The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Welcome and Introduction to the service for Sunday, June 7, 2015

Good morning and welcome to our service this morning! 

Today we gather to celebrate and honour the long legacy of our denomination which was formally called into being on June 10, 1925, 90 years ago this week!

Of course, this new thing that God was about in the birthing of a new denomination started sometime before 1925 and so it is we are glad to celebrate the vision of our forebears whose hard work, sleepless nights, fears, tears, and countless compromises that over the better part of a decade prior to 1925 brought them to that special day.

We are grateful too, that This United Church of ours has been a unique model for other denominations of what working and worshipping together can look like.

As we gather for worship today, we come with grateful hearts and minds, acknowledging that ninety years of seeking justice in chaotic times and struggling to hear God’s word in a deafening world is NO SMALL FEAT!

As we come to worship this morning, we come wanting to celebrate and remember:

·         Our founding churches-Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and the General Council of Union Churches.

·         Our Brothers and sisters from the Synod of the Weslayan Methodist Church of Bermuda and the Evangelical Brethren Church whose diversity enriches us

We are here to celebrate and remember:

·         Our strong history of music that enriches our worship coming from our hymnbooks Voices United and More Voices

and

·         Our Professions of faith such as A New Creed and A Song of Faith

We appreciate:

·         Our First Nations relatives

·         Our French-speaking churches,

and

·         the growing range of languages and traditions that broaden, grace, and inform our understandings of God and each other

For all this and more, let the celebrations begin!

Reflection and Story Sharing as we Remember Our History and Embrace Our Future

Based on Luke 10: 1-11 The seventy are commissioned

ening, loving God be with us in our celebrating and in our remembering just a few aspects of our denomination this day.  Amen.

I love the story of the seventy being sent out by Jesus to risk meeting people where they were at in the context of a hostile and inhospitable environment that characterized life for those first early followers in the Way. 

Was it a boldly foolish thing Jesus invited them to do or was it a foolishly bold thing?  Either way, it would have been a risky a business being sent out in pairs to meet people where they were at; to receive hospitality from strangers, to offer healing and blessing; and in so doing, to proclaim the nearness of God’s in-breaking kingdom. 

And, then, as if that were not enough, Jesus instructs his followers to shake dust off their feet when misunderstood, maligned, or shunned.  The underlying assumption I read into the text? There would be precious little wiggle room for folks to wait around and see what might happen, especially as Jesus had turned his face to Jerusalem.

This risking bold foolishness or foolish boldness is what I think characterizes a few of the stories I want to share with you this morning as we celebrate and remember some of the milestones that have brought our denomination to where it is today.

While these four short stories offer only glimpses of this risking bold foolishness on behalf of our faith lo these last 90 years, it is my fond hope that they will act as a springboard of a sort to other stories we can share and celebrate the whole year long.

 

Borrowing from an adapted resource offered by the Rev’s Karen and David Holmes and Tim Scorer on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the United Church of Canada, we are invited to receive each story and then to respond to the question, ‘Do you remember?’ with the words, ‘Yes we remember’

With all of that in mind, the, let us begin!

Story #1:  1925 The United Church is Born

On June 10, 1925, a new church was born.  Administratively and institutionally, it was a bit of a train wreck.  I mean, really, try organizing four such different denominations into one!  But, at the same time, this was a new and exciting thing.  Instead of breaking up because we disagreed with one another, we were uniting. 

The United Church of Canada was the first modern union of different denominations in the world.  We were born out of a desire to follow Jesus’ prayer that all of his followers in the world might become one, united in love, and in purpose.  It was a history-making moment.  Talk about risking bold foolishness or foolish boldness of behalf of our faith!

Do you remember?  Yes, we remember!

Story #2:   1968 Dr. Robert McClure, First Lay Moderator is elected

In 1968, the United Church elected its first lay Moderator, Dr. Robert McClure.  Robert McClure was a medical doctor, a missionary who served many years in China, India, and the Middle East, among other places.  Oh, my-if we started to tell stories about him we would be here a very long time!   Challenging society to live by the values of justice, courage, and compassion, Dr. McClure also challenged the church with piles of questions and fresh thinking, backed up by a lifetime of service to Jesus.  Behold, something new indeed when the church chose to elect its first lay moderator to office.  To be sure, others followed but for today, we are asked simply:

Do you remember?  Yes, we remember!

Turning now to the front of our bulletin, you will see there our United Church crest, our official signature, if you will, of our church.  The crest, which visually represents the cornerstone of our faith and the tradition that shapes us is to be placed on all legal documents.  Though the original crest was first designed in 1943 by the Rev. Dr. Victor T. Mooney, it was officially adopted at the 11th General Council in 1944.  Since then, the crest has undergone some further tweaking including the addition of the words translated into French in 1980.

Story #3 1986 Apology to First Nation’s People

More recently the crest was further amended to acknowledge Canada’s many indigenous languages and the words in Mohawk “all my relations”.  And for those of you who have been closely following the news recently, you will remember that though the United Church’s first apology to our indigenous peoples dates back to 1986 acknowledging our complicity in the residential schools disgrace, the road to reconciliation continues to be a long and pain filled journey for many, many people.   Here we have yet another example of how risking acts of bold foolishness on behalf of our faith continues to inform, broaden, and grace our self-understanding as a denomination.

Do you remember?  Yes, we remember!

Story #4: The last story I want to bring to your attention this morning has to do with the most current of reports called the Comprehensive Review due to be presented at the 42nd gathering of General Council in Corner Brook, Newfoundland this coming August.   The Comprehensive Review has come into being a result of a two and half year consultation with congregations, presbyteries, and representatives of our 13 Conferences across the country.

The recommendations outlined in the Comprehensive Review consists of 6 major proposals that have the potential to dramatically change how the church we have come to know and love is structured, funded, and governed so that it can more effectively be about the building of God’ vision of Shalom-God’s in-breaking Kingdom.  In these times of decline this shift is one that will move us out of a time of decline into a time of renewal and transformation. 

 

 

Our work as faithful followers in the Way of Jesus, as ones called into ministries of co-leading in a hostile and inhospitable environment is to risk learning more about this important document and to pray for all those who will gather together to discern next steps this summer.

Will you remember?  Yes, we will remember!

This morning we have only touched on a very few snippets of stories, signposts if you will, of our long and continuous journey nudged, nurtured, and challenged by the Holy Spirit beckoning us on. 

There are so many other places we might have gone and we might yet go as we continue to celebrate what it means to be the church in this time and in this place.   

For all of this and more, we say, thanks be to God and we remember that Jesus encouraged his followers to travel light-let us pray:

(prayer offered from United in God’s Work, March 2015)