Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas and Food

In my world, Christmas is associated with lots of company and feasting.  It seems my church, Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian, shares that culture.  We have cookies with coffee hour after service every Sunday. 

On Monday, the Sunshine lunch bore a Christmas theme and special goodies for the season.  This is a wonderful ministry in our church, designed to give those who are single, whether by choice or through bereavement, an opportunity to share a meal together.  One of the great, hidden sorrows of our culture is loneliness.  The Sunshine lunch is a great antidote.  Rides are provided for those who no longer drive.  Thank you to the faithful crew of volunteers who cater this event.

On Sunday afternoon, there was a Christmas tea.  This is part of the fundraising drive for the Mission to the Dominican Republic in the spring.
  This time the volunteers served high tea, complete with three tier serving dishes and fine china.  Who needs the Empress when we can enjoy such festivities at home?  And the money raised goes to a good cause.  


Next Sunday, Dec. 17, we'll participate in another favourite tradition, carol singing.  Come and bring your friends, lift your voices and sing out the joy of Christmas.  The music starts at 2:00 pm and we promise not to keep you for more than an hour.  There will be hot apple cider and shortbread afterwards, if you wish to linger.  So there we are, back to festive goodies, again. 


Many bemoan the extra calories consumed over the Christmas season and gyms are full of those with good intentions at the beginning of January.  But I make no apology for associating special foods the the celebration of Christmas.  After all, food unites and strengthens a community, providing a common identity among those gathered at the table.  Good food is best enjoyed as a shared experience, its the social glue that binds families and friends and, yes, strangers together in a common event.  Even Christ spent his last moments with the disciples sharing a common meal, on the special occasion of Passover.
So eat heartily, sing lustily and give thanks for the privilege of sharing food and fellowship.



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Monday, December 4, 2017

December brings a full calendar of special activities around Christmas at SPPC.  This coming Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3:00 pm the Mission Team to the Dominican Republic is hosting a Christmas tea.  This is a fundraiser for the House Upon the Rock Mission, the group that hosts our team of volunteers in the DR.  
The organizers assure me there will be plenty of food, enough that you won't have to cook Sunday dinner afterward.  There is also some lively entertainment planned, so it will be a fun time.  Plan to invite your friends, make up a table of eight, and kick off your Christmas socializing.  The cost is $22.00 per person and all proceeds after expenses will go toward sponsoring our mission team.

    Speaking of Christmas entertaining, Linda has offered to manage a bottle drive over the next few months, with most of the proceeds going toward the DR mission.  So, bring those empties to the church and put your refund to good use.

   On the fund-raising topic, we are pleased to report that over $500.00 was raised with the dessert and soup sales.

  'Tis the season when many feel overwhelmed with busyness -- shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating -- but remember the small child, born in a manger.  Angels sang His birth, but there was no room at the inn.  Wise men brought costly gifts, but Herod sought to kill Him.  As we rejoice with friends and family, sharing love with those closest to us, remember that Jesus instructed His followers to care for the poor and the hungry and the thirsty and the stranger and the naked and the prisoner -- "Inasmuch as ye have tone it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matt 25:40 (KJV)
    

Monday, November 27, 2017

What's Happening?



There were no big events at the church this past week, but over the past little while, there have been a number of small things worth celebrating. 

  • We have two new members in the choir.  Ruth sings tenor and Diane is an alto.  We are delighted to welcome them.  The alto and tenor parts have been underpowered for some time.  It is wonderful to hear those inner voices rounding out the sound of the choir.


  • There has been birthday cake. 

  • We're gearing up to send another team to the Dominican Republic.  There was a silent auction last Saturday and Soup and pie orders were delivered after worship this Sunday
                                           

  • SPPC led the worship service at Saanich Peninsula Hospital on Sunday. 


  • Today a group is meeting at the church to start on Christmas decorations.  Yes, already!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Teddy Bear Love

If love were measured in teddy bears, our Hazel would be overflowing. For the past many years she has knit these toys of comfort for children in troubled parts of the world.  To date, she has completed more than 1700 or them.
If she ever considered slowing down, she can't.  Her sister sent her 72 balls of yarn from the UK.  No quitting until they are all used up.

Hazel began with a pattern from Melody--the lady responsible for getting this congregations knitting cotton squares at Friendship Coffee.  SPPC has sent thousands of those squares to third world countries.  For Hazel, the teddy bears proved to be her passion.  

The bears are completely knitted, including the eyes and buttons on the overalls.  Hazel reminded me that sew-on ornaments can be pulled off and become a choking hazard for very young children.  So, her creations are not only charming and cuddly.  They are safe as well.

She can knit one a day.  When the knitting is complete, she sets them aside for stuffing at a later date.  Blanche "finds" the stuffing and passes it on.  Hazel says she wouldn't be able to contribute all those teddies if it weren't for Blanche supplying the stuffing.
  And speaking of Blanche, she can't even count the dozens of shortbread cookies she has made for the church, but we all recognize her offering on the dessert table.

   Blanche has been baking since she was 4.

   Back to the teddy bears.  When Hazel has completed a goodly number, they are packed into a Compassionate Warehouse container and sent into the world to bring smiles to needy children. Then she settles down to knit up the next batch.
   For a change of pace, she once knitted up a complete Nativity Scene, but usually her needles are busy with teddy bears.
   
To see Hazel in action, come to Friendship Coffee in the lounge at 10:00 am on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.  You'll meet Hazel and Blanche and a whole bunch of knitters and talkers.  They'll welcome you in, offer you a cup of coffee and maybe share a pattern or two.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Never Forgotten

With Remembrance Day just passed, I want to share with you this story from one of our congregation.  Andy Wallace was Gladys' father, and one of the thousands of Canadians who fought in "The War to End All Wars," WWI.  He saw action at Vimy Ridge.  When the battle ended, Andy, a carpenter by trade, worked on a large wooden cross to commemorate the dead of the 44th Canadian Infantry.  Just three weeks after the victory, Andy's cross was raised on the crest of the ridge. 
He might even be one of the soldiers in this photograph.  He and Sapper McIver created the huge wooden cross from 8x8 inch oak logs within range of the enemy's guns.  Other members of the section mixed the concrete. In a letter, a fellow veteran, A.C. King wrote to Andy, "Here is a picture of the cross.  It doesn't look so big but, boy, oh boy, that concrete took some mixing."

The cross was twelve to fourteen feet high and about six feet wide.  It was held together by wooden dowels and had no inscription on the carving itself.  There was a copper plate in the stepped concrete base that reads:
 to the memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 44th Canadian Infantry who fell in the attacks on Vimy Ridge, the Triangle, and La Coulotte in April, May and June of 1917.
The monument was originally erected on Vimy Ridge, France by the 44th Battalion in 1917. In 1924,it was moved to its present location in Vimy Ridge Memorial Park on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg by members of the 44th Battalion Association and next of kin. Plaques on the sides of the monument listed those in the 44th Battalion who had lost their lives during the Vimy Ridge battle. Dedicated in June 1926, it was restored by the Department of Veterans Affairs in June 1967 and by the City of Winnipeg in October 1992.


The iconic Vimy Memorial that now stands on the ridge has eclipsed the battlefield monuments in the public imagination, but those rough crosses, built by fellow soldiers in the midst of battle truly bear the "blood, sweat and tears," of our military.

Thanks to Gladys for sharing her story, and thanks to Andy Wallace for his service to Canada. 
Andrew Wallace 44th Regiment, Canadian Infantry

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy Feet



Lots of us like to go barefoot in warm weather, but when the temperature dips, a pair of warm socks makes us warm and cozy, ready to snuggle down for the cold months.  Apart from the comfort aspect of socks, they fulfil other functions. Sock manufacturers cite the following:

  • Terry cushion sole for added comfort and shock absorption.
  • Accepted by the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
  • Ultra-Fresh treatment to resist the growth of odour causing bacteria.
  • Non-binding cuff for free circulation. 
  • Soft non-binding cotton terry cuff for support and added comfort. 
  • Smooth toe seam. 
  • it’s a lot easier to keep your feet healthy, than to fix them once they start to hurt.
Most of us take socks for granted.  We might spend some time pondering the colour and style but the "if" of socks is not a problem.  Except, for some, it is. 
Members of our community who live on the street don't care about colour and pattern so much.  They just want their feet to be warm and dry.
Enter, warm-toes.  For the month of October, SPPC has been collecting new socks, stuffing them with small toiletries and filling baskets and bags with the result.  On Sunday, those offerings were dedicated to God and the service of our neighbours.  This week they'll be delivered to The Mustard Seed for distribution.
Next time you snuggle your toes in a pair of soft, warm, everyday socks, count your blessings and give thanks.  



Monday, October 30, 2017

Reformation Sunday

This Sunday marked the official 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, sort of.  The actual anniversary is Oct. 31, but that's a Tuesday--will we see trick-or-treaters dressed as a monk on Hallowe'en?--, so we marked the day on Sunday. 
One of our members, Barb, added this plaque to our bulletin board in honour of the occasion.  Nice work, Barb!

You may recognize the titles of Rev. Irwin's last four sermons in the titles depicted on the "door."  This Sunday was "Glory of God Alone."  He began his sermon by quoting from the shorter catechism, from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

A short answer to the "why am I here" question that plagues some of us from time to time.  We are here to glorify God, plain and simple.  Our modern culture is more inclined to glorify Man than God, but that's not what scripture commands.  
This catechism was developed for the Presbyterian church, but since it relies on scripture, I'm sure Martin Luther would approve it. After all, he wagered his life on the authority of Scripture, over the authority of the church.

The Reformation is an enormous subject, much too large for this blog.  I've touched on a few highlights in the past couple of weeks, but you might like to watch this documentary from PBS for a more extensive course.

Meantime, Barb's "door" is a good summary of Luther's main arguments. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reformation Hymn

In the month of October SPPC has been paying special attention to the Protestant Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther, when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517.  This act of defiance set off one of the most dramatic and far-reaching upheavals in history, touching on every aspect of life in Western Europe, and hence, North America.  The monolith that was the church in Rome, was shaken and splintered.  Luther's "sola" theology,
  • by faith alone.
  • by Scripture alone.
  • through Christ alone.
  • by grace alone.
  • glory to God alone,
stood against many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  By challenging the pope, Luther opened the floodgates to political, social and theological revolution.

There were other Reformers, Erasmus, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Melnachthon to name a few.  Although they had theological differences on the Eucharist, the doctrine of predestination, and the sacraments among other things, all stood firm on Luther's basic tenet, of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
 

Luther was wise enough to know that music was a powerful tool for teaching scripture and theology.  Thus he penned many a hymn.  One of the best known is A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  Here is what Dr. C.J. Kirk had to say on this great statement of faith.


Of all Martin Luther's hymns this is by far the best known.  It was written in 1529 during a climax in Luther's struggle against the Roman church.  That year the Reichstag met at Speier and the Roman Catholic majority ordered that their worship should be permitted in all the German principalities from which it had been excluded by Princes sympathetic to Lutheran teaching, and that prelates and religious orders should be restored to their former properties and revenues.  The Lutheran princes entered a formal "protest" because of which the Lutheran movement became known as "Protest-ant".  In this dark hour Luther wrote his call to battle in this hymn which Heine called "the Marseillaise of the Reformation."
In his struggle Luther felt that he had one helper, God, against all the "mortal ills" prevailing against the reform of the Church.  What were those ills?  They were social as well as spiritual: the hopeless poverty of the peasant, the ignorance of the people, the oppressive powers of barbarous laws, the abuses of the priests and the wealth of the hierarchy.  These are attributed to "our ancient foe", the devil: but he is seen as incarnate in the worldly Pope Clement VII and the intriguing Emperor, Charles V.  All these constitute a triangle of hate and power the like of which the world has not seen the equal.
Such odds might daunt even the boldest but for one thing.  Our trust is in a spiritual leader, Jesus Christ.  He is given the title which the ancient Israelites delighted to give to Jehovah.  He is the "Lord Sabaoth," the "Lord of hosts," the commander of the hosts of heaven.  Here we have a truly Protestant theology.  Our confidence of salvation is not placed in an infallible Church with its sacraments, its relics and its traditions, but in an unconquerable Man who is clothed with the power and authority of God himself.  He remains the same "from age to age" and we know that "He must win the battle."
In that battle Luther saw himself in conflict with the devil, "the prince of darkness grim." with all his supernatural power and cunning.  Against such a foe, human weapons simply could not prevail.  If we confide in our own strength, then all "our striving would be losing" and well we know it.  "And though this world, with devils filled should threaten to undo us" remind us of Luther's defiant comment on his way to the Diet of Worms:  "though there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go nevertheless."  "One little word shall fell him" and that little word is "the Name that is above every name." (Phil. 2: 9-10).
The final verse is the very essence of Luther's religious belief.  There is personal contact with God, the source of all spiritual power, through the divine Saviour and the indwelling spirit.  The Spirit imparts his beautiful gifts to us (Gal.5:22).  Of what value are earthly things when compared with such priceless treasures?  These things are the symbols and seals of a kingdom that abides forever.  The promise of these gifts comes to us through the inspired word of God, the holy Scriptures, and that was Luther's most trusted weapon.
These words are a witness to the uplifting and sustaining power of the faith of the man who wrote them and these same words continue to be an inspiration to God's people in every crisis of life. 


Monday, October 16, 2017

Many Gifts

This weekend we were blessed at SPPC with many gifts, but one spirit.

On Saturday night fifty to sixty people gathered for a late Thanksgiving feast.  Felicity and her friends prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, yam casserole, dressing, gravy, green vegetable medley, and cranberry salad.  Followed by pumpkin tars with whipped cream, or apple crumble.  The dinner was sponsored by the Parking Lot Club and was a treat for us all.  More importantly it was an opportunity for members of the congregation to meet and mingle with families whose children come to the Parking Lot Club on Thursday afternoons.  SPPC likes to practice fellowship around a common meal, and in doing so we follow the practice of the early church.  A wonderful way to welcome others into our fellowship.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, a similar number of people had the pleasure of hearing the McKenna String Quintet in concert.  This remarkable family of five, talented siblings has been in Victoria for the past few weeks, studying with various teachers, including the LaFayette String Quartet.  During that time, they have attended Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, much to our delight.
Their concert opened with Mozart's String Quintet in D Major, K.593.  
This was followed by a vocal duet, Al Shlosh D'varim arr. Allen Naplan and performed by Minja and Marja McKenna.  The piece is based on Jewish morality laws, translated to mean: "The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace."  The number was a surprising and lovely addition to the concert.


Following intermission the quintet, slightly rearranged, played Vaughn Williams' lush and romantic "Phantasy Quintet."  I overheard someone remark that it sounded Irish, perhaps that's why the family chose it.  Their father's background is Irish.

We then had another vocal piece, this time with all five of the performers singing. Esto les Digo by Kinley Lange is based on Matthew 18:20  "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I also in the midst of them."  

The concert concluded with Boccherini's "String Quintet in C Major," Op. 42 No.2, a lively and engaging finish to the afternoon.
Except it wasn't really the end, the quintet treated us to an encore, a vocal arrangement of "Loch Lomond."


We had a truly remarkable weekend at the church, because so many were willing to share their gifts in the Spirit of Christ.  Thank you to everyone.  To the McKenna's we wish you well as you return home to Calgary, and on your musical journey.  
To everyone who helped, set-up, cooked, took-down, offered the hand of friendship and prayed for the success of both endeavours, thank you.  God bless us, everyone.






Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Sunday

Happy Thanksgiving!  
Canadian thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays.  What joy to celebrate the harvest, to bring in the sheaves, to see the granaries full and the preserve shelves sagging under the weight of summer's goodness.

This year, my harvest wasn't that good. And I've heard the same story from others.  A cold, wet spring knocked the blossoms off the fruit trees.  The rain kept the bees away.  Then hot, dry weather and smoky skies stunted the growth of many vegetables, particularly zucchini, in August.  Can you imagine a gardener asking for zucchini?  Usually we're trying desperately to give them away!
But even with a poor year, the table at the church is filled with the fruits of the earth.

Still, the disappointment with my own crops made me think about other times and other places.  In our world, we don't fear famine.  We can always buy what we need, even if we can't grow it.  But the people of Israel knew famine, it's what sent them into Egypt, and slavery. 
 People in parts of Africa and Asia are starving today, sometimes because of warfare, sometimes because of failed crops.
 On this thanksgiving weekend, when most of us sit down to too much food, let us be grateful for the feast before us and remember those in need.  
A gift to PWS&D reflects our love for God's people everywhere.  Closer to home, there's a box in the narthex for the food bank.

Thanks to all who brought offerings for the table at church, including Heritage Acres. Enjoy the feast and family and friends.  Rejoice in the goodness of God's world.  "Come Ye Thankful People Come!"







Monday, October 2, 2017

McKenna String Quintet

What a busy Sunday we just had.  World Wide Communion, a visiting string quintet and the installation of Rev. Noel Kinnon as our minister emeritus, and the beginning of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Talk about a high Sunday.

Let's start with the McKenna's a quintet of siblings, visiting our church, who graced the service with their music during the prelude, offertory and postlude.  Such a wealth of talent in one family.  We thank them for their participation.  If you missed them on Sunday, you can hear them in concert on October 15, at the church.  More details to follow.

A minister emeritus in the Presbyterian Church in Canada has no special duties, no special powers and no remuneration.  The title is simply an acknowledgement of affection and esteem from the congregation to the retired minister.  There was no shortage of affection or esteem in Sunday morning's service.  Noel is a great friend to Saanich Peninsula
Presbyterian Church, often filling the pulpit when Rev. Irwin is called away.  Judging by the number of guests in the pews, Rev. Kinnon is also a friend to a great many people, not of our congregation.  Praise God!
Although it was specifically stated that he had no new responsibilities as our minister emeritus, Noel was very much part of the ministry team, taking the children's story and officiating at Holy Communion.


And that brings me to World Wide Communion Sunday.  The McKenna's are not only gifted string players, they sing -- beautifully.  The piece they chose this morning was in Spanish.  Fitting for a day when Christians around the world celebrate communion.  Sometimes we feel small and alone in the hurly-burly of our culture, but Sunday we were part of "a great cloud of witnesses."

Finally, Sunday marked 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle church, beginning a movement that would reshape the western world.  Rev. Irwin's sermon "Sola Gratia -- By Grace Alone," was based in one of the tenets of Luther's reformation.  We are saved by grace alone, by God's gift, not by our deservedness.

Ironically, the Bible Study groups have just begun the study of the Letter of James, a book Luther described as "straw."  James emphasises "works" to illuminate and act out our faith.  Some see this book as a contradiction to Luther's Sola Gratia.  Come along on Wednesdays at 9:30 am or 7:00 pm to see where the study takes us.

As I said at the beginning of this post, quite a Sunday.  Hallelujah!

Monday, September 25, 2017

New Parking Lot Season

September is the time for going back to school and getting back into the fall routine. Part of that re-start is the Parking Lot Club.  Ball hockey is our major focus, although food seems to run a close second.  

The first event was this past week and we had a nice turn out with some familiar faces and a few new ones.
The fun continues Thursdays at 4:30 pm until 6:00 pm for the rest of the fall term.
As noted, hockey is our primary focus, but when numbers warrant we have crafts, badminton, or a walk in the woods.  The club is sponsored by the church and welcomes youth ages 6 - 12 from the community.
We had a beautiful day on Thursday, not to hot, not too cold and no rain.  But, if the weather doesn't co-operate, we still play hockey -- indoors.  It gets very loud but that's just part of the game.


Don't wait for an invitation, all are welcome.  Bring your friends.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Creation

Last week's sermon was based on Genesis 1:1-10, Creation.  Rev. Irwin spoke mostly about the great and large things of God's imagination, light and dark, the heavens and the earth, the seas and the dry land. "And God saw that it was good."
During the glorious days of this week, I noted the smaller details of creation.  Not only are they good, they are most wonderfully made.