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Jan. 20, 2013 St. Matthew’s United Church eBulletin
Enjoy St. Matthew’s United Church weekly eBulletin. Contact the office to add
your email or to unsubscribe: stmatts@ns.sympatico.ca or 423-9209

•  St. Matthew’s Calendar
•  Thinking about ...
•  Thoughts on the IdleNoMore movement
•  Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
•  Male singers’ workshop Feb. 2
•  Upcoming meetings

St. Matthew’s Calendar
Sun. Jan. 20 – Worship and Music Committee meeting, after church
Sun. Jan. 27 – Executive of Official Board, after church
Sun. Jan. 27 – Sanctuary for the Arts Task Group meeting, 3 pm. This is a short-term working group gathering to share and develop ideas for expanding and deepening our congregation’s connections with arts groups and artists (performance and visual) in the city. If you have an interest in this, your input would be welcome. Please speak to Betsy.

Thinking about ...

  • Cheryl Fraser, recovering from surgery in hospital
  • Hazel and Cam Reid, mourning the loss of Hazel’s older brother, William MacIntosh
  • Bob Jarock, father of Carolyn, recovering in hospital in Saskatoon from a heart attack

Thoughts on the IdleNoMore movement
“How can we, as people of faith, participate in a sincere effort to contribute to a future that will be better for all Canadians and especially for members of the First Nations whose current reality is so demonstrably unacceptable by Canadian standards?”

Are you grappling with the issues and messages of the IdleNoMore movement? Rev. Betsy Hogan offers her reflections – as a person of faith and a member of the United Church – in case you might find them helpful in your own consideration of this newsmaking struggle.

IdleNoMore Pastoral Letter.pdf see below

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 21–25
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity many denominations come together to reflect on common issues that face people of faith. Services are held daily, 12:15–12:45 pm, at various churches. This year’s reflection is “What does God require of us?”  (Micah 6:6-8)
Tue., Jan. 22, 12:15 pm
Location/Host: Presbyterian Church of St. David / Rev. Kenn Stright
Preacher: Rev. Paul Friesen of St. Paul’s Anglican
Wed., Jan. 23, 12:15 pm
Location/Host: Cathedral Church of All Saints / Very. Rev. Paul Smith
Preacher: Rev. Kimberlynn McNabb of Resurrection Lutheran Church
Thu., Jan. 24, 12:15 pm
Location/Host: St. Paul’s Anglican Church / Rev. Paul Friesen
Preacher: Rev. Kenn Stright of Presbyterian Church of St. David
Fri., Jan. 25, 12:15 pm
Location/Host: First Baptist Church, Halifax / Rev. John E. Boyd
Preacher: Rev. Betsy Hogan of St. Matthew’s United

St. Matthew’s folks in the community
Nova Voce hosts male singers’ workshop Sat., Feb. 2, Faith Tabernacle (Summit / Windsor streets) – The workshop begins at 10 am and concludes with a 7 pm concert, “Boys to Men”. Young men from Annapolis Valley Honour Choir, Pictou District Honour Choir, and the Testostertones from the Dalhousie Health Professionals Chorale will join with the men of Nova Voce for a day of male-voice singing and camaraderie. This event is also open to any changed-voice male singers who are not members of the four choirs but wish to “come solo”.
Singers will spend the day working with the conductors of the four choirs on pieces that will be performed at the concert, which will also feature each choir in individual sets. Registration ($15 per solo registrant) includes instruction for the day, use of music, and supper. Register at the Nova Voce website, www.novavoce.com, and send a message of interest to the director by Jan. 28 to book your spot at this fun, inspirational day of male singing.

Upcoming meetings at St. Matthew’s
Executive of Official BoardJan. 27, Mar. 24, Apr. 28
Session/ Stewards/ Board – Mar. 3, May 26
Congregational meeting – June 2

Church office: stmatts@ns.sympatico.ca, 423-9209
Pastoral care: Rev. Betsy Hogan, 423-9209
Sunday Free Breakfast: 8:30–9:30 am, Worship: 10:30 am
Choir rehearsals: Thursdays, Handbell Choir at 6:15 pm and Senior Choir at 7:30 pm
Lunch Bunch Community Choir: Fridays at 12 noon
On the web: www.stmatts.ns.ca

January 18, 2013


Good Morning, Friends at St. Matthew’s:

Over the past number of weeks, I have done a lot of reading and have spoken to several colleagues as I’ve tried to understand the import of the IdleNoMore movement for us not only as Canadians, but also as people of faith and people of the United Church.

As you may know, I feel quite strongly that overt political commentary – that is, direct references to a particular government or to particular pieces of legislation – is both inappropriate and unnecessary in preaching. My hope in preaching is always to attempt to lift up what the Bible reveals as the way of faithfulness, broadly speaking, and my assumption is always that you are all quite wise enough on your own to make connections to current events and realities.

That having been said, complex and nuanced issues demand --and indeed deserve --conversation! So it is my hope that by sharing in this pastoral letter some of my more specific reflections about IdleNoMore, not only personally but from the United Church perspective, an open and useful conversation would be encouraged amongst us.

For me personally, and also as a member of the United Church, my initial response to IdleNoMore was frank and unmitigated celebration, as my own sense of impotence and indolence around broad environmental issues rejoiced that someone, at least, was calling attention to the need for environmental protection of our lands and waters.

And as a member of the United Church, fully aware of the part our forebears and our church played in creating both the current system that governs the life of First Nations and the current reality of spiritual disconnect and addiction that continue to devastate many First Nations communities, I also rejoiced at the commitment and energy of the First Nations peoples (and especially the young people) seeking a new and better future.

But then I began to struggle – first with what seemed a lack of clarity in demands and purpose, and also with a deep discomfort with anything but a wholly non-violent course of action. It was difficult to manoeuver through what seemed to be the competing messages of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) leadership and IdleNoMore --and of both with the equally difficult-to-get-a-handle-on message of Chief Theresa Spence --and I also found myself increasingly anxious about any goodness being lost in possible violence, even if that violence were solely in retaliation. I really am an unashamed ideologue about non-violent resistance (“go limp and go down”).

And I won’t pretend I’ve come to the end of these struggles! However, there are a few things I’ve managed to get my head around lately, and I offer them only insofar as they might be useful to you in your own reflections about these issues.

1. As Canadians, we are all at present ‘treaty people’, governed by the parameters of treaties signed in the past. And so I have found it useful to remember that public uses of reserve lands – eg. highways, rail lines – are in fact incursions onto reserve lands. And while each was presumably negotiated in some fashion, I have a fair amount of trouble (as a realistic person, and a member of the United Church, only too aware of how our past decisions ‘on behalf of’ First Nations were too often made with questionable regard for ‘them’, as opposed to ‘us’) in assuming that these incursions were negotiated wholly in good faith or primarily to First Nations’ benefit. There is, in all of them, therefore, an element of trespass. And so the blockades do inherently carry a crucial and valid fundamental of legitimate non-violent resistance – namely, the use of the only power one has (in this case, jurisdiction over right-of-way) in protest.

2. Setting aside the issues arising that have specifically to do with First Nations, I’ve also found it useful to remember that inherent in IdleNoMore from the beginning has been a fairly straightforward protest against the dismantling of environmental protections. And so, as with
Occupy – which also caught me up in a web of struggling disconnect between whole-hearted
agreement in principle and discomfort on the ground – it’s been helpful for me to recall that the essential principle raised by the movement is both crucial and consistent with the perspective of faith. As Christians who relate to creation as a gift from God to be cherished, our stance must always be one of more protectiveness over the health of lands and waters rather than less.

3. Finally, it is significant and useful, I think, to note that also inherent in IdleNoMore – in the very lack of clarity that I’ve found so difficult – is the simple conviction that what is should not be. The conditions on many reserves, as we know, is simply appalling. The level of human brokenness and addiction in First Nations peoples, both on and off reserve, is simply appalling. And as a person who professes a Christian faith that demands caring and healing action wherever there is devastation and human misery, my response to this situation has to be the same. What is should not be. If I find it frustrating – and often I do! – when the clear path forward continues to be vague, with competing claims as to how things should change or what next steps are necessary, that doesn’t preclude an essential commitment to the need for change or an essential demand that those who have the power to effect those changes begin the process of doing so. This is a big and complex issue facing our country. It’s going to take a lot of work to figure this out. Whatever specific responses I may have to the details of how things should unfold, as a Christian I feel it is impossible for me not to support the essential message: what is should not be, and it’s time for serious and intentional work so that the future is more just and humane than the past and the present.

So this is where I find myself in relation to IdleNoMore at present. In addition, I also must note that I’ve been deeply troubled by much of the rhetoric (from all directions) that seems more intent on rationalizing (through blame or the defensiveness of retaliatory accusations) either the maintenance of the status quo or continued inaction on the fundamental need for the healing of this deep brokenness in our country. It’s difficult, I know, for us as Canadians and Christians not to take refuge in defensiveness. It’s difficult not to make assumptions or have expectations based on what we think we’d be capable of in similar circumstances, even if we’re willing to acknowledge that we’ve never found ourselves (collectively) in those circumstances. For me, it will be very difficult indeed to remember the value of essential principles if acts of violence happen, even if it is retaliatory violence.

But ultimately, as a person of faith, I think we can acknowledge these difficulties usefully – and then learn or listen or participate in ways that mitigate them – and I think we must. Because ultimately, and probably most significantly, IdleNoMore does in its essence at least compel us to think about these things. How can we, as people of faith, participate in a sincere effort to contribute to a future that will be better for all Canadians and especially for members of the First Nations whose current reality is so demonstrably unacceptable by Canadian standards? I know that our conversations will continue in the days and weeks ahead – I hope they will be helpful and useful – and I continue to pray for wisdom and insight and for a commitment to non-violence in this ongoing work of healing our life together.


(Rev.) Betsy Hogan
St. Matthew’s Halifax