How is your Lenten practice going?
I am happy to report that I have not eaten any candy since Shrove Tuesday. Well that is almost true; I did accidentally forget that a marshmallow might be considered candy and helped myself to one in my hot chocolate a couple of weeks ago. Candy is such a small thing to give up, although given my habits and sweet tooth, I am reminded several times each day that this is Lent, and that there is something that I am foregoing during this time.
There have been a lot of things bigger than candy for us to think about during this Lenten time. A plane full of people — many of them engaged in humanitarian and environmental work, and including at least one with deep ties to the United Church (Peter DeMarsh) - dead in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Fifty people gunned down while at worship in their mosques in New Zealand. And then the devastating damage and loss of life in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in the wake of Cyclone Idai. What a terrible week for the world. What a challenging week for finding hope.
In the midst of all these things I found myself at Metropolitan United Church in London on Saturday, March 16 listening to the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. In the midst of all this, one of the things he chose to talk about was hope.
I can’t tell you exactly what he said, although I was madly jotting down notes on whatever scraps of paper I had in my purse (the blessing of a messy purse, but in future I will try to never go to hear a great Christian leader speak without a notebook or tablet!). It may not be exactly what he said but what I heard, and what I have been thinking and talking about since, was something like:
“When I can’t see what to do because the problems of the world seem too great, what gives me hope is that are things that I can do to honour God and God’s world…There is always something worth doing.”
And another jotted note from later in the talk:
“We are obliged as Christians to share with one another beacons of hope. A good Christian community shares stories about what love and faith look like. This keeps hope alive.”
It so often happens that, when someone says something that gets you thinking, you start seeing examples of it right away. Maybe it’s because the insight that has been offered has really been a reminder of something you had known, but stopped noticing.
So with those fine words from in my head, I have been noticing things that have given me hope.
Tuesday I was part of an ecumenical group meeting with senators about Bill C-262, the private member’s bill that would require the laws of Canada to conform to the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The way that others in our group, and the senators we met with, are trying to work towards an even better future for Canada gave me hope.
The quick and faithful work by colleagues in the General Council Office to develop and post on our website an urgent appeal for those suffering from the destructive force of Cyclone Idai gave me hope.
On Wednesday we had a video conference with chairs of the Commissions who are overseeing the work of Regional Councils until the inaugural meetings this spring. I found hope in the stories they shared, stories of both pleasant surprises and challenges in this work. I found hope in hearing of the selfless dedication of this group of leaders and so many who are working with them.
Thursday morning I met with Phyllis Airhart’s class at Emmanuel College to talk about a lot of the things happening in the church, and to answer questions. The questions were not easy ones. I found hope in the conversations with this group of thoughtful students, most of whom are preparing for ministry in The United Church of Canada.
Yes; there are many things worth doing in God’s terrible and wonderful world. There are many stories to be shared. What better time than Lent to find those things worth doing, and to share our stories of hope?
— Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada.
This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.