As I write this, people from across Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as our Moderator, are on their way to Gander for the inaugural meeting of the First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council.
Earlier this week I was in another meeting with Faith March-McCuish, Regional Executive Minister for the three Regional Councils in Atlantic Canada, when she got word that the there was an issue with the building where the meeting is to be held. The issue was that the furnace had broken down. (This is Gander, where snow is still in the weather forecast.) Faith spent some time on the phone over that one, looking at various options, and the latest news I have had is that the parts to fix the furnace were on their way and expected to arrive in time to have heat by the time the church folk gather. Through the grace of God and some good Newfoundland and Labrador ingenuity, anything can be solved.
It’s spring, and we are into meeting season in the United Church. I have been in meetings for most of the past week, with the staff leaders, with the General Council Executive, and at a session of the ReVITALize 3 event where I spoke. I also met with the board of the United Church Foundation, followed by a day of the Cruxifusion conference. The many conversations, during meetings and also in the mealtimes and breaks, have left my head filled with ideas and my heart full of hope.
This weekend’s meeting in Gander will be the first of the meetings of the new Regional Councils, and the rest are scheduled over the next few weeks. We are four months into the three council structure of the church now, but in some ways I think that these inaugural regional meetings will feel like the real time of beginning. The Regional Transition Commissions have been working extremely hard ever since last summer’s General Council, and now they will be able to report directly to the people they have been serving, and to hand over their responsibilities to the first elected executive for each regional council.
I will have the opportunity to be at four of the Regional Council meetings, largely because three of them are happening in the same location on the same dates, with some of their sessions held jointly. I am excited to see what the meetings will be like, how they are the same as and how they are different from the previous conference annual general meetings, what it is like to have different groups of people from different geographic zones gathering for the first time, what ideas and hopes and dreams people are talking about.
We are about to step into the next phase of “living into” the new structures of the church, and I look forward to conversations that go beyond our structures, and that lift up what we truly seek to be as church.
Last week the General Council Executive took time to talk about our identity and what we as the United Church offer the world. The conversation was rich and varied, and took us right back to these beloved words from A New Creed:
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
As we look ahead in the life of the United Church, I don’t think we can say it any better than that... But we still have lots of room to expand on the way that we faithfully live these beautiful words.
— Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada.
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