Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent One 2020

The link for this week's live-streamed service is:  https://youtu.be/kL9QZYGqcJc


 As we move into the season of Advent, we are blessed to have Pastor George Hodgson filling in at the pulpit. For anyone who has visited at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, George is a familiar face. Many know him from his previous guest stints at SPPC as well, but here is a little introduction anyway. 

2018 was my 30th anniversary at FCC (Friendship Community Church). It was the spring of 1988 when I began attending services, and within three years I was given the privilege of serving on staff as the associate to Pastor Ernie Kratofil, in April 1991. As a staff pastor I also began my service at Saanich Peninsula Hospital as a volunteer chaplain and have continued to this day. Upon retirement in 2007 I continued in various ministry activities such as Bible studies, prayer times, pulpit supply and funerals, etc. Another of the "hats" I wear at Friendship is property manager and you can often find me mowing, painting and going general maintenance here at Friendship most week days.
Welcome, Pastor George, and thank you for sharing the gospel with us at SPPC.   




Like all other churches in British Columbia, we are closed for in-person worship -- a hard restriction as we move into Advent. Let us pray that our live-stream services are a blessing to our viewers and that we will soon be able to gather again as a congregation.

Meanwhile, the worker bees were busy this week decorating the sanctuary. A scaled down effort this year but one that reminds us of "the Light of the World."



Find the sheep





Thanks to Jerusha for these photos. I'll post more in the coming weeks.


While we are unable to meet in person in the sanctuary, let us remember that "wherever two or three are gathered together, there God is in the midst of them." Not attending a church building does not mean we cannot worship. Tune in to our live-stream service, find a Bible Study on-line, set up a creche in your own home and read Luke 2 -- preferably in the King James Version. In our hearts and in our homes, we await the King.










Monday, November 23, 2020

Now What?

 The link for this week's live-stream worship service is https://youtu.be/KMhaRPwvhiM



I was in the midst of formatting the weekly mail-out to the congregation on Thursday when the word came through that all worship services were cancelled for the next two weeks, by order of Dr. Bonnie Henry. I dropped my hands from the keyboard and stared at the screen. "Now what?" 

After a lot of hard work our session answered my question. We live- stream a service as usual, but there will be no one in the pews. An eminently sensible solution. If COVID has taught us nothing else, it has forced us to be flexible.

Now, back to the blog! 

This past Sunday was Christ the King Sunday. 


This designation is a fairly recent one in the Christian calendar being initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the political situation in Europe. It was celebrated on the last Sunday of October. In 1969 Pope Paul VI moved it to the last Sunday before Advent where it's theme of Christ's dominion made a fitting end to the liturgical year (preceding Advent). 

In 1925, Pope Pius XI noted the rise of secularism in Europe and the increasing denial of Christ as king. More and more, new dictatorships attempted to assert authority over the Church and draw Christians away from their beliefs. He hoped a celebration of the Reign of Christ would remind the faithful that Christ must rule in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies.(Quas Primas, 33) 

We are reminded of Paul's impassioned words in Romans 8:38-39

 

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Although originated in the Roman Catholic church, the celebration is observed in many Protestant churches, including the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The first celebrants of Christ the King Sunday were struggling against secularism. In 2020 we are also struggling with a pandemic. It doesn't hurt to be reminded that Christ rules supreme. Not even a virus can separate us from His love. For those who object to the notion of "king" or "ruler" we are reminded that  Christ's kingship is one of humility and service. Jesus said: 

Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many Mark 10:44-45

When we acknowledge Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one who is willing to die for all of humanity. 


We have had to cancel many things in 2020, including worship services and Bible Study and choir and fellowship, but not even the nasty virus can cancel the Kingship of Christ. 

 




Monday, November 16, 2020

Rev. Arnold Alksne

The link to this week's livestreamed service is https://youtu.be/V-KVwJsEGjw


                                                        

While Rev. Irwin is recovering from hip surgery, we are fortunate to have Rev. Arnold Alksne filling in at the pulpit.
Some of you will remember Arnie from his previous stint as guest minister but here is a refresher on his CV.

Rev. Arnold Alksne most recently of Pender Island, BC.
I was born in Morris, Manitoba. Attended elementary school in Manitoba, graduated from high school in Saskatchewan. I earned certification and worked as a draftsman/aerial photo technician for 23 years, most of which were in Alberta.

 

With my first wife Norma, we had two children, a son and a daughter. In 1994 returned to university, and received my degree in theology from the Lutheran Seminary in Saskatoon, SK. I served as parish pastor in two congregations in AB. My first wife died of cancer.

 

On Thanksgiving Day of 2014, I retired from full time ministry. I have since been remarried to my wife Marion who was also a widow. We moved to Pender Island from Calgary, AB.

 

Some interests that I pursue are: music with guitar and harmonica, fly fishing, traditional archery, gardening, and garden railroading.


Thank you, Arnie. What with all the places you lived, you can really say you are a prairie boy.

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In other news, there will be a chamber concert held at SPPC 

McPherson Trio: Friday 20th November, 7:00 pm

Our music director, Larry Skaggs is the cellist with this group.

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Also, a "heads up" regarding Bible Study. When Covid hit, we had to shut down our regular weekly programs. Now that we are able to use the sanctuary again Linda has offered to facilitate a video study. The first meeting is Wed. Nov. 25 at 10:00 am. We can accommodate 50 people!

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One more event to put on your calendar is the Carols in the Carpark on Dec. 20. Since Covid has shut down choirs many are missing singing together -- especially the beloved carols of Christmas. By gathering outdoors in SPPC's parking lot, we can offer folk an opportunity to sing Christmas carols, properly distanced, in the outdoors. The music starts at 7:00 pm.

As Covid numbers in B.C. rise at an alarming rate, we realize that our plans may have to change if Public Health orders change. But for now, we are making every effort to keep our congregation and our community connected.  If you have news, please contact the blog mistress, 250 656-7090. If you have concerns, please contact the office, 250 656-2241. 

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Livestreaming

 The link to watch our worship service is here   ttps://youtu.be/YpL-aIMqWbg                         



This week we've taken one more step in the evolution of worship at SPPC. Well, worship hasn't changed. We come before God, we praise God, we thank God, we hear the preaching of The Word, we ask for God's blessing. What is changing is the way we access worship. 

For months now, we've had the option of attending in person at Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church on E. Saanich Road, or turning on our computers or other devices and listening to a pre-recorded service on youtube. That option has now altered. We're still using youtube, but the service is streamed as it happens (live). The link is at the top of this page. Of course, if you are watching this on Monday, you are seeing the recorded version of the service, but it is still what happened in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.

If you have been in the habit of watching in the early morning, that option will no longer be available. You've got to "come" to church at the live start time of 10:00 am. You still have the option of watching later using the saved copy of the service available on our youttube channel. Is that all clear?😕

Don't worry if I've confused you. Just click the link at the top of the page and follow the directions.

Sounds easy, doesn't it. As people are fond of telling me, my grade six students can do it. Actually, grade six students can do a lot of technical things that leave me flummoxed but I'm learning and you can too.


Peter Aggus is the man behind the camera that creates these live-streamed services. His real job is as a technology consultant but videography is his hobby and is slowly turning into a sideline business. We are grateful to him for bringing his know-how to our congregation.

He tells me that this is the way of the future. Especially in this age of Covid-19, it is a great gift that he can stream a wedding or a funeral to family and friends who cannot attend in person. 

Even without the virus to contend with, we have members in our congregation who can't drive, or are in hospital or care facilities, who have lost their physical connection with the church. Our hope is that this new way of broadcasting the service will allow those folks to re-connect on a weekly basis. They'll  witness the same service as those in attendance. If there is a snafu on Sunday morning, everyone watching will see it as it happens. Is that good news or bad? Guess we'll find out.

Meantime, Rev. Irwin is recovering from hip surgery. Please keep him and his family and SPPC in your prayers. Those of us who are learning the technological tasks that Rev. Irwin used to do, need your encouragement and you sympathy!

1 Thessalonians 5: 11  11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Like all of scripture, that advice to the early church in Thessalonica is still relevant to us in this time and this place.

Monday, November 2, 2020

For All the Saints


 We've begun to sing a hymn at our in-person services -- while wearing a mask and keeping socially distant! How fitting that one of the first congregational hymns was "For All the Saints" -- a celebration of the whole Christian community. At a time when many of us worry about that the pandemic has changed our world and our church forever, we draw strength from this resounding declaration of God's supremacy. 

The late Dr. Cecil Kirk wrote a wonderful essay on this triumphant and deeply encouraging hymn.


The hymn begins on a note of thanksgiving for the saints who, by faith, have been enabled to confess Christ before the world. It is only because he called them and empowered them that they have been able to do so. It is fitting, then, that Christ's name should be praised since he has been their inspiration and strength throughout their earthly life. A variety of words is used to suggest the various ways in which He helped them: "their rock, their fortress and their might." "their Captain:" "their light."  This leads to a prayer that those of us who are currently engaged in the good fight of the faith will prove worthy of those who have preceded us. We want to fight as courageously as them so that we too may "win with them the victor's crown of gold."

The pivotal point of the hymn arrives with the fourth stanza. Even now we have fellowship in the Holy Spirit with those who have entered into their reward. It is not as though we are cut off from them nor they from us. There is an essential unity in the whole Church of God in heaven and earth. We are all part of the body of Christ and enjoy a mystical fellowship with communion with one another through Him.

The remaining verses fall naturally into two pairs. The first pair (verses 5 and 6) presents a picture of the Church on earth as it bravely engages in the spiritual warfare. When the struggle seems hardest, the note of "the distant triumph song," can be heard as the saints encourage those below. Then "hearts are brave again and arms are strong." There also comes to the weary warrior the sign of the close of day when we will be able to rest from the conflict and enter into the rest that remains for God's people (Heb. 4:9)

The final two stanzas present us with a vision of the great day of the Lord. Christ the King "passes on His way," and His saints, then victorious, will be glorified in his presence. What a thrilling picture it is! From every corner of the world, and from every coastline of every continent they will come, "a countless host," streaming into the new Jerusalem "through gates of pearl" singing to the glory of the Triune God. Christ will take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords and His saints will pass in review before Him. Such emotion sustains us now. We realize that we are fighting in a great crusade, the victory of the which is secure. 

 

 Set to the rousing tune, Sine nomine, this hymn is bound to lift the spirits of even the most tired "saint."

For All the Saints

1 For all the saints who from their labours rest ,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


3 O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


4 O blest communion, fellowship divine,
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


5 And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


6 The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warrior cometh rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


7 But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


8 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #408

 

 

Saints above and Saints below

Monday, October 26, 2020

How are We Doing?


The link for this week's on-line worship service is: https://youtu.be/YmAwFB8RSZs





 As the pandemic lingers into the fall and winter, the question, "how are we doing?" leads the newscast most days. Health officials want to know if they have enough protective equipment for their workers and beds for their patients. Administrators want to know if the outbreaks in schools are contained and whether students are learning their course work. Psychologists assess the public and individual mood. "How are we doing?" has become more than a polite greeting. 

At SPPC the answer to "how are we doing?" is somewhat hopeful. 


--We have held in-person worship services since the end of June, including two communion services. 

--There have been no cases of covid reported among the congregation. Now that winter is here, we've closed the doors so the sanctuary is warm but we must be extra vigilant about Covid protocols.

--Worship committee has met and is considering ways to celebrate Christmas while keeping our distance and remembering that singing is a "dangerous activity."

-- Our "youtube" services are reaching a wider community than our in-person services ever did.

-- Our building is being used

  •  for several concerts by the Die Mahler Group and Raven Baroque. Thank you to those musicians for the gift of music.
  • for family dinners
  • for a small book club group
  • for the North Saanich Residents Association
  • for an all candidates meeting
  • for voting on Oct. 24
  • for a Tai Chi group that meets regularly in the parking lot



Of course, there are not so hopeful answers to the question as well. We have lost much loved members of the congregation but have been unable to hold large funerals. We all grieve these losses and regret deeply that we cannot offer the comfort of fellowship to families.

We have lost community. No Friendship Coffee, no Fellowship Coffee, no Bible Study, no out-to-lunch bunch, no hugs.  Individual phone calls, informal coffee dates, after church chat in the parking lot help to fill the gap, but cannot replace the lost programs.

We're all feeling a bit tired, a bit grumpy and a bit frightened about what comes next. 



And yet we know that:
 

While in prison, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 

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When Israel had turned away from God and faced the threat of the Assyrian Empire, Isaiah wrote: 

. . .Thus says the Lord,  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. "Isaiah 43: 1-3

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Yesterday was Reformation Sunday. We should remember that during the Middle Ages, when the Plague killed one third of Europe's population,  Martin Luther wrote: 

 “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

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In the face of this pandemic, the moderator of our church wrote:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:5–6).

Thank you for the peace and comfort that comes from knowing that we are not alone. God, grant us patience as we wait; grant us courage as we serve you and care for one another; grant us hope as we trust in you for the future.  -- The Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of the 2019 General Assembly, Presbyterian Church in Canada

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      How are we doing? I don't know, but I do know we are not alone. We live in God's world and He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future."Jeremiah 29:11



Monday, October 19, 2020

University of East Saanich


The link for this week's worship service on youtube is https://youtu.be/OcyKECXrmp4




Thanks to Diane for this week's post.

 




Return to class 2020 is, as expected, most unusual!

We are now calling our home University of East Saanich! As I walk around there are students tucked away in all areas working diligently on their studies. It's not unusual to have Rebekah sitting on her bed, her window wide open, with a blanket on her legs listening to a lecture, a cat curled up by her side. Maximilian is often tucked into his desk corner with 2 screens going so that his course materials are on one screen and his assignment on another. Benjamin shares his time between the kitchen table, the couch and the church. He is pretty much working all the time. I believe that online learning is much harder than going to an in-person lecture. What they are not missing is the commute. What they are missing a lot is meeting fellow students and friends on campus and making the connections that are so important to establishing study groups and life-long friendships. 


Peter is our last student in high school. They have been issued masks and he reports that most of the students wear them all day. His year has been divided into 4 'quarters' instead of 2 semesters. He will do 2 courses each quarter which will last for 10 weeks. At the moment he has Block 1 every morning and Block 2 every second afternoon. After doing this for 5 weeks, he will switch to Block 1 every second morning and Block 2 every afternoon. Just when we think we are used to that, he will have completed those 2 courses and will move on to the next two!

I'm not sure I will really be able to keep track of it all! Fortunately, he is very good at tracking where and when he is doing things. One of the fun little extra projects we had at the beginning of the school year was making a "mask" for his French horn. We are very happy that he has some extra-curricular activities underway. He's doing a bit of baseball and soccer again. He loves the training. I am truly grateful for the efforts that have been made by the schools and the athletic organizations to keep the children safe but allow them to return to some sort of "normal".
The students


I am also trying to squeeze in another Camosun Course so it is not unusual to have 3 of us working on our laptops studying at the kitchen table. Even Irwin is often with us doing late night editing of the YouTube worship service content. All together doing our own thing!
on-line learning --it's tough