Monday, March 30, 2015

Report from mission team

  We give thanks that our team has returned safely from the Dominican Republic, carrying a few bruises, the odd sunburn and a host of stories.  After our service on Sunday, the team presented a report, with slides.  Their excitement was so great they never stopped smiling.  They talked over each other as each recalled a special moment, their faces glowed and their hearts were full.  Not only for the work they had done, but to the congregation for its wholehearted support of the venture including these Spanish/English Bibles arranged for by Lloyd Warkentin of SPPC. 

    Their main task while in the DR was to build houses, using cement blocks.  At the top of this post is one they started from the ground up and took to the top of the doorway.  Below is one that they finished from the top of the doorway to the roof.   Mixing mortar, hauling it to the roof via a bucket brigade and doing it all in blazing heat created some sore muscles but more smiles.

Felicity earned a reputation as master bender of rebar.  Those triangles are essential for attaching the roof part of the house to the block walls.

Of course, building houses was only one purpose for the trip.  Another was to build relationships.  

Those relationships allowed The House Upon the Rock, our host, to fulfill it's call to God's work in Pedgregal.
The children especially were eager for hugs and cuddles.

Cameras and minds are full of photos and impressions that will take a while to process. 

Heat, poverty, joy, mosquitoes, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, a marvellous swimming hole, aching muscles, scratched hands, friendships and amazing stories of faith.

Before the team left home, word was received that the church, which operates on rented land, was to be evicted.  The landlord had sold the space.  The minister, who lived on the land, and the congregation who worshipped there, had no idea where they would end up, or even if they could continue.
A few hours later, a donor from here came forward with $20,000.00 to buy land for the church so they would never face eviction again.  Our team arrived in the Dominican Republic as bearers of a miracle.

Another wonder concerned the medical clinic.  When our team arrived, the medicine cabinet was bare.
 But our people had packed extra suitcases, (which got through customs with no questions, a miracle in itself) full of medicines.  The empty cupboard was soon transformed to this, filled and overflowing.

The mission trip to the Dominican Republic has been a tremendous endeavour both for the people who went and for the congregation of SPPC.   Even as the lives of the team members  have been changed, SPPC has changed as well.  We aren't done with the children of Pedregal.  Supplies will always be needed, prayers will always be needed, and, if you want to sponsor a child, you can give her/him an education that will benefit the whole community.  Talk to Linda for how you can help.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring -- New Life

Birds are singing, woods are ringing.
With they praises, blessed King;
Lake and mountain, field and fountain
To they throne their tributes bring.

We Thy children, join the chorus
Merrily, cheerily gladly praise Thee.
Glad Hosannas, glad Hosannas,                                                 
  Joyfully we lift to Thee
  -- L.F. Cole

According to the calendar we are now officially in the season of spring -- the time of new life.
We must have spring fever at SPPC for there is lots of life happening around our place in the next couple of weeks.

   This coming Sunday, March 29, is Palm Sunday.  We will celebrate holy communion during the worship.  Afterward, we'll gather for soup and a sandwich in the hall and hear a report from our mission team, about their time in the Dominican Replublic. (By the way, they arrived back in Canada, safe and sound, on Saturday, March 21, just in time for spring.)

    Palm Sunday launches us into Holy Week.  On Thursday, at 6:00 pm in the Sanctuary, we will hold a Tenebrae service.  We have held this type of service in previous years, but if you want to learn more about it, click the link above.  After the excitement and hosannas of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday will set the tone for Good Friday.

    Previously we have joined with other peninsula congregations for a massed service on Good Friday.  This year, we're trying something different.  We will hold our own service on Good Friday, at 10:00 am in the Sanctuary  Die Mahler String Quartet as special guests.  The quartet will play Haydn's meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ  between gospel readings of Christ's passion and crucifixion.

   Then on Easter Sunday, all are invited to Cy Hampson park for our sunrise service.  Not exactly sunrise -- we're going for 8:00 am, but still early enough to get the feeling of "Very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun, ... and when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away;"  Mark 16:2, 4
  From the park, we head back to the church for breakfast -- thanks to the people who forego the sunrise in order to cook eggs.  
  Finally, at 10:00 am we have our Easter service in the sanctuary.  The Living Flame will sing an anthem, the senior choir will sing an anthem and an offertory and all the people will shout "He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Hallelujah!"

   Come join us for any or all of these services.  Our advertising says "a warm welcome awaits you" and it's true.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Movie Morning

                   It's March break, so life at SPPC is a little different this week. With Rev. Irwin away we welcome Rev. Noel Kinnon to the pulpit.  We can hardly call him a guest preacher, since he's part of the fellowship at Saanich Peninsula.  When he preaches it's a bit like old home week.                                                                                   Elizabeth Clarke, our favourite guest musician is on the organ bench again this week as Larry is out of town.  Like Noel, Elizabeth can hardly be considered a visitor.  We are so fortunate to have her in our congregation and willing to share her talent on the keyboard.  

                    At Bible Study, we are half-way through our study of Hebrews, but we're taking a break this week to watch a movie.  Just like the kids, we're out of school.  The movie is called "Amazing Grace" and chronicles the life of William Wilberforce and his fight to end the slave trade in the British Empire.  You can watch a trailer here  This movie was the closing-night gala attraction at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. 
                   If you've ever wondered about Bible Study, but didn't want a long-term commitment, here's your chance to try it out for one morning.  We start at 9:30 am.   Coffee's on and there are always goodies.  We might even have popcorn.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Favourite Tunes

by Alice Valdal

 Our "Book of Praise" has 600 hymns and of that we sing only about 200 on a regular basis.  Why?  Are we just resistant to learning new music or is there something inherent in the rejected hymns that makes them unpopular?

    To be fair, some hymns are meant for specific occasions like weddings, so they won't be in our general repertoire.  But some hymns just don't work for the modern ear.  In an effort to force the words to fit a certain metre, there is some tortured syntax in our book, particularly in the Psalms section.  e.g. "For He in His pavilion shall/ me hide in evil days; /In secret of his tent me hide, And on a rock me raise."  Sounds a bit like a pirate shouting, "me hearties,"  don't you think?
    Other reasons may have to do with changing tastes and mores.  When I was little, "There were Ninety and Nine" was a great favourite.  It's in our Book of Praise, but it certainly hasn't made our top 100 list.  Similarly, "Onward Christian Soldiers," although an all-time favourite for many is today considered politically incorrect and seldom found in our services.
   One of my favourite hymns, "I Feel the Winds of God Today," is not in our Book of Praise at all, although the tune, Kingsfold, is used several times.  It's a great tune and has been used for very contrasting texts.
    "I Feel the Winds," is basically a call to action in the world.  We lift our sail at God's command and brave another cruise, even if that sail is tattered and torn.  We trust in God as our master and pilot.
   The tune is used in our Book of Praise as an invitation to rest.
"I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,"
    It is also used for Psalm 107 and for "Lord, Who at Cana's wedding feast."
     Perhaps one test of a hymn's spiritual power is the frequency of publication.  "Rock of Ages" has been published in 2428 hymnals since it was written in 1776.  "Servant Song" copyrighted in 1977 has been published in 27 hymnals, including the newest version of the Book of Praise.  "I Feel the Winds" is in 25 hymnaries, but "We Thank you God for Bodies Strong," also set to Kingsfold appears in only one.  It made headline news when it first appeared in the
1971 Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, owing to the line "for all the body's appetites which can fulfilment find,/ and for the sacrament of sex that recreates our kind."  I notice it was not included in "Voices United" a later edition of the United Church hymnary.

   So, what's your favourite hymn?  The worship committee is inviting congregants to nominate hymns to be included in our anniversary service.  Look for the list in the narthex.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Count Down

 It's countdown time for our  team to the Dominican Republic.  They leave on their mission trip to Pedregal this Friday and will be gone until March 22.  How's that for a way to spend your March break?
           You may have seen advertisements for resorts in the Dominican but our team will be working away from the tourist areas, in the mountains. They will experience power outages that last from an hour to a whole day and no one will be able to tell them when it will come back on.  They will have only cold showers and eat rice, beans, plantain and chicken.  They will see lots and lots of flowers for export to our flower shops. The people around them will speak Spanish.    

       They will live in a "macho" culture where women and girls do not go out at night without an escort.  They will be offered extravagant hospitality from families whose average monthly income is $150.00 - $200.00 per month. They will have to tread a fine line between taking too little and being considered rude or taking too much and depriving their hosts.
         They may encounter wild boars but no snakes.  They may see frogs and cockroaches as pets.  Keeping a schedule will be a challenge since island time includes a two hour siesta in the afternoon and long visits and chats in the street.  Since most of the people in Pedregal only know North Americans from what they see on television, they will assume our team members live like movie stars in Canada.  They may experience theft -- after all, to the locals, our team is rich and won't miss whatever was taken. 
     They will experience a class society where those of European background are top of the heap while those descended from African slaves or Haitians are at the bottom.  The whiter your skin the more privileged you are.
      Family is the centre of society in the DR with three or four generations living together. The oldest male relative makes decisions for the entire clan. 
     Our team is going to help build a school.  In the Dominican Republic, school is compulsory until grade 8, although their definition of grade 8 is about the same as our grade 3 or 4.  The children must wear a uniform, including shoes.  Since many families are too poor to afford the uniform, children will stay home. The government supplies the school building and the teachers, but no supplies.  That's why our team is taking things like pencils and pens, rulers, erasers, glue sticks, markers, duo tangs, Geometry sets and backpacks.  There is a complete list in the narthex.
   The team will also help out at the medical clinic.  Since the clinic has very little in the way of supplies, our members will carry things like Tylenol and vitamins with them, as well as towels.  Again, a complete list is in the narthex if you wish to contribute.
    Our congregation has raised the funds for this trip, contributed supplies and encouraged our team members every step of the way. 
On Sunday morning we commissioned the team, sending them forth as ambassadors from our congregation to represent us in the work they do for God's glory.
 Now, while the team is in the field, we can continue to support them with prayer.  Pray for their health and well-being.  Pray that their work is useful.  Pray that they may model Christian love to all they meet.  Pray that God will use them and their gifts to His good purpose. Pray they return home safely.

Thanks be to God for his servants, Felicity, Diane, Maximilian and Linda.