Saturday, 22 August 2015

Pulling together as one

I had it all mapped out. Go to church on Sunday and then Gerald and Cop, my in-laws, would pick me up and we'd head for Grand Falls and a BBQ salmon dinner. I'd visit with Glen's nan along with other relatives, then head off to St. John's. Instead, as I waited with Glen's aunt in the the church parking lot, it was his uncle that pulled up. Gerald had been in a serious bicycle accident and had been rushed to the hospital in Corner Brook.

Fortunately he could move his arms and legs, but it was still very serious. With the neurosurgeon contacted and the possibility of surgery before him, he was airlifted to St. John's while Cop and I made the 8 hour trek across the island. It was pins and needles for everyone until 2 catscans and an MRI later we were told he wouldn't need surgery but would be wearing a neck brace for the next 12 weeks. The long nervous days at the hospital were finally punctuated with relief as we watched the physiotherapists help him out of bed and accompanied him down the hallway for his first steps after 3 days flat on his back.

When I wrote in my first post that I was approaching this sabbatical with open hands and open heart, ready to receive whatever came, this was not what I had in mind. And yet as I reflect on these past few days I am struck by the gift that it was. The outpouring of love and support that Gerald and Cop received was staggering. Everyone pulled together to help. People phoned, made turkey sandwiches and cookies for Cop's and my drive to St. John's, offered places to stay, stopped by the hospital, dropped off soup... The list goes on. Everywhere you looked there was loving support: Glen's nan came down from Gambo, his sister flew in from Toronto, his brother skyped in from South Korea, the nursing staff were spectacular in their warmth and compassion. For four days we were family. We were church. Church at its best. A community rallying in love and care. It was grace and it was healing.

I was struck by the contrast with the week before during General Council. Now don't get me wrong. Those days at the hospital weren''t rosy. It was scary. It was frustrating as we waited for tests and again for results. Like at GC42 there were times I wanted to scream. The second full day was filled with tension as being prone started taking its toll on Gerald's body. But through it all we were one. In contrast, there were many moments at GC42 when we didn't feel like one body. You could feel the divisions that have been part of us for 90 years as we sought to find a middle way between divergent theologies, experiences and expectations. We tried to maintain our covenant of love, wisdom, truth, humility, respect, honesty and courage, but at times really struggled.

We got there in the end as we lived into our denominational motto: "That all may be one". Conceived in our historic ecumenical position as being a united and uniting church, I see us living it in deeper ways as we take on Jesus' heart. He reached out to those seen by others as "them" rather than "us" and we are called to do the same, committing ourselves to continue living into right relations with Canada's Indigenous peoples, especially through the "Calls to Action" named in the TRC Report, approving a "Living Apology" process with the LGBTQ community, reaching out to progressive Evangelicals. While not as balanced or as pastoral as I would have hoped, our commitment to divest from fossil fuel companies is a step in the right direction for working in harmony with the whole earth.

It is a process though, which means we don't always seek the unity we ought. In my heart I feel our policies for a just peace in Israel-Palestine have tilted to taking a side rather than our historical centred position. We do it because we feel deeply the hurt and suffering of the Palestinians, but too often fail to see through the fearful and generationally traumatised eyes of Israeli Jews. We struggle internally as well as divides between the three streams of ministry opened up in our discussions on the last day. We definitely have work to do.

I pray that we may pull together, be church at its best - a community of love, care and compassion, called out to be a catalyst for harmony, healing and peace.

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  1. Life happens! It tests our commitment and flexibility; challenges our priorities.....