What size should a Church be? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on Aug 23 , 2013 in Did You Know

 Recently I watched a sociological presentation that indicated as humans the number of people that we can relate to and get to know maxes out at around 150.  When something goes beyond that size unless it reorganizes so that it maintains groupings that do not get larger than 150 it will become an “institution” as opposed to a “family”. We could name many differences between an institution and a family but as a generalization we are consumers of what institutions offer making us detached and basically customers, we are members of a family,  – there is a big difference in how we relate to the two.

 Biblically speaking a church is not the building that people gather to worship in but is the  people who gather together to worship. Repeatedly in scripture the church is referred to as a family. So from a sociological perspective churches should max out at 150 people. Actually, many may be saying there is no way I could get to know 150 people.  Just like in a family though or among your current friends there are those who you know more intimately than others and that is a healthy thing. So, even among 150 there needs to be different smaller groupings.

 If then we are more comfortable with groupings that max out at 150 and yet the mission and call of the church is to reach out to those that do not belong, to invite them into the family is there not a conflict of realities before us that may cause a church to stagnate in growth?

 The answer I think is yes there is a conflict and I would suggest that what has happened over the years is that the church has become more institutional than family with the members becoming more consumers than family members.

 Next week: What is the average size church that people attend in Canada?

Reverend Al Carson


What is Compline and why should I know?

Posted on Aug 16 , 2013 in Did You Know

Compline (pronounced COM-plin) is a form of prayers to be said right before bedtime. It roots date back centuries and has been a part of monastic daily life structure for as long as there have been monastic orders. Praying as one prepares to go to bed is in many ways a natural thing. Many parents teach their children to pray at bed time.

 The difference between compline and spontaneous bedtime prayers is that compline, like most liturgy is well thought out to maintain a balance. We can come to the end of the day and maybe there are many things weighing on our heart that we are concerned about if not actually worrying about. In these situations our prayers can become focused on our needs and worries.

 Perhaps it has been a great day and something wonderful has happened and we are full of thanksgiving and joy, even though there are still problems they seem distant or at least not ours. When we follow compline it does a number of things. In compline there are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, intercession and thanksgiving which make our prayers much more balanced. There is a short confession to remind us that we are forgiven. Everything is bathed in scripture so it helps us to hear from God rather than just listening to our own thoughts and voice. It is something that is easy to do with another person, especially children.

 Unfortunately compline was dropped as a service form when the Book of Alternate Services was put together. You can find it in the older versions of the Book of Common Prayer however if you want to use it to start a nightly ritual with your children or grandchildren you may find much of your time used up in looking up the meaning of ancient words. There are a few versions that you can find on line that would work well with children. Have some fun researching them together and then give it a try. You may end up with a new favourite time of day or favorite family time.

The Rev. Al Carson


Is Christianity Stagnant?

Posted on Aug 09 , 2013 in Did You Know

 “Christianity is not a religion evolving to fit  new insights it is a religion challenging our insights in light of the very character and person of God revealed to us in history!”

 Does this statement that ended last weeks ‘Did you know’ mean that Christianity is stagnant? Stagnant is not a positive term. It usually means things become stale and out dated. If spirituality is an aspect of life that nurtures our souls and a necessity for becoming fully human then should it not be fresh and current?

 The Bible refers to the gospel as a living word. Something that is alive is fresh and current and life giving. I love corn on the cob and each year look forward to experiencing the taste of fresh corn on the cob. It is nutritious and delicious, but corn is corn, it does not change.  The gospel is also referred to as a rock. This creates an image of being solid and foundational. We can build on rock and stand on rock and depend on rock.

 The very bold and some might claim arrogant claim of Christianity is that is it based on truth, on fact. Not on myth, but on reality. That is what the Jesus event is all about. If there was in fact a real living person named Jesus who lived about 2,000 years ago, was crucified, died and was buried, and rose from the dead, not recovered from his injuries but rose from the dead, then who was this person? The Christian claim is – he was God! Not God like, not God aware, not a God “channeller” , but God! That makes him truth, a rock, unchangeable, since he is the source of everything, and he is alive.

 Christianity is not stagnant. It will breathe more life and insight into you than anything. It is deep enough to satisfy you for all of eternity. Not with a stagnant boredom but with joyful amazement. Angels love to peer into the gospel. The story and reality of Jesus Christ is the most beautiful thing in all of creation.

Rev. Al Carson


Where does Religion Come from?

Posted on Aug 02 , 2013 in Did You Know

 There are two approaches to understanding the source of religion. The first approach would be what is often referred to as the historical approach. This approach begins with the understanding that historically humanity has searched for meaning in life. This search has more often than not included a spiritual component. This searching for meaning in life has resulted in various ways of relating to and understanding the world in which we live. Over time our knowledge and understanding has changed, consequently religious beliefs and understanding evolve and grow as well. In this line of thinking older is often seen as primitive and not as enlightened as current. This approach makes belief a relative thing rather than an absolute and is always open to change because the understanding and wisdom come from within.

 The second approach says that wisdom and understanding come from without. In other words we do not so much discover spiritual reality as it is revealed to us. Truth then rather than being discovered and relative, is revealed and applicable to all people in all settings. Rather than understanding or truth, then changing depending on our perspective it is we who are called to change our perspective based on the revealed truth. Many have attempted to explain the Bible based on a historic evolution of thought approach. Much of the Bible can be discussed using this approach however in the Old Testament the person and story of Moses does not fit this understanding. The Moses event makes the astounding statement that God intervened in human history. We did not make any discoveries, nothing evolutionary happened God intervened. The Jesus event of the New Testament is the fulfilment of that intervention and the affirmation of that reality.

 Consequently Christianity is not a religion evolving to fit new insights it is a religion challenging our insights in light of the very character and person of God revealed to us in history!

The Reverend Al Carson


How can change occur if the call is to maintain the status quo?

Posted on Jul 26 , 2013 in Did You Know

 Last week I stated that as a result of ordination vows by “accepting the role of Bishop an individual is giving up the rite to be a challenger of the faith and accepting the responsibility to be a defender of the faith”. By default that statement would also apply to a Priest or Deacon since they are licensed by the Bishop to be an extension of the Bishop’s ministry in the Diocese and in effect make similar vows of accepting and defending the faith.

If then, those who are put into the role of leadership of the Church cannot by definition of the vows they make be a challenger of the faith how could change ever come to the Church? That might seem like a logical question however it is not taking into account the very nature of the gospel that is being proclaimed. At the heart of the gospel is the statement that we all must change. We have all fallen short of the glory of God and are in need of redemption. The gospel invites us into a never ending relationship of change.

  A relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation of that relationship and the proclamation of who Jesus is that is to be defended by those who accept ordination. The creeds present to us a summary of the faith that is to be defended. The foundation of that faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. To change this foundation of Christian thinking and understanding of our relationship with God is in effect to proclaim a different religion. That is why it is the role of those in leadership to defend this foundational understanding. It is not this truth that must change it is we who must change.

 Next week: Two different ways religion came to exist.

Rev. Al Carson


A Bishop is elected, what now?

Posted on Jul 19 , 2013 in Did You Know

If the person elected Bishop is already not already a Bishop in another Diocese then that person will first need to be ordained as a Bishop prior to being installed as the Bishop for the Diocese. The service or ordination of a Bishop is presided over by the Archbishop and starts with a greeting and then a proclamation of why we are gathered for this worship.

The focus then turns to scripture with an Old Testament reading, a psalm, a New Testament reading and a Gospel reading. There is a sermon and then after we have saturated ourselves in the word of God the Bishop elect is presented for ordination.

During the process of examination prior to the laying on of hands and consecration as a Bishop, the Bishop elect publically proclaims their commitment and agreement to the call. That call is proclaimed as follows “a Bishop is God’s holy Church is called to be one of the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of Kings. You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church. Your joy will be to follow Him who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for man.” The question is then asked – “are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of Bishop?”

You have heard the term defender of the faith. That is what the Bishop is committing to. Throughout history there have been many thinking people who have challenged the traditional Christian faith which is proclaimed here – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that there were eye witnesses to that Resurrection, that there is no one else in history like Jesus, He is sovereign over everything and everyone, and that His death is a ransom for our sins.

By accepting the role of Bishop an individual is giving up the rite to be a challenger of the faith and accepting the responsibility to be a defender of the faith.

Rev. Al Carson


Who gets to Vote for a new Bishop

Posted on Jul 12 , 2013 in Did You Know

 The election for our new Bishop will occur on November 30, 2013 at Christ Church Cathedral. By that day all the nominations should be in however it is still possible for a candidate to be nominated from the floor.

 In 1994 the last time an election occurred there were17 people who had been nominated and one who was nominated from the floor to make a total of 18 on the ballot. Each Lay delegate to synod will get a vote for Bishop, as well as each clergy currently licenced and residing in the Diocese, that includes retired clergy as well as non-retired clergy. The vote will be counted separately and in order to be elected Bishop the person must win a majority of votes among lay delegates and among clergy delegates, the term used to describe this is a majority in each house. If a person receives a majority in one house but not the other then another round of voting continues in each house. It is very unlikely that a person will be elected on the first ballot. After the first round of voting the results are posted and candidates have the option of withdrawing their nomination thus reducing the number of names on the ballot. This process continues until a candidate is declared the winner in each house. At that point the person elected does not become the Bishop elect.

 The next step is that the name of the person who has won the election is submitted to the house of Bishops of the Ecclesiastical province of BC. The Ecclesiastical province does not have the same boundaries as the geographical province as the Yukon  is included in the Ecclesiastical province of BC. The house of Bishops must  approve the person who has received the majority of votes before that person is declared Bishop elect. It is possible but unlikely that the house of Bishops would request that the voting continue until a candidate was elected that they would affirm.  When a person is declared Bishop elect then a date will be set for their consecration as Bishop and installation unless they are already a Bishop in which case a date for their installation would be set. That date could be a number of months in the future and it would not be until that date that we officially once again had a Bishop.

 Next week a look at the vows a Bishop makes at consecration.

Rev. Al Carson



We Will Be Electing A New Bishop

Posted on Jul 05 , 2013 in Did You Know

The office of Bishop has existed since the first century. It is referred to in the New Testament on a number of occasions. Some of the earliest commentaries on scripture are from Bishops in the first century.

 How a Bishop is selected varies from place to place and time to time. Historically some have been chosen by the drawing of lots. Some have been appointed by Kings or Queens. In fact the Archbishop of Canterbury to this day is appointed by the Queen not elected. Some Bishops have been sent out as missionary Bishops to new areas to establish the church in that area. In the Anglican Communion Bishops do not hold office for a fixed length of time but remain in office until they choose to retire or step down.

 Bishop Michael has chosen to retire on August 31, 2013. In the Anglican Church of Canada Bishops are now elected. Historically we were a missionary church so Bishops were sent to us from England. The process for the election will not start until September 1, 2013.The reason for this is the office is not vacant until that date and the process for election does not start until the office is vacant. The last time we had an election in this diocese was in 1994. At that time the process included having the candidates submit a CV using a pre-determined format as well as creating a video presentation where they answered a specific set of questions. In all probability a similar format will be used again this time.

 There is a committee that is currently working on the format for election and will be determining how best to communicate information regarding each candidate. The election for Bishop is to be unlike other elections in that it is not to be a process of political lobbying but a process of discernment directed by the Holy Spirit as the person who is raised up to the position is viewed to be called to the position not promoted to the position.

 Next week a closer look at the process of election.

 Rev. Al Carson