By Helen Reed, Presiding Officer
This week, June 10th was the 95th anniversary of the official formation of the United Church of Canada. After years of talking and compromise and coming together in partnership, something was born that had amazing possibilities and promise.
Not perfect, but a beginning. Not everyone saw this as the answer (we know some churches chose not to be part of this joining), but a dream was there and they answered the call. It has not been without struggle. There have been times when voices within our church have challenged the status quo, have asked us to recognize when we have made mistakes, have drawn us into new places and spaces and, yes, into new dreams.
At varying times throughout our journey we have stopped to name who we are and who we, in faith, strive to be. As our history tells us (on the UCC website) nineteen years after our beginning one way our story was told was through the United Church Crest. Latin words around the fish shaped symbol “ut omnes unum sint” meant “That all may be one,” were grounded in John 17:21, to remind us that we strived to be a “united” and “uniting” church. In 1980 we added the French translation of our name. In 2012 we enriched this story by incorporating the colours of the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel and the Mohawk phrase “Akew Nia’Tetwa:neren” meaning “All my relations”
Within this togetherness we recognize that we are many and varied people who try to get things right and while there are certainly times where we fail, there are many times when we succeed. Our faith holds us together. Our belief that God is with us in our struggles gives us strength. We hold strong to our knowledge that Jesus, God with us, teaches us and guides us through those challenges. We call ourselves God’s family, God’s children, related by love.
As we acknowledge this birthday year of our church, our togetherness looks different. Chinook Winds Region was supposed to be meeting for our second General Meeting this week. Plans were made for an inspiring theme. Plans were made to be amazing hosts. Plans were made to engage us in discussion about the dreams for our Region. While we can’t follow those plans, at least not now, I encourage us to see how we are being together as church.
We have the opportunity to share inspiration and support and story in weekly online Regional Gatherings. A Newsletter gathers our stories and encourages us to be involved in reaching out to our relations, to find ways that we are all invited in to the table, to find ways to connect in unpracticed ways. We have staff who jumped into the new reality with us – without really knowing what they were getting into – who have guided us, supported us and challenged us to be open to new possibilities.
When some of our family have found themselves in sorrow, hurting we have gathered to support them. They, in turn, have shared their story to help us understand what it means to be family together, to learn from each other.
As our founders did, so many years ago, we find ourselves engaged in conversations about how we do ‘new’ church, how do we create something that is meaningful in new ways and yet still keeps us together as one, as family.
Please be part of the conversation. Please keep doing your best to look after your neighbours and friends. Please continue to explore new ways of being, of supporting, of loving this family of God that we are in together.
We are still not perfect, but continue to grow and learn and we find at ourselves at another new beginning. Our faith reminds us that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God” (John 1:1).
In these beginnings of relearning who faith family is, of remembering how to welcome and care for all, of rediscovering that being church is more than being in a building may we remember that God is in this beginning too. May we remember that courage and faith of our founders who dreamed and dream and invited us into it.
In our varying ways and places, let us be together in faith and love and care. May we remember that, with all our relations, we are one.
Helen Reed, Presiding Officer, Chinook Winds and Ministry Personnel for Pioneer Pastoral Charge, Oyen, AB.