White Peace Poppies

If you’re looking for white peace poppies, we’ve got a limited supply of them from

This Year Wear a White Poppy…

to commemorate all victims of war
to mourn the environmental devastation it causes
to reject war as a tool for social change
to call for dialog and peaceful conflict resolution
to show your commitment to building a better future

…Because Remembering is Important, But it Isn’t Enough


photo of white poppy

Michael Holt in Concert & Conversation


Toronto-based troubadour Michael Holt has toured North America and Europe twenty times and released eight albums of his music. He puts on a happy, sad, serious, and funny variety show using multiple instruments, costumes, and characters. He weaves Maurice Ravel, Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Fela Kuti together with original classical pieces on the piano, Beatlesy pop songs on the guitar, and Fellini-esque lounge music on the organ.


At the centre of it all is Holt’s deep commitment to sharing honestly from the heart and bringing people together through music. On his last several tours, he began searching for more meaningful ways to connect with audiences than what he found at bars and clubs. This led him to house concerts – warm, intimate, and magical gatherings in folks’ own living rooms. He envisions a culture that treats music, food, celebration, community, and the planet as if they were sacred.



The Star


The star, perched somewhat inconspicuously atop the Jeremiah Community logo, has been taking on a new significance. As we set out to dream collectively about how to be a concrete presence of grace and hospitality in the neighbourhood of Parkdale, we have done so with a star in mind.

Stars are formed through a play of forces: forces of contraction and extension. Contraction is first. There is gravity which draws together the dispersed particles of cosmic dust. And by bringing these particles, these molecules, closer together, reactions begin to occur between them — energy is produced. This energy is ultimately creative, it is the latent beginning of a new reality, a new light. But there is tremendous heat as well. Anyone who has experienced intentional community knows that the creative energy that circulates there is prone both the “good and pleasant” unity the Psalmist speaks of, but also the heat of conflict.

But, just as conflict is a necessary phase in the life of a people moving toward true community, so is heat the essential conduit for the reality of the star. As the intensity of heat increases, these particles no longer just interact, but come into a new configuration — through nuclear fusion. This is not the fusion of all into one, but of the many into something other than a collection of individual units: something authentically new emerges. The new configuration begins to take shape and, while the force of gravity never ceases, a reciprocal force emerges. The intensity of heat and light at the centre of the star now begins to radiate outward. These are the “rays” of a star. This is the beginning of a stars visibility in the universe.

The call of Jesus to inhabit a common space of reconciliation — that good and pleasant unity of life together — never ceases to be our vocation. But the grace and reconciliation that occurs in such spaces occurs in abundance. It cannot be contained. That same space that Jesus has opened to us, we cannot help but to open to others. We cannot dwell in the intensity of the centre without feeling the radiant force, that outward movement of mission. But nor can we participate in the radiant extension of blessing, of the missio dei, without having known the intensity of the centre. Mission is not an obligation. Being “missional” is not, first of all, the implementation of a strategy — it is participation in the life of God. We are slowly and steadily gaining an idea of how to do that; of how to receive the hospitality and the grace that God offers in Jesus; of how to be such a presence of grace and hospitality in Parkdale. Slowly. Steadily. Faithfully.



The Threshold of Lent

Our genealogical work is beginning to bear fruit. As the Jeremiah Community delves into the complex depths of the figure, the text, and the name of Jeremiah, the resonances are becoming clearer – the call is becoming more distinctive. Jeremiah is often referred to as “the weeping prophet.” Are we then fated to become the weeping community? I hope not.

But perhaps weeping is only one aspect of the larger work of lament. Could we be called to become a community of lament? It is too soon to say. But we are being pulled into the orbit of lamentation. Not only has our patron prophet forced us to consider what it might mean to “raise a lamentation on the bare heights,” but he has done so on the threshold of the season of Lent, the season of mourning and repentance – and a season during which the lectionary will have us reading through a good portion of the book of Jeremiah! We would be foolish not to pay close attention to these subtle movements of the Spirit.

But how would one conceive of lamentation as vocation? Would this not be another name for melancholia, for an inescapable and debilitating sadness?

While lament involves the expression of mourning, it is not a petrifying mournfulness. From Jeremiah we learn that lament is a work that is at once unflinchingly realistic, stubbornly hopeful, and – for lack of a better term – utterly implicated. In our context, lament would be realistic in the sense that it would face truthfully the violence and brokenness of our world, even if this means facing the reality of the church’s complicity in this same violence. It would be hopeful in the sense that it would not accept such brokenness as normative or as normal, but instead would raise a pathos filled protest, in the anticipation of a fuller peaceableness to come. Finally, lament would issue from the experience of identification or implication, and not from the perspective of an external critique. That is, what Jeremiah’s effusive speech points to, the deepest origin of his distress, is the fact that it is his own people who have broken covenant, who have turned from neighbourliness to injustice, and who are therefore liable before divine justice. Lament, should one take up such a calling, does not permit self-righteous criticism, but demands a realistic, hopeful, and reflexive posture towards the world. Are we prepared to take up such a vocation?

Update January 28, 2013

“So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8

It was as though the words were written just for us: “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” It was the exhortation that was offered to a community who had recently come home; who had only just found their place in the sun after having become accustomed to being a people without place – in diaspora.   These words of comfort and assurance come from the book of Nehemiah. These words were read aloud in the hearing of the Jeremiah Community and Parkdale Neighbourhood Church as we gathered in the shelter of a secure and sacred space on Sunday. The centuries between the return of the Jews to the restored temple in Jerusalem and the arrival of the Jeremiah Community in its new sanctuary seemed to evaporate and the history of God’s saving work on behalf of God’s chosen people was rehearsed in this pregnant historical moment. Or so it would seem…

Fortunately for us, our preacher, Maggie Helwig, was more attentive to Nehemiah’s hermeneutical commentary (i.e. to the necessity that scripture is heard “with interpretation”) than she was to cheap historical comparisons. That is, instead of comforting us with the easy assurance of blessing, she warned us of “the dark side of homecoming.” She put before us a challenge very much in line with Duke Vipperman’s challenge from a previous Sunday: that despite our “landedness,” that we remain a “wandering people.” Maggie offered a particularly incisive textual insight. This insight came with the warning that the Jeremiah Community remain aware of the temptation to the exclusion of the other; a temptation that comes, almost inevitably, with the privilege of place and the desire for identity. Indeed, as Maggie pointed out, the Ezra-Nehemiah tradition is itself witness to this temptation. In Ezra 10, in an effort to purify the identity of the newly landed people of Israel, “foreign wives and their children” were sent away. The health of the community was seen to be contingent upon the exclusion of the other.

This is a difficult text at many levels, but it places before the Jeremiah Community a particularly striking tension. Indeed, our calling as a community – “to seek the peace of the city” – comes from Jeremiah 29:7. In this section of text we learn that what is at stake here is not just the need to be “good citizens,” but the need to find a home in diaspora. Exile, according to Jeremiah, is not an unfortunate detour, but the very context of faithful existence. For God is not only the God of the landed, purified people, but the God of the whole universe – including foreign women and children!

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

I don’t know precisely how to make the leap to application here. What is clear, however, is that the welfare – indeed the shalom – of the people of God is not to be found not in the exclusion of the other, but precisely in a deliberate solidarity with the other.