Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council
State of the Church

from the desk of President Mark Laird
We are not alone; we live in God’s world. Specifically, we live within the bounds of Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, and we are not alone. There are close to 150 United Churches within our bounds, and I thank God for every one. I want to send a "thank you" on behalf of the Covenant Commission for the record number of Annual Reports that communities of faith have sent in this year. These reports give helpful information to the commission and allow them to see trends which can help to inform decision making.
This year, (as I’m sure has been the case for the last 2 years) a trend that has been noticed is that
congregations are weary, and ministry personnel are stressed.
I don’t know when the official end to the pandemic will be, but I think it's important to acknowledge where we are now. It has been over 2 years of learning: how to do church differently, adjusting on the fly, trying to find the spirit at work, saying goodbye to loved ones in a way that felt different and sometimes without closure. Congregations have closed, not because of the pandemic, but it was the proverbial final straw. I know that personally I have had to learn tech and stretch myself farther than what I was taught at school.
                        But I know that I am not alone.                        
The United Church of Canada is celebrating 97 years this year …. and those who have come before us faced challenges as well. I can’t imagine being a church leader during the depression or WWII just to name two such challenges. The church, its congregations and its leaders have gone through a lot in our history together and the spirit has always led us through to the other side. Maybe not always how we thought it would lead us or how we wanted to be led, but there has always been new life. 
We are a resurrection people, and resurrection means new life, not the same life continued (to quote some brilliant theme of a not-too-distant WOW meeting).
So, know that you are not alone. We have all experienced the pandemic together, yes, in different ways, but we all have had to adapt and feel the spirit reaching out anew.
I encourage you to take the summer to see this newness, explore what has changed in your local context that is worth keeping. What aspects of your faith, your spirituality that needed to be changed due to the pandemic are worth keeping around?
Enjoy the warm summer months, perhaps find the time and space to have some outdoor gatherings, if inside-in person still seems like a stretch for your community of faith. Explore creation, explore your faith, explore where the spirit has led us and where it might be leading us into the future.
These last couple of years we have been focusing our education at the regional council level on unsettling our world views - which has been incredibly important.
            It is also important to be inspired,    
            to spend time together and to lift each other up.    
We hope to hald some events in the fall that can do just that. In the meantime, call your neighbouring community of faith and ask them how they are. Talk to your clergy friends, have a coffee together outside. Reach out to each other and know that:
You are not alone,
you live in God’s world,
who has created and is creating,
who reconciles and makes new,
ever working by the Spirit ……. you are not alone,
and thanks be to God.

Mark Laird
President, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council