Monday, January 26, 2015

Conversion...

Today's sermon had a lot of reaction, and because our usual podcaster is out of commission for a while I thought it might be helpful to post it on the New Kid Deep Stuff blog - so here's a taster, and you might want to go off and visit following the link at the end of this bit :-)

Comments, as always, welcome - join the conversation here or at the original post...


The Conversion of St Paul (2015) Year B RCL Principal

To Be Converted, or continued, or both…

Today is, as you may have guessed, the festival of the Conversion of St Paul.  So I am going to begin by asking - as one should to an Anglican audience - "how many of you have been converted…?!??!"

No, not really.

I could tell you my conversion story, though… imagine a tubby little boy who looks just like me but without a beard, oh and mousey browny-blond hair.  This little lad is in a small chapel tent in a field of tents in a place called Polzeath (or Polzeth as many call it) and he’s chatting to a genial older chap who asks.  Do you want to give your heart to Jesus?  To which I replied yes.
So in that simple setting, having heard over the course of that week the message of faith in a new way, I committed myself to being a Christian.  It wasn’t spectacular, there were no lights or voices from the sky.  I just said a prayer.  And it was a beginning.  I called it my conversion. So did the Christian Community to which I belonged – it was a crucial part in my journey of faith. [more]

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A Sermon For All Saints

As my dulcet tones (ahem) have been absent from this blog for a while, here's the podcast of this last Sunday's sermon....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life is full but I keep on preaching

There has been a LOT going on lately, trip to Vancouver with family, Synod, meetings  - plus everything has had a feeling of being 'up in the air' as we consider and reconsider vision - for the Parish, for our Diocese, and in our everyday life.

But the everyday rituals and events of Church life continue, including our Midweek Eucharists.  So here is a sermon what I wrote for today.  Taster here, full text at New Kid Deep Stuff (click [more] for link)

James Hannington Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and His Companions
Martyrs, 1885 — Commemoration

Matthew 10.16–22

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

I’m not sure we should have favourite Bible verses, but today’s Gospel reading contains one of mine!  [more]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When things seem to fit together....

It has been quite a couple of days - just one of those 'meeting to service to meeting to visit to meeting to service to service' kind of thing.  But three things have all coalesced and my thinkings have all come together in a way that seemed to me complementary.

Firstly I had the privilege of presiding and speaking again at the 12-step Eucharist which is offered by Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria.  The Gospel reading for the day and the structure of the service seemed to me (strangely in the case of the lectionary, as you will see if you follow the link) to speak to Grace, even in Jesus' Critique of the religious leaders of the day.  Then we had a wonderful celebration of New Ministry at the Induction of Bruce Bryant-Scott here in Victoria which had a sense of joy and liberation about it which made the whole evening (despite being at the end of a long day) feel very positive.  Then I was preaching and presiding again at our early Eucharist, which remembered Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross - and the readings and prayers and my own thinking seemed to come together in quite a special way.  So here are the links to the sermons - found in full on New Kid Deep Stuff, and a picture of the Clergy at the service.  I have a hippo on my head, 'nuff said.

Sermon 1- for 12 Step Eucharist


Amazing Grace

We live in a society that often seems obsessed with how we look… the clothes we wear, the way our hair looks, or the state of our skin, whether we eat right, exercise, look buff, whatever…  We are obsessed with how things seem, how they look, what impression we give. [more]


Sermon 2 - Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross



Teresa of Avila & John of the Cross

October
Today is the remembrance of Teresa of Avila, and of St John of the Cross – two 16th Century contemplatives.  We are using the readings and prayer for Teresa, but we keep in mind also her friend and follower John of the Cross.  From the companion to our readings we are told that Teresa of Avila was a Spanish nun of the sixteenth century whose visions of Christ and gifts as a spiritual director have placed her among the greatest of all Christian mystics. She was the only daughter of a minor nobleman and entered the Carmelite convent in her native town of A’vil-a when she was twenty-one. Over the next two decades she endured many illnesses, one of which left her paralyzed, and also a nagging sense that in her prayers and devotions she was doing nothing more than “treading water.”  [more]

Monday, October 06, 2014

Country Music - a guilty pleasure

Amongst all the things I have discovered since I arrived in Victoria, I didn't expect to discover, or rediscover, Country Music.  I grew up listening to Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and others (Many of the Irish families I know love Country and Western Music).  Following a Clergy Day last week I was reminded by the Bishop of a somewhat 'guilty pleasure' I have of enjoying Country Music, though I must admit on the whole my tastes to veer to New Country!

There are two things I have discovered here - one of them is Country Music in French - a genre I should've realised existed as I have seen such wonders as French Country Music albums in French stores, but the fact of French Country as a genre somehow never quite clicked.

The other discovery is that Canada has a thriving Country scene of its own.  Not a great leap of imagination to realise that is the case, the 'Western Spirit' is strong in this pioneer nation.  I always think of Country as 'Southern' music - but that's obviously not the case.

What I do like is that Country Music is able to laugh at itself, and amongst the (admittedly frequent) bouts of mawkish sentimentality and nostalgia that seems to be the hallmark of much Country music... along with lots of heartbreak, there's also some fun stuff.  So here's 'Bible on The Dash' by Canadian Country Artiste Corb Lund. Enjoy.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

On still being here

I have been at St John the Divine, Victoria - serving as their Priest and Rector - for just over a year now. Some recent conversations I have had on Social Media, plus a blog posting which I found very moving on the dearpopefrancis.ca blog (here), plus some time spent with friends from my MRC (Motorcycle Riding Club)
as both 'pastor' and friend have all caused me to reflect on the experience of the past year or so.  And just why I find this particular place, spiritual community and time in my life so personally and spiritually nurturing.

Community

That's the key.  I believe that the key to our Spiritual journey is the need to be in community.  That doesn't mean that time alone, in prayer, reading, meditation, playing guitar or riding motorcycles (my own influence may have slipped in there) is not important - but to have a sanctuary, a place to share ideas, hopes, doubts, dreams, concerns and above all, love, is crucial.  The Orthodox Church has a saying 'we're saved together, we fall alone' (Or in stronger terms, in the Divine Liturgy - "We're saved together; we're damned alone") - it is certainly my feeling that community is what we are called to, to discern, to wrestle, to pray, to learn, to laugh and to weep and so much more.

A Spiritual Community

For me, this parish, this church, this disparate and diverse group of followers, are seeking to be an intentional Spiritual community.  We participate in a number of activities - including some powerful social justice and Outreach work - we worship together, we study and learn together, we pray, we sing.  All of this is one, there is no distinction between our 'spiritual' and 'social'.  It is an exciting community to be a part of and one which feels very much like a place I can share my journey.  Though I am in a position of 'leadership/servanthood' and have a specific role and calling within the community, it is a safe place in which to voice my questions, share my doubts, discover new ways of expressing ancient faith, learn together with friends what this following Jesus is all about.  That's not to say that previous parishes I have served have not offered such opportunities, but this is a community in which I feel liberated in my preaching and sharing in a way I have not before.  There is an acceptance and an openness to new and old ideas, and it might be that I am just now recognising and feeling confident in joining in that journey - or that I am receptive in a way I have not been before. But the sense of freedom is palpable.


A Welcoming Community

I think in part that this sense of freedom comes because the Church is going through a time of growth.  As new people have come and joined our community there has been a sense that much of this is new to many of us, and that goes hand in hand with a sense of excitement, and a desire to welcome others into our sense of pilgrimage and exploration. This makes for a community which is welcoming and seeking to be inclusive.  We have a commitment to the full participation of all as any wish to, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, background, class or any of the other factors that so easily define and divide us.  That, at least, is the plan!

An Imperfect Community

Before this becomes an exercise in back slapping and self-congratulation, I recognise that we are not perfect - we do not get it right all of the time. I realise that there are some for whom our Church is not a place where they feel at home, or we fail to welcome as much as we think we do.  I know that. We know that. One of the encouragements about this particular part of my journey is being able to live with those imperfections - because I know that we are seeking to work on them, to learn and to grow and to be what God calls us to be.  There will always be those who don't like the decor, the music, the style, the Rector, whatever and disagreement is allowed, even encouraged.  Sometimes those disagreements lead to change, sometimes to growth, sometimes to sadness or frustration, sometimes we have to just hold in tension our disagreements.  But I trust this parish, these people, and I know that not everyone sees things the way I do, and that what I might want is not always the way things are going to go,  This give and take, though sometimes painful, is part of being in community. Something I - and I feel St John's - is committed to.

So I am here, I plan to stay here for as long as God and the people think I should!  Thanks be to God.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Submission to Marriage Commission.

It's incomplete, and I made the deliberate choice not to stuff it with references and quotes. This one comes from the heart:

To Marriage Commission of the General Synod
Anglican Church of Canada

From:
The Rev’d Alastair McCollum
Rector, St John the Divine Anglican Church
1611 Quadra Street, Victoria
BC
V8W 2L5

My response to the questions posited by the Marriage Commission are below.

  • How do you interpret what scripture says about marriage?
What Scripture says about marriage is much more fluid and less easily pinned down than those who advocate for ‘Biblical Marriage’ often proclaim.  We see throughout the Biblical texts multiple models for relationships: monogamous and multiple partner marriage, concubinage, co-habitation, and much more are all endorsed, or simply understood as present as the scriptural texts reflect the cultural norms from which they arise.

What I understand from Scripture is that there is a significantly nuanced understanding of human relationships and that sexual and social relationships are to be based not upon gender, but upon faithfulness. As a reflection of Christ’s faithfulness and dedicated relationship to the Church marriage offers a parable of sacramentality. 

I do believe that faithfulness in a loving relationship is held up as an exclusive relationship.  Marriage is the commitment of two people to one another, in the same way that we see modeled both within and around sexual and non-sexual relationships in the Bible, for instance David and Jonathan, Jesus and Mary of Magdala, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary the mother of Jesus. These are often flawed, sometimes strained relationships that offer us pictures of commitment and faithfulness, tenderness and dedication.  Marriage is one aspect of human loving, and scripture gives us many pictures of how that might be lived out
.
  • How do you understand the theological significance of gender difference in marriage?
Theologically, minimal.  The need of a tribal culture to reproduce in order to survive is the foundation of relationships in scripture and becomes ritualised and normative as the culture develops– in the same way that not eating shellfish in the desert is sensible, life-saving advice that becomes ritualised into food laws that are concerned with obeying God. 
  • Is there a distinction between civil marriage and Christian marriage?
Only in the sense of the legal contract.  With regards to what is happening in marriage the commitment of two people remains the same whatever way it is marked. 

Yet within our Christian culture the making public proclamation of faithfulness to the ekklesia, and the offering of the Church’s “yes” to a couple embarking on this stage of their journey together is a significant statement.  Though marriage in or outside of a church can be understood to be sacramental, the offering of the Church’s imprimatur is a powerful symbolic and affirming act.

In Canada, the Anglican Church has created an artificial distinction between civil and church marriage by refusing to offer marriage to same gender couples. Yet we recognise the loving commitment of such unions by offering blessings to them – it is theologically and socially inconsistent to do so, and such mixed messages should be stopped.

  • The marriage canon describes “the purposes of marriage” as mutual fellowship, support, and comfort; the procreation (if it may be) and nurture of children; and the creation of a relationship in which sexuality may serve personal fulfilment in a community of faithful love. 
What is the theological significance of:

    • companionship in marriage?
It is not good for the man to be alone.  From the beginning of our Hebrew mythology we see how humanity is called to, finds fulfilment in and is drawn to society.  We are made for one another.  Though some are called to celibacy or to the life of a hermit or a contemplative, we are as human beings made fully alive in our relationships with one another.  This images the Triune God who in Godsself is in constant relationship energised by infinite and eternal love.

    • bearing and raising children?
The bearing of children as biological function can, obviously, only be a female endeavour.  Yet if procreation were the end of any Marriage then the Church would not be able to endorse any relationship where one or other partner were infertile, or unable to bear children, or suffering from any disability which prevented childbirth.  More important is the care and nurture of children, however conceived and borne, this is perfectly possible by those in same gender relationships.

    • the relationship between marriage and sexuality?
Sexuality is a part of who we are and unless one has a vocation to celibacy our sexuality is a part of loving, committed relationships, and best expressed within a marriage partnership. At present we are denying many faithful, loving couples this appropriate expression of who they are.  Sex brings depth and meaning to relationships, it can bind people to one another, heal and create intimacy, it is a gift from God – and for those who wish to live in loving, committed, faithful, sexual relationships I believe the Church has a duty to affirm, support and bless this. Whatever their gender or sexual orientation.
  • What is the difference between marriage and the blessing of a relationship?
Marriage is the recognition of a committed relationship, a marriage is blessed either as a separate event or within a marriage ceremony.  Strictly speaking they are the same thing – though being able to offer a full marriage ceremony to same gender couples would mean that we no longer offer a two-tier approach to affirming and celebrating the love of two people.  If we are to be a church that models the kingdom values of inclusion, love and grace then having anything that says ‘we love you, but you are different’ is to exclude and marginalise.  This is a matter of justice, acceptance, grace and inclusion – not just a case of ‘keeping up with society’ but making a statement that we are a radically loving group who affirm the commitment of any two people in love. 

  • How do you understand the sacramentality of marriage?
The efficacy of any sacrament is predicated upon the intention of those involved.  We refer to a sacrament, using the language of the prayer book, as “an outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace’ but that is an oversimplification of what is a place where the grace of God is made explicit.  Though we believe God to be present in all things and at all times, we mark certain moments of our lives together with a celebration of God’s grace and see sacraments – Baptism and Eucharist being the primary of these – as places in which the presence of God is made manifest through God’s Holy Spirit.
To describe marriage as a sacramental act is to describe the visible love between two people as a reflection of the love of God, where this love is made visible and manifest.  In the teaching of the Church the efficacy of marriage as a sacrament is based upon the intention of the two people entering into the marriage covenant, this (due to prevailing cultural and social mores) has been described as ‘between one man and one woman’ – but this is a definition provided by the Church, and need not be so.  It is faithful, loving commitment that makes this sacrament efficacious, not gender.  It is about time the Church recognised that.

Closing comments:
I believe the offering of marriage, or strictly speaking ‘a Christian Wedding’, to same gender couples is a gospel imperative of inclusion and grace.  Though same gender couples who are married in civil ceremonies are still enacting the sacrament of marriage in their dedication to one another, the Anglican church is at this time called to affirm and support them in their relationships. 

I recognise that our church still has a long way to go in drawing all people to this interpretation of marriage and there are some who deeply hold to a view opposed to this, as such we will struggle if we impose this as a requirement.  Though my conviction says that – as with the ordination of women – we should as a Church decide if this is the will of the Synod and the work of the Holy Spirit and stick with that decision – my pragmatism says that in order to preserve the hope of unity and remain in dialogue we should offer some form of conscience clause.  I would honestly prefer that we didn’t have to, the effort to keep opponents to women’s ordination ‘on board’ in the Church of England (the Church from which I came) has prolonged painful and destructive patterns for twenty years and it would be sad to see this repeated in the Anglican Church of Canada.

I hope that this adds to the dialogue taking place at Synod in the near future. I pray that we will move forward together in working for a radically inclusive church which is open to love in many forms, and that the Church at large will soon move beyond its preoccupation with sex and gender.

Respectfully Submitted,
Alastair McCollum



29th September 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Look Mum, I'm On Telly

No, this never made it to our TV screens, it's a first edit 'grab tape' which was possibly going to turn into a reality TV series, but I left the UK before it went anywhere... It may resurrect in another form...

No copyright infringement intended. I will remove if I am not meant to share this!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Couple of Sermony things

After my wonderings about preaching (What are we doing when we preach?) Karma decided to bite me a la derriere and I found myself having to prepare three sermons for today - Two Eucharists and a funeral address.  Rather than post the two Eucharistic Sermons here I will put them up on New Kid Deep Stuff and you can peruse/read/comment/respond as you wish. The funeral address was for the funeral, won't be putting that one up!

Same set of readings... different groups of people, though some overlap (so I couldn't cheat by using the same sermon twice!}

So here's what I ended up with:

One, thinking on the Gospel reading for today, is concerned with 'Shaking the Dust from our feet'

The other, using the Psalm and Proverbs reading for today is talking around ideas of 'The word, the law and The Word'. And the common (sometimes) artificial contrast betweee 'Law and Grace' in the church - one which isn't a Jewish understanding of 'Law' or 'Commandments' at all...