Jesus: The Misunderstood Jew

Jesus: The Misunderstood Jew was a three-day event that began at First Narayever synagogue and ended at College Street United Church. It was a journey into understanding moving between Christian and Jewish communities of faith in Toronto, June 3 – 5, 2016.

The inspiration was Amy-Jill Levine, University Professor of the New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Levine, who is Jewish, has authored the well-known book The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. This book was the basis for the conference.

On Friday night, 159 attendees met for a Sabbath dinner at First Narayever hosted by Professor Levine. The Sabbath dinner was the big highlight for many. Getting a guided tour through the rituals and blessings of that meal was a unique and very special experience for Christians.

Professor Levine also lectured through a full day on questions surrounding Jesus. She spoke talked about how Christians and Jews have misunderstood Jesus, and how we have misunderstood each other.

On Sunday, Jewish participants came to a College Street United service and were delighted by the openness of the participants to the Jewish context and meaning of the parables. Again, Professor Levine lectured. Our Jewish colleagues remarked on the hospitality and welcome of the church crowd.

Not only were people able to understand each other more fully, several connections were made, bridges of trust between religious organizations in our community. Friendships were begun and learnings were shared.

The conference was a delightful mix of people from all socio-economic and a variety of religious backgrounds; from people with financial means, people with a long-time commitment to a faith community, to people from the street corner who live on the edge. Some people travelled from Newfoundland and Winnipeg and some who joined have no fixed address but live in shelters downtown. With funding support from the United Church Foundation, the organizers were able to fully cover costs for 26 people.

Also, a community of 19 people participated on-line through the United-in-Learning team. Gathering sometimes in groups or individually, the on-line crowd participated in the conference by feeding in their questions and comments. It was a true blessing to have them participate.

The Rev. Chris Levan says,

“The generosity of individual sponsors and the grant from the United Church Foundation were the main reasons we were able to open the doors so wide and welcome in so many who otherwise would not have been able to attend. We are so grateful for that support.”

Meet Allan Baker

Giving has always been important to Allan Baker and his wife Rochelle. In recent years, how they have decided to do that has changed. Allan and Rochelle have been members at Westworth United Church in Winnipeg for 42 years. They’ve given generously of their time and their money. Among other contributions, Allan has served on the Finance Committee.

At a church event hosted by Westworth United they heard a presentation by United Church of Canada staff Kathryn Hofley. Kathryn’s talk touched on many things including the benefits of making gifts of stocks and mutual funds. That caught the Bakers’ attention.

At one time, the congregation had its own brokerage account but after hearing Kathryn’s talk, the Bakers and Westworth United Church as a whole realised it would be advantageous for the church to rely on The United Church of Canada Foundation to facilitate gifts of stocks and mutual funds for congregations.

If you have investments that have increased in value over time, talk to the Foundation and your financial advisors about the pros and cons of donating them instead of making cash gifts this year. Like Allan and Rochelle Baker, you might be surprised with the savings you’ll find.

How it Works

  • The Bakers, or other church members, instruct their broker to transfer shares. They tell the Foundation about the gift.
  • The broker sends the shares to the Foundation.
  • The Foundation sells the shares.
  • The Foundation send the Bakers or other church members a tax receipt.
  • The Foundation sends the proceeds from the sale of the shares to the Westworth United Church or other organization(s) instructed by the Bakers or other church members.

Benefit: Lower Fees

Full service brokerage accounts tend to have large transaction fees. The fees are usually a percentage of the amount being bought or sold.

By contrast, The Foundation uses a discount broker that has a flat fee of $9.95 per sale of shares. The $9.95 is taken off the amount received from the sale of the shares.

Benefit: Tax Savings

As long as the donor is making a gift to a registered charity, the donor doesn’t pay capital gains tax. Capital gains tax is a tax on the value that stocks have grown by while someone has owned them. Therefore, if someone sells stocks that are worth more than when they bought them, they have to pay tax on 50% of the growth. On the other hand, people who donate stocks or mutual funds instead of selling them don’t have to pay any tax on the amount the shares have grown by. (see our gifts of securities section for an illustration)

Allan and Rochelle’s new way of giving makes a difference both to their church community and to their own planning. As a person who had been self-employed, Allan was entirely funding his own retirement portfolio.

Allan says: “Giving stocks to my congregation through the Foundation is quite an easy and efficient process.”

Send us an email or give us a call. We’d love to talk to you about how you could do the same as the Bakers.

Trustee Murray Woods on Investment Options

This summer, we sat down with Murray Woods, a Trustee at Harcourt Memorial United Church in Guelph Ontario and he filled us in on why Harcourt chose to invest with the same fund manger as the Foundation.  Every situation is unique so we encourage you to explore a number of options for investing your congregation or United Church organization’s long term funds. Visit the investment section of this website for information on how the Foundation might be able to help.

Spirit & Soul

By The Rev. Karen E. Toole

Churchill Park United Church in Winnipeg sponsored a truly visionary event this past May. From my perspective it was not just one more step along the road of gender and orientation understanding. It was a giant leap. The event had been advertised through all the appropriate channels of the United Church, as well as in the media. I expected a filled church. The title of the event could not have been more informative and direct. It was clearly and creatively named, “Spirit and Soul – not determined by Anatomy, coming to know and affirm the transgender community through personal stories.” In a city the size of Winnipeg registration was approximately fifty. Perhaps the problem was with the word ‘affirm’? The number of registrants was a disappointment but nothing else about the day was disillusioning. For me, with over forty years in ministry, it was one of the most informative, enlightening and inspiring days I have spent within the workshop world of the church.

Deep Sharing, Deep Learning
This event first took root as our church journeyed through the affirming process. We shared stories of family members and friends who passed through our lives hiding their “Spirit and Soul”. This learning experience brought us all closer in our church family. We are a congregation that likes to take on learning challenges. After a discussion with the former moderator The Very Rev. Gary Paterson and his partner The Rev. Tim Stevenson, we all decided that we did not know much about the transgender community. With our quest for learning, we chose to focus on coming to a greater understanding of transgenderism. We contacted all of the Affirming United Churches in the Winnipeg Presbytery and received a wonderful response. As we met we all shared our stories. Various members contributed names of presenters that we eventually invited to speak at the event. It was truly a group effort.

What happened that day at that workshop was exactly what was described in the title. We began with a simple, inclusive worship. We moved on LGBTQ-101, focusing on terminology, pronouns, the difference between orientation and gender, and finding safety. For those gathered in the small table groups, we learned about the reality of how we are all of us “gender-bred persons”; our sex is assigned, but our orientations, our identities, our feelings are not.

For me, the honest level of this presentation was more than a breath of fresh air; it was a forceful wind of hope-filled change. We connected body, mind and soul as sex, orientation and heart. In other words we saw other human beings not through the lens of where do they fit, but here is a sacred creation seeking to love and be loved.

Three storytellers then spoke. Three transgendered persons took the courageous risk of sharing their intimate struggle with a crowd of strangers. These three people who had already been shamed and shunned, broken and beaten told honest, funny, hopeful stories of why love matters.

What We Heard

The speakers’ honest stories surpassed every inspiring sermon I have ever listened to on the topic of divine creation and holy expression of that creation. And why was that? It had everything to do with their incarnational reality, their authenticity, their open honest, vulnerability and their love stories!

The first speaker was focused on transgendered parenting, yet so much more. He spoke of how we all have an opportunity to find the courage to authentically be who we know ourselves to be. He honestly spoke of giving birth to their children, and how he and his male partner are often asked where their mother is. Over and over again he has been forced to come out and face the shock and judgement, and yet he told other stories of support, acceptance and care. At one point he spoke of the need for breast milk, and how he could contribute, because it was, as he put it, “human milk for human babies.” And the wonderful thing was that his milk was just as valuable as any other breast milk given. While he spoke the two children of these two young men played happily in our midst.

Another speaker spoke of her transgendered refugee experience. She came with the support of her United Church congregation, and was gently interviewed by one of her friends from that faith community. Hers was a story of running for her life because she had become a monster in her family’s eyes. She had not only mental scars but physical scars to remind her constantly of how our fear can become hate, how taking the risk of choosing to be herself can lead to choosing death.

In the middle of these two speakers was a woman who lost everything, no severance, no financial stability because they were due to the man she no longer was. She spent 35 years in what she had described as non-authentic way of life. The journey she now faces is strengthened every day by the reality that it is has gone from that inner phobia and outer fear to authenticity and respect for herself.

Our Continued Learning

I have walked with the United Church as we gradually in the late 60’s and 70’s began to affirm that we do indeed have physical bodies, with physical needs, and strong physical feelings. At that time we began to talk about being physically “In God’s Image…Male and Female”. And then we took all the unrest about this incredible discovery of our physicality as creations of body, mind, emotion and soul, and we wrote an affirmation of human sexuality titled, “Gift, Dilemma and Promise”. It was one of the first ever statements on human sexuality created by a Christian denomination. Those who read believed we meant it, and the doors were open finally for homosexual persons to emerge into the light of acceptance.

Understanding transgenderism is the natural next step. Events like this one at Churchill Park United might, should, and could be happening in churches across our nation. Maybe they are, and I am just out of touch. I hope so. I hope to God they are!

Questions will confront and confound and they should. Science and medicine have come a long way. Where does our understanding of God fit in all of this reality of change? Values, ethics, morals are a part of this, but this is not a debate to be had about us and them. This is all of us, our friends and family and neighbours.

It was a brave workshop, a brave day. It can happen again and again in all our churches and communities and if it does, I predict that attendance will grow.

We would like to acknowledge the funding provided by Winnipeg Presbytery (The United Church of Canada) Church Development Inc. (CDI) and The United Church of Canada Foundation Seeds of Hope Grant Program.

Don’t Miss Skylight 2016!!

Get your summer renewal at the the Skylight Festival, July 29-31.

Music, justice, faith, and spirituality organizers invite you to the Paris, Ontario fairgrounds for the second annual Skylight Festival event. Day and weekend passes are available.

Skylight features musical performances, workshops, speaking events, and worship led by dynamic Canadian and international speakers and facilitators. Join diverse participants in sharing, eating together, and co-creating this creative beloved community event.

“I will be modelling what we are hoping will be an expanded worship experience – modelled after the Skylight Festival format. As someone who has been struggling with “what to do with Jesus” in a search of a relevant way to share a vital message that is timeless, I feel almost relieved. I have an expanded path now. Very exciting!”- Skylight attendee 2015

Headliners include: Raheel Raza, award-winning journalist, speaker and activist; John Bell, worship animator from the Iona community; Peterson Toscano, queer Quaker performance artist and scholar; the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Anglican Bishop; and Romal Tune, American author of God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens and motivational speaker devoted to Redemptive Storytelling. See www.skylightfestival.ca for a fuller listing, camping / accommodation and registration details.

“As an LGBTQ person, it felt so good to be in an environment that I could completely
be myself in without having to ‘modify’ how I usually am in public. It was freeing! I loved that it
felt like a very open, accepting, non-judgmental environment.”  – Skylight attendee 2015

Skylight is organized by a small ecumenical group of people passionate about arts, faith and justice in partnership with the United Church of Canada’s EDGE

Network for Ministry Development. The United Church Foundation is a supporter.

Organizers were inspired by the Greenbelt Festival in the UK and the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.

The festival is intentionally inclusive and everyone is welcome. Contact organizers if finances are a concern.

They’re longing to meet you!

Spring has Sprung, Gardens are Growing!

Emmanuel Church in Ottawa is not only eating what the church’s garden yields, but wants to try growing all the produce needed for church events.

Janet Mark Wallace, chair of the church’s social justice committee, says the hope may sound grand or overwhelming, but the steps towards it have been tiny, while the benefits to date for various ministries are already huge.

The church’s garden is part of a larger vision to explore how the United Church of Canada’s Seven Pillars of Food Sovereignty, which draws connections between land, who grows food, and who eats it, can enliven all ministries.

“We hope to become a model of how faith communities can strengthen their ecological and cultural ties to the wider city by recognizing the sacredness of food,” says Wallace.

The church garden has now seasonally yielded radishes, peas, beets, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, parsley, beans, basil, and potatoes.    Last year, the church installed a shade pergola.   But Wallace notes it all started with “two raised planting beds, two rain barrels, some free compost, and two kids.”

In addition, instead of simply being inspired to plan discrete local food projects like the garden, the church has put money where its mouth is and hired students as Local Food Procurement Coordinators.

For two summers, the students have been responsible for sourcing local food for events, building relationships with local food growers, minimizing waste, and encouraging cross-generational food events.

Wallace says the church found that a batch-cooking day appeals to many ages, and is wonderful for physical and community and health.

The United Church Foundation’s Seeds of Hope program, plus other funding bodies, supported the local food leadership roles.

I am a good person too!

 

Many years ago, the United Church received a bequest from the Estate of Reginald W. Watkins. A portion of the money was to be used for “work with the economically disadvantaged populations”. The Watkins Fund has made many grants over the years and in 2014 granted $2,500 to Coverdale Courtwork Society in Halifax.

Coverdale Courtwork Society is a charity that receives support from Maritime Conference and provides vital programming and support services, offering opportunities that promote healing and positive change for adult women incarcerated in both Central Nova Correctional Facility and Nova Institution for Women, as well as the young women incarcerated at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre.

The grant in 2014 helped to support a program called Beyond Trauma that is designed for women who have been abused. Research shows that 92% of women and girls involved in the criminal justice system have experience trauma and abuse.

The Beyond Trauma program: increases the women’s understanding of trauma, decreases the symptoms of trauma, decreases depression and increases self-efficacy (one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task).

The results are powerful as you can tell from this story of one program participant:
One woman during her baseline interview said that she wanted to come to the program but she was sure it wouldn’t help her because she was not ‘normal’ and her life always turned out bad.

She did come to the program and in the beginning sessions mostly sat and observed. Just before mid-point in the program she became very involved in the discussion and began to share some horrific events that had happened in her life. She wept so deeply that we thought that she would stop breathing.

When she recovered, we spoke and she said:
“I thought I was so different and very bad but now sitting in this group I realize that other woman have experienced some very bad things also. These woman are wonderful women and I am a good person too”

When this woman finally realized the impact of trauma on her life she also realized that she truly was a good person. She saw an opportunity to move forward making positive changes. She is now involved in other programs at Coverdale. She still struggles but now she has hope!

We are so very grateful to the late Reginald Watkins whose generosity and compassion enabled us to support such amazing work.

Your Gifts At Work

In 2015, thanks to generous gifts from donors, the Foundation awarded a grant of $3,750 to Camp Tapawingo for their first ever camp for transgendered children and their siblings. Here is a brief description of what your donations enabled in the words of a mother of some of the campers.

“Every child deserves a safe place. A place where they are encouraged to be their true self. To make new friends, to play free from judgement and bullies.

Being a mom of three gender variant children I was afraid to give my children the experience of camp. To experience the life of cabins, beaches and friends. I was afraid that my children would be singled out as weird, bullied by staff and other children for the simple fact that they do not fit into the gender norm.

I asked around and after being refused twice, I was told by Rev. Kim Craig about Camp Tapawingo. I contacted Ruth from the board and she said she would take my request to the board the following week. One week later not only did I get a resounding YES! I also received the news that Alison Starks, the director in Edmonton for Camp Fyrfly, had agreed to run the camp.

I was in Edmonton and had the pleasure of meeting with AJ face to face. Both of us were very excited at the prospect of having this camp for children ages seven to 13 who happen to be transgender and extended the invitation to their siblings as well. Word got out about our camp. Twenty- two children, trans-gender, two spirited children and cisgender children invaded the camp.

The only suggestion we had from the campers was that it be longer! Friendships were formed; some came from Alberta. Connections and assurances that they were safe, accepted and valued for their authentic selves was a blessing. These young humans continue their support of each other in the form of e-mails and texts.

As a mom I am so thankful to Ruth and the board of Camp Tapawingo. I speak for all the parents that we are thankful for A.J. and her staff. I read one comment from a boy who is eleven and trans… ‘I had the best time of my life at camp!’ That says it all.

Now next year I plan to do some contacting of other United Church camps across Canada. We need a Camp Caterpillar for every child, in every province!”

Fran Forsberg

If you want to start a camp in your area, you can reach Fran at frannyforsberg@gmail.com