Zion Calendar

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

General Secretary's Weekly Letter


May 31, 2013

On this “about to be June” evening, I’m sitting out in the backyard with my laptop, enjoying the bird calls and the damp earth scents. It’s the first time I’ve written the weekly letter outside this year.

The temperature is a far cry from a week ago. I wasn’t expecting to drive through snow on May 24 on the way to the Hamilton Conference meeting in Port Elgin. I’d like to claim that I foresaw that when I delayed getting my snow tires taken off, but of course the fact is that I just haven’t managed to get it done yet.

The temperatures stayed a little chilly for much of the weekend, but the sun shone and the atmosphere of the meeting was welcoming and warm. This was the second year the meeting has been held at the Canadian Auto Workers Family Education Centre, a great facility located close enough to the shore of Lake Huron to allow early morning walks on the beach.

Certain things about annual general meetings are always the same and yet never quite the same. I’m talking about the celebration of new ministries, and the honouring of those retiring and reaching significant anniversaries in their service in ministry. It always feels like such a great honour for me to be part of these occasions.

It was heartening for me to see the engagement of those at the meeting with the discussions around the Comprehensive Review. I know that there is a lot of work ahead before we as a church come to what changes are needed, but I felt there was a healthy mix of realistic acceptance that change is upon us, and hopeful regard for the possibilities the future holds. It seemed that people came to the meeting with open attitudes, and the presentation by the Rev. Lauren Hodgson of the Comprehensive Review Task Group managed to be both frank and positive.

There were many good words spoken over the weekend. I found the address by Dr. Kofi Hope about the church that young people want to be challenging and inspiring in ways that has left me with food for thought that I’ve been chewing on all week.

Another highlight of this busy week for me was a visit on Tuesday to 40 Oaks, the home of the Christian Resource Centre, which is part of the redeveloped Regent Park in downtown Toronto. Talk about a hope-filled place. Talk about a place where people are committing their resources of time and money to make a positive difference in the lives of others. This is the kind of United Church work that we should all be proud of. This is work that exemplifies church at its best.

The official reason for my visit there was to see where the United Church archives will be located after they move out of 3250 Bloor Street West this summer. This space is still under construction, but it will be excellent accommodation for the archival material, staff who work there, and users of the archives. It is good to think of the archives sharing space with an active community ministry, with the rent going to that ministry instead of to a commercial landlord. I’m impressed with the aplomb with which General Council Archivist Nichole Vonk is managing the planning and pending upheaval that goes along with a big move.

With the sun now down, I’ve been joined in the yard by some mosquitoes, my signal that it is time to end this letter and go inside.