We depend on God's grace, as followers of and believers in Jesus Christ, and we celebrate the presence of God in:
God is our teacher, Christ our example, the Spirit our companion.
Wherever you are on your faith journey, you are welcome here.
A reflection on the meaning of St. James' Faith Statement:
There is no simple way to express the faith we share and the insights which might be particular among us. We are a community of diverse individuals, and we seek to be open to diversity. Therefore, to say in a few words what is really true for each of us is impossible. Yet we seek to engage in dialogue about our faith and our beliefs, in an effort to understand them better and in an effort to identify ourselves to the wider community which we engage every day.
Our faith statement is an entry point for a deep dialogue, about meaning, and connectedness with each other and with the divine presence. It is rooted in historic Christianity but not contained by it. We invite all to dialogue about their faith, as it deepens relationship among us.
We might then consider each of the points in our faith statement to be like a talking point, opening us to a vista of experience and reflection that both connects us and challenges us.
“We depend on God’s grace...” We acknowledge our brokenness, and the ways in which we might not manage to live up to God’s expectations for us and for our world. In this acknowledgement is contained the realization that we ache to live according to God’s will even if we are wracked with pain, lost in grief or alienated in anger, even if we are rapt with joy, sated with plenty and bursting with energy. We constantly try to live according to God’s will as we understand it through scripture, through the teachings of the churches and the insights of other faith traditions, and when we begin to direct our own path, we accept the gentle corrections which allow us to be recipients of God’s way, the way of unmerited grace and compassionate forgiveness.
“We celebrate the presence of God...” What we do, and how we are, is not on account of ourselves. When we step out together as the church, we do not do what feels right, or what is fashionable, or what one or two people tell us to do. We view all of experience and commitment as taking place in the context of God’s world, where God continues to call faithful people to service. Recognizing this, we cannot keep from singing/playing/praying/acting/learning in this God centred- context.
St. James United Church upholds the various statements of faith made by the United Church of Canada over the years, and affirms the great historic creeds of the Christian church. Our folk tend to be somewhat progressive in their theology, but conservative viewpoints are also expressed among our members and adherents. It is our desire that all who seek to follow Christ find a welcome here, and we hope to allow for and celebrate diversity, rather than force everyone to conform to one way of receiving the Holy Spirit.
Full versions of our denominational statements can be viewed at united-church.ca.
Worship at St. James takes a variety of forms, from traditional to contemporary. We seek to make St. James a place where meaningful Christian worship is offered as often as possible, especially for those days considered particularly sacred by the Christian church. Through diverse musical genres, drama, prayer, scripture reading, PowerPoint and preaching, the people are offered a moment of intentional connection with the divine. We worship on Sundays, but also on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and at other special times as well. We recognize the worshipful value of all of life, and our board meetings and executive meetings, as well as UCW meetings always contain an element of worship. In fact, we celebrate together on Annual Meeting Sunday by incorporating the meeting into the worship framework, “that worship and work may be one.” (Hymn “Worship the Lord,” written by Fred Kaan)
We have been blessed through the generosity of not only church members but members of the community at large in our ministry of music. Through thoughtful contributions, we have been able to acquire a concert quality grand piano and a good quality sound system. Add to that an electronic organ and the occasional use of guitars, an African djembe, and other percussion instruments. We have always enjoyed a strong choir. But our music ministry is not confined to the uses of worship. In fact, our sanctuary is used for recitals and concerts, and has been the venue for gatherings of local talent which has been uplifting for all. We celebrate God’s presence not only in the sacred hymnody and song writing of the church, but also in the musical gifts of all in our community. We regularly blend traditional and contemporary musical styles in worship. We don’t choose one over the other.
Children are not our future, they are the present. Fully formed in the image of God, our children are both treasure and task. Their insights and personalities teach us about the very real presence of God in the midst of humanity, and Jesus highly prized children’s nature in his teachings. We take seriously the responsibility of caring for children, and so observe Duty of Care policies in regards to this vulnerable sector of society. Yet, we also delight in the strength and joy of childhood, incorporating into our worship and our life as many child-centred activities as possible. We not only welcome our children’s leadership in worship, but we celebrate with them through drama, Sunday School and other programs designed to share all or our gifts together, rather than imparting our gifts to them. We allow our children to form us just as much as we recognize our very real call to form them as followers of the Christ. St. James provides for the needs of children through extending the use of our building to the BouncingBallCooperativeNursery School, and for Guiding and Scouting groups. We invite Guiding and Scouting groups to a special service designed just for them on Baden Powell Sunday. We are overflowing with grandmas and grandpas, and so we pool our gifts as community grandparents to care for children from the community through our Kid’s Club. Children of all ages are welcome throughout our regular worship services, but they can also be cared for in the nursery, or in the appropriate Sunday School Class.
Prayer is the moment of awareness of the divine presence which can come by the use of ritual prayer styles or by the wanderings of our inner spirit, or by our experience of the divine in everyday life.We pray at St, James in traditional and non-traditional ways, using words, silence, reflective music and sometimes even gestures and actions. We have used the prayer styles of other faith traditions as well, focussing on images or candle flame, or following the fading sound of drum or gong as we join in the gathered silence. We respect a wide variety of prayer experiences, and acknowledge that the prayer of the one who cannot speak is as powerful as the one who speaks well. There is as much power to transform the individual in that moment of pure peace in the ice hut when all around the fisher is absolute tranquility as there is in the most “accurately” worded communion prayer.
Prayer is not magical incantation. Prayer does transform the world, but only through transforming those who pray. If I don’t get my way, it doesn’t mean God didn’t hear, it means my way parted briefly from the way, which is ever mysterious. Prayer does not change the material world, but it gives strength to those in the material world which can sometimes be quite astounding. Prayer does not control God, but allows us to be governed by the divine presence. Prayer is the exhalation of God, and the inhalation of the faithful, and "the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8: 26)
St. James makes every effort to include all. We have, as a congregation, established an equal marriage policy, allowing us to celebrate the creation of new families through marriage without reference to the sexual orientation of the partners. We also make every attempt to include our children and youth through programs and in worship. We are delighted to be able to receive the intergenerational ministries which come from open sharing with the children. Our children are given leadership opportunities in worship, and continue to shape us. Just as Christ shows no partiality, we feel called to exercise non-judgmental compassion and acceptance in the midst of diversity in terms of socio-economic group, cultural background or community of origin, or sexual orientation.
God’s beloved children might be compared to tender shoots reaching out from the hardy branch, which need to be nurtured and upheld so that they can continue to be strengthened.We recognize the need for compassionate care and loving attention that comes with the gift of relationship in community. We seek to offer pastoral care as needed, and reach out to our communities through many means. Many of our members and adherents reach out in compassionate care through existing community organizations. We try to keep in touch with those who have special need of support in times of illness and loss, as well as with those who have moved from our midst through a ministry of “friendship letters.” We reach out to shut-ins through our lay visitors and birthday greeters, through a ministry of giving at Christmas time (Christmas hampers), and through regular circulation of sermons and newsletters to those who want them.
Through our staff, board and committees, we try to listen sensitively and non-judgementally to discern the needs of those God has given into our care. It then becomes part of our action plan to meet the needs insofar as we are able.
How often have we heard it said of any church community, “well, they sure like to eat!” Jesus himself ate with tax collectors and sinners, instituted the Lord’s Supper and was made known to the disciples after his resurrection through the breaking of bread. Eating together is a sacred tradition and spiritual practice of the Christian church. There are religious orders still today which exist to give hospitality, and in Dante’s Inferno, there are those unfortunate souls who made the mistake of committing sins against hospitality, like poisoning their guests at the dinner table. Yes, Christians like to eat. But what followers of Christ like to do even more is to offer food and comfort to those who come to us. Although offering big community meals is a lot of work, we try to encourage ourselves with the knowledge that we are engaged in an ancient spiritual practice. Jesus calls us to extend the hand and open the fridge to those who come into our midst. We eat together regularly, and are able to invite the community to meals held at our building. These also assist us to fundraise to carry forward the vision of our church.
We also commit acts of hospitality in extending the use of our building to community groups and organizations, and in hosting special events. Through the UCW, we offer catering for small luncheons and larger meals at times as well. Every year, we celebrate the first fruits of the Canadian harvest by hosting a Strawberry Supper. Through this feast, we even echo the ritual feasting of those First Nations on whose ground we are blessed to reside.
For us, hospitality is closely connected to worship as well. Just as Jesus welcomes us and summons us to the table, so we continue the work of Christ following worship with a time for coffee and conversation. The last Sunday of the month, we celebrate birthdays, and add a bite of cake to our after church coffee.
Social action is an identifying marker of the United Church of Canada. Formed at the height of the Social Gospel Movement, our church has always occupied the forefront in struggles for justice, both domestically and internationally. Heeding Christ’s invitation, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,”(Matthew 25:40), we seek to extend God’s reign of wholeness, justice and peace to the entire world. This is done through consciousness raising, as well as fundraising. We also commit ourselves to speaking out in the public forum, which we do regularly through petitions and letter-writing campaigns. Through Presbytery, Conference and the national church, as well as through other church and faith based justice coalitions, we think globally and act locally. We give to support those who are on the front line working for justice and peace, and we pray for a world transformed to conform to God’s vision for a world where “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” (Amos 5: 24) We cannot commit ourselves equally to every cause for justice, but together, we attempt to discern which areas to which God is calling us to serve. We consider the appeals for justice which come through our denomination, as well as listening attentively to our own community, to hear local cries for justice.
For the United Church of Canada, mission is about partnerships, not about charity. Through our encounters with others, we share the love and compassion of our compassionate creator. Our church takes seriously the needs of people in the developing world, and accepts their guidance in discovering ways to serve the common goal of wholeness and justice. We are committed to fairly trading with producers of various products, and seek to promote among our people and with our government, policies which lead to sustainability.We are called to live lifestyles which minimize our negative impact on the world, environmentally, politically and economically. We usually serve fairly traded coffee, engage in our local recycling program, promote giving to the UnitedChurch’s World Development and Relief Fund and enter into partnerships in our communities and around the world to commit people to peace and justice initiatives.
Care to dialogue? Meet us to share your faith, and your insights.