I may have said that before. I was working in one province and had a permanent home in another. That meant I had two lives – two provinces, two cities and often two time zones. I’m sure you can appreciate the lack of writing that happened as a result. Now I’m in one place and getting settled. I have a good internet connection, so maybe I will be inspired. My friend Jacqui is encouraging me too.
It has been a long time since I have written anything. It is interesting because I enjoy writing. I am working full-time now, and have been focussing on learning my job. My job also involves writing, so maybe writing for “fun” has been on the back burner. I have a few ideas percolating around this brain. I have taken some art lessons. I’ve been knitting. Of course, there is the dog. And cats. I have lots of material. Of course, politics have provided all manner of things to
bitch write about.
In the meantime, it is a gorgeous day here in the Peace. It is about 30 degrees and sunny. We went for a hike and then found a great watering hole. The dog was happy, wet and muddy. It was a great way to spend a day off!
I haven’t been writing much lately and have no excuse for that. I enjoy writing and making my brain cells earn their living. It makes me feel more alive, and maybe vibrant. I even might feel more articulate. I don’t know. The introvert in me likes this. Now I am using this as a way to procrastinate productively……..
There have been several new things in my life lately. I am now working part-time at a nearby detox. We have a beautiful new baby girl in the family. I am now Chair of Presbytery and have chaired my first meeting, and have lived to tell about it. Life continues on.
It is nice to be challenged by these new things. I hadn’t started a new job in years, and felt the anxiety of strangeness on my first day. By the end of my first week there, I felt like I had been there forever. That is an awesome start. When I sat at the table to chair my first meeting, I felt lost and confused…..as if I had never taken part in such a meeting, or had never chaired any meeting. I got support from my friends and the members of the meeting, and soon felt very comfortable in front of this wonderful group of people.
I need to be mindful of these feelings, especially as I work to help my clients at the detox. They are entering a scary new journey and have to make some big changes if they wish to live a healthier life. It is so easy to become complacent, and to just get in a rut. Some ruts, like drug and alcohol abuse, are potentially downright dangerous. Some are just, well boring and make us stagnate.
I want to live like my dog who seems to face life with gleeful enthusiasm. Every day seems to bring him possibilities. When he steps out the door, well, he doesn’t actually step out the door, he leaps and bounds out the door…..as I was saying, as he bounds out the door, he does it with a big silly tongue-lolling, tail-wagging-smile. It’s as if he is saying “WOOHOO! What can we find out here today!?” Oh to have such enthusiasm. I’m working on it.
Having some new things in my life has restored some of my enthusiasm and energy. It has been good for my soul. I look forward to meeting Ms Sydney, the new baby girl in our family, and watching her grow into a beautiful young lady like her big sister and her mother. I will channel some of my dog’s joy, and bound through life with some enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind. ~Bryant H McGill
I finally watched Amanda Todd’s video yesterday. It inspired me to write down some thoughts, after almost two months away from this blog.
Amanda was a fifteen year old girl who committed suicide this week after being tormented online and in person. This week we have been hearing about the cost of bullying, and about how she had been bullied, and how that seemed to have contributed to her death. When I read the video, it struck me that the word “bullying” may not be a good word for this situation. Or perhaps, for any situation where it gets used.
The National Post wrote a blog about this: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/12/amanda-todd-suicide-2012/ In it, the writer describes how her ordeal started:
On the papers, the teen explains that as a Grade 7 student, she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts via webcam.
One year later, Todd said she got a message from him on Facebook, though she didn’t know how he knew her name or where to find her.
Todd’s notes said the man ordered her to “put on a show for me,” or he would send around the webcam pictures. Todd said he knew her address, her school, her friends and her family
The article goes on to describe how she had to change schools and move in order to get away from this person. It describes how she was beaten up by classmates and shunned. This is not bullying. This is taking advantage of a young girl. This was predation, exploitation, harassment and stalking, among other things. We need to call it what it was. Bullying seems like a schoolyard shenanagans. This goes way beyond shenanagans.
One writer, Krissy Darch (http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/feminista/why-isnt-anyone-talking-about-misogyny-involved-amanda-todds-life-and-death) wonders why no one is talking about the misogyny in Amanda’s life and death.
Feminist scholar and writer, and former BC high school teacher Fazeela Jiwa posted: “Why isn’t anyone talking about the sexism and misogyny involved in Amanda Todd’s life and death? ‘Bullying’ is important, yes, but it is a vague term that glosses over the structural reasons for why it happens, like race/gender/class/ability. If we don’t start talking about the specifics of power structures in high schools, every ‘bullying’ campaign will be a waste of time.”
Amanda was called a slut, and shamed for her behaviour. WTF? Her abusers are the ones who should be ashamed.
So, all this week there has been a lot of information and discussion about bullying. To me bullying is shoving and pushing in the school yard. It is the big kid stealing the little kid’s lunches. It is the stuff that everyone has to deal with to some degree. Arguably, it is the stuff that makes us stronger. Sadly, what some kids, and even adults, now have to deal with goes way beyond bullying.
I often wonder whether school bullying programs actually work. Do they really change things, or just cause some of the behaviours to go underground, or online? What would happen if we recognized some of the behaviours as assaults or as stalking? We need to call the behaviours what they are, and not soften them with the term “bullying”.
We also need to give our kids the tools to protect themselves, or to seek help when they are creeped out by requests from others that could lead to sexual exploitation. When I read Amanda’s story, I was struck by how alone she seemed. What made it difficult for her to seek help? My guess is she felt ashamed for her choices, and that she had been intimidated by the person who encouraged her to show her breasts, and then went on to stalk and torment her.
I am going to rethink how I use this language and how I use the term bully. I encourage you to do the same. Call out the bad behaviour. Name it what it is. Clearly and directly. Not with the softened name of bullying.
The way to work with a bully is to take the ball and go home. First time, every time. When there’s no ball, there’s no game. Bullies hate that. So they’ll either behave so they can play with you or they’ll go bully someone else. ~Seth Godin
Today General Council passed the motion that included recommending avoiding products that come from Jewish settlements. It was a very difficult decision, and a difficult discussion. There was incredible respect for different opinions, and the conversation remained civil. I am thankful for that. At the same time, the room was tense, and sometimes challenging. Amendments were made and then discussed and changed, challenged then defeated. Other amendments were passed. When it felt like we were becoming bogged down, someone started softly singing “Lord Listen to Your Children Praying”. Soon, the entire room was singing and harmony evolved in this well known hymn. It became a prayer, and helped to reduce the tension and bring us back on track.
Please check this link to learn more than about the issue. The press seems to be stating that the UCC is against Israel, and is against the Jewish people and is boycotting Israel. It is a far bigger issue than that. http://www.gc41.ca/israelpalestine-recommendations
I have had people ask me why the church is involved with politics, and saying the church needs to be involved in spiritual concerns. Others recognize just how important it is for us as a church community or as individuals to speak out against oppression and injustice. The theme for GC41 came from Micah 6:1-8 which concludes with: “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Marie Wilson from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission spoke to us today. She suggested that Jesus didn’t walk quietly, but that he created a racket! We can do justice, love kindly and walk humbly in a way that creates a racket. Sometimes speaking out against oppression stirs the pot….in fact, if done properly, it likely does stir the pot because those in power don’t always like to be challenged.
My friend and fellow commissioner says: “If we are to follow the lead of Christ to live a faith of action, faith of justice, faith of love and right relations then we MUST call to account those in places in the world who are not living in right relation – with each other, creation and indeed as Christians” ~Lynn Elliott
I see this decision as a starting place for discussion and conversation. I am honoured to have been part of this discussion. I pray that this begins a process that brings peace to this area, and to other areas with similar issues.
Today we elected a new moderator for the United Church of Canada. The moderator is the head of the church and serves in the role for three years until the next General Council. The process to elect the moderator was long, yet thorough. There was a record 15 candidates for the position. Each of the candidates was well qualified, and most likely would have done a good job, so it was a difficult decision. We were given biographies of the candidates, and heard them speak earlier in the week. The voting took six ballots to complete. Four candidates were eliminated after the first ballot, then three after the second, two after the third, until there were two left on the ballot. The Rev John Young was on the final ballot with Rev Paterson, and was an equally good choice. This was by all acounts, an historic event, since we are the first major denomination to elect an openly gay leader of the church. I am proud to be part of this church and look forward to the next three years with this accomplished man at the helm.
Today we participated in a process called “Open Space”. I had never heard of it before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. The facilitators told us that this concept was developed when it was noticed that the most productive work at conferences is done during coffee breaks. Participants choose topics to discuss and post them on the wall. The topics are assigned numbers and the originator of the topic acts as facilitator. If you are interested in discussing the topic, you go to the place in the room where the number is on a pole. You can wander to the discussion that interests you and stay in it like a butterfly, or buzz around and drop in on different discussions like a bumble-bee. I ended up talking with people on a one-on-one basis, for a bit, then participated in two discussion groups. One discussion was about post church Christianity, and the other was about the significance of adding “Akwe Nia’Tetewa:Neren” or “All My Relations” on the United Church crest. I came away from the discussions inspired, and ready to share some of the information/ideas at home.
Rev Anne Hines came back to entertain us at the end of the day. She encouraged us to channel our inner Baptists….and become more energetic. She had us laughing at material she collected during GC. It was a great way to wrap up the day before learning the results of our voting.
So far it has been an honour to have been a part of this General Council. We have made some fairly historic decisions, and have done some pretty mundane business. Participating in the election of a moderator of the United Church of Canada was quite the experience. No lobbying or pressure, just mindful, prayerful voting and then waiting for results. I wonder if there is a way to bring some of this to our government elections….
We will have a challenging day tomorrow as we finalize the recommendations for the church’s response to the Israel – Palestine report.
From Twitter ~ “REVocable (@REVocable): This is not my grandfather’s church – and I thank you all, and God, for this! #GC41 Well done commissioners and leaders!”
Today is Wednesday, our afternoon break from GC41. It is a glorious summer day. I thought I’d write some notes here before heading off to explore downtown Ottawa, and have dinner with a friend. It is nice to have a break from this intense gathering.
Yesterday we discussed the Israel-Palestine report that addressed the issue of settlements in that area. It was a difficult discussion because really, is there any right answer to that problem? Yesterday’s discussion focussed more on the grammar and wording than on discussing the issues. Some of the changes were necessary and tuned up the proposal appropriately. Some seemed to be avoidance tactics on a certain level. That seemed natural for such a delicate subject. We ended up putting that report aside until later.
Yesterday afternoon was Commission time. This is the time when the larger group split off into three “Commissions” to deal with the issues that were assigned to them. We started off slowly by spending over an hour dealing a small issue. Ultimately, we realized the amount of work ahead of us, and things became more productive. Occasionally disjointed voices floated into our room, causing everyone to pause. It turned out the PA system had some crossed wires or something, and we were getting speakers from the Commission in the next room. We later discovered they were getting our voices. Fair is fair after all.
We worked hard through the afternoon, and into the evening. We managed to get through some contentious issues with a fair amount of good will and respect for diverse opinions. Things warmed up and headed towards conflict when one of my fellow commissioners from Alberta pointed out that using the term “tarsands” was much like using the F word, and that it would not help the conversation. We were able to modify that particular proposal to include the proper name “in situ bitumous sand” into the motion. She quietly posted a status update in Facebook to say she had said the F word, and said it as “The F word” so she didn’t get fired. Discretely following that FB discussion was a fun diversion while we were listening to the discussion.
The evening ended last night with a benediction and hymn. We sang Breathe on me Breath of God, an hymn well known to many. It started out in unison, and gradually evolved into full harmony. It was amazing to hear over 100 or so voices singing at the end of the day. A truly magical way to end the day.
This morning we were back in the main room with the entire group of over 300 people. We passed the Statement of Ministry report with some modifications, and looked at the Ecclesiastical statement. We also moved to have a study on local ordination conducted over the next three years. The we were back to Israel and Palestine. After some discussion, the motion to accept the report from the Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy.
Our pop-up prophets have so much to offer. Today we heard from “Ivan” an Acadian man who spoke on exile. It was an excellent talk with humour and great points.
This week has been a full one with business, dinner conversations, laughter, spiritual food and education. I am learning a lot, and am finding I have learned a lot up to this point, prior to coming to GC41. I know this experience will have a big impact on me. It might even be some material for some future blog posts.
|“Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.” ~Bridget Willard|
My BlackBerry says it is Tuesday. I’m up and ready to start day four at GC41. Yesterday was a full day that went by quickly. We heard reports, sang, laughed and cried. In true UCC fashion, there was some extraordinary wordsmithing done…….I suppose that is what happens when there are so many people in a room who write sermons and tell stories for a living.
I was going to write a summary of the day, but you can get that information at this link: http://www.gc41.ca/news/day-3-glance
This gathering is a place where many voices are heard, and great messages spoken. The Aboriginal woman who spoke of the Empire being present in the church still and how Aboriginal voices are still not being heard adequately in the church. I wondered what would happen if Aboriginal people had the courage to speak up, and if non-Aboriginal people had the courage to listen. I posted that on Twitter and one woman responded with “The Spirit would move BIG TIME and God would be smiling BIG TIME! :)” It sure would.
Then there was Barb Janes who spoke of Mary, “the girl from the other side of the Empire”. The tense in the passage she used to base her sermon was present, continuous, and tense. Present. Continuous. Tense. She spoke of how this demands our action and ways of living. Very powerful. I hope to find a transcript of the sermon so I can read it and ponder it some more. She has a blog: http://www.cfruc.blogspot.ca/ I will be checking in on that more too.
I got to witness the best church report EVER! Betty Turcotte gave the UCW report using a bit of a strip tease. That got our attention and we laughed through it while she made her points. She was wearing a sweatshirt and several t-shirts from different parts of her ministry with the UCW. As she spoke of each one, she removed another t-shirt to begin another section of the report. At the end, Mardi commented htat Betty had raised the bar for reports, and that she was glad hers was already done.
The day ended with Anne Hines (http://www.annehines.com/) helping us with six ways to stay awake in church meetings. We were wiping tears off our faces because we were laughing so hard. She also helped us to understand the wierd way the tables are laid out. They are numbered, but the numbers are not in order. She solved this problem by drawing a connect the dots diagram. The final result spelled “We love the manual”.
We heard from the moderators throughout the day. We have some very good candidates and the decision will be difficult. Thankfully we do not have to make a decision yet.
Today we address the Israel/Palestine issue, and whether to have a boycott…..should be interesting….
I think today is Monday. I left home on August 3rd and have spent a week in Ontario. I flew into Ottawa and headed off for a whirlwind tour of Southern Ontario visiting friends and family. I had reserved a small car to rent, and when I got to the rental place, I ended up with a Ford Flex……a vehicle that almost seems to need a bus licence to operate. It turned out to be a wonderful drive, partly because it had some cool tools like a back up camera and indicators in the side view mirrors to let you know when someone was in your blind spot. That is good because the blind spots were the size of a football field. I visited Ottawa, Cambridge, London, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto, and finally Millbrook. I got to be part of a very important fourth birthday party and to visit family and friends. Now I am back in Ottawa for GC41.
GC41 or General Council 41 started on Saturday at 4:00 pm. Most commissioners and participants arrived between Friday and that time. When I arrived in the early afternoon, Carleton University campus was buzzing with United Church people….and military…and a Jamaican marching band. It was hot and humid, well not so hot anymore but most definitely humid. I found my room, some friends and some food.
GC41 opened with a worship service that included music and prayer. Our moderator preached a sermon on Micah and spoke of Humility, Compassion and Justice. She preached a third of the sermon in French, so I missed a chunk. I will look for the transcripts online so I can read what she said. She stated we shout humility, we speak compassion and we mumble humble……it was a good reminder.
Yesterday we started the day with an ice cream “proposal” to show new commissioners how the process worked. It was a fun way to show how we operate. And yes, there was the threat of being bogged down with process. The day continued with “pop up prophets” who preached at different times. Most of these prophets were former moderators. Business of the day including accepting changes to our crest so that Aboriginal people are represented. We also accepted the remits, adding to our statements of faith.
It seems our church is making some great changes. I look forward to what the rest of GC41 brings.
For more information check the website for GC41 http://www.gc41.ca/
…..to the 41st General Council of the United Church of Canada in Ottawa from August 11-18. (http://www.gc41.ca/) As the time approaches, I am both excited and a bit nervous.
I grew up in the United Church and know that it was a formative experience for me. My father’s side of the family joined the United Church at the time of the union in 1925. They had been Free Methodists before then. I am a baby boomer, so when I was going to Sunday School in the sixties, so were all my peers. They may have been going to other churches, but most kids in my neighbourhood went to Sunday School. Our Sunday School was full of kids. The church building was a 1950’s vintage building that replaced an old 1800’s vintage building the congregation had outgrown. It was a place for many community activites including pancake suppers, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, celebrations and remembrances. I think I was probably part of the last generation for whom church was part of our lives on a regular basis…..because it was expected, not because people chose to attend and participate.
Church today is different from those days. We are struggling in some corners of the church, and thriving in others. In a way, this is a great time to be involved. I’d like to think it is a time of transition. At least I hope it is. After all, we follow Jesus who died and was resurrected.
I started writing this post a few days ago. Now we are less than a week away from GC41. My goal is to use this blog as a way to give, my updates and to think about the proceedings. Some of the links below have some information, and will have more as time goes on.