Friday, December 28, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
Last week I showed up at my friend Richard's place for some gaming. We have an ongoing Call of Cthulhu campaign that meets bi-weekly. This was our off week actually but Richard wanted to try out a new role playing game (RPG) system called the one roll engine (ORE). This is the system used for the game GODLIKE which is a WWII super heroes game. That group is big on historical contexts - we play Call of Cthulhu in 1920s Alymer and the GM puts a lot of work into the historical details. Richard wanted to try the NEMESIS version of ORE which is meant for horror genre role playing - we re-ran one of our Cthulhu scenarios with the system.
ORE uses 1 to 10 ten-sided dice for each player. That is all. And one roll tells you a lot of detail. For example in combat one contested roll (two people roll their dice) you can tell who hit, who hit first, how hard they hit, and even where they hit. If they were also dodging you can find out how that went too. It is pretty elegant. You basically are looking for sets of numbers. It is also quite a bit faster than anything I've played before. Plus it feels awesome when you have 6 or more dice rolling off your hand.
I wasn't convinced that it would be a good replacement for the Cthulhu campaign, we've a lot invested already in our characters. But it solved a problem we had with the idea of running a zombie apocalypse RPG. In a zombie apocalypse characters are going to die, a lot, and they are not coming back like in D&D. So when you have a system where you spend oodles of time lovingly tweaking your character it sucks to not make it past the first hour. NEMESIS characters, especially when you drop the spells stuff, come together quick. So if you die, no big deal, you can find another character holed up in a house not far away, and bang you are back in the game. Actually I've made it even easier by creating a book of character archetypes - each having the same about of points in stats and skills and a third or less of those points are not already allotted already - so you pick an archetype and spread out a few skill points. Easy. Also I am having the players operate two characters at all times - they can switch between them, but only have to logistically operate one. If they die then they can keep playing while the story leads them to another.
Richard has taken to using customized FIASCO setups to establish the relationships between each of the characters. FIASCO is a great one night RPG that is more of an exercise in improv than anything else. With the right group FIASCO is an amazing game. So we set up a zombie apocalypse FIASCO scenario which we will run to relate the players characters to each other. I wrote an anatomy of the disease (I like the disease angle best for zombies) which details how it is transmitted and how it progresses in a person. Now I have zombies. Then I fleshed out a 44 page worldbook which includes: the player information (archetypes, etc.); rules tweaks; the FIASCO setup; NPC templates; collection of significant NPCs; rules for scavanging and travelling; and a chart that details survival items in terms of scarcity and value (for bartering). Right now I have place holder art all through it - stuff off google search - but if I make this into something publishable I'll try to get Richard to illustrate it. He has a game company and lots of experience doing this stuff. We'd probably not be able to charge much (if anything) because the NEMESIS rules are actually free!
I also decided that with such a rich storytelling opportunity, it would be fun to create a survivors website and invite people to participate by commenting on posts. So I set up Signs of the End which has a great but nasty URL! So far it follows the trials of a few people in Maine, our game will start at a high school in Lewiston, ME. I did a bit of scene prep, getting familiar with the area through google maps and searching things like gun laws in Maine. We will make good use of technology in this game. If you want to join in - why not have some fun on the blog? If you want to run your own campaign why not down load the NEMESIS rules and I could be convinced to let you have a beta copy of the setting book.
Keep safe people and remember rule #4: Double tap!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I have not had a lot of time to blog here lately. That doesn't mean I'm not blogging. I've been a regular contributor to the National ThoughtWorks blog and have been setting up a new blog for a Superhero role playing game I'm running for my daughters (5 kids and 3 adults!). You can check out the blog for that one here. I'm encouraging the players to give me their background stories for the blog, but mostly I use it to post clues for possible adventure paths in the game.
Between prepping lectures (HTTP 1101: Trends in Western Thought), working on my thesis, being a dad, managing church related problems, and other writing projects this blog has fallen low on the priority list. I'll be back at it I'm sure, but for now you know where to find me.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The service would allow ministers and leaders to offer their services helping out other churches and ministries. It would begin with a collection of some confidential data regarding the relief ministers: such as their denominational affiliation, what services they would be comfortable offering, expected rates, etc. This will be collected through an emailed form (using a locked pdf or some other format). The information will be used to match minsters to opportunities. I am thinking that like other professional service relief organizations the cost model will not impose on the ministers and leaders.
The service possibilities that a church/ministry/individual could request would include (please feel free to suggest others):
- pulpit supply
- worship leader supply
- seminars/workshops/training - speakers, planning, worship, etc.
- ministerial mentors - think of counselors for your ministry
- mystery worshipper - someone who comes as a visitor but gives you a report after the service
- sermon video taping - as I discovered many preaching jobs ask for video, we would be able to help with that
Monday, August 27, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Thursday, August 09, 2012
My second chapter is an intense look at the eschatology in Carl F. H. Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Henry, and others, are looking at different forms of premillennialism from the 19th century (Anglican sources) as a way of adjusting Fundamentalism from the inside. I buy his argument that the reaction against the Social Gospel, while justified, was too extreme.
This next chapter follows Moltmann's Ethics of Hope and attempts to outline the possibilities within his 'transformational eschatology'. I'm doing a slow, deliberate read of Ethics of Hope this week. It is so good. My reading list for the next couple weeks includes: Moltmann's Ethics of Hope (Tim Harvie); Sun of Righteousness, Arise!; and The Crucified God (reread). I have others, but those are the ones I'll spend the most time on. I'm already finding ways to putting this chapter together with lots of connections to what I've already done.
This has been the most productive summer.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Bob passed away this past week. I hadn't seen him in many years, last time I did age had taken quite a toll on him. He had a tendency to burn himself out in ministry, that didn't help I'm sure. But the way he loved people was exemplary. He always seemed to have time for people, listening, making them laugh and of course sharing his faith. I remember one of my first walks through the Byward Market with Bob, he was always seeing the best in people and with enthusiasm he introduced me to the people he called friends - although many, many of them would have nothing to do with any other Christians.
Bob would often share his own story of being a drunkard public servant - when one day he passed by an evangelistic rally on parliament hill. He met Jesus there and, like the woman at the well, nothing was going to stop him sharing Jesus with everyone he met. Bob preached of a Jesus who so loved him that when Bob was at his lowest, Jesus picked him up and gave him a new life. He preached this message on street corners and from pulpits. It wasn't a complicated message - but, nevertheless, it was a life changing one.
The picture above was a common joy for us - Bob preaching. A typical Open Arms service ran three or more hours. Usually an hour of singing, then whoever introduced the speaker would preach their own sermon, then a sermon and before you knew it another hour had passed. Then we'd have extended worship and ministry times, praying for anyone and everyone. When you consider that we almost always came an hour early to pray for the service (some of the most incredible prayer services of my life!) there had to be something special there. I'm not sure I could stand that much time in most services - but the time there was like nothing else I've ever experienced. It was always over way too soon.
Bob has gone, but his mark on my life continues. I know that I am far from alone. Rest well my friend, you have earned your peace.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Does it mean we love statements that seem to validate the veracity of our own tightly held beliefs no matter how questionable the statements might be? (ie. accepting statements attributed to historical persons without verifying if those persons actually made the statements at all.)
Does it mean we close off all sources of knowledge that might possibly contain false, false according to our own ideologies, claims? (ie. refusing to listen to 'secular' media to find out what is happening in the world or only reading theologians who share your presuppositions.)
Does it mean we love the pursuit of truth trusting that if God is Truth then God is in the search?
How we answer these questions will decide if we are lovers of truth or lovers of feeling like we are right:
- One is a position of courageous faith - willing to risk it all to find God and the other is the false hope that if we shut our eyes then all our assumptions will keep us safe.
- One recognizes that God, like Mr. Beaver says of Aslan, is good but not safe (tame) and the other is an effort to domesticate God.
- One lays its own tightly held beliefs down before God the other makes idols out of ideas.
- One says we trust God wherever God leads and the other already knows where they are going (regardless of if God is leading).
- One is willing to be continually transformed by the encounter of God and the other has set up a camp at the base of the mount of transfiguration ready to camp on their own interpretation of events rather than listen to Jesus alone. (Mark 9:5-8)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Friday, June 01, 2012
I had the amazing opportunity to organize and moderate a panel this year titled: The Armageddon Factor and the Changing Role of Christianity in Canadian Politics.The title comes from Marci McDonald's alarmist report on the rise of what she has called Christian Nationalism in Canadian politics. McDonald's book was quite hard to read, not that it was difficult, but rather that she has a bit ugly brush which she uses to paint people that I actually know quite well. Some of her comments are good and important, but often she just does not get the culture or really the people she is vilifying. Apart from that, McDonald does highlight an area of study that has been neglected by proper scholars - the changing roles of and relationships between religion and politics in Canada. McDonald is not the only one to recognize this deficiency, Dennis Gruending has a similar, and more irenic, report called Pulpit and Politics (I will review this book sometime soon) - but even he does not go as deep as we need to in understanding the intersection of religious and political currents in our country. What we know is that our country is changing and those changes will have wide ranging effects for many aspects of Canadian life, this panel happened to focus on how such changes will impact theological education in Canada.
The panel opened up with Catholic scholar Lee Cormie calling for a wider conversation. McDonald's book focused on a troubling Americanization of some Canadian evangelical groups - really this is nothing new, but what is new is how visible these groups are in the life of the Hill. But these are not the only religiously motivated groups active in Canadian politics. The other reality Cormie brought to our attention was that theological education in Canada is already undergoing a huge shift - a shift that another panelist, Jeff McPherson, will elaborate on in terms of evangelical culture. But Cormie sets up the conversation brilliantly setting the tone for a rich conversation.
Next up we had King's University College professor Margie Patrick engage directly with McDonald's book. Patrick has written specifically on this book and her current academic research is on the political engagement of Canadian evangelicals. Patrick outlined some of the problem areas of this text and even highlighted a few EFC articles that show a more inclusive form of evangelicalism politically engaged in Canada. While we probably should find the grand standing actions of the Faytene Grasseschi's troubling, they are not the same thing as say Preston Manning's efforts to help evangelicals become politically savvy enough to engage in public discourse. Often it is easy to get swept up by ideas we just might not agree with.
Jeff McPherson brought us up to speed with the changing role of theological education in Canada. He detailed the shift from confessional bible colleges to Christian liberal arts schools and where this shift was struggling to remain relevant to the parents of this present generation. These are important shifts and are not limited to evangelical confessions. One of the fears that comes out of McDonald's book is that no one is paying attention to the changes she finds so troubling - McPherson highlights another area we are blind to the changes in, but employing a grace and eloquence that McDonald lacks.
Liberal MP John McKay ushered us into the religious influences of the current House of Commons. An obviously sharp mind, McKay talked about the religious roots and realities of all the sitting parties - from Elisabeth May to Stephen Harper. McKay talked about where the NDPs and his own Liberal party were failing to connect with their historic religious bases. If McDonald is convinced that evangelicals are paying too much attention to politics - McKay helped us see that politicians, many of them at least, are paying too little attention to religion.
The panel was completed by the dynamic and witty director of the Chester Ronning Centre David Goa. If you have never heard Goa speak you are missing out. He exhorted evangelicals and other Christians to get their acts together and stop messing with his church (he is Orthodox)! That sounds harsh, it was said sort of tongue in cheek, but he did outline the realities of the evangelical gravitation to the Orthodox church. This underscored the importance of this conversation for all religions in Canada. Goa brought together the insights of the whole panel while at the same time calling for us to attend to this dimension of our public life as Canadians.
The panel was opened to questions from the floor and lively discussion ensued. I was so caught up in the whole thing that I forgot to take a picture for this post. It was really that good.
One final note about this panel, the fact that it was jointly sponsored by both the CTS and CETA is important to recognize. This collaboration speaks of a recognition from both societies that more dialogue needs to happen. These are not evangelical issues, or even Christian issues - but they are Canadian issues that affect all Canadians. We need the diversity of voices to grow so that we can not only understand, but properly respond to the changes in religion and politics in Canada.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
“The thought of death and a life after death can lead to fatalism and apathy, so that we only live life here half-heartedly, or just endure it and ‘get through’. The thought of a life after death can cheat us of the happiness and the pain of this life, so that we squander its treasures, selling them off cheap to heaven.”
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Well let me tell you what that will accomplish. Spiritually - nothing. However, it will entrench an ideological bias against spiritual seekers who happen to be tracking with neo-paganism. I'm sure that will really bolster our ability to witness to them, not. It will also foster fear amongst those people already afraid that Satan is lurking around behind every tree ready to trounce on them. It will also foster an unrealistic relationship to the land. If we buy the lie then we do not have to own our own culpability for the state our society and world is in. We don't have to act to change things - we just have to pray. It was telling that one poster cut and pasted a long all-caps prayer in response to this imaginary threat.
Stuff like this makes me want to shake people and tell them to wake up.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The first one seems like a bit of an oxymoron for missional communities. But because missional communities are often focused on building intentional community amongst a small target group they can easily turn into an exclusive club. I've experienced this with a couple of the groups I've run over the years. Part of the problem is the rejection of numerical metrics for measuring church health. I think this is a good thing to reject in a missional context, but if those metrics are not deliberately replaced with better metrics, which I will get into later, the community will replace them with metrics based on the continuation of the current structure and status quo. In other words the missional mission can end up defeating its own missional intentions. This is a big reason I am convinced that groups need to change up every couple of years. Ideally groups will train and spawn new groups, ever increasing the circle of mission. But that is easier said than done. It will never be a popular decision to pull the plug on a group that has turned inward - but it is necessary to prune these groups if the mission is to stay in missional.
The second problem comes out of the novelty of missional approaches. Another local area pastor recently expressed to me concerns over the attractiveness of missional churches to those who have been hurt within traditional models of church. This is a reality I am all too aware of, and unfortunately finding people who have been hurt by churches is far too easy these days. This is a critical issue to tackle because we could just be setting people up for being hurt again, this time by missional churches. The reason this is so hard to address is because many of us in the missional world really want to reach new people but we need folks to come along side and help - and many of these broken people are quite willing to help, at least initially. There are a few things we can do such as watch for the signs of people making the church more about themselves and their needs than about the mission. Brokenness longs for comfort, not always healing, but comfort. Our role as leaders is to always point people towards healing and remind them that discomfort is part of that journey to wholeness. We have actually encouraged folks to go back to the churches that they left and make peace with their decision to leave. We did not tell people to go endure abuse, but to find ways to face the things that caused them pain so that they would not take that pain into their next church home. I actually wish we had done this more often. Another way we can address this issue is to foster relationships with traditional forms of church. Break down the us-them lies by actively looking for ways to bless other congregations. The reality of missions is that we need each other. Many of the people who find their way back to Christ through missional churches will end up in traditional churches. If missional is really being missional it won't be for everyone. Help people find place they thrive. A final way of approaching this issue is through metrics.
The third problem is one where the traditional church has adopted an ideology of numbers. I think this needs to be critiqued, but at the same time this sort of metric should not be vilified. Big churches have different problems than small missional communities. Not worse problems, but different problems. I think it is counter-productive to criticize the structures that traditional churches used to support their ministries. A building might not be a priority for many missional communities - but that doesn't make buildings evil. Actually what it makes them is costly and every choice in ministry has associated costs.
So what kinds of metrics would be helpful in a missional context?
First there needs to be a way to measure faithfulness to the missional identity of the church. Missional churches often get that evangelism is not about confrontation, but about relationship and allowing Christ in you to shine into the lives of others. Yes, we all need to be prepared to give an account of the good news that so captured our hearts. But missional churches have pioneered ways of doing this that actually work for the urban post-modern context. There is a commitment that I often see amongst missional folk to be committed to people long before they are committed to Christ. As a metric we could look at how well we are part of our communities. Are we isolated or engaged? Do we love our neighbours or do we hardly know them?
Secondly there needs to be a way to measure the health of a missional group. Are people growing in their love for God? Are people finding the community helpful for facing lifes issues head on? Are people feeling supported in their relationships outside the community? Do we pray together? Do we laugh together? Do we cry together?
The first place I saw the kind of community I'm aiming for was in California. It was a small Vineyard house group in the Bay area. There were no more than 12 of us including kids (who often hung out in another room after worship). And aside from the worship in song there seemed to be little formal structure to the group. But no matter what the conversation started on it always came back around to God. Sometimes there might be a small devotional woven in, but it was more of a conversation. And then the conversation would lead into a delicious time of praying for each other. While I find this form of church great, what struck me the most was that within that small group people were engaged in all kinds of outreach. Three different ministries to the poor were represented there, serious dedication too. One couple were part of a group that BBQed food for homeless in a park every week. In other words they talked the talk, and walked the walk. I think missional churches have every chance to be like this community. Sure they will take on different important issues. Sure they will be structures in different ways. But the culture that was fostered is translatable. It was focused on God as a central part of their lives and that made a huge difference.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tomorrow I administer my first oral exam. Sure I've taken a few of these over the years, but in all my years teaching IT there was no oral option, and so far I've not had call for one in teaching theology. I think it will be fine. It is an evaluative unknown but my fellow profs tell me you know within a very short time if the student understands the material or not. I'm hoping it will be fairly conversational, most of the orals I've taken have been directed conversations. I once missed an oral - had my days mixed up. I showed up at school as a fluke and saw my classmates outside the prof's door. Yikes. I waited for him to come out and explained my mix up. He graciously allowed me to jump in at the end of the day. Unfortunately I had not studied for the exam - so I borrowed someone else's notes (I was not able to get mine) and began to work through the material. I think I had an hour or two. I did well on the exam - doing class work pays off - but I would not want to go through that stress again.
OK, need to get running. I still have to put together the morning blog post for ThoughtWorks. Then it is time to hit the ground running.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
But... today on the radio there was talk about taking elementary school kids down to the Supreme Court to sing and give speeches contesting the disparity between their education privileges and what is afforded to the First Nation's children. I think this is awesome to get kids politically involved. However, when one of the organizing teachers was interviewed she said, "I don't think this is political," before outlining the form of social action and judging the situation as systemic racism. She even said that part of what they have been teaching this year is how democracy is all of us, our right to stand up and be heard. So what part of that is not political?
What disturbs me is that it is quite possible that the term political is changing meaning in the modern usage - and becoming something quite useless. Political seems to only mean partisan involvement and not the whole sphere of public discourse that shapes society. And if we let politicians have exclusive domain over what is political then do we not abdicate our democratic responsibility? Oh wait, that explains why we have a Harper government instead of a Canadian government. It all becomes disturbingly clear now.
Seriously, what we do in the public that is meant to critique or shape the public is political.
More than being political, this is exactly how it is supposed to work. It is what makes our social structure different from totalitarianism or monarchism or even communism. All words that seem to strike terror in those same people who are letting go of their right to be politically engaged - yes, to do politics. And to do politics unabashedly from their own religious perspectives (even, and especially, from those I disagree with) because that is how it works. When we lay this down then we have a relativistic blob that is easily subverted by the ruling regime while we follow along like the proverbial lemmings.
I dare you. Be political. I know I am.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
My free time, and it has been sparse, has been spent playing Pandemic with my kids. Most excellent game ever! And hanging out with my wife. Life is good.
OK, off to talk about the People's Temple with some keen students. I think I'll lay off the Kool-aid for the day.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Canadian Theological Society 2012 Annual Meeting
May 28-30, 2012
The theme of this Congress—Crossroads: Scholarship for an Uncertain World— invites us to reflect on uncertain changes in the disciplines in humanities and social sciences, as well as the need to generate scholarship that addresses challenges facing our uncertain world. Theologians are often practiced in engaging the uncertainties that surround our religious communities, our vocation, as well as the chronic uncertainties that well up in human life. Therefore, the theme seems one to which our members may be responsive in diverse ways.
In order to offer a cohesive program, we invite proposals on the theme of Theological Responses to an Uncertain World. We will also consider proposals on any topic in theology.
We invite submissions in two formats:
1) 20/20 Presentations
We will again follow the 20/20 format that we used for the 2011 Congress, inviting presentations of 20 minutes with 20 minutes discussion to follow. Typically the presentation will be an account of a larger research project. Since members work in a variety of fields and specializations, attention should be given to presenting advanced work in an accessible way.
Submit a proposal that includes:
- Presenter’s name, institution, and contact information
- Title of presentation
- Proposal of 250-300 words which includes an abstract, the problem your scholarship engages, and the contribution you plan to make.
- Requests for audio-visual equipment (A/V equipment will be available only if it is requested in the proposal)
We invite panels on issues that are relevant to members, especially as related to the theme of the annual meeting. Panel proposals should be developed to foster dialogue among the panelists and with those attending in the audience. Thus, we discourage panels which consist of the reading of several papers.
Submit a proposal that includes:
- Convener’s name, institution, and contact information. The convener will be the link between the panel and the CTS.
- Names, institutions and contact information of all members of the panel
- Either the name and contact information of the moderator, or a request that CTS provide a moderator
- Title of panel
- Length of panel (40 or 80 minutes)
- Proposal of 300-400 words which includes an abstract, the problem your scholarship engages, the contribution you plan to make, and how you plan to foster dialogue among panelists and audience (e.g., use and allotment of time)
- Requests for audio-visual equipment (A/V equipment will be available only if it is requested in the proposal)
All proposals should be submitted in a Word or .rtf file by email attachment by January 15, 2012 to: Jeremy Bergen, CTS Program Chair
We will confirm receipt of all proposals submitted by email.
In selecting proposals for 20/20 presentations or for panels, the committee will consider:
- The clarity and significance of the proposal
- The quality of the contribution to scholarship
- The relationship of the presentation to the thematic focus of the annual meeting
- The contribution of the presentation to a diversity of perspectives and approaches
- The potential for inspiring discussion and engagement among the members
Our goal as a Society is to foster collegial discussion of members’ work and of the work of other Canadian theologians. All presenters and attendees are encouraged to participate in as much of the program as possible. We welcome all members, students, and other interested persons to join us this year at the annual meeting in Waterloo, Ontario.