Published October 18, 2016
As the United Church of Canada strives to become more intercultural, its moderator is taking that focus with her on her trips to United churches across Canada.
These visits are a regular part of the United Church moderator’s role. But the current moderator, Rev. Jordan Cantwell, has made a point of seeking out places that will help her learn more about the struggles faced by cultural groups in Canada. On Oct. 6, Cantwell visited the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, accompanied by members of United churches in Shelburne County. This was the first time in many years that the United Church moderator visited Shelburne County.
Chuck Smith, a board member with the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, joined the group on a guided tour led by senior interpreter Jason Farmer. The Black Loyalist Heritage Centre had its grand opening in June, 2015.
Rev. Joanne McFadden, minister at Trinity United Church in Shelburne and the Lower Ohio Union Church, noted that Cantwell chose to visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre “because the story of the Black Loyalist experience is important in the life of this county and needs to be shared across Canada. This is something the moderator will be able to do as she continues to travel, preach and speak in Canada and beyond.”
Cantwell was moved by what she heard and saw in Birchtown. “Growing up in Canada, this is history we have not learned,” Cantwell said after the tour. “There are so many stories in the establishment of this country and so many shady moments from our past that just get written right out of the history that we learn as children. “What’s so important, if we’re going to do better, is that we learn from our past so that we don’t repeat it. So it’s wonderful that this place is here.” David Hewitt, executive secretary for the United Church’s Maritime Conference, accompanied Cantwell on her visits.
Hewitt explained priorities the moderator has set for her visits: connecting with First Nations communities, making ecumenical connections, and focusing on youth and young adults. “We’ve made a commitment to be a more intercultural church, (as part of our) focus on social justice,” Hewitt said.
“The significance of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre fits in within the mandates of our church. The United Church elects its moderator to a three-year term. The moderator serves as the spiritual leader and national representative of the United Church.
Cantwell and Hewitt started out their South Shore tour on Oct. 5 in Yarmouth, where they met with members of Beacon United and other United Church congregations. Following their Oct. 6 stop in Birchtown, Hewitt and Cantwell drove to Shelburne for lunch at Trinity United Church.
Later that evening, they took part in a South Shore Presbytery supper gathering at Zion United Church in Liverpool.
On Oct. 7, Cantwell and Hewitt toured Lunenburg County and then travelled to Mahone Bay, where they attended a lunch at Trinity United Church, featuring a presentation by Rev. Dr. Rob Fennell, of the Atlantic School of Theology, on the Camino Nova Scotia experience. Camino Nova Scotia is a walking tour with a spiritual emphasis from Halifax to parts of the South Shore.