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I have had one of those wonderfully diverse days of ministry. I did a graveside service this morning and a wedding this afternoon. I actually like days like this because it reminds me of the fullness of life – both events are enriched by remembering the other. During these two services I probably had 20 pastoral conversations and interactions, maybe more, but the very best one, the richest, most meaningful, most spiritual, and most important was nothing more than a nod.
I was honoured with doing the funeral of the mother of the bride several months ago. During the wedding processional today the bride’s sister (a bridesmaid) came up the aisle and was to light a candle to represent the presence of their mom. It was a lovely gesture. She began up the aisle with a smile but by about half way to the front her face was starting to show the emotion of her task. She got to the front with tears starting, her hand trembled as she worked the lighter, and she lit the memorial candle. She then turned around to take her place in the line. The congregation’s attention was on the back of the church waiting for the bride to enter. I caught the eye of the bridesmaid, we looked at each other, and I simply nodded to tell her I understood. She nodded back to me with a slight smile through her misty eyes.
It was the best moment of my day.
Friday was an emotionally draining day. 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:
Then we spent the rest of the day on our Israel/Palestine report. I have several thoughts:
1. Yes it is important that we speak about oppression and walk with the least of these, but we spent far too much time on this issue compared with more vital church business. It certainly did not dominate our meeting as the newspapers will report, but it did consume many resources (human, time, etc.)
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
The day ended with a banquet featuring Aboriginal foods and worship, and then we had a Conference social gathering. It was a welcome end to a big, big day.
I have been looking forward to this day at GC41 for months! One reason was because my friend John Young was nominated for Moderator (the spiritual figurehead of our church for a three year term), and the other reason was a thing called Open Space.
There were an astonishing 15 nominees and John was one of the final two. It took 6 rounds of balloting and in the end our new Moderator is a very fine man named Rev Gary Paterson. The newspapers will all report about how he is our first openly gay Moderator but in truth that didn’t weigh into the equation at all. He was simply discerned to be the right person for this time. I wish him the very best. I love that in his opening remarks upon being selected that he quoted his favourite scripture passage: Ephesians 3:14-21 (which is also my favourite!). That’s a promising sign! 🙂
Open Space was excellent. One of the conversations was especially good – it was about the E-word…..evangelism. That’s something of a dirty word in our church so it was refreshing and energizing to find others who are passionate about it, like me. I shared with them my made-up replacement word…faithvertising! Then, as part of that conversation we actually held one another’s hands and PRAYED! Awesome! It was the highlight of the day.
Another great conversation I was in gave me this insight : wouldn’t it be great to capture the vibe and intimacy and spiritual formation and accountability of a ‘house church’ and make that the foundation of a ‘big house’ church? Yes please!
One of the really neat things about the discussions was that they were all in the same big room so there was a fair bit of noise. To hear one another we had to all lean right into the middle of the circle. As you looked around the room you could see all these groups of people leaning into one another and listening intently. What a gift to really listen to another.
It was a good day. And we didn’t wordsmith a single sentence! 😀