Monday, November 26, 2012


by Anne MacKinnon

   When I think of moving there comes to my mind a nightmare vision of boxes.  These boxes invade my living space and sit, open mouthed, as it were, hungry for my treasures -- framed photos, books, papers, records, tapes, cassettes, cd's dvd's  -- all of which seem to have hidden themselves in odd cupboards since my last move.  Someday soon, I say to myself, I'll sort through these items and reduce them to more manageable amounts!
   Next follows the shock of kitchen cupboards and drawers filled with china, cutlery, small appliances and so on.  Boxes, more boxes!  And so it continues through all the remaining rooms.  Where did all this 'stuff' come from ?
   Years ago, I attended a lecture on "acquisitiveness" -- how we go through life collecting things we feel necessary to our well-being.  in so doing we create problems for ourselves as we have to find shelter large enough not just for ourselves, but for all our collected items.
  The emotional effect in moving is not always recognized but it is real.  Moving into the uncertainty of renting can be quite distressing.  It is said that after the death of a spouse or family member or a divorce, the next highest stress is created by moving.  However, in my case, stress was remarkably reduced because of the amazing help and support I received from my friends and family, and I thank God for them.  I could never have managed at this time of my life without them.
   When I was younger, moving seemed a great adventure.  I never worried too much about the upheaval involved, and indeed, found it quite exciting.  Nowadays it seems as if security and knowing that I have a place where I am comfortable and feel at home is all the excitement I need.
    My recent experience of moving, makes me feel very strongly about the homeless,  and what they face on a regular basis -- constant moving.  Affordable housing seems to me something that is one of the great needs in our community.

Monday, November 19, 2012


   On Nov. 11 I stood in the drizzle with hundreds of others at the Sidney cenotaph, united in spirit with hundreds of thousands of other Canadians and listened to the sombre roll call of the dead.  A ritual I consider important and meaningful.  

 Nov. 11 was also Sunday this year, and earlier in the morning I'd stood with my congregation to baptize a new member into our church family.  

  Baptism and Remembrance.  Seems an odd juxtaposition yet what better way to honour those who fell than to affirm life anew?  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live life in abundance.

Welcome Abigail Jerusha Elizabeth Smith into the family of God and the congregation of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.

A few weeks ago we had the joy of welcoming another baby into our fellowship.
Hailey, daughter of Alisha and Mike Anderson of Gold River, sister to Kaitlin.

And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:  Ps 105:43

For more baby pictures  click here

Monday, November 12, 2012


 What is a sacred space? At its most basic, it is a place which invites the contemplation of divine mystery, and encourages an attitude of spiritual openness.  -- G.K. Chesterton

   While most definitions of sacred space agree with Chesterton's declaration, most also include the notion that it is an area set aside.  Places of worship often encourage this idea of set aside.  Stained glass modifies the light, heavy doors muffle the noise of the every day.  Incense, candles, ritual are all tools used to diminish the outside world and focus the worshipper's thoughts on the sacred.  
   When I visited Paris, I was excited to see Notre Dame Cathedral.  I believed that within its soaring arches, on stones imbued with a thousand years of prayer I would experience a special connection with the holy.  I held my breath as I stepped through the massive doors, eager to partake of the history of  this sacred setting.
   Imagine my disappointment when I found that the sanctuary was no longer a place "set apart."  Instead, it was a tourist stop, no different than the Louvre or the Champs Elysée.  Even though a few parishoners knelt in prayer, there was no acknowledgement that we were visitors in a church.  Guides marshalled their tourists and marched through the place without even bothering to lower their voices.
    Such a contrast to the little church I grew up in.  We too had a high ceiling (great for singing) and modest stained glass windows, but it wasn't the architecture that made my church special, it was the sense of sacred space.  There was a long staircase leading from the vestibule up into the sanctuary.  My Mom had a rule that we had to stop talking when we reached the top of the stairs.  When I stepped into that hushed place, I felt I was in "the house of God."   
   Similarly, at camp, we had an outdoor chapel, a natural amphitheatre made of a rocky outcrop that rose in a series of bench-like tiers.  Here we were wide open to the sky and the sound of tires on the nearby highway.  Yet, it too was sacred space, set aside through silence.  When we rounded the edge of the main lodge and started up the path to the chapel, teenaged girls stopped talking and turned our thoughts toward God.
    True, God is in all things, the holy and the mundane, the trees, the rivers and the plains.  He sits at our kitchen tables and in our homeless shelters.  He walks our sidewalks and treads our forest paths.  Yet I treasure the "sacred spaces" of my life.  When I climbed the stairs in my old church to say good-bye to my parents for the last time, I was comforted by the sense of sacred space. 

Akin to sacred space, is the notion of holy ground.   
And he said, "draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off they feet, for the place wheron thou standest is holy ground. 
Exodus 3:5
  While I was disappointed by my visit to Notre Dame in Paris, I was struck dumb and humbled when I stood in the Canadian War Cemetery in Dieppe.  So much sacrifice.  So much sorrow.  There voices were hushed, tears spilled, and hearts overflowed.  We stood on holy ground.

On this November 11 weekend, I remember and say thank you and send a prayer to God that such carnage cease, that young men and women grow old and weary beside their own hearths, surrounded by those they love and that war and hatred pass from this earth.

Monday, November 5, 2012

by Alice Valdal

  It's been a gloomy week on the Saanich Peninsula.  True, there was an hour of "Sunshine"  at lunch at SPPC on Monday, but by and large, we've been wrapped in fog, pelted with rain and bowed under lowering skies for the past seven days.
    After our long and glorious autumn, the abrupt switch to rain was a bit of a shock, yet when the skies opened I couldn't help but think of that great chorus from Mendelssohn's Elijah "Thanks be to God, He laveth the Thirsty Land."
    We live with such an abundance of fresh water it can be hard to relate to the desert people of Israel.  But, this summer when water levels in the Cowichan River ran so low salmon couldn't reach the spawning beds and had to be carried upstream in trucks,  alarm bells rang all over the Island.  People in Crofton worried about their drinking water.  Mills worried about their operations and workers worried about their jobs.  We got a small hint of what the Isrealites endured thousands of years ago.
      At the time of Elijah, in a land where water was scarce at the best of times, there had been a drought for three years.  Wells and streams had dried up. Famine raged. Livestock died for lack of food and water.  Scouts were sent throughout the land searching for even a few blades of green grass. 
     Into that desolation came Elijah, calling on God to send rain.  And God answered him.  The people of that time could imagine no greater blessing than dark clouds and thunder and lightening and a deluge of water.  No wonder Mendelssohn imagined them singing out in joy.
      So, when the rain falls on us here, remember the salmon, carry an umbrella and give thanks to "God Who Made the Earth".