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It was difficult enough when Jessica's husband Sean died suddenly, leaving her as a widow and a single mom. But posthumous revelations about his secret life turned her grief into rage. When it appeared he was trying to reach out to her from beyond the grave, she might not have returned his calls; but something compelled her to start paying attentio…
 
With this episode I introduce a series of conversations on death and dying ... on the other side of church land, or, what the church never told us. Tara Livingston joins me as we share thoughts and experiences of funerals, "good deaths," and what happens on the other side. Contacts: Tara Livingston: www.TRLConsulting. ca Brian Pearson: www.mysticca…
 
Welcome to the first episode of a new season of The Mystic Cave, a reflection on the soulful experiences of summer, including our return to nature and our return to the past. Credits: "Into the Mystic": words and music by Van Morrison; performed by Colin James; licensed for use by SOCAN; "How the Story Goes": words and music by Brian Pearson; perfo…
 
John Pentland talks about how Christian belief has changed: from a distant to a present God; from Jesus the answer to Jesus the question; and from a church set apart to a church engaged in the world, even online. It's a hopeful vision that leaves no one out, and promises exciting new discoveries for those willing to travel the Unknown Path. Contact…
 
John Pentland invites us to imagine a church, not for dyed-in-the-wool believers, but for never-been-to-church seekers. All are welcome. Hillhurst United Church, where John's been the minister for over sixteen years, has seen its congregation grow, not only in its pews but also online. Its burgeoning membership now includes people from around the w…
 
Many think of religion as a matter of the heart--loving God, loving your neighbour as yourself. But wars have been fought over the words we use to describe that love, and the ideas behind those words. For Christianity in particular, the words matter. Derwyn Costinak is an Anglican priest whose beliefs were formed growing up in the Pentecostal Churc…
 
Many think of religion as a matter of the heart--loving God, loving your neighbour as yourself. But wars have been fought over the words we use to describe that love, and the ideas behind those words. For Christianity in particular, the words matter. Derwyn Costinak is an Anglican priest whose beliefs were formed growing up in the Pentecostal Churc…
 
Having shared with us her spiritual journey, from the inclusion and support of her early years in the church to the hurt and frustration that led her to leave her ministry as an Anglican priest, Tara now joins me to consider the needs of the seeker--on the other side of church land. And what do we discover? It's all about community. Not about bibli…
 
Tara's journey looks a lot like my own: a church-going childhood, a sense of call, an ordained ministry; then hurt and disillusionment, leading her to leave the church, but with her faith intact, even if it expresses itself differently now. In this, the first part of our conversation, Tara tells us her story. In the second, we'll unpack it. You can…
 
In this episode, the first of the interview sessions, I talk with the author of Lost Rites: Leaving Church Land. That would be ... me. I just want to say, talking to oneself is highly underrated. Your personality begins to disintegrate as different parts step forward for their moment on the stage. But that's not the point. The point is that this is…
 
All the church's failings began with faithfulness. Someone was trying to do the right thing. But then they clung to that thing, afraid of having to make difficult decisions, or to have faith, ever again. So the scriptures, the creeds, the sacraments, the ordered ministries--they all hardened into stone, like the mighty cathedrals they inspired, and…
 
We did the deed, performing an "irregular" wedding. We received the censure we were expecting. Everyone went back to their jobs. But for me, it was over. I would devote my time to my people at St. Stephen's and to our many engaging ministries, but also to my plans to leave. Something deep inside was telling me it was time. When I left, I'd be done.…
 
The people of God, according to the Prophet Micah, already know what God requires of them: "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." But what if those are the very people who are unjust, unkind, and proud? What if someone has to step outside the bounds of their faith community in order to be God's people? Is that not …
 
What a difference a day makes. With the election of a new bishop for the Diocese of Calgary, the church was about take a turn to the past, leaving progressive parishes like mine feeling more like islands than parts of the mystical Body of Christ. And things would only get worse. Credit: Interlude: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Ba…
 
We opened our doors and the world came in. Isn't that what's supposed to happen? We were changed as a result. Isn't that also what's supposed to happen? The lines between ourselves, as Christians, and others, in their own religious guise, were blurring. The walls that kept our faith in and the world out were coming down. We were moving freely throu…
 
As I was entering the "days of my greatest creativity," my church of St. Stephen's was, as well. We were learning to climb down Jacob's ladder, leading us back to earth rather than on to heaven. Whatever delights awaited us in the next life, we could wait. We were finding fulfilment in the challenges and in the mysteries of this one. We were growin…
 
Inner work manifests outwardly. Just as my soul work had opened new doors for my pastoral ministry, the parish's inner work was about to manifest in a massive building renovation to support its re-energized calling, as servants of God and of the world. The new space would not only serve the wider community, it would inspire us in our worship. We we…
 
It seems that we are our own weakest link. We can't help others if we can't help ourselves. We can't love others if we don't first love ourselves. So when, finally, I did the work necessary for the healing of my own soul, I was ready to assist in the healing of others. That meant becoming a mentor to midlife men, a ministry that came to me; I didn'…
 
If there's a turnaround in my story, it begins here. But it's a slow turning. I would be entering the years of "my greatest creativity," just as Bishop Bothwell, back in Niagara, had predicted. But it wouldn't be with the church's approval, or with its blessing, as I might have imagined. Fuelled by a new vitality bursting from within, it would be w…
 
Sometimes, you can't rise up until you get down. All the way down. And a marriage breakup will do that for you. I don't care what the pious judges say. No one walks out the door easily. It tears you apart, and scars you for life. But somewhere in the violent darkness, life itself is calling out to you. At least, it was to me. And I was willing to r…
 
My new ministry, and our family's new life in Calgary, brought both joys and challenges. The diocese proved a lonely dysfunctional place. The parish needed a clean sweep. Only my home life seemed as it should be ... though in truth, that too was headed for trouble. I was writing again, and finding friends not only in the pages of my new novel but a…
 
Our move to Calgary was accompanied by signs and wonders, as if heaven and earth were being moved to make it so. Doors were being opened for both my new parish and my new diocese alike. Expectations ran high. Even our family life was finding its new footing. But appearances can be deceiving, and first impressions do not always last. Credits: 1st In…
 
Heaven on earth is a nice idea. But we all know it can't last. It was a pity our time on the Coast couldn't have lasted longer. It was so close to my heart's true home. But forces from without and forces from within were nudging us to move on to our final destination--no, not THAT final destination, but to a new and concluding chapter for my minist…
 
We had intended to move to Calgary. But we overshot it by a thousand kilometres, placing us on the outer edge of Vancouver Island, in Tofino and Ucluelet. It was a wild new place to call home and an exposure tour for all of us. Sandy was employed by the local tribal council. The kids saw nature up close and personal. And I had to learn to accomplis…
 
Our move to St. Simon's in Oakville changed the names and faces, but not our underlying problems. Once again, I was caught up in all the exciting new possibilities. As my family started to take a back seat to my ministry, I could feel that familiar enervation. I was working too hard and too much. But I wasn't going to let that happen to me again. T…
 
I thought I was moving up in the world. Having made a splash in my first major parish, maybe I could raise my profile by going to a new diocese. That's what my ego was saying. But just about every other part of me was saying I needed to rest, and to reconnect with my wife and family. Fortunately, Church of the Redeemer, Stoney Creek, in the Diocese…
 
In my big new parish it was sink or swim, so I swam for my life. But one of the rules of the sea is "women and children first," something I hadn't heard yet. As my work life exploded, my home life all but rolled up into a ball and shrivelled away. I was burning out, with no one to blame but myself. My family history provided an answer to that, thou…
 
Even the church offers a version of life in the fast lane. It's what happens when a fresh young priest is anxious to prove himself and the church is all too happy to put him to work. It was hard work, in my burgeoning parish of St. Philip's, in Unionville, but rewarding as well, especially as I learned to see my parish as a family, not as an instit…
 
I was a new priest. But I wasn't a new man. And no amount of holy posturing could hide that fact. I was still too young a man and too new a priest to realize that it was precisely my humanity that God, and God's people for that matter, actually wanted of me. So I stuck out my chin and assumed my hopeful role with all the promise and sunniness of a …
 
Finally, I was ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, both as a deacon and, a year later, as a priest. But it appears we can never lift ourselves too far out of the muck from which we crawled, eons ago. Odd things happen when we do, some of them laughable, some of them humiliating, to bring us back down to earth again. We are, after all, only h…
 
I was placed as an interim minister in Dave Ward's old parish of Cookstown. My heart still needed healing. But so did theirs. So we ministered to one another, as “wounded healers.” It was a rich and grounding time, reminding me of my familial roots in North Vancouver. I might have been content to stay there. But my ambition drove me to push for an …
 
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