Author Archives: brian

News and Photos from 2012 VBS

Splash in God’s Word

St. Ansgar’s sanctuary was transformed into the primary locale for this year’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) “Splash in God’s Word”. It didn’t take the children long to realize that water was the primary theme for the week. We learned that the rainbow represents God’s promise to us. We learned that we can’t walk on water (even in a splash pool). And we wondered what the temperature of the water in the baptismal font normally is.      

The altar became our popular news anchor desk, which helped to convey the bible story for the day. The kids looked forward to the daily reports from our news anchors. The roving reporter interviewed surprising guest speakers and we wondered whether the crazy weather reporter survived in their sou’wester, wellies and raincoat on the stormy days.

On Wednesday, our guest visitor, Pastor Charlene (aka Mrs. Twist) entertained the children by recounting the day’s bible story through balloons, music and slideshow. She managed to top things off with everyone getting to make their own balloon creations from her rainbow of balloons.

The kids were enthralled with boat races and osmosis experiments at the Science station, where white carnations really did absorb colours overnight (red and blue worked best if you want to try this at home).  Arts & Crafts were dominated by marine-themed creations, with everything from origami fish scenes, paper hats, boats and paper bag fish, to framed underwater scene cards, while various activities awaited in the Drama station.

Not only were our hearts and souls nourished – we were treated to nutritious snacks, heart- pumping games, and vocal chords were exercised with rounding renditions of “Rise and Shine” aka “Arky Arky”.

Thanks to our tireless volunteers who made this happen: Carol and David Lau, Barbel and Karl Hauer, Wendy Paroyan, Tiffany Bunbury-Pelley, and Laura Wagner. Heartfelt  thanks to Felicia Narain , Johanna Wong, Diann Carpenter, Carmen and Jordan Smith, June and David Weind, David Clunas, and Rachel Gowey who were able to not only help on short notice, but were open (and did!) help in any way possible. 

Extra special thanks to Anna McRae, who did the lion’s share of the behind the scenes work to ensure that VBS got off the ground.  And let’s not forget David Weind and David Bestvater, who ensured that the installation of the new organ and pew relocation had minimal impact on VBS.

If you’ve never been involved in this truly rewarding facet of the Children and Youth Ministry, consider being part of the experience next year.

Louise Clunas

Sunday School Co-ordinator

That Doesn’t Belong There!

There is a bird in the church. It’s been there for about seven or eight weeks now. I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know how it survives. I don’t know why it doesn’t leave when the windows are opened. But there it is. Or, there they are. Maybe there is more than one bird, but we only see one at a time for some reason. For now, let’s assume there is just one.

What do we do about it? Should we do anything about it? If there was a class in seminary on what to do when a bird finds its way into the nave, I missed it. When a bird found its way into a warehouse I used to work in, we’d just turn off all the lights, open one of the bay doors, and the bird would fly out as it sought the only source of light. Our sanctuary, however, is full of light; so that’s not an option.

Here’s a question: Does the bird belong in our church?

No, is one answer. Outside things belong outside. We hire a pest control company to come into the church once every few weeks to lay traps for insects and to look for evidence of mice or other critters. It’s a health issue. Others might argue that the bird poses no kind of health risk and, other than needing to wipe up some bird poop off the pews, what’s the problem? Its song might be distracting, but maybe the bird is trying to preach the sermon we really ought to hear!

The past hundred years or so has been a large human project of identifying and putting things in their place. People belong here, nature belongs there. This is a child thing; that is an adult thing. This is urban; that is rural. This is a religious thing; that is a secular thing. This is a Lutheran way of doings things; that is not. These are our allies; they are the enemy. This practise made things seemingly so neat and tidy.

But maybe you’ve noticed that the distinctions aren’t so clear anymore. Urban farming is being explored. People are working from home offices. Children are being home schooled. Nobody seems to care about the distinctions between Christian denominations, or even religions, anymore – “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Who our allies are and who our enemies are is a constantly shifting landscape.

Jesus avoided the righteous and ate with sinners. He questioned why healing should not happen on the Sabbath. He preached that, to find our lives, we must be prepared to lose them; that we must love our enemies and bless those who curse us.

Does technology belong in worship? Do non-Christian teachings and practices belong in our life together? Does theological conversation belong in a bar over a beer? Does faith belong in politics or economics?

Does a bird belong in the Church?

Pastor’s Message – May 2012

There is a bird in the church. It’s been there for about seven or eight weeks now. I don’t know how it got there. I don’t know how it survives. I don’t know why it doesn’t leave when the windows are opened. But there it is. Or, there they are. Maybe there is more than one bird, but we only see one at a time for some reason. For now, let’s assume there is just one.

What do we do about it? Should we do anything about it? If there was a class in seminary on what to do when a bird finds its way into the nave, I missed it. When a bird found its way into a warehouse I used to work in, we’d just turn off all the lights, open one of the bay doors, and the bird would fly out as it sought the only source of light. Our sanctuary, however, is full of light; so that’s not an option.

Here’s a question: Does the bird belong in our church?

No, is one answer. Outside things belong outside. We hire a pest control company to come into the church once every few weeks to lay traps for insects and to look for evidence of mice or other critters. It’s a health issue. Others might argue that the bird poses no kind of health risk and, other than needing to wipe up some bird poop off the pews, what’s the problem? Its song might be distracting, but maybe the bird is trying to preach the sermon we really ought to hear!

The past hundred years or so has been a large human project of identifying and putting things in their place. People belong here, nature belongs there. This is a child thing; that is an adult thing. This is urban; that is rural. This is a religious thing; that is a secular thing. This is a Lutheran way of doings things; that is not. These are our allies; they are the enemy. This practise made things seemingly so neat and tidy.

But maybe you’ve noticed that the distinctions aren’t so clear anymore. Urban farming is being explored. People are working from home offices. Children are being home schooled. Nobody seems to care about the distinctions between Christian denominations, or even religions, anymore – “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Who our allies are and who our enemies are is a constantly shifting landscape.

Jesus avoided the righteous and ate with sinners. He questioned why healing should not happen on the Sabbath. He preached that, to find our lives, we must be prepared to lose them; that we must love our enemies and bless those who curse us.

Does technology belong in worship? Do non-Christian teachings and practices belong in our life together? Does theological conversation belong in a bar over a beer? Does faith belong in politics or economics?

Does a bird belong in the Church?

Contact Us

Email
Rev. Brian Wilker Frey  pastor@stansgar.ca

Pamela Kormano – Intern intern@stansgar.ca

Anna McRae – Office adminstrator admin@stansgar.ca

Website editor webmaster@stansgar.ca

Address
St. Ansgar Lutheran Church
1498 Avenue Road
Toronto,  Ontario  M5N 2J1

Phone 416-783-3570
Fax 416-783-1751

Canadian Lutheran World Relief – CLWR

Canadian Lutheran World Relief is the international development and service vehicle for Lutherans in Canada.  It is a shared ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Church – Canada (LCC).  A full description of their work can be found on their website at: www.clwr.org.

Voices For A Just Society

Voices is “a growing community of faith-based groups in North Toronto working together for a just society by strengthening and supporting relationships within our community; learning and sharing to increase our knowledge of issues; speaking with one voice; and acting together to address injustice.”  Call the office to find out about times, locations, and events of this inter-denominational group.

The Olive Branch for Children – Tanzania

The Olive Branch for Children was founded in 2005 by Deborah McCracken and registered in Canada in 2006 and Tanzania in 2008. The main objective of the Olive Branch for Children is to help remote communities in Tanzania assess their primary needs and establish programs that target the most vulnerable.

St. Ansgar Toronto supports this ministry by sponsoring the education of various children and promoting the ministry in the congregation and community.  Some members of St. Ansgar have travelled to Tanzania to offer their skills and talents to the Olive Branch Community.

Please check out their web site and support them as you are able.

Pastor’s Message – April 2012

As you may be aware, St. Paul Lutheran Church, primarily serving a Mandarin speaking population, has been renting space from us every Sunday afternoon for a couple of years now.  However, for their own internal reasons, they have chosen to move to Markham and rent space from Bethesda Lutheran Church in Unionville.  This move will take place at the end of April.  We wish them well as they worship, serve and proclaim the gospel in a new setting.

When I arrived in 2007, a Korean Presbyterian congregation was renting space from us on Sunday afternoons.  Additionally, our Fellowship Hall is booked up every evening from Monday to Thursday as well as every Saturday evening, leaving only Friday evenings free for our use.  And, of course, the Day Care has much of the church space booked every weekday.  We do this because rental income accounts for about 60% of our budgeted income.  That’s just the way it is.

But now, on Sunday afternoons and evenings beginning in May, the whole church will be available for us to do with as we like!

It will mean taking a small financial hit.  We could easily rent out our space on Sunday afternoons and evenings to some other Christian community; we get requests for rental space all the time.  However, I’ve asked Council not to rent out that space, at least for the time being, and they have agreed.

If the space ends up sitting empty, after we’re done with it by 1:00 every Sunday, then, by all means, we should allow some other group to worship here.  But, is there something we can do with the space?  Is Sunday afternoon and early evening a time when you and your family might consider coming to worship in a new and creative way?  Are there mission projects we might consider using the space to engage and participate in?  Musical or dramatic presentations?  Speaker series?  Learning opportunities?  Outreach projects?

We have been endowed with wonderful facilities.  We have inherited a form of Christian faith, doctrine, tradition, and heritage that has the potential of speaking to the lives and realities of folks who may have never ever darkened the door of a church before.  And now, we have space and time to be creative, imaginative, and playful.  This seems to me like a gift too good to pass up.

What do you hear God calling us to do with this gift?

See you Sunday!

Pastor Brian

Pastor’s Message – March 2012

On March 25 we will gather as a congregation to either affirm or reject the motions passed at the ELCIC National Convention this past summer regarding: Unity of the Church, Same-Gender Marriage, and Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Pastors.

I hope, and in fact I believe that we will affirm these motions removing homosexuality as a barrier to full participation in our congregational life, and here is why.  I believe that, in our hearts, very few of us want to reject gay and lesbian people.  Many of us have gay or lesbian friends, family members, neighbours, or co-workers and we know that nothing about sexual preference makes us different in any significant way from anyone else.  The problem is that many of us have received the message that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian faith, and we want to honour our faith by the decisions we make and the lives we live.

But homosexuality is not inconsistent with Christianity, and especially not with our Lutheran expression of it for the many reasons that I outlined in our adult education classes last fall and in “A Faithful Acceptance,” which I wrote as a summary of each of those classes (available in the narthex or upon request by email).

I am hopeful and believe this motion will pass at the March 25 meeting because I believe most of us will cheerfully and enthusiastically support a motion that brings together what we know to be good and right in our hearts with our theology and practice.

But, what if the motion fails?

I have to admit that I have wondered about the value of five years of teaching and preaching among you, should this motion fail.  Is my proclamation of the gospel being heard here?  Should I stay if the motion fails, or should I seek a call with a congregation that more closely resembles my values and my theology?

Here is what I have concluded:  If the motion fails I will not receive that as a message that I should seek a new call.  Instead, I will take the rejection of the motion as a sign that I have not been clear enough with you in my proclamation of the gospel and must take a more radical approach to communicating it.  And I hope that those of you who would be dejected by the failure of this motion would also stay and support this more clear and radical approach.

And if the motion passes, I will also take that as an excuse to be clearer in my proclamation of the gospel and to take an even more radical approach to communicating it.  And I pray that all of us would be uplifted, empowered and energized to even more enthusiastically proclaim this gospel through the life and ministries of our congregation.

So, either way, I look forward to many years ahead of proclaiming with you a radical gospel of grace, peace, love and abundant life for all people and celebrating with you the presence of the Kingdom of God wherever it emerges in our lives and our relationships.

See you Sunday, and especially March 25.

Peace,

Pastor Brian

P.S. – I’m pleased to announce that the vote passed overwhelmingly with more than 90% in favour!  

Somethings Gotta Give

Let’s face it, church is optional these days.  Worship.  Support.  Volunteering.  Serving.  Learning.  All of it is optional.  There are no state laws compelling us to participate.  There is no social pressure guilting us into participation.  This is a good thing and as it should be.

However, the institution we’ve inherited from Christendom never foresaw such a possibility.  Our whole structure – from our governance structure to our building and facilities to our structure for ministry and mission – is all built on the assumption that regular worship, learning, support and participation in the life of the congregation is the norm for all of our members.

All of which leaves us in a bit of a pickle.  The institution demands regular participation, but participation is optional.  How are we going to deal with this?

If you’re ever wondering: Why won’t the church just leave me alone and let me commune with God on the golf course in my own way? – that’s why.  We’re trying to keep a Christendom Church alive in a Post-Christendom age.  The two are simply not compatible.

So then, something has to give.  What’s it going to be?  What do you think?