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COMMENT: Some local notes from a national meeting

Keith Simmonds
By Keith Simmonds
August 28th, 2012

I was privileged to attend the 41st General Council Meeting of the United Church of Canada, held in Ottawa in mid August of 2012. We dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s of years of work carried out by task groups and committees, congregations, and conferences. Responding to requests for assistance and change that came to us out of that work, together we helped shape the image of who we are.

Considering matters of deep meaning to the lives of people living out their faith in congregations across the country, we shared concerns about the harms of thoughtless gossip and offered teaching on the worth of holy manners. Responding to requests to simplify our book of conduct we tried to provide a guide to outcomes without nailing down every step that must be taken to get to them.

We heard the wisdom of First Nations Elders, teaching us that apology is one thing, what you do is quite another. In response to that teaching we changed the visual symbol of our church to incorporate a part of their approach to God, to acknowledge and affirm their place as a founding faith. We incorporated one another in our story of who we are. When they expressed their fear that we were about to repeat the mistakes we had repented of by ignoring the sacred bond they and we identify between land, living beings, and God, we voted overwhelmingly to count ourselves as one people, standing together to live the Mohawk words inscribed upon our crest: that we are all relations, all related. All My Relations.

When our relatives in the Middle East wrote and asked us to help them end the conflict that embroils their children in a tide of hate and rage, we responded. We went to see for ourselves and voted to take the best of a range of imperfect steps to support them.

When we considered our choice for moderator we shared our fear and stories of marginalization in an increasingly Spirit-denying world and we chose the one who responded – not in denial, nor in outrage – with full acknowledgment of the truths we face. Acknowledgment based in the reality of his own life. One who has been able to celebrate and uphold the gifts he’s been given to share with a world in which he, and now every living being finds itself marginalized to the edges of the marketplaces of commerce and power.

Together we prayed, sang, heard one another, considered, thought, discussed, discerned and appreciated the living prophets among us. There is so much to tell, and so little space to share it in. Ours is a living, breathing, changing faith. A responding, seeking, working in the world faith. We held some of yesterday, considered some of today and put forth yet more, for tomorrow.

Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.

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