Mill Woods Highlights: 2017

This space reports on how people at Mill Woods United worked together in 2017 to nurture our spiritual community and create space in which we explore purpose and place. For future activities see Upcoming Events. Highlights from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, and 2015 are just a click away.

December 22, “Cookies and Carols”

An enthusiastic crew of carolers came out to sing songs of the Season, enjoy baked goods, and enjoy each other’s company. Thanks to Rob and Jennifer McPhee for organizing this Christmas event and to everyone who brought goodies and raised their voices in a Spirit of Christmas joy.

December 7, “The Great Plains” in concert

About 45 people came out on a beautiful moon-lit evening to hear Darrel and Saskia of “The Great Plains” perform bluegrass, gospel, country, folk, and Christmas music. A good time was had by all and the event raised over $200 for the church. Thanks to Celia Conway who took the lead in publicizing the event for us and selling tickets.

December 3, “Kindred Voices” intercultural concert

Mill Woods United choir was one of seven to participate in the third annual Edmonton Intercultural Christmas concert. Held at Kirk United Church from 3 to 5 pm, it was organized by the Intercultural Ministry Committee of Edmonton Presbytery, which is chaired by our own Andrew Janewski. The featured performers were Linnea Good and David Johnson from Summerland BC. They performed and also led all seven choirs (from Mill Woods, McDougall, St. Paul’s, Grace, and Korean United churches and the United Methodist (Zimbabwe) and Wesley Methodist (Ghana) churches) in a mass chorus, “Light up the Night,” which was written by Linnea Good.

Thanks to Bryan LeGrow who led our choir so ably on the afternoon, the crowd which filled Kirk United Church, the organizers, and all who participated.

December 3, “150 Acts of Reconciliation”

Our Advent Peace Sunday service featured a presentation by Dr. Sara Komarkinsky of the University of Alberta talking about the “150 Acts of Reconciliation” guide that she and Dr. Crystal Fraser published in August of 2017. Thanks to her and to Mary-Anne Janewski and Nancy Siever for helping to organize this informative and inspiring worship service.

December 1, Wine-tasting fund-raiser

More than 30 of us gathered at “Vines” (near 23 Ave and Rabbit Hill Road) for a fun and informative evening of wine tasting. More than $1100 was raised for the church! Thanks to Jennifer and Rob McPhee for organizing this event.

November 25, Christmas Craft Fair

For the 19th November in a row, a successful Christmas Craft Fair was held in the church. Many thanks to the vendors, Heavenly Hospitality, and all the volunteers and organizers who made this a great fundraiser for the church and a fun time for the whole community.

November 19, Annual Financial Meeting

After a joint worship service with our partner congregation — United Methodist (Zimbabwe) Edmonton — 50 members of Mill Woods United gathered for an important congregational meeting.

2018 Budget was approved based on the “Comfort Zone” scenario that was put forward by the Facing the Future Team,  endorsed by Church Council, and supported at the meeting by our three chairpersons, Lindy Mair, Carla Janzen, and Kathy Poechman.

The Budget calls for staff cuts. While the Custodian position will stay as is, the vacant Child Youth and Family position will not be filled, the Social Media Coordinator position will be eliminated, at least temporarily, and the minister, administrator, and musician will have their hours reduced by 20% in 2018. These cuts will mean less programming and greater reliance upon lay volunteers. It also means that the $20K deficit forecast for 2017 could turn into a modest surplus in 2018.

The meeting generated the following ideas for how this reduced level of staffing might work:

  • services led by laypeople in July and August — “coffee and conversation,” sharing circles, hymn-sings, use of the labyrinth, and so on
  • sharing summer services with another church
  • Food Bank: Might they support us with say $500 / week if that helped to keep our depot open?
  • Cell phone tower: could we be getting more for the tower, especially if we were in danger of closing
  • Ian is fine with 80% working time; he has been involved in the discussions of FTF from the beginning, so this is not a surprise for him.
  • Raising the rental fees for our tenants, especially to help cover our increased costs in power, heat, etc.
  • Could the church be kept cooler to save on heating costs?
  • How many members does our church have?
  • A small amount of increased giving by each family would make a big difference
  • Youth and children are necessary to grow
  • Could we ask the Zimbabwean Congregation to help contribute more towards the upkeep of the church? Randy said they are already paying some and have increased this since they started here.

The Nominations Committee made a report that included the good news that Rob McPhee has agreed to stand for Council Co-Chair for 2018-19 and that Carla Janzen will continue in that role next year.

Thank you to Rob McPhee for chairing the meeting and treating us to a heartwarming synopsis of our church/family life over the past 40 years. Thank you to Laine Pickle and Randy Round for the huge amount of time they have dedicated in preparing a presentation providing us with clarity of our financial position.

The next congregational meeting will be our Annual General Meeting, probably to be held on Sunday March 11, 2018.

November 19, joint worship with United Methodist (Zimbabwe) congregation

A small but enthusiastic group of members of our partner congregation led us in joint worship. Rev. Tazvionepi (Tazvi) Nyarota delivered a gracious message and the singing was joyous and plentiful. The turnout would have been higher except for the sad news that the husband of Winnie Magara, the Chair of the Board of the Methodist church, had died the day before. Most of the members of the Zimbabwean congregation were in St. Albert praying with and supporting Winnie as she prepared to travel to Zimbabwe, where her husband had died.

As it turned out, it was a big week for immigrants from Zimbabwe. Moves by the military removed President Robert Mugabe from power, which left everyone in Zimbabwe torn between hope and anxiety. Our prayers of solidarity and support extend to our United Methodist partner congregation and to everyone in Zimbabwe.

We offered our condolences to Winnie and gave thanks for our partnership with the Zimbabwean congregation. We look forward to many more opportunities for joint worship, outreach and fellowship in 2018 and beyond.

November 18, “Church Chat” drag show

On Saturday evening, more than 50 people gathered for the second “Church Chat” drag show to be held at Mill Woods United Church. The first was held in June 2016.

The costumes were fabulous, the music was fun, and the banter between the two hosts, “Lady Tenderflake” and “Lola” kept us amused. Thanks to AJ Janewski for taking the lead in organizing this event, to The Sovereign Court of the Imperial Wild Rose for the performances, and to all who gathered to have fun and to raise money for the charities that the Court supports.

November 16, “Hot Topics,” #2

On Thursday November 17, seven us met in the Lounge to watch a 24-minute documentary on end-of-life decisions in an Intensive Care Unit, “Extremis,” Netflix 2016. This was followed by an hour of sharing and discussion. The next Hot Topic evening will be on January 18, 2018. We will watch two excerpts from a movie by Michael Moore (“Where to Invade Next”), which we hope will spark discussion on decriminalizing mind- and mood-altering drugs and the criminal justice system.

November 10, “Grab bag Whist”

Thirty people enjoyed playing whist, eating treats, and adjusting their grab bags of small goodies based upon their winnings. A great time was had by all. Thanks to Rob and Jennifer McPhee for organizing the evening.

October 19, “Hot Topics” #1

On Thursday Oct 19 a small but engaged group met in the Lounge to listen to a podcast from the CBC radio program “Tapestry.” Called “The pros and cons of raising your kids with religion,” it generated a lively discussion. The second “Hot Topics” will be on Thursday November 19 at 7 pm. We will watch an award-winning Netflix documentary called “Extremis.” It is about end-of-life decisions at the an intensive care unit.

October 1, farewell to Bev Thompson

The congregation gave Bev Thompson a fond farewell at our Sunday service after three years of service as our Child, Youth, and Family Worker. Many people wore hats or wigs in tribute to Bev for a job well done.

September 8-10, United Methodist Revival

Our partner congregation made up of Zimbabwean immigrants (the United Methodist Church of Edmonton) held a spirited Revival Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and all night Sunday, finishing at dawn.

Ian and Kim are acknowledged by Rev. Tazi Nyarota at the start of Saturday afternoon worship

September 3, Paul Kirman preaches

On September 3, Paula Kirman, our Social Media and Marketing Coordinator, presented a reflection on her own faith journey and the work she does for the church.

July 16, indoor picnic

After our Sunday morning service, twenty of us gathered in the Lower Hall for a meal of hot dogs and desserts. In the middle of a beautiful and hot July, we had hoped to meet on the east lawn of the property under the shade of Aspen trees. But July 16 turned out to be a cool, windy, and smoky day, so we were glad to be inside for food and conversation. Thanks to the Worship Committee (especially Cathy Bayly and Laura Goss) for organizing this event.

June 18, marking National Aboriginal Day

We gathered in a circle on Sunday June 18 around the drums of Chubby Cree and two tables blessed with sacred symbols of Indigenous and Christian spirituality to mark National Aboriginal Day, 2017. Thank you to Mary-Anne Janewski, Nancy Siever, and Bev Thompson for organizing and leading this service for memory, reconciliation, and transformation, and to the wonderful music of Chubby Cree, the prayers of Evelyn Day, and all who came to sing and dance together.

Intercultural service, June 11

Andrew Janewski of Mill Woods United presided and Rev. Tazvi Nyarota of our partner congregation, Zimbabwe United Methodist – Edmonton, preached at Edmonton Presbytery’s first-ever Sunday morning Intercultural Ministry service. Held at Kirk United Church, about 70 people from a range of congregations (both “ethnic” and “majority European-descent”) attended.

In related news, Andrew Janewski has been elected the new Chairperson of Edmonton Presbytery’s Intercultural Ministry Committee. Congratulations Andrew!

Pride Parade, June 10

An enthusiastic group from MWUC joined the United Church contingent on the annual Edmonton Pride Parade down Whyte Avenue on Saturday June 10. As usual, we had a wonderful time as we showed our solidarity with LGTBQ people here and around the world.


Pentecost service and potluck, June 4

On Pentecost Sunday, the Mill Woods United and Zimbabwean United Methodist congregations worshipped together. We sang, prayed, and reflected on this annual celebration of the coming of the Spirit. Following the service, we gathered in the Lower Hall for a potluck lunch.

Annual General Meeting, May 28, 2017

More than 40 people stayed after Sunday worship to participate in our Annual General Meeting. The meeting elected a new Council  including for the first time a trio of chairpersons: Lindy Mair, Carla Janzen and Kathy Poechman. For the complete list of Council members, see the June “Connections” newsletter.

Outgoing Chairperson Brian Sampson offered a year in review presentation and received grateful applause for the two years he has spent as Chairperson. Laine Pickle provided background on challenges facing the congregation in a Facing the Future presentation, and Randy Round presented a revised Budget for 2017, which was approved.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this important event. The next congregational meetings will be in late November 2017 (Annual Financial Meeting) and late February or early March 2018 (Annual General Meeting).

Brand MWUC BBQ, May 27, 2017

More than 35 people gathered at Dave and Nancy Siever’s house on a beautiful spring evening for barbequed food and conversation. Thanks to the Sievers for hosting and to Rob and Jennifer McPhee for organizing this fun and successful event.

Spring Craft Market, May 13, 2017

Thanks to all the organizers, vendors, and people who came out on Saturday May 13, 2017 to make our fifth annual Spring Craft Market a great success.

Island Paradise, April 29, 2017

More than 40 people enjoyed a “progressive dinner” on Saturday April 29 as they traveled from Audrey and Randy Round’s house (appetizers), to Kathy and Paul Poechman’s house (main course), and to Veronica and Ken Tovell’s house (dessert) on a Caribbean Island theme. Delicious food and enjoyable conversation kept the party flowing all evening long. Thank you to Jennifer and Rob and McPhee for organizing this fun and successful event.

Holy Week and Easter 2017

We began Holy Week on April 9 with an inter-generational service. It started with Palm Sunday but took us right “to the foot of the cross” with readings for Good Friday as well. We sang through the communion prayers, and sisters Eliza and Hannah served communion with our minister.

On Thursday April 13, we gathered with our partners and friends from the Zimbabwean United Methodist congregation for a Holy Thursday service. Rev. Ian Kellogg and Rev. Tazvionepi Nyarota led a a celebration of Holy Communion and a ritual of hand-washing. Communion reflected the tradition of a Last Supper from the evening in which Jesus was betrayed (Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke). Hand washing reflected the tradition of Jesus washing his friends feet on the night in which he was betrayed. (John).

The next morning after a night of snow, 25 of us gathered in the sanctuary for a time of song, reading, and reflection to mark the trials and crucifixion of Jesus in a Good Friday service. Mill Woods MLA and Minister of Labour for Alberta, Christina Gray attended. She gifted the congregation with a beautiful lily to mark the season.

On Easter Sunday, April 16, a large congregation gathered to reflect, sing and celebrate on a bright sunny morning. Four youth offered solos: Nate Burton, Oliver Burton and Sadie Englot on the piano and Georgia Englot on the violin.

Among other visitors on Sunday morning, we were glad to welcome the Member of Parliament for Mill Woods and federal Minister for Infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi.

Twenty of our members were not at our service. They were at the Bissell Centre worshipping with the Inner City Pastoral Ministry and serving lunch under the leadership of Don Grabinsky. Thank you to Don and everyone who contributed to this special Easter lunch.

Sharing Hope: April 6, 2017

Ten people spent an evening sharing their feelings, thoughts and perspectives on living into hope in dark times. We passed a “grandfather stone” around a circle in the sanctuary. We shared which of 10 quotes on hope struck us most strongly; what difficulties we encounter in feeling hopeful today; and how we are able to proclaim hope despite difficulties. As we left, an article with 17 tips on staying optimistic was handed to each participant.

Thanks to the Worship Committee for organizing this event and to Ethel Ray for leading us in a time of sacred sharing, silence, and reflection.

Leprechaun Gold: March 18, 2017

Rob and Jennifer McPhee organized an adult social evening of the simple card game Court Whist along with green drinks, snacks and desserts. The 25 or so participants wore their finest green attire, and a good time was had by all. Thanks Rob and Jennifer!

Follow-up to February 26, 2017 Annual Financial Meeting

On March 14, Council continued a discussion on financial and leadership deficits begun at the Annual Financial Meeting on February 26. The discussion focused on feedback provided at the meeting and comments provided by congregation members following the meeting.  Council thanks everyone for the constructive input.

As we all are aware, immediate resolution of the leadership and financial challenges is not possible.  Despite the need for longer-term solutions to long term-problems, it was agreed by Council that four steps will be implemented as soon as possible:

  • An “ask” letter, will be sent to the entire congregation, both past and present, by the end of March. While it is recognized that this is only one step of a broader “stewardship” initiative, it is something that we can do now with the resources available to us.
  • Council will advise the Greater Edmonton Alliance that although we continue to support the vision of the organization, we will be suspending our membership for at least this coming year.
  • While we recognize the need for a strong social media presence and we recognize that we have made significant strides in this area during recent months, it has been decided that the contract with our social media contractor will be suspended or the hours will be reduced for an indefinite period while we reassess our overall approach to reaching out to the community.
  • Council has met with Bev Thompson to discuss how the evolving needs of the Child, Youth and Family ministry can best be approached given its current status and the current availability of financial resources to support the program. Bev has graciously offered to accommodate flexibility with respect to the number of hours and the types of programming she will provide to continue this inspired and valuable ministry at this critical point of the congregation’s life.

These four actions will have a positive, though not overwhelming, impact on the 2017 Budget and a greater impact on the 2018 forecast if continued throughout the full 2018 year.  None of these actions, however,  in themselves, address the existing and pending leadership issue.

At its next meeting on March 28, 2017, the Facing the Future Committee will address other suggestions brought forward and will begin to examine the longer-term impact of the key assumptions that support the core values of the congregation.  Results of those discussions will be communicated to the congregation in early April. At its April 11th meeting, Council will continue the discussions and determine if it is appropriate to present a new 2017 Budget to the congregation at the Annual General Meeting on May 28, 2017, or, if a special congregational meeting will be required prior to that time.

Council feels confident that the church can find new leadership and new sources of funds that will allow our busy ministry to continue to thrive. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Pancakes and ashes, February 28, 2017

Heavenly Hospitality members and other volunteers brought the Season of Epiphany to a close in style with a traditional pancake supper. More than 70 people gathered in the Lower Hall to eat, enjoy, catch up with friends, and meet new neighbours. Several clients from the Food Bank dropped by.

Thank you to Heavenly Hospitality for making this event a success!

After supper, about 20 people gathered in a circle for a ritual of ashes to mark the beginning of Lent. This year, Lent runs from Wednesday March 1 through Saturday April 15. Ashes from previous Palm Sunday services at both Mill Woods United and the Zimbabwean United Methodist congregation were combined with oil to mark the sign of the cross on those who had gathered for this time of prayer, reflection and preparation.

Annual Financial Meeting, February 26, 2017

Thirty people gathered in the Lower Hall after worship on February 26 to attend Mill Woods United’s 2017 Annual Financial Meeting. Paul Verdin chaired, Elfrieda Penner recorded the proceedings, and much of the meeting was led by Council’s Financial Rep, Randy Round. Randy presented the 2016 financial results, reported on our progress in implementing the 2013 five-year plan, “Called to be the Church,” and Facing the Future’s 2016 report, “Our Path Forward,” and moved a 2017 proposed budget — click here to find links to all these reports.

The projected $30K deficit in the proposed 2017 budget generated a lot of useful discussion, and in the end the budget was defeated. Instead, the meeting directed Council to treat the 2017 proposed budget as an interim document ahead of an emergency congregational meeting at which Council will present alternatives. Watch this website for more details.

The meeting also passed a motion on a 2017 “Mission and Service” target of $17K and had a discussion based on a Nominations Committee report that noted the difficulties in getting candidates to step forward for positions like Chairperson of Council, Stewardship Lead, and others.

The meeting thanked Randy for the huge amount of work he put into preparing and leading this meeting, one that generated a lot of ideas for how we might approach our finances, our leadership, and our ongoing mission as a congregation.

“Almost the Oscars,” February 17, 2017

On Friday evening February 17, 25 people from Mill Woods United headed to South Edmonton Common to watch a movie. Some saw “La La Land,” others “Lion,” and yet others “Hidden Figures.” Following these screenings, we headed to the McPhee household for desserts and conversation. A great time was had by all!

Thank you to Jennifer and Rob for organizing this fun-filled evening.

Sharing Circle, January 19, 2017

The Worship Committee thanks the 14 people who came to an evening of sharing in a circle conversation for our congregation on January 19 on the mission and worship focus of the church. Under the leadership of three facilitators (Katharine Weinmann, Beth Sanders and Maureen Parker), we heard what was on our hearts and minds in the wake of big shifts in the world political situation and what this might mean both for Sunday mornings and outreach to the neighbourhood. We are confident this sharing will help us going forward.

A monetary donation has been forwarded to “The Circle Way” in lieu of professional fees.

At its next meeting, the Worship Committee will discuss other ways to encourage feedback and discussion — perhaps study groups and more times of sharing. Watch The Morning Messenger and the What’s the Buzz e-newsletter for more information.

“Next Travel Adventure” January 6, 2017

Rob and Jennifer McPhee entertained more than 20 people on Friday evening, January 6 with a photo and video presentation of their 2015 two-month tour of South America. Colourful scenes and stories from Chile, Antarctica, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil kept us engaged. People also enjoyed refreshments and time to socialize afterward. Thank you Jennifer and Rob!