out of the tradition, for me, today.  This three-year-old, and six-year-old singing along without hymn-books.  They probably weren’t even aware of the words they were singing (“Praise to you O God of mercy, thanks be to you forever”), and one of them was colouring in a colouring-book as they sang along and the other climbing up and sitting on a stool they found, but they trusted the group with whom they were singing, they were comfortable and in tune with the assembled congregation.  And, in the community which also includes octogenarians, these young people were joining with all the saints and, in so doing, singing with the generations before them.

This week of weeks that we’re in is a reminder of how we are all on a journey.  Each of our lives is a journey, and each of our lives also point to new life which will come after us.  Our young people are a way in which we can remember our own youthful days, as well as see a glimpse of where the world will go after we’re gone.  What a joy life is!

May, 2010

From the Pastor…

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be, and lowliness become mine inner clothing – true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part, and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing. (Worship hymnal #804)

What we usually hold as ideals and what we live as ideals aren’t really compatible with each other.  We tend to want to help “poor” people, but we wouldn’t ever want to be poor ourselves…!

Several of us watched “The Blind Side” together in April – the movie about the football player who, with help from an affluent family in the southern States goes from an impoverished, black, ghetto upbringing to NFL superstar status.  The “rags to riches” motif captures our imagination – we love to hear of it.

It seems to me that – culturally – we know what is right, but we don’t often do it.  In fact, we even hold up what is right as ideals, but have trouble achieving them and we even manage to justify our place, “who can live like that all the time?”

I had a brief conversation with a professor from UBCO recently, and we were talking about band-aid solutions versus systemic change.  It’s easy to give to charity – there’s minimal investment of one’s-self.  But we feel good doing it – as though we’re doing something.  Having to roll up one’s sleeves, and dive in to the actual work of living with people on the margins, or working to change systems that benefit few and oppress many – that is hard work!!

It’s not as easy as paying a few dollars to help a child in Africa.  We must work at finding out why, for example, when there’s severe drought there people die, whereas drought conditions in our country don’t usually mean death for hundreds or thousands.

“Holy charity” of which the hymnist writes is not the simple act of giving a few alms to the poor.  It is the giving of one’s-self to the betterment of all.  It has to do with the love we show to others so that they, too, might have life.  Invest yourself in life!

–Pastor Tyler Gingrich

THANK YOU!!

  • to Lenord for cutting back the tall grass!
  • to Charmaine for getting our services online
  • to Karen for making our movie-night fly!
  • to Melissa for conducting our choir
  • to Cathryn, Karen, Darlene, Melissa, and Yvonne for leading the ELW service
  • to Lynn, Ken, Lenord, Jesse, Melissa, Caitlyn for their hard work on our Spring clean-up

Funny story…

A little girl was sitting on her grandfather’s lap as he read her a bedtime story.

From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek.  She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again.

Finally she spoke up, “Grandpa, did God make you?” “Yes, sweetheart,” he answered, “God made me a long time ago.” “Oh,” she paused.  “Grandpa, did God make me too?”

“Yes, indeed, dear,” he said, “God made you just a little while ago.” Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, “God’s getting better at it, isn’t he?”

a gospel story for our day…

Fair trade [an agreement where a producer gets a fair price for their products and deals more directly with the retailer, as opposed to free trade] is an incredible story.  When it emerged four decades ago, few could have imagined it would ever be more than a form of charity, aimed at a dedicated few – not an idea that could ever reach a mass market.

Today, one in five cups of coffee drunk in Britain is fairly traded; so are half the bananas eaten in Switzerland. Five million producers in Africa, Latin America and Asia benefit from fair trade terms.

(Troth Wells, Trigger Issues: T-Shirt, p.69-70)



First Supper – celebrating the Lyrics of Love, Laughter and Life – Saturday, May 29, beginning at 4:30pm; bring a favourite dish, a lawnchair, and some friends!

our fifth, annual Ascension Church Music Festival ~ Tuesday, May 11, 2010 ~ 7pm; hosted by AllSaintsLutheranChurch.com; held at Kelowna Christian Reformed Church (239 Glenmore Rd)

Potatoes

I spent part of Earth Day, April 22, planting potatoes.  Yes, earlier in the day, I also was driving about, putting gas in my car and carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but I also planted potatoes.

This is a fairly big thing for me.  I’ve never planted a garden.  Sure, I grew up with garden produce, and I helped spread manure and occasionally watered, and then picked beans and cobs of corn and tomatoes and such from my parents’ garden.  I’ve never planted a garden and then been responsible for the tending and harvesting of those vegetables.  This is a new experience!

With the capable help of Lynette, I learned to cut the seed potatoes so that there would be enough ‘eyes’ so it would take root; then to place them at a good depth with space between the cut potatoes so they could grow and develop roots.  And, with a few hands working at it, we put in two long rows of potatoes, covered them over with some earth, and then gave them a good drink of water!

The work, now, is to keep the plants from being choked by weeds, and from getting too parched.

My dad quotes my grandfather in his reasoning for owning property: even if everything goes belly-up, you’ll have a place to plant potatoes!  …and that’s how I’m tending to the Earth this day.

What’s the rush?

My family owns one vehicle.  OK – I suppose we own two, but only one with a four-cylinder engine.

Last Summer, when we were debating buying a second car, we opted to go by the bike shop.  Soon, we were back home with a new bicycle and trailer (and, well… we sprung for the electric converter kit, too – so the bicycle has a throttle on it to boost the pedal-power when desired!).

I used to bike to school all the time – in high school, and in university.  It was a great way to get around!  (Not so fun when it rained, but still doable.)  Until we bought the bike, it had been a while since I’d rode anywhere regularly by bike.

I’ve found that it changes the pace of life.  Regularly, I’m running myself to the wire on deadlines or scheduled meetings – then I’m out on the road chomping at the bit to pass the dawdler in the left lane, or wishing the red light would turn green.  I think I’m a pretty safe driver, but occasionally I’m sure I become the pain-in-the-neck tail-gater who I hate when I see them in the rear-view mirror riding my bumper.

And, when I’m out by bike – usually to pick up my toddler from preschool – I’m conscious of how vulnerable I am to those on the road.  It’s just a little canvas shell around this dear child towed along behind me, and even less on me.  A wrong move by an impatient driver, and I’d be toast!

It’s one of the best feelings to be outside in the sunshine, riding with a light wind blowing, and a little person riding along – just loving the dedicated time with Dad.  Invariably, a bike ride means a trip to the playground, or a fresh-fruit smoothie when we get home, or some other kind of treat.  And it’s a treat for me, too!  It takes me away from the busy-ness of my daily and weekly routine – a schedule to which I so often enslave myself.  In the end, these times by bike are the most worthwhile.

We bought the bike as an alternative mode of transportation.  We’ve got the added bonus of more time together.

Are you spiritual but not religious?

I’m a representative of organized religion, or institutionalized Christianity.  That means people relate with me in different ways depending on where they’re coming from in their past.

If, for example, you grew up in the church and you have positive associations with church, I’m someone you probably respect.  If, as another example, you did not grow up in the church, or if your memories of church are negative, or if most of what you think of the church has to do with abusive priests or aboriginal peoples’ cultures being stomped on, then I may be one to be wary of or even despised.

When I introduce myself as a pastor, I’ve heard people say about their faith life (if they admit to having one) “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I suspect this means different things for different people.  For some people, I’m guessing it means, “don’t bother inviting me to church because I won’t come,” for others it may mean, “I only go to church once or twice a year,” for others yet it probably means, “I don’t want to be associated with the baggage of Christian fundamentalists, but I’m okay with believing in God.”

I have no problem with saying that the hey-day for church is over and that the church – as an institution – needs to change in big ways.  Basically, it’s irrelevant for a majority of 21st-Century Canadians.

At the same time, it seems that there’s a desire to engage in other traditions, be they Buddhist practices or hearing the stories of aboriginal elders, or other forms of finding deeper meaning to life.  So something is resonating with people, even though it may not be Christianity these days.

I consider myself part of the “progressive Christian” or “emerging church” movement which seeks to engage faith and belief in a more holistic way.  That is, what was once a religion where all you had to do was subscribe to a set of beliefs is now being talked about in terms of a way of life.

It seems to me that everyone has a spiritual side.  Everyone has certain things that drive them – things that make them happy, sad, give them pleasure, and things they live for.  In short, those things which give a person life are what constitutes a person’s spiritual side.

It also seems to me that we’re all religious in one way or another.  Religion can be understood as the rites and rituals, the traditions, that we embrace to live out pivotal moments in life and to connect with others.  …so we all have them – be it a weekly movie night with friends, or a family drive on the weekend, or dressing-up for events like high-school graduation and such.  And, of course, for many it’s been the weekly routine of going to church.

I think the fear that many have of religious community is that it may involve checking their brain at the door, or adopting a set of beliefs and/or rules that probably wouldn’t jive with the way they do things in other parts of their lives.  I can’t speak for all religious communities, but I know that in mine we’re making an effort to meet people where they are in life, and to live graciously.  In our case, we see faith community and religious ritual as being a way we can journey together corporately – we follow some patterns together (eg. liturgy, weekly gathering), but we also socialize and work together (eg. movie-nights, Spring clean-up work-bees).  And we’re together as a community when one of us experiences a loss, or a joy – so we join in celebrating a life, while mourning death, when a family loses a loved one to cancer; we also join in celebrating life when a new baby is born.

It’s important to be aware of what is joyous in life, and to give thanks for it; it is important to be aware of loss when we experience it, and to lament it.  That’s where the spiritual and religious intersect, as I see it.

From Where Do We Receive Wisdom?

I’m a CSI buff, I admit it.  And, there’s no question that ‘hotness’ is part of the CSI:Miami program – it’s set in a hot climate, and there are invariably bikini-clad [youthful] bodies in each episode…!

As I was watching an episode this week, I was conscious of how virtually all the characters, except Horatio, would likely be under 40 years old.  …some of them even in their late-20s or early-30s.  That’s cool by me, and I can relate to characters in that age-bracket.  What confuses me is the level of wisdom each of the characters claims to have, and then the amount of certainty they can claim when they’re setting forth a theory about a crime they’re investigating.  I suppose it’s possible that, at their age and supposed experience-level, they could know what they claim to know.  My suspicion, however, is that it’s meant to present the characters as in control and heroic, as well as youthful and gorgeous!

I bring this up because of ideals that are held in high esteem in our culture.  Certainly, youth is to be enjoyed, reveled in, and an active time of life.  But we tend to dismiss the wisdom of those older than us as ‘out-dated’ or unworthy of our time.

In conversations I’ve had with those of influence on the local university campus, I’ve often heard the line, “it has to come from the students.”  That is, if there is to be a new program on campus, or if there is to be an initiative, it needs to be started by the students because campus is a place for students.  I agree that it’s a place for students; I disagree that the students are the only ones who have ideas that are worth trying.

In conversations I’ve had with parents of young children, I’ve heard the argument made for not baptizing a child, “I won’t baptize them or take them to church because I want them to decide for themselves when they get older.”  A response I’ve heard, and agree with, is that we don’t wait for young people to decide what is good for them in terms of food, education, manners, values, etc, why in the realm of faith?  What kind of basis do we give our young people when we say “choose for yourself”?

What I’m getting at is that our culture has pointed itself in the direction of the future in ways that dismiss the past.  I think that we have much to gain in looking to where we’re going while being rooted in the wisdom of the past.  And we can benefit from the wisdom of those around us.  (That is, in many ways, what I’ve meant when I’ve made the argument for people to consider going to church that there is inter-generational mingling that doesn’t happen in other realms of life.)

I’ll still watch TV shows that hold up this value of eternal-youth – it’s fun, escapist viewing at the end of the day!  But I’m glad for the mentors in my life who can help me have perspective on life that I can not achieve on my own.

Holy Week 2010

I’m conscious that this week is “holy” for those who are Christian.  …if you don’t understand Jesus of Nazareth to be the fullest revelation of God in human form, then this week which contains the story of his final entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper with his disciples, his trial and crucifixion, and the resurrection – that pivotal piece in the Christian faith – then this week may be less ‘holy’ and more simply a reason to have an extra day or two off work (or perhaps, if you must work, an opportunity to cash in on over-time wages…!).

This week is holy for me in that I find people are doing things they may not otherwise do.

At our Maundy Thursday service last evening, people took off their shoes and we had a foot-washing ritual as part of the service.  It was a moment of unusual vulnerability for all of us involved.  I don’t normally touch peoples’ feet, and people don’t normally take their shoes and socks off in front of me.  …but we did!  And we all survived – in fact, the warm water was happily received by everyone who took part!  It was a moment of ‘pampering,’ too!

Today is Good Friday.  There is an annual “Way of the Cross” walk through Kelowna’s down-town core.  I look forward to it as it is a time for prayer.  And when I talk about prayer, I’d want to be clear that I don’t mean the pious kind where every other word is “Lord” and the petitioner is asking for special personal blessings and benefits.  Prayer, as I understand it and use it, is a time of reflection – a space where the concerns of all, some specific some more broad, are held up and given respect and care.  So during the walk where the cross is carried, we stop at service agencies and other places to ponder their work, pray for it, and to reflect on our place in a system where such agencies are needed: do we contribute to oppressive systems, or do we genuinely work for the good of all in our daily living?  Sometimes this annual walk also makes stops outside of banks or government buildings and raises issues of whether those groups depend on the system to maintain their privileged place in society.

This week will continue with an Easter Vigil service and a Sunrise service – both celebrating the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

In the same way that I’ve had new opportunities, new chances when I’ve messed up, I’m convinced that we are always gifted with new life.  That, in a nutshell, is the good news I take from the Easter story – and I look forward to meditating on it again this weekend.

April, 2010

the paradox (Synonyms: 3. puzzle, anomaly, riddle)

From the Pastor…

All of creation awaits the new birth, the fullness of redemption, though labor pains of love, and so we wait in patience and hope Worship hymnal #622

As we arrive at our annual congregational meeting, I’m thinking about where we need to go. (Perhaps this is an obvious thing to do as we meet and look towards the future…!)

Recently, I attended a presentation for social agencies by Narcotics Anonymous.  Most everyone attending worked with people on the margins, whether they were struggling with mental health issues, addictions, homelessness, or something else that invariably put them ‘on the outside.’  I had been able to sign up to attend this presentation not because I was a pastor, but because I’m connected to the Poverty and Homeslessness Action Team and Inn From the Cold.  I wonder about that – where do we, as faith community (and with a strong ethnic heritage we are extremely hesitant to let go of) enter into the lives of those not like us?  One of the questions we’ve discussed on a Sunday morning during this Lenten season was “is there anything a person can believe that would make them unwelcome in the church?”  One might also ask, is there a state in life that a person may be in, or a community to which they belong or sympathize, that might make them unwelcome in our church?

I also attended a meeting of young, non=partisan activists recently, who want to invite people more fully into our society’s democratic processes.  The group is well-educated and intelligent, wanting to make a difference in the world and try to curb some of the destructive behaviour in our society which tends to be exhibited towards neighbours and environment.  Sometimes the work feels futile.

While we ponder the future, I invite you to consider more deeply how your commitment to the community (our congregation, as well as our region) affects the whole and helps create something that will have a lasting, positive impact.

–Pastor Tyler Gingrich

Thank you…

  • to Advisory Council members, Cathryn, Karen, Paul, Charmaine, Jesse, for their service
  • to Jack for keeping our books straight!
  • to Pastor Wally for his words of wisdom in our communal conversations
  • to Melissa who is so often ‘filling gaps’
  • to Lenord, Cathryn, Sid, Shawn, for the great community they build at the Coffeehouse

Financial Report

for the 2 months ended Feb. 28, 2010.

Receipts – $15,286.

Expenditures – $10,693

for a surplus of $4,593.

Bank balance at Feb. 28, 2010 – $21,380.

If we did not have support from the BC Synod and others we would have had a deficit of about $1,500 for the 2 months.  And, if we had a full-time ministry the deficit would have been closer to $8,000.

Fortunately with the outside support and the Pastor’s support by way of 1/2 salary we should be financially viable at least to the end of this year.

Jack Denney, treasurer

Prophetic Words for Our Day…

The Bible is political. It is about God’s passion for a different kind of world – one in which people have enough, not as the result of charity but as the fruit of justice, and in which nations do not war against one another anymore. God’s passion is for a world very different from domination systems, large and small, ancient and modern, systems so common that they can be called the normalcy of civilization.

(Marcus J Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, p.225)

Holy Week

Maundy Thursday, April 1 – Story of Foot-washing & Last Supper, 7:30pm at church-house

Good Friday, April 2 – Story of trial & crucifixion, 10am at Faith Lutheran; Walk of the Cross begins at 12:30 at First United (Bernard & Richter)

Easter Vigil, April 3 – 7:30pm at St. Michael’s and All Angel’s Anglican Cathedral (Richter & Sutherland)

Sunrise Service, April 4 – 7:00am at Cemetery (Bernard & Spall)


…and make sure your contact information is current in the draft of our congregational directory!