Archive for March 2012

David Suzuki visits Bullfrog

Newtonbrook United Church uses Bullfrog Power as its source of electricity, thus reducing its carbon footprint. More information on Bullfrog Power, and how to use this methodology to reduce your personal carbon footprint, can be found on their website:

The following note was a part of Bullfrog Power’s newsletter.

“We were honoured to have renowned Canadian environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki visit with our Toronto office this past March. Dr. Suzuki’s talk brought home the seriousness of climate change and inspired us all to do more—including change our world view—to prevent it.

According to Suzuki, one of the biggest challenges we face as a society is our anthropocentric world view—which puts humans at the centre of everything. We do not fully appreciate the fact that the health and well being of the environment determines our survival and state of well being. Too often, society, the economy and the environment are thought of on equal terms, contributing to the illusion that humans have the power to manage, or balance, the needs of each. Dr. Suzuki strongly advocates that we adhere to a bio-centric world view that that understands our existence as part of a larger and much more complex natural system. It is a system that we need to sustain.

Suzuki also reflected on a change in his own place and perspective in the world—as an elder. No longer bound by the needs and instincts of youth, he can fully focus on his role of observer and educator. Dr. Suzuki imparted that he is counting on us, and future generations, to carry on his work for the environment.



Chicago in April 2011“Leadership gains authority and respect
when the voiceless poor are treated fairly.” Proverbs 29:14 (The Message)

Econotheism is an important, and timely,  word that I have just learned.

On Sunday, March 25, 2012 I attended the fourth annual forum of the Green Awakening Network, called, “Green Choices for Faith Communities.” This annual conference is co-sponsored by Greening Sacred Spaces and the Green Awakening Network. The keynote speaker this year was Elizabeth May, Leader of Canada’s Green Party, who introduced me to the term, “Econotheism.” This word had previously been invented by Peter Timmerman, a Zen Buddhist and member of the Canadian Forum on Religion and Ecology.

Econotheism is, in short, the worship of the economy!

Elizabeth May says that the central organizing principle of econotheism is selfish individualism, and that econotheism is the official state religion in Canada.

One example of this, that I have seen in 2012, is the federal government’s actions in denying workers and their employers the right to freely negotiate labour contracts. The federal government has stepped in when there has been a possibility of strikes at Air Canada, for example, and Minister Lisa Raitt has declared that a strike would damage the economy. The end result has been that workers have been legislated to continue to work. The economy comes first!

Another example is the budget that was proposed by the Ontario government on March 27, 2012. The elimination of “the deficit” is the rationale for many of the measures being proposed in the budget. Let us recognize that previous tax reductions to corporations and high income individuals are contributing factors to the current deficit. One choice that the Ontario government could have made would have been to reinstate those taxes to their previous levels.

Instead, the Liberals chose to hurt the most vulnerable in Ontario. Children living in poverty will have to wait another year for the $100 that their parents were promised for this year, for example. This is the wrong choice!

Why did they make this choice? Could it be, as stated in an editorial in The Toronto Star on March 27, that the poor do not make large political donations and they are too busy surviving to do much lobbying ?

When we make choices for the health of the economy, rather than for the health of the people, there is a proven case of ECONOTHEISM.

I believe that the economy is here to serve people, not the other way around.

“Leadership gains authority and respect
when the voiceless poor are treated fairly.” Proverbs 29:14 (The Message)

Newtonbrook United Church remembers

Dedication of a memorial plaque

At the Newtonbrook Drop Inn

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Newtonbrook United Church (NUC) and the Taiwanese United Church in Toronto (TUCT) believe that every child of God deserves to eat proper nutritious meals and to receive community support. Presently, too may people go without nutritious meals because they do not have enough income to pay rent, or their rental payments eat up most of their income. Some people in Toronto live on the street, cut off from support of any kind. The mission of our Drop Inn is to provide a warm, caring, safe environment where our guests can enjoy a hot nourishing lunch, have the opportunity to be with others, and receive support and assistance.

Jesus asked us to, “Love one another.”

Unfortunately, over the years, some of our guests have died. On Wednesday, March 21, 2012 we dedicated a plaque to the memory of 19 of our guests whose names we know, and who are no longer with us in the flesh.

Gordon Robertson, from the congregation of Newtonbrook United Church, described the reasons for the plaque, and how our hearts go out to our neighbours.

Here is the prayer of dedication:

God of the whole human family,

we thank you for all that was beautiful and good

in the lives of the people whose names are on this plaque.

May the people who travelled the road of life with us

continue to be remembered by the presence of their names.

May your peace be with them,

and with all who come into this space,

for we are all your children,

and we are all blessed by you, loving God. Amen.

A New Economy

In this time of economic change, what does the Christian church have to contribute to the discussion of a new economy; one that has different principles than the current model?

The following “blogpost” was released by the Rev. Michael Kooiman on March 1, 2012. His blog can be accessed on the United Church of Canada website, WonderCafe, at:

You Can’t Be Left Unless You’re Pro-Labour

Posted on: 03/01/2012 11:20

“First of all, it is our belief that the application of the principles of Jesus Christ to economic conditions would mean the end of the capitalist system.” 

This quote comes from the 1930 meeting of the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada.  They were not Bolsheviks: they were moral theologians who understood that business operates for private gain and not the common good.

Jumping ahead 82 years, we witness a perfect illustration of their concern.  In a year of record sales, and $5 billion in profits, Caterpillar made an offer that only the devil could enjoy: accept a fifty percent reduction in wages, or you lose your job.  Never mind that the London plant was “productiveprofitable and reliable, with a stellar safety record.”  That view comes from The Globe and Mail, hardly an arm of the CAW.  No, the chief sin of the London plant was location, and the company’s desire to maximize profits beyond the $5 billion for 2011.

Now, my centre and centre-right friends will say “yes, but that’s just business.”  And on one level that is true.  Caterpillar can close a plant and move production wherever they like, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they are working against the common good.  They had a productive and harmonious workplace, they had a role in the success of a community and region that is otherwise struggling, and they had loyal workers, workers who were keeping up their end of the deal: producing locomotives and helping the company make money.  Caterpillar thus broke two contacts, one a collective bargain and the other, a moral contract.  Even with the assumption that business operates without reference to the common good, there remains a deal between business and workers: work hard and we will do everything we can to employ you.

Now, on to my provocative title: You can’t be left unless you’re pro-labour.  The right of working people to organize and advocate for their own interests is the original “cause.”  And despite decades of gain—a living wage, job security, reasonable hours—the plight of working people remains uncertain.  Older workers forced out in favour of younger (and cheaper) workers, an ongoing reduction in wages as it relates to the cost of living, and the social contract violations as described above.  And this doesn’t even begin to look at working conditions in the ever expanding service sector and the “part-timization” of work in all areas of the economy.  The right to organize, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to demand an actual job seems to hang in the balance when even progressives refuse to argue for unions.

At this stage, nearly everyone begins to make the argument “we can’t afford it.”  But look at the reality on the ground: Banks make record profits, economists give a collective cheer, and then the banks lay off more workers.  Why?  To maintain the cheers of the economists and safeguard the billions in annual profits.  But when did it become so difficult to employ people and make money?  The moment shareholders began calling the shots and demanding increased profits at the expense of working people.

I choose to stand with the members of Toronto Conference, circa 1930.  The pure capitalist system, the one that holds increasing sway over us, must be tempered with regulation and the belief that you can serve people and profits.  I also stand with our forebears in the faith to speak on behalf of organized labour.  Since you can’t be left without being pro-labour, what choice do I have?

Easter Newsletter from Newtonbrook United Church

In our local congregation, Newtonbrook United Church, there is a custom of publishing a newsletter for the community. The newsletter is now also available on-line for those who wish to access it there. This also saves paper. The on-line version of our church newsletter is available at:

Click to access easter12.pdf