Selecting a Church Near Your New Home

Picking a church near your new home is a big decision. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be a challenge. Check out these tips to make your choice a bit easier.

Moving to a new area can be scary. While you may have thought through your decision, there are probably plenty of concerns still swirling around in your mind. After being involved with community groups like a local church, many people worry that they will not be able to find another organization that lives up to the last. Picking a church near your new home is a big decision. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be a challenge. Check out these tips to make your choice a bit easier.

Do Your Research

The beauty of the internet is that it has made life a lot easier on almost all fronts. When you’re seeking information about your new neighborhood, hop online. A simple search on Google can provide you with a ton of information about churches and other religious organizations in the area. Be as specific as possible, mentioning your denomination and any other factors that might come into play when picking a church. For example, some groups are more welcoming of LGBT members than others. Search for gay-friendly options to avoid feeling uncomfortable or judged in your chosen place of worship.

Settle In

While you might be able to glean a lot of useful info from a quick internet search, the old-fashioned methods can prove even more beneficial. How you experience the community you are moving into will be dictated by the routine you establish there. Take your time with big decisions like selecting a church. Wait until you’re settled in your home and have begun working at your new job. This will allow you the chance to learn the lay of the land and meet some locals. The more familiar you are, the easier it will be to select a fitting option.

Ask Around

As you get to know more people in your community, you may feel comfortable enough to start asking for recommendations on local spots. If someone you’ve met has openly discussed his or her religious affiliation with you and it aligns with your own, then you might have an easy time finding a church. However, not all people you encounter will be able to provide you with useful information. Just as a restaurant recommendation is based around the tastes of the diner, a church opinion reflects the opinions of the one who has come to worship. Explore all suggestions to see if any fit.

Practice Patience

If it is taking you a very long time to find a church that you’re satisfied with, you may feel compelled to settle on any option that comes your way. Sadly, this will not yield good results for you. While your connection with God means you can take your faith with you wherever you go, some churches are just not good fits. By settling on one out of frustration, you are setting yourself up for an unhappy experience. Exhibit patience throughout your search, and eventually you will discover a church that makes you happy.


Finally, never look past the power of prayer when you need guidance. Take time to talk to God and ask for some clarity. While you might not receive a direct answer, there will likely be signs pointing you in the right direction. It has been said many times that God works in mysterious ways. By clearly expressing your problem through prayer, it becomes a bit easier to see the path that She has laid out for you.

Selecting a church is one of many tough decisions you will need to make after moving to a new home. Finding success comes down to weighing the options presented to you. Practice patience, ask around for input, and discover a house of worship that satisfies your soul.

A Collection of Literature for Black History Month
A library full of different texts and literature.

By reading literature from the past, we can help make our future better.

The 2017 theme for Black History Month is “The Crisis in Education.” Even though racially separated schools are illegal, many urban neighborhoods that are predominantly African-American still have a crisis in education. Schools are underfunded and overcrowded and fail to deliver substantive opportunities. These gaps have to be addressed to ensure all children have the opportunity to change the world. Take some time to read one of these great books for Black History Month to understand how these artists have made a different in literature.


Literature Based on the Harlem Renaissance

  1.  “The Collected Poems” by Langston Hughes

    Explore the works of one poet in this collection. Hughes was a writer in the early 20th century who received many awards that allowed him to travel and write. He is a lyrical poet and considered one of the fathers of “jazz poetry.” As a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, he is an influential American who had a way with words.

  2. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

    Hurston was a contemporary of Hughes. She experienced literary success in the 1920s, leading her to be an influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance. This novel is considered her masterwork, but at the time it was published, in 1937, it was poorly received.

  3.    “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin

    This novel, Baldwin’s first, is an autobiographical story of his life as a teenager during the Harlem Renaissance. He draws heavily on the language of the King James Bible and makes several references to stories in the Bible, which are important to his culture. The Church has both positive and negative influences in this classic.

Other Reading Material for Black History Month

  1. “The 100 Best African American Poems” edited by Nikki Giovanni

    Giovanni put together this collection of great poetry that celebrates the African-American heritage. It’s probably the best compendium for readers to get a taste of poetry from the lens of the Black poet.

  2. “Native Son” by Richard Wright

    Although “Native Son” may seem like a trope of the classic story of an African-American man who kills a white woman, Wright never attempts to justify the behavior; he just explains how it was inevitable. It’s about poverty, fear, fate and free will.

  3. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

    Ellison’s novel is a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, that discusses many of the social and political issues of the 20th century that affected black men. Time magazine called it more than a race novel, naming the book as one of the top-100 Best Novels from 1923 to 2005

  4. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” by Frederick Douglass

    There’s probably no other memoir that has been as influential on the abolition of slavery than this one. Even if you don’t enjoy reading, this novel should be on your must-read list as a story of what it was like in the 19th century for a black man.

  5. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

    Whitehead writes about a literal “underground railroad” that slaves can take to freedom. This novel, which has won awards, reimagines what we know about the stories of the South. It’s a grim and realistic look at slavery during the Civil War.

Learn From the Past

In order to understand the future, we have to understand history. Knowing the civil rights issues that the African-American faced in the past helps us ensure that our country never returns to that place. Maya Angelou said, “It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.”

Take a Religious Tour of Vancouver
Religious tours give great insight as to how churches function.

While taking a religious tour, you get to see the inner workings of how churches function.

Even if you aren’t religious, there’s a lot that can be learned by taking a religious tour within a city. You may need to call and make arrangements if you want to tour the inside of the church, but you don’t even have to go inside to see the architecture of the building. Make sure you don’t interrupt worship services. Vancouver is not one of the oldest cities in Canada, but there’s still a lot of heritage within the city. Here are some of the best churches to visit when you’re in town.

Different Churches to Visit On Your Religious Tour

  1. Paul’s Anglican Church was built in 1905. It is now a heritage building that cannot be torn down, nor have the integrity of its design altered. It’s a Gothic Revival design, and when you go inside, there’s a replica of a medieval labyrinth laid in the floor. It’s not a maze, but a walking path that leads into the centre and back out again. People of all faiths use it for meditation and reflection. The labyrinth is open to the public during certain times of the day.
  2. Christ Church Cathedral is noted for its stained glass windows. It’s such a popular exhibit that the church has a self-guided tour that can be downloaded to walk you through the building. The church itself is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture built at the turn of the 20th You might even think that it was taken out of the English countryside and moved to its location in Vancouver. In 1995, the church began a restoration project that took about 11 years. Visitors are invited to take a walking tour through the building to enjoy its rich heritage.
  3. The Holy Rosary Cathedral is home to the Roman Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II visited this church when he came to Vancouver. This building was built in the French Gothic style, and it features 21 beautiful pictorial stained glass windows. It’s one of three places in British Columbia where bells are hung in the English way. The bells made three oceanic crossings before the final installation. After one installation, the bells were not considered melodic enough and had to be sent to England to be melted down and recast.
  4. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church is a short walk from downtown. The Gothic building was completed in 1933, and it’s a popular venue for music concerts. Every Sunday, the church offers Jazz Vespers in the afternoon and candlelight and music service in the evening as extra worship services for the community. The church also houses many stained glass windows and liturgical hangings to help understand the faith.
  5. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral is a beautiful building that did not receive the designation of Cathedral until 1983, but the parish was established in 1937. On the first Friday of the month, the church hosts a Ukrainian supper featuring pirogies and cabbage rolls at great prices. The inside of the Cathedral features beautiful paintings of icons. Worshippers venerate, not worship, these icons and show respect for their faith by genuflecting before the icon painting.

Learning more about faiths outside of your own opens your eyes to the similarities and differences between different religions. It can bridge gaps between individuals and in communities. Take a religious tour of your own town if you can’t get to Vancouver to explore its religious heritage. Look at the difference in architecture, decorations and stained glass windows. You don’t have to be a believer to see the beauty in the history of the building and interior décor. Understanding how religion affects someone’s life helps you understand their morals, their celebrations and their lifestyle. And it gives you a better understanding of the world.

Saint Francis and Animal Blessings
Saint Francis of Assisi

After his death, Saint Francis was made the patron saint of animals and ecology.

If you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy animal videos online, you’re going to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi. He lived in the late 12th century into the 13th century, during a time of great unrest in the Middle East. Francis upset his family when his life took a turn toward poverty and the priesthood. He would renounce his wealth and his family in order to serve God. When Francis was canonized after his death, he was made the patron saint of animals and ecology. His love of nature and all creatures makes him someone to remember even today. 

Saint Francis and His Legacy

In 1989, Liliana Cavani directed Mickey Rourke in “Francesco,” an Italian film which follows Francis’ life from a son of a wealthy silk merchant in Italy to a soldier in the army who would be captured in a war. Francis would later become a humanitarian and give up his family’s wealth to serve God. The film won three major awards and is a great representation of his life.

During the Fifth Crusade, Francis would attempt to mediate peace between the Christians and Muslims. Although he was unsuccessful, the Franciscans, his order of monks, were given permission to have a presence in the Holy Land. Since the 13th century, the Franciscans have almost steadily been the “Custodians of the Holy Land” for the Catholic Church.

El Greco painted a beautiful rendition of “Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata.” Saint Francis is said to have received five wounds similar to those that Christ received when he hung on the cross. Although many historians now believe he was stricken with leprosy, at the time it was considered to be a sign of exceptional religious faith.

Saint Francis has inspired many other works of art and music. As recently as 2005, Lewis Nielson composed a concerto for violin, called, “St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.” One of Bernard Malamud’s novels features a main character who lives the life of Saint Francis in Brooklyn during the 20th century.

Francis is remembered as a great poet and writer. Not only do his poems and works have religious value, but also literary value. This is the first few lines of “Canticle of the Sun,” believed to be one of the first works of literature written in Italian:

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!

All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

“To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.

No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

“Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and You give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.”

It was written in the Umbrian dialect and translated into English for us to appreciate.

Your Pet Is an Important Member of Your Family

The church celebrates Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4, commonly with services that include blessings for animals. In many paintings, Saint Francis is portrayed with a bird in his hand because legend has it that he commanded the animals. One legend tells the tale of a wolf who lay down at his feet. Francis is thought to have worked out a pact with the wolf and the town dogs to protect the townspeople. He blessed the wolf.

Pope John Paul II referenced Saint Francis in 1982 on World Environment Day, reminding people to care and to love all of creation, to offer a healthy environment for those who come after us. Everyone can get behind being green and eco-conscious to protect our animals and the plants. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi.

Anglicans Provide Pastoral Guidelines for Assisted Dying
Euthanasia Palliative Hospice

Assisted dying is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on assisted dying when the reality is that the government has removed restrictions against physician-assisted dying in certain cases. It may not be for you personally, but what are you going to do when a loved one decides it’s the only option? Doctors are not the only ones who will wrestle with their consciences under the changing climate surrounding assisted dying. Pastoral care during this time is essential, which is why the Anglican Church of Canada released a report urging its leaders to recognize assisted dying as a reality and to provide palliative and pastoral care for patients and families.

Understanding the Framework

The Anglican Church formed a task force to study the issue. Canon Eric Beresford chaired the committee. He says, “We’re no longer in a debate about whether or not society is going to legalise physician-assisted dying – that’s happening, that train is out of the station.” The question now is how Anglicans can address the needs of those who will avail themselves of physician-assisted dying. Anglicans, like many churches around the world, believe that life is sacred. The report itself doesn’t actually answer the question of “whether Anglicans should be for or against assisted dying.” What it does do is outline theological questions and concerns while providing resources and prayers for those who are facing the end of their lives.

Quoting from “In Sure and Certain Hope: Resources to Assist Pastoral and Theological Approaches to Physician Assisted Dying,”

“Ultimately, it is not the pastoral care givers belief, nor the traditions or dogma of any faith tradition, nor the hopes and desires of family and friends which will determine the choice of assisted-dying. The final choice remains with the parishioner, informed by their own conscientious appropriation of their faith tradition. Family and friends provide the primary community within which the conversations that shape decisions happen. The pastoral care giver’s role becomes that of spiritual guide or facilitator. It is the pastoral care-giver who reminds and draws everyone’s attention back to the reality that God is present and amongst them sustaining this difficult journey of discernment and choice within God’s embrace of love and grace.”

Support and Care for Individuals

One term that is used in the report is “covenant of presence,” which is a commitment by pastors and loved ones to be there for those who are considering assisted dying. There’s no debate that the issue of physician-assisted dying is sensitive and complex, but being present to help someone at the end of his or her life is not providing support to the actual issue. It’s about individual care. Pastors cannot simply abandon members of their congregations. Families cannot step aside when a loved one has decided to take action. Being present is a way of upholding the dignity and autonomy of a life.

According to Dying With Dignity, a national organization that is an advocate for compassionate end of life choices, about 80 percent of Canadians support the right for advance consent to assisted dying, including giving individuals with dementia options for physician-assisted dying. Dying With Dignity has a website devoted to resources and support for those who are considering physician-assisted dying. Learn your rights and get a planning kit to help you talk to your loved ones and doctor.

The debate continues as leaders in government try to provide guidance over regulations for physician-assisted dying. People who choose assisted dying under the current guidelines can’t wait for the debate to end. Providing support and care for a loved one does not mean that you agree with his or her decision. It just means that you love and care for your family member and want to be there as he or she makes difficult decisions. Everyone can learn from the Anglican approach to assisted dying.


Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church
Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church

Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church

In 1976, the Episcopal Church (the branch of the Anglican church in the United States) took steps toward marriage equality when it recognized that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” In 2015, the General Convention made changes to church canon and liturgy for marriage equality. Months later, at the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Meeting, the primates, who are the head bishops of the church, voted to suspend the right of the Episcopal Church to be represented at international meetings. This summer, the Canadian Anglican Church is expected to vote on same-sex marriage equality for its membership. The debate has been going on for months, and it’s not looking positive, but there are people who are pushing forward.

Same-Sex Marriages and the Anglican Church

The General Synod, which is the body responsible for church canon, has been trying to find agreement over same-sex marriages in the church since 2004 when they deferred the vote over blessing the union or not. This would have given each church the authority to bless unions. One of the bishops had already given permission for some of the priests in his district to bless same-sex unions as early as 2003. Currently, there are many parishes that are authorized to bless all marriages, but the church itself has not approved the change to the marriage canon.

This July, the General Synod is voting on a change to the canon at its triennial meeting. According to the final report presented to the Commission on the Marriage Canon,

“In 2013 the General Synod passed a resolution (C003, which is included as an appendix to this report) directing the drafting of a motion ‘to change Canon XXI on marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.’ Such a motion will be considered by the General Synod in 2016.”

After a special meeting early in February, the House of Bishops announced that the resolution would probably not pass because it would not get the support it needed to pass. It takes a two-thirds majority to pass, and according to an article in the Anglican Journal, one-third of the bishops are in favor of the change. Another third of the bishops are opposed. The remaining third are those bishops who are still wrestling with the issue. There is another meeting in April to provide more thought and alternatives to the resolution before the final vote in July.

Social Media Comes to the Rescue

Just a few days following the statement from the Bishops, advocates of the resolution came together and formed a Facebook group, Advocates for Changing the Marriage Canon. It started out with 25 members in March, and it has grown to almost 1400. Both clergy and laypeople are in the group. Administrators must approve the request to join, or you must be invited by another member. The rules are clear that the group is not there to debate the issue. It is strictly for those who are in support of the resolution. Members have reached out to the leaders in the church, expressing their views about why this resolution is so important to the church and to their faith. The group is actively reaching out to the House of Bishops, but it also is serving a purpose of unity among Anglicans who feel marginalized because their marriages are not recognized by church canon. We’ll be watching this issue to see how it turns out when the Bishops vote in July.

Technology Comes to the Sanctuary

Technology in Churches

If you watch crime procedurals on television, you’re aware of facial recognition software. It’s being used in many different venues these days, from cruise ships to casinos. It’s been reported that most police agencies in Canada are using the technology in crowds to identify criminals or rioters who could create potential problems. One place not many people would expect to be scanned is in their religious building, but according to many different sources, church facial recognition software is being implemented to help the staff count and identify who is worshipping and who isn’t.

Proponents of Facial Recognition Software 

One organization, based in Israel, created a software specific to churches called Churchix. Reportedly, it provides services to about 30 churches around the world, although it has refused to share which specific groups use the technology. It helps the church keep a roll call of people not just at services, but at every event. First, the church creates a database of pictures of their members. During worship, a camera can move through the crowd and keep track of who is in attendance.

Supporters report that this cuts down on administrative duties for the staff. This lets the church get an accurate count of who is in church and who isn’t. It also helps the staff get to know people better by associating a picture with a name. Another purported benefit is that of facial tagging on social media or in newsletters. The editor can more easily identify people in photos, giving credit where credit is due. The technology can also help with demographics at events, not only getting a head count, but seeing the ages, gender, and even race of those in attendance.

Critics of the Technology

If you were to go back in time, you’d probably hear a discussion about whether a church should have a telephone or electricity. There’s always been opponents of newer technology, especially in the church. It wasn’t too long ago that people were upset with their administrations for keeping a database of members on the computer.

The biggest concern with facial recognition software in the sanctuary is a loss of privacy. That’s not to say it’s the only one. In a faith-based setting, there’s certainly the lack of personal interaction. Would the staff neglect direct contact in lieu of facial imaging? Going back to the privacy concern, one potential problem is in cross-matching. Your face print taken by the religious organization might be used for another purpose without your consent. It’s a scary slippery slope, when you consider database-matching software or hackers in the equation.

Ask Questions Now

Interestingly, Churchix cites privacy concerns and doesn’t share the names of churches who are currently using the technology. In fact, it was intimated in one report that Churchix wasn’t even sure that the members of the church were aware that the leaders were using facial recognition software. If there’s a camera around, whether it be in the sanctuary or in a store, you should assume that the establishment is using facial recognition software.

Just three years ago, the Research Group of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada came out with a report about facial recognition software, and nowhere in the report does it even think about the technology being used in religious circles. There are certain places where we’ve always expected a modicum of privacy, but as religious organizations embrace the 21st century, this attitude may need to be reconsidered.

Before the use of this software is considered normal, it might be time to question it and put constraints on its use. It is a viable technology in certain circumstances. Digital imagery is becoming more accurate. There may be a use in religion to alleviate administration duties, but the community as a whole should be made aware of its use. It might be time to start a discussion in your faith organization about how your congregation will address this issue.

Religious Issues In Your Montreal Community

ulc ca blog 1.31Taking a trip to a tourist destination like a big city is fun and romantic, and maybe even a bit frivolous. If you’re visiting Montreal you may be interested in seeing the sights and experiencing the dining and nightlife atmosphere. When planning a weekend trip you may research things to do near the Marriott Hotel, or if there will be any festivals in town. However, if you’re thinking about a long-term move to Canada’s second-largest city, you probably have a whole different set of concerns that may extend further than where to eat and what to see.

Moving to a new city means meeting new people, settling into a new neighborhood, and finding your niche in the community. Many people may have concerns about the culture of their new city, including the religious atmosphere and political goings-on. Whether you are religious or non-religious, you may want to increase your understanding of your new city by researching the important issues related to religion in Montreal.

Religious Issues of a Beautiful City

This historic, French-speaking city was mainly Catholic for several decades. Currently, the area is fairly diverse and multi-cultural. Christianity is still the religion most widely practiced in Quebec, followed by Islam and Judaism. A recent and ongoing religious debate began at the end of last year, with a proposed legislative ban on city officials wearing visible religious symbols. The proposal, Bill 60, is a move toward secularism that would ban religious clothing like hijabs, jewelry with religious symbols, and other overtly religious signs.

Many people, religious and non-religious alike, have raised opposition to the secular move, calling it an attack on religious freedom, as well as a blatant scheme by Parti Quebecois (the political party that advocates for national sovereignty for Quebec) to attract media attention. There have been public protests against the ban as well as many furious articles and blogs written to speak out against Bill 60. The bill’s supporters advocate a move toward secularism by banning civil servants from wearing potential divisive “ostentatious” religious symbols.

Get Involved

If you’re planning on moving to Quebec, you may be participating in the area’s political process in the near future. You may also be looking for a conventional religious community to become a member of – or even a non-conventional group. Keep abreast of the important issues facing your community and your family. Our blog features both secular and religious-based topics. Universal Life Church is an inclusive community that honors all faiths including both religious and non-religious persons.