Ted Talks

As we enter the fall here at CCS, we are recognizing the space left when Ted Dodd retired this summer.  CCS grad Gwen McAllister has been hired on a contract basis to coordinate field placement orientations this month and provide leadership at next month’s  Social Ministry learning circle, but we still find things that make us say, “Oh, that’s something Ted did,” or “Ted would know how that works.”

Ted with pictureTed had several opportunities to reflect on his life, his faith, and his ministry in the past year. Believing that everyone appreciates a good Ted talk, Common Threads Working Group member Jeff Cook interviewed Ted this summer, giving him yet one more opportunity to reflect. Here are some snippets of what Ted said:

On changes he has seen in the church:

Ted noted that there are fewer educational events. The Affirming event with Alyson Huntley, organized by the Conference Visioning and Critical Reflection Committee, attracted interest and was attended by about 42 people.  But such events have become the exceptions, Ted said

Marci Ted preparing worship“We used to do six or seven of those events each year, plus youth stuff, when I was on Conference staff,” he said.

He observed that denominational affiliation is less important when fewer people are “churched.”

“The seekers and the ‘nones’ are looking for something- they don’t particularly care if it is United Church or what, so long as they get something spiritual out of it,” says Ted. “Some of that is irritating. It becomes a consumer product rather than a communal thing”

On the United Church:

“We have a different message than a lot of other churches… We say things that remain worth saying – things the ‘nones’ and seekers would be attracted to…”

“We are not going to get bigger, but we can go deeper,” he said. “God is inviting us to go deeper, to wrestle with our own stories in light of the older stories.”

“God is inviting us to a journey of reconciliation with our own mission history. God is inviting us not to be so helpful. Our need to help can be patronizing.”

“We jump to problem solving prematurely, even in pastoral care.”

Ted said we need to relinquish our need to fix everything and everyone, and acknowledge that sometimes faithfulness is expressed simply by presence, in accepting the “challenge of hanging in there, even when we’ve got nothing to say.”

“We could do things more reflectively.”

On theological education

“A lot of people are frightened of academic models,” says Ted. “They claim their identity and vocation from inside rather than from outside”

ted-joshThe Centre for Christian Studies helps those people find their voice and “integrate the whole person.”  Accompanying students through the learning and growing process “is a tender job,” according to Ted.  “Everybody’s got wounds. You have to be respectful of that and help people deal with that so they can be healthy.”

“The church is in need of healthy people…too many people have burned out and wreaked havoc on their congregations.”

Ted noted that current trends in theological education reflect what the Centre for Christian Studies has always done, deliberately integrating practice with theory:

“We’ve learned that the church wasn’t needing people who could exegete Jeremiah as much as it needed people who could sit with people who had cancer.”

The difference between CCS and other theological schools is probably not as radical as it was thirty years ago.  (Although, he notes, the Centre is still probably perceived by some as the lesbian feminist school.)

Experience of the Divine

“There are moments – even walking to work, by the river, when I periodically said out loud ‘hello’ to the river, and something inside me shifts, I experience a  mindfulness of the holy.”

ted-runningAnother activity that makes Ted mindful of the holy is running.

“Running – the steadiness of the rhythm – it helps me discern what’s most important. There’s something about the steadiness of it that puts things in perspective.”

“Running is the same as breathing the Spirit.”

“The Spirit often says, ‘Just relax. Does it really matter that much? What’s the worst that can really happen? Why are you so mad at that person?  They probably have a backstory.”

Ted has also found scripture transformational.

“I like the scriptures – I have filtered past resentments though stories of scripture and that’s been really helpful spiritually.”

Ted also finds that writing takes him to a place where he feels like a better person. “There is something about pulling your thoughts together,” he notes.  “It is mysteriously rich and abundant.”

Learning circles at CCS also provided opportunities for the holy.  “At the end of each learning circle we give feedback to each individual, based on competencies and learning guidelines. We name affirmations and encouragement. I think of it as prayer, confession and intercession.”

 

4 thoughts on “Ted Talks”

  1. Two particularly powerful insights for me today. Thank you Ted. I’m glad your retirement doesn’t mean that your voice and spirit disappear from the community. Have been thinking of you a lot as I’ve engaged with students through their Field Orientations this autumn.
    “God is inviting us to a journey of reconciliation with our own mission history. God is inviting us not to be so helpful. Our need to help can be patronizing.”
    “At the end of each learning circle we give feedback to each individual, based on competencies and learning guidelines. We name affirmations and encouragement. I think of it as prayer, confession and intercession.”

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