First of 3 Stories: Part A

Threshold pc

This week as I spoke to a group about our exciting new project “Threshold House” I found myself dwelling on one particular aspect, that being the residential component. A close friend afterwards pointed out that Threshold House had three stories and I was only sharing about one of them, As I mulled this feedback over I began to see that I indeed needed to tell the tale in three stories. Today’s post is a beginning of the first story. It is the prologue. It is the history that makes sense of our present plans. This prologue is divided in three parts. Today’s offering looks at the history of the Church Army/Threshold as inspiration and a template. Later I will explore the history of monasteries as a model and finally I will share some of my own formative history that drives the creative thinking of this project. In following posts I will be bring the other two stories until we have a complete picture of the vision of “Threshold House”.

I believe the way forward is found in looking back! We, of Street Hope Saint John, are sensing a call to a radically new emphasis for our ministry. The word radical means “to the root” and we sense we are being called forward by returning to our origins.

Our history is the history of the Church Army. The Church Army had its inception during the height of the industrial revolution. It was a time of dramatic social upheaval with all the high-speed head spinning changes that accompanied it. It was a time of upheaval and no certainty about what society would look like when the dust settled.

Great swaths of the population migrated from rural life to the soon overcrowded urban centres like London. Uncertainty and unemployment led to a host of hither unknown social problems. At the heart of many of the inner-city issues was alcoholism. The combination of fear of the future and the false courage that was readily available through cheap gin, sparked strife in the social fabric. Women and children suffered, and crime and violence were rife.

It was in this setting that our founder, Wilson Carlile, realised that spiritual revival was the answer to the dilemma facing society. Changed hearts were the key to the health of the community.

He began to share with those who were in a seemingly hopeless state, that there was indeed hope, and that hope had a name. That name was Jesus!

It didn’t take long for him to realise that he alone would have limited impact on a problem so huge. He became convinced that an army of people sharing and showing hope was the best solution to this daunting problem. He set about recruiting and equipping people who had found hope, to become bringers of hope. By doing so he multiplied his impact for good, and for God!

This is our heritage. This is the mantle passed on by the laying on of hands to Evangelist to follow in this way.

As we launch our vision for Threshold House, we recognize the powerful parallels. We live in fear-filled times, and many, in seemingly hopeless states have turned to alcohol or chemicals. The only sure antidote to such fear is faith. The solution remains the same, spiritual revival!

We realise that the scope of the issue in our community is too large for our little ministry and so we are taking a radical look for guidance. We sense that like our founder we must equip an ‘army’ of hope bringers. This is the vision behind Threshold House!

We plan to create a community of people who have solidly discovered hope and through education and discipleship in the context of Christian Community. (My next epistle will be about our connection to the history of monastic living in times of social upheaval). For 9 – 12 months these residents will be readied to have an impact on our wider community. Then we will recruit the next cohort, as we multiply our impact.

At the same time, we envision, Threshold House will become a hub that fosters connections and networks with the community beyond our walls, enlisting men and women and church groups to join together to be catalysts for the spiritual revival our society needs.

Our vision takes us back to our roots. It challenges us. This is by far the biggest project we have yet undertaken but we are undaunted. If God is in this (and we believe he is!) and his people catch the vision, we know we can have an out-sized impact on the deadly scourge that plagues our community.

You can join the effort through your prayers, and financial support. Perhaps you would like to make a regular financial commitment to this project or make a onetime gift. You can do so by making payments out to Threshold Ministries and adding Threshold House in the memo section. Our address is 105 Mountain View Dr. Saint John NB E2J 5B5. We can also arrange direct deposit or Visa payments.

Thank you,

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I am just starting to book some speaking engagements to let people know about Street Hope’s “Threshold House” project. My first approach was to the church from which Linda and I were launched on the trajectory which has led us here.

About 20 years ago the Principal of Taylor College, David Edwards, asked me to join him at the college as the head of Evangelism Studies. 19 years ago, we moved to Saint John and I took up that mantle. Soon after our move we became members of St. James the Less. These were formative years for our family and our children grew up in the nurture of this loving community.

Then David made another request. He asked me to consider coming to his inner-city parish to help there. I had never left a church before other than because I was moving cities, so I talked over the issue with the then pastor of St. James. He proposed an elegant solution, St. James would commission us as missionaries to Stone Church and the inner-city mission. I remember well the congregation gathering around us and ‘sending us off’ to this new field of ministry. Linda and I have returned often over the years to report and rekindle.

It feels natural then to return one more time to share our excitement about the vision for Threshold House. It always feels like a home coming!

Looking back, I see that much has changed. My son who used to run projection long before every church did so, attended every worship practise because he knew it as his ministry, now preaches regularly at his own church. My daughter took several mission trips and now is married with a child of her own, has a wonderful ministry of kindness and encouragement. Our lives have changed, and ministries have evolved but there is a remarkable persistent consistency. Like the magi following the Star of Bethlehem, I see that we have, for the most part, followed a singular path.

Eugene Petersen wrote about a ‘long obedience in one direction’ and I see that as I look back. Despite all the unexpected twists and turns the trajectory of our lives and ministries is marked by dogged persistence. We continue as Threshold Evangelist, Linda for 40 years and me for 39. We continue as ‘missionaries’ to the inner-city just as we were commissioned by St. James Church. There have been times of despair and temptation to give up and give in, but God has proved faithful through it all.

We believe that this same faithful God will see the successful launch of Threshold House. We have informational events at our Mountain View location, coming soon:

October 5th – Brunch 10 AM

October 8th– Drop In 1 – 4 PM

October 15th– Dessert & Worship 7 PM

 

 

Unleashing The Viral Power of Wellness

Both as a teacher and a practitioner of evangelism, I have emphasized the value of strategic and multiplicatory methods. This is in line with Christ’s call to “make disciples”. The goal is not just converts, though that is a wonderful result of our evangelism, but to make disciples who can, and will, put their shoulder to that same wheel of evangelism.

The idea of ‘loosing’ people in ministry has been a focus of Street Hope since the beginning. The goal has always been to win people to Jesus and see them involved in ministry. We pay particular emphasis on the ministry of kindness, that each individual can intentionally practice in their own lives. We certainly try and practice a ministry of hospitality and kindness, but our ministry would be far too shallow if that was all we did. We have seen people who were consumed with self become aware of the love of Christ and begin to show it to others. A great example of this was an incident on a city bus. One of our friends with a long criminal history was riding on the bus when people started picking on a woman. He intervened on her behalf and over time they became great friends. Both often attend our Sunday Evening House Church and are central to all our programs. We desire to see our ministry ripple out in this way so that it has an impact far beyond our small numbers.

It is this same philosophy of ministry that excites me about our new project “Threshold House”. The idea is to form a supportive discipling community for men who have discovered hope through recovery from addiction. We want to house 8 – 12 men at a time giving them a supportive launching pad into the next phase of their lives. We plan to equip these men who have discover hope to be ‘bringers of hope’ to others.  In doing so we plan to unleash the viral power of wellness.

Up until Jesus association with sin and evil contaminated. This was why Pharisees went to such lengths to avoid contamination. But Jesus changed all that. People he touched did not contaminate him but rather they became well through his touch. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man (Adam) how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15) As we follow him the viral nature of ‘wellness’ is unleashed.

I like to use the word wellness because it pictures for me the problem and the solution. We were once isolated from God, our neighbour and indeed our true selves. This is illustrated by the word illness, but when I connect with God and others (and yes, my true self) the big “I” which is at the heart of sin, through reconciliation is changed to “We” as in wellness.

Our vision is to see these men firmly established in the wellness of Christ and through them and the next cohort, and the one after that, we will make an impact on the scourge of addiction that currently plagues our community.

We are a small ministry, but we believe we can have an out-sized impact through application of the viral power of wellness. For us this is a huge project which stretches our faith and the promise of Kingdom impact is great. Would you consider how you might join us? There will be many opportunities: for practical help, for intercessory prayer, and financial support.

Together we can unleash the viral power of wellness in Christ.

Mission & Imagination

This summer some friends from Christ Church in Pennfield had a really creative idea. They decided to plant and tend a garden. This is a very biblical venture. The idea was that they would enjoy warm fellowship, quite literally, as they weeded and watered and nurtured this plot, but also that the produce would be used to benefit others. The idea originated with a young woman, Eden, who was looking for a way to serve the Kingdom. The enterprise was soon dubbed “The Garden of Eden”!

The harvest was gathered yesterday and tonight will find its way into a large pot of soup. This group is travelling to Saint John to serve this  hearty repast to our Street Hope community as we gather for our weekly Drop In.

I’m impressed by the imagination , dedication, and vision of Eden and the team from this small church. They will have an impact far beyond filling empty stomachs. They will be living proof of the love of God.

This reminds me, too, that each of us can find ways to bless others in ways that suit our talents and resources. I think back on an even younger person, Sadie, from that same church who raised hundreds of dollars for our Christmas outreach, a few years. Willingness and a bit of imagination is all we need to be useful in his Kingdom. Perhaps we should take up the challenge that Eden and Sadie lay down with their examples. Can each of us find our own way, this week, to be helpful to the Kingdom of God, within our abilities and resources!

I am ‘stoked’ about our new ministry project “Threshold House” which will be the home of Street Hope Saint John and house a Christian community of men who have discovered hope in overcoming addiction, and are being equipped to be ‘bringers of hope’ to others. Street Hope is a small ministry but we believe that through “Threshold House” we can multiply our ministry and make a significant impact on the scourge of addiction in our wider community.

This October we will be hosting three events designed to share this vision and to encourage people to support it. These events are:

Saturday October 5th 10 AM Brunch (call Reed 721 1788 to reserve a place)

Tuesday October 8th  1 – 4 PM Open House & Drop In with presentation at 2 PM

Thursday October 17th  7 PM Dessert & Worship

All these events will be held at Threshold House 105 Mountain View Drive.

Please keep these events in prayer. We hope that by providing different times and dates that we will see a good number of people.

Our last Roamin’ Holiday event is now scheduled for next Tuesday, the 17th. We will be having a fall picnic at Lepreau Falls and a washer toss tourney. For those who may not be familiar with ‘washer toss’ picture horse shoes only with big metal washers. We are grateful to our friend Rob Pittman for the loan of the game.

 

Ministry of “Showing Up”

In the 90’s, the “Decade of Evangelism”, I travelled to hundreds of parish halls from coast to coast to coast, criss-crossing Canada with a workshop designed to help people to be effective in sharing their faith within their personal circle of relationships. One of the themes was captured in the symmetrical quote “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!”

I was reminded of this as a local clergy man dropped in to visit us at our Roamin’ Holiday event yesterday. He commented on the depth of the friendships he witnessed and asked how long we had been involved together. When I told him we first started in 2004, he commented that our persistence had certainly paid off!

With that I began to think about when I first met some of our friends. A few really, stand out. One person was a serial offender at the half-way house and caught in the revolving door of recidivism. We began to hang out and today it has been years of not only no crime but church attendance and a genuine character change.

Another friend was homeless when we first met. She was pushing a shopping cart holding all her belongings. She was wary of ‘do-gooders’ and more than a bit hostile. Yesterday her toothless smile was evident to everyone. She has not missed a single Roamin’ Holiday this year.

I did little but continue to show up in their vicinity over the years. Eventually barriers began to come down and friendships like wet firewood were kindled. Now I can readily share my faith and get a fair hearing not because of any giftedness but through dogged persistence. Changes can be so incremental that it takes a conversation like that of my clergy friend to bring a realization of all that God is doing.

This week I have been back to work on the new project. I have been caught up in a distressing cycle of emails with city-planners. We are trying to agree on a definition for our vision of a Christian Community of Recovery at our Threshold House site. Finally, I connected by phone with a planner and we had a fruitful conversation. Our idea does not fall easily in typical categories but when we were able to creatively converse, I feel we came to a unified approach. Once I made clear we were not looking at being a place of ‘treatment’ but rather a Christian Community which is preparing those who have found hope, to become equipped to effectively share hope with others. The vision is akin to a neo-monastic community. I have hopes that this hurdle will not prove insurmountable.

We have begun a new series on Colossians at our Study and Prayer at the Out Flow Men’s Shelter.

Party On The Way! Party As the Way!

party

Paradoxically, humility is one of the great virtues for the Christian, who wishes to follow Jesus! Jesus deigned to become incarnate. He stepped into the teaming mess of humanity coming not to be served but to serve and pour out himself to ransom humanity. The Master took the towel and then the rough wooden cross. If I do not prize humility, my claim to follow His way is a pretense.

In Luke 14 Jesus offers two ways of attaining humility.

The first is through humiliation. The proud guest claims a place at the party that is reserved for another. Humiliated, he is escorted to the available seat which is in the lowest place. I imagine all eyes taking in this humiliating event. It is a walk of shame. He thought more highly of himself than he ought and is publicly brought low. Now though comes his life altering choice: does he become angry and bitter at this oh so public shaming? Or does he take the choice  of humility and allow grace to flow?

The second is through the deliberate choice of association with the humble. Jesus says not to invite the important and family and friends to the party but instead to invite the humble poor. I don’t think he is saying that we should not celebrate with family and friends. He seems to suggest that everyone does that. It is not a distinctive mark of the Christian disciple. The true mark is to associate with those the ‘world’ does not esteem, those whose friendship will not advance our worldly agenda.

Years ago, I would read this passage and relate more to the way of the person who sat above his station. I read with discomfort. But now I read it from the obscurity of our little Street Hope ministry, and I find comfort. I have come to enjoy the friendship of many who will not help advance my agenda. We often party and celebrate together, often at our Street Hope venues but frequently at my home.

This passage calls us to re-examine our ‘relational’ lives. Not to stop associating with friends and family but to purposely choose to include the humble poor in our circles. Jesus eschewed turning stones to bread. Charitable donations and hand-outs to panhandlers are good but are no substitute for personal relationship. Following after Him means humble service and friendship to those who have little to offer in return.

The bonus is that just as Jesus humility is rewarded with “the Name above all names…” so we are promised that such obedience is not without heavenly reward. Let’s store some of this up for ourselves by our deliberate choice of humility.

Last week we had a wonderful trip to St. Martins on our Roamin’ Holiday. We visited the caves and feasted on the World Famous Chowder. We visited Inthestillness where we were reminded of the importance of Sabbath. We took some pictures, and each will be given some. Many do not have photos, and these become prized possessions.

Our Pool Party and Barbecue was postponed due to stormy weather. We are looking forward to going on this adventure next Thursday instead. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I have not been well the last several weeks and have fallen behind on the necessary work on our new project. We are looking to create a Christian Community for those who have recovered from addiction. Threshold House needs refurbishment and renovation to house this. Much work needs to be done in the next few weeks and it all seems daunting right now. Please keep this project in your prayers.

Brief Update

We postponed our last Roamin’ Holiday because I have come down with “The Mother of  All Colds!” After a week of sleepless hacking I went to the hospital where (thankfully?) I learned that it was ‘just a virus’.

I am not going to make it to the Drop In tonight but Linda, with whom I generously shared this malady, has  plans to carry on with the help of at least one of our volunteers.

For a bit of comic relief, (the Three Stooges’ variety) as my son-in-law Mike was helping me carry an old couch out to the road for pick up, I dropped my end on my toe. The toe is now swollen and most painful.

I am drinking lots of water and pitifully limping around our home but I am not writing a further blog today.

Please keep us and our Roamin’ Holiday in prayer and if anyone drops by with chicken soup you would be very welcome.

Roamin’ Holiday Part 1

deer island 1

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this is likely my longest post ever! We had our first ‘Roamin’ Holiday’ this week, to a park on Deer Island the home of the “Old Sow” a natural whirlpool in the Bay of Fundy. We cobbled together enough cars and drivers that we all were able to go, 20 of us in total.

We dined on pulled pork sandwiches and explored the unique beauties of this locale. We had a Word From Our Sponsor reminding us of Romans 1:20 (which is our theme verse for these trips) reminding ourselves of the universal witness to God’s nature and power. We then considered Jude 24 & 25 reminding ourselves of the person interest God takes in each of us as individuals. The God who created all this, loves me!

We enjoyed another beautiful ferry ride and all arrived home safe and satisfied/

deer island 5

We enjoyed our open air dinning

deer island 4

deer island 3

We explored the park.

deer island 6

Enjoyed the ferry ride home. All 5 cars in the convoy made it on the same ferry in both directions. It was a marvelous day and we are looking forward to part 2 on Monday.

Please keep us in prayer.

Gone Fishing ?

relaxed

Sometimes I think I would really enjoy fishing, especially fishing as depicted above. I picture a warm summer day. I sit under the shade of a weeping willow as I listen to birds singing and the babble of the nearby brook as I dangle my line and occasionally my toes on the cool waters. I read my book and pause occasionally to just enjoy the peace around me, and to let that peace sink into my inmost being. I unconsciously exult in the God who created all this and bask in his goodness. Fishing would not be a task but an excuse for experiencing and savouring all this. The last thing I would really want is a strike on my line. Such would interrupt my idyll peace!

This would be both an unproductive and a productive exercise, but it would be entirely self-focussed. This is not the picture that would have ‘sprung to mind’ for the first disciples when they thought about fishing. Their vision would involve callouses and sore muscles. It would conjure up images of big seas and a little boat; of swelling waves and mending nets, of hauling and casting, of life and death. To these folks fishing was not an idle pastime it was a vocation. It was a task, and much depended on productivity. Rather than being self-focussed the exercise was fish focussed. It was about launching into the deep, beyond a comfort zone. It was about boldly facing stormy seas. It was work! It was work that required the best of those who plied the trade.

hard

When Jesus called these 1st Century fishermen to ‘fish for men and women and boys and girls’ they understood it as a call to challenging, indeed daunting, labour. With no illusions about what fishing meant, they followed Jesus.

Too many of us, who claim to follow Jesus in the 21st Century,  hold  more closely to my version of fishing. We do not labour in prayer or witness as our vocation would call for. We have traded in the utilitarian fishing boat for a cruise ship, centering life on contemplation and worship. We have neglected the task of evangelism and as we have sought self-satisfaction people are dying without having heard the Good News.

Such biblical fishing calls us to action rather than inaction. It calls us to deeper waters away from couch and willow shaded shore into the hurly burly of life, where we engage with a frightening world. As people in a little boat on a great big sea we rely on the power of God to quell the storms within and without. Like the fishermen of old we must realise that such fishing is not a solo sport but a labour in fellowship with others.

Years ago, the Church was described as the only organization that exists for those who are not yet members. It seems to me that it is high time to make ‘fish’ the focus as we endeavour to follow Jesus as his fisher folk.

SQUEEZE!

bert

I spray painted a white sheet. I painted a tree with a blue-sky background. I created a pocket on a tree limb from which would emerge my puppet Solomon the owl. I created a hollow in the bole of the tree from which Rueben the raccoon would appear. This with the addition of two thumb tacks became my highly portable puppet theatre as I ventured into children’s ministry in Northern Manitoba. This ‘theatre’ would easily hang in any doorway and had the added advantage of taking next to no room to pack as I travelled to ‘fly in’ communities.

Solomon was a wise old bird. He would supply the wisdom that was required to solve the problems of Rueben, the silly raccoon. Their personalities made them endlessly versatile to tackle almost any Bible story I decided to highlight. Kids warmed to these characters. They related to Rueben and the messes he would get into and listened attentively to the solutions-oriented Solomon. I found that First Nation’s children also took to the idea of learning from wildlife creatures. To the advantage of the Gospel

Later as I moved ‘South’ these two characters morphed into Bert (the wise owl character) and Ernie (the silly messy raccoon character). I have always had a knack at mimicking voices so I could do a more than passable Bert and Ernie. They simply picked up the threads of their predecessors and children responded warmly.

I had learned, early, to use what was at hand to the advantage of the Gospel and this has stood me in good stead. I have learned to look for opportunities as life changes. The tools of the past sometimes (almost certainly) need to be set aside in favour of newer ones. The message remains the same, but the vehicle alters to carry it in a new situation.

Often this feels like “taking the lemons life hands you and making lemonade”, and this is an indispensable asset in any evangelistic ministry. In my day to day life with our little community of Street Hope Friends, I try to encourage and exemplify this. Often my friends will name and complain about the latest indignity or injustice they experience. Dwelling on the hurt can often lead to a spiral of anger and despondency, so I encourage folks to take their eyes off that, at least for a moment and instead think about a recent blessing, or thing to be thankful for. We are living proof that despondency and thankfulness cannot co-exist. Thankfulness has the power to lift us, emotionally and intellectually, above our circumstances. Like Paul and Silas, we can ‘sing in our prison cells’.

God is the Creator and as his image bearers we are called to creatively build hope and health into even or especially, the most trying circumstances. To make lemonade!

I have only just learned that the bus we were counting on for our Roamin’ Holiday will not be available to us. This felt like a crushing last-minute blow … but I believe it provides the opportunity to widen the circle and enlist the help of other drivers to join us creating a ‘Convoy of Hope’. This hasn’t yet come to fruition, but I am squeezing this lemon for all its worth. I’ll let you know in a future blog how it goes. In the meantime, pray for our Roamin’ Holiday.