Two local musicians playing their songs

Alex Boudreau and Tim Chesterton
Live at Second Cup Gateway Plaza
3414 Gateway Boulevard, Edmonton, Alberta
Monday November 16th 7.00 – 9.00 p.m.
Hope to see you there!

Welcoming Newcomers and Sharing the Gospel

We’ve had a couple of encouraging events back to back at our church this weekend.

Welcoming Newcomers
Friday night we had a ‘New Member Orientation’ evening. This is something we used to do a few years ago but have recently revived. Everyone who has been added to our parish list over the past year is invited. Of course, not everyone comes,, but we still had ten newcomers out last night which was very gratifying. Also about eight ‘resource people’ were there from the parish family to build community with the newcomers and help them feel welcome.

We were seated around three tables in the basement (where our little ‘parish hall’ is located). We began by introducing ourselves to the other people at our tables, answering questions like ‘What’s my name? Where do I live? With who? For how long? What brought me to St. Margaret’s and how long have I been coming?’ Following this, I gave a short history of our parish (we are a young congregation, dating back only to September 1980, and our building was built in 1996), with a powerpoint presentation showing photographs from our history.

We then had a break for coffee and delicious desserts prepared by a couple of our ‘resource people’ – who had themselves been newcomers at our previous New Member Orientation back in May.

In the second half of the evening we explained the structure and ministries of our church. We introduced people to our vestry and churchwardens and the committees that help make our life possible. We talked about the many opportunities for people to use their gifts in the life of our congregation and in our outreach to the wider community. Some of our resource people talked about Bible study groups and other ministries they were involved in, and invited our new members to consider participating in them.

It was a very relaxed evening with an emphasis on building relationships. A couple of people brought small children with them so there was a certain amount of background noise as the children played. This just served to underline the relaxed and informal character of the evening, and our congregation’s desire to be a child-friendly church.

The evaluation forms were quite positive and a lot of our newcomers expressed interest in attending our next ‘Christian Basics’ course.

Sharing the Gospel
Today (Saturday) we held a workshop from 9.30 – 4.30 called ‘Sharing Your Faith Without Losing Your Friends’. This title, and much of the content, was shamelessly stolen from the Rev. Harold Percy, rector of Trinity Church, Streetsville, in the Diocese of Toronto. Harold’s book ‘Good News People‘ was a great resource for this workshop. The idea of the workshop was to raise people’s level of confidence in their ability to talk be effective witnesses for the Christian faith with their friends, famly, and work colleagues. Ten people attended, and I was the presenter.

The first two sessions were mainly in lecture format. The first, ‘Pros and Cons’, looked at two signs of the coin: why would we want to share the gospel with others, and what are some of the things that nake it difficult to do so in our culture? The second, ‘Good News to Share’, looked at the content of the Gospel under three headings – ‘Resurrection’, ‘Reign’, and ‘Reconciliation’, and also at our ‘Response’ of Faith, Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The third session, ‘Where Do I begin?’ was more interactive; we thought about our ‘circles of influence’ under the three headings of family, friends, and work (or school) colleagues. We listed as many people as we could think of in those three categories. We then underlined the names of any who, as far as we know, are not followers of Jesus, and we put an asterisk beside the names of any with whom we had regular significant conversation. These are the people we are most likely to be able to influence for the Gospel. We then split into twos, shared the names on our lists and prayed for those people.

After lunch we thought about ‘Sharing Our Stories’. We were each invited to think about our faith story in three chapters. Depending on our background, it might take the form of (1) Early Christian influences on my life, (2) How I owned the Faith for myself, and (3) The difference Jesus is making to my life today. Alternatively, it might take the form of (1) My life before I became a Christian, (2) How I became a Christian, and (3) The difference Jesus is making to my life today. Participants spent some time thinking about their faith story and then separated into twos, shared their stories with each other, and responded by identifying what good news they heard in their partners’ stories. This was one of the best received and most enjoyable sessions of the workshop.

The next session, ‘Five Elements of the Conversation’, talked about the ongoing evangelising conversation and its different elements of (1) bridging, (2) diagnosis, (3) asking permission, (4) making your case, and (5) closure. Then we looked at ‘ten helpful hints’ on various aspects of witness, including a few minutes discussing what to do when people raised difficult questions. The final session, ‘How to lead a friend to Christ’, helped us know what to do if a friend responds to our invitation positively and wants to commit their life to Christ.

Again, the evaluation forms were very positive and it was a really enjoyable day overall. We were blessed to have participants of all ages including a teenager, a young couple with a little baby, and several seniors. The diverse membership of the group made the sharing times very rich, as did people’s willingness to take risks and share their stories, not only in their ‘twosomes’ but also with the group as a whole.

At St. Margaret’s we are trying to be more effective in mission and outreach in our personal lives and in our life as a congregation. These two events were encouraging signs that our efforts are not in vain. God is at work leading us out in mission!

(Cross-posted at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church).

Reminders of Evil Universal

The Edmonton Journal printed a thought-provoking letter today, from a Canadian of German ancestry. Here’s an excerpt:

In the dying days of the war, the 500-year-old farms of both my mother and father’s family were expropriated, and the Soviet army took my peasant-farmer grandfather away, never to be heard from again. My parents were also forced to flee and become refuges in their own land, with my aunt being violated by Russian soldiers.

It is estimated that 13.5 million ethnic Germans were displaced after the Second World War, with estimated millions dying as a result. The horrors of war easily shared around. While my family suffered, there are no doubt those who suffered equally or greater by the war–many with their life. Isolated from the ideological or political agendas of the time, everyday people on both sides of the war suffered and still continue to do so in the wars and conflicts of today.

There is no such thing as a winner and loser in war, and while tributes to fallen soldiers are nice, they are not that far removed from the sentiment that legitimizes force and military action for disagreements among nation-states. This is not to say that all wars are unjustified or that soldiers are unworthy of praise, it is just that all wars come at a heavy civilian cost and these are the things this day requires we digest.

Read the whole thing here.

Christians and War: The Early Church Speaks (reblogged):

‘We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.’

– (Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4 – written about 160 AD)

‘To begin with the real ground of the military crown, I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. What sense is there in discussing the merely accidental, when that on which it rests is to be condemned? Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine, for a man to come under promise to another master after Christ, and to abjure father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself, to whom the gospel, too, holding them only of less account than Christ, has in like manner rendered honour? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he, forsooth, either keep watch-service for others more than for Christ, or shall he do it on the Lord’s day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself?…

‘…Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed’ (i.e. in believer’s baptism), ‘there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured’ (i.e. martyrdom) ‘which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept’.
– (Tertullian [c. 160-220 A.D.], ‘De Corona’ Chapter 11)

‘Chapter 19: Concerning Military Service’

‘In that last section, decision may seem to have been given likewise concerning military service, which is between dignity and power. But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters— God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier…’
– (Tertullian, On Idolatry [c. 200 A.D.])

‘From the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight. If therefore another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, brought in such a peace among the Gentiles which received it (the word), and convinced, through them, many a nation of its folly, then it appears that the prophets spoke of some other person. But if the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these’ (i.e. Christians throughout the world) ‘did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten,offer also the other cheek, then the prophets have not spoken these things of any other person, but of Him who effected them. This person is our Lord, and in Him is that declaration borne out’.

– Irenaus, Against Heresies IV.34 (c. A.D. 180)

‘In like manner, as the statement is false “that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion,” so also is this, “that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers;” for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defence of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors…’

– Origen, Contra Celsus Book III Chapter VII (c. A.D. 218).

‘For what wars should we not be fit, not eager, even with unequal forces, we who so willingly yield ourselves to the sword, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?’

– Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.), Apologeticum, 37.

Prayer Walk for Peace

Edmonton Prayer Walk for Peace: On November 11 members of various churches will gather in front of City Hall at 7 PM and begin a candlelight walk from City Hall to the War Memorial with stops at the Gandhi statue and Canada Place. There will be short times of remembrance, reflection and prayer at each stop. You are invited to join others to remember and pray for peace. For more information, contact Scott Key at (780) 435-9960 or

This event is sponsored by Holyrood Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church Alberta.

Kim Fabricius explains: ‘Why I Am a Shalomite’

My readers (all six of them) may have noticed that I’m not feeling particularly motivated about blogging lately. However, I did appreciate Kim Fabricius’ fine sermon ‘Why I Am a Shalomite’. Here are a couple of excerpts:

I want to explain something to you this morning, something that is important, something that is very important. As far as I am concerned, because — as I hope to explain — as far as I can tell, it goes to the very heart of being a Christian, a follower of Jesus. All my sermons have titles. I thought of calling this one “Why I Am a Pacifist”. But the term is too loaded to be of any theological use. So the title is, instead, “Why I Am a Shalomite”. It’s a term I made up. “Shalom”, as you know, is the Hebrew word for peace, and includes the notions of human well-being and creation perfected — so it means — well, that’s exactly what I want to explain!

Of course a shalomite is, in fact, a certain kind of pacifist, but this certain kind is, crucially, a different kind of pacifist. Let’s looks at some other kinds…

And again:

To come to the point. As the American theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it – because he puts it so much better than I could: ‘Non-violence is not one among other behavioural implications that can be drawn from the gospel but is integral to the shape of Christian convictions.’ And further — and to the point of the point: ‘Nonviolence is not just one implication among others that can be drawn from our Christian beliefs; it is the very heart of our understanding of God.’ You see I am a Shalomite — and I believe that at least all Christians and, in principle, all people should be Shalomites — not because of anything I know about the world or human beings, or through a calculus of war and peace, ‘but because of something I know about Jesus’ (William Willimon) and because of something Jesus knows about God: namely, that God is a God of Shalom, that (to adapt what St. John says about God and light and darkness [I John 1:5]) God is non-violent and in him there is no violence at all. And what is Christian ethics, what is the very heart of following the way of Jesus, if not learning to be like the God of Jesus? And how do we learn to be like the God of Jesus if not by obeying the teaching of Jesus? And what is the teaching of Jesus if not ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48)?

Read the rest here.

By the way, Kim addresses the obvious objection – what do you do about all those Old Testament wars? – in the comments.

In recent years I have become a pacifist myself but haven’t felt confident enough in my own ability to argue the case to attempt any sort of sustained and reasoned defence of my position on this blog. Also, the best defence is probably the complete works of John Howard Yoder, and that bar is rather high! Still, I’m grateful for Kim’s short statement and am glad to endorse it here (not that he needs my endorsement!).