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.

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.

Over the past many months, we've been challenged to engage broadly about who we are and what we see the future of church can be. We'd be delighted to talk with you about it and have extended an invitation to congregations across the country to reach out if they are interested in having a conversation with us. It can be about what this "theologically non-exclusive" church is really like. It might be about the rise of the "Nones" and how we are engaging them. You might want to just talk about the review of our minister. Whatever your interest, we will find a way to engage. So be in touch and let's set a date. 

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Tuesday
Nov012016

Celebrated Lives Service

Celebrated Lives Service
Date changed to this Sunday November 6th
This will be a special service at West Hill United. On this day, we will celebrate the lives of love ones we have lost, and hold them in the hearts of our community. During the service we will read the names you offer, of loved ones lost who you wish to be held in community at this special service.

You may contact the office to offer names for remembrance here.
Please message us by Thursday Nov. 3rd.

 

 

Monday
Oct242016

"An official request to have my name removed from every official list of United Church of Canada clergy", Beverley Burlock

The walls of West Hill United are lined with printed messages of support. 
This week we invite you to read the words offered to gretta, to the congregation at West Hill United, and to United Church leadership. 
READ MORE LETTERS HERE


The letter that follows was recently sent to the head office of the
United Church of Canada; our hearts are with Beverley this week.

We invite you to read the words of Beverley Burlock:

October 19, 2016
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I submit the following as an official request to have my name removed from every official list of United Church of Canada clergy, and to have my name placed on the Discontinued Service list.
 
This is partly because of what the church is currently doing to gretta vosper and her congregation, but even more broadly because that is a clear indication of an even larger problem. The United Church has lost its way. I am no longer proud to be associated with it, and have been more and more reluctant to identify myself as one of its ministers.
This is not the ambiance which attracted me in the first place and it certainly isn’t what I was ordained into. Never EVER was I subjected, in any of my pre-ordination interviews over the several years, to such an intensive and excessive interrogation as gretta faced before the subcommittee, which basically amounted to a heresy trial. (Since when was ‘right beliefs’, an ancient persecuted offense, a UCC priority?) I did not become a minister who had to swear I believed in a list of set vows that were unalterable and infallible, and sign to that.
Without growth there is stagnation. It seems the United Church itself is settling into that state. And any ministers who have not grown in their learning and thinking since their seminary days and ordination have not kept up with continuing education as most other professionals are required to, and have failed to be good leaders. "...by this time you ought to be teachers, (but) you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness" - doing what is right, justice, vs. doing the opposite, wickedness) (Hebrews 5: 12-13)
There have been threats of splits in the church before - when we chose to ordain women, to support anti-apartheid in South Africa, to accept, ordain and marry gays. The church never gave in to those, some of which were more dire in their seriousness and severity. We were able to ‘accept’ the Renewal Fellowship and Community of Concern. Moderator Bill Phipps said Jesus wasn’t divine, causing a media uproar and frenzy (they do love the scent of a scandal), but he wasn’t subjected to an inquisition or defrocking.
Being of a legal bent, both the originator of the document, that resulted in this investigation of gretta, and the current General Secretary are thus focusing on the legal letter of the law, which is so NOT Jesus. In fact, gretta is being treated the same as the ‘religious authorities’ of his day treated Jesus, who called them out on putting law over compassion. In fact Jesus called them a brood of vipers, snakes and hypocrites for doing exactly that. Maybe it’s time to re-read Matthew chapter 23. And don’t forget, Jesus was right there is the midst of all those the rest of the world had rejected, abused, despised, exiled to the margins, embracing, respecting and including them. In his parables, Jesus even used some as good examples to follow.
Jesus didn’t insist on people ‘believing’ anything - in fact he told the rich young ruler who had kept ALL the laws to a T, that what he lacked was how he cared about and for others around him - go and sell all that you have and give it away to those in need. With the story of the sheep and the goats, it was also all about how vulnerable people were treated. The Hebrew scriptures repeatedly say the same thing - a nation (one could say denomination) will be judged on how it treats the "least of these". Furthermore, Jeremiah talks about a time when teaching about God will no longer be required, because all God’s desires (& characteristics we claim God has) will be written on/in people’s hearts. The Bible is all about doing and living, not about ‘believing’. Even the understanding of that word’s meaning has become compromised and corrupted.
Ever since the later union with Evangelical United Brethren, it seems the United Church has been gradually slipping into a more conservative perspective. We are no longer the open and exploring, the inclusive and progressive denomination we once were, emphasizing social justice issues, which drew so many people, including me, to it. How many of the EUB clergy or those seeking admission from other denominations were extensively questioned as to their openness to what was then United Church policy? It was my experience that those I encountered still had their old theology. And now the United Church is willing to accept a request from anyone, even with no prior involvement with church, Christianity, let alone the United Church. No longer do they even need to be associated for a few years with a congregation, where they would have been exposed to United Church thinking, and be known by United Church members. Where is the accountability there? Where is the theological grilling and set requirements of ‘beliefs’?
Words are a serious concern in any communication. And communicating anything religious and spiritual in words is even more complicated. For one thing, the meaning of words changes - over time, with translation, from culture to culture. Definitions can even become corrupted, distorted. ANY word connected with "God" is both limited and limiting. Therefore, demanding there be only one single acceptable understanding is slipping into idolatry. The church has not taught well the concept of metaphor over literal.
As I have experienced within my own congregations and with others, many, if not most or even all, of our religious words come with so much baggage and both mis-information and mis-understanding, along with bad translations and interpretations, that they are obstacles, driving people away. Some people, like Spong and Borg, believe the words can be redeemed. But for many that has not worked at all. So now others are working at replacing new less-loaded words in an attempt to meet those many who are desperately seeking something with spiritual substance and meaning. If that meets their needs, resulting in them then living the kind of compassionate, caring, open, inclusive lives Jesus taught, is that not a good thing? Something to be applauded and encouraged, rather than attacked and deplored - exiled from our very midst? Are we not to be "known by our fruits"?
The United Church has supposedly grown, so we proclaim anyway, from union in 1925 along a continuum to a current concept of Holy Mystery. Surely gretta is within that Holy Mystery. Or should be included. She is not trying to convert anyone, nor insisting all follow or even agree with her. She is ‘breathing out goodness’ -- even to, I might add, her accusers.
The UCC has missed out on an incredibly important and crucial teachable moment here. Instead of going against our own principles and attacking and excluding, the church should have taken the amazing opportunity to teach the general population and media, as well as its own members (many of whom apparently badly need it too), educating them that it is not just a choice only between God or no-God. That the word God is but a mere feeble attempt to 'explain' something beyond description. That God is broader than any word we can come up with and far broader than any concept we can conceive, thus there are many, many, many ways to think about God, some of which might even include not using the word God at all! That the word atheist also has other, broader and deeper understandings than merely no-God. What a tragic loss and waste of such an incredibly wide open opportunity.
While gretta might feel betrayed by her Church (as do I), she’s not the only one being hurt. You are insulting her whole congregation. As well as all those other clergy and congregations who have been quietly teaching and living the same things. You are also grossly insulting and turning away all those others with no current religious affiliation who are searching for a place where they can feel at home spiritually. No more is the United Church of Canada the place to go and be accepted. We used to talk about ‘living with the questions’, but now, no more questions, no more seeking, we too now act as if we have The Answer. This smacks of hubris and a serious lack of humility. The process itself, which was both exclusive and secretive, was a disgrace. No Biblical justice here, just law enforcement & punishment. No "ever-flowing stream" either (Amos 5:21-24).
I would remind you of what Gamaliel, a well respected religious authority of his time, said to the people out to get ‘the apostles’. (Acts 5: 34-35, 38-39) "Consider carefully what you propose to do to these people....I tell you, keep away from them and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail (as he had mentioned others had). But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them – in that case you may even be found fighting against God." No matter what definition of God or whether that word is even used.
In Judaism (& Jesus was a Jew), teaching and learning thrived on controversy and debate (or dialogue as gretta keeps requesting). The sages taught that "every argument deserved a hearing, for one could never know whether future generations might not discover truth in the minority view, as well as the majority".
When I was first at seminary, I remember thinking "I’m not the first person to be taught this stuff. Why have I NEVER heard even a vague hint of any of it from any of the ministers I have encountered, met or known?" Why indeed. I am beginning to think it was at least partly because of fear. Very sad, since by far the most common Biblical ‘commandment’ is "Fear not".
Well, I am sick at heart and tired of being in a denomination that is ruled at least in part by fear, and being part of a clergy that keeps silent because of fear. Some years ago I decided I would never again read any scripture, say any creed or prayer, perform any ritual, preach or teach anything I could not do with integrity. I made no public announcement, and my congregations likely never realized the ‘radical’ changes. However, I received positive feedback and comments that they appreciated the honesty and openness, and at least some found it liberating, refreshing and soul-nourishing.
This then is my further act of integrity. I can no longer be silent and secretive. Especially when doing so leaves my colleague and classmate abandoned and hanging out to dry like some sacrificial lamb. When my denomination has betrayed its principles, thus also betraying me and negating my ‘calling’. Again the cry goes up "Let my people go".
With deep regret I am telling you I am leaving. Remove my name from your rolls.

Beverley C Day Burlock (Rev)

Ordained Bay of Quinte Conference May 27, 1990 
Graduated Queens Theological College May 11, 1988 

 Continue Reading Letters of Support HERE

 

 

Sunday
Oct232016

Mindful Yoga Program Coming Soon

Tuesday
Oct182016

LAST CALL for Chicken and Chocolates - October 22nd

Tickets for the dinner have finished selling, but we'd love for you to join us for the "Box of Chocolates" concert with Alan Ely! Tickets for the concert are $20 each and will be available at the door right up until show time at 7:30. 

An evening that will cater to the senses. On Saturday October 22, the Crafty Ladies and the Friends of Gretta Vosper are joining forces to present a special dining experience followed by an Alan Ely concert of song and stories.

The evening will start with appetizers followed by a homemade dinner of savoury chicken or vegetarian stews with all the trimmings. Complementing the main course you’ll have wine, dessert and coffee. If you attended the last dinner prepared by the Crafty Ladies and Friends you know you are in for a wonderful time – great food and warm company.

 

Following this sumptuous dining experience you can join us upstairs for an evening of song. Alan Ely, a longtime friend of West Hill will present ‘A Box of Chocolates.’ When asked about the concert Alan referenced what Forest Gump’s mama told him “A box of chocolates is rather like life...you never know what you're gonna get.” You'll hear some country and some soft rock, some jazz and some pop, some chart toppers, some Oscar winners and some Grammies, some Broadway and some Silver Screen...you just never know! It's just Alan, a stool, maybe a mike, maybe a music stand, some songs and some stories.

Please set this date aside and treat yourself to a special evening. Even better, bring a few friends along to share the enjoyment. 

Friday
Oct142016

Yoga at West Hill United!

Gretta invites you to meet Dawn, West Hill's wonderful partner and fitness instructor at our first adult yoga class.

This will be a Karma Class, which means there will be no charge for this first trial class, although we'd be glad to take a food item to support the food bank. 

We are looking forward to welcoming you to try yoga, or return to practice with others from West Hill United and the community. 

Grab a yoga mat (or borrow one) from a friend, and join us on October 29th.
Class begins at 11 a.m.


Wednesday
Oct122016

First Nations Study Group - October 31st Meeting

 

Brown Bag Lunch and Meeting - 0ctober 31, 2016

Please join us at 11:30 a.m. on Mon. Oct. 31st for a Brown-bag lunch and fascinating introduction to the Haudenosaunee’s (Iroquois) Two Row Wampum Treaty by Steve Watson with Eva Castillo, of York University.

The Two Row Wampum Treaty of 1613 is an agreement with representatives from the Dutch government. The agreement is considered by the Haudenosaunee to be the basis of all of their subsequent treaties with European and North American governments.

NOTE: we will start at 11:30 a.m. and finish by 2:15 p.m.

Saturday
Oct082016

Welcome Back Agah Bahari

Join Us This Sunday Morning as West Hill Welcomes
Guest Speaker Agah Bahari 
 Agah will be talking about the philosophy he developed,
 “AGOLOGY: Open-Source Philosophy”.
Over the next couple of weeks he will go through a level.
This week "Human First".

Meet Agah Bahari:

”Born during the Iran-Iraq war, Agah grew up in Tehran-Iran where he co-founded and performed with Iran's first official heavy metal band as the composer and electric guitar player. His music and cultural activities were later deemed "un-Islamic" by the government of Iran, accusing him of "westernizing the revolution's youth", the crime that ultimately made Agah to flee with a fabricated passport from Iran, through United Arab Emirates and to Malaysia, where he was human trafficked, using the second fabricated passport, through Hong Kong, China, and ultimately to Canada were he claimed a refugee status in 2006. 

Today, Agah is a Canadian citizen and an American Green Card holder. He is an internationally recognized musician, a voting member for the Grammy Awards since 2012, and a former voting member and a judge for the Juno Awards. Beyond music, Agah has finished co-writing a novel based on the true events of his life, is a co-organizer of Toronto Transhumanists Society, he is a prolific sound designer with internationally recognized clients including American Express, Virgin, and Samsung, the host and the producer of the podcast, "NEOHUMAN with Agah Bahari" with more than 100,000 downloads worldwide, a creative tech-entrepreneur and an alumni of the elite Silicon Valley based business accelerator, Founder Institute, and the founder of the open-source philosophy, AGOLOGY.

Friday
Oct072016

Annual Holiday Bazaar - November 19th

Friday
Sep302016

Chinese Cultural Centre - Special Exhibit

Thursday
Sep222016

Toronto Conference Sub-Executive Have Returned a Decision in the Review of Gretta Vosper

A MESSAGE FROM THE SUB-EXECUTIVE OF TORONTO CONFERENCE REGARDING THE REVIEW OF THE REV. GRETTA VOSPER

September 22, 2016 | By 

Background: On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference met to receive a report of the review of the Rev. Gretta Vosper and to consider the recommendations contained in the report.

The report from the Conference Interview Committee concluded that Ms. Vosper is not suitable to continue as an ordained minister in The United Church of Canada. The committee did not recommend any form of remediation because Ms. Vosper has been so clear and unequivocal about her beliefs.

The report states:
The Committee read the submissions and listened very carefully to determine whether Ms. Vosper’s beliefs are in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of the United Church. This is a crucial question asked of all potential ordinands to determine whether they are suitable for ministry within The United Church of Canada.

We have concluded that if Gretta Vosper were before us today, seeking to be ordained, the Toronto Conference Interview Committee would not recommend her. In our opinion, she is not suitable to continue in ordained ministry because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Ms. Vosper does not recognize the primacy of scripture, she will not conduct the sacraments, and she is no longer in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of The United Church of Canada.

On September 15, the sub-Executive heard from Ms. Vosper and her legal counsel, from representatives of West Hill United Church, and from representatives of Toronto Southeast Presbytery. They made presentations and responded to questions from the sub-Executive.

Deliberations and decision-making: The sub-Executive explored the remedial options set out in Section J.9.4 of The Manual (e.g. ordering a directed program, requiring a psychological examination, dissolving the pastoral relationship, suspension from ministry, etc.) and discussed various proposals that had been made during the presentations or in correspondence, e.g. putting the report on hold, having a debate, adjourning the decision of Toronto Conference for one year, stopping the process and taking no action, weighing the adverse costs to the church arising from a protracted process, and refusing to participate in the process.

If a minister is found not to be suitable to continue in ministry in the United Church, then he or she is entitled to a formal hearing in which it will be determined whether his or her ministry within the church should end.

After a second day of deliberations, the following four motions were passed regarding Ms. Vosper:

that the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference…

  • Request the General Council of The United Church of Canada to conduct a formal hearing to consider whether to place the name of the Rev. Gretta Vosper on the Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary);
  • Confirm that Ms. Vosper may remain in ministry at West Hill United Church, Toronto Southeast Presbytery, until the results of the formal hearing are known;
  • Confirm that until the results of the formal hearing are known, no call, appointment, or transfer for Ms. Vosper will be approved by Toronto Conference;
  • Confirm that no further restrictions will be placed on Ms. Vosper’s functioning at this time.

Impact of the decision: The decision to request a formal hearing does not presume that Ms. Vosper’s name will be placed on the Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary). That decision will be made by the formal hearing panel.

Having said that, the sub-Executive recognizes that this is not the decision that some people had wanted. Some will be disappointed and angry that this action has been taken, believing that the United Church may be turning its back on a history of openness and inclusivity. Others have been frustrated that the United Church has allowed someone to be a minister in a Christian church while disavowing the major aspects of the Christian faith.

There is no unanimity in the church about what to do. The sub-Executive received correspondence and a petition urging the church to take no action, and was aware that others wanted the church to act. A number of observers from West Hill United Church and other places were present on September 15. E-mails and phone calls came in saying that the sub-Executive was being held in prayer, no matter what the outcome.

The debate about Ms. Vosper and her statements has been a catalyst for much discussion within the United Church and in places outside the church.

The sub-Executive laments the division that has occurred amongst people within the church, and is saddened by the vitriol that has been directed by some at Ms. Vosper and West Hill United Church, and at Toronto Conference for engaging a process to properly investigate concerns that had been raised. The sub-Executive hopes for respectful discussion that allows people to explore and share their own faith and to hear from others.

The way forward is costly in terms of emotional and spiritual energy. The way forward is costly in terms of time and finances for both Ms. Vosper and the church. At the same time, the sub-Executive moved forward believing that a clear answer was required.

The report from the Interview Committee is clear that the doctrine of the United Church has never been a static thing. The sub-Executive affirms that there has always been evolution in how the church describes what it believes. The United Church has experienced the delight of seeing God and our faith in a new light depending on the context in which we were living. There have been times we have said things that have caused joy in the church and the wider community. We’ve also over the years come to realize that some of the ways we have said things and the ways we have acted have been cause for regret, sorrow, and repentance. But whether we have stated things in good, bad, or evolving ways, there has been the constant that the church believes in God, follows the way of Jesus Christ, and is led by the Spirit.

The sub-Executive calls on the church to show loving kindness to everyone, irrespective of belief or no belief. It asks for prayers for those who are angry, confused, or worried about the impact of this decision. And it calls on all of us to consider ways in which our current actions and expressions of our faith may put up barriers for those who are seeking a new or renewed commitment to a life of faith within the Christian tradition.

The sub-Executive calls on the church to continue the theological conversations that have taken place since long before The United Church of Canada was formed.

See all related documents