Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca


Published on Friday, March 8, 2019

Unauthorized, unofficial, but real

When you put a hundred or so teenagers together for a week, anything can happen. When you put them together 24 hours a day, in study sessions, discussion groups, singing, doing sensitivity exercises, attending meetings, and sleeping on the floor of a (separate) gyms, emotions can get overloaded. 

            So it was, back in 1982, at what was called a Youth Forum in Montreal. 

            I remember that I couldn’t cope with all that togetherness. When I tried sleeping on the floor with 50 or so guys who snored, grunted, thrashed around in the night, got up to pee, sometimes got into quarrels at 2:00 a.m., I found I was getting very little sleep. My patience levels went down as my temper went up. 

            “Come with me,” said one young man. “I found a quieter room down the hall.”

            I spent the rest of the week sleeping where I wasn’t supposed to be. Trespassing, I suppose. But I did sleep. 

            Because it was a church-run event, we had worship services. Not everyone attended. 


Emotional moment

            Towards the end, we put on a replica of John Wesley’s Re-covenanting Service. In the style of Wesley’s time, it provided an opportunity for personal confession of our sins and shortcomings, followed by the laying on of hands for healing and absolution. 

            I thought it would simply expose the young people to the customs of an earlier tradition.

            I was wrong. As the 30 or so young people attending came forward, knelt, and confessed, tears flowed abundantly. 

            To my own surprise, as I took my turn, I too found myself in tears.

            On the way back to my hard wooden pew, a younger lad beckoned to me. I sat beside him. 

            “I want to be baptized,” he whispered. 

`           “You haven’t been?” In 1982, I still took baptism for granted. 

            “No,” he said. “I want to be baptized.”

            I began explaining that he could talk to his minister when he got back home…

            “No,” he said again. “I want to be baptized. Here. Now.”

            As it happened, I had recently edited a 200-page doctoral thesis on baptism. I had been a member of a national committee developing an official liturgy for baptism. And the World Council of Churches had reached a historic ecumenical agreement, called Baptism Eucharist and Ministry, which recognized as valid the baptisms of any churches that accepted the Trinitarian Formula – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Beyond the rules

            So I knew that baptism was supposed to happen in the context of a recognized community of faith. By an authorized and accountable priest or equivalent. 

            This situation didn’t meet those criteria. 

            But – “Here. Now,” the boy persisted. “These kids are my congregation.”

            I wasn’t a priest. I didn’t have any holy water. 

            So I dipped my finger in the tears dripping down his cheeks. I added some tears of my own. I made the sign of the cross on his forehead. I whispered words assuring him of God’s unconditional love, and welcomed him into the worldwide communion of the Christian church. 

            It’s the only baptism I have ever performed. I broke all the rules. But I still consider it as real a sacrament as anything involving robed and gowned clergy. 

            I hope he does too. 


Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca





Dawne Taylor really liked last week’s column, where I mused on the connection between being unable to hear a snowflake fall and not being able to see evidence of God. “Thank you,” she wrote, for “so eloquently speaking of that which we cannot apprehend or comprehend.”


Laurna Tallman, on the other hand, assured me that “Some human ears are sensitive enough to hear snowflakes falling. Isabel Stehli titles one of her books about autism, Sound of Falling Snow: Stories of Recovery from Autism & Related Conditions. In the Foreword Jeff Bradstreet, M.D. writes about his ability to hear snowflakes landing.Many autistic and schizophrenic people have hearing that sensitive. Many people who are not autistic or schizophrenic have hearing that sensitive. However, such hyperacusis comes with some disadvantages. For one Catholic man, it means he cannot attend regular Masses because the sound of whispered prayers is painful to his ears.”

            Laurna went on to her speciality: “Often, music therapy will desensitize such hyperacusis. Often, music therapy will cure autism. As you know, I have invented a music therapy that is proving to be superior to binaural methods for treating mental illness.”


Similarly, Hanny Kooyman wrote, “A sailor out on Okanagan Lake during winter snow once told me that he could hear the snow fall on the water.  It seems to be a very special sound once the flakes hit the open water.”


James Russell wondered, “Well of course, if God IS the universe, then why NOT call it God.  The unbelievable part is that the universe cares about the particular destinies of its minor component parts, or (for instance) whether they wear the right hat or non-hat, mumble the right formulae, cheer for their ancestors’ team, ….”


Bob Rollwagen asked (perhaps sardonically), “Isn’t science wonderful? The scholars who contributed to the Bible walked on what they thought was a flat earth below which there was another layer they named Hell -- and you know the rest of the story.

            “I remember a vision I had one day as I was fading into sleep in the dentist chair. I saw earth as a cell that was part of a living person in their own world. That must have been a space beyond our galaxy.”


And Tom Watson wrote, “An intriguing thesis: Use that which we don't, and can't, know to prove that something beyond our knowing [could] exist. Whimsically, I'm reminded of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien saying, ‘A proof is a proof. What kind of proof? A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven.’ Or...maybe not. Take yer pick.”


Hugh Pett – who admits to having a “copy editing” mind -- found a couple of typographic errors in last week’s paraphrase of Psalm 99. My apologies. I hope you made sense of it anyway. 






The lectionary calls for Psalm 91 for the first Sunday of Lent. If you don’t already know it, I recommend “On Eagles Wings,” a paraphrase by Michael Joncas, set to music. But if you can’t locate it, here’s my own paraphrase, based on the notion that March is a wet and cold month:


9          Let your faith be your umbrella;
Live your life under God's protection.

10         No rain clouds will ruin your picnic;
nor will thunderstorms drown your fondest desires. 

11         The spirit of God will surround you like a shimmering bubble.
It will deflect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;

12         It will smooth your passage over speed-bumps and potholes.

13         Neither wind nor sleet nor hail nor snow --
nor stress nor illness nor peer pressures --
shall keep you from growing closer and closer to God. 

14         For God says: "Because you trusted me,
I will give you more cause to trust;
Because you knew me enough to ask for help,
I will help you. 

15         When you call, I will answer you.
When you fall down, I will pick you up.

16         I will accompany you through a long life;
I will never leave you lonely and afraid."


            For paraphrases of mostof the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalmsfrom Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.






If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

                  To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                  And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetrywhere I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca,  or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blankemail(no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)






To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have been blocking my posts because they’re suspicious of too many links.

                  Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                  Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                  Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,”an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                  Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony”-- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’sreaders. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet






Comments (0)Number of views (93)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Baptism, youth, tears, Montreal



"gate of the year" #MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G A God That Could Be Real abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix affirmative action aging Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Todd Amherst analysis Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac App Store Archives Ardern armistice Art artifacts astronomy atonement atropine Attawapiscat attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 baby Bach bad news baggage Bahai Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour belief systems beliefs benefits Bernardo berries Bible biblical sex birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Blackmore blood blood donors body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombing bombings bombs books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats Canute caregivers caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cats cave CBC Cecil the lion. Zanda CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christian Christianity Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas trees church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clichés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes coastal tribes coffee collaboration collective work colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues Confirmation confusion Congo Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent conservative Conservative Party contraception Conversations coral Cornwallis corruption Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents courtesy courts CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes creation creche crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing crucifixion crypto-currencies Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damocles Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki dead zone deaf deafness death deaths decision Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's departure Depression Descartes despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass dinosaurs dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Donald Trump Donna Sinclair doorways Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas Earth Day Easter Ebola eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or Ellithorpe email embassy emergent emotions encryption English Entropy epiphany epitaph Erika van Oyen erosion Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy evacuation evacuation orders Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played evil Evolution expectations experiment extinctions extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes Facebook faith False Creek fascist fate fear Fedex feel feminine hygiene Fentanyl Field figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations Fitbit flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow charts flowers fluency flying Flying objects Folk sayings Food Bank forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign franchises free free speech free will freedom friend Friendship friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Gandhi Garrison Keillor Geese Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Golden Rule good Good Friday good intentions goodness Google Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Gretta Vosper grief Grinch Group of seven growth Guiado guilt guns Habits hackers Haidt haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki handshake harassment Harjit Sajjan harmony Haskins hate Hawaii health health plans hearing hearts heat heaven Hell helping herd instinct heroes heroin Higher Porpoise highway Hillary Clinton Hinduism history Homulka Honduras honesty hope Horgan Horton hospitality houseflies houses Huawei human rights Humboldt hurricane ICBMs ice dance identity IMF imitation immigrants immortality immuno-globulin inclusive language income taxes independence India individualism inertia Infinity injustice intelligence intervention IPCC irreverence Isaac Watts ISIS Islam Itzhak Perlman Jack McCarthy Jagmeet Singh James Shaw Jr. Jean Piaget Jean Vanier Jebusites Jeff Sessions Jerusalem Jessica Farrar Jessie Oliver Jesus John A MacDonald Johnny Mercer joining Jonathan Haidt Jonathan Kay Joni Mitchell Jordan Peterson Joseph joy
Copyright 2019 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada