The United Church of Canada is kicking off the 43rd General Council with the Festival of Faith. This celebration of our work and witness through the arts takes place July 21-22, 2018 in Oshawa, Ont.

The festival will be infused with an old-time country fair vibe, and feature an inspiring and joyful line-up of workshops, musicians, authors, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople. There will also be opportunities to connect and offer your own voice and artistry in the coffee house or on the green.

The Rev. David Moore is the minister at Simcoe St. United Church in Oshawa and the Festival of Faith co-ordinator. More noteworthy, he is the festival’s chief visionary. Here, Rev. Moore speaks with Kathryn Dorrell (senior editor in the General Council Office’s Communications Unit) about how the festival will bring the spirit and message of the church into the wider community and kindle a new spark of optimism and creativity among church people.

What do you want the Festival of Faith to bring to the wider community?

“The festival will show that the United Church is open to the world, in faith, spiritual practices, and in a practical way. It’s important that it is barrier-free. There is no admission fee and everyone can come. There are no physical barriers such as bleachers in the performance area so people living with disabilities will be able to access the space.

“It is going to be powerful, inspiring and lift up the GC43 message of Risking Faith and Daring Hope. This is important to Oshawa. We are a community that has experienced the crumbling of our economic foundation, manufacturing, and we want people to see that the United Church has a vision and words of hope for our world, and a way to lift people up.”

How did you come up with a vision for the Festival of Faith?

“Over the last couple of generations, we have thought of faith happening inside our building and sanctuaries. I thought about taking the things that we associate with church and spirituality in our buildings—the sanctuary, the church hall, the choir room or loft, the kitchen, the narthex etc.—and putting them outside.”

Give us an example of “turning the church inside out.”

“Inside our churches, we pray, sing, listen to music and readings, and it is where we congregate. I want the festival to do these things out in the world where anyone in the community can come and participate. The festival is turning the church inside out. [For example,] the church kitchen is the place where we talk about changing the world. It is buzzing with energy and ideas. The festival will replicate this with workshops.”

How will the workshops inspire participants?

“Many churches and congregations are stuck. They are doing the same thing they have done for years but are not getting the same results. The workshops will explore new ways of doing things churches; using church buildings in a new way is one example. If you want to be the centre of your community, your church has to be a community centre in which renters and ‘outside groups’ that use the space are embraced as part of who the church is. It is their spiritual home, too. We need to reset the idea that church is all about the people who come out on Sunday morning.”

What role will artists and performers play other than offering entertainment?

“There will be a range of artists from musicians, singers, painters, photographers, and poets people reading out loud—people who use their skills, ideas, and arts to engage with the world. They will show that God is active in the world and speak to our souls. In my mind, any music and arts festival is spiritual, but most are not connected to a particular faith or denomination. They [embody] that philosophy that we hear so often today of being ‘spiritual but not religious.’ The Festival of Faith will be a new way for the United Church to engage with God in the world.”

Overall, what message do you want church folks to take away from the festival?

“There is bit of a sense in the world today and in the church that the sky is falling. But people will come away from the festival and the GC43 energized and positive about the future. They will see that God is leading us out into the world and showing us the way.”

Follow the GC43 Festival of Faith Facebook page and stay up-to-date on festival activities and details on performers and workshops—and let us know if you plan to attend this inspiring event.