Holding Space for One Another at Christmas

Blue Christmas

Vancouver, BC. December 11, 2017. – “Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call. Their favourite time of the year.” So goes the popular holiday song. But sometimes Christmas can be anything but fun.

It’s a season where we naturally call to mind relationships with family. We reflect on all the things we accomplished this past year…or didn’t. We look back and smile at our successes, or cringe with disdain at our failures. For many, Christmas is full of anxiety, dread and loneliness – but we seldom have a safe space or even the permission to admit it.

Naomi looks back on her life this year and it’s been a year full of highs and lows. After years of wrestling with her identity she finally married her loving partner Jenn on Easter Sunday. The two are now stepping into life as wives, and while their relationship is full of love and acceptance – a few of Naomi’s conservative Christian family hasn’t been so keen.

“My dad was really great about it – but while he still says he loves me he can’t really get on board. The same can be said for my brother and sister-in-law. I know they love me – they just can’t accept that ‘my person’ is a woman or that I have a wife.”

Naomi explains that it’s really challenging to have such accepting friends, a loving urban family and yet have a less-than-tolerant blood family: “we all live in different parts of the world which makes working through this even more difficult.”  

And set against the backdrop of all of this family rejection this last year, Naomi’s mother’s quality of life was rapidly deteriorating with Parkinson’s and dementia and Naomi was unable to really connect with her Mum. She later died just a few short weeks ago in November.

“It’s been 12 years that we have seen my mom lose to this disease. Parkinson’s can be all consuming and in a way I felt like I lost my relationship to both my parents. We all processed it in different ways. Life became all about the disease for my parents. You know that the person is there in the physical form but they can’t communicate effectively.  But when my mom was on her deathbed we did have some closure.

And now I feel after she has passed almost closer to her. I don’t know what the ‘other side’ is like but there is something about her being in that place which has shifted things for me. I wonder whether since she has been freed from her physical body if she can now see parts of my life that she couldn’t see or participate in before. This story is helping me process our relationship and my grief.”

Naomi can’t help but reflect on love and loss this year at Christmas. Part of her healing will be attending a special Christmas Service held at Canadian Memorial United Church called “Blue Christmas”.  

Minister Beth Hayward of Canadian Memorial United Church  has been putting on the special service for several years now and it’s gaining in popularity.  She says, “We are finding people really need a safe space to be free to admit grief, sadness, stress, anxiety – all of the human emotions that Christmas can often remind us of. So in our Blue Christmas Service we aim to acknowledge and release our grief and sorrow and begin a new journey toward joy.”

Naomi says, “I will definitely be attending this year. Holding space for each other to just ‘be’ – to be in the tension of life, death, relational tensions and unresolved questions, where love is the blanket that wraps you up in the uncertainty – is so important in the journey of healing. Canadian Memorial facilitates this kind of space really well.”

Blue Christmas takes place December 20th from 7:30 – 8:30pm at Canadian Memorial United Church. There will be a time of music, quiet reflection, and stories. The service is free and open to all.  

 

 

 

 

Event at a Glance

What: Blue Christmas Service
When: December 20th, 2017
Where: Canadian Memorial United Church, 15th and Burrard
Time: 7:30-8:30pm

Cost: Free
Contact: 604-731-3101

Fall 2017 Connection Circles

Connection Circles are an opportunity to deepen relationships with other members of CMUC through a shared interest. Registration sheets are in the main church office, or you can register by emailing christine @ canadianmemorial.org.

The Fall 2017 Connection Circles are:

Deepening Reconciliation

Led by Hilary Kitson
Dates: Mondays 7:00-8:30pm, Oct 23 to Nov 27th
Location: CMUC Library
Limit 8 people

DESCRIPTION COMING.

Spiritual Practice for Busy Lives

Led by Michelle Cobban
Dates: Mondays 7:00-8:30pm, Oct 16th to Nov 20th
Location: Michelle’s house in Kits (address will be sent to those who sign up)
Limit 8 people

Sometimes our lives are so busy that we barely have enough time to brush our teeth before falling into bed at night. How do we make time and space for God in our life when we are balancing kids, pets, caregiving, multiple jobs, hobbies, housework? Bring your ideas and challenges as we talk about ways to support each other in a daily spiritual practice in our busy lives. Please bring your busy lives with you—kids, pets, food, wine, piles of bills… Come late or leave early—in this circle, the chaos of our every day lives will be present; there is room for all.

Bible Study for Doers, Dreamers and Doubters

Led by Rev Beth Hayward and Seth Baker
Dates: Tuesdays 7:00-8:30pm, Oct 10th to Nov 14th.
Location: CMUC Sanctuary
Limit 15 people

A key part of nurturing our Christian faith is learning to wrestle with our texts. This six week study group will explore the biblical tradition of prophecy with an eye to how it can enlighten our response to today’s Pharaohs. Led by Rev. Beth Hayward and Seth Baker, this circle is intended to deepen our comfort with and knowledge of the scriptures. No experience required!

Active Witnessing – Challenging hate and intolerance in our everyday lives

Led by Carol Sutton
Dates: Tuesdays 7:00-8:30pm, Oct 10th to Nov 14th.
Location: Carol’s house near Cambie and Broadway (address will be sent to those who sign up). Wheelchair accessible space, with small washroom.
Limit 10 people

Following CMUC’s excellent workshop on Active Witnessing, this Connection Circle aims to bring the discussion into the Canadian context. The purpose of Active Witnessing, also called ‘Bystander Intervention’ is to provide practical ideas of words and actions any individual might take in the face of threatening racist, sexist, homophobic and other unacceptable comments and behaviours. As a circle we will learn, reflect and practice Active Witnessing in the types of everyday situations we have encountered and might encounter in our own lives.

Book Study: A God that Could be Real: Spirituality, Science and the Future of Our Planet

Led by Angie Gerst, Elisabeth Tanner and Stephen Tanner
Dates: Wednesdays 7:15-9pm, Oct 4th to Nov 8th.
Location: Stephen and Elisabeth’s home – near 20th and Main (address will be sent to those who sign up). Wheelchair accessible.
Limit 12 people

In this circle, we will engage in discussion about the nature of God, based on the book “A God that Could be Real: Spirituality, Science and the Future of Our Planet” (2015). In this book, “Abrams explores a radically new way of thinking about God. She dismantles several common assumptions about God, and shows why an omniscient, omnipotent God that created the universe and plans what happens is incompatible with science – but explains that this doesn’t preclude a God that can comfort and empower us…. Abrams finds something worthy of the name “God” in the new science of emergence… A God that could be real…. is what humanity needs to inspire us to collectively cooperate to protect our warming planet and create a long-term civilization.”

Developing a Meditative Practice

Led by Bob Russell and Sam Wyatt
Dates: Thursdays 7:00-9:00pm, October 12, 19, 26 and November 9, 16.
Location: CMUC Library
Limit 10 people

The intent is to introduce a variety of meditation practices (including contemplative prayer, which has strong traditional roots in Christianity) to help one to cultivate an inner silence and thereby move from being a victim to a witness.  The Circle is open for people with all levels of experience, from those with none at all to those with a daily practice.
Meditation practice has undergone a wide resurgence of interest as it has become recognized as not simply a luxury suitable for use within cloister walls, but a necessity to people living in a world hungry for the recovery of its spiritual roots.

Cinema Sophia

Led by Tom Little
Dates: Fridays at 7pm, Sept 29th, Oct 13th and 27th, Nov 10th and 24th, Dec 8th. (Winter/Spring dates to be announced.)
Location: CMUC Fireside Room (Oct 27th will be in the Meditation Rm)
Limit: 30 people

More than a film watching group, this is a chance to experience deep and moving (and sometimes fun and funny) films, and then discuss and reflect on them among spiritual community. Sophia is the Greek term for Wisdom. Let this experience deepen your Fall, with the wisdom of art, the wisdom of others, and the wisdom within.

As We Evolve – Congregational Conversation

On March 26th, 2017 we gathered to listen, dream, and envision the future of this growing, evolving congregation. It was a powerful morning. Here is some of what you said. Thanks to Brandon, our Board Chair, for compiling it all.

Results of the Congregational Visioning Exercise, held on March 26, 2017.

76 people turned in forms, so there was lots of data! The wordclouds show key words people used in their answers: the bigger the font, the more frequently the word was used.  I did my best to combine synonymous words or two-word phrases.  Any comments that didn’t easily fit into a one or two-word answer I included in the “Noteworthy” lists.

Thanks everyone on a job well done!
~Brandon

Question 1: What brought you here? What makes the experience of being here different than the other activities in your life?

Noteworthy:

  • Down to earth, not unrealistic theory, practical
  • My son works the projector
  • I don’t always feel comfortable talking about these questions (meaning of life) at my workplace
  • Being here allows me to get out of my head and into my heart, I can cry, laugh, dance freely
  • Church has always been a part of my life
  • I feel that all the hippies that believe in free love, no judgment, no war, have come into this church and become professionals
  • I’m trying to figure out why I cried when I came to church
  • Coming here fills me up
  • My first time! Am looking for a spiritual community – am new to the area, my first church service in years.
  • Every week my heart breaks open again, and I feel love of All That Is.
  • I’m trying to be a better disciple of Jesus, Jesus is rarely mentioned though.
  • I need reminding of my true nature
  • Acceptance that it was okay that I couldn’t believe the myths
  • A service honouring a congregation member finding her older brother
  • A desire to move beyond the past, embrace the new
  • Proselytization is not a value for us.
  • The offer to serve
  • To get involved in being in service, both at the church and in the greater community
  • I can come and no one is going to put me on a committee, but I am welcome.
  • Vancouver Courier article
  • I was looking for a church that had moved past a “Sunday school” faith
  • If you had an idea about something you could realize it here, ministry by anyone at any time
  • Disappointed that Taise and Environmental Ministry and workshops aren’t led any more

Is this a place where you would invite your friends? Why or why not?

Noteworthy:

  • Most said yes
  • My friends are not often amenable because of the idea of church, don’t feel comfortable evangelizing
  • I wouldn’t normally invite friends, but I think they would like today’s event
  • I love that there is no proselytizing or pressure to believe something specific to be welcomed here or experience God.
  • I cannot think most of my friends would come here, they’re non-believers
  • I talk about my experience and see if they would like to come
  • I’m uncomfortable sharing church stuff with others, but “spiritual” is a different matter
  • I think it’s very different from what people imagine church to be
  • We talk about it all the time
  • I’m not sure my friends would appreciate the shouting and whistling and dancing in the aisle
  • I would invite friends, but I don’t have many who would appreciate what a church can offer or that it can be different than what they grew up with, that they can come and be exactly where they are!
  • Many people are anti-Christian, what’s different here is I have a community.
  • I think special topic speakers are a way to invite friends

Question 2: What helps you connect deeply with Spirit and Community? How is Canadian Memorial nurturing your connection to Spirit? What does Canadian Memorial do best to support your spiritual growth?

Noteworthy:

  • Makes me look at things I thought I knew, moves me out of my comfort zone.
  • We are open to all genders
  • I know I am not alone in my loneliness and longings. CMUC is one of my spiritual homes where I am ok
  • Joyful connections in one-to-one interactions, allows me to experience and express the dark things as well as the beauty
  • Nicean Creed limitations not imposed, a non-creed focused faith
  • Keep going with your current plan
  • Taking risks to open myself to others, so worth it!
  • Lots of opportunities for community work, volunteering, connection circles. Room for all.
  • Feeling that I matter and am known to the congregation
  • I feel the spirit move in me when I am helping others. Serving on different committees and working with other members of the congregation fills my soul with joy and love.
  • Sometimes I find the music too loud, and doesn’t use inclusive language, e.g. could not the word “lord” be changed to “love”
  • Lots of opportunities to interact with people and ideas and activities
  • No one frowns when I SING!
  • An incredibly welcoming community that actively reaches out to people they don’t recognize (and remember me the next week)
  • Not enough spirit here, as there is more focus on outreach (which I also like, but am looking for more balance)
  • I didn’t know about connection circles until today
  • Lord’s prayer should stay the same, no need to phrase it, meaning is the same!
  • I wish Christ were mentioned more often
  • Try some southern gospel, slower and sweet
  • Some guest speakers are good, others not so.
  • I could use more silence or an opportunity for silence
  • Offering of various workshops led by the lay people and connection circles
  • Having my son want to come to this church is a real blessing
  • The number 1 thing here are Beth’s sermons
  • I would like CMUC to offer evening Bible study (x3)
  • There are a lot of incredibly interesting people here at Canadian Memorial! Connecting with them socially outside of CMUC has been a big part of growing my community and learning from them (books recommended, engaging conversations about spirituality, etc)
  • Love the dine-out-CMUC lent theme
  • Quiet time with others, doing things with others
  • CMUC has improved my health, visits to the doctor have decreased
  • I love programming and opportunities to bring our spiritual gifts this is SO key to a joyful community
  • I’d like something meatier theologically speaking – a series like Brian Swimme “Powers of the Universe”
  • Being allowed to lead a discussion or start a group allows for spiritual growth
  • Can provide information on programs online

Question 3: How do you see Canadian Memorial making a God-filled difference in the world? How is this community being called to live in the world today?

Noteworthy:

  • Feeding people who are emotionally and physically and spiritually hungry
  • We’re being called to stand up and lovingly assert the right for all humans/nature life forms to be treated caringly and with respect
  • To be active with others in our local community to change poverty and loneliness
  • Luring people in with heart-stirring music and words, opening to the possibility of worship and spirituality
  • We are standing up to the indifference in the world. We have many in our community that take positions because of their beliefs, I am proud to be a part of this.
  • In today’s boundary-less world it is essential for a Christian group to take a stance
  • Working/looking outside the usual box of Christianity
  • Wiliam J Barber, Chairman NAACP, leader in ‘Moral Mondays’ movement
  • Softening the rigidity of the ‘old’ church and accommodating the things we know compared to what the average person knew 2000 or even 200 years ago.
  • Make the MPs be accountable, get more involved, let them know what we expect
  • By offering LYSG to help members of the congregation identify their spiritual gifts and how they are called to use them
  • Deepen our connection to the holy then reflect that in the world
  • To encourage others to offer, share their skill and talents
  • It helps people live better lives, and the world needs many such organizations
  • Seeing the world as God sees the world
  • Helping build a supporting community who can hold each other up
  • Interested to see more invitations to serve in ways that will help me learn/transform (in addition to the smaller things like making soup or bringing supplies for First United)
  • Supporting upcoming ministers who express ministry in new ways
  • The church needs more of this ‘adult’ version of Jesus teachings
  • We are called to take part in activities that care for the lonely, the loveless, the victims, the sick, the poor, the prisoners
  • Find our Sprit Given Gifts
  • It’s good to widen the circle, which makes the goals more achievable and less labour intensive
  • Important to find opportunities to come together and have fun: potlucks, dance
  • Provide creative ideas for individuals to reach out without having to join a group
  • Could we be giving more to Mission & Service? (x2)
  • What ‘dark corners’ could we be serving in? Hungry school children? Domestic violence? Drug addiction?
  • Is there a potential for partnership with first nations?
  • To make a difference we need to be filled and in touch with what we each offer. I see that desire in much of the leadership, perhaps there are new ways of doing that?
  • Willing to address the issues Jesus addressed
  • People bring their inspiration out into their families and workplaces
  • CMUC has an important message for those who are turning away from religion. A great place for agnostics
  • We are all an expression of God and an icon of God
  • I feel more and more comfortable to talk about church to the “outside” world
  • I feel like this community would be welcoming of any social justice initiatives that I initiate.
  • Nice balance here for opportunities to develop an internal spirituality and opportunities to reach out and make a difference in our community
  • Maybe we need to get small homes, like mini community with affordable homes for everybody, need to work with the government to make this work.
  • How do we truly engage newcomers more quickly?
  • By supporting the growth and even birth or rebirth of people’s spiritual gifts
  • From everything I’ve heard, the church is doing a wonderful job
  • What gifts to do we have that can be nurtured and shared first with and through this community, then taken as a light out into the world?
  • I love Beth’s commissioning: “Go in Love to Serve the World!”
  • Faith without action is incomplete

Question 4: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Ministry team and Board of Directors for their upcoming visioning session?

Noteworthy:

  • Need more reminders to people of the circle groups and new, controversial speakers
  • On the side door (SW) of the church, need an inside and outside push switch for people with handicaps
  • I love it when Beth says she is a minister among ministers
  • I hope to hear the results of the visioning sessions (x3)
  • I wish we said the UC’s New Creed more often
  • Is there a soup kitchen or possibly a lunch program?
  • I wish programs were communicated better – How do I join? How do I start something? How are priorities about funding decided? What training is available?
  • Wish there was more quiet in the service (x7) e.g. less rock & roll!; more traditional, less gospel music; I want more ritual; please dissuade people from applause and catcalling
  • Alternative services, eg Jazz Vespers, Celtic Vespers, Taise can be an entry point into church
  • Thankful we’re called to take risks, would be great to see a video highlighting this: work of the people, speakers from other faiths, exercise today
  • Thank you for opening these discussions, doing great work, keep the creativity coming
  • More diversity, we’re almost all white (x2)
  • Deeply reassuring not to have to leave my brains at the door
  • I liked talking to other attendees, thanks!
  • Radical hospitality, Dine Out was great
  • The secret is openness: acceptance, tolerance, inclusion, inspiration
  • Thank you for the focus on what is important today, for welcoming everyone as Jesus did
  • Can we do more to teach meditation outside of Sunday?
  • Children’s Church: my son is 5 now and has a lot of questions about spirituality, faith, and bible stories. I would like to see Sunday school for school-age children involve more than just play but spiritual education. I would be willing to volunteer, love Danica and don’t want her to burn out, I feel parent participation is really important.
  • I’d like to see 2 more windows, for NWT and Nunavut, since these aren’t represented now. Maybe for Canada 150? Also, where are signed pictures of King & Queen, given to church when it opened?
  • Please plan an active response to Kinder Morgan
  • Need to work on engaging newcomers
  • When I came I was ill and worried about passing away, now I’m no longer obsessed about my life or death
  • Time for passing the peace seems to be excessive (x2)
  • Are we ready for Bruce to come back and do a guest sermon? Would be great.
  • The flow seems broken in the “new” service format, less depth, unnatural and stiff, trying to please a particular group?
  • How can we be a God-filled community if we don’t talk about Jesus or God?
  • Website suggestion: have a tab specifically for someone who is searching for a community to join. Include activities for different audiences, where one might meet others who have similar interests
  • Enjoyed today’s service, and the new ideas and guest preachers we have been experiencing
  • Great idea to invite congregational feedback within the context of a worship service (x 4)
  • Is the congregation allowed or supposed to sing the introit?
  • Don’t apologize for being Christian. We have a story, let’s hear it!
  • Could more be done with first nations? Perhaps more outreach to these people, ask elders from local nations to speak?

If you have other comments, you are welcome to contact Brandon Walker, our board chair, at: chair (at) canadianmemorial.org.

Fall 2016 Connection Circles

Fall 2016 Connection Circles are starting!

Connection Circles are an opportunity to deepen relationships with other members of CMUC through a shared interest. Registration sheets are in the main church office. This year they include:

Sacred Wounds – Led by Gwen Dirks

A 4 session creative exploration into your faith of origin story. Looking into the source of religious trauma and injuries experienced that have affected our relationship to God and each other. Opening to the healing process of our heart, body and mind using collage or any other form of right brained activity (journaling, poetry, prose, playing music, visual art – any creative means you want to choose) to tell our stories and our healing to ourselves and each other.

Dates: Saturday mornings, 9:30-noon. Sept 24th, Oct 8th, Oct 29th, Nov 19th.

Meeting in the CMUC Sanctuary (with an alternative location TBD for Oct 8th)

Keeping Our Hearts Open in Hell – Led by Toni Pieroni and Bob Russell 

The past several months has been a challenging time in the world, with what has felt to be an increase in difficult and traumatizing events, e.g., the shootings in Orlando, the attack in Nice, racial violence in the U.S., the U.S. Presidential election, and closer to home, environmental issues regarding pipelines, the Site C dam, etc. It is natural to feel fearful and overwhelmed.

Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The bells of mindfulness are calling out to us, trying to wake us up, reminding us to look deeply at our impact on the planet.” As Christians, how do we respond to these events? What are the practices that deepen us into God’s love for the world as embodied in Jesus? Please join us in this circle to share our feelings about world events and learn practices from various wisdom traditions to transform our responses in a way that contribute to the healing of our world.

Dates: Wednesday evenings, 7pm. Oct 19th, Oct 26th, Nov 2nd, Nov 16th, Nov 23rd, Nov 30th

Meeting in the CMUC Fireside Room.

Dying, Death, and all that Denial – Led by Steven Chambers 

There are times when we need to think about all of it – living, dying, grieving – even in a culture that doesn’t much want to. Join Steven Chambers for a 4-week circle of reflection and discussion on death, how we meaningfully think about it, prepare for it and talk about it in a community of care. 

Dates: 4 Mondays, Oct 24th, Nov 7th, Nov 21st, and Dec 5th. 7pm.

Meeting in the CMUC Fireside Room.

Parenting Connection Circle – Led by Dana MacDonald

How do we want to raise our kids? As a family connection circle we will consider together how to increase our children’s awareness of social justice and environmental issues through a Christian lens. We will be selecting either a book or articles to anchor our meetings (to be determined).

Dates: 6 Thursday evenings, Oct 13th to Nov 17th, 7:30-9pm.

Meeting in the Centre for Peace (either the Library or the Meditation Room depending on availability – check the sign at the bottom of the stairs when you arrive)

Cinema Sophia – Led by Tom Little

Sign-up for this connection circle will be open starting at our Fall Kick-Off Sunday on Sept 18th.

Date: Every second Monday, starting Oct 3rd. 7pm.

Meeting in the CMUC Fireside Room.