Sunday, April 29, 2018
This Much We Know about the United Church
I am not at the Annual General Meeting of Bay of Quinte Conference of the United Church of Canada even though it's just down the road in Napanee. Bay of Quinte Conference stretches from Pickering to Brockville and north to Pembroke, so there are congregations from urban centres in proximity to Toronto while others are very rural. Some of them are multi-staff and others have part-time ministry or share clergy.
I'm retired from pastoral ministry so I don't need or really want to be at Conference. I've never really been a fan of these meetings, although it's always good to reconnect with certain colleagues. This year Conference is a month earlier than usual because General Council, the triennial gathering of commissioners from across Canada gather for decision-making on behalf of the denomination is also earlier. This year GC will be in Oshawa, in July, and I will be there, briefly.
This will almost certainly be the last year for Conferences across the country, and for General Council. Congregations and Presbyteries were asked to vote on whether the United Church should enter into a major restructuring, a tough decision which has been forty years in the making. Forty is a good biblical number, as Israel kicked around in the wilderness for that many years, and Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness before his ministry began. We have been "bewildered" ourselves, reluctant to accept that change has been necessary. We have agreed to go ahead, although the new structure is still a work in progress.
I do feel that some fine people are involved in this process and it matters for both the present and the future. Our son Isaac is at Bay of Quinte Conference because he is currently a minister in a congregation in nearby Trenton and his desire is to live out his call to Christian service for years to come. There are others like him who are gifted and creative and want to be hopeful about ministry. His congregation, as with so many others, is aging but they are lovely people whose desire is to be faithful witnesses to Christ in their community.
The theme for B of Q Conference this year is This Much We Know. I chuckled when I clicked on the link in the Conference website and underneath the heading there is...nothin'! Perhaps all we need to know, in the end, is that Christ is with us in our wilderness experiences. We might be uncomfortable and disoriented and praying for a GPS to magically appear. There are times when putting one foot in front of the other is a sign of faithfulness. We can pray that what I have mistakenly typed as the "Untied" Church of Canada on a number of occasions will trust in Christ's abiding presence. We can look to the heavens, and to one another.