United In The Park
We are a 300-member Affirming Community of Faith in the United Church of Canada. A non-judgmental, inclusive group of spiritual seekers, who are all about “being” and “belonging” rather than “believing.”
Following Jesus’ example, the United Church includes everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability. As an Affirming Ministry of the United Church, we also recognize and celebrate all legal marriages, including same-sex couples, previously divorced people, and couples of different religions.
We’ve been planted in the southwest corner of Sherwood Park since just after the Park’s founding in 1956. Our congregation is made up of people from all walks of life who are active in the wider community, and live out their faith at work, in school, at home, and in all that they do.
Our community partners with other United Churches in the Northern Spirit Region, with Christian congregations in Sherwood Park through the Ecumenical Mission of Strathcona County, and with our Muslim sisters and brothers in Sherwood Park.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
– Carl Jung
The whole reason we’re still going strong into the third decade of the 21st Century is to find, celebrate, and then live by our spiritual connection to the One who gave us this gift of life on earth, these chronologies we’re living in right now.
We do this by getting to know ourselves, each other, and those around us on a deeper-thansurface level. We are each other’s students and each other’s teachers. We use some new language to convey ancient spiritual truths and use the language of psychology and spirituality to plumb our own interiors. Together, we know that the Truth isn’t “out there” somewhere. It’s within each of us and among us, as that 1st Century teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, put it.
Rev. Marlene Salmonson
Reverend Marlene Salmonson grew up in her home church, Oxford Street United, in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she sang in the choir and attended CGIT. She completed a Bachelor of Theology (Hons.) at Vanguard College, and a Master of Theological Studies degree at St. Stephen’s College. Her thesis, “Making a Spiritual Connection with Jewelry,” was supervised by David Goa, who Marlene met while volunteering at the “Anno Domini: Jesus Through the Centuries” exhibit at the Alberta Provincial Museum. She completed her Master of Divinity at St. Andrew’s College. Between degrees, she was chosen to be the Bard of the Avenue, writing poetry about her Edmonton home community of Alberta Avenue. Before coming to Sherwood Park United Church, Marlene served at Two Hills United in Two Hills, Alberta. Marlene’s passion is theology, especially the intersection of theology with everyday living. Sometimes a puzzle, sometimes a revelation; at all times a reflection of the mystery of the God who loves her and who has led her to this place.
Our wonderful music team is lead by Heather, our Music Director. Heather sang in school, church, university and community choirs for most of her life, including 28 years with the Richard Eaton Singers. She currently sings with the Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus and serves on their board of directors. During her teaching career in Calgary and Sherwood Park, Heather taught elementary school music and enjoyed preparing students for special concerts and assemblies. She also coordinated programming for the Summer Choral Music Week at Naramata Centre for three decades.
Involved in the United Church since childhood, our organist Glenda sang in junior, youth, and adult church choirs. She has been an accompanist to church and community choirs and to soloists (both vocal and instrumental) throughout her life, and an organist or choir director since the age of fifteen. Glenda is a member of the Conservatory faculty at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton and teaches piano at the Alberta College Campus.
Alongside Glenda is Karen our pianist of more than 35 years. Like Glenda, Karen has accompanied choirs of all ages, including junior, youth, and senior choirs.
In addition to Heather, Glenda and Karen, United In The Park has a handbell choir. Directed by well-known handbell workshop leader Susan Galloway, the Handbell Choir meets weekly and rings four octaves of bells. The choir plays in several services during the year and other venues around the Edmonton area.
Jesus Our Teacher
Every human institution has a founder, an inspirational leader or that continues to guide the community in its vision and mission. Here at United in the Park, we make no qualms about who that is for us: Jesus of Nazareth—or as he was known in his time and in his guttural Semitic language, Yeshua’ Nassraya.
Jesus, long before he was called lord and saviour, was called rabbi, or master teacher. And what he taught was the Wisdom, the underground stream that feeds the headwaters of all the world religions, and is, in fact, their common ground. Jesus tells us we can upgrade the 4 egoistic operating system we were born with to something quite wonderful and deeply joyous, despite our mistakes and regrets. Everything we need is already within and among us. This upgrading, this unlocking, is what a community of faith like ours is for!
This Wisdom is concerned with the spiritual transformation of the whole human being, and of human beings in society. But transformation from what into what? From our animal instincts and egocentricity, from judgment and exclusiveness and violence, into love, compassion, and understanding. From suppressed, repressed, and oppressed means of production, clones of parents and societal norms, to beings of great magnificence, beings who remember who they really are, and what they are here on earth to do.
Jesus is not the least bit interested in who wins the big game, who writes up the big sale, whose church is the fullest. Jesus is not the least bit interested in preserving holy sites or having scenes from his birth with plastic figures on the city hall lawn. Jesus is not interested in who calls him- or herself a Christian and who doesn’t. He doesn’t offer a club to join. Jesus is calling us to look beyond the surface differences, see with new eyes, and live a life out of this transformed consciousness, this shifted perception, and to live it now. It’s not just a state of being, but a reality that is already here, a reality we can live in. He appears to the hearts and minds of people in an amazing diversity, more than we can imagine. Yet we claim him, sometimes with trepidation, as our teacher here at United in the Park.