Monday, June 24, 2013


You know it's summer when the preacher plays catch during the children's story.  Holidays (Holy days) have begun and we celebrated with a picnic.
The weather was a bit iffy, but the serious rain held off and there was lots of energy and laughter to keep us warm.  Don't mind the girl in the sweater.  She's always cold!

Here we are, all lined up in teams
for the water relay race.

The winner was the grass.  It got plenty of water.

Then there was a real race.

Between races, Larry tried to recruit some new choir members.

And just for fun, we ate some more, but you had to work for it.

Ah, summertime and the living is easy.  Enjoy your re-creation.

Monday, June 17, 2013


   Music is an important ministry at SPPC and today I'm pleased to introduce our new organist, Larry Skaggs.  Larry is well-known in Victoria music circles for his thirty-five years as principal cellist with the Victoria Symphony.  What isn't well known is that he's also an organist.

    Larry trained in California, earning a BA and MA in music performance.  As an undergraduate, he minored in organ performance and served as organist at a Dutch Reformed church in Sacramento.  More recently, he  earned a second Master's degree in conducting from Bard College, N.Y.  While in New York, he accompanied and directed a church choir at Grace Bible Church in Reinbeck.
      He still plays cello with the DieMahler String Quartet and does the occasional solo gig.  We were privileged to hear him play a prelude on that instrument before he accepted the post of organist.
       Larry and his wife, Elizabeth have been very involved with the Saanichton Bible Fellowship and are keen encouragers of interchurch cooperation in the work of Christ.
     In May, while Michael Denton was still our music director, Larry worked with the choir and played a service so the transition from Michael to Larry has been seamless and simple.   Larry is very enthusiastic about the new-to-us, Wurlitzer organ in the sanctuary and spends a lot of time practicing the instrument.  
    Larry brings a deep spirit of faith to this work and prays that music will be a blessing to both the choir and the congregation in our worship. We are delighted to welcome him to the organ bench, the choir and our community at SPPC.

Monday, June 10, 2013


A few weeks ago, this blog ran a story of missionaries surviving turmoil in South America.  Today, I want to share another story, this one set in Africa.

     The Sand Storm

   By the early 70's, armed trouble in Eritrea had really begun to escalate.  Two the of mission clinics had been disrupted by their demands, and the hospital at Haicto had also been experiencing troubling visits.  The doctor had had a marvelous deliverance one night with armed men came demanding money and drugs.  They got neither.
     If you came down the highway far enough, you eventually reached a large village, near the border of Sudan, where the mision had both a clinic and a girls' school.  Government soldiers had also been stationed here, possibly because of its proximity to the Sudan.  Thus far, the town had been relatively quiet, but insurrection's cruel hand was to reach us too.
     It was a sultry night.  One of the missionary teachers had pulled her cot out onto the small screened porch at the front of the house, hoping for some relief, when suddenly the night was shattered by gunfire.  It seemed to be coming from all directions, and the bullets ricocheted off our palm-frond fence.

     The windows and doors of the little house were only made from split palm fronds, but the walls were cement bricks, thus offering a measure of security.  The clinic, school and various other buildings in the town were of similar construction, but what of the defenceless people in their vulnerable little huts?
      The cot was quietly pulled into the house, and we lay still in the stifling heat, waiting and listeneing to the distressing sounds.  Naturally, the minded drifted to the pathetic remains of a village we had passed just that past summer on our way to the hot springs.
        To add to our distress, a searing wind arose, laden with fine dust.  It turned out to be one of the worst sand storms we had ever experience in Africa.  While the bullets flew outside, we battled just to breath.

        Then the shooting ceased, almost as abruptly as it had started and an eerie stillness settled over the town.  The storm had forced the armed men to withdraw.
        Dawn brought a blessed relief from the searing heat and the choking dust, but heaps of fine, dark sand lay on everything.  Even the sheets on the cots were piled with the dark stuff, except where our bodies had lain.
         We didn't even try to clean up, but just concentrated on getting ready for school.  The missionary teacher who'd been outside, was anxious to see how the national teachers, and especially the girls, had fared.  She wasn't the only one.  We were startled to see the worker from the clinic at our door.  He said he had come to try and help us get ready for school.  With that, he took a large broom and started shoving the thick layers of sand from the table and the floor around the door.  No doubt he was just thankful to see were were still in one piece, and he wanted somehow to be helpful.  He didn't tarry long, as his wife would also be anxious.  They must have been greatly relieved that their own two young ones were in the school for missionaries' children in Asmara.
           The teachers, who lived on the school premises were shaken, but safe.  The girls had not been so fortunate, and only a token of them managed to show up on time.  The rest straggled in, too quiet, with fear in their eyes.
          The trouble had all started when someone, possible from the Ethiopian Liberation Front, had put a Molotov Cocktail inside two dinner plates, and had politely placed it before an army officer waiting for his supper at a local restaurant.  Of couse, when he removed the top plate, it blew up.  The officer escaped serious injury, but not so with the men of the town.  The army rounded them up at gunpoint, forcing them into the Market Square, bent on revenge.  There had been casualties, but the dust storm had abruptly ended it all.  The soldiers could hardly breathe, let alone see beyond the muzzle of their guns.
       More than one mother who accompanied her girl to school that morning, said quietly, "Did you see what God did for us last night?"  They knew, even better than we did, what a wonderful intervention the storm had been.
         One teacher noticed that the girls had come without their usual little lunch bundles.  It's just possible that they couldn't fix anything to eat in their homes that morning, so she sent over to the market place for fresh buns, as soon as they were ready.  Armed with them and a large botle of calcium pills that she had dug up from somewhere, she dispensed them to the girls with words of comfort.  This really helped: empty stomachs and fear make poor students.
        The school was usually a peaceful place, and it soon returned to its normal routine, at least for a time.

Editor's Note:  My thanks to Jean for sharing this story in Bible Study and here on the blog.  FYI, there are still three more weeks left in Bible Study this term.  We are using a video series called In the Dust of the Rabbi.   Meeting times are Wednesdays at 9:30 am and/or 7:00 pm in the Ross Lounge at the church.

Monday, June 3, 2013


by Alice Valdal

 This seems to be one of those love-it or hate-it songs.  Even Sidney Carter who wrote the words said  "I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord… it's the sort of Christianity I believe in."

The poem takes the form of a carol, retelling Jesus' life, from "the morning when the world was begun," through to "at Bethlehem I had my birth,"  His rejection by the Jewish establishment, "I danced for the scribes and the pharisees, but they would not dance and they wouldn't follow me", the calling of the disciples, "I danced for the fishermen, for James and John," his healing works of curing the lame and the blind and finally to his death and resurrection. This may be the verse that sets some people's teeth on edge, "I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black . . . and left me there on the cross to die." How can we call ourselves Christian and liken the awfulness of the crucifixion to a dance? And yet, that is not the end, the last verse of the song tells us "I am the life that will never, never die, I live in you if you live in me," Here is the fulfillment of the promise in  Psalm 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; . . ."

The tune is adapted from a Shaker tune, "Simple Gifts" by Joseph Brackett.  It became one of America's best loved folk melodies and earned its place in the classical music world when Aaron Copeland used it in the seventh section of his ballet, Appalachian Spring. 
The Shakers considered music to be an essential component of the religious experience.  For them, dancing, or “laboring” under the grip of the spirit was an essential element of worship.   To support this worship practice they found 19 scripture passages that said they should dance for the Lord. 

In addition, the Shakers believed dance is a gift of the Holy Spirit, it has Biblical precedent, it echoes the joy of the Father over the returning Prodigal, and shows a natural impulse for joy as we move towards God’s victory.  They also held that dance involves the body as well as the mind in worship, recognizes the equality of the sexes before God, and enables the congregation to express unity in a common dance.

The Shakers make a pretty compelling argument for dance as worship, even if our Victorian forebears believed dance had too much to do with the body as opposed to the mind, and too much to do with enjoyment rather than duty.
  In a sermon in Edmonton in 2005 Fleming Rutledge defended this hymn by saying that "we need to be reminded, that at its heart Christianity is joy and that laughter and freedom and the reaching out of arms are the essence of it.”

None of this may change your mind about "Lord of the Dance" and its suitability in Presbyterian worship, but at least now you know a little about its origins.