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Moderator’s Welcome Message

Transcript of Videotaped Message: September 2018

Hello, my name is Richard Bott. My pronouns are “he,” “him,” and “his.” This past July, the General Council elected me as the 43rd Moderator of The United Church of Canada.

I’ve been asked what it is that I’m hoping to focus on over the next three years. I’d really like to see us—as individuals, as communities of faith, and as a denomination—to explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in The United Church of Canada in the 21st century. Who is Jesus—for me, for you, and for us—and what does that mean for how we live and work and celebrate the presence of the divine together? Part of the joy of The United Church of Canada is that we have so many different answers to these questions—and, when we get down into the vulnerable depths of discussion, we have the ability to experience God’s presence in powerful ways, learning from one another. 

I believe that the Holy Spirit was moving at the 43rd General Council—in gusts that carried us further along paths that we’ve been discerning for a time—as we listened to, and accepted, the calls to action of the Caretakers of Our Indigenous Circle. We have a long way to go to truly become people walking together in right relationship with each other and with the Creator, but I am so thankful for the teachings and the challenge that our Indigenous siblings have been willing to offer, and that those of us in Christ’s church who are settlers and descendants of settlers are listening, learning, and acting.

I believe that the Holy Spirit was moving at the 43rd General Council—in a gale-force whirlwind, when racialized commissioners and commissioners who are differently abled spoke of the experiences in their lives of racism and ableism—not just in the world but in The United Church of Canada. In those few hours, God challenged those of us who are part of the dominant church to realize that every single person is a beloved child of God and to do the deep, hard work of rooting out and changing our internalized and overt racism and ableism.

In all of this, there is listening that needs to happen, and conversations that need to happen, and there’s action that needs to happen. There are moments that each of us will feel overwhelmed. If we take a look at the biblical stories, there are times that many of the disciples who walked right beside Jesus were overwhelmed—even ran away. But they came back, and they lived Jesus’ Way to the best of their ability.

There are so many things happening in the life of our church and in the world around us right now. Political changes, social changes, structural changes, and all of these changes, whether we think they’re good or not, add to our stress. There’s a phrase that I once heard used by a Buddhist teacher, a play on words that both makes me smile and gives me pause, “Don’t just do something. Sit there!” It was their way of challenging the listener to stop and simply be until the moment was right to act.

For me, as a disciple of Jesus, those moments of quieting myself are a lead-in to the conversation with God that we often call prayer. So I’d invite you, in those moments when all of the change, all of the transition threatens to be overwhelming, “Don’t just do something. Sit there!” Listen carefully—to yourself, to your neighbour, and to God. Then act, and let your action be as full of your love and God’s love as you are able to make it!

Let’s see where Jesus’ Way is leading us today.