St Pauls United Church-Mozambique-2011

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Editing St Pauls United Church-Mozambique-2011

  • Mission and Service Letters After Mozambique Letter 250 April 28 2011

We have seen his star in the east... - Matthew 2.2

This month we returned from speaking in eastern Canada, throughout Maritime Conference, which we'd travelled to in a Via Rail overnight berth from Montreal). Though we didn't see guiding stars, we watched the sun rise at the mouth of the Miramichi, and from Portuguese Cove across Halifax harbour, and watched it set at sea beyond Yarmouth. At Tatamagouche, we also enjoyed our first-ever sightings of seal and grouse, and near Summerside PEI watched lambs being born–all signs of spirit visits, as our aboriginal friends would say.

In Matthew's Gospel the east is the site of new energy and vision. That was the case for us throughout the Maritimes. Compared perhaps to more-secular and less-traditional regions of Canada, United churches remain strong. The ones we saw keep an innovative sense of mission at the level of Conference, Presbyteries and congregations. Some congregational examples:

St Andrews in Miramichi re-built as a modern facility after destruction by fire; a charred cross from the original sanctuary hangs in the new one.

First United in Bathurst hosts an adult education centre, and invited its students–who mostly are not church-goers–to our presentation; many came.

Members of five different pastoral charges joined to meet and hear us at the rural St Andrews-Kirk UC near Saint John.

The thriving youth group at Westfield UC near Saint John has five active adult leaders, and with the youth prepared a spaghetti dinner for our visit.

On the weekend of our visit, Beacon UC in Yarmouth raised over $6000 for congregational expenses by auctioning members' donated goods and talents.

The youth group at Woodlawn UC in Dartmouth have a project to support an orphanage in Bolivia, and five of them have just returned from working there.

St Johns UC in Wallace, NS is holding its 2011 summer children and youth Vacation Bible school on the theme of Mission and Service.

At Trinity-St Stephens in Amherst the Bible study group invited us; the theme was The Feeding of the Five Thousand–doing God's work with minimal resources, as so often is done by the UCC's impoverished overseas partners.

Sackville UC has an active mission to students at adjacent Mount Allison University.

Partnering with other community organizations, Central UC in Moncton is building a Peace Centre architecturally attached to its 19th-century building.

Five small rural congregations in PEI amalgamated to form Central Queens UC in a large new purpose-built church building.

Trinity UC in Charlottetown takes part in an ecumenical breakfast feeding program for children at a nearby core-area public school.

On the Sunday of our visit, the youth group at Park Royal UC in Charlottetown held a fund-raiser luncheon for their project in Nicaragua.

Trinity UC in Summerside PEI held an innovative mission education event where we shared the time with a mostly-Pentecostal group who support and work at an evangelistic orphanage project in northern Mozambique. A chance to compare two very different ways of international mission. A dedicated group from Trinity UC works in Kenya through Free the Children.

In this the United Church's largest Conference–three entire provinces and part of a fourth–we worked 19 venues and events, a grand logistical achievement by all who came through with rides like that series of four in one day to get us from near Saint John to Halifax, plane and bus tickets, billets, promotion, and driving tours of local sites from Bathurst to Truro to Summerside.

All through Maritime Conference we met enthusiastic M&S supporters in vibrant congregations; the website photos of costumes and dances at St Andrews in Halifax and at Truro Presbyterial show the spirit:

250 st andrew halifax.jpg
File:250 truro presbyterial.jpg

Many people said they felt encouraged at seeing how M&S dollars are put to work in Mozambique. We ended our home assignment mission-education tour–six Conferences over nine months–encouraged and inspired at what United Churches in eastern Canada are achieving.

This being Letter 250–a quarter-thousand Mozambique Letters we've written since 1999–it's a fitting time to end our personal series of epistles on international mission. For now, we're not returning to overseas posting. But we do look forward to continuing service with our United Church of Canada. We thank God for a total of twelve years based in Mozambique, with all its challenges and blessings, and thank all those who read and especially those who shared our Mission and Service Letters through the years.

In Mission and Service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters

Post-Mozambique Letter 249 March 9 2011

Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together–by trade they were tent makers. - Acts 18.2-3

It's fitting that Paul was a tentmaker. Did he shelter in his own tents sometimes on his travels? In the various Conferences we haven't yet had to camp, but one night we were snowed-in at Markdale, couldn't drive as planned to our next day's event, and were taken in by a generous couple, Cathy and Pieter, whom we'd met at that evening's presentation at Annesley UC (by the way, the only UCC church we've encountered that's named for John Wesley's wife). Hebrews 13.2 encourages hospitality, since you never know when you're entertaining angels. Our kind hosts surely knew we're not, but it didn't seem to bother them.

The ‘them' in the verse above are Priscilla and Claudia, ‘of the same trade' as Paul was. What sustains us on the road is constantly meeting people with the same ‘trade' of Christian mission. Lay or clergy, individually or as congregations. People who do whatever practical daily service they're called to. Here are other examples from our time in Toronto Conference:

249 bolton mozambique cookies1300220937.jpg

Bolton UC served cookies iced in the design of the Mozambican flag. See the photos

249 bolton mozambique cookies1300220937.jpg

Bolton also had the most boisterous and varied music–adult choir, children's choir, teen singers, and a mixed-generation band with electric guitar, keyboard, sax, flute, and drums including steel drums.

Cookstown UC served the most-authentic African cuisine (it helped that its minister had worked in Botswana).

Palgrave UC invited us to meld international-mission with Young People's Day, which made for a format of three child-length sermonettes instead of one big one, all illustrated with child-friendly slides, and of course a children's march.

Westminster UC in Orangeville shares with Palgrave the most moving benediction, the entire congregation holding hands and singing to launch each other into the week.

St Pauls UC in Midland put a mosquito-net on display for our visit, which had draped the whole pulpit the preceding Sunday, for publicity and promotion of the coming event.

Mayfield UC displays two astonishing murals by art students at the nearby high-school. Their painting of the ark shows Noah looking on at a cheerily Canadianized scene– holsteins with the hippos, a toucan on a branch by a couple of moose, and camels with the polar bears (see the excerpt on the website;

249 mayfield mural.jpg

That's the dove wings at left). The Garden of Eden mural gives foreground space to a giant Monarch butterfly perched above the apple.

St Johns UC in Cookstown served the grandest array of homemade soups–a tantalizing line-up of about a dozen, in their kettles, crocks and assorted pans–with potato-bread of course from the area's top crop. We can only hope St Paul was always fed so well.

And Annesley UC in Markdale, as above, had the most intrepid travellers, faithfully showing up through the snows of southwestern Ontario's height of land, to hear about mission in tropical Mozambique. Paul braved Mediterranean gales. But snowstorms?

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters after Mozambique Letter 248

February 15 2011

I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you….

  • – 1 Corinthians 12.1

These last few months, our M&S letters come not so often. We're on the road across Ontario, and the rhythm seems to be a letter per Conference travelled. January and February brought us to Montreal and Ottawa Conference (only Ottawa-area really). The VIA train ride from and back to Woodstock is a pleasure. Curl up with a good book and passable coffee from the steward's cart. Absorb Ontario scenery passing by, sights you wouldn't have seen from car windows, since train tracks run via other, less-travelled landscapes. In our nook of Heaven if we get there, there'll be trains, and bicycles (no cars or planes).

Chauffeured by congregation members, with time to talk with drivers en route, we came to know Ottawa churches' people and programs a little bit better. Each has its architecture to the glory of God—19th-century grey Ottawa limestone churches downtown, the surprising BC timber prefab of Ottawa's Knox UC, the fifties practicality of Rideau Park and Carleton Memorial.

Also, as Paul recognized in the case of individual Christians, each congregation has its God-given abilities, gifts, calling.

St Paul's Eastern downtown offers yoga sessions and shares an ecumenical ministry to students at the University of Ottawa, with dinner and chapel-time, each month-end when students' finances wear thin.

Carleton Memorial has programs and volunteers linked to a nearby community centre frequented by Moslems and other new Canadians.

The Affirming congregation of First United shares space with an Anglican congregation—their resurrection after life in an aged building downtown.

Rural Knox UC in Edwards hosts groups of Steven Lewis Grannies, part of its mission fighting HIV/AIDS.

MacKay UC serves up a wide range of concerts in its sanctuary's glorious acoustics.

Spacious Parkdale gave rooms for an all-day Conference Stewardship Event (where we made a stir revealing that offering-time is the highlight of any Mozambican church service, each giver dancing and singing with joy at having something to offer).

Making the acquaintance of new congregations always means many surprising moments of grace, that come with such impact since we as newcomers have no idea what to expect.

The minister at MacKay with his African drum.

His colleague at Knox playing trumpet.

Children's time, any Sunday, the kids trying on African wrap skirts, making joyous noise with Mozambican instruments, marching the aisles to ‘Siyahumba'—see the web site photo at

248 knox ottawa kids1298949079.jpg

at Knox UC in Ottawa.

The history moment at Seaway Valley Presbyterial when a speaker from the hosting Williamsburg congregation told of Church Union times there, when the congregations hauled a smaller white-frame church by horses, to link to the larger limestone church some distance away: now that's church Union!

249 mayfield mural.jpg Meeting in person the young student who had mailed to us in Mozambique a handwritten greeting card that defied the Mozambican postal system and arrived. In Ottawa we learned she's called now to study for UC ministry. God bless her.

Carleton Memorial's series of barnboard carvings—Christmas cr che, the Ark, Daniel and the Lions, and more—in a folk-art eastern-European Orthodox iconic style, hanging astoundingly in the plain sixties hall.

Hearing an excited parishioner tell of the day of Knox UC in rural Edwards was lifted by crane and brought down like the new Jerusalem in Revelations 21 on a new foundation on an elevated site across the highway. See the other website photo, from their treasured scrapbook.

248 knox edwards descending.jpg

Somehow we all need to learn to be open to and grateful and nourished by moments of surprising grace that will come even in our familiar environments. Each day offers grace, and each United Church its way of being and serving.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt Admin | © St. Pauls United Church 2014

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