2014 Porch Concert

2014 09 19 Banner -Porch Concert - COLOUR copy

Dave Gould's Mobile Percussion Machine.

Dave Gould’s Mobile Percussion Machine.

Last year we hosted our first Front Porch Concert. It was a great success and a number of people have been asking when we will be doing that again. Well the wait is over. On Friday September 19th at 7:00pm, we will have our Second Annual Case Street Porch Concert and it’s going to be bigger & better than ever! Just like last year, we are going to turn the Neudorf’s front porch (at 97 Case Street) into a mini concert stage. It will be a short and sweet all ages and family friendly “happening” with all the music being finished no later than 9pm.The music this year will be performed by 3 local Hamilton acts:

  • 2x the Mono is Case Street’s own Randy & Zoe Neudorf mixing together Ukuleles and Synthesisers while singing about Community, Beauty, and Robots.
  • Brett Klassen presents Les Czars – Brett is a young rapper backed up by a very cool live band that blends jazz, soul and hip hop.
  • Dave Gould is a drummer who can make music out of almost anything. Dave will be showcasing a number of his whimsical homemade musical instruments.

Feel free to bring a lawn chair to pull up a spot on our grass or the side walk..We will also be having a Snack and Dessert Potluck, so if you want to add to the sweetness, feel free to contribute to the feast.

Please Note:

  • Keep it Family Friendly: This is an All Ages Neighborhood event so please leave any Drama and Alcohol at home.
  • Bike or Bus: There isn’t a ton of parking in the area, so if you are coming from outside the Case Street area think about taking the bus or riding your bike we can lock them up in the back Garage.
  • Help Out the Musicians: This is a free event for the people living on Case Street. If you are coming to the show from outside the neighbourhood because your are a fan of of one of the musicians, or you are part of The Commons, think about kicking in a couple bucks (or buy a CD) to help support the music.


Seasons of Change

Season of Change Title SlideIt was great to see so many people (familiar & unfamiliar) at The Commons’ Worship Gathering last night. It was our first Sunday back inside after two months at Beasley Park and we took the time to celebrate the change in seasons with songs, stories, and verses that talked about change while peppering in sneak peaks at some of The Commons upcoming happenings. Here is some of what was shared:

Matthew 4 18-20

I talked about how Jesus liked to gather “jerks” and “screw ups.” So many of his closest friends in the bible fall into both these camps. I find that very encouraging because I can often be considered a jerk and I am no stranger to screwing up, so I need to remember that Jesus calls us to himself all the same, flaws and all.

Matthew 3 11-12We announced our first Baptism Gathering that will be happening at the end of September. We are new Anabaptists and so we have yet to have a Commons Baptism. This is an exciting next step for us as a community. Baptisms are like weddings, full of joy and markers of commitment to something bigger then any one person.

Baptism sep 20141 Corinthians 13 12-13Summer PhotosWe also took some time share things from the summer that we were thankful for, and things that we are looking forward to in the fall.

Some of us were thankful for:

  • The simplicity of Park Gatherings.
  • Having time to resting in the summer.
  • Beautiful Weather.
  • Seeing friends get married.

Some of us are looking forward to:

  • Playing music with lots of friends.
  • Having a chance to rest after all those summer weddings.
  • More beautiful weather.
  • Starting school.

SusanSusan Neudorf shared some thoughts about the patterns and mathematics of change. She said that God is a scientist and a mathematician and loves to build patterns into all of life.

She talked about how life is like a Sine Wave. We have moments of Celebration, despair, and change that repeat. Susan said that she has recognized this in her own life. She used the example of when she had her first child. As she was waiting for her little girl to be born, she was happy and celebrating but after this little bundle of joy was born, Susan soon realized that she had now been robbed of all autonomy and freedom, and despair sunk in (even though she had always wanted to be a parent and loved her daughter). As the natural process of change happened, susan was able to move forward into celebration, but that cycle of Celebration followed by despair and then cycling into change keeps going. The intensity of the wave varies but the cycle is constant. Susan said that she now sees this as part of the nature of things, and that knowing the cycle of the wave has helped her trust God through the feelings of despair and disappointment. Realizing that the cycle is natural, allows us to acknowledge that our feelings are natural as well.

Psalm 102 1-2Karen & 72 hours 4 lifeKaren Craig from our partner Living Rock Ministries shared about “72 Hours For Life,” a suicide prevention initiative that they are a part of.

We took some time lighting candles in a time of prayer for people we have lost, for those struggling with depression, and as a symbol of light in dark times and a reminder that just as the flames and smoke of a candle drifts upwards, that our prayers also rise up and are heard by God.

2 Corinthians 4 16-18I introduced a number of learning and peace initiatives that we are encouraging Commoners to be a part of this fall. Back in the spring a bunch of us got together to talk about what a week day small group might look like for The Commons. We haven’t always done small groups because our Sunday Gatherings informal enough that they lend themselves to discussion/participation, so we asked people what do they need in their journey right now that we can’t always do in a Gathering. People overwhelming talked about a desire to learn spiritual disciplines. The resulting initiative is The Supper Club. We will be getting together once a month for a simple healthy meal, followed by learning a spiritual discipline from our friends from GOHOP (an urban monastic movement in Hamilton). The idea is that we will then live with that Spiritual Discipline for a month, keeping each other accountable to the process through email, facebook and over coffee.

The Supper Club 2014-2015We introduced our fall teaching series: Mountaintop Questions for a Lower City Church. We will be looking at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and applying our learnings to our local context.

Mountain Top Questions Title SlideWe see a lot of parallels to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount call to be peacemakers and our wider Mennonite tradition of Peace. We want to continue to learn about peacemaking and will be involved in two events with our friends from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). We want to learn strategies of non-violence and how to embody peace as a positive action from these Mennonite friends who place them selves into violent situations as agents of peace. We are encouraging people to sign up for the CPT Active Peace Workshop hosted by our friends at the Welcome Inn Community Centre.

Active Peace - SlideWe will also be partnering with Hamilton Mennonite Church and Eucharist Church to be part of a fundraiser for CPT called Peace Pies and Prophets. The evening will include a performance of “I’d Like to Buy and Enemy” by the very funny and profound Ted & Company, as well as a tasty Pie Auction (if you are a baker, we will be looking for pie donations). Lots of good fun for a good cause.

Peace Pies and Prophets flyerLooking at all this info without being at the Gathering might seem like the whole night was an info-mercial but really we were celebrating what is next for our little community and we wanted to take the time to weave these themes together as part of our learning and worship to get ready for the next portion of our community journey.

Back Inside at The Rock

579525_10151573166430225_1961848501_nSunday September 7th, 2014 at 6pm we are back inside on the upper floor of Living Rock Ministries (26 Wilson St) for our weekly worship gatherings.

It was nice being outside in the park for the summer but it also good to not have to worry about the weather and to have access to little things like electricity.

This Sunday we will be kicking off the Fall with songs and stories of Change, Growth, Perseverance, and Celebration. Hope you can join us.

Beach Day – Gathering Cancelled Sun Aug 31st, 2014

2014 Beach Day copyEvery year on the Sunday of the Labour Day Weekend The Commons takes a trip to the beach. It is a day of being family by sharing food, fun, and lots of relaxed time.

For those of you who can’t make it to Beach Day, please note that Worship Gathering is cancelled on Sunday August 31st. We will be back to our Regular Sunday evening Gatherings at 26 Wilson Street on Sunday September 7th at 6pm.

Everywhere I Look I See Fire

pilgrim-imageOn Sunday, August 24th, Nick Schuurman finished our summer series in Beasley park by reflecting on the book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard. Here are his notes from his Blog for those of you that missed the Night.

I remember when I first read through this book.

It was about this time of year, on the Labour Day long weekend, four or five years ago now, and a few of my old friends and I were sitting around campfire near Lake Erie. I had slowly made it about half-way through, and I remember what I was reading that day – not because I usually remember those sorts of things, but because what I read was, for whatever reason, or set of reasons, profoundly astonishing and beautiful to me in that moment.

I also remember it because I must have ended up reading the following paragraphs aloud to four or five people that day:

“[They] studied a single grass plant, winter rye. They let it grow in a greenhouse for four months; then they gingerly spirited away the soil – under microscopes, I imagine – and counted and measured all the roots and root hairs. I four months the plant had set forth 378 miles of roots – that’s about three miles a day – in 14 million distinct roots. This is mighty impressive, but when they get down to the root hairs, I boggle completely. In those same four months, the rye plan created 14 billion root hairs, and those little strands placed end-to-end just about wouldn’t quit. In a single cubic inch of soil, the length of the root hairs totaled 6000 miles.”

Not everyone shared my fascination with that little biology lesson, to say the least. To be fair, I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not entirely sure what exactly it was about those pages, and those details that stirred something inside of me.

Some background to the book: While in university, Annie Dillard wrote her Master’s thesis on Henry David Thoreau’s memoir, Walden, which Thoreau wrote during and after a stay of two years, two months, and two days alone in a cabin he built in the forest of Concord, Massachusetts.  Published in 1854, it was a book about simplicity, life in the woods, civil disobedience and self-reliance.

A century-or-so later, in 1971, Dillard, who was at that point finished her graduate degree, suffered a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. She decided, like Thoreau, to move away from what seemed like the centre of things, to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. While there, she began (like Thoreau in this regard also) to keep a journal about what she saw and experienced exploring the landscape surrounding her cabin.

Here is how one writer described her writing during that time:

The journal soon ran to over 20 volumes. She transposed the entries onto thousands of note cards and then, for eight months, wrote the note cards up into a book. Towards the end of the eight months, Dillard was working for up to 16 hours a day. She lived mainly on coffee and Coke, and lost 30 pounds in weight. The plants in her house died”

In some ways (though Dillard has repeatedly and firmly shrugged off the classification) the book that resulted bears similarity to other nature writing. Its author writes at length in one chapter, for example, about the various forms of clouds and the phenomena associated with them. She devotes numerous paragraphs to the habits of several insects, and elsewhere discusses, among other things, the history of invasive species of birds and how butterflies taste with their feet. All of which, I realize, probably does not seem like something that would captivate a reader’s attention, unless you are really into those sorts of things, and I am into those sorts of things, mind you, but probably not enough to read a nearly-300 page volume about them, under normal circumstances.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek013So what on earth captivated me when I read this book? What Eudora Welty wrote in her 1974 New York Times review of the book explains a bit of it, I think. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she argued, “is about seeing.” It is, if I can expand on her thought, about an attentiveness to both the beauty and terror of the world, and the senses of awe, sadness and hope that result.

For Dillard, these glimpses into the natural world were acts of devotion – not towards the things themselves (though she has at times been accused of such), but towards something larger and even more beautiful and powerful. Her favorite childhood book, she writes, was A Field Guide to Ponds and Streams. Looking back, she compares it to The Book of Common Prayer. Inasmuch as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  is a book about the natural world, then, it is also a book about what lies beneath the surface of things, and above it.

Dillard discovered what would become her project’s central metaphor when she read a book called Space and Sight, which recounted experiences of some of the first people to have received cataract surgery. Effectively blind, they underwent these operations and were given vision for the first time. Having been unable to see for their whole life, most of them had no frame of reference or language to describe what they saw.

Of one woman who experienced this radically sharpened sense, the author of the old medical journal wrote, “the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed, ‘Oh God! How beautiful!’”

Another little girl, suddenly un-blinded, stood in an orchard, speechless at the sight of daylight flooding over the peaches, until she broke the silence, pointing to what she called “the tree with all the lights in it.”

The “tree with all the lights in it” becomes Dillard’s way of speaking about her experience along the creek in Virginia. Something inside of her is awakened as she spends her time walking through the woods, looking out the window of her cabin and sitting along the water. It is as if she is un-blinded to the beauty and brokenness of the universe, and to the great Mystery that spun things into being.

“Beauty and grace,” she writes, “are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there… so that creation need not play to an empty house.”

That said, paying attention to the natural world around us is at times anything but idyllic. Dillard also writes, as one reviewer has listed, about parasitic insects, killer whales tearing apart sea lions, and a mother octopus that lays thousands upon thousands of eggs, all of which but one will die.

Put otherwise, in the language of another author who has studied her work, Dillard tries to find language for the reality that “the natural world both reveals and obscures God.”

Paying attention to what lies in the woods and water around us will, in other words, expose the staggering glory of creation that the Hebrew Psalmist speaks of, as well as what the Apostle Paul describes as its groaning – the violence, terror and corruption of the universe. As much as Dillard is looked to as a nature writer, then, she has also become known as someone who has committed herself to the consideration of God in light of suffering and evil.

I spent some time these past few weeks trying to pin down what it was that caused this book to resonate so deeply with me when I first read it. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a beautiful book, but a difficult one, which took me a very long time to finish. It seems to lack a narrative, or any sense of continuity for that matter, and readers are prone to both getting lost and losing interest in the minutiae of Dillard’s subject matter.

At that point in my life, though, I was weary, and weary of the language with which I had grown used to thinking and talking about God. As necessary as I understood and still understand they are, I was tired of debate, lectures and lesson plans. As much as I wanted to get at the truth of things, I wanted also to get lost in the joy, goodness and incredible complexity of it all. I wanted, in all my attempts to understand what little I was able to of God, to be left in awe at something much bigger than I could wrap my head around, at something that left me surprised and experiencing delight.

As strange as it sounds, a paragraph about the astounding roots of a single rye plant allowed me that, if only for a little moment. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was for me, in that tired and messy season of my life, a small doorway into a world of wonder. Even in its consideration of the darker, more sinister elements of creation, the book meant a lot to me when I first read it. Dillard didn’t brush these things off, but kept looking, and kept writing, and kept them there at the centre of things. She described them in detail, while maintaining a sense of the sacredness of life, and the presence of God in the midst of it all.

She lost herself in the great show of things, and I lost myself for a little while in her description of it.

After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place,” she writes, “the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagance, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn’t flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.

Nick in WoodsYou can read more of Nick’s ongoing
thoughts and reflections on his blog:
Nec Littera Exprimere