Category Archives: Ecclesiology

It’s more than a sign: ecumenical reflections for today

Church Sign

We put up this sign a while ago.  It tells all those who drive by that Ancaster Village Church gathers at 5pm on Sunday evenings in St John’s Parish Hall.  But for me it represents so much more.  I see it as a reflection of something far greater which is on the move these days.  In simple terms our church rents this space from St John’s Anglican Church.  But for both of our churches this is more than just an exchange of money for the use of space.  We see this as hope and mission.

This afternoon I spent an hour in prayer with the priests of St John’s Anglican.  Praying for this great city with them is positively inspiring. The comedy of me, a sacramentally deprived rebellious Protestant, being welcomed into relationship with them is why, in the words of the Roman Catholic JMR Tillard, I believe, despite everything.

There is something in the ecumenical air these days.  I’m hearing more and more stories which confirm this.  We — as in the Church — are finding partnership, relationship, common purpose, worship, and mission around the highest common denominator.  This is different than my understanding of some past ecumenical dialogues where the commonality was found in the lowest common denominators.  Where the conversation was once founded on the understanding that we couldn’t agree on the big things, so instead we’d look for unity in the small things, we are now realizing that it’s in the biggest thing (person) where our unity is found.  We’re standing around the Table of Bread and Wine with a look in our eyes that says, “this is all we’ve got.  Him.”  In some cases we’re still not comfortable enough to break the bread with each other, but we’re looking at all of those things that exist around that Table of Bread and Wine with a different, more gracious, understanding of each other.

My hunch is that the fall of Christendom has graciously led us to this place.  For that reason, among many others, I welcome our place as the church in exile — the church on the fringe of culture.  Exile helps us remember who we are.  And as we’re remembering who we are, we’re looking around and realizing that we have so many sisters and brothers who might dress a little differently but are on the same team.

A few weeks ago I was honoured to lead communion/Eucharist for a group of ministers and church leaders who reflected at least a dozen different denominations and traditions.  It was Ephesians 4 in real life.  It was beautiful.  We came to the Table together, prayed for each other, and were sent out in mission together.

In three weeks I will once again administer the elements alongside my Anglican friends in their gathering to which they invite our church.  We find commonality at the Table.  It’s incredible.  All of our respective bells and whistles, although they matter and are (mostly) beautifully unique and distinctive, are simply reflections of the one who brings us together and unites us.

There are few things these days which excite me more.

We’ve got a ways to go.  Lord knows there are those within my own tribe who think we ought to tighten up the ecumenical guidelines lest we get too comfortable with those guys.  But whatever.  Redemption is here.  Redemption is coming.  And I’m convinced that one of the greatest ways this world will experience hope is through the church, in and with all her different flavours, coming together as one.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.


The Shaping of an Identity

Our church has been in the process of shaping our written identity — our vision, mission, statement, or whatever you want to call it.  It continues to be a work in progress, but here’s the most current stab at it.  This is something into which we wish to live, become, and be.

avc colour vintage

Here because of grace.
Because God acted.
Because God loves.
Because God is about redemption.
Because God pursues us. Always.

He loves humanity.
He loves creation.
He is good.

Here because of Jesus.
Because in him all things are being redeemed.
Because of his life.
Because of his death.
Because of his resurrection.
Because he is with us. Always.

He is our pastor.
Our teacher.
Our counselor.
Our healer.
Our lord.
Our saviour.
Our hope.

Here because we are a church.
Because together in the Spirit we are united as one.
Because together we are able to listen to the Spirit’s leading.
Because together the Spirit is making us whole.
Because together we are the body of Jesus, with all our diversity and gifts.
Because together in our brokenness we find life.
Because together in our weakness we find strength.
Because together we embrace mystery.
Because together we walk in God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness.
Because together we submit to the Holy Scriptures.
Because together at the Table we find Jesus.

We are becoming a people who are learning to love Jesus more fully.
Becoming a people who love others.
Becoming a people who live on mission.
Becoming a people who share our stories.
Becoming a people who live God’s kingdom.
Becoming a people of ridiculous generosity.
Becoming a people who serve locally and globally.
Becoming a people who value simplicity.
Becoming a people who laugh, play, cry, and live life together.

Here because we love this city.
Because we believe there’s a better way.
Because we have so much to learn.

Ancaster Village Church

Standing up for the city

If my memory serves me correctly, the last time I did something like this I was in grade six.  I had come home from school after listening to a lesson on the virtues of recycling, only to realize that the town in which I lived did not offer any sort of recycling program.  So I called the mayor’s office and left a message requesting a chat with the mayor.  To his credit, he called me back.  I asked him why our town didn’t recycle.  He explained that there were a few recycling options available.  I told him that I thought we needed curbside recycling.  He told me he’d look into it.  And then our two minute conversation ended.

A couple of years later our town had curbside recycling.  I’m pretty sure it was all because of me.  (See my bio regarding sarcasm.)

That was my first and last active involvement in municipal politics…until now.

I’m not sure why, but the discussion concerning the potential of a downtown casino in Hamilton has captured my attention and heart. (For more info click here.)  I recently penned a letter to City Council on behalf of my ministerial association expressing our opposition to the potential casino.  Although only living here since February ’12, this is my city.  I love this city.  I believe in the future of this city.  And most importantly, I believe that the Spirit is blowing the winds of Gospel renewal through our streets.

So it comes as no surprise to me that as the winds of Gospel renewal blow, so too blow the winds of darkness.

Now I’m not really a big “devil behind every bush” kind of guy.  I don’t spend a lot of time talking about “spiritual warfare.”  But I can’t deny what I felt last night.

Last night I attended a town hall meeting concerning the downtown casino, and I must tell you, I felt a weight — a burden — of darkness in that room.  The best word to describe that darkness: greed.  The room had many shining lights — people advocating for “the least of these” and the vulnerable.  But the presence of greed was powerful, explicit, and predatory.  It manifested itself in one primary way: deaf ears to the inevitable plight of the many marginalized people in our downtown core if a casino is to be built.  It didn’t seem to matter how well-spoken the anti-casino panelists or speakers were, how well-researched the data was, or how real the threat of social burdens and brokenness were, the pro-downtown casino advocates were blinded by the draw of dollars.  “We’re a business; we need to make money,” said the representative from Ontario Lottery & Gaming, seemingly disinterested in how the money was made.  And the “lurking in the weeds” and schmoozing of interested pro-casino business groups from within the city wasn’t only noticeable, but it was quite telling of the money, greed, and power behind the scenes.

So for me, as it pertains to this discussion, the question is, where is the church?  My hope is that we’ll see her standing beside the voiceless, the marginalized, and the oppressed — that we’ll see her standing up FOR the city, FOR humanity.  I want to see an educated and intellectual church fighting with tactics of love, grace, and kindness.  But not at all shying away from adamantly speaking against any sort of predatory greed that might hurt the people who can least afford to be hurt.  Casinos are here.  Like it or not, they’re a part of our provincial fiscal future.  But the church must stand for our cities and demand that casinos be built in a responsible and wise way.  So I will do my part to stand against the current proposal.  I hope to see many more join me.  And maybe this story will end the same as my grade six recycling story.

As always, any feedback is appreciated.