Posted by: andrew | December 1, 2010

An Advent Epistle

From Andrew, an apprentice of Jesus Christ. To God’s people who live in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa and are faithful followers of Christ. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. In this Advent season may God uphold you in hope held firm with love, joy and peace.

I do not cease to pray for you, and for your ministries as you proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; and as you teach, baptize and nurture new believers in your various communities throughout the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. This task is great, and at times difficult, yet, by God’s grace, it is a task for which we all have been equipped. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | November 8, 2010

If It’s Not Us, It’s No-One

“The church is in decline,” so shared the Rev. Donald Schell, co-founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. These are not typical words to hear at the induction of a new priest, and yet these were the words we heard as many gathered to celebrate a new chapter in the ministry at St. Luke’s, Ottawa, and the induction of the Rev. Gregor Sneddon.

Rev. Schell, now president of San Francisco-based consulting group All Saints Company shared that “The Episcopal Church is on the edge of the precipice you’ve already fallen off.” Awkward silence filled the church. These were not the words of hope we had expected to hear. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | September 27, 2010

(in)articulate faith

Have you noticed how passionate and articulate teenagers can be about anything except their faith?

Eavesdrop on a conversation amongst teenagers and you’ll hear them talking passionately about many things: Friends. Video Games. Relationships. Celebrities. The Environment. School (well, scratch that).

But try to engage many young people in a conversation about faith, and you may as well prepare yourself for blank stares. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | September 1, 2010

Graduation Confirmed

Working. Driving. Voting.

We have rules about these kinds of things. We have rules, and we attach age limits to them. 14, 16, 18.

Now then. At what age does a person become a full member of the body of Christ? At what age is a young person given a voice in the church? At what age do we hand them the keys? At what age do we release them into their God-given vocations?

I’ll understand if you want to take a moment to grab a pen and paper for the theological mathematics. Or, if you’d prefer, pull out a mat and a trampoline for some further mental gymnastics. I know we all explore these questions in different ways. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | July 22, 2010

Almost Christian

So Tony Jones is blogging through Kenda Dean‘s recently released book “Almost Christian.” As Tony puts it, “In chapter one, Kenda lays out her thesis: the reason that youth ministry is failing to make disciples is because churches suck.”

Of course, Kenda puts it a lot more softly than this. But no matter. This is an interesting place to start. It should, inspire those of us in churchland (whether young people or adults, whether youth leaders, or clergy or whatever) to ask some important questions.

Do we really suck? If so, why do we, and furthermore should we continue in this so-called sucking? Read More…

Posted by: andrew | July 20, 2010

Investing in Youth Ministry

So things have slowed down around the office a lot lately. Folks are on vacation, parishes have entered summer mode, and fewer people seem to be calling (or available to grab coffee). That doesn’t mean, of course, that there’s been nothing to do.

The past few weeks have involved planning for September, preparing Synod reports and workshops, working on the partnership agreement for The Open Table, writing a grant proposal, and sitting in on some interviews for a parish looking to hire a new half-time youth minister. That seems like more than enough to keep me busy until September hits again.

In my reading this past week, I came across an interesting blog post speaking about the investments we make in youth ministry. How do the time and money we put towards ministry amongst youth and young adults affect their active participation for years to come? Do they stay? Do they leave? How are they involved?. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | June 29, 2010

Crumbs From an Open Table

As we come to the end of the month of June, it often means wrapping up our various youth ministry activities as many of our young people head away on holidays.

For the new The Open Table partnership amongst several Anglican parishes and churches from 4 denominations, it means that things are wrapping up for the season. It’s hard to believe that an idea hatched in Spring 2009, just celebrated its last meal of the season at All Saints Sandy Hill.

I want to thank the dedicated folks from All Saints Sandy Hill, Church of the Ascension, St. John the Evangelist, St Thomas the Apostle and St. Mark’s Ottawa who took part in supporting this ministry over the course of this year. Working alongside our partners from the Lutheran, United and Presbyterian churches, these Anglican parishes contributed time and energy and food and space and money towards seeing this project through it’s inaugural year. What a year it’s been! Read More…

Posted by: andrew | June 14, 2010

Mission Shaped Youth Ministry

So what is this youth ministry thing all about anyways?

I get asked this question time and again (and it’s a great question – with an ever-shifting answer!). We all approach this question, as askers or hearers, with our own assumptions. Maybe those assumptions have programs or curricula attached to them. Maybe they have particular outcomes in mind (keep the kids out of trouble, instill moral values, increase biblical literacy, make good friends). These are all important aspects of our ministry amongst youth, and they speak to some of the ways in which we minister, the programs we administer, and the topics we cover in our ministries.

And yet, as communities of faith centered around the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our task is much more holistic. In our ministries amongst youth – as in our ministries amongst children and adults and seniors, we invite young people to join an awe-inspiring cloud of witnesses that includes thousands upon thousands of patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith. We invite them, as we have been invited, to follow Jesus with our whole lives, and to participate in his ongoing ministry in this world.

It’s a challenge, isn’t it, to figure out how to incorporate faith stuff into our youth ministry? Sometimes we stop and rejoice that we have a group of youth willing to meet, and in the church, for that matter. This is something in which we should rejoice, and yet our task, as Christian Educators and Mentors and Youth Ministers and Priests is to invite these young people into the whole life of the church. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | June 7, 2010

Losing the Attitude

Did you know that they’ve been talking about us this week at General Synod in Halifax? Did you know that they’ve been talking about Youth Ministry and Youth Leaders and the ways in which we can better engage in our ministries amongst youth? If you didn’t know before, I guess you do now.

Here are some notes via The Anglican Journal from Judy Steers’ presentation at General Synod. But before we get to that, a quick reminder that you can keep up to date on General Synod by viewing “Synod on Demand” on Youtube or by following General Synod on Twitter (#gs2010). There are apparently some tech-savvy Anglicans to be found out there!

Also – Be sure to check out Roots Among the Rocks (premiering tomorrow at General Synod) as they make their stop in Ottawa on Friday June 18, 2010. Read More…

Posted by: andrew | February 22, 2009

Build Houses, Plant Gardens, Love Everyone

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

breannafriday-0121So the group is home. Everyone, that is, except me. I guess you gotta love it when the airlines overbook the flights, and everyone shows up at the gate. Anyhow – we promised that all the participants would get home in one piece. We forgot to include the leaders in that. Perhaps next time!

Tonight will be a night of sleep back home (for most everyone) in our own beds, and the comfort that brings. Even with the comfort of our beds, I suspect that some of us will find ourselves more uncomfortably reflecting back on the past week and each little moment that caught us from a different angle, caused us to ask questions, and to seek answers. Why is this world the way it is? What can we do about the bits that are in need of a little TLC?

This has been a week of new experiences, and all in a culture not altogether unlike our own. New Orleans may have quite the sassy reputation, and it may have a variety of differences from our home culture in the diocese of Ottawa, but at the base are people in relationship with one another, in the midst of a set of circumstances in which everyone needs help in one form or another (whether acknowledged or ignored).

This is as true of New Orleans, Louisiana as it is of our homes in and around Ottawa, Ontario.

Over the course of the week we’ve had the opportunity to ask ourselves what it’s been about this trip that’s been so different from our lives back home. Why is it that we’ve been so open to the stories around us? What is it about this place that’s connected with us at a deeper level – a soul level?

Perhaps it’s been the unfamiliarity. We don’t know this place, its streets, how to get around. We don’t talk in southern drawl (unless we have a propensity for adopting local accents), and we’re not used to such open hospitality. Perhaps that’s what’s throwing us of guard. Perhaps it’s something else.

There is something to be said about the draw of community. About the loyalty to family, no matter what. Down in New Orleans, like everywhere else, it’s impossible to choose your family. But in New Orleans, that seems to mean something more. The family is core to existence. Even if family steals from you, is thrown in prison, whatever…they’re still your blood.

I wonder what we as the church can learn about true community from this example.

Reflecting back on this strange connection to a city and people in the southern United States, I think that there might be something important about the unfamiliarity of our circumstances that has granted us new perspectives. Perhaps that’s why pilgrimages like this one are so valuable – they furnish us with the opportunity to look at life from a different angle. They provide us with new tools for understanding the world, and broaden our localized perspectives.

Unfamiliarity helps us to see that the story is much bigger than simply my story, your story, or even our story. Unfamiliarity, analogy and metaphor help us to see things from different angles. And perhaps, if we’re paying attention, this same unfamiliarity will help us to understand that this is not just about you or me, but also, and primarily, about God’s involvement in this broken/beautiful world.

breannafriday-067And this is a world where we get to help. This is a world where we get to participate in God’s mission. A mission to care for, to be stewards of God’s good creation, to build houses, to plant gardens and to love everyone.

Those things helped us to frame our experiences here in New Orleans – the prophecy of Jeremiah 29 aided us as we came down here to help build houses, to plant new seeds of hope, and to love everyone we met in whatever way we could. That’s what we did, and that’s what we as a team hope to continue to do upon our return. What a challenge!

It may be a challenge, and yet it is all too simple. Build Houses. Plant Gardens. Love Everyone. It’s what God calls the church to do. Whether we like it or not, whether we heed it or not, this is what God is calling us to. And if we are to truly be the church, then I guess we better get out of those pews, roll up our sleeves and find ways to live this out at home, in whatever way we can.

Because if we don’t…if we refuse to be renewed by our gatherings as church in order to move out and seek the welfare of our cities, towns, and all of our neighbours, what could that possibly mean about the state of our faith?

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah 29:5-7

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