80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED CHURCH

We have 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 didn’t 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 Lord’s 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 Where’er 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 wasn’t traveling, and where there is a museum containing Methodist artifacts. The curator noticed when I was signing in that I was from Canada. “Oh, you’re from Canada. We don’t 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!



“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 couldn’t help thinking that it would be very hard to find a member of the United Church who would ever say to a stranger: “There’s 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 government’s 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 haven’t 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 Canada’s 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.)
Website Of The Month
http://www.science-spirit.org/index.php 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.

Mark 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

General Meeting. Everyone agrees . that AGM's are not very exciting.

But they are an important, necessary part of our church's being. Please make it a point to attend this year's Annual General Meeting.



Looking Back!
From the Westminster 52nd Annual Report (1944)

Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs - Westminster has a Boy
Scouts 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.
A 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 Lord’s 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 Lord’s 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 Easter.
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.
Knitting 'R Us

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.
Church Board Briefs

Say cheese! A committee is being formed to steer the initial phases of what its members hope will become Westminster’s first photo directory since 2000. It’s 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 you’re 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 church’s ministers! Get involved in updating our directory by coming out to the meetings and taking part in the decision-making process.
It’s almost time to talk dollars and sense once again. The 2005 budget year has ended and Westminster has completed the year with a
$33,563 surplus. That’s because the budget allotted for two minister’s 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.
An Very Brief History
of Easter


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-
telling 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.
Joke of the Month

A man dies and goes to heaven, of course. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly gates.
St. Peter says, “Here’s 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 my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter.” That’s worth three points."
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."
"Terrific," says St. Peter.” That’s 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."
For The Record
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 (GLBT).
- 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 thatUnited Church

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 Church’s 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 partnerships.
- 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.)

A Funeral 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.

Youth Group News!

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 Group’s 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 Group’s 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 kabra@wsd1.org for more information on either.





DATES TO REMEMBER

March
Sunday, 26 - 11:30 am Annual General Meeting
April
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
Sunday School Fundraiser!
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 work.
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

Council, 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 Men’s 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 Newsletter).
Follow-Up

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!
 

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