Archive - Dec 2009 - Oct 2016

Friday, 20 September 2019

Colleagues List, September 22nd, 2019

Vol XV. No. 11


Wayne A. Holst, Editor
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Dear Friends:

My Special Item this week is an interesting title from the Canadian house Wood Lake Publishing of Kelowna BC. It is entitled -

Prayer for People Who Don't Believe in God

I think you will find it will contribute to current debates on what we first called "the new atheism" that continues to influence the public reaction to religion in many parts of the western world today. The author, Vance Morgan, is new to Colleagues List and we thank Wood Lake for introducing him. This book is just coming out and the distributors are still in process of listing various editions.

If you wish to purchase the book, you may have to return to the site.
Please enjoy the other parts of this letter to you as well.




Book Notice -

by Vance Morgan

Wood Lake Publishing
Kelowna, BC. Sept. 2019.
157 pages. $19.95 CAD.
(not yet available online),
Kindle edition $9.99 CAD
ISBN #978-1-77343-164-2

Publisher's Promo:

Many progressive Christians struggle with prayer - or, at least, with the kinds of prayer they are often exposed to: shouted, whispered, forceful, timid, begging, and demanding; everything from essay lengthy scripted petitions, to poetry read from a book, to rote recitations that no one pays much attention to, to pronouncements, to communications in a “prayer language.”

They are often gripped by the power of the Christian faith but are simply unable or unwilling to endorse or engage with many of its traditional beliefs, including traditional beliefs about God and prayer. If we're not trying to connect with the kind of God who takes notes, answers “yes” or “no,” and grants or withholds favours, what or whom are we trying to connect with? And so often our words seem to travel no further than the ceiling, no matter what we believe.

The situation for people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” isn’t much different. They may not “pray” in the traditional sense or in traditional ways, but many long to connect or communicate with something larger than themselves – as good a definition of “prayer” as any – whether they name that something “the divine,” “big love,” or “spirit”; or think of it as a “force” or “energy” that connects all things.

This is not an academic book, nor a “how-to” document. Rather, it poses questions that are important to progressive Christians and to the “spiritual but not religious.” Working only with the assumption that prayer might have value even for those who are not sure what, or who, or even if God is, this book is about opening oneself to the “possibility of God.”


Author's Words:

Once upon a time, two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.
In the clearing were growing many flowers and weeds mixed together. The first explorer said, "Some gardener must tend this plot." the other disagreed: "There is no gardener." They pitched their tents and set a watch. No gardener was ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener," thought the Believer. So they set up a barbed-wire fence, electrified it and patrolled the area with bloodhounds. But no shrieks ever suggested that some intruder had received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betrayed an invisible climber. The bloodhounds ever gave cry.

Yet the Believer was still not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensitive to electric shock, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves."

At last the Skeptic despaired. "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how is what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally illusive gardener any different from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"...

The believer in the story is bound and determined to believe that there is a gardener who takes care of the flowers in the clearing, even in the case of no supporting factual evidence. The Skeptic is only willing to believe in the gardener along with the Believer if shown relevant evidence. "I agree that there are flowers and that there are weeds here, but there are many possible explanations here other than your gardener hypothesis," the Skeptic might say. "Let's test your hypothesis."

When it turns out that the Believer doesn't need evidence to support her belief, and that apparently contrary evidence does not count against her belief, the Skeptic knows that the conversation has come to an end.

(When I was first approached to write this book, I thought of this story.
I was raised in a traditional Christian environment and remembered my own struggle to relate to people who were no longer able to accept the traditional explanations for why prayer was meaningful. I myself was
unable to appreciate many of the traditional explanations about the process of communicating with God. I struggled with my Believer associates and have not progressed much over the years.)

No amount of explanation makes one an expert of prayer. It's a lot easier to read about prayer than to actually do it... Over the years I have been exposed to many forms of prayer, but, in the end, nothing ever really happened for me. Mostly, I simply try to subject myself to the possibility of prayer. I address God as if.

And perhaps that's where the life of faith, and its companion activities like prayer, begins. With opening oneself to "the possibility of God."

In my youth, I used to interpret events, no matter what happened, as "an answer to prayer" even though there might have been other plausible explanations. God's choice as to what prayers should be answered seemed random at best. Prayer might have been the reason given for why one person found on open parking space in a crowded lot, but then, why did a prayer on behalf of a truly good person suffering from cancer not result in spariing a life?

Good people suffered while bad people prospered, whether prayers 
were offered or not. I came to my own place of doubt.

Are we talking to ourselves in an empty universe?

If you have ever asked yourself this, or similar questions, I invite you to keep reading. I don't claim to have the answers to such questions, but perhaps we can make some progress together.

Sometimes, when I have asked some declared atheists what they don't believe in, I have come to say "I don't believe in that God either."

I find it is much easier to compile a list of what I don't believe in than one I do. The list of positives is more difficult and tentative to create.

And yet I am writing  with the assumption that prayer might have value even for those who are not sure what or who God is... so let's begin.

- based on the author's Introduction - The Possibility of God.


Author's Bio:

Vance G. Morgan is professor of philosophy at Providence College, Providence, R.I. He is the author of the popular blog and book - Freelance Christianity: Philosophy, Faith and the Real World (2017)
and previously, Weaving the Real World: Simone Weil on Mathematics, Science and Love (2005).

A gifted scholar and natural teacher, he has received his college honor
which recognized "a faculty member who not only demonstrates excellence in teaching, but also conveys a passion and enthusiasm for learning and shows concern for students' academic and personal growth."


My Thoughts:

I find it sad when some of my conservative Christian friends write off people like Gretta Vosper with dismissive comments like "Why does she even want to be a minister if she doesn't believe in God?" or, "why does the United Church of Canada want to retain her on its roll of ministers?"

These questions seem superficial to me and defensive as well. I may not agree with everything colleague Vosper says or writes, but I believe she needs to be treated with respect for the authentic doubt she presents.

Instead of denigrating Gretta, I think others need to engage her. Where she is dishonest in her thinking, she needs to be called on it. When she is showing evidence of honest questioning, she needs to be heard.

To help with that engagement, I believe, is the appearance of a book like Vance Morgan's, newly released title from Wood Lake Publishing,
Prayer for People Who Don't Believe in God.

Here, for me, are some key sentences from the author's Introduction, which I have already presented, above -

Are we talking to ourselves in an empty universe?

If you have ever asked yourself this, or similar questions, I invite you to keep reading. I don't claim to have the answers to such questions, but perhaps we can make some progress together...

When Believers are dismissive of the sincere doubts of Skeptics, and don't take their honest concerns seriously, there is good reason why such persons leave, or have nothing to do with the church today. I respect Gretta for hanging in there. I'm not sure I would.

To engage such honest Skeptics with attentiveness and conviction is, for me, the better way. And that is why a book like this is important.

Morgan divides his presentation into three parts:

What Prayer is Not
What Prayers Might Be (and concluding thoughts on)
Prayer Without Religion

I believe that it is more important to continue the discussion on such things than it is to seek winners and losers and a definitive conclusion.

It is important to remember that we are limited in our understanding. All human awareness must ultimately be viewed with humility.

So, consider a book like this. It brings fresh ideas to any reflection and discussion you might have. And, who knows, a deeper level of understanding may result for you.


Buy the book from: - (not yet available online). -
(Kindle edition)

Elfrieda Schroeder,
Winnipeg, MB.

In Transit - Blog
September 13th, 2019



Ron Rolheiser,
San Antonio, TX.

Personal Web Site
September 16th, 2019

"Some Counsels on Faith and Religion
  for Our Present Generation"


Philip Yancey,
September 18th, 2019

"Snapshots from Asia"


Jim Taylor,
Okanagan, BC

Personal Web Log
September 18th, 2019

"Water Should be Treated as Sacred"


Mark Whittall,
Ottawa, ON

Sermons and Blog
September 14th, 2019

"Resentment to Joy"



He Meets a Nation of Martyrs

UCA News,
September 18th, 2019


Ultra-Conservatives Not the Only Active Ones

Reliigion News Service,
September 18th, 2019


Israeli Archeologists Make Amazing Discovery

CBN News,
September 19th, 2019


But We Should Seek to Repay, Anyway

The Christian Century,
September 10th, 2019


Almost 3 Billion Fewer

than Fifty Years Ago

New York Times,
September 20th, 2019


Get Rid of "Insider" Talk

Christianity Today,
October, 2019


Anglican Prince Welcome at Vatican

Catholic Register (Toronto)
September 16th, 2019


How Should We Address Sins Against Nature?

Washington Post,
September 18th, 2019


Stop Support of Trump
Says Progressive Evangelical

The Christian Post,
September 16th, 2019


Shock and Outrage Greet Discovery

Catholic Register (Toronto)
September 18th, 2019



If you wish to know what justice is, let injustice pursue you.

- Eugenio Maria de Hostas


It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to
open the door when someone in danger knocks.

- Dina Nayeri


At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made
a creative mistake when He brought some people into being.

- Friedrich Otto Hertz


If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
If you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine,
we can work together.

- Lilla Watson


In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting
over how much is wrong or unmended in the world.

Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what
cannot yet be. Do not focus there...

We are needed, that is all we can know.
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés


Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs
improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.
Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry,
realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting
ready to start life over again from the ground floor – that is the
only way out of a hole. This process of surrender, this movement
full speed astern, is what Christians call repentance.

- C. S. Lewis


In the turmoil of life without, and black despair within, it is always
possible to turn aside and wait on God. Just as at the center of a
hurricane there is stillness, and above the clouds a clear sky, so
it is possible to make a little clearing in the jungle of our human
will for a rendezvous with God. He will always turn up, though in
what guise and in what circumstances cannot be foreseen –
perhaps trailing clouds of glory, perhaps as a beggar; in the
purity of the desert or in the squalor of London’s Soho or
New York’s Times Square.

 - Malcolm Muggeridge


In the face of the strain of tasks beyond our strength, we must turn
inwards to the source of strength. If we measure our human strength
against the work we see immediately ahead, we shall feel hopeless,
and if we tackle it in that strength we shall be frustrated…and fall
either into torpor or exasperation. There is no healthier lesson we
can learn than our own limitations, provided this is accompanied
by the resignation of our own strength, and reliance on the strength
of God. The wheel of community will fly apart unless it is spoked to
the center, and we are placing ourselves in danger whenever we
fail to recognize this, whenever we go rushing onward without
taking time to turn inward.

 - Philip Britts



For Those Interested - 

ACTS Ministry - some programs at St. David's


A Ten Week Series September 16th - November 25th, 2019
Monday Evenings, TM Room 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

"HOLY ENVY" Finding God in the Faith of Others

Author: Barbara Brown Taylor
Registration/Hospitality and Book: $60.00.
Book only: $25.00

37 copies of the book were made available for sale
for four Sundays at St. David's.

These books have sold out, but more can be secured.

Book Description -


Some stats:
Autumn and Winter Series (2018-19) -
Total class registrations: 87
Total books sold: 102
Average weekly winter class attendance: 34



Our theme this autumn: "The Book of Revelation"
Ten Study Sessions - Thursday mornings,
September 26th-November 28th, 2019

Gathering at 9:30 AM in the St. David's TM Room
and meeting 10:00 - 11:00 AM.

Study resource:

"The DK Complete Bible Handbook"
  Edited by John Bowker


AUTUMN SERVICE September 22nd, 2019

On the site of the Morley mission church,
Soon to be re-built after a destructive fire.
Planned and co-led by representatives of the
McDougall family, friends, and the Stoney First Nation.

Sunday, September 22nd, 2:00PM

"Celebrating Treaty Seven in Southern Alberta"

Followed by hospitality at the Morley United Church.



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