2013 24 December

A Blessed Christmas – Moderator Gary Paterson

Posted in Steinbach United


Home for the holidays… it feels good to be back here in Vancouver (even if it is raining).

One of the gifts of slowing down is the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened this fall.  It’s been a busy time, with lots of travelling – what stands out for me is how faithful and amazing the United Church truly is. I’ve been at gatherings like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission eventBanff Men’s Conference; orBehold! (our church’s intercultural conference). I’ve spoken at presbytery and congregational events, where we shared our grief and our hope as we talked honestly about all that is happening to our church. I’ve shared worship with congregations across the country, listening and preaching, and together we have dreamed of the future. My heart is full!

I truly believe that we are in an exciting time, when the church is being called by the Spirit into new life. But it’s not easy. We know that change includes loss; that evolution is rooted in extinction; and above all, that resurrection is preceded by crucifixion. But we are people of faith; we know that we are not alone; and we trust that God is doing a new thing.

These past couple of weeks I have been energized by two meetings here at General Council Office. The first was a two-day gathering to begin planning for General Council 42 at Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, in 2015. We began to dream about theme, worship, music (Rev. Maya Landell is the Chair of the Worship and Music committee), business (Rev. Fred Monteith is the Chair of the Business Committee)…and there was lots of conversation about the Comprehensive Review. It was serious stuff – and yet, I can’t remember when I laughed so richly at a church committee meeting; the energy was life-giving, a gift of the Spirit.

The second meeting was of the Comprehensive Review Task Group (CRTG). This task group is always mindful of the importance of the work they have been entrusted with – indeed, sometimes this feels like a burden. But we also know that many people in the church are holding us in prayer. And, once again, we all had a sense of the Spirit’s being with us. We were bringing together insights from the consultations with congregations; feedback from various groups (e.g. General Council Executive, Personnel Ministers, Global Partners, Educational Centres); input from several General Council committees (e.g. on Membership, Effective Leadership, Aboriginal ministries); the research and work we have been doing as a committee. And then, with much prayer, we began to outline next steps, and worked hard on what would be going out for the next round of consultation, this time with presbyteries and Conferences  as we ask for wisdom from those who are involved in these courts of the church. At the same time, we celebrated the launch of the Comprehensive Review new web platform, United Future (www.unitedfuture.ca), which will enable anyone and everyone to be part of the ongoing conversation.

I am hopeful…sure, there are days when I worry; and times when the future is murky. But the people I meet; the faithfulness I witness, prayer and hard work together; with glimpses of the Spirit’s brooding over us all…these sustain me. And I give thanks.

And then there are other signs…I have recently learned that members of the United Church have contributed over one million dollars to help the people of the Philippines recover from the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan; and, that contributions for Gifts with Vision are already double what they were at this same time last year. There is a deep generosity at the heart of the United Church.

So… in this Christmas season may you know the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

And, by the way,  you probably won’t be getting any blogs from me until the new year. 🙂