Embracing the Spirit update - November 10, 2021
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Engage! Love and Justice Gathering

Logo for the gathering, featuring red and orange flames making a heart shape.

The Engage Love and Justice Gathering took place last week with over 400 people globally taking part in worship, workshops, and just connecting with one another. Thank you so much to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen, and to everyone who attended over the five days!

Thank you especially to the people who agreed to be speakers. Your willingness to share your time and expertise made the Love and Justice Gathering as fantastic as it was!

For those of you who missed this event—what happened? Don’t worry—the stories and all of the conversations will remain on Whova for six months. All of the sessions have been recorded for those who would like to access them.

Keep reading for some of the highlights. If you’d like to explore the Love and Justice Gathering recordings in the Whova platform, email Sarah Levis at

Day One – Deep Spirituality

 Ukelele being played

Day one invited us to express Spirit’s presence in our own lives, and to explore own own spirituality.

The Ukulele Church started the day by providing a worship experience that was all at once playful, whimsical, and touching. Using praise music, storytelling, movement, and the invitation to join them in colouring, the Ukulele Church reminded attendees that deep spirituality takes many forms!

Other day one highlights included:

  • Plenary with the Rev. Michael Blair, General Secretary of The United Church of Canada
  • The Presence Project with Greg Smith-Young
  • Yoga Chapel with the Rev. Lauren Hodgson
  • Pilgrimage as Spiritual Practice with the Rev. Kathy Douglas
[Photo credit: Hannah Busing from unsplash]

Day Two – Daring Justice

 Fist in the air

The United Church of Canada works alongside its partners to address social justice issues and the crises globally. All sessions dove into different social justice issues that Church in Mission is in partnership on.

Three youth were involved with “Black Experiences in Canadian Churches Through the Lens of Gen-Z”, and all of them were participants in the United Church’s Young Black Scholarship Program (part of the United Church’s commitment to the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent.) Noah Brown, Brianna Lane, and Jonisha Lewinson each presented research that they did into a different aspect of the Black experience in Canadian churches. It’s great to hear that the future of both the United Church and the world are in such capable hands!

Other day two highlights included:

  • COP26—Climate Action Now with Janet Gray, Kerri Munn-Venn, and Tony Snow
  • Plenary with the Rev. Alexa Gilmour, Chris May Poi, and the Very Rev. Lois Wilson CC: Ministry Outside the Lines
  • Towards an Infrastructure of Care and Architecture of Protection for Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted Peoples with Joanna Concepcion, Jimarie Snap Mabanta, Mervin Sol H. Toquero
[Photo credit: Visuals from unsplash]

Day Three – Courageous Community

 A community of hands on top of eachother

What defines courageous community? What does it look like?

Lisa Byer-de Wever’s “Being in Courageous Community” workshop used Montreal’s Saint Columba House as an example of what it’s like to be a leadership centre trying to create a courageous community made up of people with many needs: nutritious food, education, skills training, a place to go to feel welcome… for over 100 years! We need to ask ourselves what courageous community looks like, and work to be that for all people.

Other day three highlights included:

  • Creating a Culture that Fosters Innovation with Sheryl Spencer and Janice Benson
  • Discussion: What Do You Think About the Future of Courageous Community?
  • What it Means for the Seminary to be a Courageous Community in Cuba
[Photo credit: Hannah Busing from unsplash]

Day Four – Bold Discipleship

 Image of a Box with Handwriting that reads: walking with God

What does bold discipleship mean? And what do we need to do in order to be bold disciples?

The Rev. Gail Christy, Sarah Levis (Coordinator of the United Church's Community Innovation Hub) and the Rev. Stephanie McClellan did a workshop called “Disability on the Margins. Come Join Us!” The three women, all with disabilities, told their stories and discussed social attitudes toward disability that, even when people don’t realize they hold them, or they hold them with no ill intent, put up barriers that keep people with disabilities from fully participating in community life—including church community life. Email Sarah at for access to the recording of this workshop.

Other Day Four Highlights included:

  • Ally or Accomplice: Bold Discipleship on the Margins with the Rev. Dr. Felicidade Chirinda and Solomon Gichira
  • Live and Live Streaming—Bold Discipleship in the Virtual World with Tom Auger
  • Worship with Then Let Us Sing! and preaching from The Right Rev. Richard Bott, Moderator of The United Church of Canada
[Photo credit: Jon Tyson from unsplash]

Day Five – Hope

 Image of painted rocks with the words hope

What is hope, and why is it important? How do we engage hope in fast-moving and troubled times?

The Rev. Claudio Carvalhaes asked, in the plenary he gave on day five, “How should we engage hope?” and then surprised everyone by declaring that hope is not the feeling that we need for our time, but a “tranquilizer of rebels” that keeps us caught in a system designed to keep the politics necessary to remedy social injustice moving at a snail’s pace. This feeling of hope is only for the people with the means to live and take care of themselves, Carvalhaes says. And it doesn’t take away our fears. In fact, it often keeps them there!

The hope we really seek is only possible for those who can’t have hope. If you can’t have hope, as so many marginalized people in our world can’t, you know what hope is about.

So, what do we do? The Rev. Carvalhaes has some ideas, starting from moving from a theology of hope to a theology of courage.

Other day five highlights included:

  • Hopeful conversations
  • Worship: Engage Hope
[Photo credit: Nick Fewings from unsplash]

We hope that if you couldn’t attend the Love and Justice Gathering, you’ll take some time to watch the recorded sessions, and be filled with the desire to engage deep spirituality, daring justice, courageous community, bold discipleship, and hope in your life and in your community of faith. If you did come to the Gathering, please feel free to re-watch the sessions you enjoyed and to share them with others!

  • Our next virtual event will be the Hopeful Economics Unconference in March 2022! Stay tuned for details.

Embracing the Spirit is a learning network and innovation fund. It offers funding and support for innovation ideas hatched out of faith communities and communities in ministry. Some of the stories and best practices that are happening throughout The United Church of Canada are shared in this newsletter.

If you have an idea that you want to launch, reach out and tell us about it! Proposal deadlines are quarterly, and due on the 15th of the month: January, April, July and October. Find out more

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