Do empty churches indicate a lack of faith, or do they need to adapt to different ways of nurturing faith in people both inside and outside their walls? (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Churches across Canada--including this one in downtown Montreal--are closing for lack of congregants, to be replaced by gyms, spas, restaurants and upscale condos. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Darian and Jacob Wiebe-Neufeld, centre, enjoy a game of Sorry! with a couple of regulars at the St. James Drop-in Centre in Montréal. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Two staff and a St. James Drop-in Centre member jam in the art room. The artistic and musical talents that were in evidence among the members were amazing. After meeting the people, the idea that anyone from any walk of life can become homeless really sank in. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Maison de l’Amitié doesn’t look like much from the outside, but its tiny garden and park benches provide a good place for community members to talk. A Swiss couple who stayed in the student residence for a few nights told director Dora Marie Goulet, “It’s a one star facility, but gets five stars in its connections!” (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
A cross has stood on the top of Mount Royal in Montréal since 1643 as a lasting reminder of God’s grace when a flood was averted. The cross standing there today is brilliantly lit every night and can be seen for miles. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
The skyline is liberally punctuated with steeples, but they loom like tombstones over the churches of Montréal. The beautiful buildings are mostly dead on Sundays, and I wonder where the church has gone.
The first Skype conversation I ever had was with someone in Germany about a guy from Montréal who wanted to be baptized in Edmonton. This extraordinary testament to a globalized world was also my introduction to Alain Spitzer.
Just before Jack McKay* was let out of prison, a local paper ran an article that portrayed him as an unhinged, unreformed sexual predator. The message was blunt: Beware, be afraid.
1. What experiences have you had with prison visitation or helping someone with a painful past become settled in Canadian society? What level of acceptance would someone like Jack McKay, the pseudonymous former inmate in this story, find in your community? What social services would there be to help him? What would happen in your congregation if a former sexual offender began attending?
Born and raised in Niverville, Man., Matt Falk began performing stand-up at the age of 17 after seeing comedians like Ellen DeGeneres and Robin Williams on TV. ‘I just wanted to be like them so badly,’ he recalls. ‘I think that’s what motivated me.’ (Photo courtesy of Matt Falk)
Written over the course of five years, the material on Apple Pie & Scars includes bits about food, weight loss, pop music and Falk’s religious upbringing. (Photo courtesy of Matt Falk)
Comedian Matt Falk draws from his Russian Mennonite heritage for some of the material in his act. ‘For those who don’t know what a Mennonite is, a Mennonite is basically just like a Catholic, with half the dancing and twice the guilt,’ he quips on his debut album, Apple Pie & Scars. (Photo by Cody Goetz)
Matt Falk recalls one of his worst gigs from the beginning of his career as a comedian. He was hired to perform at a corporate event, and during his 30-minute set the audience barely chuckled.
“Do not kill yourselves: for verily God is to you most merciful” (Qur’an 4:29).
It is commonly understood that when we were born, we had no choice but to become a citizen of this world. We didn’t get a chance to choose our parents or birthplace either. But if entering this world was not of our choosing, do we have the choice to decide when we leave it?
Hinduism is based on nonviolence. Suicide—killing oneself—is an act of violence. Killing another person is also wrong. In Hindu scriptures, nowhere is it mentioned that one can assist someone who wishes to commit suicide. To do so would be to commit a violent act, which is against Hinduism. Life is created or given by God.
To begin with, Judaism teaches that our lives belong to God. We are mere stewards of the body which the Creator has given us. As Jews, we also believe that we are commanded to preserve our lives. Deuteronomy 4:9 teaches that Jews should “carefully preserve yourselves.”
Buddhism as an organized religion began some 2,600 years ago. The advanced technology we have today was unimaginable in those distant eras. We are thus faced with the problem of applying ancient wisdom to our actual lives as they are lived here and now.
1. John Longhurst refers to a recent poll indicating that 70 percent of Canadians support physician-assisted suicide and 68 percent believe that those who help a seriously ill person commit suicide should not face legal charges. How would you respond to these questions? Why do you think these numbers are so high? What concerns do you have about assisted suicide?
A mayor in Texas made headlines this past December when he proclaimed 2014 as “the Year of the Bible.”
When I first read this passage in Luke’s gospel, in preparation for preaching on it, I thought, “Oh, this is just too easy.” Unlike some stories which leave you scratching your head, this one seems all too straightforward. If even an unjust judge listens to a persistent widow, how much more will God—a just judge—listen to our cries?
1. In what situations have you prayed for justice or deliverance? Have you ever begun to doubt that you were praying hard enough, or even to doubt the existence of God? How do you keep your faith when there is so much injustice and suffering in the world? Do you find the story of the persistent widow encouraging? Do you find Anita Fast’s interpretation of Luke 18:1-8 convincing?