The Hymn Society Celebrates The Unifying Power of Song

  For ninety-five years, The Hymn Society has been encouraging, promoting and enlivening congregational singing in the United States and Canada. In mid-July, over 300 academics, ministers, worship leaders, congregants, musicians, composers and musical enthusiasts gathered from around the world at Waterloo, Ontario, for the Society’s annual conference. For five days, participants listened to lectures about music history, attended concerts, took hymn writing workshops, networked with Christians from other congregations and denominations, and plotted the way forward for church music in the 21st century.            “We have a strong musical heritage in the church,” Brian Hehn, manager of programming for the conference and director of the Center for Congregational Song, said. Although the centre, an offshoot of the Society, will not officially open until October, Hehn has been preparing the programs to be rolled out—including a website and hymn writing workshops. Hehn said … [Read more...]

Celebrating 150 Years of Contributions from Canada’s Faith Communities

“The story of Confederation would not be complete without including the story of faith. Faith has formed a significant part of who we are as Canadians,” Greg Pennoyer, the director of Faith in Canada 150 (FC150), said. “If you pulled out all the faith-based organizations in East Vancouver for example, the numbers say it would be impossible to deal with all the social problems. Religious groups, of various kinds, are making an extraordinary contribution to the common good of this country. Faith has made a significant contribution to Canadians’ lives over the past one and a half centuries.” Several initiatives have been planned by FC150 for this year, including public dialogues, conferences, photo exhibits, lunches, panels and meetings nationwide. Pennoyer is encouraging people to contribute to FC150’s “Golden Thread” initiative, named after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1982 comment that “faith is the golden thread that binds all of us together”. FC150’s parent group, the … [Read more...]

Trudeau Committed to Breaking Down Barriers and Promoting Inclusivity

Although many things about Justin Trudeau make me uncomfortable, (endorsing controversial gas pipelines and ignoring the impoverished to focus on the Middle Class), his commitment to listening to the needs of Canadians in numerous town halls across the country in January, his support for women, and his attunement to the victims of acts of terrorism have instilled hope in me. I recently obtained a press pass to attend a forum with Trudeau, sponsored by The Martin Prosperity Institute and The New York Times, at the Rotman School of Business, in Toronto. Although the business people in the audience had paid to hear him talk about trade, Trudeau said very little about trade—except to say that NAFTA was solid and that he intends to pursue more international trade deals in the coming years. Instead, he focused on the need to “connect people” who are different from one another. He seemed, in his speech, to seek to empower and motivate his audience rather than to dictate, entertain or … [Read more...]

Gord Dunbar Says a Holy Shift will be Good for the United Church

Rev. Gord Dunbar is telling United Church congregations that, “It’s time for a Holy Shift. Structures and procedures are not the way—relationships are.” “Holy shift” was the motto of Dunbar’s just completed two year term as president of the United Church’s Hamilton Conference, made up of six presbyteries, and stretching from Tobermory to Niagara Falls and from Mississauga to the North Shore of Lake Erie as far as Courtland. In Dunbar’s Conference logo, the Y in Holy was replaced by a descending dove, one of the emblems in the United church crest. A creative and open-minded thinker, Dunbar has always taken an innovative approach to the ministry he began as a student twenty-four years ago. Since ordination, he has served two congregations—Morefield-Rothsay, just north of Drayton and Port Nelson in Burlington. An easy-going temperament and a ready sense of humour have helped Dunbar cope with the pressures of impending church closures and amalgamations. “There’s been a lot of … [Read more...]

The Educational and Inspirational Preaching of Orville James

“Preaching the Sunday sermon is the most impactful thing any minister will do in a given week,” Rev. Dr. Orville James, the minister of Wellington Square United Church in Burlington, said. “If you can deliver the goods on Sunday morning, even if you’re a mediocre organizer, it can make a tremendous difference.” James’ thesis for his D. Min. in Homiletics at Princeton focused on communicating effectively to people in different stages of faith, based on James Fowler’s 1981 book, Stages of Faith, which outlines six stages to spiritual maturity. “Most people in the United Church are at stage four,” he said, “the Individuative-Reflective stage where they no longer blindly accept what those in authority tell them. They need to work things out in their own minds and examine how it applies to them. There are people with a high level of education in the United Church—with scientific and literary knowledge. They can interpret the Christian stories on a level of meaning that goes beyond the … [Read more...]

East Burlington Seniors’ Lunch a Truly Ecumenical Effort

While many churches in the Halton region have collaborated to host lunches for seniors, the East Burlington Seniors’ Lunch has become by far the most ecumenical. “That’s why I decided to volunteer,” Kathy Pringle, the current chairperson, said. “The ecumenical nature of the group really appealed to me.” Three years ago, Rev. Jean Archbell, then the rector of St. Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Burlington, decided to replicate the Out-4-Lunch program operating out of St. Matthew On-The-Plains Anglican in Aldershot. While the Aldershot seniors’ lunch planning team featured a combined team of United, Catholic and Anglican volunteers, the East Burlington added Baptists and the Lutherans. When she was planning the event, Archbell contacted the minister of virtually every Christian Church in south east Burlington—from Walkers Line in the west to Burloak and from Lake Ontario up to Upper Middle Road. The response was amazing. “From its inception we had volunteers from five churches … [Read more...]

Six Nations Seek Partnerships Based on Relationships and Trust

Mohawk, Phil Monture, has made it his life’s work to make the governments of Ontario and Canada accountable for the misuse and appropriation of the lands allocated to the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) according to the 1784 Haldimand Treaty. Although the group was awarded 950,000 acres of land (six miles wide on each side of the Grand River) as a reward for defending the northern territories during the American Revolution, the 28,000 surviving band members only control 46,000 acres (less than 5% of the original amount) near Brantford. Monture said, at an insightful talk at Port Nelson United Church, in Burlington, on April 26th, that he doesn’t expect the government to remove “the squatters” or “the innocent bystanders” from the land that’s not rightfully theirs, in communities such as Brantford, Kitchener/Waterloo and Cambridge—but Six Nations does expect to “receive justice” for the losses. “The government always tells us we’re entitled to … [Read more...]

Michael Coren Says Christians Must Love Everyone Unconditionally

  “Some of the finest Christians I’ve ever met are gay,” Michael Coren told the crowd at Applewood United’s third anniversary of becoming an affirming congregation, on April 2nd. Coren, the award-winning author, journalist, radio and television personality, who once stood strongly against gay marriage because of his traditional Catholic beliefs, is now on the lecture circuit convincing Christians to show compassion to the LGBTQ community. It has been a long journey for the journalist, whose Jewish father scorned religion of any kind, and raised him in a tough guy neighbourhood to be a stereotypical male. Coren came to the Christian faith, and later to an acceptance of non traditional lifestyles, through a lengthy period of soul searching. Coren said it was the situation in Uganda that caused his change of heart. When he realized that people were being condemned to death simply because of their sexual orientation, he knew he had to stand up against it. And then he wrote … [Read more...]