from the Rev. Blair Odney, President
in an e-mail sent to the Region on November 28th
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined” – Isaiah 9: 2
Hello Beautiful friends of Pacific Mountain Regional Council,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the one in whose footsteps we follow.
I write this from the quiet of my home, where the gentle light from the moon pours into the living room and casts a glow of warmth and serenity. I feel cradled in the arms of love, somehow, preparing for the season of waiting. As I think of the devastating events of the past two weeks as well as the year that was, the moonlight pouring into our living room really has me wondering whether liminal space is now a permanent reality. What we have been is gone. What we are to become is not yet here. We continue to live in this space of not knowing. For a denomination that, as I look back, was birthed seeming to know its next step, these days beg the question “Oh God why are you silent?” How many times have I heard, “they didn’t teach this in seminary”? “No committee ever dealt with this kind of strange.”
There are beacons of light throughout the region that point to possible scenarios. From the grand and beautiful re-opening of St. Andrews Wesley in downtown Vancouver, to the experiment of Weird Church on Vancouver Island. From what looks like the very real re-development of the Mission at First United in the downtown east side, to the “hybrid” work from Trinity in Prince George. United Online is teaching us about growing sustainable virtual communities, while the Region’s First Third Ministry Team is beginning the long game of growing new and sustainable ministries with children, youth, young adults and their families, which is part of the Region’s call for healthy communities of faith.
There are many other examples, but (yes, the but is intentional here) all of this is percolating in the cauldron, the refining fire of reconciliation. Even as these beacons of light point to possibility, the Indigenous Circle Calls to the Church remind us:
“The United Church is asset rich. Rich in land and properties. These lands were stolen by false promises in treaty negotiations. We meant to invite settlers to our lands and that we would share it. It would feed us both. But we are cut off from the land. Justice in land matters must be about reparations and not only apologies”.
This reality accompanies us in perpetual liminal space. What does it mean for every ministry of the United Church of Canada to be working on what has been described by Indigenous elders as stolen land? The United Church of Canada is called beyond what we’ve known, to set down what we have believed to be unshakeable certainties, to walk in humility, in confession and in open hearted reconciliation. We are called to be the light we say exists.
And that’s what I know for sure. It might be the only thing I know for sure. The moonlight pouring into our living room reminds me of this text from Isaiah. While the liminal space in which we find ourselves, may feel like an unquenchable fire, a land of perpetual darkness, the light has already shone. It can not be extinguished. We just need to be it. As the living, breathing, healing, gracious body of the living one, we are called to be the light.
Like Christ, we are called to meet people where there are, wherever they are, and love them for who they are. And then we are called to help them discover the next version of their best selves. The light of Christ changes everything.
In light of where we are as church, may this season of Advent, this liminal time of waiting, prepare you for the Christ who changes everything.
With many blessings,
Rev. S. Blair Odney