On My Life, My Unions, My Understanding of Socialist Engagement, and Ministry

A friend in ministry had some thoughts about the current provincial election in BC. So did I. We were sharing them on social media, until my need to be expansive overtook me. So I’ve posted here. For anyone to look at, if they choose.

Hello my friend,

I hope this is useful for you. It has been for me. My ‘editor’ (Laurel) shares my context, and I have little idea of yours (other than that which we share) and, therefore, have no idea if this will translate, or be of service. It’s too long, I know, and I could edit for publication, or sermonizing, but I am trying to communicate something of my understanding, rather than writing to convince or intrigue, and I have a sermon to write too, so I’m leaving it as it is.  A ramble through my life, Canadian political and labour history (as I have experienced it), and some thoughts about where this goes as it informs my ministry. Thank you for instigating.

My life:

I come from a long line of working people, farmers, coal miners, labourers, skilled trades, the odd engineer and teacher and not a few activists. My folk were part of the army of settlers who came here for the land and were part of the army of soldiers who fought and died for empire and against fascism. My ancestors gave their lives in combat for ideals, and in deep dark holes in the ground, mucking coal and other valuables for the folk that our country gave right of ownership to.

I grew up in industry towns, (Kitimat and Flin Flon), and was steeped in the lore of Company versus Union at our dinner table. My dad (a staunch union member and organizer) would talk about Cadomin and the Coal Branch in Alberta, the company towns where his father and his mother’s family earned a living. His dad was a Legion manager, who was gassed at Vimy, and didn’t really have the lungs for other work. I’m told he could sing “Old Rugged Cross” and play a mean Nova Scotia fiddle. Dad’s mom’s dad and her brothers worked underground in places where you can still see the monuments to men killed when methane blew the bottom out of the mine. Those monuments are everywhere, if you have time to look. They’re still making them, less frequent here than in other countries, but you don’t have to go to Central America and Gold Corp to learn about the willingness of mine operators to risk and sometimes sacrifice life for profit. You can find it here too. And not just at Mount Polley. Continue reading On My Life, My Unions, My Understanding of Socialist Engagement, and Ministry

On Equity

This post was written in response to a number of articles and posts that attacked the ‘discriminatory’ nominations policy of the provincial NDP that requires a constituency to seek a non able bodied white male candidate for the nomination in a seat currently held by theEquality-Equity-Reality NDP. Called the ‘Equity Policy’ of the NDP, it’s meant to ensure the legislature has the benefit of MLAs who come from backgrounds and life experiences that are more representative of the population than the traditionally selected able bodied white males. The attack from local white males, their supporters and some in the media is meant to unseat
the policy and reinstate the status quo…

 

My how times have changed.

When I was young and learning how we care for one another, my grandmother taught me that those of us who ‘can’ are expected to do for those of us who ‘cannot’. She did that in many ways, but the most telling was on the city bus. If I was in a seat I was expected to offer it to someone who was older, weaker, carrying a load, or less able to stand than I was. There were times when she stood beside me.

These days they reserve seats for folk in those categories, but when they’re all filled, I see folk standing for folk who cannot. I see that in many ways, on the bus, in offerings of help to people who are hungry and homeless, in voices raised for a living wage, in concern for refugees, in those who identify and speak out against racism and homophobia. In those who want freedom of religion, and those who want freedom from it. Voices raised by those who can, service offered to those who cannot. It is good to see my grandmother’s teachings still living in our culture.

We see it even in electoral politics. One party has adopted a policy asking those who can stand for office and easily take the day to stand aside and offer their full support to those who could not otherwise stand and take a place of membership in the councils of governance. Those who are socially privileged standing, making way, and offering their strength to the less privileged so that we might all benefit from the wisdom they have earned and won in hard fought lives. Continue reading On Equity

Time to start dancing to another tune

One for the money

two for the show

                three for the lady on the radio

           four might be the one you’ll never know

(you’ll never know)

if only there was another way to go…

Seemed appropriate to open with a ‘Trooper’ lyric.

Canadian band, after all.

One for the money

Pipeline three to the US and beyond. Through Manitoba and Dakota?

Two for the show

Kinder Morgan through the heart of Burnaby Mountain. Concentrate the opposing forces. Set the narrative: Greens against commoners; Elites versus working families. Put the battle here, divert, divide, destroy.

Three for the lady on the radio Continue reading Time to start dancing to another tune

On Gretta?

To read many of the social media comments of folk in United Church 1corinthians13jpeg1-thumb-2circles, Gretta Vosper is the issue at hand, the issue of the moment. But it’s not the issue at hand that’s at the root of my churning. That is almost always the case, is it not? So many commenting and almost no one commenting about the issue we say we’re commenting on. It’s all about us. The eternal ‘I’.

I think some are pretty raw on the whole “United Church has no theology, no allegiance to Christ, no boundaries” calumny that’s often tossed our way by our holier brethren, and they’ve decided to draw the line on Gretta. Others have, well, other things going on. I don’t think a lot of it has much to do with Gretta, or her communication choices. It’s much more likely to have something to do with our own paths, the roads we’ve taken to get to here. Continue reading On Gretta?

Observing Walrus Spiritual Speaking

Walrus Talks on Spirituality

(see them for yourself on or before April 15 at http://ucobserver.org/walrustalks)

What did I think?

Initially I had to get over my pique at the Observer partnering with the Walrus. I’ve had issues with the Walrus taking Enbridge money (constant stream of full page ads telling us how committed they are to the environment while doing all they can to convince small communities that big money and fossil fuel transport needs trump traditional values and concern for the environment). For me it would be like the church accepting funds from the armaments or tobacco or pornography industries because there is no relationship between, as the Walrus puts it, editorial and advertising…as if. Anyway, once past that, what did I think? Continue reading Observing Walrus Spiritual Speaking

Hydro Rates Punish the Poor

A letter I wrote to the Cowichan Citizen sparked an article on BC Hydro rates www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/362865931 and

From the Tyee, find the article at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/07/09/BC-Hydro-Rate-Hikes/
From the Tyee, find the article at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/07/09/BC-Hydro-Rate-Hikes/

their effects on the poor. It was a great article, but necessarily left some of the letter out. Here it is, as originally written:

Dear Editor

I am writing to draw your attention to the increasing numbers of people being made powerless by BC Hydro, and, therefore, all of us. I work at Duncan United Church where many people are sent by our provincial government to seek relief from the circumstances thrust upon them by our provincial government.

People come to our church daily seeking food, clothing, shelter and help with their rent and utility bills. The rates of pay, pension and social assistance that we think are acceptable are the direct cause of their plight, but the indirect suffering caused by a steady increase in fees for almost every kind of public service has exacerbated the situation. The most onerous of these has to be the increase in BC Hydro Rates and the punitive collection practices employed by BC Hydro. Over half of our requests for financial assistance come from folk who are under a disconnect notice from BC Hydro. Continue reading Hydro Rates Punish the Poor