Monthly Archives: August 2015

General Council 42 (GC42) the Seventh Day

I wish I could say we rested. That will come tomorrow, when Liam and I hop the

The Comprehensive Review Omnibus proposal has passed!
The Comprehensive Review Omnibus proposal has passed!

Mission and Service Bus to St. John’s.

This day was full to the brim. What did we do?

We rejected changing our status from a church authorized by an Act of Parliament (it means we have to ask Parliament to approve some of the changes we make to our structure) to a church governed by the Not for Profit Corporations Act. The vote carried in favour, but not by the 66% required. I was one of the 41% opposed. I could see no compelling reason to change. Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) the Seventh Day

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General Council 42 (GC42) Day Six

Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator Elect of the United Church of Canada

What a day. We began hearing a sermon in French and English, based in the story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus asking what he must do to find peace in his heart. Told he should drop his possession off at the nearest sale and give the proceeds to the poor, he walks away. Jesus looks after him with sympathy and understanding. It’s not easy to find peace in your heart.

The sermon riffed along highs and lows in the life of the presenter. In passionate French and accentuated English, he spoke to the church as the love of his life that he had given up job and security and certainty and lifestyle for. He poured his love out for the church and told us Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) Day Six

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General Council 42 (GC42) – the Fifth Day

Not a lot to report, M’dears (as they say here on the Rock).

Youth and leaders at Camp Westhaven near Corner Brook, NFLD

We opened with worship led in the four directions by folk from the Native Ministries Council, joined hands around the arena in a double circle and, as we heard words of connection, were gifted with tobacco bags, made up during last night’s spiritual practices.

Moving into Comprehensive Review discussions, our moderator opened with a caution to all. Lots of work to do and concerns about time available to do it are reaching the chair. Commissioners were asked to keep their sights high. To aim comments at substantive issues, denomination shaping questions not words that might be changed later anyway, as the intent and desires of the meeting became fully known. Some heard him.

A question from an Alberta commissioner, upset that she’d had the news about our decision on divestment from the top 200 oil companies from a phone call home. Nothing Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) – the Fifth Day

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General Council 42 (GC42) – the Fourth Day

Where do I begin?

How about with Bishop ReuelMarigza, the elected General Secretary of the United Church

Bishop Reuel Marigza, the elected General Secretary of the United Church of Christ Philippines
Bishop Reuel Marigza, the elected General Secretary of the United Church of Christ Philippines

of Christ Philippines? An ecumenical guest at General Council, he was one of two theological reflectors in this morning’s worship service. Taking his text from First Corinthians 13, the Bishop took us on a journey of poured out love from Masada to the mountain villages of his home islands. We can have no greater love, he said, than to pour out everything we have and are, in service to the love we bear one another, in service to our God, in service to justice and right relationship.

Telling us the story of one man, the leader of his community, a leader in his church, who refused to sign off on a mining operation in the mountains of his people, Bishop Reuel spoke with passion and conviction, I will do my best to paraphrase his words:

‘We know the man who killed him. Burst into his house and shot him in front of his family. We know who left his children fatherless and his wife a widow. Warrants were issued for his arrest, but he will never be arrested. The police are afraid, he and his Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) – the Fourth Day

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General Council 42 (GC42) – the Third Day

Speaking during the Aboriginal Ministries Council presentation, led by Ray Jones of BC Conference, Stan McKay shared a story.

“A person from a scholarly background visited an indigenous village in Guatemala. He wanted to learn about the people there. After days spent watching he noticed how important Corn was in their lives. Corn was flour and oil, corn was food off the cob and material for brooms and weaving. Corn was in every aspect of their lives. One day he was present when the community gathered seeds together and blessed them in their rituals. He thought he had it figured out.

“Going to an elder, he said, ‘I get it, I understand. You are like the corn’.

“’No,’ said the elder, ‘we are the corn.'”

Old CornWe are the corn. Rooted in the land, one with it. Stan told us that was true for indigenous people throughout the world, some were the corn, some were the animals, some were the fish. He spoke of the moment when Newfoundland lost the cod as a moment when the people became lost to themselves.

Other speakers for the Council told stories of the need to listen deeply, to confront wisely, to walk carefully, and to consider the Creator gratefully. We saw ourselves portrayed as a community of welcome and Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) – the Third Day

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General Council 42 (GC42) – the Second Day

“Let Us Mis-spell United Until We’re Untied”

Those words, from the updated closing dialogue/twin monologue/slam poetry piece of a Scott Douglas play, “Maybe One: A Theatrical History of the United Church”, echoed a theme that wove through the day.

Moderator Gary Paterson’s opening worship danced out joy and concern in poetry, scripture and song. The worship/report/reflections/prayers of the Comprehensive Review Task Group, the reports of standing committees, the theological reflection and the play itself, reminded us of the knots of concern we’ve tied and untied, together.

Next up, Nora Saunders, the Executive Secretary, gave her report, which focused on the activities of staff and committees over the past three years. She also gave an honest account of the problems created in a church that wants to do everything but has fewer and fewer resources with which to do anything. To paraphrase her ‘We have left some things undone because we could not do them. We will need to know your priorities before we go, because, no matter what passes here, we will not be able to do all of it. Give us your top three out of ten’.

I wondered when we’d tied our staff and committees up to structures. Why hasn’t this work been given to the whole church to take on? Who would ensure the need is known, how would it be done? There are still a few hundred thousand of us, surely we can find a way together. Why are we tied in this knot of incapability?

Something to ponder over the Alvin Dixon memorial run. I ran with a minister from BC, and, on the downhill run back to the finish time, reflected with her on loosening up anxieties over sermon preparation. Preparing, reading, researching, reflecting, thinking about the people who would hear the message and leaving things unfinished, uncertain until the Spirit enters in and has its way. After cool down and shower, back to the hall to listen.

Gary Paterson took the stage again, this time for his own accountability report. Laying out memories of 3 years as moderator. Memories held in Spirit, in gifts presented, shawls knitted and meals consumed. Memories of youthful energy, of events along the path of Continue reading General Council 42 (GC42) – the Second Day

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