Will Be Meeting Virtually from February 13th to August 7th
Moderator Richard Bott has shared a reflection on his Facebook page that provides some understanding about the format of the 44th General Council of the United Church of Canada.
A few folks have asked me what February 13th is going to be like. As someone who has attended way too many General Councils during my life, I’m excited to say, “Like a whole bunch of other General Councils!”
Things are going to be different because our meeting is going to be mediated through virtual space, but we’re working to make sure that the Commissioners, Youth Forum members, and invited guests to the gathering have what they need for the ministry of discernment they’ve been called to.
In some ways, the first session of #GC44 will feel like the recalled sessions of #GC43. After the meeting is constituted with the United Church’s traditional words, the Honourary Elders (who are coming to the General Council from the National Indigenous Elders’ Council) will be introduced, and will have the space to offer what they believe is important for this gathering to hear. We will take time to celebrate and give thanks to the creation of which we are a part, and acknowledge the territories from which we are gathering to meet and the Peoples who are Indigenous to them.
And then we will sing, and pray, and reflect on scripture, with the focus theme being Jesus’ question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” In fact, the Planning Committee decided that the entire agenda (not just this session, but throughout the meeting) would be embedded in worship, so the entire gathering will be immersed in prayer and song and worship. As is required by our constituting documents, we will be celebrating communion as we begin our work together. (So bring bread and drink to the table!)
There are three pieces of “work” that we have for this session. The first is the passing of the Procedural Motion. Each General Council decides on its “working rules and processes” – this motion lays out the processes the General Secretary and Business Committee are proposing we use for our discernment and decision-making, as well as the agenda, for the meeting.
The second piece of work is the Consent Motion. This is an “omnibus” motion, holding a number of Proposals that the General Secretary and Business Committee believe the Council desires to pass without debate. (There is a process by which Commissioners can remove an item from Consent. It would then go into the exploration process set up for other Proposals.)
The third part of the work is the beginning of “getting to know you”. Part of what helps General Council to make its decisions are the conversations that happen between Commissioners. One of the ways we’re hoping to support that is with “Table Groups”. These small groups will stay the same throughout the six months of the meeting. We hope that Commissioners from across the church will get to know each other in these groups, and that these groups will be an avenue of support in this new way of meeting. We’ll have two times in this session to break out and get to meet one another.
The General Council will also have the opportunity to meet the Equity Team, the Facilitation Team, the Business Committee, and other bodies who will help us in our task.
All of this will be done using a platform called Pheedloop, with simultaneous English/French translation. People in the wider church are invited to follow along, either by connecting with the sessions livestreamed through The United Church of Canada’s YouTube channel, or by signing up to be an official “Visitor” to #GC44, and having access through Pheedloop. (Think of the latter as being one of the folks who would sit in the bleachers and observe, at face-to-face meetings!)
I am becoming more and more excited about the possibilities of this format of General Council, meeting in this way and in this space. I am hoping that the rest of the denomination will join me in supporting the Commissioners through prayer and celebration, as they live out this ministry to which they have been called.
For more information about the 44th General Council, go to this website.