Monthly Archives: June 2007

No CPE at this time

Last week, in talking to someone about options I’m considering for the future, I was given contact information for the director of a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program nearby. I sent out an exploratory inquiry.

Yesterday, after some reading of descriptive materials and a conversation with the director of the program, I decided not to take CPE training at this time. There are a few reasons, not all of which I wish to share publicly. The ones I can are: It is not a program that comes in conjuction with a paid position as a chaplain and in fact it costs. It runs two daytime days a week from Sept until Spring and may then interfere with employment opportunities that might come my way. Also, I was told by the director – who knows my situation and my former congregation – that CPE is not a place to go to process separations from congregations, but to equip oneself better professionally for a certain aspect of pastoral work. 

So that is now off the table for now. There is a 5 week intensive course next summer that might work, depending on my situation at that time. 

I am very encouraged though that options are coming my way, even at a time when I am not yet ‘actively’ persuing any. I plan to get busy with that in mid July. I already have four preaching engagments for July/August.

For now, I’m helping out here and there as I get requests, I’m having debriefing meetings, and I’m brushing up on my resume/profile. Tonight I start packing for a week’s Father/Daughter adventure camp next week with our oldest Daughter.

That trip, by the way, means there will be no report on a visit to a church this coming Sunday, unless I post ahead of time about an experience I had visiting a church last December. 

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Posted by on June 26, 2007 in Decision, Future


Visiting a church 4

Well, this Sunday’s experience was different again. The variety in God’s people’s ways of worship is fascinating. I went to a large urban church. I got inside and seated in the padded pews just as the service began. There were lots of different ethnicities present, to give two categories they were mainly of Oriental background and there were a lot of very Dark people of African origin as well. Still, it was predominantly white. There were a wide variety of economic layers present, as reflected in the range of dressing styles.

A worship leading pastor welcomed us, and we sang a set of praise and dedication songs. Three of the four were known to me. Right away there was a ‘reaching’ sense in the congregation, a sense of reaching for something of God, with many physically reaching their arms out like antenae, open to receive. Where the music had power last week, here it was much more subdued. There was a male worship leader, and three vocalists, and a range of typical instruments (Drums, Elec guitar, piano, keyboard and I think a console organ) but nothing really stood out audibly where I was. It all had a subdued/muffled  feeling to it. No matter how carefully I listened, for instance, I could not pick out the voices of the vocalists. The positive side of this is that it had the opposite effect of last week. Today the music ‘supported’ the singing, and did not overwhelm it or discourage it. Yet it didn’t quite ‘carry’ it either.

There were three infant dedications.

Then we heard a message on Speaking In Tongues as described mainly in 1 Cor 14. Clearly this church was from a Pentecostal tradtion, and the message, though soundly biblical, showed the Pentecostal understanding and experience of how that works. The message was closer to a teaching time than an inspirational message and I found myself having a hard time staying with it. It was long, and the person speaking was far away…

After the message we went into a singing, receiving mode, where we were as a congregation invited to ask for the gift of tongues to be given to us or released in us. That time started kind of tame, but at one point suddenly I could feel a shift and various people around the congregation started humming or singing or, in one case, shouting phrases. The feeling came first, then the responses. The lady who was shouting was out of my sight, but clearly had an African sounding voice. Sometimes her utternances sounded like English, other times they were clearly some other language. The speaker kept trying – in my impression – to reign in that kind of individual utterance, repeating that we were in a communal mode of seeking and listening, not an indivitual one. The song leader came back, and there was an extended time of singing and praying and “ministry time” as people were invited to come forward for prayer, but were also given permission to leave if they wanted. I stayed a while yet, long enough to experience a second ‘shift’ of the mood in the place. With this one I felt something both physical and spiritual wafting through me and the area. The fellow sitting in front of me suddenly began humming a tune similar to one I was humming to myself and then he launched into singing/shouting a cry for the Spirit to rain/reign. He went from that to weeping, to kneeling in the pew over the next 15 minutes.

It was an interesting experience, not completely uncomfortable for me, I’ve been to others like it, yet not completely comfortable either. The sense of ‘something happening spiritually’ was twice unmistakable and I appreciated it. I came home refreshed in some ways, but not feeling like I had a bond or common culture with the community.


Visiting a Church 3

Today I visited a church that is further up the valley. The congregation worships in a warehouse-type building in a small industrial mall. I got there about 7 minutes prior to the service starting. The place slowly filled up with attendees. There were many age groups visible, primarily 20 somethings to 50 somethings. I saw very few under twenties. A wide variety of apparel patterns were wonderfully visible as well, from jeans and an untucked shirt to full tailored suits and everything inbetween. Demographically it probably was a good representation of it’s area, with very few minorities present. There was a friendly atmosphere, with people greeting at the door and lots of relevant information in the handout. The seats were very comfortable padded stacking chairs. People were having soft conversations as the countdown clock in a corner of the projection screen showed how much time was left before the service began. You could see the leaders gather at the side of the stage for a prayer huddle before beginning. I like seeing that. The musicians began leading us, after a short word of welcome and a word to the fathers for father’s day. I knew very few of the songs, so it was difficult to fully participate. Even the ones that were somewhat familiar were hard to join in on, because some of the rythms and music patterns were different than I was accustomed to. This led me to wonder if the music leadership was either a little too ‘entertainment’ or ‘soloist’ oriented, or if it was a problem of general song selection not having a focus on being ‘singable’. The songs were all relevant to the overall theme of the service. It is fair to say that to a degree, this song leading issue interfered with my fully feeling like I was participating in worship. I felt more like I was watching it.

The group has a great light and sound setup, so you tend to forget you are in a warehouse building. The sound quality particularly stood out for me, with bass you could feel — which I like — yet which didn’t overwhelm. There was some trouble with the higher midrange vocal range, so the female vocalists did not come through very well. I thought one of them was singing a very interesting lower harmony line but I could not hear it well.

There was an update from a missionary who works with AIDS orphans in Africa. It was heartfelt and touching and passionate.

The pastor’s message was very personal and personable, even though the pastor gave a few counter-cultural challenges within it. It was related to Father’s Day, emphasizing that most if not all fathers are flawed fathers, but pointing to the perfect Father as one to rely on. There were several personal touches in the point-form, scripture-founded message, and these helped one feel immediately connected to and relating with the pastor. The pastor is a ‘pacer’ — a trait I can relate to — but it became annoying to notice that he never looked down the center toward the back, mainly looking from side to side as he paced. It may have been a lighting problem, where when you are up front the lights are so bright you can’t see up the middle. At the end of the message Fathers were invited forward for prayer and a treat.

Despite the glitches I have mentioned, I felt at home and moved to greater appreciation of God the perfect Father and his work among this group and in my life.


Posted by on June 17, 2007 in Reflection, report on event, Worship


LifeLessons page begun

Today I created the LifeLessons page. Wheras some pages are about my response to books, these will be about experiences I’ve been given that have shaped my ideas. This is where I feel I really live–in these stories–because whenever I am asked to explain something I tend to need to tell the story first, then the lesson. If you like stories, come on into my life by clicking on the link below…


Visiting a Church 2

I visited another church this morning. It was an old building in a residential area. I arrived about 10 minutes before the stated service start time, and when I went inside there were a only a handful of people and about the same number of small children. The space is typical of it’s era. Wood panel just over one meter up the side walls with painted plaster the rest of the way up. There were old oak pews, in a curved or semicircular arrangement, a wood floor which looked like it had been refinished, a raised stage with music equipment and mikes set up, and a fair bit of natural light. For some reason I never took a close look at the windows. The atmosphere at that point was very casual, people were chatting, wandering around, some were discussing a few final preparations. The church is quite active in the community, based on their phone answering recording which tells you what numbers you want to dial if you want to reach certain agencies. The bulletin handout as well had lots of such information. Someone met me at the door and handed me one. I sat near the back and looked around. A young father with a baby in hand came over to talk to me, and we had very a very relaxed “Hello, have you been here before… Where you from?” conversation. He was more relaxed than I, because I have not decided clearly what I will say in response to such questions.

Over time more and more people filtered in. They kept arriving, well into the start of the service, until by the end the building was more than half full. There were two or three clear themes to the group. One was that the vast majority were in their twenties, a lot of them couples. The second was that there were quite a few people of non Caucasion backgrounds. A third was their general ‘laid back-ness.’ It could have been the children of a hippy group-with a few of the hippies around as well. It was all refreshingly and promisingly young and casual. There was not a full suit in the place, though one person was wearing a suit jacket. There were also a few people who clearly were from the margins of society, and there was no one who had a deliberate appearance of being upper crust.

A group of youths led the worship. Several were vocalists, there was a tom-tom type drum, an amplified guitar and a piano. Instrumental skill was very evident. The words were projected from a transparency-sheet overhead projector. One person seemed to be in charge of the sequence of events and announcing what was next. I always admire the courage of a group of teens and youth getting up and leading and this group took their task seriously, overcoming what looked like stage awkwardness to deliver the goods – including the scripture reading. Another did the children’s story later. There was a bit of a feel in the songs of trying to recreate another worship event at another place and time. Somehow we just lacked vigor all together in the end. A feeling of going through the motions echoing another better time grew in me. It may be that the congregation did not know the songs, though I knew at least half of them. That lack of zing, of spark, of zest prevailed unfortunately. It was too bad.

The message was decent in its own right. It had a social justice/earth care/ heaven’s perspective theme to it. It had a good mix of personal story and scripture explanation and had a good point to make overall, but in my estimation it missed gospel, good news. I had a sense that I and some in the congregation were having a hard time staying engaged in the message.

I went home disappointed in the end, when the situation had looked very promising.


Back from retreat

I got back from my time of retreat Friday at noon. I am not sure right now how worthwhile it was. I did have some good ideas, worked on some anxieties, and on Thursday had a contrarian breakthrough in reflecting on how churches and pastors ‘find’ each other. I wrote a reflection on that which I’ve put elsewhere on this blog.

My main sense is a relief that a difficult chapter is done, and I’m accepting and even embracing the necessity and wisdom of it ending, hard as it was. I thought I’d be doing a lot of journalling about that experience, but I’ve done quite a lot of that while it was going on, so I felt no urge to revisit it.  Actually I disocvered I’m quite relieved that I can turn my energies back to other equally difficult chapters in life that have been neglected due to the demands of this one just ended. And I still have a sense that there is something ‘in the works’ for me, somewhere, somehow.

It’s a good discipline to have to keep active while waiting for God. We’ll see.



Saw this deer today while out on a walk. If you look closely you will see this is a very unique deer, typical of the laid back culture on the Island. The deer is attempting to grow some kind of dreadlocks along with it’s horns. My guess is it grazed someone’s “herb” garden if you know what I mean…

Deer on Bowen 



In an hour or two I’m leaving for four away days of retreat and reflection. Unless I find an internet connection where I am, I don’t intend to post anything for that time period. I will however, very likely be preparing posts about my thoughts and experiences on retreat, so I may have a flurry of posts over the next weekend.

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Posted by on June 4, 2007 in Future, report on event


150th Anniversary service

Tonight I attended a special regional service thanking God for our denomination being in existence for 150 years. It was a good thing to do. It was good worship, a good word was heard, and good reunion-type fellowship was had afterwards. The singing was especially powerful, with songs well chosen for the crowd that was there, which was predominantly near 50’s folks and 65-and-over folks, with a very small proportion of children (most of them probably from the grade 4 choir that sang, and a handful of teens or young adults.

It was a sign of something that the song which had most potential to blow the roof off — Days of Elijah — seemed to be the least familiar, or had the least powerful participation. What struck me during other songs, which clearly had worship power in the singing of them, was that some of the hand raising and clapping (very little of that still) which happened would have had the founders of 150 years ago starting another new denomination.

All in all it was good for us to come together in praise of God and to foster a sense of being part of something bigger that has been around for 150 years and hopes for another century or two.

I raised my communion cup to the call to turn anew to Jesus so we can thrive and not merely survive. Hear, hear, and Amen!


Visiting a church

This morning I visited a church in the neighbourhood. My only connection was that I’d met the pastor a couple of times and it was clear in those meetings we shared some common interests.

The fourth person I saw once I was inside was… Elvis! I wondered what I was in for! Later in the service when he went up to sing a gospel song I found out he’d been baptized there a few weeks earlier.

I found a seat and watched as the worship space filled up with a wide variety of people. The wise and the young, the discerning and the old, residents of the world, of Canada and of the Tri-Cities gathered. The feel to start off was one of of a chaotic friendliness, a reunion. The look and spirit was that of ordinary saints plopping down together to see what God would bring.

I worried when the first song began. It had a distinct country twang to it, and a couple of the musicians seemed to be really into that, but none were wearing boots and hats, so I did not leave. Country is not my culture. The stories of heartbreak reflected in country music may be my life, but I can’t relate well to that expression. Having seen Elvis, you can imagine that by now I was really wondering… and then I started to attend to the words of the country flavoured song, words of welcome, words of family coming together out of sin into God’s presence, and a worship sense began to get traction.

And so I worshipped with this group, arriving as a visitor, a stranger. We witnessed a couple being baptized, and heard of the journey that brought them to that point of public commitment. We received communion together. And we spent time in thankfulness, with opportunity given for people to stand and speak their gratitude to God out loud. There was a lot of heartfelt gratitude expressed, for God’s work in lives, for God’s work through a congregation’s caring and prayer, for God’s work through a pastor, through leaders, through small groups. True worship. People speaking of brokeness past and present, and of God’s working in and through and around and despite that brokenness. That’s what I heard, and I was one with the congregation in that thankfulness. I arrived a stranger, I left feeling connected to the people through having worshipped God together.