Photo of Moderator Jordan Cantwell at GC43 with medicine bag
Moderator Jordan Cantwell shows the medicine bag given to the church by the people of Oxford House, MB. Photo: The United Church of Canada

Moderator and General Secretary Share Accountability Reports

“May we not rest until racism and privilege are abolished,” declared outgoing Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell, in her accountability report to the 43rd General Council.

A major focus of her three-year term as Moderator has been reconciliation and healing between Indigenous peoples and the church.

“These conversations about race and privilege will demand great courage and great humility from all of us,” said the Moderator. “My heart has been broken by so many stories of pain and exclusion.”

She presented to the Council a medicine bag that was a gift to the church from the people of Oxford House in northern Manitoba.

“It is given in order to support and encourage this church in a time of tumultuous change.”

On the strap of the medicine bag are beaded the seven sacred Indigenous teachings, and on the front, flowers representing the seven sacred teachings.

Inside the medicine bag is a Bible marked at Psalm 23, and a $5 bill symbolizing treaty obligations—“a symbol of our connection and our responsibility to one another.” The medicine bag also holds four coloured stones representing the medicine wheel, a heart-shaped stone, soil, water, and stinging nettle seeds for medicine.

The Moderator said the bag was offered as a gift with the following message: “When you came [settlers] you took away our bundle—our medicines—and you gave us your bundle—the Bible—and now we offer back to you your bundle, and we want ours back too.”

The Moderator also displayed a carved life bowl from Australia. A life bowl can be used to hold a newborn baby, dig in the earth, winnow seeds, and carry fresh produce.

“All of life can be held in this bowl.”

“Our courage is greater than our fear,” said the Moderator as she called the church to “an audacious hope.”

General Secretary Nora Sanders in her accountability report said, “Faith is a risk. Faith is always a risk. Faith is about the Unseen One, the Holy One.”

The General Secretary recounted the story of a congregation that had reinvented itself every 20 years for every generation. “It was done for the sake of the next generation.”

Then Sanders offered the General Council five questions for consideration:

  • What is the unique thing or things that The United Church of Canada offers to our society?
  • Who are those next generations? Who will be the United Church people in 20 years?
  • How do we talk about faith in this incredibly secular world?
  • What actions does the world most need from us?
  • What is God already doing—and have we noticed?

She said answering the questions “will define who we are and who we are seeking to become.”

Sanders also talked about the property audit of the United Church, and signs of church courts or church bodies sharing financial resources across boundaries or in ways not previously exercised.