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“Not the Sermon” Message

 This Week at Trinity, Beamsville 

Friday, September 28, 2018 

Dear Friends, 

This week’s reflections once seemed like they might write themselves. Riding home on the GO train Monday afternoon, after a day of learning at Emmanuel College, I started to think about how I could give you a glimpse of the seminar I’d attended… and maybe even tie it all in to this Sunday’s theme and text from Mark. Turn the daybook forward a few days, and suddenly that neat little plan seemed far away and trite – and all because Thursday was another day of learning, only this time at the Hamilton Conference Office in Carlisle; and this time on subject matter far more challenging. 

To explain, a little: Monday was called ‘Marking Moments’; an event held as part of the United-in-Learning catalogue, an online (and sometimes in person) educational arm of our national church. The day gathered in voices to honour 4 significant, arguably watershed moments in The United Church of Canada, all with anniversary years in 2018: the 1988 Statement on Membership, Ministry, and Human Sexuality; the 1968 launch of A New Creed, and the joining with the Evangelical United Brethren; and the 1948 formation of the World Council of Churches. 

From this Thursday (writing) point of view, I’m not sure how I thought I’d tackle the above, here. Listed as they are, it sounds like rather dry material, even though they matter so very much to who we are today. I think maybe I wanted to invite us all to think about these big structural and theological moments alongside the big moments that mark us individually; that distinguish us and define us, maybe in ways beyond our initial understanding? I think that felt like a good idea at the time. 

But now, I’m on the other side of a day where Scott and I gathered with clergy colleagues from across the Conference, to think and learn about the complicated space of Medical Assistance in Dying. In something of a bubble, temporarily away from the painful testimony broadcast out of the US capital, we immersed ourselves in, and were impacted greatly by facts and narratives of MAiD, as we tried to understand our role in this very new space. Since the Supreme Court decision of February 2015, and then the passage of Bill C-14, the realities of pastoral care have changed in turn. Some are calling this another social and spiritual watershed, in its own way; and no matter where one stands on the issue, with clarity or ambivalence, it is a piece of our shared reality that cannot be ignored. 

Much to my repeated chagrin, and as all of the above proves, there is no such thing as a tidy bow to hold together our unfolding. Some things present more easily than others, that is true; but there are always pieces and layers to work through, across time and prayer and conversation. It is never, and probably shouldn’t ever be easy work. This business of personal sorting; of ethical wrestling and spiritual discerning can be exhausting, in every way. And yet, done prayerfully and necessarily in the loving support of community, it has life-giving potential to bring us to an ever clearer sense of who we are called to be, who God knows us to be, in this complicated, beautiful world. God knows, there is no time like the present for us to answer the holy call to give honest, respectful space for truth. May this, somehow all together, be another moment to mark in the ongoing journey toward God’s shalom. 

With love to you all, 


I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I’ll laugh with you; 

I will share your joy and sorrow, till we’ve seen this journey through.” 

(Richard Gillard, 1977, Voices United 595) 


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