Round the Table

Sharing stories of life, faith, and ministry in the United Church and beyond.

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December 13, 2018

My earliest church memories are tethered to St. James-Bond United Church in Toronto. (Of course, we called it “Bond…St. James Bond, United Church,” with a Sean Connery burr.) I won’t elaborate with tales of basketball courts and bowling alleys, wonderful ministers, witty musicians, finger sandwiches, ukuleles, and poster paint because you likely have similar memories of a church with a slightly less cool name. These days, when I travel along Avenue Road, I see condos where there was once a church. And I feel a little sentimental tug—a nostalgia that I can often confuse with sadness....

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December 10, 2018

Ahmed (name is changed to protect his identity) is a 29-year-old university accounting graduate. He is married and works on his family's organic farm inside the Seam Zone in Tulkarm. Recently, to make ends meet, he found a part-time job in roofing. He told me that he cried some tears when he realized he could not support his family and had to find extra work.

The Seam Zone is an agricultural area in the West Bank located east of the Greenline and west of The Wall. One Israeli soldier explained that Israel is on the west side of “The Wall” and no-man's land (Seam Zone)

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December 14, 2018

We have received many comments and questions about whether or not to incorporate the “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” into Christmas carol services. Thanks to Dana Lynn Seaborn, of seabornsong.com, who offered us a helpful response to start the conversation. Dana Lynn writes:

The English lyrics were written by an Anglo-Canadian in 1926 to the tune of the French folk song, "A Young Maid." As a Métis woman who has lived in territory named for the Wendat, and studied traditional Wendat culture and history, I find those...

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December 5, 2018

They say a picture is worth more than 1,000 words, and I agree.

To try to understand the Rohingya crisis, I had read much about who the Rohingya Muslims are and why they are being persecuted. It has been pretty much an exercise of thinking—a head exercise. That changed when I saw the picture (above) taken by ACT Alliance photographer Paul Jeffrey. I looked into the eyes of this girl, her eyes filled with hope as she holds up her card from the UNHCR (the United Nations’ refugee agency) in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh.

Behind her eyes you can see that she has been...

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December 11, 2018

People sometimes share that they forget I am a person who is totally blind. I experience this as a good thing, an acknowledgment that they feel acceptance, and embrace me for who I am, my abilities and disabilities.

When I or others are not focusing on my disability and “forget” it, so to speak, it is not really forgotten. I don’t believe that people intend to dismiss my blindness.

People really don’t overlook I am blind. That is certainly not avoidable. Trust me! People don’t suddenly ignore my seeing eye dog at my side. They don’t suddenly stop needing to self-identify...

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November 30, 2018

“Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness, Morning by morning new mercies I see…”

For no reason I could think of, this was the song I was humming to myself as I set out for my early walk with the dogs on a recent rainy, windy, November morning.

Heading out in the early light on such a morning, before some of the houses on our street even have their lights on, one could wonder, “Why?” What and where are the new mercies?

Yet, in the company of two large and enthusiastic canine companions, it is hard to not share at least a little in their...

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November 28, 2018

In the summer of 2018, our church decided to try Vacation Bible School camp (VBS).

The last time the United Church had organized a Vacations Bible School in the Gatineau Hills was circa 1955. Unsure of whether we could do this alone, Église Grace United Church asked our Anglican neighbours at St. Mary Magdalene in Chelsea if they would like to work together. They agreed!

We chose a theme: “Weird Animals” and adapted resources for our own context as we planned activities.

We advertised and prayed that children would sign up. On the first day of camp, 13 children...

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December 11, 2018

I am a person who is totally blind. I use a dog guide. Wilson is a 7½ year old black lab. He can be correctly described as a seeing eye dog, as he is a graduate of that school. “Seeing eye dog” is actually not a generic term, though it is often used erroneously that way.

Service animals work helping people who live with PTSD, very low vision, blindness, very limited hearing, deafness, autism, diabetes, epilepsy, and medical support such as assisting those in wheelchairs. Service animals could be canine officers supporting police, search and rescue, and the like.

One cannot...

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November 27, 2018

When I acquired HIV in 1987, it was “a death sentence”. One of the first comments made by my GP in 1990 in Regina, when he gave me the HIV+ test result, was that I would need more tests to find out “when the clock started ticking.” Not very comforting words. My work in the community-based AIDS movement in the 1990s was one great grieving process as we buried clients one after another. As a person of faith, Christian practice and teachings, like forgiveness and hope, have been essential parts of my journey with HIV.

All of this was in the back of my mind as I went to Amsterdam in...

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November 14, 2018

In 2009, at the age of 19, my mother passed away from breast cancer.

I think, when we’re faced with profound injustice that we can’t comprehend fully, we are often brought back to experiences of our own where the piercing sensation of unfairness has touched us. That’s what I was thinking as I stood in Imjingak, Paju, Korea looking at the remembrance wall where South Korean families bring messages for their loved ones on the other side of the DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

The boundary that separates my mom from me is not some manufactured liminal space. It is concrete...

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