UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Rt. Rev. Richard Bott was elected as new moderator of the United Church of Canada in July. (Credit: Richard C. Choe)

Meet your new moderator: Rt. Rev. Richard Bott

'He is one of the people who can actually build up a church.'

By Christopher White

It was a delicate moment in the life of the United Church when Rt. Rev. Richard Bott, the new moderator, stood up to preach late on a Friday evening in July.

Just hours before his installation service, an extraordinary shift had happened at General Council. What was supposed to be a fairly straightforward final afternoon of passing motions was completely transformed and made sacred as people approached the microphones to share their personal experiences of racism and exclusion in the church.

Due to unfortunate timing, the moderator-elect was not in the court to hear it. He was in his residence room finishing his sermon for that evening. After learning what had happened, he quickly revised his notes. Bott’s opening words went to the heart of the matter.

“I stand before you tonight as a person who has exactly one set of lenses: I am a white, middle-class, university-educated, able-bodied, middle-aged, cis-male settler who grew up and lives on unceded territory of the people of this land. I am the epitome of privilege.”

With those words, the tension in the room eased, and there was a sense among the commissioners that they had elected a person who understood what was needed for the next three years.

Bott lives in Vancouver. He is divorced, and co-parents a 15-year-old daughter. The eldest of three children, he grew up in Marathon, Ont., a small town perched on the shores of Lake Superior. His parents, George and Joy, raised all their kids to have a strong sense of service to others. They say they weren’t surprised when their son, now age 50, entered the ministry and was ordained in 1994.

“We had a good, strong suspicion that this was the direction his life was going to take,” his father says. “He went through a whole period of hearing the knocking on the door and ignoring it.” His mother emphasizes his skills as a listener: “He has gifts of communication and connecting with people he knows and those he doesn’t. He creates community pretty quickly.” They both agree that his deep personal faith and his belief in the importance of discipleship are two elements that will support him over the next three years.

Bott has served as a minister in both Ontario and British Columbia. Rev. Dave Anderson, lead pastor at Eagle Ridge United in Coquitlam, B.C., met him in 2003. “I don’t know anyone with more integrity,” Anderson says. “He oozes integrity.”

Anderson has long admired his friend and colleague’s ability to help congregations thrive. “Here on the West Coast, we are in the secular world,” he says. “It’s very tough to keep a church going, and Richard builds churches. He is one of the people who can actually build up a church.”

With laughter in his voice, Anderson adds that Bott “is a church geek. He’s the Manual go-to guy, and he has a deep appreciation of the wisdom of those who came before us.”

Together, Bott and Anderson created Immersion, a curriculum for people new to the United Church. Soon to be widely available, it is not only informational but experiential, with a commitment to both communal and individual spiritual practices. It reflects Bott’s belief that Christianity is a deeply lived, transformative experience.

The new moderator has a lifelong grounding in faith, a long practice of ministry and genuine hope for the future of the church. He is well placed to lead the United Church through the major denominational restructuring of the next three years.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the moderator is a single parent. This version has been corrected. 


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!

Columns

Rev. Don Collett had a hand in writing the document that paved the way for the open ordination of LGBT folks in the United Church of Canada. (Credit: Bayne Stanley)

For me, the landmark United Church vote on sexual orientation came at a high personal cost

by Don Collett

"Justice was served at General Council. Yes. And harm was also done," says Rev. Don Collett.

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Should we apologize for the hurt surrounding the 1988 decision?

by Jocelyn Bell

The groundbreaking United Church vote on gay and lesbian ministers has transformed the denomination in the years since, but there's still work left to do.

Promotional Image

Video

Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image

Society

September 2018

11 Ontarians share their opioid stories in this powerful project

by Mugoli Samba

The Opioid Chapters hopes to add nuance to the public discussion on opioids.

Society

September 2018

Do we face a future without Down syndrome?

by Kevin Spurgaitis

Advances in prenatal testing mean parents can detect the chromosomal difference earlier. What does this mean for the future of Down Syndrome?

Faith

September 2018

I send my kids to Catholic school, but I'm not Catholic

by Pieta Woolley

A lifelong United Church member explains why she's embracing lessons in reading, writing and rosaries.

Promotional Image