In one of our Classis discussions, during a presentation by Bernadette Arthur from Race Relations, I suggested a book resource called Living in Color. The author of that book is Randy Woodley and he is an Indigenous theologian, scholar and church ministry leader. He has a wealth of experience in pastoral ministry and gives others a picture of what racial reconciliation could look like. As a Keetoowah Cherokee member and someone who has studied biblical theology, Woodley helps the reader celebrate God’s beautiful plan to reveal Himself through every culture. I selected this as the NADC book recommendation, for the latest newsletter, but I wanted to give a bit longer book review of it here.
Woodley starts the book in the most logical place for Christians, at creation, in the book of Genesis. The Creator made a world of immeasurable diversity and our natural world is still revealing new and diverse forms of life that have been previously undiscovered. Even in the things we know a lot about, we see complexity that suggests our Creator loves diversity, including human diversity. “He is a God of innovation and extravagance, diversity and lavishness. God is the artist who formed the planet Saturn and its beautiful surrounding rings. He is the humorist who formed the giraffe and the narwhale, the armadillo and the platypus.”
At our last Classis meeting we were introduced to a beautiful new song but isn’t it interesting how our own contexts can bring different emotions in times of worship. I understand this to be song of celebration of our salvation in Christ Jesus and a promise from God of perfect restoration, but being shortly removed from spending time in Mexico, it was a difficult song for me to sing. Now when I say Mexico, I don’t mean resort Mexico, I mean Mexico the way seventy percent of the population lives it. I joined a team to travel to Cuernavaca for a program called Quest Mexico (www.quest-mexico.org). The final line in the chorus of the above song (We will feast and weep no more) is referring to a future time of hope and unification with our creator, but in the realness of here and now, in places like Tlamacazapa, Mexico, weeping and hunger are what the people face every day.
My heart was broken as I tried to sing through tears, thinking about the people I met, who welcomed me into what they called their home. In this little rural village in south/central Mexico, there are limited (at best) amenities of electricity and water and no septic system at all. Families struggled to survive using palm leaves to weave into baskets and trinkets. They also hand crafted small bracelets to try and sell in the streets. Children as young as six years old were being taught to weave and employed into the family business to try and make enough money to provide the basics of daily bread.
When we asked why the children were at home and not school, the parents told us that they could not send their children to school because they were fearful of losing them. In recent months, members of a local drug cartel had come into the community and kidnapped a dozen children from the school to use as forced workers in their drug business. The rural village is not on the radar of the government or law enforcement units and so the people are left to struggle on their own. It is this isolation and lack of resources that makes the people vulnerable and now fearful to even let their children out of their sight. As a parent with young children, this was one of the most difficult stories for me to see and hear about. It broke my heart to see kids not being able to be kids, not being able to go to school and flourish in the freedom, joy and young bliss that they should be able to live in.
We left that day, challenged to find hope in a situation that felt utterly hopeless. Wondering what could be changed to allow the systems of injustice to be loosened for communities like this. Praying that God will remain with them in ways we do not know or understand, to comfort and sustain them. This was just one encounter of an eye opening, challenging and informative journey that I was blessed to be a part of. I will share more stories of it in the near future, I hope to engage diaconates with some of the ways it connects directly to our lives in Canada and despite the trouble and challenges we saw, the over-riding message we encountered was one of renewing hope.
Despite the challenge of the song for me on that day, as I reflect on it further, it does fit in with that sense of hope we heard over and over. It was also paired with the call to worship from Isaiah 25 and verses 4 and 5 speak to the situation well. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall, or like the relentless heat of the desert. But you silence the roar of foreign nations. As the shade of a cloud cools relentless heat, so the boastful songs of ruthless people are stilled.
This we pray today, Amen. - Jesse
Here is the latest edition of the NADC newsletter with a new featured book, artist and some of what has been going on in our churches and diaconates. For download or easier viewing, click on the file link or newsletter archives button. Also included in this post is the full document of the opening worship/devotional time for the March Classis meetings that integrated an indigenous land acknowledgement that I previously mentioned.
Classis recently held its spring meetings in Lacombe, at Woody Nook Church, and had a really good time of connecting, hearing from local ministries, as well as a couple of denominational presentations. We also had the blessing of being a part of examining two candidates and they both passed! Congrats to them, their families and churches. I will be writing a bit more detailed review of what happened and discussion relevant to deacons in a further post. For now, see the documents below that are: the minutes from a NADC deacons meeting in February, the presentation notes from our DMC partner Lucinda Klapwyk, on senior care at that meeting, my written report for the aforementioned Classis meeting and a reminder why it is important and highly valuable for deacons to be at Classis!
Jesse Edgington - NADC Consultant - firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know anyone thinking about social enterprise within the ethical, theological and spiritual context of the Christian church? Are you a businessperson who makes money but also cares about the social aspects of your family and others in your community? Have you had conversations with your diaconate, or someone in your church, about community needs, congregational assets, and entrepreneurial ideas from the perspective of church ministries?
These are questions in the social enterprise field that have the potential to intersect the business world and your faith. Could your church be a place in the community that provides a good or services while meeting a social need? Would it be a viable and morally acceptable option for a church to be a place that offers addictions counseling, sells a fair trade product, operates a food truck or is a part time safe injection site?
Maybe there can be a shift in focus from the prosperity gospels of decades past, to a social enterprise gospel that was prophesied about in the book of Jeremiah 29. This could be a foreshadowing word that points to the redemptive work of Christ that causes all relationships to flourish, even relationships between us and how we see our money or economy. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Verse 11 goes on to say, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”
Now this has certainly been where the prosperity gospel had taken its foundation from, but other translations use the word welfare instead of prosperity. In social enterprise, businesses want to see that it is not just one person in the business equation prospering with wealth and well being, but creating an equitable balance, social meaning and a sustainable future for all people and their communities (the welfare of all).
Social enterprise has the potential to resonate with the youth and young adults in our churches as well. Could deacons partner in that, disciple and mentor them in that? I am sure they would teach us an enormous amount in the process.
“It is common to assign an entrepreneurial spirit to young people, who readily align themselves with the values associated with entrepreneurship, particularly social entrepreneurship—that “triple bottom line” way of doing business that insists on doing good and doing well at the same time.” But unfortunately, many young people seeking this kind of life are going, not to the church, but to TOMS Shoes to find it. (Kenda Creasy Dean)
Do deacons have a role in youth and young adult ministry? Are community opportunity scans more than just finding out the demographics of your neighborhood? Maybe looking into what God is doing already in your neighborhood will lead you to a gap in social needs, or an opportunity to provide something your community could thrive with. Maybe deacons dreaming about and starting social enterprise is an old way of doing church ministry; before governments and institutions took over things like schools, hospitals and food production. In seeking God with all our heart, and loving our literal neighbors, it could be done again in a fresh new way. At the very least, we should be learning about companies already doing this kind of work around us and supporting them in it. God gives us hope and a future; we turn back to him with all of our life, praying to and being heard by Him.
Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger for thirst and righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Did your church hold a Blue Christmas service this year? Have you participated in one or heard about them? I know a few CRC churches in our Classis regularly have them in December or January and they often coincide with winter solstice, which is the darkest day of the year (in terms of the amount of daylight hours). If you were not able to attend a service in December and if you missed the workshop at the DOE about grief and loss, here is your opportunity to do one or both on the same day. January 20th at Trinity CRC in Edmonton, Ben Bentum from Wellwood Counselling will be hosting a workshop at 5 PM, which will be followed by a remembrance service at 6:30 PM. All are welcome to attend either or both. Read down further for details on the workshop and to see the poster with details.
Longest Night Remembrance Service and Healing Grief Workshop
The holiday season can be a difficult time for those of us who are grieving, often without much time for turning towards our losses. As we enter into the new year we would like to invite you to an evening of remembering and lamenting together. Whether you are the person grieving the death of a loved one, the loss of a job opportunity, dreams, health, relationships, or something else entirely, or if you are supporting someone who is grieving, you are invited to join us for this service. Prior to the service, we are hosting a healing workshop led by Ben Bentum a Registered Provisional Psychologist with Wellwood Counselling.
Over the Christmas break we may be lucky enough to visit family that we do not often see, or get Christmas cards and letters from loved ones that are living in other places. This brings life updates, heartwarming stories of adventure, but also a vast array of emotions that come with hearing news of all kinds. I felt a mix of those emotions over the holidays and heard stories on extreme ends of spectrums. I heard a story about a relative of mine working for a client with a 7000 square foot garage that housed a multitude of sports cars worth many million dollars. On the other end of that spectrum, I know many of our churches helped families in need over Christmas, as well as those in their communities and cities.
While I was at my parents house, gathering for Christmas, they received a family letter from aunts and uncles in Saskatchewan. It was beautifully written in the form of a poem, but this particular poem was more like a lament from the authors. They were remembering their year, which was to be their last on the homestead farm, after 65 long years of being rooted in that place. They described it as a year of one last times. One last time with the garden, one last time with their animals, one last time sitting watching the fields and hearing the train go by. It was moving to hear and read, with most of us in tears by the end.
It really made me wonder about the future of my parents, and of many others in our churches, who are either in or approaching their later years of life. Time is such a challenging continuum for us to grasp and I often tell God I wished we could understand it better. Even in a world like we have today, with so much opportunity and movement, I feel there is so much value and beauty to being rooted in a place for 65 plus years.
The other thing I love to do over the break is to sit down and relax to a good nature documentary. I am a huge fan of David Attenborough and to those who know that name, I could probably stop right here. For those that don't know him, check out any BBC nature show with him and you will be amazed at the showcase of God's wonderful creation.
Anyways, back to the story. I watched a few episodes of Blue Planet II and the story of shrimp living in a Venus' Flower Basket sponge made me think of this life long rootedness. These deep sea interactions of shrimp eggs drifting into the structure of the sponge, protected and fed by the way it is formed and then living their whole life inside the sponge was amazing. In one way they are protected, but in another way they are trapped because they outgrow the openings of the sponge and are unable to leave it.
The only way they eventually do leave, is in their own offspring, as they spawn and send their eggs off into the sea to find their own place to root and live. It happens on a much smaller time scale for the shrimp than it does for us humans, but it also makes me wonder and ask God how that compares to our life spans in the scale of His time of eternity. One thing is for certain, as we are part of our families lives and living in community with people of all ages, we must take the time to care and love for people that are like these unique shrimp. Living together, building a legacy and who have been keystones to the churches we share as worshipping communities.
Our first NADC meeting in the new year will have teaching and discussion time around the theme of senior and elder care, so take this opportunity to think and pray about this theme over the next little while and feel free to share a story or thought with me in the lead up to it if you are moved to do so. The feelings and only response I have been able to muster so far, after reading that lament poem from our family, has been to sing and meditate on the familiar song "Turn your eyes upon Jesus." It is one I will sit with as I move into the new year. Blessings to you all, for who you are and for all you do, through Christ who empowers you!
Sometimes I come across things in my reading that interest me and I just jot them down to let them percolate in my mind. This was the case when I read the above title of this post and had never come across this term before. It was used in a Banner article written by the young adult essay contest winner, Rylan Brue, and it lead me down a thought path that I wanted to share with you. So what is a creational reclamation project? Well in the context of Brue's essay, it was referencing God's transformation work of "making everything new" (Revelation 21: 5) It is an article well worth reading and can be found in the November 2018 edition of the Banner.
The most google relevant searches of the title phrase were not theological but came up as an industrial, man made construct. First on the list of google images for this search was the Netherlands and the image above. Now, I am not of Dutch ancestry, but being married to someone who is and being a member of a Christian denomination with such roots, I do love the culture and heritage the CRC derives from. I have a slight bias to love anything Dutch and what the Netherlands has done in the picture above, to reclaim land from the ocean, is truly a marvel of science, industry and application of knowledge about creation. Cities like Singapore, Jakarta and Dubai have copied their example in even more elaborate and artistic ways (as pictured below).
When I moved from there to searching the scriptures, I was pleasantly overwhelmed with hundreds of scriptures referencing or pertaining to renewal and reclamation. I love how the reformed faith puts such a strong emphasis on every square inch of creation belonging to God (Abraham Kuyper). The story, our story, His story, is one that traverses the entirety of the Bible, from the creation in Genesis, to the final re-creation in Revelation. As I read further into what a creational reclamation project was, I realized ... we are such a project ... we are the living embodiment of such a project ... and our being, our culture, our community and our world are the grand narrative of God's story; this project.
All of these thoughts culminated into one of my favourite characteristics about God; diversity. Diversity is reflected in the scriptures at the beginning of the Bible, the end and throughout. God created diversity and found that it was good. God is reclaiming and renewing all things, in their own beauty and diversity. He exists and shows us the ultimate example of diversity in the Trinity where we see the perfection of unity in diversity. Unity does not have to mean uniformity and in seeing this, I think we are challenged to ask ourselves if we can embrace the mystery of diversity and complexity?
The other thing I love about the dutch rooted CRC is that we are seeing an increased reality of diversity infusing into our denomination and churches. It is a beautiful thing that gives us the opportunity to take that question of whether or not we can embrace diversity and to start wrestling with it and start living it out. There are churches in our Classis that have been planted on the foundations of that diversity, planted into communities that reflect that diversity and we should all be open and excited to be hospitable in welcoming those who represent such diversity.
In Canada we sometimes rest on the principles that we are a multicultural nation and we think all people uphold those values of inclusion, but it is unfortunately not a universal reality. Racism does exist in Canada, questions come up around immigration and refugee resettlement and not just in our culture, but in our churches too. We struggle with our role as colonizers and how to better live as true treaty people with our Indigenous neighbours. These thoughts have applications in many of the ministries in our churches and in the lives of deacons. When we as deacons are forming relationships with people in our churches and communities, we have to consciously ask ourselves how we are seeing the image of God in those who are different? How can we be empathetic to their situation and context in order to feel enough to care and love them?
This is where the work of our denominations Race Relations can come along side and help us. There are many great resources, practical steps and ideas to get us talking and walking along that path of reclamation. Bernadette Arthur was recently at our Day of Encouragement to talk about some of this stuff and she would be happy to connect again with you or a group in your church. She passed on some excellent references to us, from her workshop at the DOE, and I would be happy to forward those to you. I have attached a file of a couple of references and notes from my thoughts here, but if you are interested in more or want the powerpoint slides from Bernadette's presentation, please let me know at email@example.com. The link below also offers a number of great steps or initiatives that you and a group in your diaconate can look at or explore.
Giving Tuesday is one day that reminds us that we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in our churches, neighbourhoods and around the world. Deacons are a vital part of that relief, development and transforming missional call as they join in the work of God our creator. As Christians, we can partner with God and other ministries such as Global Mission Possible to make an impact on our world, specifically in this case, in Kenya.www.globalmissionpossible.com Please read the story below, the files provided as attachments at the end and their website for more information. Agriculture is a huge industry in our area and a passion for many in our Classis. This is a way to connect and be involved with those passions in mind.
One of our CRC members, Hillie deJong, from Faith Fellowship CRC in Fairview, AB, has been leading teams in Kenya ministry for many years with the group called Global Mission Possible. NADC too has had partnerships in the country of Kenya in years past and while we may not be currently engaged in any one project, the memory and gratitude of past service can still inform our giving, sharing and commitments today. Consider how you might be moved to action, or support our dear sister in Christ, as you read these words from Hillie.
On December 29th, 2018 till the 28th of March 2019 we plan on going back to Kenya (our two daughters, Jorden age 19 as a teacher and Shilo age 15, and our two sons Nico age 14, Christopher age 13.)
We, as Global Mission Possible, have been in contact with World Renew and they have helped us with the community development plan. Stephan Lutz got Patrick to give us a tour, and he taught us a great deal on how to get a project in this Kenyan community off the ground, to be a success and a value to the community as we build and work with them. After preparing, we are going to begin in January 2019 to build the Agribusiness Training Centre near Kisumu. We hope that people of the CRC churches will be willing to donate towards this project. Anyone who would like to be apart can also come to Kenya.
We know from past experience, many people in our Classis have a heart for Kenya and the people there, so we wanted to make sure people know about the work that is ongoing from our area and have the opportunity to share a gift. Who ever can’t give may know a friend or a neighbour who would love to do so, it is tax deductible. Most important is prayer. We would be so grateful if people keep us in their prayers. For travelling safety and wisdom through out the project.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If the information you need is not found here or on one of the files, please be in touch and I will happily connect you with Hillie. Jesse Edgington, NADC consultant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the latest newsletter, hot off the press... If you prefer to download and read it in a different format, or to print and post it, see the downloadable files below. I have also included a downloadable poster for the Helping Without Harming event coming up in January, so please share these both around. Watch for more details to come later, on the March event referenced as well.