Interview with Donna Sinclair

The Longing for Home Lenten group held an online interview, with Donna Sinclair, one of the contributors of the book. Donna is an author, and former senior writer for the United Church Observor. She is an active environmentalist, and has been most recently involved in voicing concern over pipeline advancements.


Here is the interview, copied from facebook:

  • Trisha Elliott Q – In Shout It Out, you talk about how expressive your daughter’s generation is and how it has made saying “I love you” into an art form. We often hear about the “wisdom of the elders.” What other ways have you experienced the “wisdom of the young’ins” ?
  • Trisha Elliott Donna’s response:
    One of the pleasures of being active in climate change and pipeline issues is the wide generational range involved. The young ones – who might be forgiven for saying “How could you have allowed the climate/rare species/democracy to become so endangered on your watch?” – never ever say anything like that. Nor are they in despair, even though some of them have lived with the realities of acidifying oceans and vanishing caribou for most of their lives. They just cheerfully get to work. Their strength is amazing.
    The other great pleasure – I see this even in the very young – is their absolute colour-blindness when it comes to race. Our grandson spent several years in a school where he was one of the few Caucasians. Not only was he unaware of any difference between him and his friends, he coped rather well with an assortment of adults reaching out to pat his red hair.
  • Trisha Elliott Q – “We must be prepared to imagine the impossible,” you write in Imagine Hope. Where in our world today do you see imagination being stoked?
  • Donna Sinclair Everywhere. Everywhere. In the editorial cartoons of my daily newspaper, where the cartoonist works from an inner vision of the way-the-world-should-be to illustrate the unfortunate gap between that world and the one at hand. In the movies, as always. In fiction, but especially in science fiction (Ursula Leguin remains for me the mistress of imagining worlds in which something wonderful happens in the midst of anguish, something wonderful that depends on human compassion, courage, imagination.) And imagination is stoked by certain city planners and activists, like Gil Penalosa of 8 to 80 Cities, who never stops imagining a world beyond the car, cities filled with bike paths and excellent public transportation.

    That is part of what I mean. Just as Isaiah’s vision of the Commonwealth of God is necessary for us to create a world in which “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” so Penalosa’s vision of a tree-filled city-full of cyclists and walkers is needed before we can achieve it. How can we work for something that is without form, even in our dreams? How can we plant an orchard if we have never tasted – even in our dreams – an apple or a peach?

    If we can imagine a world in which we live gently with our Mother Earth, then we can also imagine that it is just over in the next dimension, just beyond our present sight, but soon –perhaps – to be.

  • Trisha Elliott Q – Apathy is one of the impediments to an active imagination. Where do you see a fire in the church’s belly today?
  • Donna Sinclair A few months ago at an Ontario Energy Board hearing, my friend Elizabeth got up to make a presentation against the proposed Energy East pipeline. She was there on behalf of North Bay presbytery, which had studied the matter. The hall where the hearing was being held was jammed with hundreds of people – Board members, concerned citizens, press, consultants, pipeline supporters and environmentalists. Many would have had no idea what a presbytery is. Before Elizabeth spoke she paused for a moment, then placed her preaching stole around her shoulders. The space became very quiet. She introduced herself as Reverend Elizabeth Frazer. And then she talked about the water and the land at risk. I believe that in the ten minutes she was allotted to speak, every person in that large room caught a glimmer of the land as holy. The holy land.

    That’s fire. I see this in entire congregations – Trinity-St. Paul in Toronto, for instance, is doing wonderful work on this subject. But there are so many others.

    I see a thirst for justice and a new vision in the person of our moderator, and I am hopeful that the upcoming General Council will articulate that thirst in many ways. We are living in a time of legislated environmental damage (Bill C-38 and Bill C-45); with a government bent – again – on assimilating or ignoring First Nations (The First Nations Education Act; deafness to calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women); and with a creeping democratic deficit (Bill C-23. Bill C-51.) The church needs to dissent, firmly and fearlessly. I believe that fire in the belly is there. I believe our learnings from the First Nations people in the United Church can help propel us towards Isaiah’s vision in which “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” our Mother Earth.

  • Trisha Elliott Q – Here is a link to the Observer feature about the lawsuit you were a part of ( Can you tell us about the lawsuit and what its status is?

  • Donna Sinclair Actually this lawsuit was related to the Line 9 Reversal and Expansion in Southern Ontario and Quebec, not Energy East. The serious tightening of rules around National Energy Board hearings, enshrined in Bill C-38 (2012) led ForestEthics Advocacy and me (because I had been rejected as a commenter) to challenge the Federal Government. Freedom of speech is enshrined in our Charter of Rights and freedoms, and that had been denied. That lawsuit went to the federal court of appeal in October. It failed over a technicality: we should have gone back to the NEB to plead our case again before taking it to court. A similar suit was then brought by ForestEthics Advocacy and eight applicants who had been prevented from commenting in the NEB hearings on the Kinder Morgan pipeline in British Columbia. It too failed. But this group plans to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

    I have absolutely no regrets at having joined the lawsuit, and I am so grateful to the many people in and out of the United Church who supported it. Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians congratulated us afterwards, saying we had “put a spoke in the wheel.” That’s enough for me.

    Now I (along with hundreds of others) have applied to comment during the upcoming Energy East hearings. That’s the massive, destructive pipeline that would run through our own watershed in Northern Ontario. I hope I will be allowed to participate. It is a crucial moment to elbow our way into our democratic rights.

  • Trisha Elliott Q – Where does your energy to keep up the “holy rage” you write about come from?
  • Donna Sinclair Sometimes I lose energy. But it always comes back. I am surrounded by people (many of them in my church community) who are consumed by the same fire. And I love the land, every last earthworm and robin and moose that inhabits it. And I love my grandkids (one only a few weeks from being born) and I love other peoples’ grandkids, and I cannot bear the thought that creatures as complex and marvelous as a species of caribou or whale could disappear from Creation and these children might never know their glory. What a terrible insult to the holy. What deep sadness. What rage.

  • Trisha Elliott Q – We don’t often think of raging as holy. Do you think that traditional theology has “anger issues” ?
  • Donna Sinclair What an interesting question. I think I have to look at un-traditional theology to answer that. One of the aspects of our theology that I love deeply is the way it has begun to change under the influence of the church’s First Nations members. For example, in our own congregation, a friend who is a member of a local First Nation always includes the water when she offers the prayers of the people during Sunday worship. I have begun to cherish water in a different way because of this. So when something threatens a lake, or a watershed, I am angry. That is due to an un-traditional theology. So perhaps the old theology – the one that came from Europe 500 years ago, the one that suggested humans have dominion over the earth and therefore we could treat it as we liked — did have some anger issues. It lacked proper anger over certain things.
  • Trisha Elliott Q – How do you personally decide which causes to get on board with?
  • Donna Sinclair They choose me. I don’t have much to do with it.
  • Trisha Elliott Q – What life lessons has your advocacy work taught you?


Donna Sinclair Probably I have not learned as much as I should have. But I do believe life is richer when it has purpose. And if we stay alert, our purpose will find us, and we will be obedient to it. We used to call this vocation.

That’s one thing.
The other thing is that I have spent most of my life seeking courage. Because I am by nature an introvert, a gardener, and a lover of harmony in all things, it has been difficult for me to speak out, criticize, ruffle feathers. Courage has been elusive. So I have learned to get along without it.

I am often surprised to note that I am 71 years old. I have been overturning tables and making a fair amount of holy noise for some time now. I am shocked at myself. So I guess that is what I have learned. Bravery is a great asset, and some folk have it in abundance. But even if you don’t have it, you can imagine that you do. The end result is just as satisfying.
  • Trisha Elliott Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us…Is anyone joining us live and want to ask Donna a question or make a comment?
  • Eric Lukacs Hi Donna… What other advocacy work are you involved with?
  • Donna Sinclair Eric ( first, THANKS for being in Cowansville, once our pastoral charge and a wonderful place!) .. right now I am most involved in trying to stop the Energy East pipeline. It is a huge risk for so many watersheds.. but I just came from doing a workshop (with my husband Jim) on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is all related..
  • Alydia Rae Smith I think what I appreciate about many people who are accepting of others (which I have experience most when working with younger school age folk), is not their ‘colour blindness’ but their ability and willingness to accept people as they are – and to celebrate instead of shy away from differences.
  • Donna Sinclair Yes. I think when our grandson has his red hair patted, he understands that is a loving celebration of a difference!
  • Eric Lukacs Thanks… loving it here…. another question…. about anger issues and theology… what advice would have to a church that fits the semi rural retired age congregation about what getting fired up looks like?
    Donna Sinclair I think it is important for elders to know how much power they have. Nobody can fire them. They can speak out loudly. The other thing I have found working on these pipeline issues is that the more people know, the more fired up they get. Especially when it is manifested locally.. in your own watershed. I think that may hold true for other issues as well.
  • Trisha Elliott I hadn’t considered the particular power that our elders hold…that’s an important thought…
  • Donna Sinclair The other aspect of being an elder is generativity. Most elders want to leave a better world behind, want to care for the next generation. When that is touched, it is very energizing..
  • Trisha Elliott Have you written a story about the power of the elders Donna? I would like to read it…Could really help some of our church folk claim their call and unique ability…
  • Donna Sinclair Actually a book, Trisha, called The Long View.. all about the strength and capacities and downright justice-mongering of people who are older. Elders.
  • Trisha Elliott I’m going to buy a copy. If others are interested, here’s a link:…/Healing…/The-Long-View

    The Long View is all about finding and offering hope. It’s about claiming the full meaning of eldership and…
  • Donna Sinclair The Long View ( Northstone) .. by Wood Lake Books

    Donna Sinclair's photo.

  • Trisha Elliott Again, thank you for joining us Donna and for sharing your insights. We appreciate that you have carved the time in your busy day to be here and to share your wisdom with us. What a positive force in the world you are! Blessings to you…
  • Donna Sinclair Blessings to all of you who have undertaken this interesting/exciting enterprise. Thanks for all this!

Lenten Study- Diversity

Today was the first day of our Lenten Study. We meet at 10am on Tuesday mornings, and anyone is free to come by and be a part of it. Our time together is shaped by the devotion book, Longing for Home, but you don’t need to book to be a part of the discussion that comes out of it.

This week our discussion focused mostly on diversity, as one of the stories talked about diversity using the analogy of the ingrediants in a cake, all different, and even the wet and the dry, being separated at first, but then coming together to make something delicious! The recent MacLean’s article on racism in Canada was brought up. Racism is a tricky thing, because we see it in individuals, but also in systems in our society, and it’s tied to other things, like economic ability and class. Prejudice based on differences is wrong, but trying to assimilate everyone to be the same isn’t right either. (Picture that cake being made if all the ingrediants were flour, for instance, or the world if everyone looked exactly like you.)

Our discussion also touched on gender, from the need to support and educate women, as a way of supporting the future generations that women often have a large hand in raising, to the gender differences expected of boys and girls. There are a lot of products marketed for “girls”, whether it be princesses, or pink and purple versions of Lego. There seems to be some movement on encouraging girls to explore things that would be considered traditionally for boys, but is there the same flexibility for boys? Are boys encouraged to play with princesses and dolls if they like, just as we should encourage girls to play with cars and building if they like? Would we be as comfortable dressing a boy in a sister’s hand-me-downs as we would be for a girl in her brother’s clothes?

Our world is a wonderful mixture of diverse creatures and within humanity there is so much diversity. How can we find ways of naming and moving past prejudice, of lifting up differences as gifts, and of supporting people in being who they are? Thank God for diversity!

Blessings, Kristin

Longing for Home Video 2

Some of the questions brought up by this video, for you to think about by yourself, or comment on:

What illusions do we cling to? What realities do we avoid?

Has being a disciple/follower of Jesus ever cost you something?

Do you think our church community addresses suffering well?

How do Jesus’ words speak to us as a wider church, with the hard times faced by many?

Where do you find comfort in a time of suffering? In reassurance of strength or that everything will be ok, in the presence of friends, in things that help you escape?

True Home

We have just had our first Sunday in Lent together, which traditionally has an account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness as the scripture reading. This year, it’s from the gospel of Mark, a gospel known for being to-the-point.  The Moderator’s video this week talked about home being a feeling of love, acceptance and belonging. I talked a bit about our temptations to think we can go it alone, to show we are strong and don’t need anyone, even God. And perhaps part of the reason for this is that sometimes it is very hard to believe that we aren’t alone. That there are people who truly care for us- that there is a God who truly loves us. Perhaps in this time of Lent, we are journeying home- towards the celebration of how much God loves us, just as we are- perhaps what we need to do along the way is open ourselves up, prepare ourselves to truly take it in, to truly believe it.

Blessings, Kristin

Longing for Home Video 1

Here are some questions to ponder…

What might we be called to leave behind, not because it’s bad, but because we’re being called to something new?

How does “home” feel to you?

What temptations or struggles do you face in your life? What temptations or struggles do we face as a community of faith?

Lent begins today!

Hey everyone! It’s AshWednesday, the start of Lent, and throughout this season, there is an online discussion group on facebook, based on the United Church devotion book for Lent called “Longing for Home”. If you’re on facebook, you can find the group here:

For those of you who aren’t on facebook, I’ll post the video offered by the Moderator every week on the blog so that you can see it, and some of the content or questions that are on there as well.

A reminder that a study group for the book Longing for Home meets Tuesdays at 10am. If you don’t have a book, you can still be involved in the discussion!

Blessings, Kristin