Bulletin and Announcements for Aug 6, 2023

Dunsford United Church

August 6, 2023

Presider: Nancy Payne, LLWL

†= stand as you are able


† GATHERING HYMN: “Let Us Build a House” MV #1



We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishinaabe / Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are.  We acknowledge and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect and reconciliation with all our relations.

CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive)

It is not God we call as we begin our worship.

It is us.

God is already and always here.

We are the ones who need this time apart, this time to be together.

Let us open our hearts to the Spirit of Love who holds us close,

to the Christ who unites us.

God is here

And so are we—open and alive to the Love in our midst.

† HYMN: “God, We Praise You for the Morning” VU #415


Loving One, Creation overflows with your goodness and beauty. Clean water to drink. Fresh vegetables. Roadside wildflowers. Trilling birdsong and buzzing bumblebees. Whether we are feeling lonely or cheerful, worried or happy, calm our souls and still our thoughts. We come to you now in awe and gratitude for the blessings all around us. Amen

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “There is a Place” Sylvia

INVITATION TO GIVE:  Let us bring forward the offering.

† HYMN OF DEDICATION:  VU #541 (Words: Thomas Ken)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise God, all creatures high and low;
give thanks to God in love made known: Creator, Word and Spirit, One.


God of abundance, we are so richly blessed. We return a small portion of our blessings to you now. Help us to use them to serve you by serving each other, our community and our world. Amen






Psalm 17:1-7, 15 A Prayer of David

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just; listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.

† HYMN: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” VU #651

MESSAGE: “Wrestling with the Past”

Open our hearts and minds to you, O God. Amen

-who here has heard of Emancipation Day?

-maybe you’ve heard of the better-known version in the U.S., Juneteenth?

-it’s actually August 1, but today is the closest Sunday afterward, so it’s Emancipation Sunday today

-Emancipation Day commemorates the day in 1834 when the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect for most British colonies

-it had ended earlier in Britain itself, and there were some limits put on slavery in Upper Canada in 1793, but it was by no means over

-Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, marked the end of slavery in the U.S….more than 30 years later

-of course, Emancipation Day in Canada wasn’t universal—it did free enslaved children under the age of six. Adults who were enslaved wouldn’t be freed for up to six more years

-but it did make Canada—or what would become Canada—a  place of liberation for those who’d been enslaved in the United States—after August 1, 1834, they would be free people if they made it across the border

-now, that’s a story we like to tell—Canada as the Promised Land

-the place where the Underground Railroad ended, bringing enslaved people to freedom

-I strongly encourage you to travel to southwestern Ontario and visit important Black history sites that focus on this lesser-known history, in places like Chatham and Amherstburg

-it’s incredibly powerful to understand what it meant to enter a land of freedom, even if there was still lots of anti-Black discrimination

-in the past, when we’ve talked about Black history at all, it’s been more about that freedom part and much less about the reality of slavery in Canada—that it lasted for more than 150 years

-settlers enslaved both Black and Indigenous people, and migrants here brought Black people they’d enslaved—sometimes euphemistically referred to as “servants” in the historical records

-apparently Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe was taken aback when he arrived here in 1791 and saw how many of the prominent people and other settlers owned enslaved people

-we didn’t have plantations as in the Caribbean or the southern U.S., and there were fewer enslaved people here as a proportion of the overall population

-but let’s be clear: the proportion doesn’t matter because no proportion is acceptable

-enslaved people right here in Upper Canada were bought and sold alongside farm implements, furniture or livestock, and could be bequeathed to someone in a will

-that’s part of our story, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t

-which brings us to Jacob

-we know right away that he’s not exactly a saint—right there in the opening of this section, it mentions that he has two wives and two female servants, who were almost certainly slaves

-so let’s not necessarily set him up as a hero

-we’re used to thinking of this passage as him as wrestling with an angel, possibly even God in human form, but in the translation we heard this morning, it says he’s wrestling with a man

-in other translations, it’s a mysterious stranger or just “someone”

-all night, Jacob wrestles—I’ve even read an interpretation that suggests he was wrestling with himself, but whoever it is, he grapples with them hour after agonizing hour

-at daybreak, his opponent wants to leave, but Jacob insists on a blessing first

-and the other person or being says “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”—the meaning of his new name Israel

-and Jacob says he will call the place he spent this exhausting night “Peniel”, which means “face of God”—as an aside, isn’t it interesting how many communities in our area are named for Biblical references? Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Peniel northwest of Lindsay, and then Bethany, Mount Horeb and Bethel

-Jacob fought with God or a person or an angel or himself all night long

-and he came away changed, called to do great things

-he was still deeply human and deeply imperfect

-kind of like us, right?

-on this Emancipation Sunday, we have some wrestling of our own to do

-once we open our eyes to the long, appalling history of anti-Black racism in Canada, we have to grapple with what it means today

-and we have to be awake to the reality that it’s not someone else’s problem—it’s the United Church’s and its ours

-let me tell you briefly about Wilbur Howard

-I hope that name rings a bell

-Wilbur Howard graduated from the United Church’s Emmanuel College in 1941. There was a national shortage of ministers—United churches were crying out for leaders in their pulpits, and graduates had to complete a three-year placement in a church en route to becoming a minister

-and yet Wilbur Howard couldn’t find a congregation interested in hiring him. In fact, he couldn’t find one for 24 years.

-he served in all kinds of aspects of the United Church but was not called to a ministry position until 1965

-Wilbur Howard was Black. And in 1974 he would become the first Black moderator of the United Church.

-he never called out the church for racism—by all accounts he was an intensely private man who preferred to use humour and a gentle intelligence to bring people together

-but even if he didn’t talk about it, the racism was there

-it was there in the fact that no church would hire him until he was 53

-it was there in the Ontario restaurant that refused him service based on his skin colour

-and it was there in the fellow United Church leader who, as Broadview magazine reported, “wrote the national office to say Howard should be let go if he couldn’t be accepted.”

-that’s part of our story, too, just like slavery and the Underground Railroad and the Canadian branches of the Ku Klux Klan and Africville and lots more

-Emancipation Day should never have been necessary, because the evil of slavery should never have existed

-but it did, and we know it did, and that knowledge has to change us—has to prompt us to think of August 1 differently, with sadness and a commitment to change

-the United Church as a whole is working to become an anti-racist institution, which is much easier said than done

-and I know there’s some grumbling about that emphasis at a time when churches themselves are struggling just to stay open

-but we can do both things—we have to do both things

-if we’re going to keep churches alive, they have to continue to wrestle with what it means to be Christian—what our mission in the world is beyond getting together on Sunday mornings

-otherwise, what’s the point?

-I believe that these struggles are precisely what God is calling us to

-and that’s why we don’t look away from them

-we face them and we wrestle with them and, we hope, we come away wiser and more determined than ever to live out that calling

-because like Jacob, renamed Israel because of his struggle, we can persist and we can overcome

-this isn’t a struggle we win with physical strength

-it will take humility, and a willingness to say, “I didn’t know that, but now that I do, I will do better.”

-it will take courage, and a willingness to act on what we believe

-it will take honesty, and a willingness not to stay stuck in guilt

-we are called not to ignore the mistakes of our past, but like Jacob, to wrestle with them and to go on to greater things



Please keep Kristen, Emma, Mary Lou, Linda, Donna B, Patrick and Abigail C and family, and Diane, in your prayers.

Gracious God, we know there is pain all around us—sometimes even pain we have caused or made worse. We lift up to you now all those we have named in love and concern. We pray for those who are coping with anxiety or depression or a worrying diagnosis. We pray for those who are living with dementia, or who are lonely. Remind us that you have no hands in this world but ours, and nudge us to reach out in love. We pray for everyone affected by war, whether those we know about in Yemen, Mali, Ukraine, Sudan, Nigèr and so many more, or those who are suffering away from the world’s flighty gaze. We pray for all those who have lost homes, buildings, livestock or businesses, or even loved ones, to fire and floods. Guide our leaders to take action that will fight the catastrophe of climate heating and keep us in our safe corner of the world compassionate when we hear of such tragedies. We pray for those whose families have been harmed by slavery, residential schools and hospitals and other historical failings that are still so much with us. Keep us from the selfishness of giving up, and bolster our hope in each other and our faith in you who never leave us.

And now we join in the words Jesus taught his disciples:


Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen



No one ever promised that following Jesus would be easy.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have to grapple with hard questions—in fact, it pretty much guarantees that we will

We can’t be certain we’ll always be happy—in fact, we can be pretty sure that at times we will be angry and in pain at the injustice all around

But we are never alone

We have the Spirit’s joy

We have the love of God

We have the light of Christ

And we have each other.

We go now to continue the struggle to which we are called—in peace, in faith and in love.


† CHORAL RESPONSE: “Go Now in Peace”


Scripture Readers are needed for August 13, 20 and 27.  Contact the office at dunsfordunitedchurch@bellnet.ca or 705-793-2511 or sign up in church.


E-ssentials: Emancipation Sunday Panel, The Mod’s Book Squad, and more! (mailchi.mp)

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