Noticings – April 27, 2022


April 27, 2022

The internet can be so maddening. I love the internet. Can these seemingly opposite statements both be true at the same time? Yes, they can. In the way I do my work, and the way I live my life, the internet is an indispensable thing for me. Oh, I suppose I could find a way to get along without it, but life feels better when I’m plugged in. I’ve grown to count on my online connection just being there whenever I turn on one of my devices. I can’t imagine how these last two-plus years of pandemic would have gone if we collectively didn’t have the ability to use our technology to livestream worship, to have zoom meetings, to share things via our social media pages, and even to share things like this Noticings which comes to you via the internet. Not to mention the research I do online for things like The Porch and my sermons, and how email threads and weekly zoom coffee chats with colleagues have kept me afloat through the pandemic. So yes, it’s fair to say that I love the internet.

And I find it maddening. Sometimes it’s the content. Sometimes it’s the coarseness of human interaction online which too often dispenses with any sense of care or decorum and devolves into ugliness. Sometimes it’s the news of people standing for, advocating for, and doing things that I find abhorrent, but I can’t escape seeing it because it keeps intruding in my online places.

What’s most maddening though is when I can’t get connected! It’s so frustrating that one moment everything is flowing beautifully and the next moment you’re offline for some reason. You know that all your usual connections are functioning because you were all lit up a few minutes ago, but suddenly nothing seems to be working like it should. So you go through the list and follow the greatest technological wisdom ever shared: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” (it’s remarkable how often that works!). And if it doesn’t work on your devices then ultimately you go directly to the source (your modem) and turn it off and on. That’s called rebooting the system.

I bet you can see where this is headed. Our spiritual life is like the internet. Mysterious. Unseen. Yet powerful. It’s filled with wonderful connections, and marred by some maddening frustrations. When it’s all going well life feels fantastic – God’s Presence is everywhere and love abounds overflowingly. And then there are those times when nothing feels right. God was right here a minute ago, but now is nowhere to be found. And some of God’s people, well, they can be pretty maddening too. And I love them. Both can be true.

So if your Spirit-connection goes on the fritz intermittently I guess you need to figure out how to reboot your system. Like most things, it’s amazing how ‘turning yourself off and on again’ can work wonders. Maybe that’s a week of holidays (worked for me last week!). Maybe it’s a hot bath. Maybe it’s a walk in nature. Maybe it’s a hug. Maybe it’s a warm conversation. Maybe it’s immersing in art. Maybe it’s a quiet time of prayerfulness. It’s curious that the same things don’t always work. That’s mystery for you. But we need to try, because life feels better when we’re connected.

By the way, I wrote this Wednesday morning while my internet was out. If you don’t get it until Thursday, you’ll know what kind of maddening day I had. But I suspect after a few minutes all will be well. Right now I need to go and reboot the system.

(Click here for an online version of Noticings)

Rev. Larry

Noticings – April 13, 2022


April 13, 2022

We are in the midst of Holy Week, the most sacred and special week of the Christian year. Below you will find the information about the various worship opportunities we have over the next few days. I hope you’ll be able to join us! If not, I hope you’ll at least read through the stories of Holy Week so that you can enter in and prepare well for Easter Sunday! We are following the Gospel of Luke this year, and you’ll find the stories in Luke 22-24.

As a bonus I invite you to watch the Easter Message from our Moderator, the Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott. It’s just 4 minutes long, and you can find it by clicking this link.

Have a blessed and wondrous Holy Week!

Rev. Larry

Noticings – January 26, 2022


January 26, 2022

Right after church on Sunday I had to rush home and log-in to an online meeting. It was a lovely meeting – the second of two days of spiritual reflecting and intentionality. I’m on the leadership team for this gathering so I don’t get to immerse as much as I’d like during the sessions, but they are still prayerful and rejuvenating. I called it my spiritual booster shot! There’s only one problem: I missed my nap – and I’ve been feeling it ever since. Every Sunday after lunch I lay myself down for a nap. I love worship leading, but it does take a lot of energy, so a nap on Sunday afternoons has been a core practice of mine since I began doing ministry.

Here’s my question: can I call that a spiritual practice? Can a nap be spiritual? Yes, I believe it can. And I’m not alone. I recently discovered a ministry called “Nap Ministry”. Honest. It’s a real thing. They’ve got a website and everything, with resources and encouragement, and even coaching. They also offer collective nap experiences where people get together in a curated space with music, poetry meditations, and of course pillows and blankets. They pray together, pause together, and then nap. Together. I know, on one hand it sounds kinda weird. But on the other hand doesn’t it sound awesome?

How wonderful is a really good nap?! We don’t do it often enough. A nap is basically a form of sabbath keeping. It’s an intentional pause from the swirling world and a time set apart to rest. The nap ministry folks have a credo. It goes, “Rest is resistance!” In today’s world pausing, and resting, and unplugging, and even napping are very counter-cultural. Saying no to busyness is an act of resistance. Giving yourself over to a nap is a daring action, because you have to let go of all the other stuff clamouring for your attention. Even Jesus took naps! Remember that time in the boat when the storm blew in?

I missed my nap on Sunday, and I haven’t made time to take one since. But I think I’m going to this afternoon. You’re welcome to join me in this beautiful spiritual practice. Now I lay me down to nap. Rest is resistance.

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Noticings – December 22, 2021


December 22, 2021

I made it! This is my last bit of creative writing or sermonizing that is on my to-do list before Christmas. I couldn’t leave it to the last minute on Christmas Eve (not that I would anyway) because Christmas Eve is today! No, not really, but we are pre-recording Christmas Eve today. Oh, and it’s Boxing Day today too, just in case you were wondering. Why so early? Sadly, we all know the answer. Due to massive increases in the number of Covid cases spreading like wildfire we had to change our plans and shift to all online worship again. Bizarrely, we’re back to ‘normal’ again. After almost 2 years of this it really does feel normal in a way. How odd that is!

The other part of this is that I always take a week of holidays after Christmas Eve. Well, if that’s today, then my holidays start early! Bonus. Ok, not that early – there’s still pre-recorded video to edit together tomorrow. Nonetheless, the feeling that “I made it” is palpable. Christmas hubbub is always tiring, and Covid complications only make it worse. So the theme through my Christmas week messages is about keeping or finding the Christmas spirit in the midst of all this. Writing them has been helpful for me. I hope hearing them helps you too.

Here are a couple of changes to tell you about, and things to look for. If you hadn’t heard yet this Noticings has told you that all our in-person Christmas gathering, both indoors and outdoors, has been cancelled. Here’s the schedule for when things will be available online:
Christmas Eve 1 – 4:00 pm – a short Family/Kids based video with a message from me
Christmas Eve 2 – 6:00 pm – our ‘Lessons & Carols’ service (with communion)
Boxing Day – 10:30 am – a shortened Sunday worship

You can find all these on our YouTube channel.
(You don’t have to tune in at those times – they’ll be available anytime from then on.)

Once again, this Christmas season hasn’t gone as expected. Nobody wanted another Covid Christmas. But anytime we pause and remember the nativity, and sing carols of praise, and pray prayers of hope, peace, joy, and love, however we happen to be together to do so, whether online or in-person, is a good day.
I pray you’ll have a joyful, sacred, and safe Christmas! Be well, and be blessed! You made it too.

Rev. Larry

In-Person Worship On Hold

December 16, 2021

With the recent emergence of the new ‘omicron’ variant of Covid-19 we have had to re-evaluate our in-person gathering practices.
The Reopening Team that has been offering leadership for our church regarding Covid protocols has met and has come to the following decision:

Effective immediately, no in-person group larger than 10 persons can gather at Faith United.

This means our in-person worship on Sundays will be put on hold for now, and we will be online and livestreamed only.

Sadly, this also means that our Christmas Eve INDOOR Lessons and Carols service will be moved to online only.

However, we will still have our Christmas Eve OUTDOOR Family service at 6:30 pm.

It’s so unfortunate that we have to take these steps, but they are taken in the interest of caution and safety and health. These developments are very discouraging, but it’s the right thing to do. This is how we love one another!

Thankfully, we’ve gotten pretty good at doing the online thing. We hope you’ll join us!

On behalf of the Reopening Team,
Rev. Larry Doyle

Noticings – December 15, 2021


December 15, 2021

So, last week I told you about two computer ‘dates’ I went on – to play music with people. The story continues, and it takes a dark turn. On my second date, with a nice group of guys (including one of our former congregants – small world!), something bad happened. All the guys (including me) were double vaccinated, but one of them unknowingly was Covid-positive. His regular test for work reported his status, unfortunately it was two days after we rehearsed. He managed to infect all four of the other guys in one evening.

Let me tell you, having Covid sucks. We’ve decided my new nickname is Typhoid Larry! It’s so frustrating considering I have been exceedingly careful throughout the pandemic. I’m overly cautious and make sure of vax status before I go anywhere. That tells you how powerfully insidious this virus is. Even when you take all the right steps you can still get walloped. The saving grace in this story is that my illness has been mild. That is due to my vaccinations and general good health. I’m grateful for that.

However, it is really hard, and disheartening, to have to be masked and isolated in your own home, away from your family, dreading the possibility that you will infect your loved ones too. My family has been tested but results aren’t in yet. They aren’t showing any symptoms so that’s encouraging. Meanwhile, I’m holed up in my music room, fastidiously staying away from everyone, and generally feeling sorry for myself. And, frankly, I don’t like being benched. It’s one thing to be away from church on holidays – it’s quite another to be told you can’t attend. And then to not be able to problem solve and troubleshoot when tech things go awry during worship – well, that was agonizing.

My generally mild symptoms are starting to wane, and I’m officially able to end my isolation on Saturday – but an advisory group (M&P, Council chair, Reopening team) decided that it would be safest and show the most care and caution if I stay on the bench for this weekend too. Like last weekend I’ll record my sermon and be present online in the chat on Sunday. This way we’ll be certain that when I return for Christmas Eve in-person I will pose no risk at all for anyone.

I have appreciated the numerous messages of care and concern, and the offers of prayers. It is indeed wonderful to feel your support. Thank you! I confess that this Covid business has somewhat muted my Christmas spirit, but your notes and prayers have helped lighten the darkness.

And knowing that we have wonderful, faithful folks who will leap in and offer leadership in so many ways whenever necessary makes being benched a little less painful. And knowing that great ministry continues while I’m benched helps too – like money for wells being raised, and mittens on the tree, and outreach support being arranged, and on and on it goes. I’m so grateful for Faith United folks in all of these ways. Thanks for journeying alongside me. I’ll be off the bench very soon!

[Click here for a video version of Noticings]

Noticings – September 29, 2021


September 29, 2021 

I absolutely love discovering new praise songs! As I was preparing for worship this coming Sunday I couldn’t find any songs in our repertoire that said what I wanted them to say. So, that leaves two options: write one, or find one. This week I took door number two, and I went hunting. Interestingly, it was actually a pretty difficult task. Most praise and worship style music comes from our more charismatic or evangelical siblings in Christ. They tend not to emphasize the typical liturgical aspects of the mainline church (like us). So while the ‘last supper’ may feature prominently in their theological expressions and discourse, the actual act of celebrating communion is not as prominent. That means there are not that many praise songs about communion, and when they’re written they tend to talk a lot about the ‘blood of Jesus’ – which is all well and good, and I can certainly find deep ways to interpret that – but as an image to sing about it’s hard (for me) to do without wanting to unpack it.

So I hunted, and hunted – and then I found it. My mistake was searching too narrowly. Using the word ‘communion’ in a search for songs by churches that don’t make a big deal about communion is kinda foolish. Then I started to use other words that I’d associate with communion – bread, wine, sacrament, and in the end the one that worked, table. I found a praise song about inviting people to Jesus’ table! It’s called ‘The Table’ by an artist that I quite like, Chris Tomlin, but I hadn’t heard the song before. Now I have it on auto-repeat on my music player! And if you tune into worship this Sunday (livestreamed on YouTube at 10:30 am) you’ll get to hear it and sing it too!

That’s our focus this week. Communion. It’s World Communion Sunday, so I’m inviting you to think and reflect about something that we do every month in church.
Why do we do that? Why is communion important?
What are your fondest memories of communion? Do you have one or two that stick out in your mind?
Because of Covid and not being able to be physically together we’re doing communion at home on our own (although still together) now. What do you like about that? What do you miss?
When you eat the bread and drink the wine/juice, what happens for you? How does it make you feel?
How do you feel about the words ‘body and blood’?
Has your theology of communion evolved over the years? How/Why?

I hope you enjoy reflecting on those questions, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new song. I can’t wait to share it with you. Come to the table!

For a video version of “Noticings” click here


180610 – The State of the Union

Yr B ~ Pentecost 3 ~ UCCan 93rd Anniversary ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Today is our anniversary. Exactly 93 years ago, on June 10, 1925 the United Church of Canada was born – in a hockey rink.
How utterly Canadian!state-of-union

It all began when formal talks started between the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists in 1902 – at the turn of a new century. It was a time of big dreams and endless possibilities. Canada as a country was only 35 years old – Oldsmobile pioneered the first assembly line for automobiles – the Wright brothers made their first airplane test flights.
The 20th century was filled with promise. Back then they bragged that it would be the “Christian Century”.

The United Church of Canada was formed in the cradle of what was called the Social Gospel movement which “applies Christian principles to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, poor schools, and the danger of war” [wiki]. It was a time when the dream was to establish a truly national church.

Several years ago the Very Rev. Peter Short – our Moderator at the time – wrote a letter to the first Moderator – the late Very Rev. George Pidgeon. It was a creative way to offer reflections and pose questions about the state of the union today compared to then. I’d like to read you edited portions of that letter as a way of inviting you into reflecting on our church and our faith.

“Dear George, I serve The United Church of Canada as the 38th of its moderators. You were the first. How odd that you were elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and a week later you were elected moderator of The United Church of Canada. Here in the Maritimes we would say that was some week.

“This is a precarious time for the church we love – not bereft of hope, but a time of great diminishment and a certain desolation… We are (now 93) years old and something in us is exhausted. …I believe you would want to know how things are with us now, and I hope you will understand.

“Sometimes I wonder what was going through your mind in (Toronto’s) Mutual Street Arena that day at the inaugural service. …Was it you who chose the processional hymn, ‘The Church’s One Foundation’? Did your spine tingle when you came to the line that says, “Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blessed?”
I wonder what vision glorious your heart was seeing as you sang with the great crowd.

“…My grandmother was in her 20s when her congregation joined the new United Church. All her life she used to say, “We were Methodist, you know.” My father, born in 1924, grew up in a congregation that was learning how to become a United Church. I was born the month after you retired. I have read accounts of the struggle for church union — how it was so hopeful in one place, so bitter in another. I have seen the scars, but I have no direct memory of it. My children don’t really care much about that struggle. The wounds have healed too well.

“After all these years we still encounter the old fault line though, the one between the socialists and the moralists (as they were called in your time).
Even today, some of us understand evangelism as calling people to participate in building God’s reign of social justice on earth.
Some of us (me!), on the other hand, understand evangelism as calling people to new birth in faith, thus building a better society one human life at a time.
You will recognize that long-standing division. It hasn’t changed much, but for the most part we don’t use the word evangelism at all any more. There’s something about it that embarrasses us.

“I guess I am still wanting to know about the vision glorious. read on