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Did you Know? August 10

Posted on Aug 08 , 2014 in Did You Know

What are the tasks of a Priest?

 The foundational task of a priest is the same as the task of all Christians – “to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world“. In addition to that it is to work as part of a team with “the Bishop and fellow presbyters“. By using the term presbyter rather than priest it becomes all encompassing. The term presbyter would refer to any “called out” leader in the church including deacons, priests, pastors, and elders. Specifically though as a priest the task is “to proclaim by word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work (notice that does not say love and serve the people in your congregation – it includes the community outside the congregation) caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to preside at the administration of holy baptism and at the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s body and blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you. In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.” Most of this simply expands the understanding of “to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world“. It adds the specific tasks, of preaching and presiding at public worship events where sacraments are celebrated. Underlying all of these activities though remains that the goal is to “make Christ known as Saviour and Lord“.

 The same directive and responsibility applies to one other task that I have not mentioned yet. “To take your share in the councils of the Church” – to go and participate in meetings in such a way that you “make Christ known as Saviour and Lord and share in the renewing of his world by caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor.” – see the church does believe in miracles, it believes people can actually behave Christ like in a church “business meeting“!

 Try reading through the ordination services starting on page 633 of the Book of Alternate services for a fuller picture.

Reverend Al Carson

 

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Did you Know? August 03

Posted on Aug 01 , 2014 in Did You Know

 Who are the ministers in a church?

 If you were to ask the average person on the street my guess would be that the answers would be something like – clergy, pastors, priests, or those that lead the services. Do you think that if that question was asked in a church that the majority of answers would be the same? My guess is that there would be little difference in the answers from people within or without the church. If a person is being a minister what is that they are doing? I think this is a good definition – “making Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and sharing in the renewing of his world.” That definition includes both proclaiming who Jesus is and caring for people and the world in which we live. I got that quote from the Anglican Church of Canada ordination of a Priest service. Here is the entire paragraph that it comes from. “The Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to work as a pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the councils of the Church” Did you catch it? You might want to read that quote again. If you are a Christian you are a minister in the church. If you are a Christian you are called to “make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and share in the renewing of his world.” The person who is about to be ordained is about to have another list of responsibilities added to that list. Not a more important list, an additional list. The foundational and most important role of a minister is “to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world” and in that we are all ministers. As a Christian that is your job description, and that job trumps any other job or role you might have.

 Next week: what are these additional tasks that the ordained person is given?

 

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Did you Know? July 27

Posted on Jul 25 , 2014 in Did You Know

 When did the role of Priest begin in the Church?

 The term Priest in the Christian communities actually comes from the Greek word presbyteros, which means “elder”. The term is not a continuation of the Old Testament Levitical Priesthood. Jesus is considered the High Priest or intermediary and none other is needed so there is no need for the continuation of the Levitical Priesthood.

 A priesthood developed gradually in the early Christian church as first bishops and then elders, or “presbyters,” began to exercise certain liturgical functions, mainly in connection with celebration of the Eucharist. By the end of the 2nd century, the church’s bishops were called priests (Latin: sacerdos). Although the priestly office was vested primarily in the bishop, a presbyter shared in his priestly functions and, in his absence, could exercise certain of them as his delegates. With the spread of Christianity and the establishment of parish churches, the presbyter, or parish priest, adopted more of the bishop’s functions and became the principal celebrant of the Eucharist. In this capacity, as well as by hearing confession and granting absolution, the priest eventually assumed the role of the congregations chief “elder”. The development of eucharistic theology resulted in a further emphasis of the priest’s role as defender of the faith in partnership with the Bishop. During the period of the reformation in the 16th century congregations that broke away from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church changed the name of the chief “elder” from Priest to minister to distinguish themselves. The Anglican Church retained the term Priest in the Book of Common Prayer to distinguish the role from that of a deacon but in public usually referred to the Priest as a clergyman to indicate its separation from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. In the last century the term priest has become more widely accepted. It is interesting to note that in Matthew 23:9 when it says to call no one “father” the term used there could also be translated as presbyter, pastor, or elder. The concept is that you do not look for anyone other than Jesus to be your intermediary “high Priest” between you and God. That is not the role of the Bishop or Priest or Pastor or anyone.

 

PS: This may be my last Sunday service at Saint Cuthbert but my role as Priest does not end until August 31. So this is not my last did you know. That will not happen until August 31.

 

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Did You Know? July 20

Posted on Jul 17 , 2014 in Did You Know

 Whatever happened our Memorial Park?

 At our annual vestry this year we unanimously approved to move forward with the proposed concept of the Saint Cuthbert Memorial park. The concept that was presented to our Vestry was then taken and submitted to the Delta Planning department for feedback and to see if we could get approval in principle. It was not an official application to begin building but a preliminary application as this would be a first for the municipality. The proposal was well received and approved in principle with an invite to submit a formal application. However, the process also identified some roadblocks which the municipality had recommendations to overcome. It was discovered that there is an inconsistency in the cemetery act. Ashes from cremation are not considered human remains. Consequently it is not illegal for people to scatter ashes on mountain tops in parks or backyards or pretty much anywhere. When a Church then establishes a memorial garden where ashes are scattered is viewed in the same manner. If a church were to close under the law nothing needs to be done with ashes scattered in a memorial garden. A different building could be constructed right on top of them. They could just be ignored. If however a columbarium is built and ashes are stored in an urn in a niche in the wall then the law applies. It is considered that those ashes are being kept in trust and consequently the cemetery act places an encumbrance on the property where the columbarium is located. In that case if the church closes then a new location must be found and approved and the columbarium moved. As a church though we would argue that morally and ethically when people choose to have ashes scattered in a memorial garden on church property they are expecting that those ashes are being kept in trust within the ground. Placing ashes in the ground in a garden on church property is not the same as scattering them on a mountain or favorite trail. We believe our responsibility should be the same in either case. Our proposed memorial park will be treated differently under the law then our current memorial garden. We think they should be treated the same and our presentation may result in the law changing so that scattering gardens come under the same guidelines. The suggestion from the municipality to make this as simple as possible for the church is that the municipality register the proposed memorial park as a separate entity from the church. The result would be that the encumbrance placed on the land by the cemetery act would then only apply to the park and not the church. This would mean that in the future any alterations to the church would not need to get approval through the cemetery board. A very helpful and wise suggestion that shows the municipality’s enthusiasm for the project and support for the project. This process though will add about another four months to the project meaning that actual permits to proceed will not be in hand until well into the fall which means construction would not happen until the spring as it takes about four months to order the columbarium. From a timing perspective though this will give opportunity for a new Rector to be more involved with the project. So there has been a great deal of positive progress made over the last four months, just nothing visible yet. That is yet to come.

 Reverend Al Carson

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Did You know? July 13

Posted on Jul 11 , 2014 in Did You Know

 

What is the average length of time for a clergy to say in a church?

 From a study of various churches across North America it was determined to be 4 years. The study though did not just look at length of stay but other factors. Here are some conclusions from the study. Approximately 3/4 of growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church more than four years, while 2/3 of declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church less than four years. Their conclusion: Long-term pastorates do not guarantee that a church will grow. But short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow. Some other startling facts that actually make sense given this study. In North America nearly 85% of congregations are not growing. Could the major factor in this be that clergy are not staying put long enough? So what does this mean for a congregation that is in the process of searching for a new Priest? The advice from the study is that intentional longevity be made a criteria when looking for a new Pastor. Their conclusion was that the most productive or effective ministry does not happen until years 5, 6, or 7. The suggestion of those who wrote the study is that the minimum length of intended stay be seven years and that coming in that should be part of the discussion and plan.

So, why do pastors leave their churches? Here are the results of one study where pastors were asked that question.

 

Why am I leaving? I would have answered first, being called by God to another Church which also would have led to selecting the number one choice, desire to serve in a different type of community or area of the country. The other realization I had after reading this study was that if I did not make a change now I would not be able to commit to their suggested seven years at a new place which brought me back to the first reason: Being called by God to another Church at this time for this time.

 

 

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Did You Know? – July 06

Posted on Jul 04 , 2014 in Did You Know

The Role of Bishop:

 

 During the children’s focus this past Sunday when Bishop Melissa asked the children if they knew who she was. One of the responses were: “you are Father Al’s boss”. That got a laugh and on one level it is true but it misses the big picture. Historically there are many examples of Bishop’s who lived out their role with a “boss” emphasis. As Christians we are all called to be “disciples”, “servants”, “slaves”, of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. The role then of the Bishop is an overseer of the disciples. One who encourages and challenges us in our relationship with Christ and our sharing of the “good news” of what God has done for us in Christ. The Bishop accomplishes this by “sending out” Priests as co labourers in this work. In this sense the Priest’s ministry is the sharing of the Bishop’s ministry. The Bishop’s role then is not the top of a hierarchy but the centre point of unified body with Christ as the head of that body.

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What is the average size church people attend in Canada?

Posted on Aug 30 , 2013 in Did You Know

 This is not as simple a question to answer as it appears. We must start by defining what is meant by average. If we are referring to the total number of members of all churches in Canada divided by the total number of churches we would arrive at a number we could refer to as average. That number would come out at around 180. If however we were to put the numbers in order on a page from the smallest church to the largest and then counted along until we reached the halfway point in churches,  or the median point of churches,  the number would be about 75. If we continued along that line until we reached the half way point of people, or the median point of people, the church that we would be at would have an attendance of over 350.  That means that half the people who are attending church are attending churches of over 350. Yet 90% of all the churches have less than 350 people attending and over 50% have less than 75 people attending. The majority of people attending church are in only 10% of all churches!

 What does this mean? In light of last weeks did you know the conclusion would be that church for the majority of people attending has become an institution, an entity where we are more like customers consuming a product as opposed to a family where we are committed members. Those who have studied church growth over the years make the point of saying it is very difficult to break the 200 barrier yet once you do grow to over 200 it is easy to grow to 300 or 400. Perhaps it is because the shift is made from family to institution and we would rather be a customer then a committed family member.

 For me it was an eye opener to realize that half the people attending church in Canada are attending churches of over 350 people. Christianity in North America has become a consumer product, yet the gospel of Jesus Christ does not offer us a product to consume, or a aid to enhance our life, it offers us adoption into the family of God see Romans 8:15-17.

 Reverend Al Carson

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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

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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

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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