Welcome

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.

Saturday
Jul022016

Pride Toronto - July 3rd Parade

Sunday July 3, 2106
The 2016 Pride Parade starts at 2 P.M. at Church and Bloor, travels west on Bloor to Yonge, then south on Yonge to Dundas.  
 
GROUP BANNERS 
Metropolitan United Church, with support from other congregations, is coordinating a United Church walking group for this year’s Toronto Pride parade, under the banner of Radical Love, Walking Proud, see the photo below. We will also have a general banner that says, The United Church of Canada, at the front of the group.  Bring your congregation banner as long as you want to carry it.  We hope to have some folks who will also want to carry our United Church and Radical Love banners -- it's great to spell off half way.  
 
MEETING PLACE AND START TIME
Our marching permit # is G62, titled AFFIRM-UNITED-INTERFAITH and our check in time is 2:15 at Ted Rogers Way (Jarvis) and Bloor.   We will gather on the south-east corner and we will try to hang the United Church banner up so it can be a visible gathering spot. Please be aware that although our group has been given the 2:15 time to check in, we don't know the actual time that we will be queued into the parade. Come prepared to wait. In the past it has been an hour or two (or more) before we are able to join. It depends on how many other groups are registered and where we are in the line up.  If you have not already let us know you are planning to join, please let Susie Henderson or John Joseph Mastandrea know. 

Once the parade begins the walkers are behind the barricades so you cannot join the group from the sidelines.  Nor is it easy to leave.  So please consider the challenges. Pride Toronto provides accessibility shaded/seating areas available for people to watch the parade on a first-come first serve basis.  See the Pride website for more information. 
 
Twitter connections
Follow @TorontoConferen 
#UCCan is the hashtag to share with the wider United Church 
#PrideTO is the hashtag for Pride Toronto
#Pride2016 is a global Pride hashtag

Facebook
Interfaith Pride 
Toronto Conference 
Affirm United Group 
Wednesday
Jun292016

West Hill's Submission re: Gretta's Review by Toronto Conference

West Hill was permitted by Toronto Conference to make a submission in support of Gretta, in advance of the review that took place on June 29, 2016.  The document below is that submission (view PDF here), which was provided to the Executive Committee and the Interviewers on June 17, 2016.  Unfortunately, Toronto Conference did not permit our representative to speak to the issues during Gretta's review on June 29th.

 

Submission to Toronto Conference Interview Panel and Executive Committee

Re: Rev. Gretta Vosper

From West Hill United Church

 

Dear Committee Members and Rev. David Allan, Executive Secretary, Toronto Conference:

We welcome this opportunity to present our unyielding support for Rev. Gretta Vosper by offering our perspective on the review and our relationship with Gretta, providing some clarification around West Hill and our evolving theology, and responding to challenges that have been voiced about our place within the United Church of Canada.

In 1997 Scarborough Southeast Presbytery, the congregation of West Hill, and Gretta Vosper entered into a covenant.  The members of West Hill have taken a very active role in enriching and supporting this covenant. In 2004 we created a document we call VisionWorks that articulates our shared values and reflects what we hold to be of utmost significance in our community life. It calls us to examine ourselves in light of these values as we set priorities and make decisions, both individually and as a community.  This document was created by members of our congregation and was affirmed by our Presbytery at its 2005 oversight meeting.  Our covenant remains strong and has not been broken.  In living out that covenant, Gretta meets and exceeds our standards of effectiveness.

Effectiveness is measured by outcomes and we are the ones best suited to measure those because we are the ones to set the goals and objectives for our congregation – and yet we have never been approached regarding our vision, our strategies, our objectives or the effectiveness of our minister. 

Almost throughout our 66-year history, West Hill United Church has been on the forefront of progressive theology, many of our congregants have grown in knowledge of biblical critique as a result of yearly book studies of works by John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Tom Harpur, Elaine Pagels, and Riane Eisler, for example. And, like Gretta, many of us are products of the United Church’s New Curriculum.  When Gretta was called to West Hill, the Search Committee conscientiously sought candidates that were progressive in their theology and selected Gretta as we recognized in her the leadership qualities we sought to help us push the envelope of what church could mean in the coming years. 

She has done that both through her own development as a minister and also by being emboldened by this very congregation to align our values, language, and Sunday services to better reflect contemporary progressive understandings and a focus on non-exclusive gatherings. It is vital to understand that this was not done in isolation by Gretta but in conjunction and coordination with the congregation and the Board of West Hill.  Gretta has never acted unilaterally in any of these decisions but sought the advice or consent of the Board.  West Hill and Gretta were – and are – inextricably galvanized in this work.

We believe it is essential to recognize that when the congregation called Gretta we embraced her progressive value-centred views because they aligned with how the congregation itself viewed and embraced the concept of god.  When she began using the label atheist rather than non-theist, in solidarity with Bangladeshi bloggers who were being murdered for their secular perspectives, the congregation again supported her and indeed, there are many here who would align themselves with the fundamental issues at hand.

Like the LGBTQ community taking back language that was once used to hurt, Gretta and others have reclaimed the word “atheist” in the same manner, to destigmatize the concept and to remove its power to harm. For these reasons, the congregation supports Gretta.

Our congregation itself is formed with roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and we embrace theists, agnostics and atheists.  Many here would agree with the 24% of the ministers responding to a 2011 United Church Observer survey who indicated their belief in god was wholly dependent on how god was defined.  That is to say, we are a congregation diverse in our beliefs yet embracing the groundedness, guidance, and growth experienced through living in right relationship with ourselves, each other and the planet.  This is manifested through Gretta’s ministry, our own connection with each other, and by our focus on non-exclusive services.  We are brought together by a desire to belong to a community of shared values that seeks to make a difference in the world, rather than through beliefs that divide.  West Hill is a vibrant and growing church, celebrating the joys and triumphs of our community on Sunday morning and sharing our burdens in times of need. 

Finally, many have voiced concern about why Gretta and by association, our congregation, wish to remain within the United Church.  We want to respond to this as a congregation.  There are several reasons.  The first is that many of us have very deep roots in the United Church of Canada, some of us for more than 70 years.  It is our home.  We believe in its ability to change the world for the better through its focus on social justice and its attention to issues relevant to Canada and the world.  Others within our community have come to the United Church later and have embraced its values and focus on justice and have described the feeling as coming home.

We also recognize the UCC as a church of firsts; first church to ordain women, then married women, the first to have a woman moderator, the first to welcome LGBTQ folk as clergy, the first to recognize the tremendous harm done to indigenous peoples of Canada.  We are proud to belong to a church that lifts up peace, seeks justice for the marginalized, supports equity, has a process of supporting sanctuary to those refugees who can only turn to churches as a last resort, and that walks in solidarity with other organizations seeking these same goals.  At West Hill, we lift up these values as well and our outreach is focused on many of these same concerns.  These include our First Nation’s Study Group which, among many other projects, worked tirelessly to bring the gap in funding and the living conditions of indigenous people to the attention of local representatives of the previous federal government.  Our outreach also includes voting unanimously in 2009 to become an Affirming Ministry, support for a Bangladeshi refugee family, provision of sanctuary to those who have nowhere else to turn, local community outreach and support for the M&S fund of the UCC.

We also believe strongly that the United Church of Canada is a big tent, big, bold, and strong enough to embrace those whose beliefs are on the margin of both conservative and liberal or progressive values.  We have not heard of congregations or ministers being reviewed when their beliefs adhere to more evangelical, literal, and dogmatic systems, yet there is ample room in the UCC for those groups.  By the same token, West Hill United and Gretta have always had a place within the fold, and should continue to do so.

We have been assured by presbytery and conference that if Gretta should be placed on the Discontinued Service List, the West Hill congregation will remain.  Yet Gretta is a doorway to many who are averse to church for a number of reasons, not the least of which is compliance to doctrines that can be restrictive to those who are looking for an ethical , values based approach to living in right relationship with themselves, each other, and the planet. The congregation of West Hill and Gretta Vosper are walking along the same path bound together by the values of love, compassion, integrity and a quest for justice.  These of course are the deepest values of Christians as well as others seeking to live a life of right relationship.

Respectfully, if you have concerns about Gretta, then you have questions with us as congregation members. Because we view the United Church as our home, this feels very much like family members marginalizing and dismissing us.  It is both hurtful and harmful and, given our covenant with Gretta, sets a dangerous precedent. We raise this issue not as a way to create leverage. Rather, we believe it is crucial that we identify this hurt and allow it into this space in order to name and legitimize our deep sense of betrayal in the way this process has been undertaken and carried out. We further believe it is important for you to be aware of this hurt and help carry the burden as something that the Conference has created and must mitigate.

Thank you again for the opportunity to give voice to our perspective and highlight our concerns about the review.  The congregation of West Hill United Church has crafted this document mindfully, with openness and care, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the process and its outcomes.  It is our most sincere hope that we can walk together in this openness and that the committee will find much here that they recognize within their own ministry and perspective.

For your reference, we have enclosed copy of our mission statement, our values and beliefs as outlined in our VisionWorks statement, and the prayer that espouses the values we try to live by, every day: “As I Live”.

Respectfully,

 

Randy Bowes
West Hill United Church Board Chair

 

 

Monday
Jun272016

West Hill's Voice In the Review of Reverend Gretta Vosper

Toronto Conference to Review 


Gretta Vosper On June 29th



Please support our request for West Hill to have a voice during this process.

The review process for Gretta will begin next Wednesday, June 29th, and we feel that West Hill United should have a voice during the proceedings. We are asking to have our Board Chair, Randy Bowes, present during the interview process and allowed time to voice our support for Gretta as an effective Minister of the United Church of Canada.

In an effort to see that happen, we have created a petition for our West Hill community to sign, which will be presented early next week, asking that Randy have both a seat and a voice during the interview process.
Please take a moment to read the petition and stop by the church on Sunday or Monday to add your name and support.
For those who will not be able to pen their name at WHUC,  we have posted the petition on-line for you to read and endorse.
We ask that if you use the on-line petition, please take an extra moment to add your name in the comment section as the portal only records email addresses and we feel the petition will be stronger with your name attached.



Our petition Reads:

We, the undersigned, having submitted our concerns regarding Toronto Conference's review of our minister, the Reverend Gretta Vosper, in which we explicitly noted the lack of deference given the covenantal relationship we have with her and Toronto Southeast Presbytery; we hereby further submit that we be provided the right to attend and to speak at the review planned for June 29, 2016. It is our understanding that the review committee is comprised of twenty-four members with four presenting questions. We submit that the Chair of our Board, Randy Bowes, be present at the review and that he be provided the right to speak. This is in keeping with the policies regarding the review of ministry personnel as found in the Pastoral Charge and Ministry Personnel Reviews procedures.

Friday
Jun032016

South East Scarborough Pow Wow Invitation

                      

Wednesday
May182016

Teach-In by the Peoples Climate Plan

"This is a once in a generation opportunity. If we all stand together, we can push the government towards a bold climate strategy that’s justice-based, respects the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, aligns with climate science, and commits Canada to a 100% renewable energy economy."

Join the People’s Climate Plan (a broad-based collective of climate justice groups) at this teach-in to build strong community pressure for a meaningful and just national climate plan. 

Saturday June 4, 9:30-3:30 Sidney Smith Hall, University of Toronto

Plenary discussion featuring Myeengun Henry (Chippewas of the Thames FN), with Avi Lewis (Leap Manifesto), and others to be announced, followed by three workshops- each on a key pillar of the People's Climate Plan.
The teach-in will enable participants to access reliable, relevant information on key climate issues, as well as to pose questions, express doubts, and exchange views as we aim to advance three pillars for effective, grassroots action:

• A national climate plan that aligns with the science of climate change and ensures Canada meets its commitments to a 1.5°C world by keeping its fossil fuels reserves in the ground.
• A national plan that builds a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050, creating over a million clean, safe and rewarding jobs.
• A national plan that enshrines justice & reconciliation for Indigenous peoples, ensures no worker is left behind in the transition to a clean energy economy, and takes leadership from those hit hardest by the climate crisis.

A separate workshop will take up each of these themes. All workshops will be repeated three times, so participants can take part in each of them.

Agenda: 
9:30 Opening and welcome 
10:00 Plenary panel discussion
12:00 Lunch break ( lunch provided)
12:30 First set of workshops
1:30 Second set of workshops
2:30 Third set of workshops
3:30 Adjournment

   Watch the Vidoe HERE


For more information on the People's Climate Plan, visit: http://peoplesclimate.ca/

Tuesday
May172016

Open For Justice

The Open for Justice Campaign is a coalition of organizations including Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), Amnesty, Kairos and The United Church of Canada (UCC).  

The Justice and Global Issues Team need to help in ensuring that people harmed by the overseas operations of Canadian mining companies are able to access justice in Canada.  We need an extractive-sector ombudsperson as well as access to Canadian courts.

BACKGROUND
Canada is home to more than half of the world’s mining companies, with active projects in more than 100 countries. These companies are often viewed as representative of Canada abroad,  however human rights abuses, environmental damage, displacement and violations of basic labour rights are all too often associated with these projects.  

Here are just three examples:

Burkina Faso: 16,000 residents were relocated by a Canadian company to make way for an open pit gold mine in Burkina Faso (West Africa).  A human rights organization has reported that residents were relocated to areas without adequate sources of water or soil fertility.  Approximate net revenues of Canadian owned gold mines in Burkina Faso in 2013 alone: US$277.3 million. This in one of the poorest countries in the world (UN report).

Guatemala: In 2013, 7 men and youth were peacefully protesting outside a Canadian silver mine in Guatemala, when they were shot and injured by private security of the company. To date there has been no justice for the victims in Guatemala or Canada, nor any repercussions against the company for ordering violence to silence a community defending its rights.  
                                              
Philippines: The Cordillera Elders Assembly, meeting in Kalinga province (north Philippines) in 2011, agreed to oppose large scale mining on their ancestral territory under present political and militarized conditions.  Their rallying cry:  “Protect the land.”

There is no international system that currently governs resource extraction to protect human rights or the environment.  In many countries where extractive companies operate, protections do not exist or are not enforced; multilateral institutions are often weak or inaccessible; and there are barriers to seeking justice in Canada.

CALL FOR CANADIAN GOVERNMENT ACTION
The Canadian government must act to ensure that Canadian mining companies live up to international human rights, labour and environmental standards.      

Parliament needs to:

1.    Create an independent extractive-sector Ombudsperson in Canada, with the power to investigate complaints and make recommendations, including suspending or ending Canadian government support to companies that do not respect international standards.  Unlike the present federal CSR Counsellor’s Office, the Ombudsperson would be mandated to make its findings public, and to perform these functions regardless of a company’s willingness to participate; and

2.    Facilitate access to Canadian courts for people who have been seriously harmed by the international operations of Canadian companies.  
 

 

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Please consider the following:

1.   Write to your member of Parliament 
Ask them to call on the government to

  • ·         Establish an independent, impartial Ombudsperson for the Canadian extractive sector’s operations outside of Canada  
  •      Allow those who have been harmed by Canadian extractive companies' operations abroad, access to Canadian courts.

Here's a link to a sample letter (Word document) from The  United Church of Canada  website.  You can find your MP here by entering your postal code


2.   Promote the Open for Justice Reception with your MP
Request that your member of Parliament attend a reception on Parliament Hill to learn more about the Open for Justice Campaign.  The reception will take place on June 1, 2016 6-8 pm.  The Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA) sent invitations to each MP in late April.

3.   Learn More
 Participate in the Canadian Mining Justice webinar offered by the United Church advocacy network United for Mining Justice.  The webinar will take place on June 8   1:30-3:30 pm EST.  

June 8 Canadian Mining Justice Webinar Click here for info/to register

Friday
May132016

Jesus: the Misunderstood Jew with Amy-Jill Levin

This unique conference begins in a synagogue and ends in a church, offering insight and dialogue on the scandal of a Jewish Jesus and how that might influence how we speak and act in the modern world.

Sponsored by College Street United Church, The Inter-Church, Interfaith Committee of Toronto Southeast Presbytery, The Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto, The First Narayever Synagogue of Toronto.

The conference begins Friday June 3rd and runs through Sunday June 5th.

View the agenda HERETo register or for more information: chris.levan4@gmail.com

Cost: $110 per person

Special rates for groups of 5 or more: $90 per person and with every 5 registrations 1 complementary ticket

Students: $25

Satruday Evening lecture only: $25 

Thursday
May122016

The People's Climate Plan

The People’s Climate Plan has generously offered to present a webinar for people of faith planning to participate in their local climate townhalls. This free webinar will provide political and policy context, as well as information on ways you can get involved.
 
It will take place on
Friday, May 13, 2016
1:30–2:30 pm EDT

 

I hope you are able to join us! Please visit the EDGE website to register and find out more about our presenters.

The People’s Climate Plan is organizing at a grassroots level before, during, and after the national climate consultations.

For more information, see Speak Up in Support of a Bold National Climate Strategy.

Thursday
May122016

RE-EXAMINING CANADIAN GOVERNMENT POLICY on ISRAEL/PALESTINE

The October 19th election of a new Liberal government with a strong majority indicates that Canadians are looking for change. In international relations in general and Israel/Palestine issues in particular, the change many seek is for a return to actions based on principles of fairness, justice and respect for international law.

We can help achieve the needed change by meeting with our elected representatives and offering the following achievable objectives to help Canada change course.
 

 

1.  Adhere to Canadian policies that respect international law

2.  Deny preferential treatment to Israeli settlement products and require goods be properly labelled

3.  Restore Funding to UNRWA

 

The Justice and Global Issues Team of Toronto Southeast Presbytery would be pleased to work with you and others in your congregation in planning for such a meeting.

 

 

 

Read the entire letter to congregations at:
https://torontoconference.ca/torontosoutheast/downloads/committees-justice-global-letter-congregations.pdf


and the associated AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL public statement of April 12, 2016 at:https://torontoconference.ca/torontosoutheast/downloads/committees-justice-global-amnesty-international-public-statement.pdf

 

 

George Bartlett, Secretary
Justice & Global Issues Team
Toronto Southeast Presbytery

 
Thursday
May122016

News from the Greenbelt

The province has announced its proposed changes to the Greenbelt and Growth Plans as part of the Coordinated Review. There is a lot to share, and below you can find out how to take action and stay informed. Here are the key points from the government's changes:

A bigger, stronger Greenbelt.

A commitment to curb urban sprawl and grow our communities smartly.

 Greater support for agriculture and local food.

We are encouraged by the proposal to grow the Greenbelt to include 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands, bringing the Greenbelt into cities and towns with over 6 million residents.

The province also added four parcels of protected countryside in the City of Hamilton and Niagara Region. But we were disappointed that the widely supported initiative to expand the Greenbelt and protect a ‘
Bluebelt’ of vulnerable water resources was left out of the amendments. We hear that the province plans to start a process to identify such areas in the coming months, and will be working hard with our partners and supporters like you to hold them to their word.

Join us during the open houses to call on the province to move quickly and decisively to grow the Greenbelt further and protect these vital water resources. 

Big changes to the Growth Plan should help curb urban sprawl and encourage the development of compact, livable communities, by directing 50% more growth to existing urban areas, and increasing density targets for projects on undeveloped green space from 50 to 80 people and jobs per hectare. Not only will this help us accommodate almost 3 million more people by 2031, it will make better use of the $31 billion in provincial transit spending over the coming decade, and help us meet our ambitious climate change targets.

The 5,500 Greenbelt farms will also benefit from the proposed changes, which enable farmers to be entrepreneurial by placing fewer restrictions on what they can do or build on their farms. A viable farming sector requires more than just a land base to thrive - the Plans will also identify and protect an agricultural system for the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe, that builds on the Greenbelt to ensure that the $11 billion industry continues to grow and provide us with healthy, fresh local food.  

Take Action. Stay Informed.

How will the proposed changes affect my community?  

Download the Province's Discussion Document to find out.

 

The government wants your input. Want to get involved?

a) Attend a public open house in May and June 2016 

b) Submit a comment online or through the  Environmental Registry before Sept. 30, 2016


 Want to stay up to date with the Review?

Visit the Greenbelt website for news and updates.