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Welcome to the EHP Reading Group Blog

Tribal initation rights in Malawi involve elaborate costumes.

Tribal initiation rights in Malawi involve elaborate costumes.

Welcome to the blog of our church reading group. Scroll down this page to see the most recent posts. Click on the title of the post to read the full post and to comment. The group is currently discussing Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

Saints among us

StVincent_billMurraypostertThanks to a “holiday” enforced by that miserable flu/cold that’s going around, the hubbub of Christmas done; there’s not much to do but stay horizontal and medicate; a perfect opportunity to check out some recent and not so recent  movies. My marathon yesterday included Hunger Games: Catching Fire, John Wick and then, randomly, St. Vincent.

I’d never heard of the film but love Bill Murray so was delighted to discover it. In St. Vincent, Murray plays a character that’s typical for him: flawed, complicated,  contradictory. Half grinch/half saint, half failure/half miracle worker, Vincent exemplifies a growing demographic: aging, isolated, unemployable men, unbelieving that they are still capable making a real difference in the world, yet exceptionally attuned (perhaps by virtue of their precariousness) to compassionate understanding, acts of kindness and true Christian love. Not too surprisingly perhaps, the story came out of the real-life experiences of author-director Theordore Melfi.

There’s an army of such people out there (and not just older, and not just men). Who will organize them?

– Rob1


Thank you to everyone that was at group last night and for allowing me to do a practice run of Living the Heart of Christianity workshop.

Clearly I have a little to learn on how to move a group forward. The group graciously agreed to let me continue where we left off last night and complete the workshop on practice next week. So no reading for this week. Maybe think about our discussion on What practices enable you to pay attention to God? Next week we will start off with What happens as a result of you paying attention to God?

Moving Forward – After next weeks group on practice we will read the final chapter of The Heart of Christianity, Chapter 11, Heart and Home: Being Christian in an age of pluralism. The week following we discussed each of us bringing in our favourite spiritual book and reading to the group our favourite passage or paragraph, so in the next two weeks, please think about what you would like to contribute.

This weeks reading is Chapter 10 of Heart of Christianity: The Heart of the Matter Practice.

Due to weather, vacations and sickness, this past Monday’s group was small, but for that reason the group was very intimate and we ended up having a very nice discussion about what sin and salvation means to each one of us. We were pretty much all in agreement that the old way of seeing “sin” and “salvation” was not helpful or transformative.

This coming week the chapter is on practice. Borg says, “practice is about living the Christian way”, he goes onto say that modern western Christianity, especially Protestantism, has not made practice central, unlike most other religions. He then discusses the reason’s it is important to have a practice and specific daily practices we can do. I actually feel that this is not true of EHP, or at least of the reading group, one of the things that surprised me when I started attending our group was how dedicated everyone was and that most had some sort of practice.

Pre-group maybe we can all think of the daily practices we do and which practices we have found the most helpful to us and why?

Some thoughts on chapter 9 – Sin and Salvation

I’m not able to come to the group tonight but am very interested in this topic (sin, confession, penance and redemption having very real, ritualized meaning for us “lapsed” Catholics) so am going to just leave a few thoughts here:

I loved the quote from Reinhold Neibuhr (p305 of the eBook): “…reaching back at least to Augustine, the “root sin’ is ‘pride,’ hubris, to use the Greek term. Hubris is self-centredness.”
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At Bible study David asked for my recipe for Squash and Carrot puree cooked in orange juice.

Butternut Squash and Carrot Purée with Maple Syrup


4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup


Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat.

Add onion and sauté until just tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in 1 tablespoon butter.

Add carrots and sauté until coated with butter, about 1 minute.

Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add squash and sauté until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.

Pour orange juice over vegetables. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.

Uncover and simmer until all liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Stir in maple syrup. Cool slightly.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. It was very tasty and easy

This weeks reading is Chapter 9 of Heart of Christianity: Sin and Salvation, Transforming the Heart. Pg 164

I found Monday’s group very inspirational. It was a great idea, Rob, to have each one of us tell our Thin Place stories. Every story was moving and will stay with me forever. It is when I hear stories like this that any doubts I may carry with me of something beyond this world disappear.

I find the term an open heart has stayed with me. It is a great reminder throughout the day – Am I reacting with an open heart or a closed one?

This week, Borg, gives us a fresh interpretation of sin and salvation. And like all of Borg’s interpretations it is one that is coming from the heart instead of fear. Borg gives us a Buddhist quote I have heard before “You Christians must be very bad people – you’re always confessing your sins.” I found this amusing because it is so true.

Borg then asks us “Is “sin” the best comprehensive term for naming our problem?” He goes onto discuss what is our fundamental problem and how “sin” can be looked at in a more heartfelt and transformative way.

With sin comes salvation, Borg discusses how salvation requires us to transform in this lifetime, a life in the presence of God. All great stuff.

This weeks reading is Chapter 8 of Heart of Christianity: Thin Places: Opening the Heart, pg 149

Sorry I missed last night. My son returned to me after two weeks away, so I made a nice roast chicken dinner and we caught up on his hockey playoff games and how much he hates school. Next weeks chapter is another one of my favourites in the book. All about opening up our hearts. Borg says

“The heart is an image for the self at a deep level, deeper then our perception, intellect, emotion, and volition”…“Yet our hearts can be shut. They can be “fat,” as if encrusted within a think layer. They can be “proud” puffed up and enlarged. They can be “made of stone” rather then made of flesh. They are often hard.”

I know for me it took a while to realize just how much I shut my heart away. In our last post Rob1 and I discuss the Heart Chakra and how we often put up blocks around our heart as a way to protect ourselves from the vulnerability we often feel if we open up our hearts. I look forward to our discussion next week on opening the heart.

Community: what do “radical love” and “radically welcoming” mean for us?

I love the group and everyone in it. As we are getting to know each other better, we are becoming closer. I asked last week whether we are becoming a community and I hope we will continue to talk about that a bit. Not as a main topic but as something sort of in the background. Is it enough to see each other once a week, or perhaps two or three times (Bible study, Sunday service)? What are your expectations? Are you getting enough out of the group and the church generally? Would you like to contribute more, do more, be more? Do you see us interacting differently? Questions for consideration. Below a few pics of some of the reading group regulars:






This weeks reading is Chapter 7 of Heart of Christianity: The Kingdom of God: The Heart of Justice. Pg 126

I hope everyone enjoyed last nights group. I hope by referring back to Tolle was helpful. I love Borg, but because he is an academic I find some of the material is abstract and by referring back to our discussions on The New Earth I was hoping to make the process of being “Born Again” less abstract and more specific to the work that we need to do on a daily basis.

Next week Borg discusses the social political transformation that Christianity asks of us. Similar to Born Again he feels that the old paradigm misinterpreted the meaning of God’s justice in the Bible. “There is a common misunderstanding of “God’s justice”. Theologically, we have often seen it’s opposite as “God’s Mercy”. “God’s Justice” is understood as God’s deserved punishment of us for our sins, “God’s Mercy” as God’s loving forgiveness of us in spite of our guilt. Seeing the opposite of justice as mercy distorts what the bible means by justice. Most often in the bible, the opposite of God’s justice is not God’s mercy, but human injustice.” That is just a tease to encourage you to read further.

I just wanted to include a couple of ACIM quotes that relate to the Born Again talk we had last night. Just another source that refers to our separation from God at birth and the need for inner transformation.
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This week’s reading is Chapter 6 of The Heart of Christianity: Born Again – A New Heart

I’m filling in doing this blog update for our dearest Marta who has been in hospital. The whole gang of us are with you Marta in every sense (except, in my case, actually visiting:( but I will say thank you to the rest of you who’ve managed to visit and let Marta know how much we love her.

So… Chapter 6 begins the second part of the book, which I recall as being much more accessible and affirming than the first part, the first part being quite “intellectual;” a lot about the rival camps of Christians (“earlier” traditionalists and “emerging” progressives) and about interpretation, how we can read the Bible and church doctrine in a progressive way without losing our attachment to the church and its history. There’s a lot more about pure and simple faith, in the second part of the book. Hallelujah.

I enjoyed last week’s session very, very much and appreciate everyone’s indulgence as I disparaged poor ol’ Jesus for being such a Narcissistic bastard (forgive me Jesus!). I have a lot of feelings about the Big Guy right now, especially the claims that he (or He) was the “son of God” and all that, something that Borg notes he most likely never claimed himself. Jesus was a human being, just like you and me, but after the fact, a lot of people seemed to think he was just so much more.

We know there are people in the world who are that kind of “more.” Some of them become recognized and revered. They often introduce new ideas and lead profound change. Some of them get Nobel Peace Prizes and some of them, in time, may even become saints. But nobody gets called the Son of God. That’s a category above and beyond all the others. I for one would like to know why.

Let’s read on with our hearts full of curiosity and humility, and love for knowledge, and for each other. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    The Emmanuel Howard Park Reading Group meets Monday evenings 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the waiting room outside the office (Wright Avenue entrance). This blog is a place to carry on the discussion of the week's reading, or to raise other topics (as the Spirit moves:). If you would like to respond to anything you find here, please click on the title of the post to go to its own page and use the comment form you will find there below the post. If you would like to contribute to the blog, please ask during the weekly meeting.


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