The True Vine Wine Company – a parable   Leave a comment

The True Vine Wine Company

A Parable[1]

In 1925 the True Vine Wine Company was formed through a union of three independent organizations. Through this merger, True Vine became the second largest Canadian producer and retailer of sacred vintages, known as “Holy wine”. The largest retailer in the nation sold one vintage only, which it labeled RC wine.

This merger strengthened the organization. A period of consolidation followed, reducing the duplication of franchise outlets in the same geographic areas. Forty years later the company was opening new franchises at a rate of one per week. Each independent franchisee felt positive about the future of the True Vine Wine Company, even though by 1960 the total number of customers had started to decrease.

Over the years the True Vine Wine Company both produced and retailed a limited variety of vintages of “Holy wine”, but no new brands. These vintages continue to be produced for sale in 2014. Most True Vine franchisees offered only one of the three best-known brands. It was not unknown for each franchisee in the same geographic area to offer only one brand of “Holy wine” as their specialty. True Vine also had a monopoly on training franchise managers and this nurtured a “brand loyalty” among franchisees.

Sales of vintages from the True Vine Wine Company have been in a slow and steady decline since the late 1950s. At first, nobody was concerned. In fact, True Vine does not have a market research division within the firm. When the number of customers continued to drop in the 1990s, the True Vine Wine Company hired a consultant to examine the reasons why.

The consultant’s 1994 report was called, “Wine Trends”. He reported that there were many people in the nation who were purchasing wine, and that the market was becoming larger. However, Canadians were not purchasing the “Holy Wine” produced and sold by True Vine. Somehow, the vintages from the True Vine Wine Company had lost their flavour and appeal to the populace as a whole.

The consultant advised the True Vine Wine Company that it would need to develop new brands, and market its vintages in different ways. His survey showed that there were many potential buyers, and many who actually considered themselves customers of True Vine. “Wine Trends” recommended that the True Vine Wine Company engage in an active program of sales and marketing to meet the “needs” of these potential customers.

The franchisees, and their customers, were not impressed. After all, they had had a long history of being a “successful” producer and marketer of “Holy wine.” They insisted that their brands of wine were the very best of “Holy wine”. The lack of customers had nothing to do with the type of wine being offered; or its flavour. The problem was that customers were buying new, inferior, watered-down wines. The franchisees of the True Vine Wine Company told each other how the rest of the world was missing out on great vintages. They agreed amongst themselves that the taste of True Vine’s vintages was perfectly OK. Faced with the prospect of developing new brands to meet current market conditions, the True Vine Wine Company preferred to cater to its existing base.

Customer numbers continued to decrease in the 1990s, and the first decade of the 21st century. New customers were rare. Some of those who became part of True Vine’s franchises were former adherents of other brands of “Holy wine”. The offspring of True Vine customers ceased to purchase True Vine products. The ritualistic first dip into “Holy wine” for newborns became an arcane act for their households. Franchises, and their managers, reported however, that their continuing, aging customers were quite satisfied with their particular brand of “Holy wine”.

Late in the 20th century, franchises began to fail. Some turned to renting their production facility to others, including other wineries, in order to maintain their financial viability. Marginal franchises cried out for assistance. The True Vine Wine Company advocated re-structuring at the local level (mergers and amalgamations), rather than the development and marketing of new brands of wine, contextual to the 21st century.

Services from the national and regional offices of True Vine continued to be reduced, decade-by-decade, as sales decreased. A pay-for-service team was offered to assist franchises edge into the 21st century by adopting best practices of other vineyards. True Vine’s public profile decreased. Franchises became isolated from each other.

By the end of the 20th century franchises for the True Vine Wine Company were predominately in rural and small-town Canada, which had become an urban nation. True Vine franchises were closing, both in rural and urban areas. Their future as an organization was on the minds of many principals in the True Vine Wine Company.

At the same time, there were franchises that had developed new production, sales and marketing techniques. However, these were few and far between. Most franchises continued to offer the same brands as were available in 1925.

At a national meeting of franchisees in 2012, it was decided that the structure of the True Vine Wine Company ought to be reviewed, and possibly changed, to meet the needs of their franchisees in the 21st century. Organizational change had been suggested in the 1990s, but a vote of franchisees from across the nation had rejected the proposal for structural reform. In 2012 it was the consensus of delegates from franchises from across Canada that their salvation could be effected by organizational change.

[1] Offered by Allan Baker, retired from paid-accountable ministry, for your reflection; based on a story from Bill Easum in his book, “Dancing With Dinosaurs: Ministry in a Hostile & Hurting World


Let’s move from dangerous military posturing to serious negotiations   Leave a comment

Let’s move from dangerous military posturing to serious negotiations

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Foreign affairs ministers meet for a NATO-Ukraine Commission in June 2014 - NATO Photo

Embassy News

by Peggy Mason
September 3, 2014

Every day we read another article about the senseless slaughter of the First World War in which nine million died on the bloody battlefields of Europe and beyond.

One hundred years after its onset, nuclear-armed powers face off over Ukraine, and the stakes are unimaginably higher: nuclear Armageddon, the end of the world. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the other 27 NATO leaders meet later this week in Wales, let us hope they have read the lessons of history carefully and do everything they can to avoid blustering into a war with Russia that nobody can win.

“There will be repercussions for [Russia’s] blatant act of aggression,” Foreign Minister John Baird sternly intones, after mounting evidence of a further incursion by Russian military forces into Eastern Ukraine. For the Globe and Mail editorial board it is nothing short of the return of the Iron Curtain.

The cacophony of calls from pundits and journalists for NATO to be more resolute and for lethal military equipment to be given to the Ukrainian army is invariably followed by the assertion that, of course, NATO won’t actually go to war with Russia.

So while acknowledging that such a war is out of the question, opinion leaders appear to be demanding that NATO ramp up the very military posturing and charged rhetoric that could bring this unthinkable course of action ever closer.

If we all agree that nuclear Armageddon is not an option, then we need to take a deep breath and carefully consider our available options. Putting aside a total abandonment of Ukraine to an uncertain fate, we are left with ratcheting up sanctions, investing major political and diplomatic capital in a negotiated solution or both.

Turning first to sanctions, Russia must surely be feeling some economic bite from those already imposed; yet they have failed to secure any positive change in behaviour—quite the contrary. Further measures are slated for discussion at the NATO summit in Wales.

While sanctions are widely perceived as a diplomatic tool, they are categorized in Chapter VII of the UN Charter as a coercive measure, one step short of armed force. And like the use of force itself, they often have entirely unintended and quite counterproductive consequences.

Take for example the recent call by the United Kingdom for Russia to be ousted from the SWIFT worldwide interbank transaction system. Experts warn that, while this would undoubtedly be very disruptive to Russian financial and commercial activities in the short term, over the longer term it could encourage Russian development of its own transfer payment system, one far less transparent than the global one and beyond the reach of future sanctions.

Add the fact that the historical record suggests sanctions are rarely sufficient on their own to compel the desired change in behaviour, and this brings us back to the only option left standing: the strongest possible promotion of, engagement in and tangible support for, a high-level, broadly supported and internationally facilitated peace process.

There is nothing new in calling for a negotiated settlement. This has been the position of the United States, NATO and the European Union from the outset. Talks involving the Americans, Russia and Ukraine; negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE; and now mediation efforts led by Germany for the EU have so far borne little fruit.

Continued high-level engagement of the US and the EU is critical, but what is now needed in addition is a comprehensive approach which seeks to address all aspects of this complex conflict and which draws on expert, impartial international mediators acceptable to all sides. Russian agreement is by no means assured, but they have expressed some interest in mediation under UN auspices, so that is a place to start.

While the NATO summit will not be the venue to resolve the Ukraine crisis, leaders must, at a minimum, ensure that they do not make the situation worse. That means maintaining a steady focus on, and careful articulation of, sensible defensive measures to reassure nervous alliance members like the Baltic States, and no more.

But NATO leaders can and must do more than avoid inadvertent escalation of tensions. They can put their full diplomatic weight behind a negotiated solution without preconditions that could doom the talks before they begin.

It is time for the Canadian government to tone down its rhetoric and scale up its diplomatic support for a peace process that can pull us all back from the nuclear brink.

Peggy Mason, a former Canadian ambassador for disarmament to the UN, is the president of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, an independent advocacy and research think tank in Ottawa.

Photo credit: NATO

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Global Day of Action   Leave a comment

Government leaders from across the globe will be meeting in New York City on September 23 for a one-day United Nations climate summit. The People’s Climate March precedes it on September 21 and will send out a massive, united call for climate justice and a strong climate treaty.

We can’t all go to New York, but KAIROS invites you to participate in this historic mobilization from wherever you are! Some suggestions:

This would be a good time to check out ClimateFast, which KAIROS has endorsed, as it counts down to this year’s fast on Parliament Hill (September 28 to October 2) and extends an invitation to everyone to join in fasting on the first day of each month.

Citizens for Public Justice, in collaboration with the Canadian Council of Churches, has created resources for faith communities in Canada specifically related to the UN summit and the People’s Climate March. These include a bible study, bulletin inserts, an infographic on the moral implications of climate change, sermon notes, hymns for Creation, prayers of intercession and activities for youth and young adults, all of which would be particularly appropriate for worship services on Sunday, September 21.

Green Faithan interfaith coalition based in New Jersey, is offering resources and an invitation to faith communities to become Climate March Faith Communities.

KAIROS has a long history of advocacy for climate justice and has produced in-depth analysis on climate change that can help to put the September events into perspective:

Stay tuned for another analytical report following the New York summit.

KAIROS also has a new Watershed Discipleship workshop hot off the press that includes biblical and personal reflection, consideration of the issues facing your watershed, and the opportunity to connect those issues with others across Canada and around the world. With climate change affecting every watershed in some way, this could be a timely opportunity to organize a workshop in your area. If you would like to host a Watershed Discipleship workshop, retreat, or train-the-trainer event and support a growing network, please contact Sara Stratton, KAIROS Members Relations and Campaigns Coordinator at

If you would like to go to New York for the march and are in the Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal area, buses are being organized.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminded participants at the So Long as the Rivers Flow conference in Fort McMurray earlier this year, we are all connected by the urgent need to protect our planet from catastrophic climate change, the effects of which have been felt for some time by poor and vulnerable communities in the Global South. KAIROS invites and encourages you to join with others to participate in these efforts in whatever way you can.

If you have questions or need more information, please contact John Dillon, KAIROS Ecological Economy Program Coordinator at

Gaza and simple pleasures   Leave a comment

Originally posted on Theology in the Vineyard:


Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own or so the master says in Matthew’s gospel. Particularly in his’ time when life was short and often brutal—there was more enough daily trouble to go around. Life has always tossed us curve balls—mental and physical ailments, disappointments of all kinds, thwarted dreams. All too true but as Teilhard told us, “By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” A rich faith life helps to direct our gaze and point us in the right direction.

Daily we live under a waterfall of grace. the seemingly small pleasures nourish us. The happiest people are those who are engaged in our common struggle for humanization. While it is true that wherever we are it is Egypt and…

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Posted August 31, 2014 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

Lac Megantic: More Tory Common Sense   Leave a comment


47 Canadians dead.
Federal government responsibility?

Originally posted on Theology in the Vineyard:


In the final report on the rail explosion that killed 47 people and obliterated a Quebec community’s downtown core, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada pointed directly to what it called a “weak safety culture” at Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. The TSB also cited the “limited number and scope of safety management system audits” conducted by Transport Canada.

And the Tories send out Transport minister Lisa Raitt to deflect any criticism of the government responsibility for serious oversight.

Transport Canada official report

For several years, Transport Canada’s regional office in Quebec had identified MMA as a company with an elevated level of risk that required more frequent inspections. Although MMA normally took corrective action once problems were identified, it was not uncommon for the same problems to reappear during subsequent inspections. These problems included issues with train securement, training, and track conditions. Transport Canada’s regional office in Quebec, however, did not always follow up…

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Posted August 25, 2014 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

Lac Megantic (7)   Leave a comment

Did “deregulation” or “self regulation” lead to the death of 47 innocent people in Lac Megantic in 2013?

Is the Harper government in any way accepting responsibility?

Check out this link to Press Progress and watch the video of how representatives of the Harper government (Conservatives) respond to the report made public by the Transportation Safety Board.égantic-report

The God-life   Leave a comment


For those who are interested in what it is like to live in the West Bank today, this is a first-person, reflective account from a faithful Christian.
Check out her previous postings too.

Originally posted on Sharing Common Sacred Ground:

Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”  Mark 11:22-25, The Message.

As part of the process towards ordination in the United Church of Canada (UCC), I am participating in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine-Israel (EAPPI). While the program has operated for a dozen years, with more than 20 individuals participating through the UCC, this is the first time that…

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Posted August 21, 2014 by allanbaker in Uncategorized


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