Feeding Your Interests

~Lorraine Hladik

Are you feeling at loose ends? Maybe taking an online course will erase that feeling as you learn more about a new subject or look deeper into one you know.

FutureLearn is a website that offers courses on many topics, all from world-class universities. The courses are often repeated several times over the year and run from 2 – 8 weeks in length. I have taken courses from universities in England, Scotland, Australia, United States and Canada from my home, impossible for me to have done if I had to go there.

FutureLearn courses are all free and available for 14 days after completion of the course. If you want credit for any reason, you can pay a small sum and always have access to the course and its material as well as receiving a certificate. They allow flexibility as they are online, allowing you to do the weeks unit in one day or over the week. The material is presented in videos and articles with links to other sites for more information. You have a chance to comment after each section of a week’s class and you can learn a lot from the other students who come from all over the world and have many different experiences and knowledge.

FutureLearn has a wide variety of subjects, many current to today’s issues. I have taken 24 different courses on history, religion, health, archaeology, science, and others. In July I will be taking the 3-week course Making Sense of Data in the Media and hopefully it will help me to quickly debunk fake news.

It is free, interactive if you wish, and flexible in time spent on the course. If you want to try a course here is the link https://www.futurelearn.com

That All May Be One

~Cheryl Perry

This month marked the 95th anniversary of our denomination, which was founded on June 10, 1925 when The United Church of Canada was inaugurated at a large worship service at Toronto’s Mutual Street Arena. The motto “Ut omnes unum sint” appears on the crest that was designed for the new church; the Latin words “that all may be one” recall John 17:21. In 2000, the United Church’s anti-racism policy by the same title, “That All May Be One”, named as one of its four goals “to speak to the world by supporting anti-racism work within broader society.”

As then-Moderator Jordan Cantwell put it in her letter of March 2017: “We need to name and examine our fears, prejudices, and assumptions. The privilege that many of us are born with may desensitize us to the injustice, exclusion, and hate that some in our community experience on a daily basis. Only in that way can we build, as That All May Be One envisioned, a church and society where all are welcome, where all feel welcome, and where diversity is as natural as breathing.”

I winced when I re-read these words recently, in light of the demonstrations and protests taking place following the death of George Floyd. Images of people, fists in the air, or taking a knee, holding placards reading “I can’t breathe” filled my thoughts. These words have been a rallying cry of those who have experienced the pain and injustice of racial violence. A sign I saw at the demonstration in downtown Kelowna two Fridays ago read: “If you think it’s hard to breathe with this mask on, try being Black in America.” It was a powerful message. The only thing that needs to be added is to acknowledge that this is not just the experience of Black people in America. It is in Canada, too.

Although we may proclaim that God is found in our common diversity, the sin of racism is present in our Canadian society and in our church. Now more than ever we need to be committed to racial justice—by building right relationships through reconciliation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, by engaging in interfaith dialogue and speaking out against violence and discrimination rooted in racial and religious bigotry, by speaking up when we see acts of discrimination and acknowledging the white privilege we might benefit from in our church and in our society.

2020 marks the midway point of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024) which The United Church of Canada is participating in. As people of faith, we know that prayer has the power to transform and amplify or actions. Each Sunday, through the International Prayer Cycle, we are invited to pray for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent. May we continue to pray and take whatever concrete measures we can to combat racism and intolerance.

Family Ties: Our Summer With The Ancestors!

~Bob Wallace

Genesis literally means “a coming into being”—and this Sunday we will continue to get better acquainted with the “First Family of Faith”—as we continue the story of Abraham and Sarah. This week, we hear God reiterate the promise to Abraham and Sarah that they shall be come the parents of a “great nation,” yet at the same time, we learn that the couple continues to age while not having any children.

The story is messy, and not always filled with easy to hear stories. But they are about our faith-ancestors, the ones we are told God chose to serve as foundational figures to three world religions. Dr. Eugene Peterson once wrote:

One of the remarkable characteristics of the biblical way of training us to understand history and our place in it is the absolute refusal to whitewash a single detail … The history in which our Scriptures show that God is involved is every bit as messy as the history reported by our mass media in which God is rarely mentioned apart from blasphemies. … God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work. As one medieval saying has it, “God draws straight lines with a crooked stick.” (God) can and does work with us, whatever the moral and spiritual condition in which he finds us. God, we realize, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people.

(Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 140-141.)

So come along this week and learn some more about these unique people – and maybe something about ourselves as well.

See you in Zoom-church!

Wild Church Okanagan

Wild Church is going live again! We’ll be in the Okanagan at Bertram Creek Regional Park on Sat, July 4.

In order to maintain safe social distancing and other COVID protocols, we will offer 3 different 90 minute gathering times and limit the number participants per gathering time. We will meet at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. If you want to get a little bit wild and connect with the Holy in a great big garden, you are welcome to join us.

You MUST reserve a spot by emailing [email protected]. For more information, contact LeAnn at 250-851-1984 or visit wildchurchbc.org.

Church Board Work Goes On

~Sue Sullivan

First United Church board has been meeting virtually since the building has closed. As congregational members are always welcome to sit in, I have attended several of these meetings and continue to be impressed with the work that goes on.

There is a new chair and a new treasurer who have quickly become comfortable with the various committees. The other members of the board, who are the chairs of the standing committees, appear to have adapted to this way of doing business They can discuss agenda items with the respect and attention that I have found throughout the different levels of church structures I have been a part of.

One the items brought forward several weeks ago was the newly written Memorandum of Agreement between Central Okanagan Refugee Committee and First United Church plus approval by Rutland United, Winfield United and St. Paul’s United.

Tom Kemp spent a lot of time drafting and writing it, and he and Jodine Ducs and I, as members of CORC, wanted First to have a formal document acknowledging the partnership between our groups. The Board spent time discussing the MOA and agreed that it was a good way to continue our support of world issues outside our own immediate circle.

Other agenda items, including support of staff and financial concerns and continuation of Outreach in its modified form, received the same thoughtful compassionate consideration.
For anyone who wonders what we are doing to keep Church without our building, I would suggest you sit in on the next Board meeting and feel the living Spirit for yourself.

The Comeback of Hugs

~Cheryl Perry

It feels almost like a confession to admit it: before COVID19, I was a hugger.
Quite suddenly in mid-March that habit had to change.

We know the importance of touch. It is thought to be one of the first senses humans develop and it is so important that studies have shown babies who are denied touch and human contact do not develop (physically, emotionally) normally.

If you have a dog or cat you probably already know the benefits that petting them, snuggling with them, can have for you. In children and adults, handling an animal, petting its fur, feeling its presence, is comforting and calming. While practicing physical distancing from others, touching a pet can be a simple reminder that we are still a living, breathing, feeling creature.

Christina Bach, a counsellor and social worker, suggests that if you don’t have a pet, you can try something called “mindful touching.” If you are someone who likes to bake, for instance, take time to really pay attention to how it feels. Notice the textures of the ingredients. Kneading dough can be an excellent exploration in mindful touching. How does the dough feel as it comes together? How does the texture change?

Other spaces you can try mindful touch include, gardening, fibre work (knitting, crochet, quilting), and other crafts. Even folding laundry! There are also mindful touch meditations available via apps like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.

For those that live alone especially, replacing human contact, for now, is important to maintain our well-being. Perhaps you have been trying mindful touch without even knowing it. What is helping you cope with the absence of touch in your life?

Herman Roodenburg, a cultural historian at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam notes that the kiss has “had its moments of crisis” too. England’s King Henry VI banned the act in 1439 to combat an epidemic of bubonic plague that had ravaged Europe for nearly a century. It was likely an act of self-preservation, as kissing wasn’t common among peasants, but it was how knights paid homage to the king!

Still, Roodenburg notes, its symbolic importance in religious ritual—“the kiss of peace” exchanged among Christians, for example—kept it in social consciousness. Marcel Danesi, an anthropology professor at the University of Toronto and author of The History of the Kiss!, predicts that though the handshake and the kiss have disappeared for a time, when this latest pandemic finally goes away we should expect a resurgence.

?“Touch is critical in human interaction,” he says. “In one way or another, it will make a comeback.”

That makes me so happy I could hug myself!

Peoples, Histories and Relationships of This Place – Reconciliation Matters Newsletter

~Terry Teegee, Regional Chief, BCAFN, Assembly of First Nations

What do we know About the Peoples, Histories and Relationships of this Place?

The term “Aboriginal” was created in 2015 just prior to the government of Canada’s change in terminology to “Indigenous” a collective noun to refer to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. If you would like to learn more about terminology click here to download Bob Joseph’s Guide to Terminology – Usage Tips & Definitions.

Earlier this week, Terry Teegee, B.C. Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations was asked: How would you like Canadians to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2020?

I think for all Canadians, they should think about their relationships with Indigenous people. How do they see Indigenous peoples, the original peoples of this place we call Canada?

How do they relate to Indigenous peoples, to relationships with the First Nations. Because every inch of this country has been inhabited or is a First Nations territory. If you’re in Vancouver, you’re in Coast Salish territory. What do you know about the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-waututh nations — all those others nations and communities in the Greater Vancouver area? The Semiahmoo people? What does the average Canadian know about Prince George, know about the history of the Carrier people here, where I’m from, where I live?

Understanding and knowing where you’re from is half the battle, but also too, understanding our lived experience, we all experience racism. And whether the average Canadian knows it or not —it could be inadvertently — but understanding and accepting that racism is alive and well in Canada will bring us a long way to healing our relationship with not only Indigenous people, but with Black people, minorities.

Know and understand the lived experience of Indigenous people, and go out there and celebrate with Indigenous people.

I think it’s a significant day that many Indigenous peoples hold dear to their heart, and I think we celebrate with everybody.

Click here to read Glacier Media’s the full interview with Chief Terry Teegee.

Click here to read the Reconcilation Matters newsletter with information about National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Weeds

~Tom Kemp

On a recent walk in a wooded area my wife Pam and I were admiring the Spring wildflowers. Upon our return home we were shocked when she looked online to identify the flowers seen and discovered some of our favourite, beautiful wildflowers are invasive species—WEEDS.

Several days later we were walking on the Mission Creek Greenway and saw a field shimmering in one of these yellow beauties. Weeds seems such a misnomer. A little further along the trail we saw another field beautified by a profusion of invasive blue flowers. Pam commented, “I wonder if the indigenous people view us like an invasive species?”

There is no doubt that we, the offspring of settlers from outside Canada, are not native, but we have flourished numerically to spread over the land and banish those who first loved this land. The indigenous nations respected Mother Earth and were its wise and devoted caretakers.

The settlers, however, saw the land’s richness and declared ownership, and discovered resources that could be raped from the land for tremendous profits. Like invasive plant or animal species, we have changed the ecology of the land and have marginalized its original caretakers.

To our shame we have expected these indigenous peoples to be happy with what was decided was left for them . . . until more valuable resources were discovered to be on those lands. They should move along and not thwart progress and profitability by impeding plans to develop and exploit these newly found treasures. Settlers as an invasive species, weeds? Hmm.

For generations a pattern of exclusion and exploitation has dishonoured the indigenous people of our country and sought to change them to become more like us. How do we even begin to right these wrongs, to live into Reconciliation? How can we make our invasion of their land less noxious?

I do not believe the indigenous peoples are seeking a quick, overnight “fix” of the wrongs, but a shared process of entering reconciliation. They are the keepers of the wisdom and the perspectives that will make this possible. Thus, to begin to live into reconciliation, we must listen, learn and be guided by their wisdom. They will coach us on how to live respectfully with them and with Mother Earth, to avert catastrophic climate change and loss of biodiversity. They will open our eyes to see the spiritual connection uniting all aspects of Creation that we should be respecting and preserving.

Another step toward reconciliation will require us to own their right to live their traditional lifestyle which has sustained and nurtured them for centuries. This will also challenge us to grant them the right to manage and govern their traditional territories, protected from invasive development plans.

It seems weeds can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. May we learn to be so.

Family Ties

~Cheryl Perry & Bob Wallace

Last Sunday we began the nearly six-month season of “Ordinary Time”, during which this year we move chronologically through Genesis, week after week.

In this context “Ordinary” doesn’t mean typical or humdrum – rather, it comes from the word “ordinal,” meaning “related to a series.”

Throughout the summer we will take an ordered, deliberate, step-by-step pilgrimage through the story of our ancestors in the faith.

We will explore “family ties”—those of the biblical families in Genesis: Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca, twin brothers Jacob and Esau, sisters Leah and Rachel, ending with the well-known story of Joseph in Egypt.

?These stories are full of loving relationships, sibling rivalry, the death of parents and birth of children, family secrets, forgiveness and faith. They may remind us of our own family ties and struggles in relationships. And they hopefully remind us, too, that we are not perfect and yet God’s promises are for us as well.

Although the lectionary readings will move us chronologically through the stories in Genesis, much is left out of the lectionary, and we invite you to read that on your own as you wish – either in preparation for each Sunday or afterward. This Sunday we will be looking at the stories in Genesis Chapters 12-15.

Join us at 10AM this Sunday, as we begin to hear the story of Abraham and Sarah, the first biblical family to have their daily lives, their customs, and their life story described in detail.

Their story marks the transition from God’s promise in a general sense to care for all creation (in the earlier stories in Genesis of Adam and Eve and Noah) to God’s promise to care for a particular group of people. God chooses this family and covenants to be with them and their descendants forever.

Learnings from the Pandemic

~Bob Wallace

Rainbow by Linda Gilmour

On Friday I got to make an “in-person” pastoral visit! Suddenly it felt like there might be a glimmer of hope for returning to “in-person” relating after long weeks of self-isolation.

During that conversation, we spoke of many things, not the least important of which was trying to answer the question: “What have we learned during the pandemic that we ought to take into the future?”

This has been a frequent topic these past days, so I thought it might be interesting to share some of what I have thought with you for further thinking, refinement, and discussion. So, here goes!

  1. We can make radical changes when we accept such changes are necessary. The swift spread of a virus brought us to a crisis—changes became essential. And so, almost overnight, we changed…changed our ways of relating to one another, our ways of gathering. And the motivation for such change was not only our concern for our personal safety, but also with our concern for the well-being of others. In other words, we can make changes quickly for the sake of the well-being of others.
  2. We can adapt and learn new skill sets for living into the radically changed new reality. Look at how quickly we took up frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizers, keeping social distancing, changing the frequency of our grocery shopping, developing “telephone trees” to keep in touch, learning and using Zoom, and so many more new ways of acting.
  3. We cling to the memories of “before the change!” We remember the ease with which we used to relate to one another, the joys of being “all together in one place” for worship, the energizing times of singing together, the fun of coffee and fellowship in the church hall. And at times, our nostalgia invites us to return to those moments – even as we know we cannot, for we have all been changed. We know we cannot go back to what once was. As adults might long for the days of youth, we will go forward as new people, altered by our time in isolation.

As we leave behind what we have been, what might be emerging?

Until then, Grace and peace to each and all.