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Mid-Week Message - July 27

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!

The top news story this week – at least in Canada - is the visit of Pope Francis to Canada. As of when I am writing this, the Pope has visited Alberta where he issued an apology for the residential schools, and celebrated mass. He is going to be traveling to Quebec City and Iqaluit before returning to the Vatican.

If you have been following this news story, I’m sure that you have thoughts and opinions on what has been said. My own thoughts are that this is a good start. The Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report include: “We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.” (Call to action #58)

I was glad to hear an apology in Canada, but I was a bit disappointed that his apology was still on behalf of the people involved in residential schools, and not on behalf of the institution of the church itself. And the other thing that I have been reflecting on is that an apology that is not accompanied by or followed by concrete actions is simply words.

But rather than focusing on the actions of another denomination, it is important to consider the United Church of Canada and our role in residential schools and the work of reconciliation. Even though the Roman Catholic Church was responsible for running the majority of the residential schools in Canada, the United Church (and our founding denominations – the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church) was responsible for running 15 residential schools, mostly in western Canada.

As a denomination, we have issued two apologies. In 1986, at the meeting of General Council, the church apologized for our role in colonization. In 1988, at the following General Council, the Indigenous church acknowledged this apology and expressed a hope that we, as a church, would live into our words. It is significant that this apology was “received” rather than “accepted.” The rationale behind this is that to accept an apology is to put the actions in the past. Instead, the work of reconciliation needs to be ongoing. A second apology followed in 1998, this time specifically for our role in Indian Residential Schools. You can read both apologies, as well as the response from the Indigenous church, by clicking here.

We continue to participate in the work of reconciliation as the church. Our land acknowledgments are part of this work. Learning about our history is part of this work. Listing to our Indigenous neighbours is part of this work. The national church is working with Indigenous communities in places where we ran Residential Schools, releasing all school records, helping to identify any potential unmarked graves, and supporting the communities as they decide what to do with these graves.

Our newly elected Moderator (the spiritual leader of the United Church of Canada), the Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, is the first Indigenous woman to lead a major denomination.

The work of reconciliation continues in the United Church and in all denominations.

In terms of announcements this week:

  • Our Wednesday night movies continue – 7pm in the Westfield Parlour.Tonight we will be watching Turning Red; next week we will watch Sister Act!

  • On Sunday, our worship services will be 9:15 at Summerville (outside, weather permitting – don’t forget your lawn chair) at 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live.We will continue our exploration of our favourite hymns – this week will be “Here I Am, Lord.”

  • Many of you may remember Frances Collins – she was a Session member from Long Reach United Church for many years.Frances died in 2019, and her family is finally able to gather from across North America for her memorial service.It will be this Saturday (July 30) at 1pm at Long Reach United Church.You can read her obituary by clicking here.

  • Kingston Peninsula Heritage invites everyone to join them on Tuesday August 2 at 7:30pm at Long Reach United Church to watch the sunset over the Wolastoq River from our beautiful gardens.

  • Mark your calendars for Saturday August 6 at 1pm and prepare your favourite Pride banners and signs - it looks like we have enough people to walk in the Pride Parade as Two Rivers Pastoral Charge! I'll have more details for you next week. This will be a fun celebration of the LGBTQ+ community that we can participate in as a church!

  • And finally, I forgot to include a huge “thank you” to everyone who helped with the Strawberry Non-Social back on July 4, and to everyone who supported it by buying tickets. This fun fundraiser raised $1468.30 for the church!

And that is it for this week. As a closing thought this week, I want to share a poem that I came across this week, written by Danusha Lameris and shared recently by Unvirtuous Abbey on Facebook. You can read it by clicking here.

Blessings to you and yours, today and always!


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