This webpage is for the people of the Toronto Conference for story sharing and networking.

Peace, Hope and Humility

New Year's Message by John Lee 

Happy New Year!

 

It is January 2003, and it is the beginning of a year in which we as a Church are filled with the Spirit of hope. This hope that we find in Christ actualizes peace on earth”. It can be realized through actively living out justice, reconciliation and healing.  This is an immense undertaking.  In this fast-paced world that is quickly becoming ever smaller with the impact of diverse new ideas, we need individuals who are committed to this huge task of global visioning that helps us to read the signs of the times. With this hope in mind, I would like to share with all of you the New Year’s dream which has developed from my time with friends in our faith community.

In the last year, as president of the Conference and as an individual, I have had many exciting moments during celebrations of anniversary services, covenanting services, rallies of ethnic, women’s and men’s groups; several visits with conference committees that continue to work with integrity and ever-growing passion; and Presbytery meetings that actualize the Conference vision through outdoor events, dinners, small group discussions and celebrations of the Eucharist. There were also painful moments that I experienced as part of a resolution team in a congregational conflict, that has now moved on to a fresh new venture.

 

I also gained some learning as I visited local churches of different historical backgrounds and consulted with individuals and groups in the area of mission development. On a national level, I have struggled with the future mission theme of The United Church of Canada, “Overcoming Violence,” as part of its task group commissioned to publicize and plan for the preparation of education material. I also joined in a consultation on minister’s isolation which is a much more serious concern than we first imagined, and I am in the midst of planning an event on this issue for congregational mission development. All these incidents have taught me what it means  in our ministry “to be with” others; how our vision for the future is realized in God’s history as we journey together; and who we are as a community of hope in Christ.

 

In the midst of joys and anxieties, no matter what situation we are in, the common denominator I have always found has been the beauty of individuals.  The great gifts that the people of The United Church of Canada possess have  given rise to a strong, persistent commitment to justice, healing and reconciliation. It has been a journey through which I affirm God’s creation of us as good beings created in God’s image, and therefore, I commit myself to help hold up the goodness of this creation  which we hold reverently in our hands.

 

We in the Church have been constantly seeking new ways, from the congregational level to the national, to bring vision to the world and to serve the world better. We have long established traditions with many positive experiences that will serve us well for our future journey. We also know that experiences in the past that were considered to be positive, have, later on, sometimes become hindrances that prevent us from working in new ways. This leads us to focus and reflect on “change” with a fresh,  Spirit-filled energy and necessitates mutual support of each other while valuing the many differences in our church and its many diverse gifts.

 

God created all of us in God’s image and likeness, granting unique gifts to everyone. And after every creation, God said, “It is good.” This reminds us that God created us all good, without exception. Faith in God’s creation in making us all good is the focus of our hope for the future that enables us to set out on a humble journey of mutual respect.  Humility is a quality that is required in our lives. We are called to “walk humbly with God” and to undertake humble services in Christ’s church and the world with a real trust in God.

 

In this humble journey of ours, we are called to find  Christ’s gifts of  love and compassion leading us to unveil the covers that hide the goodness in others, and to remove the obstacles so that we may be able to reach out to powerless friends. It is not a simple endeavour and does not end merely with so-called good rapport within the community. Rather, it further requires the proclamation of the good news of peace to the ends of the world  even calling us  to risk our lives as disciples of Christ. In this journey, my dream is that we will discover that God created beauty in each one of us, and say to each other, “You are very good.” 

 

I envision this dream to manifest itself in Toronto Conference and to extend out to the whole of The United Church of Canada. Even this may be too small a step.  But when all of us say to each other, “You are very good, you are beautiful,” we will hear the voice of the Spirit saying, "You are my beloved. I am pleased with you."