Back to the Basics

As our congregation’s leadership has gathered over the past few weeks, we have found ourselves asking the questions, “What now? What is our next step? In light of where we are and where we believe we need to go, what do we need to focus on for these next coming months?” As we discussed these questions, a theme emerged: Back to the basics.

Back to the basics. What are we talking about when we talk about going “back to the basics? We use this term to speak about the basic faith and practices that have been a part of the Christian community as long as there has been a Christian community to practice them. In particular, there are 5 basics that we keep coming back to. They are:

1.      A commitment to Jesus as the center of our faith and life and community

2.      A commitment to discipleship – to personally following Jesus and growing in our faith and knowledge and love for him

3.      A commitment to prayer – to personally and corporately seeking God in prayer as we pray to him and for each other and the world around us

4.      A commitment to care – to sharing life and faith with one another beyond Sunday mornings

5.      A commitment to welcome – to actively open our doors and step out and invite others into this shared life in Christ

These are the “basics” as we understand them – the basics of what following Jesus and loving him and our neighbour looks like. These “basics” describe what we recognize to be the basic character and practice of the Christian community that we rally around and must be a part of everything we do.

But the conversation doesn’t stop here. As we continued to work through this, we recognized these basic commitments lead us to making a number of smaller, more practical commitments to help us live them out together.

And so, in the coming months we are making:

1.      A commitment small groups – we are committed to increasing the number of small groups that are available so that anyone who would like to join one will be able to

2.      A commitment to prayer – we are committed to cultivating the culture of personal and corporate prayer in our congregation by offering both pre-service and mid-week prayer groups, an after service prayer team, and opportunities for our community to engage in prayer in new and creative ways both in the service and beyond

3.      A commitment to care – we are committed to caring more intentionally for those who call B-FBC home by regularly

following up with members when they are sick, absent or home-bound

4.      A commitment to engaging worship – we are committed to expanding our Sunday morning worship experience in creative and thoughtful ways that engage the whole of the Christian tradition we stand on as well as the language of the culture we live in

5.      A commitment to welcoming families – we are committed to providing supervised Sunday school every week for nursery and early years-aged children

6.      A commitment to welcoming the emerging generation – in particular, we are committed to planting a new worshipping community for young people in our neighbourhood to engage with Jesus and the Christian community in a new way

Back to basics. It means a commitment to the basic character and practices of the Christian community as it always has been and a commitment to some basic steps forward in faith that God might use these steps to continue the work that He began here so many years ago.

Joe Welty

The Cross and the Sword

THE CROSS AND THE SWORD

I can still remember that moment of discovery as a child. I was at a friend’s house whose parents took a different view on what sort of toys were appropriate for children to play with than my own parents did. We were playing with toy swords, a sort of forbidden fruit in my pacifist Mennonite home. As we were playing, my friend held his sword upside down by the blade for some sort of dramatic effect. In that moment there was a flash of recognition Continue reading “The Cross and the Sword”

Dry Bones

 

DRY BONES

For the record, I wasn’t there. But I do wonder what I would have done if I had been.

It happened like this. I was in seminary and a number of friends were excited about a new guest faculty member who would be giving an advanced course in preaching. He was a well-known preacher, someone many had heard either from the pulpit of his large and influential congregation or as a conference keynote speaker or through his regular radio ministry or one of his many, many books. There was a sense of excitement on the part of the students taking this course from such an influential individual and a sense of jealousy on the part of many others.

On the first day of class the students gathered early to collect their syllabi and to meet this person that many had been looking forward to studying under for some time. The preacher walked into the room a few minutes late and with not much more than that for an introduction said to grab their things as they were going for a drive. Five minutes later they met at the campus gates to sort out rides and drive in a caravan to a spot just a few minutes down the road. Getting out, the students realized they were at a cemetery. The preacher led them around the grounds for a few minutes, stepping around gravestones and other memorials as they went. Finally they came to a stop at a gravestone of no particular significance to anyone there. After a moment or two of silence, the preacher read the name engraved on the stone. And then, to the astonishment of everyone, he pointed to one student and said, “You. Preach to Mr. _______.” As a friend relayed it to me (he happened to be standing right next to the person and felt like he had narrowly dodged a bullet), the person’s eyes bulged, he stammered and made a few croaking sounds until the preacher turned on another student saying, “OK, you do it then.” The second student did a little better – better being they let out a long “ummmm” and “wellll” and “I guess I’ve been thinking about…” before the preacher cut them off too saying shortly, “Fine, I’ll do it.” He then proceeded to give a beautiful 5 minute introduction to the Christian message complete with an invitation to step forward from where they lay as an act of faith and commitment to Christ. I asked my friend what he was thinking at that moment. He said he wasn’t sure but he sure knew what he was feeling. It was a mix of fear and the desire to escape, like they had all been taken hostage by a crazy person and there was no way out. But then, presumably after the benediction, the preacher turned back to everyone and asked what they thought just happened there. I think the best anyone could come up with was something like, “We need to be prepared to preach at any time?” He said, “This is what we do every time we speak. We are like Ezekiel preaching to dry bones and trusting God’s Spirit to do the impossible and bring life to even these.”

I love this story. Don’t get me wrong, I am really glad I wasn’t there as I have no idea what I would have done. But I think it captures something essential not just about what a preaching ministry is but of what the Christian life as a whole is like. Every time we preach or speak or turn to the message of Jesus we are doing the same thing. We are asking God if he might not take these words and, by his Spirit, do what we cannot by bringing life even into all the places where it feels like we have experienced a kind of death. It is like we are Ezekiel preaching to the dry bones and dry places inside and asking God to bring life even here. Because when we do, he does.

-Joe Welty

FOREST BATHING AND OTHER THINGS

Shinrin-yoku.

Have you heard this term? For the past number of months it has been popping up all over the media-world in places as familiar as the CBC and ‘The Globe and Mail’ and as diverse as ‘National Geographic’, ‘Business Insider’, and ‘Vogue’. The term is Japanese and means “forest bathing.”It became popular in Japan beginning in the 1980’s to speak of the practice of intentionally unplugging from technology and going outside to a green space for a few hours at a time. Dr. Qing Li is the Chair of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine (yes, this is a real scientific society and evidence of the influence this idea has had in Japanese culture as a whole). In his recent book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, he lays out the findings of their research. He points to the scientific evidence that demonstrates how “forest bathing” decreases stress levels, heart rate, and  blood pressure. Likewise, he shows how it levels moods by decreasing anger and rates of depression while elevating our senses of joy and calm. Furthermore, “forest bathing” is linked to 30% increases in energy levels, 15% increases in sleep quality, as well as increases in our immune systems and cardiovascular health among other benefits. While they debate about the reasons for this – Is it the increased exposure to sunlight and less polluted air? Is it the natural aromatherapy from exposure to phytoncides found in plants and trees or to the bacteria, minerals, and microorganisms found in soil? – the results seem pretty clear: getting outside and connecting with nature is good for us.

Of course this probably shouldn’t surprise us as Canadians. While we don’t have quite such “boutique” language for this sort of experience, we have do have plenty of words of our own that we use. We use words like “going for a walk” or “getting outdoors” or “gardening” or taking part in what is for many the annual ritual called “camping.” Many of us experience the benefits of this sort of lifestyle so the results shouldn’t surprise us.

Moreover, this probably shouldn’t surprise us as Christians either. As Christians we believe that we were not created apart from the world or that the natural world is some sort of mess that we need to fix, escape, or be protected from. Instead, we believe we were made as part of and for the world. We believe that we are creatures, that is creations who are part of this world. And as creatures, it is really so surprising that we often feel at our best when we are connected to creation? Is it really surprising that it would be written in our DNA?

So with the summer months here, I hope you are able to take advantage of the warm weather and get out and replace some of your screen time with green time. Maybe it will give you the chance to understand in a new way what we are saying when we declare, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”                -Joe Welty

FOREST BATHING AND OTHER THINGS

Shinrin-yoku.

Have you heard this term? For the past number of months it has been popping up all over the media-world in places as familiar as the CBC and ‘The Globe and Mail’ and as diverse as ‘National Geographic’, ‘Business Insider’, and ‘Vogue’. The term is Japanese and means “forest bathing.”It became popular in Japan beginning in the 1980’s to speak of the practice of intentionally unplugging from technology and going outside to a green space for a few hours at a time. Dr. Qing Li is the Chair of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine (yes, this is a real scientific society and evidence of the influence this idea has had in Japanese culture as a whole). In his recent book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, he lays out the findings of their research. He points to the scientific evidence that demonstrates how “forest bathing” decreases stress levels, heart rate, and  blood pressure. Likewise, he shows how it levels moods by decreasing anger and rates of depression while elevating our senses of joy and calm. Furthermore, “forest bathing” is linked to 30% increases in energy levels, 15% increases in sleep quality, as well as increases in our immune systems and cardiovascular health among other benefits. While they debate about the reasons for this – Is it the increased exposure to sunlight and less polluted air? Is it the natural aromatherapy from exposure to phytoncides found in plants and trees or to the bacteria, minerals, and microorganisms found in soil? – the results seem pretty clear: getting outside and connecting with nature is good for us.

Of course this probably shouldn’t surprise us as Canadians. While we don’t have quite such “boutique” language for this sort of experience, we have do have plenty of words of our own that we use. We use words like “going for a walk” or “getting outdoors” or “gardening” or taking part in what is for many the annual ritual called “camping.” Many of us experience the benefits of this sort of lifestyle so the results shouldn’t surprise us.

Moreover, this probably shouldn’t surprise us as Christians either. As Christians we believe that we were not created apart from the world or that the natural world is some sort of mess that we need to fix, escape, or be protected from. Instead, we believe we were made as part of and for the world. We believe that we are creatures, that is creations who are part of this world. And as creatures, it is really so surprising that we often feel at our best when we are connected to creation? Is it really surprising that it would be written in our DNA?

So with the summer months here, I hope you are able to take advantage of the warm weather and get out and replace some of your screen time with green time. Maybe it will give you the chance to understand in a new way what we are saying when we declare, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”                -Joe Welty