It feels a little odd to write a minister’s message when I am just a short-term fill-in, but nonetheless I want to welcome you to Westbank United Church.
In these days of the Covid-19 pandemic, where all manner of aspects of everyday life are turned upside down, we can find ourselves without hope. Yet, when we pause and think about things, I believe hope can come bubbling up within all of us. There are a number of things to be thankful for, even in the midst of the pandemic’s turmoil, and many reasons to rejoice.
For example, I am glad that many churches (including Westbank) are finding new ways to meet and have fellowship through our computers. This enables people to connect even when health, distance, or weather might otherwise make it impossible.
In a similar way, I have found myself changing in my attitude toward masks. When they first came out I thought, “this is a pain in the neck.” But over time I have come to consider wearing a mask nothing less than a privilege – an opportunity to help not just myself to stay safe, but also those who are more at risk. Every time I wear a mask, I am undoubtedly helping someone else, and for a Christian that is a supreme joy.
News reports of a pending vaccine are positive as well, reminding us that God equips some of our best medical scientists to work on finding ways to keep us safe. Hopefully soon a vaccine will enable many of us to breathe a little more easily – both figuratively and literally!
In the midst of all this, I give thanks to God that I can find ways to move on with life. May you, too, find things to celebrate and appreciate in these tough times.
Donald Schmidt was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and grew up about 65 km north of there in the small pulp mill town of Crofton. His upbringing was somewhat ecumenical, as his parents belonged to the local United Church but Donald and his sister Melva attended a combined Anglican/United Sunday School. This instilled in Donald a love for different churches, and a strong respect for different styles of worship.
After high school Donald began a degree in political science and linguistics, but soon switched to a studies in comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal. He went on to achieve a Bachelor of Theology and a Master of Divinity in 1986. In 2006 he received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Wisdom University in Oakland, California.
Donald was one of the founders of Affirm, the United Church program to defend and support the rights of all peoples – including sexual minorities – within the church. As such, he and others began to refuse to answer questions about their sexuality when being interviewed by their Presbytery. Montreal Presbytery declared that they “had no choice but to assume he was gay” and refused to ordain him, and so he moved to the US, hid back in the closet, and was later ordained in the United Methodist Church.
A 30+ year career in the US led Donald to parish ministry in New York, Vermont, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Washington. In addition he served as a conference minister in Hawaii before returning to his native British Columbia in 2015. He was deeply touched when the United Church, in recognizing his ordination that year, also apologized to him for refusing to ordain him in the 1980’s.
A parallel career to parish ministry included working on the Whole People of God and Seasons of the Spiritcurriculum projects for over 20 years. Since retiring from active church ministry in 2019 he has kept busy doing fill in ministry work throughout central BC, and writing Bible study books. His most recent books include a study of the Beatitudes and a book of resources for churches who want to experience the biblical stories of the birth of Jesus more fully.
Donald lives in Kelowna, where he and his partner Kevin enjoy retirement. When not writing or leading Bible study, Donald loves nothing more than spinning wool and knitting.
We look forward to seeing you on the screen. If you are interested in joining us for a Sunday, please email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom meeting information.
Sunday, Sept 20 Sermon by Frances Kitson