Summer GCF: Hike!

Hello friends,
This week, GCF goes outside! We’re going to have our conversations while hiking one of Toronto’s many lovely ravine trails, and the weather looks like it might just cooperate with us. Here are the details:

Rosedale ravines: George Balfour Park, Park Drive Reservation, Evergreen Brickworks, Chorley Park, Moore Park

Meet at 6:30 sharp at the St Clair Subway station (Yonge + St Clair) on the north side (St Clair St exit, by the little McDonald’s outlet). We only have so much time until it gets dark, so let’s try to get going on time

As usual, bring something to share, but try to make it portable (e.g. finger food, no cutlery/dishes required). We’ll either munch while walking, or find a place to sit and eat. I know it’s fun to lurk on the food sign-up sheet (, see what other people are bringing, and then decide last-minute what you’ll bring, but it’s also helpful to have at least some folks add their food to the list (or it’s no fun lurking!).

Also, please be sure to bring some WATER!

Depending on how much time/energy we have, we may
a) get through all the parks I mentioned, end up at Moore Ave and take the #88 bus back to St Clair Station
b) detour part way through and head up to the Sherbourne subway station
c) return the way we came and end up back at St Clair Station.
Read more Summer GCF: Hike!

Summer GCF: Wonderful

Hi all,

I hope you have been enjoying these recent days of consistent sunshine and warmth…I know my garden has been getting more attention than usual because I actually want to spend all my free time outside!

For GCF this week (Thursday, May 12th), we will be eating together at the office at 6pm and at 7:15 we will depart Wycliffe to walk to Sanctuary (25 Charles Street East, just east of Yonge and south of Bloor) to experience the play Wonderful. If you haven’t yet reserved/bought your tickets, I encourage you to do so before Thursday, just to guarentee you’ll get one! You can get info about tickets at

Wonderful is written and directed by Shannon Blake, a GCFer and playwright and member of the Sanctuary community. Here’s the teaser:

“Three women in heated debate. One is in labour, about to deliver a child — her fifth, as it turns out. All three are fast friends — in street terms, one is the mother-to-be’s street mother, the other is her street-sister. The conversation is fast-paced, lively, colourful, witty, intense, mostly friendly, at times confrontational… Welcome to ‘Wonderful!'”

[Strong language is used; not recommended for children (in case you were thinking of inviting your young friends….)]

Re: Pot’luck’ dinner: Thanks to the timely problem-solving suggestion from Jeff, we have an easier way of arranging for food this week. Instead of replying all (and filling everyone’s mailboxes with emails about bringing tomatoes and cheese), click on the following link to see what others are bringing, and to add your contribution to the list:

I’m looking forward to seeing you all again, and to seeing what is sure to be a stunning play!

Take care,

Summer GCF!

Hi all,

Our first summer GCF will be this week Thursday at 6:30pm at the office (Wycliffe College, 5 Hoskin Ave). I’m looking forward to seeing you after almost a month break from GCF!

As we usually do during the summer, we’re asking all of you to contribute to dinner if you are able. We usually have sandwiches, so you could bring bread, cheese, sandwich meat, lettuce, tomatoes, or anything else you want to contribute. Alternatively, you are welcome to bring any kind of salad or dessert. Please email Sara (see staff bio page) to let her know what you will be bringing. That way we can be sure we’re not just going to be eating tomatoes and mustard, or something random like that 🙂

As many of you have seen, I just sent out an email to the entire GCF email list regarding this week’s first summer GCF on Thursday. You are already on my summer GCF list, so don’t worry about replying to that email as I requested.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Take care,

WBB: Resurrection, Cover-ups, and Doubt–and Partying Nonetheless!

Resurrection, Cover up and doubt: Partying Nonetheless

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

That’s the proclamation on which the whole Christian story hangs.

Indeed, that’s the proclamation on which our Christian life hangs.

No point trying to “practice resurrection” if Jesus is still in the grave.
No point in worship, no point in discipleship, no point, no point.

And the range of responses to this world shattering event are mostly pretty predictable.

Those guarding the tomb “shake like dead men” and their supervisors amongst the religious elite buy them off to say that the disciples came and stole the body.

Cover up.

Nothing new there. That’s the way that the ruling authorities have always dealt with anything that would radically undermine their world.

The women are also full of fear, but to them comes good news from both an angel and the risen one himself, “do not be afraid.”

And so their fear is mingled with great joy. Read more WBB: Resurrection, Cover-ups, and Doubt–and Partying Nonetheless!

A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2011

Dear friends:

More than half a lifetime ago I co-wrote my first book, The Transforming Vision. And there was one response to that book that continues to ring through the years to me. No, actually, there were two responses, and they are deeply connected to each other.

The first response was from my friend and co-author, Richard Middleton. Upon completing the manuscript and offering up prayers dedicating this work to the furthering of the Kingdom of God, Richard looked at me and said, “You know that there is something missing in this book.” I thought that was an odd thing to say at this particular moment, and I couldn’t guess what he was talking about. Then he said, “This book says nothing about suffering, even though suffering is so central to the biblical story.” And then Richard added, “But that’s okay, we don’t know anything about suffering.”

An honest and telling moment of self-evaluation. These two young men had written a fine book on a Christian worldview – indeed, a book still in print – but missed a central motif in biblical faith.

The second comment was more inexplicable to me at the time. A friend and former student simply said to me, “It’s a great book, but you don’t know anything about the Eucharist.”

I had no idea what the woman was talking about. The book wasn’t about the Eucharist. What was her point?

Well, if you don’t know anything about suffering, then you likely won’t know anything about the Eucharist either, will you.

If you promote a Christian worldview without reference to suffering, then of course this will be a worldview without the Eucharist. It will be, if you will, a worldview without the cross. Or at least it will be a worldview without a deep enough grasp of the cross. And it will be a worldview that knows nothing of a profound dwelling in Holy Week.

As I look back on that period of my life I also recall that I was studying with Douglas John Hall at McGill University. Professor Hall was always talking about the “theology of the cross” and I was always pushing back with a “theology of resurrection.” Around that time, Hall wrote:

“Against the promotion of easy solutions to difficult human questions, the Bible offers the cross: that is God involved in the ambiguity of existence, broken by alienation, powerful only in the weakness of love.”

There was something about a God who was “powerful only in the weakness of love” that didn’t sit well with me. And that is likely why I knew nothing about the Eucharist. Read more A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2011

WBB: Jesus, Justice, and Vineyards

Vineyards, Justice and Jesus

Cultural discourse totally hangs on allusion and reference. You know what I mean. You can’t watch any episode of  The Simpson’s without picking up the references to other cultural products – whether they be other television shows, cultural stereotypes, music, art, sports, or politics. Now, of course, you don’t always pick up all the references every time you watch The Simpson’s or go to the movies or listen to a new song on the radio. And not all cultural products are created equal. Some are hopelessly flat. What you see is what you get and you aren’t getting very much.

Kind of like the difference between ABBA and Dylan. Okay, that is too close to home for some of you. How about the difference between Britney Spears and Joni Mitchell?

And it seems to me (in this little email that is starting to sound like an essay!) that the richer the allusions and references, the deeper the cultural product is. That’s why The Simpson’s is great television.

Well, Jesus knew all about allusion. He goes up a mountain to teach a new way, a new Kingdom, and everyone thinks of Moses at Mount Sinai. He feeds the multitudes in the wilderness and everyone thinks of the exodus and sustenance in the wilderness. He walks into the Temple and throws the furniture around and everyone thinks of Jeremiah’s temple sermon (Jesus actually quotes that sermon during his rage).

In all four gospels, Jesus makes reference to a vineyard. And just as  you couldn’t tell a story today with a wolf and a little girl in it and not catch the reference to Little Red Riding Hood, so also everyone who knew anything about Israel’s faith would remember Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard. Just say “vineyard” and the allusions immediately will come to mind.

And it is a vineyard that does not produce what was expected of it. Isaiah’s parable ends this way: Read more WBB: Jesus, Justice, and Vineyards

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF): Ending Well

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Ending Well:
Marking Our Transitions Together,With Gratitude and Prayer

An End-of-Term Potluck Celebration
of eating, reflection, discussion, and prayer with the GCF community

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

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

Dear Friends,
This week at GCF we’ll be revisiting some themes that have emerged in the months since September: Sabbath, gratitude, rest, and the ways we mark the milestones of our lives. We want to create a deliberate opportunity to reflect on what has happened, what’s been accomplished, and what we’ve learned, both individually and together. We want to

Share food.
Thank God.

Thursday is the last GCF of the semester, and in the past I would have been inclined to call this the end of the year. We’ve often marked these occasions with farewells and blessings for those who are graduating or otherwise leaving us.

But that’s not actually where we find ourselves right now. Hardly any in our regular GCF community are graduating (please let us know if you are), and we’ve already been discussing and planning our continued summer gatherings for the past month. So what do we say at the beginning of April, with the flurries and the buds battling for dominance (fortunately we know who will win that struggle), classes ending, deadlines and exam marking looming, theses moving along (or just beginning), work continuing? Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF): Ending Well

WBB, Jesus, and What We Really Want

“What do you want me to do for you?”

It’s election time in Canada and everyone wants something.

Most folks want tax cuts. Some folks want a better deal for struggling families. Others are longing for a fresh and proactive approach to the environment.

Some want the government to be tougher on crime and to build a strong military. And others would like to see a national housing policy (that would be nice, I admit) that would address homelessness in our country.

But when it comes right down to it, elections are about power. What the respective parties want is power. And if you get a chance to look at the inner dynamics of these parties you will see a lot of vying for power going on from within.

Jesus never ran for Prime Minister, but he was on a journey towards kingship. And he spent a lot of time trying to get his disciples to realize that this was not a typical political campaign precisely because his was a kingship that would turn all notions of political power on their heads.

But old, bad ideas do not die easily. I mean we know what a king is, right? And we know what a kingdom is, right? And we know that when Jesus is enthroned as a king there’s got to be places near him to help him rule. Like on his left and right.

So when the Zebedee boys come with their Mama to kneel before their king-to-be, Jesus asks them, “What do you want?”

And the response is pretty typical. Mama Zebedee replies, “I’d like my boys to be in the cabinet. I’d like them to sit on your right and your left, at the places of power and honour.” Read more WBB, Jesus, and What We Really Want

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