Novel NewAmidst the contention the STM quietly bides its time

Generations of Black people from various parts of the world have written or told their stories about when and why Union United Church was established, and why it has special meaning to them.
There are many versions, but when all is said and done, all will invariably agree that the historic church was established over a hundred years ago as a haven from the nefarious social forces of the day who weren’t open, let alone welcoming, of the presence of Black people in their particular houses of worship or the human landscape.
Which is why, in keeping with popular consensus, Union United Church was established at the turn of the last century. Not only as a place of worship, but also as a haven for Black people where they could find spiritual as well as social refuge.
But, still in the wake of its 100th year anniversary celebration, Union has been experiencing many trials and tribulations… Call it continuing internal upheaval, which has only served to alienate many of the one-time faithful.
Too bad!
Many spiritual leaders have shepherded the Union United Church congregation over the decades and generations, all of whom have impacted the church in different ways, and for better or worse as it were. Reverends Este, Gabourel, Bigby, Gray are just some of the most recent names that have had an impact on the church over its hundred plus years history—some more than others.
Gray’s untimely and un-ceremonial departure—under a cloud of grey—space was created for a new beginning. In the interim a power vacuum was created at Union United Church, invariably allowing for the creation of polarizing forces and disunity and discontent within the church as the powers-that-be awaited a new fulltime shepherd.
Following an extensive and extended months-long search, the faithful heralded the arrival of a new (and the current) spiritual leader, Rev. Emmanuel Ofori, with great expectation.
Exit the immediate past and enter a new and hopefully brighter era in the history of the church. His first job was to oversee a move to a temporary location to allow for urgent repairs to the historic building, giving rise to a sense of uncertainty amidst what has been an extended fundraising campaign at the church.
All the while, there was growing contention amidst the congregation as the respective polarizing forces coalesced (in their power vacuums).
The result? Rumours of animosity, backstabbing and contention in the church, people unable to evoke Rodney King’s sentiment “[…]” Then there was that semblance of “spiritual refugees” ascribed to a certain segment of a “diminishing congregation,” as some say, blamed in part on the new shepherd who simply didn’t, or never made an attempt, to connect to the Black community.
His spiritual vision and ideology were seemingly at odds with many, which served to generate more “spiritual toxicity” instead of harmony in the venerable institution.
What especially angered many of the church family was the fact that when they were scheduled to return home the shepherd was away. Check the optics of a flock of sheep finding their way home without a shepherd.
There’s a raw feeling among many of the faithful (like a scab) that he deserted his flock when the church needed him most. Regardless of personal affairs, it was incumbent on him to be there to take his people home. He wasn’t. That left a sour taste in the mouths of many of the faithful.
In fact, since assuming the position at Union as the full-time minister, the dear reverend, while performing his duties has failed to reach out to, and get to know, Montreal’s Black community. How could a minister of Montreal’s historically Black church not connect with and socialize with, and get to know, the people he serves by being out and about as his immediate predecessor(s) rightly did.
Reiterate: Being out and about and visibly meeting Black Montrealers (in public, on radio, at community events) is a tacit obligation of any Union United Church minister. Unfortunately, there’s a perception that reverend had a modicum of disdain for the community (constituency) he was employed to serve. Furthermore, many say that his presence [out] in the (wider) community would’ve gone a long way in helping the church’s continuing fundraising initiative(s), as it continues to struggle to reach a seemingly unattainable financial objective. The players in the church are not on the same page.
Union is in trouble, all is not well. Maybe his rumored departure is a propitious turn of events for the church and the polarized forces. Time will tell. It’s the church that matters, not personal egos, discontent, backstabbing… That’s counter-productive. The congregation is shrinking…
With the news of the dear reverend’s departure what’s wrong with everyone (including all those who had their egos bruised) turn the page and get on the same page. Set your “eyes on the prize” and begin working together towards the same objective: the stability and long-term well being of the church.
Stop creating problems where solutions always exist.
Union United Church is paramount, no room for toxic ingredients: internal strife, contention, selfish interests, egos… The reward is the satisfaction of knowing that you helped to refurbish, revive, re-invigorate the church. With an individual who never attempted to meet, let alone embrace the community on his way out, that might be possible
Be warned, and remember, Union United is sitting on a major piece of real estate, which has its neighbour, the STM (Montreal Transit System) salivating. Like a bird of prey it’s hovering, waiting for the church to take its last gasps, then swoop down and devour it.