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

Rolling the dice on people

Debate on gambling is aided by respectful church leadership

By Carolyn Pogue

Most of us don’t welcome conflict. We want to be liked and to be viewed as kind. We want peace. And yet we live in a world where conflict and competition are encouraged to the point of insanity. I recently watched a television show (my first mistake), in which two women competed to set the “best” Thanksgiving table: food, decor, furniture. They disparaged each other as enemies to be beaten, all to the amusement of an audience. For a Thanksgiving feast.

But conflict was not a desirable item for the menu at Calgary's Hillhurst United Church last week. That’s why Bryce Paton, the church's executive director and former chair, studied The Manual carefully, and slept poorly the night before the congregational voted on whether or not to accept government lottery funds.

There are few churches in the country that couldn’t do with more cash. A cash flow problem is not new. What is new is that governments, which once levied taxes to provide grants, now dangle grant monies derived from lotteries in front of us. Anyone who has been around the United Church for a while knows that we’ve spoken out against gambling for decades. Today's temptation — wearing a charitable number and holding lists of all the good things money can do for communities, the poor, the arts and all — stands knocking at the church door.

When the official board at Hillhurst United learned that some city churches accept lottery funds, they wondered anew.  Should they apply, too? They decided to put it to the congregation.

Knowing that people feel strongly about the issue, and knowing that debate can be heated, they laid some groundwork. The church website provided links to sites belonging to the Alberta government lottery and the United Church of Canada's. An open forum blog became a place to begin the discussion. In fact, two hundred people visited the page.  For two weeks prior to the vote, staff and board members stayed after service to answer questions as they arose. The vote was held after the regular Sunday service, for which one hundred people remained.

“In 25 years of ministry, I’ve never seen this level of mature, respectful, honest and passionate conversation,” Rev. John Pentland said afterward. “Some members of the congregation spoke about their own addictions. One, who works for Emergency Services, said that he has to pick up the pieces when someone falls apart after losing everything. Another spoke about the United Way receiving lottery funds and doing very good community work with it. It was a good discussion.”

On Thanksgiving Sunday, congregational members said they were grateful for the opportunity to be honest with each other — something not always possible in the world today.

In my mind, respectful, mature dialogue is about two things. It is about a safe place to speak your mind, and it’s about leadership that lays the groundwork, provides information and then trusts people to act like sensible grownups. Can you imagine if our governments gave leadership like this?


Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image