Worship July 5 , 2020

Central Okanagan United Churches Joint Working Group – Update

Within the representative working group, made up of ministry staff and laity from Westbank United, First United, St. Paul’s United, Rutland United and Winfield United, we have four focus groups: Governance; Administration & Facilities; Community Outreach; and Music and Worship.

Each of these task groups has met to brainstorm and share ideas and possibilities within their specific area. In our meeting on June 29th we returned to the large group to share our thoughts and ideas. The emerging overlaps and shared vision have a remarkable synchronicity that has added excitement and intrigue to our work.

Over the summer we will continue to explore and fine-tune some of these ideas before bringing them to the constituents later in the year, for a deep dive discussion.

Please note that this is a working group only, not a decision-making body. So please know that the input of all the participating congregations will be crucial to the work of the group and to the decision-making process.

Updates from El Salvador

~Pat & Greig McPhee

As Salvadorans emerge from the COVID lockdown, they are facing even more economic uncertainty due to the devastation unleased by Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristobal at the end of May. These caused deadly flooding and landslides and the UN estimates that 336,000 people living in both rural and urban areas are facing severe food insecurity. Thousands of acres of corn fields were flooded and some of their recently planted basic grains may be lost. FUNDAHMER, the NGO that facilitates First United’s sister community relationship, initiated the CONVIDA campaign, for financial assistance to deliver food baskets for affected families, including in El Triunfo.

The need was urgent, so some folks from First, who have visited our sister community over the years, managed to quickly put together a donation of $900 USD for the CONVIDA campaign (approximately 30 baskets of food & supplies).

We received an e-mail from Adonay Miranda (our scholarship student at the University of Central America) telling us about the impact of the storms (“tormentas” in Spanish). The main road through the community was washed out by mudslides and some families were evacuated into shelters. He reflected: “it is very sad that often these extreme events happen in the poorest countries (most affected by climate change) and, the truth is, that people living in these dangerous places are not given much priority”.

Adonay asked our congregation to please pray for their country; he sends his love and wanted us to know that he often thinks of all of us in the church. This year we are having challenges in meeting our financial commitment to the scholarship program. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our usual fundraisers for El Triunfo – the two Big Book Sales and the Mens’ Club BBQ – have been cancelled. Any support that you can offer will be gratefully appreciated. [Please earmark any donations ‘For El Salvador’ & reference OR acct# 01-4024.]

It was good news to hear that the Supreme Court in the U.S. has blocked President Trump’s administration from its plan to shut down DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as the ‘Dreamers’ to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S. DACA had been created by former President Obama in 2012 to temporarily shield certain immigrants from deportation and made them eligible for work permits. Many of these ‘Dreamers’ came to the U.S. from Latin America, including El Salvador, as very young children, some as unaccompanied minors.

“You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

St. Ambrose

Worship June 28

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!