This book has been bouncing around in the back of my brain for a long time now and I think it is finally appropriate to come out as my last post as NADC consultant. It was given to me by an acquaintance who did not know what a deacon was or what a deacon does, but they heard that I was a deacon and saw it on Oprah's list and thought it must be for me! This friend of mine is not a professing christian and I don't know if they made the connection of the book to spirituality, but it was an enjoyable read.
My favourite quote was one that speaks to what deacons in all our congregations do. When the main character is asked his name, he says... "mostly in these parts they calls me Deacon." Which is followed up by the question, what does a deacon do? And here is his answer... that may be your answer too.
"Well now, that's a good question. We do all sorts of things. We helps the church. We throws out the garbage. We buys the furniture sometimes. We shop for he food for the deaconesses to make for the repast and such. We even preaches from time to time if we is called upon. We does whatever needs to be done. We're your holy handyman."
A humble, well rounded answer in my opinion.
And an honest one, because he follows it up by saying well actually, truth be told, it's the women that run most of the churches out here and most of the time from behind the scenes. And don't we all know the truth and importance to that, as we should be elevating more women to leadership roles!
It is one thing I love about being a deacon and serving our congregations and communities. And it is one of the biggest things I will miss by not being in the NADC consultant role; connecting with and serving others. I will continue serving in deacon ways in my own congregation and I will try to be a presence in the areas of my passions, to the wider community as I am able on a voluntary basis. We need to continue the conversation on creation care and go further, we need to make walking the path of reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters one of the top justice actions and we can't overlook those on the margins who will help call us to account.
I hope deacons will continue to learn, be curious and compassionate about our world and all people in it. I hope deacons will continue to be excited about justice, service and love to others. And I hope deacons will inspire and encourage all those around them to do the same and find where their passions could lead them. Before I became a deacon, I had no idea that serving and building relationships with men in the prison system would give my life meaning and energy during a global pandemic, but we all need to be open to how God can surprise us.
There may be challenging times ahead for churches and those in leadership; (like deacons) but I pray that deacons will continue to be voices for peace, critics of injustice and keep doing what needs to be done. Life certainly never stays the same, new seasons and opportunities arise and we have to be willing and ready to go where the spirit leads.
I have been blessed by the seven years of serving in this role and I hope to still see many of you into the future, around the circles of ministry and care for our communities. - Jesse Edgington
While circumstances had me unable to attend Classis this time around, you can catch my report again here if you were not a delegate to Classis. Here are some highlights:
"You cannot disregard them if you accept the civilization that produced them." - George Orwell
One of my favourite things is reading a variety of kinds of literature and seeing how God weaves threads through these creative acts of the authors viewing and telling stories about life. It mirrors what is being done in the books of the Bible and I imagine early Christians; possibly reading collections of canonized scripture in a similar way. In the three books pictured here we have a book of history, a book of poetry and a book of historical fiction (or faction).
In all of these works, there is a thread of accounts of refugees, travellers, hosts and guests.
My favourite poem by David Whyte, in the book above, is called Refuge. It first describes physical places where one can find refuge from the elements and then with one phrase transports the reader into history and a time and place of struggle and connection. "Then in Galitia"... I close my eyes and can just imagine myself in different land, a time thousands of years ago, seeking refuge as a traveller. The poem describes a family behind a door of their home, inviting the refugee in and the final line is a beautiful conclusion... "the stranger's love is best of all."
The other two books are historical (or story based on history) and I find them fascinating when one looks back in analysis of what has happened and how it has led to contexts of today. As Richard Wagamese says, "We get only one story, which we narrate looking backwards."
One part of the novel by Matthieu Aikins, points out the history of the European Union, aspiring to Immanuel Kant's 1795 vision of peace, setting up a great post world war network and aligning twenty-seven nations as one. For this the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, showing it is possible for people and nations to come together across borders. Sadly just ten years later, in our context now, we see that dream of peace being shattered by the actions of perpetual war and increased refugee displacement.
Aikins also points out that in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, there was only fifteen borders that had walls or fences in the world. Between then and 2016, that number has gone the wrong way and swelled to an astounding seventy! Our societies are not actioning towards peace, open doors or bigger tables, we are operating in fear, resource hoarding, greed and exclusion. Aikins story of refugees travelling from Syria, through Turkey, Greece and others places is one of truly fascinating and heart breaking realities of war and conflict.
That brings me to the last book, a historical account of different pushes and pulls that has shaped and transformed the communities of history that call themselves Christian. While it may be easy, lazy or ill informed to lump all Christians as one, this historical account tells some fascinating stories of theologians, philosophers and other people who have deeply wrestled with what it means to be Christian in both word and deed.
There is wide ranging influence, from those like the reforming Lutherans, Philipp Spener, who said, "Christianity does not mean assenting to a creed, for conviction of truth is far from being faith; true Christianity is the practise of love." In this time of orthodox debate, Martin Luther chimed in during the 1500's trying to warn others that the tricks of Satan were to gain a small foothold with "the intentions of detaining you with unnecessary things and thus keeping you from those which are necessary. Once he has gained an opening... he will force in his whole body together with sacks full of useless questions."
I sometimes think our North American Christian divisions, denominational differences, infighting and splitting are precisely what Luther was warning us against. In a world where we see real time stories of war, conflict and increasing refugee displacement, we get caught up holding "sacks full of useless questions." In the historical account of Christianity, Diana Butler Bass talks about many ways Christians have attempted to understand and live out the faith and often have fallen short. In a quest for modernity, a search for big T truth, Christians thought they could solve the problems that plagued humankind. But she asks, if in the end, Christians were less interested in pursuing God than they were in pursuing knowledge about God? The quest for the modern reformed Christian became a puzzle to be solved, instead of life of mystery and wonder to be lived in love.
In any case, these three reads are wonderful ways to get us thinking, give us context wider than our own and hopefully inspiration to propel us into action. Whichever genre speaks to your heart, check it out or read all three and be moved to ask your church and community about the work of refugee resettlement. Because as so beautifully put by the George Orwell quote above, we are all connected and a part of the problems and solutions.
I was so encouraged to chat with delegates in person again at Classis in March. It was such a breath of fresh air again! And to my delight, my presentation (mentioned in the previous blog) went well and I got this feedback from a pastor below. I got his permission to share it...
This is my Bible table at church. Full Cree Bible, Gospels and Acts in contemporary Cree. Some Gospels of John in a couple of other languages. We don't have many Indigenous folks walk through our church, but these remind our congregation that our Indigenous neighbors are God's people too. It's a sermon to my congregation without a sermon. I have placed a Cree Bible and Beaver Gospel of Mark in several local churches around mine.
Pastor Ryan Hoogerbrugge - You can check out his website with more great info at... indigenousbibles.ca/
I also received an email from my son, who is in grade 5, and he had done some learning that he wanted to share with me. I got his permission too and have attached the powerpoint for you to see. I hope you will be as encouraged as I was, that the journey for justice starts at a young age and our children are learning more about our Indigenous brothers and sisters than I ever did at that age.
Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy at University of London, states; "There is no such thing as neutrality; nobody starts from nowhere." We all start with some kind of world view, blindspots and stereotypes that we are not always aware of. It takes self examination, openness to hearing critique from others and the willingness to be curious and consider another in order to learn, grow and change.
At Classis in March I gave the presentation below; that reflected on a workshop from the Day of Encouragement, participation of a growing number of members in Hearts Exchanged and an exciting announcement of a donation to further reconciliation in Classis Alberta North. Download the presentation and follow the links and notes to get the full picture. Alternatively, check out this link to download supplementary documents to the presentation as well as the powerpoint with the videos imbedded in it (file too large for this blog post).
Watch for further details about the Reciprocity Fund, the advisory circle and how you can connect... or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deacons, reps, ministry leaders and friends gathered together on zoom to hear from special guest Anja Attema. We also took time to share what was going on in our churches, diaconates and lives, in order to support, encourage and connect. Anja Attema is a financial life coach and is passionate about working with churches and deacons to provide relationship and support to people in our communities. Below you can watch the video portion of her presentation; with the following contact info as mentioned in the video: www.anjaattema.com - email@example.com
See below or download file for easier reading
One of the Saturday workshops included an important opportunity to learn about what hate crimes and hate incidents are and what the difference is between them. This helps citizens be aware of injustices happening on the streets and in our society that should not be tolerated, should be reported and potentially even reported to police.
Leading local expert, Dr. Irfan Chaudhry joined us to talk about his research and his involvement with groups addressing hate crimes and incidents. It was very insightful to learn about the nuances between policing, legislation, human rights acts and much more. What a great intro course it was, check out the video below!
We had an encouraging and... hopefully inspiring... evening together with Shane Claiborne.
It was followed up by Saturday learning workshops that we hope will have sharpened your skills and given you more tools for pursuing God's mission of reconciliation and peace in our world. See the Shane Claiborne video here and watch for more DOE content to come from World Renew, the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) and NADC.
To follow up on what is promising to be a great evening conversation about peacemaking with Shane Claiborne, (see previous post for details and registration link), we have 3 intriguing workshop options for you to chose from on the following day. These will happen at various times on Saturday November 13 so take a look, pick one and register now... spaces may be limited.
Option 1: Starting @ 10:00 AM, Mountain Standard Time - Faith in Action: online advocacy training; with World Renew/OSJ. Cindy Stover will walk participants through the process of researching justice issues, and how to communicate your position about them, with your elected officials. www.eventbrite.com/e/faith-in-action-advocacy-letter-writing-nadc-doe-webinar-tickets-196138905747
Option 2: CANCELLED please select one or two of the other options - Non-violent protest training; with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Rachelle Friesen and Julie Brown will take valuable learning from recent protests like Black Lives Matter, and others from around the world, to give an excellent introduction to Christian activism. Spots are limited so see details and register now at us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwufuCrpjIiHN1YOJpuazQvo3ODmd3enNDO
Option 3: Starting @ 2:00 PM, Mountain Standard Time - Unpacking Hate Crimes: Hate, Bias and Community Expectations; with Dr. Irfan Chaudhry. This workshop option will take place on zoom so please register on Eventbrite to get on the list and receive your zoom link before the event. Register for this workshop at www.eventbrite.ca/e/hate-crime-innocent-bystander-response-training-tickets-194735247367