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Moderator’s Easter 2018 Message

Hallelujah, Christ is risen!

The Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, United Church Moderator

This Easter, may our hallelujahs affirm that, despite whatever hopelessness threatens to overwhelm us, we trust in the power of God’s love to bring about resurrection within our lives.

View Moderator Jordan Cantwell’s Easter message here.

 

Transcript of video message:

Hallelujah, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, hallelujah!

That is our Easter refrain — full of joy and conviction. But that sure wasn’t the response of Jesus’ disciples on that first Easter morning. The various gospel accounts show the disciples responding with awe, fear, incomprehension, doubt, terror, and amazement.

Our response is born of hindsight. Knowing what we now know about how it all turned out, we think of Easter morning and we declare, “Hallelujah!”

But when one is in the midst of resurrection, when it is happening to you or around you right now, it’s a very different experience: full of uncertainty, anxiety, dread, and disbelief.

Resurrection is, by its very nature, unexpected and unimaginable. We cannot see it coming; we are never prepared for it. It is the revelation of new life where just moments ago there was nothing but the possibility of despair and loss.

The hallelujahs we announce at Easter are our affirmation that despite whatever hopelessness threatens to overwhelm us, we trust in the power of God’s love to bring about resurrection within our lives. We don’t know when, we don’t know how, we don’t know what it will look like, and we will certainly be confused and confounded by it if it should happen. But today, our hallelujahs declare that we believe resurrection is possible.

And so we do not lose hope, no matter how hopeless a situation appears.

This Easter season, as you sing, shout, whisper, and proclaim “Hallelujah!” may it strengthen your faith in the power and possibility of new life for you, your church, and our world.

May we truly be a resurrection people.

~ from the United Church of Canada website

Bishop Barbara’s Easter Message

We Are An Easter People, Alleluia!

As we move through the final days of Holy Week and move to the celebration of the day of Resurrection, we are once again reminded – we are an Easter People.

In the early days of Christianity, St. Augustine proclaimed: “We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!” Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of our Christian faith. The only response that makes sense is the one we will sing for fifty days, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, “Alleluia! Praise to our God!”

Easter celebrates such wonderful good news that Christian people should never find one day long enough to celebrate its importance in their lives. The fifty days of the Easter season offer much food for our journey of faith. God’s holy word is rich, and if we listen closely to the Easter story, we too will be transformed, restored and renewed.

The good news of Easter is that Jesus Christ continues to be alive among us today. The events of Holy Week were real, but they were not the end. Throughout the Easter season in our readings from the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter the friends of Jesus who met the risen Lord and were obviously changed in a dramatic fashion. They were relentless in their pursuit of continuing the mission of Jesus Christ.

As Easter People we know that Mary Magdalene and the other women did find the tomb of Jesus open and empty that first Easter morning. Jesus did die, was buried and rose again so we might have life – a new life in Christ. It is the heart of our faith. The passage from death to life which was experienced by Jesus Christ must also be experienced by every Christian. It is what sends us into the world as Easter people to carry out Christ’s mission in the world.

Each Easter gives us the opportunity to once again be in touch with the new life in Christ we celebrate. We are reminded at the great Easter Vigil as we renew our baptismal vows together that it is through the water of baptism we move from death to new life. The chains of the old life have been broken and we rise into the new life in Christ as Easter people, – people of the resurrection.

The joy of the Easter message for those who follow Christ is that each Easter we once again celebrate the fact we are Easter people and alleluia is our song!

Happy Easter!

+Barbara

 

~ from the March 27, 2018 Territory Bulletin

A Holy Week Message from the Anglican Primate

“Standing Under In Order To Understand”

By Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate on

Here is wisdom for devotions in the coming week. It is a gift from Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. In his chapter “A Good Holy Week” in a book entitled A Good Year, he reminds us that day-by-day the liturgies take us ultimately to Calvary and to the foot of the Cross.  He writes:

“On that first Good Friday, only a few people could do it. Those who promised most were first to flee. But let us be those who stand there today, not understanding but standing under in order to understand. Standing with empty hands and hopeful hearts. For it is only under the cross that we will begin to comprehend its meaning, receive its complicated joys and then help bear it to the world, not carrying it under our arm but shouldering it with Christ for the sake of the world. All this is the uncomfortable and beautiful gift of a good Holy Week.”

I take Cottrell’s wisdom as invitation in considering how those who actually stood at the foot of the Cross were beginning to comprehend the mystery of such wondrous and sacrificial love—love so amazing, so divine. I think of those who may have pondered Jesus’ prayer from the Cross, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). I think of the penitent thief who turned his face so as to see Jesus and make his plea, “Lord, remember when you come into your kingdom”. (Luke 23:42) I think of the centurion who heard Jesus breathe his last, and then said in a whisper or a shout—we will never know—“Truly this was the Son of God.”  (Mark 15:39) Peter stood some distance from the Cross. Through his tears for having denied he even knew Jesus the night before, he was perhaps beginning to comprehend the true nature of his very own confession at Caesarea Phillipi that Jesus was the Christ, and all the truth that Jesus had spoken with respect to the suffering that would come upon him as The Anointed of God. After the Resurrection, Peter would indeed come to see the Cross as “in accord with the plan and foreknowledge of God”. (Acts 2:23)

Then there is Paul. Once an enemy of the Cross, he would in time speak of it in a deeply personal manner. “May I never boast of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. (Ephesians 6:14) He would preach the Cross as “the power of God in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:18), “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Colossians 1:19). Paul would write to the Corinthians saying that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” and “entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

This reconciliation accomplished in Christ is the essence of the Eucharist. When we have celebrated it within the liturgy then we must embody it in our work in the world.

Sadly, our world is marred by deep divides, rendering it in so many ways to be so remote from the will and word and ways of God. It is afflicted with the evil of racism, the horrors of gender-based violence, and the crime of trafficking men and women and children for multiple forms of labour that exploit their dignity. Our world is angered by deception in the realms of social media. It is torn apart by the frightening rise of extreme nationalism and the tactic of bullying that drive it. Our world is shadowed by lusts for power that trample others, and unbridled greed that leaves so very few so very wealthy, and so very many so very poor. Our world is outraged by the blasphemy of religiously motivated persecution. It is stained with the blood of so many innocent victims of violence. Our world is characterized by a flagrant disregard on the part of so many for any reverence for the earth itself.

As I “stand under in order to understand” the Cross, I cannot help but think about these things, nor can I help but think of those whose life’s work is reconciliation. I think of those who work for the United Nations Security Council, and those who work for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples within many countries including our own. I think of those who labour for gender equality and opportunity. I think of those who labour for a global politic and an economic order that is good and just for all. I think of those who press world leaders to hold to their accords with respect to addressing climate change.

With gratitude I am carrying into this Holy Week Cottrell’s image of “standing under in order to understand” the Cross. The experience is drawing out of me every usual expression of a piety that is deeply personal, one that is indeed reflected in the hymns of Holy Week. It is also summoning out of me a piety that is much more worldly, one that is indeed mindful of the harsh realities of our time in history and in the prayers of Holy Week, not the least of which is the Solemn Intercession for Good Friday.

In praying for the Church through Holy Week, I am praying for renewal in its call as Cottrell says, “to shoulder the Cross of Christ, for the sake of the world”.

~ from the Anglican Church of Canada’s website

World Day of Prayer

Join people all over the world on Friday, March 2nd for the 2018 worship service and celebration written by the Suriname World Day of Prayer Committee and adapted for use in Canada by The Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada.

In Barriere, the service will be at the Pentecostal Christian Life Assembly at 11:00 am.
In Clearwater, the service is being hosted by Living Streams Christian Fellowship at the New Life Assembly Church at 1:30 pm.  Refreshments will be served following the service.

All God’s Creation Is Very Good!

Surinamese artist Alice Pomstra-Elmont depicts hands symbolically receiving the divine gift of Creation. She says, “Let us keep it as beautiful as we received it.”

As in the beginning, God created from chaos. But everything that was created found its place in creation. All were related to each other – the earth with the light, the waters with the sky, the tree seeds with the living creatures, and the humankind with God. None could exist without the other, and the source of all was God.

There was goodness in that integrated system of relationships. But essential to that was the commitment to care. And we know that we are failing!

Women from Suriname lift up their voices to remind us that we are caretakers of God’s creation! They are bringing to our attention the urgent need for caring at a time when more than 180 countries have signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. A commitment to keep the earth cooler depends on public policies implemented by governments, but also on our personal lifestyle.

As one of our Guiding Principles affirms “prayer is rooted in listening to God and to one another.” Through the worship service, we listen to the multicultural and multi-ethnic people of Suriname. They take us to their communities and through their concerns. History is before our eyes! The flora and fauna are remarkable! The everyday life is weaved into the prayers.
How good is God’s creation? That is the question to meditate and respond to with a personal commitment to care for creation. But it can also be an opportunity for the WDP motto “Informed prayer and prayerful action” to be affirmed in the community. What is it that we, as the WDP movement, can do to keep God’s creation good?

~ from the World Day of Prayer International Committee’s Website

 

Moderator Addresses Racism, Privilege after Stanley Verdict

A Letter in Response to the Colten Boushie Case

Friends in Christ:

On Friday, February 9, 2018, The United Church of Canada posted a response to the good news that Bill C-262, an act to harmonize Canadian law with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, had passed second reading. Optimistically, perhaps naively, we titled it “A Promise of What Canada Can Be.”

I say “naively” because later that day, the reality of what Canada is was made clear when a not-guilty verdict was returned in the second-degree murder trial of Gerald Stanley. Stanley had been charged in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old man from Red Pheasant First Nation in Treaty 6 (Saskatchewan), who with a group of friends turned up on Stanley’s farm late in the afternoon of August 9, 2016. After a series of events, three gunshots were fired from a pistol handled by Stanley. Colten Boushie, who never left the vehicle he arrived in, was killed by a bullet to the head. Stanley was acquitted on the grounds that the gun accidentally fired a third time after two warning shots.

There has been much discussion in the court, media, and social media of the First Nations young adults’ behaviour on the farm; of Gerald Stanley’s and his son’s response; and of the Stanleys’ conduct after Colten Boushie’s death.

What happened on that farm was preceded and followed by the racism and White privilege that are embedded in Canadian society. Those of us in the dominant culture are reluctant to name this. Similarly, those of us who are White are reluctant to acknowledge and confront our privilege.

Imagine the police conducting an armed search of your home as they tell you that your child has been shot and killed. I can’t.

Imagine that your child has been shot and killed, and that everybody on the jury looks like the shooter. No one looks like you or your child. I can’t.

The church is no stranger to racism and privilege; indeed, those beliefs drove the colonial policies to assimilate Indigenous Peoples that we, with the government, pursued in the running of Indian Residential Schools. Those beliefs persist in prejudices that non-Indigenous peoples may not even recognize they hold. And as the 2016 findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found, they remain in policies and structures that treat Indigenous peoples in Canada as lesser than others.

When the United Church committed to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), we committed to dismantling those beliefs, policies, and structures. We committed to building a new relationship. We did not pick and choose which Calls to Action we would support. Instead, like the Government of Canada, we pledged to support all of them. That includes 18 directed toward the justice system.

As we embrace the principles, norms, and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we uphold our belief that Indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination. This is entirely fitting with our belief that “racism is a sin and violates God’s desire for humanity” (That All May Be One, 1997).

I am therefore asking you to reflect on the legal system’s response to the violent death of a young Indigenous man in a Canada that says it is committed to reconciliation. I am asking you to reflect as members of a church that has also pledged its commitment to reconciliation and to confronting racism.

To the members of the United Church’s 64 Indigenous communities of faith and to Indigenous members of the church in urban areas and other communities of faith, I say that the United Church will continue to seek to build a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. We understand that this cannot be accomplished simply with words. It requires confronting our own racism and dismantling systems of privilege that deny you your rightful place in the life of your nations and this country.

To the those of you who are members of non-Indigenous communities of faith in the United Church, I ask you to think about what our Indigenous relations are experiencing and feeling in this moment. I ask you to think about how you can respond in a way that will be meaningful for them, and that will contribute to a new relationship between us.

What can we do? We can pray for those affected by this case, and for all those who have been or are being harmed by the systemic racism that underlies it. We can pray for the strength to face hard truths. We can join in public witness and support. We can learn more about what changes the TRC has recommended for the Canadian legal system with respect to Indigenous peoples (Calls to Action 25-42), and we can advocate with political leaders for the fulfillment of those reforms. Most importantly, we can acknowledge and confront our own racism and privilege.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963), in which he challenged the White church in the United States to truly stand up to the values, policies, and structures of racism, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

That is my hope as well. But I know that it is not enough to hope. We will never realize the promise of what Canada can be unless we all work to make it so.

All My Relations,

The Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell
Moderator
The United Church of Canada

Moderator Jordan Cantwell speaks at Wanakapew United Church, Peepeekisis First Nation, Treaty 4 (Saskatchewan), July 2017.
Credit:
Sara Stratton

~ from the United Church of Canada website

Pastoral Letter for Ash Wednesday

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

As we enter into the season of Lent, traditionally a season of introspection and penitence, we are aware of the attention of our nation on the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colton Boushie.

We would like to invite the United Church in BC, its members and its congregations, to be prayerful during this season about the ways in which racism is internalized in us, and in our institutions (including the church) in Canada. We repent of misuse of power. We repent of the outflow of colonialism and the harm it has done to our relationships. The journey of reconciliation takes more than just a few years, and it certainly takes more than words… though words do have power to heal or hurt.

As many of us mark our foreheads with ashes today, let us remember we are unified in our humanity… we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Let us truly repent of those choices we have made that lack courage, and as we follow Jesus during the wilderness season of Lent, let us ask for his grace and humility in our relationships with one another. We can learn from one another’s wisdom. We can reject violence in all its forms, and commit again to the just, loving and peaceful way of Jesus’ life on this earth.

Together, let us renounce racism and violence, in our actions and in our lives, as we continue to follow Jesus and his vision of the reign of God. Let us recommit to humble listening for the Spirit of God to guide us in our paths, and to respectful relationships with one another despite differences. We are one in Christ, and let us cling to that unity in this time of struggle for justice in our nation.

Grace and peace,

Ray Jones, Co-chair of the Native Ministries Council of BC Conference, and Cari Copeman-Haynes, President of BC Conference

Cari Copeman-Haynes, President of BC Conference

Ray Jones, Co-chair of the Native Ministries Council of BC Conference

United Church Moderator’s Lenten Video Message

Seeing With the Eyes of Love

Moderator Jordan Cantwell invites us this Lenten season to take time each day to practice seeing ourselves as God sees us; not as perfect, but as beloved.  View her message here.

 

 

Transcript of video message:

The season of Lent is once again upon us, a time of year when we are invited to make space in our lives for reflection and self-examination, to draw closer to God.

Now, if you’re like me, self-examination can quickly turn into self-critique and even self-loathing. I have a tendency when I look closely at myself to zero on in on those things that I wish were different. I wish I was less judgmental, more patient, better at showing others that I care, less fearful. I find no shortage of things to feel shabby about.

But I don’t believe God wants us to feel bad about ourselves. There’s quite enough of that going around already, and there’s nothing life-giving about it. Nor do I believe that guilt helps us to feel closer to God—quite the opposite!

So what if, instead of finding fault with my imperfections, I practised greeting them with compassion? Instead of scolding myself for every shortcoming, I might acknowledge how hard it is to consistently be the kind, courageous, loving person I long to be.

Maybe if I am able to regard myself with the eyes of love rather than judgment it will be easier for me to trust in God’s grace and unconditional acceptance—something I find hard to do.

Perhaps as I learn to be patient and compassionate toward myself, I will have more patience and compassion for others as well.

This is my goal for this Lenten season: to take time each day to practise seeing myself as God sees me, not as perfect, but as beloved. And I invite you to join me in this endeavour. It isn’t easy—it really does take time and practice.

My prayer for you, and for myself, is that we may learn to see with the eyes of love and discover ourselves and our world transformed.

Lent Begins Wednesday, February 14th

Ash Wednesday Service

Wednesday, February 14th at 11:30 am
in the Church of St Paul, Barriere

The liturgical season of Lent precedes Easter.  It begins forty days before Easter excluding the six Sundays that occur prior to Easter Sunday in that Sundays are often considered to be “little” Easters.  The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday.

The North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry will hold an Ash Wednesday Service at 11:30 am on February 14th at the Church of St Paul in Barriere.  This service will include the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion.  Traditionally, the ashes are from burning the palms that were used on the preceding year’s Palm Sunday.  The ashes are most often placed in the sign of the cross on the forehead as a mark of repentance.

Lent is a time of reflection and penitence.  Some mark this season with specific spiritual practices such as having a daily devotional time, giving something up, abstaining from a particular activity, or taking on a new attitude or practice.  In some congregations, the “alleluias” are “put away” by selecting hymns that don’t include “alleluia”.

The liturgical colour of Lent is purple.  Linens (altar cloths) and hangings on pulpits and lecterns get changed to purple.  The stoles and vestments worn by clergy will have a purple background.  Banners will incorporate designs and motifs to remind people of Christ’s passion and that this time of reflection leads to the crucifixion of Jesus.

May all Lenten journeys be blessed!