“Gracious God, you know we stand at a turning point as a denomination. Once, we were great. We had influence. We had power. From our moderators, prime ministers sought counsel. By legislators, we were regarded as sources of wisdom. Families brought their children to us, trusting that we would guide them in the ways of righteousness. Troubled souls turned to us, asking to be shown the path of salvation.
We are no longer great. Influence and power have deserted us, and society’s decision-makers regard us with suspicion—if not outright disdain. The “ways of righteousness” are seen as quaint by most, as families bring their children not to us, but to Sunday morning hockey practice or soccer league. Souls enquiring of salvation’s path too often discover that we have misplaced the road map.
Out of this chaos and confusion and despair, our commissioners draw nigh unto Oshawa.
Yes, God. They draw nigh. Drawn by your Spirit, they make their pilgrimage: “risking faith and daring hope.” With steps oft uncertain, occasionally bold—yet always resolute—they approach this 43rd meeting of our General Council.
They are us. They move forward because you call them—and because they know they carry us with them: all our hopes, all our dreams, all our fears and anxieties and doubts. They come to gather in convocation for the same cause that all the rest of us—we who still gather, in cities and towns across this nation, as the United Church of Canada—turn out for Sunday worship, and mid-week study, and regular fellowship.
It’s because we get it, Lord. It’s because we understand something about grace. It’s because—somehow, somewhere—we learned to trust you enough to not run away. To not turn our backs upon you or upon one another. It’s because we found out that perseverance is a huge part of discipleship.
More than that, it’s because we’ve discovered that the apostle Paul was right: we are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it. And we have care and concern for one another.
Even more than that, it’s because the True Vine—the One to whom we have by faith been grafted, apart from whom we can accomplish nothing—calls us to abide in him and bear fruit for him, fruit that will last.
And so it is, God of grace and power and mercy; God of healing and reconciliation and peace …
So it is—for our General Council and for ourselves—we pray:
From a spirit of contention which would destroy our unity; Good Lord, deliver us.
From a spirit of rage which would destroy our love; Good Lord, deliver us.
From a spirit of despair which would destroy our hope; Good Lord, deliver us.
From pride of self which leaves no room for your Spirit; Good Lord, deliver us—for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”