Newfoundland has a rugged beauty defined by mountains rising out of the sea, often with a mist swirling around them. These majestic peaks of ancient rocks date back a billion years to the very formation of the earth’s crust. They fill me with a sense of cosmic awe and wonder at the life force which created them and is still creating.
Last week I was surrounded by such beauty at the 42nd national gathering of the United Church Council held in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Almost 400 commissioners gathered from all over Canada along with 30 representatives of partner churches around the world. 15% of those assembled were under the age of 30 making this the youngest Council in our church’s 90 year history.
Worship was inspiring and mirrored our Trinity fusion of choir and band. We celebrated God’s presence and acknowledged that our families are made up of people of many religions and many forms of atheism. A minister from the American United Church of Christ which we have partnered with said, “We give thanks that we are churches that honour the many ways to respectful, caring, justice seeking living. Even while we seek to grow closer to God, we also grow closer to those who do not believe in God but who share our profound belief in the eternal values of love and fairness for all.”
Those values were embodied in the report of Dr. Marie Wilson, a United church member and only non-aboriginal member of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Married to an aboriginal, she spoke of the heroism of the thousands of children who have been denied the safety and security of growing up in their own families for 5 generations.
She shared the good news that Native Pride is returning and thanked the United church for continuing to be a leader in encouraging a new relationship between Canadians and First Nations, even as our church has shifted from control over Native churches to a partnership of equals.
Lorna Standing Ready, a senior elder of the First Nations Circle shared a brief, but powerful testimony of her time in a residential school. There wasn’t a dry eye when she gave us all sweet grass to take back to our congregations as a sign of reconciliation and recognition that the United Church is continuing to live out its apology in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
I am so proud to be a part of a community in London that gets the fact that our mission is creating a community where kindness is enough, regardless of our labels. We support each other to be the best we can be as we work to make the world a better place. We have clarity that any religion or philosophy that gets in the way of partnering with all people of good will is a bad one. This all too rare approach is possible because we are a part of a larger United Church community that has been journeying toward this kind of inclusion and respect based freedom for 90 years.
An image sticks in my mind as I return home. A speaker from a partner church reminded us that as children we were all taught to colour inside the lines of our coloring books. But in the early stages of our development, we didn’t care about the lines or what colours we used. We felt free to be creative. Purple people and red grass looked just fine to us!
Jesus said, “Unless we become as children, we will not understand God’s plan for humanity; for the Kingdom that is evolving belongs to such as them.”
It seems the child is alive and well in the Creator. Creation colours outside the lines with mountains erupting in Newfoundland, vast plains spreading across the Prairies, ice and tundra filling the Artic. God is passionate about diversity.
This newsletter is filled with signs that we, too, are feeling the hope and joy of that passion as we release the creativity of the child within us and join with God in learning how to colour outside the lines. As the song we sing says,
“My love, colours outside the lines;
exploring paths that few could ever find.
It takes me into places that I’ve never been before
and opens doors to worlds outside the line.”