Category Archives: Religion

You’re Not a Christian

When I was a writer for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press I would frequently get letters telling me I was not a Christian.   I would write about the equal roles men and women should play in the church, or encourage religious institutions to join the campaign against smoking, or present evidence that sanctions from other countries were hurting the most vulnerable in Iraq.  I never knew what kind of column might invite a response from someone who’d tell me I was not a Christian or inform me that despite my membership in a Christian church I did not represent its views. 

I was reminded of that this week when the Nashville Statement from 150 evangelical leaders was released.  One of its articles essentially states that you cannot call yourself a true Christian if you approve of homosexual or transgender lifestyles. The article goes on to say  people who call themselves Christians shouldn’t even agree to disagree about the morality of those lifestyles.  

That certainly leaves me and my church out of the Christian loop.  We have a rainbow flag on our church website and each week our church bulletin states that……………….  Imitating the inclusive welcome of Jesus, we seek to be a community marked by the love of God. Regardless of age, race, or sexual orientation, we invite you to make our church your spiritual home.

Literally thousands of Christian leaders have responded to the Nashville Statement saying they disagree with it. 

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg

It seems to me that debates and pronouncements  about whose ‘in’ or ‘out’ when it comes to being a Christian are a colossal waste of time in a world where millions are waiting for love and help and hope.  

Other posts………

Chinese Spiritual Practices

The Children Are Watching and Listening and Wondering

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together?

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Seeing Things In A Different Way

 I talked with someone who had experienced a disturbing situation recently. Immediately afterward they sat down and wrote out how they might view the troubling incident in eight different ways……. with perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. After contemplating and responding to the event from each of those standpoints it seemed less daunting and distressing. I asked if it wasn’t hard to view challenging conflicts from all those different angles. I was told if you make a habit of doing so, it becomes relatively easy. 

dali lama and desmond tutuThose eight ways of looking at a difficult situation are the eight pillars of joy explained in the book The Secret to Joy which records a five day conversation between the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu.  Author Douglas Carlton Abrams weaves their dialogue together with narration.  I purchased the book for our church library and have just started to read it.  

In am looking forward to learning more about how I can use the principles in my own life.  I can already think of a number of situations and relationships where the pillars of joy might just come in handy. 

Other posts……….

Start and End Happy

Pura Vida

Coin Rings- Luck Springs

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Thomas Times Two

This coming Sunday I will be giving the sermon at the United Church in Steinbach.  I will be looking at two saints of the church who share a first name- Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More.  Thus the title of my talk and this blog post- Thomas Times Two.  The reason I’ve chosen that title is because I have to speak the following Sunday in my Winnipeg church and that’s the topic they gave me.  I wanted to use the same sermon in both churches.  Each Sunday in summer our congregation Bethel Mennonite is looking at the lives of two saints and examining what we can learn from them for our own lives.  

thomas more by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas More

I won’t give away too much of my talk just in case you are planning on hearing it at either location, but I will tell you I’ve learned lots of interesting stuff about both Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More as I’ve researched their lives.  Like the fact Thomas Aquinas was a gifted musician as well as a famous thinker and writer.  And that fact that Thomas More aside from serving as an advisor to King Henry VIII, loved animals and lived with a house full of interesting creatures.  

thomas aquinas

Thomas Aquinas

I didn’t know Thomas Aquinas was best friends with Saint Bonaventure or that Thomas More has more than a hundred  educational institutions named after him.  I also gleaned plenty of good life advice from the two men named Thomas. 

I do wish at least one of the saints I had been assigned to speak about was a woman. They are sadly neglected in the church’s catalogue of saints, but I have learned a whole lot as I have studied two men who lived the most interesting of lives, one in Italy and the other in England almost two centuries apart. 

Other posts………….

More Visible But Not Equal

My Husband and the Pope Are On The Same Page

Sunday Morning Worship with Quakers in Costa Rica

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Filed under History, Religion

More Visible But Not Equal

I saw the movie The Women’s Balcony at the Toronto International Film Festival Theatre this week. It reminded me of just how far we’ve come in giving women an equal place with men in religious institutions and just how far we still have to go. 

women's balconyThe Women’s Balcony is a Hebrew film about a synagogue in Jerusalem being influenced by their new young conservative rabbi who wants women to worship separately from men in a closed room at the side of the temple. The women want to worship in an open balcony right in the same area as the men worship. Eventually the women leave their husbands because they are siding with the new rabbi.  The women raise the money for a balcony and manage to get it built. They return to their husbands who facilitate the removal of the conservative rabbi and the return of their older more flexible rabbi. Progress has been made although the fact that official power in the synagogue still rests with a man, or that women still sit separately from their husbands in a balcony isn’t addressed in the film. Reading about the film later I learned it reflects the ongoing divide in Judaism between orthodox and liberal factions and their differing views of women’s roles in the church. Women are becoming more visible but are still far from equal. 

church mennonite heritage village museum

Church at the Mennonite Village Museum with separate sides for men and women. 

I can remember attending my grandparents’ church where men and women sat on different sides of the sanctuary.  I grew up in a church where there were no women pastors or leaders.  Thankfully those times have changed in some Christian churches but in others women still have no voice and are not represented in leadership at all. This lack of equality for women in the Southern Baptist Church is what led former American President Jimmy Carter to publicly announce he was leaving the denomination after his family had belonged to it for generations. A council created by my Mennonite denomination in 2016 to oversee a time of transition in our national church body contained eight men and one woman.  Women were more visible than they would have been in the past but they still were far from equal. 

In my lifetime women have gained greater representation and influence in religious spheres but the journey is far from complete. 

Other posts……..

Questions After Watching the Film Silence

The Children are Watching and Listening and Wondering

A Woman I Wish I Knew More About

 

 

 

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A Grandmother for Jesus

Jesus’ grandmother Anne was one of the featured saints in a sermon in our church last Sunday.  The apocryphal Gospel of James has Anne’s story.  She was Mary’s mother and Jesus’ grandmother.  Artistic depictions of Anne show her playing an important role in her grandson’s life.  

virgin-and-child-with-st-anne-jpglucas-cranach-the-elder.jpeg

Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Lucas Cranach the Elder 1520

The sermon about Anne last Sunday brought back memories of two churches dedicated to Jesus’ grandmother I’ve visited. ste. anne's church jerusalemThis is St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem.  I visited it on a school trip with my Hong Kong students. pool of bethesda jerusalemThe church is located right beside the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. This is fitting because Anne is the saint of healing. Interestingly Anne’s church in Jerusalem is at the same spot where there used to be a shrine to the Greek god of healing Ascelepius.  

statue of mary and her mother Saint Anne Church Jerusalem

Statue of Anne and her daughter Mary in the St. Anne church in Jerusalem. Like the Old Testament character Hannah, Anne thought she wouldn’t be able to have children and was an older woman when Mary was born. 

st-anne-churchIn Quebec City I visited the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.crutches and canes st. annes

At the back of the church are all these cabinets filled with crutches and canes people have left behind. They didn’t need them anymore after visiting St. Annes’  church because St. Anne healed them. She is the saint of healing. 

da vinci the virgin and child with st. anne

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Leonardo da Vinci

I never knew about Ste. Anne till I visited the two churches built in her honor. It is interesting to realize there are religious writings that gives Jesus a grandmother who played an important role in his life just like many grandmothers do for all of us.
Other posts………….

 

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There’s More to the Shakespeare in the Ruins Site Than I Thought

Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park St. NorbertI’ve been to the former Trappist Monastery site in St. Norbert many times to watch productions of Shakespeare in the Ruins. But I didn’t know anything about the history of the place. I also didn’t know that behind the area where the theatre productions are held there is a garden and cultural centre.  One of my Winnipeg Art Gallery colleagues helps to maintain the beautiful green space around that cultural centre and she told me about it recently.

Ready for the play to begin

So when we attended the Shakespeare in the Ruins production of Romeo and Juliet on Friday night I made a point at intermission to go and find the cultural centre and its surrounding garden.  

The current St. Norbert Arts Centre was once a guest house for the Our Lady of the Prairies monastery which was established in 1892 for about forty Trappist monks fleeing from religious persecution in France. At the monastery they ran a bakery, greenhouse, sawmill and blacksmith shop.  They had bees and cows and sold meat, milk, cheese and honey. They also devoted themselves to prayer and contemplation. So it is fitting that the garden around the former guest house is called a meditation garden. It is a beautiful place to walk and think. 

The lilac bushes in the garden smelled wonderful

 I was all alone in the garden during intermission on Friday night. It was lovely and quiet. A century ago it was a quiet  garden too, because the Trappist monks only communicated by sign language.

I realized after reading more about the St. Norbert Arts Centre on their website that there is also a vegetable garden, orchard, ceremonial grounds with two sweat lodges and kitchen building which I didn’t see. I’ll have to look for those on my next visit. 

Other posts………

Dorothy’s Garden

Plants That Talked to Me

Home Grown in Newfoundland

 

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Filed under Religion, Theatre, Winnipeg

Let Me Count The Ways

 

Let Me Count The Ways……….

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”  – Luke 10:27

 

heart of compassion

my mother listening to people…. as if what they had to say to her was the most important thing in the world

those women in my church hugging me and quietly sharing their own stories of loss

my mother-in-law’s nurses whispering words of love to her as they tenderly provided palliative care

 

soul of wonder

Grandma teaching me to split open pea pods with my fingernail

watching my son hold his infant son against his heart

marveling at that black sky over our mesa just jam-packed with stars

 

strength of spirit

my husband’s grandmother surviving that week she hid in the cellar with her four little boys while the bandits terrorized their village

my father supporting my mother through more than a thousand dialysis treatments

my son’s music group continuing their international tour even after thieves stole all of their instruments

 

mind of curiosity

that Old Testament professor making us reconsider all our assumptions by assigning an essay about the geography of our faith

the inspiration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friends who in 1895 wrote reflections about every single woman mentioned in the Bible

the children I guide at the art gallery who are always finding things in the paintings I’ve never seen before

 

neighbor as self

my husband stopping to listen to the stories of the people who ask him for money on the street

my sister opening her heart and home to that refugee mother and her children

my former church congregation singing in full harmony at the end of every gathering …..ubi caritas et amour deus ibi est

Where charity and love are, God is there.

 

Other posts………

Encouragement 

Wisdom from Dr. Seuss

Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

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