ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED CHURCH
just passed our eightieth anniversary as a Canadian denomination.
There are a few of our members who were born before the
union officially took place, but hardly any of them will
be old enough to remember the event. And none will remember
in a personal way the declared intentions of what the entity
was that the unionists
were working to create. In this brief article I want to
draw attention to a decision that was made very early on
in the negotiations between the three uniting denominations
about what the name of the new church was going
to be called. Its name was to be the United Church of Canada.
Nothing in the name indicated anything about the three churches
who were coming together to form it. Was that because the
unionists were in a hurry to forget who they had been? Not
at all. The Presbyterians were proud of their Presbyterian
heritage. So with the Methodists. So with the Congregationalists.
They didnt intend to forget who they had been, and
one of the ways we can see that that is true is to look
at the hymn book they set out to prepare immediately after
the union. The heart and soul of Presbyterian life since
the Reformation had been the singing of the metrical psalms,
like The Lords My Shepherd, Through
All the Changing Scenes of Life, How Lovely
Is Thy Dwelling Place, O Sing a New Song To
The Lord, and All People That On Earth Do Dwell.
The Congregationalists also loved the metrical psalms, but
there had arisen in their midst a poetical genius named
Isaac Watts. He offered them hymns like O God our
Help in Ages Past, When I Survey The Wondrous
Cross, Give to Our God Immortal Praise,
Joy To the World, and Jesus Shall Reign
Whereer The Sun, and they took them up with
gladness. Meanwhile the Methodists also produced a poetic
genius, from whose pen thousands of hymns poured: Charles
Wesley. He wrote hymns like O For a Thousand Tongues
To Sing, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, Hark,
the Herald Angels Sing, Christ the Lord is Risen Today,
Rejoice the Lord is King, and Love Divine,
All Loves Excelling.
In the United Church Hymnary, that was published in 1930,
there were sixty of the metrical psalms that had been treasured
by the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists. There were
30 hymns written by Isaac Watts. There were 43 hymns by
Charley Wesley. The people who formed the United Church
were not worried that its members would forget where they
came from. But they did. And one of the reasons and
it must be acknowledged that it is only one is that
they chose a name for the church that had no historical
resonance. Quite a number of years ago I was in London and
went to City Road Chapel, where John Wesley preached when
he wasnt traveling, and where there is a museum containing
Methodist artifacts. The curator noticed when I was signing
in that I was from Canada. Oh, youre from Canada.
We dont get many visitors from Canada. Plenty from
the States, and from Australia and New Zealand, but not
from Canada. Do you know why that is? I told him I
did. Partly because my church chose a name that has
no reminders of where we came from. We can see the
difference between Canadian Presbyterians and ourselves.
The historic Scottish Presbyterian sites will often have
Canadian Presbyterian visitors, but United Church visitors
very rarely, even though we greatly outnumber them in this
country. Methodists from different parts of the world, if
choosing a religious pilgrimage of some sort, are likely
to end up at City Road Chapel, London. However, it takes
the historical enthusiasm of a Gerald Hobbs at the Vancouver
School of Theology to generate enough interest to get a
few people from our denomination to visit some old Methodist
and Presbyterian sites. I am not advocating that we live
in the past. We must live in the present and plan for the
future. And that involves change. But what are the factors
that shape our identity as we live in the present and plan
for the future? Are we a people with stories to tell of
who made us what we are? My wife and I had two women from
Zimbabwe stay with us several years ago. During a conversation
one of them pointed to her arm and said proudly:
Join us! for Brunch, for Lunch, for Dinner,
for Afternoon Tea, for A Picnic, for a BBQ, for Evening
Dessert and Coffee. You can invite any number of your
friends (2 to a 100!) to any type of
food event such as above in your home or somewhere else.
You provide the food and beverages; you charge each
of your friends a reasonable sum for the meal (say $30
for a large dinner, $15 for a light lunch etc); your
friends eat the food; you donate the money they have
given you to the church; the church gives you a tax
receipt. Everybody wins!
Beth Derraugh recently took up this fund-raising challenge
and had a group of her friends to lunch. The one picture
shows Beth demonstrating baking her famous raisin scones.
The other picture shows her friends studying the recipe
as Beth demonstrates. The demonstration was followed
by a delicious lunch. Everyone had a great time, and
Westminster Church received a welcome donation.
There is Methodist blood flowing in those veins.
For she knew the stories of the founding of Methodism, and
the stories about those who brought the Christian faith to
her country, and the stories of her fellow Zimbabweans who
were committed believers and what they had accomplished. I
couldnt help thinking that it would be very hard to
find a member of the United Church who would ever say to a
stranger: Theres United Church blood flowing in
my veins. There are people in our denomination who are
proud that we were the first Canadian denomination to ordain
women, and some who are proud that we were the first to affirm
that all members of the church, whatever their sexual orientation,
are eligible to be considered for ordered ministry. Some with
longer memories might recall the stand our church took against
the governments uprooting of Japanese Canadians from
their homes at the time of the Second World War, and how some
of our members offered effective ministry to the uprooted
people in their camps. But on the whole we havent been
a denomination that fosters long memories. And very often
when the past is held up, it is something like the Residential
Schools, and it is made clear that we should be ashamed of
what we were like.
We need to have our memories refreshed so that we are thrilled
to know that our tradition goes back beyond 1925; goes back
beyond Canadas borders; goes back beyond our Presbyterian,
Congregational, and Methodist ancestors; goes all the way
back to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; goes back
indeed to Abraham and Sarah. For we are members of the One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and the saints who lived,
and worked, and served in their own time are still our beloved
brothers and sisters. In a healthy family brothers and sisters
are remembered. (Our thanks to Mac Watts, retired Dean, Faculty
of Theology of the University of Winnipeg for this article.)
Of The Month
There's a magazine out there called Science and Spirit that
says of itself: "Science & Spirit Magazine, published
six times each year, explores the relationship between science
and religion in the context of our everyday lives." The
magazine has a website where representative articles are published
in full. The site also has a "Speak Your Mind" section
where you can enter on- line discussions about each article.
March 26th on Your Calendar
At that Sunday's service our guest preacher will be Rev.
Bruce Faurschou, Executive Secretary for Manitoba and
Northwestern Ontario Conference.
And after-service is our Annual
Meeting. Everyone agrees . that AGM's are not very exciting.
they are an important, necessary part of our church's being.
Please make it a point to attend this year's Annual General
From the Westminster 52nd Annual Report (1944)
Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs - Westminster has a Boy
Association with a membership of 25 meeting every week under
the supervision of Scoutmaster C.A. Hill, and the 82nd Cub
Pack directed by Mr. Wm. Robertson with a membership of
35. The former group contributed during the year $20.00
to the Overseas Cigarette Fund and the latter raised $35.00
for sundry organization purposes.
Brief History of
The Church Season Lent
In the early church, people became catechumens (those being
instructed) as many as 3 years before expecting to be baptized.
During these years they practiced the Christian lifestyle,
learning what it meant to live the Christian faith. When
they and their sponsors felt they were ready, they were
enrolled as electi (chosen ones) for a final 6 to 12 week
period of preparation leading to the principal festival
of baptism, The Paschel Vigil (Easter). During this time
they prayed, fasted and underwent rites of exorcism and
were taught the Creed and the Lords Prayer. The entire
faith community prayed and fasted with them, because preparation
for the celebration of baptism was a corporate, rather than
an individual family, action. Out of this period of prayer
and fasting emerged the season of Lent.
Lent was also a time for the reconciliation of those who,
by reason of grave sin, had been excluded from the central
action of the community, the celebration of the Lords
Supper. Prayed, fasting and acts of charity were essential
parts of the process of reconciliation. Again this was both
personal action and the entire community confessing their
sin and praying for those undergoing the personal process.
So Lent emerged as a period of penitence and preparation
for the highlight of the Christian year, the festival of
The word lent comes from the Old English word
for spring, and originally referred to the lengthening of
days in springtime. As spring season is the reawakening
of nature, so Lent is a time for spiritual renewal and recommitment.
What with the Mitten Tree behind us, and Prayer Shawls ahead
of us, our knitters have turned a hobby into a statement
of service in Westminster.
We hear that Shirley Fowler has been quietly knitting scarves
and selling them. From this activity she recently donated
$150 to the church. Thank you, Shirley. And hats off to
all our devoted knitters.
Say cheese! A committee is being formed to steer the initial
phases of what its members hope will become Westminsters
first photo directory since 2000. Its a huge undertaking,
so organizers say the first step is making sure there are
enough people to help see the project through.
Though initial response was lukewarm, several people have
expressed interest in the project so far. More are needed
though, so if youre interested contact Edie at the
church and leave your name. Boyd Rausch and Ron Miller,
co-chairs of the Fellowship Committee, have moved the
project along thus far. But, Boyd says, they envision the
book as a group effort that could be driven by an ad hoc
committee to be established later.
They are currently looking into securing a photographer
to take the pictures. Tentative dates for picture taking
would be in December, for a spring 2007 completion date.
A lot can change in seven years, Boyd says, including the
churchs ministers! Get involved in updating our directory
by coming out to the meetings and taking part in the decision-making
Its almost time to talk dollars and sense once again.
The 2005 budget year has ended and Westminster has completed
the year with a
surplus. Thats because the budget allotted for two
ministers salaries for the entire year, but only one
was paid for half of 2005.
Next up is the March 26 church Annual General Meeting, where
the 2005 audited financial statement will be presented to
the entire congregation. All are encouraged to attend, review
the reports, and ask questions.
Meanwhile, the Board recently approved the proposed budget
for 2006 at its February meeting. Something new this year
is discussion about a new operational reserve fund. The
Budget and Management Committee is working to develop a
terms of reference for the fund.
Very Brief History
We are a story telling people, and the heart of the story
we tell is death and resurrection. This makes Good Friday
and Easter the high point of the Christian years, the nub
of the Christian story and the Christian faith.
Early Christians, like their Jewish forbearers, remembered
God's act of deliverance by re-
and re-enacting the story through narrative and ritual,
especially in a great annual feast. What the Exodus was
to the Jews, the cross/resurrection event was to the Christians.
As Jews annually celebrated the Passover, recalling their
deliverance from bondage, so Christians annually celebrated
Good Friday and Easter recalling God's saving acts in Christ.
This yearly Paschal Vigil, has been part of the church's
ritual from at least the second century.
of the Month
A man dies and goes to heaven, of course. St. Peter meets
him at the Pearly gates.
St. Peter says, Heres how it works. You need
a hundred points to make it into heaven. You tell me all
the good things you've done and I give you a certain number
of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When
you reach a hundred points you get in."
"Okay," the man says." I was married to the
same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter. Thats
worth three points."
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended
church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe
"Terrific," says St. Peter. Thats
certainly worth a point."
"One point?! I started a soup kitchen in my city and
worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic! That's good for two more points,"
St. Peter says.
"Two Points!?!! Exasperated, the man cries,"
At this rate the only way I'll get into heaven is by the
grace of God!"
"Bingo, one hundred points! Come on in."
The United Church Of Canada - History of Support and Advocacy
In 1984, The
United Church Of Canada affirmed our acceptance of all human
beings as persons made in the image of God, regardless of
their sexual orientation. Since that time, much work has
been done within the United Church to show our support and
affirmation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons
- In 1992 the General Council directed that liturgical and
pastoral resources for same-gender covenants be made available
to congregations. This resulted in the resource Together
in Faith: Inclusive Resources about Sexual Diversity for
Study, Dialogue, Celebration and Action (published in 1995).
- In 1997 the 36th General Council passed a resolution requesting
regional Conferences urge all teachers unions and associations
to provide in-service education on gay, lesbian, and bisexual
issues in order to promote tolerance.
- In 1999 The United Church appeared before a Standing Committee
on Justice and Human Rights in support of Bill C-23, Modernization
of Benefits and Obligations, as a tangible expression of The
United Churchs commitment to the equality of heterosexual
and same-gender relationships.
- In 2000 the 37th General Council renounced the 1960 statement
that homosexuality is a sin and encouraged the church courts,
congregations and members to learn ways to offer healing for
the damage inadvertently caused by the historic stance of
our church on homosexuality.
- In 2000 the 37th General Council of The United Church also
adopted the policy to
affirm and to work toward the civil recognition of same gender
- At the 38th General Council in 2003, The United Church of
Canada resolved to call on the Government of Canada to recognize
same-gender marriage in the marriage legislation.
(From the Rainbow Ministry Presentation to Winnipeg Presbytery,
December. 13, 2005.)
Choir: The Worship Committee is investigating forming
a list of volunteers willing to serve as an ad-hoc choir to
lead in congregational hymns and, by their presence in the
loft, to provide an added measure of pastoral support at funeral
services. This is open to all members of the congregation
and no special musical ability is required. If this is of
interest to you, or if you would like additional information,
please speak with Carol Latter, or contact the church office.
Are you a teen in Grades 7 through 12 who is interested
in celebrating Easter in a special, memorable way? If so,
then the Westminster Youth Groups Easter Vigil is
where you should be on April 15th to 16th. Our event will
start at 7:00 pm. on Saturday, April 15th, and will culminate
on Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast for the Youth
Groups families, followed by the Easter service in
the sanctuary. In between will be crafts, songs, adventure,
maybe a little sleep and, last, but certainly not least,
reflection, worship and the celebration of the Resurrection
of our Lord.
The Westminster Youth Group meets every second Sunday during
Sunday School time.
All teens are welcome. Upcoming meetings will be held March
19th, April 2nd then our vigil on April 15th.
Please contact Katherine Abra at 453-2498 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information on either.
Sunday, 26 - 11:30 am Annual General Meeting
Sunday, 2 - 10:30 am Sacrament of Communion
and Covenanting of Church Board Members
Palm Sunday, 9
Thursday, 13 - 7:30 pm Maundy Thursday Service
Friday, 14 - 10:30 am Good Friday Service
Easter Sunday, 16
Sunday, 23 - 8:00 pm Organ Concert
Monday, 24 - 12:30 pm Dessert Bridge
Saturday, 29 - 9:00 am Garage Sale
The Sunday School, sponsored by the C.E. committee, will
be holding a fundraiser for the Church on Sunday, April
9th, Sunday, April 16th and Sunday, April 23rd. The children
of the Sunday School have spent their monthly Open Sessions
since January creating beautiful pieces of art - on flower
pots. These one-of-a-kind hand-painted pots would make wonderful
Easter gifts! They come in two sizes: large for $10.00 and
small for $8.00, and each pot includes a flower as well.
Be prepared to buy early, because we expect these unique
and wonderful pots to sell quickly, and they are limited!
More On Presbytery
In the February newsletter we looked at Presbytery's structure
and its major responsibilities. Here is the second article
in this series with a brief look at our own Presbytery's
Presbytery is a connecting body between the local congregation
and the wider United Church. For example what if Westminster
decided that it was time for the United Church to write
its own Sunday School curriculum for the use of all its
congregations. We would write a proposal on the matter and
send it off to Presbytery. Presbytery would decide whether
or not it supported the proposal and whether or not to send
it on the Conference. Conference, in turn, would go through
the same process in considering whether or not to pass the
proposal on to General Council
.In the other direction Presbytery might receive and consider
issues from General Council. For example the recent matter
of increasing the lay participation in Presbyteries across
Canada. (Westminster, which has two representatives to Presbytery,
would have four.)
Winnipeg Presbytery is currently made up of an Executive
and committees. Some of the committees are organized under
umbrella groups such as Ministry Personnel Council, Education
Administration and Support Council and the Mission Council.
It also makes use of staff personnel such as a Presbytery
Minister. The Presbytery Minister is a
member of the staff of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern
Ontario with particular responsibility for the work of The
United Church within Winnipeg Presbytery. The "purpose
statement" says: "The Presbytery Minister serves
as a resource for encouraging and transforming the ministry
of all mission units (Outreach Ministries, Pastoral Charges,
Community Ministries, Specialized Ministries) within Winnipeg
Presbytery." This is accomplished by helping mission
units identify their goals and design strategies, seeking
out and developing resources, supporting leaders with training,
and working with the Executive of Presbytery to oversee
the vision of Presbytery both for its continuing witness
and in the creation of new opportunities.
Winnipeg Presbytery also supports the work of a Rainbow
Ministry- a United Church Outreach Ministry with the
Gay and Lesbian Community, established 12 years ago
in March of 1994. The purpose of this ministry remains the
same today as it was at its inception: Networking, Advocacy,
Pastoral Care, Education and Worship. The Ministry reports
that for the past couple of years it has been most active
in education and support. Its education activity is both
within the United Church and beyond our denomination (for
example organizing events for Red River College, The Catholic
Mens Study Group and The Mennonite LGBT group). Support
activities include pastoral care, counseling, and developing
curriculum for and facilitating same gender marriage preparation.
The United Church is the only Christian denomination in
Canada that has affirmed its acceptance of all human
beings as persons made in the image of God regardless of
their sexual orientation.
(This series will conclude in the April edition of the Westminster
Last month we wrote about Hockey in Nairobi. Keith Fowke
sent us a picture of the event. Andy and Vincent having
a cool time in Africa!