Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Living Stones:
An Architect Reflects On Building Shalom

with special guest:
Craig Handy

– Bachelor of Applied Math (UWaterloo)
– Master of Architecture (UToronto)
– Master of Theological Studies (Regent College)
– Practicing architect

and in conversation, eating, reflection, discussion, and prayer with the GCF community

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.

Good news! Here’s this week’s introduction question in advance:

Craig writes: “Tell us about a place/space/building that comes to mind as somewhere tangible that announces ‘good news’. I suspect many places will likely have a strong connection to your personal story and I look forward to the descriptions we’ll hear. I hope with a little lead time you’ll be able to bring a photo or illustration so we can picture the places with word and image. Feel free to email me digital pictures (at as that is probably easiest. And if you are reading this but will not be at GCF, please send an image anyways – I’d love to see what places this evokes for you.” Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Wine Before Breakfast

It doesn’t seem to me that the question is all that pertinent these days.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Maybe that question made sense in the first century, but maybe the burning question in Canada this week is:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit the keys to power? What must I do to be re-elected, preferably with a majority? Good teacher, you know something about ruling, what must I do to become the Prime Minister of Canada? What must I do to inherit (or retain) the Prime Minister’s office?”

“Well, obey the Torah,” Jesus might reply. “You know, ‘you shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'”

I could see Jesus saying this. After all what was the only thing that the Torah required of those who would be kings in Israel? That they meditate on Torah. Not that they would amass great wealth, nor chariots and horses, nor many wives, just that they meditate on Torah. If they meditate on Torah and not get taken up with economic growth, military power and strategic alliances, then they would rule with wisdom.

So, let’s boil it down to a few of the great commandments. Can you take care of this kind of business in your life? Then maybe you could be the Prime Minister.

Now I don’t really know anything about any of the leaders’ family lives. Whether they have committed adultery or been dishonouring of their parent isn’t really up for public discussion.

But how about murder, bearing false witness and loving our neighbours? Read more Wine Before Breakfast

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Dear friends,

This week at GCF we once again have the opportunity to hear and interact with a story.

Like many of our guests and story-tellers so far, this is a life story that doesn’t really follow any “traditional” trajectory.

But then, Joanna Manning is not your “traditional” Anglican priest (to be)!

And yet, in looking back and reflecting on her life, it is immediately apparent that God has been working through her and shaping her, leading Joanna “full circle” to this point in her life when, in her mid-sixties, she is preparing to be ordained as a Deacon (and then as a priest) in the Anglican Church.

Without giving too much away, here is just a sampling of the many roles and identities Joanna has experienced in her life:

Mother (and grandmother!)
Social Activist

I could elaborate on all of these, telling you about how Joanna left the religious orders after falling in love with a Jesuit priest, or about how conversations with women in Africa left her critical of the Roman Catholic stance on women and contraception, or about how her persistent calls for structural reform of the Roman Catholic Church caused her to lose her teaching job at York University, or about how she rose to national and international prominence as a writer and activist, calling on the Church to address the issues arising from the sexual abuse scandals that came to light in the 1980s in Canada… Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Wine Before Breakfast

Rocks, Stumbling Blocks and Millstones

“Get behind me Satan, for you are a stumbling block to me!”

So said Jesus to Peter, moments after the brash disciple had confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God.

So said Jesus to Peter, moments after he had called this disciple a “rock” on which he will build his church.

From “rock” to “stumbling stone.”

From foundation to impediment.

Jesus doesn’t much like stumbling stones. And so he returns to the metaphor in this week’s passage from Matthew.

This time it isn’t Peter as stumbling stone, but more broadly any one or any thing that would cause the most vulnerable to stumble, would cause those who embrace Christ with a childlike faith and humility to lose heart, to lose faith.

Jesus may well be full of grace and truth, but when it comes to protecting the little ones, when it comes to embracing and enfolding the meek, the humble and those who have no means for self-protection, Jesus comes on heavy and pulls out all the stops:

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!”

Heavy stuff. Read more Wine Before Breakfast

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:


An evening of eating, story-telling, listening, discussing, reflecting and praying

with David Photiadis
M.A. student in Geography
Researching and working in the areas of organizational change and environmental sustainability

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.


Continuing with our March line-up of remarkable guests, we’ll be joined this Thursday by MA candidate David Photiadis. David happens to be in the Department of Geography because that’s as good a place as any to do environmental research, and that’s where his supervisor is based. Just as frequently over the past few years, however, you might have found him in UofT’s Sustainability Office (where he continues to work), consulting at Toronto Hydro, or on one of the various other projects he’s been juggling. For David, the driving passion is to see change happen around issues of environmental sustainability, and his studies, research, consulting, and other projects are all means to that end.

As David expresses it:
“My research focus has explored organizational change toward sustainability. Beginning with my undergrad at U of T, I have pursued an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental issues – most notably global warming – that has spanned science, policy, business, social justice, and individual behaviour, values, and religious beliefs.” Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Wine Before Breakfast

The Klu Klux Klan once moved into Riverdale.

That’s right, the KKK moved into the lower East end of Toronto back in the 80’s. And the church that I was part of back then organized a “Ban the Klan” rally. It was a profound act of inhospitality that I would repeat today. We embraced a Nimbyism that said in a clear voice that racism was not welcome in our backyard.

At the rally there was every progressive/leftist movement you could imagine. And in an act of hospitality to them we gave everyone a chance and the microphone.

“All union folk should ban the clan!”

“All gays and lesbians should ban the clan!”

“All anti-apartheid activist should ban the clan!”

But it wasn’t until late in the proceedings that a black person finally came to the microphone, and it wasn’t until that moment that a member of the church had finally addressed the crowd.

Sister Bernice was the pastor of that rockin’ black church that I walked by every Sunday night but never entered. This was one of those apostolic, Pentecostal, charismatic churches of the latter times.

And as Sister Bernice came to the podium, I gotta tell you, I was worried.

I mean, what was this woman going to say? And might she, well, “preach” the gospel to all these heathens in front of her?

Here’s what she said:

“When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi and asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say I am?’ some said John the Baptist, some said Elijah, and some said one of the prophets.

‘And who do you say I am?’ asked Jesus. And Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Then Jesus said, ‘That’s right, Peter, and flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, Peter, you are the rock on which I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against my church!‘”
Then she looked out at the crowd and said,
“I’m hear to tell you that the Klu Klux Klan are the gates of hell, and they will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ!”

Sister Bernice left the stage to rapturous applause from all who were present.

I was right. This woman was going to preach the gospel. And I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a more eloquent or more radical proclamation of the gospel in my life.

The gates of hell will not prevail. Sister Bernice saw this as an attack from the forces of evil manifest in the KKK.

But I wonder if there is maybe another side to this. You see, gates don’t usually attack. They are usually defensive structures. They repel attack and secure those on the inside.

So I wonder whether Jesus was maybe thinking of something more offensive than defensive here. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church when the church attacks those gates.

It seems to me, friends, that we are called not just to resist the forces of evil, but we are called to go on the offensive against those forces.

That’s what we were doing that Saturday afternoon in Riverdale years ago. I pray that is what we do in every act of justice and compassion, every creative idea, every gesture of faithfulness of our lives.

May it be that in the breaking of the break and the pouring of the wine, we are storming the gates of hell every Tuesday morning.

I hope to see you this week at Wine Before Breakfast, in the face of hell.

Brother Andrew will serve the Eucharist,

Brother David will open the word,
Sister Jacqueline will lead us in prayer,
Sister Deb will lead us in song.

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Dear friends,

As Geoff and I planned GCF for the month of March, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to wrap up the semester than by spending the next few weeks doing what has become characteristic of this community: sharing stories. As you know, we periodically invite members of GCF and some folks from outside the community to join us for an evening to tell us a bit about their lives-whether that be about academic pursuits or a passion for food, spiritual questions or life as a nun, travelling internationally or growing emotionally.

This week the first of those people will be sharing a bit of her story with us. Amber Aulen is a regular member of the GCF community who just completed her comprehensive exams for her PhD program in Russian Literature at U of T. Here’s a taste of what Amber will be talking about with us, in her own words:

“Since graduating from high school I have lived in eleven cities, spanning five countries and four US states.  Travel has been a crucial component in shaping my story throughout this time and as a sphere of activity whose vitality derives from the journey rather than the final destination it provides an appropriate framework for talking about the unexpected twists and turns of my life.  I would have predicted very few of the current realities of my life from the vantage point of my life circa 2001 (PhD in Russian literature?  Really?) and I will be reflecting on how I got from there to here…and where ‘here’ is – geographically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.”

As we begin the liturgical season of Lent tomorrow, we recall and live through Christ’s life and passion-His story.

What an appropriate time to continue to journey with us through the telling of and listening to our stories–starting with Amber’s story this week Thursday.

Looking forward to traveling with you!

Take care,

Wine Before Breakfast

Much depends on dinner.

Anyone at Wine Before Breakfast last week might remember that phrase. I must have said it a dozen times in my sermon, which is not bad for a ten minute homily.

Much depends on dinner, and it still depends on dinner as we come to WBB on Shrove Tuesday. Except, of course, we are talking about breakfast, not dinner.

And this week we meet a striking, and perhaps painful, irony.

You see in our reading from Matthew this week we meet two stories, both of which concern food.

First, there is a woman oddly identified as a Canaanite who asks Jesus for the healing of her daughter who is tormented by a demon. I’ll let Sara explain what is odd about that identification, but I’m struck by the culinary imagery in the story.

When Jesus rather rudely tells this “Canaanite” woman that he isn’t about to throw the food of the children to the dogs, she replies, “yes, but even the dogs get the crumbs from the table.”

Dogs get the crumbs.

This seems to catch Jesus short and he says that this woman has faith and her daughter is healed.

Dogs get crumbs from the table, and this Tuesday is International Woman’s Day.

Dogs get crumbs from the table, and this Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday when we eat a feast of rich and sweet foods at Wine Before Breakfast.

But the story goes on. It seems that once Jesus has healed this “Canaanite” woman’s daughter, once he lets her have the crumbs from the table, he gets even more generous.

I don’t know, but for some reason once this “Canaanite” confronts Jesus about the scope of his Kingdom, he starts healing all kinds of Gentile folk and then comes something that is a heck of a lot more than some crumbs from the table. Another feast in the wilderness. This time with 4000 folk (plus women and children!) at the party.

From crumbs to feast.

That’s where our story goes this week.

The feast needs food. Sweet food and rich food. Please clean out the cupboards and do some baking for the community.

So we move from crumbs to feast,
but then we also move from feast to crumbs.

That’s where we go this week. From the feast of Shrove Tuesday to the fasting and crumbs of Lent.

All “Canaanites” are welcome.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday @ 7.22am
Wycliffe Chapel

Sara DeMoor is preaching,
Chris Dow is our Liturgist,
David Neelands will start the feast with wine and bread,
and the bandhood will likely sing a U2 song.

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:


A Bible Study and Discussion
Revisiting themes and texts arising from our conversations about singleness

An evening of eating, reading, listening, discussing, laughing, praying, etc.

with the GCF community

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.



This week’s GCF will be a Bible study looking at some of the themes and passages that have come up in the course of our discussion about singleness. Throughout our various conversations we have mentioned, read, talked briefly about, or been prepared to discuss a number of biblical texts, but there have been so many other things to talk about as well, that the texts have not received the attention they need. This Thursday is our opportunity to address that.

Here are some of the possible themes and/or texts I have in mind:
– the importance / centrality of the body in the New Testament and Christianity:
– Jesus’ incarnation as God’s choosing to take on human physical form
– the metaphor of Jesus’ followers and the Church as “the body of Christ”
– the radical physicality – both actually and metaphorically – of the Last Supper / Eucharist
– Discipleship / the Church envisioned as a new family, superceding biological relations (parents, siblings, spouses, children)
– Christian ethical virtues as a framework for shaping how we express our sexuality
– Galatians 5 (Fruit of the Spirit), Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, Colossians 3

Let’s be clear right away that there’s no way we’re going to get to all of these texts / themes, and this isn’t even an exhaustive list. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll spend our entire time on one of the themes or passages, or look more briefly at a number of different ones. If you have a significant preference one way or the other, please let me know between now and Thursday evening.

What I’m much clearer about is the conviction that all of these texts have significant contributions to make toward our ongoing conversations, not only about singleness, but also more broadly about how best we can express ourselves as the sexual beings God has made us to be. I hope you will join us for that conversation, and that you will bring along any friends whom you think would benefit from being part of the conversation.