It’s hard to say goodbye to Saskatchewan Conference after a wonderful week of visiting.
Mike Milne of The United Church Observer joined me at the Winnipeg train station a week ago Monday to travel on the “Spirit Express” for the first few days of my Saskatchewan Conference visits, beginning with our stop in Melville. The train arrived early yet again, as it has everywhere so far. Not only has VIA Rail been on time, but its generosity in providing the Moderator with a free pass for the “Spirit Express” has also been applauded at every mention.
Hospitality in this Conference was much warmer than temperatures during the first part of the week. Blizzard-like conditions had us staying overnight with Jerry and Janet Kessler in Kipling following the town hall, to which almost 60 people braved the blowing snow and treacherous sidewalks and roads.
The next day we headed for Regina—slowly—and not without adventure. We had to be dug out of a snow drift on the highway. Staying on the road was in itself an achievement. Thank goodness Executive Secretary Bill Doyle is such a careful driver, and Saskatchewan drivers are accustomed to jumping out to help others.
Intergenerational and intercultural opportunities were inspiring in events such as
- town hall meetings in Kipling, Kindersley, and Saskatoon
- a Regina meeting with CGIT girls and leaders
- earning in Melville about SARCAN, Saskatchewan’s unique approach to recycling, which for years has benefited community members with intellectual challenges
- a city-wide environmental fair in Regina
- a “Soul, Community, and Creation” evening at St. Paul’s United in support of Saskatoon’s Integrated Community Ministry
- the blessing of a new wing at Oliver Lodge, followed by an evening with River Bend Presbytery in celebration with music, word, and drama on how “Home is where the heart is,” being at home in our bodies, our faith, with the earth, and in God
- a day at Craik Eco-Centre and Eco-Village with Multi-Faith Saskatchewan, dedicating a designated sacred space with representatives of more than 10 different faith/spiritual traditions (someday soon a solar-powered fountain will be added to this sacred space; find more information and photos of the event)
October 30, 2010 – Designated Sacred Site Dedication
Memories of many met at these gatherings keep flooding my mind, such as these few:
- John, a young adult in Regina who’s begun a car share cooperative, speaking up about the important role religious leaders must play in care of creation
- Christopher, a tween who’s caring for creation in all kinds of ways and spoke of his congregation’s pilgrimage of presence to Fort McMurray
- Alexander, a babe in arms, the centre of the community as he sleeps in the midst of loud and lively children and adults dancing and swirling ’round
- Sheila, the granddaughter of the fourth Moderator of The United Church of Canada, Edmund H. Oliver, in whose name Oliver Lodge provides special care for elderly residents
- Willa Karnan, resident of Oliver Lodge and long-time United Church overseas personnel, who greeted me in Korean
- 6-year-old Hannah, who shared in a dramatic Halloween-related dialogue with me in worship at Grosvenor Park United in Saskatoon
- Janet Sigurdson, a minister weaving the gifts of her Aboriginal community with those of her farming community
- Nathaniel, a university student focused on religious and environmental studies and finding a new home community in his United Church congregation, far from his family home in Sudan
- Zarqa Nawaz, one of the creators of Little Mosque on the Prairie and Joseph Naytowhow, creator of #141 in our More Voices hymn collection
Grosvenor Park United Church, Saskatoon, Oct. 31, 2010
The connecting tissue among soul, community, and creation has been evident in all of these encounters and more, reminding me of words from Revelation 21:3–5 as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson:
I heard a voice thunder: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making a home with men and women and children. We belong to one another and to all creation.”
I have a strong sense of belonging to those I’m visiting throughout these four Conferences this month. As we sing, pray, and share stories of suffering and hope, that sense of belonging to one another and to all creation deepens. And the practice of belonging to one another as community and creation brings varied healing blessings. Thanks be to God.
Now I’m rolling into the Edmonton train station at almost 7:00 a.m., anticipating more encounters and stories.
What are your stories of belonging to one another and to all creation?