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Here are two more changes I see in the prevailing western culture to which the church may be well served to pay attention.

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I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before Wednesday 7 January 2015.

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I know nothing about the intricate workings of the mysterious world of competitive sports. I cannot begin to comprehend the elaborate complexities of professional cycling. I am certainly in no position to make any assessment of the guilt or innocence of Lance Armstrong.

But, I do know that if half the accusations brought against Mr. Armstrong are true, we have only ourselves to blame.

http://blogs.timescolonist.com/2012/10/23/lance-armstrong-our-product/

October 21 seems a lifetime ago. I missed Spirituality Cafe #6 as we were in New Zealand when it took place. We did not hold Spirituality Cafe in December; so last night’s gathering at Cafe Misto was Spirituality Cafe #7.

As is becoming the pattern, I did not know the majority of people in attendance last night. Most participants appeared to be over 50 years old with little or no connection to any formal faith community. The conversation was shared fairly equally around the room.

The question for Spirituality Cafe #7 was, “What blocks do I experience to living in awareness of the spiritual dimension of life?”
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In a December 19 opinion piece “A Tough Season For Believers” Ross Douthat of the New York Times presents a familiar but tiresome complaint against people whose practice of the season” he judges inadequate.
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Part IV in the “Globe and Mail’s” series of articles on the state of religion in Canada makes gloomy reading for those of us who labour bravely in the vineyards of institutional religion.
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One of the most profound and touching aspects of our recent visit to New Zealand was the attitude we experienced toward its indigenous peoples. Everywhere we travelled we encountered what appear to be sincere and profound attempts to respect and incorporate aspects of Maori culture into predominantly European New Zealand. No doubt these efforts have met with varying degrees of success and there is still a long way to go. But the determination to value the Maori presence provides a hopeful model for the rest of the world community.
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I once visited the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California; it was a side-trip on our family pilgrimage to “the happiest place on earth.” Somehow it seemed appropriate that the extraordinary glass edifice built by the Gospel of Jesus Christ filtered through the power of positive thinking should be located a few blocks from Disneyland.
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Ben Cameron is the Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York City.

Judging by the google hits for his name, Mr. Cameron spends a lot of time travelling the world. Wherever he goes he delivers a speech in which he speaks about the state of the arts and the struggles arts organizations are having in our current uncertain economic climate.

The most accessible version of this talk was given in February 2010 and recorded as one of the TEDs addresses. It is twelve minutes long and can be viewed at: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_cameron_tedxyyc.html. A variety of printed versions are also available on the internet. Among other places, he has given this talk at the Illinois Arts Alliance’s 2009 Members’ Meeting in the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago and at the International Society for the Performing Arts.

It is a powerful talk that raises important issues not only for arts organizations but for all organizations that depend for their existence on the voluntary participation of their constituents. Everyone has to buy food and clothing. Money and time spent on the ballet, or attending the symphony are discretionary spending, easily be abandoned in difficult times.

I am particularly interested in how Cameron’s comments might apply in a church setting. The quotes that follow in this post and in successive posts (possibly twelve) are taken from his comments in Chicago and at the International Society for the Performing Arts. My own tentative reflections on how these thoughts might apply to the church follow Cameron’s comments.
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Tomorrow morning I am going to Duncan. I have been asked by our bishop to attend

a consultation for clergy and laity from parishes in which there is an appearance of life to see if we can discover some of the ‘what, why, and how’ of what is happening in the Diocese.

We are going to discuss:

What seems to work in some parishes and Church situations, and why? What can we learn from these things?

Because, you are in a situation where ‘something seems to be working.’ Your parish seems to be alive. You seem to be refreshed and energized as you approach both ministry and life. How much of this is appearance and how much is actuality?

In preparation for this meeting I have been wondering what a church might need to do in order to be “alive”.

I would be interested in hearing any insights anyone might have as to what contributes to enabling a church to be “alive”. My preliminary thoughts follow.
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