Archive for the ‘death and resurrection’ Tag

The True Vine Wine Company – a parable

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



A Comfortable Pew for you (2)

Roy Findlay creation

Roy Findlay creation

“There is no more compelling force for change than identity; it is the essential consideration at the beginning, middle, and end of change.”

Margaret Wheatley in her book,

So Far From Home: lost and found in our brave new world“, page 42

Easter Greetings

‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia!’

An Easter Reflection by Jennifer Henry, Executive Director, KAIROS

Two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane. It was an important moment for me as that part of the Passion story has always touched me deeply. In his sadness, maybe even fear, Jesus, so understandably, seeks the accompaniment and solidarity of his friends. And his friends fail the test – they fall asleep. I am always rocked to the core with Jesus’ poignant question: “Will no one stay awake with me?”

Theologian and activist Ched Myers says in his book Who Will Roll Away the Stone, “We are called to stay awake with Jesus in a world become Gethsemane.” I share his sense that this is a resonant story for First World Christians. We strive to stay awake to the suffering and injustice of the world, of our global neighbours. We are called to solidarity with Christ in the poor, in those pushed to the margins, the victims of violence and greed. But our privileges can make us sleepy. It is too hard to keep opening my eyes to injustice; it is inconvenient to answer the call to solidarity. Like the disciples, we can fail the test.

Yet our desire to be faithful to the call to “stay awake with Jesus in a world become Gethsemane” is evident in so many ways. In these recent weeks, some 200 of you took the time to write a letter protesting death threats against the women of the Popular Feminist Organization in Colombia and urging action on their behalf. We know these letters – this international support – saves lives.

Others of you helped host and welcome two Salvadoran women in their visit to Canada to speak of the impact of a Canadian mining company on their community. Some of you are preparing for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission National Event in Montreal – preparing to listen with your whole heart to those who in tremendous courage will tell their stories.

These (and so many more) are acts of justice in churches and communities across the country. For everything you do in accompaniment and solidarity – actions, donations, prayers – we are so grateful. For the way you help keep each other awake, we give thanks. We see a faithful movement here and, in very real ways, it is growing.

On Easter Sunday, the children in my church will set free the “alleluias” from the little box we store them in through Lent. We will raise our voices to proclaim: “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” And we will put our faith in the One who accompanies us always, even when we fail the test.

From all of us at KAIROS, thank you for your support, thank you for your solidarity.

Happy Easter!

Easter, 2012

Today is Easter Monday, 2012.


It is the day after the most important celebration on the Christian calendar – EASTER!


The following text is a posting of much of yesterday’s sermon at Newtonbrook United Church in Willowdale, Ontario. In a few days, the audio version of the sermon will be available on the congregation’s website at:

+  +  +


“So they went out and fled the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[1]

This is the original ending to the Gospel According to Mark.

“Terror and amazement had seized them” – is that how you feel on Easter morning?

The three women ran from the tomb as they had been “seized by terror and amazement”. Wouldn’t you?

What would happen if we all were to run from church on Easter Sunday morning, “seized by terror and amazement”?

Why did these women flee with those feelings in their hearts? Maybe it was because they realized that God is doing a new thing AND has kept God’s promise to re-make this world into the Kin-dom of God.

Jesus taught that the power of love is greater than any other power on earth. I recently read a statement that in the eastern traditions there is a phrase that “soft is stronger than hard”. As an example, just look at how water erodes concrete. In the same way, LOVE can overcome the hardest of hearts.

Carol Cayenne, a friend of mine, died in 1998. In an obituary story about this black, activist woman, who had lived in what we now call TCHC, the Toronto Star quoted Carol:

We may not be able to get the guns, the knives, and the drugs, which come so easily to our children, off the streets. We may not be able to stop the glorification of violence on television but, as ordinary men, women and children, we have the power to care. And it is the power to care, once released, that can work miracles[2].

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “A Time to Break Silence” speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967; one year later, on this date in 1968, he was assassinated. (Source: American Rhetoric)

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had discovered that Jesus had spoken the truth about God’s promise to do a new thing.

EASTER means that God is doing a new thing.


Resurrection is a new thing! To encounter it for the first time is

to be seized by terror and amazement”.

Theologian Jurgen Moltman:

“Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving.”

To Moltman the resurrection of Jesus shows the world, “the beginning of a fundamental change in the conditions of possible experience.”[3]

Harold Wells:

“faith” in the risen Jesus means making the resurrection the central plank of one’s worldview, and involves the commitment of one’s whole life.[4]

No wonder the church has been running on empty for 2000 years! We have evidence that God is creating a new heaven and a new earth, and we are a part of that new creation.

We are people who know, deep in our hearts, that God is doing a new thing! We know that the power of love can change the world. We are people who are willing to go into the world to do a new thing as followers of Jesus!

In a world of abundance, where the powers of Empire preach scarcity and deficit reduction, we are people who tell others that God shows us that it is the size of the heart that matters.

In a world that propagandizes that you can never have enough, Jesus shows us that all can be fed with five loaves and two fish.[5]

In a world guided by the false value of selfish individualism, Christian communities have been demonstrating for 2000 years that sharing is more powerful than hoarding.

In a world that celebrates the rich and powerful, no matter what their abilities may be, God shows us that it is “the least of these”, like Mary Magdalene, who explore the empty tomb, and bring the message of resurrection and NEW LIFE to future generations.

We are people of hope for a better world, who remember that real hope is guided by the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.[6]

There is an eco-theologian by the name of Wendell Berry. He has published a poem that is called:

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

In this poem, the farmer warns against the love of the quick profit and a life that makes a person afraid to know your neighbours, and afraid to die. Instead, the mad farmer calls the reader to do something every day that doesn’t compute. It may be something that causes people to run away in terror and amazement. What is that radical act:

Love God; love God’s world, and finally “practice resurrection

As Jesus said;

‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.[7]

May we go into God’s world to “practice resurrection”,

may we go to meet the Risen Christ,

and may we go with the assurance of God’s everlasting and gentle love.

Hymn # 183 – We Meet You O Christ

[1] Mark 16, 8

[2] The Toronto Star, Thursday, April 16, 1998, page B5

[3] [3] Harold Wells, The Resurrection of Jesus According to “Progressive Christianity”, Touchstone, January 2012, page 43

[4] Harold Wells, The Resurrection of Jesus According to “Progressive Christianity”, Touchstone, January 2012, page 41

[5] See Mark 6: 30 – 44

[6] Isaiah 49: 23

[7] Matthew 25: 34 – 36 (The Message)

Alice Heap – presente!

Alice Heap presente!

This is a column written by Ted Schmidt.

It begins, as Ted usually does, with poetry. In this case it is a portion of a a poem by Bertolt Brecht.

Ted then writes a story about a funeral / celebration of life for one of the saints here in Toronto, Canada: Alice Heap.

There are those who struggle for a day and they are good.

There are those who struggle for a year and they are better.

There are those who struggle many years , and they are better still.

But there are those who  struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensible ones.

It was a funeral for the ages, a warm two hour bath of memory and hope. It was also a snapshot of a world gone by.

Alice Heap—’wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,Christian, pacifist,socialist, feminist, community activist and organizer extraordinaire” was feted and sent on her way to glory  in a Mass of Resurrection at the boiler room of incarnated Christianity, Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

You knew you were in the right palce when you saw John Sewell, Olivia Chow and so many veterans of peace and Justice struggles in our city.

Nestled in the bosom of the Temple of Consumerism, the Eaton Centre, Holy Trinity  has been the pulse of relevant Christianity for as long as I can remember and Alice Heap was one of the great dynamos who worshipped within her sacred precincts.She did it all with maximum effectiveness and little fanfare.

Wife and confidant to her “inseparable partner in faith and social justice causes”, former NDP member of Spadina  Don Heap, Alice was 86

Born in 1925 in Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford, Quebec, southeast of Montreal, the daughter of a United Church minister Alice Boomhour converted to Anglicanism during the Second World War.It was at McGill that she met her future husband Dan, then studying theology and on his way to become an Anglican priest. Dan was ordained in 1950 the year he and Alice married. Both were members of the dynamic Student Christian Movement (SCM) which did so much to renovate the bourgeois Christianity which reigned in Canada in the post-war years. The SCM with its active insertion  into society prefigured the similar  thrust of Catholicism’s Vatican ll by decades.

Moving to Toronto, Dan worked in a paper factory for eighteen years  as a worker-priest. Alice stood tall alongside him—while raising the first of their seven children,

The Heap household with Alice the nourishing hub ultimately included seven children who were used to welcoming into their home  war resisters, SCM workcamps,farm workers and social justice activists of all stripes.Their penultimate home, a  rambling house in the Kensington Market area of Toronto was notorious as  an NDP hot house and a crash pad for justice seekers. The door at 29 Wales was never locked.

The funeral with numerous tributes made everyone aware of the extraordinary life this no-nonsense humble woman had led. It was breathaking to realize how a woman with seven children could be simultaneously engaged in so many areas of kingdom work– from housing, to anti-war work, refugees etc, all the while offering radical hospitality and speaking truth to power. Even at a young age  in her early SCM days as old friend Bruce Mutch stated, she was not shy “in calling to account.”Simply listening to the five “eulogists I  realized the appropriateness of the following justice  “hymn”:

Through all the tumult and the strife, i hear the music ringing, It sounds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing?

This was no morose funeral.It was a bold statement of Christian conviction, a defiant challenge to all of us, to pick up the cross and carry on. And irony of ironies, we would all be back in tis place  six days later to celebrate the Ecumenical Stations of the Cross.

The  gospel reading was obvious: Matthew 25:34-40 25—whatsoever you do unto the least…..Of course it was preceded by verses from the Internationale (Billy Bragg translation).It all cohered.

Stand up, all victims of oppression

For the tyrants fear your might

Don’t cling so hard to your possessions

For you have nothing, if you have no rights

Let racist ignorance be ended

For respect makes the empires fall

Freedom is merely privilege extended

Unless enjoyed by one and all

And what would a funeral of such a strong woman be without a few choruses of Bread and Roses?

A beautiful sacramental touch in this historic Henry Bower Lane Toronto landmark was the bread and wine shared and also the ashes we were all invited to add to Alice’s interment.

Alice was always future bound as Jurgen Moltmann reminds us, “Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving”. Forty years earlier she was active in the co-op movement at the top of our street with my wife Joan and forty years later she and Dan were embracing my own daughter Susannah as president of the Student Christian Movement for Canada.

This celebration should have been taped and sent by video to every Catholic parish to show just what we are losing as the Church retreats into its own smug, inward-looking circle, virtually disengaged from our common struggles. The “Church of the little flock” looks paltry, timorous, boring and ineffectual substituting charity for the clarion call to live out the Kingdom as a true leaven in society.

Alice Heap lived out of the messianic vision of Jesus.She was a profound gift to the Church and our city. She was also a  challenge to our own middle class Christianity hobbled as it is by the sweet seduction and cheap toys which often subvert our best intentions.To many of us—and we can only see this in the glow of such life in retrospect—Alice brought to life the Little Poor Man of Assisi’s advice: Pray often—use words if you have to.

Her life was the the Gospel, the Word for today, an incarnated Message and as  Michael Creal said in one of the eulogies. “If Anglicans had the machinery for canonization, Alice would have qualified.” And as he also noted, she would have dismissed the notion out of hand.

Did you ever leave a funeral dancing down the street? I did on March 31,2012

A Prayer for Changing Times

This path leads to ...... ?

The following prayer is based on Mark 1: 14 – 20

which was the Gospel reading for January 22, 2012

A Prayer for Changing Times

Life-giving God,

You touch our lives with healing and renewal;

with both death and resurrection.

Yet we live as if life and all creation were static.

Even in the midst of changing times

we cling to the familiar

and we hesitate to embrace new ways and new life;

we avoid risk,

and we fail to exercise our spiritual muscles of faith.

Help us heal our timidness;

may we remember the rewards of risk,

and we ask your forgiveness for our reluctance to respond

to the call of Jesus: “Follow me.”   Amen