Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Church #54 Grace Lutheran Church.

So I missed the train. Again. Fun Fun.

But I did eventually get there. And I happen to approach the back side of the church, as I was walking up to it.

I really enjoyed the decorations. It all felt very festive.

Everyone was singing when I walked in. So I sat in the back and proceeded to find my place. I noticed that some one was chiming a hand bell to try to keep the church singing in time. It worked.... sort of .

As for the population, it was your standard 40-50 people, mostly causation and mostly in the 55-70 year old range. Or at-least at this service, there was another one earlier in the day but, I have no idea what the demographics of that one was like. And, yes sometimes the population that attends a 9 am service can be completely different from the ones that attends an 11 am service.

In-fact today was all about the bells. They had all the Children come up to the front of the Church for the kids message. They received an intro to what a hand bell is. And got a little history  on the use of church bells, and how they were used let people know what day was Sunday, and when it was time to come to Church. They gave the kids some jingle bells to rattle. And after that brief moment of satisfaction, the children all returned to their seats.

Today was the 2nd Sunday of Advent.

The church leader started off with telling us a story of the far north. And how the remote some parts of our territories are. And the deep, deep, silence that comes with it. We were told that the smallest noise would carry unbelievable distances, uninterrupted. On a regular basis, a mail plane would arrive in the town, and that plane would be heard a long time before it could actually been seen by the naked eye. He told us that, that is what he envisions when he thinks of the message of the profits and the coming of Christ. As something that can be heard well before it arrives.

I took a moment to notice one of the glass panels, and I found it very interesting. Did you know that some of the disciples have animal associated with them?
I knew that John had the Eagle...... But the rest came as a surprise!

I  am very happy to say that  today's sermon was in favor of teens. There is only one other service I can remember at this point, that had a message that supported the needs and concerns of adolescence.

The church leader explained how he worked with a group of teens and often participates in trips and activities involved with this group. As we all know most teens are deeply into  music  and some live and breath it. He mentioned that a lot of people out there (especially older people) feel there is no good music being produced now a days. This is not something new, and there is actually evidence that us as people actually do quit developing a interest in new music after a certain age. Check out the Link!

You stop listening to new music at age 33, earlier for parents, study finds

There was a brief mention of "ear worms"
 aka. Songs that you get stuck in your head for no apparent reason.

He church leader mentioned his was the "imperial march." From Star Wars.

You are welcome.

What I really love is how he came to the realization that, these young people, are listening to these songs because the message in them. This message is something that resonates with them. And when he stopped listening with "critical ears" he realized that this music is indeed "real", and provided a lot of insight into the minds and hearts of these young people. Young people that he has made a commitment to help and support.
At this realization I  am sure he felt some degree of distress. He proclaimed;
"Do I have my head so far in the clouds?!!!" 

Sad to say, I feel that most of the seniors that he were trying to explain the message to didn't really take it seriously, and laughed him off. This I think is a great shame.

Being some one who is smack in the middle of the of the Millennial generation. (people born between roughly the early 1980's to early 2000's.) I feel the weight of this "generational conflict." And all of the frustration and disconnect that comes from it. It is not fun. It truly is not.

But I do feel the flaring anger and disconnect is not helping anything. It really doesn't. Has it ever?

But I do have hope that there can be better communication and even co-operation between generations to help make everyone lives better.

I think the film "The Intern." touches on this idea.


"If you don't hear anything good on the radio, are you actually listening? " 

Near the end of the service the church leaders youngest son comes running up to him (2 years old)?  . So he picks him up and holds him in one arm while finishing the service. I am not sure if  that is an unusual sight for some. But I grew up knowing a priest who had a a very attached little boy, whom he would have to hold for half the service some days.

After the service was over I had some time to talk to the church leader, he was even kind enough to let me take his picture and show off his robes.Which were home-made just for him, as a gift from his sister.

ps. The lettering you see in Hebrew is Gods name. 

So this is your look inside.....

Not a bad church over all. I went down stairs afterwords for some cookies and tea. And had some opportunists for some friendly conversation. And then I was on my way.

 *crunch, crunch, crunch, ICE......! crunch, crunch, crunch........

Farm The Land grow the Spirit 2016.

Attention all devout Muslims, Christians and Jewish people between the ages of  19-29! The Stony Point, Farm The Land grow the Spirit Program is now taking applications for it's 2016 semester! So since I participated in this program last year, I will obviously not be going this year. But regardless it is an amazing opportunity. If you are comfortable in an interfaith environment and willing to learn and get a little dirty this summer, this is the place for you! Fallow the link for more info!

Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit: A Multifaith Peace, Justice and Earthcare Program for Young Adults

- Write a very solid in-depth multi page essay, and most of all, just be genuine.
- Apply eraly!
-If you don't apply, you will never know the answer to Murder Mystery Night!

I never trusted that piano player!....... ;)

Friday, December 4, 2015

In the news!

This was actually done a while ago, one day after my CBC interview. I didn't realize it was still online! 

Church #53. River City Church

I actually found this church from their online presence, when I was not specifically looking for a church to visit. Very impressive, and just short of unbelievable considering how far behind many churches are with having any type of clear online communication.

As most of you know, I use public transportation to get to all of my churches, (plus occasional car-pooling), and this church is within easy access of the LRT line.

So when I came in, I was greeted immediately. Everyone was very friendly and interested in what I had to say and what I was doing there. I met the leadership, and I was quickly whisked around the building and given a comprehensive tour. And of coarse the first room I was shown was the nursery/mothers area. It was a room sectioned off all by itself, with a bunch of kids playing with lots of toys, and even further back was a separate changing/nursing room. I noticed the TV in the children's area and I was told that the sermon was broadcasted into the children's area for any parents that may need to stay there during the service, which I thought was a smart idea.

But if any of you know me, you know that this was a less-than-comfortable experience for me (touring of the children's area and "meeting the kids" that is....).

That's like a person with a fear of spiders, walking into a museum, meeting the friendly and enthusiastic curator that tells you she is honoured to have you there, and then immediately saying "You really must see our new exhibit on tarantulas! It's one of our crowning gems!", and then being taken by the hand and ushered into the exhibit, while trying not to lose your composure. 
Needless to say, I survived it. It was very uncomfortable.
I don't blame her in any way, there is no way she would have known.

I feel that this church has really tried it's best to be accommodating. Besides the children's/mothers area, they had barrier-free washrooms, a side kitchen, caffeine bar, among other things.

Random side note:
A large donation of 100 lbs of potatoes were donated to the church, and everyone got a load of free potatoes at the end of the service. Mine are currently in my fridge (soon to be french fries ;).

The main room where the service was being held kind of threw me back. It was pretty low-lit and fully set up to accommodate the band. (P.S. the whole "Fire Fall" this was from a conference they had, and they had just not taken it down yet).

As for the demographics of this place, there was roughly three dozen people, in their 20's-30's and a few people beyond that. 50/50 gender ratio. Despite being mostly caucasian, there were some First Nations people and African-Canadians at the service.

As you can imagine the worship started with the band kicking into high gear. People in this church express themselves in a variety of manners; some people people put their hand to the sky in praise, some sit quietly with their head bowed, others go to the front and start jumping and dancing in front of the band, and some feel it right to fall to their knees and bow their head to the ground. All of the above are considered acceptable here.

I asked afterwords that if there are cases of speaking in tongues that occur here. The church leader told me that it happens on occasion. One thing I am really hoping for while doing this project is to actually witness a person break out into tongue-speak, but it is rare. Hopefully I will be so lucky as to see it in one of the next 47 churches.

One of the songs in the worship was At Your Name, which is one of my faves. Partly because it gives you an excuse to jump around.

I find this all so interesting because when I was in NYC, part of my studies centered around the idea of "what is God's name"? This was part of the teaching we received from our Jewish faith leaders. They referred to the part of the bible where Moses encounters the burning bush and he is instructed to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to free the Israelite's. (back in those days everyone declared things in the name of their god). So Moses asked Gods name. He got two answers: the first was the well known "I am what I am". That is short for "I am not telling you", which is something pretty bold. Considering that it used to be believed that God(s) could be literately "invoked and controlled"  if you called their name, Moses learned quick that this wasn't gonna work with this one. But he got a second name too: YHWH. But you can't pronounce it, and yet you say it constantly every day of your life. Follow the link for the rest of the explanation.

Breathing the name of God. 

One of Rabiis teaching my group said that he suspects that when Moses approached Pharaoh and asked in whose name do you declare this?, Moses likely let out a long, loud and clear breath. Just image that going down for a second. I am not sure about you, but if I was Pharaoh, I would have been deeply intimidated, when the very force of life itself has told you to step-off.

I also found the violinist in the band a refreshing touch. However, this is not the first violinist I have seen preforming with a worship team.

One of the church members came up to give some of his personal stories and reflections. This was mainly based around his father death and his choice "to get right" with his remaining family members. He told us how he and his family had come from a Catholic background and then came to find God and love Christ in a new way. He said a lot, but there were two things he said that I found very profound:

#1. "People lie al lot at funerals. And I really don't like them."
So luckily, I have not attended many funerals yet at this point in my life, but that was kind of a shocker for me. He said that people will say a lot of things, but they didn't really go visit that person very much, nor were they close with them. etc. I think the point of this is that we need to reflect ourselves and how we keep our relationships with those we care about.

#2. "....He was Catholic but had not come to Christ yet."   


Finally some one acknowledged this!!! I once had a friend say that there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. And there are many people in this world which are spiritual but not religious. But I think the less talked about are the religious but not spiritual. People that are literately so wrapped up in the procedure and practices of their religion, that they forget what is really the most important point. Having a relationship with God. and actually coming to embrace the salvation Christ brought us! And building the bridge with your heart and soul, that brings you closer to the almighty!  Kind of ironic eh?

Today's service was very "quotable". Here are a few Gems for you:

"The grace of God does not over-look sin, it gives you the power to overcome it." 

"The refugees are coming and I am not panicking! Our job is to LOVE people into the kingdom!"

"We can't be Christians that are like ostriches with our head's in the sand!" 

"What is the end game? The end game is to fill heaven, and plunder hell!"

"God will honour you, but he expects you to honour him back!" 

"God does not hold your past life ransom! Forcing someone to pay for their sins is witchcraft!"

And of course with talking about the world falling apart and refugees, we ended on the topic of the prime minister. We were told to pray for him and all of our leadership, as the bible taught us that we should. That didn't surprise me.
But what did was the fact that he is a professing Christian, and he took an Alpha course! 

Here is the link to the artificial on him doing the course and his faith:
Justin Trudeau's Christian Faith

And here is a link to the official web-sight for the Alpha course:
Alpha Course

"we need to stay vigilant and informed so we know how to pray." 

"I am not a Liberal, but pray for him!" 

One of the big topics that was talked about today was the end of the world. Which was kind of uncomfortable for me. "I don't want to be an sensationalist" he remarked. He pointed out that a lot of the thing happening in the world are symptoms of the "end time" He also acknowledged that the idea that the end time will be "soon" is something that people have been throwing out there for forever. He brought up 1 Thessalonians 5:2

"For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night."  NLT.

Therefore we must remain vigilant and ready at all times. He reminded the room that the Bible says that in these time we should not panic. And that our focus should be to step up and love people into Gods kingdom.

He also gave his thoughts on the famous "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" line. In his mind, the rejection of God, and living without God, is a hell-filled life.

I think it is well put.

After all this they took the time to have people come up to the room that needed praying for so they could lay hands on them. What surprised me was that after they were finished praying for them, they started gently falling them to the ground and allowing them to just lay there for however long they needed. They also had a pile of personal sized blankets ready to cover each of them with. One of the young men that was prayed for and laid to the ground, had a noticeable medical disorder to do with his spine. He said that after he got up that something surprising happened when he fell. He said when he was under the blanket that "I did get warm, I got hot!". He explained that his back is almost always in pain or stiff when he walks, but now he feels fine!

"I didn't ask for healing, but my back is no longer stiff!"

On a final note I would like to just say how comparably guy-friendly this church is. I really think they have done a good job making this environment comfortable and inclusive for men, without going  to the extent of alienating the women (I have actually seen that before.)

And pulling that off is hard.

Bravo to you River City!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Church #52 St. Joseph's Cathedral Basilica

Maybe it is just me.... but it is not as big as it looks....

From the inside anyhow.

So today I am happy to report that they did not shut down the LRT line for "testing"..... AGAIN....So I was actually able to take the train down town and then walk a few block to the church. It was a kind of a bleak rainy day, but I was able to get this photo from under my umbrella.

Also, If you want a good look at this place, I suggest the Church's website where you can get a full interactive visual.


I walked into the giant main 3 door entrance, and encountered a wide cement set of stairs up to the main floor, as the building wafted with the sent of incense. There were three things about this church that surprised me right off the bat:

 #1. Despite being a catholic church, I did not have to be there at 8am. The church had multiple                  service through the day. The options were 8:30 am, 10:30 am, 12:15pm and 5 pm.

#2. I got there a bit early, but by the time the service started 95% of the space in the pews was taken         up. This place was FULL!

#3. As you well know I like to record the age range and demographics of a church, and I can tell you         this one had a lot of families with slightly older kids, (but not necessarily a lot of young kids,               maybe they were in the Sunday school/daycare?) This church was diverse, but I can tell you that         that at-least 75% of this churches population is Filipino.

Even though remembrance day was not officially until Wednesday, the front of the church was already set-up with a wreath.

Seeing this church I feel is a strong example of how immigrants are helping preserve the christian roots of country, not destroying them. (not to say that all of Canada's roots are Christian, but some of them definitely are). Because lets be honest, us "old stock" 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, (I myself am 2nd-3rd mattering how you count it) generation Canadians have done a terrible job of keeping our churches alive. A few of them are holding out and doing well, but the bulk of them are simply dying out with their patrons. Diversity among the congregation is a big part of the reason this church can still open it's doors every Sunday. I call 'em like I see 'em.

One of the first announcements made after the church procession entered, was that there were pamphlets available at the back door that had to do with petitioning the Prime Minister to protect the environment.

In-between different parts of the service there was a talented young African-Canadian lady that sang a variety of hymns and worship songs at the front. I quite enjoyed it.

So the teaching today was the story of the widow with the two copper coins. I am not sure exactly what part of scripture it is taken from. Because it is listed in both Luke and Mark. But lets go with Mark.....

Mark 12:38-40 (HCSB)

38 He also said in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who want to go around in long robes, and who want greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the front seats in the synagogues, and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher punishment.”

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

In the first part of the scripture is a warning of those who may attempt to abuse their power in the church. And Jesus's emphasis that we need to care for the widow, the orphan and the alien (traveler) for they have nothing. 

It was also mentioned that we need to be carefully that when we do good acts, they are actually motivated out of love. When the scribes pass the treasury, they contribute a large amount, but it is all in the name of keeping up appearances. The widow puts in her last two coins as a statement of faith. Apparently in the Greek translation the word they used to describe this giving was actually "Bios" which literately translates to the word "life". This woman gave so much more, because she was literately at the end of her rope and gave her "life" to God. While the scribe gave many times more, it was all worthless, as it was give out of pride.

"We are all poor in love"

"If we do things as good Christians out of pride and appearance, there is no room for Gods love." 

But what kind of caught me, was a comment about how currently we need to question if sometimes our "tolerant and inclusive attitudes" are motivated by pride?..... Tolerant and inclusive of what?  You could fill a lot of things in that blank...

Members of the gay community?

And if so, is the support of these people/groups wrong? Or just wrong when it is done out of pride and not from Gods love? I will let you ponder on that...

So when time came to accept communion, you could tell that they anticipated a large crowd. I watched the priest bless 12 gold cups of wine and 5 bowls of rice crackers. I took communion that day. And as I was in the line-up I saw the congregation being patrolled buy a very strict looking (Filipino?) priest. I honestly could not even focus on receiving communion because I found this guy so intimidating... seriously.

P.S. So the wine today was real wine. White wine to be exact. And even thinking about it now, I am still trying to wrap my head around what it was. It was definitely sweet, but it was not a moscato or an ice wine. The flavour was very rich and well rounded. and I am not sure what percentage it was but it almost tasted fortified? Honestly, I think this one will just remain a mystery...

Also, Photographers! I seriously suggest you sneak in here! There is some serious eye candy in this church!

Adios my friends!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Church #51. Cross of Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf

(WELCOME) To this weeks edition of 100 Churches. As you might have guessed this week, I visited a church designed to accommodate a deaf congregation!

The building has a very interesting U-shaped lay out. It took me a moment to figure out the right door, but I got it eventually. Not much has changed inside of this church for a long time. It did not instantly hit me as being negative. Some of the best churches that I have been to have been very "untouched", but then again that has also been the case with some of the worst. Needless to say I was not too worried, especially considering the congregation that attends here. I can only imagine that they would need to be at least a little flexible. I was greeted by one of the deaf church members when I entered. He singed to me and then I simply waved back. I think he quickly understood that I didn't speak sign and a speaking person was soon there to meet me. I met the Church leader before the service and he greeted me. He told me that this was the Sunday that they were doing communion and then asked me the inevitable question of "Are you Lutheran?" .

O God, here we go again.....

As you can imagine, the answer to that question was a long "Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh........"

Then he went on to explain the difference between the Catholic and Lutheran perspective on  communion. That while the Catholic's declare that after the wine and bread are blessed they are LITERALLY the body and blood of Christ, and that Christ is LITERALLY present while this is happening. While the Lutherans see communion in a more symbolic and spiritual sense.

Personalty, I never got the whole only-taking-communion-at-one-type-of-church-thing. And I really don't think it matters.

Who cares if it is Catholic or reformed? Who cares if it is a certain type of priest that blesses the bread and wine? Is it really relative what they, or the church members, think the symbolism of this ritual is?

The way I see it, communion is a holy ritual between two people. God and I. That's it. I could care less who blesses it. Or what building I am standing in. These factors are ambiguous and unimportant.


As long as that person is a follower of Christ and holds Gods love in their heart, they are perfectly suited to do the blessing. And it is legit.

I would even let my little brother do it!!!!!
(For real! He is a cool guy!)

Anyhoo..... back to the main story.

So after all that the church leader suggested that I "maybe should not take communion today" . You can only imagine how I felt. Then soon after he came scrambling back, and looked at me and asked me if I profess Christ to be my lord and savior? and I replied with an enthusiastic "YES!" So after further discussion, it was concluded that I could take communion today but to decide that for myself based on my own discretion.

* ps. I did receive communion today.
The wine was a-mid quality Pinto Noir by my guess.
It had rich fruity undertones of cherry and blackberry.

Before the service I noticed that the room had about a dozen people, almost all seniors (majority men) who had some very lively conversations going on. The room didn't have much sound but you could tell there was a whole lot of communication going on. One of the church members there told me that the deaf members really like to catch up with each other at church, because they spend most of their work week around only speaking people. I later talked to one of the speaking members of the church and he mentioned to me that he didn't know sign language personally, but he felt that the deaf members of the church could express themselves better with their hands sometimes, then we can with words, which to me makes sense. In some cultures in the world, a person's hands do half the talking.

I would like to apologize in advance for using a video clip from Eat, Love & Pray in my blog. I never thought I would stoop so low...

Just in case you were wondering, this was not an entirely deaf/signed church service. There was some speaking members at the church. In fact, the church leader himself did not sign and had a interpreter stand beside him during the entire service.

I was curious about a lot of things when I entered this church. How would a church have songs when almost no-one there can speak or possibly hear? Would the lords prayer be recited as a group? How would that work?

Well I got my answers and they were very interesting. The church still had songs that were read out of the song books. When it came time to actually start we were told that we were welcome to "sing or sign along". There was a church member that came to the front of the room as if to lead the song, and he did. With his hands. And the rest of the church members followed him with their hands, signing out the worlds of the songs (the same process was used for group prayers).

It was truly an interesting thing to watch. Instead of group "singing" to glorify God, they were "expressing their hands" in a flowing group performance to express their worship.  It was a truly interesting sight to behold, and gave you a real sense of God's love for all.

I am not sure if you saw this one, but it came out 2013. As far as I understand this girl is not deaf, but has deaf parents, and she wanted them to be able to understand he kindergarten Christmas choir.

Super cute!

But besides how much accommodation there was for the deaf people at this church, what really came as a surprise was how much accommodation there was for me! l was quickly connected to the speaking people in the church, even where I could sit next to a speaking person at lunch and they helped me find the papers and songbooks. Truly helpful and welcoming.

There was a banner hanging from the front podium today advertising the story from the Bible that was going to be the center for today's scripture lesson. Something I have been wanting to hear for a very long time actually.  Mark 10:17-27

The Poor Young Rich Man. 


17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Yes, the famous "Camel thru the Eye of the needle" sermon.
After reading the scripture the church leader gave his thoughts and analysis of this piece of scripture;

-Out of listing the regular 10 commandments Jesus also mentioned " you shall not defraud' which is a separate commandment listed in the book of Leviticus.
-When the young rich man said he has kept all the commandments, Jesus looked upon him and "loved" him. He didn't lecture him about how he is not perfect or rebuke him in any way. He loved him. And offered him a place in his group of disciples.
- Jesus was saying something that was very contradictory to the time. Jew's in that time believed that rich people were rich because God blessed them and they were God's favourites.
-The church leader noted that "wealth can be a barrier" between us and God. And that "The rich think they can trust in their wealth more then they trust in God" . "They can think they are self sufficient".
- "Wealth can be an obstacle to discipleship."
 - He finished by pointing out that this is a "very sad story" as this man was the only one that Christ called that could not fulfill the position of discipleship.

I understand the sad feelings that come with the end of this story, but in the last words. I find hope.

Near the end of the service, there were a few more prayers. Those prayers also included something very important:the oncoming Canadian Federal election. We prayed that God grant wisdom to the voters and that we will be given good government.

I voted.
I am not sure how you feel about the new government. And our new young, good looking, marijuana-friendly Prime Minister. But regardless. This video gave me a good laugh.

 A few other interesting things I found out after the service; there is another Church for the deaf  here in the city. Actually there is multiple ones. But there is one with an entirely deaf congregation. So that church has no songs of any type included in the service, just because there is no point to it.
I was also told that this churches population can fluctuate a lot. They "never really know" how many people will be at the service on Sunday and that there used to be a lot more attendants and many young children. (back in the day).

There was also one very interesting panels which I thought was stain glass. but was actually "Betonglas". This is an art style that requires the glass to be chipped to portray colour and is permanently set in cement.  This art-form was founded in Rottweil, Germany in 1866.  This art piece is made by Mr. Gunther Trick who has been trained in the art of "Betonglas"  and has been living as a deaf person since the age of two. Mr.Trick has been involved in many pieces of art throughout Europe. Mr. Trick can be contacted at his residence of 9713-90 ave Edmonton Alberta.

Got a photo inside the church before I left.

*sorry not the best photo

But regardless, it was a nice quiet Sunday, with a nostalgically-pleasant church with an interesting twist.

And the weather for the walk home was good too!

See ya'll next week! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Church #50 Vietnamese Alliance Church

So this is the first official "Asian Church" that I have gone to.
Pretty nice new building.
Needless to say there was no sneaking into this one. I stuck out like a sore thumb the moment I entered the door.( However, I did not end up being the only white person there). The leadership was alerted immediately to my presence, while I met a verity of people and explained my project. I was escorted to the downstairs basement (where the English half of the service was) that doubles as a daycare center? (If I remember correctly?) There was a worship band of young people in there late teens and early twenty's at the front of the room rehearsing, with all the fold-up chairs set up in front of them for the audience to sit. I accidentally stumbled into a HUGE kitchen (located at the back of the room) where some hard working ladies were preparing a meal on the scale of what I would describe as a small feast( Vietnamese style) . There was defiantly a large share of children in the room, along with their parents.

Initially I was pretty pleased with the environment and was happy to start up a conversation with a very tall fellow. I mentioned how I was impressed with this church and how I had been very unimpressed with some of the very conservative churches I have been to.  He then expressed the idea that he actually liked a conservative worship service, especially singing hymns. Personally I like singing hymns just as much as the next girl, but I told him that is was the "fire and brimstone " style preaching that I can not tolerate. His reply was "Well there is fire and brimstone in the Bible......" Then the service started and our conversation was cut short.

We took our seats and the service began. As you can Imagine there was some opening prayers and a performance by the worship band. A few announcements were made, and then the big highlight of my day showed up. They announced they were doing Operation Christmas Child! I AM SO STOKED!!!!!!

Personally there is nothing I love more then flying down the isles of the dollar store picking out a grand total of $18 worth of times that I know will make a world of difference, and a bright future for a child that is waiting for a blessing. 

For those of you that are not familiar, Operation Christmas Child is ran each year by a christian charity by the name of  Samaritan's Purse. Which is an "Evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work." Each year they have a campaign where they allow members of the public load a shoe box with school supplies, hygiene items, and toys, and send them as gifts to children in places of great need. This project has been going on for a while I think I was in 1998 That I can remember filling my first shoe box. I was Checking out their website and I found it really interesting some of the stories from adults who received the shoe-box as a child,and how it changed their lives.


So at the start of the sermon, it was noted that the focus today would be on, the book Ephesians which today was being described as the "blueprint" for the church. Written buy the Apostle Paul *(for some this fact is debated) . 

The great boxer, Muhammad Ali was quoted saying that in the end of time we will be judged by our deeds. If we have done more good deeds then bad we will go to heaven.

The Church leader made it clear that Mr. Ali was wrong and that is not true. And then went on to explain the whole "saved by Grace (freely given and undeserved love from God)  thru Faith (belief that Christ was the son of God and paid for our sins, and has redeemed all of us)" philosophy, and the whole "death is the wages of sin" thing.

Then there comes the whole comparison of  what is redemption and what is salvation?

 As far as I can understand redemption is something we all now have, that Christ covered everyone's tab from now into eternity. We are paid up. He took on all the suffering we deserved, so that we can now and forever stand before God with our heads held high.
Now salvation, as far as I can understand, comes from believing that Christ was the son of God and has paid for our sins.

Question then becomes; What is salvation?
Salvation is a multi-faceted concept that needs a lot of explanation.

And basically what was being taught here today at this is that only Christians are entering Gods kingdom and everyone else is Shit-Out-Of-Luck. And that their souls will simply die. Yes die. Not be thrown to the depths of hell and damnation. Just simply die off. The wages of sin is "death", not "damnation".

And according to this church is also not acceptable to "cherry pick" from other religions ex. Buddhism and Hinduism. ( I have seen this referred to before as "unacceptable man made religion" in other sources. )

I never actually stayed for the end of the service because I had somewhere to be so I rushed out near the end  and ran across town.

I hate to say, but this place is currently not making my favorites list.

Now for my rant.....

First the whole Muhammad Ali thing.

Dude. You are comparing apples to oranges.

Muhammad Ali read the Koran, obeyed the teachings of the profit Mohamed (s), and fallowed Islam.


And at the moment after reading a bunch of quotes from the guy, I actually have a lot of respect for him.  (hes got a little attitude to spare, but I like it.)

Particularly for this actually.

My summer course in NYC has given me a new and unique perspective on Christianity Via its Jewish ancestors and Muslim cousins. I was kind of surprised when I learned that the other two Abrahamic faiths see judgement, and the life after, very differently then Christianity. Despite all being based on the same foundation.

Judaism I find particularly interesting because it is the foundation of our faith and where we get the whole "the soul can die" concept from. Also Judaism teaches that the evil that we hold within our hearts then become demons that we need to purge yourself of in the afterlife. And you are outside of Gods kingdom until you have defeated all of them, only after that are you are allowed in.

ps. This "demon fighting" process will last no longer then 12 months.
*yes there is actually a time limit on this.

Islam is another story. After we die we meet God, we are raised and judged in accordance to the "Communities" (spiritual) that God sees us as belonging to. And then when we are handed judgement. If
it comes in one hand, we enter his kingdom, if it is in the other hand, we go to hell, but......If we know God we will not stay there.

Yes according to our faith relatives, you can get yourself ....OUT OF HELL!!! 

Sorry. I had to do it. :P

That and knowing God,  I believe fully in his love for all of us. And that he would not write us off.

Chew on this if you will....God is the creator of all. God is love. God made man. God created Buddha, God created the profit Mohammad (s) and the savior Jesus Christ, God knows what is Going to happen. God knew that These people would be seen as directors towards the almighty, and have religious followings. God has purpose or meaning in all that he does.Why would God do all this to set a trap?

I refuse to believe that God simply drops us into this world onto a "Russian Roulette Religions Board Game" loaded with hundreds of bullets and only one empty space. And the tag line "Better pick right or you are not getting in!" 

F#@K. No.

But lets just throw this Idea out there say that there is only two roads, Heaven or Damnation. Lets just say for fun-zies that If you don't fallow the "True faith" you are not getting in. Then that brings to question what is the true faith? Christianity? and if so, does it matter which denomination?

I don't consider this question worthy of wasting my brain power over, however there is something That comes to mind....

* Hopefully the link works.
The Correct Answer is .........

Second of all; Salvation.

One of the best things I have ever heard about this topic is when a pastor said to me that "Salvation Starts Now! "

To me salvation is a personal transformation, that comes with the realization, that we are set free in Christ. And hence us, then becoming inspired, to fallow in his ways. And when we do fallow in his ways, our minds are transformed. Bringing us into unity with the "body" of Christ.

Or maybe I am wrong? Maybe my thoughts on salvation are bogus? Maybe I need to be ready to simply kiss 90% of my friends away because they haven't "proclaimed their belief in Christ" and allegiance to a certain church?

Regardless. I am not God. And I don't know the right answer. But in the mean time, I am sticking with my guns. And for those of you that say I am in denial.... well. In the words of the great Adam Savage;

Then there is our buddy Paul , o Paul....

Just before I did my summer program in NYC, I came to a friend with some personal issues. How was I supposed to have peace meeting all these new Muslim and Jewish friends? And not feel terrible? Spending 2 months becoming  close with people that are deeply devoted to a faith that is not Christian. Will any of them be with me in the next life? Paul has a similar dilemma. Paul was a hew that accepted Christ as his savior, and then was faced with the fact that the rest of his close family members.Who had no interest in converting. Paul stews on this and goes back and forth may times. In the end he concludes that's "only God knows Gods will" as to what will be the fate of these people, and leaves it at that. This was in the book of Romans written in what is thought to be the year 57 AD. Addressed to believers in Rome.

What was talked about today was in the book of Ephesians written by Paul during his first imprisonment around  60 AD. This was written to believers in Turkey.  

So apparently Paul is this rock of a man that will stop at nothing to spread the world and convert the masses, with his whole "Christ or nothing" Philosophy. And then the very issue he stands hard on, falls in his own back yard and it becomes a different story.

But, I take this all with a grain of salt.

Paul is know for going over-board with the message. God even had to stop him and reprehend him at one point because he was getting too out of control. And he actually joined the Apostles after  Christ's death and never even met the guy! (except briefly in spiritual form).

Like I said, Paul is, as Paul does.
Try not to judge the guy.

And Frankly. I think a lot of the other major religions I have learned about all have very similar main focuses that are not far off of Christ's message at all. I am sure Jesus would have fully approved of Buddha's philosophy of the importance of respecting and caring for the elderly. And Islams practice of  stopping on daily regular intervals to pray. Yes they have their differences, but they were all founded in different places, times, by different people in different social/political climates.  Despite all the central message remains the same, that we all need to live out Gods love everyday.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Church #49. Christian Science Church.

O boy, where do I start with this one....? I am gonna put this out there right now. This was not a great experience at all. Have you even sat in a room the entire time with your eyebrow raised, and thinking that everything you are being told is questionable or totally out to left field? That was this kind of church for me.

It is an older building, my guess is that it was built in the 70's and not much has been changed since. The main body of the church was laid with almost all yellow stain glass windows, giving the room a strange "supper yellow" glow, like one would see in old photos.Also, no cross at the front of the room. There was roughly 12 people at this service. Of all different background and age groups.

I didn't research a lot into this church, but from what I can gather it was started in Massachusetts and was in some way founded by a lady called Mary Baker Eddy. They also did a very persistent job of reminding every one that they have a "Public Reading Room" and its hours of operation.

Right from the get go, I knew this place was different. Lords prayer was barely recognizable. Totally different. God was referred to as "our Father Mother God". Which I thought was kind of nice, but I still prefer the method of referring to God as the earth or the sky etc. It kind of puts the image of God into a larger global perspective without the argument of gender bias. That is my thoughts though.

And then the real eyebrow action started. So if I had to put this all into a nutshell, I would describe this church as having the idea that; because man is made in God's image, therefor man is perfect and and we are put on earth to rule over and control anything and everything.

Don't worry it gets better.....

Apparently we should also not believe human theories on health,  and there is no such thing as accidents and it is all under Gods direction.

"Man is not matter, man is spiritual." 

"Man is spiritual and perfect!" 


I am not sure where these people were for Christianity 101, but even babes of wolfs know that we are not perfect, by far. I, or anyone else I know, certainly doesn't fit that description. That status belongs only to the big guy upstairs, and also his son ( mattering on your perception.) 

Not only that, I feel that this way of thinking is not only questionable but dangerous. I could see this kind of philosophy easily being adapted to further such things as environmental destruction, imperialism and foreign invasion.

Strangely one of the first things that came to my mind was Mao's War against Nature in China.
This was was fed on the idea that "Man must conquer nature!" and put all of its forces under the control of the hands of man. And as you can guess that ended up going very, very, very bad.

As a wise Rabi once told me, God exists in many different forms in our world, and nature is "the green face of God." An Image to be loved, respected, and glorified.

Honestly the only thing I really enjoyed out of this service was the fact that we got to sing Beethoven's 9th symphony "Ode to Joy!" at the end.

And to end this I leave you with the words of the man himself;

Monday, August 24, 2015

Church #48. Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship

Well I'm still down here. And today was not the greatest, not gonna lie. Today I faced the all-dreaded Pentecostal/Evangelist Church field trip. O Joy! Not. So me and my group got up, got dressed, and drove out. This place is set up very much so like your modern large scale church. This one resembled a school gym in a lot of ways. Full stage at the front, a lot of chairs set up  on the floor and a raised seeting section higher up in the back. It also included a full display of different world flags on one wall.

On the wall, to the side of the stage, there was a projector showing advertisements for activities going on within the church and up-coming events. One of those up-cumming events. was entitled "Out of the devils Cauldron"hostessed by John Ramirez, quoted as being a "High Ranking Ex-Satanist" . 
This is what his face looks like.

And his book.

I haven't looked into this very much. I am almost curious about what the guy has to talk about. But quite frankly I am shocked that this is even being advertised. I just feel like inviting a "High Ranking Ex-Satanist" to speak at your church about all the horrors of the world, is something you would much more likely see in America before you would see it in Canada. Our southern neighbors have always seemed to have had a strong appetite for over the top drama and terror.

But then that brings up the question of what is real Satanism? For those of you that may not be knowing, their are two types of Satanism in this world the real one, and the fake one. Seeing as I am not an expert on this I decided to consult the "Church of Satan's" official web page and left it open to the Q&A section.


Also, I always get a kick out the old up-side-down cross. Because it is not a "anit-christian" symbol at all.

But what really gets me thou, is how "Satanism" is not the full opposite of "Christianity" . This is one of the reasons why.

Lets flip to Mark 12. ( NIV)

28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.e 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g There is no commandment greater than these.”

Pretty simple eh? Love God, and love everyone around you. So one might guess that Satanism is just the opposite? Don't love God, and use people however you like? Well the first part is consistent. Satanist are clearly atheists. However the second half is not. According to the "Church of Satan" its members are not free to go out and abuse people however they like. The Church has clearly laid out a long list of rules for human interaction, including bans on behaviors such as sex with children or animals, abuse of others, sacrifices and many other things. My understanding is that they believe that man, his nature, and personal choices can and will dictate what is right and wrong.

 I dont buy that. This is why. 

Sometimes in out world the lines between right and wrong are blurry, or different from one society to another. That may or not be for the right reasons, but as long as the goal behind that norm is to "Love your neighbor as yourself" personally, I am cool with it. Some would argue, that human beings would simply be able to lay out some fair practical laws, free of  all spiritual or religious influence, without making anything to crazy into something legal. 

I also dont buy that. This is why;

I was once was having pretty much this exact same discussion with a person who was putting up an argument for the "rational atheist" and I remember him saying "Well we can all agree that murder is wrong right? No place would ever make that legal!"  Guess what buddy? There is an entire country that already has. A place where there is such thing as a man that can turn in his own starving mother, watch her get executed and feel perfectly socially right about it. What is the name of this pit of hell fire you may ask? Two words;


( yes that was technically three worlds but give me a break) 

This book will BLOW YOUR MINDS!

Ted Talk on it too. And quite frankly, when an senior reporter says that this is literately the sadist story he has ever covered, you know it's bad.

Anyhow... where were we?...church service.. right....

So besides noticing this advertisement projected onto the side of the wall, my group (including our tow Muslim friends) got a chance to sit down and speak with one of the church leaders. He took some time to share with us a current social justice action that he is a part of. In this particular area of up-state New York, there is a noticeable problem with extreme under-funding of public schools. But why they are so underfunded is not as dry and cut as you think. In this area 9000 children attend the public school system, and 27000 attend private schools. And almost all of the children in the private schools are Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Yep, these guys.

Now the school board in each area is composed of the people in the area, with the representation equal to the demographics of the area. So there are a very large amount of Jews on this school board. Who have made the choice to make extensive cuts to the public school system. This church, and other churches in the area, a few mosques and non- ultra-orthodox Jews have teamed up and are calling for the state to step in on the situation to achieve some equal representation for  the public school system.

So now lets get to the actual church service. This is very much so your modern style church, contemporary music, lights, sound systems, full choir and rock band. Worship started out with song and dance, with the choir and band on stage leading the room.( ps. I appreciated the mini drum solo at the end there.) I noticed something the worship songs. There was this huge focus on "Jesus" and very little on "God" which I found interesting. Especially when Jesus spent so much time telling people to keep the focus on God. Then announcements were made. So keep in mind this place is an "Evangelist church" But in all honesty, this church acted nothing like any of the evangelist churches I have seen in Canada. Totally different animal.

This churches highest priority is to go out and evangelize as much as possible, and convincing people to become Christians. This is new to me. I know churches that go out and evangelize in Edmonton. But none like this. They are into it so much I feel like they have made it into a sport in a way. There were a lot of references to the amount of people they did or didn't convert, and a lot of celebration in their achievements. Or as I see it "high scores".

So after the music was over their were some announcements to be made. One of which was kind of a shocker. After going thru the list one of the last things that were mentioned, was that there would be a special meeting to pray for our Muslim friends during this time of Ramadan that they "may know the Lord". 

*aka. That they may come to realize the "true" significance of Christ, and become Christians.

I may not be Muslim. But even sitting 4 seats away, I could feel the wind off of that verbal sucker-punch-to-the-gut that my friends received from that comment.

Ouch. Sorry you guys had to deal with that.

For those of you that may not know. Muslims know Jesus. And  quite a bit about his mother, actually. Because Jesus is a profit, Muslims are required to know him and to believe in him.

Just not in the exact same way Christians do.
To further this, I thought I would send you two links.

This first one is 11 common beliefs between Christians and Muslims on the topic of Jesus.

This is a list of  6 things that Muslims and Christians disagree over.

But despite our standing differences, we still both love Jesus none the less! *peace and blessings be upon him!
 Then we got all the speeches.

One young lady come up and spoke about her mission trip to Morocco. Which was cool.

Then another fellow came up and spoke about his groups mission trip to Japan. That was interesting. They spent there time in what was know as the "Missionary Graveyard". This is a place where many had come to evangelize and all have failed. They ministered to students in school. Apparently they were even interested in possibly converting, however all of them declined. They told the missionaries that they were interested Christianity, but if they converted, their parents would literally kick them out.

Today we studied from the book of Joshua, on the topic of the conquering of the city of Jericho. We then learned about the recent discovery and excavation of the city.  And the surprising amount of common findings between the archaeologist assessment, and the details of the old testament. They both fully agree that the city was pillaged, conquered and destroyed by an earth-quake.

Quote of the day:

"I am a disgruntled Jets fan and I want you all to share in my misery!" 
 * Omg I have seriously never heard so many sports references or sports style talk in one church service.  

On another side note, the city of Gath was recently discovered. Home town to the famed "Goliath".
Discovery of Gath

* The bible actually gives a exact description of Goliath's actual height. Apparently he was roughly 9 feet tall.
* I was reading Samuel 2 and discovered that Goliath had a brother!

One last quote I found very interesting was:  
"We are the most dangerous when we think we can do everything on our own power. God makes us stumble out of grace, to help us turn back to God."  

I have mixed feelings about this statement. Weather us falling is the doing or the will of God, or not, you can't deny that I does humble a lot of people. It is regularly reported that in Canada, church going is highest in times of economic depression.

The more you know!

Have a good one! And see you next week!