Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atheist United Church Minister Starting New Secular Community in Toronto

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atheist United Church Minister Starting New Secular Community in Toronto

Article excerpt

Atheist minister starting new secular community


TORONTO - A minister deemed unsuitable by the United Church for declaring herself an atheist is now at the heart of an effort to establish a type of church-style, secular community in Canada.

Gretta Vosper is one of about 10 founding members of Toronto's Oasis Network, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada and due to launch in February.

Oasis communities, which have sprung up in several locations across the United States, are non-faith-based groups that try to draw people together based on five broad-based principles.

Among them are notions that reality is best understood through reason rather than religious insight, and that the world's problems are best addressed by people rather than divine intervention.

Vosper sees setting up the community in Toronto as a natural extension of the work she's already doing at one of the city's churches.

The United Church criticized Vosper for declaring herself an atheist and will hold an ecclesiastical hearing in late 2017 to determine whether or not she will be defrocked as a minister.

Vosper is fighting to keep her job as the pastoral leader of the West Hill United Church in east Toronto and said her involvement with the Oasis community builds upon what she has tried to establish there.

"There's many elements of religion that will be picked up by Oasis, but they're not exclusive to religion," Vosper told The Canadian Press.

"Religion has carried them forward and done it very, very well in many ways, but also in many ways has done it with drastic results. So to distill the best elements of religion in a way that can allow them to be embraced by an increasingly secular world I think is important, and that's what we're doing."

Oasis will maintain many trappings of a traditional church, she said.

The group will gather on Sunday mornings, often seen as the time best-suited for family activities, and congregate in a multi-faith centre in downtown Toronto. …

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