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!