May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Last weekend, Bette Ashley and I, on behalf of Two Rivers Pastoral Charge, attended the annual meeting of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region. (This is what replaced Maritime Conference when the United Church of Canada restructured in 2019 - it includes all of the United Churches in New Brunswick, PEI, and part of the Gaspé.) In 2019, we met at the same time and place as the Nova Scotia Region, so it felt like a Maritime Conference do-over; and then because of the pandemic we met virtually in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Which means that this was our first-ever opportunity to gather face-to-face as a Region!
It was so very good to be together, there on the campus of UPEI in Charlottetown. It was energizing, it was exhausting, and the Holy Spirit was dancing in our gathering. (I averaged 5 1/2 hours of sleep for 3 nights in a row... it's a really good thing that Bette drove, since I wouldn't have been safe to drive home on Sunday afternoon!) For those of you who have never had an opportunity to attend a larger church gathering like this, here is some of what went on this weekend:
Worship! I was part of the group that planned and led worship throughout the weekend, so of course I am going to mention this first. From opening worship on Friday afternoon, to a more creative worship on Saturday morning, to a youth-led worship service on Saturday evening, to the big closing worship on Sunday morning, we had lots of opportunities this weekend to worship God.
Business - we received reports from the various committees of the region, hearing about the work that they have been doing over the past year. We also had a couple of decisions to make (e.g. sending a proposal to General Council - the national church - asking for a formal apology to 2SLGBTQIA+ people who have been harmed by the United Church of Canada; voting on a national church-wide vote on creating an Autonomous Indigenous Church within the United Church of Canada).
Theme Speaker - this year our theme speaker was Rev. Murray Pruden, the National Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice in the United Church of Canada. He preached at our opening worship service, and gave a couple of talks throughout the weekend.
Workshops - There were a number of workshop options on Saturday afternoon - I chose to attend a round circle on mental health and the church, as well as a workshop on the new hymn resource being produced by the United Church of Canada (target release date of the summer of 2024).
Youth At Region - 33 youth in grades 6-12 (plus youth leaders, including Natalie Parish from Westfield) gathered at the same time, bringing a good energy to the overall gathering.
Hope. The theme for the gathering was "Moving Forward in Hope" and hope permeated everything that we did. We kept alert to signs of hope in our worship, in our speakers, in our listening, and in our sharing.
Relationship Building - I've often said that the most important part of these gatherings is building relationships with other United Church people in this part of the country (and this is one of the things that is so hard to do on Zoom). We sat at table groups during the meeting, and had time to discuss the different issues with others at our table. We ate our meals together in the campus cafeteria. We stayed up (way too) late at night, sharing ideas, sharing stories, and offering each other our support and care.
Sunday Closing worship - this is the service when we celebrated communion as a Region, and we installed (a familiar face around these parts) Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevenson as the president of our Region for the next year. If there were any ordinations, they would have happened at this service too. (There was supposed to be the admission of a minister from another denomination to the United Church of Canada, but unfortunately he ended up with Covid at the end of last week.)
Like I said, it was so very good to gather as a Region, together in the flesh!
Looking ahead, I have a couple of announcements for things coming up:
Worship this Sunday will be at 9:15 Summerville, and at 11:15 at Westfield and on FB Live. This is Trinity Sunday (those of you who know me can guess how excited this Sunday makes me!) - our scripture reading will be Genesis 1:1-2:3, a beautiful poetic telling of the creation story (or, more accurately, I should say one of the creation stories in the bible).
I will be away for 4 weeks after Sunday (June 5 - July 3) - one week of study leave, followed by 3 weeks of vacation. Thank you to Session for arranging for pulpit supply on the weeks when I'm away, and to Margaret Stackhouse who will be the contact person for any pastoral emergencies. Margaret will have the phone numbers for the two ministers who are available. I hope that you all stay happy and healthy while I'm away, but if anything comes up, just give Margaret a call at 506-721-4307 and she will connect you with a minister.
In case you haven't heard the news yet, the Westfield United Strawberry Non-Social is back on this year, and a group of volunteers has been busily getting organized, capably led by Maggie Coffin-Prowse (under the tutelage of Judy Sheaves). The date should be announced in the near future - it is dependent on when the local strawberries will be ready - but it is likely to be in early July. Keep your ears open for further announcements!
Our Church Family Movie nights are also going to be back for another summer, every Wednesday evening at 7pm in the parlour at Westfield United Church beginning on July 5. If you have any movie suggestions for things that you would like to watch with your church family (preferably movies available on one of the streaming platforms or available through the public library), please send them my way!
Youth Connection will be having their final gathering before the summer this Sunday, June 4. Contact Ken (email@example.com) for more details!
There are still some tickets left for Rock Around the Clock, but you probably want to get yours soon so that you don't miss out! The show will be on Sunday June 11 at 7pm at Westfield United Church and will feature music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. You are invited to wear a period-appropriate outfit to join in the fun - just pick your favourite decade! Tickets will not be available at the door, but must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite - click here to take you to the website to purchase tickets. (If you have trouble navigating Eventbrite, please contact Cindy Patstone and she will help you out.)
And I'm also going to put a plug in for the Saint John Chorale spring concert coming up next Monday, June 5 at 7:30pm at St. Mark's United Church since I and a handful of other Two Rivers members sing with that group. The programme is going to be folk music from North America and the British Isles, so if an evening including O Danny Boy, Song for the Mira, What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor, and others like this sounds like fun, this is another concert you won't want to miss. Tickets are $25 ($10 for students), and will be available at the door.
And that's it for today! Since I will be away for the next 4 weeks, the next mid-week message won't be until the first week of July. I hope that you all have a good June, and a safe start to summer!
For a closing thought, I'm going to leave you with a video posted by a friend and colleague, Rev. Rick Gunn. This past Sunday morning, St. Luke's United Church in Tantallon, NS voted to become an Affirming church. Then that very afternoon, they found themselves to be in the middle of an urgent evacuation due to a large wildfire on their doorstep. On Tuesday, Rick (who is also a very talented musician) posted a video for his congregation, offering them hope and a refuge of peace - you can watch it by clicking here. Whatever chaos you might be facing in your life right now, may you find the quiet centre of peace that is found in God. And please join me in praying for rain for the Maritimes, and for everyone who has had to evacuate their homes in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always,
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."