News and Info - General News and Announcements | The United Church of Canada

United Church Launches Emergency Appeal for Haiti

For Immediate Release

Toronto: The United Church of Canada announced today that it is

launching an emergency appeal asking its congregations for donations designated for earthquake relief and reconstruction in Haiti.

"People see a need, and have a desire, to reach out as brothers and sisters in Christ to show compassion to those in dire need," says The United Church of Canada's Moderator, Mardi Tindal. "As one part of God's world suffers, we all suffer."

The United Church's Haiti Appeal will enable global partners in the region to address both the need for immediate relief and for long-term reconstruction following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

Funds raised through this emergency appeal will be channelled through the United Church's partners in Haiti and through Action by Churches Together (ACT), the network of churches and Christian aid agencies that enables global responses to emergencies.

Members of ACT are already in place in Haiti, assisting those affected by the earthquake. The United Church's partners in the region are The Methodist Church of Haiti and The Karl Lévêque Cultural Institute (ICKL).

"We rejoice at news this morning that ministers of the Methodist Church are safe," said Jim Hodgson, the United Church's program coordinator for the Caribbean region. "But the same message contained the news that three visitors from the United Methodist Church in the United States are missing.

Our prayers are with the people of Haiti and with those who work alongside them in solidarity."

In addition to launching this emergency appeal, the United Church has also immediately committed $20,000 for Haitian relief and reconstruction from its Emergency Response Fund (ERF). The United Church is exploring further options to respond to the crisis in Haiti in collaboration with other Canadian churches to take advantage of matching funds from CIDA that may be offered.

The Emergency Response Fund is used to help alleviate the effects of humanitarian crises caused by nature, human action, or a combination of both. The fund is replenished annually from the Mission and Service Fund and member donations. Fifteen percent of all donations received and intended for emergency relief, reconstruction, and rehabilitation are deposited into this fund for use in future emergencies that do not receive intensive media coverage. The remaining 85 percent of the monies received are directed as designated by the donor.

It is important to note that unlike many charities, and thanks to regular donations to the Mission and Service Fund, the United Church is able to absorb the staffing and administration costs of processing donations whenever an emergency appeal is launched. Therefore donors can be assured that there are no administrative charges deducted from donations received.

Individuals are invited to contribute to the United Church's Haiti Appeal either through their local congregation or directly to The United Church of Canada's national office, 3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300, Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4. Cheques should be made payable to The United Church of Canada and marked "Haiti Appeal." Online donations can be made at

Choose "Emergency Response" and specify "Haiti Appeal."

Donations made by United Church members and congregations to the Haiti Appeal are considered "over and above" gifts to the United Church's wider work, so they are not recorded as part of a congregation's Mission and Service Fund giving. But they are eligible for tax receipts. Congregational treasurers may receive and receipt individual cheques and then forward one congregational cheque to the United Church, attention "Haiti Appeal."

Information about the United Church's Haiti Appeal has been posted on the United Church's website ( and will be updated as new information becomes available.

For more information, please contact:
Mary-Frances Denis
Program Coordinator, Media and Public Relations The United Church of Canada
Tel: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
Toll-free: 1-800-268-3781 ext. 2016

The Observer on Tape - Talking Magazine Project

This is a highly work/time intensive volunteer project operated by Eastminster United Church of Belleville Ontario and their AOTS Men’s Club and Sanctioned by The National AOTS.

How Does It work?
Each month an advance copy of THE OBSERVER is received and read onto three ninety minute audio cassette tapes. Pictures associated with the Articles are described to help bring the articles to life. A high speed copier is then used to produce the required number of tapes to be sent out to our subscribers.

The tapes are packed in a special mailing pouch that are then sent to subscribers across Canada postage free courtesy of Canada Post. This special arrangement is extended only to visually impaired persons, thus we cannot honour requests for these tapes for non visually impaired persons.

After listening to the tapes, the subscriber reverses the mailing label on the pouch, and returns the tapes in the pouch, postage free, for reuse. The subsequent Observer tapes are only sent to those that have returned the previous tapes.

There are no subscription costs for this service. We have been fortunate to have been able to cover our operating costs from generous donations received from some of our appreciative listeners. Charitable receipts are issued to individual donors.

History of the Project:
The Observer on Tape Project was started by the Disabled Committee in Winnipeg in 1983. In early 1985, when the chairperson of the group moved from the area, they were no longer able to carry on with the project. At this time, the National AOTS was challenged to take over the project. Jack Arthur, Central Vice-President of the National AOTS, presented the challenge to Queen St. United Church AOTS, Kingston, Ontario, whose president Armando Del Gobbo was himself blind.

In July of 1985, Queen St. AOTS took over the project, and has carried it from 45 subscribers for their first issue (July 1985) to nearly 400 in 1994. Early in 1997 the Queen St. Club regretfully found that they were unable to continue with this project. Subsequently responsibility for this project was assumed by Eastminster United Church AOTS, Belleville, Ontario. To-day the Men’s Club ably assisted by other members of the congregation are pleased to make the Observer on Tape available to the visually impaired.

User Equipment:
Tape playing equipment is available without charge, from the C.N.I.B., to any visually impaired person who is registered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Inexpensive cassette tape playing equipment is also available from Department, Electronic, and Radio Stores.

The National AOTS Office is grateful and proud of the Queen St. AOTS Club, and Church for their devotion to this Project from 1985 to early 1997.

We also appreciate that the Eastminster AOTS Club has responded to the challenge, and are devoting their time and energy in this fine example of living “AS ONE THAT SERVES”

To support with a donation, to subscribe, or for further information, contact:
Eastminster United Church AOTS Men’s Club, 432 Bridge Street East, Belleville, ON K8N 1R1

The Observer on Tape Project involves transcribing the United Church Observer on audio cassette tapes and circulating them free of charge, to visually impaired persons

The Future of the Observer on Tape Project:
As cassette players are wearing out and becoming harder to replace it is time to start thinking about other possible solutions to offer this great service. I am presently researching the possibility of also offering the Observer on Tape in other formats like CDs, sound audio players and MP3 download.

Right now we can convert the cassette tapes into MP3 files and burn them onto CDs but as we get more and more orders it will be important to invest in a CD duplicator. These duplicators can be found for under a $1,000 and will help us to quickly produce the one or two CDs per subscriber.

Having this in a digital format gives us more possibilities of serving a larger community. I would like to take the digital data and produce an online podcast version for the United Church Observer that could be downloaded off of the website. This service could be offered free to the Observer subscribers. Non- subscribers may be charged a minimal fee in order to create a larger reader base. I am sure there are lots of people that are stuck in a car for hours a day wishing that they could finish reading an article in the Observer and be able to play it on their car stereo, iPod or MP3 player.

If anyone has any, comments suggestions or direction on a project of this type could you please comment or email me directly

Thank you again to Eastminster United Church in Belleville Ontario for all that they do to serve.

If you would like some more information on the project please contact:
John Babiak, President of Eastminster AOTS Men's Club in Belleville

President’s Report for January, 2010

Greetings of the season to all!

When it came to writing this month’s article I was confounded by the choice of subject matter. There was much to talk about at year end. So rather than focus on one, topic this month’s report will provide snippets of information on various topics.

AOTSers on Dondi Steering Committee

Former AOTS presidents Bill Love, Wally Shoults, Western Vice President Harvey Douglas and President-elect David Morris have all joined the Dondi Steering Committee as AOTS representatives. This is great news and a very positive boost for the work of what was a small steering committee.

The Dondi Project’s goal is to raise a total of 1.3 million dollars principally to rebuild a school in Angola. A Western Tour built around drumming circles led by Abbey North Drummers has just been completed. Bill, Wally and Harvey were all front and centre for that tour during the fall. The next big development for Dondi will be on January 15 in Toronto where a planning meeting will take place with various members of the steering committee and the church.

This is perhaps the biggest news of the month. John Patterson, who is co-chair of the Dondi Steering Committee had a very productive meeting in December with Bruce Gregerson senior United Church staff person about how the campaign will unfold. The new broadened steering committee looks forward to launching a whole series of initiatives to capitalize on the successful Western Tour and move the fundraising effort further ahead toward its goal.

Christmas Thoughts

I acted as a narrator for our church’s Christmas pageant this year. The event was advertised as non-traditional. But in following the birth of Jesus Biblically we learned that many of the traditions we include in our pageants are not actually part of the Christmas story. We blend our representations of the birth of Jesus into something that never really was. Our tradition of Christmas includes a star and an innkeeper and angels and wise men and shepherds and animals but that scenario is not literally represented in the Bible at all.

Over time we have traditionally interpreted the story time and striven to keep the message.

The year’s pageant allowed us to refocus on the message anew; that to live a life as Jesus lived requires compassion, generosity, gratitude, joy, justice, love, mercy and peace.

It is fine for tradition to shape and mould the story so long as the central message remains in place.

A Time of Sorrow and Brokenness

In the midst of our celebrations for the life of Jesus so much of what we see around us looks broken. As I write this note we absorb the news of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers and a journalist in an attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These deaths cause us much grief as Canadians. Historically, we have always seen ourselves as doing the right thing – standing for justice. Certainly our peacekeeping efforts defined us this way. As a society we have believed we were doing the right thing.

Now in Afghanistan our children are dying for this notion of ‘doing the right thing’. And while death is a consequence of war and while there are just struggles to wage, the question in Afghanistan remains. Is the right thing doable?

Perhaps this is the central question. If our mission there is not achievable then we are putting our children in great danger. And let us be clear about that. There are very few young people in our House of Parliament. It has always been an easy thing for old men to send young men and women to war. And as societal parents to the young people of our country that we put in harm’s way, we have a duty of care for their well-being, as well as those they are organized to protect.

Copenhagen Controversy

At the recent Copenhagen Conference Canada was held in disrepute when our intransigence isolated us internationally with member nations calling for sanctions against Canada.

In her blog about her Copenhagen experience moderator Mardi Tindal indicated that she was looking forward to a worship experience in her home congregation: "I need to worship this morning where it's safe for me to weep over the millions of lives that have just been lost due to the lack of a climate agreement."

Kairos Funding Cut and the Bogeyman of Antisemitism

In a statement about the recent federal government cut to Kairos funding the organization stated: “For more than 35 years, KAIROS and its precursor organizations have been funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). KAIROS has said the decision to cut CIDA funding will have a devastating impact on KAIROS’ overseas partners and the thousands of marginalized people in local communities that these partners support.”

As an ecumenical organization Kairos has stood on the side of those in the world who have no voice. KAIROS works with global partners on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Dissent in a democratic country is a necessary ingredient for the healthful functioning of society, in much the same way a free press and media are. When government attempts to quash this dissent it undermines critical commentary and discussion on world issues. In this case the government has equated criticism of the government Israel with antisemitism. This is not helpful.

Website News

Finally, Mark Browning has been developing some website initiatives which bear some examination. I would invite everyone to follow leads from our own website to check out the various initiatives and social media opportunities that do exist for AOTS as we develop this aspect of our work – connecting with men inside and outside of the church.
AOTS National President Jim McKibbin