• Rev. Keith's Final Pastoral Letter

    This is my final pastoral email to you. This coming Sunday will be my final service at Wesley as your minister, and then I will move to become the minister of Marshall Memorial United Church in Ancaster. 
    Goodbyes are difficult.  Many of you have been telling me this as we have talked together, and I know it myself. Over these four + years (or almost six years if you were at First United before this), you have got inside me. Your joys have been my joys, and your sorrows my sorrows. I have walked with you through times of celebration, times of questioning, times of grief, and times of confusion. Thank you for the privilege of being your minister through all of these times. I will continue to cherish our time together, even after I am gone, and will continue to hold you in my thoughts and prayers. 
    Watershed moments define our lives. They are locked into our memory and other parts of our lives are all remembered in relationship to them. People sometimes talk about what they were doing when they heard that planes hit the twin towers, or what it was like when the announcement came that WW2 was over, or where they were when they heard the news that Princess Diana had been killed. For me right now, it feels like my ministry at Wesley will always be associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic.  It has so affected my ministry here, that it is hard to remember our church life before that. I have not been able to visit you in your homes or in the hospital as I once did; I have not been able to reach out to touch your hand or embrace you; I have not been able to lead worship with you in front of me (until the last month); I have not been able to lead small groups or meet with you as church committees around a table; I have not been able to gather with you for church luncheons or special celebrations; I have not been able to lead memorial services where we all gather together to grieve and stand in solidarity with those facing loss. But that is not the end of the story.  We needed to learn how to meet online, and reach out through the internet and telephone, and make decisions without being physically together. We needed to learn how to reach out to make sure no one was alone, even though we could not be together physically. We needed to learn how to offer worship virtually, and we needed to learn how to worship together as we sat in our own homes in front of a computer screen.
    I am reminded of the hymn “Spirit of Gentleness” where it says: Spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness…. At times it may not have felt like a blessing, but in retrospect, this cataclysmic event has forced us to move beyond our usual way of doing things, to rethink we who are, and to explore new directions. We are different than we were before. We are scarred, but somehow more vibrant. We have a different resolve and a different commitment. I wonder if God has been trying to show us something through the pandemic? That is not to say that God caused this to happen, but rather that God often works through life events. We have been stirred from our placidness.  We have moved beyond the same old way of doing things, and have begun to envision things in new ways. 
    For me, after 33 years of ordained ministry, it comes as second nature to carry out the responsibilities and tasks of ministry. Yet, the pandemic turned these things upside down, and I had to learn new ways to be a minister. It was challenging, and yet it also became a blessing for me, for I was able to explore how to reach out to you in new ways, rethinking worship and experimenting with different creative ways to approach worship.This has been life giving for me, and I hope it has been for you as well.
    There is no going back. We have entered into new territory. We have extended our reach through the miracle of the internet, so that far more people worship with us each week.  We have moved beyond the usual and the way things have always been done, to explore new ideas and new possibilities.  And we have been in this long enough that this thinking outside the box has become normalized for us.  We journey into the future not as a museum –  focused on remembering the past and what we once were, but as a church – a vibrant and transforming presence, engaged with changing life around us, seeking to be in dialogue with the current reality, seeking to be Gods hands and feet in this time and this place.
    Change is a constant in our lives. We give thanks for what has been, and we look forward to what will be. The sacred story that comes to mind for me is the story of Moses who led the Israelites through the desert and toward the promised land. But Moses was not the one who would lead them into the promised land. A new leader by the name of Joshua arose among them, who would guide them through the next stage of life. And that doesn’t mean that the road was be easy. Even in the promised land there were many new challenges to face. 
    I have been your spiritual leader through this wilderness time of pandemic. My prayers are with you as future leaders will arise who will journey with you into God’s future. May God bless you and your continued ministry in this place.
    ~Rev. Keith
    In solidarity and toward Shalom/Salem

  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2021

    Dear friends in Christ at Wesley United,

    Today is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or "Orange Shirt Day."  

    As a country and as a church we have a difficult, often humbling, history with Indigenous peoples.  On the one hand we in the United Church of Canada are people of good will and concerned with making a difference in our world and in the lives of others.  We pride ourselves on being committed to justice and living this out in our lives. We could say the same for many in Canada. Yet, we are often drawn up short by new revelations of atrocities that have happened, and need to reflect on how we have been complicit in these.   

    It seems to me that part of the purpose of a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is to reflect on how we have corporately and personally failed to live in life-giving ways with Indigenous peoples, honouring and respecting them, working to ensure that their lives are surrounded not only with safety and having basic needs met, but also treated with human dignity and kindness.  We lament that as a country, and sometimes as individuals, we have failed on all these counts. It is not like this is a new revelation for us, for we have heard many official reports over the years pointing to abuse of every kind, marginalization and lack of support.  We have not treated these people – who were the original people in this place we now call Canada, who agreed to share this land with us – the way that we would want to be treated. We have failed to honour the treaties and agreements that were made. Drastic changes are needed.  It is a day to acknowledge the truth and to intentionally move toward reconciliation.

    Another part of this day is reflecting on who we are and who we want to be. As I reported to the Wesley Executive on Tuesday night, our role as the church is to be a voice for the voiceless. The values that we embrace are of reaching out to the marginalized, the overlooked, those who are vulnerable, those without a voice, and those who are often treated as "the least."  On this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we recognize and lament that Indigenous peoples have so often fallen into this category.   As a church, following the example of Jesus, we take the next step of translating our values into action. We seek to be a welcoming place to all people, treating all others with kindness, respect and fairness, creating a safe place where all feel valued and affirmed.  Our additional role is to speak truth to power, be that to the larger public or to politicians, and to call them to this vision.

    Our sacred scriptures have much to say about how we treat "the other."  The Bible often names these as "foreigners," but in our place and time they could be Indigenous people (even as we acknowledge that Indigenous people are the first people of this land, and we, as settlers, are the foreigners), Black people or other people of colour; it could be those from differing faith traditions, or anyone who is somehow different from us:

    "Long ago I gave these commands to my people: 'You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you, or anyone else in need.'" (Zechariah 7:9)

    "Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt." (Exodus 23:9)

    "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)

    "Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite [native-born], and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)

    "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

    May this day, and the difficult reflections that it brings, become a blessing for us and for others, so that all may know wholeness and fullness of life.  This is the dream of God.

    Looking forward, I will only be with you as your minister for another two and a half weeks.  My final Sunday will be October 17.  After that I will become the minister of Marshall Memorial United Church in Ancaster.

    In solidarity and toward shalom/Salem,

    ~Rev. Keith Hagerman

  • I saw the presence of God in a mother swallow this week

    A Message from Rev. Keith:

    Late Monday afternoon, after recording Sunday’s worship service at Wesley, I headed to our schoolhouse to do some gardening and stay overnight to meet a contractor in the morning. At dusk, as I was standing under the portico of the front entrance, I became aware of a swallow frantically flying around. It was then that I discovered a nest built on top of one of the pillars of our entrance, and the mother bird was obviously frantic about my presence and worried about what danger I would pose to her chicks (or perhaps eggs) in the nest. In the morning when I stepped out the door, I discovered that it was two swallows – mother and father – that were tending the nest, and both seemed in distress at my presence, flying here and there at high speeds, banking, and circling back in attempts to distract me from their home-base. I backed away, delighting in this encounter with life. 
    In that moment, I saw the God presence in those birds, anxious for the well-being of all God’s children, frantic at the threats to Muslim families, grieving the deaths of Indigenous children in residential schools, worried about Palestinians that are living under constant threats, worried about families who are at risk of COVID because of their work or living situation…. This Saturday is “Juneteenth” (short for “June nineteenth”), commemorating the day in history which marks the effective end of slavery in the United States.  God, like the mother swallow, wants freedom and safety, and fullness of life for all her children. To take this one step further, walking in the way of Christ means becoming a conduit for the God-energy, meaning we are part of making this dream a reality. 
    This weekend marks the Summer Solstice, and with it comes the National Indigenous Day of Prayer.  The United Church has traditionally referred to the Sunday before National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) as Aboriginal Sunday, celebrating the contributions of Indigenous Peoples. One of the contributions that we celebrate is the connection to the earth, recognizing the sacredness in each aspect of life, praying for Mother Earth, the waters, the winds, for our siblings the animals, birds, and fish, and all of life that surrounds us.  Our online worship this Sunday will move deeper into this connection, exploring the whole history of our cosmos and how the sacred God-energy has moved through each aspect of ongoing creation. 
    I saw the presence of God in a mother swallow this week.  Where has creation been speaking to you?  Let us open our eyes and listen intently for the sacredness of life that seeks to be made known.

    As always, if you or others you know are in need of pastoral care, please be in touch with me at (519-504-9880) or keithhagerman@gmail.com

    -- Rev. Keith Hagerman

  • To our Muslim neighbours in Cambridge Ontario

    On behalf of the congregation of Wesley United Church (6 Cambridge St., Cambridge ON), I am reaching out to you in solidarity, standing beside you in this time of fear and grief.  We call you sisters and brothers, for we are all part of the human family and when one part suffers, it affects us all. The violence suffered in London ON this past week by the Muslim faith community is unfathomable, and we are all diminished by it.  We lament that such a thing can happen in our country. 

    We confess that we do not know what it is like to walk in your shoes, and to deal with prejudices based on religious profiling.  However, we are a community that wants to be intentional about inclusion, celebrating difference and building community that extends far beyond our doors.  We are glad that you are part of our Cambridge community, and we celebrate the cultural and spiritual gifts that you bring.  As fellow travellers in the Abrahamic faith tradition, we long for peace and wholeness and fullness of life for you and for all people.  We condemn Islamophobia and racial profiling and prejudice and violence in any form. We want you to know that we stand beside you, offering support and friendship, committing our lives to breaking down barriers that divide, working toward peace and justice for all. 

    We want to be a church that journeys toward reconciliation, understanding, and cooperation with our Muslim neighbours.  If there are ways that we can further support you, please reach out to us with the request.

    In Solidarity and toward Salem/Shalom,

    ~Rev. Keith Hagerman,

    (On behalf of the congregation of Wesley United Church, 6 Cambridge St., Cambridge, ON  N1R 3R6)

  • Remember when...

    Remember when your minister and congregational representatives would head off to (Waterloo) Presbytery meetings to do the work of the church with the wider church in the area.  Then remember how every May or June, the minister and those same representatives would head off to the Annual Meeting of Hamilton Conference which would run Thursday – Sunday in some part of the Conference, complete with the Ordaining and Commissioning of new ministers.  Well a few years ago, Presbytery and Conference were combined into a single court of the church called a Council.  We are now part of Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council. 

    I share all of this with you, because gathering together with this larger body of the church for an Annual Meeting is still on the agenda, and the Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council AGM is this weekend. I write to you on Thursday night, just after we have had the first session of this Annual Meeting.  Of course we cannot meet in person, so this was a virtual meeting, held over Zoom.  There were upwards of 180 of us together tonight as we worshipped and prayed together, and reconnected, sharing stories of the church in various places, and hearing about the work of the larger church. 

    Now you may ask what does this have to do with Wesley?  Cheryl-Ann Stadelbauer-Sampa, the Executive Minister of our Region and two other Regions shared this analogy: the United Church is like a peanut butter sandwich – the local congregation is one piece of bread, and the denomination is the other piece of bread, and Regional Council is the peanut butter = the sticky part in the middle that connects the local congregation to the denomination.  As your Regional Council meets this weekend to do the work of the larger church, I invite you to hold it in prayer. 

    Just as I was involved in reconnecting with the larger church tonight, so there has been an intentional effort at Wesley to reconnect with all people in the congregation.  When we reconnect, it is a time of sharing stories and of building up community.  As we do this, we hold the needs of each other up to God.  It is a type of prayer. Thanks to all of those involved in this effort.  My dream is that such connections would be a regular part of our community, with regular phone calls at least monthly (and perhaps more often) to all members.  In our times of worship in the season of Easter, we have heard Jesus saying “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  As you reach out beyond yourselves to connect with others, you become a link to the source – to Jesus, the presence of God.  By your presence, you bring God into the conversation, weaving a web of connection.  Blessings to you in your holy conversations.

    - Rev. Keith Hagerman