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Ten things the United Church will be remembered for — in the distant future, of course

By Pieta Woolley

Is the United Church of Canada just a speck of denominational dust upon the wind? Or will 25th century archaeologists find our stuff and say, “Ah! Never before has a church like this existed!” In celebration of 90 years of its existence, here’s a list of uniquely United Church stuff that would suggest the latter:

1. Songs for a Gospel People

Known casually as “the green hymn book,” this Gerald Hobbs-edited volume of 134 contemporary songs caused music directors everywhere to pick up the pace.

2. Raikes’ Sunday School Certificates

Yes, he was the 19th century Anglican layman who kicked off the Sunday School movement, but is there anything more New World than certificates of achievement for religious education?

3. Bridgehead coffee sacks

Started in the early 1970s, Bridgehead was one of the first fair trade companies in North America. And, it began with a handful of Toronto-based United Church ministers and laity, kicking off decades-long hospitality committee debates about whether or not to spend more for ethical beans.

4. Pulpit hangings

Swooping 1960s-inspired nature imagery. The United Church crest. And more faceless leaping figures with their arms held high than you can shake a stick at.

5. Peanut butter marshmallow bars

Perhaps the distinctive food item most likely to survive the next four centuries, these coffee-hour staples are only found at United Church gatherings. Everywhere else, they died with the Mad Men era.

6. Tinsel halo

Floppy, mottled Christmas garland wrapped around wire, for adorning the heads of toddler and pre-teen pageant angels everywhere.

7. New Revised Standard Version of the Bible

Released in 1989, it was the first major translation to opt for gender-inclusive language.

8. Christ, Liberator (AKA the Laughing Jesus)

The 1973 drawing is perhaps the world’s most popular piece of contemporary Christian art, with more than a million copies in print. Artist Willis Wheatley was on commission for the United Church at the time.

9. The Children Remembered

With the erasing of residential schools from the landscape, what’s left is largely digital. The Children Remembered project represents some of the best of the United Church's intentions: the apology and the striving to rebuild relationships based on honour, dignity and respect.

10. Public health care, old age pensions, pacifism, sobriety, interfaith work, LGBTQ2 rights and environmentalism.

Just, you know, in case any of those future archaeologists want to know where Canada’s most effective social justice movements partly came from.

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