July 20, 2018
Today began very early – I rose at 4am to catch a 6am flight via Vancouver to Toronto. I am travelling as an elected commissioner from the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery of the BC Conference of the United Church of Canada to attend our national denominational gathering that happens once every three years. This gathering is called General Council and it is the 43rd such meeting since The United Church of Canada was born in 1925. This is where we discern the will of God for our church – reviewing the work of the previous three years (and more) and looking ahead to the next three years (and beyond). If you want to check out more about this, please visit https://generalcouncil43.ca and say a prayer for me and the other 300 or so commissioners from across Canada headed to Oshawa for this week-long adventure in worship, policy, polity, fellowship, and voting.
What I am Trusting
The Holy Spirit! Strange things happen at these denominational gatherings – where church nerds (like myself) gather from every nook and cranny of our fair country to hash out the details and business of what the Holy Spirit is stirring in us to do (or not do!). Outcomes are not guaranteed. Expectations of the status quo are often eclipsed by a collective discernment that we are being nudged (ok, sometimes shoved) in a different direction by our shared Holy Lover and Challenger. While I am a veteran of Presbytery meetings (smaller local groupings of churches) and Conference meetings (provincial gatherings of all the churches in a larger geographical area), I am new to General Council. The most common piece of advice that has been dispatched to me is, “trust the Holy Spirit to guide your decision making and voting.” What a cool job I have.
What I am Grateful For
This week marks Pride Week in the Comox Valley – a celebration of love and gender identity in all forms. I am so pleased to be a part of a Christian denomination that holds no barriers to full participation – including leadership – to Christians of the LGBTQ2+ community. This year marks 30 years since The United Church of Canada removed those barriers at a General Council like the one I am on my way to. For those of us who entered the church since 1988, this is the only church we know. My first minister was an ordained woman who happened to also be in relationship with another woman who was also an ordained minister. For myself and others in my similar age bracket, we never witnessed the struggle or the unfolding ramifications of that denominational decision. We know the refuge and the safe place the church became for so many folks who were forced to leave their homes and other faith traditions because of who they are and how they love.
Since I am away all week, I will be missing the Comox Valley Pride celebrations and events. I am so grateful for members of the St. George’s congregation who came forward to participate in the main event – making sure there was a tent, lollipops, information, etc. – and to make a public statement of faith in our community that where there is love, there is God. The 1988 decision has had a lasting impact on our church and our neighbourhoods and has not been without much internal (and external) conflict. And yet we carry on – holding God’s light and hope in our unique United Church way in the world.
What Inspires Me
Last week at the Children’s Summer Daycamp at St George’s, one of our congregation members came to share some of his astronomical knowledge – and I mean that in both senses of the word! He has a tremendous amount of knowledge about astronomy and came and engaged the children with all sorts of wonderful items, videos, and stories. In chatting with him, he says that God’s bigness and particularity is revealed in the created cosmos all around us, if we have eyes to look. He used to write articles for the now closed Cumberland United Church newsletter, and I invited him to share an article with my readers – please find it below!
Inspired by Dave this week, I have been star gazing. Noticing the brilliance in all that surrounds us, from the intricacies of our galaxy (and those beyond) to the minute details etched into the back of a leaf. I give thank to Dave for this reminder to slow down and look up in awe at God’s majesty.
How I am Practicing My Faith
After my ordination/graduation, I was gifted an incredible book by a dear friend and long time (and newly retired!) minister in the Comox Valley. It is called “Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness” by Nan C. Merrill and has become a fabulous companion in my prayer and reflection time. I love LOVE the psalms, the way they reflect the rhythms of life, make space for both adoration and anger at God and the world, and hold the majesty and mystery of what it means to walk in faith. I will leave you this week with one that I read yesterday morning that filled me right up:
The Beloved says to all who will hear,
‘Come, walk with Me. Let us
give birth to a new Earth!’
For, the Spirit is the One who makes
all things new, and ever
awaits our ‘yes’ to the Dance!
Those who offer themselves freely,
are guided through life’s rough
Light beckons to light; divine dignity
adorns all in holy array.
The Promise holds true forever,
to all generations!
‘As companions of the Most High,
Come! Claim your home in the
You, O Divine Breath, dwell within
our hearts; with
unconditional Love, You assuage
You call us to holiness, to justice,
to free those bound by oppression,
to bring light where ignorance
and darkness dwell.
Come! Drink from the streams of
Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.
GOD’S HEAVEN by David Hodgson
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.
Ever wonder why the days are so long in the summer and so short in the winter? The length changes throughout the year. In the summer, around June 20 or 21, we experience the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. And in the winter, December 21 or 22 is the winter solstice, or shortest day.
The answer all depends on Earth’s tilt. In the course of one year, Earth orbits around the sun. It does not complete this trip, however, with the North Pole at the top and the South Pole at the bottom because Earth is tilted. In fact, it’s tilted just about 23.5 degrees. So at different times of the year, either the northern or the southern hemisphere is tilted toward and is therefore closer to the sun.
In the northern hemisphere, Earth is tilted toward the sun in the summer and away from the sun in the winter. The solstice marks the turning point, when the days begin to grow longer (in the winter) or when they begin to grow shorter (in the summer). At the solstice itself, however, the sun appears to stand still in the sky for a few days before and after. The word solstice, in fact, comes from the Latin for sun + to stand still.
But then why, if the solstice is the turning point, is June 21st considered the first day of summer and December 21st the first day of winter? This odd fact is because while the hours of daylight are changing, the oceans need to catch up. Oceans take a long time to heat up and cool down. In June, they are still cool from the winter, so the warmest days happen in July and August. Similarly, the oceans hold onto the warmth of summer long after the barbeques have ended. So the coldest days usually happen in January and February.
Even stranger, Earth is closest to the sun between January 3 and 5, but since the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, the nights are long and the weather is cold.
People from many different cultures have held solstice celebrations for thousands of years. Our distant ancestors, dependent on hunting, gathering, and growing, the seasons and the weather played a central role in their lives.
In the northern hemisphere, passing the winter solstice meant the return of the sun, which seemed to be disappearing. Many religious and cultural traditions celebrated the rebirth of sunlight after this dark period. The summer solstice, on the other hand, was a time to celebrate renewal, life, fertility, and the potential for a good harvest. It was celebrated through outdoor feasts with singing, dancing, and bonfires.
Ancient buildings have reflected people’s fascination with the sun. Stonehenge is perhaps the best known of these stone structures. Another prehistoric stone building, in Newgrange, Ireland, and dating from about 3,300 BCE, allows sunlight to penetrate to the back of the cairn only at sunrise on the winter solstice. The neolithic cairn at Maeshowe on the Orkney Islands lets in the setting sun on the same day. And the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, one of 40 or more similar “wheels” found in the Rocky Mountains, serves a similar astronomical function.