There Is Hope

Most days I really enjoy my job*. I have a lot of freedom to set my calendar, to spend time with people, or alone. I get to write, read, talk and do any number of things I find meaningful. But were you to catch me on the right day I would tell you that sometimes I can feel really down, and very discouraged.

It isn’t any one thing in particular that gets me feeling that way. The church I work for is filled with wonderful and supporting people. Most of the bumps we have hit in the two years I have been here have been minor, understandable, and addressed rather easily. I love my church.

What gets me down is sometimes I feel like I am a horse and buggy whip manufacturer watching more and more cars drive by my front door. Each day I seek to perfect my craft. While at the same time the need for my craft as it was originally understood is fading away.

horse and carridge edit

Quick let us make haste to church!

Times have changed and continue to change at an alarming rate. Churches are closing. Those that remain open are graying. The cultural pull the church once had is lost. Worst still in the not so distant past even if a person themselves wasn’t interested in faith or the church chances are they felt positively towards the whole things. This is no longer the case.

There are of course individual churches that are pushing against this trend, but the tread remains. In the Western World Christianity is shrinking.There are days I go about doing what needs to be done to get ready for Sunday, wondering, and worrying, if I am destined to be a pastor who will lock many church doors for the last time.

We don't actually name our churches after saints. I should have said 'Location Baptist Church'

We don’t actually name our churches after saints. I should have said ‘Location Baptist Church’

This past week I attended Oasis. It is a sort of fusion between conference, retreat and business meeting spread over four days for Baptists in Atlantic Canada. I got the chance to hear from many of our denominational leaders and from our keynote speaker was author Philip Yancey which was a great treat. Everyone who had the opportunity to speak seemed to address this reality in their own way. I am walking away from this weekend feeling hopeful.

Let me tell you why. First it was simply great to hear so many people admit that we are facing a major problem. One that goes beyond PR, or music choice or any of our other little squabbles. While I still think we are betting at diagnosing than at curing but at least we are on our way. Second as Philip Yancey shared story after story it reminded me while our positional authority is gone we can still have relational connections with people if we are willing to work it them. Third we are doing a lot of good work all over the world and it doesn’t matter whether people flock to church because of it or not. For example CBM has launched a three year mission called ‘She Matters‘ to help girls in developing parts of the world get access to an education.

There is of course more that could be said. But for now, for me I am content to see the hope we have in these challenging times. Maybe I am witnessing the end of the church as I have known it. But I am more sure now that I am also watching the beginning of the church as I will know it.

 

*Some pastors take major issue calling what they do a ‘job’. I have no such hang ups. I do stuff, and I get paid for it which is pretty much the definition of a job.

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One Last Hurrah At Crystal Palace

A few weeks ago the news broke that Dieppe’s Crystal Palace would soon be no more. I guess I unknowingly assumed that Crystal Palace would always be with us. I along with many felt a sense of shock and loss at the thought of losing the small by fun amusement park. Crystal Palace has been such a part of my life. I remember;

Family trips when I was a child/teen

Trips away with my young group as a teen

Trips away with friends as a young adult

Taking a youth group of my own as I started as a pastor

Finally coming full circle and taking my young children

2012 was our first trip as a growing young family. Simeon was three, Ariella was one, and we had a blast. For me it was to be the first of many trips

Having fun like it's 2012

Having fun like it’s 2012

At three and one Simeon and Ariella were young to get full benefit of all the attractions. Early in the year when we thought about what our family of five (Simeon five, Ariella three, and Asher one) might do on vacation it seemed like it might be best to wait another year before we trucked up to New Brunswick. But as it turns out next year wasn’t an option.

It was now or never. We choose now.

As I walked into Crystal Palace the familiar clacking of the roller coaster and the lights flashing on the swings exploded into my mind like some sort of nostalgia bomb. I was easily more excited then the kids. I could barely wait for us to don our bracelets and get started. We jumped right in.

Crystal Collage 1

One of the things we found out this trip that we must not have noticed last time was that children Asher’s age/size can go on a number of rides if accompanied by an adult. So instead of being stuck on the side lines Asher got a taste of things too. And I have to say he enjoyed the rides quite a lot.

Crystal Collage 2I won’t lie. I wasn’t just there for the kids. I really wanted to have one last hurrah myself. Crystal Palace introduced me to lazer tag and I desperately wanted to play it there once more. We hit a small snag though, Simeon was two inches too short. I am not one that normally ignores height restrictions, but I couldn’t fathom a reason why laser tag needed such rules. So I carefully instructed Simeon to stand up as straight as he could and to walk confidently into the lazer tag zone while I stood in between him and the measuring device.

We got in.

The other ride Simeon wasn’t tall enough for was the swings. That one there really was a safety concern so I didn’t try the same trick. Meghan did however give me the nod to go ahead, and the ride operator was even kind enough to snap a picture.

Swing Daddy

I should say that the staff all day were wonderful. We chatted with a lot of the workers in the park, and at Mcginnis Landing (the restaurant attached to Crystal Palace). Everyone was pleasant, friendly and kind. But there was a touch of sadness with a lot of staff. Many had worked there for years. The manager at Mcginnis Landing had been there for fifteen years. They felt the loss more acutely than I did.

Closing Time

As the day went on we lingered. Originally we planned to wrap up our trip at 7pm. But I wasn’t ready to go. We played a round of mini-golf, took a few ‘one more’ rides, and enjoyed a few more token games. Finally as we neared 8:30 the kids put on their pjs and we all really did go on our one last ride. Meghan, Asher and Ariella took a ride on the submarine that made Asher giggle while Simeon and I took a spin on the rollercoaster.

We walked out of the building and drove into the setting sun. The day was pretty much all I had hoped for, but I am sad that there will not be another. It was a great family day trip. It was a fitting goodbye to the place that held so many of my memories.

For us Crystal Palace now is just a memory, we won’t be back before they close their doors for the last time. But there is still a little time. Perhaps you’d like to go on ‘one last ride’.

Saying goodbye to an old friend

Saying goodbye to an old friend

The Marriage Dilemma

Laura at Mommy-Miracles has been running a summer time #WrittingVows marriage series and asked me to contribute. My thinking about marriage lead me in two directions. I sent Laura the one that fit her blog better. But I am not ready to part with my other line of thinking. Here are some of my other thoughts about marriage.

Wedding Photo

In Christian circles a bible passage that comes up often when talking about how marriages ought to work is Ephesians 5:21-25. It reads like this;

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

Paul, the writer of Ephesians is actually giving some useful advice here. Advice that is lost on us because this passage has so often been misused to assert patriarchal authority over women who are struggling in difficult, damaging, and sometimes all out abusive relationships.

We have used this passage in such a way when people now read it they see something like this, ‘Woman your husband is your boss and you have to listen to him and do everything he says. If you do that he’ll love you. If he isn’t being very loving to you, well you must be doing something wrong,’

But that is not what Paul says at all. That first sentence is what he is telling both husbands and wives to do. He is saying that we have to mutually, out of love, submit to one another. Submit is a hard word to interact with. Submitting feels like we being defeated. It feels like we have lost something. In a battle submitting is likely a defeat. But maybe, just maybe in marriage submission can bring victory.

Let’s lift this discussion out of the bible for a moment and move it into social science. I think Paul has described the ultimate objective in the famous thought experiment, ‘The Prisoners Dilemma’. If you are not familiar with the prisoners dilemma basically it is a scenario the pits self interest against shared interest. And that is not a bad way to imagine a marriage.

In my marriage I am constantly trying to balance the things that are best for me against the things that are best for my marriage. On any given day I can choose to be selfish and aim to simply please myself. Or on any given day I can choose to be self-sacrificing, and choose to please my wife and family. The same is true for my wife. On any given day she can choose to be selfish or self-sacrificing.

Think of it like this table here;

Your Marriage- Prisoners Dilemma

Paul is telling us to aim for the upper left corner. That if we both choose to put the other person first, if we both decided to give the other person everything in the end both of us will end up with everything. By submitting we don’t lose we win. In fact it is only by both people submitting to each other that both people win. Otherwise someone, or possibly everyone suffers.

This is the marriage dilemma. To be selfish, or to be self-sacrificing. By choosing to put your spouse first you risk being swallowed up in their selfishness. But what is the real alternative? Two selfish people cannot co-exist happily together. Their selfishness will eat away until there is nothing but bitterness and resentment left.

Even though Paul’s advice has been misappropriated and misrepresented he is right. To make a marriage work both people need to consider their spouse ahead of themselves. This advice isn’t easy, and it is definitely risky. But I think it is worth the risk.

I am with Paul on this one all the way, if you want the best out of your marriage “Submit to one another…”