Pastor's Blog

Theology for the First Time: New Eyes for Reading the Old Testament with Pat Dutcher-Walls

This past Friday night and Saturday we were privileged to host Rev. Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls, professor of Hebrew Bible at Vancouver School of Theology. This was the first of a three part series “Theology for the First Time,” Vancouver School of Theology’s effort to “bring theology to the people.”

Pat’s topic was “new eyes for reading the Old Testament.” Her thesis is that having been exposed to Sunday School and Sunday Worship, church people come to the scriptures already knowing the answers to their questions. Instead, Pat suggested that if we pay close attention to the texts we discover whole new details and ideas that we never would have noticed or considered before. Not only does it make the Bible far more exciting and interesting, it also opens new insights into God’s character, our relationship with God as human beings, and the relationship between human beings (or at least how they should be). Pat is a deeply engaging lecturer, but the best part is that she gave participants actual tools and strategies for interpreting the texts themselves. We paid close attention to Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, and one participant enthusiastically played the part of Rahab the prostitute from Joshua 2. If you follow Pat’s guidelines, you would do well to avail yourself of a wide variety of coloured pencils for highlighting repetition and key phrases!

Overall, the lecture and workshop reaffirmed our need as the people of God to continually return and listen to where the Spirit might be speaking through the text to us for our time. One of the great Puritan theologians of the 17th century once said that “there is yet more light to shine forth from God’s Holy Word.” This workshop helped us step out from the shade of those things that build up over time and cast a long shadow over our interpretations to see God's light afresh.

Weekly Update for September 25, 2016: Food Hampers, Welcome Service and Alpha Course

St. George's Weekly
September 29, 2016

Dear friends,

We turned the heat on this past week. Which means that fall is officially upon us. We tried as hard as we could to live in denial of the end of summer, but now here it is, whether we like it or not. One good thing about fall, however, is that the church is buzzing with activity again. Things to keep in mind as we fall in to fall:

  • Please remember your food and gift card donations for Thanksgiving Food Hampers for congregation members, as this Sunday is the last day to donate. If you are unable to be at worship, you can drop your donations off at the office, tomorrow morning 9am-12pm. We have 6 families and individuals who are grateful for your help and generosity.
     
  • We'll be celebrating Welcome Sunday on Sunday, October 16th. Each member of the St. George’s community is challenged to invite at least one guest with them to worship. This is a way for us (you!) to reach out in an open and respectful way so others can experience the Love that makes all the different in our lives and our world. Invite a friend, a neighbor, or a colleague. The music will be energetic, the message will be relevant, and best of all—there will be free food! Please remember to bring a finger food dish to share.
     
  • A few weeks ago we released our 2016/2017 Spiritual Growth schedule, which includes opportunities for newcomers and old timers, spiritual newbies and seasoned veterans alike to connect and grow in the Way of Jesus Christ. Click here to find out more or to register. Better be quick--people are already registering for things way in advance!
     
  • The Alpha Course Film Series begins on October 19th and will run Wednesday evenings until November 30, 5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall. The blurb from our website reads: "Alpha is for anyone. It’s your opportunity to ask anything about life, faith and God. Whether you’re new to the Way of Jesus, or are still finding your way, each session looks at a different question and is designed to create conversation. It’s an open, informal & honest space to explore and discuss life’s big questions together." This would also be a great opportunity for you to come and invite someone who you think is looking for community or spiritually curious. Find out more, or sign up here.

    Also, we'd love any help you can give in making it possible, whether you can help with setup, bringing some food, or cleanup, please be in touch with me at stgeorgesminister@shaw.ca.

I look forward to seeing you all again this Sunday, as we host Luke 17:5-10 and celebrate together the sacrament of Holy Communion. May God be with you all in everything you do this week.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Ryan Slifka

PS: An update from Gary Stevenson: Safehaven: Refugee Sponsorship Group, in conjunction with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, are pleased to announce that they have entered into a verbal agreement to sponsor a Syrian Family of 7 to come to the "Land of Plenty", the Comox Valley. More details to follow. Click here to find out more.

PPS: The men's breakfast is up and running again for the fall, and the first will be 8:30am on Saturday October 1st. Email Tom Knight at tknight@cdpr.bc.ca or Paul Ellegood at pmellegood@shaw.ca to sign up or sign up at the Welcome Table at coffee time. If you're willing to help set up that would also be wonderful!

 

"Peace is a City," from Interfaith Celebration of Peace, September 8, 2016

"Peace is a City," from Interfaith Celebration of Peace, September 8, 2016

On the evening of September 8, St. George's pastor Rev. Ryan Slifka was invited to offer a Christian perspective on the meaning of peace, along with representatives from Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, and Indigenous communities. Rev. Ryan reflected on images from Revelation 21-22, which comes at the very end of the Bible.

Weekly Update: Quit it with the Money Talk Already, Jesus

Weekly Update: Quit it with the Money Talk Already, Jesus

I wonder if we wrestle with the text as it is, we might discover something about ourselves and our world that we don't already know. Even if it might be uncomfortable or challenging for us. For me, I've found that it's the uncomfortable or challenging places where my most fruitful and life-changing encounters with the Spirit seem to happen the most.

Weekly Update: Vigil for Orlando (and More)

Dear friends,

I hope this week finds you all well. Many of you have voiced your concerns and your sadness over the recent shootings in Orlando, Florida. Tomorrow (June 24) at 7:00pm at Comox United Church there will be a vigil held for the victims of the shooting, as well as the memory of all people who have been persecuted because of their gender orientation or any other identity. Christians have undoubtedly been deeply divided over the past few decades on issues of sexual orientation. Nonetheless, as a people rooted in the love and life of Christ, which was given for all, we are undoubtedly united in our opposition to hate, violence and discrimination against anyone. I will be attending the vigil, and I hope you are able to as well.

This coming Sunday, we'll be hosting the text of 2 Kings 2:1-14, the ascent of Elijah in to heaven and the passing of his mantle to his protege Elisha (pictured above). We'll also be recognizing those who are completing the Disciple Bible Study, a 34-week spiritual formation program that has had them reading 70% of the Bible, and engaging in spiritual practices and discernment as to what it means to follow Jesus. By their example, they are inspiring us to take more seriously the life that Jesus invites us to.

I look forward to lifting our hearts together again this Sunday!

In the peace of Christ,
Rev. Ryan Slifka

PS: Speaking of "passing on the mantle," yesterday I had the privilege to attend Alastair Hunting's ordination to the diaconate (a step before full on priesthood in the Anglican Church) at St. John the Divine. I offered Alastair a gift on our behalf, and he reiterated his appreciation for our hospitality in the time he spent with us earlier this year. Good news for Alastair, and the Body of Christ!

PPS: We have been asked to distribute a survey on behalf of the Comox Valley Foundation--Comox Valley Vital Signs. Vital Signs® is a regular check-up conducted by community foundations to measure the vitality of communities across Canada. It gathers and publishes data on significant social and economic trends in areas critical to quality of life. As a community of faith that seeks the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7), each of us are invited to fill this out as a way to contribute to the common good. Click here to fill it out.

Weekly Update: Farewell to Wally and Paula and a Vineyard

Dear friends,

What a service this past week! We were so grateful to have Charlie Wells and Tracy Canil offer their gifts of guitar and flute. "These are the Days of Elijah" nearly took the roof off (the roof repairs happening right now are unrelated to Sunday's music). We also had mixed feelings of gratitude and regret--thankful for Emma, our preschool children's leader's ministry with us over the past few years, and sadness to see her go. Emma will be missed, but starts a whole new chapter of her life in Winnipeg where her mother, Anne, is doing very well.

This week we'll also have a mix of gratitude and sadness--Rev. Wally and Paula Fry will be moving to Cochrane Alberta to be closer to their family. Wally, a retired United Church minister, stepped up to the plate several years ago after the sudden resignation of Rev. Neil Lemke, and served as minister while the congregation tried to plot a new course. Wally has continued to serve us in various ways, especially in bible studies. We are grateful for his warmth, his wisdom, and his pastoral sensitivity. They will be truly missed, but we will have the opportunity to offer our thanks to God for Paula and Wally this Sunday.

This Sunday we'll continue with our series on the stories of Elijah, with Naboth's Vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-21a). Here King Ahab covets a man named Naboth's vineyard, and along with his wife Jezebel will stop at nothing to possess it. In the Bible land--and who owns the land--is a huge issue. One thinks of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as the plight of Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad. For the ancient Israelites, God was the owner of all land, and human beings are meant to be tenants and stewards. The land was meant to be for the common good and the benefit of all. Unfortunately, as in the case of our scripture text, there is the constant temptation for human beings to violate this sacred covenant with God for our own gain. It seems especially appropriate that this coming Tuesday is National Aboriginal Day, as Ahab-like decisions in our country's past continue to reverberate in the lives of First Nations people even now. Land and the treatment of its peoples is just as important now as it is in the scriptures. As Christians, how we deal with land-issues of any kind is not just how we deal with fellow human beings--it's how we deal with God as the landowner.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday where we'll celebrate, contemplate, and try to figure out together what it means to live our lives differently in a world where where "the earth is the Lords, and everything in it."

In the peace of Christ,
Rev. Ryan Slifka

PS: Sunday is also the last day for the choir before their summer break so we'll be saying thanks to them, too!

PPS: We have been asked to distribute a survey on behalf of the Comox Valley Foundation--Comox Valley Vital Signs. Vital Signs® is a regular check-up conducted by community foundations to measure the vitality of communities across Canada. It gathers and publishes data on significant social and economic trends in areas critical to quality of life. As a community of faith that seeks the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7), each of us are invited to fill this out as a way to contribute to the common good. Click here to fill it out.