LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DMINLGP

A proposal for beekeeping

Written by: on February 21, 2019

I’m sitting in my stark white condo tower in Toronto calling the electric company and internet provider to cancel service beginning Sunday. We have a U-Haul truck lined up for Friday to cart the remainder of our possessions 14 hours east to the Maritimes. It’s the end of a long, slow, and sometimes painful 18-month transition from big city action to rural peace. And this DMin course and colleagues have accompanied me and unknowingly influenced me through this change of letting go, moving to obscurity, and being ok with less busyness.

It is an interpretation from the sidelines on the upper edge of North America, but I believe we are witnessing the decline of the American Empire. We’ve had 75 years of Pax Americana, but the last vestiges of capitalism, sugar-coated with a veneer of evangelical Christianity, are proving to wear thin and reveal its true colours as harsh, selfish, and shockingly uncompassionate. As we learned through our reading of Bebbington[1], the emergence of evangelicalism in the last 200 years is a response to a modern context. Likewise, the emergence of capitalism as the prevailing global economic system, as illustrated by Weber[2], is a framework that has enabled prosperity from the Industrial to the Information Ages. With it has come vast wealth concentrated into the hands of a few and the commodification of all of life. My client base, the friends I minister to, are the 1% we often read about. They have excessively benefited from the status quo, but as followers of Christ, how will they live in the transition to the new context?

Within our new, postmodern landscape, we must find alternative expressions of fidelity and witness. James Davison Hunter proposes the idea of “faithful presence”[3]. And despite the bad rap it gets, I still have a deep conviction that the best incubator for this alternative life is the local church. This course has allowed me to be in a community with pastoral colleagues each week during our Monday conversations, women and men who struggle with caring faithfully and witnessing quietly in their communities.

With all our varied reading this year, I managed to squeeze in another one: Preston Pouteaux’s new book, The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood[4]. He is a pastor in Calgary, and a beekeeper. The metaphor of keeping bees is one he uses for pastoring. It’s impossible to manage a swarm; instead, one must create the environment where bees can collectively make honey, and from there move out to pollinate their neighbourhood.

My philanthropy ministry is developing a new opportunity for a few of my clients to join together, pooling their wealth, to highlight and honour the local churches from across Canada who are in fact pollinating their neighbourhood. Without strings-attached, these local churches are a net contributor to community life, a sweet, organic presence that in the name of Jesus, demonstrates ongoing compassion for all that surround them. These annual cash awards will honour the work of caring congregations within their communities. This idea has been partly inspired by my faithful pastoral colleagues in cohort 8 and by Jason’s careful selection of readings that have shaped my thinking this year.

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[1] Bebbington, David W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. Routledge, 2002.

[2] Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2003.

[3] Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[4] See https://www.intotheneighbourhood.ca/the-bees-of-rainbow-falls.

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About the Author

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Mark Petersen

Mark Petersen is the CEO of Stronger Philanthropy, a Canadian firm specializing in maximizing family philanthropy. He leads a diverse group of visionary individuals, foundations and organizations to collaborate in leveraging wealth for charitable impact.

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