Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Into the world, in the power of the Spirit

Well, that's an end of it. And a beginning of it.

Our Lenten journey of preparation has ended in your Confirmation by Bishop Greg at the Easter Vigil. But your journey through life as mature Christians has just begun.

I intend to close the comment feature on the blog, but I will be leaving the blog itself up. I've heard that a number of people, near and far, thought we had an interesting approach to confirmation preparation. I did add a chronolgical link to all the blog posts, and I created a direct link to the ReJesus Pub Quiz in the list of useful links.

To other visitors, do feel free to poke around on our Confirmation blog. If there are things you find helpful, feel free to link to them or to adapt them to your own situation. I've often joked that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery - but if you do use material from here, I'd appreciate an acknowledgement.

If you have questions about how this went - or about how I might do it differently - please feel free to email me (priest@stjamesregina.ca).

Here is the Confirmation class - along with their instructor - bedecked in bunnyhugs and shades on Palm Sunday.

The bunnyhugs (that's what we call them around here) are via Sarah Laughed and Cafe Press. The front depicts Abraham and Sarah entertaining angels unawares - except that the angels are all decked out in Blues Brothers style hats and sunglasses. On the back we find the Anglican Communion's Five Marks of Mission.

And here we have all of our newly confirmed St. James young people - along with their not so young priest - at the Cathedral with Bishop Greg. I bet Bishop Greg wishes he had such a great bunnyhug - or a kangaroo as he calls them.

Our five young confirmands are, like Jake and Elwood Blues, "on a mission from God." They have been sent into the world - along with the rest of us - to proclaim the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We're on a mission from God

A few things.

First, remember that we're all to wear our bunnyhugs this Sunday, along with sunglasses. There'll be pictures.

Second, This Sunday will be our last regular get together before we enter into the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter - with your confirmation happening at the Easter Vigil.

I've scheduled this week to be an open discussion. We can go where you need to or want to in exploring what it is to be a mature Christian. However, there are a couple of new things I'm going to post which will, I hope, provoke some thought.

Father Matthew has added one more to his Father Matthew Presents the Sacraments series.

Also, looking back over what we've done, I think we should have spent a bit more time talking about the Creeds.

There are three Creeds which our Church treats as having authority: the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Creed of St. Athanasius. Check them out and consider what they say. We can talk about these at some length on Sunday. You can also find some history of how each of them came to be here, here and here.

Another important document that outlines how Anglicans understand the Church is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It reflects a resolution that was first passed by the American House of Bishops at a meeting in Chicago, which was subsequently affirmed by the Bishops of the Anglican Communion meeting at Lambeth Palace in England. You can find some history here.

Finally, I want to run down our activities in the week between this Sunday and your confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
  • Thursday, March 20 - Maundy Thursday. The service at St. James is at 7:30 pm. Since you all have parts to do, please try to be there no later than 7:15 pm.
  • Friday, March 21 - Good Friday. The service begins at St. James at 10:00 am with prayers, and then we have a procession to Rosemont United Church. You guys are in charge of carrying the cross, and you each have a reading during the parts of the service at Rosemont United. Again, because you all have parts, please be at St. James no later than 9:45 am.
  • Saturday, March 22 - Easter Eve. We're going to spend some time together - about two hours - during the day - partly a "pre-confirmation retreat" and partly a church mission project, distributing information about our Easter service at St. James. We can discuss the best time on Sunday.
  • Saturday, March 22 - Easter Eve. Still Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins at 8:00 pm. As confirmands, please tyry to be there by 7:30 pm, as I imagine the Bishop will want to take some time to talk to you before the service.
We're almost there. See you Sunday.

Pax et bonum,


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Following Jesus

So now we get to what is probably the biggest, broadest and most difficult section of our course. We need to ask ourselves, what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to live a Christian life?

Father Steven and Father Matthew have a few videos that touch on these questions.

Why go to Church?

Super Bowl Sunday

Man in Black (based on a Johnny Cash song)

Sometimes, following Jesus can be very difficult. We know the right thing to do, but our own desires, or the urgings of our friends can lead us to do otherwise.

Most often, doing the wrong thing has consequences. But sometimes, doing the right thing can have even greater consequences - for good or ill.

Take some time to read these stories about the lives of these saints:
What made these people special? How did they follow Jesus?

I actually had the honour of knowing one of these people. Florence Li Tim-Oi was living in Toronto when I was a student there. It wasn't until some time had passed that I realized she was an historically significant person with an heroic story of faith. I thought she was this nice old Chinese lady who came to services at the college chapel. (Well, she was that. But she was so much more.)

Who are the saints you've met?

One important part of following Jesus is living a life that is grounded in prayer. Here are two more videos for you to watch from Father Steven and Father Matthew.


Anglican Prayer

One way of sorting out our lives to follow Jesus is to develop a Rule of Life. This doesn't have to be a great big complicated set of regulations like the Rule of St. Benedict. It is more of a simple set of guidelines that you develop for yourself.

One good place to start is our Baptismal Covenant - those promises your parents and godparents made for you at your baptism, and that you'll be taking on for yourselves at your confirmation. It begins on page 158 of your Book of Alternative Services, and continues to the bottom of the next page.

The Diocese of West Texas has a nice series of pages that starts here and continues here and here, which give you some helpful suggestions on how to design - and stick to - a Rule of Life that will work for you.

The other thing to think about is this: What is God calling you to do with your life?

Every Christian person is called to ministry. For some of us, it will be ordained ministry as a deacon, a priest or a bishop. For most, it will be some form of lay ministry. We may be called to different ministries at different times of our lives.

Take a look at these pages from the Anglican Church of Canada website:
How can you best serve God in his Church?

Pax et bonum,


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Outward Signs of Inward Grace

Next Sunday's topic is the sacraments.

The Church often speaks of sacraments as "outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace." That's a big complicated way of saying that sacraments are things we do on the outside that touch us on the inside.

You should read the sections of the American Catechism that deal with the Sacraments:
The Diocese of Texas site has a page that talks about the sacraments. So does a neat site called Rev. Rebecca's Explanation and Guide to All Things Anglican.

Each family took home a copy of the Book of Alternative Services. The BAS includes a brief explanatory note before many of the services. Take a read through the notes for each of the sacraments:
  • Baptism - pp 146-150 (includes some information on Confirmation)
  • Reconciliation - p 166
  • Eucharist - pp 174-184
  • Marriage - pp 526-527
  • Anointing - pp 551-553
  • Ordination - pp 631-631
We sometimes speak of the seven sacraments, but just as often we divide the sacraments into the two great sacraments of the Gospel and the other five sacraments. The two sacraments of the Gospel (Baptism and Eucharist) were initiated by Jesus himself, directly, and are important for the life of every Christian. The other five sacraments (Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Reconciliation and Anointing) are ones which may or may not play a part in the life of an individual Christian. Some will be called to ordained ministry; most will not. Many will be called to live in a lifelong faithful relationship with another person; many will not. Many will make a mature commitment to Christ; many will not. Some will experience periods of painful and debilitating sickness and will seek grace through spiritual healing; many will not. All of us will sin, but while some may seek counsel and a clear statement of God's forgiveness, many more will not.

Father Matthew is planning to do an eight part series on the sacraments. So far he only has three of them done. But they are all three well worth watching.

Holy Baptism



Here are some questions for you to think about. We'll discuss your answers on Sunday.

  • Why do we need to have outward signs for inward grace?
  • Why do we baptize babies?
  • What do we mean when we say that the bread and the wine are the body and blood of Jesus?
  • Most Sundays, we include confession and absolution as part of the regular liturgy. Why do we need to have a separate sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • Baptism and Confirmation used to be more closely related in time - meaning they used to always be done together. Why do you think they came to be separate rites?
  • When the Church anoints a sick person and prays for healing, sometimes the person's physical condition doesn't get any better. Does this mean that the sacrament somehow failed?
  • Marriage is a number of things, including both a legal contract and a Christian sacrament. How does our Anglican marriage service indicate each of these things?
  • What sort of things should we look for in a person the Church would call to ordained ministry? And who do you know who has these sorts of qualities?
Finally, remember that the five of you are responsible for planning our Maundy Thursday liturgy. The BAS service begins on page 304. After the foot washing, the service continues with the Prayers of the People and the rest of the usual Eucharistic liturgy. You need to consider:
  • if and how we will incorporate the foot washing,
  • who will read the lessons
  • what form to use for the Prayers of the People,
  • which Eucharistic Prayer to use,
  • what hymns or songs we might include.
The Maundy Thursday liturgy traditionally ends with the stripping of the altar and the removal of all decoration from the sanctuary - usually with someone reading Matthew 26: 30-46 and / or Psalm 22.

That's a lot of stuff to consider and decide, but you've still got the better part of a month.

Pax et bonum,


Saturday, February 16, 2008

How many legs on your stool?

UPDATE - the Father Matthew video link has been fixed.

Our topic for next Sunday is the Bible.

You should read the American Catechism's section on The Holy Scriptures.

The Catechism refers to the fact that we sometimes call the Scriptures or the Bible the Word of God. That can become very confusing for some, because we also use that phrase to describe the person of Jesus Christ. Read the opening part of John's Gospel (John 1: 1-14). It talks about Jesus as the Word of God, and closes with the very startling statement that "the Word became flesh and lived among us."

Some people talk as though our Christian religion is built around the Word of God (as in the Bible). That is a mistake. The centre of our Christian Faith is the Word of God (the person of Jesus Christ).

Watch this video from St. Michael's Church in Waynesboro, Georgia.

The Bible is a book - or rather a collection of books - that tell us the story of God's relationship with his creation. Like any good story, it starts at the beginning. The very first words in the very first book are "In the beginning . . ."

It starts by telling us about God creating the world. It tells us the stories of humanity's disobedience, about God's continuing relationship with us. We hear about his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We learn about his covenant with the Hebrews, about their enslavement in Egypt and about the Exodus to the land God had promised. We hear the prophets calling the Hebrews to be faithful to their covenant with God.

The New Testament tells us the story of Jesus. We read about his life, his teachings, his death and his resurrection. We hear about the small community of believers who gathered afterwards, and the beginning of the story of how those few frightened disciples carried the story of Jesus throughout the known world.

It isn't always easy for us to understand what God is trying to tell us through the Bible. As Anglicans, we believe that we should interpret the Bible in the context of our wider community - the Church. We also believe in interpreting the Bible using the intelligence and reason that God gave us.

Some Anglicans refer to this as the three-legged stool: Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

Why a three-legged stool?

Have you ever tried to sit on a one-legged stool?

How about a two-legged stool?

A three-legged stool gives you stability and reliability in a way that a stool with fewer legs - or a stool with more legs - does not.

Father Matthew talks about Scripture, Tradition and Reason in this video (although I was having trouble getting it to work on Saturday).

In 1571, the Church of England prepared the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion in an effort to describe what Anglicans believe. Article 6 is called The sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation. It begins by saying:
  • Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.
It then goes on to list the books of the Old Testament that Anglicans accept as part of the Bible. There are some books that Roman Catholics accept as being part of Scripture that many other churches do not. Anglicans accept these books (called the Apocrypha or the Deutero-Canonical Books as being good for "example of life and instruction of manners," but not for establishing doctrine.

So, for Anglicans, the Bible has three main sections: the Old Testament; the Apocrypha; and the New Testament. Some people will subdivide the Old and New Testament a little further.

Old Testament - The Pentateuch
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
Old Testament - Historical Books
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1st Samuel
  • 2d Samuel
  • 1st Kings
  • 2d Kings
  • 1st Chronicles
  • 2d Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
Old Testament - Wisdom Books
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)
Old Testament - Major Prophets
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
Old Testament - Minor Prophets
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • 1st Esdras
  • 2d Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Rest of Esther
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)
  • Baruch (with the Letter of Jeremiah)
  • Song of the Three Children with the Prayer of Azariah
  • Story of Susanna
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • 1st Maccabees
  • 2d Maccabees
  • 3d Maccabees
New Testament - Gospels
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
New Testament - History
  • Acts of the Apostles
New Testament - Paul's Epistles (Letters)
  • Romans
  • 1st Corinthians
  • 2d Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1st Thessalonians
  • 2d Thessalonians
  • 1st Timothy
  • 2d Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
New Testament - Catholic (General) Epistles (Letters)
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1st Peter
  • 2d Peter
  • 1st John
  • 2d John
  • 3d John
  • Jude
New Testament - Apocalypse
  • Revelation (Apocalypse) of John
Pax et bonum,


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not Bricks and Mortar

Our subject for next Sunday is the Church.

We use the word "Church" a number of different ways.

We use it to refer to the building.

We use it to refer to our own parish family.

We use it to refer to our own Anglican denomination - locally, nationally and internationally.

We use it to refer to the entire body of those who believe in Jesus Christ - whether they believe quite the same as us or not.

And all of these interpretations are correct in their own way.

The most important sense of "Church" is the last one. St. Paul calls the Church "the body of Christ." All those who confess the name of the Lord Jesus are part of the Church at some level or another.

As part of your confirmation preparation, you need to have some understanding of the Church - in every one of these senses. And as Anglicans, it's useful for you to understand what Anglicanism is about - and how we understand the place of Anglicanism within the universal Church.

Take a look at the following links. They'll tell you a little about our doctrine of the Church. They'll tell you a little about what distinguishes Anglican Christians. They'll tell you a little bit about Anglicanism in Canada.

Look at the next few sections of the American Catechism. As always, you can use the link at the right, or you can use these ones:
The British Broadcasting Corporation has a website that gives a general introduction to Christianity. It isn't a particularly Anglican perspective, but there's a lot of good stuff there. Make it a special point to look at the history page, and especially the basics section. This includes a summary of the history of the New Testament Church, and the early Church until 1054. The Subdivisions page links to explanations about several different Christian denominations. Anglicans are included in the section about the Church of England.

The BBC also has a fact sheet about the Anglican Communion, which is the collective name we use to describe all of the national and regional Anglican Churches throughout the world.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has a good page that gives a quick overview of what Episcopalians believe. The Anglican Churches in Scotland, the United States and some other parts of the world use the name "Episcopal."

Also check out the Beginner's Guide to the Anglican Church from St. John's Church in Roslyn, New Zealand.

Anglicans Online has a good Wondering About Anglicans? Start Here page, with links to all sorts of other people's pages. Feel free to explore.

I'd like you to check out this video greeting from Bishop Tom Shaw of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Again, he's talking about his Episcopal Church diocese, but I think his comments apply to us as well.

Take some time to explore some of the videos at Father Matthew's site. He is an Episcopal priest in New York state.

Of course, we're Canadian Anglicans, so you should also check out the Anglican Church of Canada website, especially the Generations section, which is specifically designed by and for young Anglicans in Canada.

Please notice that in the first blog post, when I set out our schedule over Lent, I said that this week's topic was not What is the Church?, but Who is the Church? The Church is the people, not the building - flesh and blood, not bricks and mortar. This next video is a little meditation on Anglican identity, with pictures of many famous and not so famous Anglicans. They are the Church. And so are you.

Finally, please look at this video of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire giving the blessing at the end of a church service in California. Bishop Robinson is a very controversial figure in the Anglican Communion - but that's not why I want you to watch the video.

I want you to listen to the words he says in the blessing. They are very provocative words and very uncomfortable words.

Listen to the words. Listen to them a few times. Think about them.

See you next Sunday.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

And so we begin.

The topic for our first Sunday session is Who is Jesus?

Thing is, you can't talk about who Jesus is in isolation. Talking about Jesus means you have to talk about God, you have to talk about Creation and you have to talk about Humanity.

So the first assignment for this Sunday is to read about the first half of the Catechism from the American Book of Common Prayer. You can either use the link on the right hand side of the page, or you can follow this series of links here:
The second assignment should hopefully be a little more fun. I want you to take some time - at least 30 to 60 minutes - to explore the ReJesus website. Again, you can use the link on the right hand side of the page. I especially want you to look at these sections:
You guys might also like to check out the text out the text message sayings of Jesus at Expressions: r father (you need to unblock popups) or try your luck at the Pub Quiz (I suggest you start out at the Sunday School level).

Take some time to go through these pieces, and come on Sunday ready to discuss what you've read and seen.

Pax et bonum.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Welcome to the Confirmation Blog

So, you're going to be confirmed. The date of your confirmation will be Saturday, March 22d at the Easter Vigil at St. Paul's Cathedral. At that service, Bishop Gregory will lay his hands on your heads and pray for you to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

As I said last Sunday, in the early church, those who sought to become Christians spent the 40 days of Lent preparing for baptism. Because you were baptized as infants, of course, you didn't receive that instruction. That, in essence, is what we're going to do over the next few weeks.

We'll meet each Sunday following the coffee hour / lunch after church - meaning that we'll be in class from about 12:00 to 1:00. I'm hoping that those times will be less "lecture" and more "discussion."

I intend to use this blog as a way of communicating things to you - things to read, online videos to watch, topics for you to research or to ponder in advance for our class discussions.

That also means that the blog is a place for you to communicate with me and with each other. Ask questions. Share ideas. This is our blog.

Here's the plan.

Ash Wednesday - February 6

Our Ash Wednesday service at St. James will be at 7:30 p.m. If possible, you should attend this service as a way to begin your Lenten pilgrimage on the right note.

First Sunday in Lent - February 10

Topic: Who is Jesus?

Second Sunday in Lent - February 17

Topic: Who is the Church?

Third Sunday in Lent - February 24

Topic: What is the Bible?

Fourth Sunday in Lent - February March 2

Topic: What are the Sacraments?

Fifth Sunday in Lent - March 9

Topic: How do we follow Jesus?

Palm Sunday - March 16

Topic: Open discussion.

Maundy Thursday - March 20

This is the beginning of the Great Three Days. Hopefully, you will all be able to attend our Maundy Thursday service that evening. I plan to give you all roles to play in the service.

Good Friday - March 21

This is the second of the Great Three Days. Again, attendance at the Good Friday service is important if it is at all possible.

Easter Eve - March 22

Graduation day, of sorts. I'd like to plan some retreat time during the afternoon where we can all spend some time together praying about the step you will be taking that evening. If appropriate for any of you, we can also take the time for the sacrament of Reconciliation.

So, that's the plan. Every week - probably about Wednesday or Thursday - I'll post your "homework" for the following Sunday - the pieces I want you to read or watch, or the issues I want you to think about for our discussions.

Finally, here is a prayer I would like you to use regularly throughout this time of preparation.

Almighty God,
grant that we who have been buried with Christ in baptism
may be raised with him to newness of life.
Renew us by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that we may live in righteousness and true holiness,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Pax et bonum,