Last evening I was at Hillhurst United Church in Calgary. It was wonderful to be with these good folks, to speak to them, and to engage in some back-and-forth with other speakers. I did it all from the small apartment I call home in Toronto. And another speaker joined in from Copenhagen! It was another way to meet—a way that I expect and hope will become more common.
I’ve used Skype before as part of my work with the global network of ecumenical centres and lay movements, but last night felt more intimate than ever, talking with members of my own far-flung faith community about our shared passion for finding faithful ways through the dilemmas posed by climate change. One of the questions was about how we as church in Canada, and around the world, respond to the challenges—as church. I found myself drawing on the wisdom of poet Wendell Berry, and his emphasis on the need to choose, love, and commit to a particular place. If anyone’s poetry can move us to love God and God’s creation with all our heart, soul, and mind, it’s his.
As The United Church of Canada we choose to commit to and love over 3,000 particular places in Canada, and many more around the world, as we partner with others. So last night I spoke about choosing to love our own places—within a loving network of particular places globally, following Jesus’ directives to love and reflect God’s love all. A love rooted in commitments made in—and to—the places where we are planted to do God’s loving work.
At Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre, we greet guests with an invitation to appreciate that sacred place. Following my election as Moderator, Elizabeth Bustard—a poet herself—wrote to me, saying: “I am sure that you will bring the message of Sacred Place to the church in general. It is this message of the sacredness of all life that each of us in our churches needs to embrace with utmost commitment.”
Let’s embrace this message with utmost commitment, as Elizabeth says. We will have more gatherings like last night’s, requiring no high cost of the precious gift of time and no high cost to the precious gift of air quality and climate health, joining together to love the community that surrounds Hillhurst United, and in so doing, to love God’s whole good planet.
What are some of the ways in which you embrace “the sacredness of all life” in your particular place and your particular congregational life?
P.S. One of the highlights of last evening was touching base with the Very Rev. Bill Phipps, who is in the midst of his week-long fast (see earlier blog). Bill is doing well, and you can follow his daily travels on his website.