Theme Presentation
Gretta Vosper
Saturday, September 2nd from 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM (Lecture with Q & A)

Shopping with the Nones

As those identifying as having no religious affiliation (the “Nones”) continue to grow in numbers, early adopter organizations work to create communities that welcome them. Alan Cooperman, head of the religion department at Pew Research, has claimed that the god of the Nones is “shopping.” But this group is still statistically unstudied. What they want and what it is they are seeking, if anything, is relatively unknown. Do we have any responsibility toward the “nones”? How can we predict what it is we could offer, if anything? And how are we challenged to offer anything that might support them?

Free Public Lecture
Gretta Vosper
Sunday, September 3rd from 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM (Lecture with Q & A)

Ever Wonder if We’re Dead Yet?

We become interested, sometimes even obsessed, with our legacies as we pass mid-life and reflect upon what it is we will hand off to those we leave behind. Organizations, whose legacies can be far more profound than those of individuals, must do this as well, especially as they experience decline. What is the legacy of the liberal church? And what is it that we can do to ensure that what we hand off to those who follow us is the best we have to offer?

Conference attendees will be able to select two of the following sessions:


1. (Sunday Only) Is There a Place for Non-Theists in the United Church of Canada? 

In an environment where a minister has faced a review and a formal hearing for her theological views, and where a church in midst of institutional change is dealing with new and untested processes, what does the future look like for those who don’t subscribe to the traditional, but who have evolved theologically? A panel will explore the theological climate of the denominational leadership, what inclusion (or not) might look like, the implications of Gretta Vosper being placed on the Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary) and the future of congregations and leaders exploring non-theism. A panel of presenters explore these questions from various perspectives. Presenters: Fabian Jennings, Margaret-Ann Armour and Michael Lawrie

2. Welcome Home: How The ‘Great Story Of Our Unfolding Universe’ Is Shaping My Spirituality?

Presenter, Margaret Hetherington ‘The Great Story’ as it is sometimes called, with its deep time, amazing realities, and ever evolving nature has become my story too, connecting me with all that is. Oneness, belonging, wonder, gratitude, awakening, growth, resiliency, respect are becoming integral to my journey, as are spiritual practices that help me remember my connectedness with the universe. This journey as earth and universe dwellers is rich for some of us; tragic and deadly for vast numbers of other humans, other species and the earth’s well-being. We are not guaranteed an authority and a dominance as the old story of theism claimed. How can we become fully human, free and responsible, as we turn our attention to the religious issues of our day: to care for the earth in its fullest need? In our ‘belonging’ that makes us inseparable from all that is; what meaning can we find in a fragility that depends on our willingness or not to accept our full humanity. What does it all mean to you?

3. Toward Spiritual Gatherings: Expanding our Experience (Saturday Only)

Providing a consistent and theologically unified experience for congregations can be a difficult transition. Many speak about progressive ideas and understandings in study groups but then experience language, liturgy and music on Sundays that reinforce traditional and sometimes unhelpful images and actions. Learn some strategies and discover resources from congregations that have transitioned from worship to spiritual gatherings that express a more expansive spirituality in music, prayer and language. Presenters: Nancy Steeves, Christopher New, Charles Bidwell

4. The Ancient Connection: Values-Based Wisdom in the Jesus Tradition

From its earliest writings, the Jesus tradition offers a values-based wisdom.  The roots of what became Christianity was an expansive spirituality shaped and rooted in Jewish and Greek philosophical traditions; and rather than being formed around belief, dogma or creed, much of what we know of this early tradition centered in a new way of living and a practical experiential spirituality. Explore some of these values-based roots from the heart of the Jesus tradition and discover their relevance for today. Leadership: Bruce Miller

5. Rewilding Spirituality

For many, our lifestyle and social structures are alienated from the natural world.  We need a revolution in how we think, what we do with what we know and how we act.  Our planetary crisis is primarily a spiritual crisis. This session will begin a journey of ‘Rewilding’ of land, soul and society beyond traditional environmentalism and sustainability.  Come and learn together how to maximize the power of nature to enhance our minds, our personal and societal vibrancy, and our resilience. Presenters: Sherry Ann Chapman

6. (Saturday only) “Occupying Spirituality: Activism, Solidarity, Beliefs, Values”

Are you a theist, a post theist, a humanist, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Jew, a mystic, a Muslim, a pagan, a Quaker, a First Nation’s elder? Ever wonder whether that may not really matter? Ever wanted to cry out:

“Hey, don’t lay your theology or a-theology on me. Just tell me what you value: justice? Love? Compassion? The environment? That will tell me all I need to know about your beliefs; about the wisdom of your faith or even the wisdom of your lack of one.”

If you’ve felt that, come and tell all the rest of us who may have felt it too. Come join a smudge and talking circle guided by First Nations friends. We’ll pass an eagle feather and share our wisdom as we seek to know how we can reach across spiritual and religious differences – not to cancel them – but to grow in our power to make real our shared values. A solidarity that doesn’t require making “the other” the same. Presenters: Carola Cunningham,  Fabian Jennings