Rev. Karen Hilfman Millson has been nominated for Moderator of the United Church of Canada. To see Karen’s profile on the General Council 42 website, please click here.
What gifts and passions do you have that you believe the United Church of Canada needs today?
A critical need that I see for the moderator is to have a significant commitment to be very visible and present to the church during this time of transition. I envision that will involve lots of connecting and travelling throughout the church. The purpose would be to: engage, listen deeply, clarify the overarching vision, share good news stories, inspire people to be open to Spirit leading us to live into our call and purpose as the church, create opportunities to connect spiritually and deepen our sense of community (ie: the 40 Day Pilgrimage pre-GC 42 or the on-line 50 Minute Retreat that I lead monthly with Mardi Tindal) and to walk with people as we make tough decisions about how to invest our financial and people resources to best respond to why we are called to be the church. All of these intentions align with who I am and my call to ministry.
A second key aspect of the role of moderator is to be a good facilitator as we have significant conversations that will shape our future. I train and support facilitators in the use of spiritual and community practices to create a safe, relational and creative environment for connecting to the Spirit, listening deeply, authentic sharing and seeking to discern how to move forward as love, justice and hope in action. It is amazing to see ideas for future possibilities emerge when we let go of fear, judgment and cynicism and are open to the wisdom and creativity within us and amongst us that leads us to transformational action. My greatest passion is to create life-giving community that is spiritually mature, radically hospitable, is open to the synergy of the Spirit and filled with the gifts of gratitude and joy.
Which Christian author has had the greatest impact on you?
In recent years the perspective of two authors have had an impact on me; Phyllis Tickle with her profound belief that a renewed Spirit-led church is emerging and Richard Rohr in his work around the transformative power of connecting to our True Self. Rohr’s message confirms the work that I have developed around Circle Culture which is rooted in the experience of reconnecting to our Authentic Self, our True Self, our Eternal Self and connecting with others at that level of vulnerable, rich authenticity.
As I wandered through my library, I was surprised to realize that I have read more books by two authors than any others: Marcus Borg who is clear about connecting to the Heart of Christianity and Walter Brueggemann who calls us to a Journey to the Common Good.
How would you articulate the good news that Canadian society needs to hear from our church in this time and place?
As much as our role as the Church has shifted in influence over the past decades I believe that the Church has a key role to play in Canadian society at this time. We carry a vision of hope, wholeness and possibility in contrast to the multitude of horrific things that are happening in the world. In a world that is too often filled with fear, loneliness and hopelessness the message that new life is possible is good news. In a world with a deep hunger for meaningful conversations and longing to connect to the spiritual aspects of life we are well positioned to provide such opportunities in a respectful and life-giving way.
The United Church document “Mending the World” adopted in 1997 articulates a vision of commitment to partnering with others to be a source of transformation in the world. While there are many ways that we can bring good news to the society around us, one of the ways we can do that is by truly loving our neighbourhood. In my years of congregational ministry and in my work as a Facilitator of Significant Conversations I have encouraged congregations to host things like Community Round Tables to discover groups whose vision aligns with the church so we can partner and work together toward common goals. Community Round Tables also provide an opportunity to determine if there are unmet needs in our neighbourhood that we could be responding to.
In this time of change and spiritual awakening that is happening around the globe we can play a key role in the awakening to shift our focus to the Common Good, so that the well-being of all informs our choices and decisions at personal, local, regional and global levels.
“Cruxifusion” means “united by the cross.” What does Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection mean to you?
A key message that informs my life that arises from the death of Jesus on the cross is the call to be led by the Spirit and to not allow fear to silence us. Like Jesus we must not be silent about the ways of the world that do not align with God’s creative power for good. Like Jesus we have an alternative vision to offer to the world that is rooted in relationships based on the concepts and principles of love.
In the gospel stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are told that through the power of the Holy Spirit we will do even greater things than Jesus. Prodded by the Christ Spirit we are encouraged to be bold, to be compassionate, to notice when some voices are silenced, to see the goodness in every person, to see the possibilities and potential longing to emerge, to encourage people’s gifts and passions, to see hope glimmering even when despair is overwhelming, to see beyond limitations, and to be willing to engage the places of life where we have created walls that divide us from ourselves, each other, the earth and from God and in response seek to be open to transformation. The cross reminds us that new life is possible.
How can we best pray for you?
Thank you for offering to pray for me and for all the nominees. I feel prayers surrounding me as I walk this journey as we and Spirit discern who the moderator will be for the next three years.
As we journey I would love for you to join with me in:
praying for this United Church of ours, that we may listen for and respond to the call of the Spirit to be bold in our commitment to be a source of transformational vision in the world;
praying for our future yet unnamed that we may see the potential and possibilities amongst us;
the longing that we be open to the Christ Spirit guiding us toward the fullness of our call;
surrounding all of us as the people God calls, so that our gifts, passions and visions are fully awake and filled with dynamic commitment to be grounded in God’s love and be Spirit inspired.