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President’s Report - February, 2010

Greetings:

Again this month I have a pot pourri of items. It has been a busy time in the life of our church and our organization.

A Great Day for AOTS

The Dondi Project (an AOTS supported initiative to rebuild the Lutamo School at Dondi, Angola) received a great infusion of support both financially and spiritually at the Steering Committee meeting on January 12th at Church House. Several Church House staff provided an overview of how the actually funding would work. The overview included a status report on the latest engineering study for the school and well as thorough description of the logistics related to the actual transfer of the funds.

Many of us in AOTS have not had such a direct connection to an outreach project so it was a very valuable overview. All of this will rely on the relationship between our United Church (UCC) and the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola (IECA).

A number of different plans and programs were discussed and a timeline and program plan was developed built around drumming events and drumathons led by the Abbey North Drummers. It was a very enthusiastic meeting. Our vice-president, Harvey Douglas flew in for the meeting and he brought some wisdom having completed work on the western tour.

At the close of the meeting John Patterson, co-chair of the steering committee presented me with a cheque for the Dondi Project for $60,000. I was both delighted and honoured to receive it on behalf of AOTS.

AOTS has pledged to match contributions at a 1 – 10 ratio up to a maximum of $10,000 and I am pleased to report that we have now contributed our maximum. That means that the Project has now raised over $100,000. So Dondi is well underway.

Wetaskiwin AOTS- adapting to a changing world

The website received a wonderful annual report from the AOTS club of First United Church in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. As chairman, Dan Liddle says, they are an AOTS club because “that is what we do”. They are very much still making a difference.

In October, their church burned to the ground apparently due to the work of an arsonist. And while this is an enormous loss, they have decided to start again and rebuild their church. Because of the nature of the fire little in the way artifacts, historical documents or memorabilia could be saved. It was a devastating loss.

By November, the club had organized a Ham supper which fed over 300 people from a temporary location.

Same-sex marriage - as one that serves

In February, the Wetaskiwin club was asked to cater the wedding of two woman members of the congregation. They didn’t hesitate. As Dan Liddle points out, “We did the best we could and successfully catered Sheila and Linda’s June wedding with about 150 people present. They are both very active in the church. This past year has provided an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to adapt to the ever changing world.”

Black History Month

February is Black History month. The dominion Institute provides the following overview of the Underground Railroad. “Between 1840 and 1860, before the American Civil War, enslaved Africans followed the North Star on the Underground Railroad to find freedom in Canada. It was not an actual railroad but a secret network of routes and safe houses that helped people escape slavery and reach free states or Canada. Sometimes there were guides available to help people find their way to the next stop along the way. Travelling on the Underground Railroad was dangerous and required luck as much as a guide.

The "railroad" actually began operating in the 1780s, but became known as the Underground Railroad in the 1830s. The organization used railroad terms as code words. Those who helped people move from place to place were known as "conductors" and the fleeing refugees were called "passengers" or "cargo." Safe places to stop to rest were called "stations." Conductors were also abolitionists—people who wanted slavery abolished. They were Blacks and Whites, men and women. Many of them were Quakers or Methodists.

Places had code names to help keep the routes secret. Detroit, from which most left the United States, was known as "Midnight." The Detroit River was called "Jordan," a biblical reference to the river that led to the promised land. The end of the journey also had a code name, such as "Dawn." People could communicate without being specific: "Take the railroad from Midnight to Dawn." The refugees arrived all across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, but most came to what is now southwestern Ontario, to places such as Windsor, Fort Erie, Chatham and Owen Sound.

It is impossible to know for certain how many slaves found freedom by way of the railroad, but it may have been as many as 30, 000.”
“Some of the conductors and others associated with the railroad became famous for their efforts; Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd and Josiah Henson are but a few.”

As for me, our club recently co-sponsored a fundraising event at our church and I was given the honour of acting as MC for the event. We had a lot of fun and raised some money for the church. On March 20, we’ll be doing our own Dondi Project event and I am looking forward to a very successful evening.

Thank you

Jim

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