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, 16 September 2014

Creation Time & a Climate Walk

Attention to the health of the planet is going up. A good thing. In the Western world we started getting good at understanding nature two or three centuries ago just as we were getting very good at wrecking big parts of it.
Now people are thinking hard about where their food and energy comes from, how they get around, their whole ecological footprint. Glen Rhodes Church, like many churches, is moving into Creation Time, a period of five weeks focusing on our relationship with creation through the lens of our faith.
In Creation Time we experience a mixture of intense joy and appreciation at the wonders of creation and a deep concern for the effect humans are having on the planet. Our inspiration for the joy is both our own experience of creation and scripture: the writers of the many books and poems we call the bible are very engaged with the world around them, drawing lessons and insights from creation—ants, lions, winds, waters, volcanoes, you name it.
Our concern comes from what we hear about climate change with the huge injustice it brings to people who have so little responsibility for spewing carbon into the atmosphere, extinction of species, overfishing—all the changes our kind has brought. What to do?
At church we are sensitizing ourselves to our intricate relationship with all other life forms, the whole creation, praying for it and ourselves, gathering up hazardous items such as batteries and compact florescent lights, and working for change. That last one is big, bigger than any church, or even any one country. So we’re joining with others who are determined to do what’s right for the planet.
You may have heard of the big meeting on climate at the UN on September 23. One of the millennium development goals of 2000 was achieving a sustainable environment. The timeline for the goals is until 2015, so the meeting is about what the next steps will be. To draw attention to this process, people around the world are marching on Sunday, September 21, to bring attention to the meeting and the urgent need for action.
Hundreds of thousands are expected at the march in New York. But walks will also take place all over the world that day, including Toronto. I plan to be at the march starting in Nathan Phillips Square at one o’clock on Sunday.
We need some people power to resist the power of the big fossil fuel companies. They seem to be able to get the attention of decision makers easily, and influence policy at the level of national governments. Surely humans can figure out other sources of energy so that our existence on our one and only planet is sustainable.
Climate justice is one of the things Glen Rhodes Church values. More on this in a day or so. Hope to see you at the march!

posted by Robin Wardlaw

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Great turn out at Welcome Back Sunday, plus some other thoughts

Welcome Back Sunday

Word got around, apparently.
Many people out to church on Sunday, and how good it was to be back with everyone after some time away. 
Three offers of much needed help (driving to get donated bread each week for the food bank, for example, singing in the choir). Thank you to those people!
People seemed to be in good spirits. Nothing like some summer weather and perhaps a change of routine to help one appreciate one's blessings. In the middle of the discussion about warm welcomes we had received, we even had a beautiful testimony of gratitude for health regained from a very thankful mother.
This coming Sunday we start into the five weeks of Creation Time, focusing in on the gift of the only world we have. More on that soon.

Other thoughts

The radio announcer mentioned communications she had received about fall colours turning up in Ontario. Most were further north, but some trees in the Don valley are getting with the program, too.
Inspired by leaves changing colour and two recent family losses, I'm thinking about transitions. Loss seems to have the effect on me of closing the world right in during the first day or three. Then gradually I get my eyes back up to the far horizon, realizing, as so many have over the generations, how fleeting life is when looked at in the grand scheme of things. 
One life can have such a profound effect on family and friends, and the ripples persist long after a person dies. We celebrate in a funeral or memorial service that nothing of the deceased is "lost to God." A great and reassuring phrase.
Creation depends on the circle of life, of course. Compost is just as important as seeds. Nothing original in these thoughts, I know, just some gentle musing that may connect with your life this season of transition.

Posted by Robin Wardlaw

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Welcome back Sunday (September 7): part 2

The Ex is upon us, so that spells back to school for younger people. And a quest for a church in many families.
If you live in the east end and are looking for a community that is inclusive, that cares about peace, the planet and all the people in it where you can add your energy, or introduce children to values such as kindness, openness, justice-seeking, fun-loving, Glen Rhodes may be the place.
Thinking of checking us out? Wear what feels comfortable. Bring the family. Bring your dog (September 21 is Blessing of the Animals but they’re welcome every week). Bring your questions about faith and life. Sing like you mean it: our Director of Music is an amazing accompanist and song leader. Meet people who share your hopes for the neighbourhood and the earth.
Creation Time starts September 14—six weeks of focus on our relationship to Creation. We collect things such as batteries, small electronics and those new light bulbs that can’t go in the garbage as one expression of our commitment, and as a help to those who can’t easily get to the city waste drop-off.
The worship service is at 10:30, as you likely spotted already. Parking on Gerrard is free until 1 o’clock. People are generally on their way around noon, so that shouldn’t be a problem unless you get really involved in a conversation at Coffee Hour!
Posted by Robin Wardlaw

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Welcome back Sunday: September 7

Summer holidays are over soon for students. (Sorry to have to say that!) Churches tend to take a bit of a holiday in July and August, too. People go away, committee work slows down or stops, worship might be somewhat different. Now we’re getting ready to get back into gear.

At Glen Rhodes United, we’re very proud of our new purpose statement, and the renewed energy around the place for “building God’s dream.” We ended on a high note in June with a First Nations focused worship and then our big Pride service and parade participation a week later. There are several ideas under consideration now for new outreach, new activities starting in the fall to bring more peace and justice to the planet. And we want to work on our communications, especially social media, to better share the things we’re up to.
The United Church has been at the forefront of justice-seeking in Canada for a long time. Glen Rhodes has been at the forefront of the United Church, especially in its support of the membership and ministry of LGBTT people, and equal marriage. There are warm smiles here and also people passionate about making a place for everyone, both in church and in our society. Radical hospitality, we call it.
More details to come. Stay tuned.
Posted by Robin Wardlaw

Friday, 1 August 2014

Justice for Grassy Narrows

Hundreds of people joined a demonstration at Queens Park in Toronto the other day. Here are some of them.

I think it's safe to say most of them have not been to Grassy Narrows First Nation (Asabiinyashkosiwagong Nitam-Anishinaabeg), down the Wabigoon and English Rivers from Dryden, Ontario. Yet there they were this week demonstrating for justice for this far away group of people. 
The paper mill in Dryden used the river for a sewer for many years. So did lots of industries across the province. So do some of them still. When I was an occasional visitor to Dryden in the summer of 1971, I noticed the distinctive paper mill smell all over town, and that the foam in the river ran different colours depending what kind of paper was in production: canary, blue, green, salmon. (That last one's a little ironic.) What I couldn't see or smell was the mercury going into the water.
Mercury is a very nasty brain and nerve poison. Science teachers no longer let students roll the stuff around in their hands like we did, I'm sure. The people of Grassy Narrows (and other reserves with the same environmental issue) didn't have a choice, though. They were eating the stuff in the fish from the river, a staple of their diet. Until they began to have problems with balance, vision, pain, speech and so on. (Check out Minimata Disease to find out how dreadful are the symptoms.)
All this time later, things are still not right. Ontario and Canada have done some remarkable things for the sake of right relations over the decades. And there is still much more to do. People need to be able to drink the water and eat the fish. It's a human right. They need to believe that they are not throwaways, that we matter to each other.
Harm done to any of us is harm done to all of us. Congratulations to the people of Asabiinyashkosiwagong for their persistence over two generations. You do matter. Congratulations to all those who turned up to walk with them in a show of solidarity. Congratulations to Members of Provincial Parliament who take the matter seriously and commit to addressing the needs of the victims of the poisoning, and to cleaning up the environment here and everywhere across the province.
Posted by Robin Wardlaw

One life

Jane died earlier in July. She was ninety-three. She has been part of the Glen Rhodes family for a long time. Some of her former Sunday School students are now seniors. She sang in the choir. She was part of the Curtain Call Players (a theatre group operating out of the church) at one time. In other words, her faith and her church meant a great deal to her.
Jane struggled with memory and communication for some time in recent years. Thanks to her caregiver, Sheila, Jane came to church each week in her wheelchair, where her smile continued to grace the gathering.
Jane didn’t get in the papers. There was never a scandal, an arrest, notoriety. In other words, most of the people of the community didn’t know her, even though hundreds of people of all ages were touched by her faith, her humour, her caring at some point in their lives.
Her generation is passing away. Most of them are already gone. What a legacy they leave the rest of us. Her funeral was one of dozens of such services take place across the city every day, every week. The congregation was modest, a little bigger than I had expected. No flags were lowered, no politicians were present, there was no police escort.
No words we could have said that day, no prayers, no gestures would do justice to her long, beautiful life. The service will ended too soon, and then mourners chatted as they shared a bite to eat, remembering her, smiling, sometimes laughing in appreciation of her wit and her contributions.
She let her life by guided by convictions about love, hope, justice, community. Jane McMillen made a difference, made her world better. What more needs to be said?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Many Colours of Pride

June 29th was Pride Sunday.  After an colourful and caring Pride service lead by Warren Schell the congregation got together for a group photo in all the colours of the rainbow.

According to Wikipedia, "The use of the rainbow flag has a long tradition; they are displayed in many cultures around the world as a sign of diversity and inclusiveness, of hope and yearning."  also it  "harkens back to the rainbow as a symbol of biblical promise."

Posted by Ann Tempjle, Chair of Council

Friday, 27 June 2014

The music of our lives

On Wednesday the monthly evening service took place at Glen Rhodes. Evening makes for such a different experience. The numbers attending are smaller for one thing, but it's not just that. The ending of the day has a very different spirit than the beginning. 

We tend to do worship that is a bit more contemplative at these evening services, too. This time it was a focus on music. In particular, we used the music of the Taizé and Iona communities, in France and Scotland respectively. 

At the reflection part of the service, people talked about what music meant to them. The stories were fascinating. Many people went back to their childhoods, with tales of who taught or encouraged them to sing, or who told them to keep quiet. Powerful stuff to hear how significant those early experiences can be.

Got you thinking? Did you raise your voice in the choir as a child, or were you told to mouth the words and keep quiet? Church is a place where we still sing as a group. Kind of old-fashioned, but it turns out to just what a body needs to be in communion with others, and with the great Spirit that sings life into all things.

Posted by Robin Wardlaw

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

GECO throws awesome community dinner

The Gerrard East Community Organization is the new kid on the block. But it sure knows how to do dinner for a gang.  GECO sprang up last year, I believe. On Monday they laid on dinner for about a hundred people at Glen Rhodes Church. Then they watched a long lineup form for seconds. No surprise there. (The congregation does a dinner on the fourth Monday of every month, and is always happy to team up with others for the planning, shopping, cooking parts of the day.) "Who do I congratulate," I asked. Hard working volunteers deflected praise for their efforts. Their answer: Tammy.

Tammy and the other planners and cooks brought some nice variety with their menu: pulled pork on slider buns, home-baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad. All of them were perfectly prepared and delicious. Tammy had to split her time to attend a child's school graduation. She got back to find things running smoothly, and enough food left for the two of them.

Diners come from the immediate neighbourhood and also farther away. The atmosphere at these community meals always seems to be a happy one. Gratitude flows freely, like the water, juice and hot drinks over at the beverage table. Conversations start between strangers, or continue between friends. The dessert table is the only problem part--it can take a long time and tough thinking to choose among the array of treats on offer. A wide diversity of people shows up to set up, serve tables and clean up.

Hats off to GECO. They found time and energy in what I'm sure are busy lives to do something beautiful for people they have never met. May they go from strength to strength as they seek to make the Gerrard East community even more liveable.

posted by Robin Wardlaw

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Pics from First Nations Sunday

What a great day we had on Sunday--the weather was perfect and our speaker was a joy. Here are some photos of the smudging Rev. Maggie McLeod led outside before the service. Inside, she spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation process, and invited us hear each other, especially painful stories, without fear.

We finished with bannock and jam at the back of the church. A beautiful time of sharing, learning and celebration.
John adds the heartbeat of Mother Earth

Maggie McLeod offers teaching about sage

Smudging for love, respect and strength

Saturday, 21 June 2014

First Nations Day - we are all treaty people

Happy First Nations Day!
Congratulations to Canada's First Nations on the longest day of year, the feast of the first fruits. What a welcome sight wild strawberries would be after a winter without fresh fruit. First Nations seem to be taking huge steps these days to address the wounds caused by centuries of colonization. 
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission process in its final year is important, for example. Thousands of survivors told their stories--sometimes in the open, sometimes privately because the memories are so traumatic. They did their part. Now it's up to people of the dominant culture to acknowledge all that pain. Anyone with trauma in their family story knows how the echoes can ripple for generations. That's what many First Nations people are dealing with. Except it might be every family in a community affected, everyone struggling to get health at once.
The drum, the sweat lodge, the teachings of the elders, for some their Christian faith: many things help individuals and communities recover.
On Sunday, June 22, to celebrate First Nations Day, the Glen Rhodes community hears from the Rev. Maggie McLeod. She's a First Nations person from Saskatchewan (Peepeekisis FN, to be exact), and also a United Church minister. Currently she holds a position with the national church working with First Nation United Churches. 
Many of us have only fleeting contact with First Nations. We need to hear often from people such as Ms. McLeod about building bonds of peace until all Canadians consider themselves treaty people. 
Here's the schedule for Sunday. All welcome, of course! Hope to see you there.

10 o'clock        - smudging with sage on the side lawn of the church

10:30               - worship service honouring the four colours and the four directions with   
                          Rev. McLeod preaching

posted by Robin Wardlaw

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Summer movie series: Tuesdays in July

Take a movie showing somewhere in the east end of the city. Stir in a group of thoughtful and fun-loving movie lovers. Add a dash of reflection about themes emerging from the film and you have Glen Rhode's summer movie series.
This year it's called Outstanding Glen Rhodes Entertainment, or OGRE, just for fun. (Our slogan: "Putting the GR in OGRE.")
Everything gets going on July 8. Movie and location: to be announced. Watch this space, or call the church closer to the date.
posted by: Robin Wardlaw