If you heard bells ringing today it was probably some zealous United Church member taking their turn ringing their bell 90 times to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the second largest denomination in Canada.
As a child I recall hearing the stories of how my grandparents and many others from the local Presbyterian Church walked out of their church one Sunday morning and crossed the street to what had been the Methodist Church was had recently become the new United Church of Canada. I guess it caused quite a stir in the Guiler households. My Great Grandmother was not at all happy about the move her child and his bride were making and their relationship was strained from that day forward.
If you read a little of the church’s history you will discover it was basically the amalgamation of established protestant churches, Methodist Church of Canada, the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, two-thirds of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
I grew up in the United Church and later went to the Anglican and then some evangelical churches but I have come back to my roots. It is a church which is far from perfect but a friend told me once, “If you find the perfect church don’t go because you will ruin it.” His point was that perfect churches don’t have people in them.
After doing the rounds and coming head to head with some very bigoted ideas and a lot of manipulation and poor interpretation of scripture I decided to go back home. The UCC had some things I really liked. One of the most appealing was their very accepting nature. No one tried to hit you over the head with a bible. They were more about community than religion and that is what I needed. Community allows people to find the Creator on their own terms and doesn’t judge or condemn. I am proud to say I belong to the first church in the country to ordain gay ministers and I am also proud of the ground breaking work the United Church has done in the work of reconciliation with the native population of Canada. One thing the UCC doesn’t seem to be afraid of is sticking out it’s neck.
At one point I thought I might even do ministry in the UCC but it didn’t work as I had hoped so now i am content to attend my church, and stand in the pulpit as supply a few Sundays each year. I am also working toward becoming a spiritual director through a program offered at Five Oaks, the United Church retreat and education centre near Paris Ontario.
On that momentous day 90 years ago when that great hall full of people joined together to take communion a new tradition was born. You know those funny little communion cups? Well they offered communion that day so that all the people of the joined congregations could have communion at the same moment. That was the beginning of 90 years of innovation which continues still.
If you follow some of the links below you may learn some other things which are unique to the United Church.