Monday, May 26, 2014


 We had a busy time at church this Sunday.  It was youth Sunday, in a way.  Members of the Sunday School read the call to worship, Scripture and took up the collection.  They also hosted a hamburger lunch after service.  The reason for the lunch was a presentation by Rick Wismer, of Youth for Christ ministry.
      Rick has visited our congregation before to say thank you for the support SPPC gives his ministry and to bring us up to date on what's happening with the bus. 

      When the bus first appears in Sidney, it was an old double-decker painted blue with the words "Refuge Bus" painted on the side.  It was parked in an area well-known as a hang-out for at-risk youth.  Over time, the mission and work of this ministry has changed but it's still a bus and it's still blue -- or, at least, it will be blue.
       That was Rick's big news.  They have a new bus.
 One that can seat 54 passengers, travel over the Malahat, ride the ferry and drive up into the interior.  A great improvement over the last bus which was a bit shaky and wore out the drivers because it had no power steering.  The new bus was purchased second hand and is now undergoing a refit, including installation of a television, wi-fi, and, of course, a blue paint job.
        Currently the bus serves mostly First Nations, where they are welcomed by children and adults alike.  The kids love to play games, eat snacks, unload their troubles, listen to "God Talk" and do crafts.  It's kind of like church camp, but it happens in a bus, one day a week, after school.  
         SPPC has long been a supporter of the ministry.  We are a big contributor of snacks -- fruit, veggies and cookies.  Rick told us the first question when kids come aboard the bus is, "Did you bring snacks?"
        The Blue Bus (the name Refuge bus has vanished from use) is one of those ministries our congregation undertakes that we hear about only now and again but is perhaps one of our most valuable.  Like donations to the Sidney Food Bank, and services at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, the Blue Bus is a short line in the budget, but it is constant.  Constancy, reliability, persistence.  These are marks of the faithful.
         Years ago I attended a funeral where a nephew of the deceased told us of his aunt's importance in his life.  The man's mother had died when he was only a child.  He lived in a nice house, had a kind father and never lacked for food or clothing or help with his homework.  What he lacked was a mother.  His aunt made it her personal mission to come to his home once a week, on Thursdays.  That day she would bake cookies, mend socks, cook a good dinner and be there when the children came home from school.  It was that "being there" every Thursday, without fail, that remained in the man's heart for the rest of his life.  He wouldn't have cared if she'd given them pickles and rice to eat, the cookies were a bonus.  What counted for him was her reliability and her presence -- every Thursday, without fail, for as long as the family needed her.
        Sometimes we may wonder if our work is worthwhile, if it's noticed, if anyone cares -- the answer is yes.  If we are faithful, constant, reliable and present, we make a difference.
         Thanks Rick for your presence among us and on the Blue Bus.


Monday, May 19, 2014


Last week I posted about the youth in our congregation and their various doings.  This week I thought it would be interesting to look at the other end of the spectrum.  
    At 90 +, Beulah is a faithful member of the Bible Study group, the prayer group, and the prayer chain and was also an active member of the Canadian Bible Society.  Although the local chapter of the Society has dissolved, Beulah is still a passionate believer in the power of the Bible and the need to translate and distribute scriptures into every language and every corner of the world.

    Jean, also in the 90+ club, helps out with the Chaplaincy at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, attends Bible Study, is a member of the prayer chain and regularly spends time in the schools helping children learn to read.  She also attends the sing-songs at Sidney Intermediate Care.  
     Until arthritis took away her mobility, Beryl volunteered at the airport and at the hospital.  She still manages to do some visiting and checks in on shut-ins by telephone.
     Of course, we have a whole army of people in the 80-90 age range who volunteer at the hospital, bake cookies for the Blue Bus, serve in the kitchen, serve on committees and visit the "elderly."  

Some of our hard workers enjoying the sunshine lunch

    I knew a woman many years ago who had been very active in church and other service organizations.  She developed severe arthritis and had to give up all of her usual activities.  Even attending worship service became impossible.  So, she looked around her and said "what can I do?"  The answer lay in the telephone.  She could call people and visit with them that way.  Even confined to a chair, she found a way to help others.

    The Bible Study we are doing right now is "A dare to live fully right where you are."  Isn't it wonderful that God can use us, right where we are, regardless of age, skill, power or wealth? How blessed we are at SPPC to have people of all ages, willing to share whatever they can and help to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.



Monday, May 12, 2014


On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day, or Family Sunday, as it's known in the church.  Some cynics claim that Mother's Day was invented by the greeting card companies as a way to sell more cards but there have been festivals celebrating mothers as far back as 250 B.C.  Whatever its origins, the second Sunday of May is a time to say thank you to all the mothers amongst us and to celebrate the love of family, in all its shapes and forms.
     At SPPC we are a particular kind of family and I thought you might like to know what "our kids" have been up to.
      Rebekah and Megan have been to a band festival in Whistler.  This was a big adventure for them, travelling with a school group of about 40 musicians, playing before an adjudicator and then taking part in a master class.  
They report the weather was great, the trip was fun, the master class was super and we'll all forget about the adjudicator.
Apparently the food was good too!

This is a bear, not the adjudicator

      Peter has taken up baseball this term.  He had a big hit at a recent game, knocked in run, and his team went on to win the game.  Great for Peter and even better that his brother was so excited for him.  That's what families do.  We cheer each other on, sharing our joy and lightening our disappointments.
        Max has been in several rowing regattas but the big one was at Mill Bay a few weeks go.
 His four-man squad won the junior varsity event with 22 seconds to spare (That's huge in rowing terms).  Not only that, given their time, they would have placed second if they'd been competing in the varsity race.  Way to go, Max!

     Elizabeth, our resident guest pianist, won the piano concerto contest at U Vic.  The prize gives her bragging rights but no cash.  On the other hand, she does get to play a concerto with the U Vic symphony next year.  I love Elizabeth's playing and really look forward to attending that concert.

Felicity spent a lot of time in the kitchen and produced this beautiful cake in honour of all the mothers in our
congregation.  Not only did the cake look wonderful, it tasted great too.  (I heard a rumour that the youth class might be holding a bake sale -- if that is true, I'll buy one of Felicity's cakes!)

      But while we are celebrating with cards and flowers and special dinners, let us remember the mothers and daughters around the world who suffer, especially those in Nigeria, where violent men seek to enslave girls in ignorance and poverty, just because they are girls.  Evil abounds in this world in many guises but the kidnapping of school girls is particularly egregious.

   For the joy of human love,
  Brother, sister, parent, child,
  Friends on earth, and friends above,
  For all gentle thoughts and mild,
  Lord of all, to Thee we raise

  This our sacrifice of praise.

Monday, May 5, 2014


  The question of faith vs works came up in conversation this week.  It's a knotty question, oft debated among theologians and laity alike.   Those on the works side often quote from James 20. while those who argue for justification by faith alone like Galations 2.  At SPPC this week we saw faith AND good works in the same events.

     On Tuesday the Pastoral Care committee hosted a talk by Linda Cliff on "Life before Death."

It sounds a bit grim but the emphasis was on the "life" part of the equation.  There was a video showing people at various stages of their life journey.  One interview was with a fairly young woman who had suffered so much pain, her life held no hope, no joy and no ease.  Through the marvels of palliative care, she was given a drug that took away her pain. Now she felt truly alive, her face filled with joy, her mind teaming with plans for the future.  She talked about the blessing of doing the dishes, taking a walk or working in the garden.  She could live her life.
  Other interviews showed people in the latter stages of terminal illness.  With good palliative care, they were able to remain relatively pain-free and it made all the difference.  They could talk with loved ones, build up special memories, treasure the moments they still had.  A sad contrast to those in some countries which lack palliative care, where nurses can only offer a drink of water and a hand to hold.  We are very lucky here in Victoria to have access to the very best in hospice care.
    Linda is a dedicated member of the Hospice community and a champion for palliative care.  That passion, combined with her faith, showed through in her compassion for those who suffer and in the work she and others do to relieve suffering.

   On Sunday, the Living Flame Choir put their faith into action by presenting a concert at the Shoal Centre.  Our youth is very busy and rehearsal time is hard to come by so we squeezed in some extra practice after church.  Then had a social time and shared some pizza.
Then we packed up our music and our noise-makers and headed off to the Shoal Centre.
   We presented a half-hour concert that included "Dem Bones", hence the noise-makers, as well as "When I Turn My Heart to Heaven."  The latter was necessary since it refers to God's promise in the rainbow.  Since we have a lovely backdrop of a rainbow, we're happy to have the opportunity to put it on display.

Our audience was made up of Shoal Centre residents, a few of our own congregation and some visitors.  It was wonderful to see the joy on the faces in the audience as the music reminded them of happy times in their own lives.  Faith -- music -- sharing -- love in action.

    I can't leave this week's blog without mentioning that our Bible Study sessions begin this week.  We will be using a study based on a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I just finished reading the book and found it spoke to my soul. The author shares her own journey of faith and thankfulness in our ordinary and marvellous daily work.   I can't wait to see what we do with it in Bible Study.  We meet Wednesday at 9:30 am and at 7:00 pm.  Everyone is welcome at either or both of these session.

   So there you have it, a sample of our week filled with works, based in faith and given with joy.  Pretty good week, I'd say.