Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Readings for Reading Week

An evening of eating, reading, listening, discussing(?), laughing, praying, etc.
with the GCF community

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

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

Dear friends,
In order to ensure that some reading actually does get done this week, we’ve decided to devote our Thursday evening to sharing some readings with each other. We’ve occasionally read aloud at GCF – Biblical books (esp. New Testament epistles), letters from former GCFers, even children’s stories – and always it’s been a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. The difference this time is that we’re inviting you to contribute to the selection. We’re open to (even hoping for) a variety of genres: short stories, poetry, plays, excerpts from longer books, children’s stories/literature, something you have written, or even a story wish to tell.

If you have something you’d like to share with the group, please let either Sara or me know what it is, and roughly how long it will take, so we can gauge how much will fit in the time we have available. Some readings may invite further discussion, or you may prefer that we just listen and don’t discuss. You can also decide whether the reading will be improved if others have the text, or whether the hearing is most important (e.g. I personally prefer to hear plays/drama, and see poetry). And our sense of what’s “appropriate” for this community covers a wide range from serious to funny, thought-provoking to whimsical, sublime or down-to-earth.

Dinner will be potluck, so our eating will be another form of sharing.

And while we’re on the theme of listening, it turns out the conversations that were recorded last Thursday during dinner by Tina from CBC’s Tapestry program didn’t actually make it onto the air on Sunday. Apparently the interviews that made up the bulk of the program went longer than anticipated, but she was “really happy” with the comments she received from people at GCF. “The folks I spoke with were generous and thoughtful with their ideas. … Please pass along my thanks to the group.” They’re considering a future episode specifically on singleness, in which case some of the recorded material may yet appear on air.

If you’re able to join us this Thursday for a relaxing and enjoyable evening together, I look forward to seeing you there. Please feel free to bring a friend (or 2) along with you. And if you’re busy or travelling out of town, I wish you a blessed and fruitful reading week.


Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Singleness … again
Continuing the Conversation

An evening of eating, discussing, laughing, discerning, praying, etc.
with the GCF community

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

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

Dear friends,
This week we will continue the conversation about singleness that we started last week. We’ll reflect together on what we heard from that discussion, and perhaps review some of the important themes that were highlighted by the four remarkably open and insightful reflections that opened the evening. Then we’ve invited Shannon Blake to share some of her thoughts, not only about her own experience of singleness, but also about some larger themes around the topic and some observations about how we might engage it in hopeful ways within the GCF community. We’ve specifically asked Shannon to consider how being part of the Sanctuary community ( has shaped her thinking about the ways we accept and support each other and ourselves.

We’ll also consider some biblical texts that can help inform our perspectives. In all of this, including our engagement with scripture, we want to wrestle with the task of finding balance amidst some of the tensions we named several times last week

between affirming and embracing who we are now
and longing for the person we would like
(or that we believe God has called us)
to become
between celebrating
and hoping
between our understanding of God and God’s work in the world
and what we see in our own and others’ lives
between the “desires of our hearts”
what we pray for and long for
and what actually happens

Please join us Thursday for dinner and the next part of this important discussion. And if you know of anyone else who needs to be part of this, please bring them along.


Wine Before Breakfast

Jewelery, Black History Month and the Kingdom of God

I’m not much for jewelry. Apart from our wedding rings, the only jewelry that I ever bought for Sylvia was an opal necklace. But to demonstrate how inattentive I can be to such things, I didn’t even notice the tiny little diamond embedded in the necklace. Truth be known, I wouldn’t have bought the thing if I did see the diamond – both because it is so tiny that it adds nothing to the opal (which is beautiful) but also because the odds are that this diamond was mined with near slave labour.

Jewelry and slavery are often not that far apart. Precious minerals and gems are the stuff of masters, not slaves. These are the treasured possessions of the aristocracy, indeed, of royalty.

So when Jesus says that his Kingdom is like a lost treasure that a woman will turn things upside down to find, or that it is like a pearl of great price, he’s tapping into this human desire for things of immense value. This treasure, this pearl, he is saying, are the royal jewels of his Kingdom.

But that is where the analogy ends. I mean it doesn’t help slaves to be told that the Kingdom is like the gems and minerals that they are forced to mine in a context of brutal and violent oppression. It might not be such a great metaphor for Black History month in Ontario.

But Jesus also says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, something small that grows into a bush of safety and rest for all who come to it. And the Kingdom of God is like a little leaven that a woman puts into a lump of dough and before she knows it the whole lump has been leavened.

The Kingdom of God is like the hope for freedom that burns in the heart of oppressed peoples from the slave plantations of America to the streets of Egypt. The Kingdom of God is like the longing for home that will rise up like grass through cement amongst the homeless. The Kingdom of God is like a treasure of dignity, welcome and justice that a single mom will go through hell and high water to secure for her kids.

The aspirations and hopes of the Kingdom, the radical hope of Jesus, is like a leaven that will permeate and transform everything. In 19th century America this hope empowered Afro-American slaves to wade in the waters of liberation from their slavery.

This, my friends, is a pearl of great price. At Wine Before Breakfast this week we’ll have a little peak at the jewels of the Kingdom.

Andrew Federle will break the bread and open the word.
Joanna Moon has written her first ever prayer litany (yea! Joanna!)
And the Bandhood will call us to songs of subversion.

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

“So what’s a nice person like you…”
Starting a Conversation about Christians and Singleness

An evening of eating, discussing, laughing, discerning, praying, etc.
with the GCF community

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

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

Dear friends,
Our society, popular culture, churches and families have plenty to say about coupling up. Even the university is in on the action, complete with a concert and published research (see The Bulletin‘s Feb 8 Valentine’s Day issue). With or without either marriage, sexual activity or clear answers (and the many possible combinations of these), romantic relationships in their many forms are pretty thoroughly discussed in a variety of contexts.

Singleness, by contrast, seems to be something of an un-topic. It is seldom addressed as a discussion of its own, and when it is, it’s typically understood in terms of what it’s not: singleness defined by the absence of romantic relationship, as in “Why isn’t a nice young woman/man like you married by now?” It’s especially surprising given that a growing number of North American adults are single, whether waiting longer before getting married, being single again after a divorce, or simply remaining single.

I must admit that our campus ministry hasn’t been all that different. Although characteristically comprised mostly of single young adults, we have not had an intentional discussion specifically about this topic as long as I’ve been involved here. So starting this week we’re aiming to address that gap with at least a couple GCF Thursday evenings.

This week we’ll try to open up the topic in a broad way, exploring some of our own experiences, the many facets and nuances of the theme, and the diverse – often contradictory – messages that we get from our families, churches and culture. Next week we’ll look more deeply at what the Bible has to say that can be helpful in guiding our thoughts, actions and relationships.

It’s worth acknowledging at the outset that this is complex topic fraught with all manner of dilemmas and potential tensions. We come from so many different places: female and male, in a “relationship” or not, married or unmarried or divorced, sexually active or not, entering or leaving relationships, content or dissatisfied with our situation, with emotions anywhere from ecstatic to profoundly miserable, feeling like we’re part of the GCF community or on the periphery, coming from God-only-knows how many different theological positions or sexual orientations, having thought deeply about these matters or coming to them for the first time. More often than not, as Facebook states so succinctly, “it’s complicated.”

Despite all that, or more accurately, because of that very complexity, we believe it’s important to have this conversation at GCF, so we’re prepared to accept the risks. Our hope is that, in the context of a diverse, caring and insightful Christian community, guided by the Spirit, scripture and compassion, we can explore the too-long-neglected theme of singleness in ways that can be both life-giving and redemptive.

If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, then please join us for dinner and discussion this Thursday. And if you know of anyone else who needs to be part of this conversation, please bring them along.


Wine Before Breakfast

The first Wine Before Breakfast service was on September 18, 2001. Gathering one week after the events of 9/11, it was only appropriate that the service took the form of lament.

During the prayer litany, the gathered congregation was asked,
“How long? How long must we sing this song?”

And their reply was, “Till we get the healing done.”

As some of you will recognize, this is a question from U2’s “40” that is answered with a line from Van Morrison.

“Till we get the healing done.”

Not too long ago I was at the Church of the Redeemer when they had prayers for healing. Essentially, anyone who wanted such prayers and the laying on of hands would go up to the communion rail, while the rest of us quietly waited and listened to a guitar/piano duo do an amazingly sensitive and appropriate jazz improvisation on a few tunes.

How long would we wait before the service would move on to the Eucharist?

“Till we get the healing done.”

But there was something about the music that was being played that was itself deeply healing. I didn’t go up to the front for prayer, but felt that I was been ministered to in my own places of deepest hurt and disappointment, my own places of unhealth, as I listened to the music.

Music has a way of doing that to you. Music is one of the most powerfully healing gifts that God has given to us in a creation of sound, vibration, sight, tone, imagery and words. And that is really at the heart of the Bandhood of all Believers at WBB. They play for us every week, “till we get the healing done.” Sometimes the healing will require exposing some raw places in our lives, sometimes the healing will require a good cry, sometimes it will require a good laugh. Whatever it takes, the Bandhood is in the Healing Game.

Some folks don’t like healing. They generally don’t like music either. Or at least if they do like music it will be music that can be kept safely in the background. Nothing that would challenge them, insinuate itself into their lives, perhaps even bring healing.

So this Tuesday we’ll meet some folks who get pretty upset when Jesus starts healing people. Heck, they’ll even call him a child of Satan, while the crowds are amazed and are pretty convinced that Jesus is the son of David.

That’s the kind of crap that Jesus had to put up with. People who can’t speak or see get their voice and their vision, while folks who supposedly have sight and the ability to speak, remain blind and only speak lies.

This week at Wine Before Breakfast we’ll hang out on the corner where Jesus is still in the healing game, against all opposition and slander.

Van Morrison might also make an appearance (of sorts).

Deb and the band will continue their ministry of healing in our midst.
Amy Fisher will open up Matthew 12 with us.
Talina’s got the prayers.
And Judith Alltree, who was there on September 18, 2001, will break the bread and pour the wine.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday, February 8 @ 7.22am
Wycliffe Chapel

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:


Reading the Book of Revelation as a Witness to Jesus Christ

with special guest

Dr. Joseph Mangina
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Wycliffe College

An evening of eating, hearing, reading, discussing, discerning, praying, etc.
with the GCF community

Thursday, January 27, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

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


For centuries the Book of Revelation has intrigued and puzzled Christians. It has also fueled their imaginations, which should come as no surprise to us. With its rich cast of characters – sinister horsemen, devastating plagues, mysteriously sealed scrolls, epochal wars, a red dragon with seven crowned heads and ten horns, and that arch-villain, the Anti-Christ – Revelation is like the biblical equivalent of a superhero action cartoon. As the old saying (adapted) goes, if I could have a nickel for every interpretation of a horseman, beast, or Whore of Babylon that’s ever been offered, I’d be a rich man.

But what on earth (or in heaven, for that matter) does any of that have to do with us?
Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Dear friends,

Early last semester as we were planning for GCF, we asked Sylvan Gerritsma to come to share parts of his story on Thursday, November 11, 2010.  Since Remembrance Day fell on a Thursday, we wanted to intentionally observe it at GCF, and Sylvan was looking forward to sharing a bit about his reflections on war, peace, and faith from his perspective as a veteran of the Vietnam War.

As regulars at GCF know, Sylvan wasn’t able to make it that night because he was hospitalized for a heart condition the week before his was scheduled to join us.

However, Sylvan has now been home from the hospital for a month, is feeling much better, and is ready to join us this Thursday, January 20th for an evening of sharing his reflections and engaging in dialogue with us about his experiences as a soldier and as a veteran.

Sylvan was essentially drafted into military service by his country after he graduated with a BA in English and German from a Christian liberal arts college in 1968, at the height of the conflict in Vietnam. After basic training, and advanced infantry training he  successfully completed the gruelling requirements to become an officer, excelling intellectually and physically to enable him to receive his commission in Military intelligence. After a year of doing research in the intelligence centre of the Army, he was selected for an elite airborne division – paratrooping – and would have gone on to Green Beret training if an injured ankle hadn’t interfered with his training.  He served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam before giving up offers for a military career and returning to civilian life in 1971.

Since that time, Sylvan has spent much time and energy reflecting on his experiences during these few years of his life, and the ways that these experiences have affected him and other soldiers. Like many veterans, Sylvan has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, and has sought to make sense of the many nonsensical situations one is subjected to during war and while training for war. As a life-long learner with a keen interest in philosophy, Sylvan continues to ask questions:

What really is the nature of war?
What is the effect of war on people-not only on civilians, but also on soldiers?
Is it possible to create and abide by “rules” for war?
As Christians, how ought we to respond to international injustice and war?

As you can imagine, there are not many communities where it is possible for a veteran to ask these questions. Among fellow veterans, especially of controversial wars like Vietnam, there is reluctance to be self-critical about the goals soldiers are commanded to pursue. Among philosophers or other academics, there is often an absence of understanding about the realities soldiers face ‘on the ground,’ and even less desire to think about these issues from a perspective of faith.

We know that GCF is a place where we can hear difficult stories and ask difficult questions. So we invited Sylvan Gerritsma to share some of his reflections with a community that will listen, think deeply, and ask honestly. And, we also happen to have a very personal connection to Sylvan; he’s my (Sara’s) Dad.

Please join us this Thursday for an evening of conversation, questioning, and prayer.

Take care,
Sara (Gerritsma) DeMoor

Wine Before Breakfast

New Wine…Before Breakfast

Something new is going on.

The lame walk,
sinners are forgiven,
bureaucrats of the empire are leaving their jobs,
and all the wrong people are coming to dinner parties.

“You know that something is happening,
but you don’t know what it is,
do you, Mr. Jones?”

The scribes figure that this is all blasphemy.
The man presumes to forgive sins!

The Pharisees are offended by the dinner guests.
Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

And even John’s disciples are confused.
What’s with all this eating and drinking when we’ve all got used to fasting and John’s rather limited wilderness diet?

And Jesus replies:
in a world of human brokenness and sin we are called to be priests pronouncing forgiveness;
remember, God requires mercy, not sacrifice;
and don’t go pouring new wine into old wineskins.

At Wine Before Breakfast, we are all called to priestly ministry!
We all have the vocation of forgiveness!
We are all called abandon our service to the empire and embrace priestly ministry in the kingdom.
We are all called to the banquet of sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors
– Jarvis Street, Bay Street, and St. George Street all at the same party!
It is an early morning party!
A Wine Before Breakfast party!
A new wine party!

Let’s be careful that we don’t constrain that new wine in old wine skins.

Come on out to the party on Tuesday morning at 7.22am.
Forget your perfect offering.
You see, only sinners are invited.
Know any other sinners to bring along?

Andrew Asbil will join the rest of us priests in breaking the bread, pouring the wine and opening the word.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesdays @ 7.22am, Wycliffe College Chapel
Breakfast to follow

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Why am I here? What am I doing?
Reflections at the start of a new year

An evening of eating, discussing, discerning, praying, etc.
with the GCF community

Thursday, January 13, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

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

Dear Friends,
January is a hard month to narrate. It’s elusive, ambivalent. It’s the start of a new year, but all the really interesting stuff happened back in September, and now it’s just back to the same routines. We’re told the days are getting longer, but it’s also getting colder, and you know that the real winter stuff is still coming. There may be renewed resolve at the start of the year, but the biggest celebration of the year just ended, and many of us are left feeling tired, confronted with bills to pay and the work that was supposed to get done over the holidays but didn’t. A stack of unmarked exams or unwritten essays is not always a source of inspiration.

The same kind of ambivalence often characterizes the way we think, feel, and talk about what we’re doing with our lives, whether that’s academic study or some other form of work. Partly it’s the natural tendency to fall into routines, to keep doing something “because it’s there.” But there can also be very different ways of explaining the significance of what we’re doing. For example, your friends, your parents, your supervisor, your department chair, the university administration, the government, and the media, could each give a distinctly different reason why you should (or shouldn’t) be doing your thesis. And that’s even before getting to all the varied, and potentially competing, impulses you feel within yourself.

It’s not primarily a question of motivation, but a matter of imagination. How will you envision the purpose of your efforts? What’s more, that envisioning is an ongoing process, and we need the help of others – ideally a supportive community of others – to help us make sense of it. To shape an imagination that will sustain and give life. Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Wine Before Breakfast

Dear Wine Before Breakfast friends:

I am not a person who has many enemies. You know, real enemies. Not just people who maybe don’t like me, but people who are a threat to my very life.

But every time I come to Central America I am confronted by the reality of violence. Stories of the military murdering people in a church. Stories of exhuming the bones of children who were massacred.

When you face that kind of brutality it is not surprising that people develop deep hatreds. Indeed, the very sight of a uniformed soldier in the context of a military dictatorship can occasion fear and anger.

Jesus must have known such emotions. He grew up in a military dictatorship. He had seen the brutality of the occupying forces. He undoubtedly had heard the stories of Herod’s violence shortly after his birth. Some of those murdered boys could have been his cousins.

But his Kingdom was bigger than either the Roman empire or the nationalist zeal and revolutionary fervor of Israel. His Kingdom faced the violence but refused to ape it.

While this is demonstrated most radically on the cross, the expansive nature of his Kingdom was also evident throughout his ministry.

A Roman centurion  comes to Jesus to ask for the healing of his servant. He knows that he doesn’t really have any basis for the request. He wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus told him to go to hell, but somehow the stories about Jesus gave him courage to make his request.

And Matthew tells us that Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and he healed the servant.

This is an expansive love, and it is offensive. This is offensive to every mother who has lost a son to a military junta. This is a slap in the face to every 1st century Jew or 21st century Latin American who has had to live under a state sponsored violence that has stripped them of their land, the livelihood, their hope, their children.

This is the breadth of the Kingdom.

I’m in Costa Rica as I write this and I look forward to returning to Toronto on Monday evening in order to be with you all at Wine Before Breakfast on Tuesday.

Sara will be preaching,
Judith will break the bread,
and Deb Whalen will be leading the WBB Band.

Welcome back to WBB. If you want to bring some muffins or other baked goods, let Sara know.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday, January 11 @ 7.22am
Wycliffe College Chapel