Message from the ministers

As one of the ministers of the communities of faith of The United Church of Canada here in Kelowna. I come here with a heavy heart to join in this vigil. I come to add our local voices to the growing chorus of outrage and dismay crying out across this land in the aftermath of the senseless deaths in London, Ontario just 7 days ago. This attack is but the latest in a long string of violent discriminatory attacks nurtured by a system of embedded racism and hatred.

The United Church of Canada decries a white supremacist system and culture that allows feelings of racial, cultural, and religious superiority to flourish and that enables such heinous hate crimes to occur. The church’s anti-racism policy declares that “we believe that we are all equal before God.” The United Church therefore reaffirms its commitment to anti-racism, to engaging in interfaith dialogue, and to speaking out against violence and discrimination rooted in racial superiority, including Islamophobia. [1]

As local ministers, we join you in your grieving, share in your tears, for you are our siblings in faith. We lament the unnecessary loss of innocent lives, lives cut short by ignorance, hate and phobia. There is no room for this in our world; no room for this in God’s world. 

As people of faith, as members of the human community, we are called to love one another, to show compassion for one another and to always seek for God’s justice. This world in which we live continually displays the diversity of Creator-God in how we look, how we dress, how we worship; such diversity is representative of a God who knows no boundaries and cannot be placed in any box of human construct, no matter how large or how small that box may be. God is diversity. God is the goodness in every one of us and so, today, we stand with you, the Muslim Community, grieving the senseless loss of lives, supporting you in love and compassion and seeking God’s justice for this world, today and always.

May it be so!


News from El Triunfo

This came from our sister community on the 40th Anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination (March 24, 1980). Because the annual international March in San Salvador was cancelled, the young people had a “virtual” celebration in his honour. ~Pat McPhee

From Adonay (one of First’s scholarship students)

Thank you very much for your message, it’s very important for us to know how you’re doing in this situation, and we are glad that your government, ours, and many more are helping with these measures that are so important for the health of all.

Here in El Salvador, two days ago the government imposed new emergency restrictions. Now there is a “Home quarantine”, which is to say, no one can leave their homes for 30 days, only one person per family is allowed to shop for groceries in supermarkets, two days a week. Those who leave their houses without justification may be taken to “quarantine,” meaning, far from their houses in shelters to wait out the remainder of the 30 days, near others possibly contagious with this disease.

For us, the new measures are very good to fight the virus, but also are affecting our studies, because now we cannot go to the parish to use the internet. The solution that we have found is to use internet through our phones, and thanks be to God this solution has helped us. Even though we now pay more to use the internet, we know that it is very necessary in this situation.

We’re glad that you liked our letters, and that you’ve displayed them in your church. We also appreciate the greetings you send to our families & friends.

For me I think that Romero is very important in these days of emergency, because with much wisdom Romero invites us to solidarity, peace, organization, to love with each other, to live and to share as sisters and brothers in this world full of social problems.

Thanks for your love and kindness, thanks for always thinking of us; we think of you frequently and your country that’s being affected by this virus.


Greetings to all.
Adonay Ernesto Miranda Rodezno

A Word From Cheryl About Yesterday’s Outreach

We have scrambled to implement more changes to our process for doing outreach including having people come into the building one at a time where we offer a bag of groceries to those housed and a “to go” bag with sandwich and juice and ready-to-eat items (granola bars, pull top applesauce & protein, oranges) to those staying on the street or in shelters. Many thanks to Helen Verokosky for providing sandwiches today; Margaret Vellenoweth is providing these to hand out on Thursday.

There is great concern about the virus getting into our sheltered population which has led to the announced early closure of The Welcome Inn. It will close this Friday, March 27. Other temporary winter shelters will likely follow suit—putting at least 80 people back on the street. Debbie Hubbard and Shirley Piedt are taking part in an online “operators and partners” meeting tomorrow that includes Interior Health, BC Housing and the City of Kelowna to discuss how to support the homeless population during this health crisis.

Yesterday we handed out approximately 30 bags of groceries plus another dozen of the smaller bags to those who are homeless. As we continue to gather names, addresses and phone numbers (when available), we are seeing quite a number of new people, particularly those living unsheltered. It would seem, as some of the sources for meals such as Metro and the Gospel Mission have closed or reduced services. Although the reduction in services has been implemented to protect them, it may be creating more hardship for these very vulnerable people.

Thanks to Shirley Piedt we have begun redistributing our supply of Kentucky Fried Chicken to Heath House—a supportive housing project—so they can provide food so people will stay in and not move around the community so much looking for food/resources.

On the anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, I leave you with these words from a prayer composed by Bishop Ken Untener, drafted for a celebration of departed priests.

“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

Grace and strength,

Sparkle Tour

“It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas”. One of the things that gets me in the Christmas spirit is to drive around and look at the wonderful Christmas light displays.

The Pastoral Care Core Ministry is pleased to once again organize the “Sparkle Tour”. People are picked up between 4:30 and 5pm, driven around the city for about an hour and then taken back to the church for hot spiced apple juice and shortbread cookies. Thank you to the congregants that have volunteered to be the “Drivers”.

Now we need to identify the “Riders”. If you would like a go for a drive at night and see the lights, whether you have mobility issues or you just don’t drive at night anymore, please sign up at the Welcome Table after church or call the church office during business hours at 250-762-3311.

~ Pat Totton

2020 Stewardship Campaign

What does “stewardship campaign” mean?

Once a year, usually in October, First United Church launches a Stewardship Campaign. While the Finance Committee has worked on many campaigns and understands what it means and what is involved, not everybody knows what is meant by the term “stewardship campaign”.

“Stewardship” is defined as “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property. The Biblical meaning of stewardship involves a theological belief that we are responsible for the world and must take care of it – through our time, labour and financial resources. At First United Church, we believe stewardship means formally committing to giving gifts of time, labour and financial resources to support the work of our church – both for the congregants and the wider community.

So as our campaign approaches we ask that you seriously consider what you can give. May we offer a couple of suggestions for gifts of time – Pastoral Care and Christian Education badly need your help. If you are a snowbird, commit to help either of these core ministries for the time that you are here. All gifts gratefully received.

First United needs your help!

Adopt-a-Road Clean Up

Enjoy some fresh air, an opportunity to get to know others in the congregation, and participate in a project that helps keep our city beautiful! First United is part of the City of Kelowna Adopt-a-Road Program and is responsible for a stretch of Guisachan Road east of the Chevron gas station at Gordon & Guisachan. If you would like to participate, please join us in the parking lot of the Chevron at 10:30am. The City provides reflective vests, bags to collect garbage, gloves, and signage. We provide the volunteers!

Click here for event details and map.

Tournament Raises $17K for Refugees

A successful evening at First United Church was held on March 8, 2019. This fun tournament raised more than $17,000 dollars for Central Okanagan Refugee Committee (CORC) sponsorships, including a Yemeni family. Thanks to all the friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours who pledged to support the Scrabble players! The evening was a lot of fun! Highlights included an opportunity to meet author Sharon Bala, author of The Boat People which won the 2015 Percy Janes First Novel Award and was selected for the 2018 edition of Canada Reads. At the intermission between games, tournament players listened to Bala read from her debut novel and talk about the process of writing, her own family’s experience in Sri Lanka and their eventual emigration to Canada. Bala ended her comments with a moving, heart-felt welcome to “those [in the audience] who have newly arrived…Welcome to Canada, there is room for you here!” Among the players were CORC’s most recent sponsoree, Anas Kartoumeh, a gay man from Syria who arrived in November 2016, and members of the Al-Shahoud family who arrived in 2013. The significance of that, noted tournament organizer Jodine Ducs, was not lost on those present. “At our last tournament, three years ago, the Al-Shahoud family had been present to say hello. They had just arrived a month earlier, knowing very little English. Tonight they are here playing Scrabble!”

This Halloween We T.P’d the Church

Transgendered People in the Church

First United’s Affirm Committee is hosting a potluck dinner Monday, November 19 at 5:30pm followed by the screening of the documentary film “Belonging in the Body: Transgender Journeys of Faith.” Following the 60-minute film, we are excited to have Beth Carlson-Malena, who’s the director of community for Generous Space Ministries, who created the video, with […]

Syrian Refugees

The Central Okanagan Refugee Committee (CORC) was formed in the late 90s as a consortium of United Churches (Winfield United, Rutland United and First United Kelowna) working together to sponsor Kosovo refugees through the United Church of Canada as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with Canadian Immigration (CIC). We sponsored four families at that time. Winfield had previous experience with Salvadoran refugees and First United with Vietnamese boat people and a “woman at risk” from Somalia with her young baby. In the early 2000s CORC also sponsored a single mom and her 4 children from Colombia after the husband had been killed by Colombian rebels. Recently St Paul’s United has also joined the groupBut as the Syrian refugee situation unfolded CORC became an umbrella or coordinating group for other SAH holders in the Okanagan because of our 15+ years experience and because our refugee family the Alshahouds (a family of 7) who arrived on May 20th was the first Syrian refugee family in Kelowna. (A Syrian family had arrived in Summerland, sponsored by Summerland United Church in late March so this was the second family arriving in the valley.) We wanted to be sure we knew what each group was doing so we didn’t duplicate things, could support each other and assist one another as each family arrived.  The SAH groups involved are:

CORC: Winfield, Rutland, St Paul`s, and First United Church (currently assisting the Alshahoud family and awaiting the El Sweitleh family of 6)
The Nelson Diocese of the Catholic Church (St Charles Garnier sponsoring a family from Colombia and awaiting a family from Myanmar; St Pius sponsoring an Iraqi family: the diocese is awaiting 12 families coming to various communities the Okanagan valley)
LARC: The Lutheran Anglican Refugee Committee (currently applying)
Winfield and Mission Creek Alliance Church (awaiting the Alasmar family from Homs Syria, and a second group is about to sponsor the married son and daughter-in-law and 2 children related to the Alshahoud family)
The Islamic Centre
Plus other members of the community who have asked to join the committee and work with us
The community has been very helpful responding to numerous fundraisers that have been held to raise the money needed to sponsor a family or families. The Society of Hope offered help for housing the Alasmar family coming under sponsorship of the Alliance SAH.

Dr Shane Ganier (dentist) and dental technician Shari  Holland took the Alshahoud family checked their teeth and did free xrays, and asked the Kelowna Dental Association if the dentists would each take on one of the family members to bring their teeth up to date filling cavities etc. The dad had his teeth all extracted and a denturist has now offered to make dentures free of charge. This was a big help to our group and family.

A group of young moms know as “Momas to Momas” have agreed to help us organize a daycare so the next 3 families who are coming with pre-schoolers can have daycare so the mothers can attend ESL lessons in the mornings. Previously the government used to supply the daycare but do not do so now. We will hire an earlier childhood education specialist to run the program and the Momas group will supply volunteers to help (and also bring their children to play and interact with the Syrian children.) They are also gathering children’s clothing.

A quilting group in Rutland and one in Winfield each presented beautiful handmade quilts to the Alshahoud family as our weather turned cold.

Some people contacted us saying that they had ESL experience and were willing to help. Because there was no ESL for the children during the summer these folks formed an invaluable group to provide lessons for the family every morning at the church, so they did not lose out and go backwards during the summer. Some of these folks now assist within the classroom as volunteers with the family and one assists with homework as needed.  Many hours have been put in by many volunteers.

This is truly a community effort and will grow as more families arrive.

Donations for the refugee families can be made at First United church and a charitable donation receipt will be given. Currently Mohammed and Sara are trying to pay back the government for the $10,000 bill incurred for airfare to being their family to Kelowna.