Join us for Blethers every Tuesday and Friday.

Subscribe to the First Word and get the Zoom link to join the blether in your inbox every week!

A blether is an English term for a long-winded talk without a specific purpose, which is what we gather to do!

Outreach programs are continuing!

We are continuing our outreach programs in a modified format. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 11am we will be distributing noon meals and groceries to take with you.

First United & COVID-19

To do our part to help counter the spread of COVID-19, First United has adjusted our worship and outreach practices to promote physical distancing while maintaining social contact and community support as best we can.

The church building is closed to the public for the foreseeable future. We are awaiting the advice of the BC Government before reopening the building and resuming normal worship, outreach, and community services, which will fall under Phase 4 of BC’s Response to COVID-19.

We are maintaining social contact and community support by hosting online meetings every Tuesday and Friday, and online worship services every Sunday. Please subscribe to our First Word newsletter to receive the weekly links to these online gatherings.

Grace and peace to you all.

Latest News

The Power of Words

~Bob Wallace

Over the past few weeks we have been following the stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our faith – men and women who heard a promise spoken from beyond their everyday lives and who committed their futures to the fulfillment of that promise.

That promise has been transferred from generation to generation through what the text calls a “blessing” – words spoken, accompanied by specific actions, transferring the promise from one generation to the next. And once spoken, those words cannot be recalled. There is, then, a power in words … a power to shape and define, to create and destroy.

This year’s encounters with racism reminds us again of the power of words – words used to deny, to hurt, to enslave, to harm. The old adage: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” is a lie! Words can hurt. Words can destroy, words can deny futures. Words are powerful.

In fact, from a biblical perspective, the power of words lies in the capacity to share (or deny) future. Such power lies in the spoken words and accompanying actions of blessing.

Walter Brueggemann writes of these stories we are reading:

(they) offer a fresh discernment of the nature of power. … (they) understand that power, the capacity to shape the future, lies not in weapons and arms, but in the use of language, gesture, and symbol.”

[Interpretation: Genesis, p. 228]

As we continue our journey through these stories, look for the way in which the stories talk about the power and use of words and the gestures that accompany those words. It is my belief that these stories, heard as promises not only to those who have gone before, but as continuing promises spoken to us, empower us to discover our new future, a future filled with promises of life in all its fullness rather than despair.

More than anything, then, these words empower us to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that “God is with us. We are not alone.” And in that power, we are claimed once again as beloved children of our God.

And, from a world before we were concerned with gender issues in language, here’s a quote from Sigmund Freud.

Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.

Sigmund Freud

Remembering August 1: Abolition of Slavery in Canada

~The United Church of Canada E-ssentials

August 1, 1834 is the day the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, ending slavery throughout most of the British Empire – including in the colonies that would become Canada. It is estimated that on that day, 800,000 enslaved Black peoples were freed, as it became illegal for anyone to be a slave in the British Empire.

There is a grassroots movement happening in the United Church and beyond to proclaim August 1 as one way to support the fair treatment of all humans and affirm that all persons are made in the image of God. The commemoration of August 1 reminds us that the fight against systemic and anti-Black racism is far from over, and that we need to continue the work for the creation of a more just society. It is one way to continue the work of becoming an anti-racist church.

Join with people across the church in remembering August 1 and use the day to further the honest dialogue about the deconstructing of racism in our country. You are invited to join in a “silent witness” activity by wearing a T-shirt commemorating the end of slavery in Canada on August 1. There are two T-shirt designs available on the United against Racism website that can be iron-transferred onto T-shirts. There are also a number of blog posts to read on the United Against Racism website.

Just Eat It

~Jocelyn Smith

The inside of Jocelyn’s fridge

I grew up in the golden age of the video game console. But in my house we had very little screen time and no video games. As a result, I am one of the only people my age who cannot pass the first level of a traditional Mario game. I always run Mario into a hole!

My parents decision to limit our screen time continued to impact my life after I moved out. In the 20 years since I lived at home, I have never owned a television. That’s not to say that I don’t watch shows and movies. But for two decades now, I’ve consumed my media via my computer. In the current era of Disney Plus, Netflixs and Youtube, that’s not too hard to imagine. But 10+ years ago, it was not easy to find good shows online from a legitimate source. Imagine my delight when I discovered Knowledge Network online. A whole repository of great viewing, all free.

I started watching shows on Knowledge.ca and became a knowledge partner. One day, an email arrived in my inbox. Knowledge inviting us to an advanced screening of an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery. I may or may not have whooped in excitement but I did immediately rsvp.

Several weeks later I sat in the Queen Elizabeth theatre and felt right at home. The audience members closest to us in age had at least three decades on us. It felt like attending Queens United. 🙂 I enjoyed the show and the whole experience.

Aside from Agatha Christie mysteries, Knowledge hosts an excellent selection of murder mysteries online. They also host a lot of great documentaries and feature many made in BC programs. Recently, I came across Just Eat It. I watched it and now I find myself looking in my fridge a bit askew.

Just Eat It follows one Vancouver couple as they eat only waste food for 6 months. The results are surprising and somewhat confronting. Have a watch. https://www.knowledge.ca/program/just-eat-it

And now please excuse me, I need to go. I’ve got some saggy parsnips and a browning apple in my fruit bowl that can’t go to waste.

Unforgettable and Inspiring

~Rev. Dr. Sharon Wilson

Most of us have had extra time for reflection these last months. I’ve shared with you some of the memorable books I’ve read and invited all of you to send in your picks. As I was out for a run with Molly today I found myself thinking about some of the people who have had a huge influence on me. Two people are always top of mind….and they could not have been more different!

Ruth McCuaig was my Sunday School teacher from ages twelve to fourteen. Her own daughters were grown by this time so she had no vested interest in the sustainability of the Sunday School at Melrose UC. Ruth, for whatever reason, chose to be with our group of about a dozen girls.

I remember little of the content of the curriculum but I have vivid memories of lengthy, thoughtful conversations. Any topic we came up with she deemed worthy of our time. She was a published writer, an art collector and world traveller and from this vantage point she encouraged us to dream without limits. No matter how wild our ideas, she listened respectfully and validated our emergence as capable young women of the congregation and the world.

On visits home while away at university she was one of the people I made a point of seeing. As life took me farther afield we turned to letter-writing and finally emails to keep in touch until her passing. Ruth was wise and gracious but she was no pushover. Over the years we tangled on a few topics but that only served to help me grow. She guided me to look deeper and more broadly at issues as diverse as faith, career, values, community service and politics. Our last emails were a blessed chance to offer gratitude for this friendship born in a Sunday School class that lasted until I was nearly fifty.

The other person of influence is a man whose name I no longer recall. I knew him only briefly when I was a summer student at DOFASCO, a steel company in Hamilton. During my undergraduate years I drove the mail truck through the plant. I was the first female student to work outside of the office in a traditional male position.

My summers were successful enough that the company began to hire females for many more of the factory positions. One of my stops on my twice-daily route was the labour office in the Foundry Division. This was where unskilled labourers would gather at the beginning of each shift to be assigned their work for the day. As such, it was a pretty quiet place for most of each shift.

The first time I dropped off the mail, the fellow who looked after labour office asked me if I played chess. He was a short, round man nearing retirement. I found out later he had escaped Hungary during the revolution in 1956. As a university student who’d played a fair amount of chess over the years, this looked like a bit of fun. How wrong I was.

The first game ended in almost instant humiliation for me. I was crushed but determined to do better. Over those many summers our games lasted longer and longer. With only two chances each day to make moves we had lots of time to pour over strategy. Sadly, I never beat him. It’s little wonder as he finally confessed that he was a chess master before his escape from Hungary.

It was, however, another episode that sealed him as a person who gifted me with a huge life lesson. At Christmas during my final year of university I attended the huge company Christmas party with my parents. As a manager my Dad was there to greet the thousands of employees and their families. Mom was dressed in her finest looking very much like she was at a garden party at Buckingham Palace!

My friend from the labour office came over to us, gave me a big hug and asked about my studies. We talked about my thesis research while my parents watched perplexed. Finally, he asked for my address so he could send me some things he thought might help. My mother was horrified as I gave my address to this stranger! She was picturing all sorts of misadventure that would come from this grave error of judgement.

What I got a few weeks later was a stuffed manila envelope of citations from obscure military history books and journals. Many were extraordinarily helpful to my paper and I was able to include them. This man taught me the wonder to be discovered when we are open to people. If I had stopped wanting to know him when I encountered him with his broom in hand, I’d have missed not only his genius at chess and encyclopedic knowledge of European history, I’d have missed his humanity.

While I must acknowledge the many flaws in my personality much of what is good about me has come from people like these. Their influence and wisdom may have been at least a little unexpected but, over a lifetime, I’ve come to accept that these are the very folks who shape the best part of who we are.

I’d like to invite you to think about the special people in your life and share your story in First Word. Who are your influences? How have they shaped you? How are you paying it forward?

Outreach Update

~Cheryl Perry

As I step away on a couple weeks of holidays I wanted to give you an update. Throughout July and August we are continuing to offer Outreach on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00-11:00AM in the sunshine and fresh air. For the summer months we have moved to providing $10 grocery gift cards instead of bags of groceries. This will give our Food Shelf volunteers who shop and put the bags together a couple months’ break. We are still serving a take-away lunch as well. This is very appreciated.

We are seeing an average of 23 people on Tuesdays and 15 on Thursdays and serving about 50-80 sandwiches per week. If you would like to provide sandwiches (or homemade cookies or baked goods) you may drop these off any Tuesday or Thursday morning between 9:00-9:45.

As the summer weather arrived we have offered items such as water, hats, and sunscreen to people. Gerry Hewitt’s sister also sent some wonderful fabric masks she had made. They came in many colours, and men’s and women’s patterns and sizes. These were very popular!

We continue to put out a table of items to help through this time of social isolation: books, jigsaw puzzles, yarn, Sudoku/crossword/word find puzzle books, and board games. If you have anything to donate you can drop these off at the church or phone me to arrange a pick up (250-575-1780).

Thanks to a donation from Daphne and Paul Might we offered a “Pop up Picnic” in June and another in July. We served our donated Kentucky Fried Chicken and added take-away potato salad or chips, cans of cold drinks, and ice cream treats. And on July 2, we celebrated Canada Day by using up some hot dogs in the freezer, purchasing fresh buns, sauerkraut, potato salad, and watermelon which we served with delicious squares that were like S’mores—baked and donated by Jean Mackenzie!

Some have donated, and have encouraged others to consider donating, the extra money that they received from the government due to COVID19. Jayne Brooks wrote an excellent article that appeared in the First Word to encourage people if they didn’t need the extra money that was provided to seniors—some who have been very badly affected by the pandemic—to consider donating this to a social agency or charitable organization.

Many thanks to my regular Tuesday/Thursday volunteers—Leslie Atwell, Jayne Brooks, Tanya Pritchard and to all who have donated food or made financial contributions in June.

Thank you all for your continued support of our Outreach program – with your donations, your time and most especially your prayers!

Steffan at our “drive through” Food Shelf.

At First United we strive to be an open and inclusive community. We are people of all ages – young families, children and seniors. We worship on Sunday mornings and we have midweek programs for children, teens and adults. We are located in the heart of downtown Kelowna, at the intersection of Bernard & Richter streets. Click here to find out more about who we are and what we do.

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