Our Purpose and Mission Statement

Working to build God's dream. Help wanted!

We the people of Glen Rhodes United Church, are determined that our life together will be fully inclusive for people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, differing abilities, ethnic origins and economic circumstances. Therefore, we hope that God will work in us so that we will be a sensitive congregation, willing to share our faith and gifts in language and worship, in the life and work of our church and wherever God calls us to do justice in the wider community, with compassion, fun and laughter

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Easter's challenge

The message of Easter is hope--hope for new life, hope for the world. For a long weekend each spring, many people take a breather and remind themselves of the story of disciples finding Jesus' tomb empty, and a rumor that he has been raised from death. Depending on local and family traditions, Easter might involve surprises, parades, church, a family dinner or two, and maybe even time to reflect on one's level of hope.
Then the world re-asserts itself, usually with a vengeance--disaster, violence and ample evidence of human sin. Easter's challenge is to persist, to offer us something even when the chocolate is gone, the left overs eaten up, and no long weekends till late May. Easter-type rumors do keep popping up, fighting for attention amidst the giant headlines about greed, abuse, terror and inequality. 
That crowd camped out in front the Toronto police station for two weeks proclaiming that all citizens have a right to be treated with respect, that Black lives matter, was one such story. And there are others: The strides toward education of girls around the world is another; a treaty to reduce the trade in small arms (such as rifles) makes its slow way toward acceptance by the nations of the world; the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the harm suffered by indigenous children in Indian Residential Schools looks as if it is keeping the attention of governments, educational and other institutions.
Are they enough? To offer you a glimmer of hope? Much depends on your personal circumstances and outlook, of course. It’s not helpful to get overly optimistic, as if “every day, in every way, things are getting better and better,” to quote the French psychologist, Émile Coué, who came up with this mantra for healing a hundred years ago. But if a person has no hope, it’s bleak.
The challenge the Easter message has is all of us. Can we hear Easter as a prayer, not a cure-all, inspiration to work to change the world, not a sedative?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The heat is on

"The Heat is On" is song written by Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey. It was sung by Glen Frey for the first Beverley Hills Cop movie of thirty years ago. As we swelter at the end of summer, it could be the theme song for this part of the world.
When we look around the world, we might be happy to have the problems we do. Back in the spring, it was the Nepali earthquake. Now it's Syrian and others fleeing for their lives. The Arab Spring of 2011 turned into a never-ending nightmare summer for Syrians. Four years of civil war and counting. 
A picture of one tiny victim has brought the tsunami of migrants and refugees now taxing Europe and much of the world to our attention as it broke our hearts. The heat is on for Canadians and our political parties and leaders vying for our votes. What to do? How fast to do it? 
It seems certain we can do more than we have been. More humanitarian aid, I mean. I'm not sure more bombs will achieve much. The RCAF mission costs a fortune, for a start, and we might be better to put our dollars to use in other ways. There is concern at Glen Rhodes for all the desperate people, but no definite plan yet of how to respond.
In the meantime, you can Sign this Amnesty International Petition, and talk to candidates using this ecumenical election resource (from Kairos, the multi-church social justice group).
On a very different topic, happy belated Labour Day to all working people. Such a rich history of sacrificial efforts for workers' rights, so much still to do. Another election issue.

And at Glen Rhodes we continue to support one another as we stand up for peace and justice…as we "work to build God's dream."

Looking ahead:
Blessing of the Animals service             September 27    (10:30 a.m.)
World Wide Communion                      October 4

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

What to do about disasters, part 2

A new tragedy, to add to that of Mediterranean migrants and people fleeing a volcano in Chile—a massive earthquake in Nepal. The images and stories of destruction and suffering come quickly, as usual, and they are heartbreaking. The numbers get bigger and bigger as days go by. It’s hard for most of us to put ourselves fully in the shoes of those staggering through such calamities. The scale is often so big that we feel a little helpless.
We send money, we pray, we hope that the authorities can somehow help, fix, save, rebuild, care, maybe even prevent. 
Besides backtracking to get at the real roots of human injustices as I suggested in an earlier post, are there other things we could be doing? Yes, of course there are. Many of them take money or foresight, or both. All of them take determination. We could be working on buildings and building codes in places prone to earthquakes. There is a lot of that going on in places such as Vancouver, and some going on in Nepal, apparently, but not enough. The difference? Nepal is a poor place.
On a larger scale, though, why do we treat human catastrophes as charity cases? Two or three million affected by this war, eight million affected by this earthquake: please send money, says the United Nations, or aid agencies. With families and businesses, we buy insurance so that help will come, all paid for, if something happens to our home, our car, ourselves. With countries such as Canada, we pay taxes so that if there is a disaster we have the resources already lined up. Emergency services here even practice on pretend disasters, so that everyone knows what frequency to use on their radio and whether their plans will actually work.
On the global scale, though, there doesn’t seem to be effective insurance, often. We don’t tax the countries that could afford it to make sure resources are ready. There will always be a next time: flood, storm, drought, famine, tsunami, war, whatever it may be. Surely humanity could pool the risk, the way we do with insurance or taxes, to anticipate suffering and move swiftly to address it? Or better yet, work to prevent disasters that can be anticipated.
Please donate to ease suffering this time, in Nepal. And please encourage our leaders to do what humans do so well, namely cooperate to look after each other when refugees flee fighting, the river rises or the ground shakes.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Escape by sea: an old story with tragic new chapters

Terrible news from the Mediterranean these days. A Toronto newspaper had a picture of migrants being dragged out of the surf in Greece and the headline, “How do we stop this?”
Good question. In order to figure out how to stop a flood of economic migrants, we might wish to ask how it got started. The Hebrew people were such migrants at one time, fleeing Egypt. Lucky them--the sea parted, and they could walk to safety. Today the seas are filling up with the bodies of those making the same desperate attempt.
With today's refugees, looking for a cause takes us back hundreds of years in time to empire and colonialism, the process by which the wealth of the world was diverted to a very small collection of mostly western European nations. Maybe even back two millennia to the Roman empire, an earlier version of the same thing.
Former colonies almost all declared independence in the 20th century, most in the twenty years or so after the Second World War. The flow of wealth, however, is still lopsided. Far more wealth comes to so called First World corporations from Africa by way of profits than is given or loaned to struggling economies there. And by the terms of agreements set up after the Second World War, producers of raw materials (such as copper and other metals) cannot organize to get good prices for their products. They compete with other, and commodity prices fluctuate and stay low. (Oil producers broke those rules in 1972 when they set up OPEC to get more than $2 per barrel for crude.)
The result? People leaving their economically sagging part of the world to get to one that seems to hold out promise for them or their children no matter what the risk. Boatloads of people arriving at European, Australian or North American shores or dying in the attempt. 
What will it take to stop it? Are world leaders, the world’s media and ordinary citizens ready to have a deeper discussion about real fairness on the planet, about the collateral damage of the way we have set up the global economy? Until we figure out how to share resources equitably so that parents everywhere can dream for their children’s futures locally, refugees will take terrifying chances, pay exorbitant fees and die in nightmarish ways and numbers. 
In the meantime, short of someone to hold back the waves, the world can do better for those risking everything to get away from war, unrest and economic collapse for a chance at a decent life.

Friday, 3 April 2015

“Many gospels, one Christ” (Maundy Thursday meditation)

April 2, 2015
by Robin Wardlaw

Readings: Exodus 12:1–4, 11–14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–17, 31b–35
“Gospel” is old English for God’s spiel, God’s story. The Christian part of the bible, the New Testament as we call it, has four of them, four gospels, all telling more or less the same story, about Jesus of Nazareth. Why four? There were many, many other gospels that got left out. They keep turning up buried in the desert. Some of them have only the words of Jesus. Some have only his actions. They didn’t make the cut.
We have come to know the four that did make it as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Although they are similar, they have strange differences, contradictions even. Our forebears, the people who chose what was scripture were trying to tell us something it seems. Similar to Genesis with its two stories of the creation of humankind, two versions of the Noah story and so on. They left us uncertainty, a little ambiguity.
What happened in the upper room that night, for instance? Did Jesus do something after supper with bread and a cup, something that has become a sacrament for Christians, a means of grace, or did he do something with a jug of water, a basin and a towel? Three of the gospels say it was re-interpreting the breaking of the Passover bread. That he summed up his ministry by showing that sharing with others in community is a profound expression of what is holy. One, John’s gospel, says it was about the basin and towel: the master, the teacher becoming the servant, washing the feet of followers as an example of how to love one another.
Tonight, to show our courage and our decisiveness, we do both—foot washing and communion. Loving service, represented by the foot and hand washing, is an integral part of the Christian life. So is sharing what we have we others, a meal, our time, other resources. We have come to see them as different sides of the same coin. We have many gospels, but only one Christ.
In a few moments there will be foot and hand washing. What a relief clean feet would have been in Jesus’ day when sandals were the norm and roads were dusty. The point tonight, though,  is not to get your hands or feet washed. The point is to serve someone else by looking after them. And then to take a turn letting someone else serve you. Both parts are needed for this to work, the serving, and the willingness to be served. A kind of dance of the spirit.
Then there will be communion, also known as the Last Supper, the eucharist, the Lord’s table. You didn’t grow the grain in tonight’s bread, I’m pretty sure, you didn’t harvest it or mill it, you didn’t bake it into a loaf. Others did that. The call on us is to eat it together and celebrate all those who have worked to get bread to this table, and to join with others here, to commune, with everyone else in the circle of producers and consumers of all God’s good gifts. To commune with the giver of those good gifts. To be in solidarity with those who are strong and those who are weak, those who young and those who are old.
We were all utterly dependent on others for food at an early stage of our lives. We may be again at some point. Communion is about sharing the loaf and the cup not based on our strength or age or wealth or wit, but on our shared humanity. We are all made in the image of holiness, all capable of it. Christians look to Jesus as an example, many would say a perfect example, of how to be human, how to be creatures who honour their creator and all creation. The bread and juice do not become the body and blood of Jesus for United Church people, or other Protestant Christians. Instead they help make us into his body.
You could come forward to have your hands or feet washed because this is a highlight of Christian worship for you each spring. Or, you could come forward to offer a kindness to someone in the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness, and then to allow someone to show care for you in turn.
You could come forward after that to share the bread and the cup, because you are baptized, or consider yourself a follower of Jesus, a part of Christ’s body. Or you could come because you treasure what we have in common with each other. The bread and cup could be a sacrament for you, full of memories of other communion services, or it could be a declaration to the world that you are grateful for bonds loosed, slaves freed, friends gathered and that you are willing to share food with other people who feel the same way.
We are many. We are one.