Friday, December 14, 2007

Afraid of the UNKNOWN ... The Church can't be doing THAT!!

Meet the Reverend George Feenstra ... he is a minister of the United Church in Canada ... he is a modern prophet ... and he is one of my personal heroes ...
This morning George appeared on CBC Radio One's show The Current after sending a letter to that programme discussing the outcome of the trial of Robert Pickton in Vancouver.

George has had ministry experience with the people who are trapped by life circumstances in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where Robert Pickton lurked and claimed his victims ...

There are several places to learn more about George's experience in the Mount Pleasant area just outside of the Downtown Eastside in and around 2003 when he and the church he served offered a place of hospitality premised on the radical engagement of the Gospel by putting living one's faith with more than just words.

A good recounting is found here - where George sought to live the simple question - "who is my neighbour?"

and a follow up piece offers the outcome of George's situation where the police and a garbage truck cleaned up the "mess".

George experienced a 363 review and now is in ministry on the other side of the country at Nashwaaksis United Church in Fredricton New Brunswick.

Today for a moment he rightly reclaimed his prophetic mantel and offered a powerful reflection on the necessity of people of faith to do more than rub their hands AFTER the fact when it comes to the victimization of some of the most vulnerable in our society. Many of us have been horrified and sickened by the news reported from the Pickton Trial, yet few among us have done anything tangible to address the circumstances that have allowed the likes of Pickton to engage in their crimes.

WHO is our neighbour?? Seven years ago the answer offered by a search committee lead me to a community where it seemed they understood and lived the Gospel by engaging it fully. But like George the outcome wasn't necessarily what the Spirit wanted ...

Thankfully the prophetic voices have never been silenced and they serve to remind us that our faith must be MORE than words we pull out once a week ... People like George may not make us comfortable, but without them the Church is nothing more than a social club or a pretty bobble that denies the very heart of the Gospel ...

Over at United Online George offered the following reflection (it was TOO good NOT to borrow it and share it here), his last words are a clarion call to faithful and reflective action that engages the radical Gospel offered by that tiny baby whose birth is celebrated in a few days ... the baby grew up and attempted to show us a better way of engaging the LIVING presence of God in our world by LIVING the Gospel ... George writes:

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Thanks be to God who gives us moments! Think immediately of Paul who knew how to be abased and how to abound. You know well the agony and ecstasy of the prophetic vocation. We begin inarticulate and suffer the pain of our own inadequacy. Clarity follows faithful practice and suffering takes new forms. There is the cold shoulder. There are the insults. Thank God these are well balanced, and much more, by the encouragement and edification found along the way. Now thinking of Elijah fed by Ravens for a forty day stint in the barrens

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Quite remarkable what fits in a ten minute opening. The story of a welcoming space, a kind of wonder cafe, for the neighbourhood. Folks of all kind drop in. A place of radical hospitality. Rooted in the gospel of inclusion expressed as compassionate solidarity. Supported by diverse community partners. The kind of hospitality our Moderator suggested for our consideration not so long ago? Accomplished on a shoe string. Resisted by those who did not understand the implications. Those who chose status quo where creative freedom took a stand. Revealing systemic oppression of the poor by church and state.

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Interested onlookers can find the interview at: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2007/200712/20071213.html

Scroll down to "The Current: part 2" and click "Listen to The Current: Part 2"

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Diversity is giving birth to a word and that word will be expressed in unity,

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To nurture and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the dominant consciousness and perception around us:

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We will begin where we are

We will insist on paying our own way

We will call into question existing assumptions

We will support each other in courage and creativity

We will consider the margin our legitimate domain

We will seek opportunity to serve others

We will prefer integrity to expedience

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THANKS George - you continue to whisper hope to a world ripe with fear and anger!!

We need more voices like yours ... and we need the courage to heed your words!!

May it one day be so !!

2 comments:

laughing pastor said...

What is a 363 review?

Wild Child said...

Throughout my life, radical theology has been the only religion that made any sense. Nuns and priests risking their lives for the people and being motivated by the simple joy of a toothless smile. I was inspired and wanted to do it too. But I made a mistake and found my god oozing out of a mildew crack in a prison wall and it was so good and real that I felt this sense of collective compassion. That oozing darkness comforted me in a way that was like no other. No special prayer of church ceremony, but the change in me. My point is that George and the United Church on East Hastings are like that crack in the wall -- oozing collective compassion. They too are my heroes.