Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda
news of our historic UU church in Ruthven (Kingsville), Ontario

Founded on the Faith

November 8th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #145 As Tranquil Streams
~)-| Words: Marion Franklin Ham, 1867-1956
Music: Musicalisches Hand-buch, Hamburg, 1690, adapt.

Interpreted by The Community Church of Chapel Hill

Opening Words – Remembrance Day – Lt. Nicole McKay

My friends, as we commemorate our history and our church community on Tuesday, Nov. 10, we also remember those who have served in the face of armed conflict on Wednesday, Nov. 11.  To honour this, Lt. Nicole McKay, a Unitarian Universalist seminarian and chaplain candidate for the Canadian Armed Forces, has shared these words with congregations across Canada.

For All Ages – History of Olinda (Slideshow) – Toni Janik and Membership Committee

Our Membership Committee has put together a Slideshow with highlights of our history, including striking photos from our past and present.

You can download the Slideshow to print, or to view on your device!

Olinda 140th Anniversary Slideshow (in PDF)

Hymn #290 Bring, O Past, Your Honor
~)-| Words: Charles H. Lyttle, 1884-1980
Music: John Bachus Dykes, 1823-1876

Tune “Nicea” Interpreted by Evan Brickner on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Organ, Harrisburg, PA

1 Bring, O Past, your honor; bring, O Time, your harvest,
golden sheaves of hallowed lives and minds by Truth made free;
come, you faithful spirits, builders of this temple:
“To Holiness, to Love, and Liberty.”

2 Ring, in glad thanksgiving, bell of grief and gladness,
forth to town and prairie let our festal greeting go.
Voices long departed in your tones re-echo:
“Praise to the Highest, Peace to all below.”

3 Shrine of frontier courage, Sinai of its vision,
home and hearth of common quest for life’s immortal good,
stand, in years oncoming, sentinel of conscience,
as through the past your stalwart walls have stood.

4 Church of pure reformers, pioneers undaunted,
company of comrades sworn to keep the spirit free;
long o’er life’s swift river preach th’eternal gospel:
faith, hope, and love for all humanity.

Sermon – Founded on the Faith – Rev. Rod


Read: [Print-ready PDF available for download]

At the crossroads of Olinda Side Road and 5th Concession, in Ruthen, you can see the cornerstone of our church building.  That stone was laid down just over one hundred and thirty-nine years ago, and the building has housed our Church for most of our Church’s life.  That building is significant and we will celebrate it in due time.  But as we breathe, we know that our church transcends our dear building, as we witness at this moment, while our church gathers in this virtual space.

Putting the technology aside for a moment, this is not all that different from the way our Church’s founders gathered a hundred and forty years ago, as they founded it, even without something that could be called a permanent home.  As I have said for the past eight months, even before the building’s foundations were laid, our church was there, founded on something even stronger than stone or wood – our faith that love is the most powerful force for good.

Where does this faith come from?

Already this year, we have reviewed some of the historical roots of our tradition, and into this year, we will continue remembering and honouring the past that has led to how we live our faith today.  So, I won’t do an extensive historical review here, but would like to recall a sense of our roots.

As we’ve talked about this year, the foundations of a universalist theology, that saw divine love as all-encompassing, were already a part of the Early Christian Church, and for a while may have been, in fact, the prevailing understanding of Christianity, before being declared heretical in the 6th century.

The resurgence to a universalism that we know today, comes from English religious refugees and continued to emerge into New England, as well as Pennsylvania, where universalist thought permeated throughout different denominations, including the Society of Friends (Quakers) and some anabaptists.  Many folks, in questioning their theology came to the conclusion that the most powerful love there can be, is the one that ultimately accepts everyone, even if it requires tremendous patience, and calls for extensive self-reflection.  John Murray was one of these folks, and last month, a place named in his honour, Murray Grove, hosted a virtual service commemorating 250 years of that universalist root in North America, which we were able to join.

There have been shifts in our understanding, our professing, and our living of this faith that we are founded on.  To paraphrase Jane Innerd in her latest account of our history, the universal has been writ ever larger, and the ism writ ever smaller, so that from ancient Christian roots, we understand and live a faith that seeks to transcend religious labels for the sake of a common vision of love that is accessible to all.

The other “U” in our current name, Unitarianism, has some of its earliest roots in Transylvania, now part of present-day Hungary, where king Sigismund heeded advice that a religious harmony called for understanding among many faiths.

From old England, to New England; Pennsylvania and Transylvania, folks who have refused to be tied down by rigid doctrine, have searched for a theology that will invite deep connection with all who will seek it.

And that is a call that our Church’s founders heard, when they established an intentional community that placed their faith in an all-encompassing understanding of love, without exceptions, formally founding this Church – this community of fellowship – on November 10, 1880.

They gathered as they could, until “Big” Mike Fox, who subscribed to this approach, was so moved that he donated a portion of his farm, to offer a more stable home for this already founded Church, commemorated in the stone laid on September 21, 1881.

Looking back over 140 years, some things look eerily familiar with that time when we were founded.  Just as our founders first met by sharing their homes, each of our homes currently offer the physical walls that house our Church.  First with about 23 members, and an eventual attendance between 24 and 35 around the turn of the 20th century, our group is only slightly larger.  From the beginning, there have been occasional worries about money and the prospects of our community’s sustainability, and through those worries, we have prevailed, through the perseverance and generosity of members and other supporters who find fellowship, knowledge and inspiration among all who seek truth, to live responsibly and courageously, and be of service to humanity.

Still, some things look different.  In addition to the morning service, we find other ways to be the church, such as the coffee hour that was introduced by Rev. Conrad Dippel, which continues when we do meet in person, and which we also honour in the virtual space of our online services.  Other legacies may be more sublte – the fact that I join you today from my home near Lake Erie, rather than the parsonage at the crossroads, is a legacy of Rev. Martha Munson.

Looking at Jane Innerd’s latest account of our history, I have to say that I was humbled when I saw my name as part of the history of this Church.  And what struck me even more is all the other names that were mentioned.  Names which often include people who I can see right now, at this gathering.  In fact, many of the names that I call out on Sunday mornings, acknowledging their contributions to our Sunday services, are names that often came up in these pages.  There are also names that I don’t immediately recognize, as well as names that aren’t there, but which are also part of our history.

In her latest account, Jane Innerd remarks – “It is not possible to name all of the people who volunteer their time and talents at Olinda. […] Our volunteers are many and greatly valued.  Indeed everyone who attends Church Services is a volunteer who helps to keep Olinda a vibrant Church.”

My friends, you who are join in this reflection – wherever you might be today – make part of the living history of our Church of Olinda.  A celebration of our church, is a celebration of you.  A commemoration of our church, is a commemoration of all who have gone before us, named and unnamed.  And contemplation about our heritage, is also contemplation about the heritage we seek to leave for those who are still with us and those who come after us.

My friends, a hundred and forty years may feel like an intimidating amount of heritage to contend with, but you continue to co-create this heritage as you embody the faith that this Church was founded on.  My predecessor, Rev. Christine Hillman invites us to “…lean into its heritage for strength and insight”.

Recently, I heard a speech that invoked an inspiring thought, to not just keep the faith, but to spread the faith.

My friends, we spread our faith by our words and by our actions.  And our words and our actions are the product of our personal and community efforts to contemplate, to commemorate, and to celebrate, that which is most dear to us – our values, which stem from a foundation on the power of love.

My friends, this year, and beyond – let us contemplate, let us commemorate, and let us celebrate this foundation, that we may keep and spread this faith.

So may it be,
Blessed be,
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #112 Do You Hear?
~)-| Words: Emily L. Thorn, 1915-, © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: William Caldwell’s Union Harmony, 1837,
harmony by Eugene Wilson Hancock, 1929- , © 1984 Eugene Hancock

Interpreted by Julie Stubbs

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