Left on the Vine


The magazine may be no more, but the stories of the Presbyterian Church in Canada continue. Some articles take years to mature; some come to print quickly. (Yes, some are published prematurely; that happens, it’s called journalism.)

This is not a complete list of stories we left ripening on the vines. Some of these have been in the works for years, some we began preliminary work on only recently.

How a Church Goes Wrong.
This happens to congregations for far too many reasons. Often there is neither villain nor saint. Instead, a group of well-intended people following their best instincts end up fighting bitterly with each other, until presbytery has to come in and shut the place down. Ministers get caught in the fracas. Sometimes they start it. It’s a very difficult story to tell honestly. There is a binder of notes and data from a few congregations; we just couldn’t work out how to tell the story since it would have to be told with a lot of anonymous sources.

This was so close to being finished. Reams of research, book-reading and interviews now sit in a certain someone’s computer and notebooks. This was a story about the centrality of food to our faith—how it’s not only linked to hospitality, but to social justice, to community, and to the very heart of what we believe.

There is money in the church. Someplace. Some presbyteries have a lot of cash lying around. So do some congregations. Another difficult story to tell because it requires investigative journalism, which requires a lot of time and patienc­e—and likely some ruffled feathers.

There are congregational missions. Presbytery missions. And of course national projects. The latter are easy to source. The other two are sometimes difficult to find. There’s a mission to ageing Koreans and also Chinese; there are missions to new immigrants, sex workers, seniors, Natives suffering from the aftermath of residential schools, and many others. We tried to squeeze one into each issue; it was not always possible.

International Missions.
We have travelled as widely as we could. We’ve been to Malawi, India, Hungary, Afghanistan, Ghana and other places. Through our partners, like ACT Alliance and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, our church’s financial contributions are felt in every obscure corner of the planet. For example, our partners are involved in refugee camps in Jordan. We’d hoped to get there. Also, we had a story on Kenya slated for early 2017, and for years we wanted to visit our partners in Central America to tell of the work happening there, but time simply ran out.

We were starting to make a list of Presbyterians who have shared their good fortune and their skills to make dynamic and long lasting changes. Les Young, in Edmonton, for example, was a member of Alberta parliament, and has been a driving force behind a new cutting-edge housing development at Westmount. David Jennings recently received an honorary doctorate from St. Andrew’s Hall for his remarkable leadership. Vivian Ketchum’s personal story rolled out this year in her column but there’s more to her. There are others who deserve recognition and whose stories inspire us all.

Artistry and Spirituality.
Florence MacGregor, who worships at St. Andrew’s, Toronto, is the first recipient of the Christopher Plummer Artistic Scholarship Award. An accomplished actor, seen at Stratford for years, she has been developing a seminar that melds the worlds of the actor and the preacher; worlds, she argues, which have the same roots. Incarnating the spiritual; using the body to express the text.

Han-Ca and Other Culturally-Based Church Communities.
Culturally exclusive congregations are a good idea and a bad idea. As in the rest of the denomination, the young aren’t choosing church as a viable source for their spiritual needs.

The Effect of Multiculturalism & Immigration on the PCC.
The title says it all. The church has changed; you can’t tell by looking at the participants at General Assembly, and that’s part of the story.

Presbytery—A Love/Hate Relationship.
Some are extremely dysfunctional. Some aren’t. What are the best practices? Or are there any? Is it a concept that needs radical rethinking?

We’re going to live longer and with that will come challenges. We were looking to get a palliative care nurse and a prominent Presbyterian theologian to talk about death.

More on the Missional Church.
And more on church planting. Lots more. More on entrepreneurial practices to develop missional projects.

Bill C-14
Medical assistance in dying. This goes with the death issue, but also deserves to be dealt with on its own. When the bill was introduced, the comments on PCC-related Facebook pages were pretty even on either side. Another important if divisive issue.

Synods—Do We Need Them Anymore?
Hardly anymore for the purposes of polity. A few run camps. But is that enough to justify another polity layer?

Interim Ministry.
It’s an art, a science and a mission. As more churches struggle, specilized interim ministry pastors are needed to help shape the future.

Second, Third, Fourth Career Ministers.
They’re older, more experienced, more certain of themselves. They may be more financially secure and less inclined to be rocked by congregational and denominational pressures. They’re changing the way we do church.

Two-Career Ministers.
More and more ministers are working part-time in the pulpit with another day job. This is how it used to be, and how it is in many other denominations.

Lots of Miscellania.
There have been good submissions languishing in all of our inboxes. Some that needed a little massaging, some that required a lot of restructuring. Altogether dozens of ideas waiting for their time in print.