Archive for May, 2013

Blog Posts
2013 20 May

For everyone that’s wondering why it keeps raining…

Posted in Youth Blog

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“Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.” Zechariah 10:1

2013 20 May

Youth Night!

Posted in Youth Blog

Hey everyone! We had an awesome  youth night last Friday Night! We went to the Richer School Gym and played basketball, volleyball, and kickball! After that we went back to Bev’s house for pizza and cookies 🙂 Thanks to a certain youth for reminding me to blog about this. I hope to see all of you at Church on Sunday. Don’t forget your instruments!

2013 15 May

Permissive of Joy – Moderator’s Blog

Posted in Steinbach United

Permissive of Joy

by Gary Paterson

Stuck on my fridge door for many years was a quotation gleaned from someone else’s sermon (the Very Rev. Bob Smith, if I remember correctly), that I have probably “misremembered” and whose original source I have forgotten (Merton? Berrigan?):

Things are falling apart, and we stand on the brink of the unknown;

which is to say, things are normal and permissive of joy.

These words have come back to me in recent days, as General Council Executive in its May meeting had to struggle with approving a 2014 budget with major cutbacks. In the past decade, we have been financing much of our national church programming by drawing on our financial reserves; if we were to continue to do this, those reserves would be completely gone by 2015/16. And this is a big problem.

Now, the Comprehensive Review will be bringing recommendations in the next two years that will suggest a new way of being church. However, for next year, General Council must reduce expenditures by approximately $5 million. And that means reductions in two major areas: staff and grants. So, with much consultation, thoughtfulness, care, and advance warning, difficult proposals were brought to the Executive—and the budget was approved “with regret.”

Last week was hard here at Church House. Although half of the staff reduction was a result of retirements, not filling vacant positions, or the end of contracts, the other half (14) came from layoffs—and that is never easy.

And cutting grants to partners—global partners and Canadian partners, including Conference offices and theological schools—that too was a hard decision, for we know that the work of mission in 2014 will be affected. Yes, we will do our work differently, but we will also be forced to do less. (An important note: funding for Aboriginal ministry will be reduced by only by 5 percent, a decision made by those from across the church who planned the 2014 budget for mission support, recognizing the priority and financial vulnerability of this ministry.)

So, things fall apart and we stand on the brink of the unknown. If we’re honest, that’s how it always is. No matter how well we plan and construct our lives (and our churches) we are only one “event” away from everything changing. The world is always on the move, our context constantly shifts, and since the God of the Bible is dynamically engaged in history, our experience of the gospel is also changing—new wine and new wineskins:

 [Now thus says the Lord]… “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18–19)

So, if this is normal and God is involved in these changes, then maybe we truly can believe that these times are “permissive of joy.” Not a wild, exuberant phrase, perhaps, but honest and real, and very different from “happy.” We are on the brink of the unknown, and that’s okay. No matter what we do or refuse to do, God will continue to do a new thing. But we need not fear—there is room for hope. Recognizing that there is no magic answer, no one solution that fits all, there must be permission to experiment and to respond to new possibilities, so that “We’ve never done it that way!” is a door-opener, not the end of a conversation. And when the Comprehensive Review Task Group does bring forward its recommendations, we know it will be only another step on the way. A significant step, no question, but part of an ongoing process. But as the United Church is changed in ways we have only just begun to imagine, may we find joy in the journey.

2013 14 May

A New Kind of Partnership – Moderator’s Blog

Posted in Steinbach United

A New Kind of Partnership

by Gary Paterson

On Sunday, May 5, the General Council Executive was invited by the Ghana Calvary Methodist United Church to join with them in worship to celebrate a new “associate relationship” between our two denominations, The United Church of Canada and the Methodist Church Ghana.

It was an exciting invitation, although it required some creative reshaping of the GCE agenda. Buses had to be arranged to transport the 75 or more GCE members to Beverley Hills United Church, where the Ghanaian church is located (as is Toronto Conference Office—interesting partnership!). It meant being prepared for a two-hour worship service (which stretched to 2.5 hours—in truth, a tight schedule for our partners, who are more accustomed to a three- or four-hour service), followed by a joyous lunch with good spicy Ghanaian food.

Some background: an increasing number of immigrants to this country come from Ghana. Many are Methodists, and congregations have been established in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton (and in 21 cities in the U.S.). They are part of a new reality in this country—what some have been calling “the migrant church.” Take a look at the Ghana Calvary Methodist United Church website—I was moved by their words of welcome:

Our church has been offering hospitality and hope to the community since 1996. We do this because we are followers of Jesus: who welcomed anyone who wanted to talk, work or eat with him. In his presence, people found new hope for their lives. May you find here a living spirit of Love and peace of God.

They bring their own understanding of the gospel and their own way of “doing church,” and at the same time, they are looking for partnerships with like-minded Christians in Canada, ideally with those who share a Methodist heritage, where at least there is some common ground and history. Who better, perhaps, than the United Church?

An interesting dance has been going on between our two denominations, with excitement and questions. What does true partnership look like? How will it be mutual, with both churches open to different gifts and visions? One thing that did emerge was that the Ghanaian congregations want to maintain “dual citizenship,” to be a member of both denominations, and that means some new dance steps need to be developed to deal with property and oversight issues—tricky, but not impossible. The Memorandum of Understanding was phrased in typical “churchese,” but you could still sense the excitement and the commitment to MISSION, and when we joined together in worship there was a wonderful energy. Strong Methodist hymns, but also music and praise with a band that made it impossible to stand still—I mean, we really were dancing in the aisles. And that’s how we did the offering too, dancing up to the front and presenting our gifts. Bishop Asante, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church Ghana was present, and in his sermon he talked about a “historically dynamic God” who is calling us to love one another, and to do so in this inclusive, multicultural, multi-religious context that is Canada: “It cannot be business as usual.”

We were offered a glimpse that Sunday morning of possibilities, of new and long-time Canadians coming together, of changing each other, learning from each other, our differences put into perspective by our love of Christ. Sure, it will mean new conversations about language and gender issues, and new experiments in worship style and approaches (who says a worship service can’t be three hours long?), and above all discovering new ways of carrying out God’s mission!

Earlier in the week I had had an opportunity to have lunch with Bishop Asante, and what a pleasure. Amid the stories and laughter, however, there was a moment when he shared his sadness at visiting England—from where, with missionary zeal, the Christian faith had come to his country—only to discover that so many churches were empty or dying. In contrast, when I asked about Trinity Seminary in Accra, Ghana, where he teaches, he shared that 800 full-time students are preparing for ministry, not including students in evening classes or in the program designed for those who are already working. He thought there might be close to 2,000 students in total—quite a contrast to what’s happening in Canada.

It made me wonder about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our times as the centre of Christianity shifts. And I was very grateful that we have committed ourselves to be joined in a new way, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

2013 10 May

Moderator’s Message – Giving Thanks on Mother’s Day

Posted in Steinbach United

 

Giving Thanks on Mother’s Day

by Gary Paterson

 

I have walked with so many people through the loss of a loved one, and I have warned them about the busyness that follows every death: the funeral home, obituaries, arrangements for the service, the death certificate and visits to the lawyer and bank officials, the extended family arriving. It seems to go on and on, and the heart is always on the run, trying to catch up with everything that’s happening. That’s what I tell other people…but it was different when it was happening to me, when my mother died.

But there were moments when what was really happening got through:late at night, when Tim held me; when my daughters arrived; when we chose flowers and hymns for the service; when I looked through pictures of my mother, and laughed and cried…and when I began to feel surrounded by a community of prayer.

Let me backtrack. One of the necessary tasks that faced us was the visit to the family safety deposit box to sift through various papers and documents, stocks and bonds, and the will. However, there was a real surprise in the box—my baptismal certificate! One Gary Paterson, born November 27, 1949, baptized six months later on May 28, 1950 (and by delightful coincidence, my future spouse, Tim, was celebrating his fifth birthday on that very day!). Our family was living in Whitehorse back then, so since there was no United Church minister in town, I was baptized an Anglican. I am fond of that ecumenical beginning.

I was amazed that my mother considered my baptismal certificate important enough to stash away in the safety deposit box for all of those years. I took it with me for some pondering time. Why had it been that important to her? What did it mean that she’d kept it as one of her treasures—“in the bank” no less? Was it that important to me?

And so I pondered away. That baptism marked my entry into the Christian family, into the church. To be sure, the journey hadn’t always been smooth and straightforward (that’s probably true for most of us)—there were lots of occasions for family fights, for leaving home, not sure if I’d ever darken a church door again. But still, the church had remained family—a community I kept coming back to and where I finally found my place and knew I belonged; where I kept being reminded of the Holy and, sometimes, where I actually encountered the Mystery. That long-ago baptismal certificate helped me remember the journey.

So, here I was, some 63 years later. My mother was gone, and my heart was heavy. And that’s when the messages started to come…“We’re praying for you.” A few phone calls; many e-mails and Facebook messages; postings on my blog; letters and cards from extended family; friends; colleagues; people from congregations where I have ministered; friends of my mother; members of the General Council Office and Executive, Conferences, and United Church Women; and from many people whose names I didn’t recognize but who were part of the wider church…my family through baptism!

In this time of sadness, I have been carried by a river of prayer from one day into the next, by prayers that hold and sustain; that help me remember I am part of a wide, wide network of care and love; that remind me that my life and my mother’s life are part of something much greater than any one of us, than all of us; that we are embraced by Love, by a God who holds us all, the living and the dead, from whom nothing in all creation, including death, can separate us; prayers that offer the hope of a peace that passes all understanding.

I am grateful for my baptism and for a mother who treasured that baptismal certificate. I am grateful for this United Church, my home. And I thank all of you who have carried me and Tim and our family in your prayers.