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

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30

Oct

2019

Halloween, beyond the masks

Author: Jim Taylor

Halloween has a very short shelf life. Apparently, it ranks right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving for retail sales. But as someone’s blog noted, there’s not much market for Darth Vader costumes the day after Halloween. Nor for packages of 100 bite-sized chocolate bars. 

            With Halloween coming up tomorrow night, I can’t help wondering about our fascination with this pseudo-religious festival. 

            Yes, pseudo-religious. Because Halloween -- or Hallowe’en, a shortened form for All Hallows’ Even(ing), the night before All Hallows’ Day – certainly had its origins in religion. “Hallow” refers to the holy, the sacred, as in “Hallowed be Thy name.” The hallowed ones in this case are the dead, especially those we think of as saints. 

            Formally, we recognize them on All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween. 

            Hallows’ Eve, therefore, became the night when the dead, both saintly and un-, returned to roam the dark.

            But I doubt if any of the costumed kids going door to door with their loot bags will be thinking saintly thoughts. Indeed, I doubt if one in a hundred parents will bother explaining the religious roots of their annual ritual. 


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12

Jun

2019

Attitudes that are NOT welcome

Author: Jim Taylor

A couple of Sundays ago, Bob Thompson, our minister-for-the-day, talked about what the United Church of Canada believes, or doesn’t  believe.

            He said, “I often hear that the United Church is tolerant. I don’t think it is. Like Coventry Cathedral, we do welcome ‘pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters – and you.’ But when you come in our doors, you need to know that we are not tolerant of attitudes that dismiss or demean others... 

            “If you are racist, misogynist, white supremacist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant, you are still welcome to come in. But don’t bring those ideas with you, and don’t expect them to be welcomed.”

            I like Bob’s distinction. Many religious communities have Statements of Faith – things you MUST believe if you want to belong. Anything else you want to believe, beyond that official statement, is up to you. 

            Sometimes it’s equally important to state what you may NOT believe. 


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22

May

2019

Items for the recycling bin

Author: Jim Taylor

Joan went to put some dishes back onto the top shelf in her kitchen. And discovered that a smoked-glass bowl had broken in half.

            We have no idea how, or when, it happened. It could have been yesterday; it could have been years ago.

            The bowl belonged to my mother, who died in 1972. We’ve kept it, all these years, because it was hers. We kept several things of hers, because every time we used them, those things reminded us of her.

            More accurately, perhaps, we kept them because they reminded us that we loved her.

            Many of her things we inherited from her have gone, now. We still have her Indian trays and coffee tables. And her silverware -- that needs polishing regularly -- and her teacups. But the milk jug is long gone. So is a vase we particularly admired.

            Joan handed the broken pieces of the bowl to me. “I suppose I could glue it together,” I said.

            “It’s not worth fixing,” she replied. “Just recycle it.”


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18

Sep

2016

When beliefs matter more than behaviour

Author: Jim Taylor
If there is a life after death, Torquemada must be clapping his hands in glee. My church, The United Church of Canada, has re-instituted the Inquisition. Torquemada, you may recall, headed the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church’s attempt to stamp out heresy. A week ago, a 23-member committee appointed by the United Church’s Toronto Conference recommended revoking the Rev. Gretta Vosper’s ordination. Her non-standard theology offended too many traditionalists. The mandate of the Inquisition -- sorry, the committee -- was to examine Vosper’s fitness for ministry. They did not do that. In their own words, “This interview did not assess whether Ms. Vosper meets the Standards of Practice with respect to administration, community outreach and social justice, continuing education, denomination and communities, leadership, pastoral care and self-care. The question that Toronto Conference asked this Committee to address was limited to her beliefs and her theology…
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