We live our relationships in authentic outreach, seeking to find brave and safe space to engage with people with all our hearts.

This photo shows a group of 19 diverse people of differing backgrounds and types of abilities in front of a large multi-coloured stained glass. Included in the group are those who participated in the conversation on inclusion. conversation
Credit: The United Church of Canada
Published On: August 8, 2019

On Thursday, June 13, for four hours, around 18 people representing the diversity of this United Church of ours, gathered at the General Council Office to participate in a conversation with the Rev. Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church in the UK (second from left in photo above). He had requested to listen and learn from those who work on inclusion in The United Church of Canada.

Representatives from General Council Office staff, lay representatives, and clergy, heard the Rev. Nigel Uden’s own story. His compassion, insights, and wisdom reminding us that we are always on a life-long learning journey. All of us must continually address our privilege, our power, our biases, and assumptions.

We heard about the work of justice, experiences of marginalization, of inequity, of myths to address, and of hope and prayer. We shared our experiences, our perceptions, hopes, and concerns. Are we all practicing intentionally to ensure all know they are beloved, belong, valued, and needed at the table in positions of leadership and full participation? We wondered why it took a request of a moderator from the U.K. to facilitate sharing in this way.

Stories of hurt, pain, and exclusion offered the truth of lived experiences amidst desires for hope, deep faith, wisdom, and knowing that change is rooted in our daily embracing and loving of one another. This is not something any leadership, staff, or group can fix. It is within the daily ministries, the neighbourhoods, and communities that love must grow.

There was around the table, a great sensing of value and purpose in intentional and deep listening of each story. Across the pond or locally, we live our relationships in authentic outreaching, to find brave and safe space to engage with people, to abide with them, to sit beside and hear with our hearts.

We connect in Christ’s unconditional love. Vulnerability to share and listen compels us to deeper awareness and growth in understanding. God’s presence, in wonder and mystery, is always with us as we listen and are listened to.

Listen to the stories of people in your community!

— Sharon Ballantyne is ministry personnel, serving a rural pastoral charge about two hours northeast of Toronto. A 2018 McGeachy Senior scholar, her work is focusing on equity. You can reach her by email.