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

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9

Jul

2022

Making sense of meaningless words

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday July 7, 2022

 

        Every storyteller runs into difficulties. A retired Ontario minister told me his favourite children’s story disaster. He started, like me, with a question: “What is furry and runs up and down trees?”

            No answer.

            He tried again: “What hides nuts for winter?”

            Still no answer.

            Somewhat desperately: “What has a big bushy tail and beady eyes?”

            Finally one girl held up her hand. “I know the answer is always supposed to be Jesus,” she said. “But it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”


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9

Jan

2021

Even when there’s no one there

Author: Jim Taylor

I changed the décor in our church the other day. I took down the Thanksgiving theme, and put up an Advent/Christmas theme. 

            It was a wasted effort, I suppose, because no one will see it. Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has ruled that indoor in-person events such as worship services must be cancelled to control the spread of Covid-19. 

            I’m not sure on what basis she – and the government – determine that selling cosmetics and houseplants is an essential service, and worship is not. 

 


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20

Sep

2020

Another casualty of Covid-19

Author: Jim Taylor

I sing in a church choir. Correction: I used to sing in a church choir. Further correction: I used to sing, once upon a time…

            Singing has fallen victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. When health regulations prohibited large gatherings, and when physical distancing precluded even small groups from getting together, choirs everywhere had to shut down.

           My church chose to move its Sunday services to Zoom. Zoom is a wonderful platform. But you can’t sing together on Zoom. 

           On our first attempts at singing over Zoom, some singers ended a full line after the pianist had finished. It was chaos. Definitely not a unifying effect.

            So we tried having just one person singing the words, while everyone else had their microphones muted. A few weeks back, I was the congregation’s “designated singer.” I did not like the sound of my voice. It felt raw, uncertain. I struggled to stay on key.

            I realized I hadn’t done any vocal exercises. to warm up. I should have done at least ten minutes.

            More than that, I hadn’t done any singing at all for several weeks. Not even in the shower.


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25

Sep

2019

I still don’t know what worship is

Author: Jim Taylor

You’ve probably heard someone say, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” They might apply the saying to music, cars, or cooking. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. 

            Lately, I’ve been saying it about worship. 

            I’ve probably had more experience of worship than most lay people. Since I was a child, I’ve attended worship services pretty much every week.

            As a journalist writing about religion, I’ve attended worship in Africa, India, and South America – places where I understood not a single word said or sung. I’ve worshipped in big churches and small churches, in affluent churches and struggling churches, in churches with long-term clergy and in churches with no professional leadership at all. 

            I’ve shared the Eucharist with 5,000 at a World Council of Churches Assembly. And I’ve sat with six strangers on wooden benches in a converted garage where a lay preacher harangued me about hell and the woman next to me sounded as if she might be having an orgasm.

            I’ve heard a lot of sermons. Some were brilliant. Others — to quote my friend Ralph Milton — “barely dribbled over the edge of the pulpit before expiring on the floor.”

            But worship is more than a sermon. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: worship, sermon, WCC

27

Sep

2017

What does God worry about?

Author: Jim Taylor

Does God lie awake at night, worrying about things?

            Yes, I know -- that image immediately pictures God as a person. A person who sleeps, in a rumpled bed, tossing and turning. In other words, someone just like one of us, only more so. Psychologists call it “anthropomorphization”-- seeing others in our own image.

            It’s the kind of misplaced identity that led Marc Gellman to title one of his books, “Does God Have a Big Toe?”

            But basic question is not whether God lies awake at night, but whether God -- whatever God may or may not be -- worries.


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