Saturday, June 29, 2013

Colleagues List, June 30th, 2013

Vol VIII No. 36


Wayne A. Holst, Editor

My E-Mail Address:


Colleagues List Web Site:

"Quicklinks" are included with many items.
Otherwise, scroll down to find your selection
in the body of the blog.


Dear Friends:

This is the last issue of Colleagues List
before my bi-weekly summer mailings
begin. You will receive one  new issue 
every two weeks through July and August.


My Special Item this week is a reflection
prepared for the service of worship at 
St. David's United Church, Calgary on
Sunday, June 30th.

It is entitled "The Trials of Transition"
and attempts to speak to a congregation
that is going through change.

Declines in church attendance and giving
over the past decade require that we face
realistically what is happening to our community.

I suspect that many mainline congregations in
Canada are going through a similar experience
and this is one way to share our fears and hopes 
on matters of governance in changing times.


Colleague Contributions:

This week -

Martin Marty (Chicago) picks up on a news item
we shared here last week on an evangelical group
that has apologized for abuse of gays.

Ron Rolheiser:(San Antonio) reflects on contemplative
soundbites in today's spiritual marketplace.

John Stackhouse Jr.(Vancouver) offers an honor role
of Canadian academics and others for Canada Day


Net Notes this week -

"'I Am..'" - a most poignant short video produced
by the L'Arche community of Cape Breton NS
which features members of that community.
Marlene and I visited there in 2009
(L'Arche Canada Foundation)

"Calgary Begins Massive Cleanup" - here are
reports on the aftermath of the flooding in
Calgary and Southern Alberta
(Reuters Canada,

"No Place for Rape in Incredible India" - the
victimization of women in India continues to
be a major issue that we want to follow
(UCA News)

"Vatican to Investigate Disgraced Cardinal" -
a story that might have been lost during the
period of the papal transition is revived again
by none other than Francis I (Guardian, UK)

"US Supreme Court Rulings Bolster Gay Rights" -
a major story this week, as the top American
court rules on a number of precedent-setting
issues (New York Times, National Catholic 
Reporter, Christianity Today)

"More Than a Decade Ago, Canada's Path Different" -
while Canadians went through a similar time of 
redefining marriage during the late 1990's we seem 
to have taken a simpler route to the same place
(Toronto Sun)

"North American Anglican and Lutheran Statement" -
Lutherans and Anglicans on this continent re-affirm
their commitment to mutual and global ministry
(Anglican Journal)

"World Evangelicals Commit to  Embrace Refugees" -
'welcoming the stranger' is a theme that evangelical
Christians are taking up with considerable energy
(Evangelical Fellowship of Canada)

"Irish "Maggie" Workhouse Victims Given $45 Million" 
we have followed this story since the appearance 
of the famous movie expose on the houses that held
many women in life-time captivity. Marlene and I
visited a special memorial in a Dublin Park, 2011
(The Guardian, UK)

"Christians and Muslims Challenged to Strive for 
Peace" as the Archbishop of Canterbury visits 
the Coptic Popein Egypt, a  statement on religious 
tolerance emerges(Anglican Journal)

"Indian Justice Center Provides Voice for the 
Voiceless" Oblate Theologian Father Tissa 
Balasuriya founded a center that continues to 
provide many with a place to stand and  
advocate for justice (UCA News)


Wisdom of the Week:

Provided by Sojourners online comes to us from -

Chief Seattle, John Wesley and Fannie Lou Hamer


On This Day:

Issued from the archives of the New York Times -

Kennedy Gives "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" Speech

Custer Suffers Defeat by Indians in Montana

"Treaty of Versailles Signed in France"


Our Closing Thought - this week if from
Corrie Ten Boom, a victim of Nazi atrocities
during the occupation of the Netherlands
by Germany during World War II.





Contact us at: (or)
St. David's Web Address -

Listen to audio recordings of Sunday services -



An accumulation of thirty-five books studied
since 2000 can quickly be found at:

This collection of study resources represents
more than a decade of Monday Night Studies at
St. David's, plus extra courses too!

You are welcome to use our course outlines,
class notes and resource pages in your personal
and group reflections.


Our New Fall Programs will be posted here
shortly, as they develop over the next months.


"Immortal Diamond"
 by Richard Rohr


Mid-September through end of November
More registration info to come:



"Heresies and Heretics"
 - based on Bart Ehrmann's 
   "Lost Christianities"

Description and Registration Info:



Living Creatively in Challenging Times

A Reflection Offered During Worship
at St. David's United Church, Calgary
by Wayne Holst

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of 
our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our 
strength and our redeemer.

Biblical Foundations:

To begin, I want to remind you of the lectionary 
scripture passages we heard earlier:

Psalm 77: 1-2; 11-20 “I cried out in my despair. 
You came and guided me…”

Here, the Psalm-writer reminds us of a familiar 
pattern – we find ourselves in difficulty And we 
call out to God for help.Invariably, God hears and 
responds,  although not always in the ways we 


Luke 9: 51-62 “No one who puts a hand to the plow 
and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”.

Jesus is heading toward the climax of his 
ministry – his trials, suffering and death in 
Jerusalem. Various people realize something 
important is going to happen there,  but they 
can only offer excuses about why it is not 
possible for them to support him just then. 

Galatians 5:13-25 “For you were called to freedom, 
brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom 
as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but be 
servants to one another in love.

I will return to these readings later.


 I would like to pose a question -

Are we going to become a hospice, or a seed-bed 
for transformed Christian life here at St. David’s? 
Actively or passively, do we envision ourselves as 
creating a place to die with dignity? (or) do we 
envision ourselves as a locus of new beginnings? 
Dying with dignity? Or a locus of new beginnings? 

That is the picture I took from a church council 
meeting this past week. On Tuesday last, members 
of our congregation’s primary decision-makers 
gathered to hear a commissioned report presented 
by presbytery consultant Joel Den Haan. 

He addressed the important matter of congregational 
governance during challenging times. 

Using statistics from the United Church of Canada’s 
information bank, he made in part the following 

In the past 5-6 years, our Sunday morning worship 
attendance has dropped by 20%

In the past 5-6 years, congregational giving has 
declined by 30%

Recently, we have been holding fairly steady with 
just over 400 households receiving pastoral care. 
83% of these are identifiable givers of at least 
$50 per year. 

Consolidation has been taking place.

5% of the total capital value of our assets is 
currently being spent on ministry costs –  this, 
compared to many of Calgary United Church 
congregations, is still quite good.  It is a 
sign that we still have some flexibility and are 
not up against a wall as yet.


What all this says, in a nutshell, is that two 
important indicators of church vitality, 
attendance at worship and congregational giving 
- are in a process of obvious long-term decline. 
I believe is that these trends willcontinue – 
and perhaps in spite of anything we might do.

That said, I also believe that we are still in a 
position to be engaged in significant ministry 
and mission, here at St. Davids.

Our location on the LRT and across from the 
university is ideal. Our people are very committed. 
They demonstrate that in many visible and invisible 
ways. We have a solid history to provide good 
precedents for us. We are part of a city that is 
oriented to the future, not fixated on the past.

We have been able to maintain, even expand, our 
staff ministries this past decade. 

What we have been losing in total member gifts we 
have been making up for -to a certain extent at 
least - through rentals and creative staffing.  
For this, we are grateful to a number of 
hardworking people among us - who are known - 
but whose names will go unmentioned for fear 
of forgetting someone

There are many programs and ministry efforts 
happening here that make St.David’s a place of 
spiritual depth and vitality – on Sundays, and 
all through the week. For this we can also thank 
many faithful members and volunteers, as well 
as a dedicated staff.

Actually, I can see this status quo continuing 
for some time to come. We have already demonstrated 
considerable creativity during a time of transition.

But I am concerned.

Are we satisfied to see St. David’s merely survive, 
and then die with dignity? Or could we catch the 
vision of new and better congregation in the future?
Hospice, or seedbed of transformed life?

While we cannot return to what we were, we can still 
think boldly about what we might become. The good 
thing, as I see it, is that we have a window of 
opportunity during these years to face the options 
realistically and seriously. We can develop 
governance and work intentionally toward a good 


Many years ago I discovered a popular book that 
perhaps you might also remember. 

William Bridges wrote:

 “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes.” 

What he says about coping with human transition can 
also apply to institutions like our congregations. 
The book employed a model that emphasized three 
transitional themes

“The Neutral Zone” (and)
“Making a Beginning”

All good things come to an end. Experiences fade. 
People pass on. Groups disappear. 

That’s the Ending phase.

When we realize this, we enter an important period 
for reflecting candidly and making strategic 

That’s the Neutral Zone, or the time between.

After we have thought things through, we can 
determine to start living in new ways. 

That’s what Making a Beginning is all about.

I believe that, as a congregation, we are moving 
through the “endings” phase, but we are not yet 
living creatively in new ways. We are entering 
the Neutral Zone. What we need now is honesty 
and candor about our current state.

We have good traditions to guide us. 
We have many wonderful possibilities ahead of us.


This brings us back to the biblical themes with 
which I began. I see them as the foundation of our 
life together as a Christian community while we are
going through the “trials of transition.”

More than any other authority, the biblical 
tradition is the rock upon which we stand.It is 
the wellspring that inspires and renews us. It 
is the rich resource of our spiritual heritage.


So, for my remaining time, I would like to remind 
you of some meaningful images and insights from 
Scripture. And we return to the readings for today
which I think fit together quite nicely.

The Psalm 77 passage we read responsively is a 
poetic reflection on Israel’s past. It begins with 
a cry of pathos as the speaker realizes he is in 
difficulty, and wonders if God has abandoned him:

“I cry to God in distress…”
“You kept me from closing my eyes when I was too 
 distraught to speak...”
“I cried to God and God heard me.”

When old, familiar assurances have been ripped away. 
will God, who seemed so close back then, continue 
to be there with me? 

The speaker struggles to maintain balance through 
difficult circumstances. She ends by comforting 
herself that God remains faithful and will 
continue to guide her with a steady hand.

The Luke 9 passage is also known as “The Mission 
of the Twelve Disciples.” Jesus prepares his 
followers to take over after he is no longer with 
them, they are shocked and dismayed when the 
reality strikes that they will have to function 
alone. The story continues as Jesus’ small band 
of faithful followers pass through Samaria and 
are refused hospitality by the inhabitants.

Then, a series of would-be followers back away 
because they realize how difficult the journey 
will be.

Jesus had not promised that the way would be easy. 

“Don’t look back.” he says, “Others may fall by 
the wayside, but don’t succumb.”Those for whom 
fidelity is a high value will know what Jesus’ 
followers have always known. Perseverance is 
hard, but it is right.

After those “middle times” in the wilderness we 
know something new will emerge, and it will be 

The Galatians 5 passage suggests that we are 
not alone through times of transition.

The Holy Spirit serves as continuing divine presence 
among us In spite of “antagonisms, rivalry, quarrels 
and disagreements.” These are signs that stress is 
great and the temptation to compromise is real. The 
writer of Galatians seeks to reassure us that we 
should “never slacken in doing what is good; for 
if we do not give up, we shall reap a rich harvest 
in due time.”

Biblical wisdom and modern mentors like William 
Bridges concur that we cannot predict what 
challenges will befall us in life, but patience 
and perseverance can lead us into new and exciting 

This is true for persons and for our life together 
in community.

I am glad our church council is attempting to 
provide good governance for us at this importan
transition time in our congregation’s history.

We all have a part to play by keeping alert to 
developments and to the contributions we can make.
I am proud that our congregation is not hiding from 
reality. We are not whitewashing the facts of our 
current situation. We are being forced to rediscover 
our true values and want to work creatively with 
the possibilities.

We are a people of hope.




Chicago, IL

June 24th, 2013

"Evangelical Gay and Lesbian Ministry Closes"


San Antonio, TX

"Contemplative Sound Bites"


Vancouver. BC.

Personal Blog
June 29th, 2013

"An Honor Role for Canada Day"



"I AM..."

Meet the People of L'Arche Cape Breton


After Floods, Recovery on the Way

Reuters Canada
June 25th, 2013

Helping Strangers: "In the Mud Together"
June 27th, 2013


Nation  Must Focus on True Equality of the Sexes

UCA News
June 27th, 2013


British Prelate Stepped Down Over Sexual Abuse

The Guardian, UK
June 23rd, 2013


Major Step for American Civil Rights

New York Times
June 26th, 2013

"The Supreme Court Giveth and Taketh Away"

National Catholic Reporter
June 27th, 2013

Christianity Today
June 27th, 2013

American Evangelical Leaders Respond:


Legalization of Gay Rights Here Was Much Simpler Process

Toronto Sun
June 26th, 2013


After 12 Years, Church Leaders Re-Issue Call to Ministry

Anglican Journal
June 24th, 2013


Alliance Issues "Welcoming" Statement on World Refugee Day

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Website
June 20th, 2013


Victims of Maggie Laundries Finally Compensated

BBC News, UK
June 28th, 2013


Canterbury Visits the Coptic Pope in Egypt

Anglican Journal
June 25th, 2013


Center for Society and Religion Founded by "Radical"
Oblate Theologian Father Tissa Balasuriya

UCA News
June 24th, 2013



Provided by Sojourners Online -

Humankind did not weave the web of life. 
We are but one strand within it. Whatever 
we do to the web we do to ourselves.

- Chief Seattle


One of the principle rules of religion 
is to lose no occasion of serving God. 
And since he is invisible to our eyes, 
we are to serve him in our neighbor; 
which he receives as if done to himself 
in person, standing visibly before us.

- John Wesley


Christianity is being concerned about your fellow
 man, not building a million-dollar church while 
people are starving right around the corner.
Christ was a revolutionary person, out there 
where it was happening. That's what God is
all about, and that's where I get my strength.

- Fannie Lou Hamer



Provided from the Archives
of the New York Times

Addresses Encircled City at Infamous Wall


Battle of Little Big Horn A Historic Moment


World War One Comes to an End



Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of 
resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a 
power that breaks the chains of bitterness and 
the shackles of selfishness.

- Corrie Ten Boom


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