UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Postcards from the Valley

The United Church moderator offers his own stumbles with humility and tenderness

By Donna Sinclair

Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God
By David Giuliano
(United Church Publishing House) $12.95


The evening following his installation as moderator of the United Church, Rt. Rev. David Giuliano felt a lump on his left temple. “Be not afraid,” he had earlier told those choosing him to lead their beloved church; but he himself was soon battling cancer and “experimenting full-time with fear.” A writer to the core, he took to jotting field notes, mining wisdom from deep apprehension much as gold is mined from the rock near his home in Marathon, Ont.

The result is a collection of shining essays — talismans against the nauseating, heart-thumping worries about the future we all experience.

Fear, Giuliano insists, is only part of who we are, even though it feels all-consuming. We are also “beloved,” he writes. “You can be faithful and afraid at the same time, but you have to choose — sometimes from moment to moment — between those incompatible masters and allow faith to shape you.”

Postcards, then, is more about faith than fear. Giuliano takes pleasure in the wisdom of little children, in the Lake Superior shoreline and in the northern pulp and mining town where he has “stayed put” against all advice from peers. These are joys tied inextricably to hope. His is a “Holy Saturday spirituality,” which commits one’s life “to the flow of love against the tide of death and hatred.”

That love is marked by relentless honesty. Offering his own stumbles with humility and tenderness, Giuliano writes about Aboriginal issues, the Middle East, family life and struggling churches.

The God illuminated by this prose is also tender, but keeps God’s own counsel about human suffering. Giuliano chooses to let that mystery be. At one point, he imagines God, impressed with the way “all these people are praying for David,” deciding to change course: “What was I thinking when I gave him that tumour? Abracadabra-shazam!”

This healing lightning bolt, says Giuliano, “doesn’t seem to be happening.” Unoffended by its absence and slowly regaining strength at the time of writing, Giuliano wants to “remember the precious gifts from this,” he says. “I want to remember that God tabernacles in weakness. . . . I want to remember that God’s love does not depend on my capacity to take that love in.”

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR) demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in SBNR practices for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image