i am back from canada - jet lag has kicked in so up in the middle of the night with a confused body clock! it was delightful to be with the united church of canada again to take part in worship matters. i first made a visit in 2005 to winnipeg to take part in morph. since then at least a couple of groups from the united church of canada have visited the uk and greenbelt to get a sense of what is going on here. and there is a huge group coming over this summer as well. the conference i took part in was on worship with three keynote speakers of which i was one along with ruth duck and jana childers. looking back at my slides from 2005 i am still banging on about much the same things - mission, worship and culture and now with an added focus on pioneering!
it's a great privilege to travel and visit other parts of the world and other parts of the church. i remember being in paris one time and andrew jones in a prayer thanking god for the redemptive gift of the church in france. i thought it was a lovely phrase and like the idea that each part of the church and indeed each culture has a gift that is unique to itself to offer to others. i certainly have found the united church of canada to be the bearer of gifts. two of those struck me again this time. they have a great openness and welcome - these guys are always fun to be with and incredibly hospitable. their commitment to welcome all was embodied in welcoming all people regardless of sexual orientation to membership and ordered ministry back in 1988, and also in their commitment to justice and partnership with aboriginal/first nations people in canada. i don't remember this from my first visit but the second gift i was struck by is how the theology is articulated in the songs. there has clearly been an investment in hymn and song writing. it's refreshing to encounter a different approach to singing. i found it a lot more inspiring than the old hymns that keep being sung in churches in england (not that they are all bad i hasten to add) or the contemporary worship songs that often seem lacking in theological articluation or at least rarely have themes that grab my attention (it reminded me that the reason i first started writing songs was precisely to try and articulate theological ideas). ruth duck was one of the other speakers and she is a hymn writer who has been part of this kind of articulation. i don't know her work that well though i do have a book by her on the shelf on language in using words in worship, but she is clearly somethng of a pioneer in both hymn writing and use of language in liturgy that is fair and just and it was clear she is much loved by the united church in canada.
gary paterson is the moderator of the united church of canada and spoke on the last morning on luke 10 - it was an amazing talk and quite surprised me. my memory of the last visit i made was that mission was an uncomfortable word - it had associations with imperialism that seemed hard to shake off. i was advocating a recovery of it and did the same this time. but gary was certainly encouraging a new confidence in being sent in mission with good news. the times we live in certainly call for such a challenge. the united church of canada have started a network called edge which is connecting and encouraging fresh expressions of church and revitalising existing congregations. rob dalgleish has been to the uk a few times now and been inspired by the gift from the uk church of trying new things in mission and is now heading this edge programme up. it's great to see this emerging.
i rather liked this piece on gary's blog in which he quotes from chris corrigan, a consultant who does a lot of work with the united church in canada, who describes the people he meets in the united church in canada as "heretics of hope".
for those who were there it was great to meet you - thank you so much for the invitation and welcome. i have sent my presentations to alydia - give her a shout if you would like to get hold of them. the books that were on sale that disappeared were curating worship whch is published here and alternative worship which you can pick up used for 1 cent! the pocket liturgy book is available to order on your side of the pond through lulu.com here - making communion. and do check out proost where you can subscribe and/or buy individual books as downloadable pdfs including making communion.
right now to try and stay awake today....!