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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

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