We've all been supremely generous over the suffering in southern Asia and the tragedy has moved individual and government alike. So let's all go a little further and be just a little more generous. Let's insist that our governments forgive Third World debt.
Grace Presbyterian, Calgary, is a growing congregation in the heart of the city. The downtown church with a membership of almost 600 grossed $24,000 last year with its annual Christmas cake fundraiser. The popular project sells nearly 5,000 pounds of cake to parishioners and non-church goers alike. Going strong for about 40 years, the cakes require a mammoth amount of ingredients, including 100 kilograms of sugar, 145 kilograms of butter, 270 kilograms of raisins, 454 kilograms of almonds and 250 cartons of eggs.
What is more joyous than the birth of a baby? Ironically, following this joyous event, congregations often neglect or even ignore children in the first six years of life. Small children are shuffled into nurseries — often poorly equipped — because they make noise. 'Teaching' of small children often consists of a haphazard and random list of volunteers. Yet these early years are incredibly important. Physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual achievements are enormous in the first six years.
A congregation without a minister is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. For St. Andrew's, Flin Flon (in northern Manitoba and an eight-hour drive from Brandon), this was just the case. Four years with an empty pulpit motivated them to address the general lack of support for rural and remote ministries. They soon realized their situation was not unique among rural congregations (six of the 14 charges in the presbytery are without a minister), and were convinced rural and remote ministries have a low profile in the life of the national church.
The Supreme Court opinion on gay marriage delivered in December is only one chapter in the long history of the issue in this country. Fundamental arguments aside, what is so surprising is how self-congratulatory people have been because the ruling claims to respect freedom of religion. In other words, we have been assured that clergy who refuse to marry gay couples will not face pressure or prosecution.
While the HIV/AIDS pandemic is ravaging parts of the world, the folks in the Presbytery of Lanark and Renfrew are doing what they can to help. "There is a sense of closeness and caring," said Rev. Milton Fraser, St. Andrew's, Arnprior. "In terms of the relationship within the congregations and within the community, there is a genuine concern for each other."
It really is extraordinary how little most media people know about the Christian faith and its adherents. The period since the election in the United States has been a disgrace for journalism. Especially for Canadian journalism. Especially for liberal Canadian journalism. Unable to tolerate losing in the game of democracy, left-leaning pundits decided to blame the participants. Welcome to the hellish world of The Christian Right.
"Over eighty people for the first sitting!"
"What makes your 'call' as a ruling elder or clergy different from a job in the secular market place or a volunteer position in a social agency?" The question opened a workshop led by the Elders' Institute, a program of St. Andrew's Hall in Vancouver, in the Maritimes last October.