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.