Monday, January 13, 2020

Roaring 20's and PCC

We're having a party at SPPC on the 20th of this month, to celebrate 20/20 -- a vision plan the congregation adopted a couple of years ago. Now that 2020 is here, session thought we should celebrate.
The theme of the party is the 1920's. We'll have food and music and some old-time fun. 

We are all familiar with the term "roaring 20's" as it applies to secular life -- prohibition, votes for women, rum running, dancing -- but what about the era in the Presbyterian Church in Canada? Did we "roar" or whisper?

A little history here. Since the 1700's there had been reformed congregations in what is now Canada. Some were associated with the Church of Scotland, others with the French Huguenots, others with Dutch and German churches. On June 15, 1875 four major churches came together and formed the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The historic vote took place in Victoria Hall, Montreal.
Victoria Hall, Montreal

There were some dissenting congregations, but over the next several years, most joined the PCC denomination. Finally, in 1918 the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal, the last major congregation affiliated with the Church of Scotland in Canada joined the Presbyterian Church in Canada. 
The denomination grew throughout the country and by the 1920's was the largest Christian denomination in English-speaking Canada.
Then came 1925 and church union. The "roaring" began.

Seventy percent of Presbyterian congregations joined with the Methodist Church, Canada, and the Congregationalist Church to form the United Church of Canada, on June 10, 1925. 

The remaining thirty percent were unconvinced by the doctrine of the new denomination. This group, consisting of those Presbyterian congregations, and a number of minority groups which opposed union into the United Church of Canada, met for prayer just before midnight in Knox Presbyterian Church (Toronto). Some 79 dissenting commissioners, and others equally concerned about the future of their church, had come to resume the General Assembly of the "continuing" Presbyterian Church that night. They were led by Rev. Dr. David George McQueen.
For over a decade these congregations used the term "Continuing Presbyterians" or "Non-Concurring Presbyterians." In 1939 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that these congregations had the legal right to the name Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Now it is 2020.  Are we ready to roar into the next decade? 

Monday, January 6, 2020


In the Christian calendar, January 6, Epiphany, marks the end of the Christmas season. In the secular world, Christmas seems to begin right after Hallowe'en and end at midnight on the December 25. This disparity between the shopping mall and the church sanctuary can be confusing, so just to set the record straight -- Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, Saviour of the world. We do not know the actual day of His birth, but December 25th is the day chosen by the early church.

Advent is the four weeks before Christmas Day. While the secular world is in full party mode from the beginning of December, the Christian church is in a time of waiting, a season of contemplation and sacrifice. 
An example of the schism between popular custom and Christian tradition is the Advent calender. Many parents and grandparents give Advent calenders filled with treats to the children in their lives. In other words, the kids get presents every day until Dec. 25.  The Advent calender of my childhood had coin slots on every day and children were expected to put money (sacrifice) in the slots, then take the filled calendar to church as an offering on Christmas. 

Epiphany marks not only the end of the Christmas season, but the arrival of the Wise Men at Bethlehem. Given that most children's pageants lump the angels, the shepherds, the holy family and the magi into one big scene, it is easy to forget that the "travellers from the East" arrived later.

The Biblical record found in Matthew 2: 1-12 is brief, noting only that the men were guided by a star and arrived with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and that they did not reveal to Herod the location of the Christ child. 
Over the centuries many traditions have grown up around these mysterious visitors. They've been given names, Caspar, Balthassar and Melchior. Eastern tradition sets the number of magi at twelve, while Western churches set the number at three. What is important to note is not the number, but the fact these worshippers were Gentiles--a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy that Christ would be a "light to the Gentiles."
Notice also, that the Wise Men (kings) (magi) worshipped, thereby acknowledging the divinity of Jesus. They would not otherwise have worshipped a Jewish child born to modest parents from Nazareth.

There are many wonderful legends around the Wise Men. One of my favourites is the story by Henry van Dyke Jr. about the "Fourth Wise Man"  who never did get to Bethlehem but spent his life giving his time and gifts to the poor and needy.

These legends bring joy to the Christmas season, they illustrate the Christian story and that satisfy our desire for pomp and riches in Bethlehem.They have inspired fine artwork and many carols.
But, if we are wise, like the magi, we will base our faith on the Biblical account. 
It has riches enough if we look carefully.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Celebration Continues

December was full of activity for the congregation of SPPC, then Christmas Eve arrived. This is a very exciting service but peace pervades the sanctuary. The old, old story is read. Carols are sung -- so familiar, most people don't need a hymn book. Then the lights are lowered and a flame from the Christ candle is carried through the
congregation, lighting one small candle after another. In stillness and quiet, we sing "Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm."
What a blessed moment -- all is calm.  We have finished our preparations, we are ready. Ready for the Christ child to come into our lives. This is my favourite moment in all the Christmas season.

Then it is Christmas Day and we gather again, many heavy-eyed from lack of sleep. A day to greet the newborn Saviour and wish each other a Merry Christmas.

And then it was Sunday. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt like we had ten days of "the day before," "the day," and "the day after" then "the day before" again!

Often the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's is a low period in the holidays, but in 2019, this was a high Sunday. Naomi Edith was baptized into the family of God and our congregation.
As Rev. Irwin's grand niece, Naomi's baptism was particularly sweet. 

She was an excellent baby, not even crying when drenched with water, and smiling at all the people who cooed to her.
She wore a christening gown that had been worn from generation to generation, including her great grandfather, for at least 100 years. Another special moment in a day of special moments.

Welcome, Naomi. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Joy and Love

Happy Birthday to Don. Beautiful cake too!

The third Sunday of Advent is Joy.
A few extra lights to brighten the darkness

The fourth Sunday of Advent is Love
Our Advent lighting is complete

Last week's blog was very long so some events received only a short paragraph. This week, I'm making up for that.

On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, Love and Joy pervaded our sanctuary and our hearts. We shared music, fellowship and food with the Jesus is Lord Congregation. We are so happy they've been able to use our sanctuary on Sunday evenings and they are so happy to have a place to worship. 

This Sunday we lit the fourth candle
of Advent. In the afternoon we assisted
with a worship service at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital leading in carol singing.
We had a larger than usual crowd and many happy faces. Christmas carols seem to touch our souls in a special way, evoking memories of happy times, family and loving friends. They make us smile and shake hands and rejoice, regardless of our circumstances.

Music is a gift we celebrate at SPPC, especially at Christmas time.
On Christmas Eve we'll enjoy another time of carols and readings and candlelight.
Plenty of free parking. Enjoy a hot drink and a shortbread cookie.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent at SPPC

So much is happening around the church during Advent, this week's blog is an update on events past and others still to come. Get out your calendar.

To begin, Peter had an idea and Tore has a basement workshop. Together they created these
lovely outdoor decorations using the themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy and love. Hope, peace and joy are in place off the roof of the church. Love will appear next week, as we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent. Thanks you two. It looks great and provides a much needed bright spot on the outside of the building.

Last Sunday, the third of Advent two new elders were ordained during morning service. Elders in the presbyterian church bear significant responsibility for the well-being, both temporal and spiritual, of the congregation. Our thanks to Darlene and Tore for filling these positions.

The "out to lunch bunch" has been enjoying good company and good food since September, but this month we had a special event. Thirty six members of the congregation enjoyed a special Christmas buffet at Haro's restaurant in Sidney. We had our own room so all our visiting didn't interfere with other patrons. Fortunately no one kept track of the number of repeat visits to the buffet table.

Sunday was white gift day when we collected some extras for the shut-in members of our congregation and for those in need in our community. The Sidney Food Bank is always grateful for our donations.

There was a bake sale following worship. Thanks to Diane and Darlene and Joan and Linda and Aarol and all who contributed goodies. Thanks also to all who opened their wallets and took home the treats. The money raised goes toward our mission projects.

Sunday afternoon we put on our usual Community Carol Sing. We see many of the same faces year after year. Good to know the church is part of the community Christmas tradition. 
We followed the carol sing with a pot luck supper, shared with the Jesus is Lord congregation. Lovely to meet the evening worshipers in our church building.

Next Sunday we light the fourth Advent candle during morning worship, 10:00 am. In the afternoon we'll host a carol service at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

Christmas Eve is our lessons and carols service, complete with candles and Silent Night. Service begins at 7:00 pm.
Christmas Day at 10:30 am we celebrate Jesus' birthday with a short, family service.

With all this activity, it's easy to forget that Advent is a time of waiting. Linda has sent along this little reminder.

Thoughts on an Advent Devotional
Christmas is a busy season and one of the ways I cope with the busyness is to make lists.  One of  the important tasks on my list is to complete an advent devotional.  Today is day sixteen and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts so far.

  • In order to clear the clutter for Christ we have to take a moment to listen intentionally and expectantly.
  • Christ is the most important present to unwrap.
  • Rethink, rearrange and refocus so Christ has room in our lives.
  • For some there is little joy in the season, remember Christ came for the broken.
  • When does Christmas officially begin?  Christmas “officially” began with the fall of man when God put His rescue plan into motion. I never considered this before.
  • Advent means coming--lets be ready for this special guest.
  • Christmas brings us unfathomable Grace and unstoppable Love
  • Don’t doubt God's power, Mary didn’t.
  • Joseph showed no fear when he was obedient after God spoke to him.

Llinda Cliff
  These are some of my reflections from reading the devotional “Making Space” written by Susan Narjala a freelance writer who lives and writes in India.  The devotional is available on line, why not it read for yourself?
I wish you all a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Caol Sing 2019

One of our favourite Christmas traditions at SPPC is the community carol sing.
This year the event takes place on Dec. 15 at 2:30 pm.
We'll sing old favourites like "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Away in a Manger," "Silent Night," and many more. Words supplied so no need to bring a carol book--just bring a friend and prepare to get into the Christmas spirit. 
The Jesus is Lord Congregation has been using the SPPC building for worship on Sunday evenings. We're delighted that they've agreed to join us for the Carol Sing and for a pot luck supper afterward.
As the old song goes -- "please to put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,. If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God Bless You."  If you haven't got a dish to contribute to the supper, don't worry about it, we wish you God's blessings anyway. There will be lots of food to go around. If you'd rather just have a cup of tea and a cookie, that's fine too.
We look forward to meeting all our friends and neighbours at the Carol Sing.

9296 E. Saanich Road (at airport roundabout)
Free parking
More information at SPPC 250 656-2241

Monday, December 2, 2019

Advent 1

December and Advent arrived together this year. On Sunday the congregation entered a sanctuary decorated for this most festive time of year. It looked beautiful.
On Saturday, a number of church workers turned up to work the magic that takes a mess and turns it into something lovely. 

Felicity took charge and directed her helpers.
poinsettias in their wrappings declare Christmas season is here

An SPPC favourite, Hazel's knitted nativity.

Barb's antique plant stand creates a perfect display for the flowers

The candle of Hope is lit

December is full of special services. Dec. 8 is Communion and the ordination of new elders.
December 15 is white gift, bake sale, carol-sing and pot luck supper
Dec. 22 Fourth Advent, the candle of joy. Service at the Hospital
Dec. 24 Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm -- carols, candlelight, lessons
Dec. 25 -- 10:30am  Birthday Party for Jesus  --All Welcome