Sermon, June 9, 2019 by Rev Gloria Christian
John 14: 15-17
“We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do!”
Here is Peter’s story in the act of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit set the church on fire. The cobwebs of grief, that Jesus is no longer a human body with them, are blown away with the wind. The wind of change refreshed them in mind and body and spirit. The spirit shows them how to teach true love. Peter claims the prophecy of Jesus is fulfilled in that moment in time. The advocate, the Holy Spirit has come, Jesus’ promise is fulfilled; His spirit will be with us always. There is a certain sense in Peter’s story that the past promises of Jesus, the present out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, and the future interact in the event of Pentecost. This event gives rise to Christian ministry and is the moment in time when the Christian church was formed in history.
It is no coincidence that the formation of the United Church happened in 1925 on a Pentecost Sunday. I thought in the spirit of the day, it might be fun to play a game of trivia to see how much historical information you have retained during your time as a United Church member. Just shout out the answer when it comes to you.
- Do you remember what year and date the United Church was formed? June 10, 1925
- What anniversary would we be celebrating today? 94
- Do you remember what the churches did across Canada on the 90th birthday of the church? Rang church bells all at once across Canada 90 times.
- Do you remember a publication edited by Jim Taylor at the 75th Anniversary? Fire and Grace (show book)
- The United Church was formed together with three mainline churches and one small prairie church, who where they? Presbyterian, Methodists, Congregationalists and a small prairie church, Local Union Churches of Western Canada.
- Which denomination instigated the movement to have a union of churches? A Presbyterian, William Patrick, principal of Manitoba College and delegate to the Methodist Conference in 1902, on a spur of moment thought. He made the dramatic proposal at the Methodist Conference for church union. Joint Committees were established in 1904 for church union and the Congregationalist joined in, later the Local Union Church of Western Canada.
- Is the United Church constituted by the government of Canada as the only church of Canada? Yes. Our change in format had to be approved by the Senate of our government. Other churches are in Canada not of Canada.
- Does anyone have a story from their parents about what happened in 1925?
- Has anyone been baptized into the United Church at birth? Me
- Was there opposition to the churches uniting? Oh yes. Stories abound.
There was also much joy. Judy Brewer tells here story in Fire and Grace. She tells a story of how she remembered church union at the age of 8. Before her parents married, her mother was Presbyterian and her father was, a loyal Methodist. The whole family worshipped in the newly formed Chalmers United. What a joy she writes in their home, her parents were delighted to have a place of worship where they both had roots.
Rae Grant a former member of a church I served in rural Ontario, Mimosa United Church, now in the rural area of Rockwood. In 1925, it was known as a Presbyterian Church. This church is 18 miles, northeast of Guelph. The vote for church union carried and became known as Mimosa United Church. Rae’s maternal grandfather had immigrated from Scotland and was not in agreement of church union. So, in 1925, he and his grandmother transferred their membership to The Fergus Presbyterian church. They never attended there and maintained their local activity at Mimosa. Rae’s parents were in favour of union and adapted but were grumpy when the Methodist minister didn’t do things the way the Presbyterians did them. Sound familiar.
The United Church at its formation and at present is the largest protestant denomination in Canada; even in our decline as all churches are feeling a decline we are still the largest. We have been on a roller coaster in the life of the church. In my memory the first was the theological revolution of the New Curriculum. It was not the first however, the ordination of the first woman minister in 1930 was the first uproar. This in a world of where The Vatican announces that controversial subjects before the church are not to be debated; where the Baptists declare that the bible must be obeyed, women must be subject to men; where the Anglicans interpret the scriptures to condemn and prohibit homosexuality, John Spong, a contemporary theologian rejoices that there is one body of Christians, The United Church of Canada that is willing to feel the tension of conflict and to acknowledge that they are led by the Holy Spirit who promises to guide then into all truth. He says of our church that we don’t arrogantly claim that we have the infallible truth which is refreshing in church circles today. Bishop Spong sends his congratulations on-the-occasion of our 75th anniversary.
Jim Taylor a member at Winfield United Church is the author of many books, all dealing with religion in everyday life. The United Church allows an openness to possibilities, including the possibility that God’s spirit may speak to us in new and familiar ways. He says that is why I have found a home in the United Church all these years. He says, I have been allowed to dream dreams and have visions. No one told me I must not dream those dreams or have those visions or ask those questions. No one told me I couldn’t colour outside the lines. The church said, maybe; maybe, that is what the united Church believes, after all when creeds and statements of faith are said and done. Maybe the Holy spirit can move us to new life. Amen.