Monday, November 26, 2012

Sabbatical -- Sabbath

Rev. Jim Allan
I want to tell you about mySabbatical. Firstly, what is a sabbatical? Well, in its origin, it is the Sabbath, the seventh day, when God rested after creating the world, so it is a day of rest. The idea was extended to the years of our lives, with the idea that one might benefit from a year off every seven years. That has never happened in the United Church because a year is too long for a congregation to go without their minister, so we had no sabbaticals. Until about ten years ago when someone thought it might reduce the burn-out rate among ministers, so they instituted a three-month sabbatical after five years in a pastoral charge. That is what I did last Spring—I was on Sabbatical for May, June, and July.
I planned to do some reading, some travelling, some program planning in the area of spirituality, and some photography.
The spirituality program has not happened yet, because I decided to do Bible 101 this Fall instead, but it will eventually. Spirituality is one of those things that operates at such a deep level it is hard to imagine how to teach it. But I have lots of ideas I want to try.
The traveling part was the centre-piece. My wife, Dawn, and I toured Ireland and Scotland, then took a Baltic cruise. It was 30 days, with every day filled with something wondrous.
I did not follow a prescribed reading plan, I just followed my nose, that is, I followed the Spirit where it led, and it led me to some areas of reading that have become ongoing areas of fascination, including the Protestant Reformation, the Paradise theology of Rita Nakashima Brock, and the strife in Northern Ireland. Nothing benign here—all contentious and revolutionary—way different than anything I would have planned on my own; that is what makes it feel Spirit-led.
The photography was the artistic part. I wanted my sabbatical to include an artistic dimension, because I believe that artistic creativity is an integral part of our spirituality. So I tried to take pictures that capture the spirit of the thing I saw. I want these pictures to enable me to share my experience, not just the sights.
Beyond all of this, I intended to be open to the leading of the Spirit and to follow where it leads, trusting that it will be a way into life for me. And I have let it be a time apart from the treadmill of the calendars and schedules, stress and pressure—a time to flow more gently through the moments of my days. Consequently, I have come back soul-restored and awakened. And this is the true and original purpose of the Sabbatical—and indeed, of the Sabbath. Our souls need this, not just every five or seven years, but every week.
Within each seven-day cycle of our lives we need to dedicate some time to that which will return us refreshed (Psalm 23:3a), and return us with that which is unpredictable, because we have risked letting the Spirit lead us wherever it will lead.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fundraising at Robertson-Wesley -- a meaningful conversations

On October 23, ten congregation members joined with Rev. Karen Bridges and pod coordinators Tory Bachmann and Colleen Ouellette in a conversation about fundraising. We considered the differences between pledging, campaigns and fundraising; discussed the strengths and weaknesses of our current fundraising practices; and expressed our hopes and dreams for the future.  This discussion was a great example of how Robertson-Wesley is becoming an intentional congregation (one that thinks about what they do and why they do it). 

As we shared ideas in both small and large groups, we realized that we belong to a very generous congregation, but also that fundraising activities serve many purposes beyond the evident one of raising money.  We acknowledged that the myriad of fundraising activities can become confusing and overwhelming to congregation members, and that changes to our current practices could result in better focus and clarity.  A common theme emerged when we talked about our ideal world:  If pledges and givings could cover the church’s operating expenses and M&S commitments, we could devote more energy to activities that continue to create fellowship, build relationships, offer outreach, and bring people into Robertson-Wesley, but without the focus on money.  An admirable goal for 2013! 

By the end of the discussion, a palpable energy infused the room as the group decided to gather again early in the new year to clarify the goals of the congregation, identify priority areas and work together to develop a fundraising schedule for 2013.  Others are welcome to join this task group; just keep an eye out for the announcement in the Sunday bulletin, e-newsletter and RW website.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Robertson-Wesley Carillon

The Robertson-Wesley carillon has been chiming out tunes, tolls, and peals since it was installed by the Schulmerich Company in the east room in 1961. It is not a carillon that is played with a keyboard and actual bells, but the sound is made instead by semantra (rectangular metal bars roughly the diameter of a pencil, but of varying lengths) that are struck by an electric solenoid. The resulting sound from the tone bars is electronically amplified millions of times and broadcast by a few loudspeakers which are housed in our tower.

Between the time the church was built in 1913, and until 1961, there were no tower bells. Then in 1961, the family of Frank Wolfe donated the money for the carillon, in memory of Frank. At that time, it was very expensive - around $10,000! The Wolfe family owned Edmonton Motors, and this family-run business is still owned by the next generation.

When the carillon was first installed, it was state-of-the-art. We have 26 rolls for playing music on the carillon. These rolls look like player piano rolls, and they contain hymns, seasonal music, bell peals (like the Westminster Chimes) and even classical music like “Alleluia” by Mozart. There are two sets of sounds on this carillon – a celeste harp and English bells. The cutouts on the roll dictate which sound is activated.

The carillon plays only from the rolls or by creating a “random ring” by randomly pushing any of the five notes that are on buttons. With these same buttons a toll can be rung. Before our “new” organ was installed in 1979, there was a small keyboard attached to the old organ console, which could also activate some of the tone bars. However, this small keyboard was disconnected over 30 years ago. When is the carillon used? At the moment, it plays one song every day at noon on one of the rolls. It is sometimes played after Sunday services, or after special services (Christmas, Easter, etc.), and sometimes it is random rung after weddings. Other community members get to hear it when it is played after special events, like the Alberta Baroque “Music for a Festive Season” Christmas concert. In days gone by, pealing bells have played before services, occasional tolls for funerals, and our carillon was rung for a special peace movement, where bells all over the world were played at a specific time. The carillon used to play two times a day from the rolls as well.

So, who gets to enjoy the carillon bells? Neighbours and office workers have sent us comments over the years about how much they appreciate hearing it. Church members enjoy hearing it when they drop by around noon. For those of us working in the building, the song that plays at noon is a bit of an alarm clock – reminding us to quit working and have some lunch! Wedding couples often request to have the carillon rung as they are exiting the church. It’s always a nice touch to have members listen to the carillon as they leave after a service at a special time of year.

For many years, one person in the congregation has maintained the carillon as best as he can. However, the 1961 technology is now extremely out of date, and nearly impossible to fix. The rolls are extremely brittle and have been spliced, taped, are still falling apart, and as a result, they sometimes get caught in the mechanism of the machinery. New rolls can no longer be ordered. The tube amplifiers are almost impossible to replace, and can now only be ordered from New York, at quite an expense. The mechanical and moving parts are wearing out: the spindles and rubber rollers are significantly worn down, which causes other mechanical problems. One out of five of the random ring buttons always sticks (leaving only four notes to ring which leaves far fewer combinations)! The keyboard is disconnected and the wiring is extremely brittle. The loudspeakers have served us well, but in fifty years, there is certainly better speaker technology. Occasionally the time system gets out of sync and we get reports of the carillon ringing in the middle of the night! Also the carillon mechanism takes up a lot of space in the east room.

A while ago, one of our choir members, looked into the possibility of replacement for the current carillon. He did a significant amount of research, and this material was presented to the worship committee and to the property committee. There are some digital carillons still being produced by various companies, and most of them are cheaper that the original price tag of $10,000, although some are in the $20,000 range. There is a terrific model by BRG, which is about $6000. The bell sounds have been digitally sampled from real bells. It has advanced timing and scheduling functions, GPS time receiver (so it always plays at the right time), is run by a computer with a full size color video screen, and has recordings of nearly 2,000 hymns, swinging bells, chimes, liturgical bells, etc. It has a great speaker system for increased reliability and range. The BRG model will reproduce virtually any sound that can be directly recorded into the system using CD recordings or a MP3 source. The digital sound is sent directly to the power amplifier to produce the full richness of beautiful cast bells. The sound can be produced outside or inside the church or both.

More information about the possible carillon replacement project will be forthcoming in your R-W Report and bulletins in upcoming weeks!

Tammy-Jo Mortensen, with many thanks to two additional people

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I want to go back to Church. (Yes, I really do)

It has been 22 years since I attended church. After a few Sunday morning 'drive by stalkings' of R-W United, I finally found myself inside the church.

FYI - I grew up as a member of a fundamental Baptist style('brethern') church. People here are nice and not pushy at all. I found if I wanted to (and I did) remain anonymous,
I could do that.

A little advice for anyone else who wants to be invisible:
-there are always several new people every week so blend--earth tone clothing recommended
-sit in the back or the balcony
-there are 50 ways to leave the church

P.S. Don't tell anyone else about this list!

Written by a member of the congregation.