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, 26 June 2012

Looking Forward to New Ministry Together...

(Editor's Note:  This Sunday we celebrated the end of our two year journey through transition with Rev. Jong Bok Kim.  This is the reflection from the service.  The first part was presented by Marian Stinson, Secretary to the Council and the second by Rev. Jong Bok Kim, Intentional Interim Minister)

Looking Forward to New Ministry Together
Marian Stinson

A few weeks ago Jong Bok asked me to write a report for Presbytery on the work and accomplishments of the interim ministry and he asked me to share some of it with you today.
It’s hard to believe it was less than two years ago that we welcomed Jong Bok and began this mysterious journey together. At the beginning we were uncertain where that journey would lead us, even though we knew our goal was to call a new minister.

And what a journey it’s been! We recruited many of you to serve on committees, discussed and reflected on our history, our mission, our governance structure and the work of our Council. As with any wilderness journey we drank large volumes of liquid - hot tea and coffee, ice tea, juice and ice water – and pondered our past, present and future as a congregation. We discussed our identity, options for growth and the kind of ministry needed in our community and in a changing world.
We prayed and sang hymns, did much soul-searching, we wrote reports and had many thoughtful and moving discussions. When we began this journey with Jong Bok, there had been five different ministers at Glen Rhodes in the previous eight years, and we were struggling with anxiety and a sense of instability, as well as a growing awareness of our fragile financial situation.

During this time Jong Bok encouraged people to take leadership roles in worship. Together we reviewed our governance structure and recommended changes; people responded by coming forward and suggesting ways to strengthen and expand our ministry.
In light of this work, we welcomed a new chair of council this year.  During the interim ministry nine people joined the congregation and we have new voices in the choir. We continue to search for ways to encourage new leadership and are heartened by his optimism about our future.    

The final report of the Joint Needs committee reflected the sense of reconnection with past accomplishments: the successful amalgamations between Glenmount and Rhodes Ave, and Glen Rhodes and Simpson Ave.,  the journey to becoming an affirming congregation and our leadership in the strong United Church presence in the Pride Parade,  our work with the Delta churches, the ongoing work and accomplishments of our food program over almost three decades, and the changes in our congregation and our neighbourhood. We acknowledged that we need to do things differently, recognizing our financial situation and the need to rebuild our ministry. We regained our sense of pride in our journey as a congregation, and important stepping stone to meet the challenges ahead as we look for ways to be a strong presence in our community.
 Our job description for the new minister tried to pull together all the parts of our identity: our need to hear God’s word, and make the connection between what we do and why we do it, our love of music, our passion for social justice, our commitment to pastoral care and Christian education, our need to be inclusive.

We summed up those needs this way:
We need a minister who recognizes and shares largesse of heart; who understands and accepts the many diverse ways in which we express our faith and love for our own community, the larger community and all of God’s creation.

Thus, we are seeking a full-time ordained minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care to help us rebuild our ministry in a time of limited resources. We are very aware that the status quo is not an option and we need to change. We need someone to help us reshape the congregation, reach out to the community and help us build a sustainable outpost of God’s mission to the world. Someone to help us look at how we do church and reach out to a community and world in need of spiritual sustenance.
We look forward to the challenging time ahead. Today we bid farewell to Jong Bok and recognize the end of this journey. Next Sunday we welcome Rev. Robin Wardlaw and look forward to getting to know him as together, we enter this exciting new ministry.

 Reflection: Looking Forward to New Ministry Together
Jong Bok Kim, Glen Rhodes United on Sunday, June 24, 2012

The other day, Wally teased me about my grey hair.  He apologized to me for making my hair much greyer than it was two years ago when I came here.  Well, I took it as a compliment. In fact, I am comfortable with my grey hair.  I grew up in a culture where elderly people were well respected.  Because of the colour of my hair, I likely look much older and more mature than I am; I like to look like a mature person.
These last two years seem to have gone by so quickly.  This is the last Sunday I am going to work with you.  I wish to thank all of you for helping me grow, not only in my appearance, but in my ministry.  When I was appointed as an Intentional Interim Minister by the Presbytery two years ago, I was far from an experienced, eloquent and confident minister.  But, thanks to your wonderful support, I have become much more confident in my ministry and cannot wait for an opportunity to share what I have learned from my wonderful experience of working with you here at Glen Rhodes United.

 One of the best things about interim ministry is that it has a defined end.  The anxiety of change would be unbearable if we did not know it was coming to an end.  You have been able to engage in this interim ministry without the anxiety of its ending because you know you do not have to work with me forever.  On the other hand, I have been able to keep going through the conflicts and challenges in part because I know I cannot work with you forever but must leave at a specific date.  It can be and I hope it has been a blessing for us all.
At last, we have arrived at the end of our interim work. Has it been a blessing for us?  I can say, yes. First of all, you have called a new minister with great expectations of establishing a long term and stable pastoral relationship you have not enjoyed for some time.  Now, you are ready to begin your journey anew with a new minister starting next Sunday.  Congratulations!

Secondly, you have been able to find more support from other neighbouring congregations around your Outreach Programmes.  Cosburn United has begun supporting your Food Bank, enthusiastically donating food items and financial support since last fall.  More volunteers from Kimbourne Park United have joined you in serving the Community Dinners every month.  Now you are working on the restructuring of the whole outreach programme in order to encourage more neighbouring communities to become involved.
Thirdly, you have elected new leaders.  Now you have a new chair of the Council, Ann Temple, a new chair of the Ministry and Personnel Committee, Kathryn MacGregor, and a new Presbytery Rep, Fred Angus.  And you have made a new covenant with the members of the Council before God, pledging that you will honour the leadership of these people and assist them through daily prayer, generous support and personal example to become a faithful church of Jesus Christ

Fourthly, you have enjoyed and developed confidence in leadership in worship services.  The word, ‘liturgy,’ public worship, comes from a Greek word meaning the ‘people’s work.’  Your worship services are supposed to be the work of all the participants, including the sharing of leadership.  Especially, in the reformed church tradition, it is important for each one of you to offer your gifts to the worship.  I hope many of you will be able to find joy and meaning, writing prayers, introducing scripture readings and doing the welcome on your own in the future.
Fifthly, you have regained your ability to care for members who are in need of pastoral care with renewed energy and dedication.  You have sent cards, made phone calls to those who are sick, troubled, lonely or in grief.  You have visited shut-ins or those who are no longer able to come to church and served Communion with me regularly.   Your sense of a closely-knit church family has been restored and strengthened through your efforts to reach out to those needing pastoral care.

 Overall, during the two year interim work, you have been able to transform your feelings of anxiety into enthusiastic hope for the future.  You may take pride in what you have achieved. 
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel presents David as a young man of extraordinary courage and conviction. Yet, the energy of the story comes not from the actions of the hero alone, but from David’s relationship with God. At the heart of the story is God’s faithfulness, God’s presence and God’s unique way of doing things. David responds faithfully to the call of God.

 The story of David and Goliath embodies the hopes of all people – that, when they are faced with overwhelming and evil power, there is a way to overcome that power and win the future. This story has been told and retold especially by the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the powerless — those who do not simply hope for a David but see themselves as David, faced with the giants of oppression and who know that their only hope lies with a living God.
I wonder if you too can picture yourselves as David to face the exciting and challenging time of transition with such extraordinary courage and faith in God.

Yet, your work is not done.  There is much work to do on your journey ahead.  Be assured though, that you are not alone. 
Today is Pride Sunday.  Like David, let us gather five smooth stones of pride, courage and faith in God into our bags and go out to join in the celebration of this Pride Week and join Bob in the parade next Sunday to pave the path for overcoming the Goliaths of homophobia, injustice, prejudice and oppression in this society to walk the way of companionship. 

My prayer for you is that you will also take with you five smooth stones of enthusiasm, compassion, fun and laughter to pave the path for overcoming the Goliaths of fear, pessimism and lack of confidence, to walk the way of God’s mission.  Looking forward to this new ministry together, be assured that God will be with you on your journey today and in the days ahead.  Amen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

“The State of the Church, 2012”

1 Samuel 16: 6-13; Mark 4: 26-32

Jong Bok Kim at Glen Rhodes UC on Sunday, June 17, 2012

 God of seedtime and of harvest, your ways are sure even when they remain matters of hope.  May we prepare our lives for the growth you bring. May we flourish as your children that our lives bloom with love, justice and welcome.  Amen.

Recently many of you have seen cars flying small national flags in the streets of the city.  Euro 2012, the European Soccer Championship, is under way. I am not a great soccer fan.  However, many people in Korea, my native country, are.  Just like the Stanley Cup here in Canada, they are crazy about professional soccer championships, especially when there is a soccer game between Korea and Japan.  Then, the whole nation rocks. 

There is a history behind the fever of soccer games between the two neighbouring countries.  Japan occupied the whole Korean peninsula by military force early in the last century until the end of WWII and, during this illegal occupation, Korean people suffered severely by being forced to take part on Japan’s side in the Pacific War.  Our parent’s generation is still haunted by vivid memories of the brutal occupation and horrible war.  Historically, Korea has been a small and weak country squeezed between two big and powerful countries, China and Japan.  Japan frequently invaded Korea whenever it was preparing to wage war against China.  You may imagine, because of this history, why Korean people love to avenge themselves on Japan by beating them in soccer. 

No matter whether they are Christians or not, Korean people have a clear reason for loving the story of David beating Goliath.  They love today’s story too. Here, David appears for the first time in the Bible. Israel’s first king, Saul, has fallen out of favour with God because of his unfaithfulness. God moves Samuel, the prophet, on to his task - he must choose a new king. So begins a story that God does not choose the obvious leader, not the oldest son, not the strongest of the group. Seven of Jesse’s sons come before Samuel but God keeps saying “No, not this one; keep looking.” God chooses the youngest and the least powerful – the one not even invited in when a significant religious ritual is taking place. All during this ceremony, the youngest is out in the fields, fulfilling his responsibility - caring for the sheep. Yet God chooses him to be the king and thus he is anointed by Samuel. David has been growing in ways that only God has noticed.

The two brief parables in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel picture seeds and growth. The first parable narrates the mystery of agricultural growth that occurs beyond the sight or control of the farmer. In doing so, the parable invites trust in the growth of God’s realm. What may appear dormant is actually flourishing. The second parable uses similar imagery to affirm the greatness that comes out of small beginnings.

The significance of such growth comes more clearly into view when heard in the context of Mark’s community. This group of Jesus’ followers was small and vulnerable. They lived in the tug of war between the “realms” claimed by Rome and Jewish Zealot revolutionaries. On the surface, those two groups commanded the attention of their day. Yet the parables assert that the future is not in the hands of the violent, but in the often unseen hands of God.

I expect you remember that the Forty-First General Council will meet in Ottawa this August.  Much material related to this important triennial church meeting has already been posted on the church website.  We are encouraged particularly to read the document, “The State of the Church 2012.”  This is a report that has been prepared specifically for General Council to give a context for its work. It presents a background for where the United Church is today.  This morning, I would like to share with you part of this document.

The United Church of Canada was created by an Act of Parliament in 1925. It is hard to imagine Parliament getting involved in the creation of a church today. Much of the commentary of United Church leaders in the first few decades had to do with the desire to make Canada a nation that lived by Christian principles. In our increasingly diverse Canadian society, the old assumptions of a common faith background no longer apply.

We are in a time of change not only in the church but also in society. Canada is in an era of rapid growth and urbanization. In contrast, the majority of United Church congregations are located in rural areas and small towns and cities. Canada has the highest rate of growth among the G8 nations; this is mostly due to immigration. In 2006 the proportion of the foreign-born population from Asia and the Middle East (40.8 percent) surpassed the proportion born in Europe (36.8 percent). This population trend underlines the importance of the 39th General Council decision in 2006 to become an intercultural church.

Change can be both painful and exciting. We feel sadness about things that cannot continue, but this is also a time of opportunity. We are free to question assumptions about how things are supposed to be, let go of what once was, and embrace new possibilities and ways of being church that remain faithful to the example of Jesus in our place and time. As a church in Canada today, we have become smaller and more vulnerable, living in the tug of war between commercialism and secularism.  However, we do not believe that the future is in the hands of the Mammon. 

We are part of a movement that began roughly 2,000 years ago, when people were called to leave behind their familiar lives and follow the way that Jesus led. The things that Jesus said and did as he encountered strangers—breaking bread with outcasts, healing the sick—were a great challenge to the religious leaders of his time. Those who seek to follow Jesus, as we do, have invented and reinvented “church” many times over the centuries. We do not always welcome change, but it does give us the opportunity to reshape our structures and our lives, aligning them anew to the core of our faith.

In response to those changes, for example, a New Ministries Fund has been established and funds dispersed to innovative projects, and the United Church Foundation has expanded partnerships with congregations for long-term investment in developing new ministries. EDGE: A Network for Ministry Development has been created by the General Council to support the positive transformation of ministries according to needs felt across the United Church.

Here, I am reminded of the Environics report our Joint Needs Assessment Committee received last year. It was prepared by the Environics research group upon our JNAC’s request.  This report contains much interesting information about our neighbourhood, things like religion, ethnicity, education and occupations, income and marital status in our catchment area.  It presents not just numbers, but offers profound insights based on the analysis of our environment.  I think these are tremendously valuable when we explore possible new ministry options in the future.  The problem is that many of us here may not be trained or prepared professionally to discern all the implications of this report for our future ministry.  Those numbers, the in-depth analysis and intriguing interpretation may seem overwhelming to many of us. 

Recently I was glad to learn that part of the work of EDGE I mentioned earlier is to offer consultations to help individual congregations tackle these kinds of daunting tasks. Today, we celebrate the completion of the work of the Transition and Joint Search Committees.  Even though these committees have been disbanded, our ministry continues to be “reinvented” based on their work.  Now, I wonder if EDGE may well help us absorb the data of the Evironics report to understand better our environment and, as a result, be ready to plant seeds of new ministry around this neighbourhood.

A respected United Church theologian has said that we need to be ready to decrease in order that Christ may increase. We cannot enter this new phase without pain, for we may look back on glory times in this world’s terms. It may seem to many of us a humiliation that we are made to reconsider our destiny as “little flocks,” not unlike Mark’s community in the first century.  Changing times offer opportunity and hope, times to engage in fresh ways and to include new people. The call to journey to places unknown is central to Christian life in all times.

While developing opportunities for future generations in our church to respond to God’s call to mission, the next decisions we make may need to look more deeply and dream with greater imagination in order to plant the seeds the church needs to live faithfully into the 21st century.  Let us join the 41st General Council Commissioners in praying for the guidance of God’s unseen hands in their decision-making. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

“Who Are My Mother, My Sisters and Brothers?”

Mark 3: 20-35

Jong Bok Kim at Glen Rhodes UC on Sunday, June 10, 2012

Often, we place too much impor­tance upon inheritance through family, O God.  We diminish the value of the most essential aspect of our identity—our identity as your children.  May we join Jesus in declaring that whoever does your will is our brother, our sister and our mother.” Amen.

 Early last week, it was reported that pealing church bells, the crack of ceremonial rifle fire and the thunderous din of iconic Royal Air Force fighters could not drown out Britain's deafening cheers as throngs of well-wishers marked the final day of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  The four days of unparalleled pomp and pageantry made it clear the country's affections for the monarchy remain far from depleted.

It was said that many Britons embraced the jubilee spirit — a tribute to a monarch whose popularity cuts across all ages, social classes and political affiliations.  In a jubilee gift from Britain's politicians, for instance, lawmakers from the three main parties have backed a motion calling for the Clock Tower housing Big Ben — the beloved London bell that chimes the quarter hour — to be renamed in the queen's honour: the Elizabeth Tower.

But not everyone in Britain was celebrating. The anti-monarchist group Republic made a riverbank protest as the flotilla went by on Sunday, followed by a pub night where royal refuseniks drowned their sorrows. With pictures of the monarch splashed across newspaper front pages, the left-leaning Guardian provided a button on its website that removed all jubilee stories.

Well, obviously, during her six-decade-long reign, the Queen could not make everyone happy.  According to today’s passage from Mark, this is the case for Jesus.  During his miraculous healing and teaching ministry, he cannot make everyone happy.  Even worse, his own family members are not happy, not to mention all the political and religious authorities in Jerusalem.

Today’s reading in Mark comes from early in Jesus’ ministry. After his baptism and a period in the wilderness, he gathers 12 disciples and begins a fast-paced program of preach­ing, healing, exorcism of demons, and pronouncements of God’s coming reign; his popu­larity among the people increases greatly. He now returns home followed by huge crowds. The religious leaders are upset at his popularity and power. They say that Jesus’ power comes from Satan rather than from God. His family, too, are concerned about reports they have heard, thinking that he must have gone mad. Jesus is sur­rounded by nay-sayers.

In the middle of this story there is an intense, complex and very heated debate about the “unforgivable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—i.e. calling a blessing a curse, calling the work of the Holy Spirit demonic, etc. Although the church has generally been wisely cautious about defining what are and are not to be interpreted as the works and deeds of the Holy Spirit, there have always been individuals who too quickly and arrogantly accuse others of being agents of the Devil. In this passage we see Jesus becoming the object of this kind of criticism and misunderstanding. It forces him to openly declare the most important source of his own personal identity and his relationship with others—i.e. God alone. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, my mother” is a devastating statement about where Jesus’ primary allegiance lies.  Indeed, he offers a new definition of family.

The issue is not opposition to authorities in Jerusalem but the danger of attachments to family, village and traditional ties.  We already know that Jesus’ first disciples left family and occupation in order to follow him (1:16-20).

Mark often has Jesus move from a public scene with opponents and crowds to an inside scene with his disciples and other followers.  In verse 31, his mother and brothers must call to Jesus from outside.  This indicates that his family are not among his disciples.  Another narrative has already suggested that Jesus has moved away from his natural family by referring to Peter’s house in Capernaum as home after preaching in surrounding regions (2:1). 

When he is told today, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you, ” Jesus replies, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sit around him, he says, “Here are my mother and my brothers!35  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

What Jesus is trying to say is that a family relationship cannot be set above doing the will of God. Here, Jesus defines family in terms of discipleship, “those who do the will of God” (v. 35).  As adult converts in a traditional society, most of Mark’s audience had probably experienced such a crisis in their own families.

Living in a society in which we enjoy religious freedom, I doubt if anyone of us here have to experience such a crisis in our families when we come to church every Sunday.  However, it might be true that some of us have never enjoyed great support from our families since we became a Christian.  One of my dear colleagues told me that his wife fiercely objected to his decision to go to theological school to become a minister when he was well established in a firm in Toronto as a Chartered Accountant.  He has four children and six grandchildren but, to his great  disappointment, none of these go to church. 

When we came to Canada, my wife, Young Cho, persuaded me to go to Emmanuel College to pursue ordination instead of going back to law school.  However, my mother in Korea still says that she is not happy with my being a minister, because I am no longer a lawyer.  My two sisters, who are fundamental Christians, were okay with my ordination, until they came to know that the United Church of Canada supported same-sex marriages.  My three brothers, who have no affiliation with any religion whatsoever, have never talked about what I am doing in Canada.

While I was studying at Emmanuel, my wife, Young Cho, suffered major brain damage as a result of a tragic car accident.  I felt I had lost everything in life.  She was the only family support I had while seeking ordination.  Studying theology in my second language was very challenging.  There seemed to be no point in trying to complete the M.Div. programme in a foreign land.  At the very moment of giving up, I found myself surrounded by so many caring people, friends at my home church, Trinity St. Paul’s United and classmates and teachers at Emmanuel College.  Their countless phone calls, cards, and visits were overwhelmingly encouraging.  Their outpouring support kept me going at school.

One day last year, someone told me that she could not imagine how I had been able to manage my life with so much workload as an interim minister.  In fact, I had not had a week off until summer of last year.  Strangely enough, I had never felt tired or drained since I came here.  I wondered too what had kept me going.  I told her that it was possible probably because I did not have many family responsibilities.  Well, later, I found the answer: I always felt energized whenever I came to work.  After a two-month summer break last year, I was badly itching to get back to work, the source of my energy for life.

I have found a family, a new family, God’s family here at Glen Rhodes.  Whenever I go downstairs, for example, I find a large family of God working together.  Everyone is downstairs for one reason – to serve others in following God’s will.  Often the people are so busy that I am afraid to interrupt them even to say hi. Many mothers are at work in the kitchen, serving breakfast.  Many sisters and brothers are working in the hamper room, at the vegetable table and at the registration desk.  One of my favourite brothers is Raymond who is working tirelessly, putting up the tables, mopping the floor and removing garbage bags.  He does not say much, but sometimes shares with me what happened in the past week, particularly about his favourite sport, bowling.  Sometimes he likes to tap me on the back or on the head as a way of greeting.  Where can I find such a big, caring and closely knit family of God?  Where can I find such support and care outside this family?

Today, we are called both individually and as a community to claim our membership as part of God’s family in the same way that Jesus did. Our relationship with God is more important than either family blood-ties or institutional loyalty.  We are called to claim our rightful part in God’s family beyond our natural families.  So let us join Jesus in saying, ““Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, my mother,” today and in the days ahead.  Amen.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Reflection: "Threads of Life"

 On our life's journey we encounter many situations - many people - many opportunities and prospects.
Each of these cause us to grow and change and develop.
Life is not always rosy red or dazzling as the sunshine.
In every life there is a variety of colour which enriches creation.
lmagine if you will - life as a tapestry.
Each thread builds on another.
Each thread adds to the total dimension of the whole.
Each thread highlights the others -adding strength, brilliance and stability.
The fragile -thin metallic threads add colour and sheen.
The fine silken threads add softness and suppleness.
The knotty threads add texture and character.
The thick threads add consistency and firmness and strength.
The springy threads are the energizers.
They move and play within the fabric.

At this moment in time which are you?
Are you the fragile thread which needs assistance and support from neighbors and family and friends?
Are you the lovely silk or linen - washed and worn and now a beautiful soft thread?
Are you the strong fibre - ready to take on the world and all the headaches and heartaches it can throw at you?
Perhaps you are the knotty...the carefree- the light-hearted, happy-go-lucky thread, ready to become whatever the future holds for you.
Or are you the energized one   - eager and animated ready for change and opportunities?
We are diverse and we are unique.
Each in our own way we live out our tapestry of life and contribute to the tapestry of many others - simply by being one with each other and one with our God.
We are thankful for all the women who have gone before us.
We tie into their threads and continue on.
May God bless the journey we are all on.

Phyllis Buchner

Erie Presbyterial

Hamilton Conference