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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Please Defend Susiya, Palestine!



Having spent a good part of my sabbatical of 2013 in Palestine, I once again want to draw our attention to the injustices that the Palestinian people experience.  The information below comes from The United Church of Canada, which has written letters of concern and protest to the government of Canada.

There are bulldozers ready to destroy Susiya, which is in Area C.  Area C comprises 61% of the occupied West Bank and is under fully Israeli control.  The Oslo peace accord stipulated that Area C be gradually transferred to Palestinian control, but this has not happened.  Instead, Israel is moving Palestinian people out of Area C.

Palestinian people have lived in Susiya since long before the 1967 occupation.  Now, they are facing eviction.  Where will they live?  The village has been partially destroyed 6 times between 1991 and 2011.  The residents of Susiya face oppression from the Israeli military and from Israeli Settlers in the area.

On August 3 of this year, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hear a petition challenging the Civil Administration’s rejection of the Susiya master plan.  If the village is destroyed before August 3rd, there will be no chance for the High Court of Justice to approve the village master plan.

We are urged to send a letter to the Hon. Rob Nicholson and to the opposition parties.  Please go to United Church to take action and for more information.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Mistakes Happen

I used to be a perfectionist.  While I don’t describe myself as a perfectionist any longer, I do like things to go well.  I don’t like mistakes.  But I can accept it when I make a mistake; I can move on and not let it get under my skin.  I can even laugh at myself.

Part of what helped undo my perfectionism was being part of Manitou Conference of The United Church of Canada.  When I was ordained (back in 1989), I was sent to Manitou Conference in Northern Ontario to a small town called Matheson; I served the Matheson Pastoral Charge for 6 years and loved it there.

What I appreciated about Manitou Conference was that it was a small conference and we could get to know our colleagues.  I also appreciated the fact that new ministers were encouraged to take on leadership roles.  Within a year of coming to Matheson, I was serving on the Conference Ministry, Personnel & Education Committee with its concomitant responsibilities of Settlement, Interview Board and Internship.  I served as secretary.

The other encouragement I had in Manitou Conference was around music.  I was asked to lead the music at one of our conference meetings.  I sing and can play the guitar.  I used to direct our choir at St. Andrew’s in Matheson.  I grew up with music—my mom was a piano teacher, organist and choir director.  I put together a little band and we led the music at conference; it was great!

It was also a great teaching tool.  I am not a professional musician.  I make mistakes, but I play with passion and integrity.  At the conference during which I led the music, I made plenty of mistakes.  But we sang over them and played with joy and passion.  What I remember people saying afterwards was that they appreciated the integrity of the music and playing, the passion and the joy, and that the mistakes didn’t matter.

That conference meeting was a great learning experience.  I learned that I could make mistakes and continue to be who I was.  Mistakes didn’t diminish me.  I wasn’t conquered by my mistakes.  I learned how to acknowledge my mistakes, learn and grow and move on.  I could let my perfectionism go… at least a little bit!

Acknowledging my mistakes came to the fore after yesterday’s worship (July 12th).  I made a mistake, a very glaring mistake, in the communal prayer in the 4 directions.  I mixed up east and west!  I didn’t really think about it at the time nor when I wrote the prayer.  Janet asked me about it later in the day.  Ooops!  And what makes it funnier is that I said, later in my sermon, that when I’m hiking, I have a good sense of direction!!  Ooops!

But I let the mistake go.  I actually laughed out loud about it.  Many years ago I would have agonized over my mistake.  Today, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I can laugh at myself.


Of course, being part of a community of trust and love certainly helps.  I trust the people with whom I work and worship.  We don’t belittle each other, but support each other with love and compassion.  I can live with my mistakes because people can live with me and hold me in love.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Belated Happy Canada Day

Janet and I had a quiet day.  We slept late, did some chores and just simply enjoyed the day as it came. This year, Canada Day was special because of the recent arrival of Selem, the Eritrean refugee that we are sponsoring.  She enjoyed her first Canada Day festivities.

At one point during the day I watched the news on CBC.  As part of the newscast, there was a sports report.  Of course, part of the sports report included some reflections on the Canadian Women’s Soccer team and their recent heart-breaking loss to England.  The other piece of sporting news that made me sit up and take notice had to do with the NHL free-agent signing frenzy.

Thinking about all of these things, I realize that there are some things out of kilter in our country.  When listening to the sports report about free agent signings, one sports commentator talked about Mike Green and whether he would be able to command the kind of salary he is currently getting, which is in the neighbourhood of $6 million per anum; the commentator said that he might get 3 or $4 million, but not 6 with a new team.  The sports reporter talked about a million here and a million there like it was pocket change.

This got me to thinking about what Canada is all about.  Canada is about the kind of teamwork that saw the Canadian Women’s team get to the quarter-finals.  Canada is about the effort of a diverse group of people rallying together to bring a person from a different country who isn’t able to live in her country of origin.

The Canada that I know is about seeking peace with justice and working to end poverty.  It is about reconciliation with 1st Nations people and seeking climate justice.  The Canada that I have known is the Canada that welcomes people into a new life, people who have experienced many hardships and challenges.

Canada is not about how many millions we can deliver to hockey players.  It is not about spying on citizens who care deeply about the environment and about peace with justice in our world, or attacking unions, or dismantling the middle-class.  Canada is not about rewarding corporations for polluting the environment and disrupting the natural world.

The Canada I have come to love is about being an inter-cultural community of people who choose to live with compassion and free from fear.

Commonwealth is a term that we know well as Canadians.  We are part of the old British Commonwealth.  Commonwealth is a term that could be substituted for the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus proclaimed.  Commonwealth is a good term in my opinion because it implies that wealth is held commonly and that the common good is considered before the individual good.  Commonwealth means that all citizens enjoy a standard of living and care that is life-giving and community-building.


Belated Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

In Praise of Pope Francis' Eco-Encyclical

I am not a Roman Catholic, but I've been pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis' papacy to date. Especially am I pleased by his eco-encyclical, Laudato Si' (Praised Be).

I have long been concerned about climate change; I've done what good, green consumers and citizens do.  I walked more and changed light bulbs.  I used less plastic.  I reduced, recycled and reused. Recently, however, I've discovered that personal actions, while helpful and important, are not enough.  It isn't enough to just change to an eco-friendly light bulb.  Climate justice requires a change in public policy and requires political leadership. Climate justice requires a whole shift in political and societal thinking!

Our United Church has had a lot to say about climate justice over the past 25 years.  Much of what we've had to say, however, has gone unheard and unheeded.  The World Council of Churches also has published tracts and treatises on climate justice, but they, too, have often gone unheard and unheeded.  However, I am pleased to learn that the world has heard what Pope Francis has to say about climate justice!

Reaction to the Pope's comments about climate justice has been swift.  There are those of us, including some political leaders, who are praising the Pope for his courage and his analysis.  There is, of course, criticism from the politically conservative and climate change deniers.  Many Republican presidential hopefuls are denouncing the Pope's encyclical, admonishing him to stick to the religious realm.

But if climate justice isn't a religious issue, I don't know what is!  Climate justice is the key issue of our day, and as it impacts justice, health care, poverty, income distribution, freedom and the common-weal, it is a religious issue.

Part of what I like about what the Pope said is that solving the climate change problem will take more than a technological solution.  It will take a change in public policy, putting a true price on carbon and eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and this will also include providing incentives for clean energy technologies.  Transportation will change, community planning, health care delivery, education and our sense of community will necessarily change.

But what will also be required is that we will consume less, that we will re-evaluate what growth actually means.  Is the economy, as most politicians suggest, the most important political issue?  No! The most important issue is the well-being of all citizens.  The most important issue is that life is precious--all life!

I leave you with a quote from Howard Zinn, which is what Pope Francis is about; Zinn said, "To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however a small way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."  (Howard Zinn was an historian, political scientist, and social activist, very active in both the civil rights movement and the anti-Viet Nam war movement. He has written numerous books.)