Monday, December 10, 2018

Vision ➔ Action

For the past several months session has been putting together a proposal called Vision 20/20--a plan for the future of SPPC. One of the goals of this vision was to increase membership. 

Like many Presbyterian congregations, we are made up of members and adherents. Adherents are often faithful workers in the church but who have not taken the formal step of becoming members. On Sunday ten of those people officially joined the congregation of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, nine by affirmation of faith and one by adult baptism. Even though all ten of these people are long-term adherents, there was a special atmosphere of celebration to the service. Fittingly, worship included the sacrament of Holy Communion.  A high Sunday, indeed.

Another initiative of Vision 20/20 was the development of a prayer team specifically for this enterprise. Included in today's bulletin was this message from that prayer team, including the following points.

  • It is known that Christian prayer indicates the degree to which we are aligning ourselves with God's ultimate purpose.
  • God wants his lost children to be found and His church to grow.
  • God cares deeply for the church and for the lost. He desires us to care also.
  • SPPC will not grow if we do not pray for growth. Jesus said: "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matt 9:38

The message asked the congregation to pray daily throughout Advent and beyond, including these prompts:

  • Pray for unity amid diversity. Eph. 4; 1-3  that our congregation may walk in a manner worthy of the calling God has given us. That we treat each other with humble and gentle hearts.
  • That we would seek the Lord 2 Chron 7:14-15. God has promised in scripture that He hears prayers. We call upon that promise as we seek guidance for the future of the 20/20 plan.
  • That we would pursue peace. Romans 14:19. Lord God, you desire peace and unity and encouragement for SPPC. Help us pursue what makes for peace. Give us discerning hearts and the courage to be obedient. On our own, we can do nothing, but we "...can do all this through Him who gives me strength." 
  • Phil 4: 13.
  • That we would follow Jesus. Luke 9:23-24. God has asked us to deny ourselves, tuke up our cross and follow Him. Through prayer we desire to become more and more like Jesus, individually as as a church body.

The above is a mere summary of the prayer requests. If you don't have the full script as printed in the bulletin, you can drop by the church and pick one up -- or pray what is on your heart.
Many thanks to the prayer team for offering such thorough and specific counsel on the type of prayer that the leaders of our congregation crave. Please do your part to bless this enterprise.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Real Christianity

Real Christianity by William Wilberforce 
Revised and updated by Bob Beltz

William Wilberforce was a most remarkable man, and has been described as the greatest reformer in history.   Millions of lives were changed because of Wilberforce’s determination to change the society of his day, and put an end to the slave trade.  Real Christianity gives the reader access into his theology, his spirituality and his passion.

This book was written 200 years ago and in his introduction Wilberforce states his purpose is to write about faith and to point out some of the problems with the beliefs and actions of those who already claim to be Christians.  He states he is disturbed when he sees the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess.  So starts a book that is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

He divides Christians into two camps.  The cultural Christians who live a surface type of faith.  They are able to talk about religion in generic terms but rarely use the name of Jesus or speak of His death on the cross or His resurrection.  They do not recognize their sin and have no understanding of the work of the Spirit in their lives.  Authentic Christians are those who have a passion for Christ, they live lives of great excitement, true humility, hatred of sin, humble hope, firm faith, heavenly joy, ardent love and unceasing gratitude.
Wilberforce goes on to show how belief influences behavior of the cultural and authentic Christian. 

I am not going to go into the book in depth as I feel you should read the book. Ed, note: It is in our church library. Here is a 200 year old book that has as much relevance to Christians today as it did when written.  There are parts of the book that deal with practices that are no longer part of our world but it is easy for the reader to substitute current practices in today’s society.  Beltz has done an excellent job of modernizing the language but remaining true to the original text. 

We often look for "how to" books to point us in the correct way to do things.  I felt that after reading this book I was given a blueprint of how the Authentic Christian life should look.  I had a better understanding of what sin looks like, of what the Holy Spirit does in the life of the Authentic Christian and of how my love of Christ should be influencing my actions.  I will paraphrase one idea that resonated for me.  Wilberforce stated that if many Christians were on trial for being Christians, their cases would be dismissed because of lack of evidence.  I do not want to be that Christian.

“Real Christianity is all about living as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus did.  It is a must read for everyone serious about living all and only for Christ”. (Walt Kallestad)

Review by Linda Cliff


Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review

So What’s the Difference?

By Fritz Ridenour

 The goal of this book is to spell out the differences between the historic Christian faith and other views represented in major religions, cults and ideologies.  The author begins by asking the reader to answer some important questions about life so that you can discover your own worldview.   Ridenour quotes the Bible extensively as he goes about to compare Christianity and other religions.

He begins showing how God’s word is the plumb line to define the differences between the basic truths on which Christianity was founded and what other faiths believe.  I felt that this first chapter was an excellent review for all Christians to reconfirm their beliefs. 
Once this Biblical worldview has been explored by the author he goes on to discuss what he calls the other trunks of the Christian Tree.  He looks at Roman Catholicism-the one true Church?  And Eastern Orthodoxy-just like the Catholics except for the Pope? At the end of each chapter he sums up the differences between these religions and Evangelical Protestants.  I found the explanations easy to understand and helpful when looking at my own worldview.

The next part of the book looks at the major religions of the world.  Judaism-  foundation for the Christian Faith, but still looking for the Messiah;  Islam-Allah is One, and Christ was just a prophet; Hinduism-We are all divine ; Buddhism-You yourself must make the effort.  Once again the discussions are easy to understand and the author ends the chapters by summing up the major differences between these religions and Christianity.

Part four of the book looks at cults with a very good discussion of where cults come from, their characteristics and why they grow so fast.  Ridenour looks at  Jehovah’s Witnesses-there is no hell, hard work earns paradise; Mormonism-As God is man can become; New Age-the serpent’s old lie in an updated package;-- a chapter is dedicated to each of these movements.  From here the author goes into a discussion of eleven more viewpoints that undermine, challenge or attack Biblical Christianity. These are short discussions which include a section of how these beliefs are different from Christianity.  The book ends with two appendices that give resources for further study.

I very much enjoyed this book.  The author explains other religions in a way I could understand and unfailingly compared them to evangelical Christian beliefs.  His Bible references are helpful and reassuring to the Christian view.  However, and I guess here is the BUT.  I would not say the book is unbiased but does serve as a quick reference to other beliefs and also gives the Christian reader ways of approaching those who believe differently. 

 Thanks to Linda Cliff for this post.

Ed. Note: The book is available in our library.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Moderator of the Synod of British Columbia

Our own Roy Napier was ordained as Moderator of  Synod at its October meeting.  I asked him about his new job. This is his reply.

About eight years ago, I was asked to become an elder and join the session of Saanich Peninsula PC. 
At that time, Phyllis Lindsay, a long serving elder of SPPC, was the representative elder on presbytery, and likely had served in that capacity for several years.
Phyllis saying good-bye to SPPC

When Phyllis moved to Northern BC, the session had to appoint a representative elder.
At presbytery, each congregation has a rep elder and a teaching elder (the minister). 
I was asked to  be the“rep elder” for SPPC. Initially, the meetings of presbytery were found to be extremely formal, with a great deal of due process, all governed by Book of Forms.
After serving a couple of years on presbytery, I was asked to sit on a synod commission which had to deal with a dispute within another presbytery. 
On such a commission, one quickly becomes more familiar with the processes in the Book of Forms, (B of F), the ultimate rule book of the Presbyterian Church in Canada! 
Fortunately, that commission was able to find a reasonable solution to a difficult situation.

In June 2016, the Presbytery of Vancouver Island nominated me to be the Moderator of Presbytery, and there was a service of installation at the September meeting. 
It was expected to be a one year position, but this was extended for an extra year, until September 2018. 
Generally, the role of moderator is “to be the judge only of order, and it is his/her part to “announce matters”, gather votes and cause good order to be kept.” (B of F). 
That is the relatively easy part. 

When difficulties arise in congregations, as they sometimes do, the moderator, working closely with the clerk of presbytery, is expected to follow the established processes to resolve the issues, and find the best way forward. During these past two years, some very difficult situations did arise. Working with several members of presbytery, it was possible to find a positive way forward.
Other parts of the moderator’s task are: 

  • to chair meetings,
  •  arrange worship services, 
  • serve on the administration committee,
  •  sign minutes, 
  • and appoint any commissions to deal with issues or disputes which might arise. 
  • Also, an important part of the moderator’s task is to conduct services of induction for new ministers and their congregations; there were three such services in this two year period. 
As the representative elder of SPPC, it has been an honour to serve as Moderator of Presbytery for this past two years.

In June 2018, the Presbytery of Vancouver Island nominated me to be the moderator of the 127th Synod of British Columbia, to be held at Central Presbyterian Church, in Vancouver, October 11th-13th.
Central Presbyterian's new building
On the Friday evening, as part of the regular business meeting, there was a formal service of installation. 
In the rest of the business sessions, I served as  moderator and assisted in the Sunday communion service.

When asked what is the task of moderator of synod, I expect that it will be somewhat similar to the role of moderator in presbytery. 
The term of office is for one year, and the next meeting of synod will take place in Kelowna, in October 2019. 
In the meantime, there will be administrative meetings and planning meetings for the activities of the annual meeting of synod. 
Then, there is always that great unknown of dealing appropriately with unexpected issues which may arise within the synod of BC.

It is an honour to represent SPPC on the Synod of British Columbia, and be installed as the Moderator of Synod. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Nov.11, 1918 - Nov. 11, 2018

Next Sunday is November 11, Remembrance Day.  This year's observance will be particularly poignant as it marks 100 years since the armistice that ended World War I.  In order to accommodate people who want to attend cenotaph services, SPPC will hold its worship service a little early, beginning at 9:45 am and ending a little early at 10:30 am.  That leaves worshippers time to travel to a cenotaph for the commemorative ceremonies.

Because this is such a significant Remembrance Day, various groups around Victoria are sponsoring special events all this week.  School children have already visited the Veteran's Cemetery (God's Acre) in Esquimalt in order to place a poppy on each grave marker. If you want to make your own pilgrimage, that's a good place to start.

Special events will take place all week at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse.  Participants will include the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and the  B.C. Air Museum.  If you can't make it into Victoria, just drop into the Air Museum at the airport and pay tribute to our airmen.

On Friday, Nov.9, the School of Music at U.Vic presents a concert of WWI music with Benjamin Butterfield and Kinza Tyrrell. Admission is by donation.

Sunday, Nov. 11 there will be remembrance ceremonies in all municipalities in B.C., including here on the Peninsula.  For the first time, Central Saanich will hold its service at the new cenotaph monument in Brentwood Bay. See here for a list of all services.

On Sunday afternoon, after the cenotaph ceremonies, Via Choralis is performing a concert titled "In Remembrance," 2:30 pm at St. Elizabeth's Church in Sidney.

In recognition of the significance of this Remembrance Day, the Royal Canadian Legion has coordinated the "Bells of Peace." Across Canada, bells will ring 100 times at sunset. In Sidney, the town crier will begin ringing at 4:39 pm at the Cenotaph.

Time has marched on. Memories dim. Old soldiers are laid to rest. But for those who live in freedom and peace,  "at the going down of the sun, and in the morning,/ We will remember them."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Words in The Word

One of the interesting quirks of Bible study is the use of different translations of the Bible. The studies themselves usually quote from the New International Version, the same translation we use in worship. But when we get down to answering the study questions we'll read from The Message (Peterson), the Good News Bible, the New English Bible or even the King James Version.
      I admit a preference for the KJV.  It's the Bible I learned as a child.  As an adult, I respond to the beauty of the words. The archaic language seems to carry more weight to my ear. "And they were sore afraid," Lk 2:8 KJV holds more power for me than "they were terrified." Lk 2:8 NIV.
     But, when it comes to study, I'm glad to have the luxury of many versions to read from.  Modern language translations can make a passage clearer, and as Rev. Irwin often reminds us, some Greek or Hebrew words don't have a direct English equivalent. Reading different interpretations can give us a fuller sense of what the writers of scripture said.
     Sometimes, a new version can surprise. Last week one of the devotionals from the Presbyterian Church in Canada quoted from the New Living Translation. In the passage from Hebrews, Paul spoke of being an old man. He urged those with "tired hands" and "weak knees" to stay faithful to the end. Since my knees were particularly achy that day, the passage really spoke to me.

     We have several translations, including The Message, KJV, NIV, Good News and a Children's Bible, in our library at the church. Feel free to take one out and look up passages you may have found confusing in another translation.

    Of course, Bible Gateway is a wonderful website where you can find 59 English translations, as well as foreign language versions. 
     If you'd like discuss Bible passages from any version, you're always welcome at Bible study, Wednesdays at 9:30 pm or 6:30 pm at SPPC, 9296 E. Saanich Rd. tel 250 656-2241.