Reconciling religion and secularism, Regent cuts, UGM shoes, Theodora . . .

ourwholesocietyinside“What does it mean to build a ‘whole society?’ What is the purpose of secularism, and what are its limits? How can we re-conceptualize the role of religion in Canadian public life? What is the role of religion and spirituality in cultural reconciliation?”

Our Whole Society: Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide will address those questions next month (March 22 – 24) at UBC Robson Square. The purpose of the conference is “to bring together thinkers and practitioners to investigate the process of reconciling secularism, religion and the common good.”

The conference will address issues which underlie some of the conflicts facing the church these days: challenges to the Trinity Western University School of Law; differing views on who should have control over the end of life process (see accompanying article on assisted suicide); whether a city council can deny a group access to a public building because they don’t like to religion-based views of some of its members . . .

The event is not primarily oriented to dealing with such specific issues, however. Nor is it only about challenges facing the Christian church. Organizers explain the value of the conference in this way:

It is often assumed that a secular society has no need for religion in its public affairs, and that faith ought to be left to the private lives of individuals. And yet, Canadian public discourse is increasingly preoccupied with the role of religion in society. Religious freedom, religious accommodation, the secular charter – these have been the subject of headlines for the past several years.

The return of religion has not been about disagreement or conflict between faiths, it has been about the place of religious knowledge, belief and practice in our secular, public life. Expectations that religion would recede out of the public eye have been disappointed. Instead of receding from view, religion has reappeared – in some cases, with renewed social purpose. In this new context, what does it mean to be a secular society?

Does this mean opening up deliberation and discourse to all voices and perspectives without prejudice, or does it require restricting certain ideas from entering into public debate? How should government and the courts regard the problem of religious freedom in relation to other human rights? In a society that values science and free thinking, what does religion have to add to our understanding of the common good?

More generally, what conception of religion does secularism promote, and is this accurate? These questions are not easily resolved in the opinion editorial pages, nor should they simply be left to a few experts to decide. One way or another, they are questions that concern us all.

The steering committee represents a wide range of religious groups, including, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Baha’i. Both the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada are represented on the committee. Speakers also represent diverse points of view; among them will be Regent College professor John Stackhouse and Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd.

The early bird rate applies until this Saturday (February 14). To register go here.

Regent College will restructure, cut staff

regentlogo1Regent College plans to cut its staff by 30 percent as part of a major restructuring process which is already under way. A February 6 announcement said:
The Board of Governors and senior leadership have focused over the past year on two priorities:
  1. How do we make adjustments so we can proceed on a stable financial footing to serve God’s church with transformative education?
  2. How do we provide educational opportunities that continue what Regent has always done well, but in fresh and creative ways so they are accessible in today’s world?

As a result, after months of prayerful consideration and review, we have decided to restructure our organization and reduce our staff complement by approximately 30 percent.

President Elect Jeff Greenman said:

Regent’s founding mission was to equip the whole people of God. That continues to be our focus: whole person formation, for the whole people of God, for service anywhere in God’s world.

But in today’s world it is far harder than 10 or 20 years ago for people to stop, leave their jobs, move cities and study for a year. So we need to adapt and make our educational offerings more flexible, accessible and affordable so that we can continue to equip the whole people of God. . . .

It is agonizingly painful for me personally to have to inform some of our colleagues that their service to the College needs to end. These reductions in our staffing were really a last resort. Looking ahead, however, I am confident that our new ways of ordering our organization will enable us to serve the church more effectively and creatively in the coming years.

For a full account of the rationale, process and projected results of the restructuring process go here.
UGM says ‘Walk a mile in SHOEme shoes’
Sean Clark, co-founder of SHOEme, with last year's donation of shoes to UGM.

Sean Clark, co-founder of SHOEme, with last year’s donation of shoes to UGM.

On Thursday morning (February 12), just in time for Valentine’s Day, Vancouver start-up SHOEme will team up with Union Gospel Mission to provide the Downtown Eastside community with 200 pairs of brand new quality shoes and socks.

“We’re thrilled to partner with UGM again this year,” says Sean Clark, co-founder and chief revenue officer at SHOEme, which doubled the donation from last year:

Giving back to enhance the community and the lives we touch is an important part of our company culture. We had a fantastic time last year handing out new shoes, and our team learned a lot from UGM staff about the meaningful programs and services they provide to those in need.

SHOEme staffer PJ Worsfold came to UGM for the first time last year, unsure of how his team would be received and wondered what difference their efforts would make, if any.

“The UGM team was really welcoming,” he says. “They assured us that the guests would be glad to see us and would put the shoes to good use. And once we met the community, it felt great. There were so many smiling faces and kind words. We were only sorry we couldn’t meet all of the demand.”

Union Gospel Mission staff are thrilled with the donation. Outreach worker Matt Hislop explains:

People who struggle with homelessness or are under-housed are forced to spend most of their daytime outdoors,” he says. “And walking is their main mode of transportation. It’s more common for people here to have ill-fitting and/or worn out shoes than it is for them to have adequate footwear. Our damp, wet Vancouver weather exacerbates the problem. This all accumulates to not only painful foot problems, but can lead to medical issues like street feet – much like trenchfoot experienced by World War One foot soldiers.

Shoes are one of the most difficult items to help community members acquire because sizing is much more critical than for general clothing, and adequate practical footware is not often donated.

Handel’s Theodora was written for Lenten season

Handel  began writing Lenten oratorios in order to satisfy ecclesiastical admonitions to forego secular theatrical performances during the season of repentance.

Handel wrote Lenten oratorios which satisfied ecclesiastical admonitions to forego secular theatrical performances during the season of repentance.

Early Music Vancouver is presenting Theodora, one of the Handel’s largest scale oratorios, at the Chan Centre this Saturday (February 14).

A parable of spiritual resistance to tyranny and an indictment of persecution, Theodora depicts the self-sacrificial love between a Christian virgin and a Roman imperial bodyguard.

And it was written for the Lenten season. From the programme notes by UBC professor emeritus Evan Kreider:

By 1749, George Frideric Handel . . . was still revered as England’s foremost composer, though keeping ahead of the ever-changing whims of London’s notoriously fickle audiences was an ongoing challenge. . . . Finding time to write even a single new oratorio for the coming Lenten Season would be difficult.

Only 38 years earlier, this young German’s Italian opera Rinaldo had been so successful that the king and others persuaded Handel to move to London. But by 1741 and 37 operas later, ticket receipts were no longer covering costs. The Londoners’ former thirst for Italian opera had been well-quenched.

Fortunately, the enterprising Handel had already begun offering entertaining oratorios in English in 1732 for the austere weeks of Lent, when society’s upper classes felt obliged to submit to ecclesiastical admonitions to forego secular theatrical performances during the season of repentance.

Handel realized how readily texts extolling heroic biblical figures could supplant those about ancient deities and Roman politicians. Omitting stage sets and staging helped to quiet uneasy consciences even further, and yet the oratorio libretti, operatic soloists, choir and orchestra could remain as dramatic as in any opera. . . . By the 1740s, Handel was managing to write one, and sometimes two new oratorios for the coming Lenten season’s concerts. Yes, his audiences still adored Messiah year after year, but they wanted other oratorios as well – annually.

Thus it was that in 1749, when Handel turned his attention to the coming 1750 Lenten season, he quite naturally asked his latest favourite librettist, the Rev. Thomas Morell (1703 – 1784) to create something special. Morell had been reading Love and Religion Demonstrated in the Martyrdom of Theodora, and of Didymus . . .

Rather than another story from Hebrew scripture (Deborah, Saul, Israel in Egypt, Joseph and his Brethren, Joshua, Solomon) or the Apocrypha (Judas Maccabaeus), Morell turned to this legendary story of two martyred saints set in the societal and political struggles between the established Roman state religion and the new faith becoming known as Christianity. . . .

Morell saw how a story focusing on two individuals in this environment could give expression to profound conflicts of loyalties between friends, the struggle between the status quo and new ideas, and the inner anguish over whether to remain a secret Christian, recant Christianity or die for your faith. . . .

Handel considered the libretto for Theodora to be the best and most stimulating he had ever encountered. . . . Julian Herbage once quipped that “Handel’s pagans always have an ear for a catchy tune, and an almost complete ignorance of counterpoint.” By contrast, the Christians get the more profound choruses – often with superb counterpoint.

Biographia Dramatica reports that Handel was asked “whether he did not consider the grand [Hallelujah] Chorus in The Messiah as his masterpiece. ‘No,’ said he, ‘I think the chorus, “He saw the lovely youth,” at the end of the second part in Theodora far beyond it.’” Contemplative choruses can be truly effective for the sensitive listener.

For Kreider’s complete Programme Notes go here. Well worth reading, especially for those of us who won’t make it to Theodora in person.

Feb 2015

Life Lines Art Show – February 5, 2015 - February 12, 2015 at All Day
Perspectives (weekly course / Thursday evenings) – February 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm - 9:45 pm
An Evening with Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party – February 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Art Spirit Community – February 13, 2015 - February 14, 2015 at All Day
Dr. Michael Rekart: Going the Whole Nine Yards – February 13, 2015 at 7:00 am - 8:30 am
Christian Unity: What's at Stake? – February 13, 2015 at 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
TheStream Launch Party – February 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Tim Bowyer: Finding Home in an Age of Displacement – February 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Family Valentine's Concert with Judi The Manners Lady – February 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
The Hazeltones Sing-Along Gospel – February 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
A Table for Sharing: MCC Winter Banquet – February 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Handel's Theodora – February 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
North Vancouver School of the Bible – February 15, 2015 - February 21, 2015 at All Day
Jazz Vespers: Holly Burke – February 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Is Christianity the Only True Religion?: Being Neighbourly – February 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
An Evening with Brother Emile of the Taize Community – February 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Jazz Evensong: Darlene Ketchum – February 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
6 week Lenten series on Palliative Care and End of Life Issues (I): Michele Smillie – February 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Artists from the Grunewald Guild & the Regent Community: What Sustains Us - Opening Reception – February 19, 2015 at 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Adoption 101 – February 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Poverty Revolution Boot Camp – February 20, 2015 - February 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Chapel Tri-Cities – February 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Julia Prins Vanderveen: The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins – February 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Beauty From Ashes Gala – February 21, 2015 at 12:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fearless: Promise Keepers Canada – February 21, 2015 at 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Multi-sensory Language Training: Teaching To The Brain – February 21, 2015 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
The Word Guild: Evening Soirée - For Love of the Word, with Luci Shaw – February 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Glenda Rae & Miles Black – February 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Jazz Vespers: Henry Young – February 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Is Christianity the Only True Religion?: Blessing Our Sikh Neighbours – February 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Faith and Justice Roundtable #2: Settler Colonialism and the Journey toward Justice – February 23, 2015 at 6:45 pm - 9:00 pm
Women in China Missions: History and Impact – February 24, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
UBC Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum Lectures: Benjamin Perrin - Confronting Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Canada – February 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
The Role of Faith and the Rule of Law – February 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Lenten Study 'Reframe' by Regent College (5 Wednesday evenings) – February 25, 2015 at 6:15 pm - 9:00 pm
Premiere Film Screening: Between a Shoe and the Roof – February 25, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Art and Spirit Lecture Series: Karen Jamieson (Dance) – February 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Jazz Evensong: Paul Rushka – February 25, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
The Country They Call Life: A Retreat for Pastors – February 26, 2015 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
6 week Lenten series on Palliative Care and End of Life Issues (II): Dr. Paul Sugar – February 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Company of Disciples: Free Speech . . . But? – February 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Engage Meets at Preview Show for The Whipping Man – February 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Family Life Weekend Getaway – February 27, 2015 - March 1, 2015 at All Day
Chapel North Shore – February 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Chapel Vancouver – February 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Clarke Scheibe: Looking for Meaning in a Closed Universe, Part I – February 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Steve Bell Solo Concert – February 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Silent Movie 'The King of Kings' with live organ accompaniment with Edward Norman – February 27, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Hallelujah Praise: Motown Meets Gospel: 4th Annual Gospel Music Workshop and Concert featuring Louise Rose – February 28, 2015 at 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
It Takes a Village: Nurturing Children in Faith for a Lifetime – February 28, 2015 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Multi-sensory Math: Teach Them to love Math! – February 28, 2015 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Liveword Conference – February 28, 2015 at 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
There is JustUs – February 28, 2015 at 9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Dreams Conference with Bethel Music – February 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Taste of the World – February 28, 2015 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Langley Concert Band – February 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
At the Close of Day – February 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
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