on being a catholic church

On a recent Sunday in worship I could not help but notice how very catholic our singing has become. A gathering song by Fanny Crosby, blind author of over eight thousand gospel hymns and songs was followed by an opening hymn of praise from Ambrose of Milan, the fourth century doctor of the church who introduced hymnody to the western church. The Singers (our choir) offered the contemporary hymn “In the Quiet Curve of Evening” as a haunting and inviting choral introit. There was a sung Kyrie from the intentional Christian community at Iona and the “Asithi Amen” from Africa. The chorus of the traditional French carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” provided the Gloria. A hymn by Joachim Neander rooted us in the Protestant Reformation while a setting of Psalm 91 by Michael Joncas connected us with twentieth century liturgical renewal in the Roman Catholic church sparked by Vatican II. Our children led us in singing the Lord’s Prayer with embodied actions. The text for the day from Isaiah 40:31 brought to mind a popular chorus – “Those who wait upon the Lord” – and when it was sung we told the story of its author, Stuart Hamblen, the once famous singing cowboy, among the first of Billy Graham’s converts, whose transformed life surprised and confounded many in his time.


filled with the holy spirit

At Pentecost the church is scripted into its startling identity. Here the miracle of our existence as a people is retold with wonder. As Peter says: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (I Peter 2:10). To our continuing surprise the life of the church is not a product of human ingenuity. It is, instead, the gift of God whose divine energy inspires a new community into being. The power of God to reconcile and make new, to bring life out of death and to form a people who live to God’s glory is what we name the Holy Spirit. This is not just any spirit. When we describe the Spirit as “holy” we are saying that it is the odd, unique, powerful Spirit of the God who is met in Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit that sweeps over the primordial waters of chaos, giving life to a world that is very good (Genesis 1). It is the Holy Spirit of the Lord that brings “good news to the poor and release to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). At Pentecost, it is the Holy Spirit that fills the entire congregation with the capacity to proclaim God’s “deeds of power” in every human language.

The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the church. Yet, at times, we shy away from naming the truth that we owe our existence as a people to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is as if we are content to let others in the Christian family make this their focus, leaving us to other pursuits. Perhaps we are not confident that we, too, are filled with the Holy Spirit.


in the woods

It is Lent and for Christians it is a reminder that Jesus spends forty days of temptation in the wilderness before he begins to witness to the nearness of God's realm, God's kingdom come on earth as in heaven. For a biblical people the wilderness is rich with memory of fleeing from oppression and longing for the land of milk and honey. Here in British Columbia, the wilderness means the forest. Those of us who live in and around Vancouver are all too familiar with the regular news reports of travellers who go for an afternoon hike on one of the local mountains and do not return. We are constantly reminded that just out our back door is a wild and dangerous back country full of steep terrain in which cell phones have no reception. It is easy to imagine that the wilderness is held at bay by contemporary comforts and protections. But, then, it turns out that the woods are very close at hand ...

notes on first peter two

When we gather on Thursday evening we will read the second chapter of the First Letter of Peter. Come with your questions and insights. Here are some questions to consider as you read …


call for submissions - christian seasons calendar 2015-2016

Artists are invited to participate in the upcoming issue of "Salt of the Earth ‑ The Christian Seasons Calendar for 2015/2016." This unique calendar follows the distinctive seasons of the Christian year and is distributed worldwide. View a sample of the current Christian Seasons Calendar online at thechristiancalendar.com.

Interested artists are encouraged to offer artwork that interprets scripture readings and themes within the Christian Year. A list of the scripture readings used in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary can be found at lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu. There is one page available for an image for each of the following seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. There are five pages available for art in the Season after Pentecost. On these pages we seek images that portray Pentecost, All Saints Day and the Reign of Christ as well as images particular to biblical texts included in the lectionary readings during this season of growth in discipleship.


notes on first peter one

During Lent we are hosting a weekly evening gathering with a meal, prayers, hymns and discussion of the First Letter of Peter. As we do not own a church building we are meeting in the home of one of the members of University Hill Congregation. This is one way in which our experience as a congregation parallels that of the early church addressed by this letter. In preparing for our time together I send a few questions to the group, hoping to stimulate their own questions as they read. Here are those questions for week one, chapter one ...


2015 lenten daily devotional online

The season of Lent is just around the corner. Ash Wednesday, that marks the beginning of Lent, is on February 18 this year (Lent's dates change from year to year since Easter is a lunar festival and, therefore, varies each year). Once again this year University Hill Congregation has created an online daily devotional and invites us to join in the daily discipline of hosting scripture in our lives and life together. University Hill's 2015 Lenten Daily Devotional is online here.

Here is the introduction to this year's Lenten Devotional ...