Reemergence and the Risk of Community

I stand corrected.

With my first foray into central Saskatchewan I witnessed a part of the Province at once unexpected and lush. I now retract all those youthfully snide comments I made as a boy every time I came to Saskatchewan and proclaimed it the flattest, most featureless place I’d ever seen.

Prince Albert in particular, where I had gone to preach at a sister church, was surprising. Understated and pastoral, she offered herself to me in all her “boreal transition forest” splendour. A landscape not terribly unlike the north of England quietly strut her stuff and I was impressed.

Saskatchewan, I apologize. I was a kid; ignorant, wrong. You are gorgeous. As were the good folks of Gateway Covenant Church with whom I shared and among whom I lived for a couple days. What follows is the edited version of my sermon with some music from our service on Sunday, August 8th, 2021.

Don’t make the mistake I made when I was growing up and decide something is the sum total of one’s limited experience. Wait. It just might surprise you!

I continue to be amazed at the generosity of friends and total strangers alike as they sign on as partners for our upcoming ministry to the UK with Serve Globally of the Evangelical Covenant Church. See below how you can do so, too.

For our American friends.

For our Canadian friends.

Grace and peace to you all!

Re-emergence – A Prayer

Found at iStock

Lord of all good things, through squinted eyes we peer into our great unknown and, with expectant hearts, step trustingly ahead.

One step, then two – three? How many?

We long for each other, for the smell of another’s presence, their touch on our sleeve. We timidly reach out to embrace those from whom we’ve distanced. Even strangers seem less intimidating somehow!

Oh, to feel the sacred solidity of body squeezing body, one heart next to another’s, in real time.

Are we safe yet, Lord?  

Regathering has seemed like a waking dream. Our computer screens show faces, beautiful and wrinkled, tawny and taut, smiling and praying, laughing and weeping.

But, for love of neighbour we’ve masked those faces…until now. We hid our faces for safety. We unhide now, in hope that we remain safe, but sharing what always lay beneath, stifled and waiting.

Like groundhogs reemerging into Spring from endless Winter, we do so a little wary, weary, eyes still heavy from pandemic sleep. Dare we to stretch? To yawn deeply and draw into our longing lungs the languid, lazy air?

Stories shared across tables are always better. Songs sung shoulder to shoulder always sound richer, more melodious. Prayers are always more real holding another’s hand, fingerprints and sweat intermingled with faith. Coffee tastes deeper when we smell it on another’s breath.

Lord, how long? Do we risk those very souls we love with our “return to normal”? What is appropriate? Best? Our loneliness battles our concerns, and we waffle. Then, in a burst of damn-the-torpedoes we gather, only to feel guilty a little. Afraid a little. Lord, how long?

Lord, we remember what each other feels like. Do you?

Take us, again, into the brightness of each other.

Corona-daze: just breathe


When the walls of fury and dystopia threaten our made up worlds,

just breathe.

When coughing madness spews upon us its pointless fury,

just breathe.

When those bent on denying as “fake” anything “those ones” have said,

just breathe.

When “those ones” spend all their time trumpeting the correction as the end,

just breathe.

When hints of community are abandoned for mutual blaming,

just breathe.

When neighbours and friends respond to us as foreigners and enemies,

just breathe.

When social distance becomes an excuse to deepen selfishness,

just breathe.

When social distance deepens our loneliness, broadens our fears,

just breathe.


When time and brilliance and humanity once again find their way,

just breathe.

When the disparate voices of the many find semblance of singularity,

just breathe.

When the despair from our losses kisses the tears of our gratitude,

just breathe.

When the detritus of our streets, our homes, our world is swept away,

just breathe.

When the heroes of our wholeness return to their own neglected homes,

just breathe. 

When opens again the doors of mosque and church, synagogue and hall,

just breathe.

When real, unimagined community replaces rampant, unbalanced commerce,

just breathe.

When masks, gloves, distance, and disinfectant give way to gathered embrace,

just breathe.

When the darker memories of our day become the fodder for our laughter,

just breathe.

When breathing and prayer are indistinguishable,

just breathe.


Just breathe.


Remarkable image by Larisa Koshkina



Finding my way with words…still

As I’ve shared before, I am one of those who cares deeply for words, big words, little words…words about words. I recently read Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s brilliant tete a tete on language entitled Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. In her book she offers some strategies by which those of us who make this claim can begin to reclaim the power, clarity and beauty of language from the many dangers both immanent and potential that beset it. She encourages us to become caretakers of language. At the top of that list is a simple but obvious one:  become a lover of words.


Language and all it represents is a gift worth fighting for. God uses it to create and recreate. God, in some mystical sense most of us will never understand, is language; is words – the Word. Hence there exists an inseparability of language from the One whose idea it was to speak all things into existence by means of it. From the first words we read in Genesis, “In the beginning…God created…and it was good” we get a picture of the dominance of speech in the totality of human life. God, as Word, speaks words by which all we are and have come to know now, exists.

Language seems like it’s a God-thing alone in the first broad brush strokes of God’s ex nihilo creative activity. It’s not until another comes, by God’s design and in response to God’s words, that language can be seen as the glue in communication between parties. It now acts as the bedrock of love, community and progress. As language that is beautiful, reliable and truthful disappears, so does the community it was meant to gather and nurture.

We’ve lost our trust in the reliability of language. Words change over time. In many ways this has always been true and, to a large extent, inevitable. The problem is, however, that the purest forms of speech that give voice to our deepest needs, desires and passions have become as distorted and bent as we who use it. Whatever is meant by “the fall” it took language right along with it.

It’s common for any collective to morph according to the will of the alphas in the group. Similarly, the shape and demeanor of our communication will bend to the loudest kid in the room; it will come to serve whatever happens to be the most influential force to which we pay homage.

English is the undisputed language of commerce worldwide. Because English is the language of so much conquest, it is well practiced in the macabre arts of dominance and privilege. The sheer volume of English words coupled with its global dominance make its destruction both troublesome and ominous. Language has, for too long, been lashed to the flagpole of corporate nationalism, the yardarm of the sinking ship of words for their own sake where form is function. This cross-pollination of words has left a confusing moral-linguistic morass. For example, to use the warm-hearted language of family and connectivity in corporate interests or sports gibber-gabber to describe the horrors of war, we are effectively removed from the wider, deeper concerns language begs to convey and possibly amend.

Conversely, since English is also the collected amalgam of the street-speak of vanquished foes and victims of such empire building, it is a language of unparalleled nuance and texture. It needs those who love it for the latter while seeking to undo the damages of the former. It needs caretakers.

For words to do the work for which they were intended and move beyond mere factual transmission at best to manipulation and domination at worst, we must re-tool ourselves to being lovers of community built upon communication with words at the deepest levels. Words are performance art over against utility, a dance instead of marching army or typing pool. Like discovering our enemies have fears and dreams like we do, words can be freed to promote beauty, friendship and good will.

At least I hope so.