December 15, 2010

Christmas Eve Candle light service

Everyone is invited to Riverview United to celebrate Christmas Eve with us at 7:00 on Friday, December 24th.

Christmas Wishes

The Christmas season comes at a unique time of year. On one hand, it the period of the longest nights – the long darkness allowing time for reflection; for looking back and considering the year behind us. But it is also the time of lengthening day, of the growing light in the world when we can look ahead with hope to the future ahead of us. It allows a special opportunity – a time to reflect on the past year to gather what is good and useful in our lives that we want to carry forward into that brightening future as well identifying the unnecessary burdens and cares in our lives that we can throw away and discard. Christmas marks a time of new beginning, new hope - a new birth of Christ into our lives.

The congregation of Riverview United Church wishes that all Atikokanites, both near and far; past and present, have a great Christmas. We invite you to take time this season to take a break from the busyness and excitement to think about what Christmas really means to you and prepare for this upcoming journey into the new year – a time to ready yourself for that new adventure, free from old worries and open to follow new directions with renewed hope. We hope that your family gatherings are full of joy, your times with friends are filled with good cheer , and that you wake up Christmas morning with your stocking overflowing. But even more, we wish that on this Christmas morning, and every morning after, your heart is filled with the gifts of God, the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love; the gifts that were delivered to us with the birth of a little child almost 2000 years ago.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

November 24, 2010

Advent Update

Although its been a while since the last update, life at Riverview continues on at a busy pace.  We have been without a minister for a few months now, but the congregation has shown its usual spirit with lots of volunteers pitching in to keep the church vibrant and active both on Sundays and throughout the week in the community.

As we get prepared for the upcoming Advent season, we are pleased to have Rev. Frances Flook from Emo/Devlin leading worship on the First Sunday of Advent (Nov. 28) which will also include a communion service.  We look forward to the church school pagaent on White Gift Sunday/3rd Sunday of Advent on December 12.  We will also be having our traditional candle light service on Christmas Eve.

Advent marks the end of the church year and the beginning of the next – a time for new beginnings, new hope, a new birth of Christ in our lives. I invite you to look at this time as preparation for this new journey – a time that we can to reflect on the past year and take with us what is good and useful and discard all that is unnecessary burden. Prepare yourself to enter into this new season, free from the worries and open to follow our true ruler, Christ our Lord, who can lead us to places we might have never thought possible on our own.

June 21, 2010

Looking Ahead to June 27, 2010 -- 5th Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism as we welcome Ashley Joy into the family of God.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 43:1-7
  • Psalm 77 (VU p.791)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Philippians 2:12-18
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

The Hymns this week are:
  • #410 This Day God Gives Me (verses 1 – 3)
  • #644 I Was There to Here Your Borning Cry
  • #558 We Gather Here to Bid Farewell (tune #20)
  • #422 God Be With You till We Meet Again

The Sermon title is So Long, Farewell...

Early Thoughts:  9 years in, how do we say farewell?

There are a couple of quotes echoing in my mind as I prepare worship this week.
Always leave 'em wanting more --- Showbiz proverb
and some words of wisdom often shared among church staff (and campers and homeowners for that matter):
Leave a place in better shape than it was when you arrived.
I sincerely hope I have done both because they are both gems of wisdom.  Don't overstay your welcome, don't hang on too long.  But while you are there, be present, be hopeful, work for the better, strive for mutual improvement and benefit.

June 30, 2001 I arrived in your midst.  And now, after 9 years of ministry together we bring this phase of our lives to a close.  Over that time we have laughed together and wept together.  We have shared moments of joy and of sorrow.  We have shared hopes and fears.  We have found solutions to life's problems--sometimes.  We have lived out a covenant relationship of mutual support and challenge.

Now it is time to pass on the mantle of ministry to other people and other places.  We do so in sorrow and in hope.  We do so knowing that the bonds of care and love continue, even though the relationship changes.  We do so knowing that we continue to be linked by the love that is God-Made-Manifest in our lives.

Our Scriptures this week speak of leavetaking and changes.  They also speak of hope and promise.  As we bring our covenant of ministry to a close may we remember the good times fondly, may we remember the challenges as times of learning, and may we all move forward with hope and trust.

I close my last "Looking Ahead" entry on this blog with words often used to close UCW meetings and church camps I have attended, words from the book of Genesis (never mind that in that context they are as much [or more] curse/warning than blessing), words that are echoed in our closing hymn this Sunday:
May the Lord watch between me and thee; while we are absent one from another

God's blessing and love on all of you today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

June 14, 2010

Looking Ahead to June 20, 2010 -- 4th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Kings 9:8-15
  • Psalm 42 & 43 (VU p.768)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

The Hymns this week are:
  • #374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
  • #245 Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet
  • #660 How Firm a Foundation
  • #649 Walk With Me

The Sermon Title is Anchored or Adrift?

Early Thoughts: Two choices for any community or group (or even for us as individuals and families). Do we tie ourselves fast in place? Or do we sail madly wherever the wind takes us?

Some people and organizations have Will Your Anchor Hold as a theme hymn. They need and like the certainty of being grounded, of knowing where they stand. ANd there is good here. Being anchored and grounded means we know who and where we are. Being anchored allows us to plan carefully. But there is also a risk. We can become to firmly anchored, we can become stuck. We can think that this place where we are comfortable is where we always have to remain.

Some people and organizations have something more along the lines of I Feel the Winds of God Today as a theme hymn. They need and like the freedom to travel where the wind takes them, of being adaptive and changing with the world around them. And there is also good here. Moving with the wind allows us to meet emergent needs as they arise. We avoid becoming stuck and losing our relevancy. But of course there is also a risk here. We need a sense of who we are so that we can plan how to react to the winds. If we just fly free we can become really good at adapting but lose sight of why we are there in the first place.

In the end, most of us don't really live in either place most of the time. It is more helpful to envision a spectrum between those two points. And then we try to place ourselves along that line. Sometimes we are closer to the anchor, sometimes we are closer to the sail. Sometimes it depends where we are/what organization we are a part of/what our role in that place and time is. Because here is the secret. Any good ship needs both anchor and sail. Any good organization needs both as well. We need the benefits of being grounded and the freedom of coasting along.

Where are you on the spectrum? Where are the various communities and organizations of which you are a part?

June 08, 2010

Looking Ahead to June 13, 2010, 3rd Sunday Aftert Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
From the Letters of the Early Church: Galatians 2:15-21
Psalm 32 (VU p.759)
From the Gospel: Luke 7:36-8:3

The Hymns this week are:
#395 Come In, Come In and Sit Down
#266 Amazing Grace
#271 There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
#424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

The Sermon title is Welcomed and Accepted

Early Thoughts: What do you mean we are supposed to welcome people like that? What does it mean to describe our selves as inclusive? Are we aware how well we do that?? Of where we fall short??

As General Council met in Kelowna this past summer the members of the Arctic Commission had this motion on their list of work (it came from Saskatchewan Conference):

That the 40th General Council 2009 adopt a policy that the Session (or Church Board or Church Council), in the exercising its duty of oversight of the order of public worship under 5.10.1 of the Basis of Union, may not discriminate against any group of persons on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disability or status as divorced persons to the fullest extent, subject only to the laws of Canada, its provinces and territories as may exist from time to time, especially those which protect the vulnerable; and authorize a remit to test the will of the church with respect to this policy.
(There was also a list of "whereas" clauses-- arguments explaining why the proposal was made. You can read them on pages 10 & 11 of this {.pdf} document) So what does it mean?

If passed this proposal would have authorized a poll of the church asking if we wanted to change our constitution to say that all congregations were required to ensure they were open and welcoming to all people, specifically that discrimination (intentional or accidental) was not allowed based on that list of criteria. In some ways this seems common sense -- certainly the church should be as open and welcoming as possible right? In some ways it would be a hard fight -- who is some office somewhere else to tell us how we should operate? ANd certainly it was a major change in how congregations operate.

This proposal would require that all church buildings were barrier-free, that people of any race were openly welcomed, that economic status wouldn't be an issue (this is one of the hidden forms of discrimination in many areas of our country), that your marital status (single, married, divorced, living together) would never be an issue, that newcomers were as important as lifelong residents, and that sexual orientation would not bar anyone from any part of church life--including marriage. It was actually suggesting that a great deal of congregational decision-making be taken away. Why would they make such a suggestion? To hear someone from Saskatchewan speak to that question check out this YouTube video.

One of the cherished self-definitions within the United Church of Canada is that we are an "inclusive" church. We like to claim that as some sort of banner or rallying cry. Personally I am not always sure we know what we mean by it. Certinly I think that in many places we do a relatively poor job of living it out. Because of course, it is hard being inclusive. Our old patterns of believing what is appropriate get in the way. The prejudices and biases that we absorb unconsciously get in the way. And in some cases the percieved costs of being truly inclusive scare us away (think of churches trying to become barrier-free for financial issues, or the social stigma suffered by many within the UCCan due to our stand on issues on sexual orientation over the last 20 years). But we are in good company. People have been wrestling with these questions for centuries.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that we are better than we are. Sometimes we look at others and (either secretly or openly) give thanks that we are not a "Bad off" as they are. Sometimes we are so assured in our "rightness" that we miss the point of what others are doing. SOmetimes we need to be brought up short. Jesus does this in the Gospel lesspn this week as he talks to the Pharisee. He points out that to live the life of the Reign of God means that we welcome everyone, even people like that. As I look at our attempts to live the life of the Reign of God I think we need to open ourselve to questions around how inclusive we are in practice as well as in rhetoric.

Maybe the proposal from Saskatchewan Conference is calling the people of the United Church to seriously consider how wide their field of view is. Maybe we are being urged to ask ourselves what we really mean when we claim to be an inclusive church. Maybe we are being challenged to find ways to ensure that all are welcome, truly welcome, in this place.

It is hard. I know of some congregations that delude themselves. I know that many places truly aren't aware how they exclude some people. I know that some have decided that the costs of change are too big. But we have to take the questions seriously. As it stands, every Pastoral Charge in this conference is now required to answer this question when they produce their Joint Needs Assessment Report when beginning the search for ministry personnel:

THe United church believes that God calls people of all races, ethnicities, abilities and orientations to ministry. Are there any theological or physical factors that would prevent you from welcoming any such persons to your Ministry site? Please specify and include your rationale.
THis is a harder question than it seems. How would you answer it about the church you now attend? About other churches you have attended? How would you like to answer it? Inclsivity, to be meaningful, has to be shown in how we live and not just in words that we say. And yes, it is a hard thing to do at times.

Oh and what happened with the proposal? Well you will have to come on Sunday to find out.

May 31, 2010

Looking Forward to June 6, 2010 -- 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday we will be celebrating the 85th Anniversary of the United Church of Canada. As part of this Communion will be celebrated using the "Common Loaf" of the National Church.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: John 17:1-2, 6, 17-23
  • From the Gospel: Luke 10:1-12

The Hymns this week are:
  • 578 As a Fire is Meant for Burning (tune #374)
  • 331 The Church’s One Foundation
  • 601 The Church of Christ in Every Age (tune #20)
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The Sermon Title is 85 and Going?????

Early Thoughts: From Hockey Arena in Toronto to the internet wired church. Where do we go from here? Where are we headed?

June 10, 1925. Representatives from the Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist and Local Union Churches gathered in a Toronto Hockey Arena to mark the formation of a new, distinctly Canadian, denomination. Supported by an Act of Parliament (and various pieces of Provincial legislation), and after many years of negotiation, the United Church of Canada became a reality. At the time there were high hopes that this was but a beginning of becoming United. The hope was that more of the Protestant community would come to join in the Union.

85 years later, where do we find ourselves? Is there still a sense of hope for the future? I there still a sense of who we are as a denomination and what we have to share/offer?

To be honest, I am not really sure. There is a great deal of despair and pessimism in our midst. There are hard numerical realities that people have tried to avoid or ignore for decades that are becoming elephants in our midst. And there have been various responses, both by local congregations and by the national offices, that sometimes seem to be grasping at straws, even if the straws seem to have a good foundation.

The passage from Luke we read this Sunday tells of Jesus sending out the disciples. I think that there is a message for the Church in this. We need to become missional, we need to be more outward-focussed and do less navel gazing. But above all, it is my fear that we have lost our sense of identity and mission. We have lost our focus and raison d'etre. Unless we find that again, any changes (big or small) that we make will merely be shuffling deck chairs.

I do believe there is hope for the United Church. I do believe we have something vital to offer to our world. I also believe that it is time to look to a new way of being, not just re-organizing old ways. Where will we be in 2025 when we celebrate our centennial?

PS> Click here for some information about where General COuncil Executive is steering this ship

May 25, 2010

Looking Forward to May 30, 2010 -- Trinity Sunday (1st After Pentecost)

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 8:1-4, 2-31
  • Psalm 8 (VU p.732)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Romans 5:1-5
  • From the Gospel: John 16:12-15

The Hymns this week are:
  • 399 God, Whose Love is Reigning o’er Us
  • 291 All Things Bright and Beautiful (refrain at beginning and end only)
  • 232 Joyful Joyful We Adore You
  • 624 Be Thou My Vision

Gord is off tending to new baby this week. Thanks to Brian for leading worship.

May 18, 2010

Looking Forward to May 23, 2010 -- Pentecost Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 11:1-9
  • Psalm 104:24-35 (VU p.827 Part 2)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 2:1-12

The Hymns this week are:
  • 198 Come, O Spirit Dwell Among Us (tune 374)
  • 375 Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness
  • 202 O Breath of Life (tune #437)
  • 427 To Show by Touch and Word

The Sermon Title is What Language

Early Thoughts: The church is born amongst noise and fire and excitement. How do we get to understand what that is all about? What do we hear?

In Genesis we find the story of how the peoples of the world got sundered and divided. They have pretensions of grandeur. And it appears the God feels threatened and so God confuses their language and scatters them.

And then, in the Acts passage the sundering is undone. The languages are brought back together in the name of the One who prayed "that all may be one". The people from "all over the world" (or at least all over the Eastern Mediterranean) are united in hearing the Good News shared.

So what language allows us to be brought together?

The question is misleading. It suggests that there is some spoken languge that accomplishes the task, that is the antidote for the confusion of Babel. But there isn't one spoken language that does that. Think metaphor. The language that brings us together is the language of the Spirit.

What does it mean to speak Spirit-language? In some traditions the practise of ecstatic speech, of speaking in tongues is raised up as SPirit language. So that is one possibility. But could Spirit language be something else? Could it be something more available and accessible to all of us?

I think so.

May 11, 2010

Looking Ahead to May 16, 2010 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 97 (VU p.817)
  • From the Gospel: John 17:1-26
The Hymns this week are:
  • #402 We Are One
  • #579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
  • #569 You Call Us Out
  • #420 Go to the World

The Sermon Title is The Prayer of Jesus

Early Thoughts: WHat is your prayer for your friends and community just before you leave?

It is likely that none of this Gospel passage was said by Jesus in this way. But the idea is intriguing.

Just before the PAssion story begins, John puts this prayer into Jesus' mouth and heart. It is a prayer for his friends and followers. It is a prayer that the be strengthened and protected.

It is also a pryre for those who will come later. And so it is a prayer for all who seek to follow The Way. It is a prayer that we be led to the truth. ANd it includes the line that became the motto for the United Church of Canada -- That all may be one.

Where does this prayer lead us in 2010? WHat comfort and challenge do we find in it? And even better, how do we pray for those from whom we are about to be separated?

May 04, 2010

Looking Ahead to May 9, 2010 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this weeks are:
  • Psalm 67 (VU p.786)
  • From the Writings of the Church: Revelation 21:1-22:5

The Hymns this week are:
  • #710 Shall We Gather at the River
  • #588 Many are the Lightbeams
  • #713 I See a New Heaven
  • #642 Be Thou My Vision

The Sermon title is The City By the River

Early Thoughts: What do we hope for when the world is changed? What is the vision of the Reign that is to come?

Here in the climax of the book of Revelation we have a vision of the Reign. Interesting that it is a city. After all much Christian imagery focusses on the wilderness and the "pastoral" -- shepherds and gardens and hillsides. But the ministry of Jesus was largely in towns of varying sizes. And the ministry of the early church (as we have it described in Scripture) was almost exclusively in urban settings -- read the book of Acts if you don't believe me.

But this isn't just any city. This is a new Jerusalem, a new Zion. Zion is the home of God on earth within Jewish thought. This is the new beginning.

SO what is our new beginning? When we gather at the river that flows from the throne of God what do we hope to find? And do we see signs of it in the world around us?

Changes Afoot!

The General Council Executive met this past weekend. As a part of their meeting they were discussing some major changes for how we in the UCCan operate as a denomination. Expand for more....

From the news release on the NAtional WEbsite:
After thoughtful and prayerful consideration, the Executive unanimously adopted key directions aimed at encouraging and revitalizing ministries and simplifying processes, including:

* focusing the work of the General Council Office on supporting denominational identity and connection
* clarifying and redefining the roles of the courts of the church and reducing the complexity and size of The Manual
* establishing a Network for Ministry Development to offer training and consultation on congregational and new ministry development, and a New Ministries Fund seeded with $1 million from United Church reserves to support new and innovative ministries
* giving high priority to using new technologies and new media to their full potential, recognizing that accommodations will be necessary due to limited access to these technologies in some parts of Canada

Many of these initiatives will be developed and implemented over the triennium. Other parts of the plan will require further development and, in some cases, the approval of the General Council, which is scheduled to meet next in 2012.

As the Executive’s decision is implemented and the church reorients itself toward the future, budget realities mean a number of less welcome transitions will take place. These include the loss of 15–20 staff positions at the General Council Office over the triennium, and reductions in grants to mission support, global partners, theological schools, and education centres.

The loss of valued colleagues, work, and support for partnerships will be difficult. In its extensive discussion and discernment, the Executive recognized that embracing this plan for the future will bring opportunities, as well as loss.

At the same time as these reductions are being implemented, the new directions and initiatives approved by the Executive will ensure the church continues to be relevant and faithful in a changing context.

For those who like parliamentary language, here is the actual motion that was passed and here are some links to the report, some background, and some responses that were received.

What does this all mean? Only time will tell for sure but the hope is that it streamlines some of the bureaucratic side of church life. Real renewal for the church will not come from this though. Real renewal will come when we discover (or rediscover) a sense of mission, our raison d'etre, our purpose, a sense of who/how/where God is calling us to be.

FOr more discussion on this issue you can read through this thread

April 26, 2010

Looking Ahead to May 2, 2010 -- 5th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 11:1-18
  • Psalm 148 (VU p.871)
  • From the Gospel: John 13:31-35

The Hymns this week are:
  • #574 Come, Let Us Sing of a Wonderful Love
  • #372 Though I May Speak
  • #333 Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
  • #427 To Show by Touch and Word

The Sermon title is Old Rules, New Twists

Early Thoughts: But that isn't how it is supposed to work!!! What happens when new interpretations of life and rules stare you full in the face?

To a certain extent that was a crucial question for the early Jesus-movement. As word of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus started to spread through Roman Palestine and beyond more people were drawn to the movement. But did non-Jews have to become Jews first? To answer that question meant looking at old rules. The answer that came to be used meant new twists on old thoughts.

Despite the fact that John's GOspel uses the phrase "a new commandment" the commandment to love your neighbour was not new. It is in fact found in the book of Leviticus (19:19). It is an old rule, one that all the Gospels agree Jesus gave a position of great prominence in Kingdom Life. The new twist was in the interpretaion of who was covered under the rule.

AS times change we need to keep evaluating our old rules. We need to be open to ask if they are still useful. We need to be ready for the possibility that God is throwing a new twist into life, one that may require a re-evaluation of the way we implement the rule (assumong that is that the old rule is still relevant and not in need of being discarded completely).

In your life today where do you find new twists staring you in the face? What old rules are you questioning????

April 19, 2010

Biker Coming to Town

REcently the Church office received word that "Gary Jones, a member of Trinity United Church in Timberlea, Nova Scotia is cycling across cancer to raise funds and increase awareness of thyroid cancer, which he was successfully treated for a few years ago." Gary will be arriving in Atikokan on June 3 and we will be looking for a billet for him. Contact Gord for more information. A story about Gary and his ride is available if you expand the post

Gary Jones passed the test of a lifetime when he underwent surgery for thyroid cancer in December, 1997. Now the long-time trucker and resident of the Bay Road in Timberlea is going to test himself -and his bicycle- on a 4,500 mile ride across Canada to raise money for thyroid cancer this spring..

He’s hoping to meet as many United Church folks as possible in his journey across the country – and is eager to talk to anyone who could put him up for a night along the way.

The ride isn’t just a physical challenge; it’s a spiritual one, according to the bearded, muscular truck driver who has been planning the trip ever since he got a clean bill of health from his doctor in 1998. Now that he’s retired after 38 years on the road, it’s time to hit the blacktop again.

“My life journey has been on wheels”, he says with an infectious grin. “I started with 18 wheels, graduated to 22 and drove from east to west.”

“My mission within my new journey starting in May is to bike west to east on two wheels hauling hope, faith and attitude”.

He’s scheduled to dip his wheel in the Pacific Ocean May 15 and will set an ambitious target of crossing the country in 45 days.

Gary’s attitude is well known in his home congregation where he has done everything from acting in plays to pouring concrete and heading up the church’s famous trucker’s breakfasts where diners are treated to heaped plates of beans and eggs and bacon topped off with pancakes. He’s also renowned for his energetic and enthusiastic speeches to the congregation either celebrating the last church event or advertising the next one.

That energy has also been evident in his fund-raising effort for thyroid cancer – so far he has raised over $9,000 and his goal is $20,000. But Gary is not a man who limits himself in anything.

He’s delighted with the generosity of the local community – businesses and individuals.

There is a long list of supporters on his website and it grows every day that he is on the road with his passionate story about the need for cancer research funding.

“Word is starting to spread. Every day for the past two weeks somebody has come up to me and given me $20 or more- every day that happens”, Gary said.

He’s training every day for the journey and wants to get started – and to make friends along the way by billeting at homes along the route.

“I’m anxious to get on with this amazing adventure of crossing Canada by bike and fund-raising because I am a survivor of thyroid cancer,” he said.

So in the meantime it’s hammer down as Gary continues to train on roads around Timberlea, logging the miles to get ready for the big trip.

“My strength and my attitude come from enjoying life. Every day is a holiday,” he said.

“It’s all about smiling.”

Gary invites anyone who would like to support him to visit the website for more information. Donations can be made to “Bank of Nova Scotia Cancer Research” or contact Gary at 876- 2415 or at

Making COnnections Part 2

We now know who our partners for Making Connections (see previous post) are...

Riverview's contact information was given to Bissell Memorial United in Spiritwood Saskatchewan. The paid minister there is Rev. Leigh Sinclair who writes in an e-mail:
Hello from Bissell Memorial United Church in Spiritwood Saskatchewan! I am writing on behalf of everyone here to say hello and introduce our selves as we have been given your name as one of our partners in the 85th anniversary celebrations.

Though we were matched "randomly" it is a very small world this United Church of ours and we have a few things in common. I know your ministry Gord from the youth ministry world and we are both in the midst of pastoral relationship changes. I will also be going to Alberta (though not as far north as Gord) and the congregation here has completed their Joint Needs Assessement and is in the midst of their search.

We are a shared ministry congregation doing everything together with Trinity Lutheran congregation. Thus we have become Trinity Bissell Memorial. We share a building, worship, leadership, youth group etc. etc. We all live in or around the small town of Spiritwood (about 1000 folks) where farming, health care and teaching are central vocations. The closest cities to us are Prince Albert, Saskatoon and North Battleford.

We will be sending you a package in the mail with pictures etc. and will be praying for you in your time of transition. We are honoured to be match with you all!

Riverview has been given the contact info for Parkwoods Pastoral Charch in Don Mills Ontario. They can be found at their website.

Gord has e-mailed them saying:
Blessings and greetings on behalf of Riverview United Church in Atikokan Ontario.

We are a part of Cambrian Presbytery, located just over 2 hours West-Southwest of Thunder Bay. Atikokan is a town of about 3000 folks and Riverview is a congregation that averages 40 folks on a Sunday morning.

We will be sending you some more information about our life as a faith community but we wanted to greet you as soon as possible. In the meantime please feel free to check out our blog at

Peace and Blessings as together we celebrate the 85th anniversary of this United Church of ours!

So what should we send Parkwoods to help them learn who we are?????

Making Connections

The United Church of Canada turns 85 this year! One of the projects to celebrate this even is called Making Connections Expand the post to read more about it (from the National Website)

Celebrating an anniversary is often an opportunity to make connections, renew friendships, and sometimes even build new relationships.

How many times have you attended family gatherings where distant relatives met for the first time and discovered a shared history? The bonds become stronger when we celebrate and honour our interconnectedness.

This is also true for the family we call The United Church of Canada. Congregations and diverse community ministries span this country from coast to coast to coast. Our global partners and overseas personnel extend our family ties around the world. From urban centres to small towns to rural and remote communities, we are all connected.

This June 10, The United Church of Canada’s 85th Anniversary is a time to remember, renew, rejoice—and make new connections!

Beginning in March we will be inviting you to participate in a special anniversary initiative called Making Connections. Our hope is that you will use the time leading up to Anniversary Sunday on June 6 to initiate and nurture a new relationship with a “distant relative” in the United Church.

To do this we will randomly pair United Church pastoral charges, community ministries, global partners, and overseas personnel with one another. This means each pastoral charge, community ministry, global partner, and overseas personnel will have the potential to begin two new relationships: one with the ministry you are invited to connect with, and the other with the ministry that has been invited to connect with you.

Looking ahead to April 25, 2010 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 9:36-43
  • Psalm 23 (VU p.749)
  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 7:9-17
  • From the Gospel: John 10:22-30

The Hymns this week are:
  • #217 All Creature of Our God and King
  • #747 The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • #337 Blessed Assurance
  • #424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

Gord is away this week and so we offer a great big thank-you to Elvin for leading worship.

April 16, 2010

Does this Speak to you? What Does it Say?

This ad comes from our brothers and sisters in the United Church of Christ in the US:

April 12, 2010

Looking Ahead to April 18, 2010 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: John 21:15-17
  • Psalm 30 (VU p.757)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 9:1-20

The Hymns this week are:
  • #409 Morning Has Broken
  • #183 We Meet You, O Christ
  • #626 I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
  • #232 Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

The Sermon Title is 180°

Early Thoughts: What does it take to make us turn and go in a new direction? Can we turn our backs on where we were and go the other way?

Paul was, by his own account, a persecuter of the early church. In Acts Luke makes it clear that this persecution was potentially fatal. And yet when he experiences the Risen Christ, when he runs into the reality of Easter, Paul's life and perspective are wholly changed.

Peter was afraid. In the chaos after the arrest of Jesus and the fear that Jesus' followers would be the next to be put into chains Peter vehemently denies that he even knew the man -- much less was one of the most trusted and favoured followers. And yet out of his experience of the Risen Christ he becomes the first leader of the movement that becomes known as the Christian church.

There is something about the resurrection experience that leads people to turn and go in the opposite direction. But maybe that is less than surprising after all. In resurrection we are reminded that anything is possible. In meeting the resurrection truth we are pushed to let go of death.

Many of us find ourelves going the wrong way at times. What would it take for us to be convinced that we need to turn around? More importantly, what would it take for us to actually do it?

April 04, 2010

(image from here)
Christ is Risen
Christ is Risen Indeed!
Happy Resurrection Day!

March 29, 2010

Looking Forward to April 4, 2010 -- Easter Sunday

This week we celebrate the Banquet of Hope and New Life as we share the Sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 65:17-25
  • Psalm 118 (VU p.837 Parts 1-3)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
The Hymns this week are:
  • 157 Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • 186 Now the Green Blade Rises
  • 173 Thine is the Glory
  • 481 Sent Forth By God’s Blessing
The Sermon Title is Can't Stop the Kingdom

Early Thoughts: The powers have done their worst. But whose is the final victory? What is God's answer to the cross?

It seems that the Kingdom has been stopped. Last Sunday we sang and cheered and were filled with hope. But then the bottom fell out. We were sure it was a done deal. Instead we watched a trial and execution. We've waited all this time to be delivered but I guess this isn't the time.

But that isn't the end of the story. We always need to stay until the last reel has been played. Even if it is we are 7 points down, on our own 35 yard line, 5 seconds left on the clock, the game isn't over. As they say in about the opera, it ain't over until the fat lady sings. (Any other cliches you want to fit in here?)

The big surprise is that the Kingdom simply can't be stopped. Just when all seems lost God has another card to play. GOd raises the Chosen One. God does an amazing new thing. This is the glory that is Easter.

The world as we know it lives day to day on Friday, at least if we believe the picture drawn by the evening news. On a good day we might make it to Saturday, with a reprieve in the Kingdom-stalling violence. But the life of faith draws us right through into Sunday's dawn. God's Reign of Love and Justice and Peace will be triumphant in the end. The new heaven and earth will come to pass.

Last Sunday we asked Can You Stop the Kingdom? On Friday it looked like the answer was yes. But now we know the truth. No. The REign of God can NOT be stopped, only delayed a little.

March 28, 2010

Looking Forward to April 2, 2010 -- Good Friday

The Scripture Passages are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  • From the Gospel: Luke 22:7-23:56
  • Psalm 22 (VU p.744 Part One)
The Hymns are:
  • 144 Were You There
  • 182 Stay With Us Through the Night
The Meditation Stopping the Kingdom will continue on from the question asked on Palm Sunday. What is it in the world that seems so good at stopping the coming of GOd's Reign? Why do those forces seem to win so regularly? Are we complicit in their victories?

March 23, 2010

Looking Forward to March 28, 2010 -- Palm Sunday

The Scripture REadings this week are:
  • Luke 19:28-48
  • Psalm 118 (VU p.837)

THe Hymns this week are:
  • 122 All Glory Laud and Honour
  • 123 Hosanna Loud Hosanna
  • 357 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
  • 127 Ride On Ride On in Majesty (tune 20)

THe Sermon Title is Can You Stop the Kingdom?

Early Thoughts: We wave the palms and sing the songs. The world is filled with hope. Do we see the wall that we are about to hit?

It is a celebration, a coronation even. But there is a shadow lurking around the corner. Palm Sunday is a study in contrasts.

Even as Jesus enters the city to shouts of great praise the leadership is skulking at the edge of the picture, waiting to do something to restore the "peace". And so the sermon title is a very real question.

Can the Kingdom be stopped? If the people are silent the very stones will start to sing Jesus says. THe leaders are afraid to step in and arrest him in public, worried about the reaction of the crowds who follow him.

On the surface the answer seems to be no. But really, what will happen? HOw strong is the storm that is about to break? WE will follow the question through this Sunday to Friday and Sunday....

March 21, 2010

Congregational Meeting

As a result of Gord's letter (see previous post) we need to form a Joint Needs Assessment Committee.  This is the first step in working towards who the next minister will be.  We need 5-7 people from the congregation and Presbytery will appoint 2 representatives.

Here is a handbook describing what the committee is and what they do.

The meeting to appoint these people will take place April 11 following the worship service


This letter was shared in worship this morning:

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

To: Marlene Davidson, Board Chair, Riverview United Church
Janet Buckley, Secretary, Cambrian Presbytery
CC: Leigh Mills, Chair of M&P, Riverview United Church
Rev. Barb Miller, Chair of Cambrian Presbytery
Rev. Cheryl Kinney Matheson, Chair of MPE, Cambrian Presbytery

In the church we are called to follow the leading of the Spirit. We are called to trust in the Spirit and to live in God's time. In that living into God's time and the leading of the Spirit we remember the wisdom shared in the above line from Ecclesiastes. We also remember that the God who we follow is the one who proclaims through the prophet Isaiah “Behold, I am doing a new thing”.

Over the last year I have done some intentional listening to the voice of the Spirit. And out of that I have realized that the Spirit is calling me to a new place. And so I am writing to request a change in Pastoral Relations, effective July 1, 2010, to enable me to respond to a call to ministry with St. Paul's United Church in Grande Prairie Alberta.

At last month's Presbytery meeting Barb Miller included in her remarks this quote from the movie Hope Floats: Beginnings are usually scary and endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will. That describes the feelings I have as I write these words. I look at the middle, the 9 years of living and working and “churching” together with all of you. As a family we have been truly blessed to live and work within the faith community of Riverview United Church, the wider community of Atikokan, and the wider faith community of Cambrian Presbytery. It is with sadness that we look to leaving. But with endings come new beginnings and the promise of growth and new experiences and so mixed in with the fear and sorrow is anticipation. And as always, we, who are people of hope and faith, wait for the hope to float up.

As we move into this time of endings and new beginnings may we do so secure in the knowledge that this part of our journey is taken in the presence of God. May God be with us as we all plan for the future. May God work with us as the new thing comes to fruition.

Peace and Love,

Rev Gord Waldie.

March 16, 2010

Looking Forward to March 21, 2010 -- Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 43:16-21
  • Psalm 126 (VU p.850)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 55:1-5, 12-13

The Hymns this week are:
  • 574 Come, Let Us Sing of a Wonderful Love
  • 703 In the Bulb There Is a Flower
  • 642 Be Thou My Vision
  • 884 You Shall Go Out with Joy (sung twice)

The Sermon Title is What is the New Thing?

Early Thoughts: What is coming? Are we ready to let it happen? Can we see what new thing God is doing in our world?

It is easy to lose heart sometimes. IT is easy to look around and decide that there is nthing worth hoping for. But this just part of life. And it has pretty much always been a part of life. THere have always been reasons for people to give up.

And that is the world into which God speaks through Scripture. Both of these readings from Isaiah were written and spoken to people in exile, people who had seen their capital and temple destroyed and then been hauled off to a strange land. And to these exiles God sends words of hope, saying that God is doing a New Thing. God promises that the creation itself shall burst into song, that where thorns grew trees will grow. Despite the pessimism that would be so tempting they are called to be people of hope.

So are we. We need to be people of hope. We need to look for what new things God is doning in our midst and be open to embrace them. Yes, new beginnings may often (or almost always) mean the ending something else. ANd that can be hard to accept. Beginnings can be scary. Endings are often sad. But we live in hope. God IS doing a new thing. The mounitains and fields will sing and dance. And we shall go out with joy, for we are people of hope.

March 10, 2010

Looking Forward to March 14, 2010 -- 4th Sunday of Lent

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 32
  • Luke 15:1-32

The Hymns this week are:
  • 559 Come O Fount of Every Blessing
  • 227 For the Fruit of All Creation
  • 266 Amazing Grace
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me

The Sermon title is: Get Found! Join the Party!"

Early Thoughts: Have you ever been lost? Was it an accident or on purpose? WHat happened at the end of the story??

Robert Fulghum, in a story in one of his books, suggests that sometimes we get lost on purpose -- only we call it hiding. ANd then we sometimes hide so well that we get mad when people seem to stop looking for us. Fulghum also suggests that we try the same thing with GOd.

But of course the witness of Faith and of Scripture is that God doesn't stopp looking. Or GOd never stops waiting for us to "come to our selves" and decide to stop being lost/hiding. And then there is a party! There is always a party!

So maybe we who sometimes feel lost, adrift, wandering aimlessly, need to all our selves to get found? Maybe we who sometimes get really good at playing hide and seek need to "accidentally" let our arm poke out from behind the bush? ANd then we can join the party too!

February 11, 2010

National M&S Fund totals for 2009

                               2008                 2009      $Change    %Change
from Cong.    27,300,852      26,507,150      -793,702          -2.91
from UCW      2,010,613         1,895,922      -114,691         -5.70
for WDR            404,030            521,096       117,066         28.97
Total             29,715,494       28,924,168      -791,327         -2.66
Goal             31,500,000       32,500,000                               3.17
% of Goal           94%                 89%


February 08, 2010

Looking Forward to February 14 -- Transfiguration Sunday

The Scripture REadings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 34:29-35
  • Psalm 99 (VU p.819)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

The hymns this week are:
  • #371 Open My Eyes, That I May See
  • #585 Jesus Bids Us Shine
  • #104 We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding
  • This Little Light of Mine (insert)

The Sermon title is Shine On!

Early Thoughts: It has been said that we all carry a spark of the Divine light. What would it take to let it shine?

Both of our passgaes this week talk about people shining. Moses in the desert and Jesus on the mountain top. IS this shining a literary device? Or is it something else? IS it a way of noticing that someone has been changed, even if the viewers have trouble describing just how?

What do Moses and JEsus hve in common in these stories? THey both start to shine when they are in relationship with God. Moses removes the veil that masks his shining when going to commune with GOd. Jesus starts to shine when he is praying. COuld it be that GOd is shining through them?

It is my belief that part of what we are called to do and be is to connect with the Divine in our lives. WE need to fan the spark that lives within us, we need to access it's spiritual-psychic energy. But we can't stop there. THe moments when we feel the spark glowing in us are often called "mountain-top moments". ANd it is tempting to stay there in the glow.

But we can't. AS much as we are called to be in relationship with the Divine, we are also called to share the glow with the world around us. WE are called to shine in the dark places of people's lives. We are called to be light to the world. In short, we are called to shine on. To do that we need to access the light, to make it a part of us. Then we can leave the sanctuary and go back into the world where our living and our ministering happens.

Conference Annual Meeting

The theme for the Annual Meeting of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario (MAy 27-30 in Killarney MB) has been announced. It is Who Do You Say I Am? and will be looking at JEsus and our understanding of him. Riverview is in need of a representative to attend since at present it looks like both Gord and Elvin will be unavailable.

You can read more about what is planned here

February 04, 2010

This will be An Interesting Process...

In 2 years all Pastoral Charges will be asked to vote on our words of faith. The following is from the National Website:

In August 2009, meeting in Kelowna, British Columbia, the 40th General Council adopted the following proposal:

That the 40th General Council 2009

1. in the area of Doctrine, The United Church of Canada recognizes the primacy of Scripture, with the “Doctrine Section of the Basis of Union,” “1940 Statement of Faith,” “A New Creed,” and “A Song of Faith,” each being recognized as a “subordinate standard” of the United Church as contemplated by Declaration 28(b) of The United Church of Canada Act.
2. declare that “Doctrine” of the United Church for all purposes in the Basis of Union, By-Laws, and Appendices of The Manual be those subordinate standards, subordinate to Scripture, that are so approved by the United Church in accordance with the conditions contained within The United Church of Canada Act; and
3. authorize a remit to Presbyteries and to Pastoral Charges to test the will of the United Church with respect to these declarations and recognition.

Motion: John Young/Doug Wright

This remit is what is known as a Category Three remit requiring that a study process be available in the church for two years prior to its release. The formal remit will be issued by the Executive of General Council between January and May 2012.

This background document [PDF: 36 pp/168 KB] is provided to the church to enable it to prepare for the remit and to encourage study of its implications.

February 03, 2010

What will the REaction Be?????

THe lease on the office space currently being used by the General Council Offices will come due in a couple of years. IT is a given that GCO will not get nearly as good a deal at renewal, and so the current space will not be affordable. Since you need to plan well in advance to move the national office, a Task Group has been created to investigate the future location.

In this week's Conference Weekly News was this blurb:
Re-location of General Council Offices - Last November, the Task Group on General Council Office Relocation invited all Conferences to submit Expressions of Interest concerning their willingness to host General Council Offices. The deadline for submissions was January 29, 2010. Here is the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario’s Expression of Interest. Our appreciation and thanks go to Caryn Douglas who worked diligently and pulled this package together on our behalf. Thank you Caryn! The Task Group received three submissions. The other two being Ottawa and Bloor Street United in Toronto. We are expecting a recommendation and decision at the 2010 fall meeting of General Council Executive.

TIme will tell what recommendation gets brought forward and what decision gets made.

A Hymn of Call (VU #563)

February 02, 2010

A Map of the United Church

What does it look like to be a national church?

This map will show you one way to answer that question. It plots all the Pastoral Charges in the United Church of Canada according to their mailing address.

February 01, 2010

Looking Ahead to February 7, 2010 -- 5th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 6:1-8
  • Psalm 138 (VU p.860)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Jeremiah 1:4-10

The Hymns this week are:
  • #315 Holy, Holy, Holy
  • #509 I, The Lord of Sea and Sky
  • #562 Jesus Calls Us
  • #675 Will Your Anchor Hold

The Sermon title is Why Me?

Early Thoughts: Ever been asked to do something you felt totally unequipped to do? Ever wondered why they didn't ask somebody else?

If so you aren't alone. Just look at the two passages we are reading this week. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah have very valid, in their minds anyway, reasons why GOd should choose someone else. And we find that elsewhere in Scripture. And certainly you find it often in the church. "Why me? There must be a mistake. There must be someone better" is a common response to God's call.

But the result of the story is equally common. In the end the objections are overcome somehow (of course if they weren't overcome we likely wouldn't hear the story I guess). GOd has a way of using people who are unqualified, who don't want the job, who are sure a mistake has been made. ANd sometimes as the story gets told the very thing that a person thinks makes her/him ineligible for the job is the reason he/she was called in the first.

Why me? IT is a valid question, but only if we are willing to explore the possible answers. It isn't valid as a way out. God calls the strangest people to the strangest jobs. OFten they are reluctant. OFten they feel not up to the task. But still God calls. ANd it is my belief that if it is really God who calls then two things are true: 1) there is no escape in the long run and 2) the task is possible.

WE'll explore this some more on Sunday.

January 29, 2010

Sunnycove 2010

NOt many details are available yet. WEll prtty much none. But we do know that the United Church Camp group has Sunnycove from July 25-31. THis likely means that the campers will be arriving on Monday the 26th and leaving on Friday the 30th with the leadership team arriving Sunday afternoon and leaving Saturday morning.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

January 25, 2010

Looking Ahead to January 31, 2010 -- 4th Sunday After Epiphany

Everyone is reminded that the Congregational Annual Meeting will be held following worship this Sunday. All are welcome (and encouraged) to attend. Lunch will be provided.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 71 (VU p.789)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 4:14-30

The Hymns (still subject to change) this week are:
  • 312 Praise with Joy the World’s Creator
  • 579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
  • 87 I Am the Light of the World
  • 578 As a Fire is Meant for Burning (tune 374)

The Sermon Title is A Sense of Mission

Early Thoughts: Jesus knew where he was going. Do we? Jesus knew it would cause trouble and embraced it anyway. Can we?

Jesus goes home to read and to preach. And he seems to be a wild success--at first. I can see the headlines now "Local Boy Makes Good!" in 48 point font.

But then something changes. The crowd which just a couple verses earlier is very excited is now ready to throw Jesus over a cliff. ANd Jesus merely walks through them and continues on his way.

What happened? It seems that what happened is that Jesus pushed his idea of who he was called to be beyond the comfortable place of "Local Boy Makes Good". Jesus pointed out that he was not there to make everyone happy, to meet their expectations. Jesus points out that he has been called to something else, something more.

What is the lesson for the church here? Do we have that same sort of clarity about who we are called to be? Are we willing to chance that living out that call won'r always make folks happy? What cliff are we willing to get dragged to before we too walk through the crowd and continue on our way?

January 18, 2010

A Letter From the Moderator

Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church, has written a letter in response to the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change last month. Click below to read it:

An open letter to all Canadians from the Moderator of The United Church of Canada

This letter was born in Copenhagen where, heartbroken, I watched the international climate talks fall apart.

Heartbroken because it was clear to me, as it was to many of you, that the talks in Copenhagen needed to succeed, that it is no longer safe for us to go on as we have before.

I believe this is a unique time in humanity’s fretful reign on Earth, a rare moment that will have historic significance.

And yet the Copenhagen talks failed. We have no plan to reduce deadly emissions of carbon dioxide. Emissions that are a symptom of our broken relationship with the web of life. Emissions that are rising faster than at any time in human history.

We also have no legally binding agreement. Instead we have feeble words cloaked in mistrust, the phantom of a deal.

Our moment of opportunity came and then went, and here we are now, the fate of civilization and of millions of the planet’s life forms hanging by the frayed thread of inaction.

So where is our hope?

I believe the answer to this question is that hope is in you. It is in me and in all of us who choose to reject despair and embrace hope. Together, we will replace the Copenhagen failure with success. It is up to us.

Why do I say that?

Because I believe something important shifted in Copenhagen. Watching the tens of thousands of citizens who gathered at the talks to exhort our world’s political leaders to act reminded me of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said it would be “fatal…to overlook the urgency of the moment.” He also spoke of the “fierce urgency of now.”

King’s fight was against the great moral ills of his day, what he called the “manacles” of racial segregation and the “chains” of discrimination. He refused to wait and called on everyone to act.

I too believe the time for waiting has run out.

While I was in Copenhagen, I reread the letter King wrote nearly 50 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, where he had been jailed for taking part in a non-violent protest against segregation. White church leaders were harshly and openly critical. His actions weren’t right, they said. His letter, which remains a powerful work of literature, is an answer to their charge that he should stick to his knitting.

He said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I think about his words now that Copenhagen is over. What if, instead of racial segregation, King had spoken about high greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere? Would his words hold? It seems clear to me that they would ring loud and true.

Biologically, we live within an inescapable network of mutuality. Science tells us that. Without the web of life, there is no life. We need each other. We are emphatically, biologically not alone. As the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rise, the planet will fail to provide for us. Life as we know it will die. Millions of human lives are on the line, rich and poor, old emitters and new, vulnerable and strong. There is no inoculation against this except all of us changing our behaviour all at once.

We are tied in a single garment of destiny.

This is why the issue of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has moved far beyond a political process. It has also moved far beyond being just a scientific issue. It is an ethical issue.

Science has shown us that we have caused the chemical changes we can now track in the atmosphere and the ocean. Therefore, because climate change has been caused by our actions, we are ethically obliged to take responsibility for those actions.

I believe the ecological crisis is one of the most urgent moral challenges in human history. Just as racial segregation and discrimination, and before that slavery, were in their times. Responding to this moral challenge lies with us, and the time is now.

I say this despite the fact that there are those who would say faith leaders have no place in addressing the issue of climate change. Stick to praising your God, they say.

That’s what we’re doing.

I do this within the tradition of my own faith community, The United Church of Canada. Because of our faith we have struggled with moral issues for generations, and we have often been criticized for it. We pressed for all sorts of social advances that today are givens: universal education, legal birth control, the social safety net. We did this from a deep faith that hope and change are possible.

My faith also leads me to remember Nellie McClung. Like me, she was a member of the United Church. She used wit, strategy, the power of her congregation, and unceasing political pressure nearly 100 years ago to help Canadian women win the right to vote. She appalled the premier of Manitoba of the day, who muttered to her that “nice” women didn’t want to vote. McClung was remorseless. She placed the church at the heart of women’s right to vote. It was the price of admission for a person of faith.

Like King half a century ago, like McClung half a century before that, like the Englishman William Wilberforce a century before her who used his beliefs as the springboard to abolish slavery, we cannot extricate the pressing moral issues of our day from our faith.

Nor should we. It is my job as a faith leader to refuse the false choice between contemplation and action, between praying and doing. Action requires contemplation just as contemplation requires action. If we breathed only in or only out, we would die.

And so, while it may be true that humanity’s sacred stories don’t speak about the intricacies of climate change, they do tell us about right and wrong. They are an archive of human dreams, a narrative of inspiration, humanity’s call to rise to the occasion. King saw the earliest expressions of Christianity, for instance, as society’s thermostat rather than its mere thermometer. At its best, faith gives us reason to hope. It helps us take heart and understand that there is another way.

That is why I believe we must look at issues through the lens of morality and faith. Science describes what is. Faith describes how things can and should be. On this issue science is not enough. We need more. And that is why ecological issues are also fundamentally moral, ethical, and theological concerns. And, therefore, why faith leaders must grapple with them. Why we all must grapple with them.

Because when our actions threaten the lives of millions of people and other creatures, that is wrong.

When our lack of action endangers communities in every region of the world, that is wrong.

When our economic systems jeopardize the well-being of future generations, that is wrong.

When the lifestyles of the wealthy undermine the survival of the poor, that is wrong.

If we fail to act, we are helping to doom millions of our species to abject suffering and death. That is wrong.

So what am I asking you to do?

Whatever it takes to follow in the footsteps of inspirational leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whatever you can imagine. I wouldn’t dream of limiting you to my list. The possibilities are abundant. In our homes and offices, in our places of worship, in our families and community organizations, as individuals and acting together, let us choose hope and action over despair and paralysis. Every day I receive new messages from people who are making dramatic changes in their lives. The answers are already here. Together, let us act by our beliefs.

When we do this, we will replace the fearful self-interest of Copenhagen with joyful inclusion and healing of the world.

This is a transformative moment in the planet’s history. The world will be shaped by how we and our communities respond in the months to come. It will take all of us. All of you. I can see your imagination springing forth even now, making this safe, healthy new world come to life.

A new world where broken hearts are transformed as we take heart together.

With sincerity and hope,

Mardi Tindal
The United Church of Canada

Looking Ahead to January 24, 2010 -- 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
  • Psalm 19 (VU p.740)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Hymns for this week are:
  • #245 Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet
  • #356 Seek Ye First
  • #679 Let There Be Light
  • #232 Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You

The Sermon Title is Law: Burden or Blessing???

Early Thoughts: Well which is it? Is the Law an onerous obligation or a gift?

Over and over again we are reminded that the Way of Jesus is not meant to be a legalistic path. Grace has, we are told by Paul, superseded the Law. But then again Jesus is supposed to have said "I come to fulfil the law, not to abolish it". And in this passage we are told that the people wept and celebrated upon hearing the reading (with interpretation) of the Law.

Psalm 19 says
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes
This hardly describes something onerous or something that has been imposed.

Jewish Tradition sees Law as God's gift, indeed one of God's greatest gifts. Christian tradition tends to denigrate the Law all the while creating a whole new legalistic structure about who is "right" with God and what is allowed. What would it take for us to see the Law as a gift? How would that change our approach to life? Maybe we get there by asking what life without law would be like?

January 14, 2010

Haiti Response

From the United Church Web Site

Toronto:  The United Church of Canada announced today that it is launching an emergency appeal asking its congregations for donations designated for earthquake relief and reconstruction in Haiti.
“People see a need, and have a desire, to reach out as brothers and sisters in Christ to show compassion to those in dire need,” says The United Church of Canada’s Moderator, Mardi Tindal. “As one part of God’s world suffers, we all suffer.”

The United Church’s Haiti Appeal will enable global partners in the region to address both the need for immediate relief and for long-term reconstruction following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

Funds raised through this emergency appeal will be channelled through the United Church’s partners in Haiti and through Action by Churches Together (ACT), the network of churches and Christian aid agencies that enables global responses to emergencies.

Members of ACT are already in place in Haiti, assisting those affected by the earthquake. The United Church’s partners in the region are The Methodist Church of Haiti and The Karl Lévêque Cultural Institute (ICKL).

“We rejoice at news this morning that ministers of the Methodist Church are safe,” said Jim Hodgson, the United Church’s program coordinator for the Caribbean region. “But the same message contained the news that three visitors from the United Methodist Church in the United States are missing. Our prayers are with the people of Haiti and with those who work alongside them in solidarity.”

In addition to launching this emergency appeal, the United Church has also immediately committed $20,000 for Haitian relief and reconstruction from its Emergency Response Fund (ERF). The United Church is exploring further options to respond to the crisis in Haiti in collaboration with other Canadian churches to take advantage of matching funds from CIDA that may be offered.

The Emergency Response Fund is used to help alleviate the effects of humanitarian crises caused by nature, human action, or a combination of both. The fund is replenished annually from the Mission and Service Fund and member donations. Fifteen percent of all donations received and intended for emergency relief, reconstruction, and rehabilitation are deposited into this fund for use in future emergencies that do not receive intensive media coverage. The remaining 85 percent of the monies received are directed as designated by the donor.

It is important to note that unlike many charities, and thanks to regular donations to the Mission and Service Fund, the United Church is able to absorb the staffing and administration costs of processing donations whenever an emergency appeal is launched. Therefore donors can be assured that there are no administrative charges deducted from donations received.

Individuals are invited to contribute to the United Church’s Haiti Appeal either through their local congregation or directly to The United Church of Canada’s national office,
3250 Bloor St. West,
Suite 300, Toronto,
ON M8X 2Y4.

Cheques should be made payable to The United Church of Canada and marked “Haiti Appeal.” Online donations can be made. Choose “Emergency Response” and specify “Haiti Appeal.”

Donations made by United Church members and congregations to the Haiti Appeal are considered “over and above” gifts to the United Church’s wider work, so they are not recorded as part of a congregation’s Mission and Service Fund giving. But they are eligible for tax receipts. Congregational treasurers may receive and receipt individual cheques and then forward one congregational cheque to the United Church, attention “Haiti Appeal.”

See also this page

To make a donation through Riverview call the church office.

Minister's Annual REport

Yes I know it will be printed for distribution soon. But for those who just can't wait...


They say that time flies when you’re having fun. Well that must be true because all of a sudden I find myself writing my Annual Report for the 9th year. Yes, my 9th year. It was 8.5 years ago that I arrived in town (incidentally that means that you have now been in ministry with me longer than any other minister since John Freeman). 8.5 years of births and deaths, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. And now here we are at Annual Report time again.

As I look back over the last year I see a mixture of anxiety and hope (of course one could say that for almost any year couldn’t one?). We had worries about money. We had a Board that was short two people. We were living and ministering within a community that continues to worry about its own survival. Anxiety could easily overtake us if we let it.

But there was hope too. There are continuing and strengthening rumours of new economic life coming to Atikokan. There were always hands available to prepare funeral lunches, or make pies, or serve the Harvest and Ham suppers. And high on my list of signs of hope is the reality that in the fall of 2009 we doubled our Sunday School! I challenge you to find many churches who can make that claim.

And now I turn my eyes from the past year to the year (and years) to come. Annual Report and Annual Meeting time calls us to both look back and to look ahead. And as I look ahead these hymn words come to my mind…

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of faith and dreams of visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hand will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
(verses 1,2, & 4 of #1 in More Voices “Let us Build a House (All are Welcome)” ©1994 Marty Haugen)

Over the years past we have built and maintained a house here. How do we continue to build it? One of my fears is that we have fallen into the trap of focussing on the maintenance of what there is and not dreaming of what there could be. What are our dreams?

One of the challenges of a longer term ministry is avoiding the comfort trap. When ministers change congregations and congregations change ministers every 5-6 years there is a constant infusion of new energy and changes. That can be disruptive but I believe that disruption can often be a very healthy thing. When we minister together for a longer term we need to find other ways to bring the disruption and newness that causes creativity and growth.

There have been times over the years when various members of this congregation have worried about its future. There have been times (this September was one of them) when the financial viability of this congregation was called into question. After 8.5 years I can tell you that I still see signs of life and promise here. We just need to find the way to bring it to bloom. I also want to share my firm belief that if we develop and share a clear sense of why we are here then people will respond. Any writer in the field of stewardship and fundraising will tell you that people share of themselves (time, talent and treasure) in response to a sense of vision and mission. If we want to flourish as a part of the Body of Christ then we will need a clear vision of what God is calling us to do and be in this place and time.

I call all of us to ask ourselves where God is calling us. I encourage all of us to ask how best to be God’s people; live in God’s Way; and share God’s love, hope and promise in the Atikokan of the 21st Century. And we have to be open to answers that may be disruptive. We may hear God call us to be different than we have ever been before. But in disruption there is room for growth. And, on a more sombre note, if we can openly and honestly engage these questions then we will not only fail to grow. If we focus on maintaining what we have and wish for what we once had we may well lose it. If we embrace our dreams then we may not only keep the memories but gain a whole new world.

May God help it to be so.

January 11, 2010

Looking Ahead to January 17, 2010 -- 2nd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 36 (VU p.762)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 12:4-31

The Hymns this week are:
  • #402 We Are One
  • #606 In Christ there is No East or West
  • #382 Breathe on Me, Breath of God
  • #264 Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise

The Sermon title is Gifted

Early Thoughts: What are your gifts? Do we really accept that all gifts have equal value?

As far as we can tell the church in Corinth was a troubled community. And many of their troubles seem to have included some dissension about who was "more important" than others. Here Paul is responding to claims that some people have more important spiritual gifts than others. In a faith community this is nothing less than a claim that some people have more to offer the community than others.

Paul is having nothing to do with this. PAul is very clear that all the gifts come from the same Source. Paul is equally clear that all parts of the body are needed for the body to be healthy.

THere are two possible ways to go with this passage. THey are shown in the two questions listed above. How good are we at identifying the gifts we have to offer to GOd's world? HOw do we help each other name and claim those gifts? Doing this is a part of our call to live in community. Doing this is how we maintain the health of our community and move it into the future. OTOH, once we recognie and name the gifts that are around us, do we honestly act as if they are all important and valid and needed?

Upon further reflection, both questions are pretty closely linked. If we don't believe (and act as if we believe) that all the gifts are important then where is the incentive to find our gifts -- great if they are considered "valuable" not so great if it isn't. And one other thing to remember. We don't identify gifts to serve teh church, we indentitfy gifts to serve teh world. Because, in the end, serving the world is what the church is supposed to be bout.

January 07, 2010

Study Group Starting!

Sunday afternoons at 1:00
Starts January 17

January 05, 2010

Looking Ahead to January 10, 2010 -- 1st Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 43:1-7
  • Psalm 29 (VU p.756)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 8:14-17

The Hymns this week are:
  • #371 Open My Eyes, That I May See
  • #100 When Jesus Comes to Be Baptized
  • #449 Crashing Waters at Creation (tune #444)
  • #420 Go to the World

The Sermon title is Spirited Water of Life

Early Thoughts: What is the power of baptism? What difference does it make?

Apparently it isn't about the water. Whether splashed on the forehead, dumped by the bucketful or fully immersed it must not be about the water itself. At least that is what the Acts passage suggests. [It sure seems like there is a story not being told there too about how/why the baptism hadn't "taken".]

The power of bpatism is in the SPirit. It is the Spirit that gives life. It is the Spirit that brings transformation. As Christians we are called to be baptised by water and teh SPirit.

And yet there is something special about water. Water is the stuff of life. We are mainly water. Water has the potential to be creative (Genesis 1) and destructive (Noah). Water is cleansing -one image often used for baptism- and reviving

And the scripture is also clear. Once we have received the SPirit, once we have received the water of life, we are called to respond. Baptism makes a difference when we let it chnge our response to the world. THe SPirit's movement is only evident when there are results.

On Sunday, let us all explore some more about the SPirit, and WAter, and Life.

PS> did you know that the Gaelic name of Scotch Whiskey also translates as water of lif? Talk about Spirited!