Our Purpose and Mission Statement

Working to build God's dream. Help wanted!

We the people of Glen Rhodes United Church, are determined that our life together will be fully inclusive for people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, differing abilities, ethnic origins and economic circumstances. Therefore, we hope that God will work in us so that we will be a sensitive congregation, willing to share our faith and gifts in language and worship, in the life and work of our church and wherever God calls us to do justice in the wider community, with compassion, fun and laughter

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sermon Nov. 27/2011 - Signs of Hope Jong Bok Kim

Signs of Hope

Isaiah 64: 1-9; Mark 13: 24-37

Jong Bok Kim at Glen Rhodes United, Nov. 27, 2011

God of Hope, you lead us from fear and despair into your land of promise.  In this Advent season, we turn to you for hope in the midst of our challenges.  As we remember the birth of the child Jesus and prepare in hope for the coming of Christ among us, we commit our lives anew to working with you for peace on earth. Amen.

Last Sunday, thousands turned out to welcome Santa Claus in downtown Toronto.  It was “Occupy Toronto” of a festive sort, as thousands of Santa fans of all ages took over the downtown streets. This, Canada’s largest Santa Claus Parade, always signals the beginning of the secular holiday season in our city. 

Well, as Christians, we start this season differently.  For us, this is the season of Advent, a time of preparation for Christ’s coming—both in remembrance of the birth of the child Jesus and in expectation of the coming of Christ among us.  For us, it is hard to imagine the Christmas season without the celebration of Advent. On each of the four Sundays of Advent, we focus on a different aspect of our personal and communal preparation for Christmas. The theme for the first Sunday in Advent is hope.

It has been said that hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all; as long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.  Today’s passages from Isaiah and Mark tell us that this is the case.

A time of national chaos frames the prophecy in Isaiah. The temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed and many of the people of Judah taken into exile in Babylon. The prophet appeals directly to God to come down and save the people. Calamity has come because the people have turned from God’s way. Yet, the prophet reminds them, God is the creator. God has awesome power, and has done great deeds in the past. God is their only hope.

The Gospel of Mark was written at a time when the young Christian communities were undergoing persecution, probably between 65 and 75 of the Christian Era. The Jerusalem temple was destroyed in the year 70, CE, and there was great suffering at the hands of the Romans at this time. Mark reminds these first readers of the gospel, and us, that God is very near. We must keep awake for we do not know when God will come to save us.

Last Wednesday morning, I attended the East End Mission Developer Steering Team meeting.  As you may know, the East End project was initiated by the Presbytery a few years ago to support the ministries of the eleven United Church congregations in this neighbourhood.  At the meeting there was a brief report of how the eleven congregations were doing these days: Dentonia Park United has sold its building and is moving to Hope United.  Beach United is moving out of its building for a year while renovations take place.  Cosburn United and Presteign Woodbine United have relatively new ministers and are redefining what it means to be church in their communities.  Three are in the midst of JNAC processes.  Three are facing significant financial and attendance problems.  The conclusion was: none of the congregations is in good shape.  It sounded hopeless.  

On the other hand, also last week, I was so pleased when I opened an envelope containing the result of our congregation’s responses to the United Church Identity Survey which was conducted last May.  The overall results are now available on the United Church website.  A total of close to 7,500 people from the 22o pastoral charges across Canada participated in the survey, the largest in United Church history.  The average response rate is 36%.  Guess our response rate.  Twenty-four of us did it.  It means ours is almost double the average.  Congratulations! 

The purpose of the research was to build a portrait of our identity, values, and beliefs as the people of The United Church of Canada. The survey result will help to set the stage for planning, priority setting, and decision-making for the 41st General Council in August 2012. 

Let me share with you some of the findings from this survey.  We United Church people are deeply committed to our church and to our faith.  We are engaged and committed.  Although we are not evangelists in the sense that we try to increase our numbers by “converting” people, surprisingly two-thirds report that we have talked about our faith to a non-churchgoer!  We say that attending worship services and making financial gifts are fundamental to our faith.  We all put a high value on a church that is welcoming and supportive, where faith is translated into action, and where belief is not a matter of dogma but rather a journey of questioning, debate, doubt, and ongoing discovery.

Moreover, there is significant attachment to the denomination itself—as well as hopefulness about what the church and its people might be able to accomplish in the world. When asked about our views on renewal of The United Church of Canada in the 21st century, most opt for a prophetic role for the national church.

What to make of the age of United Church people? Many of us may be older, but we are in the full bloom of mature adulthood. We are at a point in our lives when we are able to truly step outside ourselves and attend to the needs of others - in other words, actively live out that commitment to community and social justice that is so central to our faith.  In short, we represent a “community of broken but hopeful believers...a church with a purpose,” as our Song of Faith puts it. 

The survey results strongly suggest that there is hope within ourselves as a church.  Here is a little piece of good news.  At the East End Mission Developer Steering Team meeting, I was surprised that our Food Bank programme was not widely known to other neighbouring congregations.  For example, Cosburn United has always sent their White Gifts to an agency in the west, not knowing ours at all.  I was pleased when the Rev. Linda Petrides, their minister, a member of the Steering Team, promised to support our programme, by collecting food items we need and passing their White Gifts on to us starting this year.  I have already sent her information about our programmes including the Drop-in and Community Dinner.  Indeed, there is hope when we work together as church.

Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, writes: “Hope means more than just hanging on. It is the conscious decision to see the world in a different way than most others see it. To hope is to look through the eyes of faith to a future not determined by the oppressive circumstances of the present. To hope is to know that the present reality will not have the last word. It is to know that God rules.” 

We are called to be ready at all times to live out this hope, filled with expectancy for its fulfillment.  Advent is about waiting and preparing with hope. The people of Israel waited with hope for the birth of the promised Messiah and the coming of justice and peace among them. Today we still wait and work for this promised peace on earth with expectancy and hope.  Sharing the bread and wine today, let us celebrate our hope for Christ’s coming among us.  Amen.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Concert and Silent Auction

A Sunday Afternoon Concert
A Collection of Christmas Carols & Love Songs

Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 2:00pm
Glen Rhodes United Church
1470 Gerrard Street East

Silent Auction & Refreshments
$20 (or pay what you can)
All are Welcome

A small selection of the many baskets in the silent auction.
Silent Auction Baskets...
       A basket is a wonderful gift!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sermon November 20, 2011

Michelangelo’s Last Judgment

Matthew 25: 31- 46

Jong Bok Kim at Glen Rhodes United, Nov. 20, 2011

Reign in our hearts, O God, and shape us as your people. Help us to celebrate all the ways you reveal Christ to us – through our giving, receiving, serving, witness and worship.  Amen.

 Today is Reign of Christ Sunday.  Christians in general observe it on the Sunday prior to Advent.  The church year starts on the first Sunday of Advent.  This means today is the last Sunday of the whole church year.  We celebrate our hope of the final rule of our Christ on the last Sunday of our calendar.  So, today’s lectionary readings provide an opportunity to explore what it means to live as members of God’s realm and to explore the new images of kingship and leadership that Jesus modelled.

From Matthew, we have just read what is commonly called the parable of the last judgment.  Most of us have heard the story of the separation of the sheep and the goats interpreted as to whether we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and so forth.  This story, however, brings to mind the stern sword-wielding image of Christ separating those on the right who are floating upward into rosy clouds from those on the left who are being dragged down by horrifying demons into all kinds of horrible torture.  Such images remind me of some medieval paintings I have seen. 

While preparing this sermon,  I ‘googled’ the words, “last judgment.”  Numerous relevant websites came up in a second; my attention was drawn by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Through its own website, the Vatican museum provides a view of the whole colourful picture of this magnificent masterpiece along with comments.  Some of you may have seen it personally if you have visited the Sistine Chapel, but I have never been there.

I spent some time looking at this vivid masterpiece. I was struck by two things: the nudity and the particularity.  By particularity I mean that the moment of the last judgment is portrayed in great detail.  If you read today’s passage from Matthew, you do not need any further explanation to understand this masterpiece.  Every detail in this picture speaks for itself.  The muscular white man in the centre must be Christ who raises his right hand high as if in the moment of pronouncing the verdict.  Next to Christ is a woman who turns her head in resignation waiting for his judgment.  All the saints and angels surround Christ in varied lively postures, but all looking anxious to hear the verdict.  At the bottom there are many grotesque demons and devils who prod the damned in their fall to hell.

By nudity I mean that most of the figures in this picture, whether men or women, are almost naked. I was not alone in being startled by this nudity. According to the commentary from the Vatican museum, this masterpiece, painted nearly five hundred years ago, caused violent reactions among Michelangelo’s contemporaries. For example, a commentator said that "It was most dishonest in such an honoured place to have painted so many nude figures who so dishonestly show their shame and that it was not a work for a Chapel of the Pope but for stoves and taverns."  The controversies continued for years.  Almost two decades after this masterpiece was completed, the Congregation of the Council of Trent decided to have some of the figures in the Last Judgment which were considered "obscene" covered. The task of painting the covering drapery, in fact, continued into the following centuries.

I am not a critic of art.  However, it seems to me that the nudity is one of the key images Michelangelo wanted to present to us in this masterpiece.  He was a genius.  This genius reminds us that we will become completely naked, totally vulnerable, in the final day of judgement.  Not one of us will survive that judgment, if we are to be judged only by what we have done in life.  How can we possibly feed all the hungry, give water to all the thirsty, clothe all the naked, take care of all the sick, and visit all the prisoners whom we have met throughout our life.  It would be too much.  It is an impossible demand.  All of us would have to look forward to the end with stark horror.  Who among us, no matter how moral or religious, would not be counted among the wicked for our failure to obey this too demanding command?

I am reminded of the book, “St. Augustine’s Confession.”  I was curious about the real life of this saint.  I had thought that his life would be quite a different one from that of ordinary people like me: surely his life must have been full of piety and integrity.  On the contrary! It was quite the opposite.  His life was not different at all from ours: his life was full of anxiety, regret, greed and jealousy.  He even admitted that he had had a mistress for years and abandoned her in the end, seeking success in his career.  If we were to take what Matthew says literally, we would have to find St. Augustine at the very bottom of Michelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgment.

After reading his book, I asked myself, “What made him a saint anyway?”  My conclusion was that it was his courage in disclosing himself to others as he was.  He chose to take off all his wrappings and be naked and vulnerable. He wrote his book when he was at the highest point of accomplishment in his life.  Everybody looked up to him as an archbishop.  He had great power as a religious authority in those days, but he was willing to talk honestly about himself.  He was courageous enough to humble himself as a vulnerable human being.  I believe that such courage must have come from his strong faith in Jesus Christ who spent his whole earthly life as a friend with the poor, not with people in power.  For me, it was Augustine’s faithfulness that made him a saint. 

If we are to think biblically about the future of the world, we have to get rid of such pagan mythology as pictured in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.  Rather, we have to think in quite a different way about what is going to happen on the judgment day.  The whole picture changes as soon as we remember who the judge will be: not a vengeful or even unbiased “blind” judge, but Christ himself!  The one who will judge sinners is the very one who loved and devoted his life to them.  The judge who stands at the end is none other than the compassionate one who cares for sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, widows and children. 

A week ago, I was deeply touched by a documentary movie, “War in the Mind,” aired on TVO on the night of Remembrance Day.  It was about the stories of Canadian soldiers and their families who are affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This hour-long film documented the struggles and battles they face against this disabling and destructive disorder which remains under-acknowledged by the Canadian military.  This movie is still available to watch through the TVO website. 

There were so many real heart-breaking stories in this documentary.  However, the story of Senator and retired General, Romeo Dallaire, touched me deeply.  It is well known that he himself suffered from PTSD after serving as commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1993 when the Genocide took place.  From the beginning to the end, he sat in front of the cameras as one of the victims of this mental illness as well as a champion of its recognition and fair treatment. 

There has been a strong stigma against those who suffer PTSD: “They are mentally weak; they are substance abusers; it is their problem.”  Against such stigma, this once highest ranking military officer chose to be vulnerable.  When he talked about his own suicide attempt, following the horror of the Rwandan Genocide, it was as if he took off all his decorations and became naked in front of the camera. 

According to this film, 58,000 US soldiers died in combat in the Viet Nam War.  In contrast, 102,000 Viet Nam War veterans have died by suicide since.  Twenty-four U.K. soldiers died in combat in the Gulf War; 107 Gulf War veterans have died by suicide since.  On the other hand, in Canada, no government statistics are yet available for suicides following past missions.  Senator Dallaire is campaigning to remove the secrecy which surrounds the issue, willing to be vulnerable.  I admire his leadership and courage in doing so.

As a congregation, we have worked together in an Intentional Interim Ministry since I came here last year.  The primary purpose of this Interim Ministry is to prepare ourselves to begin a faith journey anew with the calling of a new minister.  Our transitional work has been going well so far and will reach the highest point when we call a new minister next Spring.  Early this month, our Joint Needs Assessment Committee (JNAC) report was accepted by the Presbytery and a vacancy has been declared.  So, today, we celebrated the disbanding of our JNAC, thanking them for their hard work.

Our Joint Search Committee began their work early last week and finalized an advertisement for the United Church Observer.  Now, we are looking forward to the next step -  receiving applications and interviewing the shortlisted candidates early next year.  On this Reign of Christ Sunday, it is appropriate to reflect on the kind of leadership we need.  It is time to explore leadership questions for the interview and be ready to ask the applicants good questions about their understanding of church leadership.  May God guide us and bless us on this journey.   Amen.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Homily, November 13, 2011



The talent as money at the time of Jesus was about $1000 or 15 years of wages for a labourer. Like large bills today people rarely saw them. This was the treasure entrusted to slaves that the master made and in typical exaggerated parable fashion it seems like he is giving over his fortune to his staff. Do you think anyone would really do it except for some banks recently that trusted other peoples money with a lonely trader making wildly speculative trades. We are unlikely to see that again soon. The point Matthew is stressing here is of generous, sharing boss who trusts others to look after his fortune. But the parable of the talents is really not about money just as the parable of the bridesmaids last week was about weddings. This story is a parable about the realm, the kingdom of God.

God created us with gifts of Gods self and trusted that we in our freedom would be aware of those gifts and use them. Tom Harper said of this parable in his book Water into Wine “…as we awaken to the truly amazing God given treasure we have been granted stewardship over, there is a debt of gratitude that swells up in our innermost being and we want to do our utmost to make the gift count”. P.157 This is what the parable of the talents is all about. The tragedy of the 3rd slave was not that he had little to invest compared with the others. He was frightened and hesitant and that caused him to go and bury the money. That is often what happened in life we bury our hopes and aspirations and settle for far less. We often deny any divinity inside ourselves yet this is the constant theme of Jesus’s parables. If you have yes to see you can see the kingdom of God around you. You are mystery, we are given the gift of God’s sight and as Helen Keller found you don’t have to see or hear but you can discover that inner gift. Part of prayer of Richard of Chichester read:

Dear Lord Three things I pray
   To see thee more clearly
   To love thee more dearly
   And follow you more nearly day by day

Unfortunately lots of people today claim they have a direct line to God and spread hate and violence but then there were plenty of religious extremists in Matthews day also but this is a parable about the abundance of God. There is a way of burying your true self in the false extremism as well as in apathy, fear and lack of trust.

When we bury our true selves deep down and cast ourselves out into the cruelty and suffering of the world we are like the slave who buried his one talent. His is the faith of living unawares of the abundant grace of God.

2. The other slaves seemed to know that reason the master gave them the stewardship of his resources was to invest them and trade them and have them double in value. Again Tom Harper commented on this parable saying that “ rather than a me in my small corner spiritualty we must seek one who is engaged with others for others…we have been given the task, and the responsibility for building the kingdom of God on earth … that is fully in our hands.”p157 When we dig deep and find our true selves the one created by God we find the joy of our master.

American surveys say that 2/3 of the occupy movement are under 34. Andrew Rawsnley in a column in the Observer a British Paper commented that the “protesters strike a resounding chord when they complain that financial elites are getting rewarded with special treatment while punishment for their mistakes is meted out to the rest of society.” He ended his column with this comment “Protesters or leaders? I know who looks more grown up.” Some say the young people are wasting their time- well our conscience is often wasting its time on us or is it- in our digging for the spirit of God within we will locate compassion, solidarity, energy for caring for the earth. These stores of the bible are meant to empower us to go out into our world with confidence and a loving heart able to use are ego not to rule our lives but to protect them and keep us knowing how precious we are in God’s sight.

That is how Deborah was able to call her general and go to war against a greater enemy. She knew the promise of God and that is yet another gift of the spirit of God inside us and that is courage. When we say the vignettes of Church history last week so well presented we remembered the courage of many who needed and received courage for the task that was at hand, That is how our faith came to us by courageous women and man who kept the tradition and began the works of compassion and care and prayer in troubled times.

The thing is that if we can dig out this gift of love God has planted in us we will become the most joyous, generous, daring, peaceful and justice filled people we can be, and unafraid to invest ourselves and extend the realm of God in our place and time. Next week is the reign of Christ Sunday when we celebrate the gift of Jesus lamb and shepherd to the world and after that we move into the advent season.

A good time to discover our true selves made in the image of our creator, made for love, made for others, made for finding our way back to God.

Help us find compassion and caring within both for ourselves and others. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Saviour Amen

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Anniversary Presentation: November 6, 2011

Glen Rhodes then, now and in the future.  

In an effort to make our church history come alive, we are going to present a series of snapshots of the history we share with our forebears in tabloid format.  Here comes the first report now!

Dateline: Pentecost, year 30, Jerusalem
Headline: “Followers of Jesus Full of Wind”
Crowds of tourists, in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost, witnessed an astonishing sight yesterday, a simple fishermen spoke to them in their native languages. “We were sitting together in this Upper Room,” one disciple said, “when suddenly there was this tremendous roaring sound of wind.  After the wind, it seemed as if tongues of flame settled on our heads.”  “It was weird,” said another.  “We were sitting there looking like giant birthday candles.  Then we found we could speak different languages, so we rushed out and started talking to people.”  Others, however, had different explanations.  “Maybe they’d all taken very fast linguistic courses,” suggested one onlooker, while another  believed that they might be all drunk.

Dateline: March 7, year 202, Rome
Headline: “Martyrs Lionized”
Two women, Perpetua (22) and Felicitas(16), were killed in Caesar’s Coliseum.  They were sentenced to death today after being fingered as Christians by Perpetua’s father, a devout worshipper of Astarte. When the lions were let loose, Felicitas sang a psalm until a wild bear clawed her.  “They just seemed too confident,” said one spectator, “death didn’t matter to them for some reason.”  The manager of the Coliseum wasn’t available for comment.  Apparently he was off looking for a soldier in his employ called Pudens.  It seemed that Pudens had been converted to Christianity by Felicitas just as she was dying.

Dateline: Summer, year 313, Milan
Headline: “Milan’s Newest Fashion is an Edict”
Roman Emperors, Lecinias and Constantine, have jointly declared Christianity acceptable and welcome in the Roman Empire.  Christians are to be persecuted no longer.  Having met in Milan, they call their new decree the “Edict of Milan.”  “So who are we supposed to find for the Coliseum’s wild animals to kill?” grumbled a discontented official, who refused to be named.  “Now that we are all supposed to be Christians,” commented another Coliseum official, “We’re allowed to throw pagans, Christian heretics, and Jews to the wild beasts.  Good for economy, I tell you!”  No Jewish rabbis, followers of Astarte or Arian Christians were available for comment.

Dateline: 1054, Rome and Constantinople
Headline: “Church Has Splitting Headache”
The heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church exchanged anathemas this year.  This means that, after 300 years of fighting, the Christian Church is split in two.  “I think they were out-Clast!” said one Roman bishop of the Iconoclast party when referring to the debate over the use of Icons in worship. “I think they’ve got rocks in their heads!” responded another bishop in Constantinople, referring to the idea that only the Roman popes gain ultimate authority through direct succession from the Apostle Peter whose name comes from the word “rock” in Hebrew.

Dateline: October 31, 1519, Wittenberg
Headline: “Luther Nailed” 
Martin Luther, a priest-monk upset with the growing corruption within the church, nailed 95 statements, called Theses, to the front door of the Wittenberg Cathedral.  In part, Luther’s Theses, protest against the practice of selling indulgences.  “Kind of funny, if you ask me,” commented Mike, a family friend.  “I mean, Luther comes from a wealthy family, so all he has to do is buy enough indulgences to get into heaven.  What’s the problem?”  In his own defense Luther stated, “Some people think, ‘God helps those who help themselves,’ but God helps everyone, rich or poor.  Forgiveness is by God’s grace, not because of our good works.” 

Newsflash: Dateline: 1611, England
This just in: The first authorized English version of the Bible has just been published by approval of King James and will be formally called the King James Version.  An official in the royal publishing house stated that they even had a young playwright by the name of Shakespeare working on it.  “I hear he’s doing rather well up in Stratford-on-Avon with his plays--nothing timeless, mind you, just popular stuff for the great unwashed public.”

Dateline: June 10, 1925, Toronto
Headline: “United Alternative Formed”
In a bold move, three major Christian denominations, the Methodist Church, the Congregational Union, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada, reformed themselves into one denomination at a packed worship service in the Mutual Street Arena.  By an act of the Canadian Parliament and formally covenanted at this worship service, the new church is to be called The United Church of Canada.  Rev. William Patrick stated that, “The combined experience of the three churches in the United Church will produce a nobler model for Christianity.” “It’ll never last!” declared one coffee shop patron, “When you start using new-fangled technology, like those loudspeakers used at that Union service, you’re turning away from the tried and true.  It isn’t the way we’ve always done things.  What’s the world coming to?” 

Dateline: November 6, 1936, Moose Jaw
Headline: “She’s Rev’ed Up”
Today, in a revolutionary act at St. Andrew’s Church in Moose Jaw, Lydia Gruchy became the first woman ordained in The United Church of Canada.  In 1934 a remit had been sent out to all Presbyteries, asking them if they approved of such an action.  Seventy-nine said “yes,” and 26 said “no.”  Still disagreeing with the ordination of women, one man grumbled, “How is she going to do the work of a minister when she still has all the housework to do?  Can’t she just marry a minister and be a good help to him?”  One commissioner to the General Council of 1934, remembering Lydia’s extremely heavy work-load for the Home Mission Board in rural Saskatchewan commented, “I doubt you’d find many men willing to carry the load she carries!”

Dateline: November, 1984, East End of Toronto
Headline: “Glenmont and Rhodes Avenue Become One”
Rhodes Avenue United Church originally, Rhodes Avenue Presbyterian Church, began in 1906 as a mission outpost sponsored by Bloor Street Presbyterian Church. Initially meeting in a tent, the congregation began work on the present building in 1926, and the sanctuary was dedicated in 1927. The Glen part of the name comes from Glenmount United Church, which began in 1911 as Glenmount Methodist Church several blocks further east. Glenmount and Rhodes Avenue amalgamated in 1984 to form Glen Rhodes United Church. 

It was said that Noel and Imogene Gregg of Glenmount breathed a sigh of relief, thinking with the increase in numbers they would take a break from being on Committees!

The choir was thrilled…two more altos, a tenor and a soprano.  Welcome Beth, Dora, Jackie and Ernie!

The congregation oo’d and awed when little Jennifer and Alistair Wood participated in the service playing duets on their recorders.

In 1991 the congregation of Simpson Avenue United Church, which began in 1899 as Howland Avenue Methodist Church in Riverdale, joined the fold.

The choir was all-agog at the anticipation of having Norm Abbot as Organist and Choir Director and Nelson Oliver with his wonderful humour and remarkable rich bass voice.
It was a good deal recounted Ms Jane Magill of Simpson Avenue.  They got Nelson and Norm and we got Lawrence Pushee!

Today, we have many members who bring with them traditions from each of our founding congregations, and we continue to celebrate those gifts. Like many congregations we celebrate our history and love our story, but we are committed to our witness in the present and our future as a welcoming, inclusive, justice–seeking community of faith.

Dateline: August 1988, Victoria
Headline: “Gay Doesn’t Just Mean ‘Happy’ Any More”
At a General Council meeting of the United Church held here in Victoria, a controversial decision was made “that all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to him are welcome to be or become full members of the church,” and that all members are eligible to be considered for ordered ministry.  Reaction was strong and split.  Said Bernice Wish, “They [gays] claim that they’re 10 per cent of the population, but I don’t believe it.  I’ve lived 66 years, I’ve come in contact with hundreds of people in business, and in all that time I’ve never met a homosexual.”  A woman from the same congregation, who refused to be identified, sighed, “I’ve sat beside her in church for 24 years, but she doesn’t realize that I’m gay.”  Rev. Sharon Moon stated, “We don’t understand homosexuality – There are those of us who don’t understand heterosexuality. We should be prepared to live with a little bit of ambiguity – Let’s trust the Spirit.”  And Glen Rhodes followed that sage advice!

Dateline:  Toronto 1994
It was NOT an overnight decision!  Seeing the concern and mixed feelings over the controversial decision of the United Church, Glen Rhodes launched an 18 month study program developed by Affirm United.  Soon after, Glen Rhodes became an Affirming congregation and in true fashion held a celebration with 250 people in attendance.

Dateline: March 2012, Toronto
Headline: “Glen Rhodes United Have a New Minister!”
At a Congregational Meeting in March 2012, people at Glen Rhodes United unanimously approved its Joint Search Committee’s recommendation of a new minister.  A further motion was passed to remove the bunk beds from the Barbara Christies Room.

And now they are excited to welcome, The Rev Taylor Albright and partner Jessie Bloom along with their 20 children ages 6 to 20.   
In a long list of past experiences, Rev Albright (or Taylor), a former chef, combined culinary skills with a deep passion for social justice in initiating a number of community projects including cooking classes for the less privileged. 

Taylor’s partner Jessie is President and founder of  “Sustainable Architecture Design and Construction”.  The company is dedicated to investing in the community!  It includes opportunities and apprenticeship training to young people in need of support and guidance.  Jessie is hopeful that Glen Rhodes will allow the opportunity to present some renovation plans that will give a better use of space to accommodate the increase in programs and community involvement.  Jessie was quite taken with the sanctuary and the beautifully polished pews.   There was some thought however to possibly bringing in a team to reinforce the balcony which will allow for the extra seating that would be required for Sunday worship!  And after that Taylor stated, we’ll talk about the roof top garden and green house!

Taylor and Jessie’s children have been spending most of their time with Cecily Morgan planning a rally fundraiser and the first of many annual Community Picnics to be held at their country estate.
Rev Taylor was overjoyed at the warmth and generosity of the Glen Rhodes congregation and gave praise to Rev Jong Bok Kim for his wisdom and guidance.

There was much excitement after reviewing the JNAC Report and realizing the great potential starting within and reaching out to such a wonderfully diverse community as described in the Environics report.

Rev Albright was amazed and expressed appreciation for the hard work and major contribution of a small but mighty UCW.  Rumour has it, that Imogene Gregg has accepted a butter tart challenge.  Good luck with that one Taylor!   Eleanor Richardson already seeing the potential for a fundraiser, intends to “sweeten the pot” by bringing in Marg Lennick and Helen Johnson!

A grumpy comment was overheard coming from the direction of the choir. “I just hope this new minister chooses processional hymns familiar to the choir.  Through the laughter, Taylor was able to reassure the choir that since most of the family has played or sang in previous charges, there would be no lack of reminders!  Audrey John and Bob immediately  went to work on designs for the new choir gowns…WITH RAINBOWS??!!    The Albright family had already picked up on the reputation of Glen Rhodes very talented choir Director Gerald Petkau and is looking forward to joining the chorus …AND the parties!

Rev Albright is anxious to get started and will begin by meeting with all committees and members of the Glen Rhodes community in exploring new and creative ways to rebuild the ministry together.
There was however one request before getting down to serious business and that was to see if anyone knew of an old-fashioned style diner that serves Butterscotch Sundaes!

Rev. Jong Bok Kim was quick to respond!!

And so we have heard the challenge of the past.  We have heard the struggles, the passions, and the grace.   We are facing current challenges:  how do we continue to be a Christian voice in national and global affairs, reflecting God’s values of peace, justice, and respect for all peoples in our policies? 

We know that following Christ is difficult, that it requires all we have in unity with the Spirit, and that it challenges us to see God’s goodness in creation.  Let us go forth with that challenge filling our hearts.  Let us answer God’s call to wrestle with our faith.  Let us be open to new understandings of what it means to be human creations, in all our diversity.  Let us do so as the