He says, "Today’s worship service is inspired by May being Asian Heritage Month. The Greater Vancouver region is very much a multicultural society where we interact with many different Asian cultures every day. The United Church has committed to become an Intercultural Church and so celebrating our diversity is very much part of the mission of each congregation and community of faith. I myself was born in South Korea and was adopted by Canadian parents having been abandoned at birth by my biological parents. I identify very much as an intercultural Canadian as my own culture–what feels most comfortable to me–doesn’t fit neatly into any one distinct cultural identity. We are all very much influenced by a wide variety of different cultural realities each and every day."
Peace, in the Name of Christ
Welcome to Trinity United Church’s Sunday gathering: Worship for a Dispersed Community.
Call to Worship
[you may light a candle, if you wish]
Take a deep breath and let it go.
Be present to each other.
Take a deep breath and let it go.
Imagine God’s love, a warm light filling you and your prayer partner.
Take a deep breath and let it go.
Send love and affection to the person with whom you are worshiping.
Express your appreciation to one another for this time of contact even at a distance.
Opening Prayer – from “Holy Spirit, You’re Like the Wind” MV 5 (v 1,2)
1) Holy Spirit, you’re like the wind,
Blowing gently above the trees;
Where the wind blows, the flowers bloom,
Where the wind blows, there is life.
May it blow, O blow over me;
I pray that it shall never cease.
Holy Spirit, you bring the springtime,
Like muted flowers fragrance outpour.
2) Holy Spirit, you’re like a spring,
Flowering over mountain or a fall,
Like a river that flows with power,
There to nourish the trees and fields.
May you richly nourish me;
That I may bear fruit abundantly;
Ever bearing the fruits of life,
That depend on lifegiving dew.
- Wang Wei-fan (China, 1983)
John 17:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
In late 2015 I was greatly honoured to be a part of a delegation of United Church of Canada representatives to the China Christian Council. I was one of four theological students invited to participate, along with a number of lay people and ministers from across Canada, the then-Moderator Jordan Cantwell, and UCC General Secretary Nora Sanders. The purpose of our trip was to renew our commitment to our ecumenical partnership, which dates from the missionary era prior to the Communist Revolution when Canada was the largest per capita sender of missionaries to China. Also, unlike many denominations, some United Church missionaries chose to stay in China after the events of the revolution to continue to serve the communities they were called to, despite political affiliation.
In China we learned that there are no longer any Protestant denominations. So like the United Church the Chinese churches are considered by the World Council of Churches as part of the “United and Uniting” group. However, many of the churches in China still follow the traditions given to them by the Western missionaries. Since the church is growing so fast in China, they are having a hard time expanding the infrastructure to keep up with new converts under the strict supervision of the government. Foreigners are not allowed leadership roles in the Chinese church and they also do not allow economic support from outside of China. They do allow teachers from abroad, particularly English language teachers and theological professors. This is one of the few ways United Church people can serve our partners in China. There are currently about 30 million registered Christians in China and perhaps as many as 100 million believers in total. Many predict that China will soon surpass the United States as the nation with the most Christian believers at 150 million.
However, the leadership of the Chinese church pushed back against our looks of jealous amazement at the growth of the Chinese church. 100 million Christians in a nation of 1.4 billion citizens is only a drop in a large ocean of secular atheism. It’s less than 10% which is much lower than even Canada’s most pessimistic evaluation of statistics, which is about 15% going to church on Sunday. The Chinese church grows and survives amid tight regulations from Beijing and pastors can be arrested with little notice, jailed, and churches closed without reason. The Chinese say they would love to have the opportunities we have in Canada at unrestricted practice and the ability to have worship spaces in almost every community, and to be able to train new ministers without restriction. The church we visited in Beijing had 7 worship services on Sunday simply because they were not allowed to build a new church to accommodate the growth.
For those interested in learning more about our trip you can read our blog (https://chinadelegationucc.wordpress.com/) or click here.
Prior to my trip to China, despite my own Asian Canadian background, I was not much interested in a career in intercultural ministry. I had made the assumption that intercultural ministry was the new wording for ethnic ministries and since I am an English speaker, I did not see the reason to engage with non-English-speaking congregations even within the United Church. When I returned from China, I was gifted with a great teacher, the Rev. Dr. Hye-ran Kim-Cragg who at that time regularly taught a required course for United Church students at VST focusing on intercultural ministry. Both the intercultural experience in China and the following education upon returning home has made me a convert to belief in the essential nature of intercultural ministry for all in the United Church.
Intercultural ministry I learned was not equivalent to ethnic ministry. Ethnic ministry was a response to Canadian multiculturalism in the 1960s and 70s. Prior to this period most Canadians assumed the stance of “melting pot” to newcomers to Canada. Immigration was encouraged based on the likelihood that the immigrant family would eventually integrate into the default society which was at the time “White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant” which was dominated by the United Church of Canada. Ethnic ministry presented a new alternative, where those with their own cultural identity could find their own way to be Canadian both within the church and also in wider Canadian society. This became the era of hyphenated Canadians (Korean-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, Caribbean-Canadian, etc.) The issue with hyphenating Canadians is that they always remain distinct from non-hyphenated Canadians. There remain default Canadians and various hyphenated Canadians. There is often not a lot of unity.
When I first joined the United Church, I was slightly annoyed by the common occurrence of a question from many parishioners regarding “where I was from?” Of course, the real information they were after was what my ethnicity was. The problem with this otherwise sincere question is that it singles out visible minorities as having significance for being from elsewhere. I have lived my whole life in Canada and I don’t consider myself “from” anywhere else by here. When asked where I am from I usually say “Surrey”.
I know Rev. David Cathcart from attending Evolve. We were both leaders of the same cabin group this past fall and we also both participated in an intercultural discussion group. It is important to know that both minority and majority culture are included equally in the intercultural vision. This is one way our church is trying to fulfill Christ’s prayer that all his followers become one. Trinitarian theology emphasizes that oneness does not need to be also sameness. The diversity found within the three persons of the Triune God perfectly represents how different people can live as one body.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is an even greater challenge to us who are seeking intercultural harmony. The newfound realities of our culture emerging from lockdown seems to be a struggle between personal freedom and harmonious society. This is also the same challenge that initially drove a wedge between Western societies and the People’s Republic of China. North Americans have valued personal freedom above a harmonious society. We value our freedom to do what we want as long as we are not harming others (or in reality as long as we believe we are not harming others). We do not want the government or other powers restricting our freedom, but that is exactly what has happened since the pandemic began. In China, the value of harmonious society overrules any personal freedom. People are taught to be patriotic and loyal to the state. Even Christian churches are closely supervised and administrated by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). SARA regulates the 5 legal religions in China: Protestantism (Christian), Roman Catholicism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Islam. Other religious groups work underground at risk from persecution by the government. COVID has present a real challenge to North Americans who so dearly value their personal freedom. Should the government be allowed to restrict the movement of the public for the greater harmony and health of the society? Is this the end to the dream of liberty for all?
We in the United Church are pursuing Christ’s dream that all may be one which is the ultimate challenge because within that unity must be love, freedom and also diversity and celebration of differences.
May we all be one as our God is One, Thanks be to God, Amen.
Minute for Mission
This link is to the Minute for Mission that was created summarizing the United Church trip to China, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bfQQPzQPZg: or click here. A slightly different text was included in the booklet to congregations:
Our gifts for Mission & Service support global partnership and theological engagement. Let us hear the story of the United Church delegation to the church in China. We give thanks that The United Church of Canada answered an invitation from Mission & Service partner The China Christian Council to witness together and accompany one another in God’s mission. The group of 22 United Church people from across Canada saw first-hand the experience of the Chinese church. Moderator Jordan Cantwell led the delegation. “This visit opens a window for deepened church-to-church engagement and presents an opportunity for the United Church to understand China through encounters with Chinese Christians,” she said. The visit also recognized the existing partnership between our churches, building on a long history of mission and ministry together in China. It was another step in continuing our faithful journeys toward unity, justice, and peace. Delegates saw the blessings of the church in China and the challenges it is addressing. They shared from their unique perspective the challenges and opportunities of the United Church. “We return with the friendship and blessing of the Chinese church and a deepened commitment to sharing God’s great works in our diverse and varied Canadian contexts,” said participant Betsy Anderson. We sing thanksgiving that Mission & Service helps build relationship and partnership for God’s mission of justice and peace. If Mission & Service is already a regular part of your giving, thank you so much! If you have not given for Mission & Service, please join me in making Mission & Service a regular part of your life of faith. In all our Mission & Service giving, with a willing heart, we sing thanksgiving to God!
Prayers of the People
Gracious God we know that you are ever with us. You have proven your grace and providence to us on countless occasions. We thank you for your ever-present Spirit with us.
Loving God, you have encouraged us to offer our prayers to you so that we can have a relationship of love and service to each other.
We pray firstly for all those associated with Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam. We pray for all those needing healing and seeking renewal and rest. We pray for those who are experiencing anxiety during this time and are afraid of what may come to pass. We ask that your peace rest among your people as they witness in this world.
We pray for our surrounding communities as they seek to find a new normalcy for life to continue safely. We pray for those seeking community in a world separated. We pray that this faith community will find ways to reach out and share your love and peace with those who are in pain, living in fear or at the end of their rope.
We pray for our world as it works together to heal those affected by COVID-19 and as tensions surrounding the virus are creating political disagreements and fears are sometimes driving people apart rather than bringing them together. We pray that we will find ways to use this situation for the betterment of our world, to create justice and welfare for all people and to bring about the reign of peace you have promised.
The Disciples Prayer
Let us join our hearts, minds, and voices together as we pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples…
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Commissioning and Benediction
We are not leaving a place together, but we are departing from a time set aside and shared. The call to serve our world with compassion and love continues amidst social distancing and quarantine. We are called to join with all seeking to heal our world to create justice, resist evil and to proclaim Christ’s love.
Blessing from MV 218 “May the Love of the Lord”
May the love of the Lord rest upon your soul.
May God’s love dwell in you throughout every day.
May God’s countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s Spirit be upon you as you love this place.
- Maria Ling Poh Choo, (Singapore, 2000)
Announcements and Additional service materials