Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Practicing Spirituality...

Back in August I signed up for an e-course with Spirituality and Practice: Practicing Spirituality with Parker Palmer.  I signed up because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I have always been drawn to Palmers work and knew that I needed something to focus myself this fall.

I have been so enriched.  Each morning there is an email that arrives in my inbox with a quote from one of Parker Palmer's books followed by suggested practices and or questions.  As well there is an opportunity to share your reflections with the other 150 participants on an open forum.

This morning text was from The Promise of Paradox:
At the heart of letting go is faith and trust. If we do not trust that God "knows well that you need them," we will grasp at life's necessities and even at luxuries. Lacking faith that God will provide, we can only hoard against an uncertain tomorrow. But what is the warrant for trust when the world is full of examples that would make trust the lifestyle of fools? Is it not prudent to be suspicious, to take nothing for granted, to compete for more than our share, to hoard against future threats? As long as even a minority of people operate this way, they create a climate in which trust itself seems untrustworthy.
Perhaps this situation — with its self-fulfilling anxieties and its illusions of material security — is part of God's providence. For it is precisely by thinking that we can buy our security, and then by experiencing the loss of all that "moth and rust doth corrupt," that most of us are given a chance at conversion. Most of us learn about the paradox of scarcity and abundance only when we are broken in our efforts to put money or status or material well-being in that cavern of need that can only be filled by God.
And what is this paradox? Simply that "he who seeks his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life . . . shall find it." True abundance comes not to those set on securing wealth but to those who are willing to share apparent scarcity in a way that creates more than enough. Those who seek well-being, who grasp for more than their share, will find life pinched and fearful. They will reap only the anxiety of needing more and more, fueled by the fear that someday everything will be taken away. But those who reach out in service to their brothers and sisters, knowing that true abundance is found not in hoarding but in community, will find a life of plenty. Having been there for others, they have reason to believe that others will be there for them. 
It is this paradox that so connects me to ministry within the prison.  It is sitting with one who has lost all - family, friends, pride, freedom and sometimes the very sense of self... and see that one find himself again.  The one who looses their life finds it.

How many times have I heard men say something along the lines of "coming to prison saved my life" or "I wasn't arrested, I was rescued!"

And the midst of all this I am fed and I am urged today, to reflect on where I experience scarcity in my life and what actions grow out of my experience of scarcity.

There is a scarcity of time in my life.  Not enough time to do all the things I have committed to do.  Not enough time to have all the conversations that need to be had.  Not enough time to be with family and friends.  Not enough time to travel the roads I long to travel and see the things that I might see... and I realize that out of this my actions are sometimes franticly rushed, trying to get one thing done so I can move onto the next... and then I am reminded not to stop with the first answer that comes...
Where do I experience scarcity in my life? What actions grow out of my experience of scarcity?  Where do I experience abundance in my life?  What actions grow out of this abundance?
I experience abundance in relationships: family, friends, colleagues, inmates and strangers.  In most every relationship there is goodness that strengthens and sustains me.  This goodness moves me to go deeper and broader in relationship... and then ahha moment: the abundance is in the relationship - stop and treasure the connection in relationship...

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm back...

I've been back from General Council two weeks now - and I don't know where the time goes.  Each day is filled with so many demands and challenges - and - is over before you know it.

I took Thursday off last week.  It was to be a quiet day before a Kairos Marathon program and as it turns out, the place was locked down all day as a result of a stabbing early in the morning.  In the midst of the Marathon I was trying to respond to some of the issues arising out of Thursday and then there was another man in crisis in the Reception Unit... it never stops!  And I love it.

Today I had occasion to connect with a former inmate who I did a fair bit of work with during his time at Springhill.  We talked for quite a while - and after a bit he agreed to take on a piece of volunteer work in his area... and as the conversation drew to a close, he said in a soft voice, a voice that has know the hoarseness of pain, "I loves you Lloyd."  With tears in my eyes I could barely choke out, "I love you too _______."

This ministry sucks the life out of me and fills me back up again.  It brings me to tears and takes me to depth of laughter that I have never known.  It connects me to the brokenness of others and the brokenness within my own self - and calls us to wholeness.

Also today I had opportunity to sit with a man who has been incarcerated for 30+ years. For well over 40 minutes he asked me about the General Council meeting and some of the decisions that were made.  He calls himself a member of the "socialist church" and was quite proud of the stand the United Church has taken in regard to Israel/Palestine and intrigued by the changes to the United Church Crest.

Yesterday I had a visitor in leading worship, an African Canadian man from East Preston.  He brought a simple message of the power of God to change - as God changed Saul - so God can change us.

I was overjoyed.  There were 28 men in the Chapel and 12 of them were African Canadians.  As the visitor finished his message, I engaged the men in a brief conversation about the fear the early Church had of Saul - and how we continue to live out of that fear even today: not trusting those who are "different" whether by looks of beliefs...  or some other attribute.

it was a very positive afternoon and it was such a gift to see those men share the peace at the end of the service and to know that in some small ways bridges had been built.

The rest of the week will be full - and on Friday Zack and I head to Portland Maine for a weekend get away before he has to return to school and I settle back into work for the fall.

On the Sabbath Road...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

GC 41 (Day 8) A new day...

Saturday morning.  The end is in sight.  I was up at 5AM and got everything packed away and then I went to get the motorcycle and found it tangled in police "Do Not Cross" tape...  I saw no evidence of a crime scene and in that moment remember hearing something about cars needing to be gone from this space by 7 o'clock.  I thouught it was to be 7AM - must have been 7AM.

I toddled off and filled the bike with gas and then drove up to the residence building and loaded all my stuff.  I was ready to go...

The dining hall opened at 6:30AM and I was there soon after the doors opened.  I enjoyed a quiet breakfast tucked out of sight in a corner... I began to realize that I was in social overload.  I needed time to myself... and I think this is why I have been so tired all week.  Ten and tweleve hour days filled constantly with people is not good for this introvert!!

On about 8AM I headed over to the Raven's Nest and took up my seat at my table preparing for this final day.  The last two hours were spent dealing with empowering motions, saying good bye to table group members and acknowledging the gift that has been the person and leadership of our now past Moderator, Mardi Tindal.  Here is a tribute video to Mardi's term as Moderator.  We also took time to thank the many volunteers and staff who made this General Council possible and by 10:30AM we were ready for a break before worship began.  I was ready for more than a break.  I said my final good byes to a few folk as I left the space and then I hit the road...  I needed to ride.

For the first few miles I felt a little guilty about leaving early and missing the installation of the Moderator but as the road unfurled before me I began began to feel more comfortable with my decision - part of commitment to community is commitment to self care.  I was tired.  I was overloaded mentally and emotionally and I needed time to myself.

My destination was Montreal.  I had made a commitment to preach at Northlea United Church where my friend and colleague Helen Hliaris is the ministry personnel - but I headed due north. I wanted to ride through some of the Gateneau hills and explore some of the area around Mt. Tremblant.

Enventually after many enjoyable kilometers I reached Grand Remous and turned south east where I fueled up in La Macza and continued south.

Following a police car for 90 kilometers on a motorcycle is in no way fun!!

Despite the slow pace for that 90 klicks I eventually made it to Laval and was greeted by Andrew and Helen and Clancy and invited to join them around the pool.  Ahhh.  It felt good.

A little later that evening after checking in with family, we walked over to the local Indian restaurant and had a feast of butter chicken, curried beef and vegetables and fresh nain bread!!  Scrumptious!!

Returning from the restaurant I set to work to put some thoughts to paper for a meditation for tomorrow - but as the clock struck 10PM I could stay awake no longer and made my way up to bed...

Postcript... I understand from Twitter, Facebook and the GC41 webpage that:

  1. the Rev. Dr. Gary Patterson was installed as Moderator;
  2. he preached an awesome sermon;
  3. the Commissioners ended with a covenant;
  4. and that everyone made it home or was enroute home safely!
You can see it all here.

On the Sabbath Road...  below is a video I put together on Sunday morning as I was writing a sermon to offer at Northlea United Church.  Comments welcome!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

GC 41 (Day 7) All my relations...

Another full day... and a short reflection to end it as much of it is a blur as a result of some of spirited debate and the energy that this drew from my being.  Worship was again a highlight as was a report from our Global Partners.  You can read a complete account of their offering here... I was so deeply challenged by the words of Miguel Tomas Castro Garcia of Emmanuel Baptist Church in El Salvador:  “The way of life of many in the global North is causing our death. What we need more than anything is for you to help dismantle the system of power and wealth that results in our poverty.”

"I am working on then."
We wrangled over the proposal to test various models of providing pastoral relations support, oversight and discipline... and eventually a slightly modified version passed.  It will be interesting to see how this proposal is brought to life and how much buy in there is with the various Conferences and Presbyteries.  It was clear from comments from Staff that existing polity within the manual will be adhered to unless and Presbytery agrees to delegate its authority to the Conference...  Our Executive Secretary informed the Commissioners that Maritime Conference has indicated a willingness to the General Council office to explore the possibility of a test site - being very clear that there would need to be much negotiation before there was any firm commitment.  As I pointed out... this will require the willingness of Presbyteries that are willing to delegate their responsibilities of the Conference... I am not sure how long the line will be, but I suspect that one or two in the Conference might be willing to try it out!

Friday was an emotionally draining day for many reasons.  In the morning we heard shocking and heart-breaking stories of the inequalities – the systemic discrimination – of aboriginals in Canada with respect to education funding. We also heard stories of Residential School survivors. It moved us to tears. We must listen carefully. We must journey with them. there are two websites that I strongly encourage you to visit, read, and respond to: and

The product of all the knitting...
I am still waiting for my socks!
And then, we came back to the Israel Palestine motion.  The day before we had passed the bulk of the proposal including a slightly modified version of the following:

9)  Call on United Church members to take concrete actions to support the end of the occupation by:
  a. encouraging members of the United Church to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements;
  b. directing the Executive of the General Council to give high priority to establishing a church-wide campaign of economic action directed against one or more settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories;

Before us today was the following:

Breanna working on my socks!!
2) direct that United Church policies and actions, in relation to Israel and Palestine, reflect the content of the report;

I could not believe the amount of debate and procedural wrangling that this item in the proposal generated!  The Moderator had to rule on an amendment and then the court had to sustain the ruling of the Moderator or not...  drama in the Raven's Nest...

My humble opinion was that members of the court were struggling with the flashback that often follows faithful response.  The media had been hard at work, the headlines were bold, and perhaps we did not take enough time to debate the idea of "encouraging members of the United Church to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements".  Perhaps we should have taken a longer view of the wisdom of "directing the Executive of the General Council to give high priority to establishing a church-wide campaign of economic action directed against one or more settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories"... so there was a motion to reconsider... which failed.  After a couple of attempts to amend #2 above we ended up with a broader motion that reminded members of the Church that any participation in any economic action, in the end is a personal choice.  Such is the journey of faithfulness for each of us: what will I choose or choose not to do today?

A colleague on his blog explains it this way:  "We did NOT vote to boycott Israel.  We did NOT vote to boycott the Israeli settlements.  We DID vote for a “campaign of education and economic action on one or more products of the occupied territories…” Education first, then a possible action on ONE or more products. That is not a boycott, it is a symbolic action against those who would profit from goods produced in lands that are illegally occupied according to international law.  The report and motions are so carefully worded and nuanced that a simple understanding and explanation is impossible. If someone tells you they can sum up The United Church’s position on Israel/Palestine in a few sentences they are lying!  In the end I prayerfully voted in favour of the proposal. I struggled mightily with it, but in the end the tipping point for me was hearing someone suggest that because telling your friend that they are wrong is hard to do and they might get mad then you shouldn’t do it. Jesus taught justice, not niceness. I believe the occupation is illegal. I believe profiting from illegal things is immoral. Therefore I had to vote in favour. This is not the definitive position and solution to the Israel/Palestine crisis. It is just a sliver. It cannot say everything, but to stand by and say nothing is unacceptable."

Bruce Gregerson

Bruce Gregerson attempts to explain the motion in a video clip here.

By 5PM we were set free from the nest to gather with our Conference colleagues to return at 6:30 for a feast - and what a feast and celebration it was: traditional foods of first nations people including wild rice and salmon!

Following the feast Moderator Mardi Tindal and Ray Jones, Chair of the Aboriginal Ministries Council signed an historic new covenant recognizing the presence of Aboriginal people in the church since its beginning.  Lorna Standingready was invited onto the onto the platform as the covenant was signed - two amazing women of faith!!!

With the covenant signed (you can watch a video here) we were then led in worship by members of the All Natives Circle Council and the Aboriginal Ministries Council.  An historic event as we continue the journey of walking with each other, living our the words, "all my relations".

On the Sabbath Road... Amen.  Amen.  Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

GC 41 (Day 6) Open space and the Spirit carries us forward...

What an amazing day!  Upon entering the Raven's Nest, I was drawn into the energy of the circle of faith (not unlike the experience of circles in the Chapel at Springhill Institution each week).   Asiles leading from each of the four directions invited one to enter with their body.  A sax, supported by an electric guitar and voices of many singing songs of  gathering invited the heart to enter - and enter I did - fully into this experience of Open Space.

Following worship and reflections by two of our world partners the facilitators outline the process for the day.  In my experience of leading groups I was familiar with the process and have used it - but never on such a large scale (I missed the exercise at Maritime Conference as a result of commitments at the prison).

There are three principles of open space: whoever comes are the right people, whenever it starts is the right time, whatever happens is the only thing that could happen.  In addition there one law: the law of two feet/law of mobility.  Within the law there was freedom to be bumblebees and butterflies... those who move between conversations as the wind calls them.

The facilitators took time to explain the proces in both official languages and then invited folk to come forward and identify conversations.  These were then posted under various time slots on a wall of the space, identified by with host, time and gathering place (a stick with a windmill on the top).

There were three time slots and we were informed that we would cast ballots after prayer before the Open Space began and between each identified time slot as was needed according to ballot results.

Moderator Mardi Tindal was such a gift.  She invited us to quiet places in our hearts, called us to prayer and reminded us of the presence of the Spirit as we cast ballots.

I was encouraged to host a conversation on prison ministry - I did - and I was so encouraged by the experience.  25+ people came and sat in a circle and joined in a conversation.  Some because they had passion, some because they had family members in prison, some because they were curious and some because they felt the church was lacking in this work. "I was in prison...."

I was so deeply touched by the sharing of some of the young folk in the circle and their conviction that the church must be an open and inclusive place and how they envisioned that being so for released inmates.  Others spoke of the church as needing to be "a soft place to land" and needed to learn more about the over representation of First Nations folk in our prisons.  Before we ended our time together we took a record of our email addresses and committed to continuing the conversation.  Helen Bickle and her interpreter led us in prayer and then, as the next ballot was called, I took the notes that Miriam had taken, typed them up and they were submitted and will be part of the record of the Council.  More importantly for me - I will have them... and will read them each time I am discouraged and need to be reminded to the connection and commitment that the United Church of Canada has for the men and women who are incarcerated!  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!!

The conversations continued and slowly almost painfully the list of names on each ballot became shorter and shorter.  If there was one frustration of mine - it was the numerous instances of the phrase "moving forward".  It should be banned.  It is a phrase I here within the Correctional Service of Canada all too often!!!  Of course we are moving forward.  Even moving backwards we are moving forward!!  At one point I responded to a tweet and suggested that "these are the names of those being carried forward by the Spirit..."  And this was indeed how it felt... we were being carried forward in the Spirit - in the labour pains of birthing a new Moderator form this Council.  Each call for a ballot was a call to prayer.  Each prayer was one of gratitude and invitation.

And the conversations continued: French ministries, an association of clergy, inter-faith dialogue, and the list went on and on... such energy and passion.  Such a presence of the Spirit - allowing for the diversity of being - yet we were and are one in God!

As we waited for the result of the final ballot we came back into the holy circle: from the four directions, reconstitution the circle of being as we gathered our hearts and minds.  In sacred circle we shared words, written on foot prints that spoke of our journey: where we had been led today and where we as a Church are being led.  The microphone was passed from person to person words and phrases of the heart were offered into the circle - God was there in the still-point of the circle.

Then came devotions to mark the end of the day followed by the announcement we had been waiting for.  John Young and Gary Paterson had been the two who were carried by the Spirit onto the final ballot and when Gary was introduced a moderator the Council erupted into applause!  All of the other nominees moved to make the vote unanimous and greeted hin with great love...  and then, Gary spoke and some of us were moved to tears by his passion and commitment for the Church.  He ended his remarks by he quoted the whole of e.e. cumming poem, I Thank You God from memory:

I Thank You God...

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

                          e.e. cummings (1894–1962)

As he sent the Council for supper he offered his favorite scripture verse Eph.3:14-21 "Glory to god who is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine." And encouraged us all to "Ask BIG!"

It's going to be an amazing three years filled with surprises, challenges, opportunities to walk our talk and live the love that calls us... and likely a bit of poetry too!

Congratulations Gary!  You will be a gift to the Church!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

GC 41 (Day 5) On listening deeply and choosing to stand...

Wednesday.  Is it Wednesday already?

We began the morning looking at a proposals on a Statement on Ministry and for a study on "local ordination" as it may apply to those who are currently Designated Lay Ministers.  After a significant amount of debate and some word smithing both proposals were adopted.  Now it was back to the amended (and now revised by the court) motion from the Working Group on Israel Palestine.

As we moved into parliamentary procedure I was deeply conscious of the energy in the room.  Folk were keenly aware of the significant this decision would carry.  Speaking for myself, I knew that to vote in favour of the proposal was, in a very small way, stand with the men women and children of Palestine who have watched as more and more of their land has been taken over by settlers.  It was to say, enough is enough to the Israeli government, who in the past year alone has welcomed 4000 settlers to the Sate of Israel.  By holding up my ballot card in favour of the motion as it was before us was to remember that Jesus called us to stand with the most vulnerable of society, to speak truth to power and proclaim love in the face of hatred and peace in the face of violence.

It is important to note that the resolution calls on members of the United Church community to avoid product made in the settlements.  It is not calling for a boycott of all products made in Israel - only that we avoid those products produced on occupied land.

The issues of land, people and politics in Israel/Palestine is a complicated one - proclamation of the Gospel in the face of such complexity will to some, seem foolhardy, ignorant, or for some downright out of place...  I disagree.

Speaking truth to power:
  the expansion of the settlements must stop.
   the continued building of a wall to separate people must stop.
    using women and children and human shields must stop.

I cannot begin to articulate all the reasons that moved me to vote the way I did...  it was the right decision at the right time... seeking to call those who know the worst violation against their people imaginable to examine the politics and policy the perpetuate violation against the Palestinian people.

The violence must stop.  On all sides.  For this to happen their needs to be willingness to listen.  And perhaps that with the International Community and faith communities around the world paying more attention to the situation in Israel/Palestine - those who are immediate neignours may begin to listen to the pain of each other and make real changes for peace...

My reflection above is by no means complete...  I urge you to do your own research.  Consider the history.  Look at the statements from the United Nations.  Listen to the stories of those whose homes and farms have been taken away.  Listen to the weeping of mothers who have lost children on both sides.  Do this, and perhaps you might arrive at the same place as I - that this action of the United Church of Canada, an action similar to that taken by Methodist Church (USA) and Presbyterian Church (USA) is a small step toward proclaiming God's realm of peace and justice in the world...

Exhausted at the end of the morning I was unable to do what I had planned: a motorcycle ride in the Gateneau Hills.  Instead I did a load of wash and read and napped.  At 5PM I headed out to visit a cousin I could not remember ever having met before.  Donna is the daughter of my mom's brother and she grew up in Thompson, Manitoba.  We connected on Facebook through a mutual friend.  I so enjoyed my visit with her and Angus and Trevor!  Thanks so much for the chance to meet you all and hear and share some stories!  We must do it again - before another 30 years pass!!!

Returning to the campus, I parked the bike and was swept up in a crowd heading to the local pub... I had a night cap with them and then headed off to bed.  I was asleep before I hit the pillow.  On the Sabbath Road...

GC 41 (Day 4) Tweeting twittering twit that I am...

It is the day after. My head hurts.  I am writing as if I wrote this reflection on Day 4 before Day 5...  are you confused yet?  If so then you might begin to be able to appreciate the space my head is in!

Breanna Redden-Kelly waiting at the microphone.
Day 4 began with the Council beginning to consider the previously amended Report of the Working Group On Isreal/Palestine Policy.  The Council carefully worked through the proposal seeking clarity and then listened as two invited guest spoke to the Council.  Both guests were very gracious in their comments.  Unfortunately Dr. Victor Goldboom went overtime.  Even more unfortunately a member of the court rose on a point of order and attempted to limit his time. This is not how we practice radical hospitality.

Table Group 19
Perhaps it was by plan or design or just coincidental - however - it was fortuitous that we reached an order of the day and did not move to the motion phase in our process today.  We were allowed to go away and ponder where we are on this journey.

Following lunch we moved into Commissions - and here the real work began.

Add to the picture to the right, a band playing in the corner, imagine your bum in the hard plastic chairs that swivel and squeak and contort a body in strange angles... and them imagine words, words and more words flowing from the light emitted from a projector onto a screen at the front of the room... and a poor volunteer running from person to person with a microphone... and voices, voices and more voices speaking on and on and on... and you have some idea of what it was like to be in Commission!

Jane was right.  Being green was a challenge!!  The first challenge was to devise a way that Commissioners could be aware of the order of the Agenda.

We could not see the Agenda on the screen at the same time as the item presently before us... after a few minutes a wise person reminded us there was a chalkboard in the room!  One of the Co-Chairs agreed to list the Proposals in the order would would consider them.  This was so helpful - BUT - I cannot begin to remember the order, nor can I remember all the details, but let me reflect on a few of the items and the process and implications for the Church...

Some distracted themselves
from the word smithing!
First, we spent far too much time word-smithing!  Rather than debating the intent of proposals were were trying to micromanage items, forgetting that many of these items had already received significant attention by other courts of the Church!

We began to understand this as we started to debate the proposal from the All Native Circle Conference calling on the General Council to support them as they categorically reject the Northern Gateway Pipeline...  there was good debate.  There was a decision.  And then tweeting started...  The first tweet of a decision fromt he Commission was "The #UCCan categorically rejects the construction of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. #GC41"  As I read this, I saw error in the tweet - a subtle difference - but an important one...  The Commission voted to support the ANCC and BC Native Ministeries Council..." Unfortunately I cannot quote the decision as I do not have the minutes... Alas, a news report has been made by GC41 and you can read it here.

In the midst of the above debate and following it, I spent some time with Cynthia Gunn and a member of the Business Committee seeking clarity regarding when a decision of a Commission becomes a decision of the Council and who is responsible for communicating that decision and when.

I did not receive complete clarity to my questions, but, it would appear that as soon as a decision is made by a Commission it becomes a decision of the Council.

I continue to remain concerned.  Given the world of instant communication we live in, there needs to be clarity in who is responsible for communicating official decision and when.  Search Twitter with the phrases "GC41 purple", "GC41 green", "GC41 orange" if you want some examples of how decisions of the 41st General Council have been communicated - almost as gossip?  Perhaps not with malice but with incomplete even inaccurate information?.

Gossip was also a topic referred to the Green commission... and there was a much debate - even  more time on this topic then on the decision to support the rejection of a pipeline that could affect so many communities in both positive AND negative ways!  Eventually the proposal passed with some amendments...  and then we moved on to some of the proposed Manual/policy changes...

All of the proposed Manual changes were adopted - but not without some struggle - and laughter!  Early in the meeting Cythina Gunn, Legal Counsel for the Church admitted that this was likely the first meeting that she had ever come to without bringing her copy of the Manual... the Chair quipped, "And your sins will find you out."

Eventually with a copy of the Manual in hand Cynthia helped the Commission understand the nature of the proposed changes and once it became clear to the Commission that these changes were in support of the simplification of the manual and our processes we seemed to be a little more ready to let go of our word smithing and debating the placement of comma etc.

Its about trust.  And this will be a huge issue for the Church as it seeks to adjust to the new simplified Manual and processes.  We need to begin to trust one another again.  The health of our faith communities will never be sustained by a line in the Manual - but by the relationships we nurture and sustain with one another.  This faith community of ours is not about rules and regulations and restrictions and prescriptions.  Its about trust and relationship.  This true whether we are talking about gossip, the Northern Pipeline, the makeup of Ministry and Personnel Committees the Israel/Palestine issue or most anything else.  Trust.  Trust God.  Trust others.  Be in relationship.  With God.  With one another.

The green Commission extended its meeting time until 10:30 PM and, as a result of the trust that had been created and the relationship that had been established, managed to work its way through all the proposals entrusted to it.

By 11:00 PM I found myself at Mike's with a beer in my hand listening to some music and wearily reflecting on the day... and what a day it was, "On the Sabbath Road..."

Monday, August 13, 2012

GC 41 (Day 3) Review Everything...

 Its been another long day and as a result this reflection will be short.  Major items of business accomplished included accepting with minor modification "GCE 2 – REF GS56 2012 – Simplification of Church Processes" and "GCE15 – REF GCE 59 2012 – Comprehensive Review of How The United Church of Canada Lives Faithfully in God’s World".  You can find these items here in the workbook.  Please note, there were some minor changes which will come with the minutes.  You can also hear of the business in the News Reports.

I have connected with so many who have reminded me how long I have been part of this Church: Moderators who I inspired me at Youth Forum, fellow clergy with whom I have studied and served, lay folk who were part of Presbyteries where I have served, clergy who were interns with me, Ministry Personnel who have followed me in Pastoral Charges I have left... including Larry Burton, present minister at John Wesley United Church... these kinds of encounters lead you to places of deep reflection - and to realize that as I have evolved and grown so has the Church.

Review everything.

At the end of a long day I had yet another experience that leads me to say with even more conviction that it is time to REVIEW EVERYTHING... I sat in a local pub and toasted the birthday of a friend (Shawn Redden) with whom I attended theological college.  I sat with her daughter (Breanna Redden-Kelly)... I had held this young woman Breanna in my arms in the Manse in Acme, AB and rocked her to sleep - and now as a young adult she is a Commissioner to the this 41st General Council.  Times have changed.

While I am a member of the below average group (order of ministry folk in the United Church who are under average age of United Church ministry personnel - 57 years old) the world is different.  I am different.  The Church is different.  It is time to look at how we do things in a comprehensive way and make changes that better serve the world we live in and the structures and procedures that enable our shared ministry.

Perhaps with such a review and with a vision that unites us once again to the source of our being we will be in a better place to live out the words of a hymn that so moved me this morning during our morning gathering time.  I do not know the title or author, I missed that, but I did get these words:

May we rise with all Creation
as the Spirit gives us strength
May we heed the inner wisdom
that God's loving knows no length
May we be a faith filled people
living out compassions way
May we find the heartfelt courage
to embrace the dawning day

R:  May we rise...  (sorry for the large video file...)

If anyone knows the composer/author and/or where to find it please send me an email!

On the Sabbath Road... now off to bed in preparation for a day of meeting in Commission...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GC 41 (Day 2) Working hard...

Today's post will be a short one as I am so tired - and - it will center around a photograph that I took this morning of Commissioner knitting for one of projects identified by the Council.  She caught my eye because of her deep concentration and the fact that she poked her tongue between her teeth as she worked so hard.  This caught my eye and brought a smile to my face for a number of reasons.

First, I smiled because members of my family have this same trait.  Deep concentration leads them to such focus, such intensity that... well... they stick there tongue out.  Its a testament to their focus and to their commitment to the task at hand.  The trait marks them at the same time as unique - and coming from the same gene pool.  And to me it is endearing.

Second, I smiled because it is to young faithful persons such as this young woman that we can entrust the church to - knowing it will be in good hands.  For the nurturing of the community of faith into the future will take such dedication and determination, a willingness to learn new things and a commitment to mastering tasks that knit that which is apart - together.

We did some knitting today - knitting the colours of the medicine wheel into the United Church Crest, casting an stitches that draw persons of diverse cultures and languages together in worship.  In an historic action, we drew old and new threads of faith together as we voted to include the 1940 Statement of Faith, the New Creed and A Song of Faith into the Basis of Union.

We lost our focus becoming bogged down in where to place the semi-colon and commas and periods a couple of times and we struggled with what it would look like to have the General Council Executive explore what it would be to live out its work as an Affirming ministry... and we sang and worshipped.

We met the nominees for Moderator (all 15 of them) and we met as a Maritime caucus of sorts...

And tomorrow we will get back at it... and may we all be deep in concentration, focused on the task, knitting decisions and statements to heal a broken world, open to the spirit and as gracious and filled with light as the young woman picture above was when I told her how I was touched by the image of her knitting away...

On the Sabbath Road...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

GC41 (Day 1) Making Connections...

My day began with breakfast and breaking camp.  As a result of my last minute arrival the day before I had to switch rooms.  This meant packing everything up, putting it in storage, and then returning 5 hours later and moving into the new room.  All went seamlessly and I got some errands done and enjoyed a visit with family - thus began the theme of connections!
Switching Rooms

The first day at any large meeting is all about making connections and this is even more true for a gathering such as General Council.  Connections with the strangers who welcomed us in red shirts.  Connections with folk from across the Church that had not been seen in years.  Connections in a long line of folk waiting in line to enter a residence hall.  Connections with  a mob of people huddled in a tunnel waiting out a thunder shower.  Connections with friends of friends and sometimes friends of friends of friends... and connections with folk who will soon be friends... as this event brings people into a shared experience where safe community is created allowing for the presence of the Spirit.

Waiting for the elevator...
Beginning at 3:30PM with gathering music and through to 5:30PM with introductions and words of welcome to the traditional land of the Algonquin people and to the city of Ottawa, the opening set the stage for the week to come allowing folk time to connect with others in their table groups sharing stories of how they came to be in this place at this time.

Following a run through a thunder shower with a brief interlude huddled in a tunnel and supper eaten with a crowd of similarly soaked people we returned to the "Raven's Nest" where we shared in worship.

The time in worship was truly inspired as it sought to bring people into the space of a circle reminding connecting us to one another and to the two foundational Scriptures of the United Church of Canada: "that all may be one" and "what does the Lord require of you..."  I was especially moved by the worship teams rendition of Creation Calls as written by Brian Doerksen.

The liturgical dance sought to visually illustrate the movement of the Spirit as depicted in the logo for the 41st General Council - and succeed in connecting and including a wide variety of folk.

Liturgical dance...
The service ended with a moving celebration of communion with bread from all the 13 Conferences of the United Church and grape juice from the three shores - all signifying the great abundance that is ours from God.

My day ended at 10PM when I crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep...

On the Sabbath Road...

Friday, August 10, 2012

En route to GC41 - Montreal to Ottawa

The morning began very early... I got up - did what I usually do when I wake up... it looked light out... I glanced at my watch... Oh, 5:30AM... coffee would be good.  I boil water and then I looked at the clock on the stove: 4:45AM.  Well, I am up now!!

Clancy came and looked at me as if I was nuts... trying hard to snuggle and get me to go back to sleep... it was a funny sight!  My that dog has personality!!

By 6AM Andrew was up and Helen was not far behind.  With three cups of coffee in me, Helen set a beautiful cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato and onion bagel in front of me... was it ever good!!  With another cup of coffee and some conversation about the pending election and other Montreal side shows... I all too soon, had to pack up.

Andrew had offered last night to take me over to his shop and then to a job where they are installing some exotic hardwood.  I was keen to see it!  With hugs from Helen and a slobber from Clancy I was off chasing Andrew across the island.

What a selection of exotic and local hard woods.  Sustainable mahogany, bamboo, morato and other woods that I'd never heard off.  Andrew's company imports would directly from South America and Asia and are exclusive suppliers in Canada for some very exotic woods!  They do custom staining and have a lab upstairs where they test various stains and oils and throughout the space Antonia's (Helen's daughter) artwork proudly hangs and bring energy to the place.

From the shop we headed over to the home of Andrew's business partner where they are doing an install of a custom morato floor.  What a beautiful product!!  What a beautiful home!!

With a quick good-bye to Andrew I went to head out - only to discover there was something wrong with the GPS - the mount did not seem to be charging the GPS unit and as a result I could not use the ear bud to hear directions.  "Oh well," I thought, "I'll fix it later..."

I headed north on Autoroute 15 and then turned westward on Autoroute 50.  At Grenville-Sur-la-Rouge I dropped onto RTE 148 and continued alongside the Ottawa River.  At Fassett I took a little ferry across the river and I was back in Canada - I mean Ontario!!

The GPS brought me out onto Hwy 17 and I was so glad I was no where near the 417... I have no desire to do freeways on the motorcycle anymore!  I like the pace of two lane country roads with the occasional tight turn!!

In Rockland I stopped at the local Kawasaki dealer to respond to a phone call that had come in while I was riding and charge the GPS before I heading into Ottawa.  As I wondered around the store while the GPS was charging I was pleased to see that they had GoPro2 cameras on sale - I bought one.  My birthday present.  Thanks to all those who contributed and promised to contribute <grin>.  I am looking forward to using it to record some of my rides... and then I can spend the winter editing them and reliving the roads I have travelled!!

As a result of my phone call I decided to head right to Carleton University and see if I could get into my room a day early... good thing I did.  I got the last room available.  I have to move tomorrow - but I knew I had a bed for the night... and that's a good thing!!

With a room secured - albeit I couldn't check in until after 3PM I headed over to my brother-in-laws place and I had no sooner pulled in the driveway and he and Matthew pulled in behind me - coming from the hobby shop where Matthew go some parts for his nitro car.

Mark showed me where the beer was and he went off to work.  I helped Matthew with his car, bugged Sarah for a bit, played a game with Matthew, played with my camera and charged electronics... and then Nadine arrived home and soon after that Mark came home with Thai food!!  Yum! Yum!!  Yum!!!

The last three times I have been at Mark and Nadine's we have had Thai food from this place not far from their home!  It is excellent food and each time I go to visit I look forward to a feed of Pad Thai and Spring Rolls... thanks so much Mark it was a wonderful birthday gift!!  Especially the Shrimp Spring Rolls (mistakenly ordered and I got to eat most of them!!).

On about 7PM I decided it was time to head out some I could get settled at the Residence before dark.  The bike was quickly loaded and before long I was cruising alongside the canal as the sun set on the skyline.

Parking the bike in a NO PARKING zone I went to two different buildings before I found the right one... Lennox and Addingson House.  A couple to trips from the bike to the room got my stuff secured and with a little drive over to the parking lot, the bike was secured for the night!

Tomorrow I move to Frontenac House...  tomorrow GC41 starts.  Now I need to sleep (after 19 hours of activity).  I do hope I sleep in tomorrow!!