Jordan Cantwell Installed As Moderator
“We believe that Jordan is worthy! Glory be to God!”
Those words rang out loud and clear as the whole General Council joyously spoke with one voice in response to the question, “Dear friends in Christ, do you believe that Jordan, by God’s grace, is worthy to be installed as Moderator?”
The installation of the Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell as the 42nd Moderator of The United Church of Canada was a buoyant, joyous, and intercultural worship celebration that concluded the 42nd General Council meeting, and capped off what had been a long day of business.
Cantwell was presented with symbols of the office of Moderator: a stole, a talking stick, a piece of cloth, a bowl, and a prayer shawl. She was also given a Heiltsuk eagle clan vest with abalone shell buttons by Jim White of Bella Bella, BC.
The new Moderator co-presided at Holy Communion with the Very Rev. Gary Paterson, the outgoing Moderator.
In her brief sermon, Cantwell spoke of the biblical story of the miraculous manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel (Exodus 16) and the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6:33-44).
Manna comes for six days. If too much is taken, it spoils. None comes on the Sabbath, but enough is given the day before for the Sabbath.
“So God says to Moses, tell the people to open their eyes when they get up in the morning and see what’s right in front of them,” Cantwell said. “Sure enough, the next day when they get up they look around and notice a weird, flaky substance all over the ground that they call manna, which roughly translated, means qu’est-ce que c’est?—what the heck is it?!
“This is the practice run for what will be revealed as God’s new economy of justice and right relationship between people and the land and God. It’s our introduction to Sabbath economics.
“Manna teaches the principles of mutuality, justice, rest for people and the land, and trust—trust God with everything they’ve got, trust one another,” said Cantwell.
“So now here we are on the hillside with Jesus... another wilderness place,” she said. “Once again they start looking over their shoulder, thinking maybe we should go back now, back to where those with money can buy themselves something to eat.
“Those who most benefit from the political and economic structures of the day—whatever they are, first century Palestine or 21st century Canadian—folks with privilege want everyone to believe that the only way to do things is the way they have prescribed.
“Even though the disciples are not privileged people... they don’t enjoy the benefits of the dominant social and economic structures in their day, they’re still caught in the mindset of that structure, unable to see any alternative.
“Jesus did something far more radical and amazing than stretching five loaves to feed 5,000. What Jesus did that day on the hillside was to remind the people of one of the key stories and truths that shaped who they are as a people,” said Cantwell.
“He reminded them that they were a people constituted by an alternative vision of how the world might be, a whole different set of principles and values and therefore a whole different set of possibilities than the ones offered by the dominant culture.
“On the hillside Jesus practised Sabbath economics,” said Cantwell.
“As he did so, something awoke in these people. Something was called forth from their collective history: a memory of an alternative way, the first lesson they’d learned in the wilderness.
“There were a whole lot more than five loaves of bread and two fish hiding in pockets and purses there on that hillside that day. When the people remembered who they were and the way of justice, mutuality, and trust to which they were called, they found the courage to lay it all on the line and discovered that together they had more than enough to fill all the hungry bellies, with plenty left over for the Sabbath day.
“The miracle of the loaves and fishes is the power that our stories have to reshape our imagination and to give us the courage to act with hope, compassion, and generosity, even when we are deeply uncertain about our future.”