The United Church is not immune to racism -stories from our GC national meeting

Experiences of Racism Break into the Open

Posted on: 

July 27, 2018

by Kathryn Dorrell

The predictable processes of the 43rd General Council veered into uncharted territory as Indigenous and racialized commissioners and guests took to the microphones and for two hours shared their deeply personal experiences of racism and marginalization in the church. This turning point in the proceedings, near the end of the last day of business, Friday, July 27, was a powerful call to the church for true transformation.

Responding to a reflection by Intercultural Observer Paul Douglas Walfall, who called on the church to recognize its own racism and the marginalization of racialized members, youth delegate Daniel MacDonald and commissioner Penny Nelson presented a proposal that the General Council ask their racialized siblings for forgiveness, and that business processes and procedures be “transformed” from this point forward.

Moderator Jordan Cantwell then called on White commissioners to give racialized members of council an opportunity at the microphone and the lines of people formed up. As the outpouring of painful story after painful story unfolded, commissioners sat silently and respectfully. But the deep effect of these stories was written across many faces.

These stories can be seen in the last two hours of the Final Decision Session livestream on the 43rd General Council website.

The Moderator, the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, thanked all those who offered their stories, saying, “[You] have honoured us, challenged us, extending in doing that a hand of friendship … to us. I want to say thank for you for your vulnerability, for your challenge, for showing us how to be the church in a different way. You have given us a gift; we as a church need to understand how to open up that gift fully. We’re not going to get there tonight or tomorrow.”

Before returning to business, the Moderator suggested that commissioners take the time to let this rare gift soak in rather than rushing to finish up with the closing proposals, and moving on to closing worship and the installation of the new Moderator. This small step on the road to transformation may have been a true kairos moment for the church.

Moderator Richard Bott at Closing Worship: The Church Is Hungry for Change

Posted on: 

July 27, 2018

by Kathryn Dorrell

The Right Rev. Richard Bott, newly installed Moderator of the United Church, opened the final worship at General Council declaring that he is the “epitome of privilege” in a time when the church is hungry for change and needs to fully embrace racialized and marginalized people. “I stand before you tonight as a person who is a White, middle-class, middle-aged, cis, university-educated male. I don’t know what my blinders are even keeping from me, let alone the things I don’t want to look at because I am too scared,” said the Moderator.

Moderator Bott was acknowledging the emotional period of personal sharing that came at the close of business today. “When I came into court I heard the voices of this community, racialized and Indigenous folk, people who spoke with courage and vulnerability to me.”

Then he picked up the bundle of ashes that was presented at that time to the General Council by the All Native Circle Conference Speaker, Cheryl Jourdain. He said, “All I can say right now is … that I have to learn and pick up this bundle until it is gone from char to ash. The grace is that I am not the only one who is going to pick this up. I pray that you are going to pick them up with me—that we might be changed by God’s grace.”

The Rev. Evan Noodin Smith had given Jourdain the ashes from the Sacred Fire at the 43rd General Council. The bundle also contained ashes from the last fire of the All Native Circle Conference. “I couldn’t believe what they felt like,” said Jourdain. “They were all crunchy. They were not ashes. They haven’t burned long enough.” She added, “These are not mine to carry.”

After his opening remarks, Moderator Bott preached on John 6:1–14 (Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand), a passage that Worship Coordinator barb janes had chosen. In this gospel, we see the doubt of Jesus’ disciples, Philip and Andrew, and witness a miracle unfold through a simple gift from a child.

The Moderator reminded General Council that the famished crowd listening to Jesus was “hungry in so many ways … For freedom. For deeper connection with each other and with God …” And Jesus’ followers did not think they had enough to offer; a solution was impossible.

There are distinct parallels to the place we find ourselves today. “These hungers are apparent in the streets, in the news stories, in our social media, in our families, in the loneliness and brokenness of so many people’s lives,” noted Moderator Bott. There are also parallels to the marginalized voices that spoke of racism and discrimination and the urgency of change in General Council today. “Think of the child from the crowd. This child was hungry and was not part of the inner circle,” he said. “The child offered what they had, knowing that they might stay hungry …

“The child is us at our best, and the child is the world at its best; when we are ready to offer without having any idea what the end result might be—trusting that what God does with the gift, and with us, will be enough to satisfy the hunger, the hunger of all the world, and more. We could risk and we could dare and see those hungers satisfied. Risk. Dare. Thanks be to God.”

Watch the newly elected Moderator’s full address in the Closing Worship livestream on the 43rd General Council website.

An open letter and video to Premier Doug Ford from us in Ministry at the United Church of Canada

A short letter, and video, from many of us in Ministry,  listing the values and pursuits we’d like you to consider. 

 

see link at https://ontariouccministers.org/

Our Window Fundraiser Raffle

In the spirit of reducing our carbon footprint, Rowntree is endeavoring to save energy by upgrading our windows.

Raffle tickets to upgrade our gym windows are available from Brian Kominaek or Debbie Betchen until Nov 25.
Tickets are 1 for $2 or 3 for $5 . See display of raffle items in church.

Draw will be Sunday Dec 2. Thanks for supporting this effort.

Rev. Wendy Noble’s message from Aug. 19th; The Word Made Flesh

No Way to Treat a Child campaign

No Way to Treat a Child: Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts each year. No Israeli child comes into contact with the military courts. Ill treatment, including torture is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process” according to a UNICEF report. The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to challenge Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. It advocates for American and Canadian policy makers to take a proactive role in safeguarding the rights of Palestinian children and ending the military occupation of Palestinians living in the West Bank East Jerusalem and Gaza. It is a project of Defense for Children International –Palestine (DCIP) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) In the last three years they grown from a small group of activists in Chicago to a US – based movement, and are now expanding efforts to Canada. For more information on the campaign visit www.nowaytotreatachild.org.

What can you do?

Write to the Hon.Chrystia Freeland ,Minister of foreign affairs and your MP. Ask the Canadian Gov’t to pressure the Israeli Government to cease all settlement activity  intensify diplomatic efforts for just and lasting peace based on UN resolutions and international law.  Visit www.united-church.ca/social-action for sample letter