The United Church of Canada

I was conscripted by my favourite conductor (who I know through U of T, where I continue to sing in the Chorus as one of those Guys Who isn’t even a Student Anymore) to sing at a particular United Church this morning. It was a nice piece by Eric Whitacre, and we had run through two rehearsals, so all the voices were in top form. It sounded great. But as a result, I had to sit through the service.

In case you’re not familiar, we have this thing here in Canada called the United Church of Canada. There are, of course, United Churches all over the place, but I only have experience with this one (I’ve attended it twice), and it strikes me as something that only Canadians could come up with. The Holy Spirit is a She. The Lord’s prayer begins: “Our Father-Mother in heaven.” There is a gay pride service once a year. There are many paths to God. I’m not sure whether there’s a hell, or anything like that. There was an advertisement on the bulletin board about an engineer who was going to give a talk on “9/11 Truth” (the conspiracy theory). The last time I was there, a Jewish woman gave the sermon. It was about how Israel should be kicked out of Palestine, and there was get-the-Jews-out-of-Israel literature at the back. This time, it was slightly more tame, but it was nonetheless a huge departure from all the experiences I have accumulated with this stuff over the course of my life.

“How did you find the service?” said one of my fellow choristers, grabbing my arm. Her father is a Lutheran pastor. I’m not sure exactly what she thinks, but I know that she knows some of what I think, and she knew I would have feelings about what had just happened.

“The answer to your question,” I said, “is that I can’t decide which side of the coin I feel more strongly about…”

I no longer care that there is a left-wing, politically-active humanist group meeting in a 100-year-old church in downtown Toronto. I just hate that they call it church, and that they sleep well at night, presumably without any dissonance.


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