West Hill is a people, a place, and an idea. We are a community living out a progressive faith, striving to make a positive difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and the world.

Based in Scarborough Ontario, we have supporters as close as our neighbourhood and all over the world.  You belong with us! Connect with us in person, on the web, or here. We look forward to the journey with you.

Our mission:

Moved by a reverence for life to pursue justice for all, we inspire one another to seek truth, live fully, care deeply and make a difference.

Support West Hill!  Learn more or donate now through CanadaHelps.

The latest news, videos and perspectives from our community:

Want to contribute?  Email the webmaster.


How you can help: Supporting Gretta and West Hill during the UCC Review Process

This past May, Gretta was notified by the Toronto Conference of The United Church of Canada that she would be required to submit to a review of her “effectiveness”. This review is intended to examine her theological beliefs as expressed at the time of her ordination. This is the first time that an ordained minister in the United Church has been subjected to this type of review and a special process was sought by the Conference from the General Secretary of the General Council. Although the impetus for it is not fully clear, it appears to stem from a significant increase in recent media attention being paid to Gretta and West Hill United because she has publicly identified as an atheist, a label which is consistent with her lack of belief in a theistic, interventionist, supernatural being called God.
Gretta Speaks at Burlington Baptist in 2008


We find it troubling that no one representing any level of the church has been to visit West Hill in over a decade to see what we are doing or to discuss our ministry. No one has found the work we do at West Hill important enough for the wider church to suggest it be the focus of a conversation at Presbytery, Conference, or elsewhere.


Similarly, no one from any of the church courts has tried to engage Gretta in dialogue about her beliefs and ministry despite her accessibility and willingness to respond to any who inquire. The requirement to appear before a review committee is the first invitation to dialogue but it falls within the disciplinary structure of the denomination. 


Despite the lack of invitation to dialogue on the part of the church, Gretta and her legal counsel asked the General Secretary and her team of advisors to enter into a conversation with a view to exploring an alternative to the normal judicial process. That request was denied. The response from the church continues to be no dialogue, no conversation.


During this time many of you have been asking “what can we do?” In the hopes that a conversation with the church would be forthcoming we kept saying……”stay tuned”. Now that the church has formally drawn that line in the sand we are asking for your assistance. There are a number of ways you can be involved and we are asking you to do that. 


These are links to some of the ways you can get involved. If there is something else you would like to do and you have the know how and energy to do it, please be in touch (That's our special email address for this initiative) and let us know.  
Thanks so much for becoming involved. We firmly believe, and have always believed, that this work is work that belongs within The United Church of Canada. Thank you for helping us make sure that it remains so. 

Positivity Meditation

Positivity meditation guru, Barbara Frederickson, has spent years researching the effects of brief, compassion and positivity focused meditation on personal well-being. The results she shares in her book, Positivity, should have all of us spending a few minutes each day developing this practice.

Frederickson's research shows that over time, small, manageable doses of positivity meditation increase our experience of positive emotions. These positive emotions add their own benefits, expanding the personal resource base from which our well-being is nurtured. We are more aware of our responses to immediate situations, develop a deeper understanding of purpose in our lives, reach out and strengthen our social ties, and even reduce the symptoms of illness. And the loop of benefits doesn't stop there. Increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. We reach what Frederickson identifies as a tipping point and begin to flourish instead of just existing.

Every Sunday morning, beginning at 9:50, a space for quiet meditation is provided in the small lounge on the south side of the Gathering Hall. There, a guided meditation from Barbara Fredericson's Love 2.0 site is played for those who wish to centre themselves more intentionally before our gathering time. If you'd like to experience Barbara's meditations at home (these are the same ones we use on Sunday mornings), you can find them on her Positivity Resonance website.



West Hill joins the REDress Project

The REDress Project, an installation art piece by Jaime Black, a Winnipeg Metis artist, was added to today in Scarborough. There, members of West Hill hung red dresses along Kingston Road and Orchard Park Boulevard. It was a dramatic sight. 

Jaime's work was originally developed in 2012, but this year she decided it needed to be expanded. Each red dress is hung as a remember, a tangible symbol of an aboriginal sister who has been murdered or remains missing. In the past three decades, twelve hundred women have gone missing or been killed yet there has, to date, been no official investigation in to the issue. 

The Native Women's Association of Canada's Fact Sheet on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women shares some of the grim reality. 

  • between 2000 and 2008, Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada. However, Aboriginal women make up only 3% of the female population
  • the vast majority of women in NWAC’s database (88%) were mothers; NWAC estimates that more than 440 children have been impacted by the disappearance or murder of their mother.
  • 70% of the women and girls disappeared from an urban area and 60% were found murdered in an urban area; only a small number of cases occurred on-reserve (7% of missing cases and 13% of murder cases)
  • nearly half of murder cases in NWAC’s database remain unsolved
  • aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women are

Find out more about Jaime's REDress project and share the word. Our sisters need our voices and our passion. 





World Wide Communion Sunday

Photo by morguefile.com user TatThis week, West Hill will participate in World Wide Communion Sunday, an annual tradition that connects communities of faith around the world. We invite you to join us, especially if you are curious about how communion takes place in a theologically barrier-free space.

Building on the work of John Dominic Crossan that presents the earliest eucharistic meals as open gatherings of diversely resourced people at a common table, West Hill has transformed the traditional form of communion as it is often celebrated into an open table feast. Landing, as it does, on the first Sunday of the month, the communal meal welcomes those who travel to join us and visitors who are with us for the first time. It has become an important way to remind ourselves that "communion" is possible, perhaps even necessary, whenever we sit down with our friends, relatives, or coworkers to enjoy a meal together.

October 4th, 2015, 10:30



An Extraordinary Thanksgiving

Never before will we have been considered some of the truths of our national tapestry on a Thanksgiving Sunday, the extraordinary way in which Chinese immigrants and First Nations people and communities interacted in the face of Canada's indifference toward them both. This Thanksgiving, we welcome that story as it comes to us in the form of Paul Yee. It will be a time for truth-telling and a time for bravery. It will be a time for sharing and a time for expressing regret. But mostly, it will be a time for thanksgiving.

Click to read more ...


West Hill launches Truth and Reconciliation Project

First Nations' drummers entertain along One Walk route, 2015Beginning the first Sunday in September, 2015, West Hill's Sunday gatherings began with two things: an acknowledgement that we gather on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the reading of one of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

There were ninety-four recommendations made when the TRC presented its final report. After six years of hearings that brought to the fore the realities of what many have called cultural genocide, shared by some 6,000 Residential School survivors, the recommendations were met with cautious optimism from the Canadian public. The caution, as an Angus Reid poll indicated, lay in the fact that many Canadians have doubts that the recommendations will receive any response from their government, the party that acts on the behalf of Canadians when it comes to our obligations under the treaties signed with First Nations.

West Hill believes that we need to do more than shrug our shoulders and hope for the best. For this reason, we will highlight one of the recommendations each Sunday until all of them have been read. We hope that, by doing so, we will remain engaged and bring conversation with friends, family members, community leaders, and political representatives back to the many important issues highlighted by the TRC.

We are all treaty people. 


Supporting West Hill United Church

For over eighteen years, Gretta has been our minister at West Hill. She sent us her application after receiving a letter from our Search Committee that stated the congregation was ready to travel new roads. Little did either of us, West Hill or Gretta, know where those roads would lead.

But for the past fifteen years, Gretta has encouraged us to engage in what we believe is most important in life whether we believe in God or not - the way we live. We've worked, studied, read, wrestled with new challenges, sustained great losses, and walked a path that has been costly but rewarding, with encouragement often coming from unexpected places. And we have done it at a time when many United Church congregations in our area have closed. 

We haven't closed. In fact, we continue to draw visitors every week and engage a broad audience that is drawn to the work we are doing. While the media loops the fact that we lost two thirds of our congregation (7 years ago), they don't note that 8 congregations in Scarborough have closed in the last decade, and they don't emphasize that we actually made it through those hard days and have grown our way back. Not as far back as we were, but enough to keep our energy high and our passion for our work strong. 

For quite some time now, that work has rested on the shoulders of a small group of people. Efforts to grow our vision of church via an expanded staff complement did not build the financial base necessary for supporting the dynamic programs we had planned. The latest program we developed offered a new model of church beyond Sunday morning service format that could be reproduced in any church, where people in the larger community could meet to explore their living relationships with self, others, and the planet.  We submitted the program to the Presbyteries of Toronto Conference Corporation, a source of funding for innovative ministries, but were denied because the project was considered "secular".

We still have a vision for how the values that ground all mainline denominations can build and sustain community beyond the decline of Sunday morning services. We recognize how vital community - meaningful, engaged community - is to personal well-being. And we know how vital personal well-being is to the communities and neighbourhoods in which we live. We've learned a lot in our sixty-five year history but the most important thing is that we are all interconnected.  

As West Hill continues to struggle toward a new way of being and doing church, the review of Gretta's effectiveness adds another challenge to our work, siphoning off important energy from our leadership core and from Gretta herself. But our primary purpose remains, regardless of what the outcome of that review might be - to nurture and pass on the values that have inspired United Church members for decades, and engage people in a community in which they can grow and be inspired.

If we are going to survive, to model a new way of being church beyond the beliefs that divide, we will need to build a financial base that extends beyond our local, gathering community. Contrary to what many people believe, our expenses are entirely covered by donations made by members of the congregation. Gretta's salary is paid not by the denomination but by West Hill contributors. As is our mortgage. As are our building expenses. As are our other salaries. In fact, with our donations to the United Church's Mission and Service Fund and our presbytery dues, we spend close to twenty thousand dollars a year to remain in the United Church. The UCC doesn't subsidize us; we subsidize it.

But we believe it is critical that we do not fail in this visionary task just because of where we are geographically or because the vision we have isn't shared - yet - by the United Church's funding bodies. Creating community beyond the divide may be the most important thing we figure out how to do. Our theologically barrier-free stance is the crucial first step and that work has already been done. 

We invite you to be part of West Hill's continuing efforts by becoming a financial supporter, either by making a single donation or contributing in an ongoing way. Our building is owned by the UCC but we are still making mortgage payments for renovations made in the 1980s. You can find us on CanadaHelps, or contact our envelope steward to find out how to make a donation directly. Your donations are tax deductible. 

For other ways to become engaged, please see these pages... 



Friends of Gretta Vosper Association



How Gretta's ministry became grounds for a legal battle

The steps that have led to The United Church of Canada (UCC) requiring Gretta's ministry be officially reviewed to determine her effectiveness are complicated and have a lot to do with the United Church as a denomination. Here is a brief, or relatively brief, summary.

This April, the Executive Secretary of Toronto Conference, David Allen, and the Personnel Minister, Dale Hildebrand, requested a meeting with Gretta to inform her that concerns about her theological stance had come to the Executive of Conference at its April meeting.* David noted that the only two reasons for reviewing a minister in the UCC - matters of effectiveness in ministry and failure to submit to the authority of Presbytery - had been discussed by the Executive but that neither case gave them grounds to review her. Nevertheless, the desire to review her based on her theological position was so great that the committee voted unanimously to ask the General Secretary of the General Council, the church's highest executive staff, to create a process that would enable them to do so, directing the General Secretary to focus specifically on the questions of ordination.  
Within a fortnight, the General Secretary ruled that in order for ministers to be effective, they needed to continue to be suitable. That sounds logical; however suitability in the UCC is something determined by congregations and committees prior to an individual's ordination or commissioning and after careful consideration of a candidate's understanding of ministry and, sometimes but not always, interpretation of doctrine. Any doctrinal questions asked seek to determine whether the candidate is in essential agreement with UCC doctrinal statements. (Yes, it's complicated - there is a lot of background history in the UCC related to "essential agreement". We'll post a link to that soon.)
The Sub-Executive of Toronto Conference met a week after the ruling came from the General Council office. With six people in attendance, only four of whom were eligible to vote, the decision to review Gretta's effectiveness based on the new interpretation was passed unanimously. 

Why this review poses a bigger risk to the UCC than Gretta ever could 

No UCC minister, once ordained or commissioned, has ever been questioned as to their suitability apart from, as noted above, effectiveness of his or her ministry, compliance with Presbytery, or criminal activity which, in truth, would likely come under "effectiveness". The General Secretary's argument was, however, that if the minister was no longer in continuing affirmation of the questions asked at his or her ordination, he or she could no longer be deemed suitable and, if not suitable, then certainly not effective. In essence, she interpretted the existing grounds for review, stretching them to cover what it was Toronto Conference Executive wanted to do: review Gretta based on her theological beliefs. 
This new interpretation of "effectiveness" actually places all ministers within the UCC under perpetual theological scrutiny by requiring that they be in ongoing affirmation of the questions of ordination. Specifically, that means defining God as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Severed from the discernment of committees and congregations within which a candidate's beliefs are considered and interpretted, it will be difficult to discuss them in any manner other than as the literal questions they pose. This challenge will place a significant a stumbling block before clergy who interpret god metaphorically, something previously celebrated and nurtured within the United Church. It will certainly keep conversations about critical, contemporary scholarship where they have been vibrantly engaged for over a century: behind closed doors or within the halls of academia. Cergy who share critical, contemporary scholarship of any kind with their congregations may find themselves in a small room before a review committee answering questions about what he or she believes. 

How things got ugly

Gretta has long urged denomination-wide discussions related to concepts of God, theology, language, an beliefs, opportunities for learning and growth. She has written two books on her views and spoken nationally and internationally, applauding the UCC's courage on justice issues across the spectrum and its openness to dialogue, inclusiveness, and respect. As this review process began, she repeatedly argued for it to be held in a collegial manner, refusing intervention that might, in any way, compromise the possibility of a result that would affect her, West Hill, and the denomination positively.
At no time prior to the Executive meeting in April did the UCC officially question her, object to her message, or indicate in any way that she was "out of line".** In keeping with her faith in the UCC's sense of respect and natural justice, Gretta and her lawyer sought an alternate dispute resolution process - one which she hoped might result in broad discussion across the UCC. However, one of the two lawyers retained by the UCC (one to represent Toronto Conference and one to represent General Council), informed Gretta's lawyer that they would not participate in such a conversation. Gretta is deeply saddened by this decision as it contradicts her understanding and previous experience of the UCC as a denomination committed to openness, acceptance, discussion, and respect.
We call it a line in the sand, something that West Hill has so often described as a divisive element within religion, particularly evident when faith traditions rely on doctrine to determine who belongs and who doesn't. In order to engage the widest possible audience, we are sharing this background with you and inviting you to participate as you feel inspired to do. 

This is where you come in

Friends of Gretta Vosper Association

A small group of supporters, in response to the UCC's line in the sand, have brought together some of the ways you can be involved.

The Friends of Gretta Vosper Association

The primary purpose of the The Friends of Gretta Vosper Association is “to raise funds to cover Gretta Vosper’s costs as a direct result of the United Church of Canada’s review”** but we have other options for those of you who are unable to help in that area. A Facebook page - Friends of Gretta Vosper - has been set up to provide more information and direct you to a fundraising site to make a donation. 

Letter Writing, Social Media, and West Hill

A no less important goal than raising funds is raising awareness of the situation and engaging those who support the work that Gretta is doing with West Hill. Please see these other pages for information on other ways of influencing the outcome of this review and the work we are doing together.
Thank you for participating in this unprecedented struggle. Your support is enormously appreciated.
*The letter to which David Allen drew the Executive Committee's attention came from a congregation within the same presbytery as West Hill. There was no call to action in the letter and Gretta was not named. It requested information on the breadth of belief tolerated in the United Church and (erroneously) noted West Hill's atheistic beliefs as one example. West Hill has invited that congregation to a conversation and we hope it will be an opportunity for vibrant discussion.
**In 2005, when a colleague attempted to initiate a hearing into her beliefs, the Presbytery defeated the motion. Gretta has not been the subject of any further actions since that time although a challenge initiated in a neighbouring conference died before actually getting to the court. 

***The major costs that will and have already accrued are the fees associated with legal representation. Please note, these donations are not being made to West Hill United and are not eligible as charitable donations for income tax purposes.

Creating Conversations on Social Media

As you are aware, Gretta's ministry is being reviewed by The United Church of Canada (UCC) under a process designed by the General Secretary of the United Church upon the request of Toronto Conference. It is the first time in the history of the UCC that an ordained minister has come under investigation for his or her beliefs. The United Church, which was forged in dialogue and has always found its way forward through conversation, exploration, and learning from the other, has refused to engage in conversation about our ministry and Gretta's ministry, except through a disciplinary procedure. 

West Hill's Streamers prepare for our Affirming AnniversaryWe think this is wrong. We think conversation is essential. 

So, we're hoping you can help us get it going with or without the hierarchy of the church!

Whether you are on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or some other social media channel, please feel free to start the conversation. You are welcome to share our or Gretta's posts on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, join Gretta's group "A Poetic Humanism" on LinkedIn, or share some of the quotes she has posted on Pinterest. There is lots of material out there; we just need you to start a conversation with it!

To keep your conversations up to date with ours and Gretta's engaging and sometimes controversial content, send an email to us letting us know you would like to be on one or both email lists. (In keeping with Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, please include in your email the permission for us to send you commercial messages in the future. Not that we are expecting to, but ... )

Thank you so much for engaging.  Here are some Social Media sites you might like to follow or like as well as Gretta's website address.

West Hill United on Facebook
West Hill United on Twitter
Gretta on Facebook
Gretta on Twitter 
A Poetic Humanism on LinkedIn
Gretta's favourite quote slides on Pinterest 
Gretta's website 

Conversation is so important. Thank you for drawing your chair up to the table and creating a safe space for others to do so as well. 

For other ways to be involved, please see these pages ...


Letter Writing, Review of Gretta's Effectiveness

Gretta has been in ministry with The United Church of Canada for twenty-five years, serving first as a Candidate Supply in Kingston before being ordained in 1993 while at St. Matthew's United Church in Toronto. For the past eighteen years, she has been the sole ordained minister at West Hill. The review of her effectiveness comes at a time when her ministry is the focus of media attention because she uses the term "atheist" to accurately describe her lack of belief in a divine being called God.

The following individuals hold key positions in the United Church of Canada. They need to hear your words of support and concern. Please consider writing to all four and copy us on your letters so that the congregation can learn of your support.

The Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell
Moderator, UCC
3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300
Toronto, ON  M8X 2Y4
or email: The Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell

Nora Sanders
General Secretary, UCC
3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300
Toronto, ON  M8X 2Y4 Canada
or email: Nora Sanders


David Allen

Executive Secretary - Toronto Conference
65 Mayall Avenue, Toronto, ON M3L 1E7
or email: David Allen

The Reverend Bryan Ransom
President - Toronto Conference
65 Mayall Avenue, Toronto, ON M3L 1E7
or email: The Reverend Bryan Ransom 

We encourage you to write personal letters – in your own words. Form letters can serve a useful purpose, however, we believe that personalised letters are more likely to be read and will offer a wider diversity of opinions and concerns.

The goal of your letter could be:

  • to engage the church, recognising that it has always used conversation and dialogue to address significant elements of change,
  • to communicate that how we live our lives is more important that what we believe;  
  • to highlight the significance of the review and the implications that it might have to the ethos of the church and to those who walk alongside Gretta,
  • to convey appreciation for the leadership that Gretta has provided to the West Hill community,
  • to support the progressive vision that Gretta has expressed for the larger church,
  • to recognise Gretta for having helped create a strong values based, ethically oriented community

Your words are powerful. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

For other ways to be involved, please see these pages ...