Saturday, November 18, 2017

Re-Working Lyrics

Community of Christ Sings is an amazing resource that allows us to sing our theology and mission with every hymn.  In part this was facilitated by revising the lyrics of treasured heritage hymns so that they better convey the increased understanding of the church in the 21st century.  As the church moves forward, there is ongoing need to revisit, revise, and renew lyrics so that hymns may continue to convey messages that call us forward.

To that end, I would love to enlist the talents of lyricists and poets across the church to update hymns in Community of Christ Sings so that they better convey the identity, mission, message, and beliefs of the church's path forward.

One that I'd love to have new lyrics for is CCS #350, "We Are a Family of Faith."  This is a very fun song, sort of an anthem of the church and its name, that we've enjoyed singing, especially in intergenerational contexts.  However, its theology seems pretty literal and does not convey the kind of message we'd like to teach children.  I love the line "we have a mission that's clear" --- I'd like to see that immediately pull into a focus on the Mission Initiatives.  Instead, it implies that our clear mission is "to praise our Savior's name," which is something Evangelical Christians might sing.  I would also prefer to avoid the primary definition of the church as being a family "of faith." Faith is an important component of the church, but I'd rather have something else missional up front, if possible.

I'm marking up the lyrics I'd like to see changed, and will appreciate any help creating new lyrics that are more missional.  (Obviously, as many more lyrics as are necessary can be changed, but these are the ones that I'd like to see eliminated.)

We are a family of faith;
we have a Savior who’s kind.
We lift each other up.
We leave no one behind,
and if the least of us should stumble,
we all feel the pain:
Community of Christ is our name.

We are a family of faith;
we have a mission that’s clear:
to praise our Savior’s name.
We help build Zion here.
And we seek peace between the nations,
love between us all;
Community of Christ is our call.

We are a family of faith
and we look forward to the day
we see our Savior’s face, 
he wipes our tears away, 
and all the saints of every nation
rise to die no more: 
Community of Christ evermore!

We are a family of faith;
we have a Savior who’s kind.
We lift each other up.
We leave no one behind,
and if the least of us should stumble,
we all feel the pain:
Community of Christ is our name.

I do like the fact that we have a number of modern songs in the hymnal, but unfortunately, the content of these hymns tends to be pop Evangelical "praise" which, I think, at best can be described as meaningless/contentless, but more realistically borders on idolatry.  An example is #252 "Blessed Be Your Name."  This praise song has an interesting melody, but no content.  It would be wonderful again if the lyrics were replaced with something that had meaning, so that the hymn could actually be used and sung.  I'm marking the lyrics that should be replaced:

Blessed be your name
in the land that is plentiful,
where your streams of abundance flow;
blessed be your name.
Blessed be your name
when I’m found in the desert place.
Though I walk through the wilderness,
blessed be your name.
Every blessing you pour out 
I’ll turn back to praise. 
When the darkness closes in, 
Lord, still I will say, 
“Blessed be the name of the Lord, 
blessed be your name. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord, 
blessed be your glorious name.”
Blessed be your name
when the sun’s shining down on me,
when the world’s “all as it should be.”
Blessed be your name.
Blessed be your name
on the road marked with suffering;
though there’s pain in the offering,
blessed be your name.
Every blessing you pour out 
I’ll turn back to praise. 
When the darkness closes in, 
Lord, still I will say, 
“Blessed be the name of the Lord, 
blessed be your name. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord, 
blessed be your glorious name.” 

This is something that isn't in my immediate wheelhouse of talents.  If you are a poet or lyricist, your work on improving our hymns will be very appreciated.  We'll use updated hymns in Toronto congregation and create online and other resources crediting lyricists.  We very much appreciate your help!





Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall and Winter 2017 Lecture Topics

Our History, Philosophy, & Theology Group met on selected Tuesday evenings September, October, November, and December.


September 19, Tues (7 pm): Life Atop a PillarSimeon Stylites spent 37 years of his life on top of a pillar near the city of Aleppo, Syria, during the 5th century AD. We'll look at why anyone would do such a thing in context, consider the appeal of the extreme ascetic life, and how it resulted in impressive "spiritual power" that allowed Simon and his fellow ascetics to overturn and destroy reverence for the old pagan gods, whose traditions and shrines had existed for centuries and millennia.


October 3, Tues (7 pm): Neither Holy, Nor Roman, Nor an EmpireBy the time it was unceremoniously extinguished by Napoleon in 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was a curious relic. Decried as "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire" the entity's very existence seemed self-contradictory in the modern world. We'll look at the entity's history to see how it once had legitimately been the Empire, Roman, and holy in the Middle Ages, only to outlive the Medieval definition of these words when the idea of universals was abandoned in the wake of nationalism.


October 10, Tues (7:30 pm): Movie Night: "The Name of the Rose" (1986). No formal presentation, but we’ll take a break and watch the film, “The Name of the Rose,” which is a mystery set against a transformational time in the Middle Ages, as the West begins to recover the works of Aristotle and has to reconcile his philosophy with Christian theology.


October 17, Tues (7:30 pm): Mapping Christian SchismChristianity may be the world’s largest religion, but it’s anything but unified.  How did we get from a tiny Jewish reform movement in the hinterland of the Roman Empire to the present diversity of thousands of denominations and sects?  The presentation will attempt to map out connections and divisions using original diagrams.


October 24, Tues (7:30 pm): World's Apart: Comparing Medieval World Maps from Norman Sicily and England. The Normans conquered two great island kingdoms in the Middle Ages: England and Sicily. Their courts produced two great mapping traditions, represented by the Hereford Mappamundi in England and the maps accompanying Idrisi's "Book of Roger" in Sicily. We will use these two different traditions to paint contrasting pictures of the worldviews each represents.  


November 7, Tues (7:30 pm): Plato, Aristotle, and Christianity. As its history is often told, Christianity is an offshoot of ancient Judaism, which spread through the Roman Empire alongside other Eastern mystery religions prior to its great success with the conversion of Constantine. We'll look at the surprising degree of continuity between pagan Roman philosophy and Christian Roman theology and ask the degree to which Plato and Aristotle should be listed among Christianity's founders.

November 14, Tues (7:30 pm): Examining the Ontological Argument for God. Anselm of Canterbury was one of the greatest thinkers of the Middle Ages whose work was crucial in the revival of logic and philosophy in the Medieval West. Using logical argument, Anselm created a proof for the existence of God called the "ontological argument."  We'll consider his argument and also ask what Anselm's work can tell us about the Medieval Christian conception of the Divine. 

December 5, Tues (7:30 pm): Jesus' Jewish Roots. Jesus and his original followers were Jews, but because the first Christians quickly went into schism with their former co-religionists, Jesus' Jewish roots have often been obscured. We will look at the historical Jesus and the earliest Christian groups within the context of Second Temple Judaism and contemporary Jewish religion and sects.

December 12, Tues (7:30 pm): The Diverse Expressions of Islam. Islam is not monolithic, but includes a wide diversity of ideas and traditions that have evolved in the fourteen centuries since the death of the prophet Muhammad. Guest lecturer Shaheen Bagha will present a brief introduction and historical overview of these rich and diverse traditions. 

December 19, Tues (7:30 pm): Yahweh and the Canaanite Pantheon. Before the God of Israel was understood to be the sole omnipotent God of the universe, Yahweh (or "Jehovah") was worshiped as part of a pantheon of gods that included Ba'al, El, and Asherah. Guest lecturer Leandro Palacios will present an introduction to ancient Canaanite mythology and its relationship to Israelite religion of the first temple period. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September 10 Services at Scarborough

On Sunday September 10, Toronto Congregation will have services with our sister congregation in Scarborough in their church at 10 Eppleworth Road.  There will be no services at Toronto Centre Place on that Sunday.

Adult class will begin at 10:00 am, followed by the worship service at 11:00 am.  Following the services, all are welcome to join a salad pot luck.  Please bring salads!

Remember to bring shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, which Scarborough Congregation is coordinating this year.

Journey of a Shoebox

Summer Lectures

Our History, Philosophy, & Theology Group met on selected Tuesday evenings this July and August.

July 4, Tues (7 pm): The King of Beaver IslandAfter the assassination of church founder Joseph Smith, most Mormons followed Brigham Young to Utah. However, a new prophet James Strang emerged as Young’s leading rival. Strang led his Mormons to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan where he was crowned king and practiced polygamy.

July 18, Tues (7 pm): The Lost Gospel QIt’s long been speculated that the authors of Matthew and Luke used a lost collection of Jesus’ sayings (called “Q” by scholars) in order to construct their own gospels. If correct, it’s possible that this lost gospel is among the earliest known writings about Jesus. What can it tell us about Jesus and the first Christians?

July 25, Tues (7 pm): The Inquisition: Medieval Heresy and IdentityThe word Inquisition is popularly associated with scenes of persecution, torture, and brutal executions that portray the medieval Church in an extremely negative light. These reprehensible and inexcusable events represent one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Church, but the facts have been distorted and exaggerated by anti-Catholic sentiments during the 19th and 20th centuries. We'll take a look at the origins and evolution of these processes of investigation and punishment in the context of law and religious developments in medieval Europe.

August 1, Tues (7 pm): Echoes of GilgameshThe epic poems about the semi-legendary King of Uruk were well known across the ancient Near East more than a millennium before the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible were composed. Some themes, elements, and characters from the Epic of Gilgamesh have counterparts in the Book of Genesis' most iconic stories: the creation, fall, and flood narratives. We will consider the academic perspective that suggests a direct Babylonian influence on the Biblical authors and the development of Israelite religion, and we will discuss how these themes continue to resonate with us 4,000 years later.

August 8, Tues (7 pm): Paganism in the BibleAlthough in its present form the Old Testament professes monotheism, the text contains many footprints that illustrate the original pagan religion of ancient Canaan. We’ll see how the Biblical narrative of “monotheists tempted by idolatry” is precisely the opposite of the actual history: “pagans who became monotheists.”

August 29, Tues (7 pm): The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. We’ll take a close look at this interesting, non-canonical text rediscovered in 1896 and compare it with other early Christian traditions of conflict between Mary Magdalene and Peter. We’ll also look at Gnosticism and other alternative forms of Christianity that ultimately lost out to Orthodoxy.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Next Beyond the Walls: June 22

We'll have our second Beyond the Walls service Thursday evening June 22 as a kick-off for the congregation's Pride Toronto events. The theme will be "All Are Called."


Beyond the Walls (May 11, 2017) Video


If you missed participating in our first online service, you can watch the recording online on YouTube.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Beyond the Walls (May 11, 2017)


Toronto Congregation is launching our first online service tonight (Thursday May 11) at 8:00 PM Eastern. It should about an hour long and will make use of Zoom (free teleconferencing software you can download on your computer or smart phone). Feel free to join us via this link: https://zoom.us/j/819204162