UCCan Ministers and God/god Survey


Some of you will know that I’m a rather inquisitive kind of person. I like asking questions and finding out about where people are at.

This survey grew out of a comment a ministerial colleague, Gretta Vosper, made on The National. The interview was a catalyst to my engaging in this exploration, inviting the rest of our colleagues to check a box or two, telling me a (little!) bit about what they believe.

The paper has been reviewed by three academic colleagues – two who teach in theological fields, and one a sociologist of religion. I asked them to help me make sure that my analysis and recommendations didn’t go past what the data allowed. Their thoughts, along with those of other readers and proofreaders, helped to make this a much better paper. I am deeply thankful for their help.

This was an exploratory study. The results do suggest that further study would be recommended. I’m thinking about how that could happen!

Please feel free to download and then to comment on what you’ve read. (Posts are moderated. Feel free to be passionate… but please be respectful to one another.) If you’d like a one-on-one conversation using my contact form will send an email directly to my phone! I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

I hope you find the reading as interesting as I have found the writing.

Preliminary Report (.PDF)
Executive Summary (Powerpoint slideshow)
Executive Summary (.PDF of slideshow)

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Just took a walk around the church…



  • there’s a playschool gathering;
  • and a yoga group that meets four mornings a week;
  • Greg is in his office, rehearsing music with a soloist for Sunday’s worship;
  • on the main level, “Stitch and Chatter,” are working on quilts to give to people who are without homes and sleeping outside – warm and beautiful;
  • there’s a community Tai Chi group moving (ever so wonderfully slowly) in the church hall;
  • in the worship space, there’s a group of professional musicians practicing for an upcoming concert (and for working with our congregation’s choirs in an upcoming worship event);
  • Sheila, our office administrator, is working on keeping everything organized;
    and I’m in my office, prepping for Sunday;
  • downstairs, another group of children are with their parents, singing and laughing.

And that’s just this morning.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe how much wonderful life happens in this place.


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Dunbar Heights United Voices

sang the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms, this weekend.

The first concert was Friday night, in the worship space at Dunbar Heights United Church. Today, the choir and orchestra performed in the sanctuary of Ryerson United Church.

It was wonderful to hear them in both spaces – to hear how the change of venue changed the sound. The choir did a beautiful job both days, and our Soprano and Baritone soloists were superb.

I am in awe of what Dr. Greg Caisley, our Minister of Music, has been able to grow over his time at DHUC. Even in my two-and-a-half years of being his colleague, I have watched DHUV,  Pneuma Voices, and the Chancel Choir grow in leaps and bounds – not just as musicians, but as people of faith.

Wonderful afternoon, in a wonderful day!

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The Open House

Every Wednesday evening, since last September, there has been a worship celebration at Dunbar Heights United Church. We call it “The Open House”.

At 4:30, anyone who wants to gathers in the church hall, up on the stage, when Cathy (our Children, Youth and Families Minister) has set up a number of spiritual practices. One of our team is there to chat with folks as they wish. Sometimes we’ll find children, other times teens, other times adults.

At 5:00, the children and youth in the Pneuma Voices break off for their rehearsal time. Tonight, there were 18 singers gathered together. They were working on a Taize piece for tonight… and on learning another chorus from Handel’s Messiah. (They’re planning on performing the work next Advent!)

Then… supper! Tonight we had to add another three tables. Let’s see – there must have been 35 people gathered for supper. (It was spanikopita, potatoes and salad, with orange slices for dessert.)

After we’ve eaten, it’s into the worship space for a 35 to 40 minute worship gathering. Every week, Pneuma leads the music, we pray and have reflection on scripture – often a conversation – then communion with rice wafers and grape juice and…

off we go into the night, to meet again next week.

Thirty people gathered tonight. Next fall, we’ll really start inviting the neighbours!

Our Door is Wide Open

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Living in a condo complex has some interesting moments…

as I sat in my living area this evening, I heard the strains of an accordion being played from someone else’s balcony. I had the feeling that the musician had been shoved out there, kind of like someone smoking.

As I sat and listened, I realized that whoever was playing was really quite good. (Accordion not being one of my favourite instruments, it took me a moment or two.) A medley was being played, smoothly moving from song to song.

So I did what anyone would do. I wandered out on to my balcony and joined in.

Spanish Eyes.
Beer Barrel Polka.
Some Enchanted Evening.
And on and on…

I have no idea where the accordionist lives – but I’ll be ready for our next gig!


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Technology Shift

Infographics links on (relatively) current social media use for small businesses.





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A Statement of Faith

I’ve been asked if I could articulate my faith in a few sentences.

While I think that The United Church of Canada’s A New Creed is good for me, in lots of ways, here are some of my own words:

I believe in God “who has created and is creating.” I believe God is the Divine Other who is greater than the sum of the parts of this universe (or multiverse, if that’s what we live in.) I believe God is in deep, intimate connection with all things – so intertwined with all that is, that we human beings can only begin to understand that relationship. I believe that this relationship is a never-ending (and ever-beginning) dance, in which all things – including God – are changed.

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth – a human being whose will was so completely entwined with the will of the Divine Other that the only way people could describe him was “God and Son of God” (a political and a theological statement.) (And, yes, I do believe that he lived to save me – mostly from myself.)

I believe in the Holy Spirit – Great Mystery of God that moves with and between and in all things – that which is the process of being and becoming and not, all rolled into one.

I believe in the brokenness I see around me, and I believe that God calls me to be part of that which brings healing and wholeness. I believe that I do that by living love: of God, of neighbour, of self (and that my life – along with “everything written in the law and the prophets” – hangs on it.)

I believe all these things, and more.

I don’t demand that anyone else believe in what I believe, though I love to be in conversation about them.

I am Richard Bott, and I am (one of the many) ministers of The United Church of Canada.

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I Believe in Canada

I believe in Canada.

A community of communities
made up of a myriad
of peoples.

I believe in Canada.

Resource workers,
office workers,
labourers and health care professionals,
teachers and preachers,
parents and grands,
farmers and fishers and
people who do work
that I would never begin to understand.

I believe in Canada.

Niqab, hijab,
jacket or jeans,
jingle dress, crop top,
whatever it means;
business casual,
or as wild as you can be…
it’s the person inside
that I want to greet.

And I know that that person
is my neighbour.
I know that that person
is friend. Not foe.
I know because…


I believe that a little bit of all of our work
goes a long way to share with those in need –
children, adults, seniors, whoever –
universal health care,
breakfast programs,
an umbrella of hope.

I believe that Truth and Reconciliation
is not just a slogan,
but a promise to build and live
in right relationship
with the First Nations and the First Peoples
from sea, to sea, to frozen sea.

I believe that we are people
who know how to open our doors
(and leave them unlocked)
how to invite others to our tables
(and make them family)
whatever and whoever they are.

I believe in Canada.

So I will protest when I need to.
I will challenge those
we’ve called to be our leaders.
I will work, in cooperation,
for the betterment
not only of all people,
but for all the inhabitants
of earth, air and sea.

And I will exercise my right
and my responsibility –
Orange or Green, Red, Blue or Bloc,
partied or independent…
and make my mark
on this nation.

Because I believe in Canada.

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Can I get your contact info?

Part of the task of being able to reconnect with folks is, first of all, being able to contact them at all?

This is the “Communications sheet” we have on clipboards, on every pew. Folks are invited to fill it out, and a letter of welcome is sent to them within two days of the service. The letter is tailored to them, andincludes any information that they may have requested.


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How do we keep connected with guests and newcomers?

Yesterday, DHUC started with the second step on our “develop deeper connections with guests and newcomers” plan. (Step 1: Comfortably making conversation, they’ve been doing well for some time.)

We’re using a communication sheet, slightly adaped from one used in previous churches. Our guests gave us contact information, let us know how they came to arrive at the church, and things they’d like to know more about or take part in.

Of the five guests/newcomers yesterday, four filled in communications sheets. Tomorrow’s first task will be getting notes out to them, with the information they requested, and asking their permission to put the people who are facilitating their interests in contact with them.

To those of you in the business world, this is basic “customer support and retention.” To many in the church world (well, The United Church world) there is a huge fear of being too intrusive.

It should be interesting to see what happens.

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10/365 – Claque

For today’s image, I wanted to wander around town giving people a loonie or a toonie to be able to photograph them clapping for me.

Yes, that’s the definition of a claque – a group of people paid to clap.

Unfortunately, I had neither the time nor the supply of toonies to be able to make this image a reality. So you’re stuck reading the thoughts that arise because of the word.

How many times do we just want people to agree with us? I know that I’m guilty of that. I’ll ask someone their opinion, not really looking for more than a pat on the back for a job well done. Whether or not it’s well done, not well done, or not done at all, has been somewhat irrelevant.

Doesn’t really treat people fairly, does it? If we ask them their thoughts, then what we’re really saying is, “Your opinion has value to me. I may agree with it, or I may not – but I will listen and think about it.”

Perhaps that needs to be one of my daily resolutions: only ask when I’m prepared to hear someone’s thoughts on the matter.

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9/365 – Virtuoso

There is artistry in so many part of our world, much of which gets lost in the details and habits of every day life.

Today, I sat in an airport, waiting for a delayed flight. When the plane arrived, everyone was ready – fueling team, cargo team, attendants, flight deck crew, people directing on the ground and in the control tower, restocking, rescheduling, reworking, to get us on board and in the air.

Once we boarded, we found ourselves waiting. And waiting. And… waiting.

The captain came on the intercom to explain that, in the rush, some of the usual care with balancing the luggage, to ensure the weight was properly distributed had gotten kind of confused. As I looked out my window, I watched a worker came down to the plane. He looked like he had been handling cargo for years. I saw him give three signals, felt something being moved under us, then saw him nod.

Four minutes later, we were backing away from the gate.

There is an artistry to almost everything.

To see a virtuoso at work in their field of art is a joy.

And sometimes makes smooth a frustrating wait.

(Link to image.)

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8/365 -Ombuds(man)

How often do we find ourselves sitting between factions (of one or more) bent on doing damage to one another?

As a mediator, and sometimes arbitrator, one of my biggest tasks is to tease out information. Helping people to find words that will get across their point. Unruffling ruffled feathers. Sometimes throwing in a comment or two to jump-start conversations.

One of the things I find interesting is that nuance often gets lost. Sometimes things are in such opposition that their contrast overwhelms. But, other times, it’s not quite that extreme.

I wonder what the next arm-wrestle will bring?

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The Long Way

As I travel down paths once gold,
now silvered, blighted with tarnish,
I find myself precariously perched on Mnemosyne’s back.
Running my fingers through her mane,
I listen to each clip-clop,
by the icy snows
of time.

Looking in the windows,
the shapes,
the light,
a graceful arm dances,
laughter sings.

Again and again, Mnemosyne stops and starts,
place to place,
moment to moment,
and I am carried
where her will goes.

Starry night burns my eyes.
Crisp air my lungs.

When now?

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7/365 – Fallible

I don’t like making mistakes, even though I know that fallibility is a mark of being human, and human I am.

The difficulty with mistakes is that I feel like I need to learn something from all of them. It is far too easy to let self-critique become self-criticism. (Or critique of another’s actions become criticism.)

Perhaps, rather than critique, I need to look for the beauty in the mistake.
Perhaps I need to affirm the flow, rather than get caught in the folly.
Perhaps I need to let it go…

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6/365 – Bromide

As you can see from the above photo, it was cold today. As I write this, the digits have flipped. It is no longer -23C, it’s -32C.

So, cold.

But, I’ll tell you, if one more person had said to me, “Cold enough for ya’,” I think I would have internally combusted.

Yes. Yes, it is.


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5/365 – Peremptory

I’m a Christian minister. A big part of my life’s work is to explore the library my tradition called “the Bible,” and to help others explore it as well.

Exploring scripture, diving deep into it, takes a lot of work. There’s the intellectual discussion: what is the historic context of the passage, what is it’s literary context, what bias did the author(s) have, what translations issues are there, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Then there are the personal bits. Questions like “what experiences in my life are influencing my understanding of this scripture,” or, “as a white middle-class cis-male Canadian, how might my lenses be changing what I’m reading?”

Then there’s the whole prayer part of it. “Hey, God? What do you want me to hear in this, today?”

For me, it’s never an easy task – though, even when it’s a slog (see any genealogy passage), I do tend to enjoy it.

I’ve experienced situations where someone has said to me, “the Bible says it, I believe it.” This strikes me as naive. Facile. Kind of simple.

It’s also a great peremptory statement. Conversation gets pretty much shut down.

Kinda frustrating.

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