Conference Calling 23

September 2009


Doug Goodwin

I just noticed that the cover is falling off my favorite Bible. This is more a sign of my age than it is of my holiness. The more I read our scriptures the more I realize how little I really know about them. They are such a strange world… thank goodness, because I am not terribly pleased with this much more familiar one – not when you read the news.

This interplay between the “familiar”, which is far from the perfect world, and the “strange”, which invites us into something new, is going to be a significant part of our lives as Church and as individuals for some time to come. And I have the feeling that I had better get my Bible rebound soon, for its strangeness just might be the faithful companion needed to navigate the times ahead.


While “pride” is one of the worse of the seven deadly sins, I trust I can be forgiven for feeling hugely prideful about the marvellous way people of Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery worked to pull off this summer’s General Council meeting in Kelowna. While I always struggle with the way we do General Council business, I have no hesitation in recognizing that the hospitality and organization of this year’s Council was among the best of the eleven I have attended. I hope just naming the co-Chairs of the Regional Planning Committee, Karen Medland and Kent Israel, will suffice to signal the great thanks we owe a host of hosts. The Chair of the central Agenda/Business Committee was our very own Michelle Slater, ably assisted by Deb Bowman and wonderfully accompanied by baby Nicholas. Also highly involved at the Council were Conference staff people Clare Hill, Doris Kizinna, Ivy Thomas, Blair Galston, and Brenda Wolff.


At the General Council meeting we were able to complete the recognition and confession to Vancouver Japanese United Church that we begun at our Conference General Meeting. Mits Hayashi and Chizu Uchida attended and spoke on behalf of the Vancouver Japanese congregations. Representatives of the United Church’s Japanese community from across Canada were also on hand to hear the recognition and commitment of the church to continue to work toward even better relationships in the years to come.


The great fear of the computer age – a system crash – struck the Conference office just as September was about to begin. Not only did we lose e-mail for about a week, we also lost all contact with our major files. Good practices meant they were backed up but, as we discovered, recovering from a crash is never as easy as simply reinstalling files. The good news is we are now almost fully recovered. The bad news is that we missed many of your e-mails. If you expected a response from a message by now, please get in touch with us again. And thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigated the purgatories of a computer-less work environment!


The sale of St. John’s United Church in downtown Vancouver is completed today. The church was sold to Westbank Projects Corporation, the same development group that is renewing the downtown Vancouver Woodwards block. Westbank has applied to the city of Vancouver for permission to develop a rental building which will include (according to the developer) “a wide variety of sizes of homes including both small affordable homes and very efficient family housing with three bedrooms.” Many thanks to Marc Racine who served as Property Manager for St. John’s during a difficult transition period. This is the second major sale within Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery; Renfrew United was sold on June 30 to Pacific Grace Mennonite Brethren Church (I notice that renovations have already begun on the building). Conversation is well underway with the Presbytery to determine how best to use the assets from the sales to address a wide variety of ministry needs and hopes within the Presbytery and Conference.


Camp Future is becoming Camp Present! Construction has already begun at Camp Fircom (Gambier Island) and is slated to begin at Camp Pringle on Vancouver Island after this year’s camping season. The feature piece at both camps will be brand new dining halls. They will be grand, in the sense that they are designed to suit the beauty of their natural settings, but they are also designed to suit the modest and practical sensibility of a traditional United Church camp. Terry Harrison continues to provide leadership on this project as it moves into its construction stage.


For the first time in quite a while, it seems, we are fully staffed at BC Conference. Over the summer we added Ivy Thomas as the Conference Minister for Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery, and Ruth Stebbing as the Assistant to the Executive Secretary. There are now sixteen Conference staff people (not all full time). This is still lower than the twenty staff BC Conference had twenty years ago but it feels like a pretty large family to me! Of course, there is no longer any “status quo.” We still expect to add a Camping Program person once the Camp Future Project itself ends, and the Lower Mainland Presbyteries are weighing the benefits and costs of having staff to assist them in their mission.


With sixteen staff people there is always something interesting happening in personal lives. Treena Duncan moved this past month and marries Will Sparks in October. This is probably “old news” to some of you but Terry Harrison was married last May. Nellie Tang went on a trip-of-a-lifetime cruise in August from Germany through Scandinavia, Estonia and eastern Europe while Missy Taylor joined a Doris Kizinna-led trip to Guatemala at the start of the summer. 


A special thanks to David Martyn, our Conference Web Guru, who was married last May, honeymooned at the Conference General Meeting, helped oversee the amalgamation of Crossroads United Church, moved all his worldly goods to Kelowna, and prepared for his October 31 retirement, all the while maintaining our Conference web site and preparing for the next web incarnation coming this fall.

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