To Sum Up

Terry at Computer_Winter 2010

As my Sabbatical draws to a close, so too does this blog.  I’ve enjoyed this exercise of exposing myself, but it’s not something I’m likely to continue. It’s too revealing.  This may surprise those of you who know me to be rather vocal with my opinions.

youth is rudeI remain determined to speak truth to power and to name the things I believe, regardless of how unpopular they might be – and I’ve tried to be true to my voice in these missives – but now that I’m older, I’m not always so sure of myself. I’m not as convinced by my own arguments as I used to be…

You may have noticed that I like to use quotations.  And while searching out some memes to illustrate this blog, I came upon hundreds of sayings exhorting us not to doubt ourselves. But this kind of bumper sticker wisdom misses the point of doubt.  Applied wisely, self-doubt can ensure the ongoing integrity of our core convictions.  Without a willingness to doubt oneself, it is nearly impossible to question and let go of long-held beliefs that no longer serve us. The humility and possibility that comes from careful discernment and righteous doubt is invaluable.  And the weightiness of authentic doubt can serve as ballast to our self-confidence – keeping ego in its good and rightful place, as motivator not sustainer.

All this to explain why I don’t think I can sustain this practice of writing opinion pieces.

I have also found it to be somewhat unnerving to be so public with my thoughts and ideas. Not public, exactly – I’m fairly comfortable in the public eye – it’s the black-hole that is the internet kind of public that freaks me out.  I don’t assume that many people read this blog, but the thing about the internet is that once it’s out there it’s out there forever, and there is everywhere.  Isn’t that kind of creepy?

Still and all, I have found the practice of writing to be really satisfying.  Also, extremely difficult. I wasn’t able to maintain the discipline necessary to write as much or often as I intended.  The six-week writing workshop I took early in my sabbatical was a high point for me.  The Fernwood Writers Workshop in Victoria uses the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, wherein you basically just show up and write.   You read what you’ve written to the group, and people tell you what they liked about it.  No critiques, no corrections, no advice.   It blew my mind.  It was a much-needed break from the demanding, analytical, problem-solving mode in which I usually function.

That said, I’m feeling ready to get back to that mode.  I am extremely grateful for this time off – but I have a unique job for which I feel I am uniquely suited, and I am eager to return to work. I will, however, make a few adjustments to my routine, thanks to this sabbatical.  I plan to stop multi-tasking so much.  While I value being organized and efficient, I think there is something to be said for doing important things one at a time – it has something to do with being present.  I also plan to start journaling (again), and hope to take some more writing AWA workshops.

Finally, having played with the concept of intersectionality in this blog, I feel inspired to keep looking for the differences among us, rather than between us. I continue to feel called to explore the ways in which the various aspects of my work (church, activism, capitalism, social justice, affordability, security, tradition, marketplace, technical details, wealth, impressions, disruptions, facts, faith….) are interconnected and should be examined based on their relationships with one another.  This feels like a natural extension to my life’s work, and I’m looking forward to this new chapter.  Wish me luck!


Affordability is Subjective

Maya2I live in the West End of Downtown Vancouver. I rent a small apartment — less than 700SF.  I have two bedrooms, with one serving as my office. I pay $2,400 a month.  Up until recently, my partner and I were paying about $1,700 a month toward a mortgage on a 2,500 SF family home in Langford (a suburb of Victoria), and earning equity with every payment.  So, to me, $2,400/month in rent is not affordable. And yet, I can — technically speaking — afford it. This is because my ability to afford something is less about the price of it then it is about my household income.  In other words, affordability is subjective.

I’m thinking a lot about housing affordability lately.  Not just because of my personal situation (which, frankly, is unsustainable), but because it is at the heart of the work I’m now doing.

I lead the Property Resource Team (PRT) for the United Church in BC (the BC Conference).  We are currently working on a property redevelopment portfolio that will result in 4 new churches built on 4 existing United Church properties (3 in the lower mainland, 1 on Vancouver Island), along with about 400 new rental apartments.  In addition to new church space, we’re building brand new, purpose-built, affordable rental housing.   There will be a mix of rents at each of these locations, but 51% must meet the affordability criteria set out by our financial partner and lender, BC Housing. This criterion, not surprisingly, is based on income.

In Canada, housing is considered affordable if shelter costs account for less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income, so the rental rates for the housing we are building need to be set (and kept at) rates that meet or exceed this threshold.

In a housing market as inflated as the Lower Mainland’s and with average Canadian’s incomes as stagnant as they are, this kind of affordable housing is important, and we’re proud of this initiative. At the same time, we’re very aware of the critics that say affordability is not enough.

It’s true — affordable housing is NOT social housing. It is not subsidized enough to meet the needs of people living in poverty and on social assistance. The housing we’re building is meant to be affordable for working individuals or families, for university students who have some savings or family support, for seniors who have reasonably good pensions. Affordable housing does not, using the vernacular of the tax agency, “alleviate poverty”.

In a world of scarcity and either/or mindsets, anti-poverty advocates and affordability advocates can find themselves battling against each other.  But this kind of binary thinking is not helpful and it doesn’t acknowledge abundance. Providing affordable housing and addressing the housing needs of the poor are not competing values.  They are different aspects of the same struggle.   Here’s the key:  affordability cannot be achieved at the expense of the poor.  Quite literally, it must be achieved at the expense of the rich. 

We in the United Church don’t like to think of ourselves in financial terms, but with membership and donations shrinking, we must. And when we do, we can’t help but see that while we are largely cash poor, we are also, broadly speaking, property rich. And this comes with social and moral obligations.

ethics2With these valuable financial assets, some entrepreneurial thinking, and the right kinds of partnerships, we are in a position to redevelop property — and do it without maximizing profit! Indeed, our redevelopment projects won’t make as much money as they would if we were to hike the rents as high as the market would allow — but they will make enough money to meet financial/debt obligations of  the redevelopment as well as our congregational renewal objectives.

If we can do this, why can’t market developers?  Why aren’t they willing to make less money for the sake of providing affordable housing?

Over the years, we have asked that question in many ways to various market developers — and while we have crafted some good and positive partnerships with hardworking, ethical market developers and entered into deals that are beneficial to the United Church — the idea of intentionally forgoing profit to improve housing affordability is unfathomable to many of them.  It’s increasingly common for market developers to make community contributions through City-mandated programs, but this is typically done as part of getting their market projects approved — a cost of doing business.  As it currently stands, however, market developers exist to make money. Affordable housing is simply not their purpose.

I’d like to see that change (I’d also like to see world hunger ended, racial discrimination eliminated, the carbon economy upended, patriarchy overturned, and so on). I’ll keep working on changing the world by doing what I can in my small corner of it.  As the PRT lead, that means working with people —  in congregations and other kinds of organizations —  who are committed to make housing affordability central to our congregational renewal efforts.


The Tools Available To Us

bell hooks4

I was talking with a 40-something friend and United Church colleague the other day about church attendance and participation.  “What is it going to take to attract the next generation of church-goers?”, we wondered aloud.  We both know that the stories and symbols of Christianity are rich and meaningful and have the power to be transformative and life-giving.  We’re also sadly aware that much is said and done in the name of Christianity that is hate-filled and horrible.  This legacy of empire and the moral failure of leadership is certainly key among the reasons why so many people have stopped coming to church. That, and the fact that, for many, church has lost its focus and sense of purpose.  It is increasingly seen as irrelevant.

As daunting as it is, the work of clarification, reconciliation, reclamation and invitation has fallen to the current and emerging generation of leaders within the United Church. Like generations before us, we’re keepers of the ancient wisdom – but we are charged with finding new ways of sharing it.

This work has begun in many corners of the United Church here in BC and Canada, and there is a lot of energy going into it.  People are trying new things, and learning and adapting as they go.  These are important hallmarks of what the corporate-world calls “R&D”, Research and Development.

R&D, as defined by Investopedia refers to “the investigative activities a business conducts to improve existing products and procedures or to lead to the development of new products and procedures”.

Investopedia??  Some of you may be calling me a heretic right now for using capitalist propaganda as a reference – but let’s think about it for a minute.  What if that sentence defined R&D as “the investigative activities [an organization, like a church] conducts to improve existing [congregational ministries, programs, activities and practices] or to lead to the development of new [congregational ministries, programs, activities and practices]”.  There, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?


My point is that there are some things we in the world of the United Church could learn from the corporate-world.  Many profit-oriented industries are far ahead of us when it comes to innovating and adapting their “business” models to respond to the needs of their “consumer base”.  Their language is different than ours, but they have techniques and tools that we could benefit from, including “R&D”.

Here’s more from Investopedia (with my edits…):

R&D is different from most activities performed by an [organization] in the process of operation. The research and/or development is typically not performed with the expectation or goal of immediate [success]. Instead, it is focused on long-term [sustainability] of the [organization].  [Organizations] that employ entire departments devoted to R&D commit substantial capital to the effort. They must estimate the risk-adjusted return on their R&D expenditures, which inevitably involve risk of capital, as no immediate payoff is experienced and the general return on investment (ROI) is somewhat uncertain.

In short, it takes money, time and the ability to tolerate risk to do R&D.  The United Church has the money – in the form of our real estate assets. The challenge is: can we access it and, if so, are we willing to take risks with it?  Can we spend it on “R&D”?  We’re short on time and running low on people power, but I have to believe that if we act now we will discover innovative ways to build new, sustainable and meaningful models of ministry.

To be clear, I despise the economic inequality that capitalism has created. I’m fully committed to finding ways of doing and being that nurture equality, not perpetuate injustice.  But let’s face it, capitalism is the system in which we function, the water in which we swim.  We, the United Church, are a corporation that owns property and controls other factors of production.  This means we are already participating in capitalism and are beneficiaries of the power it brings. We need to name that and strive to act with integrity in the light of this truth. We have power. We can watch our power fade away or we can use this power for good.

Why not work with what we have?  Adapt the tools of the marketplace rather than eradicate them. Use them to serve the greater good rather than benefit the select few?  In short, practice what Swiss-born British author and everyday philosopher, Alain De Botton, calls Good Capitalism.

Capitalism and church. An unholy alliance?  I don’t think so.  I’d prefer to think of it as an intersection, one that – to be sure – requires moral clarity and discipline. I feel sure that the teachings of the Christian tradition provide us the framework we need to capitalize on capitalism.  Surely, we can use the tools available to us to serve God’s world as long as we act as we believe (in love, mercy, justice…) and dismiss that which we know to be wrong (greed, selfishness, arrogance…).


Psst… Got a few minutes?  Check out some short videos from De Botton’s Book of Life, What is Good Business? and Good vs Classical Economics.


The Structure of the Day

The way one organizes one’s day has a great impact on what gets accomplished that day.  That’s why I like structure.



I have the privilege of being on Sabbatical right now.  Without a “work week” to guide me, the structure of my days has naturally changed, they’ve taken on a new, somewhat unpredictable pattern. Some days I’m busy with family obligations; selling our family home and sorting, storing and moving thirteen years’ worth of household flotsam and jetsam (see previous blog, Moving Day). One or two days a week are necessarily spent on work-related matters and meetings.  And then there are the days I should be reading, reflecting and writing this blog. I’m getting things done, but this change in structure has been disconcerting.

Structure gives shape and form to my imaginative impulses. Without it, all the thinking, planning and wondering that me and my monkey-brain do, would be lost to the world. Structure is the container in which creativity and innovation come into being. Too much structure, of course, kills creativity. Too many to-dos and deadlines leave no room for the imagination or thoughtfulness.  So, autonomy is an important aspect of my day-to-day structure as it provides me the means to find balance. But that’s no small feat.

I am accustomed to a workday/weekend approach to life and work. I have a habit of jamming as much work as I can into M-F, so I can keep my evenings and weekends free.  I’m on or I’m off.  I’ve always liked it this way, but I’ve known for a while that there is something unbalanced about it.

I’ve been learning to spread my efforts out differently over these past weeks. As it turns out not everything has to get done right now. I still attend to the must-dos in a timely manner – because other people’s schedules depend on my availability or they need me to do something for their work to progress – but I’m prioritizing the other stuff differently.

direction more than speedI’ve always used self-imposed deadlines as a time-management technique, but since it’s me who imposed them, I can un-impose them, right?  I can change the pace of my day, embody what writer Christina Baldwin calls the pace of guidance.  “In a world of speed and distraction, pace of guidance invites us to combine the practices of measured movement and listening”.

My fear, of course, is that I’ll fall behind. Me and my ego worry about my reputation.  Will I be less valuable if I’m not getting as much done? And what if the work gets done without me, does that make me redundant?  What if I’m not really needed? These are scary thoughts. The work world thrives on speed and quality outputs. Getting a lot done and doing it well leads to “success”.

Fortunately, for me, the church world is very process-oriented, and tends to place a higher value on exploring ideas than on implementing them. This Sabbatical is evidence of that. It invites this kind of pause, provides space for listening and learning.

Terry on Gambier Island, 2010

Personally, I think both these “worlds” need to rethink the link between process and productivity. The United Church needs to make major operational changes – and it needs to happen right now. Institutionally speaking, there is an urgent need for strategic planning and implementation.  The corporate world, on the other hand, is notorious for greed and speed – a “time is money” mindset.  I believe Capitalism could be a tool for good if it took a step back, slowed down and reassessed its values.

The thing is, these worlds are not discrete and separate from one another. Nor are we, the people who inhabit them. And I think we would benefit – in all aspects of our life and work – from finding the intersections where structure and creativity, tradition and innovation, productivity and process meet.

Do I contradict myself?

I’m a  goal-oriented individual.  I need to have a vision, a clear sense of the outcome I’m working towards.  I’m also very process-oriented, so I’ve taught myself not to be too literal about those outcomes.  Hold a goal too firmly, and you end up squishing it like Lenny and his beloved mouse.

This goal/process slam may seem like a contradiction to some people – but I prefer to think of it as an intersection.

You need a goal when you’re trying to get something done. But you can’t control outcomes, you can only control your inputs – so that’s where you need to put your real energy.  I believe that if the process has integrity; the outcomes will have integrity – even if they weren’t the outcomes you wanted.  In the words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find You get what you need.

For five years, the Property Resource Team has been working to establish a portfolio approach to congregational redevelopment for the United Church in BC (specifically, redevelopments that would replace aging church buildings with a16939116_10158357218470008_4894390798052299705_n mixed-use facilities that feature housing and a multi-purpose church space).

We’ve made several attempts to find the kind of partner that could help us develop a portfolio of congregational properties. A partnership with a market developer got us started, redeveloping 3 of 6 sites with us – but they didn’t see an advantage in the portfolio approach, so we continued our search.  A partnership with a small non-profit developer is working well as a one-off project, but it can’t be scaled to accommodate several of sites at one time.  An attempt to partner with a large non-profit housing organization stalled after a year of negotiations.

We needed to change it up, and found a way to do that. We sought a financial partner, rather than a development partner.

Someone who would finance our venture, while we acted as our own developer. And someone who could take on more projects going forward (we started with three congregational sites, have since added a fourth, and have several more in the queue).

Our partner is BC Housing, they are serving as our lender and professional adviser.

In spring 2016, BC Housing provided BC Conference with a $3 million pre-development loan; along with a promissory note to finance the construction and secure the take-out financing for the portfolio.  The total cost to complete the four projects currently within the portfolio is estimated at around $120 Million.

What a sense of relief and excitement it was to finally get to a place whgo fastere our original vision has taken shape and a detailed plan is being executed.  It has taken a lot of effort, time and money to get here.  It happened because, among other things, a bunch of people trusted each other and kept working together through the ups and downs.  We remained focused on our goal, despite setbacks, and stayed open to various ways and means of achieving it.  We learned not to see these aspects of the process as contradictory, but as complementary, interconnected, and mutually beneficial.

For me it’s been an exercise of faith and action.  A personal journey that relied on both spiritual practices and good business practices.  Contradictory, perhaps, but these practices can and should understood as interdependent, reflecting the variegated and integrated nature of life.  As the poet says, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Moving Day

Fresh flowers on the mantle — peonies from our garden. Deck painted, repairs done, kitchen counters cleared, the detritus of a busy life put neatly away. Everything dusted and vacuumed, clean behind the ears like a farm boy on the first day of school.

We put our house on the Market a few weeks ago. We spent several months, before that, getting it fixed and tidy and ready for potential buyers. It sold quickly, no conditions. Now we must move. Our home has never looked better, and now we must leave it…

IMG_0151It’s been an emotional time for me and my partner, our kids and their other parents — our very own “Modern Family”. For two years we’ve been planning and wondering — plondering I guess you could say —  and we’re all feeling stretched thin, like silly putty.

The whole experience has given me some empathy for what congregations go through when they move out of their church building.  If you haven’t read my blog’s About Terry Harrison page, you might not know that I work for the BC Conference of The United Church of Canada as the Property Resource Team Lead.  In short, I work with United Church congregations to redevelop their property (or, in some cases, to sell it, so they can relocate).  In the redevelopment scenarios, the existing church building is demolished and the site rebuilt as a mixed-use redevelopment featuring brand new custom-built church space on the main floor of a multi-story apartment building, with housing on the floors above the church.  As the PRT Lead, I oversee the professional design and development team, and liaise with the congregational leadership teams who oversee the process of moving and relocating their congregations.

Redevelopment is risky, complicated, expensive and lengthy  — just like the process of selling the family home has been for us, albeit on a far smaller scale.

The hardest thing seems to be the uncertainty.  The question of “what’s next” hangs over us like a late November sky over the Burrard Inlet.

Disruption, loss of security, a temporary state of affairs.  We wait for the dust to clear and the next thing to emerge.

Like the Congregations with whom I work, my family is moving because we have changed. We are different than we used to be. Our kids have grown and left the nest, which seems natural and right, and we have responded accordingly. The nest needs to be renewed.

We, as a family, made some strategic adjustments over the last few years that gave us some extra time in situ, but they were never meant to last forever. Nothing does. The place in which we watched our children grow up is now too big for us, and we’re no longer up to the effort of maintaining it. It doesn’t mean we’re not “family” anymore, it’s just that how we relate to each other, how we move in the world, how we use and share space has to change in order for us to become V.2 of the Maxgraffisons.

IMG_0153What will our family in diaspora look like?  Who knows? We haven’t followed the nuclear family template so far, and we’re not going to start now.  As always, we will strive to have faith in the unfolding.

How each member of the extended family responds to the “not knowing” is different, so there are many shades of anxiety in the family dynamic these days.  We’re coping well enough, but it does put stress on our relationships. Each of us are being called to do our own emotional work, which we do because we know that our individual well-being forms the bedrock of our relationships with one another. And, ultimately, it is the strength of these relationships that will determine the quality of the transformation we’re going through.

That’s why — back on the work front — I’ve tried to place a real focus on building strong relationships within and between the Design and Development team and the Congregational Leadership teams. Everyone comes to the table with different gifts and skills, hopes and concerns.  And each of us functions from a different area of authority and accountability. We’re not all the same, and that’s okay.  Look at an orchestra or your very own church choir (or your favourite hockey team, if sports are your preferred metaphor) and you’ll notice specialization matters.  So we draw on the diversity of the group and create teams that are a unique mash-up of personalities and capacities, bound by a common goal, a shared sense of purpose and built on the strength of relationship.

This whole selling the family home experience has been ripe with life lessons for me.  What a relief it is to find, among these lessons, that my work and my family don’t exist in separate compartments.  That there are some real intersections between these two very important aspects of my life.





Minutiae.  Don’t you love how the word sounds coming off your tongue? Say it out loud,  mi-nyoo-she-aye. 

I love words. I don’t know why, I wasn’t a bookish kid. Perhaps it came from feelings of not being heard when I was younger, of being misunderstood.  I used to yell a lot.  I was the queen of the temper tantrum as a child. Now I tend to use words, rather than volume, to make my voice heard. (Admittedly, I can be just an annoying to argue with, but at least I’m quieter.)

I’m no poet, but I love those who are.  I love wordplay. I love wit, I love the rhythm and articulation of words.  And I love the power of words.


I don’t use words to sound smart — and if I do, I’m found out because it will come off sounding as pretentious as it is.  I use words to express myself. Feelings, for example, are often layered, full of contradiction and nuance.  I don’t paint, I can’t dance, so I rely on words to express these things. Lots of words, specific words, precise words.

It’s easy to learn words.  Anyone who can read can do it.  Reading is, in fact, the key to growing one’s vocabulary.

It’s fascinating to me how words seem to belong to particular settings. We’re accustomed to a kind of conformity and so words meant for one setting sound out of place in another. The language that fills the space around the table in a executive boardroom is not the same as than the one used at a church meeting.  An economist will discuss the data differently than a treasurer. A TED Talk sounds different than a sermon. But here’s the thing, our thoughts are deeply influenced by the words we use to express them, so why not stand in the face of convention — risk sounding a li’l different — and embrace the power of words? Change up your language, and you may find your way into enhanced understanding.  Choose new words and you can begin to communicate stale or discarded ideas in new ways.

Words are never more powerful than when they are collected together into a story.  Narratives can reach across communication chasms of all kinds — age, ethnicity, professions.  The use of myth and metaphor, analogy and parable, memoir and imagination have endured because they speak to us in ways that, in their simplicity, hold so much meaning.  A surgeon speaks to the traumatized family of a man who has just undergone emergency open heart surgery; she deftly compares the workings of the heart to a busy intersection and the torn valve to a broken traffic light. And they understand.

Words. Learn them, delight in them, share them. And, most of all, listen to them.  The interplay of words can surely open us to a rich exchange of thoughts and ideas, but the key to unlocking that richness is still and always in the listening.





Sometimes I Feel Like I Don’t Belong

Born and raised in the United Church, and having worked for the UC in BC for over 10 years now, I still don’t always feel like I belong here. I’ve worked with some fantastic people in this organization; thoughtful and caring, smart and funny.  I’ve also encountered some real jerks. But that’s the truth of anyplace, isn’t it?  It’s the truth of all of us. So why would we hold “church” to a higher standard. The people that work and serve in the church aren’t better than other people. We have a set of shared values drawn from our religious teachings that create a very high standard – but no one, none of us, can live up to those standards all the time.  And, quite frankly, I see equally high standards being set by people who have no church or religious affiliation. So, no, I’m not talking about the work ethic or morals of my workplace.  It’s this question of belonging that intrigues me.

The United Church of Canada has its own culture.  To my eyes, it seems to be full of people – lots of whom are congregational ministers – who are conscientious, creative, committed and empathetic.  ISFP’s and ENFP’s, if you’re familiar with Meyers Briggs personality types.  I, on the other hand, am driven, intense, direct and demanding (INTJ, if you’re curious).  Maybe this is why I feel like a foreigner in a place I have inhabited for over a decade.

Is it merely a Type A vs. Type B thing? Who knows.

What I do know is, like everyone, I feel most comfortable when I’m surrounded by people who are like me.  Put me in the executive board room surrounded by the small team of Type-A design and development professionals that I trust and depend on, and I feel great.  Send me into a United Church Presbytery meeting, or the annual retreat of BC Conference staffers and I feel like a fish out of water.

But here’s the thing…As long as I know I belong somewhere, then I’m okay with not belonging everywhere.

I actually think I’ve learned to thrive on the challenge of not fitting in. I know I genuinely enjoy that aspect of my job that brings me into relationship with people with whom I don’t have a lot in common.  It’s not easy and it’s not always different opinions (2)comfortable (!!) but working with folks who are different than I am – who are shyer, older or younger, more religious, straighter, richer or poorer, more relaxed, less communicative, browner, better educated, and more conservative than I– well, this just makes my work more interesting.

So do it. Find, then claim where it is you belong – and go beyond it.

What do you think when I tell you I work for the church?

Church, Christianity, religion — it all comes with a lot of baggage. So it’s no surprise that I often find myself explaining why I work for the church and what I think it means to be a Christian. No small task, and I’m no apologist.

There are sooo many kinds of “Christians” out there. There must be as many kinds of Christians as there are species of animals (8.7 million, in fact, according to

I visited the Natural History museum in New York recently and there was a whole exhibit devoted exclusively to mammals that are now extinct. Some resembled similar (but different) mammals that are still around, but many just came to an end… It made me wonder, if (when?) Christianity will become extinct.

Its survival is anything but assured. The more its rituals and teachings become fossilized, the deader it becomes. As the adage goes, adapt or die, and Christianity is very resistant to change!

Even The United Church of Canada — Canada’s homegrown Christian denomination and bastion of progressive Christian mores since 1925 — is at risk of hardening into amber. I personally know many UC leaders who are working to change the culture and excavate their congregations from 1964 — but even the best institutions, and the people in them, are slow to evolve.

Certainly some forms of Christianity will go the way of the Pig-footed bandicoot (declared extinct by the IUCN in the 1950s). Judging by some of the hate-filled “Christian” rhetoric on my social media feed these days, that’s for the best (apologies to the bandicoot). Those that survive will do so because of how they love. And their practices will surely look and feel and sound and BE different than they are today.

Whatever happens, I remain convinced that there are enduring and invaluable truths in the stories, symbols and images of Christianity. But you’ve got to unpack a lot of baggage — and not a little garbage — to find them. And that’s whats it’s going to take. An unearthing of the ancient verities of our faith and the discipline to genuinely live them out in the contradictions and uncertainties of our day-to-day lives.


Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

My name is Terry Harrison.  Among many other things, I’m a 54-year old white lesbian feminist, who lives in Vancouver and is married with three young-adult kids and a golden retriever. I’m on Sabbatical and spending some of that time thinking big thoughts and writing this blog.

My professionalTHarrison headshot2 background is in Communications.  I am currently the Property Resource Team Lead for the BC Conference of The United Church of Canada, where I provide leadership to congregations on matters related to church property.  In this role, I function largely as a communications and process manager.  I often describe myself as a translator, interpreting and explaining information to variously located groups and individuals who have vastly different perspectives. I help consultants and other professionals understand the ministry priorities, values, culture, polity and policies of the United Church.  In turn, I help church leaders understand and have confidence in the economic, technical, legal and methodological aspects of the property projects that I’m leading on their behalf.

For several years now, I’ve been moving between the church and the world. I’ve found myself in a unique position where I represent the church as an institution – its culture, its values, its decision-making practices, its authorities – in the marketplace.  I regularly exchange my United Church “business” card with a wide range of industry experts – architects, government agents, lawyers, property brokers, engineers, social service providers, economists, Social Impact entrepreneurs, bankers, city planners, developers, etc.  At the same time, I meet regularly with groups of faithful but aging congregants who, as volunteers, are running deficit budgets and struggling to keep their aging church buildings from falling apart; along with their Ministers who did not go to seminary to learn how to leverage the church’s capital assets to access much needed equity.

Whether I’m any good at this or not is a subject for someone else’s blog.  What’s relevant to this blog is that my job makes me privy to a variety of conversations that comprise a fascinating mashup of secular, religious, rational, economic, sacred, risky, creative, temporal, innovative, conservative, pragmatic and fear- and hope-filled thoughts and ideas.   The intersections are many and, I think, rather interesting and I’d like to tell you about them…