Reposted from Let's Talk Tuesdays - Thanksgiving edition October 6, 2020 by Rev Bruce Dickson, Guelph, ON

Dear friends,
I hope you are well and making good choices for you and those close to you.
This weekend we are invited into moments to offer thanks, to count our blessings, to see what is right and good in our lives and not just what is broken or failing. It was originally a time to give thanks for the harvest gathered and the provisions for the winter ahead. All these things are part of this long weekend including closing cottages, watching football, enjoying a hike, and perhaps eating a good meal. Okay, eating a good meal is pretty high on the list!
This year we also face the challenges of our gatherings looking and feeling different. We are being encouraged to keep our group to a few, not travel far, to make our thanksgiving small and intimate rather than large and boisterous. We may not like it, but we are still going to have to say thanks anyways!
Henri Nouwen offers us a thought for our gratitude calling weekend:
" a response to grace. The compassionate life is a grateful life, and actions born out of gratefulness are not compulsive but free, not somber but joyful, not fanatical but liberating. When gratitude is the source of our actions, our giving becomes receiving and those to whom we minster become our ministers." Henri Nouwen, Compassion: A reflection on the Christian Life, p.126
Our saying thanks, our living with gratitude, reflects a response to what we have received. The beauty of the fall colours, the mirrorred reflections off the Speed river, the hug from a child or grandchild, the whisper of a "I Love You" -- all invite us to act from places of freedom, joy, and love.
Since I didn't see grumbling on the list as an act of gratitude, may we celebrate the sources of joy, love, giftedness we have received, and mirror for others the joy, love, and beauty that have blessed us. We have a choice of how we will respond to the gifts we have around us even in restricted times. I am dusting off my thank yous for the days ahead.
I am thankful for you and the ways you live out of gratitude and compassion in our community and world. Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!
Rev. Bruce

A reposted blog from Let's Talk Tuesdays, June 16, 2020 by Rev. Bruce Dickson, Dublin Street United Church...

Dear friends,

I hope you are well and making good choices for you and those around you. I am wearing my Ruth Golding mask regularly on my trips to the store. (And yes, washing it/them too).
I was reading in the Toronto Star today about a project in the Yukon. As many of you know mining was a big part of the Yukon's history, and you also know many mines have been abandoned over the years after their deposits have been gathered and collected. These abandoned mines were to be reclaimed to their natural state, but since some companies went bankrupt, not all of the mines have been. The eyesores remain and the reclaiming awaits.
The article spoke of how a local nursery is fostering and nurturing local plants and trees to be planted at these former mine sites. The gift of local species of plants and trees is that they have adapted to the climate and the higher than usually metal contents in the soil. The win-win of the situation is that the local plants grown by the local nursery can beautify local areas of the Yukon. What a great idea!
Jan and I have been jointly reading (as a Covid-19 activity) Philip Yancey's book, Vanishing Grace. In the chapter from last week we have been reading about sin, confession, salvation. There is a lot to unpack about all these terms which I don't have space today to do, but I did like to share his notion of sin which is about creating "a clear line of accountability to a God who loves us and has our best interests at heart." Part of our confession is to name where we have as Ignatius of Loyola offered,"refused to believe that God wants my happiness and fulfillment." We need to reclaim our best ways and true selves with God.
Yancey quotes the theologian Miroslav Volf and "God's sharing of wisdom." "The God who created human beings knows what kind of life works best for us. Some things are obvious - don't steal, don't lie, don't murder. Some things are counter-intuitive: care for the vulnerable, find your life by serving others, forgive when wronged, love your enemies." The way of life that ultimately proves most satisfying is following ways where "we become the persons God intended us to be". Vanishing Grace p. 78
Reclaiming our true selves...
I am wondering if in this time of hitting pause, being challenging with Black Lives Matter, Indigenous injustices front and centre, care of neighbour in the forefront if we aren't being ask to reclaim the very selves that God has made us to be. We are being given a chance to hear again what we are truly about and what story of Dublin St. church we are being invited to share and replant, to name those things that are not most helpful, and find the happiness and fulfillment that God has in store for us.
What might be reclaim just now?
One thing I have been reminded over these past 12 weeks is that we are more than a building even if we do like it and appreciate it. We are so much more as a community.
Working with you on reclaiming God's dream for me, you and the world.
Peace and prayers, Rev. Bruce


“Life After Covid”
May 14, 2020
Rev. Dr. Paul Miller (GUM consultant)

It’s been my privilege to work with Guelph United Ministries, helping the United Churches of Guelph create a more collaborative future.

Like most people, I found my work interrupted by Covid 19 restrictions. Many of the events I planned to do have been cancelled. Many of the tools in my toolbox are of no use when we’re all confined to home.  

On May 7, I hosted a G.U.M. “Town Hall” discussion (on line, of course.) People from the different churches came together to talk about this question: “How is Covid 19 changing the way we experience church?”

Twenty-nine people participated. Here’s what I took away from our wide-ranging and lively.  

First, this is hard. Really hard. No question that churches are struggling with plummeting income, suspended programs, cancelled events, isolation, disconnection.

Imagine if this past Christmas (which seems a lifetime ago) someone had told you that by Easter all of our churches would be closed indefinitely. What would you have thought? I know what I would have thought. “Disaster! We’ll never recover.”

Certainly we miss our community life desperately. We are all hungry for the connection we used to enjoy.

But there was a sense that, when this is all over, we will realize how easily we  have taken for granted simple things like face-to-face conversation or human touch. And, having been deprived of these things, there’s a chance we will return more committed to being with one another and caring for one another.

Second, it’s amazing to see how resourceful and resilient we are becoming. Against all odds, we found ways to stay connected. We’ve quickly become adept at using Zoom and YouTube. Who says that old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

And people at the Town Hall talked excitedly about how valuable those new skills will be even after we are able to get together again. We have experienced the potential of technology for enhancing our connection – not replacing face-to-face community  but providing options that are able to include more people in more ways.

We’ve experienced the potential of technology to expand our reach beyond the number of folks who show up on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. We’ve been surprised to see that way more people are tuning into our live-streamed or recorded worship than we find sitting in the pews on a given week.

Third, our attitudes have changed. People talked about how this forced separation is making us more intentional about using “low tech” tools like the telephone to stay in touch with folks who may not have computers. We’re putting more effort to caring for the lonely because we don’t want to leave them out.

When so much of our busy routine has been interrupted, we’re finding a little more space to reflect on the things that are truly important. We hope we’ll carry that reflection with us  into the post-Covid world.

Everyone knows the church has to change. But change is hard. One of the greatest barriers to change is our inability to imagine that we could survive without the things we’ve gotten used to – choirs or coffee hour, our favourite pew or our regular time of worship.

Well, we’ve been forced to do without those things and, even though it’s been really hard, we’re making it work. Maybe, just maybe, this experience will break down that barrier of imagination and make us open to embracing bolder and riskier changes when the world gets back to “normal.”

For some of our churches, the Covid 19 experience might be a blow from which they cannot recover. On the other hand, it might open our eyes to new and unexpected opportunities to serve Christ in changing times.

It could go either way. But based on what I heard on May 7, I’m hopeful.   ~ Paul