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Celebrating Graduates

~Cheryl Perry

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost —the birthday of the church. We have been celebrating birthdays in different ways during this time of COVID19—not gathering for parties, doing drive-by celebrations, etc. This Sunday we are recognizing some other people who have had a significant moment in their lives—graduation—happen in this time of physical distancing and school closures.

It was my enormous pleasure to spend a few minutes with each of these young people this week. I asked them about their experiences and what it has been like to graduate during a time of pandemic. What was different? Disappointing maybe? Memorable?

Graduation is such a threshold moment—between what’s been and what’s to be, between what’s been studied, learned and accomplished, and all that there is still to learn, discover and do.

?It is so good to mark this moment with celebration, although it will not be in the same way we have in previous years—with corsages and a cake after church at coffee hour. It is good to celebrate having further to grow—to note a mile-marker on the longer way and take joy both in the distance traveled and the distance yet ahead.

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate with the young people connected to our congregation who are graduating!

Greta Friesen, daughter of Carla and Randal Friesen, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. She will begin studies this Fall at UBCO in Fine Arts and Psychology. Although courses will be offered online this is not a big stretch for Greta as she has accomplished much of the last two years of high school online because of health problems. Despite these challenges, Greta has consistently made the Principal’s List for high grades. Her art has been featured at the Kelowna Art Gallery and, as well, she does her own screen printing, pottery, painting, sculpting and dye-making. She gave a TEDx talk in 2017 entitled, “A picture is worth a thousand words, right?”

Jon Gaba, grandson of Susan Sullivan and Frank Sliskovic, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Quantum Physics from UBCO, one of only 10 completing this program. His plans are to go to work in his field, probably at the coast but like everything else, nothing is certain right now.

Colin Hillmer, son of Nancy and Eric Hillmer, graduates from Rutland Senior Secondary. Colin plans to attend Okanagan College this Fall in the General Science program and then transfer to UBC (Vancouver) to complete a BSc in Forestry. He plans to specialize in Wood Products Processing which focuses on using the renewable resource of wood for purposes that have traditionally used non-renewable resources such as concrete and steel.

Alexander James, grandson of Trent and Jean James, has graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Software Engineering. He will be continuing post graduate studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. This is a picture of Alexander that appeared in the U of C yearbook. He was the top runner on the Calgary running team.

Lindsay Maier, daughter of Brenda and Greg Maier, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. She will go to UBC (Vancouver) to study Kinesiology and compete with the UBC Thunderbirds Varsity Track & Field team. Lindsay graduates with a 97% average and was accepted and offered scholarships to six universities. She received the Kelvern Celtic Society Bursary for her past involvement in Irish Dance, as well as other bursaries and academic awards that will be announced June 18th in the online commencement ceremony.

Corrine McLeod, daughter of Shelley McLeod, has successfully completed her General Business Diploma and Human Resources certification though online courses at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario. She is willing to move to wherever the job is, so is now submitting applications in several provinces and looks forward to full-time employment.

Fraser Newbury, son of Peter Newbury and Margaret Newbury-Jones, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. Fraser has received a $2000 President’s distinguished merit scholarship (awarded to students with a 95% average or higher) and a matching scholarship from the University of Waterloo where he has been accepted into the Honours Mechanical Engineering Co-op program. He has also received a bursary from Interior Savings. Fraser expects to remain in Kelowna this Fall as first semester courses are offered online.

Graham Phillips, son of Linda and Jeff Phillips, graduates from Rutland Senior Secondary. Graham is on the Principal’s List and will be the recipient of a District wide scholarship award which will be presented during the RSS online commencement ceremony. He will continue studies in the Animation Diploma Program at Okanagan College where he had started to take preparatory courses at night before the college closed.

Kelowna Area Churches Update

~Bob Wallace

Following up on our multi-United church gathering…

To continue to focus on next steps following the overwhelming multi-congregation response of “yes, let’s move forward with further exploration of how our local United Churches could work together”, a smaller working group is now in action.

The yet-to-be-named group includes the ministers as well as two or three congregation members from each church. The initial May 14 meeting focused on getting acquainted and creating a shared code of conduct for the group.

The June 4 meeting, facilitated by Allison Rennie, resulted in a draft of guiding principles for the group’s work which are currently being refined, as well as the creation of smaller subcommittees.

The smaller groups will spend a few weeks examining and creating proposals around some exploratory topics such as: I wonder what if we shared property or properties (real and financial)? I wonder what if we shared administrative functions and paid staffing? Or I wonder what if we share Ministry, worship and music?

Proposals will be shared back with the larger group members for comment, input and refinement at an end of June meeting. The group will meet again August 6.

My experience with prejudice

~Heather MacDonald

This has been on my mind for the past week, I think, pushing me to share.

My dad was in the Air Force and I have had the privilege of living across Canada. When we were stationed in Val-d’or, Quebec, the neighbourhood we lived in was French. My family, to my memory, was the only English family.

The children of the neighbourhood were great to my sisters and I, teaching us French, so we could communicate and play. They also taught us some swear words! As a result, French became our language of outside play.

When my family left Quebec and moved to Loggieville, New Brunswick, we continued to play in French as some of the children there were French.

I think my dad predicted that his next transfer would be to Gander, Newfoundland and he didn’t like that thought! Also, my dad had too many dependants so we would never be transferred overseas, and he left the Air Force and we moved to BC.

It was the fall of 1967, the FLQ was in the news and separatists were calling for their rights. We had moved to Port Coquitlam. One day, my sisters and I were outside playing when the neighbour children, ten and under, all lined up at the end of driveway and began taunting and calling us names.

Where did these children learn that French-speaking people were less and it was ok to treat people the way they did? They learned from the adults around them. How did I react? I learned to “forget” how to speak French.

My language of play was gone and only a few cuss words remain. I understand my experience is benign in comparison to others, but all these years later, it still upsets me. I am left with a bad taste in my mouth because in all my school years with those children, I never trusted them.

Curious to learn more about the work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank?

~Debbie Hubbard

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is one of Canada’s leading food assistance organizations. Its mission is to end global hunger by supporting projects submitted by their 15 member agencies and by influencing public policies necessary to end hunger in the world.

The United Church of Canada has been a long-standing member of the Foodgrains Bank. Here at First we have supported the work of the Foodgrains Bank through our donations to Mission and Service and by signing postcards advocating for an increase in international aid for food and agricultural programs.

On Thursday, June 25, we have an opportunity to participate in a webinar via Zoom that we and Trinity United Church in Vernon are co-hosting. It will be a 75 minute, online learning event with James Kornelsen, the Foodgrains Bank Public Engagement Coordinator.

James will share with us the important work the Foodgrains Bank does and how we as individuals and member churches can get involved. We will learn more about what the Foodgrains Bank does, the educational resources available to member churches and how you can incorporate these resources into worship services, study groups, Sunday schools and youth programs. Whether you are providing leadership in one of these Core Ministries or curious to learn more about, you are all welcome.

If you are interested in perhaps joining this event or need some more information please contact Debbie Hubbard at [email protected] or 250-469-4468. The webinar will be at either 10:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. on June 25.

The Gift of Self Care

~Elenore Wieler

Art by Henk DeRoos

When my 23rd birthday arrived, I had a 2-month-old son, a husband and an incomplete education. I saw my life mapped out before me: get a teaching degree while raising a child and work on making a happy marriage. Early that April day I had my doubts about the last one. I did not feel loved.

In my family, we celebrated birthdays in the morning. The birthday child came downstairs to cake and presents on the kitchen table – no matter how early everyone had to rise to accommodate my father’s need to leave for work at 8 am. In late April, my birthday mornings were full of sunshine and the happy anticipation of cake for breakfast! That was love.

Being a night owl, my husband couldn’t see the sense of such an arrangement. He told me that, much as he loved me, cake and presents would arrive with dinner. I had agreed, and then woke with the bitter taste of deep disappointment. Surely he’d only pretended he wouldn’t get my birthday surprise ready? After he’d kissed me good-bye and left, the apartment seemed cold and depressing.

The day loomed empty before me as I went through the motions of caring for myself and my son. His sweet gurgles and delicious scent didn’t put a dent in my self-pitying funk. Since my routine was to take the baby for a stroll before his mid-day feeding and afternoon nap, I headed out into the sunshine.

We lived in Osborne village in Winnipeg, an area newly minted with little shops of a distinctly European flavour. I usually loved walking along, looking at window displays of goodies priced well beyond our budget.

When I got to the bookstore, I decided to head in. Browsing through books has always been one of my favourite activities, even if that was generally at the public library. I left with George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, feeling decidedly better carrying a birthday indulgence.

Back on the street, my eyes lighted on the lovely new pastry shop. Cake, yes indeed! I had a much lighter step as I pointed the stroller toward the bakery. With a book under one arm and a boxed lemon buttercream roll under the other, I spotted the florist shop. A bouquet of pink carnations, daisies and baby’s breath rounded out my little shopping spree.

That afternoon, once baby slept cosily in his crib, I brewed fresh coffee and cut a generous slice of cake. Sitting at my beautifully decorated table, I enjoyed the treats and dove into my new book. Absolute Heaven. By the time Roland arrived with the promised celebration, I felt indulged and sated. Everything afterwards was a big bonus.

My greatest gift of the day was learning that if there is a void within me, only I can fill it. So if I want flowers, I get them for myself. If I need solace, I check inside to find out what will provide it. I ask myself, ‘What will make me feel loved?’ Sometimes I can find it, sometimes I have to ask for it, sometimes I have to wait, but always, the blessings are there if I take the time to look.

The memory of my 23rd birthday always fills my heart with warmth and gratitude. That gratitude then leads to even greater appreciation of the many gifts life has seen fit to bestow on me: a grown son with his own lovely family, a satisfying career in education and 45 years of happy marriage.

Oh yes, the last part was helped along hugely by the fact that, for many years now, I’ve walked into the kitchen on my birthday to find a cake and presents magically waiting for me on the table!

Joint letter from the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada

The events taking place across North America in response to the murder of George Floyd have given all of us a stark reminder of the ongoing sin of racism in our communities. Centuries of anger at injustice and anti-Black racism are literally bursting into flames as people stand for political and cultural change to address these deep-seated systems that work to oppress so many members of our communities. Coupled with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the threat against Christian Cooper who was participating in a park activity so many of us take for granted, and so many other day to day activities, we are reminded of the horrendous consequences of anti-Black racism again and again, depriving people of their safety, their freedom and their lives.

We as church leaders, acknowledge the pain, frustrations and anger of our Black communities, and recognize that systemic anti-Black racism is prevalent in our context in Canada as well; in the streets of our communities, in the justice and policing systems, and in our congregations and parishes. It is important for church members in our largely white churches to look at how we continue to perpetuate anti-Black racism, either inadvertently or intentionally.

George Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe,” continue to ring in our ears; they act as a prophetic voice of the pain and re-traumatization that is coming from peoples of African descent again and again. The voice is weary and tired. “We can’t breathe” is the collective chant of peoples of African descent, especially those in North America, as they continue to struggle against centuries of racism and systemic discrimination.

We are hearing the same voice from ministers of African descent, particularly as they pastor predominantly white congregations. This voice is tired of violence towards Black lives. This voice is tired of the exclusion of people of African descent in our structures of leadership. This voice is tired of the emptiness that comes from supposed allies who aren’t willing to acknowledge their own privilege and responsibility.

As Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, The National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Moderator of The United Church of Canada we want to affirm our commitment to ending our silence about and working towards the dismantling of anti-Black racism.

In March, we jointly released a letter in support of the International Decade for Peoples of African Descent (link here), acknowledging the reality of racism in our institutions and committing ourselves to naming and working towards the eradication of anti-Black racism. We are inviting the members of our communities to join us in this commitment by visibly and concretely demonstrating the call for solidarity in the UN decade. Some suggestions are:

  • Reach out to a friend of African descent and listen to their story and how these events have affected them. This is also a good practice for primarily white congregations whose minister is African descent.
  • Conscientiously and prayerfully consider joining public expressions of solidarity towards seeking justice against anti-Black racism;
  • Read books and other materials on Black history in the Canadian context, the impact of anti-Black racism, and the reality of white privilege;
  • Research critical elements of Black legacy;
  • Engage with the artistic and cultural production of people of African descent, with a commitment to learn the history and context within these expressions.

We call upon our members to join with us in this commitment.

Sincerely yours,

The Rev. Susan Johnson National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

?The Rt. Rev. Dr. Richard Bott Moderator, United Church of Canada

Computers and Communion

~Cheryl Perry

On a phone call recently some colleagues were sharing their experiences of having Communion over Zoom. Eric Hamlyn of Lynn Valley United, who does ministry with youth, shared that he had simply told group members: bring something to have Communion with.

He didn’t prescribe bread and grape juice, though most youth would understand these as the foods we eat at this ritual. Conscious of the recommendation that people limit themselves to one trip out for groceries per week, he encouraged the youth to be creative and to “use what you have in your house.”

As he reminded them, in Communion we are recreating the Last Supper. Jesus did not serve his disciples carefully cubed bread and pre-purchased grape juice, but he took what was on the table, what was at hand!

Several weeks ago we at First United experienced our first Communion since we had become a “scattered community” because of the COVID19 virus. Historically, the term diaspora was particularly associated with the Jews. But in modern times it has evolved and has been used to describe any involuntary mass dispersion of a population.

It is said that qualities that are typical of diasporas are thoughts of return, and a desire to maintain ties with “home” (often a country of origin). In some ways we are experiencing a diaspora. The closure of churches by order of our province in mid-March was involuntary, even if we agree that it was necessary to protect citizens.

As Alberta’s chief medical officer, Deena Hinshaw, has observed: “We are holding many things in tension right now. The need to protect ourselves and each other from COVID and our need for human community.”

Being a faith community without a building has had many challenges, and a few discoveries—even blessings. I dare say this is the experience of any diaspora population. It causes people to take less for granted and to cherish more.

?Observing rituals of the faith are a way we maintain ties with other Christians. The simple act of eating a little bread (or garlic Naan, or rice crackers, or whatever you have on hand), while we gather around our computer screens or telephones in our separate homes, can help us maintain ties with each other. It can have the power to connect us in a real and tangible way, while we are separated.

We hope you will join us this Sunday—with whatever you have at hand—as we join our hearts as a community in the celebration of the sacrament of Communion.

“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

Submitted by Ralph Milton

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Ring the bells that still can ring (ring the bells that still can ring)
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in